November 20 - 28, 2010
Saturday, November 20
This is my sixteenth cruise, sixth on Carnival, second on a Spirit class ship, but the first time on the Carnival Spirit. At the request from someone for more details, I write my reviews while on the ship, as the details are fresh in my mind. Something that I started with the last cruise is that I now have installed photo editing software on my laptop, so I now can provide pictures with the review on the Carnival forum (the review in the review section will only contain a link to the pictures).
I had always wanted to do this cruise, even though I've been to two of the three ports before. The reason I wanted to do this cruise is that the Spirit class is my favorite class of Carnival ship, there is one new port I have not been to before and it is longer than one week (even just one extra day makes a difference). When I realized I could go for eight nights and it would only cost me three vacation days I booked it. After I booked this cruise the price just keep going up, and up and up. So I am glad I booked early before Carnival figured out how popular this cruise would be.
Since I live less than three hours driving time from the port, I drove to the port this morning. It is raining, but I still make it in the estimated time of two and one half hours plus ten minutes for an unscheduled stop. My main concern with the rain is that I want to take pictures once I board the ship, and the rain will make this more challenging.
I decide to rely on my GPS, even though I've been to the port several times. That turns out to add a little excitement to the trip. The GSP went out about halfway down. After a little fumbling around, I realize the fuse that goes in the charger has fallen out (apparently a long time ago, and the unit was working off the internal battery).
At first a little panic sets in. Then I realize I've been to the port several times and know how to get there (although this will be the first time I leave from the port on a cruise ship). The only real change will be that I will end up at the parking lot across the street from the ship. It cost more, but since it is raining it might be a good idea to park there anyway.
Soon the rolling hills that one drives over in northern San Diego County are in front of me and I relax and continue my drive. There is only one place I am worried about, that being where the 5 splits into the 5 and 805. Still, a wrong turn here will only cost me 30 minutes at the most and I will still have plenty of time to make the ship.
Then I start to notice that civilization is starting to show up along the freeway. It is 10am and I might find a store open that carries fuses, allowing me to continue as I had originally planned. I get off at a good looking exit and there on the other side of the street is a hardware store. Ten minutes and 84¢ later my problem is solved.
I left home at 8:00am and arrive at the port at 10:40am. I park at Park & Go (right at the end of the airport runway) and wait for the shuttle, which apparently is not running on a frequent schedule. So for $7 + a $3 tip I catch a hired shuttle to the port. I later found out that this was a really good stroke of luck on my part. Those that were in line about one half hour after me waited about two hours in line, and in the rain, just to get into the secured port area. I was in line for perhaps five minutes.
The Park & Go is $8 per day (with an online coupon - normally $10 per day). The parking lot across the street from the ship is $15 per day, so I am still coming out ahead.
The luggage is being loaded into vans (one for the HAL Oosterdam and one for the Carnival Spirit). I fill out the health questionnaire and by 11:10 I am in a seat waiting to board, which is scheduled to begin at 11:30. And, as I type this I note that a wedding party is boarding. In fact now they are now boarding the VIPs, and since I am in zone two, it is time to shut down the laptop and board. It is now 11:45am.
I sneak into my cabin and meet my cabin steward and tell him that I am going to drop off my carry-on luggage, which I do. Then I get out of his way and go up on deck for some picture taking opportunities.
As I suspected, the rain put a damper on the photos. Still I ended up with 162 photographs. This is kind of low for me on a first day, but still not too bad. I got all the photos I wanted and since there is no sun, I don't have any harsh shadows. I also sneak in a little lunch before the buffet gets too crowded.
As I look out across the bay I noticed a third cruise ship. Then I saw the whale tail funnel. Of course I then realized it was the Carnival Splendor which is in San Diego for repairs.
Soon there is an announcement that the muster drill will begin in ten minutes. Ten minutes later the ship's horn goes off. Everyone starts to go to their muster stations. Then there is an announcement that the muster drill would start shortly. This was followed by an alarm. Apparently everybody (including yours truly) reacted to the Oosterdam's muster drill horn.
Perhaps that was all for the good, because within minutes of the muster drill being over it started raining hard. We may have lucked out by being slightly early since the muster drill is outside. One really nice change was that we did not have to bring our life vests to the drill. Thank you Carnival!
After the drill I headed off to the Fantail Bar to meet up with the others from the roll call. It seems to be a nice friendly group. Many of them had met on an earlier cruise; however, I was new to the group (though I believe I was the second person to post on the roll call).
The Oosterdam departed first. We apparently had a lot more luggage to load. While waiting for the Carnival Spirit to leave I ended up taking to a family that was on its fourth Thanksgiving cruise. Finally at 6:00pm with the ship backing from the dock I headed back to my cabin.
Even though I was early to the port, my luggage was not early to the cabin. Nonetheless, upon my arrival to the cabin I noticed my smaller checked luggage in the cabin. So if worst comes to worst, I will not have to wear the same clothing for a week. I also notice that we are now moving forward, but it is raining, so I am canceling plans to write this out on the balcony tonight and instead I am updated it from inside a nice dry cabin.
As I am typing this my bigger checked luggage arrives (so I am all set). It takes less time to unpack then it did to pack, probably because I don't have to decide what to unpack. According to the Travel Channel (that is what I call the ship's information channel - channel 14) it is 7:25pm and we are moving at 20 knots (23 miles per hour).
Well dinner is soon, and I am going to put on a different shirt. Nothing much doing tonight except for a welcome aboard talk, and since I've been welcomed aboard several times, I don't feel I any need to attend. So I'll come back to the cabin after dinner and relax, since I've been walking up and down this ship several times and my feet hurt.
There is a very long line to get into the restaurant, so I figure I'll just sit down and wait. As everyone walks past me I notice there are a lot of children in the late seating. I wonder if this is by choice or did early seating sell out?
I'm at a table with another single, a father and son from Hawaii, and three generations of mothers/daughters. However, the three women seem interested in moving to the early seating (if that is possible), so I'm not sure if they will be at our table tomorrow night.
