Port Canaveral/Nassau 4/12 - 15. DH and me + our kids: 16, 12, 12, 9, 5 and 2. We arrived in Port Canaveral at 12p, no lines, no traffic. Parking was $12/day. We booked a balcony suite (U115) and an oceanview (U117), weren't sure if they'd let us all check in VIP as only 4 family members were actually booked in the suite. Carnival said no problem, but when we arrived the FunPass line was shorter and moving faster, so we went that way instead, we were in our rooms by 12:45p!
Explored the ship, had burgers and hot dogs on the Lido, ice cream from the 24 hr ice cream machine, muster drill, more ice cream, attended the Camp Carnival orientation, unpacked, more ice cream, dinner from the Seaview Bistro buffet, more ice cream...
Camp Carnival was great! Even our 2 y.o. had a good time w/ the games and crafts. Our 16 y.o. really enjoyed Club O2. Our 9 y.o. is painfully shy and was initially devastated to learn she'd be in a different group (all alone) from her sibs, put the counselors were wonderful, put her at ease right away and made sure she had a blast!
We packed a 6-pack of 20 oz bottles of Mt. Dew and a 6-pack of canned ginger ale in our checked bags, no problems. Our cabin steward Anne, from Serbia, was fantastic and very helpful. All staff were very friendly, always high-fiving the kids as we passed. Rooms were great, plenty of closet space. The suite had 3 electrical outlets, plus 1 in the bathroom. Only major problem: I packed a powerstrip like my cruisemates advised, but it had a 3-prong plug, the outlets only had 2 holes. Anne advised us to go to the purser's desk and request a strip for "medical reasons" (no further explanation was requested) and we were given a strip for a $25 deposit, refunded on the return of the strip. Shampoo and body wash dispensers mounted in the showers/bathtubs, no hairdryers.
One thing we encountered was that the only ship maps that seemed to be available were posted at the elevators, and those were only deck plans, no pools/restaurants/shops listed, so it took a little extra effort to figure out where we were and where we wanted to go, but of course the kids had everything figured out within a day. They found a "short cut" to the ice cream machine and their nightly ritual was to have a cone at 1:30a. When we asked Anne for a map she was able to give us a pocket-sized deck plan map, but again just deck plans, no locations of dining, shops, etc., but it wasn't ever a problem.
Did the b'fast buffet on the Lido every morning (pancakes and an omelet station!), before 9a there were no lines, after that about a 10 min wait.
Nassau was great! We did a self guided walking tour, never felt unsafe, no overbearing shop owners. Saw all the highlights, mailed postcards from the Nassau post office and always got change from purchases in Bahamian currency to keep as souveneirs. There is also a post office at Festival Place, which has a U.S. zip code book (forgot my address book!)
Returned to the ship for lunch. Headed to the beach next. We hopped right on the #10 jitney (another tip from the Mates!) and had a 15-min ride to the Radisson. The bus ride was great as it allowed us to see more of the "real" Nassau. Note - the Radisson day pass, $15, is only good until 6p, they make you buy a night pass good for 6p - 2a. The Radisson was beautiful, pools were great. As we realized too late, if you want to walk in off the street and use the facilities for free (definitely possible to do), don't take the big, blue Carnival
beach towels with you!
Later we walked about 4 blocks down to the public access for Cable Beach. There is a jogging path, a playground and snack vendors here. We swam so more and the kids rode jet skis. When we told the jet ski guy we also wanted to parasail, he ran all the way back down the beach to the Radisson to get the parasail guys for us. As we approached the street wondering where the nearest jitney stop was, one pulled right up to us, we climbed on for a quick but beautifully scenic ride back to the docks (again, the big, blue beach towels were a dead give away of where we were from!).
Attention Pepsi-holics - there is a Pepsi machine at the hair braiding pavillion at Festival Place; hang a left as you exit the building, the pavillion is down at the end. $1.25 (American) for a 20oz bottle vs. $1.75 for a can of Coke on board!
We skipped formal night and weren't overly impressed w/ dinner in the dining room on our last night. Good idea to try it, just to mark it off your list. But the melting chocolate cake was
to die for (thanks again mateys!) I had three at our one meal!
One thing I didn't know as a first timer: you have to have your checked bags in the hall outside your door by 11p on the last night. You're supposed to be out of your cabin by 8a, hanging out in the common areas until your "color" is called, at which time you can disembark. But it wasn't a big deal at all; we had a nice b'fast at the buffet and then found the Polo Lounge to be completely empty, we relaxed on the couches until it was our turn to leave and we were off the ship by 10. People w/ porters seemed to clear customs faster (going through a different line) and we were through in 15 min.
The ship was totally full but I was very pleasantly suprised that there were never lines or waiting anywhere!
Another interesting note: no documentation was ever checked, at any port, getting on or off the ship. We were only asked for a picture ID and our Sign & Sail cards, but I carried everything at all times.
We had an incredibly memorable vacation, made even better because we were so well prepared, thanks to Cruisemates! The only downside, of course, was that 3 days was WAY too short and the entire trip passed too quickly!