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RedBearded84

Curious about smaller/older ships

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Hey! Everyone! Making my first post as I'll be taking my first Cruise in October. Going solo on Carnival Sensation on the 5 Day Cuba cruise Oct 7-12 for my birthday. Always been curious about crusing, and finally decided to hop on board (Pun intended) The appeal of a stop in Havana, as well as 2 sea days, was a big draw for me, as the traditional island hopping cruises don't really appeal to me.

 

Now with that said, I know the Sensation is one of the smallest/oldest of the fleet, and doesn't have all the bells and whistles as the modern megaships, and I honestly don't mind that. Was even able to snag a decent deal on a Porthole room (Even as a solo) Obviously there are some disadvantages of being on an older/smaller ship, but what are the perks of being on these ships? Also tips for crusing solo wouldbe beneficial as well.

 

Thanks!

 

 

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Hello Redbeard and welcome to Cruise Critic.  This will be a long answer as I was on Carnival Sensation myself just over a year ago but I have also been on Oasis of the Seas, one of the world's largest, as well as premium lines like Disney and Celebrity.  I will start by saying, I think this is a SENSATIONAL ship to choose for your first cruise; first and foremost, it offers tremendous VALUE for you vacation investment, and I personally like the self service laundromat aboard so I can minimize packing.

 

Carnival has 8 Fantasy class ships (Sensation is the 3rd to be built in the class), all built in the 1990's and all still in service. That alone should tell you something positive.  It was a very successful design and in spite of plenty of mixed opinions nowadays when everyone is spoiled, hundreds of thousands of happy people still enjoy all eight of these ships yearly.  While technology and design advances all the time, just a few years ago, these WERE the modern megaships.  They ushered in the new era and pioneered many concepts that are still used today in cruising. But here is my own specific list of special things about this ship:

 

1. Cruise on a piece of living history.  For better or worse, many of Carnival's older ships have a wild, exuberant décor, that just would not happen any more.  Of course the ship is maintained in working order, but the original color schemes and quirky theming are mostly in place throughout, rather than having been beige-d over during renovations.  Sensation has a two-purple tone theme, with metal walls in an almost fuschia shade of purple. There are dark purple metal light pillars all over with thin swirls of light emanating in colors that change constantly.  I am getting bored and tired of what I call the "beigeification" of America.  Yes, everything is clean and elegant in modern interior design. Also a bit bland.  Not going to run into that problem on the Fantasy class.  Dated, perhaps, but certainly eye-catching.  And the last of an era. One day they will be gone and then it's all beige, all the time.

 

2.  Good entertainment.  The Sensation has a pretty decent sized Punchliner comedy club (Plaza Lounge) so you can actually get a seat to most shows (though it doesn't hurt to arrive early) and enjoyable evening entertainment in the main show lounge, if you like song-and-dance type entertainment.  Also there are options like Hasbro the Game Show, good for all ages, and various Dr. Seuss stuff and towel animal folding class, which you can attend as a single adult if you are so inclined.  You can also go to lots of daily trivia / indoor games activities or on the large outdoor waterslide at Water Works and attend goofy pool events like hairiest chest or belly flop "competitions." It's all just a lot of fun.

 

3.  Bars.  I don't really drink any more, but there are plenty of options for this.  The Alchemy bars are favorites among the Carnival fleet, mixing up concoctions for "whatever ails ya."  Cruise booze ain't cheap, but there is a discounted theme drink of the day for about $8 throughout the ship.  In addition to Alchemy, the Mirage Bar is open long hours serving Sensation Boulevard and the casino.  The Atrium Bar is also indoors in a boisterous space.  Up by the pool are more favorites, the Red Frog Rum Bar and its "rival" across deck, the Blue Iguana Tequila bar.  Cocktail servers circulate in many of the public areas as well, if a walk up bar is not in easy reach.  There are also evening places like the Kaleidescope Disco and Michelangelo Lounge.

 

4. Food:  Like many of the newer, bigger megaships, you get a decent array of included meal options.  On the lido deck near the only pool you will find breakfast burritos at Blue Iguana Cantina as well as lunch tacos and burritos with a salsa bar until 3pm most days.  Guy's Burger Joint is exactly what it sounds like from noon-6 daily with a topping bar.  For some these two walk-ups are the best food aboard.  But the Seaview buffet is open much of the time as well, with 24 hour complimentary coffee and serving 3 meals a day and in the back of the buffet area you'll find a deli sandwich counter and 24 hour pizza.  Then there's the main dining room with uniformed wait staff daily as well, and even if that's not your scene, the Sea Day Brunch in the MDR is really not to be missed.  For a fancy upgrade there is a chef's table which I have never attended, being a cheapskate with digestive problems who should not be eating more than necessary.  However every review I have ever seen of it states it is well worth the (nearly $100) price tag.

