Friday, June 17, 2016

Cruisers We Are Not

Look at me following through with a promise to blog about our cruise! I'm pretty sure this is the first time that's happened over here in the last couple of years. Life of Lacey = broken blogging promises.

Before I start telling you all what we thought of the cruise and what we did and all that, let me give you this for your frame of reference. I have done a total of SIX "big" trips. Meaning saving up, flying there, and usually passports are required. I only consider this cruise a "big" trip because we went to another country. Of those six trips:

(3) were to Europe - (2) bus tours, and (1) I just planned/didn't plan myself.
(2) were to the Caribbean - (1) all-inclusive resort and this (1) short cruise.
(1) was to Alaska - which I planned myself.

So that gives you an idea on how much you should rely and trust my extensive travel knowledge. (::whispers:: you shouldn't!) It is very clear that I spend most of my vacations in a trailer, after all.

So, with all that said, we went on a 4 day cruise courtesy of my place of employment. It was a Carnival cruise out of Charleston, SC on their ship Ecstasy, with one port day in Nassau, Bahamas. So, days 1 and 2 were boat days, day 3 was in Nassau and day 4 through the morning of day 5 were boat days.

Beware - there are a ton of selfies in this extremely long post. You've been warned.


On the night before we left, we got a message that the cruise ship was late in returning from the previous cruise to Bermuda due to a storm, so our cruise would now be delayed as well. Instead of a 12:30-2:30 boarding time, we were now being told to board from 3:00-5:00. That was a bummer, but nothing you can do about the weather. The next morning we woke up and tried to get all of our remaining things together, as well as get everything together for Charley and Laney's weekend. They were bouncing from house to house while we were gone (my sister's, my parent's, my other sister's, then back to my 1st sister's) so packing for them was a bit difficult too as I had to make sure each house had what it needed as well. It was a very frantic and frazzled morning. Finally though, we dropped Charley off at preschool, took Laney down to my sister's and we were on our way. Later than we originally planned, but that was still more than okay since the boarding time was delayed anyway.

It looks like John is saying "DOH" about his passport right as I took this.

We get maybe 15 minutes down the road and I say something about our passports. John immediately panics and says he forgot his. I sort of laugh and tell him not to worry, that I packed his for him earlier in the week. We both think it is a good idea to pull over and double check though and I was right - I DID pack his for him earlier in the week. BUT, I didn't pack my own. Idiot. Our passports were in two different locations when I grabbed his because he recently had his out when booking a flight for a different trip. I'm thinking that after I grabbed his I got distracted and never made it to get my own. So, we turned around and headed back home to get mine. Again, not a huge deal since the cruise was delayed anyway. It takes 3 hours to get to Charleston from Charlotte so we still planned on arriving around lunchtime.


Finally - we are on our way and feeling slightly less frazzled than we were that morning. I did realize that I left my phone charger at home, though, so we made one more stop to pick a new one up and arrived in Charleston with plenty of time to spare. We found a restaurant for lunch which ended up being SO DELICIOUS and left there to arrive at the cruise terminal at 2:45p.m. We followed the signs and ended up in a huge line of winding cars in a giant parking lot.

Right when we got into the winding line - we probably wouldn't be smiling if we knew we were going to be in this line for 2 more hours.
We followed this winding path and the huge line of cars for TWO HOURS. I'm not sure if this is the norm for a cruise departure, but it sucked. It was rainy and grey and it wasn't until 5:09 p.m. that we finally got to our stateroom.

Not so bad, really!

There were so many misconceptions I had about cruises in general coming into this trip. I'd venture to say that most people I know have been on a cruise so I'd heard lots of things about them. One thing I'd heard many times was how incredibly small the rooms were. And sure, it was small, but not as small as I was expecting. We weren't tripping over our things or anything like that. There was enough space for both of our suitcases and plenty of closet space also. Maybe I'm used to smaller vacation spaces with our camper and having traveled to Europe and all, but I was pleasantly surprised in this aspect.

In particular, I'd heard many people talk about the itty bitty bathrooms, also. So naturally I went to check that out next. A coworker was just telling me how one of her friends who happened to be 6 foot something and 200+ pounds really could only fit half of himself in the shower at a time. But, again, I didn't think it was so bad once I saw it for myself! I've told you before our shower at home is terrible and is so small so maybe that clouded my judgement, but I thought the shower size was just fine for a small bathroom. Plus, the smallest shower I've ever used was in a bathroom on a train from Prague, Czech Republic to Stuttgart, Germany and that shower shared the faucet with the sink so I don't think "small shower" will ever compare to that one. This cruise ship was so large that it even had separate faucets for both the sink AND the shower! Wow! Ha. So again, pleasantly surprised here too.

