by John Perry
May 12, 2002
This is a review of our experience on Carnival's Sensation, the week of May 12th to May 19th, 2002.
This was my sixth cruise, my second with Carnival. This was my wife's second cruise, and her first with Carnival. It was our daughters' first cruise. Although we are Celebrity Cruise Line fans, we chose Carnival because our two daughters(19 &20) were going, and we knew the age group and activities on Carnival would be more suited to them.
We have pictures posted of our cruise at:http://www.imagestation.com/album/?id=4291802827
SHIP: The ship was clean, neat, and wasn't as flashy and as purple as I thought it would be. The crew was constantly washing, painting, and scrubbing. Previous cruisers had made comments about stained carpeting, and I did see that in the passenger hallways, but it did not affect my cruise in any way. Several passengers made comments about some of the bulbs in the lounges being burned out, but I never really noticed it. That didn't bother me either. I was impressed on the overall appearance of the ship. Not all elevators went to all of the floors, so it took a while before we knew which elevators went where. The ship did rock a little more than I thought it would, especially sailing up the Mississippi River, but that was expected. I took Bonine and ginger tablets each day, and never once felt queasy. The ship was laid out rather well, I thought. The Lido deck by the pool was sheltered from the ocean breeze, so if you don't want to be hot, use the upper decks for sunning. It was hot that week, and the pools were usually crowded. Chairs were pretty easy to come by, as long as you didn't try to get one right by the pool. They were always taken or 'reserved'. I love smoking a good cigar now and then, so I appreciated the Polo Lounge, the only designated place indoors where I could enjoy my newly purchased Cuban cigars. There were some air filtering devices in the corners that seemed to do a pretty good job of filtering the air. I was never harassed for smoking my cigars there( I have been on other ships). It was nice that only your sign and sail card was needed to leave and return to the ship . Celebrity requires both their card AND a picture ID to leave and return to the ship, because they don't take your picture like Carnival does. The average age on the ship seemed to be about 30-35. Since most school systems were still in session, there weren't a lot of kids, at least I didn't SEE many kids. The Camp Carnival staff did an EXCELLENT job with the ones that I saw, and they had activities for them all over the ship. We never once saw any 'bratty' kids. They were all VERY well behaved. The teens on board had a lot of activities too, and our daughters met a LOT of other young adults their age.
ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment for the week was excellent. Entertainment, in my opinion, is better on Carnival ships than Celebrity. Carnival does a much better job in entertaining younger folk than Celebrity, but that is what I would expect. We had three or four comedians, and they were good. All of the shows were entertaining, and our cruise director was the Carnival veteran, Lenny Halliday. We thought he did a good job, too, and was very friendly and funny. Since we are partial to country music, we enjoyed the band SideWinder, with Dana Jordan. They performed most every night in the Plaza Lounge. The fiddle player, John Henry Gates was also very talented. He performed one night along with one of the comedians. There was music for every taste on board. Our girls lived in the disco each night. The Karaoke nights were dominated by the younger crowd, so my wife opted out of this activity. I wasn't very impressed with the band that was playing by the pool, but overall, we were very pleased with the musicians during the week. The piano players had a good variety of tunes. The dining room staff was pretty entertaining as well. I know some people think it is silly and is not proper etiquette for a formal dining area, but it is funny and entertaining to see all of the nationalities singing and dancing(yes, they did the Macarena and a conga line) in the dining room. Their singing of 'God Bless America' was very touching.
SERVICE: Our service from everyone on board was great! We gave our cabin steward, Felix, a phone card upon meeting him the first day, and he became the most visible cabin steward we had ever had. He also had his work cut out for him, in trying to clean our daughters' room next door. He rose to the task, however, and we let him know how good of a job he did at the end of the cruise. We ordered room service one morning, and it was brought to our cabin on time. The bartenders and wait staff were quite attentive, and we never had a problem getting what we wanted in a timely manner. We were impressed that our head waiter, Leo, and our Matr'd, Jo, visited our table each night. On some cruises, you don't see these guys except for the last night, so I had no problem giving them a tip the last night. Our waiter, Rohon, from India was great. His English skills weren't the best in the world, but we never had a problem communicating our needs. Several nights I ordered two appetizers, and he always waited for me to finish one before bringing the other. He asked if I wanted two lobster tails on lobster night, before I could ask him for two! Now, our ***'t waiter, Davor, from Croatia, impressed us the most. He learned our daughters' names the first night, and called them by name the rest of the cruise. We saw him all over the ship, and wondered when he slept. He was extremely polite, and was always quick to offer tips on getting about the ship and our ports of call. My wife cried the last night when he hugged her neck and kissed her on the cheek. Whatever Davor hopes to accomplish in life, he will be successful. He was an awesome ***'t waiter. He is getting married this summer. His wife is a lucky woman. I hope we get to see him again someday.
