We have done about 10 or so cruises, so not sure we are quite experts, but hopefully insightful. The short of it was, we really enjoyed this cruise, and Charleston is pretty easy to get in and out of if you live close by. We actually flew in from Chicago, but have family and friends in Charleston so we got dropped off and picked up by them, which definitely makes life easier.
Again, I can not speak to any airport transportation, or anything of the sort, but just know parking and drop of areas are pretty simple. There is decent signage to both. We were dropped off and in doing so you basically enter the port authority, and wiggle around to a drop of staging area. Here you load your bags on luggage carts that will be taken to your cabin. Ensure to keep what you need immediately with you. You then walk around the corner to a check in (this is new, they use to just throw you on a bus to the terminal for security then check in). After check in, there is a bit of a waiting area to wait for your “zone” – when you check in online they should ask when you expect to arrive and will give you a “ arrival appointment”. We walked over and inquired where we should sit with a nice elderly gentleman, and he simply said, wanna go ahead and get on the ship, of course we said yes, and he sent us straight out to the buses. Got on a bus quite quickly, and once full, it set off to the terminal. Once at terminal you go through security. There is the priority line and non priority. Folks that cruise a lot or need extra time, seem to use priority – we didn’t. This worked for us, the non priority was shorter at this time (we were pretty early, around 11am). We then flew right through security, and then you walk down the hall, up some stairs and just before getting on the ramp to the boat, one last scan of your boarding pass. Note: Check in is very streamlined since most folks do all of the previous stuff (Credit card for sail and sign, etc) on line. Your room key/sail and sign is actually just outside your room, which typically you have to wait until 130 before they open up the halls to said rooms. Once you go up the ramp, you are on the boat. Funny story, for our particular cruise, we were Guest #1 and #2, really just because we were early, and dumb luck.
As stated, you cant get to your room until 130 (I think you can get some priority or early check in at extra cost or possibly your VIFP status). They do have a few options for lunch. 5th and 9th decks, toward back of boat. 5th I think had bbq (never went, just heard). We cruised through the lido (9th) deck, which will be your main buffet line all week. Most bars will be open, and this is where we signed up for the Cheers program (recommended if you are planning on having a handful of drinks each day, as it also includes water (bottle), Gatorade, and some other extras (think boozy and I assume non boozy milkshakes, etc). Reason we waited until we got on ship, when I booked my cabin, we got a 500 credit, and although you get a 10% discount by signing up pre cruise, I didn’t see me using that 500 otherwise, so we waited until on ship. Once 130 comes around, head to your cabin to check it out, bags take a bit longer (or can – ours were there since we were so darn early, lol).
The ship as you probably read on the main CruiseCritic review was the old Destiny. I did not know this at the time but learned it from fellow guests. Funny part of that, we took the Destiny out of Miami for our honeymoon, so it was cool to be back on the ship. Now, it did go through quite the renovation, so most things were not familiar to us. The ship is nice, layout can be a bit confusing in parts, but its fun to explore. There were always folks cleaning etc, which I don’t remember as much on previous cruises so it was refreshing to see. There is an adult area, which is the top 3 outside decks at the front of the ship. Real nice set up, plenty of chairs, and a bar up there. Otherwise, nothing out of the ordinary for the ship, easy to navigate, clean, but it is starting to show her age a bit. The waterworks/sports deck is pretty neat. Had basketball court, 2 ping pong, pretty sweet little mini golf set up, 2 pool tables (don’t think you will be playing for money on these outside tables, still fun), shuffleboard, twister, and I feel like I am forgetting something. (There is a jogging track around this area as well, 10 laps = 1 mile). In the very back is a little kids water park area and then 3 slides. As expected, since we didn’t get off at Nassau, there were very little to no kids back here on this day. It was adult take over, and it was a blast. They have 3 slides and they are all equally as fun, and pretty darn fast, especially if you sling your self up top at the start. In the end, pretty fun area on the ship.
We opted for balcony room off the back (aft) of the ship. The room was a bit smaller than I was expecting, but it was plenty of room for the two of us and we enjoyed the balcony as well. The room was clean and as expected. Keep in mind here, they turn and burn these cruises fast, so keep that in mind. We had some friends buy us a Bon voyage package which had some little decorations, a bottle of champagne and 2 champagne flutes. (I thought the casino did this as I am a “member” of that as well, but it turns out it was friends, but the little card either didn’t make it to the room or I never noticed it to know where it came from). We met our steward pretty quickly, Suyanto (think he went by Suya). He was super nice, always said hello, and we just a lot of fun interacting with him. We got fun towel animals each day and that was a nice touch, and he did a great job of getting in and out of there unnoticed, and the room was always nice after he did his thing. On day four, they did balcony cleaning, kinda wish they did it day 1, but they just leave a hanger on the door so you know and they access from outside (they don’t need to come into your room). Overall we were pleased with the cabin.
