by Abby B.
April 11, 2004
I have to say this was our favorite cruise so far. We have cruised the western and southern Caribbean ports before. We had favorite port cities on each. But the Mexican Riviera ports were all beautiful. It was hard to choose a favorite. We started the trip by spending the night before the cruise on the Queen Mary. If you can, stay there. We had an outside, renovated, cabin. The dining rooms had excellent food, but beware you need to wear formal attire in 2 of the 3 restaurants. We opted for the more casual one and it was very nice. The food was good and reasonably priced. The view of Long Beach from the window was an added bonus. There was a very nice observation bar with entertainment also on the ship. After breakfast we took the $6 tour before embarkation. The embarkation line was very long when we got to it. We did an early check-in on the Queen Mary (as about ¾ of the passengers did also)! It does not save time. We were told to get in line around 12:30. Big mistake. By then the lines were already long and winding. No personnel seemed to be able to tell us which line was for the passengers that had already checked in early. It seems both lines had these passengers in them and embarkation was no easier or shorter for them. Be sure to get in the line before 12 to save yourself a long and winding trip up to the front.
Everyone was correct about the 2 sea days being chilly. The first day was 66 and sunny. The second day was 68 and the sun went in and out. You could lay out both days in bathing suits, but don't count on getting too tan on these 2 days. It was ok, as you were able to get a slight base tan before Mexico. We spent the days at the aft pool as this pool area was for adults only. Because this was Easter week, there were over 800 kids on this cruise so this area was a blessing for us! Those families with kids don't have to worry though, as there were 3 other pool areas for children. The last day at sea was very windy and cool. It was too cold even with sweat suits on to sit outside on the deck. We decided to go on our balcony. The windshield below the handrail shielded us from the wind and the sun warmed us. We then decided to pack (boo-hoo). Since the shops were still open and most of the jewelry and clothes were now 40% to 50% off, my friend and I decided to "just look"! We ending up buying though, as a few pieces of jewelry caught are eye!
As I said all three ports were beautiful. Puerto Vallarta was so romantic with its palm trees, beaches, cobblestone roads and the Sierra Madres Mountains in then background. The prices for jewelry were best here. They got higher as we moved up the coast. Walk a block from the pier and take a taxi into town for $2 a person. We had drinks at the Zoo. The restaurant/bar overlooked the street, the Malecon and the ocean. My friends had a caricature drawn of them while we sat and had a few drinks. People walked by and looked at the caricature and then up at us and made comments. It was so funny. We talked to a lot of new people that day. We ate lunch at the Blue Shrimp. Excellent. Do this if you can. The shrimp were huge and delicious. We shopped and then went to the Krystal Hotel and used their pool. It was a warm and sunny day and the pool area was beautiful. The beach was rocky though and there was a riptide so we did not venture in. We headed back to the ship by 5. I am sorry we did not stay in town longer or do more exploring though. There is a Wal-Mart not too far from the cruise ship and we stopped there to buy some coke and pina colada mix to take back to the ship. If possible, skip dinner on the ship and stay in town. It is so lovely there. I would also take a shore excursion down past the Mismoyla Hotel.
Although I have not read many glowing reviews of Mazaltan, we loved it there. We were awake in the morning as we came into port. The view of Mazaltan was awesome. We took a taxi (like an open air golf cart) for $10 into town. Make sure your driver takes you there by going along the coast. It is a very beautiful and scenic drive (about 10-15 minutes). We shopped and then went to the El Cid Hotel. We ate lunch there overlooking the water. It was very good and reasonable. The pool was gorgeous with waterfalls and bridges. It was another sunny and warm day. The beach there was ok, but it was swarmed with vendors. Be warned they tried to charge us over twice as much for the same items we saw in town. A ball cap with Mazaltan on it went for $14 and we saw them in town for $6. We stayed there until 4:30 and then headed back to the ship.
The view of Los Arcos in Cabo is spectacular. We could see it from our balcony. We were tendered into town here. We booked a snorkel and sail excursion at 10:15. The water was way too cold to snorkel and only a few brave souls stayed in the water. The boat sailed past Los Arcos and Lovers Beach and the view of the beach with the Sea of Cortez on one side and the Pacific on the other was neat. You take many pictures of Los Arcos, as it is quite spectacular. We saw sea lions on the rocks as well as dolphin swimming next to us. It was a lovely way to spend the morning. We then walked into town (take a left at the lighthouse). We stopped into Cabo Wabo (owned by Sammy Hagar) for t-shirts, but it was so crowded that we decided to eat at The Giggling Marlin for lunch. They had very good tacos, burritos, etc. We shopped and then had to catch the 3:00 tender back as the 3:30 tender was the last one. Too bad the ship does not stop longer here, as there is so much to see and do.
I was not really impressed with the décor of the Pride. I did not mind the nude paintings, but the interior had a cold feel to it. The layout was easy to get around. The photo areas, as well as the shops were on the 3rd deck. The Normandy Restaurant, the casino, the Taj Mahal and most of the bars were on the 2nd deck. There was a very good singer in the lobby lounge. We listened to her before and after dinner quite a few times. We were very lucky to have the band "Shaboom" as guests on this cruise. They played outside on the Lido deck two nights. We really enjoyed dancing and singing along with them. The cruise director was fair. Most of his humor was ho hum. We did not get to see Vroom and the first show, but had heard both were very good. We did get to see the juggler and he was very good as well as funny. The comedian was so, so.
I can't say enough about the food on this ship. We had Prime Rib, Filet Mignon, Chateaubriand, Tiger Prawns and very good Veal Parmesan in the Normandie. We asked for many of the pasta entrees as side dishes as they were also very good. Note: Carnival lets you bring on 3 bottles of wine per person. My husband and I and our friends each did this. We were able to bring our wine to dinner ever night including the night at David's Supper Club. They even held the wine for us for the next night when we were unable to finish it. They tell you there is a $10 cork charge, but we were never charged for it. Breakfasts and lunch on the Lido deck were very good also. I never had the same thing twice. I had a made to order omelet, French toast, banana pancakes, cereal, and eggs over easy when I ate breakfast there. We had 2 breakfasts in the Normandie. I had Eggs Benedict one morning and lox and bagels the other morning. When eating lunch on the Lido deck there were so many things to choose from. There was an Asian station (with Sushi), 24 hour pizza, a burger, steak sandwich and hotdog grill, deli station, salad bar area, and a buffet lunch area with several varieties. Ice cream was available 24 hours also. We also went to David's Supper Club Monday evening. It was romantic and a leisurely dinner was available. The beef is to die for. If you like steak, go there. We were so full after that we all had to go to our cabins and change from formal wear into clothes with elastic waists!!
This is a very long, drawn out process. You get up at 7 a.m. You have breakfast at 8 and then you wait and wait and wait until your color is called. My friends had a plane to catch at 2 and a car waiting for them at 10:30, but we all did not get off the ship until 12 noon! We were the last color to be called. They did not get to the airport until after 12:30. My husband and I were staying in Beverly Hills that night so we did not care, but if you have a flight at 2 or before I would make sure you had early debarkation times.
All in all, the trip was wonderful. Good company, good food and excellent ports all made this trip our favorite so far.