I have previously cruised the 7 day Mexican Riveria with Princess Cruises on the Sapphire Princess, so this was my first time on Carnival Cruiselines. Me and my family got a great deal online and it was a great graduation with. With me was my girlfriend and parents. We had reserved an interior stateroom on deck 2, near the back of the ship, room 2-448. We only had one planned excursion for Puerto Vallarta for the Ultimate Canopy/Zipline Tour, more details to follow.
We arrived in Long Beach port by car, we live in the area so no hotel/flight comments, and I already noticed how tiny the port was. For most times only was ship is in the LB port for Carnival, we arrived at about 10:30am and it was pretty busy already. Cars and vans still leaving from the previous cruise as well as the supply trucks rushing to in from the port. I recommend getting at the port at about 10 or a little earlier to beat the arrival traffic rush. Under the parking structure was the Drop-off/Pick-up Zone, with 2 lanes going down. Not too bad of an area to go, however during rush hour it looks worse than LAX terminals. We grabbed our bags and luggage. With the 4 of us we had 5 luggage bags all together to give to the porter, very nice guys and they direct you to where you go. Once those were out of the way we walked toward to Check-In area. Again, very small with only about 12 stations. These stations had to tackle almost 3,000 guests coming in and they did a great job! We looked for the line, which was half empty. We waited about 10 minutes to get to the station. No problems with check-in, we got our room keys and walked toward our waiting spot, which was Number 6. By that time is was about 11:15 and we wanted a snack, next to the terminal (Queen Mary Village) is a small gift/snack store which also handles shipping. Very convenient and very welcoming people, but over priced. We got our snacks and went back to the waiting area.
My girlfriend has a lung condition so she can't be around people who smoke, today's time a lot of people smoke and that small waiting area, even though it's outside, was filled with smokers, we had to move near the secruity entrance to avoid the smoke. At about 12:35pm they announced the first waiting group to proceed with Security check. After 45 minutes group 6 was called, security is slow, like any other port or airport, no complications, just need patience. **NOTE: Carnival allows ONE 750 ml bottle of Wine/Champagne per guest over 21 years old, please take it with you on carry-on or it could break in your bag.** After security we followed the flow up an escalator and another random check of your room key and passport/ID. The welcome staff through the morning were very welcoming and happy! I appreciated it because Check-In time is never a fun thing but they made the process more relaxed. We proceeded to a room, took the embarking picture and checked the room key once again. After that we went were able to walk on the gangway, which another photo was taken. The long bridge to your week vacation was clean and sturdy! And the ship looked clean and ready to sail. We stepped foot on the ship and greeted by welcome staff/security, again checking the room key. They led us to the Atrium, which is the first room/area you see on the ship. Below is the Positive/Negative reviews of the ship.
POSITIVE: The ship was clean! Boarding onto it seeing the atrium was a pleasant sight, over all theme was a pink/zebra style. The ceiling covered in a variety of changing LED lights, actually sounds too much, it was perfect. Some people get bothered by the pink, it didn't bother me at all. The ship design was decent, atrium was decent size with a few glass elevators going from deck 2-11 on one side, a few stair cases and shops within sight. The Gold Pearl Restruarant is where we ate each night, very clean and decent space, we had a booth table on the 2nd level of the restaurant, comfortable seats with decent space for 4 people. The pools are all salt water, which was clean and 3 pools all together, the back pool for ADULTS ONLY, Lido pool which was the most popular, and upper pool next to the water slide. All whirlpools were chlorine and clean, temperature was at a nice temp, not too hot, not too cold. One located near the slide/top pool, 2 on deck 12 above the Lido Pool that looked out to the ocean, and 2 more in the back pool. While cruising the ship had decent stability, inside any area was a freezing 70 degrees F, so if you come from outside to inside it will be cold for the first few minutes. Cabin temp was good around 70 degrees and its adjustable, Cabin Review to Follow.
Negative: I was disappointed in a few things. My biggest issue is that you could only travel from front to back of the ships on certain decks. Minus the cabin decks, the Lobby Deck 3 and Deck 4 are blocked off by the Black Pearl Restaurants and you had to go up to deck 5 to go all the way through which is annoying and time consuming. The ADULT POOL was always crowded with partying college kids and always loud and drinking, I never even touched that pool. The Smoke Stack lets off ALOT of smoke during cruising, though it didn't get close to people, the shadows and heat and view was horrible from it, it made the the floor looked like it was covered in bugs spazzing out. When the ship makes adjusts at anchor, or is docking and using it's side propellers, it shakes the whole ship. The Restaurants plates and cups would rattle loudly and anyone could feel it, but it's worse in our room. It woke me up from sleep everytime with loud rattling and the whole room would shake. Some of the staff members were rude, mainly the bartenders. I would only ask for a soda and some wouldn'teven look at me, snatch the card out of my hand and hand me my drink without saying a word. I always come up to a staff member with a positive vibe, but some times I left feeling like I offended them.
