In April 2018, three of my friends and I went on a 5-night cruise. Our ship, the Carnival Sunshine, sailed from Port Canaveral. We stopped at Nassau, Freeport, and Half Moon Cay. Y’all, settle in for this journey because it’s going to be a long, comprehensive post.
Day 1: Embarkation
My friends and I drove to Port Canaveral in the morning. We had pre-paid for parking at an off-site lot, with vouchers for a shuttle to the cruise port. This was a good deal, and our car was safely stored, but there were SO many people waiting for shuttles and a sudden torrential downpour. We ended up calling an Uber. The $19 Uber ride was totally worth it not to have to wait in the rain.
We tried to print all our boarding passes the night before, but the website wouldn’t let us because it was too close to embarkation. TAKE NOTICE, FRIENDS: You need to print them earlier! We were definitely panicked that we didn’t have our tickets or boarding passes. Luckily, there was a gentleman outside by the lines who was able to print them on-site for us. Denise, Jason, and I had paid extra for “Faster to the Fun” so we zipped on through the lines. They scanned my passport, asked me some questions about traveling, and whisked me through a metal detector. My bags went through the x-ray scanner, and boom! I was through.
Jason, Denise, and I were able to basically walk right onto the ship. We didn’t have to wait in any lines or wait for a boarding time. Kelly had an early boarding time, but she did have to wait a little while. We went up to the deck and ordered drinks while we waited for her to board. She arrived only about 20-30 minutes later, so it actually wasn’t too bad.
Just after boarding is a neat time to walk around the ship and get your bearings. Everything is empty. Learn it, map it out in your head, take pictures. Soon thousands of people will be swarming all over it.
We had a few more drinks and some tacos, and then we went to find our cabins. Jason and Denise had a cabin with a balcony, and I had the one right next door. Kelly got an interior room because she does not like windows. (Despite the distance between our rooms, we made sure to “link” to each other prior to boarding so we would always be called or seated together.) One big difference between the interior and exterior cabins: Kelly’s room did not have a mini-fridge. As a result, we stored all her champagne in our fridges. Here is a picture of Denise leaning over the railing between our rooms.
We unpacked and settled in. I purchased the value wi-fi program so I spent some time setting that up. We also all downloaded an app available to Carnival passengers that allows passengers to text other members of their party throughout the trip (all the “linked” members – not just people in your cabin). We watched all the safety videos and met our beloved steward, Phillip.
Things we did on the first day:
- Waved goodbye as we headed out to sea
- Obediently attended safety muster
- Lost some money in the casino
- Participated in the art show raffle (mostly to get the free champagne)
- Corn chowder in the dining room
- Fish tacos on the Lido deck
After we got out to sea, we were hit by a large thunderstorm. The whole ship was VERY rocky! Everyone kept swaying and my luggage kept falling over in my room. I got very seasick and felt AWFUL. I had to leave dinner early and went back to my room and cried and called my friends at home via WhatsApp and I was so worried I’d ruin the trip because I was so sick. I took meclizine and put my seabands on and ruminated about which of my mistakes in life had earned me this punishment. Eventually I fell asleep.
Day 2: Sea Day
Because I went to sleep so early, I woke up extremely early. And I FELT GREAT! I went up to the top deck in my pajamas to watch the sun rise. I brought a book and got some coffee. I also had “pre-breakfast” (mostly pastries and croissants) because I’d missed most of the dinner the night before!
I highly recommend this, whether you’re sick or not. I actually woke up early most days on this cruise to go up and watch the sunrise. It’s just such a peaceful time on the ship and a lovely way to start the day.
When my friends woke up, we went to SeaDay Brunch in the main dining room. Breakfast is offered every day, but SeaDay brunch is a special menu. (Please see my post about cruise dining.) Here is a picture of Jason’s french toast coated in Honey Nut Cheerios.
Every day on the ship, you get a paper itinerary called the “Fun Times” that tells you about special events happening each day, information about ports, and a schedule of events. They’ve also incorporated the Fun Times into the app, which is very helpful to keep track of everything you want to do. After brunch, we laid out in the sun and then went to Game of Thrones Trivia. Our host did NOT know how to pronounce a lot of the names and words, which was endearing and fun. We didn’t win, but we were close!
- Lost more money in the slots
- Laid out in the sun on the side decks
- Played Jenga in the Red Frog Pub
- Casual lunch with coffee and milkshakes
For dinner, we attended the Chef’s Table. I wrote a detailed post about that experience here.
It was Fancy Night on the ship, and even though we’d gone to the Chef’s Table we still dressed up. Every night on the ship, they have professional photography sets around the main atriums and near the casino. It doesn’t cost anything to stop and get some pictures taken. Do all the ridiculous poses you want. The next day, the photos are printed and placed in a centrally-located photo display area. If you like your picture, you can buy it. If you don’t like it, you can throw it out. (Don’t even think about taking a photo of your photo, because guards will show up and yell at you immediately. You don’t want to be sent to Cruise Ship Prison.) We had the best time posing for pics and even purchased a few.
