My boyfriend and I recently went on a 4-night cruise from Orlando to the Bahamas (Freeport and Nassau). It was amazing! It was inexpensive, there was ALWAYS something going on to entertain us, and there was SO MUCH FOOD. I repeat – there was so much food!
If you’ve never been on a Carnival Cruise, this is what you can expect:
Our cruise, Carnival Victory, began Sunday and went until Thursday:
Sunday – We sailed off at around 4 pm
Monday – At Sea
Tuesday – Port at Nassau, The Bahamas from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Wednesday – Port at Freeport, The Bahamas from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Thursday – Back to Orlando
Getting to the port from the airport:
Since I travel on a budget, booking transportation through Carnival Cruise wasn’t an option for me. They charge way too much- Sorry Carnival! We just googled different shuttle services and read reviews on them. We went with AA Access Transport. They charged $90 for two of us, round-trip, tip included. We called ahead of time and scheduled a pick-up, and they had us call them when we landed. It was easy. I didn’t feel comfortable giving them my credit card information over the phone, so they agreed to let me pay cash at the time of our pick-up. The driver was nice, the 50-minute drive was peaceful, and because we went through them and not Carnival Cruise we had more money in our pockets for liquor for onboard activities.
Check-in and Boarding Process:
The Carnival Cruise website said that boarding began at like 12:30, but it makes things so much easier if you get there a lot earlier than that. We arrived at 10:30 a.m. and there were already a lot of people in front of us. Security screening and check-in is pretty painless. It’s similar to the TSA screening at airports but with nicer employees. It only takes a couple of minutes to get through the security area.
After that, you fill out a health questionnaire and go to an agent to check-in.
They check your passport and identification and then give you a Deck Plan booklet and your Sail & Sign card. The Deck Plan book has the layout of the cruise. The Sail & Sign card (that you must carry with you at all times) is your room key, the card you use when purchasing anything on the ship (it is linked to your credit card), and it also has information on it about your dining time, table number, and your Muster Station location (for emergencies). Basically, if you lose your Sail & Sign card, you are screwed.
The rooms are small but nice. The one we had included two closets, a full bathroom, a couch, a desk/vanity area, two chairs, a small table, and a king-sized bed (that kinda feels like a queen).
The maid service on this cruise was impeccable. They were by far the friendliest staff on the cruise, and they checked on you constantly to make sure you were happy.
My boyfriend and I always “splurge” on a room with a balcony. It cost a little extra, but it’s worth it! They are roomier, you feel less confined, and they view from the balcony is gorgeous.
This cruise has different Wi-Fi packages that guests were able to purchase. We purchased the Social Media package, which allowed us to use different social media sites and Facebook Messenger. Loved it!
One cool thing about this cruise is they allow each person to bring a bottle of wine on the cruise. They were not strict about it either. When we went on Princess Cruise, they made us check-in our wine, and they labeled it. On Carnival, they didn’t even stress about it. I had wine in my bag and they never said anything.
I’m not a huge drinker, so on the cruise I just paid for drinks as I went. There was the Cheers! Beverage Program, which is an all-you-can-drink special for $55 a day, plus gratuity. The good thing about this is that it’ll help you save money if you are a lush planning on drinking a lot during the cruise. The bad part about this was that everyone in your room has to purchase the package for you to be able to have it. Whomp.
Drinks aren’t crazy expensive on the cruise. I paid $7- $9 for the champagne or wine I was drinking. 16-ounce beers were like $7. Mixed drinks ranged from $7 and up. Just remember that every time you buy a drink, they add 15% gratuity.
Ahhh my favorite part of any vacation 😉
There definitely wasn’t a shortage of food on this cruise: The main buffet, seated assigned dining, and an area with food from the grill (burgers, hotdogs, hamburgers), an omelet station, a Chinese food station, a seated brunch, a sandwich station, and more. What was available depended on the time of day. There was even one night where they had a special Mexican Fiesta with a variety of food ??.
The buffet food wasn’t the best, but it was edible. We preferred it because it’s quick, easy, and low maintenance. The food wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t horrible.
The breakfast brunch was amazing! There is a fixed menu to choose from and it is far better than the buffet-style food.
