1. Home
  2. Cruise Reviews
  3. Carnival Sensation
I had avoided booking a cruise my entire life because I thought I'd have that "held captive on board" feeling, but finally my friend convinced me to give it a try. I figured nothing awful could happen in 4 nights... I'm so glad we did this, and now we've booked a 7 night cruise for next April! We flew into Orlando the night before, arrived at midnight, and checked into a hotel at the airport. The next day, we rented a car from Budget at the airport, drove it to Target to buy supplies that we couldn't put in our carry-on luggage (sunscreen, sodas, wine), then drove to the port. I dropped off the luggage and 2 of the family, and my son and I went to drop off the car. They shuttled us back to the ship, and we began embarkation (all within about 30 minutes or so). This was a lot cheaper than if we paid for the Carnival airport transfers, but it was a little bit of running around. Mainly we did it because we wanted to make the side trip to Target. Also, I originally thought that if the ship didn't leave till 4pm, maybe we could explore Cape Canaveral a little. Truly, you don't have any time to see anything, and if you get on the ship early, you get to start having fun early. The food, bars and pool are open (make sure to pack your swimsuit in your carryon, not in your luggage, since it takes several hours for your luggage to be at your cabin). You can get a let up on exploring before everyone is on board. My family consists of my husband, me and 2 teenaged boys. We booked two adjoining balcony rooms on the Empress deck. At the time, we didn't give any real thought to which deck was what, but we were liked that on this particular ship, the Empress deck is also the main lobby deck and it's close to all the action, yet not noisy at all. I loved that my husband and I had our own room (and I always seem to need a balcony to make me feel connected to the outside). The door connecting the rooms would have locked automatically so we just kept one of the luggage mats in the door jam to keep them open and the housekeeping staff didn't move it. This also helped in that there has to be an adult registered to each stateroom, so my husband was registered to one room, and I to the other. They don't mind where you actually sleep, but the key cards (Sign and Sail card) is assigned ahead of time so my key only worked on one door, and my husband's on the other. If we didn't leave the adjoining door open, I wouldn't have been able to get into my room without my husband or one of the kids. Good to know, especially if you don't book adjoining rooms. The beds were VERY comfortable. We had ours made into a King, and the kids were in a twin each. The housekeeping staff was soooo friendly, and addressed us by name. Faster to the Fun (FTTF) is an add on $75 per room... I thought it was worth it. You get to board the ship in an express line (which went really fast), and you get to get off the ship in priority (though we hit a snafu on that... more later). Also, if there is a tender port, I think you get priority on that too, but we didn't hit one on this trip. We used it to get access to Guest Services immediately instead of standing in a very long line (just to ask a question). I think it gets you in the dining room faster if you choose a specific time, but if you are "my time" then it doesn't get you anything. There was no wait anyway. Internet access: Everything I read online indicated we'd pay for a specific quantity of data, but in reality, it's $60 per person if you want all access for the entire trip. The wifi is actually not bad for satellite, and no one really complained. You need to turn off your data once off the coast unless you want to pay international roaming charges or have a plan (which we did thru Verizon just for my husband so he could contact work if needed). The Sensation is an older ship. When I booked, I didn't pay a lot of attention to that, we mainly picked the destination and the timing, so options were limited. An older ship is still a well-maintained ship, but it didn't have all the bells and whistles as I now know other newer ships have. Also, as a first time cruiser, we didn't really know how to take advantage of all there is to do, which I now wish we had (so I'm advising first-timers here!). The pool was much smaller than I thought it would be (duh, it's a ship). And we actually never really went in it. The slide on this ship was an add-on some time during refurbishment, so it was separate from the pool area (on a different deck), and the few times we went there, it was families with small kids. We also never went on it (but we went to Atlantis, so there's that... more on that later). The food was what we didn't seem to get right. We picked Your Time Dining (which we will do again) which assigns you to a specific dining room (the people with specific seating times are assigned to the other dining room). We just never were hungry for dinner at the right time (between 5:30 and 9:30), either because we had a late lunch on an excursion, or because everyone filled up at the Lido restaurant. In any case, it was hard to round everyone up at the same time, make them change into some decent clothes, and head to the restaurant. The one night we did, there was no wait at all. The food was ok, not fabulous, but we did have a table at the window. We also had breakfast one morning in the dining room... again no wait. It was table service, the food was ok, again not amazing. After that, the family preferred to do the buffet line at the Lido restaurant for breakfast (and the omelet bar). The other