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Cruise Ship Review

Carnival Sensation - Ship Review provided by Cruise Critic

Editor's Note: All eight of Carnival's Fantasy-class ships will receive extensive upgrades as part of Carnival's $250 million "Evolutions of Fun" program. Expansive children's water parks, a new design style and features for the pool areas (such as a 300-ft. waterslide), and the creation of the Serenity adults-only deck area will be part of the changes to the open decks of Carnival Cruise Lines' eight Fantasy-class ships.

Carnival Sensation gained the expanded outdoor recreation areas during a 35-day January 2009 dry-dock. Further, nearly 1,000 staterooms were renovated, and cosmetic enhancements were made to a wide range of public rooms and areas. For complete information on the refurb, read the review of sister ship Carnival Imagination.


Launched in 1993, Carnival's Sensation is now one of cruising's "golden oldies." But the ship -- part of a trio chartered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for emergency housing following Hurricane Katrina -- underwent a significant refurbishment before re-entering service in spring 2006. The multi-million dollar effort included the addition of a nine-hole mini golf course on Sports Deck and a 1,600-square-ft. "Children's World" play area on Verandah Deck where Camp Carnival has been relocated. Major bucks were also spent on upgrading the suites and demi-suites, and the spa got a refresher too. Another major upgrade: New bedding has been added throughout the ship.

Back when Carnival's fleet was considerably smaller, Sensation was a Joe Farcus production complete with bells, whistles and plenty of neon. Purple dominated the decor and passengers' heads swiveled as they boarded the colorful vessel prepared for a boatful of fun. The glass elevators were a novelty 13 years ago, and a multi-storied kinetic sculpture dominated the atrium where a horseshoe-shaped lobby bar now does its thing. It was, well, a sensation! Sensation is Carnival's third Fantasy-class ship; while themes are different on each vessel, if you can find your way around one, you can find your way around Ecstasy, Fantasy, Fascination, Imagination, Inspiration, Elation and Paradise.

But even with the refurbishment, the ship feels dated, and for the most part, looks it as well. Consider the "purple people eater" decor on Sensation. While it still has shock appeal -- not in a good sense -- the corrugated purple metal used extensively and specifically in elevators is scratched, tinny and completely disconcerting. (Yes, I agree, it is also disturbing that someone "keyed" a wall.) The Atrium sculpture was a signature on Fantasy-class ships, and without it, the Atrium looks a bit bare.

These ships offer a very small number of verandah cabins and do not have a dedicated alternative dining room/supper club. Both are major factors on newer vessels.

Having said all that, Sensation is a great value for first-time cruisers as well as families. It offers a variety of family-pleasing activities ranging from the wildly popular Camp Carnival with programs for youngsters between the ages of 2 and 17; a blue-noted very adult comic whose late-night shtick shocks even tough old uncle Artie; and exciting production revues with talented young singers and dancers, magnificent sound and light contributions, and Las Vegas-type costuming.

Dining

Fleetwide, Carnival's food has become really quite good. And, with French master chef Georges Blanc offering some of his signature dishes, meals can become an exotic experience in the two main dining rooms, Ecstasy and Fantasy (Blanc parted ways with the line in 2008). Tables accommodate up to 10 diners and booths provide seating for four or six. A spa menu, listing calories and fat grams, offers lighter choices.

The dining rooms are a little bit dated, but kept very clean. Service is excellent.

The Sea View Bar & Grill on Lido Deck has a great traffic flow, and even when crowded, tables seem to miraculously open up. There's a lot of purple up there, including molded purple plastic seats. The decor is Star Wars meets the high school cafeteria, but the food is excellent. The pizzeria is open 24 hours; ice cream and fat-free yogurt are also a round-the-clock thing. A station provides made-to-order eggs and omelets, and various breakfast offerings. Everything at the Sea View is cafeteria style. Lunch can be a full course meal if you like, a good solid salad with crisp greens, pizza or a piping hot deli sandwich.

At dinner, the Lido becomes a grill with some of the dining menu options for casual dining.

The Patisserie, on Promenade Deck, offers great coffees and teas, milkshakes, and calorie-laden baked goods. It's called "Cafe on the Way," a great name given its central location. Coffee has its price, and the price is on par with your neighborhood coffee house -- the $2.50 to $4 per drink neighborhood.

