This review is from the perspective of a first-time cruiser.
We arrived at the San Pedro port about 10 am (having arrived from Arizona the day before) and checked in early at the Queen Mary and were told to go through the Zone 1 line when it formed. The Carnival employees at the Queen Mary were nice and helpful. It felt good to get rid of our luggage. We still had 2 tote bags. In retrospect, I would carry on a rolling bag the next time - I got tired of carrying my laptop in that tote bag.
We sat on a park bench and took pictures of the ship. It was very warm in the sun. We brought water bottles, but I wanted a diet coke! It was against all that was in me to spend $2 on one from a machine, so I endured.
The zone 1 line began to form around 11 but we didn't want to stand it in so we waited on a bench in the shade and did some people-watching. Around 11:30 we decided to join the line, just as it was being moved from the shade into the hot sun. The other zones were forming at that time too. It was miserable in the sun. We waited for an hour before the line began to move. Once it did, we were the first line to get on and it went fast. We followed the crowd up to the Mermaid Grill on the lido deck and were recovering with lunch and cold drinks by 1:00 pm. I'm not sure what the advantage was to checking in early, since we were penalized with standing in the hot sun. I guess the prize was getting a table for lunch in the buffet.
Our cabin was ready at 1:30, so after lunch we went down there to check it out - Empress Deck, 6259, with balcony. It was nice and comfortable. I loved the pillows and was surprised to see a king size bed. We decided to explore the ship. We had heard about the artwork, but they weren't overwhelming, although people have drawn on some of the body parts in the elevator (tacky). The ship dEcor is not my style - gaudy - but the cabins had simple dEcor. We wanted to change our dinner from late to early, so we stood in line ½ hour at the purser's desk (after being told by a crew member to do so), only to be told to go to the dining room and stand in line for the maitre'd (sp?). But we got the early dinner, so that's what mattered most.
I found out real fast that my worst nightmare had come true - heavy smokers on the balcony next to us. We had to vacate many times when they decided to invade our clean air. I don't understand Carnival's thinking on this. Why do they inconvenience the non-smokers? Anyway, it worked out as the week went by. The smokers got busy, we got busy and I think they had different dinners than us, so we crossed less and less. I didn't notice smoke too much on the rest of the ship, except the casino, which we avoided.
Around 3:30 we headed back to the cabin and our four bags were there. We had a little time to start unpacking before the 4 pm muster drill. The drill was quick and cruise director Jeff Bronson threw in a little humor.
We went to the promenade deck for sail-away. The pilot boats were fun to watch. Took lots of pictures then went back to the cabin to finish unpacking. There was plenty of room in the bathroom for our toiletries - we didn't need the over-the-door shoe organizer that's so popular on this site. DH took the right side, I took the left and everything fit. I AM glad I brought 24 wire hangers - we needed those and more! DH met our steward Vladimir from the Ukraine when he asked him to take the drinks out of our refrigerator so we could put in our own that we had brought. Vladimir told DH to take them out and set them aside until the next day when he cleaned our room. So they sat on the floor until the next day.
DH has motion sickness, so we were concerned. I brought Bonine and seabands. He took one bonine every evening and wore the seabands constantly and never had a problem.
Monday we went to the gym at 5:00 am, only to find out it didn't open until 6. At home I cycle/spin, so I checked out the spin classes, but they were only offered at 5:00 pm, which conflicted with our dinner. I used the gym's bicycle and DH used the elliptical. Surprisingly, the bike was an old model and didn't work well and the gym was too warm in my opinion. I like cool air when I work out. After our workout we had breakfast in the dining room. We were placed at a table for 6 and enjoyed conversation with two other couples. The breakfast was okay but the rest of the week, being early risers, we ate our breakfast in the buffet.
Around 9:30 am we found 2 deck chairs and sunbathed. The decks were beginning to fill up at that time. The weather was beautiful.
We explored the ship the rest of the day, took a nap and just had fun. That night was the first formal night. We were placed at a table for four with a couple a few years younger than us from Puerto Rico. We really enjoyed getting to know them all week. DH had lobster and I'm not much of a seafood eater, so I chose the grilled chicken - it was good. I think it was the best entrEe I had all week, flavorful. Chose the chocolate melting cake, which was wonderful for a chocoholic like me. Vladimir didn't know our dinner had been changed, so our room was not ready and no towel animal that night.
Tuesday we ate breakfast early in the buffet and then instead of riding that bike in the gym we joined others walking laps around deck 10. It wasn't the easiest thing to do - something of an obstacle course with all the deck chairs. But it worked and I enjoyed it more than the gym.
We had lunch at the buffet the rest of the week. We liked the grill and the deli sandwiches and I enjoyed the salad bar. I also had frozen yogurt every afternoon before my nap, yum. Found the shops onboard and bought a few souvenirs. We had good mochaccinos from the coffee bar.
Tuesday night no entrees looked good to me on the menu, so I ended up having the grilled chicken AGAIN. It was good, but I knew I needed to try something different next time. Can't remember what DH had. I thought the food in the dining room, overall, was just okay. Nothing spectacular for sure.
We had heard how cold it can get in the dining room, but our experience was the opposite - it was warm and stuffy! Even our tablemates complained, so I knew it wasn't just me being menopausal. After dinner we had our formal pictures taken and then went to the theater to wait for the show. We were hot, so went back to the cabin and dressed down a bit then came back and watched the show. It was okay (I think it was called Wonderful World). We came back to a turned down bed, chocolates and our first towel animal - a dog. We were sleep deprived going into this vacation and we're used to getting up at 5 am. This vacation was relaxing and we got caught up on our sleep!
