Cruise Review - Carnival Panorama - Feb 2020
The brand new 4000 passenger Carnival Panorama cruises the Mexican Riviera 52 weeks/year from Long Beach, CA with stops in Cabo, Mazatlan & Puerto Vallarta. It leaves and returns on ... Read More
Cruise Review - Carnival Panorama - Feb 2020
The brand new 4000 passenger Carnival Panorama cruises the Mexican Riviera 52 weeks/year from Long Beach, CA with stops in Cabo, Mazatlan & Puerto Vallarta. It leaves and returns on Saturdays. We took the January 25, 2020 cruise. In short - it was a great value for money. The ship, the crew, the food and the entertainment were all first rate. The entire staff is dedicated to helping you have fun, which is Carnival’s big focus - fun all the time. Here are some tips that I hope will help you get ready for your cruise.
1. There are 2000 cabins on this ship and only 70 suites. We signed up a year in advance to grab one of those suites, 7319, and there were only a few left that far in advance. With 3.5 days at sea, we spent a fare amount of time in the suite watching the view from our large balcony and watching the included movies on the in house television or streaming Netflix on our iPad. A suite has a large area for watching tv, which was very comfortable. The tv channels were very limited, no ESPN, no CNN or FOX. A bunch of kids shows and a few other junk channels. Carnival needs to change the channel lineup. We had a walk-in closet, a very large bathroom with 2 sinks and a shower/jacuzzi. If you ever are going to splurge for a suite, this would be a good cruise to do it on. The room had plenty of dresser drawers and 120 volt power outlets. Lighting in the room was very good for reading. Staff only serviced the room once per day. We chose to have the room cleaned after 6 pm when we were at dinner. The room stewards clean the rooms in the morning or evening. You should get a choice, ask the steward about this choice if he doesn’t offer it.
2. Embarkation: all 4000 passengers arrive within a 4 hour window and there is congestion in the passenger drop off area. Once you reach the drop-off queue, it takes about 15 minutes to creep your way to the drop off area. A quicker way would be to have your driver get in the far left lane and turn left towards the parking structure, before you are very far into the queue, then you can be dropped off at the far end of the drop off zone. Then you’ll walk your bags about 300 feet to the entry of the big white cruise terminal. You could leave your bags with a porter at the curb and tip them $5, which is what we did. You won’t see your bags for a few hours this way. Inside the cruise terminal you proceed to the check in desk and show them your paper work and they move you right thru. If you have dragged your own bags this far, they will have to be x-rayed. You can have the crew take your bags to the room at this point. You are not allowed to pack alcohol or wine bottles or plastic bottles in your checked or carry-on luggage You can bring a case of canned sodas, in fact you can buy canned sodas right in the cruise terminal as sodas are expensive on the ship. You cannot bring a case of canned beers, however. I think you can wait for the x-ray process to be completed and take your own bags onto the ship. It’s a long uphill walk on indoor ramps!
3. Tip: Carnival gives you a 30 minute check in window in an attempt to spread out the crush of boarding passengers. We had a 1:00pm to 1:30pm check in window. The rooms are ready at the end of this window. The room keys are in the paper work holder next to your stateroom door. At 1:30 we went straight to our room, found the keys in an envelope next to the door and dropped off our carry-on bags. The room key is a plastic card. To unlock the door, hold either side of the room key close to the black square reader on the door, a little green light will come on and you’ll hear a little click, then just turn the door handle to open the door. Once the lock clicks, you have about 5 seconds to turn the handle, so no rush. Most people arrived early, so they were stuck dragging their bags around the decks while they are waiting for their room ready time. No need to be there early. It takes about 10 minutes to get through the check in process and to get up the ramp, so if your window is 1:00 to 1:30, plan on arriving about 1:20 or later.
4. Elevators: There are 16 elevators for passengers in 3 banks of elevators. The forward bank of elevators has 8 elevators, the middle back and the aft elevator banks have 4 elevators each. Each bank of elevators has small iPad looking devices on the walls where you enter the floor number where you are going. The pad tells you which elevator you are assigned to. You should enter the floor number for each person in your party. The computer will stop assigning people to a particular elevator once it sees that the number of people assigned to that elevator reaches a certain number. Most people don’t enter the floor number for each person in their group and then elevator overcrowding can happen. The system works really well, once you figure it out. Once you get on your assigned elevator, it will only stop once or twice before reaching your floor. Inside the elevator there are no floor buttons for people to push. This prevents kids from pushing all the elevator buttons inside the elevator.
5. Once you drop off your carry-on bags, if you are hungry, you can proceed to the buffet in the Lido Marketplace on the 10th floor in mid ship for some lunch. It can be crowded in here because many people arrive before their room is ready and they are dragging all their bags into the dining room, creating a major traffic jam. Food was good, but seats were hard to find.
