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Cruise Ship Review
Ed Assenheimer

Sensation Eastern Caribbean Cruise April 19, 1997


I'm organizing this by my daily events and what you can expect. There are also some tips that either I learned before the cruise, such as from the SeaLetter, or along the way. Also note that there are a few items that I won't give a high rating. Understand, this is my view and does not necessarily reflect how you would perceive the event. I hope you enjoy this little journal and find it informative too.

About me...

I'm 45, and currently available (if you want a cruise partner, let me know). I decided to take the cruise after talking to one of our company's sales reps who said, "I'm almost 30, unattached, have thought about taking a cruise and decided to just do it." So, I copied her lead.

Planning the trip...

As I understand it the prices are usually lowest the earlier you book. There are also specials.

I chose Carnival after browsing through a number of books and it was between them and Royal Caribbean. Carnival got better ratings for the fun atmosphere. (I wasn't going to stake my cruise's success on finding a shipboard romance, just having fun).

Talk to many travel agents, friends who have cruised, and read the many articles here in the SeaLetter for their input. Everyone has a different story. I don't think the first cruise has to be the perfect one. The fun and novelty are so great you'll just decide what things to do different on your next cruise.

I also chose to utilize Carnival's "Fly Aweigh" program for flight and transfers between airport and pier. (When I inquired about Frequent Flyer seats they were all taken, even 90 days out.) The Fly Aweigh rates were comparable with going rates. I figure there's some responsibility on Carnival if there's a problem, not binding, but, you have some leverage.

Before the cruise...

I create a check list of items to bring when I travel and an idea of how I'll spend my days (a rough idea). This helps me make sure to take the many odds and ends along. I carried enough beverages to "get me to the first port."

Pack light. (I had to lug my bags a few times). You don't need a different set of clothes for every event. Do some mix and matching and wear an item more than once, a lot of times you'll wear something for a brief time, not all day. I will buy some clothes on vacations and wear them there.

I took four rolls of film with my regular camera, a throw-away underwater camera for when I snorkeled, and a throw-away panoramic camera. I ended up not using the panoramic camera - my regular camera sufficed. I shot all rolls.

Saturday, Apr 19th

Had an early flight from Rochester, NY to Miami. I made up a sign to hang over my seat, "Carnival's Sensation, or bust is not an option" to see if anyone else on my flight was heading the same way. No one responded. Well, I got responses from other passengers - it was an ice breaker for conversation. Arrived around noon. There are buses to shuttle you to the pier. You'll carry luggage to a truck and board your bus. You'll see your luggage later in your cabin. On the bus ride I started talking to this stranger sitting next to me - I kinda figured he and I were probably heading the same way.

Once at the pier we were guided along, tickets checked, and could proceed directly on board, only a little bit of a line. Here you'll have your first introduction to the ship's photography team. Let them take your picture as you proceed through a doorway (still on the pier - The Love Boat is misleading on this one). Once aboard you can check out your cabin. Don't expect the luggage to be there, but, it'll get there (outside the door) some time. Go back on deck, maybe take a stroll around, and keep an eye on the departure. You'll enjoy the ship's agility, they have these fore and aft thrusters to move away from the pier and do other maneuvers without a tug boat. By now you've chatted with a few people and I'm sure you are enjoying the trip already.


After you've set sail out of the channel, take a stroll and explore the ship some more. Your luggage may or may not be at your cabin. I had two pieces and they arrived at separate times. When I unpacked my first piece I felt a bit of seasickness. Not having a history of motion sickness I figured, correctly, that it would pass. At some time your Cabin Steward will catch you and introduce himself. If you have Nicholas Lino, send my regards. (No, he won't remember my name, but tell him one of his passengers thought he was great).

I always attended the dinners. You can dress in what I call "Docker's Casual," except for the two formal nights. Dark suit or better is preferred, but they won't kick you out for less. I was in the late seating, this is conducive to an evening itinerary of dinner, show, social drinks and dancing the rest of the night. I never made it to the midnight buffet because I was having a good time partying some where with some one. (This is probably also why I only gained 3 pounds on the cruise). Oh, by the way, if you have Roderick, a waiter, and/or Mehi, busboy, tell them "Hi!" (Again, they won't remember my name, just tell them you heard they were great!)

Anyway, at the end of each day there will be a copy of the "Carnival Capers" newsletter underneath your door. Mostly information about tomorrow's activities. Some one had suggested to take a high lighter pen and before going to bed at night, check out the activities and highlight some of the things you want to do. If you're like me you don't feel like this when you get back to the cabin anywhere's from 2am or later. I did it the next morning.

Sunday, Apr 20th "Funship Sea Day"

Start planning your island excursions, you'll want to sign up for them. The favorites will get sold out. No, you don't have to sit outside the Purser's Information Desk, but don't wait until the last minute. There will be a Travel Information meeting in the Fantasia Lounge.

Sensational Tip #1 -

Whenever you see there's a meeting being led by the Cruise Director, Art Whitlock, go to it! It's far from boring, it's a comedy show.

