Saturday, June 9, 2012

Our Anniversary Cruise

Hubby and I got home from our First Anniversary vacation on Thursday, and OMG, what an experience that was!  We took a 4 night cruise to the Bahamas on the Carnival Sensation out of Port Canaveral, FL using a vacation package that I saw advertised on the Today Show.  Hubs and I had a great time being together, we loved getting to see the Bahamas and we met a number of very nice people during our trip.  We had a great day on our actual Anniversary (June 4th) and I'm glad we got to experience this together.

That being said, so many things went wrong with this trip!  An alternate title for this post could be "Why Carnival Sucks", but I hate to start out a post on a negative note.  I actually enjoy going on cruises and hope to take more in the future.  Hubs may take some more convincing after this trip.  I've never had a negative vacation experience before because I'm actually pretty easy to please (probably because I keep my expectations low so I'm rarely disappointed).  On this trip, my expectations were higher than usual because I'd been on a Carnival cruise before and really enjoyed it, and this was my Hubby's first cruise and I wanted him to love cruises as much as I do.  I'd spoken very highly of my past cruise experiences, so I think my Hubby's expectations were high too.

I ordered this travel package after seeing it advertised on a travel deals segment on the Today Show earlier this year.  I figured that if the Today Show were promoting the deal, this must be a reputable travel company.  I got a great deal on this cruise package for a 4-night cruise for 2 plus 2 nights of hotel stay for $549.  Total bargain, right?!  Well, the problems started with booking this vacation.  When I went to book the trip, the only way they'd let us book the cruise dates we wanted was if we paid to upgrade to a more expensive room.  I did it, because I wanted to take the trip for our anniversary, so we didn't end up saving as much money as I'd hoped.  If I hadn't upgraded, we would have had to travel in October, which was not something we wanted to do.  We ended up in an oceanview room, which turned out to be a nice plus, depsite having to spend the extra money.

Then, when I went to book the two nights of hotel stay, I was directed to a website for this travel company.  I was told that the booking would be at a specific hotel in Orlando, FL, which was fine, and I proceeded with booking.  I was then told that I owed an additional $20 for taxes on the hotel stays, and I received and email assigning me a customer number and noting that they were waiting for my payment.  I promptly paid the $20 fee online.  This was weird, since I thought I'd already paid for everything with the package price, but I didn't want to fuss over 20 bucks.  I never received confirmation that my payment was received, but the money came out of my bank account.  I also never received confirmation numbers for the hotel bookings, so I called the customer service number on the website.  The person there told me that confirmations wouldn't be sent out until 1-2 weeks before the cruise departure date.  Also super weird, since I paid, so I should have my confirmation numbers, right?  Hmph. 

1 week before my trip, I noticed that I still hadn't received my confirmation numbers, so I called again.  The person told me that he saw my booking in the system, but it still showed as pending and he didn't know why.  He said he'd call me back that day or early the next day.  He never called (of course), so I called again.  All extensions at this customer service number went to voicemail, and this continued up to the Friday before our cruise (we left for Orlando on Saturday, the cruise left on Sunday).  I must have called every extension a dozen times on that Friday, an I never got anyone!!  I left messages, which, of course, have not been returned to this day.  We then called the hotel that we were supposed to be booked at, and they had no record of our booking.  We wound up having to stay at my sister's house the night before our cruise, which is fine, but we paid for two hotel rooms that we never got.  I'm totally going to raise hell about this on Monday.

Hubs and I got to Orlando on Saturday afternoon, and right away my sister and I went to get pedicures.  I wound up getting a very rough pedi (that guy was either very thorough or very angry, not sure which) and chipped my nail polish within 3 hours.  Par for the course, I suppose!!  We had dinner at Friendly Confines, then had numerous beers around a fire pit with my sister and brother-in-law.  At one point their dog got lost, but my sister found him scratching at the gate to thier backyard. 

