My husband and I had an opportunity to upgrade our suite to the Owner’s Suite on the Carnival Sensation. I decided to upgrade us without doing our typical research for two main reasons:
1. We were traveling with our 16 month old son and having more space couldn’t hurt
2. The booking of the cruise was a surprise to my husband and this would have put the surprise over the top. (The planning/surprise part is a whole different story)
When we were doing some research on this we couldn’t find much about this room; it seemed to be rare that people had access to this room. Even the pictures that Carnival provided to me were limited, so I decided that I would find a way to share this with everyone that would be offered this upgrade in the future.
First, my husband and I are experienced travelers and cruisers. We’ve cruised with all the major cruise lines except Disney (that’s probably our next one as the Little Man gets older). Second, I have tried to be clear on my comments/opinions of the room vs. the ship as a whole. Now…let’s get to the good stuff.
Overall, the upgrade was worth it to us! Prior to this cruise, we learned to book a suite because we like to have space and the balcony. We aren’t big on partying it up on the Lido deck; we go on cruises to unwind and enjoy the destinations. Our last Carnival cruise was back in 2009, when we went on the Carnival Freedom (which is when I met my idol Samantha Brown who was filming Great Cruises about the new ship for the Travel Channel).
It was nice to see that Carnival improved their check-in process for suites. Once you get past the security, you go to a VIP lounge area to wait for someone call your name to check you in. Once you’re all checked in and have your Sail&Sign card, you’re escorted up the gangway and onto the ship to your room. Now, keep in mind this is only because of the Owner’s Suite and not a luxury of the other suites (at least that’s what I was told). Another thing worth noting is that typically, when you board the ship that you cannot access your room until 3 or 4p. Carnival makes it a point to have the Owner’s Suite ready when boarding starts.
The Owner’s Suite is located on Deck 12 (Sports Deck). This is the same deck as the Spa; there are only two Owner’s Suites which are both located on this floor. Each suite has only one entrance to the room which is secluded… you wouldn’t know it’s a guest room unless you saw someone walking in and out of it. We got quite a few looks from people as we were coming out. In fact there are window seats right outside the rooms so people could be sitting there talking.
Pros About the Room
- The room is extremely spacious!! The bedroom has a door that shuts off from the living room. This was incredibly wonderful with a 16 mo; we have learned that no one sleeps well when the baby sleeps in the room with us (not even the baby). At night we had the crib in the living room and for his naps we moved the crib into the bedroom. The balcony had enough space for 2 loungers + 2 chairs + 1 side table. There’s loads of cabinets and drawers and the closet was so big you could literally spread your arms out and not touch either side of the walls.
- Centrally located. Technically the room is probably considered forward ship, but because the Sensation isn’t a mega-ship, it was almost practically midship. It’s right by the elevators, and down the hall from the Spa. One deck below the room is Camp Carnival and another deck below that is Lido deck (pool/buffet).
- There were some other amenities that we thought were nice:
– Both TVs supported easy to access/reach HDMI ports. We always travel with an Apple TV so that we can enjoy a movie/music when we’re relaxing in the room.
– There is a mini fridge and the bar area is stocked with glassware.
– Separate thermostats control the temperature for the living room and bedroom.
– There is a wall switch to turn on/off a Do Not Disturb light that eliminates outside the room.
– There is a doorbell that guests/friends/room attendants can use.
– You can order continental breakfast for room service; this is like how most hotels do breakfast by leaving the order form hanging tag on the door knob.
– The bathroom has double sinks; which makes you feel like you’re at home.
– After we put the baby to bed, my husband relaxed in the reclining chair in the bedroom while I cuddled up in the comfy bed.
– The sofa in the living room is a full-size pull out bed.
- The floor-to-ceiling windows give you a great view from the living room or the bedroom. You can feel like you’re a part of the action without having to be in the crowd on the Lido deck. The curtains on the window go the full length of the window as well. They completely block out any light which was nice to help keep the room cool (see Cons) and was nice to not have the sun shining in your eyes when you wake up.
- If you’ve ever traveled with a teething toddler, then you know they can sometimes get loud/fussy. We didn’t feel like “those annoying people with the crying baby” because the noise didn’t travel. You only have one neighbor, the other Owner’s Suite, which shares only one wall.
- We’ve also learned to travel with a power strip because there’s usually not enough power outlets. You can leave the power strip at home! There are outlets everywhere in this room!
- The shower had a hand-held shower head, but it also had body sprayers! For anyone who’s like me and enjoys a HOT shower, I’m here to tell you that it’s so relaxing!!!!! Who could ignore the elephant in the bathroom – the whirlpool tub!!!!!!!! My son thought it was his own personal pool!!
- For disembarkation, if you don’t carry off your own bags, then you will be Group 4 which disembarks after the self-assists. You’re supposed to leave your room by 8:30a. The letter you get says it’s between 8:45a – 9:15a; we were called around 8:40. We didn’t leave our room until they called our disembarkation group.
