For this trip we booked an inside cabin (V40) on the Veranda deck near the front of the ship on deck 11 for our 4th 3-day cruise to Ensenada. We booked the cruise online through the Carnival web site. This trip was booked a few months out and we got the Early Saver Rate. The rate dropped twice and we filled out the online form and ended up with a $100 onboard credit. It pays to check the rates frequently.
The port of San Diego allows embarkation starting at 12:30. We arrived at 3:00 there was a small line for security but moved very quickly. As a whole the embarkation for us was super easy and Carnival had it well organized. We were on the ship and to our room in less than 20 -25 minutes of arrival at the terminal. Our room was ready when we arrived. It was nice and clean with newer looking carpet. As with all Carnival ships there is lots of storage space, drawers, shelves, 2 closets with lots of hangers and robes. There is a vanity with 1 electrical outlet. Our room has all still the original "Carnival Orange" colored furnishings. You can tell this ship has not gone through the complete "Evolutions of Fun" upgrades yet. Liquid soap & shampoo fill dispensers in the shower and some sample toiletries are on the counter. The medicine cabinet has enough room to store all of your toiletries. Our room stewardess kept the ice bucket full without asking and also brought a second bucket for our wine and champagne bottle (very nice touch!!!) Sodas and water are provided in the room, but charged to your S&S card if used (about $2.50 for sodas & $4 for water). I thought the bed was better than other ships we have been on. It also had 4 nice, soft "faux down" pillows and a nice fluffy duvet. The air conditioning was adjustable and our room was nice a cool at night. Our luggage arrived within an hour. There is an in room safe can be accessed with a credit card (use the same credit card each time) free of charge.
You receive "deck plans" at embarkation. The top deck has a padded jogging track, a miniature golf course, and an observation area. Most of the clubs are on the Promenade deck and were busy but nerver crowded. Tax free shopping is on the Atlantic deck. Prices on some items were considerably less than on land. There are basketball and volleyball courts aft. There are also ping-pong tables and a large chess game (floor based). The casino is average but has very friendly dealers and casino staff. They now use your room key as a points tracker and makes it easy to cash out from game to game.
We brought several bottles of wine and put them in our luggage. We have never have had problems with them in our luggage. Bring a cork screw!!! However, room service will provide a very basic cork screw if you ask. The bars will charge you a $10 corkage fee. However we found a nice bartender who let me borrow hers for a minute. Drinks on ship range from about $5.50 to $7.50 plus 15% gratuity.
We chose the early seating for dinner and were assigned the Imagination dining room (can be found on your S&S card). We were travelling with another couple and were assigned a table for 4. We were happy about that because we have done the larger format table and we hoping for a little more intimate seating. Service in the dining room was spot on. The flat iron steak was decent (a good standby item), the prime rib was good but fatty, the Lobster was great!!!! The baked potatoes were standard, the veggies were very tasty as was the mac n cheese. We did have the hare a chocolate melting cake which was great, but very rich. Formal night was on Saturday in the main dining rooms. Passenger attire ranged from casual to dressy, but only 1 - 2 penguins in tuxs. The captain and higher ranking crew members were available on one of the decks that nite to meet passengers. I'm not sure what is meant by "Captain's Party" as we couldn't find any "party." But we asked the cruise director where they could be found and she introduced us to the captain and crew.
Tiffany's is a buffet style restaurant on the Lido deck. The food was decent and actually better than the buffets on Princess. The Pizzeria is in the back part of Tiffany's. The pizza is freshly made and is always good. They also have a sandwich station that makes Panini sammys as well. This is very good. If you area also looking for Lox and bagels, this is where they hide them. Back here you can also find the 24 hour ice-cream. Pool side is the Mongolian Barbeque for lunch (this was excellent!!!!), there is also a Rotisserie chicken counter with tasty chicken. We enjoyed the hypnotist and the comedian shows in the Mikado Theater. We didn't arrive early for any of these, but were still able to get seats with unobstructed views (there are a lot of poles throughout the theater). The comedian did a late night show the 2nd night in the Cole Porter lounge aft that was excellent.
Ensenada is well...Ensenada...not very exciting. Shore excursions were very limited in selection (both online and on the ship). We decided to just walk into town and did the shopping district. Shop owners were very eager for our business and we were able to negotiate some prices. There are several bars and restaurants on the same street. We went to Papas and Beer first to watch the Packers Game. They had a deal for $20 you get a bucket of beer, nachos & fries. You must pass thru a security screening to embark; x-ray for packages and a metal detector, and show S&S card and ID.
Photos...they do a lot of picture taking onboard. We did almost every setting. There is no obligation to buy the pictures. The photographers are great and do an excellent job. We ended up buying about 10+ pictures...beware they are not cheap.. up to $21 each. It's still cheaper than going to a studio, paying for a sitting fee and then buying a package. They also sell great stickers and scrapbooking supplies that are custom to Carnival.
Debarkation was also easy for us due to our cabin category. Tags with debarkation numbers were delivered to our room on the last night of the cruise. We decided to carry off our luggage. We were in the 6th group to debark after Immigration finally located the few stragglers required to check in with them. You are given a form to fill out for customs the last night of the cruise to declare any purchases ($800 duty free per person). We handed it to a customs agent on the way off the ship. He read it quickly and we were not stopped or questioned about our purchases, nor was any luggage checked.
Overall, we enjoyed the cruise. Some reviews I read had me convinced that we would be hounded by crew members to purchase anything and everything. We didn't feel that any of the crew members were pushy with services or drinks, tho we were approached for drinks several times on deck. A simple "no thank you" worked. Every crew member we encountered was friendly and helpful. We were not sure if we would like this trip as we just did the Sapphire Princess in Feb and had a Mini-Suite with a large balcony. I have to say, Carnival does a better job appealing to the masses. Is it luxury...no.... is it quality... yes and is definitely FUN!!!! We are planning our next trip on Carnival...gonna go 7 days on the Liberty in June.