I have sailed with Carnival twice before leaving from Cape Canaveral and Tampa. A 5 day is preferred by myself and family because on our 7 day it was just too long away from home. Since we heard of Carnival sailing from Charleston, saving us gas and time to get on board we thought we would try it. We had been to the Bahamas before a few years ago but had never checked out Freeport, so here is my review in case you consider the trip!
Embarkation: I read bad reviews about this before we left, and they were on point. The process took about 2 hours, maybe more. They seem to not have this figured out compared to other ports I have been to. We arrived around 10am and did not get on the ship until about 1. We drove through in our car most of the time which was nice because of A/C but it did waste a lot of gas idling for about an hour at one check point to pay for parking (which is about $85 for 5 days fyi) and we turned the car off several times, but it was just too hot! You then park in a warehouse and wait for a shuttle to take you less than a mile to the boat. (You might consider walking this unless you have a lot of luggage). Then waited about 25-30 mins to get our room keys/check in. This process was not organized well and really aggravated us. Definitely try to get to the port early, I can't imagine people who got there later in the afternoon, the lines must have been insane. Finally when we got on board there was hardly anyone there, the buffet was filled with tons of food and we were able to get in our rooms at 1:30 where 3/4 of our luggage was already at.
The Trip: I have been on two cruises (5-day and 7-day) and grew up on a boat and the first 48 hours I was sea sick. I finally took dramamine, and it make me drowsy but able to enjoy the trip at times. There were not rough seas or storms, maybe its because it is a smaller ship. I have to say, the $6 I spent on the medication just in case, made my hundreds of dollars investment in the trip worth while, without medication I would have been miserable. So, I would suggest bringing something in case this happens to you. And after I got off the ship, my mom and myself had sea legs for two-three days, IB profen and sleep will help this!
The Shows: I work at a theatre and see broadway actors on a daily basis, so to me the shows sucked! But, at times they made me laugh, and if your a beatles fan, you'll enjoy their tribute show they do the last night. I am not, so it was boring. There are only three shows on a 5 day cruise, which upset my family bc we are used to a show every night. The second show is the best! Don't let the welcome aboard show stray you away (because that one was so corny and lame).
The Food: This is our favorite part of the trip. The food was great, lots of choices, the usual burgers/pizza/ice cream available 24 hours. The fine dining breakfast and lunch was available most of the time besides days that we were in port (makes sense), we ALWAYS go to the fine dining when its open because you get great service and don't have to fight the buffet lines. The day we debarked the ship, again, my mother and myself were effected by something we ate (we are not lucky, my sister and dad really enjoyed the trip). It was a long ride home to say the least.
The Service: We had a great housekeeper, she greeted us by name everyday, and kept our room looking amazing, literally we would leave for 20 minutes and come back to our bed made up and fresh towels! Other than that, the service was par. The dining crew was so busy with two tables of 12 people at each (Dining in Jubilee Dining Room is cramped, your slammed at a table with 8 other people and the service takes forever, don't go hungry) so they did not play games with us, get to know our names, or anything like on our past cruises which we enjoyed so much, so we were bummed out. Also the service took about 1.5 hours to eat dinner! What?! Around the boat, most people would greet us by a "Good Morning" or "Have a great day" but other than that I was not impressed. No attitudes, but no extra special attention, like I said you get what you pay for.
Debarkation: This was smoother than getting on board. We opted for self-debarkation and woke up around 6am. We had to wait in the Empress level hallway (where people were trying to get out of their rooms for breakfast and could not get anywhere because we jammed it up waiting in line) for about 30 minutes. It was very hot, cramped, and you were stuck and could not go anywhere. But, once the line moved, we moved off the boat, through customs and were shuttled to our car very quickly. It was nice! I would recommend self debarkation because sometimes when they take your luggage off for you (we've done both options) it takes forever to find your luggage and its a free for all with people running everywhere, very unorganized in past experiences.
Overall: I would not go on this trip again. I've been there, done it. This ship was average, for as old as it is I was actually impressed with its condition, but I loved Carnival Glory and would like a bigger/newer boat next time. The service was not up to my standard of other Carnival cruises. Dinner seating sucked. The food was amazing! The ports were great! Debarkation was ok! In the end, it was a shorter drive and I got this for a cheap price so I got my moneys worth and that's all that matters! I would recommend people who have not been on a cruise to check this out, specially if they do not want to spend the big bucks or drive far from their house. Just pack sea sick meds in case and watch what weird food you try! But, if you've been on a carnival cruise before, don't go on this one, you will be disappointed.
FYI: Tea Time which was offered twice on our cruise is awesome! Yummy tea with tons of decadent treats via trolly thing, even cucumber sandwiches, this was one of our favorite experiences on the ship!