Carnival Sensation's onboard atmosphere is one of endless fun and expectant excitement. Everyone is trying to pack in as much amusement and downtime as they possibly can in four or five days (the ship is dedicated to short cruise itineraries). It's not frantic, just fun. And everyone's got everyone else's back, whether it's enthusiastically dancing in the aisles during nightly karaoke or loudly cheering on cruisers who have volunteered to participate in any number of interactive activities -- it's hard to feel embarrassed onstage when the entire audience is hootin' and hollerin' for you.
And your fellow cruisers aren't the only friendly faces you'll see throughout your sailing. The crew onboard Carnival Sensation are genuinely friendly and enjoy having conversations with passengers. From the guy taking our plates away in the buffet asking us what we did that morning to our Your Time Dining waiter (we asked for him every night) asking us about life back home and telling us about his dental work in Cozumel that day (!), everyone was personable and had a ready smile.
Yes, the bar service wasn't always the quickest and we were, more than once, told an activity printed on the day's schedule was a "mistake" (particularly when related to free spa events), but generally, service was spot on throughout the cruise.
With all the good, Carnival Sensation is by no means a perfect cruise and many of its physical limitations can be a bit frustrating. Built in 1993 during the heyday of you-can't-get-there-from-here shipbuilding, you always have to remember to go all the way forward or aft on a cabin deck to get anywhere on decks 7 or 8. It's exasperating to run upstairs from your cabin for dinner on Deck 8 only to realize you're on the wrong end of the ship and you can't just walk across to the other side of Deck 8. And try not to forget which deck number correlates with the names of decks -- like Empress or Upper Deck -- as the elevators list the first letter of the name of the deck and not the number.
We'd also like to forewarn any serious sports lovers that there's no sports bar on Carnival Sensation, just a few public TVs here and there that can be tuned to ESPN (the only sports outlet other than the standard broadcast channels). If missing a game is going to put a dent in your vacation experience, Sensation might not be right for you.
Big theatre productions are also lacking on Sensation. On our four-night cruise, we only had two big stage productions. Both were good and we would much rather have seen a third one than have only the audience-participation Love & Marriage show as a choice. And don't get us started on bingo. We like a good bingo game as much as the next person, but it's not a nighttime big theatre activity.
But if you don't have a lot of vacation time and need a short, fun getaway that's laid-back, friendly and affordable, it's pretty hard to go wrong with a four- or five-night break on Carnival Sensation.
Daytime: Carnival keeps its dress code casual by day, with shorts, T-shirts and bathing suits the norm.
Evening: Fairly casual (though shorts and tees are typically replaced by long pants and nicer tops) except on the single "cruise elegant" night, when men are encouraged to don long pants and collared shirts -- we saw plenty of men in full suits. We saw women dressed up in everything from their Sunday best to more than a few not-appropriate-for-church ensembles.
Not permitted: Cutoff jeans and swimwear are never permitted in the main dining rooms for dinner.
The two-level Fantasia Theatre is host to a vast variety of daytime and evening entertainment. During the day you'll find the cruise director's live morning show, port shopping talks, bingo sessions and the occasional big-screen trivia contest. Also during the daytime are kids' shows like Dr. Seuss Story Time and the Towel Animal Theater.
The theatre is as widely used at night as it is during the day, and hosts interactive games like Hasbro, the Game Show and the Love & Marriage Show, as well as the line's big-stage Playlist Productions. On our sailing, the latter included a fantastic ode to piano's greatest hits called 88 Keys, with one of the best male singers we've seen on a cruise ship in a long time. The second show is a fun romp through the '70s called Studio VIP. The best part of this show is the cruiser volunteers who get to show off their best dance moves with the professional dancers during one particular act. Shows change nightly, and each show is offered twice, at 8:15 and 10:15 p.m.
Most shows do fill up quickly, so for the best seats you'll want to arrive early. Sight lines are pretty good from most spots in the theatre, though the farther you are to the left or right, the less of the show you'll see.