 

5. Quiet spaces.  Sensation offers an adults only Serenity deck with hot tubs and I believe cocktail servers visit as well.  On the forward decks are "secret" open spaces for viewing the water without a giant crowd around all the time.  My dad is not a smoker, but he often went up to the designated smoking space on the verandah deck because it had nice chairs, a shade cover, and a view of the sea in relative peace.  There's also a spa, and I have always heard anyone can use the steam room for free, as you can with the fitness center.  There are also fitness classes available.

 

6.  Crew.  Carnival Cruise Directors are an energetic bunch, highly visible at activities and trying to keep the entire ship in a good mood all the time.  Carnival crew know they are being watched all the time, and they make a real effort to smile, welcome you everywhere, and take care of anything you need, though most people on Carnival are blue collar types perfectly capable of taking care of themselves without a personal butler running around behind them.  In short, service, in general on Carnival, is quite good.  The fact is, they work long hours with few days off and get tired and burned out, so it is possible to run into someone less cheerful, but this is the exception rather than the rule. 

 

That's what I like about Carnival Sensation.  You should know that I really love travel and expect the unexpected but rarely let it bother me.  As many say, "a bad day on a ship (or on any vacation) is better than a good day at work."  I read all the belly aching reviews about these ships and try not to engage because it all sounds ridiculous to me.  Just because I have sailed on Disney, which costs a lot more and therefore has certain upgrades,  does not mean I don't enjoy Carnival, which has its own advantages and in many ways is just as enjoyable, for about 1/3 the price.

 

Bon voyage. I am jealous as I would love to take exactly the journey you have planned!

 

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It sounds like, for you, the ports are more important that the ship...so you will have a great time.  This is a good starting point for potential cruise addiction!

 

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I just went on the Inspiration which is one of the Sensation's sisters and I honestly barely noticed that it was smaller than the bigger ones I've been on. There are slightly less activities, but everyone says they're less crowded. I actually wrote about my experience on the Inspiration on my blog if you want to check it out! https://www.laurenofalltrades.blog/2018/11/carnival-inspiration.html

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28 minutes ago, lauren009 said:

I just went on the Inspiration which is one of the Sensation's sisters and I honestly barely noticed that it was smaller than the bigger ones I've been on. There are slightly less activities, but everyone says they're less crowded. I actually wrote about my experience on the Inspiration on my blog if you want to check it out! https://www.laurenofalltrades.blog/2018/11/carnival-inspiration.html

 

Took a look at your blog. Nice info!  Interesting about the cheers package details.  I honestly do not understand how anyone can drink that much and remain conscious and functional - not judging, it's just that I would literally be blacked out and have no memory of anything. You obviously were clear headed and engaged throughout the trip.

 

 I am not sure you missed much with the Queen Mary. I also skipped this many years ago on a trip to LA and regretted it - we did the day tour but no overnight. However, it does not, and never has, earned consistently good reviews. They seem to have a lot of challenges keeping the ancient infrastructure functioning and a lot of people say it's disappointing for the price, unless you really are doing it just for the novelty.

Edited by KmomChicago

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11 hours ago, RedBearded84 said:

Hey! Everyone! Making my first post as I'll be taking my first Cruise in October. Going solo on Carnival Sensation on the 5 Day Cuba cruise Oct 7-12 for my birthday. Always been curious about crusing, and finally decided to hop on board (Pun intended) The appeal of a stop in Havana, as well as 2 sea days, was a big draw for me, as the traditional island hopping cruises don't really appeal to me.

 

Now with that said, I know the Sensation is one of the smallest/oldest of the fleet, and doesn't have all the bells and whistles as the modern megaships, and I honestly don't mind that. Was even able to snag a decent deal on a Porthole room (Even as a solo) Obviously there are some disadvantages of being on an older/smaller ship, but what are the perks of being on these ships? Also tips for crusing solo wouldbe beneficial as well.

 

Thanks!

