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Just got back from the Sensation this past week. I took some time to get settled, but now I am ready to share my experience.
This was our (DW) tenth (10th) cruise and I must say they have all been short cruises. Unfortunately, both of us have jobs that require a lot of time. Living in Florida we are able to drive to the pier, jump on the ship and be off in time to still catch the majority of the next work week. However, we are now committed to doing a seven (7) day cruise next year.
We stayed in Tampa the night before the cruise at the Radisson Bay Harbor. Got the hotel on priceline and were very pleased. We paid $58.00 (plus tax) and it was clean, well appointed and the beds were very comfortable. I was only mildly disappointed that we did not get a room on the Bay side, but who cares. The four of us (my cousin and his wife) decided to trip down to Channelside the night before the cruise. Being a Wednesday night, it was very slow. We ate dinner (and drank) at Stumps Supper Club. We all enjoyed the ribs and the beer was cold and delicious. For the four of us (each had a few beers) the entire bill was less than $100.00. We were very satisfied and ready to continue drinking so we went to Howl at the Moon (Piano Bar). Again, it was really slow so it was not as fun as I thought it would be, but who can have a bad time the night before you get on a cruise ship. We all drank quite a few beers and had a pretty good time. I will say that I was a tad disappointed in the talent at the bar that night, but I guess with it being Wednesday this was probably not their best talent. I would like to go there on a Saturday Night and check it out. I will bet it can get pretty fun.
We arrived at the Port of Tampa (Pier 2) the next day at approximately 11:15 am. A little early, but a security guard told us the night before that the earlier the better. His logic was that it gets really crowded at 12:00pm. After a short wait in line for the porters we dropped our bags, and parked the car. While dropping our bags we found out that DW and I were assigned cabin M89. Since we were an O/V guarantee we were certainly happy with the upgrade. Joe (cousin) and his wife were pre assigned to cabin E-76. They were also happy with their assignment. The parking at the port is $10.00 per day and prepaid. The garage was clean, safe and had security both times I was in it. This made me feel comfortable. After our check in (maybe 20 minutes) we were told to sit in what I call the bullpen area. We were in group two and should have boarded the ship very quickly. Unfortunately, the ship had some problems (unknown) clearing customs on this day and did not start boarding until 1:00 p.m. Nevertheless, the wait was kind of fun as we were doing quite a bit of people watching. It always amazes me how diverse a cruise ship is on a given voyage. There were definitely people there from all walks of life.
What else can I say about the Sensation except that she is purple. I guess, a lot. I like the Sensation better than any Fantasy Class ship that I have been on. It seems to me that she is cleaner that the Ecstasy, Imagination, and Fascination and doesn't have as much wear and tear. I like the new atrium bar and didn't make it past there to order my first drink. When we boarded the ship, the violinist was playing soft music with an accompanying piano player. This ship is old, but I was never disappointed in the cleanliness. There is always someone working on something to keep the ship in tip-top shape. The cabins are all the same on the Fantasy Class ships, but the Sensation, with her recent renovation has new down comforters and life vests. The beds on the Sensation are extremely comfortable and there is certainly ample room for all luggage. My wife and I over pack for each cruise we go on. We hang everything up and have no problems finding room for our stuff. In the bathroom there was a basket filled with goodies. We found the rolaids and the toothpaste very useful but did not need the shampoo and conditioner they provided. Also in the basket were dental floss, nightime pills, and a few other things. Carnival didnt used to provide this basket of goodies, but I like it. If I forget something, I know I can get it from the basket. Walking around in the public areas was nice. We especially liked the fitness area, and the spa there. There are rarely a lot of people in that area of the ship, and never kids. Speaking of children, this cruise was during the Easter Break (for many schools) and we had our fair share of kids. While I am not opposed to kids on a cruise, there was a group that was near us that did not have enough chaperones. Later in the cruise we paid for that dearly because several kids in a cabin got really drunk. They wrestled, fought, cursed, and threw up. After that, they went to sleep and must have vowed not to drink anymore, because we didnt hear from them again. The Piano Bar is a popular spot for us as well. Darin was the talent there and does a great job. Another musician that I liked was a guy that used to call his group curveball. While they split up, this soloist still plays classic rock tunes on the Promenade deck. he was really great.
Food and Entertainment
The food on the Sensation was good, but not great. Being a vet of the short cruise market I know the food quality. I have had better and I have definitely had worse. The portions were pretty good and I never left the table hungry. As for me, I had the Beef the first night, the Lobster on Formal night, and the Pasta on the final night. We did not eat on the ship while in Cozumel. The only complaint I had about the food, was that on the second night, the shrimp cocktail was warm instead of cold. Not a big complaint but it was kind of yucky when I ate it. Other than that, the food was good. Of course, the Desserts were very good. We had a bottle of wine with each dinner and had great table mates. With the four of us was another group of four from Tampa. We always had conversation and ended up meeting some good people. Word to the wise. If you order Pinot Grigio by the glass it is cheaper than having a bottle. This kind of annoyed my cousin since he had ordered several bottles of it and then found out it was cheaper by the glass. Oh well. As far as entertainment, we only saw one show and it was about what I expect from Carnival. The music and dance was pretty good. We also went to the adult comedy show. It was funny as usual. We were all disappointed in the Newlywed (Not so Newlywed) Game. When we sat down for the show, Jorge (Cruise Director) began speaking and had already pre selected the three couples for the show. he later told me that he did not pre select the couples but we were not convinced. he was also a bit defensive when posed with what Carnival terms an "opportunity for improvement". It took away from the comedy and seemed that they had time to think about their answers which looked bad. Perception is reality and we perceived that the game and answers were rigged.
In Cozumel, we went on the Fiesta Party Boat tour. We had a good time. Having been on this one before, we knew the game. We sat upstairs and enjoyed the ride there with a few cocktails. Before we boarded the Catamaran we went to the Fat Tuesday's and had a 190 octane. These drinks will throw you for a loop. Watch out. After we spent about 2 hours on Playa Sol, we headed back. Being that there were many children on board the hosts of the party boat were somewhat subdued. Nevertheless, it was fun. We got to enjoy some tequila drinking and watched the kids try to break open the pinata (SIC). When we got back to the pier (Puerta Maya) we immediately took a cab over to Carlos and Charlies. The cab ride was fun and only costs $10.00 with tip. At Carlos and Charlies, we had dinner (four people, about $70.00 American). We each had a single Dos XX with dinner and then went to the bar for some fun. This was a good time, but again there were some young people at the restaurant. This must have been where the young HS students got drunk, because I guess the drinking age must be 18 in Mexico. After lots and lots of beer, we headed back to the ship. I was tucked into bed by 10:00 pm that night. I guess I just can't hang like I used to.
This was a piece of cake. We were carrying our luggage off and got to wait with the people who were taking early flights. At about 9:30 am we were off the ship and on our way back to reality. All in all it was a great time and I (as usual) hated getting off the ship. Cant wait for my next cruise. Any specific questions, please feel free to email me. Glad to help.