In keeping with Carnival's "Fun Ship" motto, Carnival Sensation offers many daytime activities from trivia, charades, Scattergories and arts and crafts to spa and art seminars (really just sales pitches couched in a seminar format), poolside fun like the Very Hairy Chest Contest and Carnival's signature line dancing events. In addition to the full lineup of activities (which can be found in your printed Fun Times daily calendar or in the What's Happening section of the Carnival HUB app), passengers can enjoy outdoor pursuits like swimming and mini-golf, a range of bars and live music venues, and the ship's spa and fitness centre.
One thing you'll be hard pressed to find is a spot to watch your favourite sports team in action. There is no sports bar on Carnival Sensation. Games on the main broadcast channels like ABC, NBC and CBS can be watched in your cabin. The only other option is ESPN, which can only be viewed on public TVs of which there are just a handful on the ship (one in Joe's Cafe, two in the very back of the Seaview buffet and a few scattered throughout the casino). Major sporting events (World Series, Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, etc.) might be shown in one of the lounges or theatres if the demand is big enough.
Carnival Sensation is just as busy at night as it is during the day, with multiple venues for live music, plus stand-up comedy, raucous karaoke sessions (we were impressed with how supportive everyone was of each other), big-stage theater productions and the always active Club Vegas casino. There's also at least one deck party each sailing during which the DJ cranks up the tunes and everyone gets to line dancing (think Cupid Shuffle, the Wobble and others).
But the most rocking spot on the entire ship for much of the late evening/early night hours is the promenade bandstand across from the Mirage Bar. On our sailing, the band Barracuda Snakes played here most nights, sometimes joined by some of the Playlist players, doing standard favourites and always getting people up and dancing.
Like all Carnival ships, Carnival Sensation has an abundance of bars and lounges, though not all are open during the day. At night, however, all 10 open for business, and each offers a different vibe -- in a single night you can hop from a piano sing-along to karaoke to Latin music and dancing. And whether you want a beer, glass of wine, rum or tequila frozen concoction or speciality cocktail, you won't have to go far to pick your poison.
Atrium Bar (Deck 7, forward): The ship's obligatory atrium bar, this no-name watering hole is the first bar cruisers encounter upon embarking the ship and is located in the middle of all the action revolving around the Guest Services and Shore Excursion desks. It does brisk business, but few people actually stop to hang out here, despite the prevalence of live music throughout the day and into the night. You'll find a standard list of wines, beers and cocktails here.
Touch of Class (Deck 8, forward): Although Sensation has relatively sedate decor for an older Carnival ship, the line's historically over-the-top ornamentation makes an appearance in this sing-along piano bar, which you must enter through a doorway composed of two giant silver hands arched together, fingertips touching. The hand motif appears throughout the space, which is all chrome and silver, with window-side seating enclaves created by the same arched hands, and red tiled walls with dipped-in-paint handprints in black and white. A shiny silver rounded bar encompasses three sides of the piano, with piano key decorations and bar stool seating. The piano player welcomes requests, though on our sailing when he was asked to play Billy Joel's "Piano Man" one too many times, he got a bit grumpy. Touch of Class opens most nights at 9:30.
Mirage Bar (Deck 9, mid): Located just outside the casino, this is the spot to grab a drink between poker tournaments, have a smoke (it's the only indoor smoking spot on the ship) or sit and listen to live music on the stage located right across the Promenade walkway. It's also got some of the longest opening hours of any bar, serving up drinks from 8 a.m. till late.
Michelangelo (Deck 9, mid): Not as over the top as Touch of Class, the Michelangelo lounge is supposed to evoke an old Roman villa, with white plaster pillars and sculptures in the classical style of the Venus de Milo. (There actually is a small scale reproduction of the Venus inside.) Chairs have blue marbled upholstery and the carpet features a Romanesque design. The space is rarely used during the day except for the occasional retail shopping push (like a diamonds and gemstones seminar) but in the evening and at night might be used for karaoke (when the Plaza Lounge is being used for Punchliner Comedy) or a Latin band that, given the ship's homeport of Miami, barely pulled in anyone interested in Latin music and dancing. We passed by Michelangelo several times each night and we never saw it crowded.