After we dropped our things off we went to explore the boat and all that there was to do. We stopped at the pool deck to get a drink at one of the bars there and sit under the covered area because it was still rainy and yuck outside.


I was less than impressed at the beer selection offered. But I managed to find something to drink to sit and people watch for a bit. Afterward, we continued walking around the boat to see everything and made our way back to the center of the boat where we started. I stopped right there and said to John "that's it!?" I wasn't sure WHAT we were going to do to fill up the next 3.5 days.

Dinner than night was delayed too thanks to the delayed boarding and was open seating instead of following our assigned table number that was listed on our little on-board credit card thing. We found one of my coworkers and her boyfriend luckily, so we at least had someone at our table we knew and we were sat with 5 other people that we didn't know. All 5 people ended up being pretty great and we continued to talk with them anytime we saw them over the next few days. Yay! Socially awkward me didn't ruin it for everyone!

Dinner though was only okay. Again, based on what I'd previously heard, I was expecting great food. That food was definitely NOT great. I wouldn't even say good, really, just okay. The chocolate lava cake for dessert was pretty good, but not so good to make me forget about the rest of the meal. Since dinner didn't begin until after 8:30, it was close to 10:00 when it was complete so we called it a night and went to our room to sleep.


We woke up the next morning refreshed! We slept pretty great on the rocking boat and woke up a little before 8, I think. Another thing I was worried about was getting seasick due to the location of our stateroom. It was on the highest floor of staterooms, and was towards the very front of the boat, maybe only 4 or 5 rooms back. I read that those rooms can be the rockiest so even though we have sleeping-on-a-boat experience, I was still a little worried. So far, so good though. Neither of us felt nauseous at all.

We headed down to the breakfast restaurant and some muffins and bread were brought to our table. The muffins were DELICIOUS. SO delicious. There was one chocolate muffin that is tied for one of my two favorite things to eat on the whole boat. My pancakes however, weren't very good. Instead I ate all of the things in the bread/muffin basket and all of my bacon and that was enough. John had an omelet and seemed to like it.


We went out to do some more boat exploring and wound up outside at the front of the boat. It was a very pretty day out and the wind felt great. I remember thinking this was the best part of the boat I'd seen yet. We stayed out there for a while before deciding to head to the pool deck.

Everyone on the boat is around this pool it seems. There are no chairs available at all except some regular chairs (not the lounging type) at tables near the bar. We sit here for a while and get a bucket of beers while we chat and people watch. The people watching on this boat was.....interesting, to say the least. At some point we had lunch (I had chicken fingers/fries covered in cheese sauce - which wasn't as good as I'd hoped and John had some Asian noodle something or other which he said was great!) and we eventually see a couple of people I work with and make our way up to the deck where they were sitting and had found chairs. We spend the rest of the afternoon drinking and talking with them and a couple other coworkers as well.

At some point we all decide to head to our rooms to rest some before dinner that night at 8. I want to say it was a little before 6:00. When John and I got back to our room and realized we had 2 full hours to shower and get ready for dinner, we said "forget that!" We don't need that long to shower and get ready so we put on our swimsuits and headed to the hot tub. We had hoped that since the first dinner began at 6 that the pool deck would be cleared of most people - and we were right! There was only one other couple in the hot tub. And calling it a hot tub is being generous, it was definitely more of a "warmish tub". We had yet another drink and sat in the hot tub for a while before going back to the room to get ready for dinner.

Our dinner was at 8. Our table was assigned to us and was among all of the rest of my coworkers on the cruise. We got our menus and decided on our appetizer and main course. I was not impressed with any of the choices, but eventually decided on ordering some crab ravioli for my main course. It was a little adventurous for what I normally order, but I just went with it. I was the only one at my table of 10 that chose that dish, but, I was NOT the only one that deemed our meal inedible and didn't have another bite. Several of us just couldn't eat what we had chosen. Y'all - it was awful! Even John - who is basically Mikey and will eat ANYthing - tasted my food and said "Nope. You cannot eat that." So, I had some bread and butter and waited until the main course portion was winding down before we made our escape. Dessert wasn't even worth waiting for, and that's saying a LOT coming from me.

And the dinner show that the waiters participate in left a lot to be desired. Cheese with a capital C. Like, not even the entertaining kind of cheesiness, either. Another thing I was told prior to this cruise was that the service would be impeccable. Yeah. Not at all. As we left and made our way to the pizza place, we decided we were not coming back to the dining room again on this cruise. We ended up eating there that night and the next 2 nights as well - pizza ended up being my other favorite food item on the boat.

