55 Carnival Spirit Cruise Reviews for Family Cruises to Mexican Riviera

Let me start by saying we are the type of people who believe that any vacation is what you make it and therefore, can have a good time pretty much anywhere. And we did on this trip. It was a wonderful 9-day vacation although there were ... Read More
Let me start by saying we are the type of people who believe that any vacation is what you make it and therefore, can have a good time pretty much anywhere. And we did on this trip. It was a wonderful 9-day vacation although there were definitely some ups and downs. We've cruised on Disney, Carnival and NCL all 7-day's or longer. When we chose this cruise we did so knowing that we were getting "what we paid for." Carnival is inexpensive in comparison but is a good value for our family of four. Embarkation in San Diego was strange. We arrived at 11:00 a.m. and were on the ship by 12:30. There was some waiting but it was fine. The terminal is small and they use white tents set-up on an asphalt parking lot as additional waiting area. The baggage check was outside and a bit disorganized. Not really what one would expect from a home port that has been hosting cruises for any length of time. The buffet we had for lunch before sailing was terrible. We love a good meal and have eaten in some very nice, very good places but don't really consider ourselves "foodies." There weren't many choices and what was available tasted like leftovers from the previous cruise. Luckily it did get much better throughout the trip. Look carefully or you'll miss the prepared to order stations which are hidden behind the buffet lines. There just isn't space for them anywhere else. I'd equate the quality of food to what you would find at Home Town Buffet with maybe a more little flair. We did eat at the steakhouse one evening and really enjoyed that meal. In our opinion it was well worth the additional $30 per person. We chose your time dining as we don't like to be held to an early or a late seating. I'm not sure if that option was a good one. Of the 9 nights we went the dining room 3 times. As I mentioned we have two children and the service was painfully slow. Two of the dinners took roughly 90 minutes. Way too long with kids sitting at the table. The food was decent but wasn't worth the wait. The service elsewhere on the ship was very good. Everyone was friendly and efficient. The barista at the coffee shop in the buffet was awesome. The staff at Camp Carnival were incredible. Very welcoming and remembered our kids names when they saw them out and about on the ship. As always there were tons of activities for the kids. We enjoyed all the activities we chose to participate in (bingo, game shows, listening to karaoke, trivia). Went to Punchliners and had a good time listening to family friendly comedy. I cannot recall their names but the second comedian was much better than the first. The stage shows were boring!! Geared, in my opinion, to a much older generation. Definitely in need of some updating and some variety. All four of us loved the new waterworks park. Green Thunder is surprisingly fun! The ship boasts typical wild Carnival decor but we found it clean and in good repair. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
The first time we did a cruise it was a 9-day Mexican Riviera on the Spirit. This time it was on the Spirit again, but with the 5 kids ages 16, 15, 15, 13, and 12. Also with 3 grandparents, 2 nieces, and 1 sister-in-law. My wife and two ... Read More
The first time we did a cruise it was a 9-day Mexican Riviera on the Spirit. This time it was on the Spirit again, but with the 5 kids ages 16, 15, 15, 13, and 12. Also with 3 grandparents, 2 nieces, and 1 sister-in-law. My wife and two girls stayed in room 4195 which was on level 4 with french doors and an obstructed view. We could see a little between the life boats in this room. Having fresh air is a MUST for me when I cruise. I love to have the door open at night to hear the sounds and smell the air. The Spirit allows for this pretty cheaply with the obstructed view. You can't walk out on to anything, but you do get the fresh air. When researching I noticed that manly of Carnival's ships don't have this obstructed view. You can get a window down lower, but the window doesn't open. The room had the double twin beds pushed together with a Pullman style bed pulled down and the couch made up as a bed. My 13 and 12 year old daughters occupied these. There is PLENLY of enough storage room in the cabin. Between the two closets with hangers, the wardrobe thing, the drawers, and under the bed we had more than enough room. I should have brought additional hangers though. My three sons, 16, 15, and 15 were 2 doors down from us in two twin beds separated and a Pullman style bed above the couch. Two grandparents and a niece were on level 4 as well, but further down and had a balcony. The sister-in-law and another niece where farther down on the opposite side. They were in an accessible cabin. She had a scooter type wheelchair. This room was plenty wide enough at the front door and the bathroom door. There is extra room in the cabin and bathroom. She had a window that didn't open with an obstructed view as well. This was GREAT for her and allowed her to cruise. There are a very limited number of these rooms, PLEASE don't book one of these unless you really use the wheelchair to get around. The last grandparent was up on the 8th level in an extended balcony cabin. It did have an adjoining door that locked. The sound came through the door a little and the neighbors where noisy from time to time, but this grandparent was hearing impaired so it didn't matter. This room was the same type of room my wife and I had the first time we cruised on the Spirit. We did not have a locked adjoining door in our room and never heard our neighbors. If it were me I would try not to get an adjoining door if I didn't need it. I am sure that you will find the rooms basically the same for all the Spirit class ships (Spirit, Pride, Legend, and Miracle) Well that is the room report and experience. Being a spring break cruise it had good parts and bad parts. Firstly, and most importantly, being spring break we were actually able to go on the cruise seeing the kids had school. Another good thing was that the kids has plenty of "friends" to play with in Club O2 and Circle C. Club O2 is for 15 to 17 year olds and Circle C is for 12 to 14 year olds. The kids were able to check themselves in and out of there as they wanted to and used it as they wanted to. The bad thing about spring break were all the college age kids getting smashed and puking on the decks. Ok, I only saw that once. But the college age kids seemed to think everything was about them and were often rude in their behaviors. They were crazy down on the beach in Cabo San Lucas. One of the kids workers told me that security was caught off guard the first few nights with they college kids and that they were "out of control." It wasn't a drunken orgy fest, but it kicked the stress factor up a little and made the cruise a little less relaxing. The shows were ok, nothing super special, but you can find some good stuff according to your taste. They really push this big New Orleans dance thing that I really didn't like, nor did anyone else in my group. I didn't like it the first time I saw it on the last cruise. They need to come up with something else. The direct service staff couldn't have been better. The room steward was great and from the first meeting he knew who we were and called us by our names. He must have studied the security photos they take when we get on, or he has a GREAT memory. Andrea in the dinning room and Putu her assistant where the BEST. My kids wanted her to come home with us. I feel like whatever I write will not do her justice. If you are on the Spirit get seated for breakfast or lunch with tall Andrea from Romania. We purchased quite a bit of Inch of Gold in the shops. I know it isn't all gold, but it looks just as good, it is stronger and much cheaper. No gambling this time, we lost too many quarters on our first cruise. The ship recently came out of dry dock for some upgrades. Things added in the year since our first cruise? The new 21 or older only Serenity area. This is out on the old fantail back deck. They said they don't even allow kids to go find their parents there. They have to send a message with a crew member. There is a new water slide that is very exciting. You get in this vertical tube that closes, you hear this count down from 3, then the bottom drops open, you get "flushed," you circle around in this tube (out over the edge of the boat) and end up in a landing area. One of the crew members told me it is the fastest water slide on any cruise line. There is also a whole water experience up where this slide is. Lot of water splashing around with buckets dumping for the kids. I am sure more things where done to the ship, but nothing that I noticed. The food was good during our dinning time and in the buffet area. Better than I normally eat at home. I am NOT a food snob so everything, except the scrambled eggs on the buffet, was great. We didn't do the Carnival soda program and that was fine as our family only drinks water at home. You get lemonade, unsweetened tea, water, hot tea, and coffee anytime of they day. You get fake orange juice and some other corn syrup juices at breakfast in the buffet area. You can get real juice in the sit down dinning room. This ship does not have a movie theater. I understand some of the larger classes of Carnival ships have outdoor movies. This is something that I would enjoy. Come September the Spirit is headed to Australia, never to return so if you are going to cruise on it you better do it soon. The Pride is out of Baltimore, and the Legend and Miracle are out of Florida. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
Carnival Spirit, 5 nights, Feb. 12-17, 2012 sailed from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. A friend and I shared a super cheap cabin category 1A, inside. Cabin 1255 is the same size and shape as more expensive interior cabins. As this was ... Read More
Carnival Spirit, 5 nights, Feb. 12-17, 2012 sailed from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. A friend and I shared a super cheap cabin category 1A, inside. Cabin 1255 is the same size and shape as more expensive interior cabins. As this was just a quick cruise, the cabin was fine though I always prefer a balcony. The cabin location worked out well, we had quick access to the elevator aft, and also to the dining room one level up the stairs. San Diego Hotel: I booked Vagabond Inn San Diego Mission Valley for Saturday Feb. 11, 2012 on Priceline bidding $40. My bid was accepted and with taxes it came to about $53. However, upon arrival the bed was a king. We needed 2 beds, so I was told the clerk would only charge me $15 more to switch to a room with two beds. He actually charged my credit card $22.50, something I did not know until my statement came. The room was very spacious and quiet as it was at the back of the hotel lot. Cruise Parking: I made reservations for parking my car during the cruise with San Diego Airport Parking Company, which can be found online. The price with their online coupon was just $7.75 a day. What they don't tell you is that the day begins at the time you check in, and the day count ends when you check out. There are no partial day prices of which I was aware. If you don't get you car picked up by the same time you checked in, you will be charged for another day. I still think their service is great as are their prices. Their shuttle was immediately available to take me to the cruise ship. They were very helpful, clear, and professional and I will always use them in the future for any travel plans out of San Diego. Whale Watching: In Cabo, we walked to the end of the pier and saw a booth advertising whale watching. We learned that they were asking $35 per person. That seemed like a fair price, though in Mexico everything is negotiable so we got the price lowered to $30 each. Some of the others in the group paid $35 each, but that included the rental of a snorkel, fins, and mask. It also included being dropped off at Lover's Beach so they could snorkel, and then picked up a few hours later. We too were given the option but decided it would be too tight of a time squeeze to get back to the M.S. Spirit before it debarked for the night. The whale watching company was Eagle Divers dot com. We began with an up close tour of Land's End. I was very pleased when the boat captain noticed I was trying to get some photos without other boats in the picture and he made a point of waiting until I could, and also of positioning the boat for an optimal picture. The whale watching boats communicate via radio with each other, so although we were told our boat would be going north on the Pacific side, our captain headed north in the Sea of Cortez. I noticed because I am familiar with the area, and also because the land was on our LEFT side. The captain never told anyone, but it did not matter. We were out there to watch whales. The day was sunny, but the sea was very choppy. I noticed that our captain made the effort to minimize the choppiness of the ride. I was actually surprised at how far north he took us, which was aways past Chileno Beach. We went north and then east and after awhile we spotted whales spouting. Soon we were near a lot of whales, who seemed to put on a show for just us as we were the only boat out there upon arrival. We got to watch many whales spy hop, dual fins up in the air, and quite a few jump up high and spin before crashing back into the sea on their backs. I took great video and photos, as did everyone on the boat (there were about 11 of us so the boat never felt crowded). The captain stayed a long, long time to allow us all to keep watching. There were about 3 other boats before we left. He then took us to Lover's Beach and dropped off the snorkelers, offering again to drop off anyone that wanted to stay. It was a great trip, being just about 500 feet from the whales. The captain was very respectful of the whales. I think the bad rap that the Mexican whale watching companies get is unjust. I found this trip followed the same rules I have seen followed in the U.S. regarding respect for the whales. The boat had shade or sun, life jackets (though we were thankfully not required to wear them) and a bottle of water was offered to us. Restaurant in Cabo: After the excellent whale watching, we walked through the pier huge white building complex, turned right and found a taxi. We negotiated a fare of $8 (which I thought was high, but taxi prices are always higher near the pier) to go to "Maria Corona Restaurant." Their menu can be found online along with a picture of inside their quaint but large restaurant. Each plate was a work of art, very beautifully presented. The mole sauce was mouth-watering, and I was able to have it on cheese enchiladas at no extra cost. The little tacos were surprisingly filling, with 3 on a plate and very unique ingredients inside such as squash blossoms. I had a mango margarita. It was a bit small for the price, but potent and tasty. We ordered the guacamole, which was prepared tableside. It was yummy, and I liked that the server asked how much of each ingredient we wanted added. The flan melted in my mouth and was worth the price just to see the presentation. Each dish we ordered was delicious. I cannot recommend enough going to this restaurant. It was worth every dollar. The atmosphere was pretty subdued when we were there for mid week lunch, but I can see where it would get louder and busier at night. They called a taxi for us. The driver asked for $10 to take us back, but he took $8. At the pier we avoided the long lines for the tender by browsing the flea market that is right there. I found that only a few of the vendors wanted to drop their prices to what I know is reasonable. I go to Baja frequently, so I have a good feel for what prices should be. So, if you think an item is too highly priced, just keep looking around and you will likely find the same item at other booths and perhaps one vendor that wants to make a sale. Prices flucuate a lot, so get several prices before buying if you want a deal. This flea market tends to be higher priced as it caters to the cruise ships, so be smart in your purchases. I bought a bottle of vanilla extract, and also a bottle of clear vanilla extract. They are real extract, though not as strong as pricier ones in the U.S. But they work just fine for many dishes, and the clear vanilla is great for icings. You can boil them to reduce and strengthen their flavor. I also picked up a few of the wonderful little toy creatures that bob their heads at just a dollar apiece, which is a typical price. I found one vendor with a varied selection of which some I've never before seen. I bought a dinosaur, a sting ray, and a rooster. In the white pier buildings, I found a great hat shop towards the back, away from the ocean. The hat prices were comparable to REI, and hats were already tagged with the prices. Day Two in Cabo: Salsa & Salsa: This was a ship excursion that proved to be quite popular considering the number of people in the group (perhaps about 50). We booked it ahead of time online prior to the cruise. If you want to attend it on a non-cruise day it cost $50 per person. But if you want to attend on a cruise day, you have to book through the cruise line and Carnival charged $100. I really hesitated to do such an expensive excursion but afterwards I felt it was worth it though my friend did not. After a tender ride from the ship to the pier, it was easy to find where to go because of signs held up high as you exit the tender. After a long wait (due to a couple that arrived 15 minutes late-- I personally felt it was wrong for the driver to make 48 other people wait on these two), we were herded two by two to a waiting luxary bus. A short 10 ride took us the two miles to the Pacific side hotel where the event was to be held. Despite what you may read on other travel websites, we DID not get a margarita thrust into our hands upon arrival. We were offered hisbuscus tea as we entered a pavillion. The tea was good, but I was expecting a margarita as advertised. People were paired according to whom you came with. I would have preferred being placed with someone that liked hot spicy salsas instead of my friend who would only add half a chile to each salsa, and sometimes none. There was a definite rift between us, as I was the other extreme. We finally tried to make the salsas and I would then add more chiles to mine. That worked out okay, but reduced how much of each salsa we could have. We made 7 salsas. Margaritas finally started to arrive, but service was very difficult when you wanted a refill. And the glasses were very small. There was only one type of margarita offered: blended regular (not fruit) as advertised. I preferred mine on the rocks, and had to keep asking for that special which took a long time to get refills. They brought taquitos and very small quesidillas to eat with the salsas. I do not eat meat, so I could only eat the quesidilla. I had to nearly beg for a second one and finally the gal said, "okay, I guess you can have another quesidilla since you did not have any taquitos." I felt they were very stingy on the food. I also wanted more roasted chiles and never could get any. It was fun to make the salsas, I just thought they were stingy on the ingredients. The woman talking over the speaker was very clear and lively. It was easy to hear her over the crowd. After the food was cleared away, we were given a salsa dancing lesson. They did an excellent job of dumbing it down. My friend disappeared as she would not dance. I did not have a partner, so I just danced by myself which was fine. At first everyone was lined up to learn, but then they said to partner up. I noticed a lot of people sat down at this point, but I just kept on dancing to learn it more. I had been afraid it would be awkward, but I never felt that way and had a good time. Afterwards, we were given the choice of an immediate ride back or staying at the very nice hotel for a little over an hour. I stayed. The Pacific Ocean was gorgeous; the soft sand beach nearly empty; and the water wasn't too cool. But you cannot ocean swim here, the currents would drag you out. The hotel offered a swimming pool which had solar heated water. That meant that in January it was just barely warm enough to tolerate. There were nice chairs around the pool, and an open bar. I thought it was a fun day, but I would not do it again in Cabo. I felt they were stingy on the food and on the drinks, though very entertaining. I might do it again in another port, maybe. I hope this has helped you with your cruise planning. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
So we usually do a cruise. This time to keep it simple we did The Mexican Riviera ~ again. This cruise was the fourth time for the "Riviera". First time for Carnival. The Cabin and balcony were great.Lots of storage and space ... Read More
So we usually do a cruise. This time to keep it simple we did The Mexican Riviera ~ again. This cruise was the fourth time for the "Riviera". First time for Carnival. The Cabin and balcony were great.Lots of storage and space under the beds for our suitcases, bath adequate with a "seashell" full of freebies ~ toothpaste, "Snore Strips" disposable razor, Cabin Steward Rahan kept it all perfect ~ and course there were towel animals every night ~ and mints. The new TV was abysmal ~ but we didn't cruise for the TV. The food was simple and sometimes a little like Applebees ~ but there were choices. The greatest plus for us was the "free" Espresso at dinner. Service at dinner was attentive and professional. We enjoyed the cruise and the ship. We found that the ship was a little dark for us the atrium small ~ but this all a personal preference. There have been a lot of cut backs in the cruise industry ~ but for the price of this cruise it was just what we needed. We enjoyed relaxing in The new Serenity area ~ with its great hot tub and pool. Lunch here was a quiet and relaxing time . The sunny weather set in after Ensenada. Cabo was great. We did Zip-Lining the first day and just walked to the beach the second day. Puerta Vallarta was another zip-line adventure ~ Extreme Canopy ~ well worth the money. Manzinillo, we took a tour to Colima wonderful archaeological tour and history of the area. Would we do the "Riviera" again, maybe, would we do Carnival again for sure. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We have been on the Spirit for 3 or 4 times. In July 2012 we cruised to Alaska and the Spirit was as wonderful as ever. However we just returned from the Mexican Riviera on the Spirit again and what a difference. We were traveling ... Read More
We have been on the Spirit for 3 or 4 times. In July 2012 we cruised to Alaska and the Spirit was as wonderful as ever. However we just returned from the Mexican Riviera on the Spirit again and what a difference. We were traveling with 5 other couples, all past cruisers and all of us had similar complaints about dinner. The menu had been cut back drastically with fewer items to select from. Table service was TERRIBLE. The waiter seldom remembered from night to night what we liked to drink. Appetizers were often forgotten. Dishes were nearly "thrown" onto the table. Food was mostly never hot and on several nights meals were sent back to be reheated. Coffee was served long after desserts were delivered. Ice cream was served in Hot Dishes and was mostly melted when delivered. This continued even after we told the waiter. We own a restaurant in Las Vegas and we know good quality food and good service. We also know what temperature cooked food should be held at too prevent spoilage. It is my opinion that neither was present on this cruise. We have cruised only once on Norwegian Cruise Lines and will never do so again. I do not like "Free Style Dinning". I felt as if we were eating at "Denny's"! This experience was not much different. We have booked and paid for 2 more cruises in the next 2 months on different Carnival ships. If these upcoming cruise seem to be Carnivals new platform they will be loosing several good customers. Beautiful City.. Wonderful people, Fantastic Beach along the Melecon Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
I went with a family of seven on a cruise to Cabo in January. The Carnival Spirit was a nice ship but we were a little disappointed with the overall experience. It all started a week before the cruise. Carnival called us and asked if we ... Read More
I went with a family of seven on a cruise to Cabo in January. The Carnival Spirit was a nice ship but we were a little disappointed with the overall experience. It all started a week before the cruise. Carnival called us and asked if we would like to upgrade to 3 balcony rooms with interconnecting doors on the back of the ship and on the main deck that was near all the activities. We decided to take the offer because our original rooms were deck 2 inside staterooms and we figured for $200 a room we couldn't go wrong. Embarkation: The ship boarding went smooth and we were on the ship and in our rooms in 30 minutes. You just have to be aware that when you park at the San Pedro Pier you should drop your luggage and passengers off first and then park. Staterooms: When we arrived in our staterooms we were very pleased. The rooms were spacious and the balcony view was great from the aft of the ship. The stateroom porter was very friendly and took the time to call everyone by their first name throughout the entire cruise. The first thing we tried to do was open our balcony doors so that all 3 room balconies were connected. To our surprise we found that you need a special key to open the doors. We called down to guest services and they informed us that the balcony doors on the back of the ship could not be opened because of safety reasons. This was a big disappointment because this was the main reason we upgraded to balconies. Kid Activities: My 15 year old daughter loved the Club O2 activities and make a lot of new friends. The only time we seen her was breakfast and dinner the entire cruise. I also have a 8 yr old and 11yr old who enjoyed Camp Carnival. Dining: The La Playa Grill buffet was good and their was a good variety of foods to choose from. The kids loved the chicken fingers and hamburgers served outside at the pool grill. We ate dinner ever night at the Empire Dinning Room. Service was very slow and it took us 2hrs every night to eat. The staff was not very friendly the first 4 night and it seemed like we were a bother to them. Finally on the last night we received great service and the food was good. Port of Call: When we arrived in Cabo we were a little disappointed in the fact that we had to tendor to get to shore. Shame on us for not checking. The tendor process was very slow and you had to take numbers to tendor. It took us 4 hours to get ashore and by the time we got to shore we only had 2 hours to enjoy Cabo and then it was back to the ship. The 2nd day the tendor was quick, 1st come 1st serve. We rented jet skis from Banyon Tours and the staff was friendly and gave us a great deal on the rental. Although the waters in Cabo are very beautiful we were a little disappointed. We have been on several Caribbean islands and were expecting the waters to be as clear and blue as there. All and all we had a great time in Cabo and the locals are very friendly and welcoming people. Disembarkation: We arrived back at the Port of San Pedro at 8:30am. We decided to check our luggage thinking so that we did not have to roll around 7 pieces of luggage everywhere. It is a good thing we did because the process took 4 hours. After speaking with our room service porter we found out that the ship was going to dry dock and they were of loading everything on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
The ship was nice for it's age (10 years old) but time had left its mark on her. Most notably was the noise and vibration from the engines. I guess I have no one to blame but myself for not doing my homework beforehand. The cruise we ... Read More
