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GETTING TO THE PIER AND EMBARKATION PROCESS:
This cruise departs from San Diego and the cruise ship terminal is extremely convenient to the airport ~ they are both along the downtown waterfront.
You can see planes taking off and landing from the ship and you can see the ship from the tarmac. San Diego airport is a very easy airport. Not very big
in terms of walking distances from the gate to baggage. The short taxi ride was $12 with tip and took all of 5-10 minutes.
Arrival at the pier, also smooth. We got there about 1045am, no lines and plenty of seating area to wait for our boarding call (the ship is usually not
ready for passengers until noon time). The pier was on the warm side- it's not an air-conditioned building, but they have plenty of fans blowing to
circulate the air. It was an exceptionally humid day for San Diego ~ but other than that, a very comfortable wait.
Boarding the ship was uneventful, we took our welcome aboard photo and proceeded onto the ship. The cabins were not going to be ready until 130pm,
but there was lunch being served at a few venues up on the Lido deck, so we went to lunch. We were in the first called boarding group, so the ship was
very empty when we boarded and it was nice to get lunch without waiting in line or trying to navigate around "lost-looking" passengers as everyone
tries to get their bearings straight of where everything is located. After lunch, we walked around the ship to find everything and get the "lay of the land"
- or ship in this case. It was a beautiful day in San Diego and we had very little carry on baggage, so we were able to walk around easily.
OUTDOOR SHIP FEATURES:
This ship had 3 pool areas- the main lido pool located mid-ship and then 2 aft pools, one a child's pool (although never really busy with children) and one
considered the "quiet pool" as you can't hear the band playing from the mid-ship pool. Quite a bit of lounge chairs and we did actually spend time at all 3
pools during this short 4 day cruise. Our first sea day, we spent our time at the children's pool as that was the only place would could find chairs (we got
up late that day) ~ but we had two chairs with a view of the wake of the ship- it was beautiful to just see the endless ocean that we had just cruised
through. Our last day at sea, we spent some time at the main lido pool, but ended the day by the quiet pool as the wind had kicked up and was less of a
problem at the aft pool locations. The quiet pool and main pool also have several hot tubs. This ship will be going through Carnival's "Evolutions of
Fun" refurbishment within the next year or so. All Fantasy Class ships are being outfitted with a waterworks feature and a serenity area for adults. I
believe the "quiet pool" area will be the Serenity area and should be lovely when complete.
This ship also has a miniature golf course, we saw it on embarkation day, but never made it up there to play. It is located at the forward end of the ship,
so I suspect a windy area when at sea.
DINING VENUES AND LOUNGES:
This ship is also about 10 years old (seems I keep cruising these older ships these days) ~ so again, not a lot of
choices with dining venues. You have the main restaurants that you are assigned to either main or late dining -
the Inspiration and Imagination Dining Rooms. There is also the Tiffany's Bar & Grill (Lido Deck buffet
restaurant & pizza parlor that extends outside to the pool area for the burger/hot dog grill). Tiffany's also has
a grilled sandwich area- which I heard was very good. There is a sushi bar that is open limited hours and also a
coffee/dessert cafe (surcharge) located along Elation Way on the Promenade Deck. As for lounges- Carnival
does and has always had a variety of lounge type venues. Our favorite was the Romeo and Juliet lounge. The
band, "The Breeze" was very good and friendly. They played a variety of music so we were able to dance here
nightly. I found them to be very accommodating and one night when they had an hour break, they offered to put on country music for us to dance to. On
country night, they really did a long set of music and I feel that they probably went a bit longer on that set because they had a dancing audience. We were
also able to get the crowd involved in some line dancing- it was really a ton of fun!
The Jekyll & Hyde Disco was another dancing spot. The last night seemed to be more "adult" oriented - and by that I mean, it wasn't infested with all the
21-25 year olds that is common, so us mature 40-somethings could enjoy the dance floor and be "hip" dancing to today's sounds. There is Duke's Piano
Bar, which we didn't spend any time in on this short cruise, there is the Gatsby's Great Bar, which was also where you would find the cigar smoker's, the
Drama Bar, which was a bar along Elation Way, not a closed venue like the other lounges, but a place to hear some music along the way.
Our experiences were mixed on this ship. The Dining Room Inspiration serving team seemed to be working too many tables. They never once came back
after serving our meals to ask if everything was alright. We would also have to ask numerous times for items to complete our meals (i.e. sour cream,
sauces, butter, etc.) The first night I had ordered the BBQ Ribs, but they were soooo tough I could not eat them. Never once was I asked how the meal
was and/or if they could bring something else. Lines at Tiffany's were always lengthly, which I think is something common on some older ships. The food
we had on the Lido deck was fine- nothing spectacular, but edible. The ice cream was great and nice to have access to the ice cream 24/7. The pizza was
good, again- not spectacular, but fine. Service in the lounge venues wasn't always that good. Often times we found ourselves going to the bar to get our
own drinks. We did have the best service in the Romeo & Juliet lounge, but likely because we became "regulars" in this venue.
