We are a family of four, with two children under the age of 10. We sailed on spring break, and took the same itinerary and port last year, with the lone exception being the ship was the Carnival Fantasy, rather than the Ecstasy. This is ... Read More
We are a family of four, with two children under the age of 10. We sailed on spring break, and took the same itinerary and port last year, with the lone exception being the ship was the Carnival Fantasy, rather than the Ecstasy. This is an extremely economical cruise first and foremost. This is not a lavish, polished brass, type of cruise. You must know that going in. That said, here are my thoughts:
EMBARKATION - As has been outlined many times, Charleston port is not very glamorous. You get herded in like cattle and shuttled to the terminal via bus. Not pretty, but it works. Check in for us took a while; certainly longer than last year. But, we learned that some of their computers were down, causing the delay. It was obvious when they came back up, because all the empty work stations were quickly filled with workers. Something I didn't recall from last year was the line after you received your check-in documents. A HUGE line was forming due to photographers stopping passengers for the corny welcome aboard photo. My family slid right by and headed on the ship.
DINING EXPERIENCE - We chose MTD, as we have done in the past. This year the service was noticeably slower. Each night we waited 30-45 minutes, but to be fair, we did go to dinner around 6;30 PM most nights, which I would imagine is prime time, and we were a party of 13, and required two tables. Once seated, it was the typical hour and a half to two hour experience. The food was good, not great. It's the old menu with the standard selections. I did try the alligator fritters and another diner tried the oxen tongue. There was no caviar this year :( Our waiters were attentive, and went out of their way to help out our children's table. There was again a noticeable difference between this year and last with regard to the number of servers in each area. It seemed to be a bit thin compared to last year. The Lido deck dining was average, but that has always been the case. Kids love chicken tenders and french fries, not to mention all you can eat ice cream, so the Lido deck serves it's purpose. MDR Brunch was great the one day we did eat. Usual selection, but better quality than Lido. We used the Pirates Pizza often and never had a bad experience. We used the deli a couple of times and again, no issues.
ENTERTAINMENT - The Blue Sapphire is typical of the Fantasy Class ships. Not really a good seat in the house due to the one level seating below, and the obstruction from either the glass or poles in the upper deck. The shows were good, not great. The Carnival talent definitely gives you their all every night, and that's appreciated. Our cruise Director Benjamin was good. He was sarcastically funny, but not flamboyantly over the top as we've had in the past. We did the PG comedy due to traveling with the kids. Both shows were very good...and appropriate. That said, for some reason I made the mistake of popping in the Blue Sapphire at 3 PM when the Love and Marriage Show was on. Funny as hell, but a few times it definitely wasn't appropriate for the kids! My mistake there. The biggest complaint I have, and have read it many, many times before, is the cigarette smoke that engulfs the common areas of Deck 8. I have no problems with people smoking, it's just I have a problem inhaling smoke when I'm trying to get a family photo done, or simply walking to a show or shop. I found out very quickly that my lung capacity isn't what it used to be, as trying to hold you breath the entire length of that area is impossible to do!
STATEROOM - We had an interior room on Deck 7, the usual accommodations we choose. No issues with the room as it is exactly what we've had before. Once again though, the service seemed to be lacking. To clarify, the actual service was good, but our Steward made absolutely no attempt to see us, talk to us, get to know us. None. I was pretty surprised, but it is what it is. We didn't get a towel animal until Day 3. We usual leave extra for the Steward, but this year was an exception.
EXCURSIONS - We did Atlantis last year, so this year we took a day pass to the British Colonial Hilton. A great facility with very friendly staff. I would certainly recommend this! HMC was honestly the best beach we have ever been to! We've been to Barbados, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, etc and HMC beats them all - hands down. If you go to HMC and stay on the ship, then shame on you! People actually did this? We swam with the stingrays which was a very cool experience. A little nerve wracking, but very cool. The staff make you feel at ease and give you the direction you need to stay safe. Our 7 year old son did this excursion with no issues. The food on HMC was average. The dining/serving area is very congested, but they have more than enough little dining areas carved our throughout the area to make you comfortable.
DEBARKATION - If you can, I suggest walking off with your luggage. Otherwise your like us, and get stuck on the ship until 10:00 and then wait in huge lines to get out of the terminal area. This is where those shuttles really suck. It takes forever to get one and then you get dropped off back in the parking area and have to hoof it to your vehicle with your bags.
OVERALL - We like this cruise for the cost mostly, but also because we live on the East Coast and we can drive to the port. The Bahamas are always wonderful, and HMC is not to be missed! Read Less