The ship was nice for it's age (10 years old) but time had left its mark on her. Most notably was the noise and vibration from the engines. I guess I have no one to blame but myself for not doing my homework beforehand. The cruise we scheduled was apparently the last cruise before the ship's scheduled dry dock date. Therefore the vibration and noise were about as bad as anyone would imagine. I can only hope that once the ship leaves dry dock on 1/20/2012 that all of those issues will be resolved. The cabins showed signs of age as well, dented lamp shades and weathered balconies were the norm. The boarding process was horrible, taking several hours to board the ship. The workers seemed clueless as to the reason for the delays when approached. I could understand if the reason for the delays we security related, but the security station seemed to be the only smoothly run area. People were screened and processed in an organized and streamlined manner. Unfortunately the organization and streamlining ended there. Only after looking over the entire boarding procedure was it clear where their opportunities lie. The cruise line had set up what seemed like twenty agents to check in passengers and hand out room keys, yet they only had two or three working cameras set up for security photos. Needless to say with that many agents handing out room keys and only three working (one being held together with tape) security cameras, a natural bottle neck situation was created causing long delays and frustration amongst the passengers lugging around their carry on luggage and (non-checkable)cases of water. The boarding took so long that many passengers hadn't even reached their cabins before the muster drill was broadcast over the speakers, It was a mess. On a bright note the crew seemed to be experienced (with a few exceptions) and friendly. I believe the only problems I ran into with a crew member was with a particular Empire Room hostess at a lunch seating. She seemed to be distressed at the size of our party and seemed to want to seat us in various scattered sections of the room. When we stated that we would prefer to sit together she was a bit unprofessional in dealing with the situation. Other than that instance and the boarding fiasco the staff was pleasant and most were good at what they did. All in all it was a "family budget" oriented cruise for us and although it was far from a great cruise it was a nice cruise. The food was pretty good and we did our best to have fun, amongst the engine noise and vibration. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Particulars: My family joining me to celebrate my birthday included Me, DW, DD(5) and DS(8), also adult niece, nephew and wife, and sister. Since only my niece has cruised previously, when my wife said she wanted to get my family ... Read More
Particulars: My family joining me to celebrate my birthday included Me, DW, DD(5) and DS(8), also adult niece, nephew and wife, and sister. Since only my niece has cruised previously, when my wife said she wanted to get my family together for my birthday, a cruise wasn't the first thing I thought of. I wanted to get together somewhere warm over the holiday period rather than the chilly places where we live, the closest and most affordable being our old favorite Mexico. I had looked at booking flights and renting a house on the beach near PV, staying at an inexpensive inclusive, and was dismayed at the cost. Having heard that cruising can be a good value, I checked travel websites to find that the cost came in around the same or less than flying in. Well, Disney was higher of course, and it would have been nice for the kids. Checking the Disney forums, though, I found that the food on Carnival was well-regarded by people who have cruised both. That definitely tipped the scales to Carnival. The price was right, so we next had to select the ship. Checking the web for reviews, I came across CC, and was pleased to discover a forum with as much depth of information and as many fanatical posters as any consumer site that I frequent. I am amazed at the number of repeat cruisers, something I thought people only did maybe once in a lifetime. Planning was a lot of fun, I got to learn a lot about something (cruising) I didn't really know that much about. A short cruise on Inspiration would have been cheap, but I didn't think I would get the full cruise experience, so we looked at the Spirit and Splendor, both with similar itineraries. Of course Spirit was the popular winner here, and I liked the idea of a less confusing layout on our first cruise, and the less-crowded feeling. Having cleared the selection with everyone, I booked the Spirit. We planned to drive down, so I booked the San Pedro Doubletree with a parking package. My relatives flew down from Canada, while we packed up the kids and drove the 6 hours to LA in light traffic. One of the fun things about cruising is selecting your cabin, er, stateroom, for California residents a balcony on Spirit is less than oceanview, so when booking I used Travelocity (which was pretty easy to use) to pick the cabin. Having seen some reference to "secret" extended balconies, I was thrilled when 6232 came up for me (maybe because there's 4 of us). I looked at some pictures to verify, the "bowling alley" name certainly fit! So I quickly booked it. I regretted using Travelocity later, since they said they had a policy not to link bookings with other agents. Luckily my niece's agent was nice enough to step up to the job, so that we could share an 8-top. I don't think I would use Travelocity again because of that. Doubletree San Pedro I must say I was very impressed by the hotel staff. We arrived in the evening, unloaded the bags, and headed for dinner. That is, my family went down to the hotel restaurant for dinner, and my niece and I headed out for tacos, my greatest weakness. More precisely, "gringo" tacos; I had read that there is an El Taco in San Pedro, a joint that we used to have in the Bay Area. Yummy faux-Mexican. I brought them back to the hotel and they were nice enough to let me slobber them down in the restaurant with my family. The restaurant manager was going around chatting with people, the staff were all very friendly. The hotel property is really nice, it was a bit pricey with the package and a marina view, but we really enjoyed it. The next morning, we went down to the breakfast buffet, which was pretty good (the bacon was definitely better than Carnival's). Our shuttle wasn't until 11:30, so I took our bags over to the pier early(with gifts it came to around 12 of them). The hotel was doing its required monthly fire alarm test so it was really loud all over the place, so we went down to the lobby to wait where it was slightly quieter. The restaurant manager said that he heard it my birthday was coming, so he brought me a bottle of sparkling wine! My family swore they hadn't set him up to do that, so my thanks to him. Since it was cold and I had already distributed bottles to each of the adults to bring on board, we popped it open right there and sipped it until it was time to go. Embarkation As I was entering the LA cruise terminal, a confused looking family asked me if they were going to the right pier, I looked at their boarding pass and it said "Inspiration." I told them you've got to cross that big green bridge and get to Long Beach! I hope they (and their bags if they checked them) got there OK. We went up the terminal escalator and got in the boarding line. It took about 20 minutes. After getting our cards, we went quickly through security, who checked the sodas in my bag. We then waited about 45 minutes in the waiting area. DW left her wallet at check-in, but she ran back in alarm and managed to find it. I also dragged 3 dozen soda cans, which we almost finished in the end. We were set to go to Lido for a bite, but our room was already ready so we headed straight there. On the way in, we met our friendly steward Marlon, whose space was right next to ours. His space allowed us to have the extra long balcony. I had assured my family that we had a balcony sufficient to hold all 8 of us, but they were not prepared for the huge size of the balcony. It easily holds 4 regular chairs and 2 lounge chairs. When they saw it, they all gasped and omg'ed. My DW said "Shut up!" to me in disbelief and we hi-fived. Pictures can be found elsewhere if you look for 6232 on the Carnival forum. Of course, we were still at the "Love Boat" terminal. We headed for early dinner and met our always-smiling waiter Siskrita, and his friendly assistants Donny and Sigit. Sigit and my niece quickly became fast friends. Ensendada Believe it or not, I was excited to see Ensenada as it was our first port and we had never been there. I was up at the crack of dawn to witness our approach to port. Luckily I had slept well the night before on the comfy bed, despite the hump between me and DW (no pun intended ). Ensenada was prettier than I expected, with mountains closer by the sea than most California cities. The industrial area was to one side but not too ugly. Below the ship, some sea lions frolicked. The workers had to shoo them away at the end of the day so they wouldn't be in the ship's way. My niece, nephew and his wife headed to town, while DW, sister and kids explored the ship. They did go to the little shopping area at the pier, where there's a small flea market and drinks for sale. We walked past the buses onto the highway, where kids ran up to sell us gum and adults were selling handmade bracelets. A block or two away, carriages await to show you the town. We headed toward El Centro and Hussong's, an old-time cantina with sawdust on the floor. We had a couple of their simple, cheap margaritas before heading out for lunch. The bartender referred us to someplace called "the black market", so we headed out to look for it in the direction he pointed us. We had a hard time finding it at first, I thought of asking one of the many local policemen but thought better of the idea. Instead, we asked a store clerk, and found out it was the fish market I had read of. I had read on here that the restaurants across the way were pretty good, so I asked the fellow above for a reference. We had some delicious fish tacos (including marlin, a meaty-tasting fish which I had never had before) and some large and delicious margaritas. We headed back for our 4 PM sail-off and stopped for another drink at the pier before getting back on board. We were able to watch the sun set as our ship set off on Christmas Eve. That night, DS and I checked out "Big Daddy"'s comedy show, which was good for a few laughs. My son got to hear about childhood discipline as practiced Down South. Christmas was a sea day and also our first elegant night. The day started with opening presents with the whole gang. We had room service sent up for breakfast with enough for 8. I liked the salmon, the kids appreciated the sugary cereals. We hung out near the pool, where they were demonstrating ice carving. They kids played in the pool and made friends. I had an anchovy pizza, it was OK but the cheese tasted cheap. The Reuben I had the first day was better, not to huge and nicely toasted. I had the prime rib for dinner-I'm not a big fan of prime rib, but it was all right. No lobster yet. Later, we saw Jazz Hot, a rather disjointed but energetic production that was entertaining most of the time. I was worried about the sound since the keyboards at sailaway show were badly distorted, but they sounded great. We were very impressed with the show band (led by Jessy D'Mello). Cabo Day 1 My nephew was keen to go snorkeling, he had tried it in Acapulco and liked it. I checked on tripadvisor and selected Ecocat, a large cataraman that would give a pretty smooth ride. They supplied flippers, goggles, etc. We tendered to the dock on the port's boats, which gave a more rocky ride. We then walked around the Cabo marina past the hawkers who were easily ignored. The marina is full of activity, including pelicans and sea lions, who like to hitch rides on boats sometimes. I asked for directions a couple of times until we found the Ecocat booking office and restaurant. I gave them our information and they gave us our boarding passes for the 11:00 tour (the ship moved forward an hour so we were already on local time). We had sodas and bought a few trinkets as we waited. We boarded and set sail for Chileno Bay, as the preferred location of Santa Maria was beset by too many jellies. We first got a tour of Los Arcos, which was pretty but the most interesting thing to me was all the boats buzzing around, it was quite active and exciting. DD couldn't really be coaxed in to the slightly chilly water, and I'm not the greatest swimmer so I only went in for a little while. I saw a few fish but didn't make it over the the main area where my sister and nephew spotted quite a few different types of tropical fish. DS braved the water for a few minutes, then I saw DW carrying him back while he cried loudly. I asked him what happened and he said "sea splinters!" It took me a minute to figure out that he had ventured into a jellyfish area that his mother was trying to coax him away from. Despite many of us getting stung a few times, we had a good time in the water and on the ship. They even let us have food and drink even though we hadn't paid for the all-inclusive package (but we didn't overdo it). On the way back, the friendly crew entertained us with some music. It was now time to head back out to sea until the next day in Cabo. I went to the casino with my nephew, where I made about $35 on the slots and roulette and my nephew won a little as well. Having spent time in Las Vegas, I knew it was better to quit when ahead so I stopped there. Cabo Day 2 DD wanted to swim with dolphins. Unfortunately, Carnival didn't offer the intermediate level at the Cabo dolphin center (at the marina), which was designed for kids who wanted a little dolphin ride. They only offered one that was in deep water for good swimmers, and a pet-the-dolphin thing for non-swimmers. Since they have a deal with Carnival, the center wouldn't allow us to book independently. She was a little disappointed to start, especially since she could see the other kids getting rides. Nevertheless, she really enjoyed petting and playing with them with DW. We were all satisfied with the experience, but we didn't go for pricey picture packages. The snorkelling yesterday was fun but the kids wanted beach time, so when we stepped out of the dolphin center, we asked some local police where we could hire a glass-bottom boat to Mendano beach. They said any of the hawkers right on the dock were OK, so I asked closest guy, a friendly man named Rafael. He wanted to take us to Los Arcos but we said we were meeting our family and would just go to Mendano. It was $3 PP each way. DS was excited about the glass-bottom boat, but I didn't tell him that you can't really see anything under the water (even a comedian on the ship made a joke about it). It was a fun but short ride to the beach. Rafael stopped the boat about 50 feet from shore and said OK, everyone jump out! I laughed but DW was flabbergasted as we were with two young children. She should have known better from our experience with long-tail boats in Thailand. Rafael laughed and took us right up to the beach, and helped us to get off without even getting our feet wet. He agreed to meet us at a preordained time, and to make sure we were on the same clock we synchronized our watches. The dropoff point was a way down from our destination, Mendano Beach Club, so we walked the quarter-mile or so along the beach. It was as lively as I had heard, and the water was the beautiful turquoise color that I had read of. Lunch at the Beach Club for 5 of us, including drinks, came to around $70 (the other family members couldn't find the Beach Club because the sign was obscured). The food and drink was fresh and flavorful. I sat in the shade as the others played in the water. The temperature was fine and the waves were gentle. DW was nervous about getting back on time, but I had heard that the boats are very reliable and indeed Rafael was there waiting at the appointed time at the end of the beach. I enjoyed Cabo but probably wouldn't want a week there. A weekend or cruise stop is fine. It was about at this time that I finally got around to going to Guest Services to complain about a noisy locking mechanism in our door. It had been clicking loudly every minute or so while the ship was in motion but I didn't know if it was a normal noise for a cruise along with the other groans and shaking. It wasn't interfering with sleep too much though. They said they would send someone shortly and fixed it while we were at dinner. I noticed that our neighbor also was complaining to maintenance about some noise from the door. They left a message telling us the repair was done, and let them know if we needed anything else. Unfortunately they called again to check when DW was sleeping. Oh well, I gave them points in their survey for fixing it and following up. It was time to head to Puerto Vallarta. Apparently the hypnotist missed his flight, so that show was postponed. Stu did the Newlywed Game thing in the Pharoah's lounge, but my niece and I headed to a very crowded Versailles room for the Punchliner comedy show with Seth Buchwald. He did relationship type jokes, my niece thought he was hilarious. I thought his jokes were good, even if they covered familiar territory for comedians, and his timing and adlib abilities were well-polished. He was just abrasive enough to be edgy, without being annoying. I also finally found the gingerbread houses, tucked away above the lobby. Puerto Vallarta Next up is our family favorite, Puerto Vallarta. It's the whole package, great food, nice weather, beaches, friendly people, and unique shopping (we especially like the Huichol art). Excitedly, I was up early to walk around the upper decks and watch the ship pull in to port through the haze, watching the hotel towers get closer. I sure could feel the humidity now. The port area is much improved from our previous visit a few years ago, when it was pretty much just dirt and pavement. The little flea market was still there. We love Las Caletas (a little beach excursion), but with limited time we just headed to the Malecon (boardwalk) to walk to the Romantic Zone. We took one of the white vans on the pier for $3 each for the 8 of us. It dropped us off at the north end of the Malecon, which had been recently beautifully rebuilt into a pedestrian corridor. The kids were dying to go in the water but it's not safe on this part. Instead we walked down the half-mile or so to the church, shopping and looking at the statues and sand castles. I like going into the Huichol gallery there, going into the back room, and flipping on the black light. There's glowing beaded statues, god's eyes, and fabric arts. We were getting hungry already so after checking out the church (which was packed with people attending a service) and getting some more pesos, we looked for a place to eat. Unfortunately the place we liked best, Cafe de Olla, was still to far, so we picked a place near Sr. Frogs. I don't remember the name, but it was Mexican place that you have to walk up stairs past an Irish pub, of all things. I think the name of the restaurant was Villa Vallarta. Instead of the fish tacos I had everywhere in Baja, I had spicy beef a la diabla (darn,forgot to look for posole!). It was pretty good, especially with the $8 bottomless margarita. Everyone enjoyed their meal, including the vegetarians who had plenty of choices. We made our way down to the market and crossed the rickety bridge to the island in the river. There's lots of interesting little shops in the area, including some tamarind-based sweet shops on the street pictured above. There is a large 2-level flea market with lots of souvenirs. The island itself has some nice artists working (I was very impressed by some of it) as well as the incredibly tacky t-shirts that I had forgotten were there from my last visit. We saw a huge iguana sitting up in a tree. We went downriver to the beach, I remembered that the beaches were better at the south end and you could rent an umbrella there. We stopped at the first place with a safe beach, Los Abuelos. It was full but they built some plastic tables on the spot for us for $15. We ordered drinks and the kids played in the sand. Later we went in the water, it was still rough where we were but farther down the beach is was quite calm for swimming. The beach was really hopping since lots of Mexican families were there on their holiday break. It was a very festive atmosphere. The water was warm enough but the air got cooler in the late afternoon. DD enjoyed the grilled tuna on a stick. She ate the whole thing and some of a second, which I finished off. Our time in PV was much too short for us. We took two cabs back to the pier and hung out a bit before getting back on. Back on the boat, I went to the juggling show. He told some jokes about the ports and cruise ships, then juggled balls, sometimes in large numbers. I liked the jokes but the juggling wasn't that spectacular, especially from the balcony. He made juggling look easy, which is too bad because he also made it look boring. Manzanillo Manzanillo was probably the highlight of our stops. DD had seen a movie called "The Last Song", a tearjerker staring Miley Cyrus, and loved it. When Hannah Montana wasn't chasing boys, she was trying to protect some baby turtle eggs from critters and helping the babies get to the ocean. I came across the fact that there was a turtle sanctuary near Manzanillo, so I looked for an excursion to see the babies. There's a standard tour called "Turtles and Mangroves" which takes you to the sanctuary as well as a boat ride through a nearby lagoon. Unfortunately, Carnival didn't offer this so I selected lujotours.com from recommendations here and on tripadvisor. They quoted me $60 pp for the 5 of us (my family plus my sister). Despite the early hour (before 7 ship time), I couldn't resist watching us pull in to the last foreign port. Manzanillo is the largest port on Mexico's west coast, and there are some smokestacks in the distance, but the appearance is otherwise of a small, scenic Mexican city, much smaller than Puerto Vallarta. The town itself is in reasonably good shape, and the roads are excellent. Apparently it is very safe as well, and some of my relatives spent the day exploring it on foot (there wasn't much to see). There are some beaches a taxi ride away on the far side of the bay, as well as south towards the resort area of Las Hadas. We found Luis, our guide, waiting for us at the end of the pier at the appointed time. We climbed into his SUV and took the back road out of town. We stopped off at a fruit stand and he took us to the orchard behind. He showed us some of the local fruit, including huge jackfruit. We also saw guava, mango, bananas, and much more. Jackfruit is chewy and sweet. At the turtle sanctuary, about a 45 minute drive, we saw that there are also some iguanas. I noticed some fellow passengers there, who used a different tour company (no wonder they didn't get back to my email request). We went around back where there was a crocodile enclosure. Since it was hot and humid the croc was well hid in the muck. There was also a tank with some baby turtles for us to look at. They sure are cute, swimming around the huge tank as fast as they can. Luis had a surprise for us, he had arranged for us to release some of the baby turtles into the ocean. DD was in tears the night before; she was worried about the safety of the baby turtles, so I was glad she would have this experience. We followed the sanctuary guide with a bucket of turtles down to the beach. He drew a line in the sand and handed a baby turtle to each of us to "race" to the sea. They didn't need to be coaxed, they ran as fast as they could into the surf. Luckily they all made it in! They showed us some mature sea turtles, which are kept there to show visitors what they look like fully grown. At that time they were changing the water in the tanks. Steps away from the visitor's center, we boarded some motorboats for our jungle cruise. We sprayed the kids with mosquito spray but DD still got a few nasty bites. We headed into Cuyutlan lagoon toward some mangrove swamps. On the way were some lily pads. Great blue herons rested under the trees. My sister is a birder, so she was delighted by all the egrets, herons and eagles. There was a baby croc resting near a tree branch. We had asked Luis for a little beach time, which isn't part of the regular tour. He took us to the little old beach town of Cuyutlan. it was a popular resort around 100 years ago, but declined after the railway was extended to Manzanillo. Luis bought us lunch at the Hotel Feliz, a friendly place filled with Mexican families on holiday. It's a charming old place a block or two from the beach. I had some Shrimp a la diabla, and everyone enjoyed their meals. We made our way to the beach. The normally sleepy town was filled with holiday visitors. The sand is black due to the local volcanoes. The kids played for a while until the lifeguard whistled everyone back. The undertow can get rough here. There were some public showers behind the beach to clean off the black sand. Then we headed back on the freeway route to Manzanillo. Luis apologized for the bad holiday traffic, there was about 10 cars in front of us in the toll plaza. I let him know that being from the Bay Area, this was a breeze! It was a quick 20 minute drive back to the ship. My nephew did the Colima tour with the pre-Columbian ruins. He enjoyed it greatly, he really wanted to see some ruins and that was his best chance on the west coast. He was just a little disappointed that it wasn't used for human sacrifice, since it wasn't a Mesoamerican culture. We missed some excitement back on the boat. Apparently someone was playing ping pong a little too enthusiastically and fell through the glass down on to a lounger on the lido deck below. I don't know what became him, the ship was a little late out of port so I don't know if he made it back on board or had to stay in the hospital. Later that night, we went to see Keith Turner in the Shanghai room. It looks kind of like an old school Chinese restaurant. The place was pretty empty for most of the time. We had heard that he makes it hard for people to sing along, and it's true that he would only occassionally pass the mike to a guy who was also a good singer. He would play most of our requests. I thought I would have a little fun, and requested "Natural Woman". He said that he would sing only sing the verse and I would have to sing the chorus. OK, I said to his surprise, so when I sang it, I pointed to DW and sang, "IIIII make you feel, IIIII make you feel, IIIII make you feel like a natural woman...." This got laughs from everyone, and I pointed out to Keith that he could expand his repertoire greatly by using this technique. Later, we went to the hypnosis show with Jac Rene. I was amused, but not overly impressed since I had seen hypnosis many years before with such greats as the "Hip Hypnotist" and the Amazing Kreskin. DS, however, was almost rolling on the floor with laughter to see adults acting so silly. We were heading out of the tropics already, so I thought I would take advantage of the weather while it was still warm. I finally went down the now-gone waterslide. Unfortunately I didn't get another chance as every time I went back it was closed due to wind. I also noticed that the adjacent kiddie play area (which I had never noticed before) was starting to disappear in preparation for drydock. I played some trivia in the lounge, came close but didn't win each time. DS was with me and I helped him make friends with another boy his age. The 8 of us met in the quiet Jungle lounge to chat, I think that a reason that it isn't heavily trafficked is that it is in the front of the ship. It is both out of the way and highly affected by ship movement. There was a Tea Time in the MDR that day. Only nephew's wife and DD wanted to join me. We were by the aft windows. It was OK, they just gave you a tea bag and a cup of hot water as they always do. You could have a teapot if you requested it. The snacks were OK, the macaroons were best. It wasn't as authentic as the tea we had at San Francisco's Dickens Fair, but it was very relaxing. It was the second formal night. People were even more dressed up than the first one, I saw a lot of tuxes and most men were wearing jackets. Not me, I had just a tie and so I felt a little underdressed. I'll talk more about the food separately, but I was satisfied overall. It was great to see everyone dressed up, I must admit. The show was Big Easy, which really is spectacular and even a little frenetic. I appreciate the energy of the performers, who were pretty good if not perfect. The sets are great. I liked the singer who looked like Liza more than the one who looked like Barbie (Stephanie and Lauren, don't know which is which). David and Scott were both good as well. The second show was cancelled for some reason, maybe increased ship motion. There were a lot of disappointed people as that show wasn't rescheduled. Going back to last night, the 30th, DD really likes dance parties (OK me too), so we went to one hosted by Stu on the Lido. I had sworn that I would never do anything as silly as a conga line. It seemed as corny to me as putting a lampshade on my head. Nevertheless, egged on by Stu, DD and I jumped at the end of the line, which was handled expertly by the crew. The line curved around and around in the small Lido section. There was not dancing involved as in the old movies, it was mainly a matter of trying not to get run over by the people behind you. My sister was nice enough to buy some tattoos for DD. DD was nervous because she thought that they would be using a needle, but was brave enough to go ahead. She was quite relieved when she found out that they