This was the first cruise for both my husband and I. We booked an Early Saver fare through the Carnival website. We were on the Riviera deck, we booked at an inside cabin rate, but we were able to choose a cabin in the category at that rate near the bow/starboard side that actually featured two porthole windows. We enjoyed these very much and got some great pictures through the portholes, some of them using the portholes to "frame" the picture.
Thanks to reading posts on Cruise Critic we arrived at the port about 11 a.m. and we were able to use the early check-in on the Queen Mary and we were given "zone 1" for boarding and told where to go outside the dome to wait to be called for boarding. Boarding started about 11:30, with the VIP members being called first to board, then zone 1. We were about the 10th person to board! We had our picture taken and were on board and eating lunch in the Paris restaurant by 12 noon! It was great getting on board so early and having the ship almost to ourselves for a short time. We ate lunch and then left to explore the ship a bit. About 1:30 we went down to find our cabin and our luggage was already there waiting for us!
At 3:30 we went to the Normandie Lounge for the Travel Adventure and Shopping talk with the cruise director Jeff and the Shopping Specialist Lise. We got some good information from this talk and right after it we coincidentally had our lifeboat drill in the same lounge. Immediately after the drill we stayed on deck to watch the ship pull away from the dock, watching them casting off the lines etc.
Next we went to our cabin and changed for dinner. We had the "anytime dining" and we enjoyed being able to go to the dining room any time we were ready, instead of an assigned time, any time between 5:45 to 9:30 p.m. We were assigned to the Elation dining room and it seemed that the "any time dining" people we always seated in a certain section of the dining room. This made it nice since as the days went on we ran into people that we had sat with on previous nights. Unfortunately our service the first night was terrible, but we chalked it up to our waiter having a bad night. The service was much better on subsequent nights and in fact on the last night we had the same waiter and he was great that night. Most nights we agreed to share a table (your choice each night whether you wanted a "private" table or share a table with another couple). We found that even on the night we chose to have a "private" table we ended up talking to the couple at the next table over. We enjoyed meeting different people each night and chatting with them.
The next morning we awoke and we were at Catalina Island. After breakfast at the Paris buffet we went down and got on the tender boat to go to shore. I was a little worried since I have a tendency to get carsick, and so worried that I might get sick on the ship. However, I took Meclizine and never felt sick during the whole time, even on the cloudy, choppy day going to shore on the tender boat. We chose the "City Passport" tour and enjoyed it very much. It lasted 50 minutes and took you through the city and up into the hills. We got some great pictures of Avalon and also of the ship! About 2 o'clock we went back on the ship and had a late lunch on board in the Paris dining room.
This was formal night and we enjoyed getting a little dressed up and having our picture taken. After a late dinner (about 8 pm) we went to the show "X-treme Country" in the Normandie theatre. It was very enjoyable.
The next morning we were in Ensenada and we walked off the ship and caught a shuttle bus ($3 roundtrip). The people running the shuttle were offering a excursion to La Bufadora for only $15 so we bought tickets at their office where the shuttle dropped us off. We only had about a 10 min wait for the trip to start. They were offering the same trip on board the ship, but they were charging $25.95, so we were happy to be saving some $$. Our guide told us when we got to La Bufadora to follow him through the shopping area, without stopping to shop, to do our shopping on our return back to the bus. La Bufadora was awesome and the views were great from there too. They have a restroom down there, they charge 50 cents to use it, but it was nice and clean. On the return back to the bus there are shops on both sides and they are somewhat aggressive, but a firm no and keeping walking takes care of that. We did do some shopping, bargaining them down to what we felt were reasonable prices. We had about an hour and a half there, then they took us back to Ensenada. (It was about a 45 min drive each way.) We walked a couple of blocks downtown, checking out the shops, then returned to the shuttle and back to the ship.
We had dinner in the dining room again that night and afterwards enjoyed a comedy show in the Normandie showroom. Both comedians were very good.
The next day was our "day at sea". The seas were a little rough in the morning and you could feel it in our room near the front of the bow, but when we went above deck it was the same there. A few people were feeling sick that morning, but by noon or so it had settled down. It was sunny and warmer that day and a lot of people were sunning and using the pool. Unfortunately that was our last day and we packed and put our bags outside our door about 10 pm that night. The next morning they called the self-embarkation at 8:10, which they said was unusually late, but then they called the first half of the zones (1-15) at 8:40 and the rest (16-25) at 9:20. The disembarkation went smoothly and by 10:00 am we were in our car on our way home.
All in all it was a great cruise, we felt the crew was very friendly and eager to please. We are already planning our next cruise!!