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Teresa Ballantyne

Age: 42


Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Celebration

Sailing Date: November 18th, 2006

Itinerary: Bahamas

My husband and I just returned from a 5-day cruise on the Celebration to Key West, FL and Nassau Bahamas, departing from Jacksonville, FL. We had a wonderful time, and I’m excited to give you our report!

Because this was my first cruise, I don’t have other cruise lines or ships to compare this experience to. Other than the cool weather, which was no fault of CCL, this vacation was the best all-around vacation I have ever had. I now understand how it is so many people are hooked on cruising!

Embarkation: We drove to Jacksonville, and because we had stayed the previous night in Savannah, we decided to use Jaxport cruise terminal parking instead of a local hotel as some others have mentioned. We paid $60, and our vehicle was kept in a large parking lot (no covering). The cost was worth the convenience to us, and all was well with our vehicle upon our return. Before parking, we dropped our luggage off at the terminal, and didn’t see it again until it was in our stateroom. The walk from parking to the terminal was not long, but they do have complimentary golf cart service for those who don’t want to walk. Embarkation was efficient and quick, and the agents there were friendly and helpful. Having your Fun Pass documents taken care of online, as well as paperwork in hand, will speed up the already quick process. No taking pictures in the Jaxport terminal or on the ramps leading up to the ship. Carnival will take a “start of the cruise” picture, for purchase, just inside the terminal before you start your ascent.

The interior cabin, and have already decided to go interior whenever we cruise again. The décor was appealing, in most places. Of course, that is personal taste. I’ve heard others talk about wear and tear, etc., but I thought halls, stairs, public areas, staterooms were in good repair. There were a couple of problems in our stateroom – a bed reading light that didn’t work and cracked glass in the framed picture on our wall. This did not dampen our vacation one bit.

Our Cabin: Our cabin was E72, which was only 30 seconds from our dining room (Vista) and the Admiral’s Library. I would definitely ask for this area again. This stateroom is close to the elevators, but we never heard any elevator noises. We could hear people in the hall, and through the walls, but I suspect this would be the case for any stateroom. We never took the elevators, and Empress deck is close enough to all of the public areas that the walk was never too arduous, excluding rough sea days. The bed and bedding was very comfortable! No need for a nightlight. Plenty of light comes in through the bottom of the door so that you can get to the bathroom at night without injury. We were pleased with the amount of storage. Our suitcases fit easily underneath our bed. Our closet had two compartments with a hanger rod and hangers. I would recommend bringing more hangers. One closet had three or four shelves and a safe. Our room also had a desk with five drawers, a coffee table, an ottoman, and a straight back chair. Extra bedding can be found in one of the closets, as well as two comfy terrycloth robes to wear!

Entertainment: My husband and I don’t drink, smoke or gamble, so this kept us out of some parts of the ship. I think I would have enjoyed The Red Hot Piano bar, but it was always very smoky. We had the latest dining room seating, and so did not make it a point to attend the late shows. Yes, we were on vacation, but we preferred not to stay up late. We listened to The Blackjack Band in Islands of the Sky lounge, and enjoyed them. (“country, rock & more”)

The Art Auction: We attended an art auction held on our final day at sea. I had never been to an art auction before, and found this one to be very interesting. Various pieces of art had been on display throughout the ship, and then brought to the Islands in the Sky lounge. (There is an art preview one hour before the actual auction.) Passengers can ask for certain pieces to be auctioned (not all pieces are), but we found that you don’t necessarily want to do that. We found something we liked (and did purchase), but we did it after the auction, so no one was bidding against us! Free champagne is served at the auctions, and there are drawings for free art. Because we bought something, we could choose something free from pieces of art that are valued at $500 a piece. I wondered if we’d gotten the screaming deal they let us to think we had, and when I checked online (once home), I found that we did!

In-room TV and Movies: There are so many things to do on the ship that you may never get around to watching TV in your room, but I want to give you an idea of the first-run movies they show. With little ones at home, we rarely have the opportunity to watch a movie uninterrupted, so it was really nice to relax and watch some movies we’d missed previously. The movies seemed to be edited for language.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2, Just My Luck, Take the Lead, Fast & Furious – Tokyo Drift, Click, The Devil Wears Prada, Superman Returns, The Da Vinci Code, Mission Impossible III and RV.

Internet Cafe: The Internet Café is located in the Admiral’s Library. We needed to have a way to communicate with our realtor while on this trip, so we bought Internet minutes to use at sea. You can purchase minutes by the hour, half hour, and pay as you go. The cost is $27.95 for 60 minutes and $16.50 for 30 minutes. You can pay as you go for $0.75 per minute, but I did notice that they have various specials throughout the week. For instance, one day you could purchase 5 minutes and receive 5 minutes free. The also gave away 180 free minutes. Internet use was free at the Bad Ass Café in Key West. This café is one that Carnival advertises in the shopping tour paperwork they hand out, and is very easy to get to. We did not take our laptop into Nassau, but I noticed that several people were using their laptops at the Hard Rock Café. I’m sure that there are other places where you can access free wi-fi (with purchase from the business) as well.