would be painted on. In the afternoon they held the guest talent show. The singers were pretty good, including the guy we had seen singing in the Piano lounge. went up to the top decks a various times to look for sea creatures. I saw a couple of whales spouting, various mantas jumping into the air, and a pod of several dolphins following the ship for a time. Finally, the night I had been waiting for... Lobster night! Oh, and it was New Year's Eve, so they also distributed party hats and noisemakers at the table. Looking for something to do after dinner, we headed for the showroom to find it mostly empty. They started a game show, so I volunteered and didn't win. My nephew did the next game, he was way ahead when the MC decided to mix things up to make the score more even. This enraged DS who thought it was totally unfair. He had to be comforted by DW who tried to tell him the game is just for fun. Eventually my nephew came in second, but since he was actually leading until his score was changed, he got a ship on a stick as well. We all cheered him and DS calmed down a bit. We sat outside the piano lounge and listened to the excellent show band that was playing therein. Some of us went in to dance now and then. It was around 11 when we saw the sparkling wine starting to be distributed. I got to hand it to them, they really let the stuff flow. There were waiters everywhere carrying trays of flutes and handing them to anyone with empty hands. That worked out well for me because they kept handing out glasses to my teetotalling relatives, who then handed them off to me (yes, that means that I usually had two glasses in my hands). The hour was approaching, so we headed back to the lobby for the countdown. The cover band was very good. Stu did the countdown and the balloons dropped. A few minutes later, the band (Music Society, all Filipino!) were singing Hava Nagila and a hora erupted. It was fun but tomorrow was debarkation so we headed off to sleep. "Psst.... Wake up, wake up...." Stu whispered quietly as I lay awakening. Of course, I didn't roll over to find Stu in place of DW, because I knew that that's how they get you out of your room at the end of the cruise. Despite staying up late, I had again woken up a little early. We had left our bags outside the door to be picked up the night before, so we got dressed and headed up to Lido for breakfast to wait for our number to be called. At around 10 we were called and dragged our carryons down the elevators and the ramp out. Since we zipped by our Canadian relatives who had to wait in a separate line, we waited outside the terminal for them to get out. I had time to go back to the Doubletree to get the van, too. We said our goodbyes and agreed we had a great time. My nephew said that he would cruise again, and my niece had already signed on to a cruise on a different line. Food Since we were traveling with a large group, we at in the MDR each night. It was nice having an 8 top that could seat us all. Overall, I enjoyed the food. I was excited to see the menus, that was a big factor in selecting the cruise. In retrospect, I think I was more excited about the appetizers, which looked like stuff I wouldn't have locally. The entrees were OK but didn't blow me away. I would compare them to something you might get from Trader Joe's: a cheaper cut of meat with a lot of seasoning to hide that. I'll go through them each below. We were disadvantaged in that they didn't have Kid's menus for some reason, so I had to prompt the children about their choices each night. They just wanted burgers each night, so we had to get them to get something different sometimes like pizza or something off the adult menu. We didn't push them though, and they really enjoyed the burgers and pizza. DS also loved the chicken strips and french fries. I have to agree that the fries were pretty good, as long as they were hot. The vegetarians in our group enjoyed their meals too, I didn't keep track but they were happy with the variety available. For breakfast, the kids had sweetened cereals most every day. We don't usually let them eat that stuff so they were very happy. The best bet for me was the omelet station, for a freshly made omelet with peppers and onions, or for eggs made to order. I was annoyed once, though, when the cook threw mushrooms in that I didn't ask for. The lines weren't too bad. I also liked the bagel and lox when we ordered the free room service. I did eat breakfast once in the MDR to try it, it was the only way to get french toast, which was OK. I did like the appetizers a great deal, and following what I had read here I wasn't shy about ordering multiples, usually 3. The portions were small enough to give a taste without feeling like I was overeating. I got to eat stuff I wouldn't normally order, like gazpacho, which was really good and fresh-tasting. When the waiter brought the plate, I had to explain to my tablemates that I would be getting the liquid in a moment, as I had seen from the photos here. The cured salmon was good but a little sweet for me, and I found that a lot of the appetizers tended toward sweet. The strawberry bisque was as good as I had heard, but I thought it was a bit of a cheat since it was essentially melted ice cream. I like cucumbers so I really enjoyed the cucumber soup, but the sushi isn't very impressive to a regular sushi eater. The Tom Kha Gai soup was about as good as I would expect from a Thai restaurant. When I got the smoked duck, I had forgotten what I had ordered, so my tablemates and I were trying to guess what it was! Eventually I remembered, but I like duck so I liked this as well. DW had the escargot, she enjoyed them so much she didn't dare any of the rest of us to try one. Same with the frog legs. The cherry soup was similar to the strawberry bisque, but I didn't mind. The seafood platter, with smoked salmon, shrimp and ahi tartare was good, I was glad to have some raw fish. The crab cake was also satisfying. The gazpacho blanco was tasty , and I didn't know there was another kind! I had the chance for more raw meat with the beef carpaccio, which was light and delicious. My first entree was the chicken a la greque. I felt guilty for ordering something so healthy for my first dinner, but it was OK for skinless chicken. As I said before, I'm not a big prime rib fan, but it was good enough for what it was. I'll have to try it at someplace fancy like House of Prime Rib to see what it really could be. I like lamb, so I enjoyed the heart leg/rack combo. The flat iron steak was not as bad as some have said, it wasn't too chewy or gristly, it was lean yet tender. However, even though I like steak, I wouldn't order this in a restaurant. The NY strip was quite good, it's my favorite cut and it was done right, and with a good peppercorn sauce. It was a decent size as well. I also had the filet/short rib combo, I know it's to save money, but I didn't mind as the short rib was good, and and interesting contrast to the filet. The jerk pork surprised me, I had jerk before and wasn't too impressed but this tasted flavorful and the sauce went well with the humble pork chop. Finally, the lobster wasn't the best I'd every had, but hey! It's lobster! So I enjoyed it, in fact I made sure I got 2 or 3 to fill me up (another tip from CC). I'm not a big dessert eater but I did make room every meal (except after the lobster on the final night, my stomach gave up). The chocolate melting cake really was delicious, DD ordered it almost every night. The creme brulee is a nice treat, it is made in a wide cup so you get a lot of sugar on top. The bitter and blanc was good for something different. It's a bread pudding with vanilla sauce. The food was probably as good as it could be, given the institutional setting and the less-expensive ingredients usually used. It came out warm, if not hot, and tasted fresh. The meats were cooked properly and were tender. I also tried the bacon mac and cheese, DS likes mac and cheese but passed it over to me. He had picked off most of the bacon before I got to it, but I wasn't impressed. I found it a bit thin but I like my mac and cheese to be more like cheese with macaroni. I also didn't like that they threw a chicken breast on top to make it an entree. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Background; 2nd Mexican Riviera cruise and 2nd on Carnival Spirit.3rd Carnival cruise.8th cruise.Just the wife and myself again.Booked late and were rewarded w/ a lg inside w/ french doors.No view but allowed air inside and was largest ... Read More
Background; 2nd Mexican Riviera cruise and 2nd on Carnival Spirit.3rd Carnival cruise.8th cruise.Just the wife and myself again.Booked late and were rewarded w/ a lg inside w/ french doors.No view but allowed air inside and was largest inside cabin ever. Embarkation; flew in same day to LAX.Like San Diego port much better.Long slow process.From start to on board approx 1 hr.But pretty painless! Cabin; as above, a large inside.Bed was too firm and cabin steward did his best to add some padding which helped but still too firm Carnival.Spirit needs same bedding as the Valor.Stewart Efran was superb!!Always clean and towel animals every night. Ship;no change since Dec 2010 cruise.Starting to show her miles.No complaints.Staff cleaning in all area's and doing a good job.Drinks went up another $1 pretty much across the board.Give me a break Carnival, $6 for a domestic beer and only $2 off a "bucket" of 4???As stated last year, the cruise industry needs to understand many folks like myself will spend 2-3 x's the money on alcohol if it is more reasonable in price and we chose again to wait for the ports to do any serious drinking. Food; very similar to last year w/ a few surprises (frog legs,alligator,venison)and we felt the main dining room food was excellent w/ a good variety.We found the buffet to be good overall and did not use any upscale restaurants.Excellent pizza,good sushi,and will miss my morning omelet. Entertainment;main shows in theater similar to last year.Saw the night time comics every night and they were the hit for us and very funny!Could have had the band play a little more on deck but we stayed entertained. Ports;Manzanillo: went to the beach, water murky but very warm.Town seemed dirty and busy and not what we expected.Puerto Vallarta: again did excursion off ship (dolphin/snorkeling) out in bay to islands.Good snorkeling,beautiful islands/beach, good food, and great time overall w/ good value for the money.Cabo: what a great place!Took another excursion from vendor on marina to Chileno Bay, open bar there and back,incredible snorkeling,superb food cooked in front of us, what a great time we had.4 hrs at Lovers beach, time share presentation,several true "buckets" of cervezas, warm and sunny.Ensanada: rained the entire day, took bus to see the water spout and braved the onslaught of vendors there, then walked around main shopping area for a bit before heading back to ship to try and dry out.Hey Carnival, how about going back to Le Paz?? Debarkation; elected for latest time off as flight was not till 6 pm.No complaints as is a process to get everyone off. Overall; was our 1st repeat cruise/ship and we were again very pleased w/ the entire cruise.Kudo's to our wait staff who saw us every night in the same area and usually the same table.Katerina,Fortunato, and Agnes took exceptional care of us and our cabin steward Efran was exceptional as well.We were told the Spirit is moving to Australia and wonder which ship will take over and hope it is as good as the Spirit. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Back once again from our latest adventure. We choose the Carnival Spirit sailing to the Mexican Riviera over Thanksgiving holiday! As usual everything was delightful. Since our last sailing in April of 2011, there has been a couple ... Read More
Back once again from our latest adventure. We choose the Carnival Spirit sailing to the Mexican Riviera over Thanksgiving holiday! As usual everything was delightful. Since our last sailing in April of 2011, there has been a couple changes. In the staterooms there is a placard with your room steward listed. Which is nice. You always know who to contact. The menu in the main dining room has been changed up a little. There is no "spa" selection any longer, the good for you meals are now designated with a "heart" to the right of the entree. The food was not as delicious as normal, not bad, but not I remembered from past cruises. One of my favorites desserts is the souffle and after getting through the top, the filling was as delicious as I remembered. The service, as always, is the highlight of the cruise. Everyone always going out of their way to make you feel comfortable and welcome. We were seated next to the chronic complainers in the main diningroom, whom sent their selected entrees back nightly; but with all drama, the dining room staff went our of their way to make the chronic "b"ers happy - it didn't work, but you have to give it to the staff for trying. KUDOs to you!The drinks prices have been raised $1 per drink. The higher the drinks go, the lower my sign and sail account. I guess that is perspective. I just have to say that I enjoy sailing with Carnival - the overall experience is always wonderful. Stu the cruise director was very funny and it was nice to see him out amongst the people. We already booked for our next cruise in May 2012. Thank you so much for a delightful time once again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We arrived at the Port of Los Angeles about 1pm. It took about 30 minutes total to board the ship, which was a very nice surprise. I should mention that there were long lines, however, we got in line with my VIP brother and bi-passed the ... Read More
We arrived at the Port of Los Angeles about 1pm. It took about 30 minutes total to board the ship, which was a very nice surprise. I should mention that there were long lines, however, we got in line with my VIP brother and bi-passed the long wait. As we boarded the ship, I must say that the staff was very curious and welcoming. Our rooms were ready and our luggage showed up about 4pm. This was a first for us as it usually shows up just prior to the late dinner seating. We did the My Time dining, so we could choose when we wanted to go. Typically we went about 8-8:30 every night. The food in the dining room was very well prepared with a good selection. We ate one evening in the Steakhouse where we had what I would say was a steak as good as eating at Ruth's Chris, and we ate one evening in the buffet. The buffet had pretty much the same entrees as the dining room, so we didn't feel as though we missed anything. The desserts in the buffet, were not to my liking. I felt as though they tasted like something from a cheap buffet. It would have been nice if they had put some of the desserts as served in the dining room on the buffet. The Allure of the Seas had awesome desserts on the buffet, including Creme' Brulee. So Carnival should really check those out and think about updating their selections. The main pool: Well the seating plentiful with lots of chairs, tables, loungers. The maintenance upkeep at the pool was less than acceptable. Many people were tripping on the rubber strips that were loose on the titles. The metal stripping around the pool was was pulling away from the sides. It was quite alarming that we did not see any maintenance being done while we cruised. Burger Grill: Excellent burgers, fries, and chili Pizza: Not so good and it was not displayed or readily available Aisan food: well done, good flavor Breakfast Buffet: Typical and pretty much the same every day Food Variety: Menu's in the buffet were repeated every few days and lacked some variety. Entertainment: The worst I have seen on any of the ships. Very disappointing! Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Background Information We were a family of 7 (parents, kids [all younger than 6 years old] and grandparents). We sailed with HAL a few years ago on a Mexican trip out of San Diego. Ship Info We encountered a repeat mechanical ... Read More
Background Information We were a family of 7 (parents, kids [all younger than 6 years old] and grandparents). We sailed with HAL a few years ago on a Mexican trip out of San Diego. Ship Info We encountered a repeat mechanical issue in our cabin. We understand that mechanical issues can occur, and were not upset that our air conditioner decided to start leaking condensation in the middle of the night on the carpet, because we assumed maintenance would fix the problem after we reported it. What we did not expect was that maintenance was unable to fix the problem and it occurred again the second night and the customer service manager should have her title renamed to customer unservice manager. We did not let the customer unservice manager's bumbling upset our rhythm, we were just disappointed. Activities We used Camp Carnival. Staff was great, they have meal times on the Lido where the kids can eat dinner with their new friends, the kids, with the exception of our youngest, were very happy with the program(s). Note that Camp Carnival is at the very front of the ship - so you will do lots of walking. Service We were never bowled over by service, however (with the exception of the maintenance problem noted above) we were never disappointed, either. Friendly, competent, tried to remember our names. Our toddler received genuine attention from many crew members, as opposed to the normal 'fake' attention adults give each other! We could tell that the crew members missed their families and enjoyed interacting with the kids, especially our toddler. Port & Shore Excursions We loved Cabo. On our last cruise with HAL, we did not get off the ship in Cabo. This time, we did and loved Cabo. We spent the day at the Welks resort. About a 10 minute cab ride. Check out the reviews of the Welks resort on Trip Advisor under Cabo. Amazing! We did not book anything through Carnival, too expensive. There are so many vendors when you get off the tender, I don't see the need to use Carnival's services. Everyone speaks English and there is so much to do. We used Aries Watersports to para sail and jet ski on the second day. Great! The water was warm, blue and great, and the beach(s)were uncrowded and relaxing. The Splendor was anchored next to the Spirit and made for some great pictures! As for folks that are concerned about the violence in Mexico. We left the Port of San Pedro near LA for this trip. While we were on the cruise, just south of the LA port in Seal Beach, CA, a man tragically went to a hair salon and murdered eight people! This happened just south of our US port! This did not happen in Mexico where folks are afraid to travel, this happened in the US. Summary Travel To Port of Embarkation We drove to the port from AZ. A bit confusing. If you are driving yourself, do not go through the gates to the parking lot if you want to drop your luggage curbside. Circle around, drop your bags and passengers and then return to the the automated parking gate to park in the parking lot. The parking lot is easy to access for embarkation - if your ship is parked at space 92-92. More on this later... Stateroom We had 7 folks, so we needed 2 cabins. We booked a 9B Premium Balcony and a standard inside cabin. We played the system a bit. Both cabins slept 4 people. We paid Carnival for 4 people in the inside cabin and 3 people in the balcony, even though 5 of us slept in the balcony cabin and the grandparents slept in the inside cabin. Our 3 kids are small so this was not a problem for us in the over sized 9B - a great cabin. Tons of space and easy access to the ship with no noise. Huge balcony - a no brainer of a cabin choice! Granite counter tops, crown molding, extra storage space. Easy decision. We even had a crib in that cabin and still had space to spare. Inside cabin was clean and usable. Dining Lido and MDR - acceptable on all fronts. We used the Nouveau steakhouse, and service was above and beyond. My spouse had the best meal of her life at the steakhouse. Exceptional. Entertainment Never attended any due to the children. Grandparents attended and enjoyed most of the shows. Disembarkation A mess. Because embarkation went so smoothly, I was surprise how long disembarkation took. The ship berthed at a different spot that it did when we left, and there was no easy way to access the parking lot that we had parked in for embarkation. Bring lots of patience. OVERALL - We would consider this cruise again. We sailed with HAL last time because we had read about the Motel 6 atmosphere and rowdy crowds on Carnival. We did not experience this on the Spirit with this trip, thus we would not be worried about booking another Carnival cruise in the future if the price point was significantly lower than other cruise lines. Remember to cruise with a positive attitude and not to let the little things interrupt your vacation! Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
This is our second cruise, first for our 3 year old, all with carnival, and spirit class ships. Embarkation took longer than our first cruise, as debark was late, but it was fine as we met alot of nice people who we frequently saw on the ... Read More
This is our second cruise, first for our 3 year old, all with carnival, and spirit class ships. Embarkation took longer than our first cruise, as debark was late, but it was fine as we met alot of nice people who we frequently saw on the ship. Our itinerary changed about five times from booking date to actually getting our last port reinstated as we returned to our ship. Mostly due to "violence" and two hurricanes. We enjoyed all of the ports. Our son went to camp everyday and loved it. The staff was great and treated him well, thanks Lola. Many crew members were very nice to our son, patting him on the head and knowing his name without asking us. Some crew members even acknowledged him in La Paz on the free beach bus. It was simply awesome that they paid him so much attention as it helped with his few bouts of home-sickness. He did enjoy dining with the other campers in the lido buffet. Wish we would have known this sooner as we kept him for dinner most nights at the beginning of the cruise and ate at the buffet. The buffet was hit and miss and pizza was a disappointment from the last cruise. We did eat in the MDR the last 3 nights though and the food and service were excellent The comfort food section was actually nice to see as we have seen eateries where we live add comfort food to their menus. The burgers were great and the wife said the fried chicken was excellent. We did eat at the Nouveau Steakhouse on day 3 and found it to be worth the money. I had the 18oz. chef rib eye special and my wife had the rib steak I believe. It was the best meal on the ship. We will do the steakhouse again when we board the glory in January. Enjoyed the reverse schedule with two days at sea on the return. We also purchased the future cruise voucher and used it for our next cruise already. All in all great family cruise. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
I met my wife about 10 years ago. She is from sunny southern California or So-Cal as the locals call it. I am from windswept, landlocked Oklahoma. She cruised frequently with her family growing up whereas I had never even been on a boat. ... Read More
I met my wife about 10 years ago. She is from sunny southern California or So-Cal as the locals call it. I am from windswept, landlocked Oklahoma. She cruised frequently with her family growing up whereas I had never even been on a boat. For years I heard about how fun cruising is, how amazing the food tastes and how many adventures one has while in port. When we got married in 2010, we took a small four night cruise and I had a great time. When we saw that Carnival offered a nine night cruise to the Mexican Riviera, we booked right up. I could already taste the tequila and fresh fish tacos. When October 2011 rolled around, my wife and I headed to the airport to catch our flight to California with the feel of sand between our toes, the smell of the sea in our nostrils and the tastes of Mexican food melting in our mouths. We were ready to go. As we headed to San Pedro, my in-laws, who were joining us for the trip, were ecstatic. They had made this trip many times before. Their anticipation fueled my eagerness to get out my sea legs and take them for a stroll. It had been over a year since my last cruise after all. Little did I know it would take a bit longer. The 2010 boarding process on the Carnival Paradise had been fast and organized at the Port of Long Beach. Alas for poor travelers desperate to grab a cold drink and watch the waves go by though this time around for fate had other ideas about San Pedro. I was never sure if it was the port authority or Carnival who was to blame but the boarding process was, that day, like watching cold molasses creep down a pile of biscuits. What had taken perhaps two hours or less in 2010 took more than four hours this time around. Getting through security was fast enough but after that came hours of sitting and waiting. I couldn't really put my finger on why it was taking so long this time because the process seemed more or less the same except that it took far longer than I expected. I do know I read half of a book while I waited. But, when I finally got called to the boarding gate, the Carnival staff and port security seemed very kind so all was well. As my wife and I crossed the bridge to the Spirit, I took a photo of the ship. She looked beautiful out there, floating on the water that we had been dreaming about for months. When we passed the threshold and were welcomed on-board, I felt the weight of daily stress lift. I was nearly light headed and also very thirsty so we headed right to the Atrium and ordered some drinks at the bar. As the cold beer hit my palate, relaxation set in. Sitting there with my wife, we watched as the same reaction fell upon other cruisers. It was magic. Eventually, we met my in-laws and then located our rooms. Perfect! We found a bucket of ice with purchasable beverages, a pristine stateroom complete with our prepaid bon voyage decorations and even a famous friend there to greet us! Hello Mr. Towel Elephant! How we had longed to re-make you acquaintance! Things were really looking good. Then we went to meet the maître d' to confirm out dinner arrangements. Again, disaster struck. During the booking process nearly a year earlier and twice in the interim, calls had been made to Carnival asking that for formal dining we would like to eat with my wife's parents and that we would need a table and chairs. My father in law is a man of size and he does not fit in most booth seats and my mother in law has bad knees and has trouble getting in and out too so this was an important request as you would imagine. Unfortunately, the maître d' informed us with all the emotion of a limp carrot, Carnival didn't show anywhere that such a request had been made and all of the table seating had been taken for both early and late dining. Really? The man didn't even blink as he told us this. Naturally and I do mean immediately, given that this was totally a failure on Carnival's part, I felt a huge buzz kill coming on. I admit it. I got pretty nasty with the "D". For the record, we had booked back before hardly any of the staterooms were taken so this dilemma was in no way related to us cruising last minute style. Besides, we had, after all, made a point to call about this matter three separate times. I asked to see his boss. He deflected me to the customer service desk. Away I went. Ultimately, the customer service desk made a call and sent us back to the dining room to see the "D" once more. He said, again with a straight face and little or no emotion that I could detect, the "only" option was to seat us with another family at an extended family-sized table. Angry and ready to get my buzz back, I agreed. The only problem was, they never told the family we were coming. Things were really taking a turn for the worse at this point. The members of the Mormon family we were seated with were, to their credit, very kind. However, they had been anticipating sitting only with their family members as we also had been anticipating and were taken aback. After some heroic efforts at small talk, it was silently agreed that our two families had virtually nothing in common so our discussions turned to the safety of our dinner menus. And when the food arrived, all I could say was wow! I will not go into too much detail here as I don't want you drooling on your computer but suffice it to say, everything the formal dining room offered on the Spirit was amazing. Whether a juicy steak cooked to your taste or the buttery flavors of well-prepared lobster or yet again the melt-in-your-mouth desserts they served (I always liked the tiramisu), the food stood out. While I marked Carnival down for the customer service compared to the previous cruise, the food again won my palate. Other than food, the main things that I had been looking forward to were the excursions. I have always liked to travel and experience culture so this was