This was mine and my husbands 5th cruise, 4th with carnival. We have only been to Mexico due to us living in Utah, it is more fees-able. This was our second balcony room, though this one was a surprise for my husbands birthday. It was hard to keep it a surprise though since he tries to be involved. I had been planning this vacation since about September of 2011 with two days prior in San Diego.
We were road tripping from Utah to San Diego, about a 800 mile trip. We stopped about half way in Vegas. We have been to Vegas many times and have stayed in just about every hotel on the strip. This time was strictly business however since we were on a mission to sunny California! So i decided to book an off the strip hotel, South Point. It was FABULOUS! My first taste of steak n shake, umm hello deliciouness. We arrived the following day into San Diego and had a 2 night reservation at the Best Western Island Palms. OK just a preface: i am a research fanatic. I devote a TON of time into researching everything that goes into a cruise including pre and post.
Let me just say that the Best Western Island palms exceeded our expectation 10 fold and definitely held up to their great reputation on Trip Adviser. We reserved the snooze and cruise package since we needed parking. This is one of the only hotel that will allow you to park more than 7 nights with no additional charges. I had the Marina King view in rm 530. LOVED IT!!!! We did the typical touristy things in san diego including sea world. Before we knew it it was 3/2.....
EMBARKATION: I only have long beach cruise terminal to compare to but I cannot imagine another cruise terminal being more dis organized and hectic. Everything was rush, rush, rush. People yelling at you to go one way while other tell you the opposite. VERY chaotic however fast enough that it was to big of a bother. We arrived at 10am and were on the ship by 11:30am.
SHIP: I have read numerous reviews on the spirit class ships and all have the same common opinion of the layout, wonderful. Well I will probably be one of the first reviews to say that I did not care for the layout one bit. It is so choppy. the lido is in two sections, the corridors in the cabins are chopped up rather than long hallways ( like a maze), and the atrium is not in view from every floor like most ships but rather only from a couple decks above. Other than that though, the ship is the most GORGEOUS I have ever been on. So ornate and rich in decor. Serenity was also a great place when you could find a chair. We snagged a clam shell chair for sail away and it was perfect.
STATEROOM: I had room 7241, a balcony on deck 7 directly by the elevators and stairs. Let me just lay to rest those rumors of extra noise or foot traffic. It was so conveniently located and so quiet. I am a very light sleeper also. This sailing was sold out too so i know it was lack of people either. I would book this same room again.
PORTS OF CALL: Manzanillo we decided to take a taxi to Las Hadas resort. We used their facilities for free and just paid as we went. BEAUTIFUL!!! highly recommended. Puerto Vallarta we had the Las Caletas excursion booked through the ship. It was just mediocre honestly. they said open bar on the boat ride to and from and while at las caletas. what they fail to mention is HOW OFTEN a server will fulfill your drink order or come by period. The sand there is very rocky and not the easiest to walk on. also if you have any mobility issues this is not for you. It is a little bit of a hike to get to the beach from the boat but what i never read in a review was the hike if you had to use the restroom. no fun. Plus the "mexican buffet" was not very mexican, very limited options for a picky eater. Cabo was GREAT!!!! We got off the ship and went straight off the dock and bought an excursion. We went snorkeling and whale watching for 4 hours, a REAL open bar on the boat, GREAT service, for 35pp on the Oceanus. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. After 2 days in Cabo we had a stop in Ensenada but we just did some shopping.
As far as activities on sea days go we often found ourselves with nothing to do. For us though that was ok because we spent that open time simply relaxing. I didn't feel rushed or like I had 5000 things I wanted to do. The service on the ship was ok, not above and beyond any other cruise. Stu, the cruise director got on my last nerve. He just has an arrogance about him that I couldn't get around. Also most of the lounge singers were pretty bad. and the revues were mediocre.
FOOD: I am a picky eater and most of the food even in the buffet has a gourmet flare to it. I never went hungry though so they were doing something right! We had anytime dining which was great but you just don't get the same attention or personalization. The best food we have every eaten was had in the Nouveau steakhouse. So worth the money!
All in all after 9 nights we got used to the layout and the ship itself and had THE BEST CRUISE YET. There are positives and negatives to all in life but the pros heavily out weighed the cons. This was such a memorable cruise and i would recommend the Carnival spirit to all.