(This is the first in a six-part series about my first cruise. I sailed on the Carnival Pride from August 4-11. It started and ended in Baltimore, making stops in Port Canaveral, Florida; Nassau, Bahamas; and Freeport, Bahamas. The other parts of this series are scheduled to run over the next couple of weeks).
When on a massive ship sailing out in the open seas, I always wondered how one would keep occupied.
Yes, I knew there were some things to do on cruise ships, be it a pool, or boozing it up, or a casino. But seriously, with more than 2,000 people on this vessel, how does one keep entertained?
Turns out it’s not so hard.
No matter if you are by yourself, with a small group or with a big group, you can find things to do on the boat and the forms of entertainment seem quite endless. Even better, when you have a staff that seems to truly care about each guest, it makes it more fun.
For the most part, I’ll be tackling the things I did when on the boat and I’ll throw in a couple of other things I didn’t participate in, which will hopefully give you the idea of things one can do.
I found the key to be actually seeing what is out there to be offered. Though I realize many people go on a ship to relax and not do a lot, the reality is the ship offers a ton to do.
With the ship I was on — and from what I understand, all Carnival ships — each night we got a copy of Fun Times. It’s a four-page newsletter that shows all the activities going on the following day. What’s even nicer is a tear-out sheet with everything in time order so you can carry it with you. The newsletter also points out the major happenings as well as any other pertinent info, such as the dress code for the dining room, hours of places and anything else you can imagine.
It was the most valuable item I looked at each day.
Outside of the first night, when I was still trying to figure out how things ran on the boat, I pretty much made sure I saw a lot of things while I was on the ship. On the night we set sail, I pretty much hung out a little. I went to dinner with our group and then walked around the boat. Looking back, I wish I had gone to the opening night’s stage show, which was a welcome aboard show. It looked like it would have been quite fun.
The key to my experience with stage shows came the following night, which was the first of two formal nights. At first, I wasn’t going to head to the dining room, but with lobster tail on the menu…
Anyway, at the start of the evening, people had the chance to meet the captain. Though I didn’t do that, soon after grabbing a beer, I bumped into the cruise director, Josh. We chatted for a bit as it turns out he had a place in Western New York and was a massive baseball fan (Cubs, though, so I felt a little sorry that he may never see a World Series champion). I had been trying to find out why there were no pins for sale on the ship as I am a pin collector.
In the end, it was cool as he got me a couple of pins for my collection, but ones not easy to get. He also told me I should make sure to see the stage shows and take advantage of many other things. I took his advice to heart. Now I realize that most cruise directors are probably quite solid at what they do. But I feel I got lucky that my first cruise had Josh as he really was quite helpful each time I chatted with him. His assistant — Sassy — was also top notch.
Below, I’ll tackle a bunch of the things I did and break them down into spots where I saw them.
The Main Stage
The shows at the main stage were top notch. I saw five of seven shows at night on the stage, missing the first-night show and skipping the Jazz one. Outside of that, I made sure to get there and watch the shows each night.
Not all were great, but I enjoyed them all for the most part.
The second night was a show called Wonderful World, which featured some great music and showcased many countries and nationalities. It was quite the scene how they did it, for sure. The third night was a Motown show, featuring Marcus Anthony. This was pretty solid, though I felt it dragged a little at times and I would have liked to have seen a little more of the popular Motown stuff. That being said, after hearing about what he performed at the early show, it sounded like the two were different.
I skipped the fourth night, being the jazz show. I popped my head in briefly, but wasn’t too interested in what I saw, so I moved along.
The Love and Marriage Show on the fifth night was hilarious as they used three sailing couples, including one who had been married for 52 years. It was basically like the old show “The Newlywed Game.” My only complaint is that is dragged a little longer than I would have liked, but overall it was funny, entertaining and amusing to watch.
The sixth night went back to a stage show as they showed Vroom!, which may have been my second favorite (behind Wonderful World) as the music was fantastic, covered many years and was fully enjoyable to watch. There were songs performed from Huey Lewis to the Beatles to Elton John to Boy George to the Village People and to Lionel Richie. It was quite fun.
On the final night, it was the Carnival Legends, which had fellow cruisers dressing up and singing tunes of stars. One thing I would like to know is how they recruit these cruisers as it would be interesting to find out. Maybe through karaoke nights? Or something else. Either way, most were pretty solid and the show was really fun to watch.
Most shows lasted right about an hour and all but two or three had two showings — an early and a late. So it’s well worth seeing. I wasn’t disappointed in hitting up these shows, that’s for sure. I would like to know that it was Cruise Director Josh who pushed me to hit up these shows as when I talked to him on the second night, he really stressed these shows were worth hitting up. He was fully right.
I love comedy. I’ve always been a fan of shows, especially in intimate settings, such as comedy clubs. I know a few comics — including one who works with cruise lines — so, I was fully looking forward to hitting these shows.