Room service is available 24 hours a day. Orders are delivered promptly, and although only a limited menu is offered at lunch and dinner, breakfast offers cereal, a toasted variety of breads, smoked salmon, really hot coffee and nicely toasted bagels.

Die-hard late-night buffet buffs won't be disappointed on Sensation. There's food galore for this group of energetic passengers. Midnight buffets may be becoming a thing of the past on some lines, but many Carnival guests opt for a plate of pasta, some sandwiches, and a slice or two of pizza before calling it a night. A buffet of offerings tempts those still out and about late at night, and a Grand Gala Buffet -- offered each cruise -- is as orgiastic as it sounds.

Public Rooms

Not only are Carnival guests a high-energy group, but they also love staying up late. And on Sensation, there are no shortages of spots to do just that.

They party hearty in the piano bar, Touch of Class (the seats at the bar are shaped like oversized hands, thus "touch"), a hot spot that can turn out to be standing room only. People enjoy the sing-alongs where they can take part in the music, but don't have to face the audience alone a la karaoke. Even though younger people make up much of the audience, some of the music appeals to Irving Berlin or George Gershwin fans.

Sensation guests can disco in the Kaleidoscope Disco or rock out in Michelangelo's.

Fantasy-class ships feature a long promenade (Deck 9), running from the atrium to the aft lounge.

On Sensation, the aft lounge is the Plaza Lounge (where karaoke IS offered), but it is the smaller, charming Polo Lounge outside the Plaza Lounge where many gather for a before-dinner drink. An intricate croquet mallet design woven into the carpet in the Polo Lounge gives it a British-clubby feel. The Polo Lounge is also home to two poker tables, run by the Club Vegas Casino. And with the poker craze sweeping the world, this is a very popular spot each evening.

On Promenade Deck, there's a video arcade, an evenings-only sushi bar, the photo gallery and the hot, hot, hot Club Vegas Casino -- a huge drawing card on any Carnival ship.

At the forward end of the Promenade sits the Fantasia Lounge. It is a pretty room, but sightlines are poor. Poles obstruct vision all round the two-level room, but if you don't mind getting a stiff neck in order to see a terrific show, you will be entertained!

Internet service is available on Deck 6.

Cabins

Inside cabins are 185 square ft.; oceanview cabins come in at 190 square ft. Most have twin beds, combinable into an extremely comfortable king-size bed. The Carnival Comfort Bed, a new sleep system with delightful pillows and a duvet, has made sleeping aboard the ship a treat. Lighting is good -- each bed has its own light -- and triples and quads nicely accommodate the needs of three or four people traveling together. These cabins go quickly -- especially over school holiday periods -- so book early.

Oceanview cabins and higher supply bathrobes. There are no hairdryers, and only suites have verandahs. Each cabin has a safe; Carnival recommends it be programmed with a credit card. Closet and drawer space is standard and adequate -- especially when casual wear is the order of the day.

Television sets -- again, in standard cabins -- are old and reception is poor.

Cabin color schemes feature that Carnival rusty red and gray combo with furniture accents, drapes and spreads in the same tones. Bathrooms in standard cabins are old. Towels, though, are lush and comfy, and the addition of bathrobes in oceanview and up cabins is a great touch. Amenities are sample-size products. Shampoo and body wash can be found in bottles affixed to the shower wall. Some cabins include a bar of soap, some do not -- guests have to ask. If the shower curtain isn't placed correctly, water will likely end up on the floor.

Recently redone suites feature new pillows, mattresses and duvets, while redone bathrooms in suites have been brought up to par with suites aboard newer vessels. The suites also have new furniture.

Sensation has 20 cabins for physically challenged guests.

Entertainment

Carnival guests are participants. Whether it's taking a spinning class, running the track on Sun Deck, grabbing the mic at karaoke or playing pool games, these guests enjoy all the ship offers. They play hard and party harder, and stay up later than guests do on many other lines. At 1 a.m., you will still find Carnival guests throughout the ship. Given guest evaluations, passengers on Sensation do find it to be a "Fun Ship."

