We dream of sea days -- those days when you literally do nothing. You can roll out of bed at any hour, read a good book on the sun deck without interruption and eat as much as you like whenever the craving strikes. Your only worry in the world is whether or not you'll regret that third cocktail.
So when we found ourselves on a five-night Carnival Valor cruise with only one precious sea day (the 2,980-passenger ship offers port-intensive Bahamas and Caribbean itineraries from Port Canaveral), we made it our mission to have the most fun, relaxing and worry-free day possible.
It wasn't hard. The ship keeps cruisers busy during its minimal time at sea with "Fun Ship" activities and new venues like Guy's Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina and BlueIguana Tequila Bar, RedFrog Pub and RedFrog Rum Bar, Alchemy Bar, SkyBox Sports Bar and Cherry On Top candy shop.
How did we go about planning our perfect sea day? We started by selecting just two activities from Carnival Valor's daily newsletter, leaving enough wiggle room in between to do whatever we pleased. Sea days should never feel like jam-packed to-do lists.
Here's how our sea day unfolded, from waking up to the time the ship typically would have sailed away from port, just before dinner.
08:30: Room Service Delivery
We opted for room service breakfast to buy ourselves a little more sleeping time, also sparing ourselves the wait in massive buffet lines. Our wake-up call arrived as a tray of fresh fruit, coffee and croissants, which we enjoyed on our balcony with an ocean view and warm breeze. It was the perfect way to ease into a day of laziness. If you're a late riser, room service works in your favor as most breakfast options close at 10:30 a.m.
09:15: Sunbathing on the Serenity Deck
Carnival's Serenity deck is for adults only, and therefore the perfect retreat for those who prefer peace and quiet over crazy pool games, steel drums and screaming children. The space features padded lounge chairs, hammocks and canopy beds as well as a bar and refreshing whirlpools. It's where you can spend most of your time doing absolutely nothing. We arrived early to snag one of the sought-after canopy beds and beat the "chair hogs": passengers who arrive early to "claim" deck chairs with towels or various articles of clothing, while they run off to the pool, bar or other parts of the ship.
12:00: BlueIguana Cantina for Lunch
Nothing hits the spot on a hot sea day more than freshly prepared tacos doused in salsa, cilantro and lime … with a frozen cocktail on the side. BlueIguana Cantina serves lunch from noon to 2:30 p.m., and we found it to be the least busy as soon as it opened. Bear in mind: Getting up for lunch does not warrant chair hogging. If you want to hold onto your chairs, send one person from your group to fetch lunch while you take care of the drinks (Serenity servers make their rounds to take orders).
13:00: Spontaneous Plunge Down the Twister Water Slide
Who said the water slide is only for kids? An afternoon plunge is the perfect way to cool off and regain your energy after hours of baking in the sun.
13:45: Free Bean Bag Toss Competition
Also known as corn hole, this activity in the daily newsletter is perfect for those who love a little competition or simply want to socialize. How it works: Teams of two take turns throwing bean bags into a hole (three points) or on the board (one point) of a raised wooden platform, in an attempt for score 21 points first. We arrived a few minutes early and were glad we did; the line grew quickly as word of mouth spread.
15:00: Carnival's Tea Time
Tea Time was the second daily newsletter activity we chose. For one hour, a portion of the ship's main dining room is reserved for afternoon tea, complete with scones, sandwiches and other treats. It's by no means an authentic afternoon tea experience (your choice of tea is limited to Lipton regular or decaf), but nevertheless a fun experience for adults and kids alike.
16:00: Pre-Dinner Siesta
Feeling full, relaxed and pleasantly drained, we took advantage of the next four hours before dinner by treating ourselves a much-needed nap. Had we not, we would have been one wine glass away from keeling over onto our escargot. The two hours of shut-eye, coupled with a hot shower, was exactly what we needed to power through the night. We even had enough steam to catch a flick at the outdoor movie theater.
The result? Mission accomplished. We were able to do a little bit of everything we wanted and never felt overwhelmed. Now your mission, should you choose to accept to it, is to use our guide as inspiration for your own ultimate sea day -- or perhaps your next cruise -- on Carnival Valor.
--By Gina Kramer, Associate Editor