But we're first time cruisers so we don't have anything to compare it to.
As others have mentioned, parking was $60. No biggie though, we expected that. Check in was a breeze, no complaints there. As we boarded, my husband remarked that it smelled like Ensenada, meaning an open sewer. We're familiar with Ensenada. This was one of our ports of call, but the ports weren't our primary reason for the cruise. Just a quick getaway and something different. We love the ocean and if we do this again, we will definitely splurge on a balcony view and for reasons I'll expand on later.
As for the decor, well yes, it was Vegas style but that didn't really bother us.
Our cabin was U58, which we were told was a good deck(?)with an ocean view window. It was small but decent and had plenty of closet space. Only complaint there was that the climate control was never quite right. Usually it was too warm, regardless of whether we opened or closed the vent, which is the only way of controlling it. Oh and they certainly take cleaning the cabins seriously! Sometimes they cleaned it two and even three days on the same day. We no sooner walked in, left our luggage and were off to explore but turned around because we forgot something, and they were in there cleaning a clean room. That was befuddling and still can't figure it out unless they were charging our onboard account (nothing is cash onboard, you open an onboard account with a credit card on file and everything, including gratuities are charged to it automatically)gratuities every time they cleaned.
Ok, onto the food...well, I'm very picky but my husband isn't so I think it's fair to say that it's quantity over quality and as most such things that are, it was acceptable at best. We tried the restaurant thinking it would be better than the buffet but basically I think the food in the restaurant came from the buffet only it was served in smaller quantities, sometimes laughably smaller. My husband joked that he thought they dropped his salad on the way to the table. Service was slow for the same sub-par blah food only hubby did have a good steak there. At the breakfast buffet, you can have your eggs fixed as you like. I had a cheese omelet but it was greasy and brown. Had the same omelet at the Mardi Gras dining room and it was the same.
You pay for everything onboard except your food and your cabin. Drinks included is coffee (atrocious! We ended up buying coffee at the coffee bar which was comparable to Starbucks) and tea (once we were sure they had made it with salt water!) milk and juices. Cans of soda are nearly three dollars, including the gratuity added on. You can buy an unlimited bubblies sticker for $28 which entitles you to all the (flat) soda you can drink. They won't give you a can of soda and a glass of ice. They give you whatever open can of the brand you ordered that they have behind the bar. I asked for the can once and was told that they couldn't give it to me. But if you buy them singly, they give you the glass of ice and the can. I thought that was a rip and I don't like flat soda. Oh and alcoholic drinks are about $10 a pop. Amazing that there were still so many drunk cruisers aboard. Either they're lightweights or they had a private stash. I know they didn't sneak any aboard from the two ports. My husband bought two small bottles of rum ashore and it was confiscated when we came back and held till the night before getting back to Long Beach. Again, not a biggie unless you're a serious partier.
Except for the comedy show which was first class, the entertainment was just noise for no good reason. In fact, there was no where to get away from the noise except one's cabin and I guess that depends where that cabin is located. We're 50 somethings but not old fuddy duds. We like rock but most of the DJ music wasn't to our liking. That said, it would have been nice to have had a quiet time so one could sit out on the deck, soak up the sun and read a book. That was what I was hoping for on our one sea day but no such luck. That's why a balcony room would have been extra nice. A place to get away from the crowd and noise and still enjoy the ocean breezes.
Ports of Call were Catalina Island and Ensenada. Our day at Catalina was probably the highlight of the trip. Weather was nice and its a pretty place to enjoy the day. We had a whale sighting trip scheduled through Carnival but it was canceled and I was heartbroken about that. Jan-March is whale migration and a whale sighting would have made the entire cruise worthwhile for me. We did see some dolphins jumping off in the distance a few times but not close enough to really identify them. We took the glass bottom boat and I wouldn't recommend it, really. Not much of interest to see but it was cheap enough, cheaper than booking it through Carnival.
Now on to Ensenada. On debarking at the Port of Ensenada, you have to show your card ID's as you pass through a turnstile leading into a small mall of shops. There's no way around it. On the other side are the buses that take you into the city or take you to your planned excursions. One of the first thing that we encountered was a lion cub. Yes, a real African lion cub. A young woman offered to let us hold it while taking pictures for $25. I was concerned about a raw sore on it's nose, and I began asking questions, all the while this woman was backing away from me. Where did you get it? What animal welfare group do you represent? Where is it's mother? She mumbled something about it was on loan from a zoo, which sounded implausible to me, and that the money was to help feed the animals. Well, I didn't have time to research this or the means to do so (as internet access is something like $2 a minute and no wireless access for my smart phone)and my husband was afraid I was going to start trouble so he dragged me off. Once home, I did some research and found out this is a common scam in Mexico tourist towns. These people are making a personal profit off exploiting exotic animals and the animals live in awful conditions. Where they get these baby lion cubs, God only knows but once they have outgrown their cuddly cuteness and become too dangerous to handle, they are disposed of, either to serve the exotic meat market (yes, shocking that lion meat is now the new fad, an animal that will be extinct in 10-15 years) or sold to canned hunts. Otherwise, they will be left to linger in a small cage where their bones will become deformed if they manage to live through starvation. Now, I don't know if they were there in the kiosk with Carnival's permission. I have not received any response from them regarding the issue, but the very least one would expect from Carnival is a warning to their guests not to fall for this scam. So I'm telling you now. DO NOT PAY TO HAVE YOUR PICTURE TAKEN WITH WILD BABY ANIMALS. You are contributing to their abuse and eventual death if you do.
And one other thing about Ensenada (other than don't drink the water OR the ice cubes)...if you rent an ATV or a motorcycle, be aware that it is illegal to drive it on the beach. But you won't be told that. Unless you like to shop for expensive junk, go to the beach and hope it's a sunny day. That's the ONLY nice thing in Ensenada. Come to think of it, that would have been a good day to stay onboard and read a good book on the sunny deck.
I have no complaint about the waiters. All were pleasant and helpful, though most did not speak very good English so sometimes it was difficult to understand them.
Oh and before I forget! AVOID the art auction during the cruise. The art gallery involved is in court for fraud. They are very slick operators and I'm actually shocked that Carnival allows them to do business onboard...and now that I think about it, only in international waters...hmmm.