We stayed at the Hotel Maya on Saturday, just a brief walk from the Queen Mary and the Carnival Long Beach terminal. We used the Carnival corporate rate code and got a nice room for only $100 that overlooked the bay. We woke up Sunday morning to see the Carnival Splendor docked next to the Queen Mary. Highly recommend the hotel prior to sailing, cruise parking was included in the price.
We decided we would walk to the ship the morning of our embarkation. We rolled our bags behind us along a scenic cement walkway all the way to the terminal. It had rained early in the morning, but was just a drizzle for our walk and not a problem. When we arrived at the dome around 11 a.m. we dropped off our luggage with a porter and a Carnival rep directed us to the back of the Queen Mary for registration where we got Zone 8. There were no lines and we walked right up to the counter and were greeted by a smiling attendant who was very friendly, got us our S&S cards and off we went. We looked around the Queen Mary a bit before heading over to the dome to sit and wait for our zone to be called. There was some confusion among other passengers that apparently didn't take the time to see the large signs that pointed them to the left from the parking garage to the Queen Mary for registration. People need to stop and read signs and not just follow the crowd blindly.
We got on the ship a little after 1 p.m. and went right up to the Lido Deck 9 to have lunch. TIP: Don't stop at the first buffet area if it's crowded, there is the same food a bit further back in another area of the buffet.
Went to our room a little after 2 p.m. Once in our room we found our bottles of 1800 tequila ($50) and Crown Royal whiskey we ordered through Bon Voyage waiting for us. We called room service to request a bottle of vodka and it arrived quickly chilled with glasses.
While many complain about the ship's decor, we didn't have any problems with it. Sure, it's pink, but it just makes it festive. My wife particularly hates the color pinks and she didn't mind it one bit. There was lots of stuff to do and always plenty to eat. At first the ship may seem large and confusing, but we quickly had it figured out by the second day. The ship was very clean and staff for the most part were very friendly. The only exception was a few bartenders who didn't seem to like the fact that we had purchased the unlimited soda stickers and they had to give us sodas when we asked.
Lots of equipment in the fitness center. The waterslide, pools, miniature golf and ping pong were fun. Our boys (10 and 12) had a good time at some of the Camp Carnival events.
We had a balcony room, #6255 on the Upper Deck. Very roomy, plenty of storage space. We fit all our luggage (and we brought alot) under the main bed. The couch/small bed has drawers underneath for storage we didn't find until we were packing to leave. Even the bathroom had small shelves to place things. Only problem we had was the water from the shower would not drain quickly and sometimes splash out on the floor. Easily fixed with towels that the steward changed often for us. Great room steward Mark also kept our ice chest full of ice. Refrigerator doesn't keep very cool. Only one power outlet in the room, so bring an extension cord or 3-1 adaptor. Pretty quiet room, even with show lounge underneath, kept balcony door open with steward's door stop at night to listen to waves and get fresh air. Only problem we had was people smoking on both side of our balcony, so we could not enjoy the fresh air as often as we liked in the mornings and evenings. Hope the new Carnival smoking policy will help with this.
As stated above, lots and lots of food choices. 24 hour pizza, ice cream and lemonade available. Hamburgers, chili dogs, fries and more most of the day/night on Lido Deck 9, behind pool (starboard side). Pizza, calzones and delicious garlic bread was available on opposite side of ship (port). Buffet was good, lots of choices, but limited times. Like any buffet, some items good and others not-so. Burrito Bar, Mongolian Wok and Tandoori Grill wrapped within buffet, so look around. At back of ship on Lido 9, near the adult only pool, is a deli to get sandwiches. At back of buffet you'll find stairs up to the Rotisserie (chicken, baked potatoes and more) on Deck 10 Aft, it's a nice quiet seating area many don't find. California Roll sushi was open 5:30 to 8:30 p.m... closed one day, served sushi only 3 or 4 nights, and had a tapas bar on the other nights we didn't like. Room service food was very good. If you want milk, get it during the buffet hours.