 

 

We're booked for our first cruise on Sensation for the 5 Day Cuba Cruise Sept. 9 - 14th.  If you haven't already done so I'd suggest you check out the Inspiration blog by KmomChicago for the Inspiration.  Most information probably relates to Sensation as well. 

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5 hours ago, KmomChicago said:

 

Took a look at your blog. Nice info!  Interesting about the cheers package details.  I honestly do not understand how anyone can drink that much and remain conscious and functional - not judging, it's just that I would literally be blacked out and have no memory of anything. You obviously were clear headed and engaged throughout the trip.

 

 I am not sure you missed much with the Queen Mary. I also skipped this many years ago on a trip to LA and regretted it - we did the day tour but no overnight. However, it does not, and never has, earned consistently good reviews. They seem to have a lot of challenges keeping the ancient infrastructure functioning and a lot of people say it's disappointing for the price, unless you really are doing it just for the novelty.

KmomChicago, I did read your blog for the Inspiration and  enjoyed the information.  We're booked on Sensation in September and selected any time dining mainly because we thought we might not want to eat in the MDR each night. But If I understand correctly you can just not show up if you decide not to eat in the MDR on any particular night?   Also, curious about how you came out with the Cheers Beverage Package?  The wife is somewhat of a light drinker and I usually drink beer or a rum and water so don't think the Cheers would be a good option for us.

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14 minutes ago, erlyvon said:

KmomChicago, I did read your blog for the Inspiration and  enjoyed the information.  We're booked on Sensation in September and selected any time dining mainly because we thought we might not want to eat in the MDR each night. But If I understand correctly you can just not show up if you decide not to eat in the MDR on any particular night?   Also, curious about how you came out with the Cheers Beverage Package?  The wife is somewhat of a light drinker and I usually drink beer or a rum and water so don't think the Cheers would be a good option for us.

Sorry KmomChicago……..lauren009 posted the Inspiration blog, which I see you read too.  Maybe lauren009 can answer the questions I posed to you :-)

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11 hours ago, cb at sea said:

It sounds like, for you, the ports are more important that the ship...so you will have a great time.  This is a good starting point for potential cruise addiction!

 

Well Cuba was the biggest draw. Also the fact that 2 out of the 5 Days are Sea Days, so I'll have a ton of time to just explore this ship. I love boating and being out on the water in general, so more sea time and fewer ports appeal to me as well. 

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8 hours ago, lauren009 said:

I just went on the Inspiration which is one of the Sensation's sisters and I honestly barely noticed that it was smaller than the bigger ones I've been on. There are slightly less activities, but everyone says they're less crowded. I actually wrote about my experience on the Inspiration on my blog if you want to check it out! https://www.laurenofalltrades.blog/2018/11/carnival-inspiration.html

Hi Lauren! Still looks like a blast. It seems like its enough to keep you busy, but not be completly overwhelming. Can't imagine having my first cruise on one of these 5-6000 passenger megaships. I'm all fir being social, but I do have my introverted tendencies lol. I also selected My Time Dining just because I honestly don't know what it's going to be like. Also planning on getting the Cheers package as well. It's necessarily cheap, but I like to drink 😛 lol 😆

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36 minutes ago, RedBearded84 said:

Well Cuba was the biggest draw. Also the fact that 2 out of the 5 Days are Sea Days, so I'll have a ton of time to just explore this ship. I love boating and being out on the water in general, so more sea time and fewer ports appeal to me as well. 

 

Funny you selected the Sensation partly due to more days at sea at port.  We close one of the Sensation’s sister ship (Fascination) due to having 5 port days and only 1 true sea day.  Definitely not worried about being bored or even unhappy with the ship as it is taking us to 6 places (including home port of Puerto Rico) that we’ve never been to before at a very reasonable price.

 

I was also able to carefully watch airfare & snagged RT air from STL to SJU for $306pp on Southwest with minimal stop overs.

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34 minutes ago, soonernstlouis said:

 

Funny you selected the Sensation partly due to more days at sea at port.  We close one of the Sensation’s sister ship (Fascination) due to having 5 port days and only 1 true sea day.  

Honestly, beaches and tropics don't appeal to me as much as it does to a lot of other people. It make a Port Call in Grand Cayman for a day, and that's perfectly fine with me. Just the thought of a week of island hopping just doesn't appeal to me. 

 

I snagged a Porthole room for about $850, which includes single supplement, all taxes, fees and prepaid gratuities, which isn't that bad of a deal IMO.

