My husband and I drove from New Mexico to San Diego with our 4 children (ages 3-11). We parked in the 5 Star Parking lot across the street from the cruise terminal. Embarkation was a breeze and we were on the ship by about 1:30 pm. We took our bags to our staterooms (2 adjacent inside rooms in the middle of the Rivera deck) and went to explore the ship. I thought the ship was pretty--more muted and understated than the other Carnival ship we have cruised on.
Our staterooms were great--we were traveling with another couple and their 2 children and booked on the Rivera level partly because it was cheap and partly because there were 4 available rooms in a row. Our location was fairly quiet and easy to get around once we figured out which set of elevators to use to get to various locations. Our room steward was friendly and efficient.
The food and service in the dining room were fantastic. Our waiter took good care of us and the six children at our table every night. We had breakfast and lunch at the buffet or grill. The food was just ok but there were plenty of choices for everyone and there were always clean tables available. The kids loved the 24 hour pizza and ice cream.
We only made it to one of the Vegas style shows and it was alright but not fantastic. On the third night they had a magic/comedy show. We enjoyed the opening magician but left the comedy show because we felt it was inappropriate for the kids even though it was the 7pm show.
Our day in Cabo was just about perfect. We took the tender in around 9:30 and bought a glass bottom boat tour from a man on the pier. We paid $60 for 4 adults and 6 children for the 45 minute tour and drop off and pick up at Medano beach. (We made sure that the boat had life jackets for the children which it did.) Our guide was great. He spoke very little English but did his best to point out the sights and tell us the names of rock formations and beaches we were passing. He was also great about maneuvering for good pictures.
Medano beach was fun--it was about 80 degrees and the kids played with some sand toys we brought with us and splashed in the waves. My husband and his friend rented jet skis on the beach and took the kids for rides. I was a little nervous about the jet skis because they had warned us on the ship that they are dangerous and that collisions happen all the time but it was early in the day (hopefully not too many drunk drivers!) and there were very few jet skis on the water. I can imagine that if all the jet skis sitting on the beach had been rented it could have been really crazy though.
Though most of our cruise was great it wasn't perfect. As soon as we left Cabo it started to get cold. It was evening and the wind from moving made a sweater necessary (though my 6 year old went down the water slide 40 times anyway.) Our second sea day was freezing on deck so we spent most of our time inside.
I was also a little bit disappointed with the kids club. The counselors were all nice and my 3 and 6 year olds had a good time at their activities but there were so many breaks during the day that it felt like we were always dropping them off or picking them up. They would all go in the mornings from 9 to noon but in the afternoon the activities were so short that it sometimes wasn't worth taking them at all. We kept the kids with us for dinner and in the evenings.
My 9 and 11 year olds were in the same group and were allowed to check themselves in and out of activities. I was most disappointed in the activities for this age group. There weren't very many kids this age on the ship so that made things a little slow but on at least 2 occasions the kids club staff wasn't where they said they would be. The very first morning the kids club capers and the printed information outside the kids club said the 9-11 group was meeting in the Jekyll and Hyde lounge but when we went there it was closed for a private event and the carnival employee there didn't know where the kids should be. We walked all the way back to the kids club and asked and they told us the kids were in the Romeo and Juliet lounge (near the Jekyll and Hyde) so we walked back and found the group. They could have easily posted a sign or had staff waiting there to direct the kids to the right location but didn't. On the second sea day the capers advertised a back stage tour of the show for that night as a "highlight--don't miss event." My girls and four other kids (about a third of the number of kids who were attending any one event) were waiting at the Mikado show room at the appointed time but there were no camp carnival staff in sight and a rehearsal was going on. After waiting around for about 10 minutes we walked up to camp carnival where they told us that the tour had been cancelled and the kids were still at the ping pong tables. Fortunately both times I was with my girls and was able to help them locate their group but I thought this was irresponsible. Also if an event is billed as the highlight activity of the whole trip don't cancel it!
Overall we had lots of fun and a very memorable trip. Debarkation was easy and as it was a nice day in San Diego, we spent another afternoon on the beach before heading to Anaheim for a day at Disney's California Adventure before the long drive home.