Day 3: Nassau
I woke up early for the sunrise again! But this time, everyone else had the same idea. It was a little more crowded. My friends woke up early and we had a quick breakfast on the Lido deck before heading out to Nassau.
The ship pulled right into the port so we just had to walk off of the ship. There were photographers waiting outside to take our picture as soon as we hit the ground. Don’t forget your boarding pass and ID! You will need these to re-board the ship.
Jason went in search of a pier his friend had helped build, so my ladyfriends and I adventured to the shops and to some drinks. People yelled to us from the straw market and encouraged us to buy their wares. Honestly, I get so anxious in these situations so I tried to avoid going into many shops. Instead, we found a brewery.
The Pirate Republic Brewing Company was delightful. I had a flight of their beers, and all were refreshing and delicious. It’s a cute little bar, and it’s air conditioned. After we had our drinks, we walked around a little more and then headed back to the ship.
All of us have been to the Bahamas before, so we didn’t feel the need to be particularly adventurous. The idea of returning to an empty ship was incredibly appealing. We went back onto the ship before lunch and sat out on the usually-packed Serenity deck. Because there were no crowds and no lines, we also went on the water slides.
Other things we did during the day:
- Looked at the bajillion professional photos we took the night before
- Drank cocktails and played Rings in the Red Frog Pub
- Kelly and Jason competed in a beanbag tournament in the pub
- Drank some fishbowls at happy-hour prices
- Watched Groundhog Day (one of my favorite movies of all time – it was on TV)
We also convinced the cleaning staff to open up the divider between our balconies to create one giant MEGA-DECK. I made Denise and Jason promise to knock before they wandered in front of my window.
- Mongolian BBQ from the Wok for lunch
- Cuban pastries and empanadas from the Havana Bar
- Chocolate Melting Cake (x100000)
At night, we watched a dance party up on the Lido deck and drank some more cocktails.
Day 4: Half Moon Cay
We woke up and had breakfast in the dining room before heading out to Half Moon Cay (this is a picture of my avocado toast). Even though we had Faster to the Fun, we decided to just take our time with breakfast and let everyone else get to the island. Half Moon Cay isn’t like Nassau. You must take a “tender” (a small boat) from the ship to the island. This always takes longer and is a more tedious process. Our tender had a glass bottom, though, so at least it was cool.
Half Moon Cay is owned by Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America. It’s a private beach with activities, tours, and includes a barbecue lunch. The staff from the ship comes out to host competitions and dance parties. Even if you have a drink package, you must pay for alcohol while ashore. I strongly recommend filling up a water bottle to bring with you from the ship so you don’t have to buy a bottle. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen! The sun is SO strong!
Jason, Denise, and Kelly played out in the water while I sat on the beach and read a book. We didn’t participate in any of the activities or do any of the tours because we had all been there before. So, just like at Nassau, we returned to the ship pretty early. Just in time for lunch!
On the way, Denise realized she did not have her Carnival ID. After some initial panic, we learned that she could easily replace it at Guest Services once back aboard the ship. It was actually a very easy process, albeit preceded by panic and dread.
Other things we did during the day:
- Won a “One Hit Wonders” Trivia competition and got a little FunShip trophy
- Took some naps
- Sat out in the sun
- Jason and Kelly played beer pong in the Red Frog Pub
- I won some money in the slot machines in the casino!
- Kelly played more Quarters
- Avocado toast
- Kale-quinoa breakfast salad
- Conch fritters
- Buttered Popcorn pot de creme
Also of note, throughout the day and evening the Lido deck shows movies. I went up and watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi with a blanket and some snacks. It was so fun, and it’s so weird to see the boat at night since the ocean is so dark!
Day 5: Freeport
We grabbed a super-quick breakfast and hustled off the ship because we had to be on our tour bus by 9AM. I detailed our excursion to an all-inclusive beach resort here. Freeport is another port where you can just walk right off the ship. Easy-peasy. Bring some water and sunscreen.
When we got back onto the ship later in the afternoon, we had to start gathering up our things and preparing for the cruise to end the next day. I started getting very, very sad around this time. I wanted the cruise to go on forever!
We sat out on our MegaDeck and watched the ship pull out of port. We hit up the casino, watched some karaoke, and watched one of the party games happening in the club. I ran across the ship to take a picture of the sunset. Kelly got a birthday cake and everyone sang to her because her birthday was a couple days after the cruise ended.
- Conch fritters on the beach
- Baked Alaska
- Kelly’s cake
Day 6: Port Canaveral
On the last day, we woke up in port. It was so depressing. I hated everything and didn’t want it to be over. We went to have a “quick” breakfast in the dining room, but since it was the last day everything went VERY SLOW. In hindsight, that was a bad option. I would eat a quick breakfast on the Lido deck next time. We also took our own luggage off the ship.
While we exited the ship, we waved goodbye to all of the hosts from bar games and trivia. We also waved goodbye to an enormous number of towel animals arranged throughout the atrium.
We had a great time! I can’t wait to go on another cruise!