The piano bar -- Touch of Class -- is a hot spot, and the Club Vegas Casino with its slots, blackjack tables, roulette, craps and poker offerings is another big draw.

Fantasia Lounge offers always-popular Vegas-style shows. Productions are high energy and intense, with great lighting, sound and special effects. Carnival performers know their way around a stage.

In addition to the song-and-dance revues in the Fantasia, a late night comic often entertains adults in the Plaza Lounge, while a pianist entertains around the ship. Classical music is scheduled often in the atrium.

Live music and dance venues are available daily. Check your Carnival Capers newspaper.

Fitness and Recreation

Carnival pumped big bucks into the Carnival Spa, forward on Sports Deck. Tastefully done to provide a serene backdrop to some delightful services, including a variety of massages and facials, the deck is home to a gym with state-of-the-art equipment and classes. Some classes carry a $10 fee.

Carnival Spa was redone to look more modern and in line with other spas on other Carnival ships. Light wood-toned walls, better lighting, additional men's and women's locker areas, more treatment rooms and a room for classes -- in addition to the large fitness area -- make up the spa.

Golf is available via an onboard pro who can set up tee times at Cable Beach Golf Course in Nassau and Lucayan Country Club in Freeport. Golf lessons are available, and putting contests are scheduled on sea days. The nine-hole mini course is a popular site.

In nice weather, the Lido Deck is the ship's most popular public area. The pool and pool games, a band, bar service and the conveniently located Seaview Grill make it a good fit for a relaxing day.

Family

I saw three generations of families enjoying the ship. Sensation offers something for everyone. Consider chicken fingers for the fussy 3-year-old; a sugar-free diet for grandma, line dancing or rock 'n' roll for the partying-type, gambling or a hairy chest contest, horseracing, or TV trivia. These very casual cruises make for a comfortable introduction to cruising.

Port Canaveral is a drive-to port that guests from the Southeast can get to in a day's drive. Or, after a visit to the Cape or theme parks in nearby Orlando, families can plan a three- or four-day cruise to round out a nice vacation.

Fellow Passengers

Sensation is a hit with families. It's size, itinerary and activities make it a natural for a family cruises. It is quite common to see three -- or even four -- generations traveling together to celebrate great aunt Jane's 75th birthday or Jeffrey's 21st!

Dress Code

Sensation is as casual as it gets, but shorts and muscle shirts are still not acceptable dinner wear. One formal night is scheduled per cruise, and a nice shirt with a sport jacket works most often for male passengers, while women tend to dress a bit glitzier. Casual night dress might be a sports shirt and slacks for men, and pants or skirt and blouse for women. Swimsuits are not allowed in the dining room, but are perfectly acceptable -- with a cover-up -- for the Seaview Bar & Grill.

Gratuity

A $10 per-person fee covers gratuities to cabin steward, table waiter and team waiter. Additional tips are at the passenger's discretion. Maitre d' and headwaiters are not automatically tipped. Gratuities can be adjusted at the front desk at the end of the cruise. Bar bills include a 15 percent tip.


--written by Marcia Levin

Dining

Fleetwide, Carnival's food has become really quite good. Tables accommodate up to 10 diners and booths provide seating for four or six. A spa menu, listing calories and fat grams, offers lighter choices.

The dining rooms are a little bit dated, but kept very clean. Service is excellent. During dinner hours, the dining rooms accommodate all passengers in two seatings (early at 6 p.m., late at 8:15) or on a flexible basis via Carnival's "Your Choice Dining" program. With the flexible option, passengers can have dinner in the main dining room anytime they like between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m. (times may vary). Dining assignments -- which you select before the cruise -- are made on a first come, first served basis, so if you have your heart set on one or the other, consider booking earlier rather than later.

The Sea View Bar & Grill on Lido Deck has a great traffic flow, and even when crowded, tables seem to miraculously open up. There's a lot of purple up there, including molded purple plastic seats. The decor is Star Wars meets the high school cafeteria, but the food is excellent. The pizzeria is open 24 hours; ice cream and fat-free yogurt are also a round-the-clock thing. A station provides made-to-order eggs and omelets, and various breakfast offerings. Everything at the Sea View is cafeteria style. Lunch can be a full course meal if you like, a good solid salad with crisp greens, pizza or a piping hot deli sandwich.

