Embarkation: Basically worst ever. However, I expected it as the Spirit was repositioning and I knew this was the first time Carnival had used San Pedro in a long time. The long shoremans union should be ashamed. I actually heard them tell a woman with her mother in a wheel chair, sorry we can't take your bags, you need to push her to the end of the line, oh about two blocks away and drag your bags yourself. I was horrified and demanded they take the womans luggage. Yes, I had already waited in line an hour, but what have we come to if we can't help out people with genuine needs.
First an hour wait to porter your bags, then into the terminal to get a zone ticket, another hour wait for your zone to be called, at least you could sit, and then another hour in line to get your checked-in.
As I said, I expected this, so didn't let it affect my mood which was happy! Maybe the bottle of champagne I split with my husband in line helped. Once onboard, easy to put bags into rooms as it was so late and head to the lido for some lunch.
Cabin: 4124 Inside room, with French Doors that opened to a view of the lifeboat. Liked the room and we could see the water if we laid on the bed. As usual, our Steward was excellent. He was Thai and always attended our needs. Ice twice a day, towel animals daily, towels exchanged as needed. The bed was very firm and this was the first time my husband complained about his back hurting.
Food: For the price we paid for the cruise, the food was fine. Had I paid suite prices, I might be disappointed. Ate at the Lido for breakfast, fresh fruit and yogurt. The chinese station for lunch was hit and miss. Sometimes way too salty. The lunch and dinner buffet food did not look to appetizing.
We had anytime dining. I was impressed with the level of service we received for the most part. If you choose this option, realize that the dining room is still operating on an early/late dinner schedule and you will get the best service if you go at either the start of the early of late seating time. We were always seated immediately, either by ourselves or with others if we requested to share. You can also request to sit in the same servers section if you like the server to learn your preferences and get the personal touch you get at normal seating's.
Food quality in the MDR was hit and miss. Somethings were good and others not up to par. You could always order something else, so we never left hungry. Again, for the value I felt we ate well. If you are expecting gourmet food, choose another cruise line.
Camp Carnival: This was the first cruise where my son did not want to go to any of the activities. I think it had more to do with their not being a lot of kids on the ship and when he went, he had to stay in the 2 - 11 year old group and being 11 he thought he should be with the bigger kids. This was fine as we spent more time together as a family until he made friends with two other boys in the same boat at the pool and they became the three musketeers around the ship.
Ship: The ship does show it's age in places, however the crew was constantly seen cleaning and repairing things. One exception was the mini golf course, there was torn areas everywhere. I expect since she is heading for drydock in January they are ignoring this area.
No problem with chair hogs, we were always able to get a chair around the pools. The pools were nice a warm in Mexico where we needed it. The water slide was even heated when we left port. On the trip back, they made no attempt to heat the water and since they gave us one more sea day, I think they should have sucked up the cost and heated the water.
Ports: There was Hurricane Hillary off the coast of Manazanillo, our first port, so they reversed our itinerary and cut a day out of Cabo. I don't think they needed to cut the second Cabo day as they had plenty of time to make it back to LA. When I asked at guest services, they said they couldn't make it back in time, however I find that laughable as they have this same ship making it back from Cabo to the same port in LA for several sailings in less than 1 1/2 days. Ummm, more time on the ship for us to give Carnival money???
Ensenada: Live in San Diego, so not real excited about this port. Went into town, shopped and then went to the fish market area and ate yummy cheap fish tacos at the little restaurants down there. Walked my son through the fish market. He liked that. Drank as many cheap beers as we could before getting back on the ship. Also had some tequilla to help kill anything we have gotten from the food vendors...
Manzanillo: A great little slice of real working mexico. It is a large port town. We walked around town and took the local bus about 1/2 hour away to Playa Miramar, rented a table and chairs and ate and drank for the day. There was strong surf, maybe due to the Hurricane. Keep an eye on your little ones. Mine got caught in a rip and I had to swim out and guide him to go parallel to the shore until we could swim out of it.
Puerta Vallarta: Negotiated for 60pp adult and 50pp for kid to go from the port to the tour office and up to the zip line in the open air bus thingy. They started at 75pp so negotiate. This was for the zip, tequilla tasting and mule ride. We couldn't do the extreme because my son was too young. The trip up to the zip line in the open air transport was scarry fun. It had been raining and we had to cross waterfalls onto the road, narrow roads, etc.... My son loved it. The zip line was great! We had a fantastic time. Booked through Canaopy Tours.
Cabo: My favorite little beach town. Just took the water taxi to Medano and hung out at the Sand Bar restaurant. As usual, great good and even better drink prices. Walked around town to shop a bit and drank at the bar by the pier until the tenders were about to stop.
Service: Overall service on this ship, from the Captains interaction, the Cruise Director and all the staff was superior to what we received back in May on the Splendor. While I like the layout of the Splendor better, more adult areas, larger adult only pool, outside movie theatre, etc... I think the staff on the Spirit was much better trained and way more friendly.
Entertainment: Carnival, pleeeasssse change your shows. The only one I can sit through again is the New Orleans show. This was the best performance of it I had seen. The CD Stue was good. I saw most of the family comedian shows and they were good for the family. Only got to one adult show and thought the comedian was more a jerk than funny. Took my son to the juggler/comedy show and we agreed it was the worst show we sat through. Why would they hire a dower, non-funny juggler who dropped things???
Overall: We had a great family vacation for the money we paid. If you are expecting 5 star service at 3 star prices, don't take this cruise. We were expecting 3 star service and food so when we got better, we were happy. If you come with really high expectations you will be disappointed. If you know it is going to be the first time a ship Ports somewhere after repositioning, expect problems, that is just the way it is. If you dwell on the small problems, you will not like cruising. If the prices stay down, I look forward to Spiriting on the Spirit again this Spring down to Cabo.