For first time cruisers, we were ecstatic (pun intended) as we drove in to the port. At first glance, we felt nothing but excitement about our cruise to the Bahamas. We both love to travel and have spent time all over the US and in Mexico. This was our first trip to the Bahamas. First thing worth noting: It was very difficult to find our way to our room. They refer to the different levels of the ship as "decks", "zones" or "floors" interchangeably. We were in a "U" room on deck "6" in zone "3". You can see how this would be confusing when trying to find where to go. Other than that, the first impression of the ship was good. It was clean, the staff were friendly, and we were too excited to notice anything else wrong. When we got to our room, we were pleased with the view. We were not pleased, however, with the smell of the bathroom. It smelled like an outhouse and that did not change throughout the entire cruise. The floor, although "clean" did not feel clean it all. In fact, the entire bathroom seemed gross. It felt like showering in a campground...like I needed flip flops on the whole time. The room was okay except that the bed was two twins pushed together--not very comfortable with a crack down the middle between the mattresses.
Now on to the actual cruise. I'm going to keep this somewhat brief. We are not big drinkers, so we had a hard time socializing on the ship because it seemed that just about everyone was three sheets to the wind all the time. People were drinking hard alcohol at breakfast. There were kids and teenagers running around throughout the entire ship with no supervision. At the buffet line, kids were reaching their hands in to the food without using spoons. People passed by the sanitary stations without cleaning their hands. Day two is when you started to hear people coughing, sneezing, sounding sick in general. We took plenty of vitamin C, drank lots of water, and washed our hands often.
At port, there was not enough time to truely enjoy the local culture. I do not recommend the Bahamas because it is SO expensive. We ended up spending more on shopping and food than we would have in the states.
The entertainment on the ship was cheesy and at times very boring. We participated in bingo (which costs extra money). $25 per person and the game lasted about 10 minutes with one winner being announced. We went to the "shows", the piano bar, the adults only comedy, and hasboro game show, Lido deck games, etc. The only one worth going to was the comedy and possibly the piano bar. The painist told me no to all three of my requests (Billy Joel was one of them: I mean, come on!). We spent a little time in the casino and lost (but that could be the same in any casino).
The final thing worth mentioning is the gratuity. If you're like me, you read most of the fine print when you booked the cruise, but didn't remember every detail. On Tuesday (the second day of the cruise) I we were at Half Moon Cay (Beautiful beach, but nothing else to do) and I bought a virgin pina colada at the bar. My "sail and sign" card was denied. Seemed impossible since I had started out with $120 on it and hadn't spent money on ANYTHING at that point. When I got back on board I printed a statement an there was a $115 charge on my card for gratuity. You can't buy a stick of bubblegum without signing for it on the ship, but they will automatically charge your card $115 without saying anything. When I went to guest services to in inquire, she handed me a piece of paper explaining the charge. She said it was gratuity. My exact words to her were, "So, it just automatically goes through and I am expected to pay it?" She said yes. So, I immediately went over to the sail and sign kiosk and deposited the money. As I was doing this, my girlfriend told me that at the bottom of the LONG page explanation, it said that it could be adjusted as I saw fit. I went back to guest services and asked if that was true, and at that point she admitted that I could change the amount if I wanted to. It's not that I don't think they deserve to the be tipped--but I did NOT like the way they went about it. First of all, I spent three WHOLE days off that ship without using any of their services. I ended up lowering it to $85 and later on tipped my room crew $25 because I felt they deserved it the most. There were so many people walking around that day confused and wondering why their cards weren't working. I think they should have explained this better and also let people in on the fact that it is not MANDATORY, but recommended.
Now for the good:
1. Cheap ($370 each and we were able to drive to port so no airfare). We spent about $700 on shopping, drinks, food at the ports, gratuity, etc. Pretty cheap vacation.
2. Relaxing (if that's what you like to do. We are personally more go and explore kind of people, but relaxing by the pool and on the beach was nice)
3. "All inclusive". Not having to worry about food expense was nice. Drinks were very spendy--even non-alcoholic.
4. BEST PART OF THE TRIP: If you go to Nassau, go to the "Arawak Cay" AKA the Fish Fry and go to the little yellow restaraunt on the end called "Gullies". You will not be disappinted. By far the best food of the trip and one of the best meals I have ever had. Excellant service and good prices. I highly recommend the tacos and the prok chops. I'm salivating just thinking about them....
All around, we did not care for the cruise. We know some people who love them though so it may just be a personal thing. We will more than likely not cruise anywhere again and if we do, we will definitely be booking with a different cruise line.