This was the second cruise for both my boyfriend and myself, but our first one together. I previously sailed on the Norwegian Dawn (11 day W. Caribbean) and he can't even remember what ship he cruised on last time, as his was a cruise to nowhere many years ago.
Embarkation was a snap!
We arrived at the port at about 11 AM. We had our own car and parked in the port parking lot, which is very close to the ship (maybe a 2 minute walk.) We walked next door to the Queen Mary for early check-in and were processed and ready to go within about 15 minutes. We found a nice place to sit down back at the Carnival terminal and did some people-watching for about an hour before we were told to line up and get ready for embarkation. We were on the ship at about 12:30 with very little time actually standing in lines. Our luggage was at our room when we returned to the cabin after dinner.
When we got on the ship buffet style lunch was being served in the Paris Restaurant. The food was very good, but the selection wasn't that great. Still, we both stuffed ourselves and were happy with what we had.
We had early seating in the Destiny Dining room. There was always a nice selection to choose from and the food was good. One woman at our table complained about a few things (the bleu cheese dressing wasn't cheesy enough for her and the Black Forest cake didn't have enough whipped creme) but everyone else at our table seemed as pleased with the food as we were. My only complaint was that getting a cup of coffee with dinner seemed to be a bit difficult. It always came late in the meal after several reminders. But the quality of the food made up for that little problem.
We also ate quite a few times at the Paris Restaurant and liked the food there. The Sushi Bar was good too, but only open for a couple of hours a day, so it was easy to miss. Never a line there though, which was nice. There is 24 hour ice cream and Pizza available at the Paris Restaurant too.
The onboard entertainment was adequate, but not fantastic. The comedian was very funny (I almost swallowed my gum while I was laughing) but the magician didn't have a lot of personality and his tricks were easy to figure out. The SHOUT presentation was a lot of fun and the costumes were great. The game shows and other entertainment like that were fun to watch, but I thought it was kind of lame that they charge you $10 for a chance to be in the DEAL or NO DEAL game. I didn't contribute to that, but enjoyed watching it.
Our cabin was better than I had expected. It was roomy, clean, had great water pressure, was quiet and the bed was really cozy and comfortable. Our steward was pleasant and thorough, but a little on the shy side. The towel animals were very cute. No fridge or coffee pot in the room, which I would have liked.
The casino was usually really crowded and it was hard to find a spot at the gaming tables, but the payout on the slots seemed pretty fair. We lost a few dollars, but we'd planned for that.
We participated in the Couples Massage Class for $55/couple. It was ok, but overpriced considering how little they really taught.
We had no problems at all with children, teens or young adults causing trouble. There were plenty of them, but the only rudeness and rowdiness we encountered was from adults, and even that was minimal.
The ports (Catalina Island and Ensenada) weren't as spectacular as those in the Caribbean, but we still had fun. We rented a golf cart and toured Catalina. One hint...the map they give you for a 1 hour self guided tour will take you more than 1 hour if you stop for anything at all. We made very few short stops and didn't have time to drive the last third of the recommended route. If you aren't careful you'll go over the hour and have to pay for the extra time.
Ensenada was a happy, active port. We found a bus going to La Bufadora for $15 per person. It was pretty interesting to watch. Another hint...don't think the blow hole is having a bad day if you notice that the first 2 or 3 bursts are small. It seems to gather steam over about or 8-10 bursts, with the last couple being big ones. Then it starts back with small ones and builds back up again. There is a street bazaar at La Bufadora, and the prices are pretty good. Back in town we went to Hussong's for a drink (not overly impressive) and had lunch at Mango Mango. If you order a whole fish, you get the WHOLE fish...eyes, teeth and everything...not a problem for us, but a bit surprising. The food was ok, but pretty expensive, in my opinion (25 dollars for 2 of us for lunch.)
Disembarkation took a long time. We carried our own luggage off but the line was looped around the ship and down another hallway. It was simple and we had no problems, but it took almost an hour to get off the ship.
Then, back to the car and back to Arizona. It was not a perfect cruise, but was well worth the cost and I'd do it again without a moments hesitation.