January 3, 2006
I had booked a land vacation about 8 months ago for myself and my two sisters in cancun mexico. But then the hurricanes came and dashed our dreams of beach filled bliss. After recouping what was left of our budget less the "vacation insurance" refund I began to search the internet for a similar vacation with out spending more money. I then found a stellar deal, on orbitz of all places, for an 8 night pacific mexican riviera cruise on carnival spirit. I was a first time cruiser and felt the need to read any and all info I could find. Web sites like this one really helped. Thanx Our sailing date was 1/3/06, departing from San Diego. We live in the socal area so we didn't have to worry about booking a flight etc. We instead were able to just park our cars in long-term parking across the street from the peir. For an 8 day cruise it's 108 bucks but that's a lot cheaper than a plane ticket and a lot less hassel.
Firstly embarkation was a breeze, we didn't get down to the peir until 1:30 so I guess we missed the crowds every one is always talking about. The staff was totally friendly and the process took us 15 minutes. No kidding.
We booked a category 9A "extended balcony". It was worth every penny. The room was more than ample for the three of us and even accommodated three chronic over packing women with too many clothes, shoes, and bath supplies. The bed linnens were the nicest I have seen in a while, with a duvet cover and fitted sheets on the bed I haven't seen fitted sheets on a "hotel" bed since I payed well over what some people make in a week for one nights stay. Great touch carnival. There were two (small) twin beds and a couch. There was also a bed in the ceiling but we decided against using it, since the couch was made up by our amazing stewardess every night so it wasn't an issue at all.
The balcony was great for sunning in the afternoon, or sitting with coffee on those slow to start mornings that somehow stretched to noon. The room is larger than most standard balcony's I believe due to the location. There are only 4 rooms of this type on each floor located behind the aft elevators. We never heard any noise at all. If it's available and your looking for a little more room but not wanting to pay as much as a "suite" would cost I suggest looking into it.
Our stewardess only came by one morning to ask when we would be gone and after that learned that we weren't exactly the types to completely clear the room by 10am. She was a very tall russian woman and we tipped her extra at the end of the cruise for her stellar service. I also left her a bottle of wine in hopes that she might find time to put her feet up and relax.
We did get seasick the first night. I am prone to motion sickness but I was assured both by reviews and others who have cruised that it wouldn't be a problem. We encountered what they call long swells formed from the storms that had just come thru our area the days prior our departure. I finally made it down to the shop on board to buy those bands the next morning and they totally worked, even though they look rather goofy. Next time I'm getting the patch from my doctor.
After 2 days at sea we stopped first in Acupulco. It was 100 degrees in janurary and muggy We caught a cab for 5 dollars to the Flea market and encountered the pushiest vendors ever They were physically pulling us into their markets and tried to gouge us at every turn. I bought two pieces of silver jewelry that were originally quoted to be 150 dollars, I walked away for both for 60 bucks. Humph. The best part was the last store we wandered into where they served us free margaritas. They were so strong we had to have a couple a piece and one for the road. The walk back to the ship was short and enjoyable with our newly acquired buzz. That night we booked a trip to the supper club and I must say it was the best meal I have had in a long time. Maybe ever. The service was impeccable and the dinning well worth the extra fee of $30 pp. You must, I repeat must, work this into your trip. It was truly a highlight.
The next day was Ixtapa. I read about Las Gatas beach being a great time so we opted to wing it rather than book a shore excursion, a gamble that totally payed off. Las Gatas is on the other side of the bay where the ship is tendered. When you land at the peir don't pay attention to the guys barking about 10 dollars a person on a special boat to las gatas. Go instead to the little ticket booths and pay 3 bucks a person round trip (30 pesos). The little boats they take you on are kinda hard to jump down into but very sturdy and totally fun. The beach was full of families since it was a Saturday. The first resturants you come to on that strip of beach were full of pushy resturant owners but the father you walked down the more relaxed it got. The very last stop on the beach was the perfect spot. We parked it under a palapa and our waiter david spoke wonderful english and service was fantastic. Word of warning if you want to actually swim in the ocean here, bring some water shoes cause it's really rocky and I kinda ate it and sliced up my toe a bit. We sat out in the sun/shade for 4 hours that afternoon. I tried the spicy octopus(yum city ) and drank my share of caronas. My sister got her hair braided by one of the women who was walking the beach and we also got some really great coconut oil for something like 2 dollars a bottle. I am still using it. All in all it was my favorite part of our trip. Truly paradise. When we had to leave to make it back to the boat on time our tab was 46 bucks for 7 caronas, 2 other cocktails, 3 full plates of food, and a rediculous pina colada that was served in a whole carved out pinaple. They even used the fruit that they carved out to make a face. Cheesy but fun. I wish we could have stayed longer.