 

It's sonething I want to try and see what it's like. This itinerary appealed to me because of Havana and Sea Days, and didn't want to make a huge investment into it.

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1 hour ago, soonernstlouis said:

I was also able to carefully watch airfare & snagged RT air from STL to SJU for $306pp on Southwest with minimal stop overs.

Also nice find on the Airfare....Im probably going to end up flying into FLL instead from MIA out of RDU. JetBlue and Southewst are looking at around $275 r/t which isn't bad considering leaving Sun and coming back Sat. 

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On traveling solo: check to see if there is a solo gathering the first night onboard, as there often is on some ships. I've found that is a great way to get started. On the line I sail, they are often during cocktail time, giving  solos a chance to decompress after an active day, or connect with one another for dinner arrangements. Personally, I love a balance of alone (introvert!) time and conversations with fun and interesting people, and the pre-dinner gatherings allowed me the choice of being alone or with others.

 

Enjoy! Cuba is definitely a big draw!

Cheers,

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13 hours ago, erlyvon said:

KmomChicago, I did read your blog for the Inspiration and  enjoyed the information.  We're booked on Sensation in September and selected any time dining mainly because we thought we might not want to eat in the MDR each night. But If I understand correctly you can just not show up if you decide not to eat in the MDR on any particular night?   Also, curious about how you came out with the Cheers Beverage Package?  The wife is somewhat of a light drinker and I usually drink beer or a rum and water so don't think the Cheers would be a good option for us.

 

Hi, Erly.  You're right, I did not sail on Inspiration; however in my signature is a link to my very long review of the Sensation, which I actually DID sail. :)  You are correct that you don't have to show up to dinner in the MDR on any night.  This applies whether you have fixed time dining OR Any Time dining.  Many people never eat a meal in the main dining room anymore, but everyone is assigned a dining option.  My husband and teenager do not really like it, with the exception of Sea Day Brunch, which is more casual and a bit faster paced, and has a Steak and Eggs option that includes a little filet mignon for no upcharge.   They don't like having to dress up even a little bit for dinner, but the real issue is the time.  My husband does not like just sitting around waiting for the next course.  He enjoys the ship too much and feels he is missing out on something else while wasting time being catered to!

 

While I don't do Cheers, it seems those who come out with a good value drink quite a bit.  You might see how day one goes and then decide whether you want to add it for the rest of the cruise as Lauren did.

 

OP, Mr. Redbeard, I think you made a great choice; got a very solid deal and will get excellent value for that price.  The ship will have enough for you to enjoy.  I like just exploring the ship as well - every cruise at least one night I wake up about 3am and leave my family to sneak around the quiet ship and I love it.  I posted several wee hours photos on the review attached in my signature.  They will let people wander around practically anywhere!  Many people prefer Fantasy class ships.  Many want to immediately move on to something newer and larger.  If $$ and time allowed I would like to sail once on every ship out there and I have never had an overall poor experience on any cruise.

 

You will need to look into what you're going to do in Havana.  There are certain requirements and restrictions for the activities you need to do - basically you have to meet the cultural / educational requirement.  I'm sure you have that information from Carnival already. 

 

Edited by KmomChicago

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Good Morning Kmom.  I'd like to read your review of the Sensation but not sure how to find it.  Can you give me a few pointers on how to locate it?

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1 hour ago, erlyvon said:

Good Morning Kmom.  I'd like to read your review of the Sensation but not sure how to find it.  Can you give me a few pointers on how to locate it?

 

Down here at the end of this post, you can expand my signature.  I have an underlined link next to the Sensation date.  It will take you to it.  Warning that the first 4 pages are all pre-cruise planning and banter with followers, including the backstory.  I think we actually board the ship around page 5.

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1 hour ago, KmomChicago said:

 

Down here at the end of this post, you can expand my signature.  I have an underlined link next to the Sensation date.  It will take you to it.  Warning that the first 4 pages are all pre-cruise planning and banter with followers, including the backstory.  I think we actually board the ship around page 5.

Not sure what I'm not seeing......where exactly is your signature that I need to expand?

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4 minutes ago, erlyvon said:

Not sure what I'm not seeing......where exactly is your signature that I need to expand?

 

Try this:

 

Sorry, you may not be able to do it via the phone app.  On the full version of the CC boards people post their whole cruise history in their signature and you can expand it to see the full list.