At dinner, the Lido becomes a grill with some of the dining menu options for casual dining.

For an exclusive dining event for just 12 guests, book the Chef's Table through the ship's information desk. For $75, diners can attend a multi-course dinner hosted by one Carnival's master chefs. The evening begins with a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley led by the chef, and concludes with a sumptuous dinner in a non-traditional dining venue, such as the galley or the library.

The Patisserie, on Promenade Deck, offers great coffees and teas, milkshakes, and calorie-laden baked goods. It's called "Cafe on the Way," a great name given its central location. Coffee has its price, and the price is on par with your neighborhood coffee house -- the $2.50 to $4 per drink neighborhood.

Room service is available 24 hours a day. Orders are delivered promptly, and although only a limited menu is offered at lunch and dinner, breakfast offers cereal, a toasted variety of breads, smoked salmon, really hot coffee and nicely toasted bagels.

Die-hard late-night buffet buffs won't be disappointed on Sensation. There's food galore for this group of energetic passengers. Midnight buffets may be becoming a thing of the past on some lines, but many Carnival guests opt for a plate of pasta, some sandwiches, and a slice or two of pizza before calling it a night. A buffet of offerings tempts those still out and about late at night, and a Grand Gala Buffet -- offered each cruise -- is as orgiastic as it sounds.

Gratuity

A $10 per-person fee covers gratuities to cabin steward, table waiter and team waiter. Additional tips are at the passenger's discretion. Maitre d' and headwaiters are not automatically tipped. Gratuities can be adjusted at the front desk at the end of the cruise. Bar bills include a 15 percent tip.

--by Marcia Levin, a regular contributor to The Washington Times, Porthole Magazine, southerntravelnews.com, TravelAgeWest, and several guidebooks. Levin is also a past president of the Society of American Travel Writers.

Dining

Fleetwide, Carnival's food has become really quite good. And, with French master chef Georges Blanc offering some of his signature dishes, meals can become an exotic experience in the two main dining rooms, Ecstasy and Fantasy (Blanc parted ways with the line in 2008). Tables accommodate up to 10 diners and booths provide seating for four or six. A spa menu, listing calories and fat grams, offers lighter choices.

The dining rooms are a little bit dated, but kept very clean. Service is excellent.

The Sea View Bar & Grill on Lido Deck has a great traffic flow, and even when crowded, tables seem to miraculously open up. There's a lot of purple up there, including molded purple plastic seats. The decor is Star Wars meets the high school cafeteria, but the food is excellent. The pizzeria is open 24 hours; ice cream and fat-free yogurt are also a round-the-clock thing. A station provides made-to-order eggs and omelets, and various breakfast offerings. Everything at the Sea View is cafeteria style. Lunch can be a full course meal if you like, a good solid salad with crisp greens, pizza or a piping hot deli sandwich.

At dinner, the Lido becomes a grill with some of the dining menu options for casual dining.

The Patisserie, on Promenade Deck, offers great coffees and teas, milkshakes, and calorie-laden baked goods. It's called "Cafe on the Way," a great name given its central location. Coffee has its price, and the price is on par with your neighborhood coffee house -- the $2.50 to $4 per drink neighborhood.

Room service is available 24 hours a day. Orders are delivered promptly, and although only a limited menu is offered at lunch and dinner, breakfast offers cereal, a toasted variety of breads, smoked salmon, really hot coffee and nicely toasted bagels.

Die-hard late-night buffet buffs won't be disappointed on Sensation. There's food galore for this group of energetic passengers. Midnight buffets may be becoming a thing of the past on some lines, but many Carnival guests opt for a plate of pasta, some sandwiches, and a slice or two of pizza before calling it a night. A buffet of offerings tempts those still out and about late at night, and a Grand Gala Buffet -- offered each cruise -- is as orgiastic as it sounds.

Gratuity

A $10 per-person fee covers gratuities to cabin steward, table waiter and team waiter. Additional tips are at the passenger's discretion. Maitre d' and headwaiters are not automatically tipped. Gratuities can be adjusted at the front desk at the end of the cruise. Bar bills include a 15 percent tip.