As we get to talking I realize I am the most experienced cruiser of the group. It seems like a fun group. The waiter is top notch with a good sense of humor. Not a bad group to spend seven dinners with (I've got reservations for the Supper Club on Monday the 22nd).
During dinner I was attacked by a pirate. While I am used to this, when I look up and there is no photographer in sight I begin to wonder what is going on. It took a while for the photographer to get around to the other side of the table so that he could take my picture.
I end up having a chicken appetizer and shrimp dinner. The waiter is going around asking everyone how they like their dinner. However, when the waiter gets to me he doesn't ask me the same question. I've already finished my dinner. So instead the waiter asks me if I would like seconds, which I accept. For desert I want something cold, so I opt for chocolate ice cream.
When I return to the cabin the TV remote is no where to be found. I check the towel animal, but it didn't eat it. I check all the typical places the cabin steward might put it, but it is not there. Believing the cabin steward would not intentionally hide it, I figure the most likely explanation is that he knocked it off the end table where I left it when he turned down the bed. Sure enough when I check under the bed I find it.
Well, I guess I was more tired than I thought. I don't know what time I woke from my reading the fun times while lying on the bed, but I just decided it was time to make it official and go to sleep.
Sunday, November 21
I'm up early enough for sunrise photographs. However, it doesn't look like there are any clouds, so I don't go outside for a better look. Big mistake, because a little later when I do go outside I realize the conditions are almost perfect for a good sunrise photographs, except that the sun has already started to rise. I get some acceptable photos just to save face, but for now on I'll have to be a little more careful.
Unlike yesterday the weather is beautiful. I go up on deck for more photographs and notice there are a lot of early risers on this ship. We are moving at 22-23 knots (25.3 to 26.5 MPH) in a southeasterly direction. We are also close enough to land to see the land. I've been to the Mexican Riviera four prior times and we are usually further out to sea. I wonder if the captain is cutting a few corners to make up some time. We have a 1400 nautical mile trip, and if the navigator can cut 22 nautical miles off the route, that will save us a full hour at cruising speed.
I notice there is a cook to order egg station that is not open yet. It is almost 7:00am so I sit down to see if it will open at 7:00am. A manger comes by and moves the sign. I ask when the station will open and he says 8:00am. I'm a little disappointed until he tells me there are some cook to order omelet stations open inside. Normally I carry breakfast down to the cabin and eat it on the balcony. However, I put the "make up my room" sign out and want to give the room steward an hour (if he begins at 7:00am). So instead I eat out on the rear deck overlooking the wake. As I am headed outside with my breakfast I run into one of the people from the roll call. A quick hello and then it is time to eat before the eggs get cold.
Speaking of my cabin, it is a standard Carnival cabin (almost all the inside, ocean view and balcony cabins are the same) with an extended balcony. However, I am not in on of the indents where if you look straight down you will see the top of the lifeboats. This is where most of the extended balcony cabins are. I am on deck five forward of the lifeboats. If I look straight down I see my feet. Okay, so the railing angles in a bit. I still have a clear view forward and aft and it is an extended balcony (six feet deep instead of the standard four feet deep). The people in the extended balconies over the lifeboats have to look forward or back at a slight angle. The only thing is the light in the bathroom is slow to go on. So, if you intend to use the bathroom, you have to plan ahead by about five seconds. The only real complaint is the lack of a chair. There is a couch and table which works out fine for most things. However, I prefer to have a chair at the desk rather than a stool. The shower has a handheld shower head (which I really like) and there is room in the shower to move around (unlike some other cruise lines).
The art in the corners of the stairways are glass pieces with several mirrors behind the glass piece. It is an interesting way to present the artwork and I decide to take several photographs of the glass art. I also go up on deck to take some pictures with a little more light than I had yesterday. Since it is early there are still not too many people out and about (I'll get pictures of the sea day crowds later). I also go out on the bridge wing observation deck to get some pictures looking back along the side of the ship. The bridge wind observation deck sticks out far enough so that if you don't know about it, you would not think I was on the ship when I took the picture.
I get back to the cabin and the cabin steward did not get to it. So I guess he does not get to work early. I've got to talk to him and get him to make sure my ice bucket stays full. I need the ice to make cold water.
It is 9:30am and as I look out my window I see land - not islands, the main land. It is very unusual for the cruise ships to be this close. Last night I saw what I believed to be the Oosterdam and it was much further out to see than we were. I believe the reason for this is that a ship that cannot be seen from land has an extra layer of security (but this is just my theory - I have not verified it). As I said, by cutting a few corners the captain can make up some time. It doesn't take much to save a full hour over the course of a 1400 nautical mile route.
At 10:30am there is a captain and senior office introduction followed by a Fun Ashore and Fun Aboard presentation by the cruise director, Jen Baxter (from England). I leave at 10:15 and I still haven't seen my room steward this morning. The captain says hello and two senior officers just wave. The captain has some good news and bad news. The good news is that we made up the time we lost waiting to load the luggage. The bad new is we are lost. Well, at least he has a sense of humor.
It has been six years since I was on the Carnival Pride and Jen didn't tell me anything I didn't already know about the ship. When she got to the Fun Ashore talk I left, since I already have three shore excursions booked (one for each port). I stopped by guest relations and I am told I will get the shore excursion tickets, which I bought online prior to the cruise, after 1:00pm. But the person was wrong, as the tickets were delivered well before noon. Slight bit of panic when I can't remember which card I used to lock the safe (I prefer the pick your own combination safes), however, the first card I tried was the right one.
At any rate, I stopped by the future cruise "office" (more like a table and chair in the corner), and book a ghost cruise. I am interested in going to Europe in 2012, but that schedule is not out yet. I already have my 2011 cruises booked.
I come back to the cabin and finally find my cabin steward. I ask him to keep the ice bucket full, and he says he will, and then proceeds to fill it. He had already cleaned the room and still had not put more ice in the bucket - yikes! I am sure glad I caught up with him.