Wednesday we woke up to our arrival in Puerto Vallarta. We had breakfast at the buffet and prepared for our excursion - Los Veranos Canopy tour. We scheduled it privately, not through the ship. We had made arrangements to go with another family from the ship. We had a great time. I am horribly afraid of heights, but this didn't bother me (I was determined to do it). At first you don't get a sense of how high you are because you're up in the tree-tops. And the guides don't give you time to think about it - they just harness you up and you're gone! The jungle was hot and humid - not sure I've ever sweated that much. But it was beautiful.
We got back to the ship around 2:30, and had lunch on the lido then did a load of laundry. I can't understand why there is only one ironing board, half a mile away, for an entire deck. Anyway, the washer just dribbled out water, so we left and enjoyed drinks on the lido while it was washing.
We weren't hungry at dinner, so skipped the dining room and had a dinner later on. We found out later our tablemates did the same thing. Not sure what our towel animal was that night, but we took a picture. Went to bed around 9:30 pm. I know, I know, but we're not much for nightlife and the show didn't interest us.
Thursday we arrived in Mazatlan where we planned to go horseback riding with Randi's Happy Horses on Stone Island (another privately scheduled excursion, not through the ship). Several families from the Cruise Critic were on the same excursion. The horses were smaller and gentle. Mine was a "follower" and never strayed from the rear of my husband's horse. We rode on the beach and back to Victor's on the beach for a shrimp and onion ring lunch and cold drinks. Randi joined the group for lunch. Our guide Tony enjoyed talking about his life there and Mexican politics. We enjoyed chatting with him. With the exception of lunch, he stayed with us throughout the excursion.
Back at the cruise terminal, I should have picked up some souvenirs for our family, but I was hot and tired and eager to get back on the ship.
That night we joined our tablemates in the dining room. I had a pasta dish that was blah. The baked Alaska was good, though! Afterwards there was an excellent band playing jazz and oldies outside the dining room so we sat and enjoyed them for about an hour (wish I knew their name, they were really good) then had our pictures taken. Lots of people on the cc boards seem to complain about all the portrait taking, but it was something I really enjoyed. It was fun hunting for our pics the following night. We rarely have our pics taken together, and we liked many of the shots.
Friday we arrived in Cabo. What a beautiful setting. We ate breakfast early and watched the Carnival Elation come in while we ate. We got on one of the tender boats by about 8:30. We hadn't planned any excursions there, so just decided to walk around the marina. It wasn't too relaxing, though, constantly being accosted by the time-share bullies. And it was hot and humid, so we hopped back on the ship early. We enjoyed the hot tub on the lido deck by ourselves and sunbathed. Took a lot of pictures as the ship left Cabo around 4 pm. It is such a lovely area, just too resort-like.
Friday was the second formal night, so we had our pictures taken then joined our tablemates. I had a shrimp dish that I didn't care for. It had some kind of yellow sauce on it. Our server offered me another entrEe, but we had been eating so much all week, I didn't want anything (except dessert!). We went to the theater afterward and it had gotten windy outside, so the ship was rocking. After the not so great dinner and the rocking of the ship, it was too much for us at the front of the ship. The show started and it was over the top LOUD, so we had to leave. Went back to the cabin to find a cute towel monkey hanging from the drapes. Our cabin was in a good spot, not as much movement as other parts of the ship. We went to bed early but all was well in the morning. I really wanted to go to the midnight chocolate buffet and especially take pictures, but DH was out like a light at 10 pm so I forgot about it.
Saturday was cool and windy as we headed full steam ahead for Long Beach. It felt good to wear a sweatshirt. It was too windy to walk - they had Deck 10 closed, so we just shopped and walked around the ship, packed and took silly pictures on our balcony. Went to the disembarkation talk. Then I discovered you could watch it on TV later. They spent so much time talking about the evaluation card. At 4 pm we joined a group for the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Awareness walk on the promenade deck - it was a non-competitive one-mile walk. Our last night with our tablemates and we exchanged addresses, emails and hugs. I had fried shrimp, it was good. Can't remember what anyone else had! I had a soufflE dessert, but coveted the cappuccino pie our tablemates had. There was never a lack of food on the ship, that is for sure!
We went back to our cabin early, not knowing whether Vladimir would be making it up that night or not (it would have been nice to know). We sort of figured out they skip that on the last night, so we finished packing and set our bags outside by 9 pm and they were gone within 10 minutes. No shows for us, we snored our way back to Long Beach.
I woke up by 5 am. We showered and packed everything up in the carryon we saved and headed up to the lido for breakfast. We were surprised by how many people were already there at 6:20. It was then it occurred to me we could have left our carryon in the cabin and come back for it. Oh well. We ate then went to the promenade and looked at the portraits one more time and bought one more. Sat for about an hour and watched the long early flight and self-disembarking lines forming. We finally decided to go to the theater to wait. Jerome, the comedian, came out to entertain us (he was funny), so it went a little faster. We had a mochaccino and were finally called around 11:00. Went through customs, found our bags and were in our car by noon. We drove straight home to AZ and pulled into our driveway at 7 pm, having enjoyed a relaxing vacation.
Carnival asked on the evaluation card whether we would cruise with them again. It was a yes/no question, so I had to say no. I would have said maybe if it was offered, but the answer couldn't be a definitive Yes. We had a nice vacation, but I never found the service or food or dEcor to be amazing, so I think we'll try another cruise line next time.