Sailed on 11/11/12 to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Despite confirming with me that we were celebrating our anniversary prior to the cruise there was no mention of it at all on our cruise. It wasn't much but Princess put balloons in our room on our 20th.
Embarkation was fine. We flew into Long Beach from Phoenix and purchased the Carnival shuttle service. It was convenient and prompt. There was a rep waiting for us as we left the terminal. We arrived at the ship around 10:00 AM, checked our bags with the porter, checked in at the cruise line. We were given our cabin keys, and a boarding group number. We were told where to assemble for boarding and to be there by 11:20. Since we had some time we went next door to the Queen Mary for coffee. We got into our position at 11:20 and finally boarded about 12:15. Not too bad.
We went to the Lido for lunch. More about the food later.
We were allowed in our cabin after lunch. It was a typical inside cabin and was suitable. We took a balcony cabin on our last cruise and decided it wasn't worth the money based on how much we used it. We used the $$ to fly from Phoenix rather than drive. Luggage arrived by 7:00
There have been a lot of comments about the decor. It is really pretty horrible however I wasn't buying the ship so I really didn't care. Hard to believe that higher-ups would approve something like this though. Like it was designed by someone on LSD!
I will discuss the service in 3 ways.
1. Cabin Steward: Excellent, attentive, and professional
2. Dining room staff: Spotty but acceptable overall
3. General staff (bussing buffet tables, serving buffet stations, etc.) Fair
Now the food. Firstly the food was never "piping hot" in either the dining room or buffet. This especially bothered my wife. The dining room dinner menu was good. We used "your time dining" in the Black Pearl. We had a choice each evening of dining with others or a table for two. We did both and met some nice people. Plenty to choose from no matter what your tastes. Wine list was good and they would keep any leftover wine for subsequent meals. Deserts were good as well. We ate in the dining room a couple of times for breakfast. It was pretty standard. Never has lunch there.
We ate our lunch and a few breakfasts and snacks at the buffet on deck 9. They have both stations and the typical buffet line type foods. The stations were a great idea but often the lines were terribly long. We ate at the Mongolian Wok which was good, the pizza was great, much better than many Phoenix pizzerias, the deli and grill were very good as well. We did not try the Tandoori Indian station but we were told it was good. Check the hours of operation as they vary from the regular buffet. The buffet also has a carving station, burrito bar, and an omelet station for breakfast. Again the lines are long.
Now the ports. We had visited Cabo before so we had some knowledge. On day one we walked past all of the pushy vendors and tour operators and walked through town. We did a little shopping and walked to Medano Beach (about 1 1/2 miles). We sat on chaise lounges at the Me hotel. The water was warm and there was a rope line that kept the myriad of vendors away for the most part. We took a water taxi back to the marina, got the tender and back to the ship.
We did the same thing on day 2 only we found out the the hotel would allow use of the pool if we showed them our Carnival key.
In Puerto Vallarta we walked to the Krystal Hotel and spent the day at their new pool and beautiful beach. It was just a 5 minute walk.
Total spent on tours $0!
As far as the entertainment was concerned we enjoyed the comedy club, didn't care for the stage shows, and the casino was well run and staffed with nice people.
Leaving the ship was easy. Left our bags out as directed the night before. It took 15 minutes to get our luggage and get through customs. The Carnival shuttle was ready for us in 15 minutes after checking in.
I hope this helps..Happy sailing!