At 12:30 there is a Food and Wine Pairing in the Nouveau Restaurant (the steakhouse). I'm going to give that a try (it cost $15 extra). After that a quick swim and then perhaps some balcony time, after all, I did pay for it and I came on this cruise to relax. I could do lunch on the balcony, except there isn't time to go upstairs, get my lunch, come back down, eat, then go back upstairs to attend the Food and Wine Pairing. But afterwards, if I'm still hungry, that might just work out perfectly.
I can see that this is going to be another cruise where I keep putting the trash can were I want it, and the room steward will keep putting it where he wants it. Oh well, it is no big deal. The distance is only about three feet, but it keeps me from banging my shin on it while I type this, and then the room steward most likely moves it back under the desk to get it out of his way.
Well, we just received the captain's noontime report. He says we left about 90 minutes late, but have already made that time up. We have traveled about 370 nautical miles and have 1035 nautical miles to go. The weather is beautiful and we should enjoy ourselves, which I will, as it is time to head to the Food and Wine Pairing presentation.
Well there are a few surprises. Nowhere does it say reservations are necessary for the Food and Wine Pairing. And guess what, since drinks are served (the wine) a fifteen percent gratuity is added to price (I think the prices should be listed as $17.25 rather than $15 if the tip is going to be add in after the receipt is prepared). I guess there are some advantages to being single (besides having to pay for two people, even though it is just me in the cabin). I was able to join the Food and Wine Pairing even while others were being turned away. My receipt says $15, but the TV says $17.25 (which does equal $15 + 15%). The first entry on the TV is $125.85 for my shore excursions which I paid for when I booked the shore excursions online. Fortunately before I think I have to go to guest relations I realize the second entry is a credit for the same amount. The third entry is a credit for $10.54 (it is showing as a deposit). I have no idea where that came from. It is a very odd amount.
Well the Food and Wine Pairing was interesting. However, the wine tastes the same to me no matter what food I have in my mouth. We had a small piece of salmon, a small piece of steak, a small slice of strawberry, some sea salt, marmalade and some other items. We were not told each had to last for all five glasses of wine.
Now some people definitely tasted a difference in the wine based on what food was in their mouth. I sure didn't. We were told 85% of the people like red wine. I like white better, so maybe I'm just weird. That said I'll just stick with the wines I like no matter what I am eating. Basically the rule of white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat still seems to work.
Well plans change, but that is why I like sea days - total relaxation and flexibility. I ended up having lunch on the balcony and then spent the rest of the day in the pool. Well, actually let me explain that. First of all the middle pool was the same temperature as the ocean - in other words cool. The forward pool was okay. The rear pool is adults only (I didn't go in that one). The two hot tubs were warm tubs. As such, I just decided to spend a few hours in the hot/warm tub.
I watched the sun go down from the hot tub. I could see there was no reason to go back to the cabin to get my camera. I have plenty of pictures of an orange ball sinking below the horizon. With no clouds in the sky I knew the sunset would be a dud.
There are still two and one half hours until dinner. So I'm working on this and maybe playing my favorite computer game (Civilization - Civ 5) to pass the time until dinner.
Well, I was playing Civilization and watching the clock. I was on time for dinner, but forgot about the reception before dinner. Oh well. There is another long line for getting into the restaurant. I just find a comfortable chair and wait for the end of the line.
I had a shrimp appetizer with prime rib for the main course. Both were quite good. Not steakhouse quality, but still quite good. I topped it off with the warm chocolate melting cake. I believe there are people who cruise Carnival just so they can have the warm chocolate melting cake. I also informed everyone, including the waiter that I would not be at dinner tomorrow night and why. One person asks me if the Steakhouse is worth it. Since Carnival's food in the main dining room is actually very good, I say no. I go just for the variety. Is it worth $30? Yes. I would estimate you would pay about $70 for the same meal on land. But is it worth $30 more than the free food I can get in the main restaurant - not in my opinion.
The waiter of course gives me a hard time. I must admit, I've had some good waiters on other cruises but this guy is quickly rising to the top. Good service and a great sense of humor. That is a hard combination to beat. At any rate, he says you cannot get the warm chocolate melting cake in the supper club. I'll bet if I asked for it they would get it for me. Nonetheless, since my dinner is at 7:00pm I have been invited to come down to the main restaurant for desert. As I type this it is Monday morning, and I am still debating if I will accept the invitation.
After dinner I head back to the cabin and remove my tie (I wish I could remove the head of the person who invented ties). I then pick up my good camera and head out to the production show. I have three cameras with me. My good camera is a DSLR. It is big, but takes high quality pictures. I also have a travel camera, which I define as being able to fit in pocket. It takes good pictures but it is not up to the standards of the DSLR, especially in low light. I also brought my water proof camera just in case.
On all my prior cruises the rules have always been no video taping and no flash photography at the production shows. I can take pictures with the DSLR without the flash. No sooner had the show ended then someone was in front of me telling me not to bring the camera to any more shows. The band was still playing and I had to ask him to repeat what he was saying three times because the band was much louder than he. Apparently the rule on this ship is no video taping and no photography (the word flash does not appear in front of the word photography).
We have been instructed to set our clock ahead one hour, and from then on to make sure our clocks are on ship time. A big deal is made not to ask the locals what time it is, and not to use our cell phone clocks, since they display local time.
Back at the cabin I am so tired that I just put everything down and go to sleep. Monday, November 22
I wake up at 6:30 and sunrise is at 6:40. I take a peek outside. Conditions are not perfect and I am very tired, which is not good for someone looking to relax. So I hop back in bed and read the Fun Times, which replaces the Carnival Capers as the ship's newspaper. The Fun Times seems a little smaller than the Carnival Capers, which I haven't seen for over two years, yet all the information seems to be there. So I try and figure what is missing. Finally I realize the ads are missing. For example, the nightly show used to take up about one quarter of the page. Now it takes up less space than a credit card.
Speaking of ads, I am surprised Carnival is still using Park West for its art auctions. Park West lost some important lawsuits and I'll just leave it at that. I suggest that anyone contemplating the purchase of art on a Carnival ship do their homework first. I personally would not buy anything from Park West that cost more than $10.
