I was skeptical, but we ended up having a great time! SKIP TO THE BOTTOM FOR SPECIFIC TIPS REGARDING YOUR CRUISE ON BAHAMA CELELBRATION.
The phone rang. Thats where it all began. A cheerful voice buzzed in our ear ..."Complete a brief telephone survey and we will reward you with a free 3 day cruise to the Bahama's." I normally avoid things like this, knowing its usually scammy, but this time, I turned on speaker phone and my husband and I listened.
Once we completed the survey, we were redirected to a sales agent. She talked our ear off about the Bahama's Celebration cruise ship and how fun and wonderful it was. She said that if we "paid today", we could have the whole 3 day 2 night trip for two all for $60 per person. She said it was transferrable, and we could use it ANY TIME. She then tried to upgrade us at an additional cost to an overnight hotel stay in the Bahama's and trip to Orlando upon return. We said NO NO NO and then her boss got on the phone and tried to give us an even BETTER deal. We said no no no. (YOU HAVE TO BE FIRM!!!) Finaly, they just gave us what we origionaly wanted. The short cruise. The ship sails out of Palm Beach Florida, and we were headed down there this summer to see family anyways, so worst comes to worst, we would just have to give it to family to use. Anyway, we bought.... AND we added another passenger--my Dad, for and additional $120.
We had been on a more expensive Carnival Cruise (Carnival Inspiration to Mexico) for our honeymoon several years earlier, and we did not have the best time. The ship was so overcrowded, the food was'nt good, it rained the whole time, and there was so much rocking, I got really sick. Also the ship was so big it was difficult to get around. We decided to give cruising another try for a cheaper price.
A week later (you have to wait a week after purchasing to book) we called to book the dates for our cruise on the Bahama Celebration. (This was in May, and we booked for July 29th-31st) We immediately noticed that the staff were not as friendly when talking to us. We booked the dates and were asked...."You know you MUST go to the Welcome Center in Fort Lauterdale to pick up your boarding passes prior to sail, right?" I was suprised by that because Fort Lauterdale is 2 hours away from the cruise terminal and there was no way we would be willing to drove an extra 4 hours out of our way to get the passes. They said the passes could not be mailed to us, but that they would have an agent contact us soon and we can try to arrange for a closer pick up location than Fort Lauterdale. We were told we would be contacted by an agent several weeks before sail. I called 3 times after that to confirm our booking. All was well.
Right away, I got online and started reading reviews for the Bahama's Celebration Cruise Ship. I will admit, there was a lot of negative reviews. It made us nervous. A little scared. I found out the "Welcome Center" was a huge timeshare presentation. ugh! But we figured, if it was only a couple hours, we could swallow it. Well, I did read a lot of decent reviews for the Bahama's Celebration as well, and those were encouraging. I learned a lot of great tips, like how icecream on deck 9 is free if you get it in a cup. TRUE!!! (a lot of people don't know that) Then I read a review that said we could skip the welcome center all together and still have no trouble getting on the ship. That sounded fantastic. So we planned to do so.
As the date of sail approached, I was contacted by our agent who arranged for us to go to the Palm Beach Welcome Center right next to the ship, instead of the Fort Lauterdale location. We agreed. (We still planned on taking a passed reviewers advice and skipping it anyway)
But day of the cruise, I started to get nervous. I thought, what if we really DID have to get our boarding passes at the welcome center? What if we tried to get on the ship without the boarding passes and were declined? What a nightmare! So we buckled and went to the welcome center. Once there, they served us an excellent complimentary breakfast that truly was delicious. We sat with a sales agent from RCI Timeshare who spent the first hour just getting to know us and becoming our friend. Then she informed us that we would be there for 5 hours.... WHAT???!!!!!!!!!! We put up a fight about it, but she was just so sweet and put us at ease that we would not miss the ship and that she would make it a fun experience.
Thankfully, she did make it fun. While she talked to us about RCI, she took us on a guided tour around Palm Beach. We got in a nice air conditioned shuttle and went down to the Marina where she pointed out local landmarks such as Howard Sterns, Celine Dions, and the old Kennedy's vacation houses. She gave us a history lesson on the island and we walked along the Marina looking at all the tropical fish swimming in the clear water. She even bought us shrimp so we could feed them. She continued to yap our ears off about RCI,but then she took us down to the beach where we got to take our shoes off and enjoy the water a little bit. The next thing we knew, it was 4pm (ship leaves at 6). She tried to sell us a timeshare package for $15,000. When we declined, she tried to sell it to us for $8,000. We declined again, and then we were sent into another room to FINALY collect our 'boarding passes' where we were met with yet another salesman who tried to get us to buy- one last time, for $3,000. We declined. He gave us the passes. We headed to the ship at 5pm.