thing was that the Lido deck says it's open all the time, but they cycle through sanitation times, so really, only a few areas are open at any given time. The 24 hour pizza is made to order, and there is always a long wait (15-20 minutes). The frozen yogurt/soft serve is a machine that seemed to always be out of cones or closed for cleaning. The salad bar was ok, but not amazing either. All in all, we didn't gorge on anything because it just didn't work out that way (good for us!) Drinks: I read a lot and saw a lot on YouTube about how to sneak alcohol on a ship. People spend an inordinate amount of time trying to cheat the system. I guess we just don't drink that much, but in 4 days, with several bar drinks a day, our tab was $200 (note, my kids spent the same amount at the arcade in 4 days). If you chose the bottomless alcohol, it would have been $260 per person. Clearly not for us, but maybe for others. On average, a bar drink was about $11. We actually did bring the 2 bottles of wine on board that we were allowed, and only opened one. (huh?!). Water is the one thing I wish we'd brought on board. They give you a large water bottle (for $4) in your room, but we were always thirsty. The water provided is drinkable, but not that tasty. Freeport: my friend had warned me that it was kind of a "nothing port". She was right. As with every tourist destination, you are greeted with "in your face" people trying to hustle you. If you just let it go, things are fine. We woke up late that day, wandered off the ship, decided to go to a Bahama beach, so paid one of the hustlers $15 pp to take us in a van to Taimo beach (one of the two offered). The ride was about 20 minutes, not crazy, and we were let off at an organized beach, with a bar (of course) and a tiny food hut that only served conch fritters and fries. (they were good and very cheap, but if you don't like fish, you're out of luck). The beach was nice, but not amazing. White sand, fairly rocky in the shallow water (I cut my foot), and very windy. After 2 hours, we were ready to go back. Nassau: So much fun! We chose to do Atlantis, but not via Carnival excursion. I will divulge one of the best kept secrets here: Comfort Suites Paradise Island. Seemed too good to be true, but it was flawless. We booked the room separately via their website (far in advance). The room includes admission to Atlantis for all staying. (the 4 of us in one room, which we never even saw). We got off the ship, were approached by a gazillion taxi hustlers, picked one, and made it clear we were going to Comfort Suites. $4pp to take us there. The check in at Comfort Suites was fast, the lady never even gave us a key to the room because she knew we weren't staying. She gave us a ton of discounts when we got there and suddenly what would have been $720 became $430. From there, you walk across the grounds, into the lobby of Atlantis, collect your wristbands, and you're in! Easy Peasy. Thankfully we were there during a slow week, we grabbed 4 lounge chairs, a locker to stow our stuff, and played all day. Effectively, we were there from about 10am (inside the park) and had to leave around 3:30 to grab a cab from the front of Atlantis lobby (don't return to Comfort Suites), and we were back on the ship by 4pm. Children's clubs - aka Circle C (for the 12 year old) and O2 (for the 15 year old). Basically, these were just lounges or meeting rooms so kids could connect. Since our spring break was on an off week, my kids never met anyone their ages. I saw a few packs of teens hanging together, but not many at all. We hope next time, they will find more friends their ages. Entertainment - We had fun playing Bingo (go figure), and their Love and Marriage "game show" was entertaining. We saw the comedy show once, it was pretty good. There is a PG version, which my kids loved. The karaoke bar was fun, and they had a Disco party which was fun. The live music in the lounge areas (open to passers by) was actually really good and drew quite a crowd. It was nice because the kids could hang out too. Other things to note: The gym was really nice (tennis shoes required, no flip flops). We didn't use the spa, but it's there. The mini golf is not much, and really windy at night when you are moving. This ship is smaller so there's not much else to do (except the Casino, which was smoky and since we live near Reno, we opted out). Disembarkation: We had FTTF so we could have gotten out early. We opted to check our bags to get out (because on of my kids had a broken ankle, not from the cruise!). We set our bags out by the door by 11pm the night before. The next morning, they let the "carry off" people off early (7am ish). For checked people, if you have FTTF, you will be called to disembark first. It seemed to take longer than I thought it would (we were in group 2 and they called 1-4 together). When we got off, one of our bags was missing. There were only 4 others on the table. We checked the other stations, no bag. Then the Carnival lady noticed that ours looked just like one still sitting there. She contacted the other party and sure enough, they had grabbed ours by mistake. She was already on a shuttle, but came back and the Carnival people made the exchange for us. Since we had waited 45 minutes for this to happen, she sent us to the front of the customs line and we were off immediately. Great service, I'd say. So that concludes my very long-winded review. I know it's long, but it is all the stuff I wish someone had explained to me first so I had a good picture of what to expect. We loved it and we're going again (to Belize!) next April.