The follow comments are about about Interior Stateroom, deck 2 room 2-448, with 4 people.
Positive: THE BEDS. Yes, Carnival has the best beds out of any hotel, cruiseline I've ever been to. Even though we had 4 twins, 2 of which were from the ceilings, I felt snugged up and comfortable each night. I slept without a problem. Very impressed!! The room was always clean and the stewards always know what to do, never been a problem and will wait patiently to clean your room if you slept in late. Fresh sheets everytime, fresh towels. Again, very satisfied! The bathroom was small, but had plenty of shelf space for 4 people, great shower, over all was working great, instant heat and hand-held shower head if you like those, and light water pressure, but enough for anyone. Inside the shower had dispensers of Shampoo (citrus scented) and body gel(again citrus scented). Very convenient with sample tooth-paste. The TV had 3 "Complementary" Movies playing every 3 hours! Changed every day and examples were Mr. Poppers Penguins, Mission Impossible 4, Sherlock Homles:Games of Shadows etc. Always replayed the cruise DVD footage of that week so you could catch up on anything you missed! It had an interactive menu, so you could check that nights' dining options, excursions, sail card accounts which was convenient. You also had the choice to get Movies on Demand. Storage space was decent, good room under the beds, 3 drawers, and 3 large closets
Negative: CLOCKS!!! There's no clocks! Your is usually off during a cruise, and most people don't all have a watch.. So everytime you needed to check time you had to turn on the TV, clocks aren't common on the ship anyway. The TV was a small flat screen, horrible sound quality, you had to turn it up to 70% on most things you watched, but Carnival's commercials BLASTED compared to the aired shows, so adjustments were always needed. The remote was slow and you had to be within 6 feet of the TV to use it, I thought I should replace the batteries with my own, nope, screwed in shut. You get decent to bad picture quality of the shows, and for your kids, Cartoon Network was half in Spanish/English and no regular kid shows were played. Big issue to those with kids. You had a very limited set of channels as well, and sometimes they would randomly go out of signal. The On-Demand Movies were $10.99! No thank you... again slow TV and menus, ships sailing coordinates channel only worked half the time.
The following is a review about the food:
Positive: You have a scheduled time each night to the formal dining rooms. We sat deck 4 (2nd level of the restaurant) and sat in a booth, away from the atrium so we couldn't see any of the little shows. Each and every night the menu has interesting/delicious selections. I boarded the ship not expecting to try such exotic foods! I had tried Frog Legs, Alligator, Shark and even SNAILS! Yes they were all good, you can order anything and as much as you want! Just be considerate :) But take that opportunity to order something you never had before, but don't miss out on the Lobster Tail, Fillet Min-ong (however you spell it) and the best Tiramisu Cake you will ever eat, actually cured a stupid bug in me. Our server was... Very interesting in a good way, very nice and a pleasure! He was head waiter of our area so he was always cluttered with other things, 2 other waiters attended to us, again happy and always there if you need ANYTHING. Don't miss out on the food and dress according to the rules. A soda card is recommended to at least one or two people in a family, it's about $54 for minors, $76 for adults, if you do the math, it's 2 sodas a day, I'm sure you guys will drink more than that. The buffet is decent if you wanna see what they have there, 24 hour soft-serve ice cream bar and pizza station. They also had an Indian station, Mongolian Wok, and American grill as well as a Deli for Sandwiches. I'm not 21 so I cannot give you a review about the alcoholic beverages that were served.
Negative: The buffet was VERY disappointing. I go on ships thinking of a 24 hours buffet. NOPE! Only open for a few hours near meal times. about 4 hours for breakfast (first serving continental breakfast items, then a standard buffet breakfast) and lunch was different each day, however the genres changed, the food wasn't exactly tasty. I only ate a few times and tried to avoid it because it wasn't pleasing at all, even my girlfriend wanted to avoid it. I like the idea of a 24 hour ice cream bar, however is was soft-serve. Exactly you picture if HomeTown Buffet was open 24 hours along with their soft-serve. Not clean. But it did the job, the lines were always SO long for anything, about 15 minutes for anything. The Mongolian Wok was a nice feature, however the sauces they added didn't have much flavor, 3 choices of black bean (i don't believe that's mongolian), Thai BBQ (which didn't taste like anything of the sort) and some Spicy sauce which wasn't very flavorful, only spicy. There's a sushi place called California Roll, ironically didn't serve any CA rolls... Only being open from 5pm-8:30pm, they offered sushi will 3 different kinds, which weren't the average sushi, a little abstract with the ingredients, but wasn't tasty. I'm a huge sushi fan so again I was disappointed. It only served sushi 3 days of 7, it was closed 2 days and the other days they were serving Tapas, arrangement of bread, 'sauce spread' and anchovies. Please don't bother with the Tapas unless you really like that stuff. I recommend going to your dining restaurant any time they have open seating for breakfast/lunch. Way better quality food and selection.
