Embarkation- I live in Baton Rouge, so the Julia Street terminal is only about 90 minutes away, when you take into account New Orleans traffic. I left Baton Rouge at 9:15 a.m. and arrived at the Annunciation Street parking lot about 10:45 a.m. $60 to park for the cruise, which includes a shuttle to the pier. When I arrived at the pier shortly after 11:00 a.m. there were just a few people outside and about 40 people in line to check in. Within 10 minutes I presented the passport and docs to the friendly agents and was instructed to go the infamous second set of yellow chairs. There I sat for about 25 minutes. About 11:45, I am instructed to get in the line to approach the metal detectors (with the first of several photo ops in between). I bypassed the first photo op with the Carnival camera man and made it through the metal detectors, up the escalators and walked onto the ship entering the Empress deck (6th level). Getting aboard the ship was quite fast and hassle free.
Ship- The Sensation is one of the Carnival "Fantasy" class ships, and this one was built in 1993. The Empress level has a beautiful atrium with neon lit elevators. Floors are designated by the first letter of the name of the deck (S for Sports, L for Lido) and the elevators do not have that voice notification you hear in more modern elevators. Not a complaint, just an observation that for me made me relies on my map of the ship for the first day. Upon getting on the ship, I went to my room and unloaded my carryon luggage and went to the Lido deck. The Seaview Bar and Grill had a great selection of food. There is a hamburger grill outside near the pool. The burgers are terrific! As with all Carnival cruises, pizza is available 24 hours a day and there is a deli. The pizzeria and deli are on the aft side and you can walk out to the balcony and enjoy a meal from the aft of the ship. The calzones were OK, but the burgers are better! After all that eating, get up to the gym and enjoy a nice walk on the treadmill and spend some time in hot tubs.Cruise Director- The current cruise director for the Sensation is Greg Hutson. As you know, Cruise Directors have the tough job of getting a couple of thousand people to be excited to be on vacation. Greg is the youngest cruise director that is on a Carnival ship- he is all of 25 years old! He has been with Carnival for about 4 years. The fact that he has earned his way to be a Cruise Director speaks well of Greg and of Carnival as well. He and his social hosts, Zoe Smith and Gary Brierely of England, did a great job with handling the different activities.
Cabin- I was assigned cabin R 58, a category 1A cabin. The cabin is down a hallway mid-ship on the Rivera deck, centrally located between the elevators to go to the aft or bow of the Sensation. My cabin steward was from Indonesia and he called himself Coma. I only saw him three times on the cruise but I always knew he was doing job, because he took very good care of my room. I had brought a CPAP unit (for sleep apnea) and found that the electric outlet was near the bed. Also there were light switches above and on the side of the bed. The cabin was very roomy.
Dining- I had asked for early seating but was initially assigned late seating (8:00 p.m.) at the Ecstasy Dining Room. I was able to switch with the Maitre' D and get early seating (5:45 p.m.) in that dining room. There was a lady in front of me who was trying to get the Maitre' D to place her at a table next to her friend. She was assigned to a table two tables from her friend. They had 12 in their group and this lady could not understand why they could not put a table for 8 and a table for 4 together. People behind her were begging her to take the table she was assigned and move on! As for me, I sat with a group from Indiana who were on their first cruise. Our waiters, Remberto and Elgio were always attentive and their service was excellent. The food was also very good. My favorites are the Indian Pumpkin Soup, the Lobster and the Beef Wellington. The dining room experience is always a great time.Excursions- On Wednesday, the Sensation docked at Calica. As many of you know, the Sensation docks in an industrial area. Buses and taxis await you, along with a string of vendors waiting to sell you something. There is one oasis I would recommend to you- there is a man selling Corona’s for $2. You can sit under a tent and enjoy a cool one before re-boarding the ship.
I went to Xcaret, an eco-historical park a few minutes away. It cost $59 for the day, which includes bus service. Let me be succinct - if you have not been there, you need to go! It is fantastic! There are Mayan ruins, a zoo, beaches, aquariums – all included in the cost! For $10 you can rent snorkeling equipment and swim from one end of the park to the other. Check out their web site www.xcaret.com.
On Thursday, the Sensation docked in Cozumel. This was my fourth visit to Cozumel, so I have become a bit more familiar with the city. After going through the duty- free shops, you will enter a nice area with the shops. These are the stores your “super shopper” will tell you about. You can catch a taxi ($6) and head to the Forum shops. From there you will see the several Diamonds International stores and all the other places. I overheard someone ask their spouse, “How did they know our ship was coming today?” I smiled and said to myself “Rookie”…
There are some stores you should visit. One of my favorites is Los Cinqos Soles. This is a great store for gifts, especially vanilla (a liter of vanilla will cost you $15) and Kahlua ($9 for a liter). From there you can make your way through various stores and find a $1 Corona along the way to cool off with. I would also recommend the Cozumel Museum. Located in this building is an Internet room where you can go online for an hour for only $2. As far as restaurants, Carlos and Charlies can be an excursion in and of itself. Las Palmerias and Senor Frogs are also great spots for lunch.
Shows- I attended most of the shows. The Fantasia Lounge is very nice The musicals were quite good. The dancers and singers work very hard and their efforts show. The Bryan Tavares Orchestra was also very entertaining. The comedians were OK, but to me not that funny. Ventriloquists are not my preference for entertainment. I didn’t attend the late night R-rated shows. One night, there was a sword juggler and balancer. Interesting, but not something I would normally pay for.
Disembarkation- My group was called last, but I had a leisurely drive to Baton Rouge. I was off the ship by 1000 am. No problems at all. If you have to wait, just head up to the Lido deck and enjoy a cup of coffee.