We sailed from Charleston on February 16th. Our group included myself, my DH, and one teenager escaping from Connecticut's polar vortex, and my sister from Virginia escaping lots of snowstorms. We had hoped to have a few days to explore Charleston and had made dinner reservations at several noted restaurants. Unfortunately, due to a blizzard, our flights were cancelled and rescheduled for 2 days later. We did get to Charleston in time to have dinner Saturday evening at Burwell's Stone Fire Grill (excellent!) and we enjoyed a 90-minute bus tour from the Visitor's Center on Sunday morning, before heading to the port.
Which brings me to my only real complaint about this cruise. The self-parking and embarkation. Due to the city's restraints on the cruise line, you are brought into the parking in a maze-like manner with very little signage. We heard that the idea is to keep any cruise traffic away from the historic downtown. Even with GPS, it was completely frustrating winding through sketchy areas, one-way streets, and old warehouses to get to the parking lot—not your best view of a city noted for its beauty and architecture. The parking attendant was friendly and collected $85 for the parking fee. Once there, we wound though another maze, dropped our luggage, and finally reached a run-down warehouse which serves as the covered parking. (Seriously, $85 to park in a dilapidated warehouse?) We then joined a LONG line of people where we waited for buses to drive us to the terminal. There was zero Carnival presence at the warehouse, but there was an attendant at the front of the line. It was windy, cold and cheerless. I would not have minded as much if there had been a lot of buses, but they were few and far between. Eventually we boarded a bus with our carry-ons and were off to the terminal. Things improved greatly at this point as the bus driver was jovial and reassuring. Once we got to the terminal, security and check-in were very smooth and friendly. It finally began to feel like a vacation. This entire process took over an hour, mainly due to waiting for the buses, and it gave us much trepidation about disembarkation as we worried if we would get to the airport on time.
Note to the City of Charleston: I understand that you are an historic area, but please think about making the experience welcoming for tourists who will happily come and spend money in your city as part of their vacation. Please don't hide visitors in a warehouse; it's not welcoming and does not make me want to come back to your city. Extend some Southern charm!
Our port hole cabins, R16 and R12, on the Riveria Deck were delightful. The rooms were immaculate and quite roomy. The beds were super comfortable, and we had plenty of storage space. We did hear a lot of noise as we docked on port days, but it was kind of cool. The seas were calm and we barely felt the ship moving at all. The port hole configuration gives you a nice wide shelf which is great for extra storage.
We had been to Nassau before and my husband had been to the Atlantis resort on business and thinks it is overpriced. We did not want to spend a lot of money since we had booked a ship's excursion for Freeport. We did a lot of research and had emailed the Melia hotel in advance of the trip to confirm that they offered a day pass. We took a 15-minute cab there ($25) and purchased day passes for $30 each. They had several pools and gorgeous sandy beach. It was a little chilly, but their main pool is heated. The atmosphere there is calm and relaxed which suited us fine. If you go, make sure you bring a towel, as the towel system at the Melia was a complete mystery. They had a poolside restaurant that had a long line and an expensive list of offerings ($19 for a burger!), so we skipped lunch. After a few hours we took a cab back to the ship ($20) and had a late lunch at the LIDO buffet.