A review of the Fun Times shows that there is nothing of real interest to me going on today. So, I'll plan a relaxing day. I'll work on this, pick out the photos I am going to include with the review, play some more Civilization, this time out on the balcony, take more pictures and relax in the warm tub. Actually I've got everything all set in my mind, when I hear a knock on the door. The room steward is here. Yesterday he doesn't touch the cabin until the afternoon and today he is hear at 9:15am.
Having been out on the balcony this morning I know it is warm. I estimate we passed Cabo around 5:30am. For reference typically ship headings to Puerto Vallarta will pass Cabo at around noon and ships that are going directly to Cabo typically arrive around 9:00am.
In my mail box is my future cruise certificate and an invitation to a past guest party at 3:45pm. Okay, the mental picture of my plans just got ruined. I'm going to go up on deck around 10:00am for pictures and brunch. Then back to the cabin for choosing pictures, updating this and perhaps some game playing. Then in the afternoon some pool time, followed by the past guest party. Then the time between the end of the past guest party will remain open for now. The show tonight after dinner does not interest me, so I'm leaving that time open to my whim.
I'm already showered and dressed. So all I need to do is put a few things away, then put the make up my room sign on the door and head upstairs.
Well, there were not many people in the pools yet, which kind of surprised me. Nonetheless, I take a few pictures and then grab a banana. But, since this is supposed to be brunch, I also get a slice of pizza. Then it is over to the store for a few souvenirs, a couple of key chains, a small toy boat, and a couple of shirts which are on sale two for $20, even if one is a child's small and the other is an adult's small. All of these are for my sister's neighbor's kids.
Back to the cabin and my room has been made up, so in the spirit (that is "spirit" with a small "s", not the Carnival Spirit) of vacationing, I decide to truly relax. I lay down, and it turns out I needed that. My little siesta was briefly interrupted by someone wanting to make sure everything is alright. A supervisor checking up on the cabin steward I guess. Well, since the room has been made up and there is ice in the ice bucket I state that yes, everything is fine.
The captain made his noon time announcement. We are 890 nautical miles from San Diego and 520 nautical miles from Acapulco. He says we are about 70 miles from the nearest land (about even with Puerto Vallarta) and that we made up most of the lost time (we are a few minutes behind where we should be). I wonder if he lost that time moving back out further to sea. At any rate at about this time an alarm sounds. Then with the mike still open the captain tells someone one on the bridge to, "Make that thing shut up." We then learn that the air temperature is 79 degrees and the sky is partly cloudy or partly clear, the captain says it is our choice.
Well, my choice is to spend a little time in the pool and then make it back in time for the past guest party. So, I'll be back at you later.
Once again the middle pool is cool, something I could tell even before I put my foot in the water, as I could see how other people were reacting when they entered the pool. I go into the forward pool but I realize that there is not enough room to swim and if I don't do some swimming I am going to start to feel cold. So, it is off to the warm tub. An hour of soaking and then I come back to cabin. I decide to sit out on the balcony, work on this and pick out some picture to post with the review. And now it is approaching time for the past guest party, so off I go again.
Well, that was easily the best guest past guess party I have been to. It actually was a lot of fun. Perhaps because of the high energy singer who entertained us before the captain spoke? The captain said that we made up 97% of the time we lost in San Diego waiting for the luggage to be loaded. So, we are a few minutes behind schedule. The party ended with a video of all the past and current ships in the Carnival fleet.
Since I had my camera with me I went over to the water slide to get some pictures, and then waited for the sunset. And once again it was an orange ball dropping below the horizon, and this time I've got photographic proof. Be back at you after dinner.
Dinner was excellent. I had a shrimp appetizer and an iceberg lettuce salad. For the main course I had the eighteen ounce rib eye steak. Although it was worth more than the $33 I paid (I added a little extra tip), I still don't feel it was worth $30 (the standard price) more than the included meal in the main restaurant.
I decided to "dress up" in my tux-t-shirt. Just as I exit my cabin a large Camp Carnival group is on its way back to Camp Carnival, which is just down the hall from me. One of the kids says nice shirt. I say thank you. Then, while I am at dinner someone comes to visit the people next to me, sees my shirt and says "nice tux."
It was 6:50pm when I saw the kids in the hall, which means we are in the middle of early dinner. What are all of these kids doing in Camp Carnival? Is Camp Carnival open because of Anytime Dining, or is Camp Carnival open because of all the kids in the late dinner?
After dinner I return to the cabin and just relax. The next three days are all port days, so there will be less time for relaxing for a while.
Tuesday, November 23
I'm getting lazy. I wake up at 3:30am and think this would be a good time to go out on deck to see, and photograph, the ship at night. But I decide to stay were I am. The next thing I know it is 6:30am.
I stay in bed for a while, then shower, dress and get breakfast, which I eat on the balcony while watching sea turtles, small flying fish and some schools of small fish just below the surface.
Even though it is before 9:00am it is fairly warm outside. I have been able to see land since 6:30am, which is about the time we passed tomorrow's port of call. Acapulco is now showing on the Travel Channel map. There is no scale, but I'll be able to tell when we are really close because the speed will start to drop from the current 22 knots.
I'm scheduled for the Cultural and Picturesque Acapulco tour. Basically I am interested in the photo opportunities. However, I decided two and a half years ago that I would take a ship sponsored excursion at this port. That was the last time I visited Acapulco. I went out on my own, and it was not a pleasant experience. Just outside the gate are the taxi drivers. Every 50 to 75 feet I was asked the same three questions. The first two questions were no big deal. But that last question was annoying. Basically they are offering a "full service" massage. It got to the point that I began to wonder if prostitution was legal in Mexico. I would like to avoid, or at least limit, having to walk through that gauntlet on this trip. A ship sponsored excursion is one way to get out of the port area without having to face that line of taxi drivers.