Kaleidoscope Nightclub (Deck 9, mid): A bit more mosaic than kaleidoscopic in decor (think carpets with blue, yellow and white geometric patterns reminiscent of stained glass windows), the action here typically kicks off in the late evening with teen-only dance parties or adult singles meetups. The real party starts at 11 p.m. when it opens as a proper nightclub but it doesn't really start to fill until closer to midnight, with the party generally breaking up between 1 and 2 a.m.
Alchemy Bar (Deck 9, aft): Another Carnival staple added to Sensation during its 2017 dry dock, the speciality cocktail bar Alchemy touts a pharmacy theme and mixologists who can create personalized cocktails just for you depending on your mood. However, the venue doesn't seem to have quite caught on yet with Sensation's cruisers. Located adjacent to the Plaza Lounge (the entrances to the lounge are on either side of Alchemy actually), it features a row of bar seating and then a smaller lounge area with armchairs and couches on either side that are just a bit too far away to feel like part of the lounge. We rarely saw anyone using the lounge portion of the bar, nor was the bar itself ever particularly busy. Still if you're in the mood for a cocktail created just for you, this is the place to get it. Just don't stop by for anything else (even soda) -- Alchemy only serves specific cocktails.
Plaza Lounge (Deck 9, aft): The fairly nondescript lounge is, nevertheless, one of the more popular spots onboard Carnival Sensation once the sun goes down. This small show lounge is used for both raucous karaoke sessions and the Punchliner Comedy Club shows. Punchliner is offered about every other night and usually consists of two alternating comedians, both doing PG- and R-rated sessions. The comedy generally gets started late with the earliest set beginning at 8:45 p.m. On nights when just one (R-rated) comedy set was offered, it was always at 11:45 p.m.
RedFrog Rum Bar (Deck 10, mid): One-half of Carnival's popular poolside duo, RedFrog Rum Bar was added during the 2017 dry dock and has been hopping ever since. Whether you want to pick up a bucket of beer or crave a refreshing colada, daiquiri or mojito, be prepared to wait your turn as this is one of Sensation's most popular watering holes, especially when the ship is out at sea.
BlueIguana Tequila Bar (Deck 10, mid): The other half of Carnival's popular poolside duo, BlueIguana Tequila Bar was also added during the dry dock. BlueIguana is where tequila lovers go for their fill of frozen margaritas, tequila-based cocktails, beer buckets and pitchers of hard lemonade.
Seaview Bar (Deck 10, aft): Calling this a bar is being a bit generous as it's really just a counter at the back of the buffet where you can buy sodas, beer and the most basic cocktails. Sure, there are a handful of stools but we don't know why anyone would ever choose to actually sit there longer than it takes to get a drink.
Carnival Sensation has one medium-sized pool on the Lido Deck (Deck 10), which on our sailing was usually full of kids splashing around. Off to one side of the pool is the Lido Deck stage, where all the crazy poolside fun is centred -- from beanbag toss competitions to Carnival's signature Groove for St. Jude line dance party and the "we dare you not to laugh" hairy chest contest.
Two hot tubs at each end of the pool are usually packed to overflowing with kids and teens, especially on sea days. At one point, we counted 13 kids in a single hot tub.
Children must be potty trained to use either the pool or the hot tubs. Swim jackets are available for kids who don't know how to swim.
There are also two hot tubs located in the tiny adults-only Serenity sun deck.
Outdoor recreation on Sensation is somewhat limited. On Deck 14, you'll find an unexciting miniature golf course, along with the ship's jogging track (11 laps equals 1 mile). Runners beware, the track is quite beaten up and is uneven in some areas. At the back of the mini-golf course are two foosball tables. You'll also find a Ping-Pong table, shuffleboard court and oversized chess set onboard.