This is your day, enjoy the deck, the sun, the pool, the bar, the other passengers, the casino, etc. If you get bored let me know, I know a good therapist, Dr. Bob Newhart, who'll help you figure out your problem. I never attended the breakfast or lunch sittings, I went to the buffets up in the Seaview Bar & Grill Restaurant. My preference, because I'm a morning person and like to get up and go - to the deck, the sun, the pool, etc. Don't forget to check out the Sports Deck - gym, aerobics, massages, etc.

This is also the Captain's Formal Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party and first formal dinner. We missed meeting the Captain, there was a medical emergency and he had to be on the bridge to postion the ship for a helicopter evacuating the passenger to medical facilities.

After dinner is the evening of entertainment with parties, contests, dancing, well, you'll see all the choices.

Monday, Apr 21st Another "Funship Sea Day", then San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Well, another day of about the same. If you get bored doing the same thing - try something different. Be on deck to see the ship sailing into port. I got photos of the fort guarding the harbor. There's old San Juan and new San Juan. They've restored and preserved the old San Juan. Here's my first complaint - we only get to see it at night. (Take a note - in the future you might want to plan a trip to see San Juan in the day time). I teamed up with a new shipboard friend and his son and we strolled down to where the horse-drawn carriages are located. Just before that, and on the ship's side of the street are some taxi's. We hired a taxi for an hour's tour of old and new San Juan, ask for Pedro Felores. He did a great job of some history, places, and San Juan today. You can tell he loves his country.

When you're back on board ship there's Sensation Boulevard (by now you'll know what I mean). And another night "on the town." I spent a lot of time in the Kaleidoscope because I enjoyed dancing.

You'll also realize by now how well the room steward keeps your room, you'll find out how they do it at Friday "Debarkation" Information meeting, another one of Art Whitlock's "comedy shows."

That reminds me, during your evening travels, when you pass the gentleman who is vacuuming the stairways stop and say, "Hi!" If it's Ruben, tell him "Hi!" for me (do I need the disclaimer again? He won't remember me, but you've heard of him and how great he his).

One more thing, if you're on the lower deck, I was in cabin Riviera 9, you might hear the thrusters working as the ship is docked and un-docked (?).

Tuesday Apr 23rd "Welcome to St. Thomas"

Good morning, you've probably noticed the photographer a few times, he's snapped your photo, you can check them out at the photo gallery on the Empress Deck. You can even buy prints. This next one may have slipped by your attention.

Sensational Tip #2 -

They are video taping activity on the cruise, on board and ashore. You can buy the videos to take home. If they haven't filmed you yet - be prepared - be ready to smile, say "Hi," and how you're having a great time. The camera guy will cue you.

I signed up for the "St. John's Trunk Bay" excursion, I wanted to do some snorkeling. It wasn't as great as I expected (remember - this is me talking, I think the photo's I'd seen led me to believe it would be more colorful, my mistake). If you like to party, try the Kon Tiki party.

In the afternoon I went shopping, ended up getting lots of souvenirs for friends back home. Find out about bartering, especially in the "family shops," In America we pay the tag, here, you chat, trade some stories about yourselves, barter the price a bit. In other words, the sale is secondary to getting to know someone. I also got post cards to mail.

Sensational Tip #3 -

I didn't mail my cards until we reached St. Maarten. Postage was 70 cents apiece and my friends didn't receive them until the next Thursday (that's one week later). St. Thomas postage would be cheaper, and I would guess faster delivery.

Another evening like before. Same itinerary, more fun. Dinner, the show, the lounges. If you haven't found a place that's entertaining, you're probably wandering around the Riviera, Main, Upper, and Empress Decks. Go up to the Atlantic and Promenade Decks.

Do you like how your rooms being maintained? Leave a note for your room steward, let him know.

Wednesday, Apr 23rd "Welcome To St. Maarten"

The ship has to drop anchor in the port and you get tendered ashore. That means boats pull up along side to pick you up and drop you off.

I spent most of the day walking up and down the two "shopping streets." At times I strolled along with people I had met on board ship. Didn't buy very much (remember, I did well on St. Thomas), but, enjoyed walking around and all.

This may sound boring to you - but the evening was the same itinerary as before. Don't worry, I'm having a ball.

Thursday & Friday "Fun Days at Sea"

Reminds me of those lyrics, "Lazy, Hazy, Crazy days of summer." See Sunday and Monday's notes. Tonight's another formal night. Have Fun!

Be sure to attend Friday's Debarkation Information meeting - Art's your host again.

Saturday, Apr 26 "Where do I go to sign up and stay on for another week"

By now my smile is etched on my face. But, this is it, for this cruise. Be prepared to get up early and leave your home away from home. Warning - everything's been moving along so far, right? You'll be waiting to leave the ship. Customs do their thing with your luggage. Since you attended yesterday's meeting with Art you'll know what I mean. Anyway, you'll be out of your room, waiting in one of the lounges until they call "your number." The other "hassle" was getting on the bus to go back to the airport, that's not so clear-cut organized as everything else was.

So ends my first cruise. I did have a strong desire to find someone on board to sign up for the next cruise.

Photographs used in this article were provided by Andy Newman of Carnival Cruise Lines.

Ed Assenheimer is no longer a first time cruiser! Fast becoming another "cruiseaholic", Ed can be reached at: 71340.2601@compuserve.com.

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