Our Family’s First Cruise – Bahamas Vacation Recap
Hey everyone! We’re officially back from our Bahamas vacation getaway and today I’m sharing a full recap of our family’s first cruise on Carnival Elation out of Jacksonville, Florida. In this post I’m sharing a ton of photos from our trip, all the fun things we did on our cruise and at the ports in the Bahamas, and what we loved and didn’t love about our first cruise experience.
The Cruise Ship
Carnival graciously provided us with priority boarding and we ended up arriving on the ship around noon on Thursday. It was nice to be able to explore the ship minus the crowds and my sons loved having the whole top of the ship to themselves. We also took this extra time to check out our room and get unpacked.
Although we had an interior room, it was surprisingly spacious and my boys loved their pull out bunk beds. We also really enjoyed our king size bed which was very comfortable, and we had a ton of storage in the room for storing all our belongings.
Overall, we were all very impressed with the food on Carnival Elation. We ended up eating in both the dining room as well as taking advantage of the buffet areas and specialty restaurants including Guy’s Burger Bar and Blue Iguana Mexican Cantina. They also had a 24 hour pizzeria and a deli area where you could get fresh to made subs and sandwiches.
Based on other’s reviews/feedback online, I expected the food in the buffet area to be subpar, but it was both delicious and I was really impressed with the range of choices they had, including healthier options. The dining room food ended up being my favorite, and even my sons who can sometimes be picky loved it. The crab cakes, prime rib, vegetarian lasagna, s’mores parfait, and chocolate melting cake were just a few of our favorites.
Of course, we also loved indulging in sweet treats at the buffet bar daily and their cookies were literally SO good. We couldn’t help but order a tray of warm cookies and milk to our room on the last night. 🙂
The Waterpark and Poolside Relaxing
We spent a great deal of time sitting poolside watching our boys swim and play at the waterpark, and they had a blast on all the slides. My husband and I enjoyed just sitting and relaxing under the warm sun, without a care in the world.
The weather was still a little chilly some of the days so I didn’t swim any, but of course that didn’t stop our boys from enjoying all the fun.
Exploring Nassau Bahamas
While on our cruise, we ported at Freeport Bahamas and Nassau Bahamas. We didn’t really explore much in Freeport due to lack of time, but really enjoyed venturing out in Nassau and seeing some of the local attractions. We walked around exploring the local area and even had the opportunity to talk with a few of the locals.
The Queen’s Staircase
This awesome landmark was just 10 minutes from our cruise port and is located in the Fort Fincastle Historic Complex. The steps were built by slaves out of solid limestone rock between 1793 and 1794 and at the time it provided a direct route from Fort Fincastle to Nassau City.
As long as you have comfy walking shoes, it was very easy to find and leads you straight up to Fort Fincastle which is also a cool spot.
After climbing the Queen’s Staircase, you will find Fort Fincastle which was constructed in 1793. We didn’t go inside, but it was definitely neat to see it up-close. The Fort overlooks the entire city of Nassau, making for a great view of the area.
The water was so gorgeous and the boys really enjoyed splashing around and playing in the sand. The beaches closest to the cruise port are pretty crowded, so I would definitely recommend venturing out a little further if you can.
Our First Cruise Experience
Hands-down the best part about our cruise was the staff and the overall friendly atmosphere. Even amidst large crowds of people which normally gives me major anxiety, I was able to still have a super enjoyable time and the staff always went above and beyond in making sure we were completely satisfied and happy.
They also went out of their way to make me and my husband feel super special in celebration of our 10th wedding anniversary. Not only did they surprise us with in-room chocolate covered strawberries, but our stateroom steward surprised us with a gift card for spa services and a photo gift, a magician gave us a personal magic show that made my sons’ day, and on the last night they brought us out a special anniversary cake and sang to us. They even brought my boys ice cream swans, which I thought was awesome.
All these thoughtful gestures were completely unexpected but so appreciated and you can tell they really enjoy making people feel special on their vacation. For this, Carnival definitely gets an A+ in my book.
