First time sailing out of Long Beach and honestly San Diego is still my favorite. We used www.redvans.com for shuttle service from LAX and this not only went smoothly but saved over CCL transfers. Once at the port, it was a fluster of people, but Carnival did a great job funneling people on board. Once allowed to enter the terminal building, we were on board the ship in less than 15 min.
Once on board we set out to explore this ship and compare to the other I have been recently. Although this was my first time on a Spirit Class ship, the layout is somewhat similar to others in the Carnival fleet. The decor was nice and nothing really stood out in a bad way. The ship was very clean as are everyone one of Carnivals I have been on. Muster drill was usual and went well, pretty organized actually. We were always able to find a deck chair, and really didn't notice things too crowded. The ship had several pools and hot tubs, and they were spaced out over the Lido deck. It offered a covered Lido that could be opened or closed as needed. The only draw back was the lack of a real entertainment spot on the lido like some of the other ships have, so if you wanted to hear some Caribbean music, you did have a big space to do it in. The CD on this trip was Mark Price. While he did an acceptable job, we had a hard time hearing him, as he seemed very soft spoken, additionally coupled with poor speakers around the ship made announcements like non-existent. The entertainment was good with the exception of a poor ventriloquist. I wont waste too much time on that, as I'm sure you are bound to get a bad act every now and again. The regular Carnival shows were amazing, and I highly recommend to catch them, and most notably Carnival Legends. The comedians were dang funny. Food lines were not too bad. The layout of the Mermaids restaurant was a bit scattered, which did help to avoid congestion in one area, but made for some trips around to get what you wanted or to make sure you didn't miss anything. We had the late seating dining in Normandy's. The food was okay, and came out cool, not hot at all, but still acceptable. I have seen a downtrend in food quality over the last year, but don't get me wrong its still great food, I really cant say anything too bad. Our waiters were poor, and not talkative. I am used to befriending our waiters over the cruise, but it was evident this was not going to happen here. Big not for Carnival, I think the Maitre D' should evaluate the staff and boot the ones not happy to be there. I think the dining room is where you want your outgoing friendly people. Ours this time was just down to business. We didn't want to make an issue and switch tables, because in the whole scope of things its probably not worth it anyways.
Puerto Vallarta. A great stop, with great weather. We did a snorkel excursion and loved it. Since the ship was staying till 10:00 PM when we got back from the snorkel, we went on board to shower than back off to do some shopping. We had a taxi take us to a shopping spot I think called Old Town? But was a very nice place, lots of fun shops, and lots our tourists, so you feel pretty safe there. We really had fun checking things out, and noticed more shops with unique things and even food, rather than the usual Mexican trinkets you see everywhere else.
Mazatlan. Loved it!! Take the Stone Island tour and you wont be sorry. We went into it thinking Mazatlan would suck, mostly due to the lack of tours, but were we wrong. A short boat ride from the ship and we were at Stone Island. They took us via tractor to a beach area that had a whole host of activities from an Ultra Light ride, to ATV's and other beach stuff. They feed you lunch as part of the tour and also offer either horseback riding or a carriage ride as part of the package. Atv's were extra but cheap, Like $20. There were lots of cabanas and chairs to lounge in, it was truly a relaxing experience. I loved Mazatlan.
Cabo San Lucas. This was my third time there, and still had a lot of fun. Cabo is a place that there are many people selling tours on the pier, so it does offer some choices if you chose to book there. We did a beginner Scuba tour with a company called Amigos Del Mar, and it was loads of fun, and best yet its good for everyone as you don't need to be certified. The pier offers lots of shops and restaurants as well as a few massage places to unwind and relax. the only bad thing about Cabo, due to being a tender port, the ship leaves early as the water tends to get choppy in the afternoon, so it does not leave a bunch of time there.
Debarkation SUCKED! One because our vacation was over..LOL but also because it took forever. We did not get off until around 10:45-11:00 Were were told because all the crew had to exit and do something regarding their passports and visa with CBP. Regardless it was very poor communication, and made for a lousy debarkation.
Overall it was a great cruise. My only complaints were marginal, so really not too bad. Carnival does a great job of getting everyone to have fun, and even with a quiet CD or other minor issues, we still had fun, and still love Carnival. I would sail the Pride again.