More popular is the ship's Waterworks (Deck 11) with its three water slides, including two side-by-side mini-racers for the smaller kids and the larger spiral Twister slide. (Kids must be 42 inches to ride the Twister.) There's also a splash zone for little kids. All were in constant use on our sunny sea day.
Sun worshippers will find plenty of places to soak up some rays on Carnival Sensation, from the multitude of chairs on the Lido Deck, to those one deck up looking down on the action below. You'll also find a long line of chairs on deck 12s and 14, also overlooking the open Lido Deck below.
There's a small adults-only Serenity deck on Carnival Sensation. To access it you need to go to the very back of the Lido Deck, out the door on the back side of the buffet and down a flight of outdoor steps. There are maybe 40 loungers here, as well as a handful of chairs in the shade at the back, but they all fill up pretty early and you might be hard pressed to find an open spot in the late morning or early afternoon.
Several of Carnival Sensation's most vital services are centred on Deck 7 in the atrium, including the Guest Services and Shore Excursion desks, along with a five-station Internet Cafe. Down the hall from the atrium is the ship's art gallery, where cruisers can purchase a Peter Max or Romero Britto to add to their own art collection. One level up on Deck 8 is the Oak Room Library. It's a much larger and better-stocked library than you tend to find on mainstream cruise ships nowadays.
On Deck 9, the Promenade Deck, you'll find the future cruise desk, where you can put a deposit down on your next cruise, as well as the Pixels photo gallery, where you can browse and purchase the pictures the ship's photographers will be taking of you throughout your cruise. Also on Deck 9 are two of the ship's shops including Cherry on Top and Sensation Gifts, which features an array of handbags, jewellery and resort wear. The ship's Fun Shops are located on Deck 8, right in front of the Fantasia Lounge. Here you'll find Carnival-branded clothing and souvenirs, as well as a selection of toiletries, clothing, handbags, designer watches and sunglasses, jewellery and more.
In addition to the Internet Cafe on Deck 7, you'll also find two stations at Joe's Cafe. Carnival offers three internet packages: the social plan for $5 per day provides access to popular social media sites; the value plan ($16 per day) gives all the same access as the Social plan but adds in most email, news, sports, weather and banking sites; the Premium plan ($25 a day) give cruisers access to almost all of the internet including Skype, but excluding streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
There are two DIY launderettes onboard, one on Deck 6 and the other on Deck 7. You'll need quarters to purchase the detergent and to run the washing machine and dryer.
There is a medical centre on Deck 0.
Carnival Sensation's small spa is located on Deck 12. It has six treatment rooms and offers a menu of facials, massages, seaweed wraps, teeth whitening and medi-spa dermal filler treatments. Prices are similar to what you'd find in a big city -- a 75-minute aroma stone massage is $195, for instance -- but specials are offered every day. If you purchase three treatments, you'll receive 10 percent off the most expensive one, 20 percent off the second most expensive and 30 percent off the least expensive of the three. Daily specials might include a 50-minute slimming treatment for $139 (usually $159) or an embarkation-day-only 75-minute bamboo massage for $159 (usually $195).
Inside the spa, you'll find the ship's salon, offering manicures, pedicures, hair styling and men's shaves.
The ship's fitness centre is located within the spa complex on Deck 12. Inside you'll find treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes and free weights. Active cruisers can also take advantage of classes, some free like stretching and others for an extra fee such as group cycling and yoga.
Carnival Sensation doesn't offer nearly as much choice as other Carnival ships do when it comes to dining, but cruisers do have multiple choices for breakfast and lunch, and two spots for dinner (not including room service). Between 9:30 and 11:30 p.m., your only food options are pizza, ice cream and a sandwich at the deli. Between 11:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. a small selection of late-night snacks is offered in the buffet.
Pretty much every meal we had in the main dining room was good and we heard the same from other cruisers we spoke with. Buffet dining, particularly at breakfast and dinner, were the ship's weakest link; after one soggy-egg breakfast in the buffet we always headed to the dining room for the better food there. Service in the dining room was usually good, though not always. An order of mimosas, one morning at breakfast, came after the meal had been served and was almost confused for Bloody Marys.
