by Barb GLovac
April 12, 2004
Just returned from our first cruise ever on Carnival Sensation. Myself, husband and 2 daughters. We booked our flight thru Carnival and my only complaint about that was that none of our seats were together on the plane. We tried to change seats ahead of time, but the flight was full. We managed to switch seats on the plane so at least my younger daughter and I could sit by each other. There was a whole section of the plane with people who booked thru Carnival and no one had their airline seat together!! We were meet at the airport by Carnival representatives, and taken to the port on 2 tour buses. Embarkation did not take very long, maybe 15 minutes waiting in line, 10 minutes to get sail and sign cards and we were on the ship!
Our cabin was on Empress Deck aft, oceanview. The girls especially enjoyed having the window. If you have kids, I think it is worth the extra money. We had early seating in the Ecstasy Dining room. We shared our table with another very nice family. Food was pretty good, although I have no other cruise to compare it with. However, our drink waiter was very slow. Twice our regular waiter had to get the sodas for the kids, because the drink waiter never came back. There is one formal night dinner which we did not do because my husband refused to dress up!! Next cruise, the girls and I will do the formal dinner by ourselves. I heard it was very nice.
First night and day at sea were very rough. The boat rocked quite a bit. Did not bother me, but bothered my daughter. Camp Carnival is a great program for kids, oh yeah, there were almost 800 children aboard this cruise, mostly families. My oldest was too old for camp carnival, she found a friend and hung out at the teen disco "Spirals" each night. During the day, they pretty much hung out trying to get some sun on deck. Younger daughter, 11, was at a real in between age. Camp Carnival is divided in age groups, 9-11 and then 12-15. The younger group was doing things she thought were too babyish, and the older group was doing dances and things she was not quite ready for yet.
Grand Cayman: We booked a Stingray City excursion thru the boat and am I glad we did. We got to Grand Cayman and the cruise director (Jorge, who is great, by the way) announces that the port of Georgetown is closed because of high swells and strong currents. Since the boat tenders passengers in, it did not look promising. Our boat continued around the island to another small dock were 2 larger cruise ships were already anchored, and began tendering in passengers from there. We sat in the Fantasia lounge for 2 and a half hours before our group was called to tender in for our excursion. Many excursions were cancelled, due to length of time involved, and I'm sure if we had booked one on our own, we would have not gone. Many people were angry about the situation, but you can't control the weather! Many people chose not to even go on to the island because of the time involved. We are glad we did, if you have kids, you have to do the Stingray city. It is an unforgettable experience!! Even with the large number of people on our boat (about 40), there was plenty of room for everyone to touch, hold, feed and play with the sting rays.
Leaving from Grand Cayman to Cozumel, it was very rough and windy. This time, the rocking of the boat affected my other daughter. It was so windy on deck that most people went inside.
We arrived at Cozumel on schedule, which surpised me because we left Grand Cayman an hour late. There was not any problem getting off the boat, because the boat docks there. We went shopping, and then to Chankaanaab Park, becasue we had booked a Dolphin Swim ahead of time thru Dolphin Discovery. The park is very nice, and we loved the Dolphin Swim, although we felt that the people at Dolphin Discovery were disorganized. It was confusing at first, the guy spoke broken English and would tell us to line up here, then another guy tells us to line up over there. You would think they do this every day, they would know what to do. The swim was well worth it, though, it is something we will never forget. By all means, pay the extra money ($35.00) for the video they take. They do a nice job with it. If you're up for spending cash, the pictures are also pretty expensive($12-20 dollars per print). However, it took the cashier 15 minutes to total up and charge my bill. She just didn't seem to know what she was doing. We went back to the ship to eat dinner, as my husband couldn't see spending money for dinner when it's "free" on the ship! Then we went back to the shops right by the dock and did some more shopping and my daughters got their hair braided. We returned to the ship at about 11:00 PM. The captain had extended our stay to 12:00 because of Grand Cayman being shortened. We had a great Mexican buffet on the ship and watched the drunks staggering back to the ship.
Last day at sea was very windy, but the seas were calmer. We never had trouble finding a deck chair. Yes, many people reserve them, even though you are not supposed to. Lots of activities on deck, there is always something to see or do. Bingo is a little pricey, $10.00 for one card, $20.00 for three cards. My husband did the casino a little bit, we are not gamblers. The shows we saw were all great, they had 2 different comedians, and the Sensation dancers did two different shows both were great. WE did not have a chance to see every show.
Disembarkation was similar to what I had read before. We had to sit in the Fantasia Lounge from 8:45 until we were cleared to leave at about 10:00 AM. After that, it was not hard to find our luggage in the "terminal" as we had bright colored ribbons on it. The bus took us back to Tampa airport in plenty of time for our 1:30 flight home.
All in all, we had a great time. My oldest daughter (16) said it was the best vacation we had ever done. I read many complaints ahead of time about the decor. WE thought it was fine. OUr kids thought purple was cool. The ship is very clean and our cabin steward was always cleaning our cabin. The pool water is salt water, not a problem, but the pools were all too cold for much swimming. We hung out in the hot tubs, which at times was difficult, because all the kids were hanging out in the hot tubs, too.(Not sitting in them but playing around and splashing each other). I would definitely go on a cruise again, hopefully the weather will cooperate better!!