First cruise exceeded my expectations!
New York (Manhattan)
I was pleasantly surprised by my first cruise experience. I booked a cruise for me, my boyfriend, and my two children early and the price was very reasonable. We all shared one stateroom, which was on Deck 7, had bunk beds and a full-size bed as well as a balcony. There were deck chairs on the balcony and complementary beach towels in the room when we arrived. The embarkation process was smooth and quick, and we had no issues. Once we were settled, we met our stateroom steward (Daniel) and attended the obligatory muster station drill and youth activities registration. When we got back to our room, there was a towel animal folded into an elephant, which my kids loved.
We looked over the activities that were available daily and took full advantage of them; we attended shows, played blackjack in the casino, played trivia and bingo games, participated in scavenger hunts, used the onboard slide and pools, etc. Camp Carnival was divided into different age groups with More
different offerings (some were combined activities for ages 6-11, others were split up ages 6-8 and 9-11) and my children really enjoyed the activities they offered. Camp Carnival is at no additional charge unless children stay after 10pm.
The food was amazing. Seriously, I can't accurately describe how consistently good it was. There is a restaurant on Deck 3 that you are assigned a time for, but we never visited it; we just ate at the buffet on Deck 9. There's also a steakhouse, but we ran out of time and didn't get to eat there.
During the entire cruise, the staff was exceptionally welcoming and friendly. There is not a single time I can think of where any staff member aboard the ship was not exceptionally awesome, especially our stateroom steward. The room was cleaned twice daily and fresh ice was brought in (and a new towel animal showed up every day too).
We dropped our passports off at the guest services desk the second night and asked if they would have our passports stamped, which they were perfectly happy to do. My children and I were very happy to see the first stamps in our passports!
Due to extreme weather and high winds, we were not able to visit Half Moon Cay as planned. We were kept up to date on the situation continuously, and when it was determined that we would continue on without stopping, all money paid toward shore excursions there was automatically refunded. We had planned on parasailing and doing the stingray encounter, so we were definitely disappointed, but Carnival can't control the weather!
My boyfriend proposed to me after we visited Grand Turk, so I would say it was a memorable and extremely enjoyable first cruise. Less
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Cabin review: Carnival Miracle
Great view, good location mid-ship, close to pools and buffet but far enough away not to have to deal with noise, comfortable bed and pillows, decent space to move around, laundry room and elevators nearby. Ideal.
Port and Shore Excursions
After debarkation, we headed straight to meet our group for the dunebuggy excursion. It's easy to find the guides for all of the excursions offered, they're literally at the end of the dock holding signs. The guides, two very pleasant men, gave us each a helmet and gave us instructions on how to operate the dunebuggies. They were very easy to manage since they're automatic transmission. My dunebuggy stalled right before we started the ride and wouldn't restart. One of the guides changed a spent fuse in less than three minutes (quickest I've ever seen!) and we all got on our way. We drove off-road over dirt and salt deposits and our first stop was a beautiful cliff overlooking the ocean. There was a brief walk uphill to get the full view, and one guide explained a brief history of the island (John Glenn's Mercury capsule landing, salt mines, the 8,000ft depth of the water nearby, etc). Bring a bandana for the ride and either wear a bathing suit or bring a change of clothes - you're going to get wet and muddy! It's AWESOME. We brought a backpack with clothes and sneakers/flip flops in it, since we wore water shoes. Also recommmended! We could tie the backpack right behind the seats in the dunebuggy to make sure it didn't fly out. As far as safety goes, the dunebuggies all ride one behind the other in a line and there's a van at the very back making sure nobody gets left behind.
We headed on to paved roads after that, driving on the left-hand side of the road. We passed houses and a large junkyard in the center of the island, and along the route we saw many donkeys and horses walking around on their own by the side of the road. Next stop was the island's lighthouse. It was under construction so it didn't look too great, but the view was again amazing. There was a stray dog there who looked starving, so my kids fed it some potato chips. Next was the return drive to the Cruise Center back at the other end of the island, which included a drive by John Glenn's Friendship 7 capsule located next to the entrance of the airport. I definitely recommend this excursion!
