Took a budget cruise to Carribean to see what cruising was like. Going out of Baltimore rather than Florida saved a lot of money because no flight was needed. The inside stateroom was fine for 2 as we didn't spend much time in the room. It had all the essentials, lots of closet space, shower big enough for anyone except for the grossly obese. Most of those I spoke to thought the bed was comfortable. The food was plentiful and most of it was good, the exercise facilities were ample for circuit training as well as aerobics. Staff was very nice despite the tipping already being included. These folks work hard and we were generous with tips at the end even though it is already included. It was fun to meet new people each day at breakfast and lunch so by the end of the cruise we had met lots of new people who we would run into throughout the day. We ate dinner with the same folks every night so we had the opportunity to get to know a few people well. The shows were also very good and free. Comedians were all funny.
The dining staff was very accommodating to my lactose free food limitations. The assistant Maitre D was brought me the next days menu and if they didn't have anything I could eat they would make something just for me, even desserts. Pretty amazing considering the number of people they have to feed. I did have to eat in the dining room because that was the only place this could be accommodated. When I emailed before I left for the cruise the responses were very inadequate. They said they accommodate all guests but would not be specific about what provisions would be made for my severe lactose intolerance. Having read the menus which were very heavy on milk, chocolate, cheese, I would have been more comfortable if I had gotten this information ahead of time. Areas for improvement: Soy butter, soy ice cream (there are many good brands on the market), lactose and gluten content of the meals on the menu and buffet, soy milk at the buffet (they may have brought it if I asked).
The Carnival cruiselines do have lots of ways to try to part you with your money. The drinks are very expensive and very weak. You can bring on board a 750ml bottle of wine each but 1ST TIME CRUISERS BEWARE. You have to carry it on, do not put it in the luggage that they carry for you. That was not clear to me, as a first time cruiser since I did not understand how luggage was handled. They should make that more clear in their alcohol policies by specifically stating that it cannot be in the luggage carried up by the staff. Though they admitted that they confiscate a lot of wine, and have a lot of unhappy cruisers they still don't bother to make that clear.. When I pointed this out to guest services they kept saying that I should have read the policy. I repeatedly told them I did read the policy and it was not clear. They would not budge on this which created resentment that put a bit of a damper on my cruise for a day or two. When I pointed out that this really turned me on Carnival, guest services said I could choose to sail on another cruiseline if I wished. Where did they learn public relations? I boycotted the alcohol after that which I really didn't miss. They say they don't allow alcohol to be brought on board because they are trying to avoid people being overly drunk but they are really just trying to make more money because they don't limit anyone's drinking and are constantly coming by with trays of drinks to the point of being annoying. Between the expensive tours, high priced bingo (they made thousands of dollars each time they had bingo which took about 15 minutes), the casinos, the gift shops selling you "bargains" that are really just junk, the extra fees for many things, even yoga, and constantly taking your picture and trying to sell it to you, cruises can easily become very expensive. That's how they can afford to provide your cabin, all food and transport for such a bargain price. They make up for it in the high prices of extras. Decide ahead of time how much you want to spend and keep track as it adds up fast.
We did not book any of the cruiseline's tours because they were more expensive. If you do a little internet research ahead of time you can find plenty of less expensive alternatives. If you have money to burn, definitely let the cruiseline do all that for you. There is always the risk that something will happen on your tour so that you arrive back to the ship late and the ship will not be responsible if they did not sponsor the tour. This seems to be a rare event and I do think the ship tries very hard not to lose any guests.
We did the "Bahamas Segway Tour" in Nassau because it was number one on Trip Advisor. We signed up at the tour desk just off the disembarkation point of the ship but some passengers signed up online ahead of time for less money. It was great because the tour was on trails, rather than city streets. They did a good job of teaching how to use the Segway before the tour. The city bus #10 in Nassau will take you to the beach for $1.25 each way.
In Cape Canaveral there is a shuttle bus to Cocoa Beach which is very reasonable, $5 per person each way because they take a whole group. We used 888 Taxi and they gave helpful suggestions. We rented bicycles at Ron Jon's in Cocoa beach, there is a bike path.
Same group type shuttles in Freeport, $5 to Port Lacaya, $9 to Garden of the Groves. People complained about the small beach in Port Lacaya but everyone just went out onto the entrance of the beach and stayed there. The beach was plenty empty if you just walked down the coast a little, we felt like we had the beach to ourselves. No lifeguard that far down but we just sat on the beach and walked at the edge of the water. The marketplace was fun to walk around but the vendors could be annoying by their constant solicitation. Unfortunately the cruise ships don't give you much information about your options ashore because they want you to buy their excursions so they get a cut.
Is cruising for you? It can be very cost effective if you limit your expenses and do a lot of planning ahead of time for shore excursions. You can meet many very nice people, have nice meals and entertainment. Shore activities can be limited by having to adhere to the ship's schedule. I wouldn't do cruises for all my vacations but it is a very nice experience from time to time.