Cons About the Room…Newton’s law of motion does apply to some of the Pros.
- Whenever there is something going happening on the Lido deck, you will hear it no matter where you are in the room. If you’re a light sleeper, then you may want to just go to the Lido deck and enjoy whatever is going on that night because you won’t sleep until it’s over. I know that on our cruise, the last night was the only night that it was quiet on the Lido deck after 8p.
- While the floor-to-ceiling windows were great, it made the room VERY hot, especially the day at sea when the sun reflects off the water and into the room. Don’t believe what Carnival tells you the windows being “blacked out” and that people cannot see in. If you don’t want to put on a show for the cruisers on the Lido deck, don’t leave the windows open. My son would stand in the window and wave at the people below and they’d wave back.
- This is going to sound like a “first world problem” but it was something we found annoying… Light switches… Carnival could invest in a label maker!!!
- The lighting in the bathroom and dressing room is very dim. Surprisingly these lights are NOT on dimmers like others in the room. I had to put my makeup on in the closet because it had better lighting and I don’t even want to tell you about the fun it was to shave my legs in the shower with little lighting.
- There seemed to be mold-like black spots on the ceiling near the shower. It wasn’t “awful” but it wasn’t what I would expect. Also, it wasn’t clear on how to make the whirlpool tub work. Instructions: Fill tub past highest hole for blowers and lights will eliminate that can be pressed to start the blowers.
- The length of the balcony is enclosed with bars and not glass like the other balconies. It made me very nervous when we were out there with my son. When you’re sitting on the lounger, the view is of the top of a lifeboat. Yes, you feel secure knowing in case of an emergency you could just jump on top, but when you’re trying to relax it’s not a zen feeling.
- The in-room safe is on the top shelf of the closet. I am 5’6″ and even I had to stand on my toes to reach inside. With all the space in the room couldn’t it have been placed somewhere else that was a little more convenient? It’s a safe… It’s not going anywhere.
- There is a Blu Ray player in the room with no where to rent/checkout DVDs for this. Didn’t seem to add value. The sales person from Carnival did tell me about this feature when they sold me the upgrade, but it’s not like most people travel with or pack blu ray discs when they go on vacation. It looked like a 1st generation player so I’m not sure that some of the newer ones would have even worked.
- Our overall expectation for the level of service we’d get for this category of room was let down. We had to go out of our way to reach the room attendant or laundry service. Don’t get me wrong, they were VERY kind and did a great job, but it just seemed like we actually got less service in our room than we had in past cruises with a Mini-Suite/Suite. My husband did mention that we may have had the perception because in the regular suites the room attendants are generally always in the hallways and since there were only two rooms on our floor they may have been on their other floor.
- There were a few things we thought Carnival could have done better in this room:
– If you check any bags, they will be delivered to your room just like it would for all the other rooms. They will be placed outside the hallway. You will get VIP luggage tags so it gets delivered to the room much faster, but they could have kicked up a notch by having a bell-hop person take the bags through security while you’re checking in and wheel them up with you when you’re escorted onto the ship and to your room. That’s not something that would cost Carnival anything extra and would really make the guest feel like they’re getting some kind of value.
– The TV in the living room is in the wall; putting this on a swivel/extender so that it can be pulled out from the wall and seen/watched from the dining table would have been a nice little luxury.
– Had the curtains in the living room and bedroom been controlled electronically that would have been “PIMP!”
There were a few things that we had general gripes about with the ship overall.
- The quality of the food wasn’t anything to brag about. We ate the dining room (anytime dining) and the buffet. When I compare it to past cruises we’d been on, the food was not good at all; but when you look at just this ship it was okay. Not the greatest, but it wasn’t awful.
- This was the first cruise we’d been on that we couldn’t see our on-board expenses on the TV.
- When I upgraded the room I requested a crib for the room; it wasn’t in the room when we were escorted to the room. Our Little Man was in desperate need of a nap and it wasn’t delivered until after 6p.
- The Bottomless Bubbles (soda card) doesn’t include the thermos; this was the first cruise that didn’t include the cup and the bar where I got ours didn’t even try to upsell it to me. I’m going to be honest, I’m not big on keeping cups like that so it’s not like I had to have the cup, but the cup was $4.95… couldn’t they include the cup for the $7/day+15% gratuity?
- Upsells… WOW! There are lots every time you turn around. You don’t go on a cruise expecting not to bothered with upsells; my frustration was that it always seemed to be bad timing. For example, after boarding the ship and being shown the room we decided to go to the buffet while we waited for our luggage. We were asked if we wanted to buy a wine package for DINNER. I’m eating lunch… I’m not even ready to think about dinner!
I hope that if you get the chance to upgrade to this room that you find the information here helpful! If I had the chance to do it over again knowing what I know now, I would still book the room. It was a great experience and maybe even spoiled our tastes for a regular suite.