The assigned-seating dinner is always awkward so we only went to it one night. It was supurb! Our tablemates were drunk and annoying so we ignored them, but it was the best meal we had on the entire boat. We paid $20 extra for surf’n’turf and it was worth every penny. Our chubby bellies were happy. The staff was by far the nicest during the assigned seating dinner.
There’s something for everyone on these cruises: Pools, Jacuzzis, movie watching, karaoke, nightclubs, binge drinking like idiots, comedy shows, Bingo, Casinos, live performances, Spa, Arcades, sports bars, etc. If you are bored on a cruise, that’s your problem. Every night, they give you an itinerary of what is going on the next day so you are able to plan accordingly. They also have occasional announcements notifying passengers of activities on board.
Nassau was definitely the nicer of the two ports. The people were friendly and it was fun going in and out of little shopping areas while getting harassed to buy souvenirs. We found a little hole-in-the-wall bar on the beach and sat and had some local beer. The bartender was funny and very helpful. There’s nothing like sitting at a hut drinking a beer in the Bahamas.
If you are expecting a high-end or upscale experience walking around the touristy areas of Nassau, you’ll be disappointed. I overheard a lady talking about how “dirty” Nassau was and I wanted to slap her. She should’ve gone to an overpriced resort (or kept her ass at home). I thought Nassau was just right. I’ll call it ‘rough around the edges,’ but charming. The beach view was worth the cost of the entire trip, in my opinion! We wandered off and found the police station, and got to see some of where the locals live, and it was fun to experience.
Freeport was a completely different experience. We wanted to snorkel so we took a taxi to a local beach and resort. Warning: Taxi drivers, resort employees, and most of the people we encountered in Freeport were shady as fuck. There was no customer service at all! They were all strictly there to nickel and dime you. We were driven to a resort connected to MadKap Restaurant and bar and it was painfully bad service. They charged for every little thing, they got mad when I requested a locker to keep my belonging in while I snorkeled, and their “snorkel instructor” was just a young girl who was clueless (Our snorkeling experience is a whole other blog). Overall, Freeport was a hot mess.
I take stuff with a grain of salt so I think the whole experience of Freeport was comical. It was one train wreck after another. But it was also an experience and it is a funny story to tell, and that is what vacations are all about.
Side note: I think cruise excursions are overpriced and limiting, but if you go to Freeport you might want to consider one.
Overall, our Carnival Cruise experience was great! I feel like I’m pretty low maintenance so five days of pretty beaches, all-you-can-eat, people watching, and relaxation makes me happy. If you are used to high-end luxury, this isn’t the Cruise for you (or the blog for you ?). As a Vegas local I would categorize Carnival Cruise as a mix of downtown Las Vegas and Reno: It was cheesy, relaxing, entertaining, and an overall enjoyable experience.
- Bring extra cash to tip. We tipped extra and by the second night, it felt like the whole service crew knew our names. Tipping extra = better service. Also, just be nice to staff period. Imagine doing their job and dealing with drunk tourists. Not Fun!
- Try to eat everywhere on the cruise at least once. Sticking with just your assigned dining time and table can be boring. Dining multiple places allows you to see what you prefer and what has better options for your group.
- The cruise has a bunch of specialty drinks. Try them! They are delicious and strong as hell! I’d have one and I was good for hours. Well worth the $8.50.
- Don’t over pack. Next time we go on a cruise, I’m bringing half the clothes and toiletries as I did this time.
- Book as late as possible. Cruises are cheaper right before the date they sail. Not everyone can do this but if you can, try to. You can save hundreds of dollars. We usually book our cruises three weeks out.
- If you have to fly to get to a cruise port, try to get a red-eye. We took a red-eye flight out of Las Vegas on a Saturday night and it was DIRT CHEAP!
- After you make your trip reservation, download the Ship Mate app. You can find the cruise you will be on and you can see pics, get info on the cruise, and chat with others who will be on your cruise (or who have been on the cruise before).
- If you have time to kill in the airport or a long layover, consider finding a hotel with a Day Rate. We got to the Orlando Airport at 9 am after we got off our cruise and our flight wasn’t until 6 pm. We got a Day Rate room at the Sheraton inside the airport and were able to nap and hang out before our flight.
(All Photos belong to me.)
(Article is my opinion)