We had some drinks with my coworkers that night at the casino bar and were in our beds by midnight. I just read back everything I wrote about this first full day, and it is full of negativity, especially about a cruise we were on for free. Y'all know I'm the furthest thing from negative, so just know that even though there are lots of complaints, we actually did have a lot of fun on the pool deck and at the casino bar that day. I'm just so glad that we had fun people to hang out with because they really made this trip for us.


So the next day was our port day in Nassau. I had told anyone that would listen about the place we were headed called The Tiki Bikini Hut. In my informal surveying of people on Facebook and by word of mouth, it became really clear to us that we did NOT want to do the Atlantis thing while in Nassau. Eventually I went on trusty Trip Advisor and saw that this place was the number one thing to do in Nassau and I was sold. It wasn't expensive, we could walk there, it gave us a casual, relaxing beach day and had free wi-fi. That covered my entire wish list of what we wanted to do while on the island. Done and done.

Since we had no way to communicate with any of my coworkers, we weren't sure if anyone would be joining us at all. We were up early enough for breakfast and to get ready for disembarking by 9:15. The skies, though, did not look promising.

We got off of the boat and made our way through the pack of people trying to get us to do this excursion and that excursion. They were annoying, but once you told them "no thank you" they left you alone. I didn't have exact directions to the place we wanted to go, but I knew it was on the beach so that narrowed it down quite a bit, and I knew the general direction it was in. So we decided to just mosey our way through the town and a few shops on our way to the beach. It was pretty early to go to the beach and have a beer, plus the skies were still looking pretty bad so we didn't want to be stuck on a beach with no roof over our heads in a downpour.

We went into some t-shirt shops to find a couple little souveniry things and before we knew it, the bottom completely fell out. It POURED down rain. We left the shop we were in and tried to decide what we would do to wait out the rain.

We  passed a bar that advertised free wi-fi on our walk to the shop we were at, so we decided that was the best place to go until the rain stopped. Apparently 9:15 was too early to go to the beach and drink, but 9:47 was perfectly fine. I mean, we HAD to buy something (in my opinion) so we could use their free wi-fi, after all.

I was pretty happy sitting there in the open air bar catching up on my children through messages with my sisters and catching up on Facebook as well. Eventually, the rain stopped so we started to make our way to the Tiki Bikini Hut.

We were about halfway there (I think the walk straight from the ship would have been 15-20 minutes to get there) when my coworker and her boyfriend spotted us. Yay! The four of us then made our way to the beach.

The servers were very accommodating as soon as we got there. They weren't super pushy or salesperson-y, but offered us (2) chairs, (1) umbrella, (2) lunches, (8) beers and (8) shots for $65. (Looking on Trip Advisor, the reviews are all over the place with what you pay/what you get. So I bet you can barter a little bit, but I didn't feel the need to argue with that price.) I mean, sounds like a pretty great deal to us so we were sold. Apparently that was the VIP package so the beach boys immediately started setting up our chairs and umbrella right at the water's edge.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Beach day.

There were a couple more passing thunderstorms that we waited out underneath our umbrella, but overall the day was perfect. The shots did not contain much alcohol (thank goodness!) so we weren't completely drunk - because usually that much alcohol would for sure knock me out. And the water was just perfect. Crystal clear, NO waves thanks to a sandbar/peninsula thing, and the perfect temperature. It was also saltier than I was used to, so it was very easy to just float on top of the water. Truly - I loved this day! Had we been bused to Atlantis and been with the crowds (4 other cruise ships were there that day too) I KNOW I wouldn't have had a good time. I bet Atlantis is really cool, but maybe one day we'll actually stay there so we can enjoy it when thousands of other people are not also trying to enjoy it at the same time.

So! It was time to mosey our way back to the boat. The combination of sun and alcohol had me super happy (::coughmaybestumblytoocough::) so it was a pretty enjoyable walk back to the boat. We boarded at 4:30 and a nap was definitely in order for me. John, however, decided he didn't need a nap (he was wrong) so he went and found coworkers to hang with on the pool deck.

A few hours later John came back to the room and we decided to go get some pizza for dinner. My coworkers met us there as well. All of us were boycotting the dining room apparently.

After that, we went out to a piano bar on board and OH MY GOODNESS that was right up my alley. I loved that place. The pianist played my request (Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody) and that tiny little bar was so energetic. We stayed there for a few hours before going to meet other coworkers at the casino bar.