The Mikado Lounge is the place for all the big time production shows and the comedy/variety shows. We attended one of the productions show,
"Rhythm" and we were extremely disappointed. The dancers were not in synchronization, one of the dancer's seemed intent on standing out with the
highest kicks and most extended arms- it was really just awful. The singers were good ~ but the dance was so terrible, we left about 75% of the way
through. The comedian that they had was really good, we missed his first show, but did attend the adults only show and he was hilarious- which tends to
be my experience with ship board comedians. Dance lessons were also conducted in the Mikado Lounge- but again disappointing- the Salsa lesson was
terrible as the two show girls that were leading it were completely off the beat. The Cole Porter Lounge is also know as the Karaoke lounge- and they
offered Karaoke every night. This was pretty much the only thing that the Cole Porter Lounge was used for. It was also reserved often for private
functions for the groups on board. I would have liked to see more dancing in this lounge- they have a pretty large dance floor area, but not used for this
reason. There is a decent sized casino on this ship and I did have a fun time playing my game of choice "Let it Ride"- I was able to play with $100 for the
entire cruise and come back with $95 of it. That's "winning" in my book.
HEALTH CLUB & SPA:
I took a tour of the health club and spa on embarkation day, but never made it back in there during the cruise. On the shorter cruise with food that wasn't
that great, I figured I could take the time off from my workouts- and let the nightly dancing and daily event of taking the stairs every place we go serve as
my "workouts" for the cruise. The spa was adequate- again for a 10 year old ship, what I would expect. The gym facility was fairly spacious and they had a
separate area for group classes- my only complaint is that the area is carpeted and group classes should never be conducted on carpet- especially types of
classes with lateral movements- too hard on the knees.
PORTS OF CALL:
Well, this was a short cruise, so our only port of call was Cabo San Lucas and this is a port that
I have already visited once this year and it is a port that I am becoming pretty fond of. If you've
read my previous reviews, I've never been a real fan of Mexico in general- but I am really starting
to enjoy Cabo! For our day in Cabo, we took one of Carnival's Excursions, "Resort Getaway".
This excursion included transportation and a day enjoying one of the local resorts. We were
taken to the Casa Dorada and given a drink and lunch to enjoy while we were there. We enjoyed
the pool area, the beautiful views of the water and "Los Arcos" in the distance (the famous arches
of Los Cabos). It was a humid 90 degree day, but we love the heat and we had a pool to enjoy.
We mingled with some of the hotel guests and overall had a very nice day. The resort is located
on Medano Beach, which is the best beach in Cabo for swimming and water sports. This cruise is
nice because you are the only ship in Cabo on saturdays- more bargaining power for shopping too!
Was this my favorite cruise? No, the cruise was good, a nice quick getaway close to home. The short cruises really need to be viewed differently from
the longer cruise counterparts. I think for the staff these short cruises must be very tough to keep up the service and enthusiasm when the passengers are
changing every 4-5 days. As a result, I think service is lacking on most of these shorter cruises. Our cabin steward was fantastic- never met him or her-
but we never had any issues with our cabin, but I am used to the cabin steward making it a point to introduce themselves. For us, we did get to dance a
great deal, we were able to lay out by the pools and enjoy the sunshine- so we did have a very good time. But for the reason mentioned above it wasn't our
favorite and it wasn't the greatest. But we would do it again. It would serve as a good "cruise fix" for someone looking for a close to home, short getaway.
Did I have a good time? Yes, as always, if we can have a band play for us and give us lots of opportunities to dance the night away, we have a great
Would I do it again? Yes, absolutely. Although, for a limited time 2009-2010, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line will have the Radiance of the Seas doing
the same cruise and I will likely do that to compare how they do on the short cruise market.
Food? Overall, the food was fine. The ribs the first night and my burger on the first day were really the notable meals that could easily be classified as
"terrible". Breakfast I had an omelette and the rest of the days I had cereal, yogurt ~ things that you can't really mess up. I had a group of 12 people with
me and most people enjoyed their meals and/or had the same complaints about certain foods. Desserts at dinner time were always excellent- the Chocolate
Molten Lava Cake with vanilla ice cream was always offered and it was delicious! The lobster offered one night was very small- order two!! Baked Alaska
dessert on the last night was delicious- although I miss the whole "flaming" display ~ but understand why it can't be done on cruise ships any longer.
Service? I felt that the service was o.k. There were times that it just didn't exist. The first day though the bar services in Tiffany's and along the Lido
deck were anxious to sell you the souvenier class drinks- which is a complete rip-off and down right annoying to be approached so many times. I think the
dining room staff was over-extended with too many tables, so service was not very personalized and they just didn't have the time to try to get to know
any of us. The only staff that we came into contact with the entire time who asked us for our names was the band, "The Breeze" and they addressed us by
name each and every night.
Entertainment/Activities? Overall, always something to do or the option to do nothing at all. As mentioned the production shows just weren't any
good- but we were happy with our dancing. Bingo was going on every day at sea and one of my group members did win the black out on the last session-
had to split $1000 with 3 others- but $250 was more than she was intending to go home with!
I believe that this was not a good example of how Carnival has improved over the years. I have cruised Carnival several times in 18 years and would say
that this was better than most of them, but not as good as some. My husband and I have cruised Carnival together once before and he will still say it was
his favorite cruise overall with best service, best food and we did dance every, night. I would tend to agree with him. That experience was on a newer ship
and everything was exceptional. So I still love Carnival and I think that this short cruise, especially for a first time cruiser and/or a group event is an