This was my first cruise, with my 14 year old son. I decided he's probably not meant for cruising as he preferred to hang out in the cabin and watch tv, or in the video arcade. We enjoyed roaming around the ship, watching Lido deck stuff, playing mini-golf and the excursions together. He was not interested in meeting other teens or participating in teen programs. He also is picky eater, so we mostly ordered room service. With that in mind, here is our trip journal/review
============================= Saturday - flying to Florida =============================
On the morning we left, we dropped the animals at the pet motel. I was trying to get the locks on the suitcase and Ian showed me how when the tabs were together, a little slot was formed for it. I had been trying to get the lock through the actual tab holes. Go figure! Can you tell I don't travel much these days? We left at 11 to head for O'Hare. I prayed we wouldn't get a flat tire. We parked in remote lot G at O'Hare. First time I ever parked at an O'Hare parking lot. Usually I park at my dad's building and he drops us off, or I'd get dropped off by a limo when I used to travel for work years ago. We took a shuttle to the tram and the tram to terminal 3. With our electronic boarding pass we didn't have to stand in line for the ticket or for luggage as we only had 2 carry-ons. We stood in line for security but that was only about 5 minutes. We stood in line at gate K1 to find out our gate would be H14 so we walked all the way to the end of the terminal but was 2.25 hours till boarding would begin. At 2:15 the agent at the gate announced that the flight to St. Louis was at gate k2, all the way at the other end of the terminal. So off we went again, along with a few other people. They started boarding at 2:45 and took off shortly after the 3:10 depart time.
We arrived at the St. Louis airport at 4:20, went to gate c6 for our connection per the flight attendant and found the display showing it would depart at 6:30, not 5:40 as originally scheduled. Bought a postcard, nail clipper and $10 handheld casino game for Ian. We boarded our flight at 6:40, took off around 7:00. Landed in Orlando around 10 - the runway was wet so it had rained earlier. We called the hotel at 10:00 as we exited the plane but their shuttle didn't get to the airport until 10:30 or so, a few others were also waiting for it. We got to the hotel at 11:00, did a quick check in, signed up for 9:00 shuttle to airport Mears stop the next day, and went to our room, which was right next to the pool. We went to sleep around 12:30, placed 6:30 wake up call that actually came at 6:55 so it's good I used their room alarm as well as my cell phone alarm. I learned from my travel-for-work years ago NEVER to rely on wake up calls!
============================= Sunday - from hotel to ship! =============================
We woke up at 6:20, turned off alarms. Water pressure in shower sucked. Continental breakfast was pitiful; I had coffee, Ian had pretzels from the vending machine. Ordered the movie Hot Fuzz for Ian to watch before we had to go.
Hotel shuttle left at 9:00, dropped us at airport by 9:15, she told us Mears was at the other end of the area so we schlepped there only to find out from a Mears counter rep there that the correct Mears counter for the cruises was back at the other end of the building, so off we went again. (Apparently that first one was for non-cruise business.)
Checked in, got our orange tickets for the bus and waited. The lady recommended we put our ship luggage tags on though we'll be carrying them onboard ourselves. We found a comfy quiet seating area and relaxed. Read books while we waited. Finally got on the first Mears bus of the day at 10:00 with many others, it was packed, there were 2 buses. We left the airport at 10:30 and arrived at Port Canaveral at 11:10. We saw the Disney Wonder and RCL Mariner of the Seas and behind them, the Sensation.
We checked in, got our s&s cards and room key cards, had our welcome aboard photos taken, then stepped aboard at around 11:45. We stopped at the front bar/lobby on Empress deck and got a soda for him and a ginger ale for me. We couldn't go to the rooms yet as housekeeping was still cleaning them until 1:30. We went to the video arcade so Ian could play and I could relax nearby. Put his s&s card into the token machine, it said Welcome Ian and asked for his birthday, which he keyed in. Then you can choose from $5 to $25 in tokens. He did $5 each time.
