Disclaimer: My husband and I, both in our early 40’s, and our two boys ages 10 and 6 went on the Carnival Miracle to the Mexican Riviera for spring break 2014 and had a great time. We have been on about 5 cruises total. I am a type A personality and things have to be in order and be perfect when it comes to my job and home duties. I plan, plan, and plan again when it comes to traveling, so I am usually well prepared. With that being said, when I arrive on my vacations, my type A personality “goes out the window”, and my husband and I are easy going, “go with the flow”, travelers. Not much can upset us, as we realize, WE can “make or break” our vacation experience. We are not picky eaters, and enjoy pretty much anything we participate in.
Travel to Long Beach with Stay and Park: We live in Phoenix, Arizona and traveled to Long Beach via personal vehicle Friday after work, approximately 6 hours. We stayed at the Best Western, Long Beach for approximately $180, which included a one night stay, morning breakfast, underground parking for 7 nights, and transportation to and from the port. I will warn you that the location/area is not the greatest, but felt completely safe inside the building, as well as the underground parking.
Embarking: We departed the Best Western via shuttle around 11:15am and arrived at the port at 11:35am. Porters took our luggage from the shuttle and assured us they would get it on board “safe and sound”. We had about 4 pieces of luggage and tipped about $15. The other party on the shuttle with us had approximately 4 pieces of luggage and the husband handed the porter a one dollar bill while the wife was digging out more money. The porter asked the husband if they only had one piece of luggage (his way of saying, he would assure one piece made it on board, for one dollar). The couple quickly came up with more money, and all was well. We did not have FTTF and proceeded to get in line at 11:45. We were on the Lido deck by 12:20, and stopped by our room on the way up to drop off our carry-on luggage. The room-steward was not particularly pleased as she was trying to finish getting the rooms ready, but allowed us to drop our stuff off anyways. I felt bad afterwards for disturbing her, but she was a complete angel for the remainder of the cruise.
We ate lunch on the Lido deck, and the children went swimming in the cold salt water pool until our rooms were ready at 1:30. Muster at 4pm uneventful and departure at 4:30p. By the time we arrived back from the Muster, our luggage had arrived and we put everything away and watched from our balcony as we departed Long Beach.
Fun Shop: We ordered two bottles of Bacardi prior to the cruise ($80/bottle), to be delivered to our room upon arrival. Upon arrival they had delivered the two bottles, but they were dark rum instead on the light rum. I called customer service and they said they would have the fun shop contact us once we sailed. I also let our room steward know also. By the time we returned from the Muster Drill they had replaced the bottles without a problem.
Room: We booked mid-ship, 5th floor, obstructed balcony to begin with and received an email to upgrade for $40 to room 5127 toward the front of the ship. This room had an extended balcony, which was amazing. We choose the 5th floor as it was close to camp carnival and had rooms above and below us. With our upgrade I was concerned because we became closer to the main showroom below us. We did not hear any noise from the showroom at all. Loved this room and would book it again. Yes, the movement of the ship was slightly increased compared to the middle of the ship, but did not affect us.
Camp Carnival (CC): We filled out all the paperwork online and printed it out for CC and took it to the presentation in the showroom at 5pm on departure day. The camp is not available to the kids alone until the next day at 10am. Although my kids were in separate age groups, they were together 75% of the time. With my 10 year old we had the option to allow him to sign himself in and out of camp. We allowed this with strict guidelines. If he left CC he could only return to the room, he was not allowed to roam the ship alone. They do scavenger hunts in groups on a daily basis and he loved being able to attend those with his newly acquired friends. Both boys received the Camp Carnival Cruise activity schedule for their age groups on night one and highlighted what they wanted to do each day. This also gave us an idea where he would be at, at any given time. Our 6 year old was “hit or miss” whether he wanted to attend CC. He enjoys hanging out with us still, which is nice. If he didn’t like what we were doing, he went to CC. On port days you can choose to leave the children at CC or take them with you. We always give the kids a choice to stay or go. On the last sea day, my husband and I wanted to do the Behind the Fun Tour, but it started at 8:45am and CC didn’t open until 10am. I talked with them and they kindly said that the kids could come at 8:30 and join the 2 year old class that started at 8am. This was so nice and we were thrilled.
