Well we made it down to the port at 1230. Drove in and hailed a porter to take the 5 bags we were checking along with $10 and headed over to the entrance and waited in line for security. No problems there and they were letting people through that had open containers of water. Our 2 bottles of champagne were not even questioned in one bag. Walked into the next corral and received our flu survey. The check in line had only us in it and went very quickly. The ship wasn't due in until 3 and boarding wouldn't start until 4ish. They gave us a secure place to drop our carry-on’s and then carnival provided a bus to Sea Port Village since the ship was late. We came back around 3:15 and they had just finished calling zone 1 and since we were in zone 2, we had no wait in the terminal. We picked up our bags and headed to the line for the pictures
Our room was ready so we unpacked what we had, found our room steward for ice for the champagne and then hung out over the balcony looking for our friends. They came to the port later and it took them over 3 hours to get from start to finish. 2 hours in the tent waiting for pictures. So of course I took pictures of these little people on the ground and then headed out to see what the ship looked like and what I could get out of the way early. We bought the premium wine package and then set out for the dining room to wait for everyone to show up. It was a free for all dining experience and the entire dining staff looked very tired and rushed. Turns out they were new to the Mex. Riv. and some were unfamiliar with the ship. That is what they told us but it seemed like the ship wouldn't change architecturally inside and the crew came with the ship from Ensenada/Hawaii. Anyway, the food in the empress dining room was okay, not spectacular, and it was warm at least and you could order as much as you wanted to. The room had the beds pushed together for a king and there was plenty of room under the bed for the luggage. all the valuables went into the safe and hubby used his sail and sign card to close it before I could stop him. The safe and the card worked fine the entire trip.
Our first caper said the life vest drill wouldn't be until 10am the next morning so our big meet and greet at the sports bar was shot. Then the drill announcement didn't take place as scheduled so we wandered down to the bar anyway and horrors, there was no one manning the bar and the TV’s were not on. The bar doesn't open until 11 or 12, depending on who you asked.
The second day was not very good and the staff looked beat up. We continued on to the back of the ship to meet everyone since someone told us there was football on the aft deck. They were serving Monkey Heads that morning so I had 3. (What a pain to pack) We were all wearing jerseys as prearranged on the boards so people would recognize us. It also brought in some raider fans and a few jet fans. It was pretty cool and the bartenders didn't charge extra for going over the drink coupons. Each bartender has their own way of doing things so ask and be pleasantly surprised if they work with you. BTW, the decks are slippery so you have to be a bit careful. Our dinner that night was with our permanent waiter who happened to also be the supervisor. He was pretty rushed and the food was so-so but it didn't matter, we had a good time with our friends. On formal night I saw most people dressed up. The guys at our table had suits except of one. It was very nice seeing everyone dressed up. There are plenty of areas on the second and third floor before the dining room that pictures can be taken. I recommend doing that before hand as food has a way of dropping on ties and of course the makeup never looks as good 3 hours later.
I didn't think the dining area was cold but I did see women with shaws wrapped around them as if they were at the north pole. At the formal dinner we ordered 2 plates of lobsters as they are very small and they come with shrimp. You can order as much as you want but you need to do it at the time everything else is ordered. Again, the food was okay and the waiter very funny. He stayed and yakked with us up to 7:50 each night. They danced and sang, even dragging up the diners to join in. The table next to us were obviously part of a large party and they had someone show up with a muscle shirt on and he was not asked to leave. It was disgusting to see arm pit hair and someone looking like they had just crawled out of bed. (this wasn't formal night) He was served but that was the last night we saw that party show up. We don't know if someone said something to them about being dressed appropriately or not. The non-formal night had a variety of clothing such as shorts, sandals, t-shirts, pants, etc... other than the guy mentioned above, everyone dressed appropriate. There was someone going from table to table taking drink orders so you weren't stuck with the ice tea or water. There also was anytime dining available. You can also ask for the same booth if you want. I never saw a line for that dining option. Of course you miss out of the fun with a group but you are done sooner and if you don't like your table mates you can always do this option.
We did the supper club for our anniversary and it was very good. They bring out the selection of meats and explain each one. They did give us two appetizers each but I forgot to ask about the main entree being doubled. Sorry. We had the porter house and of course had to eat the entire thing. They brought our wine, poured the initial glass and then we did the rest. The place was not crowded when we finished at 8, and later on when we walked by, there was still plenty of spots available. They did turn people away that were not dressed correctly.
There were lots of activities for people to do. Everything is listed in the capers with the time it starts. This rips out for easy references and I would recommend a highlighter to make things easier.
We walked the ship and talked to others and just people watched. opened our wine and took the bottle and glasses with us to our spot on deck 11. It was great during the light rain we had one night and of course when we hit patricia, they blocked everything off, including the doors leading outside on the decks. They forgot to do that on the doors at the front and we were walking the deck and then started to see that all the doors now had caution tape across them. Even though I had my camera it was too dark to take pictures.
Anyway that was the prelude to Patricia. As we came into the storm more people started to feel the effects. Our waiter offered us free medicine and offered apples in case we needed them. So after dinner we thought about the great pictures we could get and went down to get the camera. When we came back up, the outside was roped off and there were employees stationed at some of the doors so we settled for our balcony room and enjoyed the rain and wind from there. They had the barf bags at the elevators and in the bathrooms. That night it got so bad that when the ship slammed down into the water it was actually throwing some people up into the air. One friend fell out of bed. Even though the rocking didn't bother us at the front of the ship, I did feel sorry for the ones who got sick. Most were back up and moving the next morning.