and still is my forte you might say. Our first port of call was Ensenada, Mexico. The day we arrived it was cloudy and a cool, damp wind was blowing so La Bufadora, Ensenada's famed marine geyser, was out of the question. We were planning to do a tequila factory tour in a later port of call so doing a winery tour, it seemed, might have felt redundant. Instead, my wife and I disembarked and took a bus from the ship a short distance into town. We purchased her a purse and me a wallet at the Gold Duck leather goods store. I was seriously tempted to look for a beer and a good fish taco, which Ensenada is famous for, but the weather was just not cooperating so we headed back on foot to the ship. The sun came out but the wind was blowing the damp right through your jacket. My wife wanted to get back on the ship and who was I to argue? Our next stop was Cabo San Lucas. I had never been there but a friend of mine, Buck, had lived there with his dad for several years and told me all sorts of stories about the way the ocean is very different on each side of the city. It sits at the bottom of a peninsula, you see, and one side of it is in the Pacific Ocean and on the other side you head into the Sea of Cortez. Naturally, according to Buck, things are different depending where you are. I was really excited about Cabo. CSL is one of those ports you don't really dock in if you're on a cruise ship. It's too shallow. The Spirit parked about half a mile out from the port and we tendered in. Compared to Ensenada, the weather was toasty and dry. It was about 80 Fahrenheit already by 8 AM when I woke up, 90 or higher by the time we found ourselves on the tender boat. Coming into town was amazing but a little different from what Buck had told me. The beautiful marinas filled with boats were there as was the view of the desert and the mountains. However, the view was somewhat hidden by the new hotels and condos. Every inch of land near the sea around the marinas had something built on it. Still, not so bad. It was very beautiful and again, I took a lot of pictures. With all that I had heard of the sea life around Cabo, I decided to take a sub-submersible excursion. We piled into the craft and I watched as we headed out. I enjoyed seeing the pelicans and other sea birds that landlocked people never see and coastal folks take for granted. As the boat wandered around the rock outcroppings near Cabo, my camera was busy. The scenery was amazing and complete with sea caves, beautiful hard-to-get-to beaches, birds nesting on cliffs, rugged dudes showing off their pecks and pretty ladies showing off... well... almost everything. The underwater view was equally as eye-opening. The fish were, as Buck had predicted, very different depending on where you were. For one thing, they were bigger on the Pacific side and there was some sort of puffer fish on the Sea of Cortez side that I didn't even see ocean side. I took a lot of pictures - like over 50. It was a great time for all, but, the heat kept intensifying even in the late October sun and quickly turned things into a furnace. I'm from Oklahoma where 120 Fahrenheit is not unheard of so heat is something I know a lot about. However, the kind of heat you get when the ocean humidity meets the super dry air from the desert is unique and caught me off guard. I decided after the excursion to have a late lunch and cool off a bit. We ate at Senor Frogs, which was very good but somewhat expensive I thought. The chimichanga and the beer were excellent but did little to cool me off. We thought about heading to one of the beach areas but as several thermometers in town put the temperature at or near 100 we decided to head back to the ship instead. This worked out just fine though because as the sun went down, I was able to take photos of the rocky coast near Cabo which, in the late afternoon and early evening sun, was a rainbow of dark shades of grey against the yellow shades of light on the water. It was beautiful and resulted in a lot of poster-worthy photographs. Our next stop was Puerto Vallarta. Hello tequila factory! We arrived in Puerto Vallarta early before the marine layer had burned off and, incidentally, right after a hurricane had passed through only days earlier. It was humid but everything was bright green and there were flowers all over the place. We lined up for our much anticipated tequila factory tour. People were coming around offering tequila shots for sale but we declined, knowing we would be wetting our whistles soon enough. It seemed like forever we waited and waited to leave. At last, a tour director came over and introduced himself and led us to our tour bus. Within an hour we were unloading from the bus and getting to what would be one of the true highlights of the cruise. Soon we would Salud! One factory was an old, traditional method factory by which tequila was and is still made. It was very educational being basically a living museum and really got me thirsty. The assortments of small batch tequilas were very tempting. I admit I had a few shots when offered, how could I say no? But seeing the agave stacked everywhere and seeing the locals drinking the mescal and tequila while on their breaks (I think) was very inspiring. It might have been the heat, the alcohol or the ambiance but I really felt like I was in Mexico. The other factory was equally if not more amazing. It was a more modern factory but the tour was equally educational. It was genuinely fascinating how the process of making tequila had changed. There were a lot more steps in the modern process it seemed like, which most definitely included, I thought, a more refined filtering process. I could really see in my mind the system of taking agave plants and making them into the liquid gold that is so popular the world over. After the tours were over, our trip back to port was equally memorable. The driver and the tour leader took us past a Mexican prison so we could really understand the difference between what we think of as a prison in the States and what it can mean elsewhere. They also showed us the old parts of Puerto Vallarta, which are absolutely gorgeous. Above and beyond any of the other ports we hit in Mexico, if I were to go spend a few days in one on my own, it would be Puerto Vallarta. Long story short, the ports and excursions were amazing on this cruise. I simply can't offer enough accolades in this matter. The scenery, the food, the drink and the ambiance were, usually at least, authentic. I enjoyed them and can honestly say that Cabo and PV definitely exceeded my already high expectations. In the case of La Paz, our other scheduled port of call, due to the fighting between the Mexican government and drug lords, our stop was cancelled and replaced with a stop in Manzanillo. This worked out ok I guess other than the fact that by the time we reached this port, my entire family other than myself had horrible colds. This problem made going into town seem like a bad, somewhat disease-spreading, affair and the idea was scrapped. More on this later. Now we will spend a few minutes on the shops, shows and specialty venues aboard the Spirit. You knew this was coming or at least hoped so, admit it! We can't all be culture whores. The Spirit, like the Paradise and probably every other cruise ship out there, had a duty-free shopping district with a tuxedo rental place, candy store, all-purpose gift shop, jewelry store and probably some store I am accidentally leaving out. It was all very nice and even helpful at times when it was open, which was pretty much during any of your days at sea. It resembled, sort of, a small and very exclusive shopping mall. There wasn't an indoor park or promenade as such, though some of the newer and much bigger ships have those I understand. All told, the Spirit's public areas were nice for what they were. My personal favorite activity on the ship, other than testing out new foods, was frequenting the shows and events. Oh the shows! They had many options in this regard including miniature Broadway style shows, comedy hours, live bands of various kinds and even the infamous hairy chest events (I include these with tongue in cheek because you never knew what kind of beasts were around if you didn't attend.) There was an art auction going on throughout the week and thus a gallery you could look at and bid on if you saw something you liked. The casino was itself an interesting show too. I am not a gambler but I loved sitting around, cocktail in hand, watching as people won and lost fortunes, mostly the latter I suspected but occasionally the former. Either way, it was a good time for all just each in his or her own way. And speaking of cocktails let me tell you about those bartenders! On the Spirit, and the Paradise too and again probably all cruise ships worth the name, there are these wonderful people that I like to consider my personal friends. They are, of course, the bartenders. Let me give you an anecdote as to what I mean. When I went to Rome, in 2002, I met a bartender at the Hard Rock Cafe there who made the absolute best Hurricane I'd ever had. The funny thing was, I was never entirely sure of the exact recipe she used. I am sure she told me, but I had too much fun drinking the things and certainly forgot as a result. At any rate, I ordered one on the Spirit and it was not quite what I remembered but was very close. I was chatting up a waiter one evening after dinner, as I sometimes would do, and we got to talking about the Hurricane recipe. He mentioned that he seemed to remember the bartender in the dining room had once told him that a friend of his, a fellow bartender on another deck, had once worked at or visited the Hard Rock Cafe in Rome. He went and inquired. I saw the bartender run off towards the elevators and stairs. A few minutes later, he came back, with a small piece of paper in hand. It was not long until I had an exact replica of Hurricane I remembered from Rome. Not only was I surprised at the drink itself, which went down so smooth let me tell you, I was more surprised at the effort that these folks put into making me, the passenger, happy. As I said, these folks are your friends. Now before I summarize, I want to go back for a moment to the issue of getting sick on board. I don't know who is responsible for these things, but the day we embarked there were, to put it mildly, a lot of people that were obviously very ill. There were folks that were hacking the entire time I saw them in the process of boarding, which as I mentioned before was hours long. Why exactly it was that nobody at Carnival, or the port authority for that matter, thought that maybe these people should be quarantined or otherwise not allowed to cruise, is beyond me. I know you don't want to keep people from their vacation but they were possibly putting people's lives at stake when they are allowed to board like that. And so it was without too much shock that my wife and in-laws all ended up with rather nasty colds approximately five days into the cruise. I also caught it but as my immune system always has been rather robust I did not get it very bad but, just the same, it most definitely had an impact on the trip. This was not good at all and I definitely let Carnival know about it afterwards. On the whole, the cruise experience was very good. It was not quite the amazing experience the Paradise cruise had been given the negatives that we had to deal with but it was still memorable and full of experiences I will never forget. The amazing thing is that while the customer service people and officers on the ship did not seem very helpful, the actual room stewards, wait staff and other crew all seemed to bat it out of the park. When you add in the excursions, the amazing food (I never even discussed the buffets but those were awesome too) and the entertainment, this was most definitely a cruise I would repeat. I understand the Spirit has since then been sent to Australia so likely my trip would be on a different ship. That's fine by me. I had a good enough time I would consider doing it again. Likely, my next cruise will be the Pacific Coast or Alaska cruise though. In either case, I am sure the bartenders will still rock and the food will still fill a hungry palate well. Wherever I go next, I will have dreams of wine colored waters behind me as the bubbles of the ship's wake scatter in the darkening sea, or is that simply another bottle of champagne being opened at my table? Happy Sailing! P.S- I didn't rate the Fitness and Recreation simply because I did not use them. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Embarkation: Basically worst ever. However, I expected it as the Spirit was repositioning and I knew this was the first time Carnival had used San Pedro in a long time. The long shoremans union should be ashamed. I actually heard them ... Read More
Embarkation: Basically worst ever. However, I expected it as the Spirit was repositioning and I knew this was the first time Carnival had used San Pedro in a long time. The long shoremans union should be ashamed. I actually heard them tell a woman with her mother in a wheel chair, sorry we can't take your bags, you need to push her to the end of the line, oh about two blocks away and drag your bags yourself. I was horrified and demanded they take the womans luggage. Yes, I had already waited in line an hour, but what have we come to if we can't help out people with genuine needs. First an hour wait to porter your bags, then into the terminal to get a zone ticket, another hour wait for your zone to be called, at least you could sit, and then another hour in line to get your checked-in. As I said, I expected this, so didn't let it affect my mood which was happy! Maybe the bottle of champagne I split with my husband in line helped. Once onboard, easy to put bags into rooms as it was so late and head to the lido for some lunch. Cabin: 4124 Inside room, with French Doors that opened to a view of the lifeboat. Liked the room and we could see the water if we laid on the bed. As usual, our Steward was excellent. He was Thai and always attended our needs. Ice twice a day, towel animals daily, towels exchanged as needed. The bed was very firm and this was the first time my husband complained about his back hurting. Food: For the price we paid for the cruise, the food was fine. Had I paid suite prices, I might be disappointed. Ate at the Lido for breakfast, fresh fruit and yogurt. The chinese station for lunch was hit and miss. Sometimes way too salty. The lunch and dinner buffet food did not look to appetizing. We had anytime dining. I was impressed with the level of service we received for the most part. If you choose this option, realize that the dining room is still operating on an early/late dinner schedule and you will get the best service if you go at either the start of the early of late seating time. We were always seated immediately, either by ourselves or with others if we requested to share. You can also request to sit in the same servers section if you like the server to learn your preferences and get the personal touch you get at normal seating's. Food quality in the MDR was hit and miss. Somethings were good and others not up to par. You could always order something else, so we never left hungry. Again, for the value I felt we ate well. If you are expecting gourmet food, choose another cruise line. Camp Carnival: This was the first cruise where my son did not want to go to any of the activities. I think it had more to do with their not being a lot of kids on the ship and when he went, he had to stay in the 2 - 11 year old group and being 11 he thought he should be with the bigger kids. This was fine as we spent more time together as a family until he made friends with two other boys in the same boat at the pool and they became the three musketeers around the ship. Ship: The ship does show it's age in places, however the crew was constantly seen cleaning and repairing things. One exception was the mini golf course, there was torn areas everywhere. I expect since she is heading for drydock in January they are ignoring this area. No problem with chair hogs, we were always able to get a chair around the pools. The pools were nice a warm in Mexico where we needed it. The water slide was even heated when we left port. On the trip back, they made no attempt to heat the water and since they gave us one more sea day, I think they should have sucked up the cost and heated the water. Ports: There was Hurricane Hillary off the coast of Manazanillo, our first port, so they reversed our itinerary and cut a day out of Cabo. I don't think they needed to cut the second Cabo day as they had plenty of time to make it back to LA. When I asked at guest services, they said they couldn't make it back in time, however I find that laughable as they have this same ship making it back from Cabo to the same port in LA for several sailings in less than 1 1/2 days. Ummm, more time on the ship for us to give Carnival money??? Ensenada: Live in San Diego, so not real excited about this port. Went into town, shopped and then went to the fish market area and ate yummy cheap fish tacos at the little restaurants down there. Walked my son through the fish market. He liked that. Drank as many cheap beers as we could before getting back on the ship. Also had some tequilla to help kill anything we have gotten from the food vendors... Manzanillo: A great little slice of real working mexico. It is a large port town. We walked around town and took the local bus about 1/2 hour away to Playa Miramar, rented a table and chairs and ate and drank for the day. There was strong surf, maybe due to the Hurricane. Keep an eye on your little ones. Mine got caught in a rip and I had to swim out and guide him to go parallel to the shore until we could swim out of it. Puerta Vallarta: Negotiated for 60pp adult and 50pp for kid to go from the port to the tour office and up to the zip line in the open air bus thingy. They started at 75pp so negotiate. This was for the zip, tequilla tasting and mule ride. We couldn't do the extreme because my son was too young. The trip up to the zip line in the open air transport was scarry fun. It had been raining and we had to cross waterfalls onto the road, narrow roads, etc.... My son loved it. The zip line was great! We had a fantastic time. Booked through Canaopy Tours. Cabo: My favorite little beach town. Just took the water taxi to Medano and hung out at the Sand Bar restaurant. As usual, great good and even better drink prices. Walked around town to shop a bit and drank at the bar by the pier until the tenders were about to stop. Service: Overall service on this ship, from the Captains interaction, the Cruise Director and all the staff was superior to what we received back in May on the Splendor. While I like the layout of the Splendor better, more adult areas, larger adult only pool, outside movie theatre, etc... I think the staff on the Spirit was much better trained and way more friendly. Entertainment: Carnival, pleeeasssse change your shows. The only one I can sit through again is the New Orleans show. This was the best performance of it I had seen. The CD Stue was good. I saw most of the family comedian shows and they were good for the family. Only got to one adult show and thought the comedian was more a jerk than funny. Took my son to the juggler/comedy show and we agreed it was the worst show we sat through. Why would they hire a dower, non-funny juggler who dropped things??? Overall: We had a great family vacation for the money we paid. If you are expecting 5 star service at 3 star prices, don't take this cruise. We were expecting 3 star service and food so when we got better, we were happy. If you come with really high expectations you will be disappointed. If you know it is going to be the first time a ship Ports somewhere after repositioning, expect problems, that is just the way it is. If you dwell on the small problems, you will not like cruising. If the prices stay down, I look forward to Spiriting on the Spirit again this Spring down to Cabo. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Just a couple of notes about our 3 night cruise on the Carnival Paradise Friday August 26th 2011 R/T from Long Beach CA to Ensenada. There were 4 sisters/ nephews/ cousins on this cruise in 2 cabins. My sister and I had M8. Outside far ... Read More
Just a couple of notes about our 3 night cruise on the Carnival Paradise Friday August 26th 2011 R/T from Long Beach CA to Ensenada. There were 4 sisters/ nephews/ cousins on this cruise in 2 cabins. My sister and I had M8. Outside far forward portside. We had a side thruster just under our cabin and we really shook quite a bit in Ensenada and especially docking back in Long Beach. The cabin was a bit larger than usual and the bulkhead to the porthole was so big that you could put a mattress up there for a kiddie. One of the activites that we went on was the "Behind the Fun tour". We met on Sunday at 8:45AM in the library on deck 8 forward. There were pasteries, coffee and juice. We did not know they would be serving us breakfast or we would have stayed in bed a bit longer ;) Then Ana who is a corporate trainer joined us. She explained to us that we could not have cameras or cell phones with us. This was printed on our tickets. She collected them and put them in her bag. Then we got wanded by security. Then our tour began. We went into the forward dining room and through the big revolving doors. They were not turned on so we pushed our way through. Kinda fun. We gathered in the galley where the head chef Mr. Schneider spoke with us and showed us around. He explained how he orders the food based on weather, length of cruise and several other factors. They always have plenty of food onboard for guests and crew. A pastry chef gave us each a strawberry in a cute little chocolate tuxedo. Another gentleman showed us how to carve watermelons and make flowers. The galley was active but was not serving the dining room at the time I think. We saw some service lines, desserts, sushis and such. I made a note to have the sushi later and it was delicious. We saw a display of deserts. I saw some of those deserts in the afternoon in the buffet. Then we came back out through the doors and got onto some crew stairs. We went down a bit (very steep and narrow). I did not take notes so these are a bit out of order: We saw the environmental room. That is where they sort all the trash, compact the soda cans, etc. They have safety buckets for razors, batteries and lighters. We toured the laundry room: Huge washers and dryers. Also a very fancy machine that you put a damp flat bed sheet in. It goes in, starches, irons dry and comes out folded perfectly. We went into a huge cooler: Soda, beer, wine, champagne and some items only for crew. More booze than you can imagine. Boxed wine for cooking. The control room: This room has the huge wall panels and control desk. Buttons and lights. Also views on monitors from security cameras in engine rooms. Backstage of the main showroom: We went into the womens dressing room for the main showroom. They have the makeup tables, costume storage, etc. We had a nice chat with the dance captain and the lighting/ sound guy. We toured a classroom with desks and several computers. This is where crew members can work on their English and use the internet. There were no crew in this room during the tour. We passed a salad bar area and were recognized by our MDR waiter Armand and assistant waiter Milan. I think they were getting food and not working at this crew salad bar. We went onto the bridge and had a nice chat with the captain and an officer. Then a photographer took our pictures with both. These pictures were developed and brought to our dinner table that night by Ana. Then we went out on the very front end of the ship that is an outside crew break area. They have sunshine and shade seating. Also a small pool. A fair portion of this crew area is completely visible from the bridge. Last but not least was the crew break room. This has flat screen TV's, bar, dart boards, pool tables, lounge chairs, sofas, tables, foosball, sound system, disco ball, etc. It was empty while we were there. We did not go into the engine room, crew living quarters, medical center, uniform issue, cabin steward staging area, room service kitchen, carpenters fabrication, food or meat storage. Our gifts with this tour totaled: continental breakfast, 1 strawberry on tour, plate of strawberries delivered to our cabins later, bridge photo, vegetable flower on skewer for the ladies and hat and lanyard printed "Behind the Fun tour". The tour was almost 3 hours long. It was a great tour and I would do it again on another class of ship. Another activity that all 4 of us enjoyed was the Master the Martini deal from Finlandia vodka. That is where you get 4 mini martinis in the Rotterdam or casino bar for $17 plus gratuity. The last night for happy hour is was a dollar off. The glasses were smaller than usual but quite full. I think it was good for the price and will do it again. A great photo op. On the last morning I was recognized by and had a nice chat with the MatreD of the aft dining room Ramesh. We had a nice chat. I did not remember seeing his name on the list of MatreD's or I would have chatted with him earlier. The Carnival Paradise is a good reliable cruise. I am sure the Carnival Inspiration will do nicely as well. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We had sailed on Princess before and were wondering how Carnival would be, especially during a traditional spring break week. We had an absolutely great time and we all found the service to be impeccable, the cabins well-appointed, the ... Read More
We had sailed on Princess before and were wondering how Carnival would be, especially during a traditional spring break week. We had an absolutely great time and we all found the service to be impeccable, the cabins well-appointed, the food great, and the entertainment fun. We cruised with my dad and his wife (60s), myself and my boyfriend (45 and 62), another couple (70 and 60) and my daughter and her friend (both 17, in a next-door cabin). My dad has been on over 7 cruises and our friends on 2 others, but all of us found this cruise to be the most fun with the very best service. We had absolutely no problems with the ship being clean--the buffet area was busy all the time and we were amazed at how quickly dishes were removed. We had no problems with waiting long in line, either. If you're easily annoyed by kids--don't cruise spring break--or take a cruise on Seaborne or Silversea. That said, the kids were easily avoided by using the adult (aft) pool. Yes, you could find them around the ship, but they were never an annoyance for us. Our 17 year olds loved the fact that there were other 17-20 year olds on the ship, and they had fun with that group. The service was outstanding. My dad and his wife had a damp spot in their carpet which was not that big of a deal, but they received some ship credit, two "check up" phone calls, and preferential debarkation for their "trouble", which wasn't trouble at all. Our server was "Ickie" with "Jerry" as his helper, and Suresh as the cocktail server. All went above and beyond to make us feel welcome and they added to our fun. When we ordered coffee room service in the morning, it came within 10 minutes each time! We go to Las Vegas a lot, so we are used to that level of entertainment. Of course the ship's show's weren't at that level, but it was still entertaining and good fun. Besides, if you didn't want the main show, you could easily do something else--piano bar, comedians, karaoke, whatever you wanted. There were some great karaoke singers, plus some hilariously bad ones (Bohemian Rapsody guy had us laughing so hard we were crying)... I mean really, it's karaoke, have a sense of humor! Overall, my dad characterized this cruise as "one of his top two" and he was one who was actually worried about what the Carnival experience would be like. We would recommend this cruise and Carnival to anyone, especially since Carnival is traditionally less expensive than some other cruise lines. As a sidenote, my best friend was on the 7-day Splendor Mexican cruise at the same time and her assessment of Carnival is exactly the same as mine--super fun, great service. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
I want to relate on what a great cruise we had when at one point just a few years ago, we were unsure if we would ever be able to take extended vacations again due to my 6 y/o's epilepsy and autistic conditions. I originally ... Read More