Well in a short period of time I have seen several sea turtles, flying fish and at least three dolphins. I did get one good picture of a sea turtle. However, taking my camera from the cold cabin (I always turn the air conditioning up as far as it will go and leave it there) to the warm humid air is causing the lens to fogging up, so I have to leave the camera out on the balcony for a while until it warms up (the camera - not the balcony, the balcony is already warm). There are some kids a couple of balconies above me who are really enjoying the nature show. It is 10am and we are still doing 23 knots. The sea is smooth unless you are a sea turtle that is fairly close to the ship.
Finally at about 11:00am we start to slow down. However, the docking process takes a long time. The ship does not touch the dock until about 12:15, a good 45 minutes from the time we entered the bay. The captain says the temperature is 82 degrees. There is one other ship in port with us, the Oceana. It will leave around 6:00pm.
Well I didn't expect Acapulco to be the highlight of the cruise, and the tour sure didn't change things much. The two the places we missed I've been to before, so it was no big deal to me. One of those places offered a great view of the bay and the ships. We didn't go there because it was too crowded. At our next stop, and at another stop, I was able to get similar pictures, so I was happy with the picture taking opportunities. We only spent ten minutes at the fort because of how late we got there, and that is the tour guide's fault (bad time management). The air conditioning in the van began making too much noise, so the driver turned it off. Fortunately it was late in the day, so the heat was not a big problem. Finally we arrived back at the port thirty minutes late (more bad time management on the tour guide's behalf). No problem for me, as I have late dinner. However, for anyone who had early dinner, and was expecting to get back thirty prior to dinner, it could be a problem.
I did learn why we are not supposed to ask the locals what time it is. Acapulco is ninety minutes head of us. That could easily confuse someone.
The last stop was a jewelry store that offers free drinks. I was enjoying a cup of Coke and was almost finished when I suddenly realized my mistake. The Coke of course is safe, but it had ice in it. I guess I'll find out tomorrow if the water in the ice was filtered or not. And free drinks or not, the leather belts were listed at $62 US dollars. I even if I talk them down to $30, it would not be a good deal, as I know I can get leather belts in Mexico for $20 each.
I'm just cooling down (not from the tour - from the heat) for a bit, and then I'm going back outside for some night time photographs of the ship. Then I'll come back to the cabin and cool down again before dinner.
Well, it looks like the taxi drivers are gone, so hopefully it is safe to go out and take a few pictures. I have to leave the secured port area to get the pictures I want and really don't want to meet too many taxi drivers.
On my way out I run into a Camp Carnival group again. This time it is the real little ones. These guys could tell you their age with one hand, even if a couple of fingers were missing. It is the middle of early dinner, and Camp Carnival is open?
Well, I got the pictures I wanted and only got asked three times if I wanted a taxi, and I didn't give them the chance to ask any follow up questions. A little girl was selling something (most likely gum) for a dollar. I just gave her all my change and kept walking.
I also picked up some souvenirs. An Acapulco shirt from the cliff divers for me, a couple of key rings for my sister's neighbor's kids and a shot glass for one of my friends while on the tour, a mask for my sister and some necklaces for my sister's neighbor's kids from the street vendors on the way back from the photo shoot. The shirt and mask were $15 each and the necklaces were two for $15. The shot glass and key rings came to $5 total.
Now I've got to get me a quick shower, or I'll be the only one at the table by the time the salad is served. Even at night in the bottom half of November it is hot and muggy in Acapulco.
There is not enough time to go up on deck to take night time pictures before dinner, so I'll have to leave my camera out on the balcony. It takes a good half hour for the camera to warm up when I take it out of the cold cabin. My only other choice is to sleep with it, and quite frankly, it is not very cuddly.
The lines were much shorter tonight. I would say half the people that would normally be at dinner were not there. The father and son from Hawaii were missing from our table. I did see them at the cliff divers. We had just enough time to say hello when I notice my group was leaving.
At any rate, the topic of conversation at dinner tonight was my dinner last night and what we all did today in port. I had a Thai salad, shrimp appetizer and lasagna for the main course. Then, wanting something cold, I opted for chocolate ice cream for dessert.
After dinner I returned to the cabin to get my camera and then headed up to the sun deck, which is now the moon deck. The ship is not that colorful up on deck at night, but I did take several pictures. They turned out okay, but not as interesting as I had hoped. Oh well, there will be other ships and other nights.
Tonight's show is not that interesting to me, so I am in the cabin (it is too hot out on the balcony) bringing this up-to-date and getting ready for tomorrow (the next two days I have early shore excursions.
Wednesday, November 24
I keep waking up right around sunrise. It might be because I sleep with the drapes fully open. Eventually I get up and get some breakfast, which I eat on my balcony. Soon it is obvious that the ship is slowing down. However, we don't go into the bay as far as we did the last time I was here. Last time the ship anchored in the bay. This time we are in the mouth of the bay and the captain has already spun the ship so it is facing out for departure.
The destination shopping insert (the port map) in the Fun Times contains something I have not seen before - a port day planner. It is like a day out of daily planner, with a blank line next to each hour so one can plan one's day. It is noted that, "As time in the ports of call is limited and valuable, use this tool to help plan your day ashore." The Acapulco insert did not contain this.
This is a tender port (you can tell by sticking a fork in it - ha ha) and they want us in the Pharaoh's Lounge 45 minutes prior to departure of our tour. I can only wonder how much time we will be wasting. Nonetheless, I don't want to be the person holding everyone else up, so it is time to go. I'll be back after the City Tour, which visits both cities; Zihuatanejo, which is still a small fishing village and Ixtapa, which has been turned into a resort by the Mexican government.
It is very hot. Our tour guides tells us that there are two seasons, the rainy season and the reconstruction season. We are here in the beginning of the reconstruction season. Apparently they had a very rainy rainy season, the worst in seventy years. We are told this is why it is so humid.
Our first stop provides us with a view of the bay with a great view of the ship. I get lots of pictures. Then it is off to Ixtapa. Our next stop provides an overview of the resort area. Then we get to spend some time in one of the resorts. If you are looking for a land based resort to spend sometime, this is not a bad place to look at.
