My wife and I traveled on this cruise together. It was her 5th (2nd Carnival) and my 16th (3rd Carnival). Overall we had a terrific time and would definitely do it again. I will try to point out a couple things that could be improved upon, but for the most part it was a phenomenal trip! I've read about 100 reviews of this ship (what can I say, I love cruising!), and I'm not sure where other people are coming from, but my wife and I saw very little to complain about.
We flew in from Albuquerque the day before into LAX. We took the Super Shuttle which had almost no wait, and we got to the Hotel Maya rather quickly. We were so glad we decided to go in a day early and stay at the Hotel Maya. It is a spectacular resort property located very close to the cruise ship terminal as well as the Queen Mary. In fact, we walked to both. Our room had an ocean front view with a balcony and was very peaceful. We were close enough to walk into town to the Walmart to grab some drinks for the trip (we are pretty athletic and are willing to walk a lot more than most as you will see later on). Later in the day we spent some time at the pool (awesome) and saw the Queen Mary, which was definitely worth the trip. The next morning, my wife took a Pilates class while I ran and swam in the pool. It was a perfect start to our week!
Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the port at about 12:15pm. We always try to carry our bags onto the ship since we want to have our stuff right away to unpack and not worry about bags being misplaced. Usually we get held up along the way by porters and terminal employees saying we can't get our bags through the x-ray belt (they always fit). No such troubles here. We were directed right into the building (a giant dome - we actually spotted it flying into LAX). We went to through the x-ray/metal detector line, got our sign and sail cards, photos, and were on the ship within about 20 minutes of walking in the building. It was the easiest embarkation I've ever experienced. I'm not sure why others have had so much difficulty with embarkation - perhaps they show up at 9am and are upset they can't get on until 11. Regardless, we had no issues at all.
Our room itself was great, our cabin steward was another issue. We had a 1A with two portholes on deck two. The size and layout were great. Someone else had stayed in our exact cabin and wrote a review (as a post on the boards), which included photos. These photos proved that the room had two lower beds as opposed to bunks as was described by my travel agent. Thanks! One bed is a sofa by day, so they don't line up height-wise, but you could push them together. For space layout purposes, we elected to keep them perpendicular, but it worked out well for us. The only issues with this room was that you could hear/feel the ship slapping on the water a couple of the nights, which was disturbing to sleep through. I'm guessing an inside or one further back (we were pretty far forward) would have been better, but they weren't available when we booked. Overall not a bad room though. We had a strange cabin steward. At first he claimed not to be our steward when I asked if he could empty the fridge. He said he would take care of it by 4:30 though. At 6:30 it still hadn't been done so I flagged him down in the hallway and asked if I could empty it for him. He then (sort of angrily) said he would get a box and empty it. My wife has dietary restrictions and likes to keep a supply of food in the fridge from the buffet (which is not open all hours) so she can snack at off times. The steward emptied the fridge at this time, but was never friendly to us the whole trip. It was really the first time in all my cruising where we've had a grumpy cabin steward. I will say the room was kept clean, but I expect more from a room steward. All the other stewards I'd pass in the hallway would say hello, but he rarely did.
The layout of the ship was great, but the decor is... a little different. If you like pink and zebra stipes, you will do ok. If you don't, just laugh at it and understand that it isn't your living room and you won't be here but a week. The public rooms were appropriately sized and placed in the ship, and we found it easy to get around. The ability to cover the main pool area with a glass roof is a great thing. I would say if this ship drydocks they should add two hot tubs adjacent to the main pool - the closest ones now are one deck up and under cover. I like being in a hot tub in the open. The aft ones were almost always packed and the Thunderball Pool hot tub was always packed with kids.