I want to relate on what a great cruise we had when at one point just a few years ago, we were unsure if we would ever be able to take extended vacations again due to my 6 y/o's epilepsy and autistic conditions. I originally booked through the travel agency through USAA, but then found out about a program geared toward travelers like my son called Autism on the Seas. They can be reached at www.autismontheseas.com. Through this program, they took care of everything including priority embarkation, private muster drill away from the large crowds, private dining table in a quiet corner of the dining room, coordination with the ships medical staff regarding the condition and camp carnival. We arrived a day early into San Diego and settled into our favorite hotel, Best Western Island Palms, which is located on quiet Shelter Island. We were able to do the snooze and cruise package and took the hotel shuttle to the ship at 11:30am. 15 minutes later we got in the handicapped area and were immediately assigned a person to take us through the line. As our son is autistic, he is not the best in handling long lines. We were able to get to the front of the line and then we were handed off to another Carnival employee who got us our pictures taken and then escorted on to the ship. Once onboard, we met with a woman (Alena) from guest services who was aware we were coming. She gave us a private safety drill and took us to our muster station and then guided us to our room. We were in our room by 12:30. We met our room steward (Xiomara) who was very friendly and related our requests (extra bathrobe, ice, clearing out the refrigerator, etc) and she gave us her phone number and times she would be available. I gave her a prepaid Amex card as a tip upfront. We then went to the Lido deck and grabbed lunch on the pool deck. There was a 2 peice raggai band playing and they were good. We then went to Camp Carnival at the front of deck 5 to get our son checked in to the program. We met Leeann from South Africa who was the director. My son gave her a hug and kiss right away. They were already aware of his condition thanks to the communications beforehand by Autism on the Seas. Even though he was 6, our son was able to be with the 2-5 kids there. We were also issued an onboard cell phone to use while onboard. That way they could communicate with us if anything was wrong and also we were able to use this anywhere in the ship to keep tabs on each other. It was nice to not have to use walkie talkies even though we had brought them. We had the early seating at the Empire Dining Room. We were greeted by the Maitre D who showed us to our area in the back corner of the dining room next to a large window. This was nice as our son can get noisy at restaurants, but the secluded location was also calming for him too. We were intorduced to our dining staff of Nina (Bulgaria) and Jasmina(Macedonia) who were some of the kindest and detailed people I have ever met. They knew that we had a special needs child onboard and treated him like a king. They had his meal already set up (chicken fingers and french fries). They were very good at what they did in that the women at the table were greeted first and orders taken and then the men. The ordering was always done over the shoulder and not across the table. The meal choices were very tasty and I ordered double portions on 2 evenings. We were also able to have our unfinished bottle of wine held over to the next night. The following day, our son became sea sick from the motion of the ship. I ran into Nina who was serving lunch and she asked me about our son by name and I told her that he was sea sick. She said that apple sauce is a good cure and that's what the crew eats when queasy. She said that apple sauce was not on the menu, but would have the kitchen specially prepare it for our son each meal. That was the trick as he did great from then on. This was the first time that I had ever gone with a balcony stateroom and when I was offered an upgrade due to trying to get my fare repriced (fare on our cabin had dropped quite a bit), I was offered a catagory 8k extended balcony. Unfortunately, that was under the Lido deck so I initially passed and then I checked Carnival's site again to see what cabins were available for upgrade. On the Spirit class ships, there are about 5-6 cabins on the port side that have a storeroom for the cabin stewards next to them. As a result, there is no stateroom there and the resultant balcony space behind the storeroom is available for the 2 adjoining rooms. My balcony was approximately 30 feet long by 6 feet wide. We had 2 lounge chairs, 3 regular chairs and 2 tables. That is the most you can have without getting a suite. We spent a lot of time out there. I brought some bungee cords to hold the door open when we were out there. (Just don't open the inside door at the same time as you will develop a wind tunnel). Before our trip, I contacted John Heald, who is the senior cruise director for Carnival. I asked him if he could arrange a special photo op for our son and some of the ship's officers. Our son loves people in uniform and that would be a cherished event for him. John quickly agreed and set that in motion. Our first day onboard, we received a phone call from guest services that the Captain wanted to meet with our son and gave us some times that evening he would be available on the atrium deck. We got a great picture of the Captain, Hotel Director, and our son. The Captain related that he had seen other autistic kids really light up with that kind of encounter and he wanted to do this. The Hotel Director later told me that the ship wanted to do something special for our son and had me take my camera card to the photo lab and they would print out the pics we had taken with the Captain and Fun Ship Freddy and had them blown up to 8x10 and signed and presented to us in leather portfolios along with a large Fun Ship Freddy stuffed animal signed by each of the counselors at Camp Carnival. We had 2 days in Cabo and did the Exclusive Beach Resort the first day and I went scuba diving the second. They have a great dolphin program that we will do next time. It was crowded in town as we had a NCL ship along with the Splendor also moored along side of us. The entertainment was superb. I really enjoyed the show band who had a lot of power and was very musically adept. The dancers sometimes seemed out of sync, but we were really impressed by the band and singers. The adult comedy onboard was very funny. The Versailles lounge was always crowded. I did the Fun Behind the Scenes tour on the last sea day. A little pricey at first, but well worth the money. Our guide Melita, was a a staff trainer so she had extensive knowledge of all areas of the ship. The tour was highlighted by visits to the engineering control room and the bridge with a personalized picture with the Captain standing at the helm. I was disappointed (only bad thing on this ship) with the condition of some of the fitness machines. Several of the cardio machines were missing parts or needed other repairs. We were set to be docked by 7 am on Friday morning, and I arose early at 5am to watch us pull in. I noticed that we had turned to the left and were now going at high speed. I switched on the channel on the tv that shows the position and track and saw that we were now heading at 20kts going due west into deep water. That told me that there was an emergency going on (another ship in distress or a tsunami). I turned on CNN and saw the devastation in Japan and the warnings for the West Coast of the US. The best place to be in a tsunami is in deep water. The Captain did not make his first announcement until 6:30 and made regular announcements thereafter along with the CD to assure us that we were not in any danger and inviting us to relax and we could stay in our state rooms instead of packing out for debarkation. They played a movie in the Versailles Lounge and put CNN on in the main theatre. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
This cruise was highly anticipated and looked forward to as we got to cruise and see Nathan who is currently working for carnival as a social host.The only inconvenience was embarkation was hampered by the tsunami warning that morning ... Read More
This cruise was highly anticipated and looked forward to as we got to cruise and see Nathan who is currently working for carnival as a social host.The only inconvenience was embarkation was hampered by the tsunami warning that morning caused by the earthquake in Japan which is totally understandable.Our room was great and our room steward Joseph was awesome. Many cruisers rave about their room stewards and Joseph is right up there with the best. Room was always clean and serviced even if we were only out of the room for short periods of time. Don't know how they do it:) They just do!My absolute favorite part of cruising is the dinning. I love the variety and everything was outstanding. My favorite starters are the delicious cold soups and seafood. The garlic and butter scallops were my favorite. I had fish four nights and it was all very good. Every night I had fish it was moist and very tasty. I also had prime rib, veal Parmesan, NY strip steak and flat iron steak. Everything was delicious. Desserts and salads were also very good. Didn't eat a single thing that I didn't care for. One night we ate 11 starters and 15 entrees between 6 people. We were stuffed that night, but still had room for the cheese cake. We also did the cruise and wine program where we pre bought 5 bottles of wine on the first day and enjoyed those at night with dinner. Saves 20% versus buying individual bottles Enjoyed the shows that we attended. We had just been on the Carnival Legend last July so the shows were all repeats, but my wife and I appreciate the artist's talents so we didn't mind seeing the shows again. One interesting note is that since Nathan now works for Carnival we had an opportunity to ask about the shows and the cruise director Jen said that it costs Carnival 8 million dollars to change the shows on the boat and that is why they don't change them more often. The shows are usually changed about every 8 years. Nathan is also the comedy club manager and we had a great opportunity to meet and talk with the comedians. We were lucky enough to see 4. 2 at the beginning of the cruise and 2 at the end. All four were pretty funny and it was really funny when the second set of comedians came on because during one of the shows, the comic was really poking fun at Nathan's brother and best friend and he didn't know that they were. It made it pretty funny for us because he didn't know. Pete from Liverpool (Nathan's Roommate) was a hoot and he called the guys the Alabama trio and enjoyed their version of Sweet Home Alabama at Karaoke.Halley the cruise specialist was also very helpful with explaining past guest benefits and amazing future carnival boats and cruise specials.Sarah "Sharkey" one of the dancers was with her mom and she was very sweet. She took time out of her day to stop and talk to us as well.Jen was a great cruise director. Jill, Sara and Loni were great social hosts.Samantha the assistant cruise director was a so very helpful as well!Kim at the excursion desk was extremely helpful with booking our excursions.Introduced some of the waiters to a "chocolate monkey" drink. It's a banana daiquiri with a little chocolate liqueur in it. YUM !!any questions, feel free to email me at trust277@yahoo.com Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Review of the 3/11/2011 Carnival Spirit Mexican Riviera SailingCarnival, how do I love thee, let me count the ways. Oh, never mind - there's not enough paper in the world, and frankly I don't have time to write a love note that ... Read More
Review of the 3/11/2011 Carnival Spirit Mexican Riviera SailingCarnival, how do I love thee, let me count the ways. Oh, never mind - there's not enough paper in the world, and frankly I don't have time to write a love note that long. Let it suffice to say that I am quite well-known as an unabashed, wildly vocal proponent of not only cruising in general, but also Carnival Cruise Lines in specific. As a long-time cruiser, I have reached that point in my life where, much like a young man driving his first convertible, I have ceased to consider the overall cost because the pleasure more than exceeds the monetary output. Unlike most travel, cruising relies heavily on the fair winds of weather, water and politics, either of which can change directions with but a moment's fickle notice. As a result, cruisers must be prepared for an adventure, and cruise lines do adventure better than anyone. And what an adventure this was! Of course, not everything qualified as an "adventure." Packing - as always - was a chore. It seems that we never seem to get any better at it. I mean, after 17 cruises one would think that we would have this portion of the journey down to a science. But alas, if it is science, it is weird science. Every single item goes in according to a printed list - a list that seems to grow every single time, and the most commonly heard phrase as we begin to dump into the cases is, "But what if I need..." And then, when you think the packing will never end—it is over, time to leave. The car is full, snacks are readily at hand, and the long trek across the desert begins. Of course, those of us in the southwest who crave the ocean breezes on our faces don't look on our surroundings as a desert, mind you, but rather as a long, 400-mile wide desolate beach to be overcome in our quest for undulating waves and roiling white-capped surf. Summer or winter matter not as we set our sights west, to the oceans of our desire. A mind-numbing 6-hour drive and we arrive at our interim destination, Days Inn on Hotel Circle, San Diego. Chosen for its Park & Sail program, it is a comfortable place to lay our heads as we await the coming day when we will embark on Carnival Spirit for a long-anticipated 9-day journey down the Baja California peninsula and beyond. All goes like clockwork, as it has so many times in the past, until...It's 7am Friday morning, March 11, 2011. The adventure begins. We are awakened to a signal from our Blackberry, a message from daughter Tracy, "Has the tsunami affected you?" Time to take advantage of Days Inn's free Wi-fi. An alert has been sounded that a tsunami resulting from a huge earthquake off Japan's eastern coast has inundated them with 30-foot walls of water, and the devastating after-effects were headed east. Hawaii had already been hit by waves up to 8-feet high, and a much-diminished wave of around 1-2 feet was expected to arrive in San Diego by 8am. The port of San Diego was shut down, and Carnival Spirit was left to flounder off Tijuana, unable to dock. Our shuttle from the hotel was scheduled to leave at 10:30am, but the ship was not expected to arrive until sometime after that. Debarkation procedures would take hours, and even with our Carnival Platinum Cruiser status, we would be waiting around the port, unable to board until very late in the afternoon. A quick visit to the Days Inn front office brought good news from Brian - we could delay checkout until the just-added 2pm shuttle, at no extra charge. And just as quickly, we became huge Days Inn fans. As scheduled, the shuttle was waiting for us down at the office and we loaded bag and baggage and proceeded toward the Port of San Diego shortly thereafter. On arrival, we encountered a multi-block-long line of passengers snaking from the embarkation station through the baggage area, out the security gate and down the sidewalk. However, in what could only be described as miraculous, our shuttle driver was motioned into the offloading area, a porter took all our luggage, and we walked straight into the embarkation area for VIP check-in. We later spoke to some rather irritated people who had waited in the previously-mentioned line, and even though they were Platinum guests, it still took 3-1/2 hours to move with the rest of the people in line before they could reach the building in order to take advantage of their perks as we had. While I felt bad for them, I think Carnival handled a very bad situation quite well - and I definitely did not go on about our fortunate circumstances again for the rest of the cruise!Once through the expedited onboarding process, it was up the gangway and onto the Carnival Spirit - our beautiful home for the next 9 days. From her towering lobby with glass elevators scaling the heights to her marble floors and wood-trimmed walls and ceilings, Carnival Spirit is a beautiful ship, the first of the Spirit class vessels for CCL. 80% of her rooms are outside cabins, and of these, 80% are balconies. Entering her gorgeous auditorium, the Pharaoh's Lounge, is like a trek into an ancient Egyptian temple, replete with gold-leafed sarcophagi and hieroglyphics. Our room was ready when we boarded at around 3:30pm, so we unpacked our carry-on luggage while our 15-year old son, Mark, who is very familiar with what this ship has to offer, headed to Lido deck for his passion - Carnival food. After meeting our room steward, a delightful young lady from Nicaragua named Xiomara, we followed shortly after for a light lunch, as we had not eaten since early morning. We knew that dinner in the Empire Restaurant, Carnival Spirit's Main Dining Room, would be served at 6pm, so no matter how strong the temptation - and it was quite intense - we held off filling up in the Lido deck La Playa Grille, as Carnival's Main Dining Room offerings are some of the best in the industry, all served with that special Carnival smile. As expected, our dining waiter, Noel, and his assistant, Wunna, were delightful, witty, efficient, and charming, all at the same time! Dinner was, as expected, delicious, but it was somewhat lonely, as our dining companions did not materialize. This is not, however, unexpected on the first night, as people are very tired after the day's travel, etc. We took it in stride, and followed up dinner with a hot cappuccino, after which we were set for the night and ready to explore.One of the challenges onboard any Carnival vessel is the number of activities that happen all at once. That night we had to choose between a multitude of different entertainment venues, including solo performers in the various lobbies, comedians in the Comedy Club, the Welcome Aboard Show, and their very popular Karaoke Lounge. We decided to do the latter two. The Welcome Aboard Show allows passengers to meet the Entertainment Staff who will be guiding their experience for the week, including the Cruise Director, our Master of Ceremonies for the duration of the cruise. And meet her we did! After the great dancers and singers did their requisite part to excite the crowd, out came none other than - Eliza Doolittle in the flesh - in the personage of Jen Baxter. Not your usual blue blazer and tan pants, she appeared on stage in what appeared to be a vintage frock with a lace bow on the side of her head that just did the outfit proud. And then - she opened her mouth to speak. Her deep, gravely voice set the stage for what would be one of the most surprising and best cruises of our lives. Unexpected? Yes, but not in a bad way. Hailing from Liverpool, UK, Jen was seemingly everywhere during the voyage. She was both off-putting and endearing at the same time, and frankly was the most visible CD that we have ever encountered. Having read some of the comments from others who completed the voyage, it appears that you either loved her or you didn't - there was no in-between. For our part, we loved her! She was one of the finest, funniest, and most approachable CDs in the fleet, and a delight to behold. On the evening of St. Patrick's Day, she wasn't just announcing where the fun was—she WAS THE FUN! Playing Irish music on the poop deck and dancing a jig - barefoot, no less - she beckoned all to join her in the hilarity. That night, she made me feel proud to be Irish - and I'm Italian! Carnival, you have an absolute gem in this one.After the Welcome Aboard Show, it was off with us to the Versailles Lounge for Karaoke. Those of you who know me are aware that there has never been a Carnival Karaoke lounge that I did not appreciate - every single night of every single cruise! You see, Karaoke is not an activity - it is my family. We sing together, we applaud no matter the expertise of the performer - no matter whether they sound like Cat Stevens or a strangled cat - and yes, we laugh from time-to-time as our "Crazy Uncle" steps up to the microphone to prove to the world beyond a shadow of a doubt that 1) he is drunk and 2) he can't sing when he's drunk. But he has the guts to stand up there for our entertainment, and for that we applaud just as we would for any other super star performer. After Karaoke, we were treated to a new Carnival exclusive - Superstar Live. The premise is that for an hour or so, the ship again offers Karaoke, but with a live 4-piece band and a 42-inch monitor displaying the lyrics. I'm not certain that the singers - who were the same we encountered previously in Karaoke, including our "crazy uncle" - were any better, but the music behind them was definitely an improvement over standard Karaoke fare. And now, for a real improvement, the Superstar Live host, Consuela, steps onto the stage, and she is HOT! Long legs, and unruly shock of curly tresses, she has a set of pipes that won't quit and all the energy in the world to boot! A spectacular performer in her own right, she encouraged each person behind the microphone, and when necessary even got them back on key. The most common comment we heard about her from those around us was, "Why is that talent not in the shows?" As for me, the self-professed Karaoke King, I did not sing in Superstar Live because out of the 120 tunes offered, I could find nothing that I wanted to sing, or that I thought I could sing. The songs on their sheet seemed to be more a collection of 80s/90s from the likes of Pat Benetar, Tina Turner and others. No standards like Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole, and the only real country hit I found was Chicken Fried by Zac Brown Band, which I have never tried, but seemed out of place for that venue. Nonetheless, while I would like to see the song list in Superstar Live include a more varied offering, all-in-all it was an enjoyable evening, and Superstar Live is a great addition to the entertainment onboard.To those of us for whom cruise ships serve as our ultimate destination rather than a means to a destination, spending sea days aboard a Carnival Spirit-class vessel is truly a dream excursion come true. With soaring, seemingly miles-high atriums and glass-enclosed elevators that take you literally toward the sky above, then plunge you downward toward granite-surfaced tabletops and rich parquet floors in the lobby bar, Carnival Spirit is a vessel designed with us in mind. A great "walking ship," she possesses sweeping decks practically down the entire length of both sides the ship on which to stroll beside ocean waves gently lapping at her flanks. My lovely wife and I have spent many a night sashaying in the ocean air to the rhythm of her hull cutting through assaulting waves like well-warmed butter. Sea days aboard her are magnificent, rain or shine, and just as she has never disappointed in the past, Carnival Spirit did not disappoint over the next 2 sea days as we sail toward the first of two seldom-visited ports, Manzanillo, Mexico. Unlike the recently - and hopefully temporarily - abandoned port of Mazatlan, Mexico, Manzanillo lacks many of the amenities you may have come to expect from the usual ports - amenities such as congested industrial port areas accessible only by tram and teeming with pushy vendors, hard-core time-share agents anxious to lure you into their newly-renovated lairs, and a gauntlet of over-priced "Mexican" wares suitable only for hiding away in a closet, or for gifting to someone who will do the same. Manzanillo, on the other hand, had none of these so-called amenities. It is absolutely charming, a truly Mexican town just an easy stroll down the dock from the ship. The people were delightful and welcoming, genuinely happy to see this new-found source of revenue arriving. We encountered a few "snowbird" Canadians who lived in Manzanillo for months at a time, and exclaimed the virtues - and inexpensive rentals - of this sleepy Mexican village. While excursions were offered by Carnival, Manzanillo is a perfect walking/shopping town for those like us who prefer to plan their own time ashore, where vast stretches of beautifully manicured landscaped area parallel the shoreline with its clear, fish-infused waters. During our stroll, we witnessed the constant maintenance it takes to keep such an area pristine, and we appreciated the smiles we encountered as we shopped the various stores and stalls down the causeway. Standing easily 100 feet high and proud over everything in Manzanillo is a modern steel sculpture of a blue marlin. Along the shore were other smaller bronzes, all standing in tribute to this wonderful town's culture and heritage. As we visited the shops with the warm ocean breezes swirling around us, we found prices to be much lower than in the more populous cities, and as we walked back to the ship, we had already committed ourselves to another visit to this delightful port in the near future.Back onboard, it was time to prepare for another of Carnival's scrumptious dinners in the Main Dining Room, where we shared the company of 2 couples who joined us at our previously cavernous, empty table. Bill & Patti, brother and sister, were traveling with their spouses, Sherrie and Paul respectively, and may possibly have been the most wonderful people we have ever met on a cruise—and we have truly met some wonderful people. Warm and welcoming, with a delightfully droll sense of humor, their stories of travels past were riveting and we never tired of their company. In fact, we found ourselves looking forward to dinner with them each night. Besides addressing us with warm respect, they made an effort at each meal to draw our "man of few words" teen son into the adult conversations, but on his teen level. We were truly blessed to share this experience with these delightful couples.After dinner, it was off to Karaoke in the Versailles Lounge, a stroll through the ship to once again enjoy her beauty, and then to bed to rest, serenaded by the rhythmic tunes of the gentle thrum of our engines pushing us toward Puerto Vallarta and our Whale-watch/Snorkeling excursion to the Marietas Islands. Make that Dolphin-watch/Snorkeling excursion, as we received news from the excursion desk that the guarantee of whales was no longer on the table. Rather than refund the excursion, they simply converted the tickets at the same price. Once again, cruising is an adventure, and you have to go with the flow to truly enjoy it. What was amazing, was that after an extremely cold snorkel (yes, Mom went in, but she only bobbed around in the water - we'll work on that) in cloudy, low visibility water, we actually saw more whales than ever before! We returned well-worn, medium-rare from the tropical sun, and well-satisfied, ready for a rest, an evening of fun, and another night of sailing before reaching our next port, Cabo San Lucas.Cabo San Lucas, or "Cabo," as it is referred to by most visitors, may be one of the most—if not THE MOST - stunning ports in the world. With its active adult lifestyle and starkly beautiful terrain, it is home to Land's End, the southern-most point on the Baja California peninsula, which culminates at Los Arcos, a naturally created arch that literally provides a window through the craggy rocks that separate the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. It is also the winter abode of the world's oldest population of "snowbirds" from the north, consisting of various species of migrating whales who come each winter—as do we—to play, feed and breed in the balmy tropical weather amid beautiful blue seas.In addition to whales and indigenous species of birds and dolphins, the natural harbor of Cabo San Lucas is replete with every type of watercraft from sailing yachts and cabin cruisers to deep-sea marlin-fishing vessels and Mexican water taxis. Most visible, however, is a flotilla of seeming multitudes of jet skis, all operating at once under a sky full of parasailing adventurers. How there never seems to be a collision between any of them is still a mystery better relegated to the likes of NASA scientists than a cruiser aching for adventure. From Carnival Spirit we could sit on our balcony and watch not only the waves lapping gently at Los Arcos, continuing the erosion started centuries ago, but also our neighboring visitors, Carnival Splendor, Sapphire Princess and Holland America's Statendam floating nearby. With four ships in port, and limited facilities, Cabo would be very busy today. Since this is a tender port, where the only way to get to shore is by jumping from one huge bobbing ship to a little bitty bobbing boat, we were in no hurry to leave ship and join the fray. In addition, we would be returning to Cabo after our La Paz stop to indulge in a little adventure ourselves (more later). So after our son, Mark, and I made a brief jaunt to shore for a quick "St Pattie's Day" conga on the dock at Senor Frog's Cantina, we spent the remainder of the day enjoying the views and amenities offered by our wonderful ship and its delightful staff.La Paz—what can I say? It is another seldom-visited town which appears to be continuously under construction. Still largely undiscovered, it exhibits much of the charm of Manzanillo, but for how long I