We stayed at the Coast Long Beach Hotel and dined at The Reef restaurant next door which had considerably more menu choices than the restaurant in the hotel but comparable prices. The hotel is clean the view is quite nice and they offer both a free van service to the Pride which is ½ mile away and a free bus service with pickups every 15 minutes.
Arrived at the Carnival Queen Mary boarding area at 11:00 am there are no signs to direct you. After asking several individuals we were pointed to the early boarding area on the Queen Mary. It appears that this closes at 11:30 as we were some of the last to check in this way. This went well however we had to stand in line for around 30 minutes because customs had not cleared the ship yet, we were on board by 1:20 pm. The life boat drill is still a pain on Carnival whereas Princess has you meet in a lounge you still have to go to the muster stations on the Pride. We set sail shortly after 4:00 pm and headed to the sports bar to get some up to date NFL scores. Note that the Pride has neither ESPN nor FOX so football coverage is limited.
Two Days At Sea • Mermaid Grill - Breakfast was a major disappointment with the only redeeming thing being the omelet station. The sausages and scrambled eggs are not at all appealing. • Deli - was very good, don't be afraid to ask for whatever you want the tuna salad was excellent. • Pizza Bar - my 15 year old son who is a pizza fanatic decided that if you didn't get the pizza hot then you'd be better off not getting it at all. • Ice Cream - although I am not an ice cream eater the rest of my family thoroughly enjoyed the free ice cream and cones. • Pools - filled with salt water and they are very small, in fact the comedian on board joked that he tripped and almost fell in the pool but was able to catch his balance and simply step over it. • The pool slide looked as though it had not been used for months; the rumor is that there is some sort of law suit so Carnival closed them all down. As windy as it was the days at sea it probably wouldn't have been open anyway. • Cruise director - Chris Jefferson thinks he is far more entertaining than he is. His singing although not all that bad is more than compromised by his choice of songs. Also maybe it was just our cruise but be prepared to here Billy Joel's Piano Man more times than you will ever care to again.
Normandie Restaurant This was the highlight of the cruise each night there were at least two entrees that every one of our party were interested in and often we ordered two apiece. The same can be said for the appetizers. From the lobster to the prime rib to my favorite Beef Wellington everyone raved and my 15 year old actually tried the veal and the lamb and said he enjoyed both. Our waiter, (Jerry Springer) was great and really made the meals even more enjoyable. We did not have breakfast or lunch here. Since the breakfast on the Lido deck is so poor if we had it to do over again we decided we should have had at least 2 or 3 breakfasts in the Normandie restaurant.
Four of our group did the Canopy tour and had the times of there lives. The people that run this are both fun and professional and I'm told that it was great; my wife couldn't stop talking about it. Since I and my sister are the sane ones we went on a very nice air conditioned bus tour of the city. It was very relaxing and we were able to get a real feel for the people and the culture.
We got off the ship around 11:00 am and made arrangements for a two hour tour for $15 a piece. You have to bargain with them as he originally wanted to give us a three hour tour for $30 a piece. The tour was great he showed us the old town and the new area and the cliff divers and let us do some shopping so when we got back we ended up giving him $20 a piece. Keep in mind that this was at least $20 pp less than any tour Carnival offered and 2 hours was plenty of time.
David's Supper Club Since it was Thanksgiving we decided to have our meal at David's rather than the Normandie restaurant. The food and service is outstanding and the female singer is far better than the headliner of the shows that the Pride puts on. The only downside is that the price is now $30 per person and they expect gratuity on top of that. With drinks and dinner for four the tab hit $177 which when you consider that we had enjoyed all of our meals in the main restaurant was a little bit much.
Cabo San Lucas
Once again we decided to go off on our own as the snorkeling tours offered by Carnival varied between $39 and $79 per person. We were able to get a glass bottom boat which took us to Lovers beach preceded by a brief tour of the area, we snorkeled for two hours and they picked us up all for $10 per person.
The show was Vroom which was very entertaining when we first saw this on the Victory in 2001. Needless to say that we were all disappointed that Carnival is still offering the same show 4 years later.
The late night comedy act JeRome was terrible as he had nothing funny to say just the usual use of four letter words and overly descriptive sexual encounters that most late night comedians seem to think are just hilarious. We did see him the next evening for his 'G' rated show and although this was better don't expect to see him on Letterman anytime soon.
We had an early flight 12:30 pm from LAX so we were told to see the Purser to get special gray luggage tags and to meet before 7:45 am on Sunday in the Taj Mahal show room. This experience went extremely well and we were at the airport by 9:00 am.
Unfortunately our flight was delayed until after 1:00 pm and then after we boarded and taxied out on the tarmac we were told that we that we couldn't go anywhere because of bad weather at O'Hare so we sat on the plane for another two and a half hours before our four hour flight home.
The best food we've every had after 5 cruises 1 - NCL, 1 - Princess, 2 - Carnival, 1 - Royal Caribbean. The entertainment was weak and other than the Canopy excursion I would strongly recommend making your own arrangements in port you'll save big time. The casino was very big and I actually won over $100 altogether playing video poker which is also a first on any cruise for me.
We did feel cramped on the ship at times as this was the smallest ship we've sailed on. The ceilings were low, I am 6' 2" and the corridors a bit narrow but all and all we had fun.