We stayed at Holiday Inn the day before and they drop off/pick up both at the airport/cruise terminal as well as drive you around a 5 mile radius! They dropped us off at the terminal at 11:00 am and we just walked on through based on Zone numbers. We were zone 8 but they call the zones numbers 5 at a time about every 10 minutes. We had our documentations ready and so the whole process to get on the ship took about half an hour! We brought our own luggage in because missing luggage is not uncommon on a ship full of 3700 passengers and then when they do deliver to your cabin, it could sit outside your doors for hours while you enjoy the ship.Ship will bring in your luggage though for free.
Once we were aboard, my children had on their swim clothes under their regular clothes and we ate and swim in the pool until check-in time at 2:00...normally its at 1:00 but it was daylight saving time.
We got in our cabins..Melinda who is amazing introduced herself within 20 minutes of us getting in our cabins.(I booked 2 next to each other to have a longer balcony) and unpacked and relaxed. Then captain called for us to go to Muester Station(procedure where they have all passengers go to a designated area before ship leaves port). This took about 20 minutes. Then we went up to top deck to wave goodbye to Long Beach, Hello vacation! It was a beautiful sunny a little breezy day! Wind in our hair and we took pictures everywhere! We used our own camera (8 GB).
We had dinner at 6 pm in the Gold Pearl Dining Room. Carlos and Vincente went above and beyond service. Our family focus was to try something new so we constantly ordered on the right side of the menu because of the different daily varieties as opposed to the left which had your standard American menu...Steak Potatoes, burger/Fries...etc...during the week my children and I had frog legs, alligator, and really enjoyed it! In fact, we could not wait for the next night to see what was new. Oh and the chilled soups are absolutely wonderful!
There was a show in the Spectacular showroom which was amazing the first night which was amazing.Shows are normally at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. But pay attention and highlight your activities on your "Fun Capers" bulletin left on your bed at night and highlight what you are going to do for the next day or you will miss something!
They have the Welcome Aboard on the first day and Fun Farewell parties which offer free drinks and free champagne during the first Art showings.
We did so many activities on Monday that we were exhausted by night fall! We did not do much casino or bingo. I personally not into just giving people money to try and win more. Its also elegant nights(2) so wear your Easter clothes or opera night clothes.
Our children were ages 9, 13, 16, and 24. First 3 are boys! Our 9 year old got up before we did to go to Camp Carnival. He ordered room service(free) for himself and I signed paper, he ate breakfast and went to Camp Carnival from 10:00-12:45 and then Camp Carnival closed for lunch from 1:00-2:00. From 2-5 and from 6-10(Free). They are open form 10:00 p.m.-3 am and will escort your child back to the cabin at 3 so you do not have to pick them up. This cost though 6.75 per hour per child. They are open and have a different activity for every hour and every day at sea days. On port days they are open from 7:00 am -10:00 pm and they will feed your child.You do not have to pick them up for lunch or dinner.
13 and 16 had plenty to do in their activity as well which extended to 1:00 am which is included in your fare(Free!)
Our children kept themselves busy with carnivals activities! Our 24 year old daughter enjoy the nightclub and sun decks. We enjoyed the Serentity Deck, jazz music and sun deck pool and jacuzzi. Now this is a family cruise!
We came to Cabo San Lucas and it was the first week of spring break! The Carnival Spirit, Disney and Staten Dam were all in port on the first day. We went and took the free tender(small boat from 100-250 people to take you ashore) and over 20 vendors are offer to take you where you want to go...Buyer Beware! I heard stories of people getting taken. A group of 6 thought there were going to tour the city for 100 dollars for all of them but the driver told them that it was a 100 for each person after he gave them the tour of the Arco/shopping and they almost didn't get back on the ship because police were called!
We just shopped but the further you go into town the cheaper it is and people are nicer and more negotiable. Never take the first price that is offered even if there is a sign. And if you see the $7.oo its really 70 cents in pesos but they will take the 7.00 you give them and tell you they don't have change.Most of them understand Spanish and use a calculator to change the price if you tell them. But just do your own math. Bring single dollars with you and don't wear any of your jewlery.
We went to Cabo the second day, a much nicer experience. We had 6 tacos and a pina colada for $107.00 pesos (10.70 in US Dollars). See what I mean...do your math. We watch a mexican dance and continue to shop. Also got a lot of Free Jewelry from the Fun Shopping Seminar on Carnival Splendor. We purchased the $30.00 portfolio folder from Carnival and had lots of specials and free jewelry. It was well worth it.
Next day we went to Puerto Vallarta. Instead of a shore excursion, we just walked out passed the vendors and took the city bus to the Malecon,beach and Church of Guadalupe. Cost? 50 cents per person! Bus driver dropped us off right at the beach and church. But you have to tell them exactly where you want to be dropped off or you will end up walking to your destination. The bus drivers both up and back was very helpful. We went into Our Lady of Guadulupe Church. It was beautiful colunms with real gold and marble floors. It was just breathtaking! Then proceed one block south to the tourism office(free) and they will help you with everything!
If you can see the Papantla Players on the beach by the Church of Guadalupe! Its four men dressed in mexican attire tied on a rope upside down swinging from a 300 foot pole and landing on the beach swing from it simitaneously(Youtube Papanta Flyers or Players).
We spent the day on the beach! Ahh! Water was warm but beware because this is shark infested water. We saw fish skins and live fish heads floating on the beach.
We asked if we were in the wrong beach but he told us all of the Puerto Vallarta Beach is like that. Just be careful.
We caught the bus back. Buses run about every 5-10 minutes and was back on the ship in 15 minutes:-) around 5.
We went to the dining room for dinner.For the next two days it was choppy weather but there were so many activities you could do outside of just laying in the sun that I hardly noticed it.
Debarkation: Must be out of cabin by 8:30. Called Holiday Inn and they picked us up within 15 minutes!