cannot predict. As in Manzanillo, the atmosphere is still "Mexican" but I sense a change occurring already. Perhaps it was the verrrry long and verrrry bumpy, cramped, hot and sweaty bus ride from where the ship docked in the middle of nowhere, or possibly it was the the much-touted condo villages erupting from the stark desert floor like unnatural infestations of stalagmites. There was just an uneasy sense of change all around, and I can't say it was necessarily for the better. While we were obviously one of few ships visiting, and while I never felt in danger of any kind, I did have the overwhelming sense of being a foreigner in a foreign land. It's not that the people treated us poorly - quite the contrary is true - I felt that we were more a curiosity rather than a welcome visitor. The city was bustling, but it was bustling with the normal day-to-day traffic of people intent on going about their daily lives in spite of our arrival. However, I must comment once again on the cleanliness of the city as we finally arrived, and the amazingly clear aqua cast of the sea beside us. Yes, we did encounter a few gentlemen who offered their boats for tours, but when we declined they respectfully accepted our response and thanked us for visiting. One even offered to use our camera to capture a photo of us and our visit to this delightful town. AMAZINGLY REFRESHING! That beautiful azure sea was the intended site of one of our most amazing adventures to date, and quite possibly one of the highlights of our entire lives - swimming with the whale sharks. These gentle giants, often reaching up to 40 feet in length, typically inhabit the warm, clear, aqua waters surrounding La Paz—except now they didn't. We had heard prior to sailing that the whale sharks had made what could only be described as a sudden mass exodus from the bay. They left no note, no e-mails and no voice mail explaining why—they just went. And while we were refunded on this excursion, we were hopeful the entire day that they might just as suddenly reappear, as did the whales in the Marietas Islands off Puerto Vallarta. That was, unfortunately, not to be. They had ditched us like frogs at a princess convention. Never mind that I had just purchased a brand-new hi-def video snorkel mask for just this purpose, or that every background on every one of our computers—at work and home—had their photos emblazoned. Today, it was going to be another strolling/shopping search for that perfect cowboy hat, and in the end we headed back to the ship through the never-ending construction, having purchased nothing more than a couple of delicious ice cream cones from Del Fuego, recommended by none other than the Captain of our vessel, and possibly one of the best little frozen confection shops in all of Mexico (look for the Wonder Bread tree—you'll know it when you see it). The end of the adventure? You apparently don't know my wife very well. As soon as I felt her lagging behind while we trudged from the return bus toward the ship, I knew I was in trouble, and then she uttered those words - the words I always dread, and that always fall from her lips with an ominous thud - "I wanna go to the Beach!" There it was. You have to understand my wife. Ever since she was a child, she has been fascinated with beaches. She likes to walk on them, wade in the water, dig her feet in the sand and feel the cool squishiness rising from between her toes like some mutant toe jam. Obviously, I do not suffer the same proclivity. But I do know on which side my bread is buttered, and frankly, a happy wife is a far better companion on cold sea days than a chilled slab of meat laying under the blankets with her back to you just because you had to have your own way. So, with only a "little" pushback from me ("Darling, the ship is sailing in only 2 hours!") we waited in the very warm afternoon sun for the next shuttle bus to Playa Tecolote, about 45 minutes away.As the bus wound its way through the sparse desert terrain toward the playa, we heard stories of an incident earlier that day where one of our fellow cruisers took a cab to one of the other beaches on the way that was far less populated. As they entered the water, they did not notice one of the sea creatures indigenous to the area, a sting ray, embedded in the sand and invisible, even in the clear, pristine waters. Now, I've always heard that an animal would not attack unless it was cornered, preferring the option of leaving with all their faculties intact. Of course, no one has yet been able to determine exactly when an animal will perceive that it is cornered, and I'm certain that the foot that came down on its back probably startled the ray into attack mode. Either way, the passenger ended up being returned to the ship with the barb intact in their leg after an arduous wait for a non-existent EMT in Mexico. Our bus finally arrived at the end of the road, and as it rounded the last curve, the most beautiful expanse of rippling aqua water stretched out before us. Framed by pastel-colored, striated cliffs in the distance, it was absolutely exquisite, and I began to mentally kick myself for even thinking that I might not enjoy it. While I don't necessarily enjoy beaches, I can appreciate the beauty of the Great Artist's brush when I see it. It was like He had filled the Grand Canyon brim-full, then dropped Easter egg coloring tablets in for good measure. We walked to a nicely shaded area, sat down, and ordered a couple of cold, iced drinks. Another lady from the ship - I call her Lady Mary—walked by in search of a shaded table and we invited her to sit with us. A teacher on holiday from Riverside, CA, we found her to be a delightful conversationalist, and she regaled us with tales of past cruises and future adventures as we observed the jet skis plying the waters off the shore, skipping over wave after wave to the sounds of Mexican music in the background. Afterward, we lined up for the bus trip back to the ship, but since the last bus was running very late, and we feared watching our shipmates waving "Bye, bye" as they sailed off into the distance without us, we split a cab back to port and arrived in plenty of time. Soon we were on our way back to Cabo, but once again resolved to revisit this port, if the whale sharks were willing to take our calls.Gliding into Cabo in the early morning is truly a thrill, and we were definitely up for the excitement—in fact, we had quite the day of excitement planned. Today was—ready for it?—Parasailing! My dear, sweet wife, fully under the influence of Carnival's "Didja Ever..." advertising campaign, had realized there were some adventures we had only watched from a distance, but had not yet experienced in this apparently too-short life, and had booked the three of us on a parasailing excursion. Please understand - I have no problem with heights, and I don't fear death, as I am fully aware of the reward promised on the other side afterward, but I must say I'm not a real fan of that last painful "SPLATTT" at the end of an uncomfortable drop of hundreds of feet. Frankly, I fear more that I would actually live through the experience, spending the rest of my life drooling salt and sand from every orifice until I leave for the afterlife. However, I have always envied those graceful aerialists who swung from the thin sheets of nylon as they soared overhead, and had openly said in the past that I would one day parasail, so now it was time to put my pesos where my mouth was, suck it up, and get hauled into the air tethered to an entirely too-small boat.Tendering into Cabo is much easier when there are only 2 ships in port, in this case our Carnival Spirit and Disney Wonder from the House of Mouse. We glided to the dock in record time, and had about 2 hours before our noon excursion - so Mom decided that once on the water was not enough. Before I knew it, a flock of vendors were hawking everything under the sun, and she was dickering on a ride past Los Arcos in a glass-bottom boat. Now understand, a glass-bottom boat in Cabo is not your Florida fresh-water cruising craft. It is a small skiff - no, a rowboat with a motor tacked on - with a hole hacked in the bottom (great idea?) and a piece of plastic covering it. I guess, as the Kenny Chesney song says, "Everybody wants to go to Heaven..." but I'm not certain that riding to oblivion at the hands of a boat butcher is the best way to get there. However, as I mentioned previously, a happy wife is one who always gets her way, so off we went. As we passed Lovers' Beach, we saw lots of happy, smiling people getting wet in the gently rippling waters off the sandy expanse between Cabo's most-notably featured Lands End rocks, as well as some pretty well-stuffed sea lions enjoying a siesta after raiding the fishermen's nets. As we rounded Los Arcos to the Pacific side of the outcropping, the water became very rough, especially in a chopped-up dinghy, and we bounced past Divorce Beach, the stretch that connected to Lovers' Beach through the rocks, well-recognized for its riptides that can end a marriage very quickly, thus avoiding a nasty divorce - and hence the name.We returned to the port just in time to catch our speedboat out to the outer harbor for the parasailing adventure. By this time Mom was feeling a little uncertain, but she booked it, so she was going. There's one thing Mom fears more than the thought of grievous injury - and that is losing money. So, off we went. We were aboard with another family, all veteran para-sailors who would hopefully make it easier on us parasailing virgins. Did it help? You judge from this conversation - Girl: "How high are we going?" Captain: "About 400 feet." Mark: "Did you really have to ask that before I go up?" As the captain swung our fleet craft into the wind for the last time, the parasail filled and snapped to life, billowing like a multicolored bobbing balloon behind us. Two-by-two, the vets were clipped on and dragged off the back platform and into the sky. Tension mounted as we waited our turn. Then, it was time. Being the "role model" of the family, I pushed aside any concerns, stumbling onto the platform as the boat rocked to and fro violently beneath my feet. A couple of barked orders in broken English from the crewman, "Sit down, hold here, don't touch this" and as the captain hit the throttle, I suddenly felt my butt being dragged across the carpet and off the back of the boat. My first thought was that I would go flying into the bay leaving my shorts on the boat. As luck would have it, the wind was with us, and I and my shorts went almost straight up at an alarming rate. By the way, do you remember that expensive, unused video snorkel mask that was lying in the bag like a boutonniere on the floor of a teen boy's car after his date ditched him at the prom? Well, I decided that today was the day to test its capabilities, and I wore the mask into the air under the nylon 'chute! I may have looked like a total geek, but what I returned with is one of the most amazing videos ever, saturated with the colors and excitement of Cabo San Lucas, and I carry it everywhere with me on a thumb drive just in case someone hasn't seen it yet. As I made my ascent, the first thing I noticed was the sound - a strong breeze in my face (but not my eyes, thanks to the mask), the pervasive noise from our boat's engine, so overpowering when aboard, rapidly dissipated as the boat began to shrink below me. Before long, I was soaring over the harbor, tethered to a small toy boat that rocked tenuously in the water like a floating bobber on the end of a fishing line. And all around my lofty perch was the beautiful tapestry of Cabo San Lucas, laid out in all its stark, resplendent glory. Deep, dark azure waters lapped against the pinkish tan shores of the beach, and white waves rushed against Los Arcos in the distance. Every now and then I would feel the silent breezes shift directions, then just as suddenly they would billow the canopy above me even fuller, lifting me ever higher into the stratosphere. Even the cruise ships in the harbor began to seem insignificantly small in comparison to the grandeur stretched out beneath my gaze. And then, seemingly all-too-soon, I began to feel the earth gently rising toward me as I was winched back onto the moving platform on the bobbing little toy boat. Landing ever so gently on my feet, I was suddenly aware once again of the gravity that holds us to this orb we call Earth, and I wanted to go back up again. Alas, it was no longer my turn, and Mom and Mark were looking to me for support as I stumbled back into the boat. "How was it?" "Fantastic!" I exclaimed, and I watched as one-by-one my loved ones stumbled to the back and were hauled aloft for their own first-time experience. Leaving the harbor that afternoon, we were immediately greeted with high winds as we rounded Los Arcos for the last time this trip, a fitting adieu to Cabo San Lucas, and the beginning of a welcome rest as we began our trek back to San Diego. Sea days are truly the best days on a cruise, and it's the time when I can enjoy my early morning walks around the ship. After 8 days at sea, multiple ports, and all the excitement any human can possibly handle, early morning on that last sea day is truly a respite from all around me, and a time of reflection on all that has passed. Few are up at 7am while I stroll, including my lovely wife, who has come to expect me, camera in hand, to be out finally securing photographs of Carnival Spirit as it rests, slicing its way gently through welcoming waves toward home port. This is when I can see the beauty of the ship - the way it was as it left the shipyard - no guests, no noise, just the amazing architecture of her dEcor, how all these garish parts and pieces come together to form one magnificent whole. No matter how often I sail, I never miss this time, and no matter how many photos I have taken in the past, the opportunity to get just one more is far too tempting. Resistance is futile at this special time - MY time! As the early morning sun rises off our starboard side, I make my way to that most special of places; forward on Lido deck is a spot where one can make a very quick left or right and be standing directly atop the bridge. Wind in my face, and the beauty of God's creation stretched before me, the rising sun appears through my camera's lens to be laying a fine gold carpet across the vast seas like a royal welcome back from a distant adventure. But land is nowhere to be seen yet, nor do I wish to see it. I am truly in my element; I am truly where I belong.The challenge of that final sea day is that although it is peaceful at first, it also bears a certain amount of sadness. As the ship awakens to the smells of breakfast emanating from La Playa Grille on Lido deck, I take a cup of coffee to the fantail on the port side aft; I sit and dream - not of where I have been, but where I am. I do not want to leave, nor do I want to have to say goodbye to our newly found friends - that will come soon enough. I just want to sit and watch the undulating waves sliding rhythmically along the sides of our fine vessel that has taken us to Paradise and back, moving slowly outward as they encounter the wake left behind like memories of yesterday. I dream of our next cruise on Carnival Spirit - round-trip Hawaii from LA, and the chance once again to indulge our passion as my darling wife and I walk hand-in-hand across the Pacific once again for a full 15 days. It's a journey I relish - in fact it has always been my dream cruise from the time we were on our first sailing on Carnival Holiday - and in December we will be living out my greatest dream. But for now, we have a day of enjoyment planned, one last evening with new friends, and after we are amazed yet again by our fellow guests in the Carnival Legends show, we stroll the decks one final time before bed. It is a very late night - we just don't want it to be over.The next morning, we awaken with a start. It is amazing, after 8 nights sleeping so well in the arms of our gently rocking ship, surrounded by the purring of her engines, how silence can suddenly be so deafening, so startling. The ship has stopped, her ropes are already tied off to the home port dock, and it is time to begin our morning ablutions, last-minute cleanup and breakfast on Lido before heading ashore for our return to reality. As VIP guests, we will be waiting comfortably in Club Cool until released to leave the ship. Again, I know it won't be the last time we are aboard, but I truly am not anxious for this trip to be over. Yet, all-too-soon, a member of the entertainment staff comes to lead us toward the gangway for the last time this voyage. Along the way, there is Jen, sending us off personally with hugs and good wishes. I have to sail with this beautiful, wonderfully warped lady again. I'm certain that I will, I just don't know when. I do know that I will be on a Carnival vessel every chance that I get, and I will enjoy every minute of it, just as I have in the past, and just as I have this trip. Thank you once again, Carnival, for making our dreams come true. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Review of the 3/11/2011 Carnival Spirit Mexican Riviera SailingCarnival, how do I love thee, let me count the ways. Oh, never mind - there's not enough paper in the world, and frankly I don't have time to write a love note that ... Read More
Review of the 3/11/2011 Carnival Spirit Mexican Riviera SailingCarnival, how do I love thee, let me count the ways. Oh, never mind - there's not enough paper in the world, and frankly I don't have time to write a love note that long. Let it suffice to say that I am quite well-known as an unabashed, wildly vocal proponent of not only cruising in general, but also Carnival Cruise Lines in specific. As a long-time cruiser, I have reached that point in my life where, much like a young man driving his first convertible, I have ceased to consider the overall cost because the pleasure more than exceeds the monetary output. Unlike most travel, cruising relies heavily on the fair winds of weather, water and politics, either of which can change directions with but a moment's fickle notice. As a result, cruisers must be prepared for an adventure, and cruise lines do adventure better than anyone. And what an adventure this was! Of course, not everything qualified as an "adventure." Packing - as always - was a chore. It seems that we never seem to get any better at it. I mean, after 17 cruises one would think that we would have this portion of the journey down to a science. But alas, if it is science, it is weird science. Every single item goes in according to a printed list - a list that seems to grow every single time, and the most commonly heard phrase as we begin to dump into the cases is, "But what if I need..." And then, when you think the packing will never end—it is over, time to leave. The car is full, snacks are readily at hand, and the long trek across the desert begins. Of course, those of us in the southwest who crave the ocean breezes on our faces don't look on our surroundings as a desert, mind you, but rather as a long, 400-mile wide desolate beach to be overcome in our quest for undulating waves and roiling white-capped surf. Summer or winter matter not as we set our sights west, to the oceans of our desire. A mind-numbing 6-hour drive and we arrive at our interim destination, Days Inn on Hotel Circle, San Diego. Chosen for its Park & Sail program, it is a comfortable place to lay our heads as we await the coming day when we will embark on Carnival Spirit for a long-anticipated 9-day journey down the Baja California peninsula and beyond. All goes like clockwork, as it has so many times in the past, until...It's 7am Friday morning, March 11, 2011. The adventure begins. We are awakened to a signal from our Blackberry, a message from daughter Tracy, "Has the tsunami affected you?" Time to take advantage of Days Inn's free Wi-fi. An alert has been sounded that a tsunami resulting from a huge earthquake off Japan's eastern coast has inundated them with 30-foot walls of water, and the devastating after-effects were headed east. Hawaii had already been hit by waves up to 8-feet high, and a much-diminished wave of around 1-2 feet was expected to arrive in San Diego by 8am. The port of San Diego was shut down, and Carnival Spirit was left to flounder off Tijuana, unable to dock. Our shuttle from the hotel was scheduled to leave at 10:30am, but the ship was not expected to arrive until sometime after that. Debarkation procedures would take hours, and even with our Carnival Platinum Cruiser status, we would be waiting around the port, unable to board until very late in the afternoon. A quick visit to the Days Inn front office brought good news from Brian - we could delay checkout until the just-added 2pm shuttle, at no extra charge. And just as quickly, we became huge Days Inn fans. As scheduled, the shuttle was waiting for us down at the office and we loaded bag and baggage and proceeded toward the Port of San Diego shortly thereafter. On arrival, we encountered a multi-block-long line of passengers snaking from the embarkation station through the baggage area, out the security gate and down the sidewalk. However, in what could only be described as miraculous, our shuttle driver was motioned into the offloading area, a porter took all our luggage, and we walked straight into the embarkation area for VIP check-in. We later spoke to some rather irritated people who had waited in the previously-mentioned line, and even though they were Platinum guests, it still took 3-1/2 hours to move with the rest of the people in line before they could reach the building in order to take advantage of their perks as we had. While I felt bad for them, I think Carnival handled a very bad situation quite well - and I definitely did not go on about our fortunate circumstances again for the rest of the cruise!Once through the expedited onboarding process, it was up the gangway and onto the Carnival Spirit - our beautiful home for the next 9 days. From her towering lobby with glass elevators scaling the heights to her marble floors and wood-trimmed walls and ceilings, Carnival Spirit is a beautiful ship, the first of the Spirit class vessels for CCL. 80% of her rooms are outside cabins, and of these, 80% are balconies. Entering her gorgeous auditorium, the Pharaoh's Lounge, is like a trek into an ancient Egyptian temple, replete with gold-leafed sarcophagi and hieroglyphics. Our room was ready when we boarded at around 3:30pm, so we unpacked our carry-on luggage while our 15-year old son, Mark, who is very familiar with what this ship has to offer, headed to Lido deck for his passion - Carnival food. After meeting our room steward, a delightful young lady from Nicaragua named Xiomara, we followed shortly after for a light lunch, as we had not eaten since early morning. We knew that dinner in the Empire Restaurant, Carnival Spirit's Main Dining Room, would be served at 6pm, so no matter how strong the temptation - and it was quite intense - we held off filling up in the Lido deck La Playa Grille, as Carnival's Main Dining Room offerings are some of the best in the industry, all served with that special Carnival smile. As expected, our dining waiter, Noel, and his assistant, Wunna, were delightful, witty, efficient, and charming, all at the same time! Dinner was, as expected, delicious, but it was somewhat lonely, as our dining companions did not materialize. This is not, however, unexpected on the first night, as people are very tired after the day's travel, etc. We took it in stride, and followed up dinner with a hot cappuccino, after which we were set for the night and ready to explore.One of the challenges onboard any Carnival vessel is the number of activities that happen all at once. That night we had to choose between a multitude of different entertainment venues, including solo performers in the various lobbies, comedians in the Comedy Club, the Welcome Aboard Show, and their very popular Karaoke Lounge. We decided to do the latter two. The Welcome Aboard Show allows passengers to meet the Entertainment Staff who will be guiding their experience for the week, including the Cruise Director, our Master of Ceremonies for the duration of the cruise. And meet her we did! After the great dancers and singers did their requisite part to excite the crowd, out came none other than - Eliza Doolittle in the flesh - in the personage of Jen Baxter. Not your usual blue blazer and tan pants, she appeared on stage in what appeared to be a vintage frock with a lace bow on the side of her head that just did the outfit proud. And then - she opened her mouth to speak. Her deep, gravely voice set the stage for what would be one of the most surprising and best cruises of our lives. Unexpected? Yes, but not in a bad way. Hailing from Liverpool, UK, Jen was seemingly everywhere during the voyage. She was both off-putting and endearing at the same time, and frankly was the most visible CD that we have ever encountered. Having read some of the comments from others who completed the voyage, it appears that you either loved her or you didn't - there was no in-between. For our part, we loved her! She was one of the finest, funniest, and most approachable CDs in the fleet, and a delight to behold. On the evening of St. Patrick's Day, she wasn't just announcing where the fun was—she WAS THE FUN! Playing Irish music on the poop deck and dancing a jig - barefoot, no less - she beckoned all to join her in the hilarity. That night, she made me feel proud to be Irish - and I'm Italian! Carnival, you have an absolute gem in this one.After the Welcome Aboard Show, it was off with us to the Versailles Lounge for Karaoke. Those of you who know me are aware that there has never been a Carnival Karaoke lounge that I did not appreciate - every single night of every single cruise! You see, Karaoke is not an activity - it is my family. We sing together, we applaud no matter the expertise of the performer - no matter whether they sound like Cat Stevens or a strangled cat - and yes, we laugh from time-to-time as our "Crazy Uncle" steps up to the microphone to prove to the world beyond a shadow of a doubt that 1) he is drunk and 2) he can't sing when he's drunk. But he has the guts to stand up there for our entertainment, and for that we applaud just as we would for any other super star performer. After Karaoke, we were treated to a new Carnival exclusive - Superstar Live. The premise is that for an hour or so, the ship again offers Karaoke, but with a live 4-piece band and a 42-inch monitor displaying the lyrics. I'm not certain that the singers - who were the same we encountered previously in Karaoke, including our "crazy uncle" - were any better, but the music behind them was definitely an improvement over standard Karaoke fare. And now, for a real improvement, the Superstar Live host, Consuela, steps onto the stage, and she is HOT! Long legs, and unruly shock of curly tresses, she has a set of pipes that won't quit and all the energy in the world to boot! A spectacular performer in her own right, she encouraged each person behind the microphone, and when necessary even got them back on key. The most common comment we heard about her from those around us was, "Why is that talent not in the shows?" As for me, the self-professed Karaoke King, I did not sing in Superstar Live because out of the 120 tunes offered, I could find nothing that I wanted to sing, or that I thought I could sing. The songs on their sheet seemed to be more a collection of 80s/90s from the likes of Pat Benetar, Tina Turner and others. No standards like Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole, and the only real country hit I found was Chicken Fried by Zac Brown Band, which I have never tried, but seemed out of place for that venue. Nonetheless, while I would like to see the song list in Superstar Live include a more varied offering, all-in-all it was an enjoyable evening, and Superstar Live is a great addition to the entertainment onboard.To those of us for whom cruise ships serve as our ultimate destination rather than a means to a destination, spending sea days aboard a Carnival Spirit-class vessel is truly a dream excursion come true. With soaring, seemingly miles-high atriums and glass-enclosed elevators that take you literally toward the sky above, then plunge you downward toward granite-surfaced tabletops and rich parquet floors in the lobby bar, Carnival Spirit is a vessel designed with us in mind. A great "walking ship," she possesses sweeping decks practically down the entire length of both sides the ship on which to stroll beside ocean waves gently lapping at her flanks. My lovely wife and I have spent many a night sashaying in the ocean air to the rhythm of her hull cutting through assaulting waves like well-warmed butter. Sea days aboard her are magnificent, rain or shine, and just as she has never disappointed in the past, Carnival Spirit did not disappoint over the next 2 sea days as we sail toward the first of two seldom-visited ports, Manzanillo, Mexico. Unlike the recently - and hopefully temporarily - abandoned port