We chose the Bahamas 5 day cruise out of Charleston for the the convenience (only a 3.5 hour drive from home) and because the dates worked for our daughter's spring break. We headed to Charleston on Monday and stayed at the Radisson North Charleston which had a shuttle to the port included in the very reasonable rate. The hotel was undergoing renovations but the indoor pool and hot tub were very nice and the breakfast buffet the next morning was included and really good. We were not able to get on a shuttle until 12:30 pm on Tuesday and the hotel had no problem letting us stay in our rooms until time to leave for the port.
Once we got to the port, the shuttle dropped us off where you check your luggage. We then took a bus to the terminal building. The buses were double stacked at the terminal building but the line moved pretty quickly. We waited in line about 15 minutes to get through security. After security, there was virtually no line to check in and get our sail and sign cards. (Strongly suggest that you bring a lanyard and have the service desk on board use the hold-punch so you can wear your card).
Watch-Outs on board:
No blow dryers provided. Bring your own or borrow from the room steward.
No soft drinks or bottled water are provided free of charge. Either bring your own or be prepared to pay (with an automatic gratuity). The water on board has a definite smell and taste. We took a water bottle with a built-in filter with us that worked great.
Photos - 8X10's are over $20 each. "Candids" range between $8 and $10 each. You will be asked to pose for pictures when you first board, every time you get off the ship, and at dinner each night, etc. There are no package deals that reduce the pricing.
Casino - smoking is allowed inside the casino and the casino is open to the surrounding areas so the smoke permeates the seating areas and bars around the casino.
Stateroom stewards were awesome and attentive. We did not have any issues with servers during dining. We were not able to have a specified dining time so we went early each night and waited less than 5 minutes to be seated. As we were finishing up however, the lines were much longer. We were a little worried after ready several reviews, that the food would be cold but we did not have any issues with the food in the dining room. The buffet was typical buffet food, but did provide more variety for breakfast than the dining room. The grill out by the pool had the longest lines but generally the wait was only around 10 minutes.
Entertainment: We enjoyed the shows, the comedy routines, the games and other activities. The staff were always energetic and fun. Our 20 year old also enjoyed the shows. Our first cruise was over 20 years ago and the entertainment has never been on par with Broadway or Vegas but who would expect it to be?
Our biggest problem was out of the hands of Carnival - the weather was much cooler than we'd hoped and quite breezy. The movement of the boat was very apparent (first cruise where we could always feel the movement) fortunately, none of us are prone to motion sickness.
The windows of the staterooms were also dirty and the windows in the dining room were also pretty dirty making it difficult to see through. With the weather so chilly, we wanted good visibility for seeing the scenery while in port and while cruising.
One last watch-out: The straw markets in Nassau and Freeport - all of the vendors have the same items in booth after booth and the prices are higher than in souvenir shops close by. The vendors will bargain a little but not down to the prices you can find a few stores away.