Once there, the valet parked our car and gave us a ticket to present upon return saying "DO NOT LOSE THIS!" because you need it to claim your car when you get back. There was no line because we were so late. That was actually nice.
We gave them our names and they crossed the names off of a list. They took our bags for us to be delivered to our cabin (we kept our camera and lap top in hand though). We filled out a couple of forms, presented our passports, paid an additional $48 per person for gratuities and fuel surcharges, and then we got in another line to choose which dining room we would like to eat in each day. The only one left by then was the Rio. When we got on board,we noticed a tad musky smell, not overpowering,but not super fresh. We went to our cabin. IT WAS SMALL. 2 people was okay...but we had 3 adults in ours. lol.
.................suddenly, we all laughed. We realized that at NO TIME during check in, were we EVER asked to present those "boarding passes" from the Welcome Center. !!!!!!!!!! hahahahaha. We could have skipped that whole thing and got on the ship fine! GEEZE.
Once we got on the ship, the experience was a breeze! It was so wonderful and we enjoyed our time so much. Thats where the fun began.
The cabin was small, but we were hardly in it anyways. The first night we went to Dinner in the Rio- wich was DELICIOUS!!!! Wow. GET THE BEEF WELLINGTON!!! You can order more than one entree, too. Then we went to The View to hear a stand up comedian named Denis. The first 10 minutes was boring but after that he had us rolling! He was so funny!!!! We ordered a couple of beers and enjoyed the comedy. Right after that we went upstairs to the Ocean Breeze lounge for some Karaoke. It was SO FUN to listen to all the different people sing. & Drinks were on a special-- $2 per beer!!! GREAT!
(I entered the Karaoke contest and won a stage preformance in front of the whole ship the next night-- and once there I competed and won. So I recieved a $50 on board credit. FUN!!!!! (Hear a recording of my song on http://idolcelebration.com/ and vote for me, Shalise, and I will have the chance to return and compete for $5,000. )
That first evening we went to bed at 1am and got up at 8 for breakfast in the Rio. Breakfast was fantastic! From the reviews I read about the ship prior, the Grand Lucayenne resort seemed to be the most popular excursion choice. The ship excursion desk will book it for you for $40 per person.... but we took advice from the reviews and just paid for a taxi $10 per person round trip and once there, paid $15 per person to enjoy the resort. CHEAPER way to do it, and you get the same thing.
The BAHAMA'S is BEAUTIFUL!!! Beaches are incredible. There are free beaches you can visit as well that cost nothing to access and the taxi can take you there for the same price. The Grand Lucayenne resort offers great pools, hammocks, hot tubs, beach lounge chairs ect. all for $15 per person for the whole day though. We found it to be a great value. We found out you can rent a car for ($100 all day) or a moped ($75 all day) and drive anywhere you want on the island. That way you can access fast food places like Burger King, local food joints, or other remote beaches around the island. Next time, we might do that!!! But we really loved the resort. There was a swim up bar with decent drinks, though a bit small for their price, they did the job. The food at the resort is overpriced. Bring your own food if you dont want to pay at least $10 per person. DON'T GET THE LOBSTER PIZZA!!! It sounds good on the menu, but its not. Get a different kind of pizza (will feed 2 people) or Stick to the fried chicken, burgers, and fries.
Snorkeling out on the reef is GREAT!!! So fun. Not too expensive. Book it at one of the excursion stands on the beach. My husband and I took a long walk down the beach and loved it. You will pass vendors sitting in the sand with knick knacks for you to buy if you want. After a ways, the beach becomes completely secluded and private with no one around. It was romantic to feel stranded on a desert island. Be sure to bring a camera!
We also went to the top floor of the Resort and got to see the whole island from up there. Very pretty. We brought out own goggles and got to explore the sea with those, too. We were sad that we didn't find any shells on the beaches.
We sipped our Pina Colada's and bathed in the sun. Had a blast. 4pm rolled around and we headed back to the taxi terminal wich took us to the ship. Once back on the ship, we went to Dinner. Delicious as usual. This time I had the salmon. Dessert was chocolate mousse! All Bahama Mama's were on a special $4 each. Not bad. I had 2. VERY YUMMY. We strolled up on the outer deck admiring the sea and sunset. We fell asleep listening to the breeze and waves.
I woke up and it was 9pm. I had to rush down to The View to preform in the Karaoke finale on the big stage. It was a fun, great experience, and winning did'nt hurt either :) After that they had a HILARIOUS scavanger hunt in wich they chose volunteers from the audience to come up on stage and then split them into teams. Each team had to go retrieve whatever the Emcee called out from the Microphone. It was SO FUNNY TO WATCH-- Especially when he requested things like... "A man wearing a bra." Somehow, they produced it. (Use your imagination) I also did not get sea sick at all while on the Bahama's Celebration, though I did on Carnival, wich is wierd because Bahama is a smaller ship.