The Launderette: The launderette is located across from U-76. There are three stacked washers and dryers. All are coin operated (quarters). $1 each load. Detergent/dryer sheet dispensers include single load boxes of Tide, Cheer, Downy Care and Downy dryer sheets. 2 irons. The irons and ironing boards are clean. There is also a chair and a table for folding clothes, and a stainless steel sink for hand washing.

The Service: Oh, my. Where to start? Service was fabulous. Absolutely fabulous. We were totally pampered. Kerron kept our clean neat and tidy at all times. Loved her cute towel animals! Our dining room experiences were some of the best of the cruise. We had lovely tablemates, and Ryan and Putu took care of us in the dining room. I have never seen such an attentive (yet non intrusive) wait staff, and I believe all guests were taken care of in this manner. A shout out to someone who wasn’t my dining room waiter, but who I enjoyed just the same – Arnul. Now here’s someone who looks to really love his job and the people he serves. He was so much run to watch during the entertainment portions of the meal. Oger (pronounced O’Hare), our Maitre‘d kept everything in the Vista dining room running smooth.

It was very cool in the dining room. I would recommend bringing a sweater or shawl, or you can do as I did and borrow your husband’s jacket.

The Food: It was delicious! We enjoyed the pizza, the buffet and, of course, the dining room. We regret that we didn’t eat breakfast and lunch in the dining room more often. It’s such a great way to meet new people, and the service is always top-notch. Now, to find a good Bitter and Blanc recipe. Mmmmm!

Ports & Excursions: We hadn’t booked any excursions. Our plan was to see what was available once we arrived at the ports.

Key West – Wow, we really enjoyed this town. There were so many neat shops, and a great place to people watch. Many places in town rent scooters, bicycles and electric cars for ease in getting around. Carnival Capers issued a warning: “For your safety we strongly recommend that you do NOT use MOPEDS, JET SKIS & SCOOTERS. These are very dangerous activities.” Many attractions that Carnival advertises can be walked to. We ate at the Hard Rock Café, and enjoyed the service and atmosphere there. The Key West HRC is very unique in appearance.

Nassau – Sadly, the weather was very stormy the day we were in the Bahamas, so I have yet to see their postcard perfect crystal blue water. Yet, even with the overcast weather, you could still see how blue the water is. Amazing! Because of the poor weather conditions, many excursions were cancelled. We walked around town, as we had in Key West, but did not enjoy the experience as well. The Straw Market was a huge warehouse-type building with very narrow (cramped) rows of vendors selling their wares. Piraña Joe was a fun T-shirt shop, which seemed to carry quality t-shirts. Del-Sol (located in both Key West and Nassau) was also a fun shop. They have T-shirts and other merchandise that changes color when you wear/use it out in the sun.

Note: they do not automatically stamp your passport in the Bahamas, BUT if you ask to have your passport stamped, they will kindly direct you to the office where you can have that done. It takes a few minutes to do this, so you may want to plan ahead and make sure that you get it done before the office closes.

Professional Photographs: If you’ve not been cruising, you may be unfamiliar with the number of opportunities you will have to have your picture taken on the ship and at the ports. There were always several photo stations (with different backgrounds) during the dinner hours. A photographer came to our dinner table three different nights. The first night, formal night (which was day two), and on the last night he took a group picture of everyone at the table. You can also have your picture taken with various “characters,” such as a Carnival dancer, Indian, Pirate, Fun Ship Freddy, etc. Be prepared to pay for these photos. 8 x 10 is $19.99. 5 x 7 or thereabouts was $7.99. I did not see where the pictures were every discounted. You can get more prints made (of various sizes if you want), but you must purchase the original photo first.

Debarkation: We were asked to be out of our cabins by 8:30 am. There is no room service this morning, but breakfast is served in the dining room and in the Wheelhouse, so you are not sent away hungry. Self-assist debarkation seemed to go quickly for those who chose this. We had set out our bags the night before, and picked them up easily from inside the terminal. Again, have your paperwork ready, and debarkation will not be difficult.

We loved our time together on the Celebration! Other than cool weather, it was everything I could have hoped for. When we arrived home, there was a new 2007 vacation planner from Princess Cruises waiting for us. I expect that before our cruising days are over, we will have experienced many different cruise lines, but the Carnival Celebration, and the many people who took such good care of us, will always hold a warm place in our hearts.

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