Back in the Cruise Center we tried (unsuccessfully) to use free wifi at Froots (a smoothie place) then went to the beach. We walked back in the direction of the ship and took a left before the dock to go to the beach on that side. It's less crowded and has a really beautiful view. We knew the weather wasn't going to hold even though it only rains 14 days out of the year in Turks & Caicos, so we made the best of it. We brought our own goggles and snorkeled a bit on our own just off shore and wandered the beach looking at shells and lizards before it started to downpour. If you decide to swim in this area, bring water shoes! The reef and rocks in the water are very sharp.
When it began raining, we headed to the Cruise Center where there are a cluster of shops. Other than Froots, there wasn't really anywhere to get food besides Margaritaville. Margaritaville was festive even while it was raining, and we very much enjoyed the pool and drinks. We stopped by Ron Jon Surf Shop on our way back to the ship and bought a pair of swim shorts, and when I asked the cashier if it was possible to get an extra plastic shopping bag to put our postcards and such in so they wouldn't get drenched in the continuing downpour, she was quite rude and said she'd only give me one if I gave her $5. I told her to keep her $5 bag, thank you. Based upon the service I got at Ron Jon, I will definitely not shop there again if I am in the area, and wouldn't recommend anyone else giving them business. Everyone else we came in contact with in Grand Turk was extremely friendly. Overall, despite the rain and the rude cashier, it was a very enjoyable and fun experience!!
We were eager to debark the ship in Nassau since we had missed our experiences in Half Moon Cay the previous day due to inclement weather. We quickly found our excursion group for the Atlantis Aquaventure just outside the ship on the dock and filled out a waiver for each person. We showed our tickets and were given wrist bands to wear for the entire day, then waited about 15 minutes for everyone else to show up before we walked as a crowd past the Welcome Center and to the street where buses were waiting to take us over a bridge from Nassau to Paradise Island where Atlantis Resort is located. There was a minimal wait to get on a bus (they had several buses lined up one behind the other) and we were at Atlantis in a quick ten minutes. The guide reminded us when we got off the bus where and at what time we were to meet the returning buses. There was a quick walk through the park involved; we walked past stingrays, manta rays, fish, and sharks on our way to the main water park area, then we were given towels and directed to the area where we could rent a storage locker if we needed to.
We rented a locker ($9) and had about a fifteen minute wait until some of the rides opened (the Current opened at 10:00, and since that was right next to the area with lockers and it dumps you out in most major areas of the park, we started there). There were plenty of tubes available, both singles and doubles. We loved the Current, its like white water rafting without worrying about hitting your head on a rock. There are lifeguards situated all along the Currents route as well as pretty much everywhere throughout the park. There was a water playground area that my kids loved very much, and right next to that was a snack shack. Food was expensive there. Our excursion included lunch, but we saved that for later in the day.
We went on most of the larger slides and rides without much of a wait, possibly due to the stormy weather of previous days or because it was October and not as busy, but we had a really great time. We wore water shoes all over and didnt even bother carrying around towels since wed be dry from the sun five minutes after exiting the water anyway. You can wear goggles on the rides.
After exhausting ourselves at the water park, we walked over to the beach adjacent to where the lockers are located. There is a security building in between and lifeguards on the beach. There were a lot of people trying to get us to rent jet skis, but they took no as an answer pleasantly enough.
We took our water shoes off (finally!) and put our toes in the sand and enjoyed the water. The sand gets EVERYWHERE and sticks to your skin. It doesnt wash off, you have to basically scrape it off. But it was wonderful! The waves were very high due to the storms and there was an undertow, so we were very careful not to go out in the water too far.
We went to a restaurant on the beach called Pisces, one on the list we were given that would accept our lunch coupons. The food was STELLAR, and the cooks and cashiers there were very fun to talk with. They were singing as they cooked the food, it was lively and really cool.
We pretty much ran out of time and had to head back to the ship at this point swung by a couple of the shops in the Welcome Center before getting back on the ship. There were ornaments, shells, jewelry, postcards, etc. available. Very reasonable prices and friendly people.
Really enjoyed Nassau!