We had a good time on this cruise - not a spectacular time, but a good and relaxing time.
We were aboard the Spirit for this same cruise last September and had a wonderful time. After learning the Spirit is moving to Australia later this year, we decided to repeat the cruise. We purchased future cruise certificates while on board and received a great rate from our PVP so we booked this cruise immediately after returning home. This was our tenth Carnival cruise.
We flew in from Kansas City on the 15th. We originally had reservations at the Holiday Inn directly across from the cruise terminal but our sons came down from Los Angeles for dinner and there were no more rooms available so we changed to the Residence Inn which is also very close to the cruise terminal. The hotel shuttle picked us up at the airport and provided transportation to the ship on the 16th. The Residence Inn is a good hotel. We had dinner on the 15th at Il Fornaio on Coronado Island - it was very good. Since our sons were with us, we were in no hurry to board on the 16th, so we had lunch at Anthony's. The service was very good and the food was okay - maybe a little expensive for the amount of fried seafood we received, but hey, it's San Diego and on the water - nice view.
Embarkation - We last cruised from San Diego in 2008 and were expecting to embark at the new cruise terminal but embarkation occurred at the old terminal. We heard several stories about the new terminal - it was too small, they ran out of money, so we don't know. A HAL ship was also embarking so it was a bit confusing. There was a Carnival VIP line but then it merged with the normal Carnival & HAL lines to get through security. Once through security, things moved very quickly until we arrived at the line for the welcome aboard photograph and then the line to activate your sign & sail card which was taking place on the dockside rather than on the ship. All in all, it took about an hour and fifteen minutes to board after arriving around one o'clock. As first-time platinum cruisers we were handed VIP express signs which were basically useless - we just stood in line. Perhaps had we arrived earlier - say at 11am or so, platinum status would have been helpful. Our PVP had pre-arranged for a wheel chair for my wife but she didn't need it.
I am not sure if the VIP luggage tags made a difference, but when we arrived at our cabin two of our bags were already there and the third arrived shortly. A room steward passing by told us that "somebody likes you."
The ship looked great, we thought. We were in the same cabin (5124) we had been in during September and it was very clean. It was an extended balcony which is what we normally travel in on Spirit class ships. During the last evening when the Carnival legends show began we could faintly hear the music from the Pharaoh theater.
We thought the crew did a great job of keeping the ship clean throughout the cruise.
The muster drill went by smoothly and quickly and we were on our way pretty much on time.
We had dinner the first night in the Steakhouse and it was very good. We even thought the service had improved over the excellent service we received during September. We had crab cake, lobster bisque, lobster ravioli, and cheesecake. They still provide a complimentary bottle of wine with dinner during the first evening. When we made our reservations on line, we requested a specific table and Dora honored that request.
We also bought a wine package of 8 bottles for $208 which included the 15% gratuity. Carnival has changed their wine selection - many of the lower priced bottles have screw-off tops rather than corks. Some of the selections are okay and some just so-so.
The weather during the first two sea days was overcast and windy so we spent most of our time on the balcony relaxing, reading, and sleeping.
Once we arrived at Manzanillo the weather was fantastic. My wife had knee replacement surgery during January so we weren't very active - only briefly leaving the ship in Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo - we did enjoy our time on the sun deck. Throughout the cruise, there was never any difficulty finding deck chairs. At Ensenada, we took the scenic coast or golden coast tour which consisted of a 45 mile or so drive up the Baja coast. It was inexpensive and a good tour to just see the countryside. There was a nice one hour stop at a seaside restaurant. We found the San Adreas fault area interesting.
We thought that for the most part, the food was pretty good. There were a couple of occasions the food seemed cold. We dined during the 8:15 seating and it seemed as though it was left over from the early seating - I don't know. Our black bean enchiladas seemed "dried out" as if they had been under a warming light. The last night, I ordered prime rib and my wife ordered the mac n' cheese. Niether of the entrees was very good. The prime rib almost tasted as though it had been canned meat. However, all the starters were very good. Our wait staff team was very attentive.
Overall, however, we were pleased with the food. Our breakfast and lunch meals in the Lido and main dining room were good. The more I cruise, the easier I am to please when it comes to food - I ate a hot dog for lunch twice and a turkey wrap sandwich twice as well.
The lido buffet did become quite hectic on the last sea day before Ensenada and then for lunch at Ensenada as people were returning to the ship.
Our table was a booth for four. We were surprised how many vacant tables there were during the late seating - I saw at least six tables for two that seemed to be vacant during the entire cruise. I would imagine anyone requesting a table for two during late seating should be able to have one.
We were surprised at the demographics during this cruise. We thought of this cruise as a "spring break" cruise but there weren't that many young people aboard - maybe because it was 9 days. The ship generally didn't feel crowded.
We tipped both our wait staff and cabin steward's team in addition to the auto-tips.
We thought the entertainment was pretty good. There was a very good two person reggae/steel-drum type combo playing on the lido deck that we really enjoyed. One night the regularly scheduled show was cancelled due to electrical problems and another show substituted.
Debarkation was a breeze. Platinum cruisers met in the Sports Bar at 8:30am and we were off the ship and through customs in 15 minutes. I was surprised they didn't ask for any ID.
Once again, this was a good cruise and a good vacation at a fantastic price. There were a few glitches but nothing to spoil a cruise.
Our next cruise is on the Carnival Miracle repositioning cruise from New York through the Panama Canal next March.