Things We Loved
The Shows/On-Board Activities – There was never a shortage of on-board activities available, and we loved the fact that they had so many fun shows. The Cowboy Comedian PG comedy shows were our personal favorite, and our whole family couldn’t stop laughing the entire show. We also really enjoyed the family game night and the Dr Seuss parade.
The Food and Drinks – Again, the food was amazing and although I didn’t mention it earlier, we also really enjoyed the drinks. Although my husband and I aren’t huge drinkers, we definitely enjoyed treating ourselves to some fruity drinks while relaxing pool-side, and the Bahama Mama was my favorite.
The Friendly People – From our waiter to our room steward to random staff we would see while walking in the lobby, every person on the ship was SO friendly. We felt like we were getting the royal treatment the whole time we were on-board and although we’re not the type to make crazy requests, I’m pretty sure they would have provided us with just about anything we asked them. Maybe this is a cruise thing in general, but I was 110% impressed.
Things We Didn’t Enjoy
The Short Cruise Length – We deliberately planned our first cruise to be a shorter one to fit in with our boys’ school schedule, and to ensure we liked it before booking a longer one. That said, 4 days is definitely not enough time to get into full on relaxation mode. About the time we really started relaxing and enjoying ourselves, it was time to start packing up. For our next cruise, we will definitely be booking a 7 day cruise or longer.
The Quick Port Stops – Again, we’re the type of people who prefer to take our time and immerse ourselves into the local culture and there just simply wasn’t enough time for that on this specific cruise. We were only at Freeport, Bahamas for 6 hours and were only in Nassau, Bahamas for 8 hours, making it pretty difficult to venture out too far. This is completely personal preference, but for us we would prefer longer experiences at each port stop.
The Ship Only Had One Unheated Pool – Carnival Elation is one of the smaller ships that Carnival has, so going into it I knew that there would be limited space, but only having one pool was definitely a bummer. The fact that they had a waterpark did help in offering the kids other activities to do, but I do wish they would consider adding another pool area and they definitely need to make it heated. Even being in the 80’s somedays, the pool was still freezing almost the entire time we were on board.
All in all we had a great experience and we’re definitely ready to plan another vacation very soon. Have you ever cruised before? Did you enjoy your experience? Tell me in the comments below!
Thanks for stopping by!- Cara
It looks like you had such a nice getaway, and happy belated anniversary! We’ve never been on a cruise – I’m with you that all those people would probably give me anxiety – but we hope to do an Alaska cruise at some point.
Thank-you! My mother and father-in-law did an Alaskan cruise several years back and they said it was the best one they’d ever did. They even spotted and video taped a mama whale and her babies beside the ship, which I thought was awesome!
SO much fun! Cruising is hands down my favorite way to travel, but I hear you – those 3 or 4 night cruises are way too short. Even after a 7 day cruise, we always wish we had another day or 2 to enjoy the ship or some islands. And yay for them celebrating your anniversary too, so sweet <3
I agree. I’m thinking the 10-14 day ones are the way to go! 😉 Hope you’re having a blast on yours!
Wow, what a fun trip! The ship slides look pretty cool, kids always have a blast even if it’s cold haha! I love that they did so much to spoil you for your anniversary…that is so nice. I loved the kindness by all the employees on our cruise also, it felt kind of surreal and we were treated like royalty everywhere. So very nice. We did a 5 day, and said next time we would do longer also. Glad you had an excellent trip, love hearing all about it!
Haha I think the water could have been sub-arctic and they still would have wanted to swim! And that’s amazing- it seems like everyone who works on cruises really enjoys what they do and wants to ensure everyone has a great time, which makes for a wonderful vacation for all. So glad you’ve had great experiences too!
It looks like a blast and so beautiful! I am glad you all had a great time. I do agree about short stops though. That has stopped me from booking cruises in the past. Happy belated anniversary!
Thanks! It was really beautiful and all in all a great vacation! I think short cruises are great if you just want to lounge on the beach/ship all day, but if you like to venture out and explore it does make it difficult to see very much. We’re hoping to book a longer 7-10 day one another time.
Love the post and pictures glad you guys had a good time. Love you Dad and Mom.
Thanks, love you all too.