This was a family cruise. DH and I have cruised six times, four of them on Carnival. Our kids are 4 and 7. This was their third cruise, all on Carnival. We live NW of Baltimore.
My dh is a great photographer. There are some really beautiful shots here. Here's a sample:
We hit the road as soon as my daughter got off the school bus Friday afternoon. We headed west hoping to avoid DC rush hour, but a mishap with our GPS had us heading right back into the thick of it. It was after 7:00pm before we got around DC. After that, we made great time down I-95. We stopped for the night in Florence, SC about 2:00am. We slept until 8:00, ate breakfast at the hotel and continued on without delay. We stopped at a grocery store for last minute items and arrived at the Port of Charleston just before noon.
The line to check documentation (Fun Pass and passports) was fairly long, but since we were in the comfort of our car, we just popped in a Jimmy Buffet CD and made the best of it. It probably took about 20 minutes. Next, there was a less than five minute wait to pay for parking ($15/day) and then another five minutes to drop off the luggage. We parked our car, caught a shuttle bus across the street and got in line to go through security. Again, it was only a few minutes. We waited about 10 minutes to get our sign and sail cards and were onboard by 1:00. Cabins were not available until 1:30 so we were taken up to Lido for lunch.
This was our first inside cabin. We've always been balcony snobs. We originally booked an inside guarantee because the price was too good to pass up. Then, about three weeks before the cruise, the prices dropped even more and we chose a 4C. We were in U196, which was port side aft on the Upper deck. We liked the location, except for early in the mornings when we were docking. The thrusters were loud and vibrated the room enough to wake up me and dh. The kids slept right through. Our cabin steward was very efficient and kept our room nicely. Our shower head broke one morning and it was replaced by the time we returned to our cabin that afternoon.
Main Dining Room
We were waitlisted for anytime dining, but ended up assigned to late dining. This has always been our normal choice anyway as we rarely eat before 7:45 at home. The kids enjoyed the dining room and my seven year old occasionally tried some new things from the adult menu. My four year old stuck to the kids menu. Many nights, they ate plain pasta.
We were seated at a table for 10 and had hoped to meet some new people, but we were alone at the table every night. Our server told us another family with two kids about the same ages was assigned there, but I guess they always ate at the buffet. We were disappointed. When we boarded, we checked the table size and had it been a four top, we were going to ask if we could move to anytime dining so we could eat with our roll call friends. But since it was a large table, we decided to wait and meet our dining companions first.
Our wait staff, Amira, Jean Paul, and Alexis were fantastic. They were the best we have ever had. I'm not sure if this is fleet-wide, though I suspect it is. About two months ago, they told us they switched to three person teams so that there would always be one person with the guests. We found our needs anticipated and when my daughter accidentally knocked over a glass of water, they were cleaning it up before she even reached the glass.
The food was good. I am doing Weight Watchers, so I ordered from the Spa menu every night. I enjoyed most everything. DH had his warm chocolate melting cake every night and has started our seven year old along the path to the same addiction.
We ate breakfast there twice, but we weren't normally ready to go to breakfast before they stopped serving. We ate there for lunch all three sea days. I really enjoy dining room lunch. It's relaxed and the food is interesting. I am not a buffet fan.
Nothing remarkably good or bad here. We ate breakfast here most mornings. The kids had cereal and I had fruit and yogurt. DH tried many things. For lunch, we tried the pizza and the deli and were pleased. I waited for the Mongolian Wok twice and thought it worth the long wait.
DD and I enjoyed tea time all three times it was offered. It was very crowded at the beginning, but within 10 minutes, there were always empty tables. It was held in the piano lounge. The salmon sandwiches were very good.
The sushi bar was open most nights and it was ok. We're sushi fans and this was nothing to rave over.
We went to both the production shows and enjoyed them.
We went to Punchliners family shows for all four comedians. We liked one and the other three were just ok. We always went to the 7:30 show, which fit well with our 8:15 dinner. We arrived 20 minutes early to get seats up front. The one time we got there about 5 minutes before the show started, I had to hold ds on my lap and dh stood in the back of the room.
We dropped the kids at Camp Carnival babysitting and went to the disco one night. We were the only ones in there for nearly half an hour. It was after midnight before the place picked up. We left to get the kids at 1:00.
The seven year old really enjoyed Camp Carnival. She went at least some every day except the Key West day. Every evening that there was dancing at the disco, she was there. My four year old only went twice for about an hour. He isn't as social as his sister and preferred to hang out with us. We did the family activities, even winning a ship on a stick in the scavenger hunt.
Nassau. We walked around the port area. DH bought a pair of cigars and sampled the local beer (Sands).
Freeport. We took a taxi over to Our Lucaya ($5 each, even though DS sat on my lap). We walked along the beach for a bit then wandered through the shopping area. It rained for about an hour.
Key West. Another walking around day. Since we were in port for so long (8:00am to midnight) we spent the morning at the deserted pool and water works onboard. Around 2:00pm, we went ashore and had lunch. We walked to the southernmost point and watched the sunset, then went to the Key West Toy Factory store.
We were in no rush, so we used general debarkation. We got number 15. It was about 9:45 when our number was called. It took quite a while to get our luggage, get through immigration, on the shuttle and back to our car. It was 11:00 before we got on the road home. Here's a hint -- choose the immigration line to the right. There are six immigration stations and two lines. However, the left line shares the stations with the special assist line so the wait is much longer. Also, the left hand line goes out the side of the terminal building and all the way around to the front where the shuttles are. The right side goes out the front of the terminal building. I'm sure we lost a good 30 minutes by choosing the left hand line.
This was my favorite cruise. I really liked the atmosphere. It was a holiday and everyone was in a good mood. Fellow passengers were pleasant and polite. Our last cruise was on the Valor, and the ship was just too big and busy for me. I liked the smaller Fantasy much better. I would do this cruise again, even with the unexciting itinerary and the long, long drive to the port.