6. Study the deck plans on the Panorama website before you arrive, it’s a huge ship and you’ll need to study it ahead of time. You can download the deck plans onto your smart phone into the documents or books app, so you can pull it out when you need help. There are deck plans at all 3 elevator banks. You can walk from one end of the ship to the other using the corridors on one side of the ship or the other, not the middle area, except floor 3, due to the gigantic galley in the middle of that floor. That is a little confusing. When you look at the 3rd floor plan, it will make sense.
7. Restaurants: The food is very good. There are many places to eat and they are all good. The specialty restaurants all charge an extra fee for dinner. The main dining rooms are not open for lunch, but there are so many great places for lunch, try as many as you can. On sea days, the Vista Dining room serves a “Sea Day Brunch” from 8:30 to 1:00. You can order steak & eggs with filet mignon here, no extra charge. It’s a small piece, but really good. There was a long line to get into the Sea Day Brunch at 8:30 on Friday, we went to the Lido Marketplace instead that morning. The omelette station in the Marketplace is quick and makes great special breakfast orders.
8. There are 2 main dining rooms: 1) Vista Dining Room, Decks 3 or 4 aft (take the aft elevators or stairways). This 2 story dinning room is for the “anytime dining” option. 2) Horizon Dining Room, Deck 3 mid or forward elevators or stairways. There are 2 entrances. This one story restaurant is for fixed time dining, either 5:45 or 8:15pm. If you are a couple, you generally are assigned a table with other people, which can be fun. After the first night, many people ask to switch tables for one reason or another. We took the early seating, which allowed us more flexibility in seeing the big night time shows, more on that later. The wait staff in the dining rooms are excellent. If you arrived for dinner at 5:45pm, you were usually finished eating by 7:00pm.
9. Dress up nights are Sunday and Thursday. No jeans and t-shirts, guys. There are 3 special meals in the main dining rooms: Sunday is lobster night, Thursday is filet mignon night and Friday is prime rib night. On the other 4 nights those items are available for an extra $20 per person. All those items were outstanding. Every night is a different menu which you can review on the Carnival hub app.
10. Wine with dinner: the wines average about $46/bottle including the 18% gratuity. You can also buy a 5 bottle package of wines before you board called “Cruising the Vineyard”, the wines will cost you about $27 or $40 per bottle. You have to purchase this before you board by calling Carnival, I didn’t see this option anywhere on Carnival’s website. I had my travel agent call Carnival and set that up. There are 2 levels of wine: the Premium was $198 for 5 bottles, the lesser quality wines were $135 for 5 bottles. If you buy one of these packages, you will receive 5 little coupons in your stateroom along with a list of wines included in your package. You can use these coupons to order wine in your stateroom, any dining room or at any bar.
11. Bars: there are many bars all over the ship, all serving great drinks. They all add 18% gratuity to the posted drink price. There are 2 draft beers on board, brewed on board, which are very good. There is also a self service beer tap in the Lido Marketplace (Deck 10)where you can enter your room number and pour your own 16 oz beer. This will save you about $2 for the same excellent draft beers that bars serve.
12. WiFi - we purchased the Premium WiFi plan for $15/day per person. It was worth it for as we were streaming Australian Open tennis and Netflix movies frequently. It was pretty good WiFi for the most part. There are no instructions on to log on that I could find so I had to ask someone. It was pretty easy. Each passenger has a different “folio number” on their Seapass room card, each person has their own account for charging things on board. You’ll need this number to log on. Open up your browser on your device and type in: login.com in the URL line. Click on that and your devise will ask you for your folio number and birthdate and then you can log into the ship’s good WiFi. To switch to another device, use the log in procedure on the other device and it will ask you if you want to “ switch devices” . I was always switching between my iPad and my iPhone, since I could only have 1 device connected at any other one time. A couple could share one WiFi package together and take turns being on line with their device if you both don’t need to be online at the same time.
13. Time Zones: as you approach Mazatlán on Tuesday at 2am, you will advance your clocks one hour to the Mountain Time Zone and leave it there until Friday morning at 2am, when you go back to Pacific time. You’ll need to take your phones off “set automatically” in time settings so you can set the time zone that the ship is on. Ship time doesn’t always agree with the time zone that your phone thinks it is. On my iPhone, with Verizon service, I had to turn off the “ screen time” function in settings in order to be able to set the time zone manually. Many people couldn’t get the time right resulting in being an hour off for dinner. You always need to follow ”ship time”, not the time your phone thinks it is. Time makes a difference if you are meeting people, or trying to get a good seat at a night show!
14. Laundry: Suite customers got free laundry. There were self serve laundry machines and ironing equipment on all the floors. We never used them , so I don’t know if they required money, best to call Carnival if you plan on using them to reduce the amount of clothes you need to bring.
15. Fitness gear: the spa (12 forward) has an amazing fitness room, never crowded and lots of first rate cardio and resistance equipment. There was also an outdoor walking track and outdoor workout equipment on deck 12.