FOOD and BEVERAGES: The food was the only let down of our cruise. The food wasn't bad, it just wasn't what I was used to on my last Carnival cruise, and fell WAY short of the quality that I receive on Celebrity ships. The food was hot when it was supposed to be hot, and cold when it was supposed to be cold, I was just disappointed in the quality of it. Some dishes(not all) tasted like they had taken it out of the freezer and nuked it, then set it on your plate. We thought the food was Average, overall. Nothing to rave about. Food was abundant, and pizza was offered 24 hours a day at the pizza bar, and was quite tasty. I can't imagine anyone being hungry on the ship! The coffee was awful! My wife is a coffee addict, so she was the most disappointed. The coffee in the main dining room was a little better, but still fell short of vending machine coffee. We heard a lot of complaints about the coffee. I'm not a big coffee drinker, so it didn't bother me. I drank the juice. Speaking of juice, the fruit punch and lemonade onboard is the Minute Maid brand, and they were good. We took two Tupperware insulated mugs with us, and we filled them repeatedly for our many hours spent in the sun. The fruit punch mixes VERY well with Capt. Morgan's coconut flavored rum, which be brought aboard with us(packed in our checked luggage, and bubble wrapped). We also brought a few mini bottles of Peach Schnapps, and they mixed well with the lemonade. We like frozen drinks, so we purchased 32 drink coupons before the cruise, and they saved us about 50 cents on each drink, and we didn't have the hassle of having to show our S&S card every time we ordered one. The bar staff didn't seem to mind them either. The drinks were good and consistent from bar to bar.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS: Embarkation was simple and straightforward. We arrived at the terminal at 11:00, and we were given a group number, and we sat in the lobby until our number was called. The line moved quickly, and we were on the ship in no time at all. Disembarkation went smooth. We met in our designated lounge, and waited for our color to be called. All of our luggage was in the proper colored area, and we were back in our car, headed home by 10am. Photographers were plentiful, especially on the formal nights. Although the photo areas could get a bit crowded, the lines moved pretty fast. We had a lot of pictures taken and we bought $120 worth of pictures. We would have bought more, had most of the pictures been in the 5x7 size. Almost all of the formal pictures were produced in 8x10 size, and they would not make any 5x7 copies unless you purchased the one on display first, which was $19.95 for the 8x10. Videos of the cruise were taken each day, and offered at $35 per day, or they offered one video for $35 that included only the high lights of the week's cruise.
PORTS OF CALL: GRAND CAYMAN...I wish we had more time there, but I was told all ships are limited to six hours there. I was outnumbered by women 3 to 1, so we spent most of our time shopping, then returned to the ship. Prices were high, at least they seemed that way to us. COZUMEL...We were there from 8am to 10pm. After researching the beaches in Cozumel on this board, we opted out of any Carnival tours, and explored the island on our own. We took a taxi($7) to Dzul Ha. Dzul Ha was nice and quiet, and we spent four hours there sunning, snorkeling, and sipping Margaritas. We all agreed this was a superb spot for snorkeling. Fish were everywhere. The Fuji underwater cameras took nice pictures. We spent the early part of the afternoon shopping and we found prices to be very reasonable. We had attended the shopping talk about Cozumel the day before, so we knew where to get the free stuff( ear rings, charms, etc.) just by showing our S&S card. You can get really smashed just by sampling Tequila at all the shops along the shopping area. We ended our evening at Carlos and Charlie's. Everyone had a blast! If you decide to party there, make sure that one group member stays half way sober, so you can make it back to the ship on time.
OVERALL IMPRESSION OF CRUISE: We all agreed it was an awesome cruise, especially for our daughters. They haven't stopped talking about it. As always, we met some very fine people onboard. Would we cruise Carnival again? Probably so, but for now our next cruise is booked on Celebrity. The few problems or dislikes we encountered in no way affected our vacation. We relaxed and had a good time! No cruise is perfect, but I believe a cruise is what you make it. For those who have a cruise booked on the Sensation, you will have an enjoyable experience....John