Carnival Sensation Review

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In mid-August, I took my husband and kids on a mini-trip to the Bahamas on the Carnival Sensation.  I’m not big on ships, the open ocean, tsunamis, or drowning, but I thought “what the heck” and decided to go for it.  What could go wrong?

Fortunately, Southwest Airlines was having a killer sale right around the time we were planning our trip.  That and our awesome Southwest Companion Pass meant that we were able to purchase four round-trip flights to Orlando for only $757- a total steal.  I was so excited!

Since our flight was scheduled to leave Indianapolis at 6:10 a.m, we got the kids out of bed around 3:00 and proceeded to the airport.  Unfortunately, upon arrival, we realized that we didn’t put my daughter’s shoes on!  Even worse, we hadn’t packed an extra pair and didn’t have time to buy some or pick some up from home.  #ParentingFail

Shoes or no shoes, we flew all the way to Orlando and proceeded to rent a car from Dollar Rental Car.  I’m not going to get into the details of how that went, but let’s suffice it to say that sometimes you get what you pay for.  And with a name like “Dollar,” I should have realized what I was getting into.  Fortunately, we did eventually pick up a rental car and get the heck out of there.  Unfortunately, we had to head straight to Walmart to buy my daughter some shoes.  The poor thing was still barefoot!

Note: This experience taught me that people tend to frown upon letting your child walk barefoot around an airport.  We got so many dirty looks.  I’m sure people thought we were the biggest hillbillies!

Related: Carnival Sensation Review on TravelBlueBook.com

Carnival Sensation Review

Once we arrived in Port Canaveral, we parked our car and took a shuttle to the Carnival cruise terminal.  I expected huge lines but was pleasantly surprised to find that we were on the ship within 20 minutes of our arrival at port.  Our room wasn’t ready yet, however, so we stopped and ate a leisurely lunch on the Lido deck.  After about an hour, we headed toward our room to see if it was ready.

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Here is a picture of our room upon arrival.  Keep in mind, it was actually much bigger than this!  I was standing about halfway in the room when I took this picture.  Sure it was cozy, but we still had plenty of room to sleep and keep a few suitcases.  One thing that helped was the fact that the kid’s beds folded down from the wall- we could put them back up during the day when they weren’t being used.  Having a balcony didn’t hurt either- I loved being able to watch the sunset with my family at the end of each day.

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Our cruise took off from Port Canaveral, Florida on Thursday and the party started immediately.  It seemed that, within minutes, most of the people we came across were relaxing and having fun- many with a drink in hand.  We spent most of Thursday afternoon at the main pool.  Then this happened:

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All of a sudden, shit got real.  Apparently, things get crazy when water, bikinis, and booze collide.  Not only did it get crowded, but people were throwing each other in the pool, splashing, and acting like crazy hoodlums!  At one point I even saw a boob or twoYes, that happened.  Needless to say, we took that as a sign that it was time to take the kids and go somewhere else!

Fortunately, there is a huge waterpark on the top deck of the Carnival Sensation.  This area offered a family-friendly environment that all ages could enjoy, and my kids really enjoyed the water slides and splash park.  We spent several hours there each day relaxing and cooling off with all of the other families with small kids.

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Kids Club

Since we packed each day full of activities, my kids were usually worn out by the time we were done with dinner.  Ultimately, this is why we chose to take advantage of the free babysitting offered by the Carnival Kid’s Club.

I was hesitant to drop my kids off with strangers at first, but am so glad that I went through with it.  We only took them there twice, but I swear it was the highlight of their trip.  They even cried one of the nights when we came to pick them up.  They didn’t want to leave!

Food

I was pretty impressed with the food on board the Carnival Sensation.  Nearly everything we ate was good or excellent, and we got to try all kinds of new dishes and desserts.  As a vegetarian, I was also relieved to find see that they offered veggie burgers on the lido deck and plenty of vegetarian options in the main dining room.  One night I even had a tofu steak for dinner!

The main dining room was our favorite place to eat by far.  The wait staff and hosts made each meal special by cranking up some fun music and getting people out into the aisles to dance.  Several people stopped by our table to do magic tricks for our kids too.  They thought it was awesome!  They are still talking about the things we ate and saw in the main dining room…and how they danced to “Hot, Hot, Hot!”  And since we were there on my husband’s 35th birthday, they shut everything down so that the entire dining room could sing to him.  He was so embarrassed!

