As first time cruisers, traveling with children, we wanted to make our experience as simple as possible. With Charleston being an easy 5 hr car ride, we chose to leave from there and traveled down the day before embarkation. We took advantage of a hotel deal where we could stay the night, have a sit down breakfast, park our car for the week, and take the hotel shuttle to and from the port- this worked out beautifully! Hotel Indigo in Mt. Pleasant is just across the bridge. The shuttle worked out flawlessly, and was actually nicer than I had expected. For about $30 more than the price of parking at the port all week, we got a good night's rest, a meal, parking, and the shuttle. We did go out into Charleston the night before to meet some friends and enjoyed ourselves at Carmella's for drinks and desert.
When we arrived at the port the next morning, there was a bit of a wait in the shuttle line and when we got off, the baggage handlers were nice enough but were obviously trying to be hasty. There was one particularly loud one shouting everything. He was nice when we realized I had not printed enough bag tags and he helped us get some on quickly, despite his loud first impression. Our shuttle driver pointed out to us where he would be during disembarkation and we headed to the terminal to go through security.
The line was long, but moved quickly. It was during the line wait that I realized I made my first rookie mistake of putting my wine in our checked suitcase instead of my carry on. I researched but forgot this detail, apparently. I spent the next several hours praying it wouldn't burst all over our clothing. In the end, they ended up 'confiscating it' and we had clean clothing. Security was smooth until we got to the desk where they check birth certs and IDs, etc. My husband's documents had to be taken to customs due to his name being commonly flagged (?). The lady came back and said well, its good news since I have no customs agent with me! Well, I'd hope so!! She explained that he just had a common name, and it was often flagged. However, my husband is a Veteran and in all his travels has never ran into any issues regarding his name. I still am not sure what all this was about but did not appreciate the delay. We were finally sent to the next checkpoint and there, we weren't listed as 'checked in' due to the previous "issue" so we stood there for another few minutes while they got that sorted. This kind of initially spoiled the faster to the fun option we bought- this hiccup of Carnival's ended up costing us more time in security that I had hoped to be there, with children. However, the final checkpoint agent apologized and stated this was an issue on their end, not ours.... and we were on our way.
The cabin was sufficient though we would have been more comfortable with more room. It was small with 4 people getting ready but doable. There was a large dent in the ceiling right above the pull down bunk. Bring a small power strip (I brought a 3 plug one from the dollar store), a clear shoe storage thing for the bathroom, and some battery operated votives for nightlights. Also bring handsoap with pump. Don't bother bring magnets- they wont work on anything. Maintenance was very responsive to a burned out bulb and a broken shower head. Both were fixed very quickly. There was a small leak from one of the bolt holes in the window. A balcony would have made me nervous with children so we chose ocean view.
Stay at Hotel Indigo for their Cruise Package.
Commercialized but good pool for kids.
The water is stunning
Shuttle boats are interesting in rough waters. Lunch was provided and was pretty good, not great. I read somewhere that even though the whole island of Princess Cay takes your room card, you're unable to use the cheers package on the island? Must do more research on this if we were to return to find out for sure.