Drove through a snowstorm on Christmas night from New Jersey to Charleston to beat the blizzard before it hit NY area. Virginia/NC got 10 inches or so, but we took it slow and steady - we were determined to make our cruise!!!
A very nice city - we spent a night before cruise ate at a great seafood restaurant (Hymans) and loved it. We stayed overnight at the Best Western they have a park and stay package, very nice hotel I would recommend it. They provided a taxi for the five us us to get to ship, did not include round trip though, which we were not aware of.
Very messy port to use. It is a muddy mess, you cannot walk or be dropped off with luggage, you have to check your luggage in at a tent location, then get on a shuttle bus to take you to building. Ship was late getting into port due to rough seas night before (blizzard) and someone died on the ship that morning (freaked my kids out alittle). Once we were in the building we were on the ship in 20 minutes. Lines moved fast. It was just getting into building that was a bit annoying. Charleston has alot to see and do, so spend time doing this before, once you are on ship you cannot get off. Terminal is right infront of customs building in downtown Charleston, walkable distance to shuttles from downtown area and fleamarket.
Ship is small, but nicely kept. It does show its age though, carpets and stairways look older. Ship is clean though, they work hard to keep it this way.
We booked two cabins, an ocean view and an inside for our teenaged children. They were right across the hall from us, very convenient and they are older so I felt ok about it. Oceanview rooms are roomy and the inside rooms are a bit smaller it seemed. There was three beds in it though. Kids were happy, they could sleep as late as they wanted, no windows, they did not know the time!!! We had to bang on their door to wake them up. Cabins were clean, bathrooms were clean and big enough. No blowdryers, you had to ask for one. No irons, but there was a laundry room down the hall with two irons for use and 4 washer dryers, which with all my cruises I did not know you could do laundry!!! Very convenient with kids!! Next time I will pack less. One bad thing - very noisy, walls and doors were thin, so we did not sleep too well, heard noise all the time. I had to put a pillow over my head to sleep well. Our room was under a kitchen we think so we heard alot of noise.
Breakfast - Windows had a buffet breakfast with standard food, not as nice as last cruise (Norwegian) but OK. My hubby and I only ate once, we went to Celebration dining room other mornings for a sit down breakfast - much better quality and fast service. I enjoyed this very much. Kids slept in and ate later or missed out all together and ate lunch for breakfast!
Lunch: We ate on Lido deck and windows on the Sea all days, except for day infreeport, ate at Our Lucaya restaurant. Food was plentiful and good. Not great just good.
Dinners were great, I thought food was very good and nice selection. We ate in Jubilee late seating. Our waiter AJ was great.
We only went to one show and it was very good. Other show was a Beatles tribute and we opted to do pictures instead (it was New Year's Eve and we were all dressed up).
Water park is great, but I can imagine it gets crowded on hot days, our weather was cool. Serenity deck is nice for adults, but small and was shady and cold most days. Two nice hottubs though with no kids peeing in them!! I recommend this deck. Nice cushioned lounge chairs, gotta get up early though to claim one!! Pool area was nice too, they did a nice job redoing this deck. I have been on this ship before renovations, very nice job renovating the decks.
Kids clubs: My 13 year old loved her club, she is very outgoing and social so she made lots of friends, my 15 year old boy went to his club a few times, did not like it as much as she did. My 19 year old was bummed that he could go to bars and casino, but not drink. Carnival has 21 or older strict policy. Other lines are 18 with parents consent. He spent alot of time in casino - feeling like a big man. He also went to disco a few times to laugh at all us old folks!!!
New Years Eve was a very spectacular night, Carnival really went out of their way to make it very special, exciting and entertaining. Champagne was flowing (for free no less!!!) Everyone was dressed to the nines, just like a formal night. It felt very special and it is one of the main reasons we did this cruise. Big party on Lido deck with a big 2010 Neon light that changed to 2011 at midnight and ship blew horn, alot of fun!!! Want to do it again next year.
Nassau - we just shopped and walked around Bay street - we have been here three times, so felt like just shopping and enjoying the ship when it was empty! Kind of wish we did the beach or something though, ship was chilly and windy.
Freeport - did the sanddollar snorkel cruise you can book online. It was TERRIFIC! It was only us and three others, normally 20-40 people. Catamaran was very nice (except for restroom - yuk) and reef was great. We have snorkeled before and never saw this many fish. It was great! Included all you could drink Bahama Mamas!!! Only $45 per person too, much cheaper than any ship excursion.
Did a facial in the spa - a bit pricey by nice. It was a special on first day - the oxydermy facial, including a microderm abrasion and collagen treatment. Nice and relaxing hour!
Fitness room is small, hot and very crowded early morning. I opted to use aerobics room and use freeweights and my pilates routine. I did use a treadmill twice but had to wait to get it. There is a sports track around mini golf area that you can run/walk on, windy though.
Embarktation - a nighmare. We were told you could either carry luggage off and then they start letting you off at 7 am (early for me) or wait till 9 and they took your luggage night before. We opted for latter, but they told us only use elevators no stairs- total nighmare, so we tried stairs and they lied - we easily go right off ship if we had waited for elevators,like others, we would have been waiting over an hour at least. Very unorganized. Port is small, luggage was all crammed together you had to run off line to grab luggage then try to get back on line to go thru customs, then if you did not have a private ride, you had to get on shuttle bus and let them take your luggage again!!! We had a private ride - much easier, but still involved alot of walking with luggage and tired kids. Not fun. New port to open in a year, then I would go out of Charleston again, it is really a beautiful town and an easier drive than Florida from NJ and cheaper than NY Cruises!!!
Overall a great cruise for the money and a great job by Carnival celebrating the New Year!!!