Apparently the area used to be a swamp and coconut plantation. And where there are swamps there are crocodiles. Since crocodiles and resort guests don't mix too well, the Mexican government had to catch the crocodiles and put them in a sanctuary. The tour guide made a big point of stating that MOST of the crocodiles have been caught. And sure enough on the beach of the resort we visited there was a warning sign.
Next there is some time for shopping (of course). I pick up a couple of belts for me ($20 each), three shot glasses for my friend, some coffee for my sister and brother-in-law and four key rings for my sister's neighbor's kids.
This tour was $16 less than yesterday's tour, and was a much better tour. Everything ran smoothly and on time. We did not spend too long in any one place, and yet got an overview of both cities, which are only a few miles apart.
After I have completed my souvenir shopping in both cities I have $8 plus a 20 Peso bill left. I see a couple of small jewelry boxes in Zihuatanejo that would be great for a couple of young girls that live next door to my sister. However, the shop owner wants $8 each. I explain I need two and I show him all I have. He agrees to sell me two small boxes for all I have. So I return to the ship with nothing but my camera, over one hundred pictures and some souvenirs, but no money. Of course I have more money in the safe on the ship.
Upon my return to the ship at about 2:00pm, all I can think of is some ice cream and that nice cool pool. First the ice cream, then slight detour at the grill for a pastrami sandwich. One advantage of late dinner is that even after eating a snack at 2:30pm, I still have over five and one half hours until dinner. After my snack it is pool time. One nice thing about being on the ship while in port is how empty the ship is, including the pools. I last an hour of doing a little more than just floating. It is now about 3:30pm and as more and more people return to the ship, the pool begins to get too crowded for just floating around, so I head back to the cabin. I take a quick shower to remove the salt water (the pools are salt water) and I then I start to put all the stuff away before deciding to relax a bit. The next thing I know it is after sunset. Too bad, I wanted to see if I could get some good sunset pictures.
So I decide to finish putting everything away and then work on this. In addition to writing my review I also keep track of my expenses, which helps when it comes time to fill out the customs form and I back everything up. In fact I do not erase the photos from my memory cards until I have copied the photographs to the computer and backed the photographs up on a flash drive. That way the failure of any one will not cause me to lose any pictures. I back up everything, the review, the spreadsheet with my purchases and of course the photographs.
Oops, that was close. I have not changed the time on my computer, so I thought there was ninety minutes until dinner. However there was actually only thirty minutes. Fortunately the Travel Channel lists the time, and upon looking at my watch I realized my mistake. Now it is time to go to dinner. Tonight's show does not interest me. Since I have done almost everything I wanted to do, I'll probably just come back to the cabin watch TV and play Civilization, which is what I end up doing. Thursday, November 25 (Thanksgiving Day)
I woke up this morning in time for sunrise. The bad news, all I got was an orange ball above Manzanillo. The cloud cover was not in a memorable sunrise pattern. The good news, we were also pulling into port. As this is the one port I have not been to before, I wanted to get some pictures, so I went up to the observation deck above the bridge. This is the only forward facing deck with the glass wall low enough to shoot over.
Two tugs came out the meet us. I have no idea why. With no wind to speak of the ship is perfectly capable of maneuvering into the dock, which it did without help
I found a Sail and Sign card on the deck, so I went down to guest relations to turn it in, then up to the buffet for breakfast, which I carry back to my balcony. Unfortunately I forgot that the port side was facing the sun. So I ended up eating breakfast on a very brightly lit balcony.
So, we are docked. It is 7:00am and my tour is not until 9:00am, so I decide to update this. Of course not much has happened yet, so on to some not so random musings. The amount of misinformation running around is amazing. What I have heard includes a misunderstanding of the PVSA (Passenger Vessel Service Act) which is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Jones Act, stating that the ship weighs 86,000 tones (which is actually a space rating, not a weight rating), where the Splendor was when it was disabled (a passenger on this ship thought the Splendor became disabled near Manzanillo, when in fact it was about more than one thousand miles north of here) and I even had someone call me before the cruise and say that I guess you are not going on your cruise. When I asked why not it became apparent that they did not realize my cruise was booked on a different ship (fortunately) than the Splendor.
Well, it is not even 8:30am yet and a few seconds on the balcony makes it clear that nobody is going to get frostbite today. I’m going to get ready for my tour, Manzanillo City & Shopping Tour. So, I’ll be back at you this afternoon.
Well, the tour covered some interesting sights; however, there were two problems. First of all we were in a full sized bus on a route that would have been a challenge for a full sized van. Several times the driver could not make the turn and had to make a simple right or left turn into a three point turn. Simply put, we were on a rather steep mountain and it did not feel safe. The second problem, we got out of the bus twice (not counting when the tour ended). Once for five minutes to take pictures and the second time to shop for ninety minutes at some place that was called a mall. Actually it is one very large store that was like a Walmart super store with groceries and general merchandize.
I didn’t come to Mexico to buy a washer and dryer, which is the first thing I saw when I entered the store. For the rest of the time I was in the store the same thought kept running through my mind – how would Carnival react if I showed up at the gangplank with a washer and dryer? Across the street was a flea market. There weren’t any fleas I was interested in; however, I did pick up a couple of key rings for my sister’s neighbor’s kids and a shot glass for my friend.
Back in port I get a few good pictures of the ship. Interestingly enough, the stores across the street from the port are not touristy shops. Instead, these are the kind of stores that the locals would shop in. Along the dock on the way back to the ship I picked up a couple of small purses for two young girls that live next door to my sister and wood puzzle for the little boy that lives next door to my sister. I also picked up a wooden key rack for myself.
It did not feel as hot or humid today as I thought it would this morning. Of course part of that could be that I had spent so much time in an air conditioned bus. So back on the ship I get some ice cream and lunch and then head to the pool. After a while in the pool I go into the warm tub. I stay there until enough people are back on the ship that the warm tub gets crowded. In fact, I leave when I see two little kids looking for a place to get into the warm tub, and sure enough they take over the place I just surrendered.
Back at the cabin I shower the salt off and then go back on deck for the sunset. Unfortunately the sun is setting behind a mountain. It looks like a great sunset. However, the best part is taking place out of view behind the mountain.
