(c) By Jim and Barb Fox
Fun, Fun, Fun.
That sums up a cruise on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore to Port Canaveral and the Bahamas.
After all, Carnival's 22 vessels are known as the "Fun Ships" and a recent sailing proved this to be true.
There was the fun of three days at sea on the fun-packed ship and more fun during a visit to the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando while in port in Florida.
Added to the fun factor was a day at Atlantis, the playground of the rich and famous during the stop in Nassau.
That's not forgetting all the fun of the sun and sand, Bahamian shopping, swimming and close encounters with tropical flora and fauna, and eating, eating, eating.
Our son Brent and wife Vilaylack sailed out of the convenient-to-reach Maryland port on the seven-night voyage and found that hot fun in the tropics' summertime isn't just a cold-weather pursuit.
In fact, sailing to the Bahamas/Caribbean in the summertime is the "peak cruise" time, said Aly Bello-Cabreriza, Carnival's public relations manager.
The 2,680-passenger Carnival Pride sails at capacity on its two itineraries offered year-round out of Baltimore.
This trip was the Sunday departure at 5:30 p.m. followed by two "fun days" at sea and arriving Wednesday at 7 a.m. in Port Canaveral, Fla. It sails that night at 7 for Nassau, Bahamas, arriving Thursday at 11a.m. and departs at 10 p.m.
The Pride then visits Freeport, Bahamas from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays, followed by another sea day and arrival back in Baltimore on Sunday at 10 a.m.
The other itinerary is seven nights to the Eastern Caribbean with calls at Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Freeport.
The Carnival Pride is shown at the pier in Freeport in the Bahamas where there is shopping nearby. (Photo by Vilaylack Sihamanotham)
It was a quick embarkation after which they made the mandatory first trip to the "lido" buffet, known here as the Mermaid's Grille that becomes the casual Seaview Bistro at night.
The ship has the full complement of wining and dining spots, including the extra-fee ($30 US) David's steakhouse where they took in a culinary demonstration, 24-hour pizzeria and the Normandie Restaurant, the main dining room.
Opting for "anytime" dining, they were seated promptly and found the food and service to be excellent. As well as a multitude of options, there were different vegetarian choices each day and the crowd favourite, warm chocolate melting cake.
After the ship squeezed under Baltimore's Key Bridge and they checked out their Empress (Deck 6) stateroom with private balcony and separate seating area, it was time to explore, starting with the immense eight-deck lobby atrium outside their room.
The artistic, eclectic Renaissance/Art Deco decor includes copies of some of the great masters with many nudes on the ship that's a tropical destination in itself. It has pools and whirlpools, a twister waterslide and a sliding sky dome over the aft pool.
They found the entertainment to be well performed and varied while the nightly crowd pleaser was "Jay" hosting the Starry Night karaoke party.
This port call allows passengers to visit the nearby Kennedy Space Center while many opt to take the shuttle to fun city - Orlando.
That's where Brent and Vilaylack visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal (www.universalorlando.com).
Hogwarts Castle is the focal point of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. (Photo by Vilaylack Sihamanotham)
The place was packed as this "highly anticipated entertainment experience" that was five years in the making recently opened and is based on the Harry Potter books and films.
Visitors are swept into author J.K. Rowling's adventures and tour Hogwarts castle, shop in Hogsmeade and dine in the Three Broomsticks. They can fly with Harry, ride on a dragon, sample Butterbeer, eat exploding sweets and experience the magic and adventure.
|The Atlantis resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas rises from the turquoise lagoons and the blue Atlantic. (Photo by Vilaylack Sihamanotham)|
Nassau and Freeport, Bahamas
At Nassau, they took the water ferry to Atlantis on Paradise Island that rises from the turquoise lagoons and the blue Atlantic (www.atlantis.com).
This was fun as the ocean-themed resort has water as its focal point and made for a great "beach day" on the massive sand playground.
It's built around 20-million gallons (91-million litres) of fresh and salt-water pools, lagoons and cascading waterfalls that are teeming with marine habitat, said publicist Megan Marchesini.
Aquaventure is a lushly landscaped water experience of rides and thrills while Dolphin Cay is where to learn about the marine creatures.
|Commanding a nightly rental of $25,000 US, the Bridge Suite at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas is perched 17 stories high and connects the East and West wings of Royal Towers. (Photo by Vilaylack Sihamanotham)|
Atlantis has a variety of guest accommodations, 40 restaurants, bars and lounges, and the largest casino in the Bahamas.
|The Carnival Pride is shown at the pier in Nassau in the Bahamas. (Photo by Vilaylack Sihamanotham)|
The seven-hour stop in Freeport allowed for some island shopping at the International Bazaar and the Port Lucaya Marketplace along with a last trip to the beach for sunning and swimming.
This Maryland city turned out to be a pleasant place to visit before the cruise and with pier parking ($15 a night) and hotels is about half the price of New York or Boston.
They stayed at historic and "haunted" Admiral Fell Inn (www.harbormagic.com) that offers a park-and-cruise package with transportation to and from the pier.
For information on Baltimore, hotels, cruise packages and pier parking: www.cruisemaryland.com
If you cruise:
For information/reservations/prices: www.carnival.com; 1-800-CARNIVAL.
Note: This feature article was first published in August, 2010
Jim and Barb Fox can be reached at email@example.com