Overall, this was a great cruise. With a diamond status on RCCL, I haven’t been on a Carnival cruise in nearly 14 years, but was looking for something “New”. I stumbled across their Carnival Live concert series entirely by accident. Being a huge Kansas fan, I decided to give them another try. My expectations were low, but was genuinely impressed.
For those who haven’t heard of the Carnival Live Concert series, heres a quick rundown. Carnival has booked a dozen or so major acts to perform a live concert in the ship’s main theater. They extend the stay in port long enough to allow the band time to do a night show after the second seating dining and get off the ship to do another show the next night on a different ship. The Sensation was scheduled to stay in Nassau until 1 A.M. They seem to have targeted the 3-5 day cruises, which makes it economical for those who are primarily interested in the band and not the ports of call. They offer a VIP price that included a photo with the band, autographed pictures, first 3 row seating. Normal tickets aren’t bad for the concert which ran $20, and VIP ran $100, but these prices vary with the band. After seeing this band many times in large arenas in the many years past, it was quite nice to be able to see them in a more intimate environment of the fantasy class ship theater. The show is a one set show, about 90 minutes long, and Kansas proved they can still rock a boat after 40 years! I’ve booked the Chicago cruise out of Tampa for the end of May.
The good the bad and the ugly.
Overall the ship is very clean and well maintained. The crew friendly and leaves you feeling welcome. Cabins looked good with a flat panel TV. The beds comfortable and room under them to store your bags. Bathroom small, and closet space tight, but more then adequate for a 5 day cruise. No hair dryer in the room. Cabin service was excellent, with our cabin steward refreshing our ice bucket whenever we left the room. Every evening we were greeted with a new towel sculpture. While almost invisible, our steward kept our cabin immaculate. Kudos to him.
Meals on the ship were good. The variety of venues was excellent with something to suit nearly everyone. At the rear of the ship on the Lido deck there is pizza bar, and deli next to it, along with a small bar. My favorites were the corned beef and hot pastrami on rye paninis and Rubens. Each day the buffet line featured a new fare (French, American, etc).
Moving towards the forward part of the deck, they offer cooked to order eggs and omlets for breakfast, and Stir Fry, burgers and hotdogs for the remainder of the day. Brunch is offered on deck 8 mid ship if you can figure out how to get there. The filet and eggs was good, and the salad with chicken not bad.
Dinner service was excellent with a three man team serving us. Unfortunately unlike many other cruises I’d been on, those twenty minutes or more late were still seated. With so many other venues available for dinner service, those that late should have be turned away. Likewise, on formal night, I actually felt “Over Dressed”, and I don’t believe those in jeans and tennis shoes were turned away. With three cruise casual, and only one formal night, I don’t think this is too much to expect. I was impressed with the fact our waiter made sure he served those on time before trying to accommodate a group of four at our table that arrived more then a half hour late. The nightly parade also a bit annoying, led by a Maitre’D who couldn’t sing. While his staff is excellent, I feel he lets them down by failing to turn away discourteous diners. Corporate Carnival I hope you are reading!
The dinner selections were good, having to resort to the “standard” menu option only once. The presentation was excellent, and most selections good. My wife chose lobster on formal night and found it rubbery and disappointing. My shrimp starter that evening was also sub par, but these were more the exception and not the norm. One night, the entrees were swapped with the sides, and as a result, a medium rare steak was sent back being over cooked. It wasn’t until later did we realize that the other couple we were with, had an undercooked well steak. Had they spoke up, a hostage exchange could have been arranged. Dessert selection was not as wide, which solves the dillema of what to choose that I normally experience on RCCL. My scales appreciate Carnivals efforts to keep me in line. Deserts were good, but nothing to rave about, and were not the highlight of the meal. Reduced and sugar free options were limited as compared to other lines. Coffee on board often was not fresh. After leaving the ship, our first stop was Ronald’s place for a decent cup of joe. This is something I’ve grown use to when cruising.
The two production shows I saw were excellent, “Curves” and the 80’s themed “Far From Over”. For a small ship, the productions rival the larger ships with elaborate costumes, and performance and composition. I found the male lead being the weakest aspect of the shows. Both going to see. The third show was also good, with a preview of the comedy acts, and an audience participation event that left me laughing. Wee Jimmy has to be the most memorable, and funniest cruise director I’ve yet to experience. His asst director left me in stitches with his duck impressions as a warm up intro for the late night adult comedy act.
The highlight of the evening was the nightly trek to the Punchliner comedy club. Michael Macy is definitely the best act on the ship doing 2 different adult shows, and at least one other family friendly show. Jorge Solano is also great.
Outside of the concert, the regular live music was disappointing. While the band that played a mid ship on deck 9, could do a wide variety of music, the vocals were lacking. The acoustics there, and also on the pool grandstand were horrible and overly loud. With enough alcohol, they may have sounded OK, but sober it was just noise.
There were also other choices for DJ and club music, but found the shows and comedy acts my choice for a good time.
The casino was friendly, and routinely typical of most I been in.
I’ve never seen so many photographers on any cruise ship before. I believe we must have set for at least six different settings on formal night, and ran out of time before dinner. It was great to have so much choice, and we had a hard time getting down to an affordable number of pictures. Most of the gangway and dinner pictures are done on 6x9 and are quite a bit more expensive then the 5x7s. I probably would have spent more and picked up a few more shots had the 6x9s been in a 5x7 format. I would have liked a digital only option, but this is not available. There was a special for $10 extra, after 10 purchased photos, you get a USB flash drive with digital copies.
Freeport, I didn’t venture far from the ship, buying a few trinkets here and there. Be prepared to “shop” as many of the hand made items, are mass produced, with a wide variety of prices. Don’t buy at the first place you stop.
Nassau: If you’ve never seen Atlantis, It’s worth the 4 dollar taxi ride or ferry there. I wasn’t prepared for the bit of a long walk from the ferry pier, thinking the ferry docked at the hotel entrance. The walk isn’t that far, but being unsure where I should go, made the trip seem much longer.
Sun and aquatic fun isn’t my thing, so don’t let their absence in this review leave you with the wrong impression.
We used the “we’ll take our bags with us option”, and was off the ship by 8:00. By the time we got ready to leave the line had stretched from the mid ship gangways all the way down the starboard side to well past the aft elevators. Unfortunately they sent us down the starboard side hallway to join the end of the line. We should have used the art gallery, or the port side hallway to make our way to the end of the line. That was a big mistake considering the laundry and cabin carts and vacuums along the way. Live and learn, and take heed.
All in all, a great cruise, and I love the new concert series. I will be sailing at least one more time on Carnival, and hope they continue the program. Without this new program, I probably would have never ventured on another Carnival cruise and discovered they are capable of the levels of service and entertainment, to which I’d grown accustomed.
Parking: Used Park Port Canaveral, paying for 5 days for a 4 night cruise. Virtually no wait. Will use again.
Hotel: La Quinta in Melbourne. Good rate, not far, and clean rooms and breakfast. Would use again based on rate. Zoo is close by if you arrive early.