Mexican Riviera Cruise May 1998
We live in the Los Angeles area but decided to stay in San Pedro the night before the cruise and avoid some of the hassle of traffic and meeting our deadline to get to the ship and board. Stayed at the San Pedro Hilton which is right on the harbor. Very nice hotel with adequate accommodations. Loved being on the water with the view. Hotel is about a 10 minute drive from pier.
Got to the pier at 12:30. They had already started to board and were there ever lots of people. Signing in only took a few minutes, and we had a 5 minute wait before our group was allowed to board. We hadn't found a porter before checking in, so we decided to wing it and take our own luggage aboard ourselves. THEN we saw the stairs up to the gangway. We decided we could make it on our own. A very very kind gentleman behind my husband helped carry the pullman up the stairs. I don't know how we missed getting a porter, we were just so excited to get aboard. We also realized later that there is an elevator to the gangway area. I am sure it is reserved for the handicapped and the individuals unable to take the stairs for whatever reason.
The ship was fully booked with no cancellations, so we kept our inside room on the Empress deck (E-21). Room was very nice and was made up when we arrived. We had a fake window with curtains. Being in an inside cabin didn't bother me except it is pitch black when the lights are off no matter what time of the day or night it is. The other problem was not being able to see what kind of weather we were having, so we decided the dress of the day would be shorts (we were always correct). The steward put the beds together for us to make a king size bed and each night we had chocolates on our pillow and every other night some cute animal made out of towels (lamb, turtle, fish, and dog -- the last night they all disappeared). We had plenty of room to move around in the cabin, two full closets (10 hangers each), 4 shelves, a safe, and 4 drawers in the desk. More than enough room to unpack all of our things. There were also 2 clothes hooks on the wall for robes, etc. TV in room with 2 different free movies each day. Bathroom had a large shower, double size medicine cabinet, sink, and toilet. We always had plenty of clean towels. Room was always kept clean thanks to our great room steward.
Be sure to pack your own shower cap, shampoo, hand lotion etc. Carnival only supplies bar soap, nothing else. My husband said he would rather have the chocolates each night on the pillow than the shampoo!!!!
The ship is beautiful. Our room was just down from the Atrium where you could stand and look 5 stories up to a glass ceiling. There is a trio that plays in the Atrium before dinner each day (pianist, violinist, and cellist) and I believe they were playing as we boarded. A bar is also in the atrium along with the Purser and the excursion desk/video desk. Just off the Atrium is the photo gallery where our pictures were displayed each day. They really took a great deal of pictures but you are under no obligation to buy them. We did buy a few. I recommend that on formal night that you have your picture taken on the Atrium staircase on the Empress Deck. Of all the pictures we purchased, this one has received the most positive comments. The staircase is so elegant and my husband was wearing a tux and I was wearing a burgundy velvet formal. The perfect picture, one that I will treasure. Definitely take pictures at the different spots they offer (Empress deck-2 locations, Promenade-at least 2) on formal nights. We found some of the photographers were better than others, so if we got a bad picture we still had at least one that turned out. Overall the pictures were good and we had to decide which to keep and which to leave behind.
Yes, you could eat all day and all night with choices ranging from sweetrolls to pizza to a full meal. We really liked the pepperoni pizza upstairs in Tiffany's and the soft ice cream that was served from lunch until late afternoon (never late in the evenings which was a disappointment to many). Breakfast and Lunch we ate in Tiffany's or out by the pool.
Dinner we always ate in the main dining room. We truly enjoyed the meals with the exception of Oriental Night. The night before our waiter recommended that on Oriental Night we eat in Tiffany's. We thought he was just kidding - he wasn't. He said that each cruise they received many complaints about this meal. No one at our table had good comments for Oriental Night. Afterwards we went upstairs and ate at the buffet. For the record, Oriental Night had many choices, but it all just tasted bland with no flavor. Our waiters and busboys entertained us with singing/dancing and good humor throughout the cruise. They couldn't do enough for us. They were the best.
The dining room has large round tables (for 10??), booths for 6 and rectangle tables for 8. There was lots of space between tables so we didn't run our chairs into each other, very nicely laid out. We sat a table for 8 which was right by the window. Both dining rooms have the same layout, just different decor. We were in the Imagination Dining Room. The Inspiration Dining Room has a beautiful staircase leading down into it.
