History: We are a working couple in our earliest 50's. Married 32 years and pretty much enjoy everything we enjoyed when we were 15. We have 3 grown children and 3 grands. Cruising is our thing! This was our 5th cruise..all with Carnival. We have considered trying another line, but are well pleased with Carnival so why take a chance. This was our 4th cruise on this class of Carnival ship (Fantasy Class). We originally sailed on the Sensation a few years ago on our initial cruise. A 5 night to the Caymans and Cozumel. My list of the best cruises for time considerations: Best 3 Night: Nassau out of Canaveral. Best 4 Night: Cozumel out of Tampa. Best 5 night: Caymans and Cozumel out of Tampa. Best Cruise so far: 7 Nights Eastern Caribbean out of Canaveral. Worst Cruise: 4 Night Freeport and Nassau. Trust me, go to Cozumel instead.
Embarkation: We live about 1.5 hours from Canaveral and 40 minutes from Tampa. Arrived around 1:30 after driving down to Cocao and checking out Ron Jon's surf shop for some Tee's. We have passports and did our pre-sailing Fun Pass so we were onboard in about 20 minutes. Our cabin was ready so we went and dropped off our carryons and had a nice lunch. NOTE: We always carry on a set of clothes for the Dining Room as well as swim wear in the event that our luggage is late arriving to our cabin. It had been raining every afternoon in Central Florida for the past week, our sailing day was no different. Still, it was great to be sailing.
Dining: Cafeteria Style. The food in the SeaView Restaurant is fairly ordinary but still quite good. Breakfast is just about anything you could want in a breakfast food. Lunch is great "on the go" comfort food like burgers and fries or the "Taste of Nations" in the Aft section food lines. The Taste of Nations menu changes daily and can be quite good as well. You always have the option of eating your dinner meal in the SeaView as well. The dinner meal is very similar to what is served in the
Dining: Formal Dining Room. We always eat our evening meal in the Dining Room. Ecstasy Dining Room: We are always very pleased with at least the majority of the Dining experience on each cruise. The food is delicious and well served. To be honest, our favorite servers were on the longer cruise as they seem to learn very quickly what your individual tastes are like. We really enjoy the personable wait staff that like to interact with the guests. The service on the Sensation is still very good but was not as personal as we have enjoyed on other cruises. NOTE: It is permitted to order more than one appetizer, entree, dessert, etc. Also you can always order a steak even if it is not on the menu. The last evening I had the Veal Parm with a "skillet steak" on the side. Both were very good. I ordered the skillet steak the night before as an entree with the Lobster tail and (huge) Black Tiger Shrimp. The steak entree was held in reserve until I had finished the Lobster entree and as such was overcooked. The next night I order the steak medium rare and asked that it be served with the Veal Parm. It was excellent. All the desserts are delicious but I am hooked on the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake and have it each night with a cup of decaf. I suggest that you eat in the Dining Room each night and be pampered. NOTE: There is a dress code for the Dining Room though it is not strongly enforced. Respect the other guests and dress appropriately so everyone can enjoy a classy dining experience. You always have some slob show up in a tee shirt, jeans and tennis shoes like he's at McDonalds. Resort casual wear on every night other than the Captain's night. Then dress slacks, dress shirt, tie, and jacket. I don't mention the ladies' attire because I have never seen a lady under-dressed.
