We received a flyer in the mail, advertising continuing education credits available on a 12-day cruise to Hawaii. Thinking this would be a good way for my husband and I to get a vacation in while renewing our clinical laboratory technologist license education requirements - we signed up. It was also an opportunity to have the entire family along so we included our 20 and 22 year old daughters.
The cruise started in Ensenada so we flew to San Diego where Carnival had a bus to take us to the Port of San Diego and then on to Ensenada. Luckily we were there early and had someone pick us up at San Diego Airport. We arrived around 9:30am. Buses weren't going to start running from SAN > the port of SD until 11. There were over a hundred people already waiting. Our friend picked us up and took us to the Port. At the Port, Carnival gave us a 'zone' number and told us to sit until our zone was called ... probably starting around 1pm. So we walked to Seaport village, had lunch and came back. Our zone boarded a bus around 1:30pm. Carnival had lemonade, water and coffee available under the 'tent' while we waited. There were over 50 zones ...
So - zone 2 is called and we board the bus. Carnival provided bottled water for the bus ride. And a security escort over the border. There is no problem crossing the border from the US > Mexico. They were really stacked up crossing from Mexico into the US. This is definitely the route to take. No delay at all. We were in Ensenada by 3:30ish. The cruise ship was there - in a special, fenced in area where no local people can come. Very secure. The bus drove us in there and we could board the ship immediately. There were also shuttles into Ensenada if you wanted to go into town - which we did not. Ensenada is not anything worth risking purses or communicable diseases to visit.
Our rooms were very nice. My husband and I had an extended balcony - large bed, sofa, lots of closet room and the extra space on the balcony was worth the cost. The regular balcony's are pretty small. Our daughters had an inner room, across the elevators from us: 4C. They had two single beds and plenty of storage. The bathrooms were very similar in size. We both got towel animals on our beds each night and fresh ice throughout the day. The room stewards got to know us and they were fantastic. Excellent service and attitude. Friendly yet reserved.
The food - well - since we hadn't been on a cruise in over 25 years, we didn't realize that formal meant formal, not just dressy. While ladies, you might be able to get away with pretty much any dress, my husband was not considered dressed up enough in a nice hawaiian shirt, slacks and dress shoes. He needed a jacket and tie. As such, we could never take part in the formal nights, not dine at the 'extra cost' nice restaurant. The menu in the dining room was good - not too varied but relatively above average. The grill - where we ate breakfast and lunch and many dinners or snacks - was very good. From cheeseburgers to chinese food to sushi to Indian - there was always a good variety. Lots of fruit and salads. More than enough food.
Activities - incredible shows. We did not expect the quality of the dance/music shows. Truly A++++. The comedians - not so good. One comedian continually made fun of the older people and different ethnic groups. I was surprised this was allowed given the 'politically correct' era we appear to be in. While some is ok - this guy went over the top - and was really offensive and rude. Definitely not funny. Bingo, horse racing, crafts - there was always something to do.
Caveat - 85% of this cruise was over 75 years old. My husband and I are 52/54. I have to be honest - I would have liked to been with more of my own age group. Many of the passengers needed help getting around and were very overweight. As such, there was virtually no participation in 'active' activities - which meant were did a lot of stuff alone. Part of the fun of a cruise is having people share activities ... there was no one dancing - salsa or otherwise, no one doing aerobics .. maybe 10 of us walked the walking deck around the top of the ship - which was fantastic, by the way. I guess the good thing was that any port activities that involved anything more than riding a bus had plenty of openings. There were many 5 families with children under 10. A few had teenagers. This was one of the 'negatives' with cruising ... it is a very inactive vacation. At the airport I spoke with a couple who were going on a Disney cruise. That would definitely be a younger cruising population so pick your cruises carefully!
All in all - I don't care for the restrictions of cruising. I want more time in port to see the area and experience the people, tours, etc. Having 6 hours to see an area that could easily take a full week - is not my idea of leisurely vacation. Tendering in was a real hassle. Waiting for embarking and disembarking - it's like being at an airport for hours and hours. Too much time was wasted standing in lines or waiting. We'll pass on any future cruises for the next 20 years - then maybe we'll try again. It's the ideal vacation for people who are limited as far as mobility or only want to shopping at different stores around the world. It you actually want to see the area, cruising is not the way to go.
Feel free to contact me for any questions you have. It was definitely a positive experience and I'm glad we did it.