After that, since my balcony faces the dock, I decide to see if anyone arrives late. Sure enough some people are late, but fortunately the gangplank is still out. Whatever the reason, the stress causes a very brief fight. I hang out long enough to see us back away from the dock.
Then it is time to do what I am doing now – update this. Soon it is time for dinner. Today is Thanksgiving, so it will be interesting to see what is on the menu.
For the most part tonight’s menu is just like normal. There is a turkey selection and tonight we have to choose our desert at the same time we order the main course. Normally we choose our desert after we have finished the main course. I have two shrimp appetizers and steak for the main course. It was good. Again, it is not steakhouse quality, but still quite good.
Once again the conversation around the dinner table concerns the tours we took. The father and son from Hawaii went off on their own and got lost. Obviously they made it back to the ship on time. The other single fellow did the ATV tour. He mentioned how genially the residents seem to appreciate the tourists. I think to myself how every tour guide knows this is the second to last cruise to these three cities.
Back in the cabin there is something interesting on the TV. The next thing I know it is very early in the morning, so I turn everything off and go to sleep.
Friday, November 26
I wake up after sunrise again. Too bad, there are clouds outside, which should have made for a good sunrise. Since it is a sea day, I relax in bed until sometime between 7:00 and 8:00am. One thing I notice is we are rocking a bit. A quick check of the Travel Channel confirms the reason. We are headed northwest at 21 knots and there is a thirty knot wind coming from the north.
Well, it is 10:00am and one can carry being lazy only so far. It is time to go outside and see what is interesting. First of all the spray from the waves hitting the bow is creating a rainbow, which can be difficult to capture with a camera. However, I get a few acceptable photographs. Also, the sea is rough enough that the wake disappears fairly quickly, which is hard to show in a photograph, as there is no scale in a photo of an empty ocean.
I also notice that the pools are empty, which of course is easy to document. I’m not sure why. Are 90% of the people on this ship lazier than I am, or is the wind making it feel cooler than it really is? I’ll soon find out, as it is about 2:00pm and the wind speed has dropped to about five knots, and the ocean is fairly smooth now.
I get out of the cabin long enough for the cabin steward to do his or her job (either my cabin steward has a female assistant or she has taken over responsibility for my cabin, I’m not sure which) and in addition to a few pictures I also grab breakfast and purchase a picture that was taken last night with a pilgrim and turkey.
After updating this, I decided to spend a little time in the pool, which is still empty. After a while I switch to the warm tub. I notice enforcement of the rules is a little lax. The aft pool is supposed to be adults only. Apparently some of those adults were born in a year starting with a two. In the warm tub some of the kids were splashing each other with plastic cups of water. This was obvious to anyone in the pool area, even a Cyclops with one bad eye would have noticed. The kids were making an effort not to splash me, and were apologetic if they did splash me. Personally I didn’t care if they splashed me or not since I was already wet. Still, where was the deck crew? The boys were splashing the girls and the girls clearly were not happy about it. I know one of the boys’ parents saw what was going on, but that did stop it. What did stop the splashing, with the cups at least, was one of the waiters. While cleaning up he noticed the cups the boys had and asked them to give him the cups. Actually the kids were very respectful, they were just acting like the young children that they are.
So that I don’t appear to be picking on the kids, I would also like to mention the 300+ pound man that did a cannonball into the pool. He had not been, and was not interacting, with anyone, so why did he do it? Was it to amuse himself, to annoy everyone else in the pool with a rather significant tidal wave or just a way of calling attention too himself?
About this time the sun was getting low and I decided to return to my balcony for some sunset pictures. The set up was good, but unfortunately the ship was moving and by the time the sun set the ship was clear of the clouds. I took some pictures, but they will never make the pages of National Geographic.
Tonight is the second elegant night and I’m going to bring my computer to dinner tonight, so that I can show the three ladies the crocodiles they were swimming with in Ixtapa. I had the shrimp cocktail and breast of chicken, which was a little smaller than I was expecting, so I decided to have the warm chocolate melting cake for desert, while most of the others at the table had the baked Alaska.
The topic of conversation around the table was the various activities offered on the ship, such as the free design your own ice cream Sundays at the fantail bar late in the afternoon, the comedy shows, the late night dance party and Mexican buffet and who saw who around the ship.
Tonight we set our clocks back one hour, so we will be back on Pacific Standard Time.
Saturday, November 27
Well, today is the last day. I wake up in time to go out on deck and get some sunrise photos, however, I decide not to. I was just being lazy more than anything else, since I was already awake.
I noted that we passed Cabo before 4:00pm yesterday, so we are ahead of the Carnival Pride (a sister ship) that left Cabo at 4:00pm in May of 2004 and had to travel an extra 100 miles to make it back to Long Beach. Yesterday we were going twenty knots. Today we are going eighteen knots.
I do not have much planned today. I don’t normally go swimming on the last day so that I don’t have to pack a wet bathing suit. Also I want to get this and the photos ready to upload tomorrow when I arrive home.
But I do have a couple of not so random musings to comment on. On channel seventeen we are supposed to be getting the instructions for debarkation. Instead we are getting a replay of the first evening’s talk. I think it is a little late for the wonderful shore excursions and a reminder of what we can expect for the next eight days. Having been through debarkation several times I’m not overly concerned. Also, they are cleaning the balconies between 10:45am and 1:00pm today. We are supposed to have the curtains closed and the balcony door locked. So at 9:30am while I am shaving I am trying to figure out what all the noise was. There was someone cleaning my balcony. Did the maintenance crew forget to set their clocks back?
At 11:00am today was a Q&A session with the cruise director and her staff. At first I was disappointed that the captain would not attend. However, this turned out to be one of the most interesting Q&A sessions I have attended, and not just because I got to ask three questions. The questions were varied and the cruise director and her staff provided what I believe to be honest answers in a lively and interesting manner.
My three questions and the answers were …
Q1 – The cruise director suggested that we leave our passports in the safe. My question was, suppose we miss the ship, will some go into our safe and get our passport? The answer was yes. The passport would be given to the port agent.