Fantasy and Ecstasy Dining Rooms (Deck 8, forward and aft): Carnival Sensation has two main dining rooms, Fantasy and Ecstasy, which differ primarily by colour scheme/design and the fact that Ecstasy is only open for traditional early and late seat dining, while Fantasy is used for sit-down breakfasts and Your Time dinners. The rotating dinner menus are the same in both restaurants each night.
Breakfast in Fantasy, which is offered every day except the sea day on which brunch is served, includes fresh fruit, cereals, yoghurts and various jellies, as well as several main options including a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, eggs Benedict, made-to-order omelettes, plus pancakes, waffles and French toast. Sides include corned beef hash, sliced ham or bacon, hash browns, pork or chicken sausage and turkey bacon. Breads and baked goods are also offered, as are several juices, along with tea and coffee.
At the sea day brunch you can have either breakfast or lunch (or both), with items that include French toast, pancakes (gluten-free available), eggs Benedict, omelettes, steak and eggs, huevos rancheros, bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, tomato soup, Caesar salad, pork chop, mac n' cheese, pasta and grilled salmon.
Dinner in the main dining rooms on Carnival Sensation is in the style called "American Table," Carnival's signature dining program, which -- somewhat controversially -- saw the removal of tablecloths from the tables on all but the formal night (which is then called the "American Feast" night). Things you can expect on American Table nights include a carafe of water on the table, so you can pour your own water as needed, and cute little bread plates with iconic images of cities and states in the U.S., including New York City, Seattle, Texas, New Orleans and Philadelphia.
American Table dinner menus consist of appetizers, a variety of entrees and side dishes, extra-fee steakhouse selections and desserts.
There are typically nine appetizers on the menu, including the every night option of a kale or romaine Caesar salad. Other options might include shrimp cocktail, smoked chicken quesadilla, fried calamari, seared tuna, vegetable spring rolls and a variety of soups such as cream of ripened tomatoes, American navy bean or Maryland corn chowder.
There's also one appetizer every night labeled "Rare Finds," which the menu describes as "Food you always wanted to try, but haven't yet dared." Options can include cured salmon with candied tomato, oysters Rockefeller and escargots.
The American Table dinner menu features six entree choices, always including one featured Indian-style vegetarian dish, plus four always-available "From the Grill" selections: salmon, flat iron steak, chicken breast and pork chop (all with a vegetable and starch side and a choice of four sauces: barbecue, bearnaise, peppercorn and wild mushroom). Entree choices might include grilled swordfish steak, honey-glazed pork loin, vegetable lasagna, seared tilapia, veal Parmesan, beef lasagna and braised short ribs.
Also on the menu is a "Port of Call" lineup of appetizer, one entree and one cocktail, all picked to represent that day's port of call, even including the ship's embarkation port, which on our sailing was Miami. The choices that day included ham croquetas, chicken empanadas and black bean salsa appetizers; fried chicken and tomato BLT; and rumrunner cocktail ($8.95). In Cozumel, the options were a tortilla soup with braised chicken appetizer; steak tacos for the main course; and a traditional margarita ($8.95).
Eight dessert options are offered each night, including Carnival's always available (and always delicious) signature melting chocolate cake, a cheese plate, tropical fruit plate and a selection of ice creams. Other options include a nightly pie a la mode choice, plus warm date and fig pudding, Nutella tiramisu, passion fruit flan, coconut lime cake and buttered popcorn pot de creme.
On American Feast night, the white tablecloths come out, the water carafe and bread plates disappear, and the menu gets a touch smaller. There are eight appetizers and seven entrees on offer, plus the four grill options offered every night. On our sailing, appetizers included the always popular shrimp cocktail, broiled sea scallops, baked stuff mushrooms, asparagus cream soup and chilled strawberry bisque, among others. The entree choices included blue crab ravioli, oven-baked Japanese sea bass, grilled jumbo shrimp, roasted duck, tender roasted prime rib, barbecued St. Louis spareribs, and zucchini and eggplant parmigiana. We tried the sea bass and the parmigiana and both were good.