'Round about 1:00 am, I realized that I had forgotten a very important medication at home.  DOH!  Silly Kari!  My hubs was NOT pleased because I was extremely scatterbrained leading up to the cruise because of stress, and this was just one of the worst things I could have forgotten.  I woke up very early the following day and went to a local urgent care clinic, where I got a 7 day supply of my meds.  I was able to fix my f***-up without driving back to Tampa, thank God!

We boarded the Carnival Sensation later that day, and we settled into our room.  I found it strange that our stateroom attendant never stopped by to see us since this is customary on cruises, but I let it go because we didn't need anything right then anyway.  Our room was basic, but comfortable.  I love having a room with a window instead of an interior room because it doesn't feel like such a cave.

I was a little surprised at how rough the ship looked.  It had very outdated decor, the elevators had peeling, chipping paint and several of the elevators were broken.  It was not as nice as the previous Carnival boat I sailed on, but it could have been worse I suppose.

After getting unpacked, Hubs and I kicked off our cruise in a way that was perfect for us:  we took a nap together.  That's love, right there!  In all, we were exhausted from being up late and getting up super early, so the nap was pretty enjoyable!

We later went to dinner (where we met a very odd young guy from Kentucky who was on the cruise alone) and came back to find the extra pillows we requested and a fun towel animal.

Yes, we LOVE pillows, so having 8 made us extremely happy!  We only have 5 on our bed at home, so I think Hubs was in heaven.  I think the towel animal was a seal, but we weren't completely sure.  Some of these towel animals were a little non-descript.

The next day, we arrived in the Bahamas, and our first stop was Freeport.  We planned a tour of Freeport and a snorkeling trip, which we were pretty excited about.  We heard there wasn't much to do in Freeport unless you took an excursion, so we planned it.  It turned out to be a good choice!

This is Hubs trying a local drink called Gully Wash.  It's gin, coconut water, condensed milk and something else.  It actually didn't repulse me, as gin usually does.  Hubs loved it!

After we sampled the local cocktails, we took a tour through a local nature preserve to see some caves and forest areas.  I would have taken pictures, but I was too busy swatting mosquitoes off me!  I GOT EATEN ALIVE!!  We also encountered some bats that flew out of the caves at us, as well as a fair number of spiders.  I was SO ready to get out of that forest!

After the forest, we went to Paradise Cove at Deadman's Reef.

This is the beach where we went snorkeling and had lunch.  The sand was gorgeous but the shoreline was somewhat rocky and not the easiest to walk through.  We went out snorkeling, but the swim out to the snorkeling area was long and the water up ahead looked very rough.  See those white caps out there in the water?  Well the snorkeling area was out there.  Both Hubs and I are good swimmers, but the thought of snorkeling in rough water made us nervous.  We ended up turning back and snorkeling back to the beach, where we found out that the restaurant served beer!

We then had some a-ma-zing conch fritters that might have been the best I've ever eaten.  Yum!

And I found some time to make silly faces at Hubs, which he naturally snapped pictures of.  Several of the ladies in our tour group had fun laughing at me while I was doing this!

We stopped at some other local sites, like an underwater cave that Jacques Cousteau once explored.

On our way back to the boat, we stopped and got daiquiris at this little stand.  They were actually pretty good and mine was extremely strong.  Not bad for $5!

When we got back to the boat, Hubs and I exchanged anniversary gifts.  I got him a book by Corey Taylor (lead singer of Stone Sour and Slipknot) as the traditional first anniversary paper gift, and made him a coupon book of things he can "redeem", including a shopping trip for new threads, romantic dinner, massage, etc.  My original gift idea for Hubs fell through at the last minute so this was a decent stand-in idea.  I'm still hoping I can make something happen for a future anniversary.  Hubs REALLY outdid himself with his gifts for me, as per usual.  He first gave me this...

I couldn't help but laugh!  It's just like him to give me something humorous first.  He also got me the Invicta watch that I mentioned wanting a couple of months ago.  He's great because he ALWAYS pays attention and remembers when I mention something that I want.  What a good Hubby!  I LOVE it!