First Time Cruise,family with 2 Teens - Better than expected-Let's do it again!

Carnival Sensation Cruise Review by RamiCruiser

5 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: April 2015
  • Destination: Bahamas
  • Cabin Type: Balcony
I had avoided booking a cruise my entire life because I thought I'd have that "held captive on board" feeling, but finally my friend convinced me to give it a try. I figured nothing awful could happen in 4 nights... I'm so glad we did this, and now we've booked a 7 night cruise for next April!

We flew into Orlando the night before, arrived at midnight, and checked into a hotel at the airport. The next day, we rented a car from Budget at the airport, drove it to Target to buy supplies that we couldn't put in our carry-on luggage (sunscreen, sodas, wine), then drove to the port. I dropped off the luggage and 2 of the family, and my son and I went to drop off the car. They shuttled us back to the ship, and we began embarkation (all within about 30 minutes or so). This was a lot cheaper than if we paid for the Carnival airport transfers, but it was a little bit of running around. Mainly we did it because we wanted to make the side trip to Target. Also, I originally thought that if the ship didn't leave till 4pm, maybe we could explore Cape Canaveral a little. Truly, you don't have any time to see anything, and if you get on the ship early, you get to start having fun early. The food, bars and pool are open (make sure to pack your swimsuit in your carryon, not in your luggage, since it takes several hours for your luggage to be at your cabin). You can get a let up on exploring before everyone is on board.

My family consists of my husband, me and 2 teenaged boys. We booked two adjoining balcony rooms on the Empress deck. At the time, we didn't give any real thought to which deck was what, but we were liked that on this particular ship, the Empress deck is also the main lobby deck and it's close to all the action, yet not noisy at all. I loved that my husband and I had our own room (and I always seem to need a balcony to make me feel connected to the outside). The door connecting the rooms would have locked automatically so we just kept one of the luggage mats in the door jam to keep them open and the housekeeping staff didn't move it. This also helped in that there has to be an adult registered to each stateroom, so my husband was registered to one room, and I to the other. They don't mind where you actually sleep, but the key cards (Sign and Sail card) is assigned ahead of time so my key only worked on one door, and my husband's on the other. If we didn't leave the adjoining door open, I wouldn't have been able to get into my room without my husband or one of the kids. Good to know, especially if you don't book adjoining rooms. The beds were VERY comfortable. We had ours made into a King, and the kids were in a twin each. The housekeeping staff was soooo friendly, and addressed us by name.

Faster to the Fun (FTTF) is an add on $75 per room... I thought it was worth it. You get to board the ship in an express line (which went really fast), and you get to get off the ship in priority (though we hit a snafu on that... more later). Also, if there is a tender port, I think you get priority on that too, but we didn't hit one on this trip. We used it to get access to Guest Services immediately instead of standing in a very long line (just to ask a question). I think it gets you in the dining room faster if you choose a specific time, but if you are "my time" then it doesn't get you anything. There was no wait anyway.

