1. Home
  2. Cruise Reviews
  3. Carnival Sensation
We have just arrived home after 4 days on the Sensation and I promised myself that this time around I would write a review while things were still fresh in my mind. Our group consisted of myself, my wife, our 17yr old daughter & her 17yr old cousin. We have cruised twice before prior to this, both last summer and both on Royal Caribbean (Grandeur & Liberty). I had intended to write reviews for these but just never got around to it. I am basing my opinions on this cruise with those on Royal Caribbean. We selected this cruise due to some limiting time factors and the fact that Port Canaveral is only an hour from our home. While Port Everglades and the Port of Miami both offer many wonderful sights on their own, I just didn't feel like suffering through the long post-cruise drive home. We arrived to a nearly empty terminal just after 10am and the embarkation process was smooth as silk. After a short wait we were on-board just after 11am. We did our normal self-guided ship exploration. The ship appeared clean and well-kept. I was expecting the worst after a warning from our travel agent but the design didn't seem loud or over-done. Just a nice older, smaller ship. Overall we found the staff whom we did not have direct interaction with to be just a notch less-friendly than what we had been used to on RC. We also noticed what seemed to be a large number of bars on board. Carnival living up to it's reputation as a "party boat"? Fun times lay ahead! We ventured to the Lido deck buffet for lunch and by this time many others had boarded & also had found the food. My impressions were that the basic design of the 4 main stations of this dining complex created long lines and offered less selection than what we had experienced on the RC ships. We never waited on the RC ships. Also the food quality was not bad, but again it just wasn't what we had enjoyed before. Our cabins were ready a little before the stated time of 1:30 and while we were making ourselves @ home our baggage arrived safe & sound. Our cabin was a standard ocean-view with a very comfy queen bed while the girls shared the next door cabin with twin beds. Due to our late booking all the balcony cabins had already been reserved. The cabins were nice with enough room for two although I did miss the small table and couch that we had in Grandeur & Liberty I did seem to think the bathrooms might have been a bit larger on Sensation. A quick change and it was off to the pool to enjoy the afternoon. My opinion of the pool area: nice deck space but the pool seems on the small side. A large raised stage area divides the pool deck in half. This stage did not get used enough to warrant the use of this space and I think you could easily redesign it with room to spare for a much needed second pool. As the area began to fill with other cruisers one thing became readily apparent: this class of cruisers was very different from what we had been used to on the RC ships. Please don't think we are snobs, nothing could be further from the truth...but when we find ourselves in the highest social-economic class on-board, "Houston...we have a problem". This group was made up of working-class families and extremely ethically diverse. On the RC ships our first afternoon pool sessions had been made up of drinking frozen concoctions while lounging about in the shallows getting to know our fellow passengers, the number of children on this boat made that impossible. Also missing was the endless bevy of beautiful female bathers I had come to expect on-board. My wife also commented that from a females prospective, the "scenery" was also decidedly lacking. My wife also pointed out the lack of organized activities on the 1st afternoon poolside. Two other items I feel worth mentioning is that except for the brief time a reggae band was playing the music was not at all what I would consider to be festive (unless your idea of fun is riding an elevator). And the frozen drinks poolside were much weaker than what I had been used to on the RC ships. Thankful for our later (how can anyone eat @ 6:15?) dining time we dressed for dinner, although it wasn't really necessary. Whatever dress code they have for the Fantasy Dining Room didn't seem to be enforced. Our wait-staff was very friendly and provided top-notch service throughout the cruise. I have mixed feelings about Carnival's tipping policy. While I totally understand the convenience factor of the pre-paid route and given the nature most of the cruisers on-board I wouldn't want to see the staff get stiffed. I found it necessary to add an extra tip to our waitstaff & room attendant. Judging by their reaction it is not something they see enough of. Our table mates for the cruise were a family from Virginia. Husband, wife, sister, & two young children all on their first cruise and all understandably awe-struck at the goings-on....pleasant folks & we enjoyed their company. Not sure if its the luck of the draw but on all three of our cruises we seem to have been blessed with nice, sociable dining companions. As for the food...the menu selections seemed to offer something for every one's taste, the execution just didn't live up to my expectations though. Not bad, just once again not up to what I had experienced before on RC...and this rang true throughout. That first evening we took in the "Tribute To The 80's Show" and while I am certainly not an expert when it comes to these Broadway-type productions I must say I really enjoyed it. The signing, dancing, band, & overall production seemed done to a very high standard and dare I say maybe even a little better than what we had seen on the RC boats (the exception being the ice show on Liberty, but how do you compete with that?). My daughter & her cousin had accompanied us on our first cruise on the RC Grandeur last year and there we they seemed to make friends fast and we saw little of them in the evenings. Not so on the Sensation. My opinion is that being attractive 17 year old females on board leaves you stuck in a middle ground. Too young for the nightclubs (I would have allowed it but security was tight on this