--written by Marcia Levin

Launched in 1993, Carnival Sensation is the third in the line's series of eight 70,367-ton, 2,052-passenger Fantasy-class ships. Sensation's sisters include Ecstasy, Fantasy, Fascination, Imagination, Inspiration, Elation and Paradise. While Sensation and company are getting up there in age, Carnival has pumped big bucks into keeping these now-classic ships relevant.

In January 2009, Sensation spent more than a month, an eternity in dry dock time, under the knife. Big-ticket additions included a 300-foot-long corkscrew waterslide, a children's aqua park, a tropical-themed mid-ship pool area, 98 balconies to cabins and an adults-only retreat space. The line also refreshed cabins, which gained flat-screen TV's, and updated numerous public spaces from the main dining room to the piano bar.

But even with the major refurbishment, the ship can feel dated. Case in points: While the addition of 98 balconies roughly tripled the number of cabins featuring verandahs (from 54 to 152), the ship still offers only a very small proportion of balcony accommodations (some 15 percent). Sensation also lacks a dedicated alternative dining room/supper club. Both are major factors on newer vessels.

Negatives aside, Sensation is still a fantastic value for first-time cruisers and families. The ship features the line's wildly popular Camp Carnival with programs for youngsters between the ages of 2 and 17; a nightly sushi cart that's a major draw; an exceedingly congenial and up-for-anything crew; and the aforementioned sun deck additions (waterslide and adults-only space). Couple those amenities with Sensation's three- and four-night Bahamas cruises from Port Canaveral, and you have a short-and-sweet cruise option perfect for those looking to make a quick getaway.

Dining

During dinner hours, the dining rooms (Fantasy and Ecstasy) accommodate all passengers in two seatings (early at 6 p.m., late at 8:15) or on a flexible basis via Carnival's "Your Choice Dining" program. With the flexible option, passengers can have dinner in the main dining room anytime they like between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m. (times may vary). Dining assignments -- which you select before the cruise -- are made on a first come, first served basis, so if you have your heart set on one or the other, consider booking earlier rather than later.

The Sea View Bar & Grill on Lido Deck has a great traffic flow, and even when crowded, tables seem to miraculously open up. There's a lot of purple up there, including molded purple plastic seats. The decor is Star Wars meets the high school cafeteria, but the food is excellent. The pizzeria is open 24 hours; ice cream and fat-free yogurt are also a round-the-clock thing. A station provides made-to-order eggs and omelets, and various breakfast offerings. Everything at the Sea View is cafeteria style. Lunch can be a full course meal if you like, a good solid salad with crisp greens, pizza or a piping hot deli sandwich.

At dinner, the Lido becomes a grill with some of the dining menu options for casual dining.

For an exclusive dining event for just 12 guests, book the Chef's Table through the ship's information desk. For $75, diners can attend a multicourse dinner, hosted by one Carnival's master chefs. The evening begins with a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley, led by the chef, and concludes with a sumptuous dinner in a nontraditional dining venue, such as the galley or the library.

The Patisserie, on Promenade Deck, offers great coffees and teas, milkshakes, and calorie-laden baked goods. It's called "Cafe on the Way," a great name given its central location. Coffee has its price, and the price is on par with your neighborhood coffee house -- the $2.50 to $4 per drink neighborhood. The sushi cart, also located on the Promenade Deck, shows up nightly. Selections vary by night and there is no extra charge for the fish.

Room service is available 24 hours a day. Orders are delivered promptly, and although only a limited menu is offered at lunch and dinner, breakfast offers cereal, a toasted variety of breads, smoked salmon, really hot coffee and nicely toasted bagels.

Die-hard late-night buffet buffs won't be disappointed on Sensation. There's food galore for this group of energetic passengers. Midnight buffets may be becoming a thing of the past on some lines, but many Carnival guests opt for a plate of pasta, some sandwiches, and a slice or two of pizza before calling it a night. A buffet of offerings tempts those still out and about late at night, and a Grand Gala Buffet -- offered each cruise -- is as orgiastic as it sounds.

Public Rooms

Not only are Carnival guests a high-energy group, but they also love staying up late. And on Sensation, there are no shortages of spots to do just that.