of Mazatlan, Mexico, Manzanillo lacks many of the amenities you may have come to expect from the usual ports - amenities such as congested industrial port areas accessible only by tram and teeming with pushy vendors, hard-core time-share agents anxious to lure you into their newly-renovated lairs, and a gauntlet of over-priced "Mexican" wares suitable only for hiding away in a closet, or for gifting to someone who will do the same. Manzanillo, on the other hand, had none of these so-called amenities. It is absolutely charming, a truly Mexican town just an easy stroll down the dock from the ship. The people were delightful and welcoming, genuinely happy to see this new-found source of revenue arriving. We encountered a few "snowbird" Canadians who lived in Manzanillo for months at a time, and exclaimed the virtues - and inexpensive rentals - of this sleepy Mexican village. While excursions were offered by Carnival, Manzanillo is a perfect walking/shopping town for those like us who prefer to plan their own time ashore, where vast stretches of beautifully manicured landscaped area parallel the shoreline with its clear, fish-infused waters. During our stroll, we witnessed the constant maintenance it takes to keep such an area pristine, and we appreciated the smiles we encountered as we shopped the various stores and stalls down the causeway. Standing easily 100 feet high and proud over everything in Manzanillo is a modern steel sculpture of a blue marlin. Along the shore were other smaller bronzes, all standing in tribute to this wonderful town's culture and heritage. As we visited the shops with the warm ocean breezes swirling around us, we found prices to be much lower than in the more populous cities, and as we walked back to the ship, we had already committed ourselves to another visit to this delightful port in the near future.Back onboard, it was time to prepare for another of Carnival's scrumptious dinners in the Main Dining Room, where we shared the company of 2 couples who joined us at our previously cavernous, empty table. Bill & Patti, brother and sister, were traveling with their spouses, Sherrie and Paul respectively, and may possibly have been the most wonderful people we have ever met on a cruise—and we have truly met some wonderful people. Warm and welcoming, with a delightfully droll sense of humor, their stories of travels past were riveting and we never tired of their company. In fact, we found ourselves looking forward to dinner with them each night. Besides addressing us with warm respect, they made an effort at each meal to draw our "man of few words" teen son into the adult conversations, but on his teen level. We were truly blessed to share this experience with these delightful couples.After dinner, it was off to Karaoke in the Versailles Lounge, a stroll through the ship to once again enjoy her beauty, and then to bed to rest, serenaded by the rhythmic tunes of the gentle thrum of our engines pushing us toward Puerto Vallarta and our Whale-watch/Snorkeling excursion to the Marietas Islands. Make that Dolphin-watch/Snorkeling excursion, as we received news from the excursion desk that the guarantee of whales was no longer on the table. Rather than refund the excursion, they simply converted the tickets at the same price. Once again, cruising is an adventure, and you have to go with the flow to truly enjoy it. What was amazing, was that after an extremely cold snorkel (yes, Mom went in, but she only bobbed around in the water - we'll work on that) in cloudy, low visibility water, we actually saw more whales than ever before! We returned well-worn, medium-rare from the tropical sun, and well-satisfied, ready for a rest, an evening of fun, and another night of sailing before reaching our next port, Cabo San Lucas.Cabo San Lucas, or "Cabo," as it is referred to by most visitors, may be one of the most—if not THE MOST - stunning ports in the world. With its active adult lifestyle and starkly beautiful terrain, it is home to Land's End, the southern-most point on the Baja California peninsula, which culminates at Los Arcos, a naturally created arch that literally provides a window through the craggy rocks that separate the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. It is also the winter abode of the world's oldest population of "snowbirds" from the north, consisting of various species of migrating whales who come each winter—as do we—to play, feed and breed in the balmy tropical weather amid beautiful blue seas.In addition to whales and indigenous species of birds and dolphins, the natural harbor of Cabo San Lucas is replete with every type of watercraft from sailing yachts and cabin cruisers to deep-sea marlin-fishing vessels and Mexican water taxis. Most visible, however, is a flotilla of seeming multitudes of jet skis, all operating at once under a sky full of parasailing adventurers. How there never seems to be a collision between any of them is still a mystery better relegated to the likes of NASA scientists than a cruiser aching for adventure. From Carnival Spirit we could sit on our balcony and watch not only the waves lapping gently at Los Arcos, continuing the erosion started centuries ago, but also our neighboring visitors, Carnival Splendor, Sapphire Princess and Holland America's Statendam floating nearby. With four ships in port, and limited facilities, Cabo would be very busy today. Since this is a tender port, where the only way to get to shore is by jumping from one huge bobbing ship to a little bitty bobbing boat, we were in no hurry to leave ship and join the fray. In addition, we would be returning to Cabo after our La Paz stop to indulge in a little adventure ourselves (more later). So after our son, Mark, and I made a brief jaunt to shore for a quick "St Pattie's Day" conga on the dock at Senor Frog's Cantina, we spent the remainder of the day enjoying the views and amenities offered by our wonderful ship and its delightful staff.La Paz—what can I say? It is another seldom-visited town which appears to be continuously under construction. Still largely undiscovered, it exhibits much of the charm of Manzanillo, but for how long I cannot predict. As in Manzanillo, the atmosphere is still "Mexican" but I sense a change occurring already. Perhaps it was the verrrry long and verrrry bumpy, cramped, hot and sweaty bus ride from where the ship docked in the middle of nowhere, or possibly it was the the much-touted condo villages erupting from the stark desert floor like unnatural infestations of stalagmites. There was just an uneasy sense of change all around, and I can't say it was necessarily for the better. While we were obviously one of few ships visiting, and while I never felt in danger of any kind, I did have the overwhelming sense of being a foreigner in a foreign land. It's not that the people treated us poorly - quite the contrary is true - I felt that we were more a curiosity rather than a welcome visitor. The city was bustling, but it was bustling with the normal day-to-day traffic of people intent on going about their daily lives in spite of our arrival. However, I must comment once again on the cleanliness of the city as we finally arrived, and the amazingly clear aqua cast of the sea beside us. Yes, we did encounter a few gentlemen who offered their boats for tours, but when we declined they respectfully accepted our response and thanked us for visiting. One even offered to use our camera to capture a photo of us and our visit to this delightful town. AMAZINGLY REFRESHING! That beautiful azure sea was the intended site of one of our most amazing adventures to date, and quite possibly one of the highlights of our entire lives - swimming with the whale sharks. These gentle giants, often reaching up to 40 feet in length, typically inhabit the warm, clear, aqua waters surrounding La Paz—except now they didn't. We had heard prior to sailing that the whale sharks had made what could only be described as a sudden mass exodus from the bay. They left no note, no e-mails and no voice mail explaining why—they just went. And while we were refunded on this excursion, we were hopeful the entire day that they might just as suddenly reappear, as did the whales in the Marietas Islands off Puerto Vallarta. That was, unfortunately, not to be. They had ditched us like frogs at a princess convention. Never mind that I had just purchased a brand-new hi-def video snorkel mask for just this purpose, or that every background on every one of our computers—at work and home—had their photos emblazoned. Today, it was going to be another strolling/shopping search for that perfect cowboy hat, and in the end we headed back to the ship through the never-ending construction, having purchased nothing more than a couple of delicious ice cream cones from Del Fuego, recommended by none other than the Captain of our vessel, and possibly one of the best little frozen confection shops in all of Mexico (look for the Wonder Bread tree—you'll know it when you see it). The end of the adventure? You apparently don't know my wife very well. As soon as I felt her lagging behind while we trudged from the return bus toward the ship, I knew I was in trouble, and then she uttered those words - the words I always dread, and that always fall from her lips with an ominous thud - "I wanna go to the Beach!" There it was. You have to understand my wife. Ever since she was a child, she has been fascinated with beaches. She likes to walk on them, wade in the water, dig her feet in the sand and feel the cool squishiness rising from between her toes like some mutant toe jam. Obviously, I do not suffer the same proclivity. But I do know on which side my bread is buttered, and frankly, a happy wife is a far better companion on cold sea days than a chilled slab of meat laying under the blankets with her back to you just because you had to have your own way. So, with only a "little" pushback from me ("Darling, the ship is sailing in only 2 hours!") we waited in the very warm afternoon sun for the next shuttle bus to Playa Tecolote, about 45 minutes away.As the bus wound its way through the sparse desert terrain toward the playa, we heard stories of an incident earlier that day where one of our fellow cruisers took a cab to one of the other beaches on the way that was far less populated. As they entered the water, they did not notice one of the sea creatures indigenous to the area, a sting ray, embedded in the sand and invisible, even in the clear, pristine waters. Now, I've always heard that an animal would not attack unless it was cornered, preferring the option of leaving with all their faculties intact. Of course, no one has yet been able to determine exactly when an animal will perceive that it is cornered, and I'm certain that the foot that came down on its back probably startled the ray into attack mode. Either way, the passenger ended up being returned to the ship with the barb intact in their leg after an arduous wait for a non-existent EMT in Mexico. Our bus finally arrived at the end of the road, and as it rounded the last curve, the most beautiful expanse of rippling aqua water stretched out before us. Framed by pastel-colored, striated cliffs in the distance, it was absolutely exquisite, and I began to mentally kick myself for even thinking that I might not enjoy it. While I don't necessarily enjoy beaches, I can appreciate the beauty of the Great Artist's brush when I see it. It was like He had filled the Grand Canyon brim-full, then dropped Easter egg coloring tablets in for good measure. We walked to a nicely shaded area, sat down, and ordered a couple of cold, iced drinks. Another lady from the ship - I call her Lady Mary—walked by in search of a shaded table and we invited her to sit with us. A teacher on holiday from Riverside, CA, we found her to be a delightful conversationalist, and she regaled us with tales of past cruises and future adventures as we observed the jet skis plying the waters off the shore, skipping over wave after wave to the sounds of Mexican music in the background. Afterward, we lined up for the bus trip back to the ship, but since the last bus was running very late, and we feared watching our shipmates waving "Bye, bye" as they sailed off into the distance without us, we split a cab back to port and arrived in plenty of time. Soon we were on our way back to Cabo, but once again resolved to revisit this port, if the whale sharks were willing to take our calls.Gliding into Cabo in the early morning is truly a thrill, and we were definitely up for the excitement—in fact, we had quite the day of excitement planned. Today was—ready for it?—Parasailing! My dear, sweet wife, fully under the influence of Carnival's "Didja Ever..." advertising campaign, had realized there were some adventures we had only watched from a distance, but had not yet experienced in this apparently too-short life, and had booked the three of us on a parasailing excursion. Please understand - I have no problem with heights, and I don't fear death, as I am fully aware of the reward promised on the other side afterward, but I must say I'm not a real fan of that last painful "SPLATTT" at the end of an uncomfortable drop of hundreds of feet. Frankly, I fear more that I would actually live through the experience, spending the rest of my life drooling salt and sand from every orifice until I leave for the afterlife. However, I have always envied those graceful aerialists who swung from the thin sheets of nylon as they soared overhead, and had openly said in the past that I would one day parasail, so now it was time to put my pesos where my mouth was, suck it up, and get hauled into the air tethered to an entirely too-small boat.Tendering into Cabo is much easier when there are only 2 ships in port, in this case our Carnival Spirit and Disney Wonder from the House of Mouse. We glided to the dock in record time, and had about 2 hours before our noon excursion - so Mom decided that once on the water was not enough. Before I knew it, a flock of vendors were hawking everything under the sun, and she was dickering on a ride past Los Arcos in a glass-bottom boat. Now understand, a glass-bottom boat in Cabo is not your Florida fresh-water cruising craft. It is a small skiff - no, a rowboat with a motor tacked on - with a hole hacked in the bottom (great idea?) and a piece of plastic covering it. I guess, as the Kenny Chesney song says, "Everybody wants to go to Heaven..." but I'm not certain that riding to oblivion at the hands of a boat butcher is the best way to get there. However, as I mentioned previously, a happy wife is one who always gets her way, so off we went. As we passed Lovers' Beach, we saw lots of happy, smiling people getting wet in the gently rippling waters off the sandy expanse between Cabo's most-notably featured Lands End rocks, as well as some pretty well-stuffed sea lions enjoying a siesta after raiding the fishermen's nets. As we rounded Los Arcos to the Pacific side of the outcropping, the water became very rough, especially in a chopped-up dinghy, and we bounced past Divorce Beach, the stretch that connected to Lovers' Beach through the rocks, well-recognized for its riptides that can end a marriage very quickly, thus avoiding a nasty divorce - and hence the name.We returned to the port just in time to catch our speedboat out to the outer harbor for the parasailing adventure. By this time Mom was feeling a little uncertain, but she booked it, so she was going. There's one thing Mom fears more than the thought of grievous injury - and that is losing money. So, off we went. We were aboard with another family, all veteran para-sailors who would hopefully make it easier on us parasailing virgins. Did it help? You judge from this conversation - Girl: "How high are we going?" Captain: "About 400 feet." Mark: "Did you really have to ask that before I go up?" As the captain swung our fleet craft into the wind for the last time, the parasail filled and snapped to life, billowing like a multicolored bobbing balloon behind us. Two-by-two, the vets were clipped on and dragged off the back platform and into the sky. Tension mounted as we waited our turn. Then, it was time. Being the "role model" of the family, I pushed aside any concerns, stumbling onto the platform as the boat rocked to and fro violently beneath my feet. A couple of barked orders in broken English from the crewman, "Sit down, hold here, don't touch this" and as the captain hit the throttle, I suddenly felt my butt being dragged across the carpet and off the back of the boat. My first thought was that I would go flying into the bay leaving my shorts on the boat. As luck would have it, the wind was with us, and I and my shorts went almost straight up at an alarming rate. By the way, do you remember that expensive, unused video snorkel mask that was lying in the bag like a boutonniere on the floor of a teen boy's car after his date ditched him at the prom? Well, I decided that today was the day to test its capabilities, and I wore the mask into the air under the nylon 'chute! I may have looked like a total geek, but what I returned with is one of the most amazing videos ever, saturated with the colors and excitement of Cabo San Lucas, and I carry it everywhere with me on a thumb drive just in case someone hasn't seen it yet. As I made my ascent, the first thing I noticed was the sound - a strong breeze in my face (but not my eyes, thanks to the mask), the pervasive noise from our boat's engine, so overpowering when aboard, rapidly dissipated as the boat began to shrink below me. Before long, I was soaring over the harbor, tethered to a small toy boat that rocked tenuously in the water like a floating bobber on the end of a fishing line. And all around my lofty perch was the beautiful tapestry of Cabo San Lucas, laid out in all its stark, resplendent glory. Deep, dark azure waters lapped against the pinkish tan shores of the beach, and white waves rushed against Los Arcos in the distance. Every now and then I would feel the silent breezes shift directions, then just as suddenly they would billow the canopy above me even fuller, lifting me ever higher into the stratosphere. Even the cruise ships in the harbor began to seem insignificantly small in comparison to the grandeur stretched out beneath my gaze. And then, seemingly all-too-soon, I began to feel the earth gently rising toward me as I was winched back onto the moving platform on the bobbing little toy boat. Landing ever so gently on my feet, I was suddenly aware once again of the gravity that holds us to this orb we call Earth, and I wanted to go back up again. Alas, it was no longer my turn, and Mom and Mark were looking to me for support as I stumbled back into the boat. "How was it?" "Fantastic!" I exclaimed, and I watched as one-by-one my loved ones stumbled to the back and were hauled aloft for their own first-time experience. Leaving the harbor that afternoon, we were immediately greeted with high winds as we rounded Los Arcos for the last time this trip, a fitting adieu to Cabo San Lucas, and the beginning of a welcome rest as we began our trek back to San Diego. Sea days are truly the best days on a cruise, and it's the time when I can enjoy my early morning walks around the ship. After 8 days at sea, multiple ports, and all the excitement any human can possibly handle, early morning on that last sea day is truly a respite from all around me, and a time of reflection on all that has passed. Few are up at 7am while I stroll, including my lovely wife, who has come to expect me, camera in hand, to be out finally securing photographs of Carnival Spirit as it rests, slicing its way gently through welcoming waves toward home port. This is when I can see the beauty of the ship - the way it was as it left the shipyard - no guests, no noise, just the amazing architecture of her dEcor, how all these garish parts and pieces come together to form one magnificent whole. No matter how often I sail, I never miss this time, and no matter how many photos I have taken in the past, the opportunity to get just one more is far too tempting. Resistance is futile at this special time - MY time! As the early morning sun rises off our starboard side, I make my way to that most special of places; forward on Lido deck is a spot where one can make a very quick left or right and be standing directly atop the bridge. Wind in my face, and the beauty of God's creation stretched before me, the rising sun appears through my camera's lens to be laying a fine gold carpet across the vast seas like a royal welcome back from a distant adventure. But land is nowhere to be seen yet, nor do I wish to see it. I am truly in my element; I am truly where I belong.The challenge of that final sea day is that although it is peaceful at first, it also bears a certain amount of sadness. As the ship awakens to the smells of breakfast emanating from La Playa Grille on Lido deck, I take a cup of coffee to the fantail on the port side aft; I sit and dream - not of where I have been, but where I am. I do not want to leave, nor do I want to have to say goodbye to our newly found friends - that will come soon enough. I just want to sit and watch the undulating waves sliding rhythmically along the sides of our fine vessel that has taken us to Paradise and back, moving slowly outward as they encounter the wake left behind like memories of yesterday. I dream of our next cruise on Carnival Spirit - round-trip Hawaii from LA, and the chance once again to indulge our passion as my darling wife and I walk hand-in-hand across the Pacific once again for a full 15 days. It's a journey I relish - in fact it has always been my dream cruise from the time we were on our first sailing on Carnival Holiday - and in December we will be living out my greatest dream. But for now, we have a day of enjoyment planned, one last evening with new friends, and after we are amazed yet again by our fellow guests in the Carnival Legends show, we stroll the decks one final time before bed. It is a very late night - we just don't want it to be over.The next morning, we awaken with a start. It is amazing, after 8 nights sleeping so well in the arms of our gently rocking ship, surrounded by the purring of her engines, how silence can suddenly be so deafening, so startling. The ship has stopped, her ropes are already tied off to the home port dock, and it is time to begin our morning ablutions, last-minute cleanup and breakfast on Lido before heading ashore for our return to reality. As VIP guests, we will be waiting comfortably in Club Cool until released to leave the ship. Again, I know it won't be the last time we are aboard, but I truly am not anxious for this trip to be over. Yet, all-too-soon, a member of the entertainment staff comes to lead us toward the gangway for the last time this voyage. Along the way, there is Jen, sending us off personally with hugs and good wishes. I have to sail with this beautiful, wonderfully warped lady again. I'm certain that I will, I just don't know when. I do know that I will be on a Carnival vessel every chance that I get, and I will enjoy every minute of it, just as I have in the past, and just as I have this trip. Thank you once again, Carnival, for making our dreams come true. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
The cruise was really great. There were a couple little things that were irritating, so I'll address those first. 1) The decaf on the Lido deck was NOT decaf. It took me 4 days to figure out why I was so jittery. I really enjoy a cup ... Read More
The cruise was really great. There were a couple little things that were irritating, so I'll address those first. 1) The decaf on the Lido deck was NOT decaf. It took me 4 days to figure out why I was so jittery. I really enjoy a cup of decaf at breakfast, but I had to go without. 2) We had a jetted tub in our penthouse suite, which was awesome. The problem was trying to shower in it. There was no way to adjust the shower curtain to keep the water in the tub. After every shower, the bathroom floor was completely soaked. 3)This ship was smaller than others we've been on and there was a LOT more rocking. I was a little queasy for the first 2 days. 4)The dining room was very loud. My Mom is hard of hearing and we got tired of shouting at her over the din. 5) Two of our three closet doors were not working properly causing the closet light to stay on and they were very loud to open. Someone came to fix one of them, but it broke again in a couple days. Those are my only complaints. Our 5 year old enjoyed Camp Carnival well enough. He would have preferred to spend every minute with us, but he seemed happy when we dropped him off and picked him up. He did not resist going and always came back with some art project or face paint. He would often see kids he knew from camp around the ship and was always waving at them. We never left him there for more than 3 hours at a stretch and made sure he got a nap in the cabin every day. He ate pizza for lunch and chicken nuggets for dinner almost every day and he was happy. We brought him to dinner with us in the dining room 6 nights out of 9. He got his food when we got our appetizers, then we took him to camp around 7 while we finished our dinner in peace. I used the exercise area 3 times, once for free weights, once for yoga ($12) and once for the 7 am free stretch class. It was fine, although the yoga wasn't worth it. We enjoyed walking on deck 10 several times, we played minigolf, and my husband played basketball. We also tried the waterslide. A little tame for me, but my 5 year old loved it. The pool was fine also, we swam 3 times. Hot tub was more of a warm tub, but adequate. We went to two song and dance shows, I enjoyed them. We also saw a magician and a juggler and some comedians. Normal cruise ship stuff, what I expected. We wanted our son in bed by 10 every night, so we didn't really go to any bars or dance clubs. We are not party people. We brought 4 bottles of wine on board for 6 adults and I only purchased 2 other drinks. The food was outstanding, better than ever. Loved everything I tried and a great variety. They make the BEST pastries and baked goods. I ate lots of fish and shrimp and too much desert. I did try the Spa Carnival options several times and they were all good. My pants still fit when I put them on to fly home, so I guess I did OK. We went to the Nouveau Steakhouse for Valentine's dinner. It was very good and a better atmosphere than the Empire room, but I don't know if it was worth the extra money. It was a splurge for Valentine's Day, we probably won't do it again. My husband has wheat intolerance so he avoids it when possible. They were extremely diligent in making sure everything he ordered in the dining room was wheat/gluten free. He said the gluten free pasta was the best he ever had. We pretty much blew our budget on the penthouse suite cabin, so we tried to get by cheap in the ports. We didn't book any excursions. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
This was our first cruise. I traveled with my husband, and our one year and three year old sons. We were part of a large wedding party of I think over 130 people. Embarkation- Was very easy for us, since we were allowed to board ... Read More