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Activities

The Carnival Sensation offered all sorts of free on board activities!  There were drawings, art shows, bingo games, and contests all day long.  My kids even participated in a Hip Hop dance class.  They also entered a drawing for a free Carnival stuffed animal and won.  #Spoiled

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Nassau

Our cruise ship arrived in Nassau, Bahamas on Friday at noon and we had until 8:00 p.m. to enjoy the island.  Carnival does offer several excursions in Nassau, but we chose not to go that route since we were with the kids.  Instead, we decided to walk over to Junkanoo Beach, a free beach just east of the cruise port.  Once there, we swam, laid out, and enjoyed some food and drinks purchased from vendors nearby.  And it’s a good thing we didn’t do an excursion.  My kids were exhausted!

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Here are a few more pictures from our time at port in Nassau:

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Overview

We had a ton of fun during our trip and left feeling very impressed with the high level of service and quality we experienced.  You could tell that the employees on the ship truly cared about the passenger experience and took a lot of pride in what they do.  I was scared to cruise at first, but I can honestly say that I cannot wait to do it all again.  In fact, I’m already searching cruise itineraries for 2015…and I have my eye on more than a few!

We came, we cruised, and we conquered…and we will definitely be back.

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88 Comments

  1. Lisa Brown says:

    Thank you for the chance to win 🙂

  2. Cruising is definitely on my bucket list! You can do it any age though so it’s not a priority for me.

    LOL about the barefoot thing. I remember walking through Bondi in Sydney – a street that is beachfront – in bare feet carrying my shoes, after coming up from the beach. I got some weird looks. Come on – the water is literally just across the road!

    1. People shot us death glares! It sucked! And we looked at both airports to see if they had any shoes for sale- didn’t find anything except for a $45 pair of tiny Skechers at the Orlando Airport. We were just about to leave at that point so it didn’t seem worth it. Plus, we really needed sandals!

  3. Love cruises! My favorite part is unpacking just once, and the food. Great pictures! Looks like the kids had a great time!

  4. Sounds like you had a great trip! Love that they had free babysitting on the ship–what a good idea. Also, very glad your worst cruise fears were not confirmed!

  5. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel says:

    Great review! I can’t wait until we can go on another cruise again. My wife and I did a Bahamas cruise a few years ago. I’m pretty sure I got stung by a jellyfish at that beach. We ended up getting chased away by Hurricane Irene, though.

  6. I went on a cruise in college for Spring Break and was lucky to be on a ship that had a huge outbreak of Norovirus. Before the outbreak I was crazy with the hand sanitizer everywhere we went and it got me anyway. I still had a good time…..but I’m a little hesitant to try it again and the husband has little interest it. I’m sure we’ll go again someday – some of the deals look too good to pass up!

    1. They really are. Sorry about the Norovirus though =/

  7. Sounds like an awesome trip! I had to laugh hearing about the shoes- poor girl! I hope she was ok with being barefoot that day!!

    1. She couldn’t care less! I did feel bad for her though. We couldn’t really carry her that much because we had two suitcases and two car seats to haul around!

  8. Glad to hear you had a good time and happy birthday to the hubby!

  9. We really enjoy cruising and once you figure out how much booze you can bring on board and how to smuggle more in, the cost really isn’t that bad.

    I second what was said above about only unpacking once. I also like being able to go to sleep and wake up somewhere new too!

    1. I really liked waking up in a new place. The ship movement didn’t bother me either.

  10. That sounds SO fun, Holly!!! Hilarious that you forgot daughter’s shoes, and amazing that people got so judgy over it: I mean, for goodness sake, you weren’t beating the child. Can’t wait to hear about your next cruise adventure!

  11. Mary Happymommy says:

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  12. I have never been on a cruise and was skeptical with 2 small children, but you really opened my eyes with the family friendly area!

    Keep being thrifty!

    1. It wasn’t that bad really. Our room wasn’t that big but you only sleep in there, right? Plus, my kids were so tired from everything that they crashed hard. It went much better than I imagined it would!

  13. I’ve done a few cruises and we are debating another cruise vacation for next year

  14. What an amazing cruise! We haven’t done a cruise with my grandsons yet but would love to! Thanks for the giveaway!

  15. I haven’t been on a cruise yet, something I want to do… as long as I don’t get sick :). Those times people do get sick get major publicity though, that is for sure!

  16. Sounds like you and the family had a great time! Its encouraging that you had a good review of your cruise experience as DH and I are now planning to take one during the Christmas holidays.

  17. Thanks for the giveaway chance! We didn’t take a vacation this year, and I”m dreaming of a trip this fall. It looks like your family had fun!

  18. Great giveaway and review. I still need to do a review on the cruise we went on. I’ve been a little lazy…

  19. Lindsay B says:

    I cruised with my family once as a kid but I don’t remember it being like this! I remember teensy cramped room, decent-at-best food, and LOTS of crowds! Looks like things have changed for the better!

  20. Honey Smith says:

    I just wish I hadn’t discovered I love cruising so much until I lived far from a port! Glad you enjoyed it 😉

  21. We sailed the Carnival Fascination last fall and found the pool area to be too crowded, rowdy, and dangerous for kids. That ship also has the water slide area, but my son was 1/4″ too short to go on any of them. We stopped in Nassau (not impressed) and Half Moon Cay (gorgeous). We are cruising again next month on the Carnival Liberty (Cozumel, Belize, Isla Roaton, and Costa Maya ports) for a 9 day vacation. I’m excited, and hoping it’s less of a “spring break party” crowd, so we’ll see. Awesome giveaway, thanks!

  22. I went on a 7-day cruise to the Bahamas once from NY. It was definitely fun for the first couple of days but then we got tired of it real quick. I would do it again but definitely not for a whole week. I can only drink and eat so much!

  23. Sounds like your family had a great time. The Caribbean cruise always reminds me of crazy spring break activities hence I have never been on a Caribbean cruise yet. So far I’ve only been on a couple Alaska cruises and really enjoyed them.

  24. Colleen Boudreau says:

    Thank you! 🙂

  25. I always glare at people whose kids don’t wear shoes in public places. Guess I should rethink that. Glad you had fun!

  26. Oh wow, that first pool was super crowded! I think I would have preferred the family area even without having kids of my own. The beach looks fantastic though. I’ve never been on a cruise, mostly because my mom hates the water and boats, so that was out as a kid. I wouldn’t mind trying out a shorter cruise, but I’m afraid I’ll feel a little claustrophobic.

  27. Thanks for sharing Holly! Now I don;t have to spend money on a cruise 🙂

    I have a few friends who swear that cruises are the second coming and that no vacation is done without a cruise somewhere!

    I always worry about sea sickness and eating too much food – actually I DON’T worry about eating too much food 🙂

    Take care and my best to all.

    Lyle

    ps: At least your daughter got a new pair of shoes outta the deal 🙂

  28. Debra Guillen says:

    I would love to take a cruise

  29. Heather S says:

    What a fabulous giveaway! Thank you for the chance to win!

  30. Glad you had fun. Just FYI, the shorter cruises tend to be “Booze cruises” so that is probably why it was a bit more rowdy. People are always drunk, but even more so on 3 day cruises.

  31. I loved our cruise this summer. I cannot wait to do it again! I did wish we were able to spend more time on the islands though.

  32. We did a Carnival Cruise to Alaska – it was our first cruise, and likely our last. Nothing was wrong with the ship itself, we just didn’t like having to be back by 4pm on most evenings. The food deteriorated as the trip went on, and we have just come to conclusion that we aren’t “cruise people”. We loved our time in Vancouver before the cruise and loved the few days in Anchorage after the cruise, but the cruise itself bothered us. We went with friends who had cruised before and they enjoyed themselves, so I think it’s just us. But until we go through the Panama Canal or to Antartica, we won’t be cruising…

  33. We did Carnivals’ Key West/Cozumel cruise in 2005. We really enjoyed and would probably go on another cruise again!

  34. I’ve never been on a cruise before so that is on my bucket list. Are there cruises that are a bit more quiet though? I think if my husband and I are going to get away, we’re looking for peace and quiet!

  35. I have been on at least 4 or 5 different cruises. I have cruised Royal Caribbean, NCL, and Carnival. Guess I don’t have a favorite–they were all fun! I have cruised with my husband on a couple, and with different girlfriends on the others. We’re taking a break from cruising right now–our next adventure is London and Paris sometime next year. I’m glad your family had a great time!

    1. Nice! We’re doing London and Paris this November. Where are you staying?

  36. I’ve never been to a cruise but I do have a plan to go with my family. I know we will enjoy and have fun on this. I can’t wait to experience it. My friends always tell me to try it and you will not regret to experience. Thanks for sharing.

  37. I’m not sure that I’m a cruise person (even just considering what they sort of stand for – all of that consumerism and stuff on one ship. But it looks like you had a good time. My goodness is that pool ever packed!

