We live in So Cal so Long Beach is easy to get to, and thus have cruised on the Imagination and Inspiration (both Fantasy class) more than once. We were excited for Long Beach to finally get a new ship, and sailed on the Christmas 2019 sailing (Panorama's second "normal" sailing).
Embarkation was amazingly smooth. We drove to the port and arrived right in the middle of our scheduled arrival window (12:30-1:00pm) and it was a breeze getting checked in, through security, and onto the ship. The new terminal that Carnival built at Long Beach a year or so ago has helped a lot in improving the embarkation flow (not that I found it much of an issue in the past)
The downside to cruising over the holidays is that everyone else has the same idea, and the ship was pretty full. By the time we reached the Lido deck to await opening of the cabins and grab lunch, it was so full that we had to sit outside on the pool deck. No big deal.
Once cabins opened up at 1:30pm, it was a mad stampede for the elevators. The one criticism I have is that they closed some of the elevators to dedicate to the porters delivering checked baggage. That really clogged up traffic. We ended up foregoing elevators and climbing stairs all the way from Lido (Deck 10) to our cabin (Deck 1). Good exercise!
I got to check out the laundry room because I always iron our dressy clothes on embarkation day, to avoid the rush of people waiting until elegant night to do so. There was only one iron/ironing board but three sets of washers/dryers. Best of all? They scan your Sail & Sign card so you don't have to fuss with quarters. $3 per wash load, $3 per 45-minute drying load.
Everything on the ship for the rest of the week was amazing. Our son checked into the teen club and more or less vanished for the rest of the cruise ;-)
A few favorite highlights:
-- riding the Skyride! I showed up right before they opened on the first port day and waited approximately 40 minutes. Great way to take in the views of the ship and of Cabo!
-- Dive In movies. Picture and sound were great! We saw a nighttime showing and a daytime showing, and both turned out well. I love that the towel shack lends out fleece blankets during the nighttime movies so we were nice and cozy!
-- Dessert! About a year ago I read an article on Cruise Radio announcing new desserts being added to Carnival, and the various scrumptious cakes did not disappoint!
-- Touch-free handwash stations all around the Lido deck
-- Amazingly comfortable mattresses and pillows! More comfy than my own bed... where can I buy this mattress??
-- Being able to view portraits on the Hub app not long after pictures are taken, and not having to purchase prints just to get the digital version
We ate dinner in the MDR every single night. Our head waiter, Mario, was amazing. The food was fabulous and service was impeccable. For lunch I mainly stuck with the Lido buffet because there were plenty of offerings (and because DESSERT!). The buffet area is so large that there are two sets of food stations-- one closer to mid-ship, and one closer to aft. Each section offered *different* food for the same meal (except for breakfast) so if you're like me and prefer to eat a little bit of everything, be sure to make the rounds to both stations. We did dine at Bonsai Sushi for one lunch-- it was delicious, and so well-priced! Much cheaper than land-based sushi restaurants. Christmas Day was the third port day (PV), so they changed the itinerary slightly, making the second elegant night that night instead of the following night (second sea day). There was also a special Christmas menu in the MDR, which John Heald had posted to his Facebook several weeks prior. Festive!
As always, we enjoyed the Punchliner comedians. We recognized Sebastian from our Dec 2017 sailing on the Imagination. Small world, even on the open ocean! I liked that they rotated comedians halfway through the cruise, so that you got fresh faces after a few days. Karaoke was interesting because it was in several different locations over the course of the week: Havana Bar, Limelight Lounge, Ocean Plaza. Singing in the Limelight Lounge (same place the comedians perform) was an interesting experience, because it was more of a show setting, with all eyes on you, rather than a bar where people are just hanging out and drinking. Cruise Director Emma was very entertaining! We enjoyed the Love n Marriage Show, and she ran the Military Appreciation gathering superbly.
We stayed on the ship in Cabo (perfect time to enjoy a deserted Serenity Deck!) because we'd been there before, toured Mazatlan on our own, and did a Carnival excursion in PV (Top 10 Best of PV), which was great for seeing the highlights/main tourist traps, but we could have done without the silver and tequila shopping.
While we appreciate that having photos available electronically reduces waste, beware that the system is still new and they might lose your photos. My son did a casual shoot, hoping to use one for his senior yearbook photo... but it never showed up on our Hub app. It took a couple of days' worth of inquiries with multiple people before we reached the conclusion that the files had simply been lost due to several system downtimes. By the time we figured it out, we had only one day of portraits left, and none of the backdrops were appealing. So if you don't see your photos within a few hours of them being taken, make inquiries right away!
Overall, we really loved the ship. I know a lot of people detest larger ships, but the ship didn't really feel all that big to me. I swear the distance from the Limelight Lounge (aft) to the Liquid Lounge (forward) didn't feel any longer than the distance between those respective lounges on the Fantasy-class ships. It was easy enough to get around, and because it's so much larger, there was so much more room to accommodate everyone. Larger pool area, larger Serenity Deck, larger Atrium Bar area, and overall just a much better use of space.
Debarkation was pretty smooth, too, but I think part of that is due to the fact that since we stayed in Deck 1, we were the first regular deck called off the ship. Everyone had to be out by 8:30am, and we were called a little after 8:00am, so we were able to stay in our rooms, with luggage, until it was time to leave. Although there were lines everywhere, they moved quickly. From the time our deck was first called, to the time we arrived at our car in the parking garage, took maybe 35 minutes total. Our friends on Deck 2 were still waiting to be called by the time we hit the freeway ;-)
All in all, the whole experience was terrific. I particularly enjoyed having everything decked out for the holidays, made the cruise just a bit more magical!
Booked the Top 10 Best of PV tour through Carnival. I would've tried an external outfit, but it was Christmas Day and I didn't want to risk any difficulties. It was a decent tour for hitting up the main tourist attractions, esp for first-timers, and our tour guide, Andres, did give us a good account of PV's history. But half the tour felt like he was dragging us to his friends' shops-- first to the jewelry store and then to a tequila distillery in the mountains. The tequila tasting was fun (if a bit skimpy on the sample sizes) and we had the opportunity to purchase some delicious churros, but if you weren't interested in purchasing jewelry or tequila, then really only the first half of the tour would've been worth it. Still, not a bad introduction to the city highlights, and good to know that a lot of places, esp in the tourist areas, are open even on Christmas Day!View All 71 City Tour Reviews