It is true. My most recent vacation ended this past Monday, 8/25. I miss it already. My hubby and two crazy boys went to a place we’ve never been before…. We drove 13+ hours from Long Island to South Carolina with the intent of catching our first cruise. Yep, never been to SC and never been on a cruise. Both were interesting experiences. I am sad to say, however, that we did not get a chance to take full advantage of all that Charleston, SC had to offer. We have no doubt there was an abundance of things we could have done, both with and without kids. But time simply did not permit.
We did go to a water park, named Splash Zone at James Island County Park. The admission was relatively cheap (about $12 per person) and our family honestly had so much fun. We would definitely go there again! A lazy river, swimming pool and a dedicated kid zone along with two water slides was definitely up our alley! We also stayed one night at the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham. I wish I could say that this was an extremely pleasant experience, but it wasn’t. The room was very clean. They had a pool which our kids had fun in. But the front desk staff was extremely rude and they weren’t very helpful. I’d skip this hotel next time around.
So, our cruise. Our ship was the Carnival Fantasy. We left on 8/18 for a 5 night trip to the Bahamas and back. For under $400 per person we felt it was a price that couldn’t be beat. Though we could have gotten it cheaper had we booked earlier (we booked the cruise just under 3 weeks before departure). We had an inside stateroom. I was concerned that it would be super tiny and the four of us would be cramped, but that simply wasn’t the case. The hubby and I had a king size bed and the boys each had their own bed’s that pulled down from the wall. The boys got a kick out of being above us. We also had no window, which I was concerned would be weird, but it wasn’t. And it was true what they say, it didn’t seem to matter much since we were hardly in the room.
There was so much to do on the cruse ship too. The boys loved Camp Carnival and ditched us twice for dinner so they could eat with their new friends. The hubby and I mostly utilized the pool and hot tub areas. There is a part of the ship called Serenity which is adult only. We only went there for about an hour or two just one of the days on the ship. It was quiet and had we been on the ship longer or had it been just the two of us, I’m sure we would have used it more. There was a spa on the ship, but we didn’t use it. We also didn’t go to the steak restaurant as we had no desire to pay an additional $30 per person for dinner. There was a night club and casino on-board, and we did check out both. The casino seemed a bit dated but well maintained. The night club seemed fun but wasn’t really hopping around 10pm when we ventured in there. There was a comedy show and the guy was pretty funny, but for the life of me I can’t remember his name. If you’re wondering where the kids were when we were in the casino, night club and comedy show, they were with us… just kidding! Camp Carnival has something called Night Owls for after 10pm. For something like an extra $7 per kid per hour they watch your kids. We only did this two nights, but it was worth it for an extra 1-2 hours of adult freedom. Plus the kids had a blast and didn’t seem to notice that they were at camp for the extra time. We also took a family portrait. For an extra $20 it seemed worth it to me. A quick, professional, nice photo of our family on the way to dinner and it’s ready by the time we’re done eating. Beats dragging the kids and hubby to Sears any day!
Oh an the excursions while on at the Bahamas. First off we didn’t pay for those thorough Carnival. They were too expensive in our opinion. For instance, Carnival wanted something like $80 per person to go snorkeling. That’s a lot for a family of 4. So we decided to go a different route. On the island of Freeport for instance we noticed that the tax drivers had posted how much it was per person to get to various places on the island. So, question number one, where is the best place for snorkeling? We were told Paradise Cove. The sign said it was only $8 per person to get there each way. Ok, next questioning, snorkeling at Paradise Cove, how much? Well we found out from the taxi drivers that it’s only $4 if you have our own equipment per person, otherwise it’s $18 per person to rent their stuff. Ok so lets add this up.. $8+8+18=$34 per person, plus an extra $5 we spent per person on water and a sandwich at Paradise cove per person, that’s $39. $156 vs $320, I’ll take it. How’s that for snagging a deal? If we ever go back, mental note, bring snorkeling equipment from home.
Now the island of Nassau. That’s an experience. Plenty of people looking to “help you find a deal” off the ship on excursions. And we did consider another snorkeling trip or kayaking trip, but in the end we opted to sneak onto a resort. Yeah, I admit it, that’s what we did. We hopped a bus, which I believe was the # 12 and for about $1.25 per person per way we went to a resort, which will remain nameless (though it was beautiful and I highly recommend actually going there and paying lol) and we used their pool and took advantage of some swimming in the public beach. We took some rolls and cold cuts from the morning buffet for lunch, so food was free. Kids had fun swimming in a big fresh-water pool mostly by themselves. We loved being on a luxurious resort without having to pay for it (again, I’m not condoning this behavior, yes we are bad, I’m sorry). And we got back to the ship in plenty of time. There is also a market near the cruise ship which you can haggle the price down or just about anything with ease. I didn’t buy anything but it seemed like plenty of other people got some great deals on souvenirs.
So as far as cruising goes, we would definitely do it again. Just an FYI, many things are free on a cruise, but they find a way to nickle and dime you. Don’t pay or internet access on the ship. It’s not worth it. Spent nearly $10 trying to connect and was never able to. Thankfully Carnival did refund that to me. Just connect to the free WiFi on land. It also wasn’t that difficult being off the grid, in some ways it was kind of nice. Also, alcohol isn’t free. While I’m not going to confirm or deny if we did this, it is extremely easy to sneak alcohol on a cruse ship. I recommend watching YouTube videos on the subject. A wealth of information is out there on the topic and people are quite creative and clever.