  38. Looks like you guys had a blast Holly, aside from the shoe incident. 🙂 I can relate to those glares as our youngest absolutely melted down one day at Disney on our trip last week and we got a ton of glares. Oh well. We’ve been on 3 cruises so far and have enjoyed them. Like Lance said, the shorter cruises tend to be much rowdier. We’ve been on Carnival once and Royal Caribbean twice and really enjoyed RC. Their prices are comparable and not crazy marked up like a Disney cruise.

  39. Looks like this was awesome! What a great way to tie it all together with a giveaway! Have a great weekend 🙂

  40. Love the pictures. I didn’t know you were a vegetarian too! Maybe we can team up in New Orleans 😉

    When I worked on a ship, the cruise line was super high end which meant only people in their 70s and 80s could afford to go- so there was usually no one in the pool ever.

  41. My first cruise experience was not great but 3 years ago I decided to give it a second chance and I really liked it. We cruised from NJ to Bermuda. We didn’t have to catch a flight. We just drove down to the pier, parked and got on the ship. That was really great!

  42. My husband and I are addicted to cruising, and have been on 8 since getting married 9 years ago. It makes vacation planning really tough though…should we finally branch out and explore Europe or Hawaii?? Or just go on another cruise instead, since all we really want to do on vacation is eat, relax, and go somewhere warm, all whilst in the lap of luxury!? It’s so hard to break away from perfection!?

    1. I totally understand. We love all-inclusives for the same reason. It’s so easy to pick a location and resort and just show up =)

  43. My hubby and I went on one cruise previously from FL to Mexico, but post 2 kids (age 3 &1) it hasn’t been in the budget. I sometimes think why we didn’t go on a cruise/vacation everyone month prior to the kids since I pay for one with daycare expenses monthly! I hope to save up to take my boys on a Disney cruise in the next 3-5 years, I’ve heard wonderful things!

    1. Have you looked at pricing recently? The Disney cruises I was looking at were $3,500 minimum for the week…just for the base rate! I would love to go on a Disney cruise too but would have trouble justifying that! =/

  44. That looks like a good time, Holly! I’ve never been on a cruise as I always get sick on boats. But I’ve heard these are so big that you barely notice the waves…

  45. Anne Burner says:

    I’m not big on the idea of cruises…I prefer to get where I’m going and go find what I want to do. I’d feel a little trapped on a ship.

    Still, I’m glad you had a great time!

  46. I have only been on 1 cruise, and it was to the Bahamas. I would like to try an Alaskan cruise!

  47. Lisa E. @ Lisa vs. the Loans says:

    Sounds like you had so much fun! I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise… It’s definitely on the bucket list!

  48. I’ve never been on a cruise, but my dad and step-mom go all the time and love it. I know they cruise right out of NYC, so I’ll have to see what kind of a deal I could get. Would be nice not to have to deal with flying to the departure port.

  49. I love cruising! Thankfully we live in Central Florida so they are an affordable vacation since we can drive to so many ports

  50. My significant other refuses to take a cruise because he doesn’t want to aggravate his motion sickness. Did you or anyone in your family ever get sick while cruising?

    1. I was extremely worried about that and even brought Dramamine with us. However, we all felt fine. We couldn’t even tell that the ship was moving unless we looked outside. I never felt the ship rock once! I totally understand your concern though =)

  51. Kelly Kimmell says:

    Thanks for the chance to win.

  52. Ooh, I could definitely use a gift card! Thanks for sharing your Carnival experience. It’s been WAY too long since I’ve been on a cruise!

  53. Thanks for sharing your experience. I love cruising! I got engaged on a cruise 6 years ago and been going on them every year after.

  54. I’ve never been on a cruise but I would like to one day.

  55. I love to travel, but really have no desire to do a cruise. One look at that pool photo and knowing I’d only have 8 hours to explore a port confirms it for me. We just don’t enjoy crowds/noise, especially when alcohol is added in. Having said that…we are considering taking our grandson on a Disney cruise.

  56. Stephanie Phelps says:

    I have never taken a cruise but I hear stories about how great they are all the time. I will take one someday!

  57. I would love to take a cruise some day.

  58. Ken Bradley says:

    Looking forward to using the Amazon Gift Card I’m going to receive!

  59. I’ve never been on a cruise, but it looks like you had a wonderful experience.
    Congrats on your Plutus award!

  60. So glad ya’ll had so much fun ….Thank You for the chance to win.

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