They party hearty in the piano bar, Touch of Class (the seats at the bar are shaped like oversized hands, thus "touch"), a hot spot that can turn out to be standing room only. People enjoy the sing-alongs where they can take part in the music, but don't have to face the audience alone a la karaoke. Even though younger people make up much of the audience, some of the music appeals to Irving Berlin or George Gershwin fans.

Passengers can dance the night away at Kaleidoscope Disco or rock out in Michelangelo's.

Fantasy-class ships feature a long promenade (Deck 9), running from the atrium to the aft lounge.

On Sensation, the aft lounge is the Plaza Lounge (where karaoke IS offered), but it is the smaller, charming Polo Lounge outside the Plaza Lounge where many gather for a before-dinner drink. An intricate croquet mallet design woven into the carpet in the Polo Lounge gives it a British-clubby feel. The Polo Lounge is also home to two poker tables, run by the Club Vegas Casino. And with the poker craze sweeping the world, this is a very popular spot each evening.

On Promenade Deck, there's a video arcade, an evenings-only sushi bar, the photo gallery and the hot, hot, hot Club Vegas Casino -- a huge drawing card on any Carnival ship.

At the forward end of the promenade sits the Fantasia Lounge, which hosts Vegas-style stage shows. It is a pretty room, but sightlines are poor. Poles obstruct vision all round the two-level room, but if you don't mind getting a stiff neck in order to see a terrific show, you will be entertained!

The ship features bow-to-stern Wi-Fi, but there's an Internet cafe on Deck 7.

Cabins

Cabin-wise, Carnival keeps it simple. The vast majority of accommodations are insides (upper/lower bed or two-twin setup, both 185 square feet) or outsides (porthole or picture window, both 185 square feet). Carnival Sensation also has a number of standard balcony cabins (185 square feet with 35-square-foot balcony), which were added during the January 2009 refurb. A handful of "extended balcony cabins," also added during the dry-dock, feature 55 square feet of verandah space.

Apart from the bunk-bed-style insides, most cabins have twin beds, which can be combined into an extremely comfortable king-size bed. The Carnival Comfort Bed, a sleep system with delightful pillows and a duvet, makes sleeping aboard the ship a treat. Lighting is good -- each bed has its own light -- and triples and quads nicely accommodate the needs of three or four people traveling together. These cabins go quickly -- especially over school holiday periods -- so book early.

All cabins feature a pair of bathrobes, flat-screen TV and safe. Closet and drawer space is standard and adequate -- especially when casual wear is the order of the day. Standard cabins do not have hair dryers in the cabins, but passengers can ask the room steward for one. Shampoo and body wash can be found in bottles affixed to the shower wall, and a grab-bag of sample size products is provided in each cabin.

Cruisers looking for a little more space should opt for a Junior Suite (220 square feet with 30-square-foot balcony), Grand Suite (330 square feet with 70-square-foot balcony) or Grand Suite with extended balcony (330 square feet with 115-square-foot balcony). Grand Suites feature whirlpol tubs. All suite passengers get VIP check-in.

Sensation has 20 cabins for passengers with disabilities.

Entertainment

Carnival passengers are participants. Whether it's taking a spinning class, running the track on the sun deck, grabbing the mic at karaoke or playing pool games, these passengers enjoy all the ship offers. They play hard and party harder, and stay up later than passengers do on many other lines. At 1 a.m., you will still find folks throughout the ship.

The piano bar -- Touch of Class -- is a hot spot, and the Club Vegas Casino with its slots, blackjack tables, roulette, craps and poker offerings is another big draw.

Fantasia Lounge offers always-popular Vegas-style shows. Productions are high energy and intense, with great lighting, sound and special effects. Carnival performers know their way around a stage.

In addition to the song-and-dance revues in the Fantasia, a late night comic often entertains adults in the Plaza Lounge, while a pianist entertains around the ship. Classical music is scheduled often in the atrium.

Live music and dance venues are available daily. Check your Carnival Capers newspaper.

