We take a family cruise every year! I love cruising and many years ago I had mentioned to my grandmother that once I retired I'd love to take a cruise once a year. Her advice back to me was to not wait until then. She said you never know what will happen between now and then and what your life will be like during retirement. She is right, so we started taking a family cruise every year.
My husband and I have now been on 10 cruises (this was our 6th with Carnival, and we've done two with Royal, one with Princess, and one with Disney). Our two kids have been on 9 cruises (only missing out on the Princess cruise we did before they were born).
We just got back today from our 6th cruise with Carnival. We usually like to take their cruises because they are more affordable than the other cruise lines, and yet we still have a lot of fun (a lot more fun than when we took Royal cruises, which was sorely lacking in entertainment options). This cruise we took the Liberty ship, which was our first time on that ship. The cruise left from Port Canaveral (which is about an hour away from our home). We left on Sunday, had a fun day at sea on Monday, spent Tuesday at Princess Cays, spent Wednesday at Freeport, and then we were back home on Thursday morning.
We reserved a room with a balcony this time (room 8289). We used to always get a balcony, then for a couple of cruises we got just the window/ocean view room. It was nice to have the balcony again! I have never rented an interior room and wouldn't, they seem like a dark closet. I at least need a room with a window.
On the fun day at sea we usually like to just relax, take in the entertainment, and do our own thing. The kids went off to the Circle C club for ages 12-14 and spent hours there having fun playing sports and games with other kids. My husband and I just chilled on the deck, reading, and relaxing. They also have a pool, hot tub, water slide, basketball court, mini-soccer, running track, gym, and more. Each day they offer scheduled entertainment that includes music, shows, movies, karaoke, comedy club shows, trivia, and other options. You just pick and choose what you want to do. I love that they now have an app you can download and use (free). You can log on to see the entertainment schedule, food menus, dining room times, and more. It's great, very handy, and I used it a lot.
Our favorite stops on the cruises are always the private islands. We love to snorkel at them and just relax and take in the beauty. Princess Cays is not a private island, but it's the private end of an island, so you feel like only people from the ship are on the island. There are lots of lounge chairs all down the beach, there are restrooms, an island BBQ (which is free), bungalows you can rent, and shore excursions. Princess Cays is one of the stops where you have to be tendered over to the destination, meaning that a smaller boat will take a group of people over and drop them off. You will have to catch one of those smaller boats back to the cruise ship at the end of the day (or when you want to go back on before that).
We found a nice spot away from the crowd that was shaded by some palm trees and we set up for the day. We had taken our snorkel gear (you can also rent it there). We went snorkeling quite a bit and then in between we relaxed, read, ate, and had a great time. We enjoyed the snorkeling. The water is a bit rough, but it's beautiful. We could see corals and lots of cool fish. We pretty much take the last tender back to the cruise ship, because we love being on the island so much. It's beautiful and relaxing. During the day they set up a big buffet where you can go to get food (no charge), and they offer free drinks (water, iced tea, lemonade), and there is a bar where you can purchase alcohol drinks.
This was our third time visiting Freeport. The first time we went we went there we took a city island tour, which was nice. It went to the shopping district, stopped off at a beach, and drove around so you could see the island. The next time we went to Freeport we took a taxi to the main shopping area, where walked around and then went across the street to the free beach area. This time around, we got off the ship for one hour, walked around the small shopping area at the terminal, and got back on the ship. There's next to nothing to do right at cruise port. It's very industrial right there and all the shops that set up sell a bunch of made in China type of stuff that I'm not interested in. They don't even offer any authentic restaurants you could get off and go to. The port has a Senior Frogs, which is a Mexican food chain. They really need a Bahamian restaurant or two there to give people a better cultural experience. If we go back to Freeport again on another cruise, I'm going to look into renting a car (I saw a car rental place at the port this time around), so we can drive around and go to the beach on our own. Or we will take a taxi to go to the nature park that is in the area.
Here are my thoughts on individual areas regarding this Carnival cruise:
Ship. This was the first time on the Carnival Liberty. It was our favorite Carnival ship! We liked the room, the ship, and thought it was the best one so far.
Food. Our past five cruises with Carnival we never cared for the food. The food has always been sub-par. We are a vegetarian family, so possibly for those who eat meat the food is better, but for us we've never cared for it. This time around on the Liberty we actually liked the food! Yay! The food was really good. We had some dishes that were great, including crispy stuffed Portobello mushrooms (stuffed with spinach and butternut squash), which were delicious. Other really good dishes were grilled tofu steaks, the Indian dishes, really good Mexican food from Blue Iguana, falafel wrap from the deli, and vegetable lasagna. They had some really good side dishes, soups, and deserts as well. We've been on other cruise lines that have better food than Carnival's in the past (Disney and Princess), but finally the food was good on this trip. We don't feel it's ever worth spending thousands more to go on one of the other cruise lines to get better food, because we are happy with everything else on Carnival. They also offer free ice cream all of the time, which my son loves.
Entertainment. One of the things we love about Carnival is that they do a great job with entertainment options. The kids had fun with the Circle C activities, plus we enjoy the comedy club and karaoke. They also offer a variety of other things you can do, such as watch movies, see live shows, do trivia, go to the casino, etc. The Carnival Liberty also has swimming pools, hot tubs, and a water slide, which the kids had fun with. We start our morning with exercise by hitting the gym and running the track.
Cost. We booked this cruise last January when they were having a sale. It cost us $1259 (for a room with a balcony, two kids, two adults). They also gave us an on-board credit of $75, which was applied to our purchases made on the ship. That's a comfortable price for us for a trip, considering it includes all the food, drinks (except a few sodas and some beer), entertainment, etc.
Ports. We loved Princess Cays and would go back again. It's beautiful and such a relaxing day. We loved the snorkeling there, too. Freeport isn't a destination that I'd set out for, it's just one that happens to be coupled with a place I would want to go to. Most of them seem to have Freeport or Nassau attached and so you just take it. We've taken some excursions in both of those places and the stops are better if you take excursions, but they can be costly. It's more affordable to book your own fun once you get off the ship at these ports, but you do have to be careful about who you are booking with. Nassau can be quite dangerous and is considered one of the most dangerous cruise ports. Always exercise cautionat the ports in the Bahamas, as they can be dangerous if you go off on your own. Read this warning by the State Department. The private islands seem safe, as only the cruise personnel and passengers are usually there.
Kids. The kids have always had a great time on Carnival cruises. When they were little we would put them in Camp Carnival and we would do our own thing for a few hours here and there. Now they are in the older group, Circle C, which is for 12-14 year old kids. They can check themselves in and out, coming and going as they please. They liked hanging out there and doing some of the activities (games, parties, sports). There is no additional charge to use these services during the day (they offer babysitting services for the little kids if you want to stay out late at night).
Overall. Another Carnival cruise that we enjoyed as a family! We already have our next cruise booked with them for 2019. We like to take most of our cruises with Carnival, because you get the best value for the money. Some cruise lines cost two to three times what we pay for our Carnival cruises, but they are not two to three times the fun. We always have fun on the Carnival cruises, so it's a good bet for us to book with them!
Here are pictures from our Carnival Liberty cruise to Princess Cays and Freeport out of Port Canaveral: