My little sister turned 40 on 23 February and her husband planned a surprise trip for her. My husband, mom, dad and my sister’s family all took a cruise on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore, Maryland (MD) to the Bahamas (Nassau and Freeport). This was my husband, my parents and my first cruise. I am such an organizer and planner and love to have as much information as possible before I travel. I spent hours and hours reading message boards and doing google searches for information on our cruise and the cruise ports we’d be stopping in. I found some great reviews of the ports on carnival.com and cruisecritic.com but didn’t find very many photos. I did stumble upon a few youtube videos though that were very helpful. I decided to take photos and scan some materials from my cruise for those who are like me and are information hogs.
My parents, my husband and myself decided to fly into Washington-Reagan International Airport in Washington, DC (DCA). We found a round trip ticket from Burlington, VT to Washington, DC on US Airways for only $200. We then rented a vehicle from Budget Rentals for $127.08 and drove it from Friday night to Saturday night. The drive was a lot longer than we had planned because we arrived in DC at 5pm – just in time for rush hour traffic. I can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to drive that on a daily basis.
When searching for a hotel to stay at in Baltimore, MD, I tried to find one that would offer a park and cruise package. My sister and her family would be driving down from Vermont on Saturday. They would need a place to stay Saturday night and a place to park their car. To park at the terminal port for the week it was going to be $120. For $130 they could park their car for the week and get a night at a hotel. We originally were going to stay at the Hampton Inn (I’m an Hilton Honor member) but decided to stay at the Sleep Inn BWI because they offered a free shuttle to and from the airport. Saturday night I needed to drop the rental car off at the Baltimore Airport (BWI) that we rented in DC.
The Sleep Inn is conveniently located to the terminal port – only about a 15 minute drive. Upon check-in there was a sign that stated they would not be serving breakfast, as advertised. Another criteria in choosing this location was the free breakfast (Hampton Inn had a free breakfast). Since we were meeting my sister here the next day, we decided to stay here anyways. While checking in the front desk clerk received a phone call. She talked on the phone the whole time she waited on us. We weren’t even sure if we were all set to walk away and go get our things until we got her to look up for a second so we could motion if everything was all set with us. I felt she was very rude. The hotel room itself was okay. The beds were comfortable and the room was clean, although it was very run down and needs updating desperately. The rug had many holes and pulls in it. The bathroom shower was a stand up stall only and was very big. I did appreciate the size of the shower and the fact that they put the sinks on the outside of the toilet/shower room. It made getting ready easier for my husband and myself. We paid $57.60 a night – with a pre-payment. I kept reminding my husband that we only paid $57 a night for this – you get what you pay for.
On Sunday, day one of the cruise – we overheard that there were 80 other people that would be taking the shuttle over to the cruise terminal. Since we were anxious and ready to get on board, we opted to have my brother-in-law drive us over instead and he ended up parking at the cruise terminal.
It was a snowy, cold and windy day in Baltimore. My brother-in-law dropped off myself, my husband and my nephew with all the luggage in his first run then went back for everyone else. We had to wait outside until the rest of them arrived (about 30 mins) because as soon as you walk into the terminal you walk into the security/screening area. You needed to have your boarding pass and passport with you. Since we didn’t have my nephews, we needed to wait. Once they arrived it was a very quick process checking in. We walked into the terminal around 11am. Since they were still letting people off the ship, we were placed in a holding area until approx. 1pm. The holding area involves a bunch of chairs all lined up in a row. You can not use your cell phone – even to play games or listen to music. Be prepared and come with another form of entertainment. I had my iPad to entertain me but my husband couldn’t play solitaire on his phone.
As soon as we arrived we went to check out our cabin. We stayed in room 5202 midship, port side with a balcony. I had heard over and over how small the rooms on a cruise ship were. I was actually impressed with the size of ours. Plenty of room to move around and store the items we needed.
I had read on the Carnival message boards that you should bring a power strip as they don’t provide you with very many outlets. When I read “very many”, I assumed that meant more than one. Our room only had one 110V outlet. Luckily it was all we really needed because everything we charge uses the same charging device and we just took turns. If you need to charge more than one item, then I highly suggest bringing a power strip so you have additional outlets.
They also provide you with a blow dryer but it’s very small and you have to hold the power button down while using it. It’s hidden in a drawer and you can only use it while sitting next to the drawer (it’s not removable). I would suggest bringing your own blow dryer if you have a lot of hair to dry.
After checking out our room we walked around the ship and grabbed some lunch. We had a couple of hours until the ship left the dock for the open waters.
Main lobby area. You’ll be seeing this view quite a bit.
Adult only Serenity Area
These hammocks were very popular on the ship, especially on the nice warm days.
Everyday there will be a Carnival Fun Times left in your room. Ours was always there when we got back from dinner. The first issue was in our room when we boarded. The Fun Times gives you a snap shot of what’s happening on the ship the next day (or that day, if it’s the first day). I’ve scanned copies of mine for your enjoyment.
Day One – Sunday, February 17, 2013
Monday, February 18, 2013 (day at sea)
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 (day at sea)
Wednesday, February 20, 2013 (Port Canaveral, Florida)
Saturday, February 23, 2013 (all day at sea)
Also included with the FunTimes would be flyers for specials going on within the Fun Shops – Liquor, Jewelry and Gifts.
They even have a shopping specialist on board to help you with your shopping at the ports, particularly “Nassau – the #1 jewelry shopping destination in the world”. I didn’t know that until he told me that. 🙂 I did do a little bit of shopping myself while I was there. I’m in love with the Larimar stone.
I attended one of his sessions and I received a map of Nassau and Freeport with a spotlight on “Carnival-approved” jewelry stores. They also provided this map to you as you debarked at the ports in Nassau and Freeport.
Enough information yet? I still need to share about the laundry services, spa and of course the most important thing about a cruise, the FOOD.
They do have a laundry room on each floor with guests rooms. Ours was at the end of the ship and was quite the hike to keep going back and forth to check to see if the laundry was done. We decided to do a load of laundry on Wednesday, late afternoon after spending the day in Florida – while still in port. The washing machine and dryer ONLY take quarters. You can not use your sail and sign card like you do for everything else on the ship. The room was empty on the day we used it. We had packed some laundry gel packs and dryer sheets so we were all set but they did have a vending machine that dispensed those items if you hadn’t brought anything. They also provided a laundry service for you but it was too much money, in our opinion.
We didn’t end up using the spa but daily we’d receive a flyer with spa specials. Especially on port days.
Now the FOOD. Oh my goodness. Seriously. I’d go on another cruise again, just for the food. Mainly the dinners. The lines for breakfast and lunch were long and I really preferred the waiter style dining. It wasn’t until the second to last day that I realized we could eat lunch in the dining room also. I wish I had done that all week long.
The first night in the dining room they tell you that items on the left hand side of the menu are regulars and will be available every night but those on the right are for one night only. I told myself I’d eat from the right except for the nights I didn’t see anything I wanted to try. After the week was done, I realized I never ate anything from the left side of the menu. My husband really enjoyed the food also – he gained 16 pounds on the cruise where I didn’t gain anything. He enjoyed the fact that you could order more than one appetizer, entree and dessert if you wanted to. Which I think on every dinner, he wanted to. 🙂
They had a special appetizer every night called DIDJA, like Did you ever…… It was usually an unusual item and most likely something you may not have eaten before. My sister and lil nephew ordered from that every night and tried new foods. My husband also ordered from that section but I don’t think anything was ever new to him. He’s always been an adventurous eater.
Stuffed Pepper (poblano?)
Lobster Tail and Shrimp
Vanilla Ice Cream with a Cherry Compote
Can’t remember what this was.
Warm Chocolate Melting Cake with Double Ice Cream – my husband and brother-in-law ordered this every night for dessert.
French Onion soup
I think these were enchiladas (can’t remember)
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese with Tomatoes
Filet Mignon (wasn’t that good)
Chocolate Mousse – made especially for our table at my brother-in-laws request
Chicken Corn Chowder
Prime Rib again
Mac and Cheese with Bacon
Chilled Cherry Soup
and sooooo much more!!!!!
Overall, I had a great time and I am already planning another trip. The weather was wacky a few times. We did leave from the northeast in the middle of winter. From Sunday through Tuesday it was cold and windy on the decks of the boats. We avoided them and did everything inside. Wednesday we were in Florida and it was a beautiful day (75 degrees). Thursday in Nassau (80 degrees) and Friday in Freeport (80 degrees). Saturday our last full day at sea was another cold and windy day. The ship was “full-speed-ahead” and the ship swayed back and forth. My brother-in-law and niece weren’t feeling well most of the day. My husband and I took Bonine every night before bed and we did great, except that we walked down the halls like drunken sailors.
They offer a couple of drinking options. You can buy the bubbles card which is unlimited soda for $50 a week or the cheers beverage program which is $42.95 a day. The kicker is that anyone over 21 in your cabin needs to pay the $42.95/day. Only one person isn’t allowed. We decided to pay as we drank. My husband only consumed $70 worth of drinks and I brought a refillable water bottle with me that I used to drink from.
Now….how can I forget those adorable towel animals. These were always a nice surprise when we’d walk into our cabin after dinner. They even had a class on making these that my sister attended.
So what else did we do besides eat on the ship? We spent some time in the casino, attended a few of the dancing shows, went to see one of the comedians (who we didn’t care for) and I played some bingo. Speaking of bingo, it was extremely expensive to play. $20 a game and there were times when the prize was only worth $100. For $20 you play ONE game. That’s it. Locally I can play bingo for $20 and we play 15-20 games with each game being worth $300. On Carnival you pay $20 to win $100. Now…there were a couple of times when you paid $20 and played two games and a couple of other times when the prizes were worth $250. The few times I played, I played because I had nothing else to do at those times. Next time I cruise, I’ll skip the Bingo sessions.
On Sunday Morning we arrived in Baltimore around 8:30am. We were assigned a number which assigned us to when we would disembark. Saturday night we left our luggage on the outside of room and it was picked up for delivery in port. Those who wanted to take their own items off were allowed off the ship first. They went randomly by floor. We all had to leave our rooms early on Sunday and could choose where to wait until our number was called. Since my mother was in a wheelchair, we were able to wait with those needing assistance and left the ship sooner then expected. The night before we had also received a customs form and had to write down anything we had purchased during our visits to Nassau and Freeport. The process was quick and before we knew it we were in a taxi cab on our way to BWI to pick up our rental car to drive back to DCA to fly home.
I know I didn’t talk about the excursions we took. I’ll post about those in separate posts. Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know if you’ve cruised before or if you have any questions. I’d be happy to answer them for you.
Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this review. All opinions are my own.