The following regards to entertainment:
Positive: El Morocco Lounge!!!!! Most nights they have a comedian come in a do a 30 minute set. Usually one or 2 family shows and 3 adult ONLY shows. I went to 2 adult shows and laughed my *** off, definitely worth going to! The activities around the ship seem fun too, but only happen about once a day or two so plan to attend the entertainment schedules. Funny staff members and great director! Also go to bingo, everyone loves bingo $$$ Also, me and my girlfriend spent at least an hour in the video arcade, usually playing between 5 - 12 games of air hockey a day. It's small but has a nice little variety of games and challenging skill games to waste your money at.
Negative:The theater shows were kinda, well small but not too bad. Only so much you could do with the stage. A lot of the things to do around the ship were small, like listen to jazz in the Lounge, which 5 person Jazz Combo played, they were very good! But to find where they'd perform was a trick in itself.
The following is about Cabo San Lucas:
Positive: You arrive the 3rd day (Tuesday) around 9am so you could watch as we cruise in the small harbor of Cabo San Lucas, it was VERY hot so please wear sunscreen. We bought an excursion off the boat, actually right off the tender ports. I think about $30 we got a nice little glass bottom boat tour of the arches and Lovers Beach and got dropped off to snorkel! He even got us 3 free tacos each person. SURPRISINGLY I loved the tacos! I got shrimp tacos from this tacos van.. In a sketchy gated areas behind the flea market it actually tasted great, and I don't like tacos. We snorkeled at a small beach not too far from Lovers Beach, so all these giant fish and even a HUGE school of tiny little fish. If your brave jump off Pelican Rock, a 20 ft jump into the warm blue waters! Cabo has some nice areas to shop, but be aware of what you buy, could be $1 here and $15 there literally.
Negative: The guys.... every second people are trying to ask and offer you trips, taxis, food, shopping and sometimes you just wanna walk and enjoy the place. The 2nd day at Cabo we just walked around all the way to the other side of the port, which took about 1 1/2 hours. Please take a taxi back, avoid sun sickness like I did. Also keep in mind to tip these guys, if not there maybe some words thrown at you that you don't like. Also I mentioned I ate those tacos, be careful what you eat. I got a stomach bug the next day, and yes I still have slight symptoms of it (over a week later) but be prepared, it is Mexico.
The Following is about Puerto Vallarta
Positive: EXTREME/ULTIMATE CANOPY TOUR. It's $140 on the boat, $120 online, I recommend buy from ship so you could guarantee your spot. You take a 20 min speed boat ride south of the bay to the edge of the jungle, you arrive at this very small cove with a little "resort" area. Behind it rests a small town, with a few townspeople walking around with any hassle, a few dogs here and there. After a short speech we board 2 giant yellow off-road 4x4 trucks! You drive through the town and onto a highway for 10 minutes, then a left through another town which seems a lot bigger. you pass a school and more houses, it really gives you and idea of their country/culture. All of a sudden, you see a dirt road, with small indents of previous vehicles traveling on it, all of a sudden the truck is bumping up and down, side to side, the adventure keeps going! Another 15 min. of this you arrive at base camp in the jungle by Vallarta Adventures company. The camp is a small area of a few farmlands, and some shaded areas and nice little building. Crawling with giant (but apparently harmless) spiders, you know you're on the edge of the jungle. The instructors meet you, and go through the entire process. You change into clothes to get wet in and some closed-toed shows (water shoes are ok) and you put your ZIPLINE gear on. We walk past the trucks, take some photos and we go to the MULE STATION. You take mules up into the forest for about 20 minutes! Stubborn animals they are, but a nice adventure to take, it's not often you get that chance. Finally at the top you meet the first and longest zipline, soaring over 200ft in the air, it is a great experience, I won't spoil more of that but the adventure includes 8 ziplines, 2 rappels and many more little surprises! There's a photographer taking photos everywhere, and it's a bit pricey for the photos, I think we paid $130 for 4 people, but not too bad, these are pictures to remember! You return to base camp and they supply clean restrooms, changing room and bags to place your wet (and later stinky) clothes in. Repeat the travel process all the way back to the boat, this excursion was well over 5 hours!
Negative: BUG... BUGS BUGS BUGS! I'm still scratching my bites... Pin-point sized bugs bite you, leaves a dot of blood on you and they bit you everywhere. Please where bug spray but spray before you get around the excursion people, they think it harms the environment. As well as same as Cabo, hundreds of people trying to get you to buy things near the Cruise ship dock.
My overall rating of the ship out of 5: 3
Rating of food: 3.5
Rating of Ports: 3
Rating of Room: 3.5
Rating of Entertainment: 4
This concludes my review, I hope you take this review a GREAT example to my first experience with Carnival. Worth the price we got it for, but if another cruise line offers similar amount, I might just try them next time! Thanks for reading :)