Internet access: Everything I read online indicated we'd pay for a specific quantity of data, but in reality, it's $60 per person if you want all access for the entire trip. The wifi is actually not bad for satellite, and no one really complained. You need to turn off your data once off the coast unless you want to pay international roaming charges or have a plan (which we did thru Verizon just for my husband so he could contact work if needed).

The Sensation is an older ship. When I booked, I didn't pay a lot of attention to that, we mainly picked the destination and the timing, so options were limited. An older ship is still a well-maintained ship, but it didn't have all the bells and whistles as I now know other newer ships have. Also, as a first time cruiser, we didn't really know how to take advantage of all there is to do, which I now wish we had (so I'm advising first-timers here!).

The pool was much smaller than I thought it would be (duh, it's a ship). And we actually never really went in it. The slide on this ship was an add-on some time during refurbishment, so it was separate from the pool area (on a different deck), and the few times we went there, it was families with small kids. We also never went on it (but we went to Atlantis, so there's that... more on that later).

The food was what we didn't seem to get right. We picked Your Time Dining (which we will do again) which assigns you to a specific dining room (the people with specific seating times are assigned to the other dining room). We just never were hungry for dinner at the right time (between 5:30 and 9:30), either because we had a late lunch on an excursion, or because everyone filled up at the Lido restaurant. In any case, it was hard to round everyone up at the same time, make them change into some decent clothes, and head to the restaurant. The one night we did, there was no wait at all. The food was ok, not fabulous, but we did have a table at the window. We also had breakfast one morning in the dining room... again no wait. It was table service, the food was ok, again not amazing. After that, the family preferred to do the buffet line at the Lido restaurant for breakfast (and the omelet bar). The other thing was that the Lido deck says it's open all the time, but they cycle through sanitation times, so really, only a few areas are open at any given time. The 24 hour pizza is made to order, and there is always a long wait (15-20 minutes). The frozen yogurt/soft serve is a machine that seemed to always be out of cones or closed for cleaning. The salad bar was ok, but not amazing either. All in all, we didn't gorge on anything because it just didn't work out that way (good for us!)

Drinks: I read a lot and saw a lot on YouTube about how to sneak alcohol on a ship. People spend an inordinate amount of time trying to cheat the system. I guess we just don't drink that much, but in 4 days, with several bar drinks a day, our tab was $200 (note, my kids spent the same amount at the arcade in 4 days). If you chose the bottomless alcohol, it would have been $260 per person. Clearly not for us, but maybe for others. On average, a bar drink was about $11. We actually did bring the 2 bottles of wine on board that we were allowed, and only opened one. (huh?!). Water is the one thing I wish we'd brought on board. They give you a large water bottle (for $4) in your room, but we were always thirsty. The water provided is drinkable, but not that tasty.

Freeport: my friend had warned me that it was kind of a "nothing port". She was right. As with every tourist destination, you are greeted with "in your face" people trying to hustle you. If you just let it go, things are fine. We woke up late that day, wandered off the ship, decided to go to a Bahama beach, so paid one of the hustlers $15 pp to take us in a van to Taimo beach (one of the two offered). The ride was about 20 minutes, not crazy, and we were let off at an organized beach, with a bar (of course) and a tiny food hut that only served conch fritters and fries. (they were good and very cheap, but if you don't like fish, you're out of luck). The beach was nice, but not amazing. White sand, fairly rocky in the shallow water (I cut my foot), and very windy. After 2 hours, we were ready to go back.

Nassau: So much fun! We chose to do Atlantis, but not via Carnival excursion. I will divulge one of the best kept secrets here: Comfort Suites Paradise Island. Seemed too good to be true, but it was flawless. We booked the room separately via their website (far in advance). The room includes admission to Atlantis for all staying. (the 4 of us in one room, which we never even saw). We got off the ship, were approached by a gazillion taxi hustlers, picked one, and made it clear we were going to Comfort Suites. $4pp to take us there. The check in at Comfort Suites was fast, the lady never even gave us a key to the room because she knew we weren't staying. She gave us a ton of discounts when we got there and suddenly what would have been $720 became $430. From there, you walk across the grounds, into the lobby of Atlantis, collect your wristbands, and you're in! Easy Peasy. Thankfully we were there during a slow week, we grabbed 4 lounge chairs, a locker to stow our stuff, and played all day. Effectively, we were there from about 10am (inside the park) and had to leave around 3:30 to grab a cab from the front of Atlantis lobby (don't return to Comfort Suites), and we were back on the ship by 4pm.

