We are a married couple in our early fifties. Both of us have demanding jobs and have a difficult time coordinating time off. One of my wife's colleagues had this week for vacation but didn't want it. I was able to get leave so we booked this cruise less than three weeks before sailing. It was a true, unexpected treat.
We rolled the dice with hurricane season and won. Hurricanes can certainly affect cruises but we are always more concerned about flights. Every flight we had was right on time. We flew in to Jacksonville the day before the flight and stayed at the Jacksonville Plaza and Suites hotel using their stay and sail program. For $77, we were picked up at the airport, brought to the hotel, transferred to the pier the next morning and returned to the airport at the conclusion of the cruise. The hotel was fine, the staff and drivers were very polite and helpful and there were restaurants in walking distance (we ate at Ruby Tuesday's). I recommend this program as an outstanding value.
Embarkation was fairly smooth. Our shuttle was actually about 20 minutes early and got us to the pier shortly after 10 am. Since we carried on our luggage on the plane, we did the same onto the ship. Although we were on board and at the poolside grill around 11 am, we couldn't get into our cabin until 2:30 pm so we were more or less stuck babysitting our rollaboards during that time. It was our choice, we could have tagged the bags and had them sent up.
On our past three cruises, we have upgraded ourselves to outside or balcony cabins but we decided to economize on this on and took and inside cabin. The bed was made up as a king as we had requested and the signature Carnival linens were excellent. Different from previous cruises, we never really met our steward but the room was maintained spotlessly. I had preordered a fruit and wine basket as a surprise for my wife. At about $40, it was actually a very good value with a serviceable Chilean red wine, cheeses, crackers and more fruit than we could eat in four days. The closet space was ample for two on a short cruise and the bathroom was pretty much cruise ship standard. No complaints about the cabin at all and no regrets with going with the cheap, interior cabin.
I rate the food excellent. My wife and I are not buffet people at all but we did have a few slices of pizza and found it good. We had burgers from the grill while we were waiting for our cabin. I am an Oklahoma burger snob so I can't say much about the burger but the tomatoes and other condiments were fresh and delicious. We took four breakfasts in the dining room and found them delicious. I especially liked the eggs Benedict and also the corned beef hash with poached eggs. My wife sampled waffles, French toast, oatmeal and a variety of fruits. The service was outstanding and we enjoy the open seating in the morning as an opportunity to meet fellow cruisers. Dinners were outstanding. We had the late seating and enjoyed the company of the two other couples at our table as well as the service and attention from our waiter, Reuben from Honduras and his assistant, Andie from India. My wife and I enjoyed many seafood dishes including a basa filet that was the standout meal of the cruise. We also loved the appetizers including crab cakes, alligator fritters, and my favorite, escargot. I prepurchased a wine program; three bottles for $67. We are not wine snobs and found the selection just fine. The free sushi bar is a nice pre-dinner treat. We had one lunch at the buffet after we boarded from Freeport. The buffet theme was French. I hate to waste food but found the offerings inedible. We ended up eating pizza.
Unlike previous cruises, we never settled in to one particular bar or bartender. Tommy, a fine gentleman from Indonesia, made excellent martinis. Buckets of beer were $25 for four bottles. Since this was our second Carnival cruise, we were given free drink coupons. If you get these, READ THE FINE PRINT! They are for use in the dining room only during breakfast or brunch. No problem for us and we enjoyed Bloody Marys and Mimosas with breakfast one day. I met others who were disappointed that the "couldn't redeem" their coupons at a bar or during dinner.
Entertainment was a mixed bag on this cruise. The comedian the first night was not that funny. The one on the second night was very funny but the venue was packed to the point of being uncomfortable. The first production show, Mambo, was poor. Also, the theater on the Fascination is a definite weak point. I think every single seat has an obscured view. The second production show was an excellent tribute to the 80s; probably the best show I have seen at sea.
I think that on these short cruises, most people are content to entertain themselves around the pool but there were a few activities of note. The wine tasting was well done and at $10 for five pours, a decent value. I competed in, but did not win, a bartending contest. My wife and I played a couple of trivia games but these tended to be held in a busy, high traffic area which we found distracting. We found the pool area too crowded for our comfort but the Serenity area was relatively empty and we enjoyed the hot tubs there.
We planned to do an independent walking tour of Nassau which worked well for us. I booked a kayak/snorkel tour with Carnival for Freeport but it was cancelled for low participation. I rebooked a catamaran snorkel trip but it was also cancelled. Very disappointed, we ended up taking a taxi sightseeing tour.
Disembarkation was exceptionally smooth. We chose self-assist and basically walked right off the ship, through customs and into a waiting airport shuttle by 0830.
Overall, this was an excellent product from Carnival and an outstanding value. I would recommend this cruise to anyone short on time but in need of a real vacation.