Food: I will not go into food too much as my husband, kids, and I, are not picky eaters and do not expect high class meals. We ate dinner in the main dining room every night and enjoyed every meal, as well as the service. The warm chocolate melting cake is “to die for”. Breakfast and lunch we split between Lido deck and main dining room. Kids ate enough pizza for a year.
Sea Day One: Had a little adventure on sea day one. We had just ordered our food in the main dining room for brunch when the captain announced we had a missing person reported. Everyone was to report to their staterooms and wait for the all-clear signal. Our waiter packed up our brunch and we took it back to our room to eat and wait. This process took about 2 hours to complete and all was clear, and everyone was on board. Not sure, but I think it was a crew member they were looking for.
Sea Day Two: Uneventful, hung out by pool, spent time on our extended balcony and enjoyed relaxing.
Day 1 – Puerto Vallarta: We took a taxi that was available as you disembark the ship to Now Amber, an All Inclusive Resort approximately 15 minutes away. Taxi cost $15 for the four of us with tip included. The resort charged for a day pass: $65/Adult and $32.50/Child which included full access to the resort, drinks, food, pool, beach, and kids club. We literally just stayed in the pool with the kids and drank unlimited drinks. Kids enjoyed the frozen Pina Coladas and Strawberry Daiquiris (Virgin, of course). The pass was good for 6 hours. Only cost $5 for taxi to return.
Day 2 – Puerto Vallarta: Kids chose to stay at CC while husband and I went across the street to the mall and looked around. We also shopped at the little shops by the pier and bought the kids a little something. The haggling exhausts me, so we were in and out of their quickly. They have a little restaurant right by the shops and ship that offers Wi-Fi with the purchase of a beverage. Husband and I had a few beers with chips and salsa while I checked e-mail, and husband refused to touch his phone.
Cabo San Lucas: Took a water taxi to Medano Beach (5 minute ride), which is available by multiple ventors/people when you exit the tender area. We paid $20 round-trip for the four of us, hoping they would actually return to pick us up, which they did. I told the driver I would tip him when he returned, so maybe that was encouragement for him to return. Also note that the Marina will charge $1/person for water access, you pay this as you enter the boat area. We found a restaurant on the beach (don’t remember name, sorry) which had big, blue corona umbrella’s. Found a table in the shade and sat their most of the day while the kids played in the ocean. They had two for one special all day. We drank 4 beers, 4 rum and cokes, 2 sprites, 1 cheese quesadilla plate, 1 beef taco plate, chips and salsa, and the total bill was $60 USD with tip. They also had nice lounge chairs that were padded in the shade if you wanted. All shaded areas were free of charge with the purchase of a beverage. Keep in mind the Vendors are everywhere and we said, “No gracias” over 100 times. Again, not a big deal for us, but may be annoying for others.
Last Sea Day/Behind the Fun Tour: If you haven’t taken the Behind the Fun Tour, Do It. It is amazing; they only take about 16 people per cruise, so book right when you get on. They took us behind the stage in the main theater, the kitchen (meet the head chief with picture), store room areas (where they store the food, beer, etc.), control room (my favorite part), bridge (talk with Captain, and take a picture with him), laundry area, and staff dining area. Tour is about 4 hours and cost around $95/person. You can only buy them once on board. At the end, they provide Mirmosa, Carnival bag, Hat, Lanyard, Braclet, and most important, the recipe to the warm chocolate melting cake. When we returned that afternoon to our room, they had the pictures from the tour for us (free of charge) as well as chocolate covered Strawberries. Yummy.
Disembarking: We were in no hurry to get off as we would be driving and did not have a plane to catch. They were a few custom issues upon arrival that needed cleared before anyone was allowed to disembark. We had tag #20, so we were one of the last to get off the ship. We left our room at 8:30am and headed to the lido deck for breakfast and just enjoyed our last few hours of our vacation. We finally made it off around 11am.
Hope this review was helpful. I felt obligated to write one knowing how much knowledge I gained by reading everyone else’s. If you would like additional information, I have kept a few of the Fun Times and Camp Carnival Schedules if you would like a peek. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Sorry so long, but I tried to include everything.
We also booked our next cruise while on board. Heading to Puerto Rico in May 2015. Let the planning begin.