My husband and I (ages 47 and 52) took a cruise last week (April 17-21) with our two children, a boy age 9 and girl age 11. It was our first cruise. We live in rural northeast Pennsylvania and were escaping the cold, rainy weather.
We did not stay in a hotel, as my parents own a condominium in Cape Canaveral.
As described by others, the Carnival Sensation is decorated in a gaudy, glitzy style. Our kids thought it was great. We chose the Sensation because of the water slides. Our daughter used them a bit, but our son did not and was probably afraid. We cruised the week before Easter and there were a lot of people onboard. The Lido Deck was very crowded during the day and the pool is tiny, but we had no trouble finding a chair somewhere in a relatively quiet spot.
We lead a pretty quiet life and were not interested in gambling, shopping or staying up late. We like to visit national parks and historic places. We decided to try cruising, because our children are often bored by our vacation choices. We enjoyed the dining, warm breezes and chatting with Bahamians. Our children enjoyed the Children's Club, accessibility of kid-friendly food and playing with other children.
The service in our stateroom and the dining areas was excellent.
Port & Shore Excursions:
We went ashore, but did not participate in a group excursion. There is a small straw market at the cruise ship port in Freeport. Other areas can be reached by taxi. There are many opportunities for sightseeing in Nassau within walking distance. We walked about a mile to Fort Charlotte. Our children thought it was extremely far and were not happy by the time we got there, so we took a bus back for $4.
Once our children had made some friends and gotten to know their way around the ship, which was by dinner time the second day, the trip moved along very well. We spent the mornings together in port and gave our children a lot of freedom on the ship in the afternoon and evening, as long as they stayed together. We would check on them several times each day, but they were with the Camp Carnival group and always well behaved. Their ability to play and eat when and what they wanted gave us the freedom to sit in the shade and chat, read our books, people-watch and eat delicious gourmet dinners without them. Our only conflict happened after the Camp Counselors told them about the amazing party for kids from 10 pm to 3:30 am on Tuesday night. They were not allowed to attend and it upset them quite a lot. We don't think children should be up that late. We all went to bed around 10 pm, which was late for them.
Travel To Port of Embarkation:
We flew into Orlando Sanford the night before the cruise and drove a rental car to my parents' condo in Cape Canaveral. A friend of my parents drove us to the cruise ship the next day. We were in line in the car for 25-30 minutes. We only had carry-on bags, so we walked quickly to the boarding area. We then stood in line for another thirty minutes or so before showing our boarding passes, passports and the kids' birth certificates and getting on the ship.
We had connecting outside staterooms, R77 and R81. The rooms were much nicer than expected and the beds were very comfortable. When we arrived, our kids' beds were pushed together to make a King size bed. We asked the room steward to change them to two twins and it was done by evening.
The dining choices were great. Our kids usually opted for the Seafood Bar and Grill, because it is a buffet and they could choose whatever they liked. My husband and I skipped breakfast, except for coffee, and ate lunch at the Mongolian Grill or Seafood Grill. We had dinner in the Fantasy Dining Room. The food was excellent and the serving sizes small enough that we could share an appetizer, eat a main course and even get dessert. We had a bottle of wine with dinner one night and the prices were comparable to those in any nice restaurant.
Our kids really loved Camp Carnival. They had a great time with the other kids and were under very good supervision. There were games, contests, a magic show, a break dancing show, scavenger hunts, a movie, etc.
My husband and I attended a few shows. The first night, there was an 80s music and dance show in the Fantasia Lounge. It was good. The day on ship, we went to the love and marriage show. That was very funny and fun. The show that night in the Fantasia Lounge, called Curves, was all about sexy beautiful women. The main singers and dancers were very good, but I found it pretty tiring. There was no story line. It was billed as family entertainment. There wasn't anything too blatantly sexual, except a lot of body language, but I was glad the kids weren't there.
Our kids were up by 6:30 am and grabbed breakfast while we packed and straightened up. We were called for departure by 7:30 and were picked up by our friend by 8 am. It was quick and easy with just carry-ons.