Friday, February 18, 2011

Embarking on a Cruise part 5

Our family of four took our first cruise on Jan 28, 2011 for 9-days aboard the Carnival Spirit. We traveled to the Mexican Riviera, which was the first time to Mexico for all of us. We are newbies, that have decided we like cruising, I hope you find the following posts helpful. Cheers!

Thank you for stopping by this week for cruise week. Some last notes, observations and comments.

After we got home I was talking to my Mom about the cruise and how much fun we had. I had mentioned that there were people aboard who were staying on the ship for another cruise, and others that had just been on the previous trip and had stayed on. She told me some senior citizens tend to back-to-back cruises as it can be cheaper than a senior citizen home, and you get much better service cruising. I thought that was interesting.

As for the kids club - we used it a few times, if there were activities that the girls would be interested in. You could leave the kids later than 10pm (for an extra fee), but then they'd have to sleep on the floor in sleeping bags, and I can't imagine it's very comfortable for kids. So we never opted for that.

We did like the kids talent show they had on the last day. You had sign up, and be at the kids club for a rehearsal, during the week to participate. Our daughters sang "Away in a Manger" and also danced with their age group. Our girls love to perform, so that was a highlight.

I do wish there was a dance club that opened around 8pm or so and catered to families. Our family loves to dance, loves music, and that would be one thing we'd love on a cruise.

Given how great a value for the price Carnival Cruise is, we wouldn't be opposed to taking them again, to another destination. We would like to locate another line with great value and better food. We also really want to do the Disney Cruise to the Caribbean.

The girls also really enjoyed the magician who came around during dinner to entertain the kids. One night he was doing a trick when my 6YO who loves learning tricks, and knows a few, piped up with, "hey, you're using your thumb to do that trick." Needless to say the magic man made a quick exit after that.

One of the other passengers at another table thought our girls were cute and we chatted. He looked like Santa, and he said friends of his made him bring a Santa hat to take a picture on the beach with. He wanted to know if he could surprise the girls with a visit from Santa, on vacation. Adorable.

As a mother, I don't get tired of hearing how cute, beautiful, sweet, well-behaved my daughters are. I love hearing it from strangers, that make a point of telling me. It was filling my bucket and validating what I already think of them.

On elegant nights it was quite enjoyable hearing from lovely elegant ladies dressed in sequins stop what they were doing to admire our daughters in their dresses. We also got a kick out of the staff who would go get other friends who worked there to stop what they were doing to admire our girls. They were also pretty interested in seeing a mixed couple production. My husband and I could only smile and affirm that our daughters are just so easy to adore.

We're big fans of family vacations where we all enjoy it, and spend time together. We are grateful for the opportunities we have to make these memories.

What we liked:

1. Unlimited room service - My girls are room service girls. They enjoyed it to their heart’s content, since on Carnival it’s included in the price.

2. Our room steward, dining waiters and staff aboard. Some the nicest, kind, hard-working people you’ll meet. They all come from very humble countries, and work to save money for loved ones back home. They spend seven months working their tails off, and get a two month break. If you go on a cruise, please look them in the eye, and greet them cheerfully. Recognize them for the great work they do. My daughters loved them - and they all adored my girls.

3. Towel animals - it was something our fabulous room steward, Ketut did each night and the girls loved discovering what new surprise he had for them. He also dressed their Zoobie pets in skirts on one night.

4. Swimming and laying out in the warm sun - my girls are water babies. My husband obliges happily, playing with them in the pool so I can sit and read in the sun to my heart’s content.

5. Connecting interior/balcony room - perfect set-up for us. Didn’t feel crowded, plenty of storage. We could close the connecting room when the girls went to sleep and have it open so they could run in as we saw whales and dolphins right outside our balcony while sailing. Loved it.

6. On the morning we docked back in San Diego the cruise director, Stu, announced over the phone intercoms to wake us up gently, “wake up, wake up, good morning, the palm trees are waving, the sun is shining.... welcome to HAWAII!” Which made me laugh out loud as he woke me up, as that was exactly where I wished I was.

7. Embarkation was smooth. We got there about 2:30pm. You can board between 12pm and 4:30pm. We handed our tagged bags (print out the tags at home) to the porters, after the hubbies parked the cars we went through customs, registration, received our room keys/sail & sign cards (that act as payment for any on board purchases), got our picture taken, and boarded the ship. Since we boarded later in the day, we barely had any time to get some lunch, before everything had to be cleared away and then we had to be on deck for the muster drill.

