We decided to try Carnival again after our first cruise a few years back. The first one was out of Tampa and we were going to be visiting Grand Cayman and Cozumel. This was our first cruise and as you can imagine we were initially amazed by the entire experience.
However, once the cruise was underway we were less thrilled as the ship felt very crowded (cannot recall which ship it was but it was the same class as the Ecstasy). It seemed like the ship shrank on us as we were always standing in a line or waiting on a chair to open up. The atmosphere was very spring-break like with the middle-aged taking the place of the college kids and it felt like there was always a fog of smoke emanating out of the casino.
Following this cruise we decided to try Carnival again mostly because of the low price for the 5 day and this cruise was offering 3 ports of call to places we'd never been.
The ship felt just as small the 2nd time around but also seemed far less More
crowded! We were always able to find a couple of chairs on the Serenity deck. You could still get whiffs of smoke from the Casino and while the drinks were moving across the ship the drunken rowdiness was not there. The food in the buffet on our first cruise was great and the dining room was so-so. It was completely reversed during this cruise. The dining room was where we ate every night for dinner, and every morning for breakfast. The only line was for the dining room on Formal Night and the mongolian wok portion of the buffet on Lido.
We missed seeing all of the shows except for the comedians on the 2nd night. Three back to back sets and they were terrific! Everyone on the ship was very nice from the passengers to the crew, with the exception of an older lady on formal night that decided to cut in front of us and a few other people while we were watching a couple dance in the promenade below as we waited in line for a table for dinner (we ended up getting seated at the same table - awkward!!).
Our cabin was the exact same set-up as the previous ship, and never felt too small. The bathrooms on these ships really are larger than the one we had on the RC, which was also very nice. The AC is controlled manually by adjusting a dial on the vent on the ceiling. The output was AMAZING! We were always freezing while in the room, but the blankets helped with that.
The only real complaints we had were that we always seemed to be waiting an extraordinary long time for an elevator. Also, a number of the lounges were frequently closed for private functions. We had heard that the Chinatown Lounge was very nice, but every time we tried to visit it was closed off as a 'Private Function'.
Bottom line, we have decided that we much prefer being on the larger ships just for the variety of spaces. The Carnival experience redeemed itself somewhat on this cruise, although if we ever do another Carnival (which seems questionable now after all of the accidents and breakdowns they have had lately) it will be on one of their larger, newer vessels. Less
We stayed in Cabin E35 which is on the starboard (right) side at the front of the ship. We had no trouble at all with the motion of the ship or noise (aside from the people in the cabin next to us). This was an unobstructed OV cabin, with the larger square window rather than a porthole.
The AC in this room worked really well, almost too well. You practically had to turn the air flow completely off to keep from freezing. The room is also situated just down the hall from the laundry, which is convenient. The size of the room is pretty good, doesn't feel cramped and has a pullman bed to allow for 3 guests in this cabin. The mattresses where pretty hard, made it rough sleeping at night. The rooms were also supposed to each have a hair dryer, but this one didn't. Fortunately my wife brought hers along. The bathrooms are fairly large for a cruise ship, especially the shower which is nice. The room only had a single 110 outlet so be sure to bring an extension cord if you need to power more than one electrical device!
Our final port of call was Freeport Bahamas. Freeport was a HUGE disappointment. I honestly don't know what the cruise ships stop here. There is nothing to see unless you take an excursion. The sand on the beaches is just the same as you'd find in Florida. In fact, we enjoyed the Florida beaches more. The town of Lucaya is the destination now, and the shopping area and beaches there as well as the food are a waste of time. I would take any port we've ever been to over this one and will try to avoid going there again in the future.
I have read that there are some very nice beaches much farther our such as Gold Rock, but honestly it is so far away that you would spend as much time working out how to get there as you would on the beach which just makes it not as inviting.
Out first stop was Half-Moon Cay, the private island. It was our first lengthy stop at a Caribbean beach and the island itself was beautiful. The sand was so white ans soft, the water crystal clear. We had a terrific time here and were sorry to go, it went by too quickly. However, the sun that far south was brutal. We applied sunscreen (SPF 50) several times but my wife, along with half the ship it seems to have gotten sun-burned. The tender process to and from this port was very quick and in less than 5 minutes you could made it to/from the ship. There is not a lot of shade on the beach so it is best to try and be on one of the first tenders to get a chair under the few trees that line part of the beach, otherwise you will be renting a clam-shell if you need to stay out of the sun.
Our 2nd port was Nassau Bahamas. We were not sure what to expect here as we'd never been to the Bahamas but Nassau was pretty nice. Plenty of shopping right outside to the port which you can walk to. The stray market area was interesting. You can bargain, but most of what you see from shop to shop will be the same. The shops that the ship tired to steer us to for bargains on jewelry were IMO way overpriced (Diamonds International, Emeralds International, Tanzanite International, etc.). The prices I think were better on the jewelry in Mexico. We did end up going to John Bull where I found a very nice watch. Transportation was super easy taking the No. 10 Jitney bus to Ardastra Gardens and the Fish Dry. Ardastra was a bit pricey but a lot of fun. The gardens were nice and there were a lot of smaller animals to see. It was an easy walk from where the bus dropped just past Fort Charlotte (and across from the islands SPCA).
We had lunch as the Twin Brothers restaurant in the Fish Fry section. The food was AMAZING!! I highly recommend the conch fritters. Most people rave about the conch salad. We tried it but that just wasn't for me. It was not what I thought it would be, and too spicy for me. We also had the fried grouper fingers which were very good. The lemonade I think was I think fresh squeezed. There are several choices to choose from here but I think Twin Brothers is probably the one that does the best business.
From there we took the Jitney a bit further to the Cable Beach area. I see now what they mean about difficult access to the beach. The hotels have been built in such a way as to block (not with walls or anything) your ability to get from the street to the beach without going through them. We decided to walk through the Sheraton and found the Hotel and lobby to be very nice. The beach also looked great, but if you want a public beach, there is one within walking distance (Goodman Bay) which looked very pretty with some shaded areas, and public bathrooms. If we go back, that is likely the beach we would visit. We heard from others that the beaches and pools on Paradise Island at Atlantis were also very good (expensive as well).