We drive from AZ as it is so much easier and less expensive than using the airlines. We used the Mission Brewery parking lot, which you book on-line and can get a coupon for $7 a day parking, and they have free shuttle service to/from the terminal. They were great and we had no problems and they were very good.
The embarkation went fairly well. The terminal in San Diego (SD) has it's problems with which line to drop off your bags at and which line inside the terminal to get into for which cruise line. The people who work there are great and very helpful, but the signage leaves something to be desired. There was one family of seven whose luggage was dropped off with a porter and the luggage wound up taking a trip on the Holland ship instead. I really think that this is due to signage more than any other reason.
We had just come off of a two week Princess cruise only three weeks before so our review is slightly tainted from the excellent service and food we received on that cruise. So......
Our room steward was good but kept forgetting to bring us wine glasses, as we bring wine onboard with us. After a $20 tip and asking for the third time we gave up and used the water glasses. The cabin floor was not vacuumed very clean, as I saw the same fabric thread on the floor for three days.
We had booked for an early seating and we got late seating. The Spirit has late seating at 8:30 pm, which by American standards is late. Too late for my wife to be able to digest her food so as to enjoy a good nights sleep. We requested a change to early seating with the Maitre'd the first day but were told that first seating was full. Due to that we only used the dining room in the evening twice. The service we received there was very good and the food good, not great or better than average, but good. The two times we did eat in the dining room it was like being by ourselves. There were so many vacant tables that it looked deserted. I hear that Carnival is looking into going with some form of the "Open Seating" used on so many of the cruise lines.
The meals we endured in the "buffet" at night were dismal to be kind. There were some exceptions to that but not enough to make the dining experience something that we will remember with any fond memories. Most of the food stations were closed at night so that your choices were very few. The bright side of eating at the buffet at night was the crew member who did the craving at the meat station, which was the only station except for the pizza. The desserts were very heavy and did not use real cream. It was quite easy to skip desserts. Overall the food was not much better than what one could expect from eating at a carnival or circus. The lunch time meals were better as they had all of the food stations open then. Then the most popular station was the deli sandwiches, which always had a line. The deli sandwiches and frozen yogurt/ice cream were the highlights of the culinary experience on the Spirit in the buffet.
One thing that was evident on the Spirit was the lack of spirit on the part of the crew. We were not the only ones who commented on the lack of smiling faces. Usually whenever one passes a crew member anywhere on a ship they smile and greet you or at least nod a hello. That did not happen on the Spirit. I would venture to say that about half of the time the crew just looked down at the deck and walked by. Yes, there were exceptions, but not that many. I would say that it seemed as if the crew had been told that they were being laid off after this cruise and that was why they were so downcast. I noticed that members of the crew would walk over trash rather than pick it up. Not a happy crew.
One thing that you should be aware of is the theatre. When you get there don't sit in the front row seats above in the balcony. The glass partition in front of you has a brass cover over the top of it and it blocks ones view of the stage. It was interesting watching so many people sitting down and then trying to see over or under that strip of brass and then moving to different seating. One other thing that was interesting was that the ship was so cold. Women would go to the theatre to watch a movie, talk, bingo or the evening show and you could actually watch them shiver the first few nights, after that they would bring a cover. Many would change seating due to the cold air vents blowing on them, as we did a couple of times.
Manzanillo is new to the cruise ships and is just really getting into the tourist trade from them. We did a plantation/hotel beach swim tour in an open air vehicle and it was very informative. We had a very good guide who really made the tour worthwhile.
De-embarkation went smoother than I would have expected. The Spirit does not allow you to get off of the ship carrying your own luggage, so you have to wait. I believe that this is the only ship we have been on that does not allow it.
This was the only cruise that we have taken where we wished that we had cancelled it instead of going on it. Overall we have decided to NOT cruise with Carnival in the foreseeable future. We will keep an open mind but Princess and Holland are so much better that they win our travel hands down.