Monday, June 1, 2015

What It's Like Cruising Twice in Two Months

If you had told me last year that I'd be cruising back to back in 2015 I would've called you crazy! We'll I'm back on the other side and no, it's not crazy, it's actually AWESOME. 

I'm breaking this post up into the good, bad and ugly for each cruise and then sharing what I'd like to happen (ideally) for my next cruise. 

Here we go . . .

Cruise #1: Carnival Pride, 7 Nights, April 12, 2015
Ports: Port Canaveral, Florida; Nassau and Freeport Bahamas

The Good: Hands down cruising out of Baltimore was my favorite aspect of this cruise. When we booked it in the midst of our brutal first winter here in New Hampshire, we weighed the pros and cons of going to a different port and with the cost of flights plus the distance with the kids, going out of Baltimore on paper was the best for us and in reality it turned out to be perfect. We went out of Galveston on our first cruise and it was daunting causing me at the time to swear off ever taking kids on a cruise, but everything in Baltimore was a breeze from embarkation and disembarkation. 

Beyond Baltimore, the ports on this cruise were fantastic! The ability to stop in Port Canaveral first and have a family Disney World excursion before continuing on to two additional beautiful ports felt like a bonus. I don't know when I'll be ready for more than one day at Disney World, but for our family at this stage this was the perfect entry point. We debated going on our own but the ease of the excursion bus gave us peace of mind. 

We really did eat one burger per day (although a certain someone sometimes had two) - they were just that good and so worth it!
If she could've camped out here, she would've!
The overall Carnival experience was my ultimate good on this cruise including winning another cruise! We had a bit of trepidation going from Royal Caribbean to Carnival and before getting to my next cruise review, having now experienced 3 cruises, my cruise experience on the Pride was the best overall. The staff was happy and attentive, the food options outstanding (especially Guy Fieri's Burger Joint), the dining service quick and the activities for the kids at Camp Carnival were extensive. We had an inside cabin that I was a bit nervous about at first, but seeing that we didn't spend much time in the room it worked out great and the ultimate black-out experience made the kids sleep a long time (but also made me a bit groggy at times!). 

The cuties asleep at Camp Carnival - this picture was too precious!
The Bad: It's hard to find anything to complain about on this cruise, but maybe the one small thing I could eek out was skinning my foot on the Green Thunder water slide. It felt a bit dry in the slide as though it needed more water. 

The Ugly: Nothing

Cruise #2: Carnival Dream, 7 Nights, May 24, 2015
Ports: Montego Bay, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico

The Good: The sheer size of the ship made me nervous going into it, but I'm so glad I got to go with my mother - it was an incredible "mama and me" experience! I had won this cruise and found out the day before we were upgraded from an inside cabin to an outside cabin with a window. It was a much bigger window and overall larger cabin than what Uka and I had on Royal plus it had a double bathroom. Here's a quick cabin tour:

The ship was built in 2009, and I learned on the cruise that the ships nowadays are built to last many decades. The Dream still felt very new and everything was  bright, shiny and in good condition. The food was what I was used to from the Pride, but it was missing the 2.0 upgrade so Guy's Burger Joint was sorely missed. I ended up eating way too much pizza instead, which was delicious. I ended up finding a guy to chat with in the Mongolian Wok line about how much we missed Guy's Burger Joint so it was glad to know I wasn't alone!

While the ship was large and there were so many recent graduates and kids (southern schools were already out for the summer at the time of our cruise), there were still places to get away from the madness. The Lanai and the double 21+ Serenity deck were my favorites, although a rogue kid came in and attempted jacuzzi entry but was shooed away. The largeness of the ship was mostly felt in buffet lines, which I avoided for the most part. 

My favorite appetizer: sliced duck over glass noodles

My goal of this cruise was to RELAX, and I did just that! I went to bed most nights by 10p.m. and I wanted no part of plantation, skydiving or turtle farm excursions that my fellow cruisers tried to tell me about. I went to Tripadvisor and selected three well-reviewed beaches and total for all of them were about $60/person for RT transportation, beach access and chairs/umbrellas. Here's where we went at each port:

Montego Bay: Doctor's Cave

Grand Cayman: 7 Mile Beach 

Cozumel: Paradise Beach

Another bonus on this cruise was the disembarkation port of New Orleans. This will be its own post, and I definitely need to return. A few hours there just didn't do it justice (but I'm so glad I at least got to try these!).

The Bad:We lost about 40 minutes when we first boarded while trying to move our dining time from 8:15p.m. to 6p.m., but when it was moved after the first night we found the service to be painfully slow. The staff would keep us abreast of evening activities and while we could definitely catch the early seating performances which started at 8:45p.m., we always missed the 7:30p.m. comedy shows. We observed other tables and even found those around us who were seated after us were finished well before us. It was bizarre! The service was attentive, it was just so slow. 

The Ugly: The rocking of the ship and ship noise were the most intense than the other two cruises I've been on. Being on Deck 1, my mom and I could hear all sorts of tinkering throughout the night especially coming back to New Orleans yesterday. I asked quite a few guests about the intensity of the rocking and for people who had cruised on the ship before as well as those who had cruised on other ships they found our cruise to be quite rocky perhaps because of how tall the ship was.  

Here's what I'm hoping for on the next cruise:

  • Just hubby and me - As much as I enjoyed the fact that our first family cruise was a success I want to cruise with just Uka on my next cruise
  • 7 nights - I just couldn't see going any shorter; all three cruises as 7 nights have been the perfect length to get in a true vacation groove 
  • Smaller ship - as intriguing as the new (HUGE!) Carnival Vista looks, I think my next cruise should be under 3,000 passengers
  • New ports - I think it'd be fun to go to a few ports I haven't been to before like Bermuda or St. Maarten
  • Indulge in spa treatments - this was something I haven't had the chance to do yet, but while I've seen many cruisers only suggest waiting to do this at the port, taking the time on a sea day to do this onboard would be ideal for me
  • Dine at the steakhouse - while the dinging room experience is generally good, I've heard only glowing reviews at cruise ship's steakhouses which are an additional fee; it's been advised to wait until the end of the cruise to do so otherwise it will ruin everything else after it if you eat there too early in the week!
Do you think cruising is in your future? Any cruising questions you want me to answer?