Fitness and Recreation

The Carnival Spa, forward on Sports Deck, is tastefully done. The space provides a serene backdrop to some delightful services, including a variety of massages and facials. The spa features light wood-toned walls, soothing lighting, men's and women's locker areas and plenty of treatment. The gym, which is adjacent, houses state-of-the-art equipment. A variety of fitness classes (Pilates, yoga, spinning) are offered, some of which carry a $12 fee.

Sensation's one pool, remodeled in January 2009, is located midship. The surrounding deck area features metal palm trees, the "fronds" dotted with LED's; a pair of hot tubs abutting the pool; and a stage. During sea days, this space hosts pool deck Olympics, ice carving demonstrations and plenty of live music (from calypso to classic rock covers). The ship's other area for water-based fun is the aft-situated Carnival WaterWorks, which was also added in early 2009. Waterworks features a four-story tall, 300-foot-long corkscrew waterslide; an 82-foot-long triple-lane waterslide (great for racing); and a spray park, complete with various sculptures spewing water.

The nine-hole mini course is a popular site.

The adults-only Serenity Deck, added during the dry dock, is a teak deck space located on the stern (out of earshot from the more boisterous WaterWorks). The Serenity Deck has two hot tubs and loungers with thick, blue padding. There are both sunny and shady spots, with yellow umbrellas and a thatched-roof overhang providing cover from the blaze.

Family

I saw three generations of families enjoying the ship. Sensation offers something for everyone. Consider chicken fingers for the fussy 3-year-old; a sugar-free diet for grandma, line dancing or rock 'n' roll for the partying-type. These very casual cruises make for a comfortable introduction to cruising. Sensation's homeport of Port Canaveral is a drive-to departure point that passengers from the Southeast can get to in a day's drive. Or, after a visit to the Cape or theme parks in nearby Orlando, families can plan a three- or four-day cruise to round out a nice vacation.

"Camp Carnival" offers activities for children broken down by ages 2 to 5, 6 to 8, 9 to 11, 12 to 14, and 15 to 17. The dedicated space for the 2 - 11's (Deck 11) has video game consoles, arts and crafts supplies, and various toys. The 2 - 11's are further broken down in three groups, each with its own age-appropriate activity list. Toddlers (2 - 5) might enjoy finger painting. Juniors (6 - 8) can participate in jewelry making. Options for Intermediates (9 - 11) include scavenger hunts and pool parties.

Camp Carnival activities are included in the cruise fare up until 10 p.m. for the 2 - 11's. A babysitting service is available from 10 p.m. - 3 a.m. at a cost of $6 per hour for the first child and $4 per hour for each additional sibling. The occasional "Curfew Extended Parties" for kids are held within Camp Carnival from 10 p.m. - midnight (fees apply).

Circle C is the dedicated space for the "tween" set (12 - 14). A major focus here is on video games and movies, with Nintendo Wii on offer. Other tween activities include dance parties (hosted at one of the ship's dance clubs before the adults take over), sand art making, build your own pizza, group mini-golf, T-shirt decorating and waterslide races. The 12 - 14 set (as well as the older teens) can come and go as they please.

Club O2, situated on Deck 9 (Promenade), is a place for 15- to 17-year-olds to hang out. Teens compete in Guitar Hero tournaments and attend parties with themes like "Glow" and "Mardi Gras."

Next to Club 02 is a small 24-hour video game arcade featuring the typical mix of car racing and first-person shooter games.

Kids ages six months (the youngest allowed on the ship) to two years aren't technically allowed to participate in Camp Carnival activities, but the full contingent of babysitting options are available at the aforementioned babysitting rate.

Gratuity

A $10 per-person fee covers gratuities to cabin steward, table waiter and team waiter. Additional tips are at the passenger's discretion. Maitre d' and headwaiters are not automatically tipped. Gratuities can be adjusted at the front desk at the end of the cruise. Bar bills include a 15 percent tip.

Gratuity

Carnival recommends $11.50 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $5.80 to dining room services, $3.70 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff. An envelope is provided on the last night for those who want to extend thanks to the maitre d'.

Gratuity

Carnival recommends $11.50 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $5.80 to dining room services, $3.70 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff.

Gratuity

Carnival recommends $12.00 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $6.10 to dining room services, $3.90 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but it can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping a couple dollars for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff.

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