Our main dining room was the Golden Pearl, Deck 3 in the aft of the ship. Dinner here was very disappointing. The food just wasn't up to par, it was overcooked or tasteless most of the time. So much for the new menus. Maybe we have expectations too high from our previous cruise on Princess.
We never saw our Maitre'D and were disappointed that he didn't even stop by our table. All we heard was him make announcements each evening. The problem was that they seated us on the port side rear of the room, next to a window (it was dark, so couldn't see outside) and behind a giant wall. So we missed all singing and dancing by the dining staff and felt like we were eating in a small hallway where they had a 6 seat table with just enough room for one person to squeeze between the table and the wall. We would have asked to change tables if we weren't with people at another table seated behind us. Wait staff didn't bring a couple of items we ordered, we didn't get to try the items we wanted. Bar/drink waiter was excellent and kept our drinks full and remembered what we wanted each night.
Breakfast was available in the Golden Pearl. If you're looking for specialized eggs, maybe go to the dining room. It's nothing special, just having fancy seating with servers to get you pretty much the same items they have in the buffet.
TIP: You can't get to the Golden Pearl entrance by taking Deck 3 to the back of the ship. Deck 5 is crowded with the photo areas and other venues. We found it easy to take the cabin decks 6, 7 with hallways that spanned the ship all the way to the back elevators and they would drop you right down to Deck 3 in front of the Golden Pearl restaurant.
We didn't hit very many of the big shows, but enjoyed the marriage show (like newlywed game) and the caught the tale end of Legends. From what we saw they put a lot into their productions and others onboard were commenting on how good the shows were. Comedians were funny and they changed half way through cruise. Cruise director was almost non-existent. We expected to hear more than just sales announcements, but were disappointed that there were very few announcements made by him about the important things as they happened (tendering, disembarking, etc). The assistant cruise director seemed to almost be running the show.
In Cabo first day, got up early to get a Zone 1 sticker but we ended up going to the lounge to leave ship when they were on Zone 5. Just walked on down to the next tender and off we went, so we can't say how tendering process went for those who don't make an effort to get their zone stickers early. We decided to skip the expensive ship's excursions and found a vendor as we got off the boat that offered us a 45 minute glass bottom boat tour (water taxi) around the beaches and rocks and dropped us off at Medano Beach and picked us up exactly on time for only $10 a person. We were the only ones on the water taxi and received great service for a cheap price compared to ship's offering. Second day just browsed around the various flea markets, there are several within quick walking distance to dock.
For Puerto Vallarta we booked the Pirate Ship adventure for 9 a.m. Tried to buy it directly from vendor prior to cruise, but they block off that day for the cruise ship only. Recommend for at least one time. Got back to ship around 4 p.m. and went out for shopping. Not much in this port, a small flea market by ship and Walmart and Sams Club. You can take a taxi to other shopping areas and beach, but Cabo was a much better shopping area.
On the last sea day we went on the Behind the Fun tour of the ship for $90 each. Took a behind the scenes tour of the ship and got to see the control room, laundry, entertainment area, crew area, dining room galley and bridge. Would have been even better if we saw how they process all the photos and make the daily Fun Times too. Got a cheap Behind the Fun tour hat, bag, lanyard, wristband and carved bar of soap and received some chocolate covered strawberries delivered to room. Also got photo on bow of ship with group and group shot with captain on bridge, who only came out to shake hands say hi, take picture and leave.
We decided to self assist to leave, so didn't bother getting our luggage outside the door the night before and just enjoyed our evening. We woke up around 8:30 and finished packing and headed out around 9:30 to leave the ship. We were off the ship by around 10 a.m. and went through the customs area and then walked back to our hotel. Not sure why everyone complains about how long it takes or the lines getting on board or leaving, what do you expect with 3,000 people on a ship? Since we didn't have to wait for our zone to be called, we did things on our own time. Crew members were friendly and helpful during the process as we left the ship. One thing that we didn't particularly like was they opened up all the balcony separators early in the morning and went walking through washing the balconies around 9 a.m.