We received a flyer in the mail, advertising continuing education credits available on a 12-day cruise to Hawaii. Thinking this would be a good way for my husband and I to get a vacation in while renewing our clinical laboratory technologist license education requirements - we signed up. It was also an opportunity to have the entire family along so we included our 20 and 22 year old daughters. The cruise started in Ensenada so we flew to San Diego where Carnival had a bus to take us to the Port of San Diego and then on to Ensenada. Luckily we were there early and had someone pick us up at San Diego Airport. We arrived around 9:30am. Buses weren't going to start running from SAN > the port of SD until 11. There were over a hundred people already waiting. Our friend picked us up and took us to the Port. At the Port, Carnival gave us a 'zone' number and told us to sit until our zone was called ... probably starting around 1pm. So we walked to Seaport village, had lunch and came back. Our zone boarded a bus around 1:30pm. Carnival had lemonade, water and coffee available under the 'tent' while we waited. There were over 50 zones ... So - zone 2 is called and we board the bus. Carnival provided bottled water for the bus ride. And a security escort over the border. There is no problem crossing the border from the US > Mexico. They were really stacked up crossing from Mexico into the US. This is definitely the route to take. No delay at all. We were in Ensenada by 3:30ish. The cruise ship was there - in a special, fenced in area where no local people can come. Very secure. The bus drove us in there and we could board the ship immediately. There were also shuttles into Ensenada if you wanted to go into town - which we did not. Ensenada is not anything worth risking purses or communicable diseases to visit. Our rooms were very nice. My husband and I had an extended balcony - large bed, sofa, lots of closet room and the extra space on the balcony was worth the cost. The regular balcony's are pretty small. Our daughters had an inner room, across the elevators from us: 4C. They had two single beds and plenty of storage. The bathrooms were very similar in size. We both got towel animals on our beds each night and fresh ice throughout the day. The room stewards got to know us and they were fantastic. Excellent service and attitude. Friendly yet reserved. The food - well - since we hadn't been on a cruise in over 25 years, we didn't realize that formal meant formal, not just dressy. While ladies, you might be able to get away with pretty much any dress, my husband was not considered dressed up enough in a nice hawaiian shirt, slacks and dress shoes. He needed a jacket and tie. As such, we could never take part in the formal nights, not dine at the 'extra cost' nice restaurant. The menu in the dining room was good - not too varied but relatively above average. The grill - where we ate breakfast and lunch and many dinners or snacks - was very good. From cheeseburgers to chinese food to sushi to Indian - there was always a good variety. Lots of fruit and salads. More than enough food. Activities - incredible shows. We did not expect the quality of the dance/music shows. Truly A++++. The comedians - not so good. One comedian continually made fun of the older people and different ethnic groups. I was surprised this was allowed given the 'politically correct' era we appear to be in. While some is ok - this guy went over the top - and was really offensive and rude. Definitely not funny. Bingo, horse racing, crafts - there was always something to do.Caveat - 85% of this cruise was over 75 years old. My husband and I are 52/54. I have to be honest - I would have liked to been with more of my own age group. Many of the passengers needed help getting around and were very overweight. As such, there was virtually no participation in 'active' activities - which meant were did a lot of stuff alone. Part of the fun of a cruise is having people share activities ... there was no one dancing - salsa or otherwise, no one doing aerobics .. maybe 10 of us walked the walking deck around the top of the ship - which was fantastic, by the way. I guess the good thing was that any port activities that involved anything more than riding a bus had plenty of openings. There were many 5 families with children under 10. A few had teenagers. This was one of the 'negatives' with cruising ... it is a very inactive vacation. At the airport I spoke with a couple who were going on a Disney cruise. That would definitely be a younger cruising population so pick your cruises carefully!All in all - I don't care for the restrictions of cruising. I want more time in port to see the area and experience the people, tours, etc. Having 6 hours to see an area that could easily take a full week - is not my idea of leisurely vacation. Tendering in was a real hassle. Waiting for embarking and disembarking - it's like being at an airport for hours and hours. Too much time was wasted standing in lines or waiting. We'll pass on any future cruises for the next 20 years - then maybe we'll try again. It's the ideal vacation for people who are limited as far as mobility or only want to shopping at different stores around the world. It you actually want to see the area, cruising is not the way to go.Feel free to contact me for any questions you have. It was definitely a positive experience and I'm glad we did it.
