We have always wanted to do this cruise. We were booked on the NCL Spirit out of Tampa and cancelled without any penalty about six months prior to the cruise date. We had booked a balcony and as the prices dropped we up-graded first to an extended balcony and then hit the jack pot and ended up with an AFT extended balcony on the Main deck (number 4), just above the Anytime part of the main dinning room.
We took a 7 hour drive from Arizona to the port and checked into the San Pedro DoubleTree. We made reservations in advance for the most inexpensive room and about a week before we were scheduled to arrive used our CLC membership to re-book and got a rate reduction that was better the hotwire, priceline or anything else. The DoubleTree was great, not any better then ***+ but with the free parking for 15 days I would recommend this hotel and plan on staying here for our next cruise. The hotel manager, Tommy introduced himself to us at breakfast, the bell hops, front desk and shuttle drivers to the port were all very nice. The breakfast buffy was a little on the spendy side, but we saved so much on the room, went ahead and enjoyed the convenience of eating at the hotel. The night before we had dinner at the 22nd Street Landing Seafood Bar and Grill just a short walk from the hotel. Good food, service and wonderful views.
Embarkation was slow. The ship was late getting in due to bad wx coming back from Mexico. We were in the first group after the VIP's and boarded around 2pm
Our cabin, a AFT extended balcony on the Main deck was ready at 2:30. It was as expected, spotless, fresh and in very good shape for a 10 year old ship. We met our cabin steward and his assistant and expressed our special request for the cruise and they didn't miss a thing for the next 15 days. Two very nice, friendly and hard working young men.
We sailed on the Carnival Spirit last December to Southern Mexico and enjoyed the Spirit last year. For being at sea 10 years I found the ship to be in very good condition. It is going into dry dock soon and will be refitted for its move to Australia. The crew is very friendly, and I had a hard time keeping up with all the greetings from them. This was a senior cruise. I have never seen so many canes, wheel chairs, gimps and fat folks in my last 67 years. I would expect this group on all future Hawaiian voyages. There were less the 100 kids on board and we never saw one that was not a joy to watch or talk to. Now the old coots were sometimes a different story. Be patient and just go with flow, especially at the hog trough (buffy).
Dining was a little different then a year ago. We found the menus in the MDR left a bit to be desired. Each of our meals there were enjoyable and even tho we had our favorite server Elana, most of the time, the others were also very good during Any Time Dining. We had breakfast and lunch a few times also in the MDR and ate a number of times for lunch at the Lido buffy. We had room service every morning to start our day and they were always on time. On a few occasions they would forget part of the order, but with a phone call the items would be replaced post haste. Burgers and dogs were available at the midship pool almost all day. We could always get eggs cooked to order at the buffy and hot and cold sandwiches at the Deli were very good. Ice cream sundaes were available on the back of the Lido after 3pm and soft serve was always available. Now if I could only get the hogs to sanitize their hands before scooping up the chow. And then there is always some jerk who eats his way through the line. Get some manners.
The first night we had dinner at the Steak House. Worth the $30 each. I had Surf and Turf and Bev had Lobster. You have to order the Chocolate Sampler for desert. They threw in a bottle of wine on the first night.
We also ordered room service a couple of times. The BLT and Shrimp PoBoy was excellent. Always order cookies from room service, their great.
Entertainment was good. We enjoyed three shows best. Big Easy (The New Orleans Show, Comedy Hypnosis and the Game of Love. Loads of music every where. Stu does a fine job keeping the activities going. Loads of BINGO and the casino was a great place to blow a few bucks.
We have been to the Island three times on cruises and have flown over an additional for or five times. We rented cars from Alamo and Thrifty through "discount hawaii car rental" (add the dot com) and never paid over $34.12 per day. Do not pre pay fuel. Just fill it up before you turn it in. You will save about $10 per rental. We did self tours by car or bus on all the Island except Kauai. When we got off the ship in Honolulu we met Alex of Alex Tours. His operation is out of Nawiliwili on Kauai and charges $45 at the end of the tour. His buses hold 10. Look for him in Honolulu, he fly's in and put you on the list for the next day. His 4 hour tour turned out to be about 5.5 hours.
If you get off the ship in Ensenada, do not, and I repeat, do not waste your time going into town at night. There is plenty to do and see at the pier. We found the downtown to be dark, dingy and boring. Perhaps it is a different story in the day time.
Disembarking was a snap. Best U.S.Customs service we have ever had, quick pick-up by DoubleTree back to our car and a nice ride back to Arizona.
We will sail with Carnival again and enjoyed being with them for a third time.
See our cc roll call here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1228136