We had not cruised Carnival in two years due to a MINOR dispute with Carnival that was never resolved favorably. Our last Carnival cruise was on the Pride relocation cruise from Los Angeles to Miami via the Panama Canal. This was our 9th ... Read More
We had not cruised Carnival in two years due to a MINOR dispute with Carnival that was never resolved favorably. Our last Carnival cruise was on the Pride relocation cruise from Los Angeles to Miami via the Panama Canal. This was our 9th Carnival cruise and 20th overall. We relented and returned to Carnival primarily because of the fantastic price and 9 day itinerary of this cruise.
We flew into Los Angeles from Kansas City and took the Super Shuttle from LAX to Long Beach. The cost was $34 for the two of us.
We stayed at the Residence Inn, Long Beach. It was a very clean hotel with views of the harbor, Queen Mary, and Long Beach terminal. Breakfast was provided. When we made our reservation, the hotel staff had told us they provided transportation to the cruise terminal. Upon arrival, we learned they meant the Long Beach terminal and not San Pedro. Had we known this, we may have made other arrangements. Cab fare from the hotel to San Pedro was about $30 including tip.
We ate dinner at George's Greek restaurant on Thursday night - we highly recommend George's. The food was outstanding, the service excellent, and reasonably priced.
On Friday morning I walked down to the terminal where the Carnival Paradise was docked. It was about 7:30am and people were already there waiting to board.
Our fun pass documents indicated boarding time was 12:30pm - 2:30pm, so we left the hotel around 12:30pm for San Pedro.
We had previously cruised out of Long Beach six times and San Pedro once. We have experienced several debacles at Long Beach but our previous trip out of San Pedro went very smoothly so we expected things to go well.
When we arrived at San Pedro, we immediately saw a very long line of people with their bags that stretched the length of the terminal and around the corner. As our driver was unloading our bags, he was besieged by desperate people needing rides to the Long Beach and Los Angeles airports. It was like a scene from the movie "Apocalypse Now". He explained to them he had to go to the cab stand and take his place in line, but we realized there were no cabs anywhere so there was no line and no cabs available. About this time a porter came by with a cart of bags. We realized he was assisting a passenger that was debarking the Spirit. The porter told us the ship had arrived late - maybe around 10:30am. He also told us he couldn't take our bags that we'd have to wait in the long line I previously described. I asked him where I could find a Carnival representative. My wife had knee replacement surgery recently and our PVP had arranged for a wheelchair during embarkation. Someone had even called from Carnival a few days before we left to verify. He told us that he would take our bags. We had four bags so I tipped him twenty dollars and it was twenty dollars well spent. I asked where do we go and he told us to go right into the terminal. When we entered the terminal we received a letter from Carnival indicating our itinerary had changed because of Hurricane Hillary. Ensenada would be our first port rather than last and we would spend one day at Cabo San Lucas rather than two. This change proved to be effective because we didn't experience any bad weather. We were directed upstairs where we saw another long line as well as lots of people sitting. We were given a number and told to sit and when our number was called we could stand in line. I asked about the wheelchair and the Carnival representative told me that all wheelchairs were busy and they would try and find one. When they called our number they had no wheelchairs but the Carnival rep asked if my wife could walk. We told her yes but she couldn't stand for a long period. They put us into the special assistance line and we moved through the process very quickly. We were probably on the ship in about an hour. There were, however, many people that waited hours.
This entire process was stressful for many passengers - especially those that showed up very early expecting to board the ship at 11am. In light of the circumstances, I thought the Carnival and port employees did an admirable job. Carnival could, however, have done something for the passengers to recognize the inconvenience. A small onboard credit or reduced drink prices maybe.
I thought the ship looked great, and for the most part, all areas were clean and well maintained. Our cabin was 5124 an extended balcony cabin on the port side and my wife remarked that it was the cleanest cabin she'd ever seen. Our cabin steward was George and he was great.
The ship did not depart until 6:30pm (2 1/2 hours late) and the muster drill was longer than normal because there were passengers on the Lido deck that - in the words of the CD refused to present themselves to the drill. Finally, the CD threatened to have them escorted to the drill.
We had dinner the first night in the steakhouse. Everyone dining in the steakhouse the first evening received a complimentary bottle of wine. It was an excellent meal and well worth the additional charge. We decided to check the dinner menus daily and if there were no menu choices that appealed to us, we'd return to the steakhouse. That didn't happen. We thought the food in the main dining room was very good. I'm not sure if the menus were the new menus or not. Shrimp cocktail wasn't on the menu every night and the comfort foods were on there. We particularly enjoyed some of the vegetarian entrees -black bean enchilada and polenta. I did order the shrimp and fries from the comfort food section one night. Once again, we thought the food in the main dining room was great and the lido food was good.
Our waiters in the dining room were okay.
The entertainment was okay - there seemed to be more comedians than usual -we enjoyed Jerome who we hadn't seen in several years. There were two musical production shows and they were pretty good.
Our favorite entertainment was listening to Dan Patrick (I believe) who was a one man country type band playing in the atrium every night. We are not big country western fans but really enjoyed Dan. During the day, there was a two man Caribbean band that was okay.
We had scheduled three excursions and two of them were cancelled. We took the Magic Pueblos tour at Manzanillo and enjoyed it. It was a long (8 hours on this day) tour that went into the mountains where it was much cooler. Lunch was provided and it was very good. Our tour guide, Marcos, was very knowledgeable and we probably learned more things from him than from any tour guide we've ever had.
At Puerto Vallerta, Cabo San Lucas, and Ensenada we shopped and then returned to the ship and sat by the pool. Our tours at Cabo and Ensenada had been cancelled and having been there several times before we didn't see anything else we wanted to take. It was VERY HOT at Cabo.
We found the vendors are much more aggressive than during previous trips. One told us that Americans don't spend money like they used to.
The weather during this cruise was great - despite the presence of a hurricane, the seas were very calm and no rain during the days.
Stuart Dunn was the cruise director - he may be leaving the ship. He did say that he will be cruise director when the ship moves to Australia.
All in all, this was a good vacation at a great price. The Spirit is a well ran ship and the staff were friendly - even the guest services desk.
We enjoyed this cruise enough to book it again March 16, 2012. We will miss the Spirit class ships on the west coast once the Spirit departs for Australia next year.
We also purchased future cruise certificates while on board which appear to be a good deal. Read Less