First, I read a review saying no lobster. Not true. On formal night, it is on the menu. Also know, it was a 20 dollar upcharge. Now, let it be known, we never ate in the restaurant, just by choice, not because it wasn’t any good. More so, we had the my time dining, but I was a bit taken back that you had to go to a hostess stand, on a totally different deck to “check in” for my time dining. I thought the whole time, doesn’t seem like my time if I have to wait in line (not always a line, just during busier times). What we did enjoy, the Burger bar (only open till 6), the Taco/Burrito bar – only open for breakfast and lunch, -- Pro Tip – hit this spot for a breakfast burrito, I will await your thank your upon your return. Also, during lunch, ask for the Taco salad (vs burrito) if you want it in one of those big taco bowls. We also liked the deli. Pro Tip – Try the spicy chix sandwich. The buffet is what you would expect when they are trying to feed 3k people all at once. One nice thing I did enjoy, their little salad bar. We didn’t do any of the specialty restaurants, but b/w overhearing and speaking with others (and seeing some reviews here), sounds like that they are all good. Steak house is suppose to be real good (flat fee of $38 I think it was), Sushi looked good, pay ala carte, then there was Italian and Asian behind the Lido Buffet which I believe was $15 flat. Pro Tip – you can get made to order pasta at lunch which is included at the Italian area. The Asian restaurant was one of those make your bowl and we will cook it and always had a line. In that area is also Bar Havanna and for all meals there is a mini buffet set up on the one side. For breakfast they had these little cheese Danish roll things that were out of this world. They of course have the 24 hour pizza bar which actually isn’t bad pizza, and after a evening out (or maybe night out), it can really hit the spot.
There are quite a few spots you can hang out and have a drink. I won’t go through all the details as you can read about them online, etc, and we enjoyed pretty much all of them. Again, the Havana bar was a nice place to escape the crowds from the lido buffet. One of our favorites for evening (didn’t open till then), was Alchemy bar. It had real nice craft cocktails. I don’t think they even have soda back there, and most likely not even beer, just craft cocktails. Edward and Ranauk are efficient, personable and make great drinks. The casino bar is just that, the bar by the casino, so think smoke. There is also a little Sports bar in this area which was fun, but we just went in there once. There are two bars on the lido deck by the action (pool, entertainment), but they stay pretty crowded, etc. The serenity bar is at the top of the Serenity section. That one can get crowded but it’s the adults area, so at least no kids loading up their soda cups. Near the Alchemy bar is the Frog Pub, they have a shuffle board table and foosball in there and is just a neat little spot. Just up deck 5 from this area is where you can get some fancy coffee drinks and the boozy milkshakes I mentioned early. (this is also same area where you can get the bbq lunch on day 1, and I suspect lunch on any day, and also the desk to check in for dinner). The drinks in each spot are good, (better than I remember), and with a decent selection.
We didn’t do much here but the wife enjoyed a few comedians she saw during the week, and I enjoyed the casino (minus all the smoke, but it is what it is). I typically play blackjack and noticed they only pay out blackjack and 6:5 so just know that going in. Otherwise, it was lively and most of the dealers are pretty fun. Good drink service in there as well, I rarely went without at least seeing somebody walking around asking. There are several lounges for different entertainment, including one at the lobby bar (Deck 3), one b/w Alchemy and Frog Bar on Deck 5, and another one on Deck 4 where I believe the comedians typically were. They also have the bigger auditorium dealio that spans 2 decks, we just never got to a show in there, but they are typically really nice and this one seemed so as well (we peeked in once or twice).
This was the 5 nighter and made two stops. Nassau and Carnival’s little private Cay. We had committed to staying on ship during Nassau and hopping off at the Cay. We ended up jumping off at Nassau to swing into Senor Frogs for a quick drink and shot (felt you had to do it, lol). Kinda glad we did, as the weather did not allow us to get on the smaller boats to get to the Cay. The secondary issue was we got held up in Nassau (we technically left but had to turn around) for a crew member that needed medical attention. Then, after they cancelled the tenders to the cay the next day, we got a bit held up for a guest that had to get medical attention, which was no big deal, we had nowhere to be. Lol The sun was out and warm for the cay day, the water was just a bit to choppy to run those tenders, so while it stinks we didn’t get beach time, its part of cruising.
Getting off the ship
This part confuses me every single time. Two main options, you carry your stuff, or they will. If you carry, it’s called express and they start calling you out by deck number. Seemed they started with 3, went to 1 then up (I am not so sure, we left when they called 1, lol). The non-express, check bags, were supposed to wait until express was over. Didn’t happen, I saw plenty of people grabbing their bags from the baggage pick up area in the terminal, so it just seems like organized chaos on who gets off when. More so, it seemed some folks met in the theater thingie and were allowed to go even before they started calling on decks. Not the worst, but boy, always a mystery to me on how to get out of that place.
All in all, we had a really good time. I really would give the trip a 4.5 but they only do whole numbers, lol. Bit of a wait at times at some of the bars, ship starting to show age a bit, buffet food just being ok were some of the things that would have made me swing to a 5 rating. Drinks were good, the burgers were good, and the service all around the boat is better than I remember.
Cabin was nice, but smaller than expected.The corner rooms are obviously bigger, but I also noticed a balcony room just around the corner (not facing the back) seemed larger as well. Still good size, decent shower (small in bathroom otherwise), and balcony is always nice to have.
Didnt get off the ship here, and unlike the cruise 2 weeks earlier that audibled to Freeport, we just floated around till it was time to head out.
Can be a bit of a hustle here, so mind yourself.. Otherwise, we just shot over to Senor Frogs to watch the festivities. lol
I have to give this rating, we went to school here. :)