Carnival Pride cruise review: The ports

Sep 02

(This is the third 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 in stops Port Canaveral, Florida; Nassau, Bahamas; and Freeport, Bahamas. The other parts of this series are scheduled to run  over the next couple of weeks). 

As you likely know, one of the best parts of a cruise can be the ports.

After spending so much time on a ship, it’s nice to get off and go investigate new places, whether it be shopping, eating, sitting on a beach or taking an excursion.

We made two stops in the Bahamas.

The cruise I took had three ports — Port Canaveral, Florida; Nassau, Bahamas; and Freeport, Bahamas. Each offered something different, which was nice and we had different amounts of time at each.

I forgot to bring an excursion book home with me, so I can’t comment on how many were available. But there were quite a few for each port. The good thing about excursions is that they do all the work for you — they pick you up, take you where you are going, handle all tickets etc., and make sure you are back on time. If something is wrong and you are going to be late, the ship will wait as it’s an official excursion.

That being said, already being constrained to being on the ship, in two of the three ports, I opted to do my own thing. I took an excursion in Freeport, which was decent, but I’m not sure I’d do that again. I liked having my own agenda and doing what I wanted and not being held to the time frame of the excursion.

All three ports had their good points and bad points. I changed my plans, for the most part, at two of them and would say I enjoyed the things I opted to do. Below is a breakdown of each port and my thoughts.

Port Canaveral

My original plan was quite simple — go geocaching.

Across the bridge from the port (where I’d need to take a taxi) was a geocaching power trail which would, if I found them all, have given me about 25-30 caches. Not too bad, considering the boat was docked for 11 hours. I ended up changing that up slightly, which I am quite happy I did. If not, it may have been one miserable — and more expensive — day.

After renting a car, I ended up heading to Cocoa Beach for a bit.

I didn’t get off the ship until probably around 9 a.m. or so, which was after most people had taken off. I had been told what I needed to do was take a taxi — which should cost about $5 or so — across the bridge and to the starting point of this power trail. Simple enough, right?

Ha!

When I got to the spot where you get taxis, the person helping tried to get me to where I wanted to go. But one taxi driver made it sound like he had no flipping clue whatsoever. Made me worry about getting back. Some other people came and went and there I stood, still without a ride. I was beginning to wonder if I should have booked an excursion, if not just to go somewhere. Not to mention it was quite hot and humid and I was starting to get a little grumpy.

So I asked about rental cars. I was told I was looking at $75 or so per day for the car, which blew my mind. I decided to walk across and find out some prices and a guy from Payless Car Rental quoted me $35 and offered to help me upgrade with a GPS. I realized it was my best course of action and I’m glad I went with it.

Let me say this — if you are coming into port and want a rental car, deal with Payless. They were nice, quick and helpful. The experience I had was unreal. After taxed, I paid about $40 for a mid-size car with a GPS unit. You can’t go wrong with that. When I got back, it wasn’t long before I was on the shuttle back to the boat.

One of my stops was a geocaching store, where this massive cache was waiting.

Having that car allowed me to get around a little, which was nice. I took some photos, I found a few geocaches and I visited some tourist areas. I also got to stop at a geocaching store and chat with the owners, which was nice.

Basically, my day was spent looking at things. I had originally hoped to find a Gulf Coast League baseball game, but none were close enough. So this was the next best thing, especially with the heat and humidity. I had lunch at a nice little bagel shop and visited the famous Ron John surf shop in Cocoa Beach.

And I added Florida to my caching list.

I was happy with this port as I got the chance to do a few things and had the freedom to do it on my time and at my pace. If I had just been dropped off to do some geocaching, I would have been hot, sweaty and a bit of a mess quickly. I’m glad it worked out as it did and I’m glad I talked to Payless Car Rental as I feel I got a fair deal on a solid car.

When back on board, I showered up and went about the normal things, which obviously included finding some food. We set said again and the next day was port stop number two.

Nassau

I’m not going to lie here — I was a little fearful about Nassau. You see, I was going solo on this one and the ship had handed out a warning from the US Government about the crime in Nassau and how it had reached a critical stage.

Oh joy.

A great view coming into Nassau.

I decided, with that in mind, not to put myself in any situations where it could be bad — so I left my camera on the ship and figured I could take most shots I’d want with my iPhone. With the plan to grab a couple of geocaches as well, I hooked my GPS to one of my belt loops so it could stay in my pocket when not in use.

Let me get one thing out of the way, though. I never had any issues and really never had any feeling that I was in a bad situation. I stayed alert, too, so I think that helped me in the long run. Either way, I got to do pretty much everything I had hoped and planned to do, outside of walking on a beach. But I blew that chance, which I’ll cover in a moment.

I was up early, knowing I wanted to get off the boat quickly as I was meeting a pair of geocachers to find a few before heading off to do my own thing. After getting off the boat, I waited and waited and ended up missing them. So off I went, first stopping to do a virtual geocache, then a nano in a small park area. It was there where I met the cachers. We teamed up to do one more before splitting and I headed toward my first planned stop — The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas.

First, I was quite happy the place was air conditioned as I was very hot at that point. I paid the nominal $5 fee to get in, chugged a bottle of water and off I went.

If you are a fan of art galleries, I think you’d enjoy this place. It’s filled with art by well-known local artists and those who have connections to the Bahamas. There were all sorts of different styles of art in here, which made it even better. And, with the Bahamas celebrating 40 years of independence this year, there was a magnificent exhibit showcasing portraits (photographs) of some of the most prominent people in the country’s history. I truly enjoyed looking at those images and reading about each person.