16. Pools and jacuzzis: the main pool is on deck 10 mid. This is where all the outdoor dance parties take place after 10 pm. Another pool and 2 very crowded jacuzzis are found on deck 10 aft. Deck 5 aft has an exclusive area called the Havana Experience with a nice infinity heated pool, 2 not so crowded jacuzzis along with loungers and cabanas and the Havana bar. You need a wrist band and must be over 12 years old to access this area. Passengers who stay in suites, as we did, or in the Havana rooms are eligible for the wrist bands. You cannot purchase them. It is nice and quiet in this area except for the Cuban music playing over their speaker system.
17. Production Shows - the Panorama features 5 awesome and different 45 minute shows with high energy singing and dancing and music from a cast of 14 wonderful performers. The backdrop is an amazing video wall. These are mesmerizing productions!! Showtimes are 7:30 and 9:30, with doors open at 7:00pm and 9:00pm. Seats fill up within 10 minutes of the door opening, so be there when the doors open. It’s worth it to get a good seat as the cast uses the stage and most of the lower floor of the Liquid Lounge, decks 4&5 forward for the show. The balcony of the Liquid Lounge on Deck 5, has seating, but many seats have sight line restrictions due to support columns, but they still fill up. Drinks are served before and during the show. The other 2 nights, the main shows are some audience participation games, we passed on those.
18. Comedy shows: the ship carries 2 stand up comedians, each doing a PG show and an adult show most nights. The comedians were both very good.
19. Fellow passengers: lots of kids and all ages of adults. The ship had plenty of activities for kids, in a highly popular Kid Zone, so they weren’t underfoot frequently. There were many people using wheelchairs, walkers and canes. The ship is designed to handle chairs.
20. Door decorations: many rooms had doors that were decorated with stuff to make their door standout. People brought little magnets to secure their decorations to their doors. Some used tape, but you are not supposed to use tape on the doors. They were fun to read, and made it easy to find your room in those very, very long hallways!
21. Bed spreads: beds come standard with heavy duty white quilts like so many hotels are using these days, which can be too warm for some people. After 1 night, we asked our room steward to replace the quilt with a sheet and blanket which was much more comfortable. Don’t be afraid to ask or maybe you can request that ahead of time.
22. Shore excursions: just Cabo had tenders, Mazatlán & PV had easy dock access. We bought Carnival shore excursions in all 3 ports as the prices were reasonable and there were plenty of offerings. There were plenty of independent shore activities available to you once you left the ship. We went whale watching in Cabo and PV and we saw plenty of whales, up close, on both trips. In Mazatlán, we did the Harbor boat ride and city tour, which was a very nice trip. The tour guide dropped us off and gave us 90 minutes for lunch and shopping. He recommended a restaurant called Margaritas because of their fantastic local shrimp. We went there and this 10 piece boat load of very large shrimp for 2 people, all cooked in different ways along with some fish tacos. The food was really good. The meal was $36 US for the 2 of us, cash only, no credit cards. The shopping in all 3 ports was disappointing, just low quality tourist junk.
23. Last 2 days at sea: very windy due to 22 mph boat speed. The seas were relatively calm, at least on this trip. It was too cold & windy to sit on the deck in many areas, but you could find areas sheltered from the wind that were comfortable. The weather was in the mid 60’s and sunny.
24. Activities at sea: there are plenty of activities for passengers, many of them are audience participation activities. There were no movie theaters on board, as every one has access to a large list of movies in their room at no charge. The sky ride, a bicycle ride suspended over the water looked like fun, but usually had a 60 minute wait. There is a ropes course, miniature golf, basketball and a trampoline area($), so plenty to do. There were no enrichment lectures. No History of Mexico talks.
25. Cruise Director Emma was a bundle of energy and kept all activities going day and night. She must work 18 hours a day. Her activities team were very good.
26. Photographers: yes they were there taking your pictures frequently. You could see your pictures on your room tv or on tablets around the ship. You could download a picture to your phone for $20 each or have them make prints. You can’t just takes picture of their picture, as the picture you see is full of watermarks to discourage that.
27. Disembarking: you could walk off the ship with your own bags or put them out the night before and collect them near the immigration area. Suite customers could exit the ship with their own bags at 7:30am, which we did. It was pretty easy to roll the bags off, as the walk-ramps were all down hill or level grades. The rest of the ship started exiting the ship on a floor by floor basis starting at 8:00am. Passengers exited the ship on Deck 4 forward. There were no Customs forms to fill out (unless you wanted to declare something). You just went through Immigration and answered a quick few questions from an Immigration officer. Then you exited the cruise terminal building and opened up your ride hailing app and ordered your car. It took 7 minutes for the driver to arrive. There were cabs waiting at the curb, which makes sense if you have a short ride. If you had an early flight out of the area, you could depart early like we did. Exiting passengers had to be out of their room by 8:30 am to allow preparation time for the next group of passengers.
All in all it was a wonderful cruise and I would recommend it as a way to get away for a week and get a change of scenery on the west coast of Mexico. Read Less