ship) but a bit to old to really enjoy the teen-specific parties. There would be no repeat of the cruise-ship romances for the girls this summer. We awoke to the sight of Freeport right outside our cabin window. Going ashore was quick and easy. We found a suitable looking snorkel tour and plucked down the $50 per person. A 14 mile trip aboard a small bus was enjoyable and unremarkable. The landscape, terrain, & homes could have easily been mistaken for South Florida. We boarded a converted sport-fisher boat and make a short journey to a reef that was maybe a mile offshore. The snorkeling was nothing short of amazing. Our guides were helpful and friendly. Upon returning to the marina our bus driver ask if we would like to spend the afternoon at a nice local private beach club, how could we refuse? The Junkaboo Beach Club proved to be a bargain with a $5 admission price. We enjoyed a Bahamian lunch of ribs, chicken, & local fish cooked right on the grill in front of us in their open-air clubhouse. Splendid! With full tummies we spent the next 2 hours playing on their pristine beach. We returned dockside with time to spare. After dinner (again with excellent service and so-so food) we made our way to the casino for my wife to try her luck @ the slots. She won big right from the get-go but her good fortune took a turn and all her winnings vanished just as quickly as they had came. We ventured next door to the Kaleidoscope Lounge and enjoyed watching the younger crowd dance the night away....oh to be 20 years old again! Feeling the need for a late night snack we walked the short distance to the Sushi Bar. A very nice touch and well done. Also noteworthy were the 24 hour pizza and deli sandwich bars. This is another area were Carnival seems to have a leg up on RC as both the pizza and made-while-you-wait sandwiches were very good. Sorry RC, I have had better pizza that came out of a box! Day 3 found us in Nassau. Again getting ashore was fast and easy. We signed up with a local tour driver who charged us $25 a person and off we went. He gave us a very informative tour of Nassau starting with the downtown area followed by a stop at a small hilltop fort & straw market. He then took us through the lower class "over-the-hill" district all the while explaining what life is like through the eyes of a native Bahamian. A quick drive through more middle class digs and onward to what would be considered a high class Bahamian neighborhood. We then crossed the bridge to Paradise Island and took a 30 minute self-tour of the Atlantis resort. Pretty impressive but worth $500 per night? Not on my budget. The tour driver then offered us either a ride back to the docks or a stop at Paradise Beach. We chose the beach and it was a wise decision. A quick little trek up and over a small hill revealed one of the most beautiful stretches of beach I have ever seen. I negotiated rental of 4 beach chairs & an umbrella for $40 from one of the many local entrepreneurs servicing this stretch of sand. The water is absolutely amazing. Totally crystal clear with sand softer than anything this native Floridian has ever experienced. We played away the afternoon before catching a cab ($20 for 4 of us including tip) back to the ship. We cleaned up and ventured back out the short walk to the downtown shopping district. We selected Lum's Iguana Cafe for a late lunch. Located in the second floor of the Prince George Plaza, we got front row seats for people watching on the main shopping street. Blackened grouper, peas & rice all washed down with amazing daiquiris, Lum's is not to be missed. After maybe the best meal of our trip we ventured through the shops that seem to run the gamut from tourist traps to high end retailers. I have fond memories of Nassau. After dinner we went poolside for a party that featured the normal conga line followed by a Mexican buffet. I decided to spare my digestive system from further abuse that & we were both pretty much beat after a full day and and with no production shows on the agenda for the evening the wife and I were in bed by midnight. Day 3 found us at sea. We made it down in time to enjoy breakfast and this time there was little waiting in line. We enjoyed eating on the very aft deck dining area that seemed to get overlooked by the crowds. After breakfast the main pool area was extremely crowded but we found plenty of available space on the upper aft deck that holds the water slide and kids splash park. Both were great options and came in handy for beating the heat. Late lunch again found the Lido deck buffet line very long with only two of the main serving lines open. We then caught a matinee performance of the "Love & Marriage Game". A quick power nap and we dressed for dinner catching the early showing of "Curves". My wife and the girls thought the show didn't make any sense but I enjoyed it because of the stunning visuals. Let me just say that both the shows we saw on-board went off without a hitch and the show band was fantastic as was the singing & dancing. The wife and I then made our way to the Polo Lounge for both comedians who put on very entertaining adult only shows. That finished our evening. Day 4, the dreaded return to real life. We were up at 7 and ready to go by 7:30. We always go with the early departure route and on this trip there was no waiting. We were in our car and headed home by 8:00am. My only real regret is not going on the behind the scenes tour that was offered by the ship. Hopefully next time. Overall I would say we had a great time. I enjoyed the smaller boat from the standpoint of not having to walk so far every place you went. There were a few times it felt crowded (other than the lido deck buffet which always was) but not bad. We had been spoiled by Royal Caribbean or otherwise we wouldn't have experienced the small degree of disappointment that we did. Would I go again on the Sensation knowing what I know now? Yes and no. If we faced similar time constraints and no RC cruises were available you bet I would. If however RC had a cruise from Canaveral that worked with our schedule I would not hesitate to spend the extra money and take it.

