Us: Husband and Myself (3 previous cruises on a different line) and both sets of parents (all first time cruisers).
Pre-Cruise: Stayed at the Holiday Inn right across from the San Diego Cruise Ship Terminal. Rooms were nice (however, the rooms had Double Beds rather than Queen size), bathrooms appear to have been upgraded. The Elephant and Castle Restaurant in the lobby was fun for dinner, but way overpriced for breakfast. Location was perfect...we just walked across the street, and were ready for embarkation! We parked our vehicle at the hotel with a package that included room and parking.
Embarkation: Left for the ship around 11:30 a.m. With two ships in port, was not sure how busy things would be. It was very smooth and quick. I could hardly keep up with the line. (Not that I am slow, but it just really kept moving!) We were on the ship in less than 30 minutes! Went up to Lido deck and enjoyed eating and relaxing in the sun! The Mongollian Grill is fabulous and worth the wait! Also, visited the self-serve ice cream machine! Rooms were ready at 1:00 p.m. and our luggage had already arrived! Rooms: We all had inside cabins. The size was just fine. The orange color is a bit much at first entry, but by the end of the week, did not even notice it anymore. The bathroom was larger than on previous ships. Our room steward greeted us warmly and our room was always clean and tidy. We did not notice any noise from the hallway or above deck.
Safety (Muster) Drill: Our meeting area was a club that was not even close to accommodating the number of people in our station. The staff in our area (understandably) were frustrated with the lack of cooperation of many people, and let it be known! After trying to hear what was being said for about 20 minutes, we all climbed a narrow staircase that led to the Lido Deck (the life boat loading deck) and where to stand in our assigned area. This was very congested, and in the event of an actual emergency, I have my doubts as to how it would work out! We had already started to sail prior to the conclusion of the drill, so we went to the rear of the ship. Sail-away was magnificent and beautiful. The San Diego skyline is gorgeous at dusk!
Dinner: We had the late dining in the Inspiration Dining Room. The food varied between fine to excellent. Our head waiter had one more cruise until his contact was expired, and though he was professional, it was clear he was ready to be home. I can't imagine being away from my family for such a long length of time, so it was hard to not feel for him. However, the waiter and assistant waiter at our adjacent tables was very entertaining, and often interacted with out table. The one negative comment I would make is the photographer that would come to our table every night was very curt and impatient with my father-in-law, who is hard of hearing and could not understand him.
Catalina Island: The day started out with a light mist, making the island look incredible! Due to the cooler and wet weather, getting aboard a tender was no problem. We rented a six-person golf cart and toured the island. Due to a minor mishap with the ocean, my husband got a souvenir (tennis shoes) at a cute store named "Buoys and Gulls"! The view of the ocean from behind the casino (huge round building that you can't miss) is very nice. There is a stairway leading into the water that is used for divers that is a great picture opportunity. In the event of a mishap, you will pass by "Buoys and Gulls" on the way back to the pier! The weather had cleared up considerably by this time, and everyone was heading off the ship, so the tender ride back was quick and easy. We enjoyed the pool, water slide and late afternoon sun to finish up the day.
Ensenada: This was not our first time to Ensenada, but we had never been to the blow hole (La Bufadora). We took a tour bus out that was advertised on the $2 shuttle into town. It turned out to be one of the best shore excursions for the price ($15) that we had been on. The guide, Lily, was absolutely delightful, and made the bus ride so much fun. The blow hole was really shooting the water up high that day! (I guess depending on the tides, some days are not as much of a show.) There is an open-air market along the walk to the blow hole. The vendors are trying to sell their wares (it is a business after all) but are polite if you say "No thank you" and keep walking. However, there are bargains to be had and many fun things to look at. Don't be afraid to stop and shop! Heading back into town, the bus would drop you off downtown for more shopping. However, there is a taco stand that we wanted to go to. When we asked Lily (the guide) how we could best get there, she asked the driver of the bus to drop us off right in front, and then pick us back up in about 45 minutes. We were then delivered back to the ship. The taco stand is "Las Brisas" and the queso tacos con carne are really the best! I cannot recommend them high enough!! You have to try them!
Debarkation: We carried our luggage off ourselves, but waited to debark until they called our tag number so that we could enjoy breakfast and one last snooze in the lounge chairs! We were off the ship by about 9:15 a.m., and on our way home by 9:30 a.m.
Overall Impressions: I was very impressed with Carnival and will cruise with them again. The ship was kept in very good condition and the staff (with the exception of one photographer) was superb! It sounds as though after March, there will not be a Carnival ship based out of San Diego. That is a shame, as it is great port to sail from, and the terminal was easy and quick.