We were four couples, family and friends, who all booked the cruise through Best Price Cruises, which worked very well. Great prices and very nice extras. We consisted of a Gold Crown & Anchor couple (3 cruises), a couple with two prior cruises but none with RCI, one first timer couple, and myself and my wife, Platinum Crown & Anchor members (6 cruises, all with RCI). Most of us arrived in LA the morning of the cruise from SLC, and the first timers from Alb, NMex. One couple went to LA the day before. I normally always insist on never traveling on the day a cruise leaves, but we were so close and lots of flights available, so 3 of the 4 took the chance. But it is always a risk, and my general recommendation is always get there at least one day before, and more if you'd like to explore the port city.
EMBARKATION: In a word, easy, as has been my experience with RCI. We got to the pier about 10:30 and got checked in a couple minutes, but no one could board until about 11:30. There was a separate waiting area for Platinum & Diamond C&A but we chose to stay with our friends. Could not even go into the passage ways to the cabin area until 1 PM, so spent some time in the Windjammer with an early lunch and then just exploring the ship.
CABIN: Can't recall the exact category but we had a deluxe outside cabin w/balcony. Which for us was a departure from normal. I usually just get an inside cabin, as I'm only there for sleeping and changing clothes, but our travel agent got us a great deal and only end up costing less than $100 ea to upgrade from inside to the balcony. Would have like to open the connection between the two cabins on the balcony, where Barb's brother and wife were, but steward supervisor said couldn't be done. Didn't really use the balcony that much, which supports my normal idea of just getting a less expensive cabin, unless you're doing a Panama Canal or Alaska trip or one with lots of scenery. Cabin steward, Bobbie, did the usual excellent job, beds very comfortable, clean room, pretty much what we have come to expect from RCI. No complaints here at all.
ENTERTAINMENT: Staff was excellent. Didn't go to many of the shows, but the Love & Marriage show was great as always (Like The Newlywed Game), and one late night show with Two Funny Guys was excellent. The triva games were varied and lots of fun, lounge singers were likewise excellent. Ice Show was good if you like ice shows, which isn't my cup of tea, but did have some great skaers and some excellent parts.
DINING: We chose My Time dining, and I will tell you, that worked great!! You can basically go to ear dinner anytime between 5:45 and around 9:00 PM. You can make a reservation for the same time each night and get the same table, or just show up whenever it is convenient each time. A great addition to the RCI cruises!! One thing, you are required to pay the gratuities in advance or put them on your SeaPass when you select that option, and there are only so many slots for that option, so decide quickly when you plan the cruise. Food was as usual, very good, nice choices, great wait staff, no real complaints. One night one of the steaks wasn't quite up to par. BAM, replaced and taken care of immediately, as you'd expect.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS: We also ate one night in Portofino's. I have eaten there before and loved it and this time was no exception. Well worth the $20 add on fee. A word of advice, you can book reservations on line in advance for both specialty restaurants on RCI. Do it!! Not absolutely necessary, but helps especially if you have a larger than 6 party. Didn't visit Chopps Grill but in the main dining room there is a choice every night of a filet you can get from Chopps, for $14.95. I had that one night, and it was a great steak. We also ate one night at Johnny Rockets, the 50 style diner. A $4.95 cover charge covers the food, but not drinks, but you can use your drink card if you bought one. Pretty much what you'd expect, burgers, shakes, fries, rings. Good, but not something to write home about. Did do some dancing in the aisles with the waiters, so it was a fun night. Ate many snakes at the Cafe Promenade, where you can get pizza, all kinds of desserts and pastries, and Penni's, and it is right next to Ben & Jerry's and Seattle's Best Coffee, which are both extra pay items, but not too expensive. Ordered room service breakfast one day. Arrived on time, and hot, but not as ordered, but I didn't make any noise about it.
WEATHER: This was a big disappointment on this cruise. Had a total of 3 sea days, and all but part of the first one when we left LA were overcast and one on the way back was down right unpleasant, temp only around 58 or so and strong winds. So spent very little time laying in the sun by the pool. Did use the hot tubs in the Solarium, which is a great spot, adults only. Weather is always a crap shoot but didn't expect this in June in this area. So everyone stayed inside a lot and played all the trivia games, watched World Cup Soccer and NBA finals games. Plus lots of consumption of beverages, of course. Also this was the first time I had felt much motion from the ship at all. Going back north, the current and wind both were cutting across the ship and there was a bit of rocking for two days straight getting back to LA. After a while, a little uncomfortable, but not terrible. Crew said this was normal around this time of year.
PORTS: Actually we had some decent weather in all three ports, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. We didn't sign up for any excursions on board. Did mostly what the ship tells you not to do, and used vendors from the pier area, but turned out real well. Took a small "glass bottom" boat out to a place I think is called Lands End in Cabo, in seas that were about 9-10 ft. Sounds scary but was actually kind of fun. Saw sea lions and great scenery for about $7 ea. Went to a resort in Mazatlan and spent time on the beach. One problem, vendors. Wow, in your face every 2 minutes with the same 9 or 10 items. One lady did the para sailing for $40, which she said was great. Took off and landed on the beach. Took a local open air cab back to the ship and the driver, who again turned out to be a great guy, gave us a tour and took us to some great places for photos, and made the day turn out to be fun, despite the less than great time on the beach. In Puerto, we took one of the many vendors all offering the same thing, a tour around the city. After rejecting many, found one guy who seemed a little different, not too pushy, and clean cut. Again we had a great time. Bargined the price from $25 ea down to $15 ea. Took us all over, to a tequila factory, some up scale homes, even to a out of the way, beautiful cafe near a spot where a zip line tour ends. Said he's pay if we didn't like the food. No problem. Waiter brought out a huge tarantula about half way through lunch. One of the ladies held it and then he wanted to put it on her head. She was rather scared, but agreed, and I got a great photo. It was obviously very tame and docile, but still a big spider!!
DISEMBARCATION: The usual colored tag routine, with various waiting spots, but very orderly and very quick. No hassle finding your bags once you left, and you could have chosen the option to keep your bags with you not putting them in the hallway the night before, and be among the first to depart the ship. Also Platinum and Diamond C&A had their own departure lounge, complete with food, and also got to be among the first to leave. We all just waited til all our colors had been called, then strolled off, taking less than about 15 minutes tops to get outside to the curb and transportation.
OVERALL THOUGHTS: I am obviously a loyal RCI cruiser, and while this wasn't a great cruise, due to the weather and conditions no one can control, we still had a great time. Hard to not have a good time on most any cruise. I had been to Mexico many times, but never to the Pacific side, so thought this would be a good addition. Now that I have, probably wouldn't go again, especially since RCI is leaving this itinerary starting next Jan. But if you've never been to these cities, it is a fun time, and the prices were very good.