Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Ship: 314 out of 500
Accommodation: 138 out of 200
Food: 212 out of 400
Service: 250 out of 400
Entertainment: 73 out of 100
Cruise: 243 out of 400
Overall Score: 1230 out of 2000
Carnival Sensation Statistics
Size: Large Resort Ship
Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Lines
Former Names: Sensation
IMO Number: 8711356
Builder: Kvaerner Masa-Yards (Finland)
Original Cost: $300 million
Entered Service: Nov 1993
Registry: The Bahamas
Length (ft/m): 855.0/260.6
Beam (ft/m): 104.0/31.4
Draft (ft/m): 25.9/7.9
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (42,240kW)/2
Passenger Decks: 10
Total Crew: 920
Passengers (lower beds): 2,040
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 34.4
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.2
Cabins (total): 1,020
Size Range (sq ft/m): 173.2-409.7/16.0-38.0
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 152
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 20
Wheelchair accessibility: Fair
Cabin Current: 110 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 3
Hot Tubs (on deck): 6
Self-Service Launderette: Yes
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: US$
This ultra-colorful, casual ship is good for a first cruise
Overview. Carnival Sensation is the third (in a series of eight almost identical ships) in the Fantasy-class (sister ships: Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Elation, Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Fascination, Carnival Imagination, and Carnival Inspiration - all of which have extremely short bows. Carnival Sensation is well liked, and good for families and party types taking a first cruise.
The Ship. While Carnival Sensation’s open deck space is reasonable, it is inadequate when the ship is full and everyone wants to be out on deck. The aft decks used to be less noisy when all the activities were focused around the main swimming pool and hot tubs, but now that a Carnival WaterWorks - complete with long and short water slides and water-burst fountains - has been added, it’s the noisy, active area.
For anyone who prefers European-style sunning there’s also a topless sunbathing area, as well as Serenity - an adult-only ‘quiet’ lounging space on Deck 9 aft. There is no walk-around open promenade deck, although there is a short jogging track atop ship. The lifeboats, six of which double as shore tenders, are positioned high in the ship, whereas they are located much lower aboard Carnival’s newer ships.
The interior of the ship is well designed and the general passenger flow is good. The interior design - the work of Miami-based creative genius Joe Farcus - is clever, functional, and extremely colorful, and includes plenty of glitz. He calls it ‘entertainment architecture’ and considers every part of a ship as a piece of a giant jigsaw puzzle. The underlying decor theme is the arts (in a sort of Art Nouveau style) and literature. It includes a colorful mix of classic and contemporary design elements that beg indulgence.
The interior focal point is an ‘open’ atrium lobby, with its balconied shape, and dressed to impress. It spans six decks, and is topped by a large glass dome. The lowest level of the atrium lobby is where you’ll find the purser’s desk and shore excursion desk, together with a popular Atrium Bar with live music, as well as a small sushi bar off to one side; it’s a good central meeting place.
There are public entertainment lounges, bars, and clubs galore, with something for everyone (except quiet space). Most public rooms and attractions lead off from Sensation Boulevard - a sort of shipboard Main Street which runs between the showlounge (forward) and the Plaza Aft lounge, with Joe’s Café a popular spot for coffees and teas. Gamers and slot players alike will surely enjoy the almost non-stop action in the Club Vegas Casino close by.
The Oak Room Library is a rather stately reading room, but there are few books. Meanwhile, the Kaleidoscope Discotheque, with its dozens of video monitors and dance floor, hits you with a dazzling variety of stimulating, electric colors. There’s also a 1,200-sq-ft (111-sq-m) conference room.
It’s definitely not for anyone seeking a quiet, relaxing cruise experience. Niggles include the many annoying announcements, and the never-ending hustling to get you to buy drinks, jewelry, and trinkets. Also, shore excursions are booked via the in-cabin ‘Fun Vision’ television system, so obtaining advice and suggestions is not easy.
Families. Youngsters have their own play areas, with children’s programs divided into five age-specific groups under Camp Ocean (ages 2−11 - with children ages 2−5 called ‘Penguins’; 6−8-year-olds called ‘Sting Rays’; 9−11-year-olds called ‘Sharks’). Tweens have ‘Circle C’, while teenagers have their own ‘Club O2’ - a chill-out (no adults allowed) room/disco. Also, soft-drinks packages can be purchased for children (and adults).