Dessert on American Feast night features creme brulee, malted chocolate hazelnut cake, coffee cream cake and, of course, the chocolate melting cake.
For true steak lovers, the ship's only premium cut options are the Steakhouse Selections also available at dinner -- both at American Table and American Feast. (The ship does not have a Carnival Steakhouse.) For an extra $20, diners can select one of the following: broiled filet mignon, New York strip loin steak, broiled Maine lobster tail and surf & turf.
Complimentary beverages include water, iced tea, coffee and hot tea. Anything else, including soda, wine, beer and cocktails cost extra.
Seaview Restaurant (Deck 10, aft): Every mainstream cruise ship needs a buffet, and Seaview Restaurant serves that function on Carnival Sensation. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered every day, with twin stations on both left and right sides of the venue, and the Pizza Pirate and Carnival Deli options at the back.
Breakfast features typical a.m. fare with cereals, yoghurts, fruits, breads and pastries, along with scrambled eggs, breakfast meats, potatoes, deli meats, waffles and pancakes. Outside on the deck are two made-to-order omelette stations -- expect long lines, as these are very popular.
Lunches are themed each day, with menu options ranging from just OK to not bad. Most are fairly bland -- if you want something with a kick, you'll want to head to Guy's Burger Joint or BlueIguana Cantina. On Italian day, the main station might serve baked penne with smoked ham and meat sauce, grilled Sicilian-style basa, broiled chicken breast with broccoli and sage, eggplant caponata and sides that include fresh vegetables, rosemary-scented potatoes and focaccia bread. The Caribbean lunch might feature roast strip loin, Caribbean pepper pot, shrimp and calamari fritters, jerked chicken, fried plantains and rice and kidney beans. Other themed lunches on our four-night cruise were French and American.
On top of the themed station, a central salad bar offers plenty of pre-made salads, as well as enough fixings to create a salad to your liking. Two identical dessert stations are located on each side of the buffet, as well, with a variety of cakes and cookies. In between are two self-serve ice cream stations dishing out soft vanilla and chocolate ice cream 24 hours a day.
Dinner consists of a medley of international options such as chicken Florentine, oven-baked fish fillet in a nicoise sauce, beef and shrimp stir-fry, and baked ziti. On formal night, the options even included a couple of dishes straight off the main dining room's American Feast menu -- roast prime rib and blue crab ravioli. The salad bar in the middle offers premade and make-your-own fixings, as well as deli meats and cheeses.
Self-service beverage machines dispense complimentary juices at breakfast and iced tea at lunch and dinner. You can also get your own coffee, hot tea and water here. For those who want something harder, there's a bar at the back of the buffet, or you can pick up something at one of the Lido Deck bars on your way into the buffet.
Pizza Pirate (Deck 10, aft): Located in a back corner of the Seaview Restaurant and open 24/7, Pizza Pirate is the only place onboard to get a slice of pizza -- or an entire personal-sized pie if you'd like. There are five choices: margherita, mushroom, pepperoni, four cheese and prosciutto. All are cooked on request. Gluten-free is also available on request.
Carnival Deli (Deck 10, aft): Situated next to Pizza Pirate is the Carnival Deli, which is the place to get your favourite deli-style sandwiches anytime between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. Cold options include a turkey wrap, tuna, smoked salmon on a bagel, and arugula, pepper and mozzarella on ciabatta bread. Hot selections include pastrami or corned beef on rye, grilled Reuben, roast turkey breast on a country roll, grilled ham and cheese, and an all-beef hot dog. Toppings for the hot dog are chili, sauerkraut and caramelized onions, but you should also feel free to walk forward to Guy's Burger and use the toppings bar there too. And, like any good deli (so the sign says), the Carnival Deli has pickles too.