He was happy to play games while I sat in a comfy padded window seat and could look out at the other ships in port, relax and keep an eye on our carry-ons. We headed towards the Main deck around 1:00 and others were also awaiting the okay to go to our cabins. Finally we went to our cabins. Ian opened the door and he ran excitedly into the room and declared the bed under the window as his. We checked out the cabin, took photos, and set about unpacking. Starboard has even numbered room, port has odd. We got out an old expired Toys R Us card to use for the safe and put our passports, travel docs, his DS, and my cash/credit cards in there. It's about 10-12" wide, 5-6" high and 7-8" deep.
Ian was really excited, bouncing all over the room, running back and forth, then he settled down on his bed and called his dad to tell him all about the ship and our cabin. We checked out the bathroom - lots of storage space in the medicine cabinet. Lots of closet space and enough hangers for us, nothing dressy really to hang; we used the 4 drawers for socks & lingerie, clothes and the desk drawer for other stuff.
Television channels: TNT = 26, FOX = 28, Boomerang = 29, CNN = 30, Discovery = 23 and Cartoon Network = 30. Channel 34 shows a directory of what the other channels are and also displays the time.
Ian declared himself the safe-master so whenever I wanted money I'd give him the Toyr R Us card, he'd get my wallet out and give it to me, then lock it back up and give me back the Toys R Us card. Ian found our life jackets under the tv in a storage area. After we were unpacked, we relaxed and watched tv for a bit, then we ordered room service. Turkey sandwiches for Ian and a foccacia sandwich for me, and sodas. Delicious but the chips that came with his sandwich were a little stale. Took about 15-20 minutes to get the food. We filled out our order form for the next day's breakfast room service so we'd just have to put it out on the door before bedtime. Cereal, milk and toast for Ian. Bagel, lox, cream cheese, coffee and banana for me.
Muster drill: we had to go to our muster station which was on Promenade deck, I believe. When you head to the stairs there are signs pointing up or down to the nearest muster station. A few hundred people crammed into one of the lounges and they announced how to use the life jackets but the person didn't have a mic so a lot of people couldn't hear. Then Tory the CD got on the PA system and repeated the process as well as other safety issues (i.e., no candles, etc. in rooms).
After that was over, we put our lifejackets back in the storage unit under the tv and went to the lido deck to get Ian a soda card. It was supposed to be a welcome aboard party up there, but it was pouring rain with lightning and thunder! I took a quick video of the downpour. We got the soda card at the bar then headed back inside. We went to the photo gallery on P deck and bought our welcome aboard photo for $8.95 and a 6x9 carnival frame for $5.95, total $15.84 with tax. Put on the S&S of course. It was so good to NOT have to carry around cash or credit cards!!!
We unpacked our carry-ons, filled the drawers and closers and huge medicine cabinet in the bathroom - then we ordered room service for Ian: 2 turkey sandwiches; for me: foccacia sandwich. Obviously we loved these sandwiches right from the start. He had a Sprite that was in the room and I had a diet coke. I know we'll be charged $1.75 but I was too thirsty to care. Sandwiches were delicious but the chips that came with the sandwiches were not that great - a bit stale. We put the door decoration up for the day. There were two huge beach towels in the room, but we didn't use them at all. Our steward, Xavier, stopped by to say hi, welcome us aboard and ask if we needed anything. Other than ice, we didn't, and he brought some ice in a short while.
From our window, we saw RCL Mariner of the Seas, which had been in Port Canaveral, head off to the southeast while we headed south. Eventually we couldn't see her anymore. We also saw the Disney Wonder also heading southeast. Eventually she was out of sight as well. We came back to the room but it wasn't cleaned yet, so we left the sign on the door, watched tv & rested, then went out again around 6:30, our steward was just down the hall. We went up to the Sports deck and played a round of mini golf. Some of the holes had water in them and it was challenging to get the ball in but that made it more fun! It was very windy and my hair kept blowing all over the place. Made mental note to use a hair clip next time! The girl who gave us the balls and clubs told me she thought we were brother and sister, not mother and son. I loved that, Ian hated that (he doesn't WANT to look older than he is). I'm 48 and Ian is 14 so for her to think we were both in our 20's or something like that really thrilled me. I'm usually thought to be around 30.