This was our first cruise. I traveled with my husband, and our one year and three year old sons. We were part of a large wedding party of I think over 130 people. Embarkation- Was very easy for us, since we were allowed to board first due to the wedding. We got to the port around 10 am and did not have to stand in line with our luggage for very long. They were still getting the previous cruisers off of the ship, but we were soon able to give our bags to the porters and sit down. Once on-board we gathered outside of the Pharaoh's Lounge, sat and talked while waiting for the wedding to start. Some went up to the Lido Deck to grab a quick bite to eat. Wedding- Was absolutely beautiful. Short, but sweet. Afterwards we headed downstairs to the lounge for an hour and a half reception. The food and drinks that they served were great. The only thing I wasn't very crazy about was the wedding cake, but there sure was lots of it. My only complaint was that there wasn't a lot of room for a party of that size to do much dancing. The couple had their own photographer who took TONS of pictures. The posed pictures that they took up on the upper deck were gorgeous. We were able to go to our room before 3 pm and all of our luggage was there waiting on us. I did have other members of my family who had to wait on theirs for a few more hours though. Make sure you carry-on anything you're gonna need that first afternoon. The muster drill was kind of a pain because both my children and we ourselves were already exhausted and in need of a nap, but I understand that it is a necessary thing and it did not last long at all. Food- We ate in the Empire Dining Room, early seating every night. Our servers were Eveline and Santiago. They were wonderful. Eveline always knew our names, remembered how we liked our steaks cooked, and both of them were great with our kids, like bringing them extra bread and remembering to bring milk at the end of our meal for the baby. Let me tell you, they definitely earned their tips by putting up with my messy, often moody children! The maitre d' (I can't remember her name) to me was kind of annoying. She would say the same thing every night. "Ellllloooooooo! Eeeeeeet's cho-time." Some people found it amusing, I just found it annoying. I thought the food was great. I tried many things that I would never dream of enjoying and there were very few that I did not like. I even discovered that I looove escargot. I did try a couple different desserts like the creme brulee and baked alaska, but none of them measured up to the chocolate melting cake. Nouveau Steakhouse- My husband and I went by ourselves for a date and it was well worth it. I would recommend trying to get reservations at sunset because I bet it would be absolutely gorgeous to watch from up there. The service was wonderful and the food was amazing. My husband, who is a big eater, couldn't even finish his steak. The only thing I was disappointed in was the dessert surprisingly. I tried the chocolate sampler and it just wasn't for me. The cheesecake looked amazing though. You will definitely leave feeling full. Camp Carnival- The only major complaint I have about this cruise is the childcare. The only time my son went was on the first day at sea for 2-3 hours. First off, the room seems tiny for the amount of little ones and it is not exactly in a convenient location. The second day that I attempted to take him, my husband and I were getting off the boat to explore Cabo San Lucas. The lady asked me if we were getting off the boat and I told her yes, but that my mother was not and that I would give her the ship issued cell phone in case of an emergency. She asked if my mother would be picking him up for lunch and I told her no, because my mother was keeping my one year old baby (they only provide childcare for ages 2 and up) she is elderly and I did not feel that she could handle both of them for mealtime. She then proceeded to ask me if he would sit still for an hour for lunchtime. I told her I doubted it, as he was just under 3 years old at the time. I'm sure some children could, but my very energetic little boy just isn't going to do that. She informed me that if he did not sit still for an hour that he would not be allowed to come back. She was kind of rude about it and I was very put off. I then proceeded back to my room and in the matter of time it took for me to get from the 5th floor to the 8th floor she was calling me on the cell phone telling me that I needed to come back because he was crying and wouldn't let her wipe his nose. What kind of daycare is this??? Seriously? I went back and told her to just forget it, that I would take him with us and that was the last time I attempted to take him. It made it difficult for my husband to have any quiet time or to participate in many activities. I know that some of the older children and teens in my family enjoyed going, but I was very disappointed. Ports- We were in Cabo San Lucas for two days and Ensenada. Cabo was beautiful. I only wish that I had taken more advantage of booking excursions. My son was not tall enough to swim with the dolphins, which was a little pricey when you take into account how much they charge you for pictures or video. The first day we just walked around, which was a bad idea with a cranky, tired 2 year old. We were all worn out by noon. It is also kind of a pain to have to constantly tell people who are trying to sell you things "No" time after time after time. The second day we took a taxi to the beach. Let me tell you, I was afraid for our lives. The drivers there are crazy! The beach was great, but again, too many vendors. In Ensenada we went to La Bufadora, which was a 30 minute drive in a bus, then we felt kind of rushed with only an hour and a half there to shop, eat, and see the blowhole. I would have liked more time. Our room steward was named Jorge and he did an excellent job. He was always smiling and really paid attention to the usual time that we left our room so he could make sure to get it cleaned. My son loved the towel animals. Our room was somewhat cramped, but I guess you get what you pay for. We didn't get to see any of the shows because after dinner our sons were usually ready to settle down for bed. After the kids went to sleep we would usually take turns going out. Karaoke was fun, but usually most of the people who went up there could not carry a tune (but I guess the point is to be entertained by how good drunk people think they really are). The comedian I saw JeRome was hilarious, but a little raunchy for more conservative people. Then we would got to the piano bar sing-alongs with Jafar, which were fun, but after 2 or 3 nights I got tired of hearing the same old standards....Piano Man, Sweet Carloline, and Tiny Dancer. Then we would head to the dance club and dance until 2 or 3 in the morning. Sometimes the song selection was great, other nights they would play rave-like music that we just couldn't dance to. We went to the dance party on the Lido Deck one night, led by Stu and Pip which consisted of line dances, YMCA, cupid shuffle, conga line, etc. It was fun, but almost a little too popular as the dance floor got quite crowded. As expected, the mixed drinks and cruise photos were a bit overpriced, but I didn't exactly expect anything to be cheap when I booked this cruise. Because of the size of our group and having so many repeat cruisers we were given $100 in shipboard credits and an hour and a half open bar cocktail party, both of which were great extras. We had been scheduled to go on the Carnival Splendor this same week, but of course it was cancelled, so we get 25% off on a future cruise within the next 2 years, which I definitely hope to use. We had been hoping to be on this newer, nicer boat, but I can't say that we were disappointed. We would not hesitate to go again. We did experience some rough waters a few days, but a Dramamine and a few drinks later it didn't seem to bother me. I felt worse after we got off the boat. I would recommend continuing to take some motion sickness medication or wear a Sea Band for 3-4 days after your cruise. I've never felt so dizzy! Disembarkation was delayed because some passengers did not understand that they needed to go show their passports. They finally realized that apparently these passengers did not understand them in English and finally announced it in Russian over the PA. Once it got started it wouldn't have been that bad if we hadn't been on the 8th floor and therefore the last ones to leave. Overall, we had a good time and would recommend cruising with Carnival to anyone! Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Our family cruised on the Carnival Spirit Jan. of 2011. We had a wonderful time! For your convenience as you read this review, I have divided this up into basic subjects. Overall Feeling: The Spirit is very "gaudy" if you ... Read More
Our family cruised on the Carnival Spirit Jan. of 2011. We had a wonderful time! For your convenience as you read this review, I have divided this up into basic subjects. Overall Feeling: The Spirit is very "gaudy" if you know what I mean. (Angels painted on ceilings and walls) The overall ship gives you a medieval gaudy type of feeling. At first, it can seems kind of strange, but will take some getting used to. Some members of my family hated it, while others enjoyed. It all depends on you personal preference. The Food: Surprisingly, the best food dishes I had were in the La Playa Grille (Casual lido cafe) and the Empire Restaurant (Formal Dining) lunch dishes. I never really enjoyed my Empire Restaurant dinner dishes. I would highly recommend eating lunch in the Empire Restaurant a couple of your days on the Spirit instead of always eating lunch at the La Play Grille. They have some very yummy lunch dishes! Overall, all the food was great except for the dinner in the Empire Restaurant. The Staterooms: Our ocean view staterooms were perfect for us! Our family of six had two ocean view rooms with 3 beds each. The rooms normally are meant to have two beds, but our stateroom steward put together a bed on the couch, which worked fine for us. The rooms are small, but what can you expect? I would much rather they use more room on the ship for fun public areas, verses a larger room. The bathrooms are amazing, actually! We had no problems with our room. Just nice clean rooms to lay your head at night for a next day's play :) The Service: Carnival's crew has always gone above and beyond to make your cruise extra special. We loved our stateroom steward, who always greeted us in the hall ways and did a wonderful job keeping our room clean. Our server at dinner was a funny guy. We loved him! On board Shopping: We loved the "Fashion Boulevard". It was a fun mini mall type place with surprisingly excellent prices on a lot of cool stuff including souvenirs. You definitely will need to check it out. The Weather: Keep in mind we cruised during January - The weather was OK... just a little bit on the cool side. Not cold or hot, just sorta in the middle. I wouldn't have minded about an extra 5 degrees. On the cruise back to San Diego is was outrageously windy, so windy that they closed down the top deck because it could actually blow somebody off. It was sad for us :( The Entertainment: My #1 tip to making your cruise the most exciting and fun is to read your "Carnival Fun Times", which you steward will give you a copy of every evening by leaving it on your bed. It has all the fun events going on throughout the ship. Read it! Highlight the activities you're interested in, and it will make your cruise so much funner. They have allot of fun activities: Examples: Hair chest contest, ice carving demo in the hot sun, trivia, bingo, comedian shows, and much more. Embarkation, Debarkation: You always have to keep in mind. The Carnival Spirit has to disembark some 2,000 passengers from the previous cruise the same day they bring on another 2,000 new passengers from the next cruise! It's an extremely complex process and you have to be patient with them. We got on the ship in about 30 minutes, which is fabulous. Embarkation went very smooth. Debarkation is as smooth as you make it. If you educate yourself the night before on what you need to do, by watching the brief description on you Stateroom television, you will be fine. Just be patient, and do what they tell you and it will be smooth. Spa Carnival: I was actually disappointed with the Carnival Spirit's spa. Recently, we had sailed on the Carnival Paradise, which is a step down from the Spirit, and it had a much nicer spa then the Spirit. The Spa seemed to be cheaply done. The cleanliness wasn't to great either. The indoor jacuzzi had an absolutely ridiculous amount of bubbles in it (The result of previous users left over shampoo, body oils, you get the picture) I am not exaggerating. There was so much that you couldn't even see the top layer of water. They rose above the water about 6 inches! Nobody wanted to use it. Youth Experience: Carnival offers youth clubs on board for all ages up to 17. (Divided into age groups, of course) They have Camp Carnival which is 3-11. Circle C which is 12-14, and Club O2 for 15-17. The teen clubs were amazing. Very cool teen like hang out rooms and fun instructors. Our 6 year old member of our family attended Camp Carnival, which was different. She said the babysitters that ran it were mean and they didn't do anything. I think Carnival could definitely improve the 3-11 Camp Carnival. They need fun instructors that are patient to handle the kids. Pools, Hot tubs, water slide: The Spirit's swimming experience was fantastic. We loved the water slide. It was heated so super warm it was hard to get off when you were at the bottom! It honestly almost felt like a hot tub. We were so happy, because nobody wants to play in cold water. The fantail pools (they had two) were designed very cute! Fun yellow and blue polka dots. Very fun. The hot tubs were nice and clean (except for the indoor jacuzzi I mentioned above), except they lacked the warm side. They were warm, but not hot. :( But it's alright. Overall, the Carnival Spirit cruising experience was great. But there is always room for improvement. Here are some things they lacked to pull off well. - The hot chocolate machine: We were so sad! All of the hot chocolate machines (6 of them) were "temporary unavailable" the ENTIRE CRUISE! I don't understand why that was so hard for them to fill up. -The indoor jacuzzi I mentioned above: Read for the full description -Spa Carnival overall experience: Poor cleanliness, cheaply done. -Cleanliness of the stateroom hallways. The clean up crew took forever to clean up plates with leftover food on them from room service deliveries. They would sit there for almost a day before getting cleaned up. -Prices of the Internet use. Come on, Carnival. The Super 8 Motel offers free Internet. The least you could do is cut your prices in half. It was like a dollar per minute :/ -The diner menu at the Empire Restaurant. We didn't really enjoy our dinner in the Empire Restaurant. -What's with all the naked people?: The ships is covered with art consisting of half dressed women. Even in the staterooms. For a family, this can be a problem. - Camp Carnival Youth Program: See what I wrote above. Any questions? Email me at brandon.checketts12@gmail.com. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Background We are a family of 5... kids are 18, 16 & 14, plus we brought son's girlfriend who is 17. We are celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary and this cruise was a surprise Christmas present to our children. They knew ... Read More
Background We are a family of 5... kids are 18, 16 & 14, plus we brought son's girlfriend who is 17. We are celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary and this cruise was a surprise Christmas present to our children. They knew we were going for our anniversary, but didn't find out until 2 weeks ago that they were joining us!! We had booked 2 triple cabins with the intention of having the 3rd person in our room sleeping across the hall in the inside cabin....... We couldn't have asked for a better outcome when we found out that the inside cabin was actually an unadvertised quad! Embarkation Day We arrived at the Port of San Diego around 11:15 a.m. After husband dropped us off directly in front of the ship, he went to park the car and Park & Go off Laurel Street and took the shuttle back. We then proceeded with our luggage thru the main gate into the port. Not sure if this is typical in San Diego, but they had us cross over the entrance drive and get into a line where we walked up to have our luggage loaded onto the carts. In hindsight, I think the line was only there for people who did not have luggage tags and we could have simply just bypassed and given our luggage, since we already had luggage tags on them. We then proceeded into the line into the cruise ship terminal where we showed our birth certificates and picture IDs. Next we headed through the security scan area and then onto the check-in desk at Carnival. We had no problems with son's girlfriend. We brought a notarized statement from her legal guardians. The clerk glanced at it and that was it. We were then directed to board the ship and by 12:15 we were up on the Lido deck eating lunch and enjoying our 1st drink of the day which was the Fun Ship Special... Not sure exactly what was in it, but drank 3 of them! Overall the embarkation process was very simple. Our kids were so excited when we got onto the ship..... it was like seeing them little at Christmas time! They couldn't believe the size of the ship, the food and everything there was to do. We started towards our cabins on the Upper Deck around 1:20 p.m. , and there was so much in the hallway, we decided to come back later. We enjoyed music on the Lido deck, walked around and lost track of time. We finally ventured back to our rooms right before 3:00 p.m. Our luggage had already arrived. Our cabins were Inside #5287 and Balcony #5289 Upper Aft. To our surprise, the inside cabin was actually a quad! This room on carnival's website is shown as a triple, but actually is a quad. Not sure what's up with that... Although our balcony had been made up for 3 people, our Cabin Steward Ahmed said it was no problem to remove the bedding from the couch and move across the hall to the quad bed. We were then off to the muster drill and sailed away around 4:20 p.m. We then headed up to the Lido Deck Aft Pool to see if we could catch some of our cruise critic friends that we were supposed to meet at 3 p.m. Luckily, they still had their Charger jerseys on so we took a chance and met Tony and Diane from CC! It was really cool meeting people from the message boards that you've told to over a several month period! After enjoying some music and dancing on the Lido Deck, we then headed back to our cabin to unpack and get ready for dinner. At dinner we met our waiter "Iki" and his assistant "Koma". Our table was #300 in the Upper Empress Dining Room. Our table was a table for 6 and was in the farthest back corner of the dining room with a large round window. During dinner both husband and I noticed that the ship was rocking quite a bit. Iki told us that it always rocks a lot the 1st night out of San Diego. We heard many people talking about how rocky the ship was.... Luckily we had all started on our Bonine and Ginger tabs Saturday night and it didn't bother us at all. Back to the dining room, at first we were a little disappointed because we couldn't see much that was going on in the main dining area, however we ended up really liking the privacy of our location. We made friends with all of the people around us and the service was excellent. After dinner we changed our clothes and headed towards Pharaoh's Lounge where they had games going on. Our oldest daughter who just had her 16th birthday the week prior was picked to play Carnivallaire...... a trivia type game. She had a lot of fun and actually beat the older contestants!! She was so excited to get her ship on a stick!! After the kids went to bed, we checked out the dance club and quickly decided there were way too many people in that tiny 2 story place! We made our way back to the Lido buffet and enjoyed pizza and ice cream. Then off to bed...while walking back to our cabins, we noticed a horrible sewer smell in the hallway. We both commented to ourselves about it, but since it was mostly in the hall didn't complain. After propping our balcony door open with the doorstopper, we realized we weren't going to sleep anytime soon. All you could hear was clanking coming from the balconies around us. Apparently when people are not using their bungee cords, they leave them hanging. What a nuisance!! Not to mention our neighbors never bothered to turn off their outside cabin lights, which are extremely bright!!! Nonetheless, we slept great with the ship rocking! Monday~ Sea Day # 1 After rolling out of bed around 10:00 a.m., we grabbed some breakfast and headed up to the Lido Deck to get some sun. Lots of people, music and fun going on the ship! Our cruise director was Stewart Dunn, AKA "Stu" and he was extremely funny, as well was his sidekick "Pip". We had no problem finding chairs for all 6 of us. We then went down the waterslide... the kids weren't impressed by its speed, but they still had a great time!! The pool water was cool, not cold, but cool. The kids were surprised by the salt water... I guess I forgot to mention that to them. We found people to be very generous and in fact, several times over the cruise we had people offer to give us an extra chair if they saw we were short. Our children also always offered to give up their chairs when they noticed some of the older passengers in need of a place to sit....... Just something we've always done We enjoyed lunch on the Lido deck .... pizza and hamburgers and also bought our drink of the day. We stopped in the casino and made a small deposit and spent the day relaxing. The kids wandered all over the ship, played basketball, miniature golf, swam, hot tubbed and enjoyed the arcade. We then walked around the ship and got ready for elegant night. Elegant night was such a blast! Both husband and I, as well as the kids really enjoy getting dressed up. We went to several photo stations and ended up with some great (but expensive $21.99 each) pictures! Totally worth it. After dinner we then changed our clothes and went to see "Jazz Hot" at Pharaoh's Lounge. The show was good. Not spectacular, but still entertaining. I personally cannot imagine trying to dance on a moving ship!!! We then went up to the Lido Deck for our nightcap of pizza and ice cream and again got into bed with the bright light of the neighbor's balcony and the clanking of the hanging bungee cords!!! GURRRRR... Tuesday, Cabo Day #1 First thing to note from the front of FunTimes, "Always Remain on Ship's Time. Do not use Cell Phones for Keeping Time. Last Tender departs at 4:15 pm". There was a huge line to get off the ship! What a mess. Only 1 girl was handing out tender stickers and there was a line that wrapped around the Lido Deck. Pure Madness at first sight, but it actually went very fast and we were off the ship by 9:15am (10:15 Cabo Time). The peddlers in the Marina are horrible.... The police, however, do a good job at keeping them back to the side. When you get off the ship water taxi's are $10.00 per person.... But by the time you get to Dock #2, they are $2.00 per person! Not sure if that's round trip, but definitely worth the walk down and check it out..... We had a little time to burn before our snorkel trip departed, so we stopped by Senior Frogs and went to the gift shop right outside Dock #5, where the tender is located. Around 11:30 am, we went to Dock #4 to check-in for our excursion that I booked outside of Carnival. Words cannot express how awesome our catamaran trip was with Pez Gato. It was worth every bit of the $45.00 per person charge, which by the way is a lot less than CCL's price for the same tour. After we set sail on the catamaran, we sailed over to Lover's Beach and the Arch for pictures and then it was off to Santa Maria Bay. We ride was so much fun... we stopped and saw whales. The crew was the best! Snorkeling was good... we saw some interesting fish. The water was very cool... it didn't keep us out of it, but it definitely took your breath away when you jumped in. Lunch was sandwiches, chips, salsa & guacamole. They had unlimited alcohol and cokes for the kids. The crew was outstanding and so much fun. By the end of the tour, everyone on the boat was up dancing with the crew singing the YMCA. Those guys work super hard to make sure that every single person on that excursion leaves with a smile. The kids talked about the "Pez Gato" the entire remainder of the cruise! After we returned to the ship, we watched the sunset and got ready for dinner. After dinner we went to check out Karaoke. What a joke~ the same singers over and over and by 8:00 p.m. they stopped taking song requests. Not even worth your time unless you get there very early..... I am guessing some of those people must literally sit in the lounge and wait to sign up! It worked out fine though because we ended up hanging out with the kids at the Lido Stage where they had live dance music followed by the Ultimate Dance Party hosted by Stu & Pip. Those guys are very very funny. They came dressed in their dolphin shorts with headbands. We had a blast doing the conga, line dancing, cha-cha slide, YMCA and the hand-jive! We really enjoyed watching the videos they show in the cabins! We made our late night trip to the buffet for pizza & ice cream and then off to bed..... tonight, refusing to listen to our neighbors bungee cord clanking against the railing all night long..... I leaned around and removed it!!!! Yipee.....I could finally hear the ocean sounds while keeping our balcony door cracked open with the large black doorstopper that is already located in the cabin! I am still trying to figure out why everyone doesn't use the stopper, as it works perfect and you can put it in with the door cracked or fully open! Wednesday, Cabo Day # 2 We woke up early and were off the ship around 9:00 am. There was no waiting or tender stickers on the 2nd day in Cabo. Originally we had planned on taking a water taxi to Medano Beach, but it was a little cloudy and the kids wanted to walk the marina and shop. After walking from one end of the marina to the other and stopping at almost every shop....... Our experience was that the best prices for blankets, maracas, souvenirs were at the shop located right and the end of Dock # 5. Blankets were 1 x $6.00 or 2 x$10.00 and maracas were $1.00 each. The kids also bought wrestling masks.... Nacho Libre and some other funny looking thing. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at the taco shop across from Senior Frogs..... ended up spending $45.00 for 6 taco's, 2 shots of tequila, 3 Shirley Temples and a diet coke.... If you are looking for better food deals, eat further down into the marina. As we walked there were tons of restaurants where you could get 6 tacos for a couple of bucks.... I am still wondering why we didn't stop there?!?!? After we ate, we took the tender back to the ship and sat out on our balcony enjoying the view of the Medano Beach. One thing I noticed on the tender was that it is posted "NO TIPPING." The ship promptly departed Cabo at 3:00 p.m. At 3:45 pm, we went down to the past guest party in Pharaoh's lounge. There were a lot of people and we were served appetizers and drinks. I think in total, we drank about 4 drinks a piece. We had a great bar server the entire cruise named "Peter". It seemed like wherever we went, he was right there to take our order. During the past guest party, he really took good care of us!!! During the past guest party, Stu announced that Carnival just released that beginning in 2012, they would be cruising to Australia!!!! A very good addition to their itineraries! Stu was especially excited, since that's where he was from! We went to dinner and afterwards took the kids to The Punchliner Comedy Club in the Versailles Lounge and watched the PG comedy and later went to the "R" rated adult comedy. Both performances were by Lenny Schmidt. He was very funny! After the late show, we headed to the Lido deck for our nightly ritual and then it was off to bed! Thursday- 2nd Sea Day We spent most of the day hanging out at the Aft Pool. They had a live reggae band playing during the afternoon and the kids played games on the Lido Deck during the day. We enjoyed our last dinner with Iki. My husband surprised me with a Happy Anniversary cake and beautiful watch & necklace set that he had Iki deliver to the table. We gave Iki his much earned extra tip and he gave us his facebook and email address. He said he wished all of the passengers were like us We then went back to the room and finished packing . Then it was off to watch tonight's show, " The Big Easy". This show was very good and more entertaining than the first one... the kids really enjoyed it too. We then made our way back to our room to set our luggage outside of the cabin and then it was off to the late night adult "R" comedy show with Seth Buchwald. He was very funny!! He told some very funny jokes based around the cruise ship and had good passenger participation. After enjoying our last nightcap of pizza and ice cream, we went to bed. Debarkation Day We woke up around 7:00 am and were already back in the Port of San Diego. Announcements were constant regarding non US Citizens and debarkation instructions. We were out of the cabin before 8:00 and up at the Aft Pool area eating breakfast and waiting. We were #10 and were supposed to be off the ship between 9:45 -10:00 am.... However, around 9:00 am we made our way down to Deck 2 and as we walked down we were told that we could go ahead and disembark!! After going downstairs and claiming our luggage, we went through customs with no problems. Husband hopped on a shuttle to Park & Go, and he was back by 9:30am. We were on the road by 9:45! Again, no problems and very smooth disembarkation process. In summary, this was one of the best vacations we have ever taken. Before the cruise my husband would joke with me about how much time I spent on Cruise Critic, but in the car on the way home, he said he was happy I was able to get so much information from this board! Especially the Pez Gato snorkel tour! The lay-out on the Spirit is great. It was very easy to navigate and despite the ship being near capacity, there were always tons of chairs and empty spots to enjoy! We can't wait to cruise on the Spirit again! Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Carnival Spirit Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.4
Dining 4.5 4.0
Entertainment 4.5 3.6
Public Rooms 3.5 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.0
Family 5.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.7
Enrichment 3.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.5 4.1
Rates 4.0 4.2

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