Truth be told, I'd have been happy just getting the funny t-shirt and spending time with Hubs.  The gorgeous watch was a bonus.

The rest of the night was colorful.  Our beverage server was awful, and he continued to be awful throughout the cruise.  We also met more of our table-mates at dinner who were no-shows the first night.  They were CRAZY--rude to the waitstaff, didn't like anything on the menu, complained that all of the dishes were dirty, and barely ate any of their food.  I was actually embarrassed to sit at the table with people like this.  They were straight-up MEAN.  They should have just gone to the buffet if all the wanted to eat was chicken tenders and french fries and criticize the hard-working waitstaff!!  We actually tried to get our dinner assignment changed because of this but were told no.  Booo to that.  The highlight of the night was coming back to our room and finding another towel animal.  I think this one was a dog.  We initially thought it might be a pig, but the ears seemed too floppy.

The next day, we arrived in Nassau.  We didn't have an excursion planned so we just slept in, wandered around town for awhile, did some shopping for souvenirs at the Straw Market.  I found a Bahamas magnet that had our wedding colors in it, so that was my big purchase there.  I had to get out fast because we were getting harrassed by the local ladies running their booths.  I also found a Coach store and a GREAT cosmetics store that sold Jo Malone fragrances, but Hubs reminded me that I already have a horde of perfume and couldn't bring anymore home.  It was a buzzkill, but I know he's right.

After that, we had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe because Hubs and I love looking at rock memorabilia.  Hubs was offended because they had a guitar signed by the band Warrant hung prominently in the entryway.  He does NOT like hair metal bands because "they're not real heavy metal".  If that was a Metallica guitar, he'd have been singing a different tune. 

Lunch was great, as was this lovely mid-day pick-me up:

It's a blue margarita.  I have a 'thing' for blue cocktails, meaning that I've never met one I didn't like.  Ever.  I can rarely pass up a drink with blue curacao in it!  This drink was awesome, as expected for being blue. 

After that, we headed back to the boat for swimming and mini-golf.

Our golf balls in our wedding colors.  Awww. :)

The next day, we had a day at sea, where we played in the casino, went to shows, and drank by the pool.  We had wanted to go to the pool again, but there were absolutely no chairs for us to use for our things.  We gave up on pool time and decided that checking out the boat and all of the different bars was more fun.

I love me some slot machines.  Like Paula Deen, I'm a slot slut.  I have my mother to blame for getting me into this.

This is my favorite cruise drink, the Miami Vice.  It's just pina colada mixed with strawberry daiquiri.  It's soooo good though!!!  You have to try it if you haven't already.  Do it.

On our last night of the cruise, both Hubs and I came down with a terrible (and I do mean TERRIBLE) bout of food poisoning.  We were up sick ALLL night.  It might have been one of the worst experiences ever!  We both at the same things so we have no idea what caused it, but perhaps it was the seafood.  Needless to say, we got off the boat having slept very little and we drove back to Tampa in a hard rainstorm.  It took us both a couple of days to recover from this, but we're doing okay now.

All in all, we had a blast being together and celebrating our anniversary, but we had some issues on the boat.  Our awful stateroom attendant (who was practically non-existant throughout the trip), bad service in the dining room, bad table-mates, rough-looking boat and food poisoning were no bueno, but this is all unusual for cruises.  Thankfully, Hubs is willing to give a cruise another try, maybe next time on Royal Caribbean. 

So glad to be back and getting caught up on my blogging!


Nichole said...

I feel so bad that you guys didn't have a better experience. We did the Sensation our first cruise; we thought the decor was sooo tacky but other than that we had a great time. Though I wouldn[t mind trying a RC cruise myself, next time

Krystal said...

What Nichole said. We did the Sensation as our first cruise and absolutely loved it. The boat is a little rough though -- it's so old! I've never heard of Carnival not honoring a table request change! That is unusual. This cruise was one of my favorites that I've been on. We went in Dec when Freeport and Nassau were "slow" and it was so flippin' fun!

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