We went back to the room to rest for an hour or so. Then we put the "please service stateroom" sign on the door and went to explore now that either the rain had stopped or we had sailed past it. Then we went to the video arcade. Ian played and I set on the comfy cushioned window seat area and watched the sea. It was really warm and sunny out and people were on desk, in the pool and jacuzzi. We went to the internet cafe and logged in, each purchasing a 60 minute plan for $24.99. Your username is your first initial, last name and room number (mine was mtruem118), Your initial password is your birthdate (mm/dd/yy) then you have to change it. Later I realized one 60 minute plan would have done the trick for us both.
We went back to the room around 8:30 p.m. and it had been cleaned. Ian didn't want to go out again so we got into our pj's and relaxed/watched tv. We left the curtains open, watched the sun set and the sky slowly darken. There was lightning in the distance and we turned off the lights, tv, etc. to watch it. You could see it reflected back up off the ocean surface. Ian pulled out a blue fleece/cotton blanket from the bottom shelf of the closet and used that, sleeping on top of the usual comforter. I just used the comforter, the beds were very comfy and the pillows were good.
The ice bucket kept getting the top of the desk wet so I put a washcloth under it for the duration of the cruise. I didn't want any paperwork or electronic devices to get wet. The towel creation was a walrus; we both took photos of it then moved it to the table under the tv. There were 2 chocolate pieces, both were sort of stale. All of our excursion tickets were in an envelope left on the counter! Two sets of tickets only had my name, the 3rd set only had Ian's name but I called the info/purser desk and they said it wouldn't matter. Ian put them in the safe.
Ian enjoys being out at sea and loves the novelty of the cabin, especially his bed by the window. He likes to sit on the window sill. When our steward, Xavier, had turned down the beds he also left the capers for the following day.
There is a small steel wastebasket that is under the desk and I put it in the corner at the foot of my bed. The steward kept putting it under the desk which didn't work as each time I sat there to eat I had to haul it out again. He lost points (and tip) for putting it back there each time he cleaned the room.
There is only outlet in the room, one plug is 220v the other is 110. We plugged in a 3-outlet extension into the 110v, and plugged another 3-outlet extension into that, so we had the 5 outlets we needed (cell charger, camera battery charger, ds charger and travel hair dryer. In the bathroom there is one outlet that's only good for shavers, I guess. No other plug will fit into it. It's next to the light at the top of the medicine cabinet. There's a little light above each bed with its own switch. The "nightlight" under the tv was too bright for us so we turned that off and instead left the bathroom light on but closed the door most of the way. You do NOT need to bring a nightlight.
The A/C was controlled by turning a knob in the ceiling. I'm 5'4" and could easily reach it, it's not a high ceiling. Besides the bathroom mirror/medicine cabinet, there is a full length mirror on the cabin door. There is also a huge mirror (approx. 4" x 4") at the desk. My cell phone didn't switch to local time until Sunday evening. On the bathroom sink there was a porcelain bowl containing 4 wrapped bic shavers and a few packages of Pepcid complete. There was a bar of Proterra marine cleansing bar with sea kelp, which I didn't use at all. We didn't need pepcid or the shavers as I had brought my own shaver and immodium a/d and pepto chewables (gum flavored) for Ian. We never needed any of the medicines we brought from home but I will still bring them along as you never know. There is a 3" side railing around the room that is perfect for holding small items such as the cell phone camera, sunglasses, the tv remote control. There is a slot under the phone (which is mounted on the wall) specifically for holding the room key cards.
To place wake up calls you dial 37 then key in the time you want to get up in military time. So to set a wakeup call for 7 a.m.;, you dial 370700 and hang up after you hear the flickering tone. To undo the wake up call, you dial #37.
On the counter under the tv was a black binder containing information about the ship, activities, etc. room service menu, phone directory, etc. There is also a booklet about the Bahamas, a book about art auctions at sea, and some oversized postcards of Sensation, 2 small pieces of stationary and one envelope, a valet service order form and 2 breakfast order forms. You'll want to keep the desk ready for room service trays, so use the counter under the tv for the ship binder and other paperwork. A little round 3-legged table serves as a nice table to put next to a bed. Another stool is cushioned and serves as a seat for when you're sitting at the desk - or you can use the regular chair for that.