Fun On The Sensation

Carnival Sensation Cruise Review by Jim&Kelly

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: August 2011
  • Destination: Bahamas
  • Cabin Type: Ocean View
We have just arrived home after 4 days on the Sensation and I promised myself that this time around I would write a review while things were still fresh in my mind. Our group consisted of myself, my wife, our 17yr old daughter & her 17yr old cousin.

We have cruised twice before prior to this, both last summer and both on Royal Caribbean (Grandeur & Liberty). I had intended to write reviews for these but just never got around to it. I am basing my opinions on this cruise with those on Royal Caribbean.

We selected this cruise due to some limiting time factors and the fact that Port Canaveral is only an hour from our home. While Port Everglades and the Port of Miami both offer many wonderful sights on their own, I just didn't feel like suffering through the long post-cruise drive home.

We arrived to a nearly empty terminal just after 10am and the embarkation process was smooth as silk. After a short wait we were on-board just after 11am. We did our normal self-guided ship exploration. The ship appeared clean and well-kept. I was expecting the worst after a warning from our travel agent but the design didn't seem loud or over-done. Just a nice older, smaller ship. Overall we found the staff whom we did not have direct interaction with to be just a notch less-friendly than what we had been used to on RC. We also noticed what seemed to be a large number of bars on board. Carnival living up to it's reputation as a "party boat"? Fun times lay ahead!

We ventured to the Lido deck buffet for lunch and by this time many others had boarded & also had found the food. My impressions were that the basic design of the 4 main stations of this dining complex created long lines and offered less selection than what we had experienced on the RC ships. We never waited on the RC ships. Also the food quality was not bad, but again it just wasn't what we had enjoyed before.

Our cabins were ready a little before the stated time of 1:30 and while we were making ourselves @ home our baggage arrived safe & sound. Our cabin was a standard ocean-view with a very comfy queen bed while the girls shared the next door cabin with twin beds. Due to our late booking all the balcony cabins had already been reserved. The cabins were nice with enough room for two although I did miss the small table and couch that we had in Grandeur & Liberty I did seem to think the bathrooms might have been a bit larger on Sensation. A quick change and it was off to the pool to enjoy the afternoon.

My opinion of the pool area: nice deck space but the pool seems on the small side. A large raised stage area divides the pool deck in half. This stage did not get used enough to warrant the use of this space and I think you could easily redesign it with room to spare for a much needed second pool. As the area began to fill with other cruisers one thing became readily apparent: this class of cruisers was very different from what we had been used to on the RC ships. Please don't think we are snobs, nothing could be further from the truth...but when we find ourselves in the highest social-economic class on-board, "Houston...we have a problem". This group was made up of working-class families and extremely ethically diverse. On the RC ships our first afternoon pool sessions had been made up of drinking frozen concoctions while lounging about in the shallows getting to know our fellow passengers, the number of children on this boat made that impossible. Also missing was the endless bevy of beautiful female bathers I had come to expect on-board. My wife also commented that from a females prospective, the "scenery" was also decidedly lacking. My wife also pointed out the lack of organized activities on the 1st afternoon poolside. Two other items I feel worth mentioning is that except for the brief time a reggae band was playing the music was not at all what I would consider to be festive (unless your idea of fun is riding an elevator). And the frozen drinks poolside were much weaker than what I had been used to on the RC ships.

Thankful for our later (how can anyone eat @ 6:15?) dining time we dressed for dinner, although it wasn't really necessary. Whatever dress code they have for the Fantasy Dining Room didn't seem to be enforced. Our wait-staff was very friendly and provided top-notch service throughout the cruise. I have mixed feelings about Carnival's tipping policy. While I totally understand the convenience factor of the pre-paid route and given the nature most of the cruisers on-board I wouldn't want to see the staff get stiffed. I found it necessary to add an extra tip to our waitstaff & room attendant. Judging by their reaction it is not something they see enough of. Our table mates for the cruise were a family from Virginia. Husband, wife, sister, & two young children all on their first cruise and all understandably awe-struck at the goings-on....pleasant folks & we enjoyed their company. Not sure if its the luck of the draw but on all three of our cruises we seem to have been blessed with nice, sociable dining companions. As for the food...the menu selections seemed to offer something for every one's taste, the execution just didn't live up to my expectations though. Not bad, just once again not up to what I had experienced before on RC...and this rang true throughout.