8. Debarkation was also easy breezy. We got lucky with our luggage tags. We were in the first group so we were able to get off quickly, after breakfast. As we made our way off the ship - my husband mentions that he forgot his coat in the closet of our cabin. Men! So as soon as we got off and located our luggage, I found a Carnival representative and asked if I could get onboard to get it. They were incredibly helpful. I got right on, up to my room and retrieved the jacket. My hubby was ready to just leave it, he didn’t want to hassle with it. I am thoroughly impressed with Carnival’s staff.

What was okay:

1. Kids club - our daughters are 4 and 6 years old. As it’s set up the ages are 2-5 and 6-9 for the little kids. So, since my girls like to be together, my 6YO had to hang with the younger crowd. Some of the activities were a little young - for even my 4YO, granted, she is far more advanced thanks to her big sister - we didn’t use the kids club too often - it was more fun to hang out together.

We didn’t utilize their paid sitting from 10pm on - as we were surprised how tired we were in the evening. Kids club is free before 10pm.

We did have the girls in kids club one evening for dinner. That night we had reservations in their specialty steakhouse.

2. Steakhouse - for an extra 30.00 per person you could have dinner at a fancier, supposedly better food restaurant. It was, okay. It was better than the main dining room - but I’m thinking Carnival caters to the masses, and for those of us foodie lovers, it’s nice, but not quite mind-blowing.

3. Mexico - I suppose I just didn’t realize Mexico would be so dry and barren-like. Or maybe I am spoiled from my love of Hawaii. My husband said snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta was murky - whereas in Hawaii it’s crystal clear. We didn’t get off the ship in Mazatlan (due to recent unrest), La Paz, or Ensenada. We didn’t feel like shopping and the port in La Paz was not so pretty. In Ensenada, I’d heard it wasn’t a great place to bring kids. Hubby’s BFF said the city was crowded with gang bangers who happened to be superbowl fans. Apparently, every year the weekend to the super-stupidbowl they go to Ensenada, get drunk and bar fights ensue.

In Cabo we visited hubby’s BFF’s time share in San Jose del Cabo - where I had some great fish and shrimp tacos and we enjoyed the view of the beach and their infinity pools.

For me, I’d rather be in Hawaii.

The title of this "art" is "cupid and venus"... it was right at the foot of our bed. It was weird seeing this every morning.

4. Spa - they totally jack up the prices. Sometimes on port days you’ll find some great deals. They’re still much higher than on land - but the special I had put me to a dreamless, perfect sleep. Although it did seem way too short for the price. Or maybe I just wished they let me sleep a while longer.

5. Gym - I was impressed at how many of us used the gym. Sometimes it was hard to find a machine to use. It didn’t help that some of the treadmills/ellipticals wouldn’t work. Many of the weight machines didn’t seem to work either, and they didn’t have anyone around that could help you. I was glad we brought our own water bottles, as they overcharge for bottled water, but have filtered water onboard that you can fill your own bottles. It took a little getting used to running while the ship moved. I didn’t like how hot it was in the gym, due to a hot tub in the center of it.

Thank goodness there was a gym - gained 3lbs onboard - imagine how much it would be if there wasn’t one. YIKES!

What we didn’t like:

1. So we went to one revue show they put on in the evening. They need better song selection, and one of their singers liked to screech, or their sound system was out of whack.

2. The 20.00 8x10s they charge for the “professional” photos they took. Talk about a rip-off. We don’t buy souvenirs - but our photos, our snapshots of memories are what I like from a vacation. I like to save pictures of our family, just as a history, even if they’re not perfect photos. So it physically hurt to leave photos of us knowing that they would simply throw them away if we didn’t purchase them.

3. Juice is only offered on Lido deck at breakfast and then lemonade at lunch. You can’t get juice in the main dining room, because the bar folks are their hawking the drinks for you to purchase at an inflated price. You can purchase a soda card - but since we’re not big soda drinkers, it was cheaper for us to purchase a few drinks here and there for the few times we craved one.

4. “Chocolate buffet” - it was such a joke. First it was held at noon. Which, given how tired we were at night, would’ve worked to our benefit. But, the chocolate selection, was paltry and it was held in one tiny station on the Lido deck - which made the line horrendous, for this rather sad, little “chocolate buffet”.

ps. I am not being compensated in anyway to post about cruising. I like information, and am sharing information that I would want, if I were considering my first cruise.


La Yen said...

This summer we are doing Puerto Rico--but Spring or Summer 2012? Lets do a Disney Cruise together!

Queen Scarlett said...

Awesome. AND YES... let's start planning. We would love to cruise with you. LOVE! I emailed you.

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