Q2 – I asked what their favorite class of ship was. All answered the Spirit class for the same two reasons I have. First of all it is the easiest class to navigate, though one mentioned that on the Dream class one can walk the full length of the ship without having to go up and over the mid ship dining room. The second reason is the Spirit class has the most space per person of all the Carnival classes of ships.
Q3 – Had she read Cruise Confidential and did she have any comments. One member of the staff did not realize it was a book. However, both Jen (the cruise director) and at least one of her staff were familiar with the book. Jen said while mostly true, some of the book was far fetched.
After the Q&A session I asked Jen why the welcome aboard talk was playing instead of the debarkation talk. She was unaware of the mix up and thanked me for informing her, as she would have no way of knowing. When I returned to the cabin with my lunch the debarkation talk had replaced the welcome aboard talk.
I intended to eat lunch on the balcony. However, the captain made his noon time report and I came inside for that. One thing I have noticed is that both yesterday and today I was able to see land, thus my theory of the captain cutting corners so we could arrive on time in Acapulco may not hold water. The air temperature is less than sixty degrees, so there are not many people in the pools.
Carnival only provides an envelope for the Maitre d’ because the cabin steward, waiter and assistant waiter are included in the auto tip and the Maitre d’ is not. Well the only thing the Maitre d’ did for me was interrupt my dinner around desert time with some sort of an announcement. I don’t see any need to tip him. So I go down to guest relations and get a couple of envelopes and label them waiter and assistant waiter. I’ll make sure the waiter and assistant waiter knows that this tip in addition to the standard auto tip. The waiter and assistant waiter did an excellent job while the room steward did an average job and will get the standard auto tip.
Well it is now 4:30pm and I have finally picked out and resized 48 photos that I am going to include with the review. So now I have to fill out the customs form, which is why I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet of all my expenses. Not all expenses qualify (drinks and tips don’t have to be declared) but the spreadsheet allows me to both fill out the customs form and double check the on board account (which can be done via the TV). Then it is time for a shower, shave (since I can’t do that tomorrow morning as I’ll pack my shaver) and get dressed in tomorrow’s clothing so I can pack – yuck. Well, at least it is easier than packing at home.
After I finish packing there is still time until dinner, so I decide to proof read this. As I do so I notice the ship is rocking. A quick check of the Travel Channel shows that we are moving in a direction that is a little west of north at seventeen knots and there is a 23 knot wind coming from the northwest.
While I am sitting on the bed with my feet up there is a knock on the door. Before I can get out of the bed a third room steward is opening the door. He wants to know what time he can clean the room. First of all he gave me no time to react to the knock. What if I was a female getting dressed? Second, don’t they know I have a set dining time? And if not, don’t the rotating room stewards share information? There is a sign we are supposed to put on the door when we want the room to be made up. I have used it every time. Upon returning from dinner I note that the leftovers from my lunch on the balcony are still there. The room is clean, but the balcony is not. And for the first time, there is no towel animal on the bed.
For dinner I had shrimp cocktail, iceberg lettuce and chicken with pasta. The topic of conversation tonight was about the sights we saw from the ship. One of the ladies saw a whale and another one saw some dolphins. After dinner we all said our good-byes.
I have a three hour drive tomorrow, so after dinner I just returned to the cabin, updated this, and then got to thinking about the cruise. My goal was to relax and to that end this was a very successful cruise. As to Acapulco it will not be missed (the next cruise will be the last time the Carnival Spirit visits Acapulco). I’m sure Manzanillo has more to offer than I saw on my tour. But Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa will be missed.
As to Carnival, the cruise was typical Carnival. The service was great. The food was good and I could do without the constant interruptions around desert time at dinner. And since Carnival is family friendly there were plenty of kids. All the kids add a different flavor to the cruise. Depending on how you feel about kids, the kids either added to, or detracted from the cruise. Personally I think the kids were well behaved. Not perfect little angels, but still well behaved. The bottom line is I enjoyed the cruise.
In the end this is one review written by one person based on one person’s experiences during this one cruise. I’m not sure what value this review will have in the future. The people on the next cruise will not see this review, if they see it at all, until after their cruise ends. After that, this cruise will not be repeated. However, I hope that in some way this cruise will provide some insight to someone doing research on how that person or persons will spend their hard earned vacation dollars.
Sunday, November 28
I work up about 5:30am and turned on the Travel Channel. We have slowed to 13 knots and are close to the harbor entrance. There is a 20+ knot wind hitting us broadside and I can feel the ship rocking. By 6:30am we are approaching the dock and I go outside to get some harbor views of San Diego. The airport, which is at the north end of the bay, sure is busy this early in the morning on a Sunday.
By 7:00am the ship is docked. It is cool outside, but the weather is fine. It should be a pleasant drive back home. Well, at least as pleasant as can be, given that I am leaving the cruise, not driving to the cruise.
After a few pictures I go back to the cabin and drop off my camera, then head back up to the Lido deck (deck nine) for some breakfast. I am surprised at the number of people up this early. I head over to one of the cook to order omelet stations and decide to eat in the buffet, since my tray and plate from yesterday’s lunch is still on the balcony.
On the way back to my cabin I run into my original room steward. I pick up my Sail and Sign statement and it matches what I have. I’ll have to check with my agent on Monday to see if she knows anything about the mysterious $10.54 credit, which is listed on the statement as a refundable onboard credit.
They want us out of the cabin by 8:00am, so I still have a little time to play games on the computer. I was off the ship a little before 10:00am. Customs only wants the declaration form, they don't want to see the passports. As a result the line is moving rather quickly.
When I get outside I see that the line for the Park & Go is long, so I grab a taxi. I think it was the driver's second day on the job. He had no idea where the Park & Go lot was. I told him it was at the end of the runway. He still had no idea. I gave him the address, he still had no idea. I had to enter the address into the GPS for him.
The drive home was uneventful.
Here is a link to the pictures ...
http://community.webshots.com/album/579186518RNMrdE Read Less