We did this cruise as part of a one month long vacation in the USA. We had 8 nights in Honolulu, 4 nights in Hollywood, 7 day cruise and then 10 nights in Anaheim.
My husband and I had done a Caribbean Cruise with Princess 11 years ago and I have done a couple of weekend cruises with some girlfriends in the past couple of years. The cruises on offer in Australia do not compare to the cruises available from the US ports.
This was the first cruise with our children, two boys ages 6yrs & 9yrs.
We arrived at the port at about 1pm which was later than I had hoped but we had driven from our hotel in Hollywood and had a couple of problems getting to the port after dropping of our rental car at the Budget depot in Long Beach.
I asked the staff if they could call us a taxi or point us in the direction of a taxi rank so we could get to the port. They suggested we catch the free passport bus which comes every few minutes and stops just one block away. We walked up to the bus stop with our kids having to pull large rolling suitcases behind them - but as it was just half a block away we managed OK.
After waiting about 20 minutes for the free bus another bus driver informed us that we were waiting in the wrong spot and needed to go one more block and around the corner. We moved along to the correct bus stop and just missed the bus as we were about to cross the road. We waited 10 minutes for the next bus and it was full and we couldn't fit on. I'm really over it now so we crossed the road again and flagged down a taxi. We should have gotten a taxi first and saved ourselves about an hour and the hassle of dragging all of our luggage around with us. Lesson learnt.
When we arrived at the port it was pretty much chaos. There were lines everywhere and no guidance of what to do or where to go. Fortunately I had read enough of Cruise Critic to know that I had to give my luggage to a porter. We joined a very long line to hand over our luggage and the whole time my husband was questioning me as to why I was going to hand our luggage over to a stranger with out any instructions from anyone official looking. When I answered by saying "Cruise Critic told me too" - I thought he was going to have me sanctioned.
Anyway, I held my head up and pretended to be very confident in what I was doing (I wasn't feeling too confident) - and handed over our luggage. In all the kafuffle I forgot to tip the porter. Sorry!
I then followed some other people who had handed over their luggage and hoped they knew what they were doing, and they walked over towards the dome. This was the first time I saw Carnival staff and they were stopping people from taking their luggage over to the dome and instructing them to give their luggage to a porter. This is when my husband got the "See, I told you so look" from me.
We had a Spa cabin so we were directed to check in inside the dome. The inside check in was for suites or spa cabins and the rest was checking in outside. It was a really hot day so I was thankful to be inside. It all moved very slowly and took 2 hours to finally board the ship. The staff seemed overwhelmed with the amount of people which I thought was a bit odd. Don't they do this every Sunday?
We had 2 X 12 packs of soda and 2 X bottles of wine for our family of 4. This was all in my husbands' carry-on which was a small roller bag. Security were pulling up lots of people with alcohol and taking it away. We had our bag checked and they made my husband remove 1 of the bottles of wine and put it in my purse because you are only permitted one bottle each so you had to carry one bottle each, my husband was not permitted to carry my bottle. Now that's just petty. I had a bottle of wine hanging out of my purse! We moved about 5 steps away and put it back in the roller bag. I totally understand rules etc. but that is silly.
It was about 3pm by the time we were on board and we were able to go straight to our stateroom. We had room #1115 on deck 11 - a Spa Balcony room. It was nice and we really liked the location. I had chosen this category mainly for its location and the fact that it was a non-smoking room. We were about 10 steps away from the pool at the bottom of the waterslide and just a hop skip and a jump to the Lido area and Camp Carnival.
We had unlimited access to the Thalassotherary pool and the thermal suites but we only used them once. They were nice if that's your sort of thing - we couldn't find the time to make use of them.
We had our first lunch from the Buffet and the kids had pizza. All good.
We ate our evening meals in the Black Pearl at 8.15pm. We were seated at a table for 8 with another Australian family. We really enjoyed all of our meals there and we had good servers and great dinner company. The Maitre D did a good job and we enjoyed his 'performances' each evening. We went to the Specialty Steakhouse one night and that was a lovely treat too.
Breakfast for us was usually in the buffet, although we had room service on a couple of the port days which helped us get up and out a bit faster.
Lunch varied but was always from the Lido, usually Pizza, burger or the Indian or Deli sandwiches. We found all the food to be of a very high standard.
Our room steward (Iwayan) was very efficient and our room was always spotless. We had 4 of us in the room so it was tight but manageable. The bathroom was bigger than expected and we didn't have any problems with the shower curtain sticking to our legs nor did we flood the bathroom floor.
We asked to have the chair removed and that made a big difference to our floor space. We had a king size bed and the sofa was a bed and there was a pull down bunk from the ceiling. All the beds were comfortable.
John Heald is a great cruise director and we enjoyed all off the shows we attended. We didn't get involved in any of the Lido games or activities - just not our thing. I went to Bingo once - that was entertaining but I didn't win.
I had a lot of luck in the Casino - I'm not a bit gambler but I turned my $50 into $550 playing Black Jack about 5 times over the course of the week. The Casino is quite big and there was never a problem getting a seat at a table. I didn't play the slots.
The Waterslide, Splash Park & Mini Golf were very popular with the boys and both of them loved Camp Carnival. They were in different age groups and both did really cool stuff and made some friends very quickly. My 9 year old particularly enjoyed the late night party - getting back to the cabin at 3.30am!
The Camp Carnival staff are brilliant.
We enjoyed our time in each of the ports but none of them are places I would rush back to. The Mexican people are the deterrent for me - I had too many occasions were they were sneaky and tried to rip me off.