Children's clubs - aka Circle C (for the 12 year old) and O2 (for the 15 year old). Basically, these were just lounges or meeting rooms so kids could connect. Since our spring break was on an off week, my kids never met anyone their ages. I saw a few packs of teens hanging together, but not many at all. We hope next time, they will find more friends their ages.

Entertainment - We had fun playing Bingo (go figure), and their Love and Marriage "game show" was entertaining. We saw the comedy show once, it was pretty good. There is a PG version, which my kids loved. The karaoke bar was fun, and they had a Disco party which was fun. The live music in the lounge areas (open to passers by) was actually really good and drew quite a crowd. It was nice because the kids could hang out too.

Other things to note: The gym was really nice (tennis shoes required, no flip flops). We didn't use the spa, but it's there. The mini golf is not much, and really windy at night when you are moving. This ship is smaller so there's not much else to do (except the Casino, which was smoky and since we live near Reno, we opted out).

Disembarkation: We had FTTF so we could have gotten out early. We opted to check our bags to get out (because on of my kids had a broken ankle, not from the cruise!). We set our bags out by the door by 11pm the night before. The next morning, they let the "carry off" people off early (7am ish). For checked people, if you have FTTF, you will be called to disembark first. It seemed to take longer than I thought it would (we were in group 2 and they called 1-4 together). When we got off, one of our bags was missing. There were only 4 others on the table. We checked the other stations, no bag. Then the Carnival lady noticed that ours looked just like one still sitting there. She contacted the other party and sure enough, they had grabbed ours by mistake. She was already on a shuttle, but came back and the Carnival people made the exchange for us. Since we had waited 45 minutes for this to happen, she sent us to the front of the customs line and we were off immediately. Great service, I'd say.

So that concludes my very long-winded review. I know it's long, but it is all the stuff I wish someone had explained to me first so I had a good picture of what to expect. We loved it and we're going again (to Belize!) next April.
RamiCruiser’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Ages 10 to 12
Ages 13 to 15
Service
Free Price Drop Alerts
Get Carnival Sensation price drops
250,000+ people have entered their email

Cabin Review

Balcony
Cabin 8C
Two adjoining balcony rooms, one with a king, the other with 2 twins. Older ship so the rooms were smaller than the larger new ships. The beds were very comfortable. The housekeeping service was wonderful. Very attentive and clean. We loved the balcony. We sat out there and watched the sunset, and at night we watched a pod of dolphins follow our ship catching flying fish.
Empress Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Taimo Beach
    The shuttle was $15 per person, which included access to the beach. There was a good bar, but very little food (only conch fritters and fries. The beach was ok, not amazing. It was white sand and beautiful warm ocean, but rocky in the shallow water. Not much to do there, we were done in 2 hours.
    View All 12,638 Taimo Beach Reviews
  • Atlantis Resort
    Best deal ever. We booked a room at Comfort Suites that we never used. This included admission to Atlantis. Checkin was flawless, we had plenty of time to do all the slides and swim in the lagoon, have lunch, then return to the ship via taxi.
    View All 673 Atlantis Resort Reviews
  • Atlantis Resort
    Best deal ever. We booked a room at Comfort Suites that we never used. This included admission to Atlantis. Checkin was flawless, we had plenty of time to do all the slides and swim in the lagoon, have lunch, then return to the ship via taxi.
    View All 673 Atlantis Resort Reviews
  • Port Canaveral (Orlando)
    Our embarkation in Port Canaveral was flawless. We drove up, were received by a porter, we left our bags and 2 family members, returned the rental car and were back on the shuttle in 20 minutes. We had FTTF so we had expedited embarkation, which was wonderful.
    View All 2,138 Port Canaveral (Orlando) Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Port Canaveral (Orlando) Cruise Port Review