Ages 43 and 51. Like traveling independently in port. 13th cruise, 2nd Carnival.We have sailed a number of different lines. Embarkation was terrible. 2.5 hours. Not sure if this has more to do with the port or Carnival. Probably a little of both. This was our first balcony cabin and we really took advantage of it. We had a pot of coffee delivered every morning. This is a good ship to score a balcony cabin for a very fair price. The room was nice size but tacky. but that could describe the whole ship. We had the best steward (Tri) that we could remember. He never disturbed us, and our room was always perfect. We did not use any of the amenities except the gym-which we loved. Probably my favorite if all cruises. They said it was recently remodeled. Oh that and the slide. We went down the huge green slide which was terrifying, but mercifully over quickly. We did not go to any shows-too corny. The few times we listened to the musicians play, they sounded like a high school band. The show band and a good singer came out for the return guest party. The singer was great! I heard the comedian railed on all the obese people on board. WOW. I am surprised he did not get tossed overboard given the majority of the guests had not missed a meal any time lately- or ever.
Food really WELL below average. The last time we sailed Carnival in 2001, the food was pretty decent. This was as bad as our MSC Mediterranean cruise, and possibly worse than our second Norwegian...which is bad. However the sandwich grill station pretty good-particularly corned beef and pastrami. I don't eat gluten, so I did not have the bread but these 2 meats were pretty decent quality. A couple meals were pretty decent on formal night (Lobster and prime rib). Not a good choice of sugar free desserts so we opted for cheese plates for several desserts. At one point in the daily cruise letter, they had to say robes are not permitted in the main dining room. Yes, the main dining room. I AM NOT KIDDING. Don't bother dressing up for this one. People came to dinner in the MDR in shorts, vulgar tshirts, holey sweats, flip flops, baseball hats. On the two "cruise elegant nights most people actually decided to bathe and put on clean clothes for dinner, which was a welcome sight and smell. For the most part as you wish dining was slow and disorganized.
We dined at the steakhouse on the first night ($30 each, free bottle of wine if you are there the first night). The starters were very ordinary. My tuna tartar was still frozen, the lobster bisque underwhelming. The steaks-Cowboy and Ribeye were excellent and definitely high end in quality. I regret that I was almost full when I got mine , because they were far better than the rest of the meal.
Ensenada- not much to see. We will try and book an independent snorkel trip next time. Great massages ($40 hour) at a spa in town. It was called Massage and Facial Care 743 Lopez Mateos. Its down the street from McDonalds, which you cannot miss. We both agreed it was one of the best massages we had ever had. There was a shuttle from the ship into town-$2 in, $1 to return.
Sea Day 1- spotty weather. Decided to do the wine tasting with food pairing ($15). We both found the experience interesting and educational. If you do this, make sure you do not "come hungry" as noted in the description. It is 4 small bites of food.
Cabo san Lucas- Loved it both days. Upon arriving to the anchorage area (the ship tenders) you get a beautiful look of lands end, and as a bonus we saw dozens of dolphin's jumping as well as numerous whale spouts. Waiting for the tender was not bad. The first day the tours got off first, but in no time independent travelers were off.
Day 1 -took a water taxi ($2 each I believe. It was sponsored by one of the beach bars) to Medano Beach and enjoyed a complimentary lounges and umbrellas at Billygen's Island (no charge "just eat, drink and tip us" said with a smile). Beach was great, beautiful clear water, vendors a little annoying, some jelly fish that day. Lots of boats and jet skis so you had to stay in the little swimming area which was fine.
Cabo day 2. We usually never take cruise tours, but we had not really done our research and took the lazy way out and book the Santa Carolina and Chileno Bay snorkel. I was thrilled to only have 8 other people on our zodiac. The first stop was beautiful, but the water had more jelly fish than I had ever seen. Some stung worse than others. Other than the 2 people in full wet suits we made a hasty retreat out of the water. The next site had no jelly fish and was also beautiful. While it was very nice to get in the water, the snorkeling is not anywhere as amazing as much of the Caribbean. Water temps are also cooler. We had rash guards which helped. We saw whales from afar on twice on the way out, but coming back we go extremely close(about 50 ft) to 3 humpbacks. It really made the experience memorable. We then walked into town and hoped to find another spa as good as the one in Ensenada for a massage. It seems $20 an hour was the going rate, so we decided to go for it. Lets just say they tried to upsell my husband's massage, and leave it at that. We imagined how some poor lonely guy would go for it, and probably get shaken down...Anyway we ended up finding the best margarita ever at a place called the Monkey Bar, a little outdoor bar. The bartender squeezed the juices for it to order. Then a vendor comes by with a little cooler on a wagon, and I see a couple locals make a beeline over to him. So I am thinking this has got to be good...but my palate is so much more daring than my stomach. Do I play Russian roulette with my gut this early in my vacation? He was preparing and selling aqua chile to order. Aqua chile is basically fresh raw shrimp dressed (but not lime"cooked" ceviche)with fresh lime, habanero peppers, onion and cucumber. I pulled the trigger and won. Had the best dish of the entire cruise.
Puerto Vallerta- The first thing we noticed was how hot and humid it was so we decided to check out a beach near port. Unfortunately the beach was not as attractive as Cabo, and the resorts fronting the beach wanted to charge $35 per person for a lounge. Water was murky looking and not worth it. Back to ship, took a dip in the pool, ate and took shuttle into old town ($12, because they only charges us as much as if there were people sharing the van, on the way back we found it would be $24 for a cab) . The city was interesting and enjoyable, took a shaded walk along the river. We took the city bus (5 pesos/ ~40 cents apiece) back to the ship. If we were to go again, we would take the bus into town as well as back. You can catch it up on the main road. I am thinking they would take US $ but the exchange rate would not be good!
Manzanillo- industrial city. Cloaked in haze/pollution. But still an interesting town, not really set up for mass tourism, which actually made it kind nice to check out local places not geared toward tourists. Once again the water looked murky so we passed on going to the beach and trying to snorkel.
2 sea days-relaxing and pleasant! The adults only Serenity Lounge area is great. Although I did notice too much reserving of chairs. Also some ingrates had a boom box blaring country music one of the days. I guess they do not know what "serenity" means.
While too numerous to count....Tacky/gross things seen: a man who shaved (electric razor) daily on a table at on the lido deck. Whisker hair flying everywhere. A lady removing and rinsing her food clogged dentures in the bathroom. The couple eating in their robes and slippers in the lido dining room. What, no curlers? Teens wearing pajamas and slipper to breakfast.
Some of the ships photographers were pretty good. We purchased 2 photos which is 2 more than we have ever purchased. Get ready for this- who ever finished the pictures blacked out one of my teeth (A different tooth in each) in 2 different shots. I thought I was seeing things until I overheard another women saying she liked one of her photos but "I have a tooth missing in it-and I don't have a missing tooth" . I probably should have said something to the staff, but then who cares? I guess someone had to channel some passive aggressive energy. Lets just hope they don't work in the kitchen too...
In the end we much prefer cruising the Caribbean, Yucatan, and Mediterranean. The snorkeling is better in the former 2 and culture, food more varied in the latter. Not that Baja does not have culture or great food, but it is hard to experience this without being overly hassled by vendors. But being able to walk to the cruise terminal from our home has its advantages, so we probably will sail again to Baja at some point.I would have been disappointed if I had flown to this cruise. Although we already have another Carnival booked (we endured a timeshare presentation to get a free 4 night cruise), we will probably not sail Carnival again after that given how unpalatable the food was.