Last minute, short trips can be the best experiences. Not much planning, friends and family gather and just go and what ever happens happens. That was my experience on the Carnival Sensation, a 3 day trip to Nassau Bahamas, with no expectations but to have fun.
We were a group of 8 adults, (4 first time cruisers). This being my 4th, I had the foresight to check Cruise Critic, the travel/tour sights for Nassau and pack only a carry on bag. We were going to "ball" on a budget.
Getting to the port was easy, we live in Florida. I mention this next part for a reason. I got into an accident right outside the port, a driver attempted to cross all 4 lanes without regard for other cars, I was lucky one he hit...anyway Port Canaveral Police responded along with a supervisor. They were very helpful, very reassuring that we'd make it to the ship on time, directed me back onto the road with a copy of the report in my hand...not just a business card and case number. I am impressed and grateful for their help.
Embarkation was smooth. Down side was most passengers figured they'd carry on for the 3 day and some with very big bags. This held us up in scanning. Mine and my partners bags were literally "carry on" bags, not suitcases.
We got on and got right to our rooms. Now, I was not the one booking the rooms so I ended up on the Main (5 floor). All past cruises have been Empress level. I will not book so low again. I try to use the stairs when ever possible but the Lido is 10th Floor. Lot of elevator waiting this cruise.
The Muster was a JOKE. We had to go to the Lido deck, where everyone was talking, sitting, eating (after being told not to). The staff ordered parents to come to the stage for wristbands. It was chaos. Past cruises, we were lined up in formation style and the staff could see all the kids that needed banding. In an emergency, first time cruisers would not have know what to do.
Our room was ocean view with a 3rd bunk as needed, we didn't. It was simple and clean. No frills to it. This ship has very few balconies and prices jump to get into one.
Food....Late booking, so we had "Anytime Dining". Will not do that again. There is a comfort in having an assigned table time and wait staff. The Anytime Dining room always had a line. We only used it once (cruise elegant night) and it was impersonal. That does not reflect on the staff. Scheduled dining is better. Food was just okay....no matter where we ate. I am used to the Carnival dining experience so eat to nourish and get on with the fun. Its not bad at all, but don't expect high end quality. I like reuben sandwiches, so I had that once for dinner and once late night and pizza is always good.
Staff.... I was not bombarded to waiters trying to sale drinks. The bar staff and some shop staff were a bit short. I have been on friendlier ships but the room stewards were very good and friendly.
Shows/Music....so I read on here that some cruisers did not like the show because to much skin. "Curves" was posted as PG-13, so cruisers were warned. We are adults here, read the Fun Times. The skin did not bother me....the singing was horrible and FOR REAL....men needed to keep the shirts on. Male dancers were in terrible shape. The 80's review show was wonderful. Carnival loves Micheal Jackson and it was his birthday last week but we got a dose of it e-v-e-r-y day. AND there are new line dances out there, although I do love to Wobble.
Activities....We did everything we had time to. The highlight for us was Digital Scavenger Hunt. It was soooo much fun running around the boat for 20 minutes taking goofy pictures. It's ingenious because we now have awesome keepsake pictures that we took. AND....our team won! I noticed not a lot of people actually did activities. The average cruise age seemed to be 23-25 or so. The average age in our group was, well half were 30s and half 50s and we all acted the same age for this cruise. We did sing-a-longs, shows, danced, comedy club, casino. Take advantage of all the activities. We saw kids (teens and 20s) running from room to room with no direction. They were missing out on the fun. AND there is a Kids Carnival for a reason. More parents and kids missed out on things having to say "no" and "stop" and "don't run" to their kids. Use all available so the whole family has fun.
Nassau...I went online for touring information and found that the area had a terrible crime rate. More intense then I will mention. The night before, passengers got a letter in their Fun Times stating this and to be cautious with additional information. I applaud Carnival for taking this seriously and making passengers aware. I found two main sights to see were in walking distance and the group took my lead. About 20 minutes, up hill from the port were the Queen's Steps. A beautiful tropical sight were slaves carved steps into a wall. we took pictures and climbed the 65 steps. A few steps further was the Fort. A dollar to go in and tour, take pictures and staff took a group picture of us on a cannon, $10. We will cherish that. We opted to go back down in a cab, $24. So $52 total, the 8 of us, walking, toured 2 sights, took great shots and got a group photo and back down in time to party at Senor Frogs before a storm hit. We partied, drank and ate until the rain stopped and then headed back to the ship. It was a perfect day. Wish I could post pics.
So....without great expectations for a high end, full of frills, vacation, we had a GREAT time. Carnival is the "party" cruise line and if you want to just have fun and not necessarily an "experience", Carnival short cruises are the way to go.