Finally, I’m back! Back from where, you ask? Back from a five-day Bahamian cruise aboard the Carnival Fantasy from Charleston, SC. I was ecstatic when I found out that Carnival now offers cruises from Charleston. That eliminates the need to drive to Port Canaveral, which is where I caught my first two cruises from. The downside is, since Charleston is so far away from the islands, a three or four-day cruise is out of the question. So, a five-day cruise, that’s what is has to be.
The initial reason for my cruise get-away was not rest and relaxation; it was to attend my cousin’s cruise-ship wedding. What made her decide upon a cruise wedding? I dunno. Maybe she wanted an all-in-one type event, so she and her family would have to do very little of the preparation. Whatever the reason, it was a nice little get-away. Not the best of timing (with the economy and all) but it was planed well in advance, so paying little by little made it a lot more palatable.
Anywho, if you think that an extensive vacation is not affordable right now, then the Carnival cruise from Charleston just might work for you. Here are the details and what you should expect… financially and otherwise.
THE PARKING: It cost $75 to park at the harbor for five days. Seventy-five whole dollars, gone before you even get on the boat. So, when you plan your trip, factor in the cost of parking.
THE DRINKS: While the parking situation was a little frustrating, those frustrations were quickly swept away with my first Bahama Mama, which the servers had waiting for me as soon as I stepped onto the Lido deck. It’s funny how it was dreary and cold outside of the boat, yet cheerful and happy in the boat, before we even set sail. But, that’s what we paid for, right? Cheerfulness and happiness. Oh, and those delicious, fruity drinks? They cost about $8 bucks a pop. So, keep that in mind!
THE FOOD: Well, how can I say it? There was a lot of it, but it wasn’t particularly the best tasting. I mean, true, you can eat all the bacon you want; but the grits needed some help. You can eat hamburgers, fries, pizza, and many other prepared and buffet-style meals. But they all tasted just ok. The best part of the food was the plated meals served in the dining rooms. Now, that food was prepared with a little more care and consideration, and I could tell. It was more along the lines of fine dining cuisine and part of the all-inclusive package. So that was a good deal, especially if you don’t get to experience that regularly. But do me a favor; practice your table manners… pa-leeeze.
THE ISLANDS: The first port of call was Freeport, Bahamas. Freeport was just ok. There wasn’t very much going on there … a little shopping, a little eating … and some wading in the most beautiful blue water I’ve ever seen). But not much else. The best part about Freeport was Daddy Brown’s conch salad that he made fresh, right in front of you. Now, the conch salad was absolutely delish, and listening to Daddy Brown’s stories about his nine children and one on the way, made the adventure even better. Oh, and I did pick up some Hennessy Pure White. I’m told it’s a liquor that is not available in the states, so I gladly paid $40 bucks for it.
The next port of call was Nassau. Now, Nassau was a different story. It was much more lively and full of activities. You could go snorkeling, take a tour of the island, see the courthouse where the Anna Nicole Smith and John Travolta hearings took place… and so much more. We even saw Oprah’s island home and the island that Eddie Murphy used to own.
Speaking of excursions and tours, if that is something you are interested in doing, make sure that you negotiate your activities directly with the local tour guides after you get off the ship. This will help you save a ton of money! My group and I took a tour of the island for $20 per person. The same tour cost about $69 per person if you booked it through cruise line. I told a family travelling from NC this and they cancelled their excursion the cruise line had arranged for them and saved about $200. And plus, if you take the tour that the cruise arranges, you will probably get some old fuddie duddie as your tour guide and not a native cutie, like we got! An island tour, popular food and shopping destinations, and a cutie, all for $20 bucks… the best money I’ve spent in a loooong time!
THE SERVICE: Back on the boat, perhaps the best and most consistent element of the entire cruise was the OUTSTANDING service. I tell you, you haven’t lived until you have someone turning down your bed for you every night. Or bringing you fresh towels throughout the day… or doing whatever it is that you need. The crew and staff on the Carnival Fantasy were exquisite. At the end of the cruise, I cruise line added $50 of gratuity to my bill as a tip for the people who served me for the 5 days. Many people thought that was too much. I personally had no problem paying the money and didn’t hesitate to add a little more. The service I received was worth far more than a measly $50. Perhaps having been a server myself, I have a greater appreciation for good service and make sure I tip accordingly. (Note: If you can’t afford to tip for good service, then you can’t afford to go.)
THE ACTIVITIES: The activities onboard a cruise ship are very important. When you are on the water for five days, away from facebook, twitter, blogging, and all of our other vices, you need a lot of fun activities to fill your time. And Carnival had plenty of them. Almost every moment of every day was filled with something to do. Most were free; some could be quite costly. Free activities included: karaoke, a cruise guest talent show, walking, jogging, night clubs, comedy shows, a hair chest contest, live bands, children’s games, and tons more. Other activities that cost included: casino gambling, wine tasting, spa treatments, and onboard shopping.
OVERALL RATING: Meets Expectations; excellent value for the money.
If you’ve never cruised or don’t usually get away for an annual vacation, for about $400 (plus spending money) you can have the vacation of a lifetime. The convenience of the Carnival Fantasy, the cost, and the service make it a perfect option for people who still want to have a little get-away during these tough economic times!