My husband and I sailed on the Carnival Sensation as first time cruisers. Overall, it was enjoyable and we were entertained but were disappointed in several areas that are important to us if we are to cruise again.
Embarkation and Disembarkation: Kudos to Carnival! Maybe because the Sensation is not a huge ship, this was a breeze. Probably 10 minutes to embark and even less than that to disembark-Carnival has this figured out. Very organized and smooth!
Motion Sickness: Had expected some issues with this, but it was like flying on an airplane. No need to take the medicine we brought with us. It was very difficult each morning to figure out if we were still cruising or docked. Had to look out the window to make sure. A definite plus!
Stateroom: We booked an ocean-view stateroom with a picture window. It was perfect for us, as we had debated upgrading to a balcony. As it turns out, we weren't in the room enough to justify a balcony. The window was a definite plus; not sure if we would like an inside stateroom. We had room to walk around, were pleased with the very comfortable bed, plentiful storage and ice bucket that was filled each day. Bathrooms were adequate and the shower had a shampoo and soap dispenser which was nice. Cabin steward took very good care of us; made up room each morning when we left and turned down bed each evening, cleaning bathroom as needed throughout the day.
Entertainment: Saw one show, an 80's musical. Was an hour long and very good. Heard good things about a show called "Curves" and a "Newlywed" type of game show. Very pleased with our experience in the Fantasia Lounge. Felt like Pete, the cruise director, did a good job keeping us informed and the gal handling the entertainment on the Lido deck was very good at her job.
Pool/Hot Tubs: Didn't even think to ask about this, but found out that most cruise lines don't heat their swimming pools. It was a saltwater pool; same temperature as the ocean. There was no frolicking in the pool; just a quick dip in to cool off and right back out. Hot tubs were not hot, but were warmer than the pool, so they were often packed.
Freeport: Unless you've booked a shore excursion, I would just stay on the ship. We took a taxi to Port Lucaya Marketplace and came right back after we were there about 45 minutes. The owners of the stalls were very aggressive at trying to get us to come inside, and that quickly dampened our enthusiasm.
Nassau: The town is right by the port, so definitely go explore if you want. We bought day passes for the Atlantis, which we thoroughly enjoyed. (A friend told us that when his family visited Nassau, they walked into Atlantis without purchasing a pass and spent the whole day there using all the facilities and
were never asked to show a pass.)
Dining Room/Buffet & Service: Here's where the major disappointment was realized. My husband enjoys good food and we were expecting some on the cruise. Not to be! We chose the "pick your time" seating plan, as we were wait-listed for the 6:00 seating time. We enjoyed sitting with different people each evening, but were puzzled at the serving issues. Very good service the first evening at a table of 10, very poor service the second evening at a table of 6. Entrees came out very quickly, sometimes while diners were still enjoying soups, salads and appetizers. They would sit, covered, on a table until everyone had finished their previous courses, which meant we had cold entrees served to us. After that happened during the dress-up meal, lobster and shrimp, my angry husband decided we would just eat at the buffet the next two evenings. Buffet food was always cold, and somewhat tasteless. Desserts were unrecognizable as named. Vanilla cookie cake was dry and tasteless, thrown away after one bite. Cheesecake, found to have the texture of styrofoam when cut into, was thrown away untasted. Frozen desserts out of a box would be 100x better than what Carnival tried to serve us.
For what it's worth a fellow passenger who had a regularly assigned dining time said they didn't have the issues we had with waiting for table-mates to finish their courses before entrees were served. As they sat down at their table, say at 6:00, their order was taken and their food was delivered when ready, regardless of when other table-mates arrived and ordered their food. However, at breakfast in the dining room one morning, we were seated at a table for two, next to another couple at a table for two. Our orders were taken together, came out together, but not brought to the table until the female at the table next to us had finished her grapefruit. My husband had to get up and refill our coffee cups for us.
Overall: We found it easy to get around the cruise ship. Our fellow passengers were mostly younger than us and were definitely a party crowd. It didn't bother us. Previously, thought a mega cruise ship would be cool, but after experiencing the ease in getting around a mid-size cruise ship, I really think it has its pluses. Definitely will seek out a cruise line known to serve better food and just put up with a cold swimming pool, I guess.