Our room was spacious with a great view of the ocean. We were on the Empress Deck. The balcony rooms beneath us had an awful view of the lifeboats. We could see the tops of the lifeboats but they did not hamper our view of the ocean at all. There were smokers on one side of us and we could get a whif of smoke occasionally. The cruise should group smokers and non-smokers when possible. You can hear your next door neighbors on your balcony - really well. The room is very quiet and comfortable Bathroom was a bit small for the size of the room and I would have loved a tub. Towels were lush - thick and soft. Sheets were high quality - felt good. Very clean - we were very happy with our room.
We didn't have much time in Hilo. We docked - which was good - but having to get back on the boat by 5 didn't leave much time. There were no rental cars available because of the Merry Monarchs festival.None of the excursions offered by the cruise sounded good. We took the 'Hilo Hattie's' free shuttle to Hilo Hatties and asked the driver how to get to town. He took us to a corner - on his way back to the port - where we could easily walk into town. There was a festival and parade 'Merry Monarchs' going on - which was a lot of fun. A farmers market too. So we ate a lot of local food, stopped at a hole in the wall place that had Hawaiian lunch plates and went back to the ship. It would have been better if the ship had overnighted in each port so we didn't have such an early curfew.
Kona is one of my favorite spots. We had done a snorkel cruise out to Capt Cook's Monument a couple of years before so we did that again. It was on the FairWind which is more expensive than other tours to Capt Cook but WORTH IT! I don't swin and hate putting my face in the water. The first few minutes in the water are 'panic' for me and I hyperventilate and get all scared. The Fairwind has a variety of floater stuff - inner tubes, noodles, kickboards w windows - I have no trouble getting in the water and not feel like I'm going to drown. They are a first class outfit - good food - breakfast and lunch. They even offer a DVD recording of the cruise AND underwater movie. Let them know you're interested and they make sure they get lots of shots of you and your family. My husband and two daughters snorkel like pros - so they got filmed under the water. The man who shot the movie had footage of the usual Hawaiian wildlife of the area which is fantastic - and he includes on the DVD. We also saw a huge pod of spinner dolphins that danced under and around the boat as we sailed out to Capt Cook. It is a fantastic experience - highly recommended.
Again, no time for anything else... Kona is a TENDERED port. That means - get up early, get a tender # and wait, hoping to get off the ship fast. They start the tenders around 8am but depending on your #, you might not get off until 10. We got tender #3 and cabbed it to the Fairwinds. We made it there by 0840. Fairwinds sailed at 0900. It's tight.
Ship sailed at 6pm - had to be back on board by 5:15pm. I hated the curfew.
Kauai is our favorite of the Hawaiian islands. This is a 'docked' port so you can get off the ship right away - no Tenders. We rented a car and drove to 'Backcountry Adventures' to do zip lining. We had done zip lining at Princeville two years ago and had a fantastic time. There were a LOT of people doing the 'Tubing' adventure where you sit on an innertube and go through caverns/tunnels. I had read reviews that the Tubing was ok and you only have time for one excursion so we picked ziplining. The guides were FANTASTIC. Either tour (Princeville or BackCountry) is highly recommended. They are safety conscious yet they have a great sense of humor. Again - had to be back on the cruise by 5:15pm - so not much time to get the rental car - get to the tour - get back the rental car ...
We have been to Honolulu a lot so we rented a car and did our own touring. I had been to the Makiki Forest before so we hiked there. It is a fantastic hike, in Obama's old neighborhood. Lots of locals hike there. Lush and cool during a hot day. The cruise ship overnighted in Oahu so there was no curfew! However, we had to have our luggage outside our room by midnight the night before we disembarked.