================== Monday - Freeport ==================
I woke up at 5 a.m. and noticed it was light enough to see land off in the distance. Dotting the land was a string of scattered lights. They were not moving and appeared to be flickering. This must be the outskirt areas of the northernmost tip of the Bahamas. Some scattered little clouds were in the sky but it looked otherwise clear. I took a couple of photos and movie clips of the beautiful sunrise. I couldn't go back to sleep so I turned on the tv and had the sound turned down, watched CNN. I took a shower at 7:00 - The water never sprayed out from the shower at least not more than a few barely noticeable drops. Leave the clothing pins at home. Breakfast was delivered a few minutes after 7:30 as requested and was delicious! You indicate a time range for delivery - i.e. between 7:30 and 7:45.
We went up to Promenade desk so Ian could play video games for a bit, then I realized I left the excursion tickets in the safe. So I ran down to get them, then we headed to deck 3 (under Riviera) to debark for the excursion. They have you slide your S&S card into a machine which records the fact that you got off the ship, they didn't ask for any photo id. A sign there said to be back on board by 4:30 (we sail at 5). When we debarked, I noticed my cell phone had finally properly set to the right time zone.
NOTE: stay on board until 10 minutes before excursion time as it's so humid you may as well stay on the ship as long as possible. Also, the area they have you stand in is in tall grass and weeds, and there are mosquitoes, etc. We got a couple of bites standing there. NOT a great way to treat the tourists! Thank G-d we had a nice a/c coach arrive to take us to Port Lucaya Market place where our glass bottom boat tour would take off from.
The CCL Liberty was next to Sensation so took a couple of pictures. We walked about 2 blocks to where the boat was docked; a 2-level covered boat named Ocean Wonder. We went along the coast for a bit. They gave us bread to feed the fish with. Ian liked that part. The boat was stopped over the reef, but the waves really rocked it from side to side and that is not pleasant at all. I wished I had taken Dramamine and I had left it back in the cabin. I had to close my eyes when it rocked like that. It was nice and breezy when the boat was moving; we saw people parasailing, jet skiing, etc. We then headed to a place where we had hoped to see a sunken ship, but there were too many other boats already there and we had to head back to port Lucaya without seeing the wreck. There are lots of condos and really nice private homes along the beach and some really sharp boats in the harbor. We didn't have anything to eat or drink on board but they had water, beer and chips for sale.
Once we were back at Port Lucaya Marketplace, we walked 2 blocks to the bus stop and waited 15 minutes to get on the bus. This one was NOT a/c but had opened windows that at least got a little breeze into the bus. We couldn't wait to get back to the ship. I talked to a lady in the next seat whose family's luggage had been lost enroute by the airlines. They had to buy shorts and shirts from the ship's shop as all they had was their carryons and they hadn't put extra clothing in there.
As we pulled up to the ships, there were a few stores and a paved area under a shelter (where they had entertainment) next to CCL Liberty. That would have been a nice place for us to wait for our excursion that morning. We had to slide our s&s card in the machine again and also put our purses, bags, pocket items into an x-ray machine to get on the ship. That blast of cold air as we boarded was pure heaven! We headed to the Empress bar for sodas - ah!
We went back to the room, Ian pout on the TV and lay down, I showered and shampooed. Then I ordered us lunch - same sandwiches as yesterday, with sodas. The focaccia has grilled zucchini, fresh mozzarella, Portobello mushrooms with a basil aioli (sauce). Scrumptious and I'm NOT a sandwich person at all. We ordered a snack at 3:00 - chocolate cake for Ian, fresh fruit for me. The cake was not that fresh; Ian had a bite and couldn't continue. I tried it and agreed, it was not moist at all. Also the fruit wasn't the greatest, I only had about half of it, and the rest was not good - mushy and tasteless. We ordered an early dinner at 4:30 -sandwich For Ian, veggies and blue cheese dip for me. All delicious!
From our window we watched the ship pack out of the port and set sail at 5:00 sharp. Went to lido deck and got Ian an airbrushed tattoo - a huge dragon on his left shoulder. I also got a small rose tattoo on my left shoulder.