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20 hours ago, KmomChicago said:

 

Try this:

 

Sorry, you may not be able to do it via the phone app.  On the full version of the CC boards people post their whole cruise history in their signature and you can expand it to see the full list.

Got it, Kmom.  Thanks for the pointers. 

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On 2/16/2019 at 5:24 AM, KmomChicago said:

Bon voyage. I am jealous as I would love to take exactly the journey you have planned!

 

Thank You.....An answer I was looking for

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17 minutes ago, RedBearded84 said:

Thank You.....An answer I was looking for

 

Hope you got useful info. Sorry the conversation went so far off track.

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On 2/16/2019 at 3:48 AM, RedBearded84 said:

Hey! Everyone! Making my first post as I'll be taking my first Cruise in October. Going solo on Carnival Sensation on the 5 Day Cuba cruise Oct 7-12 for my birthday. Always been curious about crusing, and finally decided to hop on board (Pun intended) The appeal of a stop in Havana, as well as 2 sea days, was a big draw for me, as the traditional island hopping cruises don't really appeal to me.

 

Now with that said, I know the Sensation is one of the smallest/oldest of the fleet, and doesn't have all the bells and whistles as the modern megaships, and I honestly don't mind that. Was even able to snag a decent deal on a Porthole room (Even as a solo) Obviously there are some disadvantages of being on an older/smaller ship, but what are the perks of being on these ships? Also tips for crusing solo wouldbe beneficial as well.

 

Thanks!

 

 

 

On 2/16/2019 at 7:14 PM, RedBearded84 said:

Well Cuba was the biggest draw. Also the fact that 2 out of the 5 Days are Sea Days, so I'll have a ton of time to just explore this ship. I love boating and being out on the water in general, so more sea time and fewer ports appeal to me as well. 

Congratulations on your first cruise!  Good for you treating yourself for your birthday 🙂 

 

October is during hurricane season, so be prepared that your itinerary might change in a worst case scenario.  While I'm sure being diverted to Bahamas would be disappointing if you are looking forward to Cuba, there can still be nice adventures on the islands without being just a basic beach day.  (I do hope you have smooth sailings and a great time at Havana)

 

Smaller ships should mean less passengers.  Ideally, this will translate to more personalized service (the staff:pax ratio might be the same though) and less crowded venues.  On a smaller ship you might feel the ocean more too.  We have done 5 day cruises before and they go very fast, so having extra sea days sounds great to me - especially for a first cruise.

 

I've only ever sailed with my husband, so take my solo advice for what it is worth 😉 I find we can be as social or withdrawn as desired on a cruise - it can be easy to talk with others at bars and dinner, trivia can be fun and you might find others looking to form a team (or add to their team). Karaoke can be good too, even just as an encouraging audience.  I'd be sure to pack some books (electronic or print), but feel free to do as much or as little as you want.  The onboard gym is usually pretty good too and would be an ideal solo activity.

 

 

On 2/16/2019 at 7:18 PM, RedBearded84 said:

Hi Lauren! Still looks like a blast. It seems like its enough to keep you busy, but not be completly overwhelming. Can't imagine having my first cruise on one of these 5-6000 passenger megaships. I'm all fir being social, but I do have my introverted tendencies lol. I also selected My Time Dining just because I honestly don't know what it's going to be like. Also planning on getting the Cheers package as well. It's necessarily cheap, but I like to drink 😛 lol 😆

 

MTD should be fine.  We've done traditional once, but really prefer the option to just be us or the opportunity to meet new people each night and not just dine with the same few.  If you go at a busy time you are more likely to be seated with others.

 

I'm not a fan of Cheers for our style of drinking, but as a solo on a short cruise I might consider it.  An added way to save is purchasing gift cards with a discount then using the gift cards for Cheers, gratuities, etc.  There are many threads for AARP (don't need to be a member) which are 10% off.  Several grocery stores also sell the cards at full price and you can earn store reward points/gas discounts.

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I do most of my cruises on the R class ships simply because they are small.  As far as I am concerned , any ship larger than 1000 or maybe 1500 passengers is oversized.  I don't ne4ed for a ship to be an amusement park but just a ship.  I don't do amusement parks o land so why would I want to do one at sea?

 

It is nice that you can walk from the dining room at one end to the theater at the pother end in 3 minutes.  It is nice that you get to recognize passengers and see them often on the ship.  It is nice that crew members sometimes know you.  It is nice that the cruise director recognizes me from a previous cruise.

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