The 4-night cruise to Avalon and Ensenada (Baja California) was by far the worst cruise we have ever been on. The pros: our inside stateroom was clean and roomy; the lounge areas were inviting and comfortable. The cons: EVERYTHING ELSE. Food, service, ports, entertainment, activities, and all those extra fees... The worst part was the food - all of the food - it was just terrible no matter where or when we ate. We spoke with many couples and families who felt the same way as we did. We thought it was a deal at $149 per person, but with taxes and fees the booking alone cost $502 for two people. That's not including travel, alcohol, excursions, gambling, photos, and anything else you want to buy. Drinks are $7-$12 apiece, and photos were $22 each. They never stopped trying to push the alcohol or photos. This cruise was terrible. Save your money.
The room was clean. It is showing small signs of age but for a ship built in 1995, I was impressed. Other reviews warned of sewer smells and freezing cold rooms, which other passengers did experience, so I guess we got very lucky. Our only issue was that we were right above the propellers, so there was a constant loud vibration in the room. It actually helped me sleep better, so I didn’t mind it.
The cabin had lots of storage space. There were three closets (one had ladders in it) and five big drawers. The desk space was ample for our needs. Our full size suitcases fit nicely under the bed. We had two twins pushed together to make a queen, and there were two more bunk beds high on the way that could have been lowered to sleep four total. I can’t imagine trying to squeeze four in there, however. I should note we requested two twins for a configuration, but we got a queen, and I didn’t bother asking them to change it. Our in-room safe was broken at first. We told our stateroom attendant, Noervi, who promptly had maintenance come change the battery in it. The safe worked fine after that. You just use any credit card to lock it, and that same card to unlock it. There is no charge to use the safe. There was enough space in the safe for my professional DSLR camera, an iPad, two smart phones and our passports. Plenty of room for our needs.
We panicked when we heard the room only had one single 110v power outlet. We brought a 3-outlet expander which worked great to plug in two things at once. There isn’t much room above and below the outlet, so things like my camera battery charger would not fit without an expansion plug or an extension cord.
Tendering is required to get to Avalon. It is a pretty town but there's not much to do unless you take an excursion. We walked around for two hours just to get some exercise off the ship. It is a very easy town to walk around in. Most of the shops did not open until after 9:00am the Sunday we were there. The shop owners seemed bored in general and were not very helpful. There's a post office in town if you want to mail post cards, and the drugstore sold me stamps. The funnel cakes for sale on the pier were burned.
Ensenada was a scary place for me. Leaving the ship was easy, and it was a short walk into town. The local peddlers are relentless. As soon as we got off the pier onto the first bridge, we were inundated with children and adults blocking our paths trying to get us to buy trinkets from their cardboard boxes. The kids were the worst. They would stand in front of you and jockey back and forth to block your way while shoving things into your face.
We made it to the main drag, Avenida Lopez Mateos, about 3/4 of a mile from the pier. We walked north up the road and then south again, repeatedly saying “No, gracias” to dozens of peddlers and shop owners who tried repeatedly to get us to go into their shop. They would stand up just as we approached and say things like, “Come on, friend, I give you good deal” and “Best prices in the morning, come inside” and “Now it’s my turn, friend, amigo, step inside, I give you best deal yet.” Several of them noted I was wearing an Arizona Diamondbacks hat, so they kept trying to point me to their Diamondbacks merchandise.
We basically speed walked through town as fast as possible, uncomfortable with every part of being in Ensenada. We stopped in at McDonald’s, hoping to get some ‘real food’ that was better than what they had on the cruise ship. Unfortunately it was filthy and they have no seating in the restaurant, so we passed on that. Later, we stopped in at Sweetberry which is a yogurt shop. The girl at the counter spoke no English whatsoever, and they only took Pesos so my US Dollars were no good there. Since it was Día de la Candelaria (a national holiday in Mexico) that day, none of the banks were open so I couldn’t exchange any money. I didn’t want to buy anything from a local and then try to get Pesos back in change, so we just gave up and went back to the ship.