We stayed in the View and paid $11 extra per person for the adult comedy show that followed, wich was decent. Thats the one real complaint I have about the cruise. They should not be charging extra like that for ANY entertainment you get on the ship. All your paying for anyways, is a few extra F-bombs and other profanities. Not really better jokes. But Daddy thought it was hilarious, and my husband and I did have a good time. After that we went up to the Ocean Breeze Lounge and listened to a live piano performance while sipping cocktails and talking. It was a great evening. There were lots of clubs and cocktail lounges on the ship, but we found ourselves mostly in the View and Ocean Breeze Lounge if not eating in the Rio. There's more to do than you will have time for, so you won't be bored. We were making constant ice cream trips up to Deck 9 for sure!
In the end, the cruise (aside from drink charges) ended up being $120 for my husband, $120 for me, and $180 for my Dad. For all 3 of us, that was a total of $495-- that includes payment for parking our van at the cruise terminal, the $48 extra per person for fuel surcharges and gratuities, the $10 per person round trip taxi ride, and the $15 per person Grand Lucayenne resort visit.
I think total WITH DRINKS and my $50 credit for winning Karaoke we spent a total of $560 for ALL 3 OF US.
My feelings on the cruise are this: Had we not already been going to Florida this summer--- I would not have bought it. I think its crazy for anyone who does'nt live in Florida to take this cruise. Once you factor in the cost of aifare to get there, you already might as well have booked on Carnival. I think the only reason anyone who does'nt live in Florida takes this cruise, is because they were offered a package deal by RCI that included the cost of airfare. The problem is, when you agree to a deal like that, they make you sit through even MORE timeshare presentations. Everyone we talked to that accepted a bigger deal from them, had MORE presentations to sit through than we did! ugh. So, if you don't live in Florida, or your not already going to be in Florida for some reason--- DON'T book this cruise.
Also, I don't know if I would pay the full asking price for this cruise. I think $108 per person, like my husband and I paid, is enough. I don't know that we would be willing to pay more than say, $139 per person- wich is the most commonly available on the website. Because when you add fuel charges and gratuities plus cost of parking while your on the ship, it really comes out to about $200 per person anyways. You can take a Cruise on Carnival wich is a bigger ship with larger rooms, and have an extra 24 hours at sea plus parking for $300 per person. So, it depends how you weigh it. For us, it was a great value, because we were going to be in Florida anyways, and it was a short enough cruise that my Dad was able to get the days off work. Plus in the end it saved us $300 compared to booking with Carnival. If we had taken a past reviewers advice and skipped the Welcome Center, the trip would have been flawless. RCI Timeshares owns a certain amount of cabins on the ship and they use that section for their promotions. But Bahama Celebration Cruise Ship itself is a separate business. Its not really associated with RCI Timeshares other than the fact that it has sold them a certain amount of cabins for them to use for their promotions. Most people who book directly through Bahama Celebration and not RCI Timeshares, has a pressure free, great experience. Everyone on the ship looked happy like they were having a good time.
Oh, and the beds were comfortable. I liked that.
LET ME RE-PHRASE---- SKIP THE WELCOME CENTER!!!! You don't have to go. They will tell you you have to, BUT DON'T LISTEN. You do not have to go. You WILL get on the ship just fine. Take it from us. They never asked us for our "boarding passes!" .... Nor anyone else we spoke to later. Your cabin will already be reserved for you and your name will be on the list of passengers, so your set to go. Spare yourself! You've been briefed!
HERE IS MY OFFICIAL TIP GUIDE FOR THE BAHAMA'S CELEBRATION CRUISE SHIP:
1) If your NOT booking through RCI as apart of some timeshare thing--- BOOK DIRECTLY ON THE WEBSITE 3 weeks ahead of time for the best prices available. 3 weeks ahead of time is the best time to book. Not 4 weeks... 3 weeks!
2)Bring a folder because they will give you vouchers and all kinds of little papers you have to keep track of while on the ship and you will need to keep it all with you.
3) Bahama's currency is USD. So you dont have to change your money.
4) The elevators on the ship are a bit faulty. You will take the stairs a lot. The center elevators work, but the side elevators do not.
5)The ocean Breeze lounge is tricky to get to, you have to dort of go up, over, then down to get to it. You cant just go straight there.
6) Bring ones for tipping. The waiters and housekeepers are really good and they deserve a buck here and there. It motivates them to give you extra attention.
7)Ice cream is free on Deck 9--- IF YOU GET IT IN A CUP!!!! This is not advertised, but its true. They give you really small scoops so ask for one for to bring to your friend or something too, so you can get more ;) wink wink.
8) Parking at the cruise terminal is $10 for every day. Even though your not there 3 full days, they will still charge $30.
9) Have all paperwork pre-printed and filled out so when you get to the ship, its all ready to hand in, and you can get on the ship faster. The paper will say on it "one filled out per cabin"... but thats not true, EVERY PERSON in the cabin has to fill one out.