Guys' Burger Joint (Deck 10, mid): Carnival's most popular eatery by far, Guy's Burgers (the brainchild of celebrity chef Guy Fieri) was added to Carnival Sensation during its 2017 dry dock. Situated just steps from the pool, Guy's Burger exudes the tantalizing aroma of freshly grilled burgers, tempting to any poolside lounger whose time on the Lido Deck spans the lunch hours. Burger-lovers can choose from six calorie-intensive options, like the Chilius Maximus, a beef patty with super melty cheese, an onion ring, donkey sauce and chili; or the Pig Patty, a beef patty paired with a bacon patty, topped with cheese and donkey sauce. Veggie burgers are not advertised but are available upon request (ask for it with cheese if you want, otherwise it'll come plain). All burgers come with Guy's signature seasoned fries. Next door to the grill is Guy's toppings bar with everything from lettuce, tomato and pickles to sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions. Hours are generally from noon to 6 p.m.; be prepared for lines from about noon to 2 p.m. though they do move pretty fast.
BlueIguana Cantina (Deck 10, mid): Located across the deck from Guy's is the Mexican-themed eatery BlueIguana Cantina, which offers breakfast from 7 to 10:30 a.m. and lunch from noon to 3:30 p.m. For those in the know, BlueIguana's breakfasts are preferred over just about every other breakfast option, with huevos rancheros (fried eggs on tortillas with meat and beans), breakfast burritos and arepas (corn patties with melted cheese inside) on offer. Lunch, which is usually pretty busy, features fish, chicken or beef tacos and shrimp, chicken or beef burritos with your choice of wheat or jalapeno tortillas (or have your taco or burrito served on a platter if you don't want the wrap). Optional ingredients include all the Mexican fare necessities: black and refried beans, guacamole, cilantro lime rice, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, roasted corn, sauteed onions, sour cream, Monterey Jack cheese and pico de gallo. And that's not including the large salsa bar with even more toppings.
Room Service: The free room service menu on Carnival Sensation is limited to a selection of continental breakfast items, plus sandwiches, salads, a vegetable platter and three dessert options. Continental breakfast options include fruits, cereals, breads and baked goods, yoghurts and a selection of juices, coffee and tea. Free sandwiches are tuna, roast turkey, ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, BLT, grilled cheese and grilled Reuben. A garden salad and Caesar salad are also always available. There is also a selection of for-fee items available.
Chef's Table; $75: Foodies agree, the Chef's Table experience is the best dining offering on most Carnival ships. It's offered once or twice per cruise (depending on demand) on five-night cruises. An exclusive dining experience for up to 14 passengers, Chef's Table is hosted by the ship's master executive chef in the Oak Room library and includes a multicourse dinner and private tour of the galley.
Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast (Deck 8, Ecstasy Dining Room); $6: A part of the Seuss at Sea program onboard most Carnival ships, the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast is a silly, once-per-cruise breakfast for kids (or really anyone who loves Dr. Seuss and wants an excuse to eat unnaturally coloured green eggs!). From the whimsical Dr. Seuss-inspired decorations to the funny-sounding (and looking) menu items like Truffula tree pancakes, Horton's cereal-crusted French toast, Fox in Socks steak and eggs and, of course, green eggs and ham, the breakfast is a fun time for all, especially when the Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Thing Two and Sam-I-Am make the rounds, shaking hands and posing for pictures.
Joe's Cafe (Deck 9, mid); a la carte prices: Cruisers who need more of a caffeine fix than the free coffee in the buffet can provide, can make use of this small cafe located near the casino. Here they can partake of such delicacies as Caribbean Coffee (coffee infused with Tia Maria and Appleton Rum, with a sprinkle of nutmeg) for $4.95, plus several other varieties of specialized espressos, cappuccinos and lattes. Ice coffee, specialty water (like Perrier and San Pellegrino) and spiked coffees are also on the menu, as are milk shakes and a selection of delicious cakes and pastries. Prices run from $1.95 to $5.95.
