Arrived at JaxPort around 1:50 and didn't know we needed the ticket and ID to park at the port. We saw the $8/day parking and I would say we would much rather spend the extra $4/day to have the convenience of being closer. Dropped our luggage and paid to park. It was 2:05 after parking and we got in our first of many lines for the 5 day trip. It took roughly 20 minutes to get through security. The first thing I thought of when we got in this line is that the clientele of this ship is like that of Wal-Mart. I had read a review somewhere that it’s as if Carinval drove a tour bus to a Wal-Mart at 7pm on a weekday and the driver got out to say, “Hey, anyone want to go on a cruise?” And the whole store boarded. Those are the people you’re cruising with. At 2:25 we got in the check-in line. As anxious and hungry as I was, I regretted not purchasing the FTTF pass. If I could do one thing different, I would have done FTTF. We made it on the ship promptly at 3:00. This is where it sucked because the first announcement we heard was about the food lines closing due to the Safety Briefing. We were introduced to Reynoldo, our room steward. As with many reviewers, we were very pleased with his service. Always answered our questions and provided anything or support we needed. Our electric socket went out and he had maintenance to our cabin within 5 minutes.
At 3:30 the safety briefing was a well organized charade. After getting a bite on the Lido deck around 4:30 because of the massive lines, we headed to the Camp Carnival Orientation. We totally felt like camp carnival was a cluster F. Too loud at the orientation, we really just needed to know our kids were registered and found out that they couldn’t be in the same group even though they were 4 and 7. It turned out to not really matter, because we didn’t use it as often as I had initially planned.
Went to the water slides. We liked them and the kids had fun. There are 3 main slides. The big yellow one that curves over the ocean and the steep blue ones. Both of those you have to be 42 inches. Then there is the small blue ones for small kids. My 4 year old loved those and was on them the whole trip. My 7 year old liked the big blue ones but was afraid of the yellow one. I loved the yellow one.
We went back to our room to get ready only to find our tv didn’t seem to work. We called the information desk and they said they would send someone. Since it was so late, we ate dinner in coconut grove and had lasagna, pizza and ice cream. Not bad, but we definitely aimed to have the rest of our dinners in one of the dining rooms. Coconut Grove should be your backup, not your main choice. Got back to the room and the tv was still out. I called information desk again to reiterate my concern regarding the television and to remind them that I called earlier. They had a guy down there in 5 minutes. All he did was unplug it and plug it back in. That fixed it. Wife and kids went to bed while I went to the casino. Played BJ. Craps table was too full. Casino was okay. I like the $6 minimums on BJ and the $5 minimums on Roulette, Craps as well as 3 card Poker, Caribbean Stud and Let it Ride. My favorite, Pai Gow Poker was nowhere to be found. But they had one of those catchy 21 games where the dealer’s two cards are both dealt face up. The catch is that Blackjacks are paid even money and ties go to the dealer. They also have a plethora of slots and an electronic Texas Hold’em game. I didn’t like the Texas Hold’em. The screens were difficult to master.
Slept well. Woke up. Got a good work out. Gym was nice. They had all the weight machines I usually use back home and plenty of bikes, treadmills and elliptical machines. I had read that some people, instead of taking a shower in their cabin would take one in the locker room. Once I saw that area, I knew why. I didn’t take advantage of it, but thought I’d share anyway.
