Our main purpose for this cruise was rest and relaxation. This was our 4th cruise and our first Carnival cruise. (Our 3 previous had been with Princess so I'll compare the two.) We did not book any excursions ahead of time because we wanted to go with the flow.
Saturday, June 4th. We drove to the Country Inn and Suites in Baltimore. The hotel is a little hidden behind some businesses. It's a beautiful place inside. The room was nice and clean. The mattress was very hard and I woke up in the middle of the night because of it. The breakfast (included) was good with several choices (eggs, biscuits and gravy, cereal, fruit bread, pastries, etc. )
Day 1—We arrived at the Cruise Port at 11:55 for parking. You drop off your bags first and then proceed onto the parking lot. Cost was $105. Driving to the port was great! I didn't have to worry about how much my luggage weighed! We checked in and were onboard by 12:30. We took our carry-ons to the Lido, had lunch, Drinks of the day, and called family and friends to let them know we arrived safely. First impression—The ship is overly decorated but hey, it's a cruise ship—why not go over the top. It's showing some age but everything was clean. The staff was very friendly.
We stayed on the Lido until our cabin was ready at 3:15. (I snuck downstairs to check on it) We met our room steward Roger. Roger was shy but very nice. The room was great. Nice layout, good bed, bigger bathroom than Princess and the room had a couch. There was good storage and the robes were great! So great in fact, I bought one for my husband for Father's Day. There are dispensers in the shower for shower gel and shampoo. And a great shaving mirror that's on the side of the large mirror. Great for make-up.
We enjoyed our balcony, a snack during sail away, and then got ready for dinner. We had late seating 8:15. We were at a table for 6. The other couples were newlyweds from Maryland and newlyweds from New Jersey. We were the old married couple! We were all about the same age and had great conversations. The dress that night was very casual with a lot of folks showing up in t-shirts and shorts.
Our waiter was R? and his assistant was Robert. R? (I'm sorry I cannot remember his name) was an older gentleman who was old school. He announced to our table that he was very busy and had a lot of tables to take care of. ? The rest of the week went that way at dinner. He seemed to be in a hurry and scolded me each time I did not want bread or he felt I hadn't eaten enough. On past cruises, we had become friendly with our wait staff sharing stories of our families and childhood. They felt like friends when we finished the week. R? was there to do a job and no more.
The food was good. I started with the shrimp cocktail, had the flat iron steak, and finished off with the chocolate melting cake—YUM! I love this dessert! We went to a couple of shops and came back to the room. We stayed on our balcony hoping to see the Chesapeake Bay Bridge but I gave up when I fell asleep. I love the balcony and the sound of the ocean rocks me to sleep every time.
Day 2—Sea Day and Formal Night
We had room service breakfast every morning. Croissants, bagels, fruit, coffee and juice. We went to our Cruise Critic Meet & Greet in the Serenity Bar. Didn't see the sign for it but went to the bar to have a drink. Spotted one of the C.C. people that I had chatted with on our board. Loved meeting Skip and his wife Karen. He and I had concussions in common. ? There was a big group of people on a couch but none of us was brave enough to go over and ask if they were from C.C. We enjoyed their company until we were starving. Hope to meet them again on a cruise! Went to the Lido for some food.
The Serenity area is wonderful! There's a nice bar and couches and booths under cover. On the back deck, there's a hot tub, small pool, couches, chairs, hammocks, etc... And the adult's only rule is enforced. It was always a quiet place to go and relax with a drink or food. A big difference between Princess and Carnival is the drinks. The Carnival bartenders are much more generous with their pours than Princess and the drinks are wonderful. I loved "Kiss on the Lips" and "Miami Vice"—very yummy!
Took a 3 hour nap and then went to elegant night. Most folks dressed up. Some long gowns but mostly cocktail and sundresses for women. Saw one tux, some suits, nice shirt and pants, some t-shirts and jeans or shorts for men. I loved the "shows" by the wait staff in the MDR. They sing and dance and have a good time. The Maitre'D Mario was very visible and came to our table during the week to see how things were going. I did not complain about our waiter. It wasn't end of the world that he wasn't friendly and I didn't see the point in getting him in trouble.