We didn't go on any. Just wandered around the nearby shops. Really had an enjoyable stay in each port. Cabo San Lucas has the most beautiful beaches and rock formations. We stayed up until 3 am the night before we reached Cabo, so got up too late to go into shore, but truly enjoyed the view from the ship. Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan have docks for the ship to tie up to, so you just walk off the ship and go shopping or catch a cab. In Mazatlan you are at the shipyard, so you take a little tram across the lot to the shops. In Cabo they anchor out in the harbor and tender in. Many commented how rough the water was on the tender especially if you took the glass bottom boat tour. Didn't hear of anyone being seasick on board except for one person; the ship is very large so the movement you feel is minimal compared to the other ships we've been on.
Entertainment & Activities
The ship has 2 Vegas style shows, a magician, a balancer, a comedian, Bingo, Bingo and more Bingo, a beautifully large casino, many lounges, lots of activities and a daily newsletter to keep track of everything for you. They had ballroom dancing, disco, country line dancing, and easy listening music. There is a fully equipped spa with large gym, personal trainer, 2 jacuzzis, and a beauty salon. There are 3 large pools with 4 jacuzzis on deck along with a large wading pool for the kids. The pool and jacuzzis (not the kids pool) on the back of the ship were the quietest. The main pool area had a water slide, but it always appeared to be closed. Pools are filled with salt water (not sure about jacuzzis). Main pool area also had a bandstand area next to it. The afternoons were filled with music, games, and sunbathing for people up on this deck. There is a fully equipped gym and a olympic size jogging track.
Our favorite evening area was the Drama Bar with Barry on keyboard. He was great and really got people out dancing and singing along with him.
Smoking is allowed on the ship except in the Mikado showroom and in the dining rooms. Cigars are to be smoked outside. I have asthma/allergies and only 1 night did I have problems and that was because someone smoked a cigar in the Drama Bar area. The ventilation on the ship is good.
There is a Sushi Bar in the afternoons right outside the Casino. You are given 3 pieces of Sushi and the opportunity to buy Saki to drink. Sushi is free. The types of sushi served is just 3 kinds each day, no choice. The Sushi received raves from those who had it.
Around 11 pm each night the area that was the Sushi Bar, becomes a chocolate crepe bar. A fresh crepe is made while you wait, sprinkled with slivered chocolate, nuts, grand Mariner, and powdered sugar. This was my husband's "must stop" place each evening. He was hooked on them. They are only served for about 1 hour. Then the chefs go to Tiffany's at 1 am and set up another crepe bar at the end of the salad bar. These crepes can be filled with fresh fruit, strawberries/whipped creme, and lots of other goodies. They make the crepe and you fill it.
We didn't gain any weight on the cruise. We took the stairs as much as possible, danced our little feet off each night, and walked and walked and walked. The ship was large and fun to explore and we loved to go out on deck and watch the world go by.
Disembarkation was the easiest of any of the cruises we have been on. We waited about 1 1/2 hours in the Mikado lounge because it was a smoke free area. Once we were called, we got off quickly, found our luggage immediately and got a cab to our car. They let us off the ship at 10:30 am and we were safe at home by noon.
This is our 5th cruise, but our first Carnival cruise. We would recommended it highly to all and we are ready to go back again. This cruise was the BEST.
One note of negativity I feel I must add: This ship is really not equipped for the handicapped (in my opinion). The husband of a couple at our table was in a wheelchair. She said they had a hard time in the room and especially in the bathroom with the wheelchair. The bathroom just didn't work for 2 people. She had to help her husband and it was very awkward. One morning she got the edge of his wheelchair caught under the closet and it took 10 minutes to free the chair. There were no places on deck (by the rail area) where she could get the wheelchair out, so his view of the water was always thru the glass (a real disappointment for them). The wife said this was their first cruise where they had experienced these problems. They had been on a few cruises before and the accommodations were better for their needs.
Something else I noticed and was very surprised at was: None of the public restrooms are equipped for the handicapped...there are no handicapped stalls. In one of the ladies restrooms there are 4 stalls (2 on each side). One evening a lady in a wheelchair came in and pulled her chair in as far as it would go...blocked the other 3 stalls and used her restroom with the door open (her chair was in the way, but she couldn't walk any further). How unfair for this individual to be embarassed this way and for the 3 other women locked in the stalls literally until this one person was done. I can't believe that this is a brand new ship and the needs of the handicapped were overlooked. Again, this is my opinion and may not be shared by others. I felt I needed to say something just in case it could affect someone taking this cruise.
Yes we definitely would take this cruise again. It was the BEST one we have been on. The ship is beautiful, the staff great, and an added bonus was that no one asked for tips but were extremely greatful when they received them (they definitely earned them with all of the wonderful service we received.). We had so much fun, we are ready to go back now.
Mary Director is a professional greeting card designer from West Hills, California. You can reach Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out her web site at http://users.deltanet.com/~mary.
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