We have been on Carnival twice before and both times I said never again. The first time because I felt like it was very low budget, the second time we went because friends begged us, and again, we didn't care for it, as the food was terrible and they pushed the drinks and video nonstop. I never thought I would come back to Carnival. We had to book this trip late and took what we could get, I was worried, but I was very surprised. Carnival has really gotten its act together.
We (me, my husband and two daughters 6 and 8) arrived on March 9, 2008 at the Long Beach terminal at 12:00 noon and were on board by 1:30. I felt very lucky as the weather was very warm in Long Beach that day. The lines were a little long and it was a little crazy getting the luggage checked in, but overall not too bad of a process. It was nice that our cabin was ready when we got on the boat as we dropped our things and went to check the place out. Very nice cabin, smaller than we have had on RCCL and Disney, but bigger than we have had on Princess. There was plenty of storage, the beds were very comfortable, the balcony was nice. The cabin was very well laid out. I was glad that I brought an extension cord as there were not enough plugs in the room, little metal magnet clips for the shower curtain worked great to keep the water in and the curtain off of me, and my little ice chest to keep drinks cold.
We found our way to Mermaids (the buffet) and had some lunch. I thought the food on the buffet was pretty good. I really liked the salad bar and selection of fruit. I did not think it was set up very well. It was a little too chopped up, sometimes requiring too many waits in lines for an item. Many times, we simply ate what there was the smallest line for. But all in all, it was fine with me, I was always able to get something to eat. The pizza and ice cream lines were never too bad, which was good because my kids ate a lot of that. The pizza was not quite as good as I remember carnival having, but the ice cream was great and the french fries were awesome. Breakfast was pretty much the same food every day, with a couple of changes, but everything we tried was very good. There was a lot more selection at lunch time, as well as burgers, hot dogs and fries out by the pool. Coffee was not too good. But they had coffee you could buy that was really good.
The pools were nice, kids had a great time in them. We were always able to find deck chairs, sometimes we had to search a little, and when the kids wanted to swim we had to get a table instead of loungers, so we could be close enough to them as those loungers were always full, but that was okay, we didn't really spend that much time there, as it was nice and sunny on the upper decks. We felt very lucky with the weather as we had heard it would be cold the first day out of Long Beach and the first sea day as well as the last sea day. The only day it was cold was the last day, and that was only because of the wind. It was a little rocky that day and night.
The dining room was set up very well. Not crowded feeling at all, very comfortable. Great staff, good service without being too much in your face. The appetizers, salads and soups were awesome. The entrees were pretty good. Some very good, some not so great, but I was usually full by then anyway. Didn't eat a whole lot of deserts, but what we had was good.
The kids spent a lot of time in the kids club. They only ate dinner with us once because they couldn't wait to get back to the kids club. We did the build a bear and the kids had a great time. The only thing that would have been nice would have been prizes and ribbons for kids bingo, etc. like they do on other lines.
In Puerto Vallarta we went to Sea Life Park. It was great. My daughter and husband swam with the dolphins and loved it. My younger daughter and myself just hung out in the kiddie area and on the lazy river and saw the shows. What a great day!
In Mazatlan we went on a tour to Stone Island. It was beautiful. We had a great lunch, drinks, horseback riding on the beach, shopping on the beach, and lots of relaxation. We were greeted at the pier and taken by taxis to a dock to board a boat to get to Stone Island. The crew stayed with us all day and really took great care of us. We didn't book this through the ship, so don't know if there's is comparable.
Cabo, we left the kids on the ship and walked to Medano Beach. It was fun, but crazy as it was Spring Break 2008! Lots of drunk people, young girls ripping their tops off, guys pulling pants down, etc. We took a water taxi back after our beach time and hung out at the pier for while before reboarding.
Debarkation was not great. We were already to get off the ship about 9:00 a.m., out of our room waiting in the designated areas, and did not get off the ship until 12:30, then customs and getting our luggage and car. I don't know what happened, but it appeared there was some sort of immigration or customs problem. The people waiting to get on the ship, could not have possibly gotten on before 1:00 or so, if they were lucky. I don't think this was Carnival's fault, but it would have been nice to have been told what was going on.
Overall, I thought the ship was beautiful, none of the glitzy neon carnival decor of years past, but a very comfortable and attractive ship with great service, lots of fun, good people and good food. I would not hesitate go on Carnival again.