That first evening we took in the "Tribute To The 80's Show" and while I am certainly not an expert when it comes to these Broadway-type productions I must say I really enjoyed it. The signing, dancing, band, & overall production seemed done to a very high standard and dare I say maybe even a little better than what we had seen on the RC boats (the exception being the ice show on Liberty, but how do you compete with that?). My daughter & her cousin had accompanied us on our first cruise on the RC Grandeur last year and there we they seemed to make friends fast and we saw little of them in the evenings. Not so on the Sensation. My opinion is that being attractive 17 year old females on board leaves you stuck in a middle ground. Too young for the nightclubs (I would have allowed it but security was tight on this ship) but a bit to old to really enjoy the teen-specific parties. There would be no repeat of the cruise-ship romances for the girls this summer.

We awoke to the sight of Freeport right outside our cabin window. Going ashore was quick and easy. We found a suitable looking snorkel tour and plucked down the $50 per person. A 14 mile trip aboard a small bus was enjoyable and unremarkable. The landscape, terrain, & homes could have easily been mistaken for South Florida. We boarded a converted sport-fisher boat and make a short journey to a reef that was maybe a mile offshore. The snorkeling was nothing short of amazing. Our guides were helpful and friendly. Upon returning to the marina our bus driver ask if we would like to spend the afternoon at a nice local private beach club, how could we refuse? The Junkaboo Beach Club proved to be a bargain with a $5 admission price. We enjoyed a Bahamian lunch of ribs, chicken, & local fish cooked right on the grill in front of us in their open-air clubhouse. Splendid! With full tummies we spent the next 2 hours playing on their pristine beach. We returned dockside with time to spare. After dinner (again with excellent service and so-so food) we made our way to the casino for my wife to try her luck @ the slots. She won big right from the get-go but her good fortune took a turn and all her winnings vanished just as quickly as they had came. We ventured next door to the Kaleidoscope Lounge and enjoyed watching the younger crowd dance the night away....oh to be 20 years old again! Feeling the need for a late night snack we walked the short distance to the Sushi Bar. A very nice touch and well done. Also noteworthy were the 24 hour pizza and deli sandwich bars. This is another area were Carnival seems to have a leg up on RC as both the pizza and made-while-you-wait sandwiches were very good. Sorry RC, I have had better pizza that came out of a box!

Day 3 found us in Nassau. Again getting ashore was fast and easy. We signed up with a local tour driver who charged us $25 a person and off we went. He gave us a very informative tour of Nassau starting with the downtown area followed by a stop at a small hilltop fort & straw market. He then took us through the lower class "over-the-hill" district all the while explaining what life is like through the eyes of a native Bahamian. A quick drive through more middle class digs and onward to what would be considered a high class Bahamian neighborhood. We then crossed the bridge to Paradise Island and took a 30 minute self-tour of the Atlantis resort. Pretty impressive but worth $500 per night? Not on my budget. The tour driver then offered us either a ride back to the docks or a stop at Paradise Beach. We chose the beach and it was a wise decision. A quick little trek up and over a small hill revealed one of the most beautiful stretches of beach I have ever seen. I negotiated rental of 4 beach chairs & an umbrella for $40 from one of the many local entrepreneurs servicing this stretch of sand. The water is absolutely amazing. Totally crystal clear with sand softer than anything this native Floridian has ever experienced. We played away the afternoon before catching a cab ($20 for 4 of us including tip) back to the ship. We cleaned up and ventured back out the short walk to the downtown shopping district. We selected Lum's Iguana Cafe for a late lunch. Located in the second floor of the Prince George Plaza, we got front row seats for people watching on the main shopping street. Blackened grouper, peas & rice all washed down with amazing daiquiris, Lum's is not to be missed. After maybe the best meal of our trip we ventured through the shops that seem to run the gamut from tourist traps to high end retailers. I have fond memories of Nassau. After dinner we went poolside for a party that featured the normal conga line followed by a Mexican buffet. I decided to spare my digestive system from further abuse that & we were both pretty much beat after a full day and and with no production shows on the agenda for the evening the wife and I were in bed by midnight.