Slept late. Had a Caribbean lunch in the buffet, walked around the ship, had a drink in the Serenity area, and went to the Newlywed Game. (Very funny) Then visited the champagne jewelry sale and give-away. Took a quick nap and got ready for dinner. I had a seafood pasta dish that was not my favorite. Pasta was ok but the seafood was not very good. (This was my only disappointment about the food. I did not enjoy the seafood I had. But, I did not go hungry!) I had the Choc. Melting Cake again. DH enjoyed the Casino and I stayed on the balcony in my PJs. We love having a balcony and spend a lot of time on it. I really enjoyed the balcony at night because there was no smoke from other balconies. During the day, I'd be out for a while until someone lit up and I'd have to go in. Yes, the smoke does blow into your balcony. This didn't happen on our previous cruises. Guess we lucked out before.
Day 4-Grand Turk
Woke up early this morning and watched us pull into Grand Turk. It has grown since last year and the island was hoping to get ready for us. The weather was overcast, steamy, hot, and then rain. We shopped a little for our kids, had a cheeseburger in paradise, yummy drink, and went back to the ship for another nap. Told you we were resting! ?
Day 5-Half Moon Cay
Half Moon Cay has a beautiful beach! Unfortunately, the weather was not beautiful—it poured rain. We had a good BBQ lunch, got in the water despite the rain, had a drink, did a little shopping, and were back to the ship by 2:00. This island has lots of areas to sit with shade, several bars, perfect sand, a pirate ship, play areas for the kids and decent shopping. I'd love to go back there when the sun is shining!
Arrived at Freeport around 7 and after having a leisurely breakfast, we got off around 9:00. We shopped at the port stores and small straw market. Prices vary from stall to stall so look first, and then buy. We were at this port for such a short time that we decided not to go into town. We were back on board for lunch at 12:30.
In the afternoon, we watch a ship's officer roust 3 people from a nearby food stand so we could leave. This was after that sat there as the ships horn blew several times.
The people were very nice in this port and the place was very clean. Reminded me a little of Bermuda. I'd love to go back when we could stay longer. Elegant night tonight.
It was less dressy than the first elegant night. Good dinner and great entertainment as the staff and passengers formed a conga line around the dining room. Went and had drinks with our tablemates in the Renaissance bar. Our favorite bar waiter Reo was there. He was a very sweet guy and really tried to make you feel special.
Our last sea day and I'm trying not to be sad. We slept late. We wanted to do some more shopping on board and have a nice lunch. The chocolate buffet for dessert was yummy! We packed our luggage and walked around the ship taking photos. We enjoyed ice cream on the balcony (no smoke this time!)
Our last dinner was great with the staff singing "You're leaving on our Fun Ship". I will miss Mario the Matrie' D saying "Hello" in his own special way and "What happens on the ship, stays on the ship!"
We got back to the cabin around 10 and sat our bags out. We were going to have one last drink but hubby spotted lights outside and had to investigate. It was another ship just getting started on their cruise. Lucky devils! Enjoyed some drinks and music from Stan the Man and conversation with Reo. Tomorrow we get off. ?
After arriving at the port in Baltimore, we enjoyed our room service breakfast and then headed up to the deck to wait for our number to be called. It was really nice not to have to rush off the ship. We grabbed lounge chairs by a pool and just enjoyed some downtime. We had a second breakfast, took some more photos, and then were off the ship. We were in our car at 10:15. Easy debarkation. It was a great cruise and we accomplished our goal of rest and relaxation.
Observations about Carnival compared to Princess (and vice versa)
1. DEcor—on the Pride---over the top.
2. I loved the entertainment by the staff in the dining room. Princess does not entertain at dinner. It made the experience fun!
3. Bathrooms are larger on Carnival and the rooms seem roomier than Princess. I enjoyed the couch and table in the room. Didn't have that on Princess.
4. The balcony seems a little smaller on Carnival and there is a little plastic trough for the water to run off. Hated it because all the "floaties" came by. Princess does not have this.
5. There were lots of bars, lounges, and areas to sit on this ship. The Renaissance bar and Serenity bar areas were great! I liked that the adult's only rule was enforced in Serenity and it was a quiet place to go.
6. The service was very good and I never felt like I was on a "discount" cruise as I've heard Carnival called. It wasn't the wild, party boat that I've read about either.
7. We loved the ice cream! There is ice cream or yogurt available all the time.
8. I think the food and selection is slightly better on Princess but I never went hungry.
9. I think the service was just as good on this cruise as our previous cruises on Princess.
10. There were towel animals in our room every night and I looked forward to seeing what would be waiting on us each night. We only had one towel animal on Princess and that was for our anniversary.
11. We were just as pampered on this cruise as we had been on Princess. We don't get pampered in real life.
12. Overall, it was a great experience and we look forward to taking another Carnival Cruise.
(In fact, we're already booked! ?)