Also, a water park is always a lot of fun as an outdoor play area. For really young ones, group babysitting is available.
By the end of 2015, the words and world of Dr. Seuss will have been rolled out as part of Carnival’s children’s program (check before you sail) − from ‘green eggs and ham’ for breakfast, served by waiters in Dr. Seuss-inspired uniforms, and characters such as the Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Thing Two, and Sam attending, to special showings of movies such as The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (these will be shown outdoors on the poolside Seaside Theater screen on Lido Deck).
Accommodation. There are many different accommodation price grades, ranked by facilities, size, and location. The standard outside-view and interior cabins have decor that is rather plain. They are fairly comfortable, yet spacious enough and practical (most are of the same size and appointments), with good storage and no-nonsense bathrooms. However, if you have a queen-bed configuration instead of the standard twin-bed layout, note that one person has to clamber over the bed - an ungainly exercise for those of a heavier build.
Choose a suite and you get more space, whirlpool bathtubs, and rather eclectic decor and furniture. These are reasonably attractive, but much smaller than those aboard ships of a similar size of competing companies. Some 50 cabins have interconnecting doors - good for families with children.
Room service items are available 24 hours a day, although in standard cabins, only cold food is available, while those in suite-grade accommodation get a greater range of items (both hot and cold) to choose from.
Dining. The two large main dining rooms, Fantasy and Ecstasy, are located amidships and aft. Both have ocean-view windows and attractive, but very bright decor, and they are noisy - full of anticipatory excitement. Choose either fixed-time dining (6pm or 8.15pm) or flexible dining (any time between 5.45 and 9.30pm).
The food is really not memorable, with simple presentation and few garnishes used. Meat and fowl main courses are often disguised with gravies and sauces. The selection of fresh green vegetables, breads, rolls, cheeses, and fruits is limited, and there is much use of canned fruit and jellied desserts. There’s a decent wine list, but no wine waiters. The waiters sing and dance, and there are constant waiter parades - so it’s more about ‘foodertainment’ than food quality.
Remember, however, that this is basic catering - with all its attendant standardization and production cooking; it is, therefore, difficult to obtain anything unusual or ‘off-menu.’ For something really simple, there’s an ‘always available’ list of ‘Carnival Classics’ that includes mahi mahi (fish), baby back ribs (beef), and grilled chicken (when the dining rooms are open). The two main dining rooms are not open for lunch on port days.
Other dining options. The Seaview Bar & Grill is like a lido cafe, and features casual self-serve buffet eats, most of which are non-memorable. The venue includes a deli counter and pizzeria. At night, the venue morphs into the Seaview Bistro, and provides a casual alternative to the main dining rooms, for pasta, steaks, salads, and desserts - it typically operates only between 6pm and 9pm. The food selection, though limited, makes a change from the large, crowded and noisy main dining rooms. Outside on deck is a Mongolian Rotisserie Grill.
A patisserie offers specialty coffees and sweets (extra charge), and a so-called sushi bar on Promenade Deck is open prior to dinner only.
There is no specialty (extra-charge) restaurant, as aboard some of the larger ships in the Carnival fleet.
Entertainment. The Fantasia Lounge is the ship’s principal showlounge, and the venue for large-scale production shows and major cabaret acts. However, some 20 pillars obstruct the views from several seats. During a typical cruise, there will be one or two high-energy production shows, backed by a large live band.
Spa/Fitness. SpaCarnival is a large, glass-wrapped health, fitness, and spa complex. It is located on the uppermost interior deck, forward of the ship’s mast, and is typically open from 6am to 8pm daily. It consists of a gymnasium with ocean-view windows that look out over the bow and the latest electronic machines, an aerobics exercise room, sauna and steam rooms, beauty salon, and body treatment rooms. Some fitness classes (such as kick-boxing or yoga) may incur an extra charge. A common complaint is that there are not enough staff to keep the area clean and tidy, and used towels are often strewn around the changing rooms.
Sporting types can play basketball, volleyball, table tennis, mini-golf, or go jogging (on a banked course).