After that, we headed up to take a portrait (formal night) though we weren't dressed up. We also bought the photo they took as we left the ship this morning. Bought 2 postcards, some chocolate (Hershey's and Reeses) in the ship store. Went back to room to rest a bit, then back up to video arcade. I played Galaga, which I always loved. That machine also played Ms Pacman, another favorite. Sat on now familiar window seat while Ian continued playing. Loved just watching the ocean as we sailed through it. I'm Pisces so I'm at peace just being on the water (as long as we're not moving too fast).
Ian talked to his dad for a few minutes around 6, and then we went to the internet cafe to send some emails out. Internet cafe rates are: 60 minutes for $24, 30 minutes for $16.50, or pay as you go - 75 cents per minute. It's open 24 hours until 11 pm on the last night of the cruise. Note - we couldn't login at first when we sailed, it's really not available until early evening on the first night. We went out on Lido desk and walked around a bit in the evening, most others were at dinner so it was nice to be out and about without crowds. Took some photos. Quite a bit of people though were also not doing formal night, eating at Seaview Grill or otherwise walking about the ship. Formal wear ranged from nice pants and shirts to evening dresses that I thought were really way too fancy. Didn't see anyone in a tux.
Went back to cabin around 8 p.m., ordered dinner - 2 sandwiches for Ian, salad for me. Prepared for day in Nassau. Got excursion tickets out of safe. The towel animal tonight was an elephant. We each took photos of it. We got two small color-coded layouts of the ship from an info desk up on Promenade.
============== Tuesday - Nassau ==============
Got up at 6:30, we were docked in Nassau. Breakfast arrived at 7:05. We could see Atlantis from our room, and there was a strip of beautiful expensive homes just next to the ship, separated by a thin strip of water. The ocean was on the other side of the homes. The RCL Majesty of the Seas was next to us.
When we debarked for the excursion (I had our tickets this time) we were given an arm band meant for a return boat ride from Paradise Island, which is where the Atlantis resort is. We walked a block or two to where we got the boat. We saw the straw market and senior frogs when the boat left, we took a short harbor tour on the way to the place it docked. Then, it was a 2 block walk mostly in the hot sun, to Atlantis. Once inside, we got a tour that eventually led to their Dig exhibit. I took a bunch of photos and videos there. Saw tons of coral reef and other local fish, lobsters, sharks, and a few huge manta rays! Videos of them are awesome! It's a beautiful resort, but, obviously overpriced. The part where there's a high connecting section between the main buildings is actually a 2br quite that houses Shaq, Oprah and other rich and famous folk and costs $25,000 per night. Yes, that's right. $25k per night for that suite. I'll book it when I win the lotto :)
We didn't want to walk back to the pier and wait for the boat, so we got a taxi from the hotel directly to the ship for $4 each, $8 total with tip. Good deal. When we got back, the CLL Celebrity was in port, next to Majesty of the Seas. We went to our cabin, ordered lunch, rested, I showered and shampooed. Way too hot out there! We thought we'd venture out again later in the afternoon but it was just too damned humid. In the early afternoon we saw someone in a bridal gown, obviously just about to get married on board. Now we saw the only tuxedos we'd see on board.
At 4:30, we went up to the video arcade then down at 5 to order dinner. Sandwiches for Ian, salad and veggies for me. Went up at 7:00 to purchase the "formal" and photos from previous excursion day. Went to store for more chocolate and I bought a silver snake ring for Ian for $20. Ordered more food later on, and the towel creation was a "Whassup" boy.
At 9:00 we went up to Lido deck and got Ian another airbrush tattoo - the word Dragon in Chinese. Saw Sensation and Majesty of the Seas all lit up. Steward brought a form for $15 bag of laundry so I prepared a bag for morning pick up. Also got statement to date - about $350, not bad! Mostly the ship photos, store purchases, video arcade and $50 for internet accounts. Verified all charges were accurate.
====================== Wednesday -Day at Sea ======================
Delicious usual breakfast via room service again. Went up to video arcade, watched tv for a bit, saw the horrible news about the Minneapolis bridge collapse. TV sound suddenly stopped working for any channel after 24, called it in, it worked again within 20-30 minutes.
Ian was hungry again at 9:00, ordered a sandwich. Our toilet also suddenly wouldn't flush properly, I called it in and a plumber came to fix it very shortly.
