Flew into Long Beach airport on Jet Blue. Quick $23 taxi to a hotel. We stayed for two nights at the Courtyard by Marriott prior to the cruise ($50/night on Priceline). Day of the cruise, we ambled to the supermarket within walking distance of the hotel, picked up a few bottles of wine (deciding at last minute to not use our rum-runners though liquor was available at the supermarket), and hopped a cab to the port (another $30).
Arrived at the port at 10:45am, had our luggage whisked away by two porters who were very happy to help ($5 tip). They pointed us toward the Queen Mary for check-in. We walked up to the counter in the Queen Mary with little-to no wait, and had our sign-and sail cards, and told to go to Zone 1 outside within minutes. When we walked to the area for Zone 1, we were told they had already left, and to head to the dome.
After security screening (where our bottles of wine could have been bottles of booze easily), we were on the ship within 15 minutes. Either things have vastly improved since other reviewers... or people area really to sensitive.
The ship decor is gorgeous. Dark and romantic. Depictions of great artwork is everywhere. People saying the ship is tacky or nudes are not tasteful are really ridiculous to me. It was elegant and classy feeling. The decor alone made us want to cruise on it again. (The giant painting across from the Glass Elevators made me want to ride them every time we needed to go anywhere mid-ship.)
We took our bags up to Mermaids (Lido Buffet) and there we encountered just about the only line during the entire cruise (except for the last sea day, where again, the buffet was a little busy.) For the rest of the cruise, the Lido Buffet was fine. Breakfast was the same each day, but enough variety that you can enjoy yourself. Alsoseeing as how we ate room service a few days, dining room breakfast another day... its plenty of variety. Also, some of the best scrambled eggs I've had. (And I'm hard to please.)
Our cabin was ready a little before 1:30pm, and lordy what a cabin it was. Cabin 8237, a 9A cabin. It was by far in the best location on the ship. Steps away from Mermaids, right next to the elevators (leading to the dining room directly below), adult pool right by. Simply fantastic. Hardwood floor entry, three chairs and a table on the balcony. Bathroom regular size, but all granite countertops and shower made it feel really nice, despite the normal size and no tub. (Do people really use a whirlpool tub on a cruise?)
A large group (WorldPac) took up the entire second seatingso we had early seating. It turned out to be quite the nice surprise. Our table for 8 only had us, and one other couple. We (two guys) got along swimmingly with them (two guys) right away. We all compared notes about our entrees and days in port, etc. Great fun meeting strangers. Carnival magically seats like-minded people together!
The first two days at sea were wonderful. We explored the whole ship, which was beautiful. Didn't win the Spa raffle, didn't win the jewels raffle, didn't win the art raffle, didn't win at bingo, or the slots, or blackjack. I did, however, win the Name That Show-Tune game (getting every single song correct, I might add).
The sunsets on the way down to Puerto Vallarta were breathtaking. (Starboard side). I had brought a little pair of mini-speakers for my iPod. Played it quietly on our balcony as we watched the sunset and sipped champagne. We used an album by "Burning Sky"... great ambient native american music. A great soundtrack for this cruise itinerary especially. I don't think we said two words to each other for 30 minutes listening to the music and watching the sky turn fire-colored and sun dive into the sea... Great memory.
First Port: Puerto Vallarta. We got off the ship after the crowd around 10:00am ship time. Faced the gauntlet of photographers putting birds on your shoulder and posing with people in "native" outfits. Walked to the Krystal Resort using the cobblestone street directions found on the board here. The guard let us in no questions asked. Got a great deal on massages we had booked in advance. They gave us a choice of inside or outsidewe opted for the massages in the bambo-covered tent on the beach. It was bliss. The construction was in the background, not bothersome. The sound of waves and clinking glasses at the nearby restaurant... Just bliss. The breeze and weather, just perfect. Had a cold beer at the bar after our massages, then head back for the ship to freshsen up for our evening excursion.
That night we did Rhythms of the Night. It was, in short, the best shore excursion and most beautiful, romantic setting I could describe. The boat ride over (45 mins) was pleasant the crew great drinks tasty, and music and view appropriate (even saw a whale jump). The show was... not quite Cirque Du Soleil.. but impressive for an outdoor show during the daytime. As we left the theater, the sun was setting... and all of the candles and torches were lit. It was incredible. (The food was delicious too! Great fish, tortillas, chicken, salads, veggies, on and on. And Desert yummy too!) I run out of adjectives describing how pretty it was. We were sad we didn't have more time on the island to enjoy walking around and listening to the drums and crickets. On the boat ride back, the crew broke out the shots of tequila to soothe full stomachs (so they say)and honestly did a great job of keeping the mood up. We gave them a good tip on the way off the boat very much deserved.
Second Port: Mazatlan: Dense fog moved in, delaying our arrival. We decided to stay on the boat and have a Spa and Gamble day. It had been a long day prior, and we just relaxed. I headed off to the spa. I got another massage (A aromatherapy hot stone massage... ohh so great.) Then enjoyed the steam room, the sauna, the jacuzzi, and the spa shower with 5 shower-heads. I returned to the stateroom, read more of my bookand drank wine, drank wine through dinner, drank wine after dinner.... ... and to bed early. We woke up the next day in Cabo invigorated and well rested.
Last Port: Cabo San Lucas: Booked a whale watching excursion through the Pez Gato. Oh my! What another wonderful time. We wandered around the port for a little while, then hopped on the boat. Relaxing music, perfect weather. The crew was, again, fantastic. As we sailed around the Arch and Lovers Beach we couldn't help but feel like we were in some romantic movie. Just spectacularly relaxing, and yet thrilling, what with the whales. It was like a race once all the boats would see a whale. Saw lots and lots, some jumping, most just taking a breath or two and going back down. Thank god for sunscreenI even got burned even though I reapplied spf30 every 30 minutes... strong sun.
Last Sea Day: I had rehearsal for Carnival Legends (see below). The way back, we had fog and the weather got much cooler. We put on comfy clothes sat on the balcony for a while staring into the creepy-mist. Then we rented a movie on the TV and ordered a ton of room service. Drank more wine, and snuggled in the comfy bed. A great day to rest before going back to the real world.
That night, we said goodbye to our dinner table-mates, I sang in Carnival Legends, then had some last rounds of drinks and last pulls of the slot machines.
The next morning, our luggage was gone from our door, we were called by 9:15am, and were off the ship and heading to the airport to battle our way onto a plane heading back to DC. Home in DC, snow had started to falland was starting to blanket our car in the parking lot as we packed our suitcases into the trunk, and headed toward home.
Other highlights: - A woman walked up to the 2cent slot right after I finished playing, and she won the BMW (or $25k).
- I had a lil' tequila shot courage, and auditioned for Carnival Legends when we got back from Rhythms of the Night in Puerto Vallarta... and I ended up being Frank Sinatra! So glad I did it though it was a lot of fun! The crew was great backstage.
- Tea Time on sea days is lovely met great people there again too especially a couple from Minnesota. Twice we got chatting with the gals, and realized it was almost dinnertime!
- Davids Steakhouse. We did it twice it was so good. Escargot to die for.
- Elegant night photos. Somehow, a cruise-ship photographer was able to capture the best picture my partner and I have ever taken together. We bought the package and are sending pictures to our mothers THAT's how good.