Day 3 found us at sea. We made it down in time to enjoy breakfast and this time there was little waiting in line. We enjoyed eating on the very aft deck dining area that seemed to get overlooked by the crowds. After breakfast the main pool area was extremely crowded but we found plenty of available space on the upper aft deck that holds the water slide and kids splash park. Both were great options and came in handy for beating the heat. Late lunch again found the Lido deck buffet line very long with only two of the main serving lines open. We then caught a matinee performance of the "Love & Marriage Game". A quick power nap and we dressed for dinner catching the early showing of "Curves". My wife and the girls thought the show didn't make any sense but I enjoyed it because of the stunning visuals. Let me just say that both the shows we saw on-board went off without a hitch and the show band was fantastic as was the singing & dancing. The wife and I then made our way to the Polo Lounge for both comedians who put on very entertaining adult only shows. That finished our evening.

Day 4, the dreaded return to real life. We were up at 7 and ready to go by 7:30. We always go with the early departure route and on this trip there was no waiting. We were in our car and headed home by 8:00am. My only real regret is not going on the behind the scenes tour that was offered by the ship. Hopefully next time. Overall I would say we had a great time. I enjoyed the smaller boat from the standpoint of not having to walk so far every place you went. There were a few times it felt crowded (other than the lido deck buffet which always was) but not bad. We had been spoiled by Royal Caribbean or otherwise we wouldn't have experienced the small degree of disappointment that we did. Would I go again on the Sensation knowing what I know now? Yes and no. If we faced similar time constraints and no RC cruises were available you bet I would. If however RC had a cruise from Canaveral that worked with our schedule I would not hesitate to spend the extra money and take it.
Jim&Kelly’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Rates
Ages 16+
Service
Free Price Drop Alerts
Get Carnival Sensation price drops
250,000+ people have entered their email

Cabin Review

Ocean View
Cabin 6C R109
R109 & R105. Very clean and well attended. No complaints. Large enough for 2 cruisers. Bathroom seemed larger than what we had on RC ships. Did miss the small table & couch.
Upper Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Freeport
    We awoke to the sight of Freeport right outside our cabin window. Going ashore was quick and easy. We found a suitable looking snorkel tour and plucked down the $50 per person. A 14 mile trip aboard a small bus was enjoyable and unremarkable. The landscape, terrain, & homes could have easily been mistaken for South Florida. We boarded a converted sport-fisher boat and make a short journey to a reef that was maybe a mile offshore. The snorkeling was nothing short of amazing. Our guides were helpful and friendly. Upon returning to the marina our bus driver ask if we would like to spend the afternoon at a nice local private beach club, how could we refuse? The Junkaboo Beach Club proved to be a bargain with a $5 admission price. We enjoyed a Bahamian lunch of ribs, chicken, & local fish cooked right on the grill in front of us in their open-air clubhouse. Splendid! With full tummies we spent the next 2 hours playing on their pristine beach. We returned dockside with time to spare.
    View All 1,342 Freeport Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Freeport Cruise Port Review
  • Nassau
    Day 3 found us in Nassau. Again getting ashore was fast and easy. We signed up with a local tour driver who charged us $25 a person and off we went. He gave us a very informative tour of Nassau starting with the downtown area followed by a stop at a small hilltop fort & straw market. He then took us through the lower class "over-the-hill" district all the while explaining what life is like through the eyes of a native Bahamian. A quick drive through more middle class digs and onward to what would be considered a high class Bahamian neighborhood. We then crossed the bridge to Paradise Island and took a 30 minute self-tour of the Atlantis resort. Pretty impressive but worth $500 per night? Not on my budget. The tour driver then offered us either a ride back to the docks or a stop at Paradise Beach. We chose the beach and it was a wise decision. A quick little trek up and over a small hill revealed one of the most beautiful stretches of beach I have ever seen. I negotiated rental of 4 beach chairs & an umbrella for $40 from one of the many local entrepreneurs servicing this stretch of sand. The water is absolutely amazing. Totally crystal clear with sand softer than anything this native Floridian has ever experienced. We played away the afternoon before catching a cab ($20 for 4 of us including tip) back to the ship. We cleaned up and ventured back out the short walk to the downtown shopping district. We selected Lum's Iguana Cafe for a late lunch. Located in the second floor of the Prince George Plaza, we got front row seats for people watching on the main shopping street. Blackened grouper, peas & rice all washed down with amazing daiquiris, Lum's is not to be missed. After maybe the best meal of our trip we ventured through the shops that seem to run the gamut from tourist traps to high end retailers. I have fond memories of Nassau.
    View All 5,872 Nassau Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Nassau Cruise Port Review