A few years ago we did our first cruise on Costa Serena around the Gulf waters “Jewel of the Emirates’ which was a lot of fun. While we are not big fans of cruising since we love the outdoors, this was our first cruise with Carnival who call their fleet “fun ships” and our first trip to the Bahamas. This cruise was kind of a family reunion since we were a family 19 who travelled from all over – India, Dubai, East and West coast of USA.
We took an overnight flight from Dubai to Manchester on Emirates and a connecting flight from Manchester to Atlanta on Virgin Atlantic. We stayed with our cousins in Atlanta for a few days before boarding the cruise in Florida.
We drove for around 7 1/2 hrs from Atlanta to Port Canaveral on the night of the 20th of Dec 2019. The remaining family flew down from California to Miami. We were all booked at the Americas Best Value Inn Cocoa Port Canaveral that night so we could rest and board the cruise the following day. This was our first time ever staying in a motel and it was quite an experience to say the least, basic at its best :-). Since we were looking for something on a budget, considering the size of the group and we only needed a place to sleep, this seemed to be the cheapest and the best option.
DAY 1 – Embarkation
We arrived at the port around 1.30 pm which was the time allocated for our boarding. The staggered check-in (where you select your boarding time in 30 mins interval) really irons out logistical issues of groups of people trying to board at the same time.
To select a boarding time, you need to check-in online and select your boarding window. They are first come, first served, so if your preferred time slot isn’t open, you’ll have to choose another.
Our luggages were tagged immediately and we were asked to proceed for the security checks, immigration. Overall boarding was quite organized and quick. Only issue was that they confiscated all our home made Christmas sweets.. hahaha!
Once we were on the ship, we had to wait for our luggage to get to our cabins. In the meantime there was an announcement to go the the respective meeting zones for the lifeboat drill. The drill was about 30 minutes and then it was time to cruise! We started moving as soon as we were released from the muster station.
As soon as it was all done we dashed upstairs to the Lido deck located on Deck 9 to check out the buffet and get some sail-away pictures. One of the best parts about cruising is all of the food! There is tons of everything. Guy’s Burger Joint is the poolside spot for fresh-off-the-grill burgers and hand-cut fries. At the toppings bar we could fully customize our burgers with all the fixings, and tried all the dipping sauces for the fries! This was just divine!
The rockin’ sail away party
Post a sumptuous lunch we went out on the deck to check all the activities. It was a beautiful day for cruising. The ship was at full capacity with equal amount of young, middle-aged, and older people, comprising of all races, religions, and ethnicities. No matter the cruise line, every ship throws a sail-away party to celebrate the start of a new cruise, but Carnival’s was on a different level… passengers dancing to great music while cups overflowed and laughter filled the air. It was literally time to let go and have a little fun, and the crew set the tone before the ship is even out of port.
An hour or so of dancing and exploring, we went back to our respective cabins to rest and check out the Carnival Hub app along with the Fun Times Newsletter to check the activities for the day. There were so many things to do on the ship: from comedy nights, to the piano bar, constant sales, casino, live band and games to karaoke along with some fabulous state-of- the-art performances by a professional troupe. The range of activities was enviable, with enough varied offerings to appease every taste and age bracket.
Carnival has an app for its passengers called Carnival Hub, from maps of the ship to daily schedules of activities and for $5 per person (for the entire cruise), you can unlock the chat feature so this was great for a group size as ours to stay in touch with each other throughout the cruise.
It was around 5 pm when we found out that the spa was conducting raffles for spa credit so we went to Deck 11 to check it out. We tried our luck, we didn’t win.. ce la vei 😉
No matter what cruise you’re on…you simply must take time to watch the sights from the deck (especially sunrise and sunsets) as you pull into or away from shore.
When you’re on a cruise, you have to adhere to “ship time”, especially for meals and at ports of call. But, while we wish we had more time to explore on land, we found that knowing exactly what time we were expected to, say, be at dinner, helped us structure our day accordingly. Also the fixed meeting time for meals were a good anchor for our big group, because we often did our own thing especially the kids since there were so many things to do on the ship throughout the day!. All the meals was thus a great time for us to come together, relax, and relate the events of the day. We all stayed in touch with each other using the Carnival Hub chat with the wi-fi (paid) service on board… so this was incredible!
We took the early seating at 6.30 pm so we could get dinner out of the way and free up our evening for entertainment. Dinner was always in the main dining hall, Silver Olympian Restaurant, located on Deck 3. All our dining experiences was super awesome with special dishes prepared on request. What is super impressive is the speed at which the cruise ships serve quality food to so many hundreds of people, along with all the servers dancing and spreading the fun mood which was just contagious!