Met up with family and friends and we had breakfast in the Sensation dining room. My omelette was small but tasty and the turkey bacon tasted like rubber. Had more fun on the lido deck at the slides and pool. We docked in Freeport at Noon, so we took the kids to camp carnival to make a build-a-bear. It cost us about $25 per bear and while they did that, we sat on the serenity deck and drank the time away. Since the boat had just docked in Freeport and we felt like we had some time to kill. Then after a late lunch from coconut grove which I had the Mongolian Wok and it wasn't too bad if you don’t mind flies landing on the uncooked food every 30-45 seconds, we left the ship at 3ish. Had to be back by 6:30. Freeport is the worst stop. With not enough to do close by, we asked for a cab to take us to the beach. Well, since gas is 6.59/gallon, the cabbies won't take fewer than 8 people anywhere. Then, it was 30 minutes to the beach. $10 round trip per person. But you pay up front so you have to wait in the same spot for the same guy to take you back at a predetermined time. We went to Port Lucaya Beach. Frustrated after 30 minutes in the car, we walked another 10 minutes to the beach. Got about 30-40 minutes of swim time (with stingrays, no less) and headed back to our pick up location, bought some Cuban cigars from the Port Lucaya Market and waited another 20 minutes for the cab. The drive back to the dock was different route than which we came so the driver could pick up his girlfriend and made it back to the boat at 6:15. Cuttin it close, for sure. The problem with what we did in Freeport was that we spent more time waiting for cabs and in transit than we did on the beach.
We ate a late dinner in the Sensation Room since we had Dine at any time. This was the 'Fancy Dress' Dinner. We were sat next to the window when the staff sang, "That's Amore!" they turned out the lights and since it was the day before the 'SuperMoon', the moon was so big and beautiful. After dinner, we turned in early and got ready for Nassau. Our service this evening was okay, but she struggled with some routine items that waiters in a restaurant like this shouldn't miss.
Breakfast in coconut grove was not nearly what the breakfast in Sensation was like. Runny eggs, over cooked buffet style food. Gross. Got off the ship and got past all the Bahamians trying to braid your hair and sell you taxi ferry rides to Atlantis only to get a cab ride to the Paradise Island ferry terminal for $4 per person. Again, we had 8 in our party, but he crammed 3 more people in the cab to make a buck. Got in line for the blue lagoon dolphin encounter. We had reserved 8 spots by calling the vendor directly earlier in the week. The cost was $98 per person for this encounter. That was a $50 per person savings over the excursion cost thru Carnival. Waited 10 min for the ferry and off we went on the 20 min ride to the other island. This was a great excursion. We got some quality time with the animals and on the beach. The ferry then took all passengers back to the ship which saved us some money on a cab. Ate a late lunch at the lido deck (after a long line) and played on the slides again. At dinner, we had a great waiter on this night. He took good care of us.
Early to bed for some rest and up for breakfast in the sensation dining room. This is where I began to recognize the hostesses in the sensation dining room lack flexibility. They sat us in the direct sunlight and when we asked to be moved (75% of the room was empty) we began to be treated poorly like WE did something wrong. I had the French toast which was very good. Went back for a nap while the kids went to the slides and met them up there in time to hang for about an hour before we sailed right through a rain storm. Then we had some lunch back in the Sensation dining room. Our friends got there at 1:25 asked for a table of 8 and were denied since we were not standing right next to them, we arrived at 1:28 and they wouldn't seat us because they claimed to be closed and no longer seating. They were scheduled to close at 1:30. My wife called their bluff and went in to find our friends, sat down at the table next to them and we ate a quick lunch. Again, lack of flexibility. We ate no appetizers and no dessert. Wait service felt put out. After lunch, we retreated back to the room to watch a movie since it was raining and watched OZ – The Great and Powerful. We all took a nap then got ready for dinner. We took the kids to camp carnival for the kids dinner which was nice to have as an option since taking the kids to a fancy dining room isn't much fun. Enjoyed our dinner with our friends and picked the kids up. Went to bed. Packed. Called down to get the debarkation group with our friends and they complied. We were able to change our group from 21 to 12 so that we could disembark with the people we came with.
Overall, I had gotten about what I expected. An older ship with some updated décor. We were overall pleased with the cleanliness. My daughters really enjoyed the trundle bed. Having four people in the same room was difficult but efficient. I thought Camp Carnival was run poorly and we didn’t leave our kids there as often as I had planned. But the Casino was fun and I was happy to get some money from the sail and sign card to play games (at a generous 3% rate). Drinks were expensive, that’s to be expected. The Espresso bar midship on the 9th deck was real good. But overall, we stayed under budget and we would definitely sail again. We would, however, most likely choose another ship with upgraded and newer amenities and an itinerary that avoided Freeport.