Manzinillo was the last stop. When we were getting lunch that day we ran into some of our dinner mates who had already come back from town and informed us that we wouldn't be missing much if we didn't get off the boat. We decided that we would rather sun by the pool and make that our spa day. The spa was wonderful if not overpriced. Massages and facials have their way of making your forget how much money your spending.
I found the crew to be very friendly overall. A couple of the bartenders were kinda grumpy but that didn't ruffle me much. We went dancing the second night at "the dancin club". LAME LAME LAME It's a great set up, two stories, light up dance floor with floor to ceiling monitors. But the DJ totally killed it. He spent so much time TALKING that no one was able to dance. We even thought, maybe he was just trying to get the dance floor full, but it never stopped. No more than 16 bars of music would go by then he was chattin it up again. Saying nothing very interesting. I wanted to clock him. Seriously. I work in the entertainment industry and this guy would be fired hands down. All of us that were traveling are in our mid to late 20's and dancing all night was something we were really looking forward to. We never went back. It was that bad.
The food was also not so hot. The room service menu is a joke. It consisted of sandwiches, fruit and some cookies. Also it bummed me out that the "buffet" was really only from noon to 2:30. After that you could only get sandwiches, pizza, and maybe a hot dog (I loved those hot dogs by the way). Definitely not the food fiesta I was looking for. They didn't even keep the salad bar open. Must we live on carbs and protien alone? I need some veggies Please The food at the empire dinning room was hit and miss. One night it would be pretty good and the next night we would be thinking " I wonder if I can stomach another night of pizza?". Our dinner mates even complained about the selections. We sat with a couple who vacations quite a bit on carnival and said it was some of the worst food they had ever had. Even desert was kina lame. Basil ice cream that tasted like soap and pudding that always ended up looking like muffin. There were some great dishes, I had prim rib that was delicious and there was lobster. That might have been it though. Breakfast was great once we convinced ourselves to wake up to make it to the dinning room. Nothing like having someone pour you orange juice in a wine glass at 9:30am. Ya know?
We didn't participate in any of the planned activities other than one afternoon of bingo. Which I won. yeah! Promptly gave it back to the casino though. Oh well. I am a theatrical technician by trade so I just couldn't see subjecting myself to bad singing and dancing while I was on vacation since it's what I must endure every other day of the year. I did notice that the towel folding class was packed. I happenED to peek in while I was walking by and man those people were so serious about towel folding. Who knew?? Our captian would make the most rIdiculouly obvious announcements; my favorite being(insert cheesy Italian accent here): " hello this is captian Palo Scalo. You are on boat. It is noon. It is beautiful day at sea. I have cold but don't worry it only affects my voice". Wha???
The live music they had through out the ship was really fantastic. I am a big jazz buff and thier trio was superb. It was funny how the same group of us would show up in the lounge every night to hear them. Good company though.
Our table mates were really a motely crew. Picture this: 3 sisters, 23,23,( yes they're twins) and 27, three priests from Boston. ( yeah I know PRIESTS drinking gambling, sunbathing priests) and a gay couple from Wisconsin. It was our favorite thing going to dinner. Talk about meeting new and different people We have a great table picture with all those boys whom we lovingly referred to as : our full house, three kings and two queens. Hooray! Hi, you guys!
Overall we are really happy with our experience onboard the Spirit. We relaxed and laughed and had a great time with each other and others. They really do let you have the kinda vacation you want on carnival and we will probably book with them in the future.
PS- to Mr. Wayne Lunderburg. You made me want to go cruising with your review. Every time I flushed my toilette I thought of your witty observation of where does all the excrement go? I couldn't help but mull over the propulsion systems and stabilizers that were constantly running on that ship. Your candor stayed with my my whole trip. I wish that I could have taken you with me.