Room Service; a la carte prices: On top of the complimentary lineup of room service menu items are nine extra-fee items ranging in price from $1.50 for a side of fries ($2 for sweet potato fries) to $6 for spicy fried firecracker shrimp. Most items cost $5, including totally awesome wings, chicken tenders, chicken quesadillas, Philly cheesesteak and pan pizza. An old-fashioned banana split is $4. There is also a free continental breakfast menu and free sandwiches available throughout the day.
As an older ship, Carnival Sensation has a limited number of cabin configurations. The vast majority of rooms are inside or outside cabins, though the ship does have 152 cabins and suites with balconies spread over decks 5, 6, 7 and 11. (They fill up quickly, so book yours early if you've got your heart set on a balcony.) All have somewhat dated gold and rust colour schemes but are generously sized and have plenty of storage for two to three people.
All cabins have two twin beds that can be pushed together to form one larger bed; some rooms also have upper/lower pulldown beds or room for a rollaway or trundle bed. Each twin bed has a mounted reading light above it and there's also a master switch near the bed to turn off all the lights so you don't have to get up and go to the front door after you've already gotten into bed.
Most rooms also feature a desk with four drawers, one chair and one stool (but no social sitting area), and a three-section closet with two sections for hanging clothes and a third with shelving and a safe. Flat-screen TVs offer several standard cable channels, including movie channels, as well as ship-specific channels for learning about shipboard amenities and shore excursions and to watch the cruise director's morning show. Each room has one 110 volt and one 220 volt outlet located at the desk.
The bathroom is small and there's an ankle high lip between it and the rest of the cabin so mind your step when entering or leaving the bathroom. There's very little shelf space for toiletries; two people each with their own set of stuff will be hard-pressed to find enough room in the bathroom for all of it. The shower is a comfortable size for most people and though it has a shower curtain, the bottom is weighted so it never drifts into the shower or sticks to your legs. Inside the shower is a wall-mounted dispenser with shampoo and bath gel. There's also a bar of soap. Standard cabins do not have hairdryers in the cabins, but passengers can ask the room steward for one. (The ones they do provide are pretty weak, so consider bringing one with you if styling your hair is important.)
There are a number of connecting cabins, in both inside, ocean view and balcony categories, as well as a limited number of accessible cabins (even fewer that are fully wheelchair accessible).
Inside: These 185-square-foot cabins have all the standard amenities mentioned above and come in a variety of configurations that can hold two to five people.
Ocean-view: Also 185 square feet, Carnival's ocean-view cabins come with either a porthole or a larger picture window. They feature the same general layout and amenities as inside cabins and come in a variety of configurations that can hold two to five people.
Balcony: The 98 balcony cabins are divided into two types, both of which have 185 square feet of interior space, but the 86 standard balconies have 35-square-foot verandas while the 12 aft-view extended balconies have 55-square-foot verandas. Inside the cabins, the rooms have the same layout and amenities as inside and ocean-view cabins, and come in configurations that can hold two to four people. The balconies are narrow and hold three to four chairs in a row and a tiny drinks table.
Junior Suite: On Deck 11, you'll find 26 220-square-foot junior suites. These rooms all feature 30-square-foot-balconies, a mini-fridge and a sitting area -- not found in the non-suites -- with a single sofa bed and coffee table.
Suite: Grand Suites come in two varieties -- 20 have 70-square-foot balconies and eight have 115-square-foot extended balconies. They are not true suites, as the sitting and sleeping areas are not separate. All are on Deck 6, can hold three to five people depending on configuration and come with a full bathroom with whirlpool bathtub, a single or double sofa bed, bedside nightstands with lamp and cubby space, faux marble coffee table and countertops, walk-in dressing area, extra drawer space and mini-fridge. The bathrooms have more counter space than in any other cabin category, plus feature a makeup mirror and two small shelves.
Cruisers staying in Junior Suites and Grand Suites receive priority check-in and bathrobes to use on the cruise.