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Age: 33

Occupation:Software Engineer

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Sensation

Sailing Date: 03-5-2009

Itinerary: Nassau

We just returned yesterday from a three-day cruise to Nassau in the Bahamas. It was the first cruise for my wife and I and our two children, ages 3 and 9. My wife's parents accompanied us, enjoying some time with the four of us. To summarize the cruise, embarkation was very quick, the rooms (we had three ocean view cabins for the six of us) were more spacious feeling than expected, tight, but entirely functional. The food was good in the Seaview restaurant (casual, buffet-style dining), and exceptional in the Fantasy dining room. The service was similarly extraordinary. Our day in Nassau was an experience to be remembered. The ship was stable, rocking no more than 2-3 degrees in my estimation. The stewards were very quick and personable. The highlight of the ship was the water park, which our son took to with gusto. The food was great overall. Archie, our waiter, and I Made, his runner, seemed to always be at hand. During our first evening's dinner service, another waiter dropped a full tray of entrees perhaps ten feet from us, and directly behind my three year old daughter. She wasn't injured, but was scared by the noise. The assistant Maitre D folded an origami crane for her to play with. We missed the formal dinner (see excursions below), but on the next evening, Archie made a bunny out of a napkin for her. The perspective I would like to provide is that, in the course of less than 64 total hours, and total interaction time of maybe 4 hours, our waiter Archie and our steward Melinda both made a great impression - enough to be remembered fondly. I did notice on a few occasions that the buffet offerings in the Seaview restaurant didn't keep up with demand, especially when it was only half-populated during dinner hours. That is, the port and starboard sides of the room are almost mirror images during breakfast and lunch, but only one side is used when most are in the main dining rooms. As noted above, our stateroom smelled strongly of smoke on our arrival. Melinda, our steward, put an ionizer in the room, washed down the walls, and replaced the sheets and towels in almost no time at all. Still, I wonder about the wisdom of disallowing irons, candles, etc, yet allowing people to smoke in staterooms. Our stateroom was small, but functional. I don't actually know what the maximum official occupancy is, with two twin beds there was enough room left over for 6 family members to wiggle around each other as needed. We arranged things so our kids stayed with my wife's parents, one with each, and that worked out quite well. It afforded them bonding time they usually don't get. I would suggest that, with bunk beds (which I believe they have in some staterooms), as many as four could share a room. The highlight of the trip was the waterpark. Please note that the large waterslide has a 42" minimum height for riders - if your children are under that height, don't get their hopes up. That said, the hardest part for us was keeping our son from running to his next slide down. I think he expects all cruise ships to have such a park now. The ship allows smoking to the extent where some areas can be a concern to asthma sufferers such as my wife. Personally, I'd love to find a nonsmoking cruise. The shows were good, and a worthy diversion, but not quite broadway material. Unsurprising, given the relatively cramped stage. The performers were good, for sure. Our day in Nassau was highlighted by a visit to Dolphin Cay, a 'swim with dolphins' experience at the Atlantis resort. Note here that we eschewed the Carnival arranged excursion in favor of doing it ourselves, for well under 75% the price of Carnival's similar option. We left the ship at roughly 1:00, with plenty of time (in theory) to catch a water taxi over to Paradise Island, then catch a shuttle bus there. We were intercepted by a local who was gathering people for the water taxi. We paid for our tickets, and followed him as he weaved through a local marketplace to the pier. Arriving at the pier in question, he directed us along an 8" wide ledge along the water-side of a concrete barrier for perhaps 200 feet. Picture, if you will, myself carrying our three year old, our 9 year old son behind, my wife behind him, and her parents last, walking this tightrope with a 10+ foot drop to greet a misstep. We arrived at the water taxi... and it was full to capacity... or so it appeared with what looked like 80 people on a 70 person vessel. The local guy hollered and hollered for people to squeeze in, and demonstrated to us his understanding of family dynamics by then having our son get on, obligating us to follow. I sat on one side, with one of my kids on each knee; my wife and mother-in-law were on the other side, and my father-in-law with the captain. The boat sat very low at the stern, with maybe 1 foot between the deck and the water; I advised my son at this point that if the boat capsized, he was to swim away as quickly as possible while I saved his sister. Somehow, we made it to Paradise Island in one piece, and started searching for Dolphin Cay. This is my big suggestion for anyone doing this themselves: know where you're going, and how you're going to get there. We wandered about for a while, seeing shuttle buses going where we wanted to go, but being told they could not pick us up. We ultimately walked most of a mile to another hotel (Coral Towers or something like that), where we waited at least 45 minutes for a shuttle, which then took us back past where we had just walked from to get to Atlantis. We arrived about 25 minutes late, but thankfully they allowed us to join the next group. I highly recommend Dolphin Cay's shallow water experience (and presume the deep water experience would only be better still). Two notes here: if someone in your group wants to just stay dry and take pictures, there's an area available for that quite a distance away. It costs an additional $50 to get access to the beach and get within 50 feet of the action. Secondly, pictures of the experience are roughly $50 for a few shots, or roughly $150 for a few more plus a CD with all your shots on it. Selecting the pictures to have printed, etc, takes a notable amount of time - be sure to factor that in. We hopped another shuttle bus back, discovering that it stopped at another hotel first. I recognized where we were, and that we could choose to stay on it, again pass where we would pick up the water taxi, and then walk back about 1/2 mile, or we could just walk an almost identical distance from where we were. We did that instead, got on a non-overloaded water taxi this time, and got back to the ship at about 5:30. That didn't afford enough time to get ready for the formal dinner at 6, so we again ate at the casual dining in the Seaview restaurant. Our trip overall was memorable, and has pretty much sold us on the idea of cruising. I am one of those who would never have considered it, but now I understand the allure.

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