After dinner some of us explored all the decks and spend some time in the bar area to check out the live band, soaking in the ambience while the older kids went to the piano bar and the gamblers in the casino to try their luck 😉
DAY 2 – Nassau, The Bahamas
The ship was expected to dock at Nassau around 8 am. We found a great spot by the window at Lido deck and enjoyed our breakfast with a beautiful view! As we finished breakfast, the ship began pulling into the port in Nassau! White fluffy clouds in the blue sky and the sun was out, bright and pleasant. The town looked gorgeous from the upper deck.
The day trip of Nassau (capital city of Bahamas) located on New Providence Island certainly did not disappoint. Considering we only had a few hours to explore this quaint town, we hired a mini bus with wi-fi service to tour around the city centre of Nassau, stopped at a couple of places and walked around to get a more authentic Bahamian feel! Owing to our knowledgeable guide, we actually managed to see more of the area in such a limited time.
I was pleasantly surprised with all of the pink, blue, yellow, orange, and green buildings. This city reminded me of Goa in India with it’s fascinating colonial architecture surrounded with a sense of the rich heritage.
The driver then stopped at the Bahamas Rum Cake Factory so we could try some of the Cake Factory’s options which included Amaretto Cake, Banana Rum Cake, Chocolate Rum Cake, Cinnamon Rum Cake, Coconut Rum Cake, and more. We were informed that the cakes are marinated in the famous Ole Nassau Rum, distilled in Nassau. Today, the rum cakes are so popular that they were recognized by the State in 2014 as the official Rum Cake of the Bahamas.
The driver then took us to Bay Street so we could explore the area which was lined with some beautiful stores. We picked up a number of souvenirs to take back home with us to remember this fantastic trip.
Followed by a quick tour of the Atlantis Bahamas Resort. The impressive building tower over the small tropical paths. Every inch of the resort echoes the Atlantis theme.
Coming from Dubai which is lined with skyscrapers and the biggest, tallest, widest architectural wonders… this town blew me away with it’s sheer simplicity!
Our next stop was the Queen’s Staircase. Hand-carved from solid limestone rock by 600 enslaved people, the Queen’s Staircase was built between 1793 and 1794 to provide a direct route from Fort Fincastle, a battery protecting the entrance to Nassau Harbor (notorious in that era for attracting pirates and geopolitical intrigue) to the central part of the Bahamian capital. The Queen’s Staircase is the highest point on the island at 38m tall.
The driver then dropped us off near the port so we could grab a bite before going back to the ship. We decided on Sharkeez Bar and Grill since it was located close to the port. Their Crack Conch meal with Fried Plantains (we were way too hungry to take a pic of this dish though) was nice and the atmosphere quite upbeat.
A little decor detail that added to the fun were these adorable folded towel animals. Whether it was a elephant sitting on a bed or a snowman by the counter, I just loved being greeted by these fanciful creatures in our cabin, and all around the pool.
We took a power nap and went down to the main dining hall for our early dinner. The staff never failed to surprise us. This time around they prepared this beautiful cake to celebrate our anniversary and prepared a feast fit for the royals.
Post dinner we went to the Karaoke bar to watch our star singer, Megha Sequeira, perform.
We then went to watch a comedy show at The Punchliner Comedy Club. This was an easy “Yes”. We attended these shows nearly every night, and laughed hysterically. You need to get there early. It is set up with a lot of couches, tables, and a long bar in the back, but fills up really fast. The stage and seating made me feel as though I was in a comedy club at The Courtyard in Dubai, rather than floating somewhere in the Caribbean Sea. The comedian was on fire: his jokes were witty and well-crafted. This guy was incredibly hilarious!
DAY 3 – Princess Cays
We all woke up early and met at the main dining hall for breakfast. We were excited to explore this tropical paradise and the kids were super excited to spend a day on the beach.
Princess Cays is a Carnival Corporation owned island/port tucked away in the islands of the Bahamas. We had to queue up for around 1/2 hr to take the small boat from the cruise ship to the port. This was quite a photographic journey.
Since it’s a private island, we really didn’t know what to expect at all. Once we landed on the island we were more than happy with what we found. The set-up was eye-catching with colorful bungalows lining the oceanfront on one side and hundreds of lounge chairs and clamshells set up along the beachfront.
Past the beach chairs and lunch buffet we could see like miles and miles of mostly secluded beach. But it wasn’t empty and boring. We were in nature heaven, enjoying the perfect weather, the warm sunshine and light breeze. And when our bellies were hungry, we worked our way back through the path to the lunch area.