I had booked at private excursion with Go Green Zebra. You drive Tomcars up and down mountains, through mud and stuff. You get really dirty and have lunch at a Mexican ranch. I chose this excursion because I knew the boys would both love it. I had toyed with the idea of Ziplining but I was concerned that my little one might get stage fright and back out when we arrived and that could spoil it for all of us.
Our day didn't quite go to plan. First of all, our room service didn't arrive. We made a couple of calls and they said they'd get back to us but it still didn't come. My husband did the Breakfast Buffet dash and came back to the cabin with a variety of things so we could all have something and start exploring PV.
We grabbed a ride in one of the white van taxi's and he took us to the Church. Our tour did not start until 2pm so we had plenty of time to explore first. My 6 year old was complaining about the heat and saying he didn't feel well. We are used to heat and humidity but I think having spent so much time in air-conditioning or in swimming pools - his little body couldn't cope and he was sick....right there....on the steps of the Church......
The locals were still trying to sell me things while I was trying to comfort and clean up my son.
We got him some iced water (bottled from Starbucks) and walked along the sidewalk near the beach to look at the amazing sand sculptures. Oooops, sick again.
We now realised that our tour could be a disaster with him so I decided to take him back to the ship. There were plenty of Taxi's so for $3 each we went back to the Splendor.
Now, I had organised everything for the whole vacation and it was like one big mystery tour for my husband - he just went along with what I had planned for each day. Before I took my son back to the ship I passed on two "simple" instructions.
This is the address you need to go to for the Go Green Zebra tours. Take a taxi and agree on the fare before you get in - it should be around $10. Pay in small bill denominations or else they will give you Peso's for change.
Here is an envelope with $300 in $20 bills. The total cost for the tour is $280 for the four of us but try to negotiate a little lower if you can because there will only be the 2 of you.
So, this is what happened. Taxi driver agreed on $10. When they arrived at the destination the driver wanted $30. He said that he originally meant $10 each but it was further away than he had expected so he wanted $15 each.
At first my husband thought - yeah sure whatever, $30 would mean a lot more to him than me so I'll just give him the $30. Then he opened his wallet and saw he only had $100 bills so that's what he gave the driver. The driver gave him 200 pesos change. My husband then called me to ask what the exchange rate was (he was clueless) and did this sound right.
Anyway to cut a very long and annoying story short I told him to get the $100 back and give him $40 from the envelope I had given him. He had tried that but the driver wouldn't give the $100 note back. When he got back to the ship that afternoon he handed me his change from the $100. There was the 200 pesos note and then a further 150 pesos in coins. So yes, he was ripped off - he paid about $65 for the taxi fare. By the way, the return taxi fare was $10.
The excursion was really good - he paid $220 and they had a great lunch. They were very dirty and happy when they returned.
I just laughed when I heard the taxi story but it does leave a bit of a bad impression.
I had had a very relaxing day onboard and my little one had perked up after a bit of a rest and a glass full of ice cubes.
This morning our room service breakfast arrived and it was a huge time saver. We had a private excursion booked with Mazatlan Frank and we met him at the terminal a bit after 9am.
This tour was fantastic and the highlight of all 3 ports for me. We had Frank & his air-conditioned van all to ourselves so we would determine how long we wanted to stay in each location for.
We visited the Cathedral, the market and the old town - which was very quaint. We went to an Arts & Crafts store which was also the home of one of Franks friends. There was no obligation at all to buy anything and there was cold water and a clean bathroom to use.
Next we saw the cliff divers and then we went to the Golden Zone and stopped at a Jewellery store and another gift shop that had some beautiful Christmas decorations.
Frank took us for a drive through a gated community El Cid and pointed out where the rich and famous live. LOL.
We had an amazing lunch at Tony's on the Beach. Beautiful seafood, lovely staff and a glorious view. We stayed for a couple of hours (good Margarita's and Tequila shots) and the kids swam as we relaxed. We ate far too much but we just couldn't help ourselves. Lunch was $100 (including about $20 tip) for the four of us including drinks.
We got back to the terminal about 4pm and did a little bit of shopping before boarding the Splendor again. The souvenirs were cheapest in Mazatlan.
Cabo San Lucas
My husband did the Sportsfishing excursion through Carnival and the boys and I did the yellow submarine with Carnival. We had no problem getting ashore with the Tenders. My husband was in the first tender because his tour started at 7am and when I went down at 8.45 am we waited less than 5 minutes. Our tour was from 9.30am for an hour.
Both excursions were very good and I would recommend. My husband caught a good size Mahi Mahi and so did a couple of other people on his tour and one guy even hooked a shark! All catch and release of course.
My husband has fished in many places around the whole and said the crew and the boat were very good. Well worth the money at $175 for 4 hours.
We saw a lot of fish through the windows on the sub and we got a good close up view of the arches and the sea lions.
I took the boys to Medano beach after the sub. We went in a water taxi and only stayed about 2 hours. The beach is beautiful but the hawkers were relentless and in my opinion they ruin a lovely destination. I know you just have to say no thank you but I'm sure I said it to the same people 4 or 5 times. They just keep coming back and stand right in front of you and I was trying to supervise my children swimming in the water and they kept blocking my view. I sat on a lounger at Billygans and ordered food and drink which was all very good but I'm still waiting for my change. I would happily have tipped them but they don't bring your change.
I did buy a couple of little trinket/souvenir type things and on both occasion they tried to swindle me with the change. Do they think we are stupid? Anyway, that was Cabo. I would go back - there's nice beaches like that all over the world.
We really enjoyed our Carnival Cruise and will most likely do another one next time we visit the USA - maybe Alaska next time.