“Life is Better At Sea!”
So I am excited to talk about our FIRST cruise experience with Carnival Cruise line for another addition to my Mini Vacation Series! My husband and I have never cruised before and I have always been quite curious but never had a strong desire to go on one because I am an explorer and didn’t like the idea of being “stuck on a boat”! I can say after cruising on Carnival, it definitely changed my prospection about cruise! You are not just “stuck on a boat”. I have heard great things about Carnival cruise line for being fun and a party boat! It definitely was just that! We decided to do a mini vacation out of Miami, Florida to do a 3-Day cruise to Nassau, Bahamas on Carnival Victory! You can read about our mini Miami vacation and what you can do during a 3 day stay here as well! Carnival Cruises offer’s low prices for this 3-Day cruise as low as $169 per person depending on the type of stateroom you want. They will add about $100 of taxes per person when it is all said and done.
What is a stateroom or cabin? A stateroom is basically what they call the rooms where you sleep in. There is Interior– no windows but you will sleep like a baby because it is completely dark at night, Ocean View – small window or porthole type window, Balcony – it has a small table and Suite– which is quite spacious and more expense compared to the other rooms. For our first time, we booked a Balcony on the 6th level towards the front of the ship. We found out level 6 was recently remodeled and so everything was pretty new. Having a balcony was nice to have and a cool experience, but don’t expect anything big or fancy at this level of a stateroom.
After our cruise was over, we thought that we could have saved a little bit of money and just booked the interior or oceanview window. You are really only there to sleep and change clothes so it really did not matter. Perhaps for certain destinations we would want to a balcony for the view. If you had the idea like me and want a balcony to dry tour clothes, don’t bother. The humidity is high so our clothes and towels never dried. It dried faster inside the room with the help of the blow dryer too. I asked if they had dry cleaning and they stated they did not. For balcony rooms, there are 4 different balcony room levels: Balcony, AFT View Extended, Premium and Premium Vista. The price of the stateroom goes up with the room level. We only had Balcony level available for our purchase.
INTERIOR ROOM TIP – Be sure to set your alarm clock every morning. Some people will sleep into the afternoon because it is so dark they don’t realize it is morning.
I also suggest trying getting a room in the middle of the boat. It is the most stable and you will not feel the rocking of the boat as much. The front of the ship where we were at was not that bad though I got a little queasy the first night. I think it was because we did not put on our “Sea Bands” (acupressure bands to help with seasickness) before the boat set sailed as directed. Once we did put it on for a few hours and kept it on, the other days we were both fine with no issues. I got mine at Walgreens for $13.99 but Target online has them cheaper for $6.49!
One thing that I read before this cruise was some people complaining of a sewage smell in the rooms on cruise ships in general. I can’t say that there was not some sort of smell, but I don’t think the smell was very strong either. It just smells like the ocean, but perhaps it was because we had a balcony. I prepared myself just in case and brought Glade Solid Air Freshener in the Hawaiian Breeze scent and it took care of any smells. You get these for a $1 at Target or Walgreens. If you have small children or if you are a light sleeper, I would definitely suggest not getting a room towards the front of the boat on Carnival Victory. The live shows are on level 4 towards the front of the ship too and we could hear it clearly from our room.
CRUISE SMELL TIP – Buy 1 or 2 Glade Solid Air Freshener for your room and bathroom to help your room stay smelling fresh!
Checking In / Fort Lauderdale Shuttle
We flew into Fort Lauderdale the night before and stayed at Best Western Plus Fort Lauderdale (1900 Stirling Rd). This hotel has free airport shuttle, free hot breakfast and it is one of the locations that cruise shuttle services pick up at. We like to fly into Fort Lauderdale because it is usually a lot cheaper than Miami and hotels are cheaper too. We wanted to be safe and fly in the night before and not that morning in case of lost bags or delayed flights causing us to miss the flight completely. We booked this hotel using AA miles another tip I discuss in this post when doing a mini vacation on a budget. MJS Transportation was the cruise shuttle service we used! They were very professional and organized and only cost $15 a person! I highly recommended them. There are many shuttle services that will charge you even as much as $25 a person. However, MJS Transportation provide shuttle service from Fort Lauderdale Airport and certain surrounding hotels to the Port of Miami!
Carnival states that the latest check in is at 4pm. I highly recommend checking in early around noon where there was no line and then we could go exploring Biscayne Bay which is nearby and less than $10.00 Uber ride… $2.99 to be exact if you do Ride share where you share a ride with other people in the same area! I think to get our own personal Uber would have been $7. Check out this post where you can see some of the things you can do in Biscayne Bay area and in Miami. You check-in just like you were going to an airport and go through security except there are no liquid restrictions exception for beverages. After hanging out in Biscayne Bay a bit we headed back to the boat close to 2:30 the line for check in was ridiculously looonnggg!!! We were fortunate because we already checked in and gotten our room keys and we were able to quickly avoid that long line to get back on the boat. I believe this was just a one-time circumstance for us and so I recommend adding Priority Check-in which allows you to go through a shorter line.
