This was our first cruise experience. We traveled with friends who have cruised several times before. We chose October because we assumed that most kids would be in school, NOT! There were 800 kids on our cruise. Many of them were having quite a good time, unsupervised running through the ship! The boarding process went smoothly, and after standing in line for about 30 min, we were through security and onto the ship. My DH and I both had a backpack that we had to carry around until the rooms were ready. We moved from the lobby area to the lido deck for lunch. I encourage you to look at the layout of the ship before your cruise (there are floor plans available online) so that you know where the different food stations are. Don't just stand in the first line you get to. If you would like to purchase the awesome alcohol program, this is purchased at any bar. Great way to start the cruise! this way you can get a drink and lunch before the required safety drill.
The required safety drill seemed to take a while, many passengers seemed to be strolling around, if we were sinking they would be clueless. All kids under 12 had to receive a plastic armband that they were required to wear through out the cruise. This took a while. Once the safety briefing was done, we were able to get the ship moving. About this time the rooms were ready. Our luggage was inside our room.
We finally had a chance to sit on the deck, and enjoy the scenery and an adult beverage. Very pleasant. We had chosen the late dining option which was a really good idea. This way, we did not have to rush at any point to get to the dining room for our correct dining time.
Our first port of call was Cabo San Lucas. We had to take tenders into shore. If you are not real stable on your feet, be careful, its kind of a challenge if your mobility is limited. We chose to get a glass bottom boat trip from a person on the dock rather than go through the cruise line. Cost $5.00 each (US) Our fist boat broke down about 100 yards off shore! our captain got his friend to pick us up, no delay, and we had a great tour of the area. This was a much better deal than the carnival excursion and we were back to the dock with LOTS of time to spare. We had plenty of time to wander and do some shopping and had a wonderful lunch at a small cafe on the oceanfront.
On the second day in Cabo, we got a catamaran cruise. It cost $60.00 (US) and was well worth it. It left the dock at 10 am, we went for a 40 min ride, saw the great rock formations again, and went to a secluded cove for snorkeling and kayaking. They had plenty of good quality equipment on the boat for all to use. The catamaran was called the "Eco Cat" snorkeling was lots of fun. WE had about an hour to snorkel, and when we got back to the boat, lunch was ready. hamburgers, hot dogs, and veggie burgers. Open bar for the whole trip. We got back to dock with about an hour to spare so plenty of time to get back to the ship. I would highly recommend the Eco-Cat. I always felt secure and had a great time!
Our next day was at sea. It was nice, relaxing and we discovered the adult only area. The crew were very good about asking kids to leave this area, so it was crowded with adults. Great bar service everywhere on the ship.
We ordered continental breakfast every day in our room, it was quite adequate. Bagels and lox, cereal, toast, muffins. One day the crew had missed our order on the door, we called room service and they had the order to our room with in 20 minutes. If you want a more substantial breakfast, I did check out the lido deck buffet, but was not impressed. The lines were so slow, that by the time you got your hot food, and sat down, it was cold. I did observe that they seemed to serve leftover or re-purposed food, such as " five types of sausage" which had hot dogs, and sausage from the dining room in it. Not the best. They met us at the dock and we gathered into an air conditioned (YEA) bus. We went to a plantation outside puerto vallarta and our guide who spoke excellent English explained how they made tequila. Of course there was extensive tasting and a chance to purchase bottles of tequila. They also had live entertainment and fresh handmade tortillas and taco's. They were wonderful. Our next stop was another plantation that mad tequila in the old fashioned way. There was also a chance to taste about 6 different varieties of tequila. They also had bottles for sale and food available. It was a lovely hacienda and was a private home. After the tequila tasting, we had an opportunity to go to the downtown to do some QUICK shopping. At this point we asked to be let off the bus so that we could see some of the downtown. The dropped us off and we had plenty of time to walk by the water and absorb the culture a little bit. Got some great pictures of a beautiful church. We wandered around town a little. I never felt at risk or unsafe. When it was time for us to go back to the ship, we caught a taxi and all four of us cost 10.00(US) to get back to the dock. The taxi driver dropped us off right next to the security area to get back on the ship.
We got back on the ship, and had time to get a drink before we left port! We had dinner in the dining room every night. It was wonderful. Our waiter and helpers knew our names after the first night and they knew what we wanted to drink and it was awesome. Be sure you take the chance to try thinks you would not normally have to eat. If you don't like something, order something else. The waiters expect it. If you want each appetizer, order them! They want you t have a wonderful dinner! We did dress for the formal nights, and it was quite nice, we felt like it was special. We were seated at a table for 4, and next to us was a table for 12, and a table for 6. This would have been no big deal, except both of these tables were together, and had little kids that were allowed to run around the dining room. The waiters had to run a collision course not to run over these small children who were being ignored by their parents. I think of all the points on the cruise, this aggravated me the most. The parents needed to supervise their kids, or leave them in the kids club.
We had a couple of days at sea as we sailed back to San Pedro. Great chance to relax and get some sun. WE spent a little tile in the casino, but were not impressed. In the evenings, we did see the comedians, all were pretty funny. Several times we went to the disco to listen to country music which they played for exactly one hour. Filled up the disco, passengers were having a blast, and they changed the music to current bee bop music. The entire disco cleared out and they played the boom boom music for many hours, to an empty disco. There was a live jazz group that was good, and the piano player was good.
One thing that was frustrating was every time we went to use the hop tub around midnight, they were closing it for cleaning. It seemed they were winding down everything around midnight. One thing my DH would have liked to do was take some ballroom dance lessons. The offered them when the ship was in port, and did not repeat them.
All in all, good cruise, though I am not certain I would go with Carnival again. Maybe try another line that has a little older passenger group.