Overall we were very pleased with the dining experience. As I said, my wife has dietary restrictions, and I really liked Carnival's system. We had Anytime Dining in the Black Pearl (Deck 3 Mid). When you approach the stand, the hostess would get your room number and print out a little ticket that another hostess would use to greet you and take you to your seats. They would also automatically print out my wife's order that she made the previous night. This was a lot cleaner than Princess's system, where you'd have trouble trying to explain to the Head Waiter that you put in an order the night before. Bravo on this Carnival! We found the quality of food in the main dining room to be mostly fantastic. There were maybe 2 or 3 dishes the whole week that weren't great (and I ordered a lot of different food). We also liked the offerings in the buffet. Carnival does a great job with all the variety they offer (Mongolian Grill, Rotisserie, Burrito Bar, etc.). I had sushi one night from the sushi bar, which was good. Nothing to complain about with the food - it was great!
The entertainment on the ship was pretty good, but not outstanding. I will say that of the stage shows the Vroom show was great and very innovative. The other two were just the same old blah dance/music shows. I can't even tell you the theme of the first one (neither could my wife remember). The comedians were great! Carnival does a comedy club type setup in the back lounge where they do several different shows each night. There were a total of four comedians on our sailing (two at a time). One of the 2nd group missed the ship, so the comedy club host performed instead. We both loved Seth - he was hysterical! Merle and the other guy from the south whose name escapes me were very good as well. One complaint on the entertainment side is that this ship blares their music moreso than any other I've been on. This despite numerous complaints on cruise critic reviews, an email I sent to Carnival before the trip describing this problem, and my complaint to guest services while onboard. I don't know why they feel the Reggae band at the pool needs to be so loud that you have to scream to the person next to you to have a conversation, but it was that bad. One demerit for this Carnival! ;) The cruise director Todd was pretty good. He really seemed to enjoy his job. The rest of the social staff were equally good - some real personalities there!
The activities on board were pretty varied and enjoyable. After two consecutive Princess cruises, we were glad to be on Carnival where there is a younger crowd and more active events are offered (like volleyball, a GREAT mini-golf course, corn hole bean bag tossing, etc.). We were disappointed that the water slide was closed the entirety of the last two sea days due to wind. While the wind seemed strong at times, it wasn't bad all day both days, so they should have had it open part of the time at least. I thought the weather those two days was pretty good (and it was outstanding over the course of the week - in the 80s). We enjoyed playing the Last Man Standing game (which I won with my randomly assigned partner - yay!). There is plenty of trivia on this ship as well - much of it themed. We particularly liked the video trivia (identify the country of the attraction pictured) and the 80s music trivia. There was always plenty to do onboard.
With the exception of our main cabin steward, service onboard was great! We loved doing Total Body Conditioning (available all nights at 5pm for free) in the fitness room with Marko and Jonathan. These guys are a great asset to Carnival. They work hard and are very friendly to the guests. Thanks guys for making this an even better trip than it otherwise would have been! While I'm on fitness, my wife would want me to mention that this ship has a Pilates Reformer machine that is available to all guests at any time - great item to offer guests!
We had a great time in both ports. Thanks to a suggestion by Seth the comedian, we walked to Lover's Beach in Cabo (yes, you can do it if you don't mind scurrying over a few rocks and maybe getting wet depending on the tides). The second day we walked the marina and went to Medano Beach. Both days were very enjoyable. In Puerto Vallarta we took a zip lining trip that was awesome! A great time was had by all in our group! Thanks everyone at Mundo Nogalito! We had the driver drop us at the Malecon on the way back. My wife suggested we walk back to the ship from there, which I wasn't too sure about but decided it would be ok. So yes, that is a walkable trip as well, if you have some water with you. We were both pretty worn out when we returned. Again, the buffet was closed at 3:30 on this day, so my wife had to use her fridge supply to eat. I wish Carnival would keep a small section of the buffet open the entire afternoon for people not wanting to eat at the Deli, Pizza, or Grill. I know my wife is in the minority, but it would be nice for a salad bar and a few hot items to be available.
Disembarkation was equally as good as embarkation. We did self assist and left around 8:30 and were off and at the shuttle by around 9:10. We had a wonderful time and would take this trip again. Carnival offers a great product at a fair price. Thanks to all the previous reviewers for arming us with great knowledge!