10) YOU MUST HAVE A BIRTH CERTIFICATE with a RAISED SEAL ..... OR a valid U.S.A Passport to go to the Bahama's. The birth certificate can not be hospitol issued. It has to have a raised seal.
11)Bring Dramamine just incase you encounter rougher seas than we did.
12)The ship gift shop is NOT open while the ship is in port-- only when out at sea.
13) The Crystal Dining Room is a popular favorite--- but you HAVE TO DRESS FORMAL to eat there! They will not let you in if you are not dressed formaly. We saw it happen!
14) There is a speaker in the rooms that will blair useless announcements from the captain into your cabin, you can turn it off--theres a button on the wall (ours was behind the T.V) that you can use to adjust it. Theres also a button in the cabins to adjust the temperature.
15) DO NOT EVEN ATTEMPT at double occupancy in the shower. Its so small. My husband and I were elbowing eachother left and right. One person at a time. lol. also, put a towel on the floor outside the shower to soak up any water that sprays out of the shower while in use.
16) The T.V has like 8 channels, but they are pretty good ones.
17) Bring your own goggles to enjoy underwater sea life for free.
18) you can rent taxi's or a moped for less than $100 for the whole day once on the island, and go wherever you want.
19) food on the ship is really good. Between didning hours, theres a really good italian eatery open all the time with fresh pastas salads and pizza's for you to enjoy. All you can eat.
20) Water, tea, and cofee are free but only available at the pasta place. So you have to go there to get it.
21)Beef wellington in the Rio is really good. Also the Salmon! you ARE ALLOWED to ask for more than one entree!!! so go for it. If they have extra of something, they will give it to you.
22) There are great specials throughout the day in different areas of the ship. $2 BEERS, $4 Bahamam Mama's. YUM!! Just listen for them and read the itinerary.
22) There is a relaxing private deck off the Ocean Breeze Lounge worth checking out.
23)the rear of the ship off deck 9 is quiet in the evenings around 7pm perfect for reading a book or watching the sunset. I enjoyed that.
24) There is laundry service available on the ship for a small cost of $2-4.
25)THE SHIP HAS EUROPEAN outlets!!! But dont worry, you can rent a converter for free at the concierge desk. Other items you can rent for free are a curling iron, and blowdryer!!! we took advantage of that.
26) You get an itinerary listing all the ships activities and times of events on your bed. Highlight the ones you want to check out!!! (...Its really fun to go watch people sing, and you can watch the Karaoke finals in The View on night 2 and vote for your favorite singer.)
27) Go early to events on the ship to get a good seat.
28) The hot tubs and pool close at 9pm each night so your not going to be able to enjoy them after then. we discovered that night 2. lol
29) The gym is worth trying. Its really nice
30) there are 2 great water slides and poolside activities for kids.
31) The casino is really nice. Its worth trying out. Plenty to play. We are'nt big into that stuff but we spent $10 and won $7. What a rush ;b
32) Allow 1 hour for embarkation, and 1 hour for disembarkation. Thats the least fun--when you first get on, and when you get off to leave. I say be the last to get on, and the last to get off the ship. That way lines are shortest. We stayed in our cabin up until the last second. No one can MAKE you leave until its really time.
33) Bring air freshener if your over sensitive to smells.
34) Be patient with the shower, it can be tricky trying to figure out how to turn the hot water on and off.
35) Show up at dining rooms early to get a window seat to watch the ocean.
36) Bring ear plugs. Late at night sometimes, neighbors will be really loud and it can wake you. Just bring ear plugs.
37) WHATEVER YOU DO---DONT LOSE YOUR ROOM KEY---Its also your ticket on and off the ship as well as your credit card the whole time.
38) THEY WILL MAKE EACH PERSON PAY $100 CASH WHEN YOU GET ON THE SHIP. YOU will get $52 of that back when you disembark if you dont buy any drinks. $48 of that is to cover fuel surcharges and gratuities. JUST BE PREPARED!!! iF YOU DONT WANT TO PAY CASH AND WANT TO USE A CARD... THEY WILL CHARGE $200 instead of $100, but you will get whatever you dont use back at the end of the trip. Go to the service desk before you get off, to get your remaining balance back.
39) IF YOU ARE TOLD TO GO TO A WELCOME CENTER TO "pick up your boarding passes".... DONT!!!! Just skip it!!!! Again, just skip it!!! You will save yourself a lot of stress and you will get on the ship FINE!!!
40) They announce a mandatory meeting on board, its not mandatory, jsut skip it. It just advertises their excursions. HAVE A BLAST, EXPLORE THE SHIP, FIND YOUR HANG OUT PLACE, AND TRY AS MANY OF THE ACTIVITIES AS POSSIBLE!