Embarkation – Sail Away Party
Before the ships departs from the port, they do an actual run through of what happens if there is an emergency and we have to get on the life boats. TITANIC! It was a bit of a long process but its better that everything knows where they go and do a run through at least once in case of an emergency. About 45 minutes after that, the Sail Away Party begins with DJ Devine who kept the music pumping throughout the entire cruise! This was one of my favorite parts of our cruise experience was the party. The Miami skyline was amazing, the music was amazing and everyone is dancing, doing line dances and having such a good time that you didn’t even realize the boat was moving!! It was quite an awesome experience! Also the Miami Skyline is absolutely beautiful from the boat too!
On the cruise, you can purchase Wi-Fi packages by first downloading the Fun Hub app before you set sail. We added Wi-Fi package, which I had some problems with. Using the cheapest Wi-Fi package ($5 social package) allows you to access social media but through their app. This caused a problem for my cellphone (ATT) because it stated that someone was trying to access my account from an unknown source (aka carnival app). So I had to do a verification process which they emailed me but that basic package did not allow me to access the normal internet. So I had to upgrade my Wi-Fi package during the trip. So if you are a blogger or need to access the internet directly, you may need to do the $16 package or $25 package (fast connection). My husband’s iPhone did not give him this problem on the $5 package so perhaps it was just mine. When you download the Carnival Cruise Hub app, it tells you all what is going on the ship so you stay organized. There is a feature that you can download so that way you can communicate on the ship in case you are split from your spouse or friends. There is a daily charge to this feature. However, my husband and I already had the free “Whatsapp” app downloaded on our phones and we communicated via this app just fine.
Food & Beverages
The food on Carnival Cruise was good! They had a variety of stations buffet style that you can choose from. There was Italian, American (fried chicken, hamburgers, etc), Chinese, sandwiches and wraps. There was always a salad bar and dessert bar which all are included in your cruise price. The drinks they provided were water, coffee lemonade and unsweeten tea. In the mornings for breakfast, they provided were orange juice and guava juice that was really good. These were both included in your cruise price. There are soda packages you can add for your cruise where you can have unlimited soda on your cruise and can purchase premium coffees like starbucks options too. My husband took advantage of this because he drinks espresso. The price was not bad – around $2 dollars for an expresso. Each guest gets a “Sail Card” which is like a charge card tied to your debit card/bank account/money funds that you credited towards your cruise and they deducted it from there versus walking around with cash or your personal cards. You can purchase alcoholic drinks, beer and wine too. They do allow you to bring our own wine bottles but at a cost of about $15 corkage fee. While on the ship they did offer specials at times for drinks which they usually announce by the main deck area. One thing that I read is that they will allow you to bring your own water bottles because some people don’t like tap water. We did this to only find out that we could not bring it on the ship because it has to be in a can. I have never seen canned water unless it is sparkling so we left it with the luggage guys outside of check in point.
You are assigned a dinner time each night in the formal dining room You can choose your dinner time when you first purchase your tickets online. We chose a late dinner time because we eat late in general. Also you have the possibility of less kids being at dinner since you are assigned a table which if not assigned a table for two, you could be put with other people on the boat who may have kids. You will be eating with the same people at the same table for the entire cruise each night. Most families book the early dinner time so kids can sleep and parents enjoy shows and stay out late. We were fortunate to have our own table for two. You must be sure you go at you designed time and not be late or else you could lose out on the sit down dinner opportunity. There was one elegant/formal night on our 3 day cruise where you have to dress up for dinner and other nights are casual. This night concided with the Captains Toast where the Captain comes out and greets and takes pictures with everyone. The menu included a variety of options from chicken, steaks, fish and pork. There are premium meat options for an additional charge of $20. You do not have to go to the formal dinner. There are other options in the buffet dining area and you can eat where you would like.
Activities & Entertainment
Each day you get the “Carnival Newspaper” so you can plan your day for the next day! It lists the activities and entertainment that you can visit so you won’t miss anything. There is a PA system where the “Cruise Director” or host of the cruise tells announces what is going at each level just in case you forget. Marcello was the cruise director of our ship and he was very funny! He kept everyone pumped up throughout the cruise! You can do shuffle board, golf, go to the casinos, different lounges where they play live music and have a bar, a brand new fitness center on Carnival Victory and a spa. The fitness center is 24 hours and it has a nice view of the ocean. The also cruise provides a wide range of spa services, from massages, nails, hair, etc. There are also different shows you can watch and comedy shows too. They have some things for both adults and children through the voyage. And if you don’t feel like doing anything, there are various spots including an adult only area of the main lido deck where you can relax, take in the sun and enjoy live music from the DJ.
Port days are the days the boat docks at a destination. Since this being a 3 day cruise and Nassau was our only stop, we only have 1 port day. The full review and experience of our port day will be forthcoming on my next blog post. So you can see what all we did and tips we learned along the way. One PORT DAY TIP I would like to share is to wake up early, shower and have breakfast before the boat arrives at the port. Typically, you dock around 9 or 10am. We took our time a bit to get ready and we were hit with a long line at breakfast which took up time we had to be on land. So if you wake a bit early to beat the crowds, you can get a jump start on exploring on your port stop. Stay tuned for the Nassau, Bahamas review where I will share what we did during our overnight stay here!
If you been on a cruise, what was your experience or your favorite or least favorite part? Leave a comment below.
Stay fresh & FIERCELY you!