Ship Activities: At the end of each cruise the BW and I always say we should have done more of the ship activities. Check your daily "Carnival Capers" so you will know everything that has been planned for the evening. We always request the late dinner seating so that after dinner we head straight for the clubs. There are so many different clubs for any music taste. We like to dance to live music and have never been disappointed on any cruise. HOWEVER, the band "Blood Power", that is now onboard the Sensation may be the best Rock and Roll band I've ever heard. Any group of professional musicians can closely imitate the sound of past rock and roll greats. The real stretch is reproducing the vocals. Every member of Blood Power does vocals, so you have many different sounds. From Alabama to Stevie Wonder to AC/DC to Toto. They are not to be missed. I have seen 2 different guitarist that play on the BLVD. (the main walkway inside the ship) that were outstanding as well. The gentleman on the Sensation is one of them. I am sorry that I do not remember his name but he is quite good. On the last night we ended our evening at the Karaoke Club. There was a large group from South Carolina on a family reunion and many had gathered in the Karaoke Club. Now, ordinarily I shy away from the Karaoke Club. You mainly have a LOT OF women singing country female vocals and it gets quite tedious. When we walked in a gentleman was laying down some soulful R&B and the crowd was kickin'. We settled in and heard some really outstanding (and not so outstanding) vocals. But that is the joy of Karaoke. There are many other venues including a piano bar, disco, a club for under 18 year olds, and many others. There are also so many activities during the day like trivia games in the bars, art shows, music on the Lido deck, bingo, etc. We only saw one show and that was on the last night. It was called "Curves" and to be honest, I wanted to see it mainly because there had been some bad press on these posts that said it was "too risque" for a family cruise. To be clear, it was advertised both in the "Carnival Capers" and in the pre-show announcement that it was rated a "hard PG-13" due to the costumes and some "suggestive" dancing. I saw many children there with their parents and we all heard the announcements. Now, the show was absolutely terrific! Was it suited for an under 13 crowd, probably not. But then neither are the Casino and the late night comedy shows. Parents, use some personal judgement. Everyone else, go see this show.
Snorkel Excursion: We rarely ever book an excursion as I usually spend hours scouring the 'net for the perfect port activities that we can do on our own. Less money, smaller crowds, and more time doing what we enjoy. However, I booked a snorkel excursion through Stuart Cove's (a person not a place) Dive tours. I booked it on line (it is not offered through Carnival) and printed out our transportation vouchers and snorkel vouchers. It was reasonably priced and I had read good things about it. The ride over to their marina was about 35 minutes and may have been worth the price of admission. Not only do you get to see a lot of the island but the ride was exhilarating. No way I would ever attempt to drive in Nassau. Let me say here that the only downside of the trip was at each end of the excursion. The drivers on both trips were very rude and the "bus loader" Delano was an a**. It is a shame that such a wonderful experience has to end in such a manner. Enough negatives. Our crew on the Zambezi was great. Young guys but very professional. Just the right mix of authority and humor. Our captain,(sorry, I forgot his name) is originally from Florida and did a super job. The ride to the sights were a blast. His crew of 2 also did an excellent job with the newbies on board. They all made the excursion well worth the price. Oh yeah, the final stop was the "swim with the sharks" stop. Incredible. I would probably book with them again.
Debarkation: Carnival has a new debarkation system that works quite well if everyone would pay attention. You have "zone" tags delivered to your cabin the last afternoon of the cruise. You fill out the tags and attach them to your "checked" luggage that you put outside the cabin before 1100PM. You will be called by "zone" to debark and your luggage will be in a numbered zone at the port. Also fill out your Declarations form even if you are bringing nothing back from your trip. NOTE: You will need your "Sign and Sail Card" first to clear the ship. THEN you will need your ID papers (passport, birth cert., etc.) AND your Declarations form to clear CUSTOMS. There are no exceptions. HAVE THESE DOCUMENTS AVAILABLE AND READY. Last but not least: You will leave the ship from the Empress Deck. You will be asked to wait until your zone is called in one of the designated areas. DO NOT GO AND WAIT ON THE EMPRESS DECK OR ON ANY STAIRWELL. WHY IS THIS SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND? They had to halt our debarkation process to get people to move out of the stairwells and off of the Empress deck. Even once our zone was called and we proceeded to the Empress deck, there were people sitting on the stairwells and milling about on the Empress deck. Go figure.
Final Analysis: Great Cruise...too short. Excellent Dining. Excellent Entertainment. Good crowd. Very Good Excursion at Stuart Cove's.