We’ve kind of had our eye on the Carnival Cruise Bahamas sailing for a couple of years so we finally took the plunge and booked it.
It was not only our first trip to The Bahamas, but also our very first cruise! We learned so much on our first cruise experience and if you’re a Carnival newbie like us, then we hope this post will help you on your first cruise as well.
We went on the 5 day sailing that departs from Jacksonville, Florida and visits Half Moon Cay and Nassau.
Prior to our sailing, we researched online where to park during the cruise. JaxPort has parking and it costs $85 for a 5 day cruise ($68 for a 4 day cruise.) Despite the price, we loved the convenience of parking and easy walking to the cruise terminal with our luggage.
However, for a cheaper option at $45, WallyPark is another parking choice. They also have covered parking (JaxPort does not and we actually returned to a crack in our upper windshield due to possibly a rock hitting it while we were gone.) We replaced the windshield when we got home.
The only problem is, to get to and from their lot, you’d have to take one of their scheduled shuttles which is a 15 minute ride away from the cruise terminal. We didn’t feel like doing that so we just paid for parking at JaxPort.
When driving in to the terminal parking entrance, you must show your passport or other valid documents along with your boarding time that Carnival emailed to you. You must arrive at your assigned boarding time, no early or no later because if it’s not your boarding time they will turn you away (according to our attendant.)
Luckily, we were right on time.
The ship was huge to us as first time cruisers, however we were told by other passengers who were seasoned Carnival cruisers that Elation is actually one of Carnival’s smaller vessels. It holds 2,130 guests and 920 crew members.
I won’t go too much into detail about ship specs, etc. but you can see it all here.
Our stateroom was on Deck 5 on the Aft side. We booked an interior room with no window or balcony which was fine for us considering we weren’t in our room a lot. Although, it would’ve been nice to see from our room when we’re approaching a port.
Staterooms are small and they do have an in-room bathroom but you could only shower since there isn’t a tub. We loved the consistent cleanliness of our room, and Tristan always got a kick out of the towel animals our housekeeper, Dewa left for us daily.
My favorite topic, the food! So there is a main dining room in both the Aft (stern) and Forward (bow) of the ship. We ate dinner every night in the Aft’s main dining room and a sit down breakfast in the Forward’s dining room. It’s a delicious sit down dinner complete with a 3 course menu of appetizers, entrees and desserts.
When we booked the cruise, we chose assigned seating early dining (around 6pm). We liked assigned seating instead of Open seating because every night we had the same table and even the same servers whom we got to know really well! Marvin and Adrian were very generous and entertaining. They even sent Tristan chicken nuggets and fries to our room after dinner each night for his late night snack!
We also really appreciated the help and hospitality of Katalin and Dario (Senior Maitre D’) especially our first night at dinner when it was cut short by Meshach’s sea sickness. Dario even walked us to our room to make sure everyone was ok.
Main dining room is only open for breakfast and dinner. There are other places you can eat for other meals such as Guy’s Burger Joint (addictive burgers!), Pizza Pirate open 24/7, Blue Iguana Cantina, Tiffany’s Lido Restaurant, 24 hour room service (we used that for late night snacks) and the list goes on!
We love mini golf so it was awesome to have a mini golf course on the ship. Of course Tristan had to cheat the game like always!
You can also take a dip in the pool, play on the sports deck, check out art exhibits, visit the beautiful Mark Twain library, go to a show and our favorite – trivia nights in the atrium!
Our favorite trivia was naming a song based on the DJ playing only the first few seconds of it. I was totally winning the 90s night. Spice Girls forever!
There are many other things to do and see on the ship, just keep your eye out for the daily schedule they’ll slip under your stateroom door each night in preparation for the next day.
A lot of my coworkers told me to put Tristan in Camp Ocean and said he would love it – they were right! I wish we could put him in a kids camp on all of our trips!
The camp is split into different age groups and areas. Tristan was in the Penguins group for ages 2-5. Every day he asked us if he were going to camp that day and was super excited to go when he did.