All told, I spent about an hour and a half in there and it was well worth the stop. I’m glad this was one I chose to do as it showed some history and I got to see great artwork.

Following that, I went around the corner to John Watling’s Distillery, which was my main goal of the day.

John Watling’s Distillery.

I’m a fan of rum and to be able to see where it’s made was too cool to pass up. When first coming in, you’re greeted by somebody who gives you the basics and explains about the tour. It’s a self-guided tour, which takes about 10 minutes. You get to see the history, where they make and bottle the rum and see different bits of information about how rum is made.

At the end, you’re back in the main building, where you get to taste their three types of rum — Pale, Amber and the award-winning Buena Vista, which is a sipping rum. I enjoyed all three, but truly enjoyed the Amber best as it’s more my style of rum. The Buena Vista was quite amazing, too, but I’m not much for a sipping rum. So, in the end, knowing I would be taking a bottle back with me, I went with the Amber.

Then I sat down at the bar and had a Rum Dum, which is a drink made up by one of the older bartenders, Uncle Will. He made mine, too, and it was quite amazing. I had a good conversation with Uncle Will and Felix about the rums, the Bahamas and other things. It was truly an experience and one I’ll remember for a long time. Uncle Will also gave me a bit of a Bahama Mama, which was fantastic as well. But that Rum Dum … wow. Amazing and, without a doubt, the best rum drink I’ve ever had.

I’d like to duplicate the drink, but I only have one of the two rums needed for it. I’m not sure if I can find this rum locally, so I may have to try and figure something out as it would be nice to sit back and have a Rum Dum on occasion. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to return to Nassau one day and have one from the source once again.

The Rum Dum.

Following that stop, I walked back into the main part of Nassau and went to a spot to eat. I was disappointed there because I was told the conch fritters, which I had wanted to try, was a small batch. So I got that and some chicken. The problem was, the fritters could have been a meal by themselves. I should have just got them and some fries. Instead, I got what felt like a three-course meal and ended up having food wasted because I couldn’t eat it all. I think I would have been better off just finding a smaller place, having a snack and then waiting for the boat.

At that point, I made a mistake. I went to look for another geocache, which I didn’t end up finding. With the time I had left, I should have gone and found a beach or something and walked around looking at the water. It’s the one thing I truly regret. I did, however, end up with a piece of art from a street artist, which is something I try and do when I travel. So I was happy about that.

Once back at the port, I utilized the free Wi-Fi to check some e-mail and upload some photos and then back on the ship I went to grab a shower and get ready for the everyday things. The next day would be an early port and I had an excursion I was debating whether or not I wanted to do. I was told I could get a refund if I wanted it, but ended up deciding that I had already paid for it, so what the heck.

Freeport

We were in port early (7 a.m.), but I didn’t need to be out for my excursion until 9 a.m. So I grabbed a shower, went and had some breakfast and set out for my excursion, which was going to include a stop at a perfume factory, a shopping area and a brewery. I’m sure you can guess my main reason for this excursion.

In Freeport.

Before I talk about anything else, I’ll say that the tour guide was fantastic. He was funny, informative and made the whole trip worthwhile.

Soon, we were on the bus and off to the tour. The first stop was at the perfume factory, which I truly didn’t enjoy. It was hot inside and it wasn’t anything I was interested in. The area was also a little run down, which made it not a great spot. We were soon on the bus again and heading to a downtown area, where there was shopping.

This is where I really got disappointed.

I had been told at the excursion desk that I should have time to walk to the beach. Not to swim or anything, but I just wanted to see it and walk a little. When getting off the bus, the people told me I shouldn’t because we were only there for 30 minutes. So, I was a bit bummed there. I did run into a few people from the wedding party I was with, however, so it was all good.

Then it was time for the brewery.

Now I don’t know how much it would have cost me to get to the brewery and do a tour and such on my own and I think the price I paid for the tour for what I got was a little steep, but the brewery kind of made up for it all. We had a great tour guide and the tasting of the beers was a show in its own. The Bahamian Brewery was a great stop with some good beers.

Virgil’s Ale.

We had the chance to taste six beers — five public ones and one that is brewed exclusively for Atlantis, which is in Nassau. Sands Light was first and we went up the chain to Sands, High Rock, Bush Crack, Virgil’s Ale (the Atlantis one) and, finally, Strong Back Stout. After testing them all, they gave you a few more samples of the ones you liked best, which for me, was Virgil’s Ale and the stout.

I’ve been on many brew tours, but this one was very memorable. The guide (Ash) was outstanding and the beers were tasty. In the end, it made me happy to have done the excursion.

We got back to the port in plenty of time and I hopped on the boat. About 20 minutes later, the skies opened and a good storm passed through, so the timing of everything turned out to be perfect.

Freeport was a short day off the boat — only from 7 a.m. – 1 p.m., but for the time, it wasn’t a bad way to spend the day.

Overall thoughts on the ports

Though I think I enjoyed the sea days a bit more than the ports (when I travel in areas I’ve not been, I don’t like time constraints as I kind of like to just explore), the things I did choose to do made it fun. I got to see new areas, add a new state and country to my geocaching map. I also got to try some local beverages and food and that was worth it as well.

I look forward to future cruises and checking out other ports to see how they compare.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog@gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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