We did the shops, bought some of those 19.99 watches for presents and a few other trinkets. We went to the drawings and of course never won anything. The bad thing about the drawings is it was usually held during one of the other things we were doing. One person would head to the drawing and the other stay put. Tony bought me a necklace that was an extremely good price and quality. I do recommend that you know your prices before purchasing anything.
The art auction took up too much time. I found out that I could have just given her my bid and left but I wanted to wait it out. If you do the auction they have a surprise item that no one is suppose to know about. Yeah, okay. All the sales people on the floor will tell you if you ask so ask them, not the auctioneer, he won't. You do have to stay for those to be auctioned so you can bid on them. Go ahead and get a bid number. You get a free picture if you go back to the room before the auction is over.
There was the BC cancer walk on Saturday at 2. A ten dollar donation at the formal wear gave you the entry with a t-shirt and bracelet. Great cause if your ship offers you the opportunity for it.
The ship is very clean and very long. There are lots of places to sit and chat with friends and opportunities to people watch. Everywhere we went, day or night and early morning, they were cleaning, wiping down things. The bathrooms have tissues on the door so you can use them to open the door and then a small trashcan to dispose of them. The hand drier is great. Just watch your skin ripple across as the wind hits it.
The sushi bar is opened between 5pm and 8pm. The lines were long and there is an area that you can sit and eat and visit. A ship that big and it never seemed like it was crowded except at the casino.
I brewed my own tea, forgot about the Arnold Palmer mixture, and became a customer of the coffee shop. It was a great way to stop drinking so much coffee when I had to purchase it.
Anyone eating on the lido deck has to remember that there is a back part that has the fruit, cereal, etc.. We rarely went that way except on the way to the aft bar so for ½ the cruise we missed it. The servers there were funny and if you had a bucket of beer they would replace the ice before you had a chance to blink.
If you are booking shore excursions, go there when they first open. The hours are short and the lines can be quite long or, book from the TV. The behind the scene tours can only be booked at the excursion desk. There were only a few tours and they were limited to 16 people.
Make sure you have small bills if you are going into town. Go to guest services to exchange 20's for ones and fives. I did take a bundle of ones and fives with me for tipping and for any small purchases in town. That was a very good idea someone posted. However, we ran out and had to get some more. Small bills is especially helpful if you don’t want to figure out the conversion rate.
The bar by the photo sales had a country western singer who did a lot of Johnny Cash and was quite entertaining. People did their line dancing and other types of dancing and made a relaxing atmosphere for people to spend more money on photos.
We spent a little time in the casino during the day and in the evening. Tony hit a royal flush and it took the women on each side of him to clue him in. Tequilla helped him win but it sure didn't help him focus. I came over and cashed him out to the card and then we headed off. The next day the money did not show up when he wanted to get some of the credits and we had to get the manager to figure out what happened. So make sure you check that your winnings are there on your card. We did cash it our and went to guest services and placed the winnings on our sail and sign account. They couldn't do it automatically because it is two different systems.
Room service was disappointing in the morning. 3 times we did not get our order and did not complain to anyone but the person in room service that answered the call. We just figured we'd eat on the Lido deck instead. Well one night the matre'd stopped by our table and asked for the people in room 7128. We looked at each other and were like, what did we do now. He wanted to talk to us about our experience. He didn't want it to ruin our cruise. I assured him no one could ruin our cruise but ourselves and thanked him for stopping by. That night we had a bottle of champagne in our room without a note. Turned out it was from him.
We did the ship tour "Behind the Fun" on Saturday morning. It was 4 hours long and interesting for the most part. It was not advertised so you had to learn about it via this board or conversation with others. We received the pictures, lanyards, desert plate with strawberries and something else, a bag that had a hat, picture book, and wrist band. We found an officer on the bridge that showed us the storm "rick" and explained how they avoided these storms as much as possible. Later I requested a meeting with the ship’s Environmental Officer as I work in environmental in San Diego and find other’s approaches interesting. I had to keep Tony’s’ hand behind his back because he was looking for the horn. It is a lot of walking and standing so be prepared. When we hit the beverage fridge we asked for samples but that was a big negative. We did notice they had a Kendal Jackson reserve that was not offered on the premium wine package but had been displayed when we bought it. That night we asked our waiter for that wine and he went to the matre'd and received permission to get us a bottle. He came back with it and told us it had been especially approved for us. An excellent end to our empress dining experience.
If you shop at the galleria in Alcapulco right off the ship, they will come down in price. We bought a metal sculpture at 60 percent off of what they were asking. A comparable one here would have been the original price they were asking so we were happy with that. Of course to mail it would have been 200 dollars if you weren't able to carry it back with you. There were price differences on items of a few dollars for magnets and little items like that. If you have a problem with any of the port recommended purchases, you have to pay the postage back. Be careful of what you purchase.
We used many of the ideas from this board and it was great. I think the bungee cord for the door was great and the blowup pool for someone’s 2yr old. (I gave it to one of our posters here) Note on the bungee cord: If you have the door open and then open the door to the hallway, it creates a tremendous wind tunnel and blows everything off the tables. The big question: Would we do carnival again? Absolutely. We create our own fun and enjoyment. Next we might try a back to back.