We started packing things up in mid-morning so we wouldn't have to get it all done that night. Ian realized he lost his S&S card - didn't see it in the arcade. So we went to the info desk and they quickly made another one for him, no cost. Bought Ian 2 Sensation t-shirts for $30. @ Sensation mugs for $9.95 each. More chocolate and another postcard.
I didn't see any door decorations other than mine. Waste of time and luggage space to bring it. Ordered sandwich for lan for lunch, went to Seaview bistro and got grilled hamburger and fries to bring back to the room, gave him half my fries. Laundry rooms are across the hall from u154 and E2. More fun on Lido deck 9Mini-golf, watched “water wars). After dinner sandwich for Ian, salad for me), filled out customs declaration form for our few purchases. Ian wanted another tattoo so we went up to Lido and he got the all-seeing eye of Anubis. Got cheese pizza for him, veggie pizza for me. Not bad, but not worth raving about at all.
======================= Thursday – debarkment! =======================
We woke up early, our last room service breakfast order apparently didn’t get processed, so I had to order it and it came within 20 minutes. We watched more news about the bridge collapse, and left the room with our carry-ons at about 8:30.
Went to wait on Empress but we were told to go up to Fantasia lounge. We got there and found some seats, it wasn't crowded at all. People were waiting in several areas on several decks.
5 minutes after we got there, our section (Main forward) was called. We lugged the carry-ons back down 2 flights and we were off the ship, showing our s&s cards for the last time.
5 minutes later we were through the short customs line and waiting for the Thrifty car rental shuttle. Somehow, between the Sensation and the Thrifty shuttle, I had lost my sunglasses. Good thing I always have a spare pair.
After a 7-8 minute ride we got to Thrifty, left 10 minutes later in a Chrysler Sebring. We went to Space Center, but it was too hot and long wits for several attractions so we left after about an hour. Not at all what we expected.
We headed for Orlando, and it started to rain half way there. It lightened up when we got to our hotel. We were there at noon but they let us check in anyway, though check in was at 1. Signed up for 6 a.m. shuttle ride to airport. We drove through the McDonald’s next store, drove to where our 3rd floor room was, went up to eat, then back down to bring up carryons.
Ian played an old Nintendo 64 game $6.95 an hour on the tv. Then we headed to Int'l drive to WonderWorks (a building that looks upside down but isn’t). Fun place, but really crowded. After that, we headed back to the hotel, stopped for Wendy's near the hotel to bring it back to eat. Also stopped at 711/gas station a few doors down from hotel to stock up on snacks for the room.
Relaxed, took a much missed hot bath while Ian played games. We later ordered and watched Shrek 3. Went to sleep at 9 due to early wake up.
================================= Friday – flying home to Chicago =================================
Woke up at 5 a.m. showered, got Ian up, we hit the lobby shortly before 6. Ian bought 2 magazines, I bought a USA Today. Made it to the gate, for our 9:10 1st flight to Dallas/Ft Worth. At 8:30 they announced it was delayed till 11:00 and we had a noon flight from D/Ft Worth to Chicago that was obviously cancelled. Ian realized he’d left his visor in the hotel room.
I got in line immediately at the gate to get a new connecting flight but while I waited I got on my cell to AA and they had two seats together (at the rear of) a direct flight from Orlando to Chicago that left at 11:00 and would get to O’Hare at 1:15. Perfect! The original arrangement would have had us home at 2:20. Had to walk very quickly with Ian to the tram, take the tram back to the terminal, get new boarding passes issued, go through security again, then tram back to the gate. The flight was wonderful and actually landed at 1:00. We got the train to the remote lot, shuttle took us to our car, and we headed to get our cat and hamsters. We were home by 3:30.
Already we realized Sensation had already set sail for a 3-day cruise. It felt strange to be home.
We got a good talking-to for a day or two by our cat, Simba, who had been kenneled for the first time in his (12 years old) life. Our Russian dwarf hamsters, Shadow and Cream, didn’t say a word. That night, I started looking at cruise itineraries for my next (solo) cruise, hopefully in June 2008.
It will be almost like a new cruise for me because I won't be catering to my teenage son's shy unsocial "I don't want to do this or that" attitude.