Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Best Vacation EVER!!

We have had our share of vacations in our lifetimes so far. But, Mike and I agree that the cruise we just took ranks as the best vacation EVER!!

I have lots of pics and things to say. So, I decided to let my cruise review tell you the whole story and plug in pics here and there. It may sound a bit impersonal, but it tells the story pretty well. :D

The day we boarded, June 6, it was rainy in Jacksonville.

First day at sea:

Elegant Night-2nd night of cruise

The wait staff in the dining room sang and danced for us each night.


We had a delightful family cruise aboard the Carnival Fascination. We are a couple in our thirties with a child nearly three-years-old. We took the five-day cruise which stopped at Key West and Nassau.

When we decided to cruise, we first considered Disney Cruise lines. We were turned off by the price and decided our child wouldn't realize what she would be missing. After some research, I learned that Carnival had the second best programs for young children next to Disney. After looking at prices, we learned that we could book a cruise from Jacksonville (saving driving time and gas money since we are GA residents) and even have an extra night for still about half the price of a Disney cruise. So, it was a no-brainer!

We stayed at Best Western near the airport. We were very happy with this choice. We reserved our room about three weeks in advance and chose the Park and Cruise option. We were able to leave our car at the hotel and get a shuttle ride to the port. This was very convenient. We were able to choose the time we would be ready to leave the hotel. The breakfast served at Best Western offered many choices and we were pleased. On the day of debarkation, we were given a shuttle ride back and were allowed to have breakfast again. Also, the hotel is near a nice shopping area with many choices for shopping and dining.

In Key West we did not book an excursion. We had spent time in Key West in the past, so we already had ideas about what we wanted to do. We went straight to Duval Street to stroll, people-watch, shop, and have lunch. We ate at Caroline's. They have an excellent shrimp po'boy. The ranch dressing is also excellent-very fresh. My husband had the Cuban mix. He was pleased with it as well. After lunch we decided to take a pedi-cab (bicycle cab). This was due to the intense heat and our child complaining about her shoes hurting. This was a great choice! Our tour took us the rest of the way down Duval and then by landmarks such as the lighthouse and the Hemingway House. We saw several stray chickens which made our little girl squeal with delight. We couldn't get back on the ship without getting a slice of Key Lime Pie dipped in chocolate on a stick. A must when visiting Key West!!! You can find these at any convenience store or other local shop offering ice cream.

Outside an art museum in KW. Allyson wanted her picture taken with the "really big Mommy and Daddy."

Enjoying Key Lime pie on a stick.

In Nassau, we did have an excursion. We booked the Blackbeard’s Beach Break. This involved a 30-minute boat ride to the private island. The island was very nice. The beach was beautiful white sand and the water was very clear. The only people on the beach were fellow cruisers. We had lounge chairs right in front of the water. I thought that I had read that we would get a complimentary drink. That’s not true unless you have an armband. In that case, you get a lunch and a drink. You had to get the stingray package for the armband. I spoke with a few people that purchased the stingray package and they were very pleased. Just note that if you book this excursion, you will need some cash for drinks. A cooler wouldn’t be a bad idea, though.

The port at Nassau

Pictures from Blackbeard's Beach in Nassau

We were pleased with our stateroom. We were on the main level. There was a pull-out bed for our child. We told her it was a “Pirate Bed” to get her interested in it. Our steward was mostly thorough. He met my expectations. We were glad that we paid the extra money for the window.

For dinner, we were assigned the Sensation dining room at the main seating time. Our tablemates had children, so we fit in with them just fine. However, on two occasions our child ate with her friends in the Camp Carnival program. This was great, because at 2 ½, it’s difficult to sit still at a fancy dinner.
I was most impressed with the lobster dinner and the vegetarian Indian dinner. However, everything I tried was very delicious.

The best thing I ever tasted was the chocolate melting cake. I had that as my dessert each night. You might want to request extra ice cream with it.

Allyson made a friend at dinner. Such a cutie! His family was from Ohio.

We had breakfast and lunch each day at Coconut Grove Grill. The only complaint I have is that it was so crowded. Each time we went, there was a long line and it was difficult to walk around to get drinks or find a table because of all the people. The food was great, though. My husband really enjoyed the deli.

Camp Carnival was amazing. Our child had a blast with all the fun-filled programs. She had her face painted three times. That seemed to be her favorite activity. Camp Carnival is in a great location for dropping off and picking up. The only thing that would make the program better would be to allow for drop-in all day. There were times that they were closed for lunch or to prepare for dinner. I understand that the workers need breaks, but they could alternate breaks to allow for more convenience for the parents.

Wiped out from a day at camp.

She got tattoos, too. :)

The entertainment was impressive. We really enjoyed the “Hey, Mambo” and the “Far From Over” 80’s show. The juggler was very talented and hilarious.

Waiting for a show. Photography during the show was not allowed.

Overall, it was the best vacation we had ever taken. We hated leaving. We wished the cruise had been for seven days.

Each night with our turn-down service, we found a "new friend" on our bed.

Towel Pals-

Pirate face and seal


Since we've been home...

The day we got home, we realized that our fridge had stopped working. All of our food was ruined and had to be thrown out. It was a 19 year-old fridge. It was beige and not attractive at all.

We went to Lowe's and Ta-Da! Here's our new fridge! Complete with water and ice in the door! Yay!

And, on the 17th, our dog, Pig died. Michael has had Pig since 2003, so we're all pretty sad about losing our family friend.

Mike found him in the usual place in our shop where he often would nap. We'll really miss Pig.

And, last night, someone stole our XM radio right out of our car in our car port. We're pretty singed about that. A sheriff's deputy was just here to take a report.

Hopefully, if it is true that bad things happen in threes, we're done. I hope that's the case!

Thanks, friends, for taking the time to read and comment on this super-long post!


Stacia said...

I'm so sorry about Pig :(

I loved all your cruise pictures and it does look like you had a blast!! Your new fridge is beautiful!

Andrea said...

Glad you had a great time on the cruise and sorry to hear about all the bad things that happened since you got back. So sorry about Pig...he was such a sweet dog!

Ben and Tabby said...

You're vacation looks like it was a blast! And I love your new fridge. So sorry about Pig. :(