This was our latest night - I think it was just about 2:00 a.m. before we made it back to our room.


We slept really great again and I was SURE this time that I'd slept in. I was so proud of me! So I picked up my phone to check the time and....

7:30. Ughhhhhh. I think I laid there for at least another half hour and finally decided to just get up. John, however, was struggling this morning. He never took a nap the previous day like I did, just continued having fun and drinking, so he was paying for it this morning. He didn't want to eat. He didn't want anything but water and sleep. And lucky for him, we had already finished both giant bottled waters that they "gave" us in our room. We had the hardest time finding water on the cruise ship. The water in the bathroom was nasty tasting (we tasted it when brushing teeth) and bottled water was never offered anywhere. You could get a glass of water from the pool deck restaurant, but John and I both drink a lot of water so it seemed like a whole lot of effort to bring back one whole glass of water to the room that we would finish drinking in just a couple of sips. I did take our giant water bottle and fill it up in the restaurant, but ice wouldn't fit in it so it was warm water. Better than nothing, though.

So, since John was needing his rest, I went exploring by myself. I went to get some more of those chocolate muffins for breakfast and went outside to the front of the ship in the sunshine and wind for a bit. I went to the disembarkation instruction show thing that was going on so I knew what to expect the next morning. I considered playing some bingo, but ended up passing on that. I bought a couple little things for Charley on the ship. I just wandered around for a while. Finally I decided I'd grab my book and put on my bathing suit and go to the pool for a while. When I got back to the room, John was coming out of his funk and decided he'd go too. So we both made our way to the pool deck. He didn't want anything to do with any more drinks, though. I think I had a beer or two, and we found lounge chairs under an umbrella which was perfect for me and my pale skin.

Later we found a couple coworkers again, and then found lounge chairs near them too so we relocated. It was a very quiet day though, and the most exciting thing I did was to try out the water slide. Twice. It was pretty awesome!

That evening we did go to one of the live shows - it was something about the British Invasion so included some Beatles songs and Rolling Stones, etc. It........was just ok if I'm being honest. Then we went back to the piano bar, but the energy just wasn't what it was the night before. It was still fun, and the pianist did play my request again (Celine Dion's "It's All Coming Back To Me") but with the trip winding down, neither John nor myself really wanted to stay up late or drink much at all. We called it a night around 10 and went back to the room to pack up for the next morning.


Our disembarkation time was 7:30-7:45. We woke up at 7 and started to get the rest of our stuff together. The disembarkation instructions were on the TV, so when we finally turned it on around 7:10 we realized they were running early so we were actually able to leave right then. Hooray! We were more than ready to leave so we threw everything together and got off that boat. Boarding took us 3 hours, but they get you off QUICKLY. We were in our car by 7:30 and on our way to get our girls that we missed so much!

Snuggled them right up when I got home!

So. Would we do this cruise again? Yes and no. Here are the scenarios in which we'd say yes:

- it is free again, and there are fun coworkers going too.
- a big group of friends or family are going and want us to go too (although I'd still urge them to pick a different cruise/trip beforehand)

and that's about it. Would we cruise again? Again, yes and no, and here are our reasons for yes:

- Disney Cruise. Duh. If only I could get that one for free!
- A lovely blog friend suggested a cruise that leaves from Puerto Rico so you basically get a different Caribbean Island every day and not many at-sea days. THAT I would enjoy.
- To MAYBE try a different cruise line. Carnival is the Wal-Mart of cruise lines, as I understand, so we would probably enjoy a different cruise line much more.

But even with a different cruise line, if trying to decide where to spend my vacation money, an all-inclusive or a domestic trip to see another U.S. city or a trip abroad would all still beat out a cruise in our minds, hands down.

This got crazy long - didn't it?

Cliff's Notes version? Basically, we went on a free cruise. We had fun with my coworkers but didn't like the cruise much otherwise. We decided we were right about not being cruisers. The end.


TiffyDun said...

The Charleston port is where they have the "cheap" cruises for quick trips and on older ships. The better cruises usually depart from Florida or overseas ports.

diana bowers said...

But what you wrote is what I feel like the cruise experience would be having never been on one.

Kara Keenan said...

My parents take (and love) the Celebrity Cruise Line Boston to Bermuda cruise every other year or so. It's a floating hotel room. I don't know that I'd like that itinerary. They also have done the Celebrity Cruise Line's Alaska cruises and loved those. My husband just found out that Disney Cruise Line is doing a Star Wars cruise and is ALL about that.

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