March 12, 2006
This was our 13th cruise as a family and 22nd total ( some of us started while we were still single!)
Landed at LAX on time. Karmel Shuttle service from LAX was excellent and only $58.28 for 4 people with 6 pieces of luggage.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Downtown because we had free points. Nice hotel, but not a great part of town. I would stay closer to the dock. They did shuttle us to the port for free.
When we got out of the shuttle, there were no clear signs where to take your luggage to give it to a baggage handler (like we are used to at other ports.) If you will look at the entrance of the garage, you will find a Carnival representative. She grabbed a baggage porter (with an empty cart) headed to the ship. We gave him our luggage and tipped him and were on our way.
VIP Check In is great. Do use the early check in at the REAR of the Queen Mary. You get your room keys and they punch in your Sail and Sign Credit Card information. There are lots of kiosk with stuff to look at, while you wait to board. But be aware that at this port, you wait outside, standing in a line. (even the VIP) Hopefully, the song is true that it never rains in Southern California, because there is little cover. There is a parking garage that you could hold up in if necessary should bad weather hit.
While I have read about getting on as early as 11AM, we did not get on until 12:30pm because of late debarking passengers. But we were in the first 10 on board (after they took some travel agents on board for a tour for a day). At 12:30pm, all we had to do was go through security, take the embarkation picture, get our picture on our Sail and Sign and we were on board. Remember early check in is for everyone (not just VIP) although they have a VIP line for early check in as well.
Dropped our carry on luggage (although our room was ready) and went to grab lunch. Andrew (an AV manager) was standing in the middle of our room playing with our TV when we got there. He said the early guest had reported TV problems…but he could not make the TV act up Said to call him if there was a problem and he would get it replaced toot sweet. On the second day, it did indeed start blacking out. We called Andrew and he had us a brand new one out of the box "toot sweet" as promised.
Since we were just on the Spirit in July, we knew our way around the Pride. We found her clean, well maintained and very pretty. I liked the dark wood and the art all around was just that...art. There was a smell of glue or varnish occasionally, since they were constantly trying to re-glue some "rope" accents in the elevators that kids or idiots (drunk or sober) kept pulling off the walls.
I went to the Atrium from 2:30 until 3:30 with the "Terrible Towel" and met several folks whom we had talked with online. Slineberry is an absolute doll. We spent some time during the cruise and she was a delight to cruise with. We had the obligatory Muster Drill at 4:00pm and it was fast and painless. Our luggage was to the room shortly thereafter and I changed for our 5:45pm dinner seating. We were blessed with a booth for 4 on the lower floor and our wait staff were great. Alexandro (assistant) and Lorento were professional and personable. Our bar staff was "Patty" (for short because we could not pronounce her name) and she was excellent. After the first night, she had our son's coke waiting on him without having to ask and constantly refilled it.
FOOD: The beef was not as good as on some ships, but better than the Spirit. The sirloin the first night was tough and dry (as it has been on the past 11 ships) but since all I eat is beef...I always get it. To be fair, I do eat mine well done and it was ok, but nothing to write home about. The Beef Wellington was good. The Prime Rib and Chateau were just ok this trip. Hubby enjoyed all his seafood selections as did my sons. LOVED the deli. I ate lunch there several days. The Lido food that I tried was good and lots of variety. The pizza was good as were the hamburgers. Since I used room service for my breakfast every morning, I did not eat breakfast on Lido. I did try the eggs once....big mistake. Hubby had the omelets several times and they were good every time. Sons enjoyed the pancakes, french toast and fruit. The bacon is not done enough and the sausage was not very good according to them. I don't recall any huge lines on Lido, but that may just be because of our timing. I ate lunch in the formal dining room twice. Both times it was very good. Captain Volpi dropped by for a visit during our lunch one day and it was nice to chat with him again. We have sailed with him many times. Overall, I would give the food a B+ for the entire week.
I did notice a higher than usual number of jeans in the dining room at night. (Even on formal night.) There were a couple of guys with jeans and a pull over shirt that did not quite make it to the jeans level in front, so we got a nice view of their huge belly. Not very attractive in the formal dining room.
ENTERTAINMENT: Hubby enjoyed all the shows. My limited voice held up for our days of karaoke. There towards the end I was really struggling to continue to sing. I only did a couple of songs the last night and one song the last afternoon session. Our karaoke host was really sweet, but she was a fill in and did not have a clue about pitch control ... so several songs I tried were in the wrong key. I took my own cds and I have them marked up 3 or down 2 etc. Sometimes she got it and sometimes she didn't.