Around 5 pm we made our way back to the ship to unwind from a perfect day.
Again these “whimsical terry cloth” creatures in our room – an iconic element of the ‘Fun Ship’ vacation experience.
Showered, dressed, we all met up in the main dining hall for our Christmas meal – yet another feast! We were surely on a food coma by now 🙂
We had picked up gifts for the Secret Santa gift exchange and there was seriously some whacky, some crazy stuff being exchanged. However we missed this since our wonderful family decided to go ahead with the Secret Santa without us…why? they did not want to miss the bingo!! Like seriously!
We then went to the Upper deck to play a few rounds of bingo. Playing Bingo was one of the highlights of our cruise! It was always lively, always hilarious. All of them came away empty handed, but they enjoyed the bingo it seems.
Followed by some dancing in the Gardens area before we called it a night.
DAY 4 – Fun Day At Sea
Time goes by so quickly since this was already the last day of the cruise.
Once again started our day with sunrise pics on the topmost deck since some of the best sunrises and sunsets can be seen from the decks of a cruise ship.
Sleeping in is always a plus on sea days but we were informed that on sea days only, Carnival offers a special brunch menu in the main dining room offering specialty brunch favorite items ..French toast, bacon, loaded mac and cheese etc… The perfect way to fuel up before the day’s activities. Free of charge.
The Carnival Liberty’s movie screen is used throughout the day for news, games, and talk shows, and in the evening for movies. The area was usually buzzing with people and activity which added to the overall excitement and fun.
There was a hairy chest contest so our cousin and nephew decided to participate. This is not your average hairy chest contest based just on whose chest is hairier. The game was brilliantly hosted with several rounds that entailed dancing, acting, pleasing the audience, pleasing the judges etc… Contestants were eliminated at each round with the final round deciding the winner and the runner-up. This was an hour of sheer fun!!
On a sunny day in the Caribbean, Deck 9 pool deck is the busiest place on the Carnival Liberty cruise ship. Also the multi-level platforms are perfect for people and ocean gazing.
We then went to Serenity to soak in the sun, chill, chat and just have a laid-back day!
The group then met at the theatre to watch a game show which was super entertaining. Our kids participated too.
We then showered, dressed and went to the main dining hall for dinner. Yet another surprise as the team brought in this beautiful cake to celebrate our 82 year old Aunt’s birthday which was actually a few days later. These guys are so thoughtful!! They helped create such fabulous memories which we will always cherish!
The big push on the ship was the Fun Shops. There was a gift shop, a candy shop, and a jewelry store. The jewelry store was constantly pushing their diamonds and other gems. All duty free. I found the prices quite competitive so picked up a pair of floating diamond earrings and floating diamond ring. They were just gorgeous!! I won the raffle that evening and received a goodie bag filled with branded stoles, sterling silver earrings and a pair of diamond earrings set in silver.. yay!!!
Each night at the dining hall we eagerly looked forward to hear the Maître D’ say “It’s showtime”, knowing that the staff is about to perform some fun dances for us. We cheered them on, swung our napkins and sang along from our seats.
Stage shows: The nightly shows were excellently produced, executed, and pitched to a wide demographic– there was something for everyone. It had us on our feet singing along all night! We were really impressed with the setup, including the stage and lights that made it look and feel like a broadway show! In particular, I loved the rendition and performance of my all time favorite song “Hotel California”.
DAY 5 – Disembarkation
Carnival surely knows how to keep spirits high at sea with amazing itineraries and outstanding onboard entertainment. There were so many activities available that I was not surprised to know that few passengers chose not to leave the ship! Life onboard is entertaining, dining onboard is amazing and the Carnival crew go above and beyond to make sure everyone has the most memorable cruising experience.
Alas, it was time to say our goodbyes. I may have failed to mention some lounging in the sun, loads of laughter and banter with this fun gang! 😀
Our first cruise with Carnival was definitely memorable and when people ask us what we thought of it, we can honestly say it was a lot of FUN!
Why do vacations go by so fast?
This concoction of fun, can it not last?
As I gaze with contentment over the sea
Sunsets, unencumbered, softly settle for me
On board I encounter life with slower pace
Sipping tea on the deck with a smile on my face
Dress up for dinner, and chat with friends
Let all cares leave my head and wish the journey never ends
A pleasure each day to encounter new things
Emotional excursions which history brings
I leave you on this note, go sample and see
A cruise for the soul.. well it worked for me
The ending of one destination ushers in the beginning of a brand new one. Orlando, here we come!