My wife and I were in Long Beach California in early October 2012 for other business so we decided to see what else we could do since we were already flying all the way from St. Louis to LBC. To our surprise there was a cruise that left the very next day. The timing was perfect and the price was too great to pass up. We had previously cruised with Carnival on the Destiny and really enjoyed it so this was an easy decision.
Getting on the ship couldn't be any easier. Even though the line looked long it went by really fast. The people (staff) there were awesome and we were on the ship with drinks in hand before we knew it. Our luggage was delivered right when they said, etc. etc. Really a great experience.
The room itself was great. I would suggest an interior room somewhere close to mid-ship for two reasons. First, if you are closer to the middle of the ship you don't rock so much... but just enough to sleep really really well. Second, with no window (porthole) More
the room becomes pitch black when you close it up and turn off the lights. This is also great when sleeping or taking naps between activities, meals, etc. Other than that it's a basic room. Perfect for sleeping and getting ready to go out.
The public areas on the ship are "OK". They remind me of Las Vegas in the late '90's. Overall though, the ship was clean and very well attended to by the staff. One of the cool things for us was really just to explore the ship. There are tons of clubs and bars and places to hang out. We were very pleased with this aspect of the ship considering the price... just don't expect the Ritz-Carlton LOL.
The "hotel" staff was absolutely awesome. Our steward (Michael) knew our names before we even got on the ship. I called him when we first arrived to make a special request and he already knew my name and had us promptly taken care of. Our room was cleaned every single time we left it. New towels, bed made, everything perfectly clean. We prepaid gratuities but made sure to take care of Michael separately before we left.
The "bar" and "dining" staff were also amazing. Our Matre d' was "Musafa" and he addressed the entire dining room each night. He could be regularly seen working with the staff and pitching in. I even saw Musafa clearing tables one day near the buffet line. Our server at dinner was "Martin". Again, he knew all of us on a first name basis and waited on us like we were family. Martin was another crew member that we gave a nice tip to before we left. Lastly, there was "Apple" our bartender. Apple worked the dinner service and also the karaoke bar. She also knew us on a first name basis but I think it was because we ordered so many drinks from her LOL. Still, she was a great member of the staff and we made sure to tip her separately.
Food - OK, I've read reviews for Carnival that were very critical of the food. I will admit that **some of the food on the cruise, especially the buffets and room service was disappointing. The buffets were one step below cafeteria quality and not something we did more than once. The room service menu is really really limited. I mean like... peanut butter and jelly with chips with juice. However, they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining rooms. The dining room service is actually quite good considering the price. They offer steak every night, they had lobster one evening, they offered escargot as an appetizer one night as well. Overall I was very pleased with the dining room service and quality of the food there. We felt that it was a great value.
Entertainment on the ship is constant. People who say they weren't entertained are just crazy. Each day you get an agenda with all of the places to eat and all of the on board activities. There is literally something to do every minute of every day on the ship. We found ourselves racing from activity to another. We did karaoke, we did bingo, we were in the casino, we watched trivia, etc. etc. etc. Just pay attention to the daily bulletin and you will have a blast.
The Spa - This is one thing that I read to **NOT book ahead of time and boy am I glad we didn't. They severely discount services once you get on the ship. My wife did an entire spa day for the fraction of what it would cost here in St. Louis and she was very very pleased.
The Chef's Table - I can't recommend this one enough. On the last cruise I really misunderstood what The Chef's Table was. I mean, I already paid for the cruise. I already get meals included. Why would I want to spend another $75 to eat in a different room with the Chef? So yeah... The Chef's Table is basically a seven course, gourmet meal prepared by (and served by) the head chef of the ship and his personal staff. The head chef comes to your dinner table the night before to personally invite you to dinner and ask you what kind of food you like or don't like. Then, on the night of the dinner we started with a tour of the kitchen and some appetizers. Then we headed to the "Library" where we were treated to one of the best meals I've ever had. You could tell that the Chef really enjoyed it as well. I mean, when the guy went to school I'm sure he wasn't *really wanting to cook 400 pounds (yes, they cook 400 pounds) of bacon for big fat Americans every day. This is probably more of what he had in mind LOL. The meal included all the red and white wine you could drink and was the absolute picture of "fine dining". Each course was better than the next and when he brought out the Wagyu beef I thought, "Wow... OK, now he's just really *really showing off." If you can swing the $75/person this beats the pants off of any dolphin or glass bottom boat excursion LOL. Even at that price it's an amazing value considering the food and the service.
Three things that really really killed the cruise for us:
1.) Carnival allows smoking on their ships. In some of the public areas, in the casino, and in some of the bars. It's almost impossible to escape at times. In the main area up by all of the bars and clubs I felt like I wanted to just burn the clothes I was wearing because they stunk so badly. Really really terrible.
2.) The people (other passengers)... yes... I know this is really really bad of me to say. People shoving and pushing and being rude to the staff. Horrible. Same with the night club. On the last cruise we hung out at the night club two or three nights and had a blast with the group there. This time we avoided it like the plague.
3.) The Children - At least 30%-40% of this cruise was made up of children under the age of 15. There were endless hordes of children roaming the ship at all hours of the night. Screaming and stomping as loud as they could from floor to floor. Sprinting up and down the hallways. Pounding on random doors. Jumping up and down on the furniture like trampolines. Yes... I know you are reading this and saying to yourself, "Oh he's just a bitter old geezer. Surely he must be exaggerating this terribly". No... I am not exaggerating in the ***least... not even one percent... and don't call me Shirley. It was to the point we actually stopped a (big big big air quotes here ->) "Security Guard" and asked if there was some kind of curfew or something he could do. I mean... what kind of parents would let their 9-14 year old daughters run through an enormous cruise ship after midnight with a bunch of very drunk adults? The guy just shook his head. WOW... Less
Carnival Inspiration Cruises to the Mexican Riviera
***Make sure you bring lots and lots of American money to Catalina Island as almost nobody accepts debit or credit. Catalina was very pretty... but very small. Not much to do there but sight see a bit, eat at some local places, etc. Most people rented golf carts to drive around but we decided to go parasailing.
The ship was only there for a little bit and my guess is because there's really not much to do there. Definitely get a golf cart to drive around in or do some sort of excursion unless you are happy just walking around for like 30 minutes LOL. There's not much else to do.
In Ensenada we did the horseback tour at Rancho Los Bandidos. This is basically a 500 acre ranch owned by an American woman. There she has about 40 horses and they are all very well kept. They roam throughout the ranch for most of the week and are only ridden by tourists on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
It's about a 20 minute bus ride into the mountains to the ranch. During the ride there and back, "Miguel" give us lots of information about Ensenada. He was basically the guy in charge of the tour. He got us on our horses and really took care of everyone during the winding four mile trail up and down the mountain. The trail itself is a bit rocky and a bit dusty but it has that, "Old West" feel to it. Some of the views at the top of the mountain overlooking the ocean are absolutely amazing. My wife and I really enjoyed it.
Back at the ranch they had homemade chips and salsa waiting for us by the bar. Also, there was a local woman making fresh steak tacos. OK. I have to stop here for a minute. These tacos. OMG. I mean... I can't explain how awesome they were. You know when you go to American chain restaurants and they offer, "Authentic Mexican Street Tacos"? Yeah... those places should be ashamed of themselves. Like... I took pictures of the tacos so I could look at them later and remember them fondly.
Overall this was an awesome excursion. The people were awesome. The horseback riding was great. The views were great. The food was great. It was also a great value. Definitely do this one if you get the chance. This is one that that I would book ahead of time as it fills up fast.