Saturday, March 3, 2012

Flashback: Summer Cruisin'

This summer my husband and I went on our first Carnival Cruise through the Bahamas. We went with my parents and some good family friends. This was our first cruise and we had heard mixed reviews so we were unsure of what to expect.  

Our port was in Miami, Florida -- a location we had never visited. We weren’t able to explore the city, but while leaving the port we did get to check out South Beach from the Cruise balcony, which looked beautiful. 

The process of boarding the cruise ship was very easy and streamlined. It took only about 30 minutes to get through security and find our room. The ship’s main area, upon entry, was very beautiful.  It was amazing to see how the cruise line had managed to fit so much into a ship. It really is like a little village with stores, restaurants, entertainment and even a casino. 

JC and I’s room was on the bottom floor of the ship. I wasn’t real excited about this. I kept seeing Titanic scenes go through my mind, the people in the bottom on the ship had no chance. The room was small, but nice enough. And we did have a decent view out of our window. I did not feel extremely well the entire trip, which I think was due to some sea-sickness, which is something I had assumed I would not be bothered with.  

Our first stop on the trip was to Grand Cayman Island, Bahamas. This island is owned by Carnival Cruise line. We filed out of the ship when we docked close to the island. The island did not have a port built, so the cruise had to park away from land and we took ferries to get to the island. I thought the procedure to get off and on the ship was a little annoying. We had to wait in line and were constantly on a schedule, which wasn’t set by us. This was probably the worse part of the trip, in my opinion. The island was beautiful -- white, sandy beaches. No real commercial establishments were on the island, just a couple bars. Lunch was a buffet the Carnival staff cooked and prepared for us on the island. We spent the day swimming in the ocean and relaxing on the beach. Unfortunately we had to leave by mid-afternoon, so we weren’t able to spend as much time as I would have liked on the island.

The next stop was in St. Thomas. During this stop, JC and I decided to explore on our own and went to the highest point on the island to check out the amazing views. It was nice, but an expensive ride to the Look Out Point. After that we found a taxi (an old pick up truck with some benches in the bed) to take us to the beach, which was beautiful.  The ride was a little treacherous at times, driving through steep hills, but I loved seeing parts of the city. 

We cruised into Puerto Rico next. JC was very excited about visiting Puerto Rico because of some of its historical features and the Bacardi distillery. The distillery was neat, but we didn’t get to see how the liquor is made up close.  The distillery was definitely very touristy. Before leaving the island JC wanted to check out one of the famous forts in Puerto Rico. I always enjoy checking out the history wherever we go so I enjoyed this part of the trip.

The last port of call was Turks and Caicos. Like all of the other stops, this island was beautiful also. We had a scheduled snorkeling expedition for this port of call which I was looking forward to. The group took us out on a big catamaran near the port and we were able to snorkel. I was a little disappointed with the snorkeling. There was little coral, and few fish in the area we stopped. After getting back on the ship we were given Rum Punch -- which wasn’t a great decision for me about two hours after we began drinking this beverage. The beach at Turks and Caicos is very picturesque, but very rocky. It wasn’t a great place to swim, so going on an excursion was a good idea for this stop.

The last few things to note about this cruise: the food and entertainment on ship. Each night we made dinner reservations at the dine-in restaurant. The food, for the most part, was amazing and endless. On the lobster night JC got three plates of lobster, without asking for the last two.  There were a few buffets to choose from and also a few restaurants to eat at also: a fish and chips place, pizza, mexican and sandwich shop.  We definitely did not go hungry on the ship!

There were a few things to choose from each night for entertainment. The main theatre area had shows, along with smaller “adults-only” comedy shows and of course a variety of bars.  We usually tried to see one of the shows each night. 

Our Carnival Cruise experience was good, for the most part. JC and I enjoy being able to relax by the beach and do what we want, so cruising is not something we will plan to do each year. I do believe this would be a good option for a family as there are many kid-friendly things to explore, plenty of food and the ship’s schedule is family-friendly.  One thing to keep in mind when going on a cruise is that it is a pretty expensive vacation and there are a lot of "extras" once you get onto the boat.  One example is a "pop card."  If you want soda at all during the week long trip you have to pay extra for it.  Also, alcohol is not free and a tip charge is factored into every single drink, even if you only get a $2.00 draft -- a 15% tip is added on top of the $2.00.  Besides the "extra" costs it was a really good time and we got to see many different places.  Many people that we met on the cruise only go on cruise vacations, so there is a huge following of people that really enjoy cruises.   

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