My husband and I cruised from Long Beach to Catalina Island and Ensenada with our extended family. Our party consisted of two adults in their 60's, six adults in their 30's, and a two year old. For me and my husband, this cruise was our first and our last.
Overall, the staff was excellent. My husband and I live in Boston and didn't adjust to the time change for this trip. When we walked around the deck at 5:00 am, we frequently saw the staff diligently scrubbing the ship. We particularly liked Renato, the steward for our cabin, and Gerry, who manned the omelette station. Renato was extremely friendly and helpful, and after meeting us the first time, he remembered our names for the entire duration of the cruise. Not a fluke--he remembered everyone's names; we were impressed. Gerry too was extremely friendly. Two people always manned the omelette station, and we always tried to place our order with Gerry; we enjoyed chatting with him while he made our omelettes. We also liked Cirilo and Christian, our waiters during our seated dinners.
The cabins were a reasonable size and very clean. (I'm sure Renato was responsible for the standard of cleanliness.) They were also well-insulated, so we didn't really experience noise travelling through the walls from adjacent cabins. Note: We were next to the cabin with the two year old and barely heard him when he wailed one morning. The beds were comfortable enough; sleep wasn't an issue.
At one point, a school of dolphins swam next to the ship, occasionally jumping out of the ocean, which was exciting to watch.
The quality of the fellow passengers varied. We happened to go on the cruise during spring break, so our experiences were probably (hopefully) atypical.
The cabins weren't as soundproofed against noise from the hallway. One night, a few of the spring breakers shouted as they walked back to their cabin at 2:00 am, which woke me up.
The food ranged from decent to bad. Gerry's omelettes, which were diner quality, were probably the highlight for us. One of my dinners--a pasta dish with turkey in a cream sauce--was bland and inedible. The dinners were also often served warmish but not hot. The desserts in the buffet area always looked delicious but never lived up to their promise. The soft serve ice cream was particularly bad--icy and grainy.
Fortunately, our party was large enough to have our own table during the seated dinners, but some parties had to share a table, which is probably awkward.
The cigarette smoke. When it was present inside the ship, it was strong and stale. We spent as much time outside as possible for the fresh air, but smokers often lounged on the deck as well. I think the ship would benefit from an outside smoking area.
The pools and jacuzzi were unappealing. The children's pool and jacuzzi were smaller than I expected, and both, particularly the jacuzzi, seemed unhygienic. (Granted, I'm kind of a germaphobe.) The jacuzzi was always crowded because it was so small; it fit maybe ten people. The two year old wasn't allowed in the children's pool even with a swim diaper because he wasn't potty trained, but the slide looked a little sad anyway.
The adult serenity area is not as serene as it sounds. Also beware of bird droppings while you lounge on the chaises.
The two year old was actually just under two years old at the time and therefore denied at the daycare, which had an age minimum of two years.
After all taxes and fees, the cruise cost about $475 per adult and an additional $350 for the two year old, which might be fine if you're interested in a vacation at this price point. I'd rather pay more for more, and $350 was very expensive for the two year old who shared a cabin with his parents and ate toddler-sized meals.
The rear of the ship continuously expelled green-tinged waste into the ocean. As an environmentalist, this was hard for me to witness.
The ship really isn't very big, maybe a five minute walk from end to end, so everything it contains is pretty small--the mini-golf area (not a mini-golf course as advertised), the jogging track, the pools and jacuzzi.
The cabins only had twin size mattresses, and a double bed was created by putting two twin mattresses side by side. Not at all a big deal for us; we just occasionally noticed the seam between the two twin mattresses.
One of the realities of a cruise is that you're part of a herd, which means you spend a lot of time in line--food, activities, boarding, disembarking. When you arrive at a port, you stream off the ship with thousands of other people; the line curves around and up/down staircases.
I wish we could have spent more time on Catalina Island, but we had just a half day. We had more time at Ensenada, which was quite touristy and less interesting to us. When we disembarked at Ensenada, we were conned into paying bus fare for a ride into town. Really, it was a ten minute walk. One-way bus fare was $2 per person, including the two year old, for maybe a half mile journey. Note: Be careful with mobile phone usage in Ensenada. While you may have a cellular signal, you may be subjected to exorbitant roaming charges.
Good to Know:
Passengers receive a daily weather report and schedule in their cabin. The schedule includes all of the ship's activities that day.
One of the seated dinners is a Captain's Dinner, which really only means that the dining room elevates the dress code that evening. That being said, the dining room generally has a dress code (I believe no shorts or jeans) that didn't appear enforced.
The ship offers a few nightlife activities--nightclub, bar/lounge, comedy club, shows. We didn't really participate because it's not our scene, but others may find it enjoyable.
Carnival only allows pregnant women who are 24 weeks or fewer and requires them to provide a letter from their physician stating that mother and baby are in good health and able to travel. Neither of the pregnant women in my family were ever asked to produce this letter.
Without a doubt, the best aspect of this cruise is the staff. I think this cruise in particular appeals to a certain demographic, so those within the target audience probably enjoy it more.