Second cruise went great. I'll be cruising regularly now.
I had a great experience with cruising last year, and decided to give cruising another shot. While I originally wanted a longer cruise, my budget and vacation only allowed 4 days. So I booked one on the Sensation, sailing out of Port Canaveral, with ports in Freeport and Nassau.
I stayed in Comfort Inn Cocoa Beach. The hotel was very good. My room (referred to as the courtyard suite) had a seating area, a kitchenette, and a sleeping area with a queen bed. I stayed there for one night, but it's nice enough for a week-long stay too. Hotel staff was always helpful with answering questions. The neighborhood, on the other hand, is exciting for only a few hours or so. There's a Ron John's Surf Shop next door (open 24 hours), plus grocery stores, a mall, restaurants, and fast food places. To really go anywhere, you have to rent a car. Otherwise, the only thing to really do is putz around Atlantic Avenue, which turns residential if you go far enough north or south.
PORT CANAVERAL AND EMBARKATION
The port was great and the workers were friendly. The building looks modern and spacious, like an airport terminal. The baggage check process couldn't be easier: a porter collected the bags curbside (with a tip, of course), loaded them into a trailer, and directed me to Terminal 6. Ny boarding pass was quickly exchanged for a Sail & Sign card, and I was set to go. Every employee I dealt with was nothing short of warm, friendly, and professional. Within about half hour, I was walking on the jetway-like structure to get on ship, and engaging in fun conversations with other people in line.
The main dining room food was excellent, with only one or two exceptions. The brisket was a little dry, and the warm melting chocolate cake was slightly overbaked. Everything else was delicious and filling.
The Lido buffet food was more ambivalent. Lunch and dinner were great. Breakfast was so-so, although still decent enough to eat. One thing, though: there was never any sushi, despite reports of the Sushi Bar food being moved there. One crew member told me that all Lido sushi was eliminated.
The Taste Bar was good, but the portions are tiny. And they give toothpicks instead of silverware. It's good as a snack to prevent your pre-dinner cocktail from hitting you too hard, but not something to make a meal out of.
There are no specialty restaurants on the Sensation.
ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT
Follow the Fun Times if you're looking for things to do. I did a towel folding class, the Groove for St. Jude dance, and the deck party. All of these were really good. Shows in the main theater were awesome. My favorite was "Far From Over", where they sang 80's song and danced in front of sets depicting images from the 80's. Other shows, "Curves" and "Welcome Aboard" were more cheesy, but still good. I even enjoyed the Punchliner comedy performance, despite not being much of a stand-up comedy fan.
Great service, except one glitch I ran into! Crew members were constantly cleaning public areas to make them look presentable. Food service crew tried their best to deliver good on time and in good condition, despite being overworked and understaffed. I didn't see my cabin steward very often, but always greeted me when he saw me, and kept my room clean. Entertainment staff always made sure the ship lived up to Carnival's "Fun Ships" image.
The glitch consisted of me losing out on the Behind the Fun Tour. I went to buy it on the first day. Then, when I went to confirm it the night before, the Guest Services worker said that I was never reserved for it, my account wasn't charged the cost, and no ticket was issued for me. She apologized profusely, but nothing could be done, either. It was pretty much the only damper in my cruise.
PUBLIC AREAS AND LAYOUT
In two words, very purple. The carpeting, steel molding wrapping around each deck in the atrium, and many accent features in the promenade were all colored purple. Despite having sailed on Imagination before and already knowing the deck plan, I still found myself confusing where was forward/aft/port/starboard when I first got on the ship. There was never a shortage of dance spaces and bars on the ship. There were, however, lines to get into the MDR at dinner, but they moved pretty quickly.
I stayed in R12, in the forward port section of the Riviera deck. The bed (in my case, two twins moved together) took up most of the cabin space, but the ledge in front of the port holes was big enough to fit a suitcase and a backpack, plus had room to spread out my stuff in general. There's a safe in the closet; it opens with any magnetic stripe card other than your Sail & Sign card. Given the low, forward cabin location, I could feel the ship motion even when the waters were only slightly choppy. And on the last night, the motion was quite strong. I, pesonally, found it very relaxing, but if you get seasick, take note.
The best part of the cabin were the portholes; they let me wake up in the morning to natural light, but I still paid an inside cabin price. Compared to cabins in newer ships, the cabin was fairly spartan, but then again, I spent two hours a day there maximum.
I went on April 14. It's after most schools' spring breaks, so there weren't many kids there. They were polite and well-behaved for the most part, although they did take over hot tubs during most of morning and early afternoon hours. The age range on the cruise was very broad: from 25 to 65, slightly skewed toward the younger end. I had assigned dining, and my tablemates were great. We ended up having good conversations each night, which can really make your dining experience if you're cruising solo. I got a negative comment about my solo status from only one person during the entire cruise, and I saw them only once. Most people treated it like it was a perfectly normal thing.
It was organized and efficient, but the lines were long. If you self-debark, like I did, you take your luggage, vacate your cabin, and get in line to debark. Not sure how it goes if you leave your luggage outside your cabin to be picked up. At the end, you go to your car, an airport shuttle, or your tour bus; the directions they give you are very clear.