When you drop off your kid at camp, they will give you a cell phone so they can reach you if they need to. Once registered, you check-in to camp by finding your kid’s camp name tag which also includes your muster (emergency zone) and room number.
They have all sorts of kid friendly activities at Camp Ocean like art, educational games, free time to play, so they will never get bored.
Camp Ocean is open during certain times of the day, typically not around meal times except for dinner where you can drop your kid off to Tiffany’s restaurant and they all eat there in a designated area of the restaurant.
We took advantage of that by our 3rd night when Tristan made it clear that all he wanted to do was go to Camp Ocean everyday. So we were able to enjoy a quiet, mommy and daddy meal in the main dining room.
What You Should Know
- Bring Dramamine or a sea band. We didn’t think we’d get sea-sick but we did. I wore the bands and they really did work.
- Keep your Sign and Sail card with you at all times, not only can you buy things with it onboard, but you need to have it with you on port days or you cannot leave the ship or get back on without it. We learned this the hard way when we were finally about to board our tender for Half Moon Cay after waiting an hour and were turned away because we did not have our cards with us.
- Alcohol and soda are not included. If you buy a bottle of wine in the main dining room and don’t finish it, they can save it for you to drink at your next dinner. Tea (hot and iced), lemonade, coffee, juice and water from the drink dispensers in the dining areas are free.
- You can take their beach towels off the ship only when going to Half Moon Cay since it is their private island.
- You need to have your passport or other valid documents with you when visiting other ports like Nassau and Freeport. Once again, don’t forget your Sign & Sail card as well.
- Bring an empty water bottle on board, you can refill it at the drink dispensers.
- A buffet lunch is included at Half Moon Cay. You can drink iced tea, water and lemonade from the dispensers (the cups are very small!). All other drinks have to be purchased on the island.
- You can take food to your room from all the eateries except the main dining room (they can send it up to your room after your meal.)
- Bring a power strip for your stateroom (not a surge protector) it comes in handy for keeping multiple electronics charged.
- Buy the Faster to the Fun (FTTF) package – it’s such a great time saver and cuts down big time on boarding and disembarking.
- WiFi is cool to have if you need it, be aware that on sea days it gets very spotty on this itinerary (at least it did for us.)
- Lunch is served on the lido deck the day you first board, and breakfast is served on the day you disembark.
- If you wait until the last sea day of the trip, the gift shop marks down a lot of its merchandise. I paid $25 for a $60 purse!
- Formal night is on the first sea day, so wear something nice (think cocktail hour attire.)
- There’s a mandatory safety meeting that everyone must attend prior to the ship’s departure from port. They will go over life jackets and other emergency procedures. You can’t skip it – they will find you and they are good at tracking people down!
- Do the Dr. Seuss breakfast held on the last sea day, it’s well worth the $5 per person!
- Some ports (like Half Moon Cay) need a tender. If you have a FTTF package, or booked an excursion you will be one of the first groups on a tender. Otherwise, you’d get on the tender via the group number you received when the tender announcement was made.
- Do try the rare finds options on the menu in the main dining room. Each night had something different. We ate frog legs and escargot for the very first time!
- You can order as much as you want from the main dining room menu (if you have room in your stomach), we were stuffed from the 3 course meal alone!
- Room service is 24 hours however only certain things can be ordered free of charge such as salads, sandwiches and the usual drinks that are always included (tea, lemonade, coffee, juice) Everything else you order from room service must be purchased.
- Bring a light jacket even though it’s a warm weather cruise. The top decks and evenings on the ocean get breezy and sometimes chilly.
- Do take lots of photos and most of all, HAVE FUN!
If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading! I tried to make this as informative as I could based on our experience. Would we consider sailing with Carnival again? Yes!
Look out for more posts to come about Half Moon Cay and Nassau!
Check out our mini-movie, “The Bahamas” for an exclusive look at our trip!
Have you ever been on a cruise and do you have some cruise tips? Comment below and share this post!