I did participate in Pride Idol at Midnight one night and had a blast. The regular "talent show" has been replaced with a Legends Show where folks compete at karaoke every night for different slots. Elvis, Elton John, Madonna etc. There are about 10 spots. The karaoke host did do a great job of stopping it from being a popularity contest. Just because someone was there with a huge group of friends did not mean they won if they were not the best performer. Doug in the piano bar was fabulous!!!!! So talented and so nice. I could not stay in there much because of the smoke. (since I was already dealing with a stranded voice) but what I did hear was super. Best Sellers was playing in the Butterfly lounge and they were terrific as well. Not only talented, but full of energy !!!
I did not go into the Disco...except to peek in to see what it looked like.
The games were the same as they have been on past cruises. They did have more trivia almost every day (even on port days on Lido)...which was an excellent addition because it can entertain a large number of people. I don't gamble so I can't rate the casino. We did use our free $20 slots tournament Platinum perk, but did not win.
Cruise Director was Chris Jefferson. He was at a Cruise Director conference the week before and Noonan filled in for him....but just for that week. That is why we were getting conflicting reports on who the CD was. We have sailed with Chris when he was a Social Host and he is charming. Noonan was a very special gift that will take him far when he makes CD. He truly listens. He makes you feel like you are visiting with an old friend, even though he just met you. We did the Pride Idol together and had a ton of fun. The Social hosts, Gary (a real cutie), Peter (funny) and Michael (a true entertainer) were all a lot of fun and they all work together really well and play off one another.
Room: Our cabin steward was Rudy. He was very efficient but stayed mainly behind the scenes. He always smiled and spoke when we saw him. We tried a 5A for the first time. It had 2 lifeboats with a view of the ocean between them and French doors that opened, but no balcony. It was an interesting compromise between interior (which hubby always wants) and a balcony (which I always want). The cabin was plenty roomy for a family of four. The couch was comfortable and we had one pull down bed.
Ports: PV: (docked) Hubby and oldest son did the Los Des Vernos Canopy Tour which is an independent. It was excellent. The taxi was $3 per person one way to their office. Internet rate was $71.00 a person. And then the taxi ride back was $3 a person. Some taxis were charging $4 a person to come back, because they knew you had to use them. Youngest son and I walked to Krystal resort, but the beach was the broken shell kind and the water was rough...so we only stayed an hour. We bought one drink and one water then went back to the ship for some pool time. We did not so any shopping since there really wasn't anything we wanted or needed.
Mazatlan: (docked) All four of us did Randi's horses. (another independent excursion) Our friends ( a family of 3) was allowed to join us at the last minute. We took the free tram from the ship (through the industrial area) to the little shops where Randi met us with the pink sign. She got us right on a truck to the water taxis and then over to Stone Island where we were picked up but a wagon pulled by a tractor. Tony's Dad matched us up with our horses and we were off. We rode a little over an hour. There were two groups on this day so the ride wasn't a full 2 hours...but it was plenty long. But sure to wear long pants. We rode through the mango and the mostly on the beach. If you wanted to gallop you could. If you just wanted to walk, you could. A guide lead two horses with my youngest son and a little girl the entire way. They had absolutely no problems. My youngest son has a form of autism and has never ridden and he did just fine. We got off the horses and walked over to Victors where we bought our lunch and paid Randi the $45 a person. Randi is from San Francisco and has been in Mazatlan for 14 years. She has been doing these excursions for 9 years and does an excellent job. It truly does not feel like an excursion. She makes you feel like you have come to visit an old friend for the afternoon. We were back at the ship by 1:30pm and some folks went shopping in Town. We just went back to the ship, since again there wasn't anything we were shopping for.
Cabo: (tendered) We did not have to go get tender numbers since we had Platinum cards. We grabbed a water taxi for $2 a person and went to Mango's. I found the waiter and asked for 3 (our oldest son just stayed on the ship and slept) lounges in the shade. We were having frozen marq by 9AM. They do not charge for the use of their lounge chairs. The drinks were $6 each, french toast was $7 and nachos were around $6. We were there until 11:30am and I think our tab was $60 including tip. We grabbed a water taxi back to the dock for $2 a person. They are constantly running, so don't worry about not being able to catch one. There are lots of shops around there but again, we aren't big shoppers so we were back on the ship in time for lunch.