For the seven-day cruise, we had four comedians. Two in the beginning and two at the end. All were pretty solid and were different. I only watched one show of each, but it sounded like each show — including the family friendly ones — were different.
The club — Punchliner, presented by George Lopez — is a nice setup. The host/manager, Chris, was excellent and ran a nice setup. It ran along with most of the Carnival employees I met or dealt with — professional, friendly and do a solid job.
The first two comedians were Jim Brick and Faulkenberry. Brick performed the first night and the two then did several shows each night for the next two nights. I saw Brick’s first show and Faulkenberry the following night.
Brick was probably my favorite of the four for the week as he had me in stitches all night and also like to ride the crowd quite a bit, which I enjoy. Faulkenberry had a different style but the show I saw, I really enjoyed, too.
The final two, who performed first the night we were in Freeport, Bahamas, were Allyn Ball and Al Romas. The places were a bit more crowded for these shows than for the first two comedians. They were pretty solid, overall, and had some good stuff and created many laughs.
In the end, I loved the comedy club and it’s something I would look forward to on future cruises.
This, possibly, may be my favorite thing I did in regard to entertainment on the cruise. Basically, it was an adult scavenger hunt. It was explained in the “Fun Times” newsletter as follows:
If you’re an adult who wants to have fun, we’ve got just the thing. These insane adult-only team competitions will have you throwing your inhibitions into the sea. Must be 18+ to attend.
Two of us from the wedding group went to get involved with this. We needed a team of four, so a couple joined, giving us three guys and one gal.
Then the fun began.
The hosts — assistant cruise director Sassy and a southern gal named Autumn — were funny and engaging. Through the competition, they’d tell you something they wanted. It could be anything. Such as a man wearing a bra.
But here was the key, you only had moments.
So it’s not like you could go off and find things. You had to improvise.
I will say this, thank goodness for boxer briefs.
One of the things they asked for was for one of the females on a team to go up wearing a pair of guy’s pants. As the three men on our team stood there, I figured what the hell. Off went the pants. I wouldn’t have done it if I wore tighty whities, let me tell you that. But in the end, it was hilarious. The things people had to do were too funny.
The biggest thing was a two-minute setup at the end where one of the team members (male) had to be dressed like a woman — with makeup and all. The couple in our group had a cabin nearby, so they got all the necessary items and got second place out of it. Too funny.
In the end, we took second as a team, giving us a couple of bottles of champagne, a boa, and medals for each of us. It’s one of those things I’ll never forget.
I will note, however, that the first-place team must have done this before. Why? They came with a bag of stuff and were ready for everything! Well done.
Other things to do
I was never without entertainment.
From smaller shows going on throughout the day, to people watching to slipping in and watching 10 minutes of bingo, there’s always something to keep one occupied.
I participated in several trivia games. Three of us — groom Dave, Gurney and myself — won sports trivia. So we got one of the “Ship on a Stick” trophies. I came close in several music trivia games to taking the top spot, but there was always one or two songs that got me. I’d know them, but I couldn’t remember the name/artist and that got me.
One thing I did was wander. Thought I didn’t participate in all of it, I watched some of the other things to do, such as karaoke. There’s, of course, the casino, where people were gambling throughout the night. I only gambled away a few bucks — one night on the roulette table, another in some slots. In the end, I think I used about $15 bucks and ended up only losing $9. I’m not much of a gambler, but it’s kind of fun to watch sometimes. I will say it wasn’t as crowded, most of the time, as I would have expected.
There was an Internet Cafe, too, so you could check up on the world. The prices weren’t too bad, but it would be hard to be online all the time on a ship as it would get expensive. A card room allowed people to go play games or cards whenever they wanted as well. On top of that, with all the chairs around, it was possible just to sit, relax and watch the world go by.
Then, there was the top decks. With putt-putt golf, a basketball court, a gym, a few pools and places to lounge, entertainment was never far away. The spa was up top, too. And if you wanted to avoid kids, there’s an adult-only area on the top with a smaller pool, lounge chairs and the such so you can relax away from the youngsters.
There’s also the shops on board, so people can browse or buy things. For the people who enjoy the upper deck, don’t forget about the water slide. Or a game of chess with the life-size board and pieces. Maybe some ping pong? There were also deck parties and fun things, such as the competitions to find the hairiest person on board. There was never a lack of things to do, that’s for sure.
On the final day at sea, there was also a Q&A session with Josh. That was a lot of fun, too, and I found out some interesting things about the ship. I’ll share those more in my overall wrap, which will be the final installment in this series of posts.
If there’s one thing I took away from the ship is there’s always something to do. The Fun Times newsletter really is key to seeing what’s out there and being able to find things. I was impressed with the entertainment on board and it’s a major reason why I could see myself going on future cruises, whether with people or by myself.
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