We live locally so the morning of December 19th we awoke, finished packing and loaded the car for the 1 hour drive to Long Beach and the start of our cruise. We have never cruised in the month of December before. Our past cruises have been summer cruises - June and July - on either Carnival, Disney or Celebrity. We booked this cruise because there was no airfare required, it was the week before Christmas and we though a nice pre-Christmas get away would be relaxing. Because we had taken a big family trip over the summer - Carnival Dream cruise followed by one week in Disneyworld we booked an inside cabin for the 4 of us. Mom, dad and two teenagers age 13 & 15. Usually the kids sleep and that is it in the cabin. My husband and I usually hang out at various times throughout the day on previous cruises on the balconies so this would be a new experience for us in an inside room.
Embarkation was a disaster but I don't know who was to blame for this. The computer system they use to check you in was not working at all. : ( Everything had to be done manually which resulted in long lines and longer waits. From the time we arrived in the parking lot until the time we boarded the ship it was 1 1/2 hours which is not normal for this port. Once we were on the ship we were greeted by Welcomes from many crew members and directions to get to the buffet for lunch, which is where we headed. After lunch the rooms were opened so we headed down to our room. We knew an interior would be a different experience for our family - we usually book balconies and only a couple times an ocean view room and this was an interior on the bottom deck midship.
The room was very clean, had more than enough storage space to place our clothes and suitcases fit perfectly under the bed. We met Raul our room-steward who was great. We ran into him a few times during the cruise and the room was always clean, ice in the bucket and clean towels in the bathroom even though we hung the used ones up to save water. No complaints here.
We explored the ship, got our bearings and then were ready for the muster drill. Ours was initially inside in the Rock and Roll Lounge and after discussing what to do we were all walked out to the life boats 'just in case'.
Dining - We had anytime dining and the first night was the only night we had to wait for a table. We received a beeper and went to the library to wait. Our dining room was the Mardi Gras. After about 20 minutes we received our table. The remaining three nights we arrived about the same time however were seated immediately. Overall the food is fine. Not 5 Star but adequate for our family and always arrived hot and with attentive servers. We had breakfast on the lido deck buffet and lunch daily here as well. The lines moved a bit slow and the selection of hot items was just OK. There was a nice salad bar daily, deli sandwiches made fresh for you and a pizza bar opened 24 hours. The desserts in the buffet was just adequate and that allowed me to skip dessert at lunch. We did not use room service or eat in any other venue so I can only comment on the buffets and MDR.
Shows - The first night we did not attend any welcome shows. We were tired and in bed by 9 PM! The second night and 4th night we attended the shows in the Paris Lounge with the dancers and singers. They were the usual Carnival shows, well done and with a million and one costume changes. The final day - our sea day - there was a children's holiday show where the kids on board could participate with the dancers and singers, it snowed on the stage and Santa came for a quick visit.
Spa and Casino - walked through them but did not utilize any services here.
Pools - it was cold so very few people were in them. No chair hogs this trip!Kids clubs - 13 year old daughter participated in Circle C and 15 year old son participated in Club 02. Both met other kids in their age range and enjoyed some activities on board. The kids programs on port days however don't open until after 3 PM for Catalina. Various activities were offered - Wii, scavenger hunt, trivia, karaoke, and more. Both kids received a cute t-shirt that their new friends signed. They enjoyed spending time with other kids vs. being stuck with their parents.