Now for a review of the new Platinum perks.
Perk 1: VIP Check In - We had the Holiday Inn shuttle drop us off at the parking garage, where you see all the big buses coming in. At this point, there are no signs of what to do with your luggage. At every other port, the porters are the first guys you see. That was not the case with us. We got out of the shuttle, drug out our luggage and stood there looking puzzled. If you look at the entrance of the parking garage, you will find a Carnival rep. She was wonderful. She snagged a porter who was actually coming back from taking some bags to the garage and we loaded him down, tipped him and were on our way.
Then (with all the kiosk and buildings) it looks a little confusing to find exactly where to walk to the Queen Mary. Eventually you see a sign "early check in" and you see the Queen Mary. Go to the rear, not the lobby.
Even though we did not have VIP Check In on our documents, all I said was we are Platinum and we were directed to the VIP line at the Early Check In at the REAR of the Queen Mary. There was no on in line and we walked right up to the counter and within minutes had our Sail and Sign cards in hand and were walking back out.
At this port, there is no Skipper's Club room....there is only a Skipper's Club line. While there is some covered areas, I can't imagine what they would do in case of rain. Everyone stands outside until they start the boarding process.
There were some local travel agents taking a day tour who went aboard. Then the lady came out to our VIP sign and had us form two lines (one line was for those who had done the early check in and the other line was for those who had not) She called us her "Skippies". We did not see any weddings on this ship. We did board before the wheelchairs. If I had to guess, I would say we were among the first 10 folks on board. We walked in and ran our bags through security. They did pull and open our pilot bag that had 2 / 12 packs of cokes...said that was ok and we went on our merry way. I guess they were checking for beer???
Then we had our embarkation picture made and then on to have our picture put on our Sail and Sign before entering the ship!
The VIP was nice. I don't know when the cruise after us boarded because we were late getting back to Long Beach. We lost a generator, which reduced our power. It was fixed some hours later, which made us get back around 8am ish instead of 6 -6:30pm.
Perk 2: We had a letter waiting in our cabin (which has been posted on these boards) detailing all our goodies for the week and giving us the phone number for our "concierge".
Perk 3: The free wash and fold. We used this service twice and they did an wonderful job. I did tip our cabin steward each time he delivered our laundry load. (Mainly blue jeans, shorts, t-shirts and men's underwear)
Perk 4: Free $20 entry fee into the Slots or Blackjack tournament. We did the Slots because we don't gamble and that was the easiest one to do. You do not get to use the fees for your children if they are under the gambling age. So our 2 sons just lost that perk.
Perk 5: Canapes and Petit Fours delivered one night each.
Perk 6: Four cloth beach bags with Carnival Concierge Club on them. We have 2 of them to our best friends traveling with us. We really did not need 4.
Perk 7: ooohhhs and aauuuhhs. It is still in the early stage and there aren't to many of us. There were only 22 Platinum members on board this cruise and 4 of them were us. Our 14 year old son was the youngest. There was one couple who had 26 and 24 (I think) and then hubby with 22 and then myself, our sons ...and the rest had 11 cruises or had just made Platinum on this cruise. There was a list at the Casino that was marked off as each person got their free entry fee for slots or blackjack. The number of previous Carnival cruises was next to each name.
Past guest party was fun for hubby because the couple with 26 and 24 were not there, so he was the most cruised in the room. Even though he did not get anything, he did get recognized.
Perk 8: The behind the scenes tour (in this case) was disappointing. It was just of the galley which we have already seen a dozen times. Although we did get to meet the head chef, which was nice.
I have probably forgotten some perks, but again, we got everything on the list that has been posted on these boards.
Overall, I would say the Spirit class ships do provide a more subdued atmosphere. There was a wonderful instrumental trio that played during tea time and in the atrium. The art on the Pride is historically European. This makes for an excellent time to discuss art your children in bits and pieces, so that they are learning without even knowing it. The lounges are spaced so that there isn’t a constant "party flow", but the Pride retains the usual fun Carnival atmosphere. I find it to be a very good balance. This cruise (as with the other 21 in the past) was a good value for the money. I write reviews so that people who are considering a cruise on a ship can make an honest, informed decision if this is the right "product" for them. I would sail on this ship again any time.