Pams Path to Travel
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DECEMBER 27, 2019
This year for our annual New Years Celebration at Sea, we decided to try the brand new Carnival Panorama out of Long Beach to Mexico for 7 nights. Even though we’re still on the west coast, we decided to fly to Long Beach the day prior leisurely, have a nice dinner with our friends and get to bed early to be fresh for our CRUISE!!
I recently learned that Southwest flies from San Jose to Long Beach. I had never really even thought to look since JetBlue is one of our favorites. That being said, with cruises come lots of luggage and the biggest flaw with Jet Blue is their baggage fees. It would have cost us $280 roundtrip to check our 4 bags!! Southwest gives you two free bags and for such a short flight, I can live with Southwest. Southwest really is not as bad as it used to be. We purchase the early bird check-in so that we get a decent boarding number and then we don’t have to stress about being stuck in middle seats in different rows! Our flight was on time and an easy ride to Long Beach!
We took our very last Super Shuttle/Execucar ride in Long Beach. The company ceased operations 12/31/19. Such a bummer because their Execucar services became a habit for us. We had a very nice driver who took us to our hotel. I chatted with him about the company ceasing operations and what he would be doing. He said he was on the waitlist to drive for Uber for the black service. The upgraded large SUV Premium services. Sort of nice to know that they seem to have more of a vetting process for this type of service. I will often order a larger Uber just to feel more comfortable. I also feel safer in SUV’s!
We stayed at the Renaissance Long Beach, just down the street from the Westin that we stayed at on our last Long Beach Visit. So far I can say that I’ve been pleased with all of our hotel choices in Long Beach. The Renaissance was beautiful, due to our Marriott Platinum Elite status, we were upgraded and had a lovely corner room with a balcony! It was nice having the option to go outside and the bonus was a distant view of the Queen Mary & the Carnival Cruise Line Cruise Terminal. Once we got settled in our rooms, we headed to the bar for a late lunch/early dinner & let the vacation begin! Great service, the room was very comfortable. We had breakfast included with our room due to our status. We had the option of ordering off the menu or going to the buffet, you could also fill out an omelette “made to order” form. Everything was great!
Once we were ready to leave the hotel, we ordered an Uber XL to take us the 10 minute drive to the Cruise Ship Terminal. It was a little chaotic at the drop off garage and we were much later than we had planned. We barely made the cut off for luggage drop off! Our driver was directed to drop us off on the opposite side of the street which was not very convenient, but the driver was super helpful with assisting us taking the luggage over to the curb. Checking in for the cruise went smoothly and we were soon stepping foot onto the Carnival Panorama.
It was very hectic once we boarded, there were staff members telling you to go aft or forward based on your cabin number to the elevators. It was also very crowded everywhere at this point. We were directed to the aft elevators and this ship has the “smart elevator” technology. You enter your deck on the keypad and it tells you which elevator to take, with the hopes that you have the most direct route. This normally works well, but does not work very well on embarkation day. We tried to get on “our” elevator 4 times, though guess that was more the fault of other guests who would rudely cut in front of us. We weren’t aggressive enough!
All about the ship & the ship life experience.
I wish I could say that it was amazing and I can’t wait to go on the Carnival Panorama again. It was probably one of the worst cruises that we’ve had in a long time. I’d love to list all the positives and then all the negatives, but there are some parts of this experience that are both, so forgive that thoughts might not flow so well!
Cabins are very spacious, Carnival has always been pretty generous with cabin sizes and this cabin was comfortable for two people. I like that the door to the balcony is a regular door, not a slider. Much easier access in and out to the balcony. The toilets have soft closing lids. My pet peeve with many cruise lines is that they have the “conditioning shampoo” and think that’s the same as having two different products- um, NO, it’s not! Well, this ship offers that 2 in 1 hair product!! The cabins do lack drawer space, but there is lots of closet space and good shelf space.
Muster Drill was very civilized, once the drill was over they asked anyone with canes, walkers, wheelchairs to leave their muster stations first. This was a brilliant idea because it gave them a head start, which keeps them safe.
Their APP is very good, I think one of the best APPS that we’ve had on a cruise in the last few years. I really could rely upon the daily schedule on the APP did not need to keep checking the paper copy.
Dining, overall the food was very good. We ate in a variety of specialty restaurants: Pig & Anchor (love the BBQ ribs), 555 Steakhouse was wonderful and our dessert was a show-stopper! We had lunch & dinner in the Italian restaurant also. Service was lacking in all the specialty restaurants, you had several people waiting on you but it felt like nobody knew what their specific duty was supposed to be. We were inadvertently charged for things (i.e. charged a cover charge when we had prepaid it, charged for a bottle of wine when I had a glass that was part of the drink package), so it was a pain to have to get those things corrected. Although, I began to check the APP while we were dining and would have the server make the corrections.
We dined in the Main Dining room all other nights, we also went to the Main Dining room for Brunch, which was lovely. I did have a consistent problem in most of the dining venues. We normally order a large bottle of Pellegrino with meals, it has always been included in the drink package & it was included the first 2 nights in the main dining room. After that, I had problems everywhere and had to fight to have it included. I’m still not sure what is correct, but the Maitre’D & I were on first name basis because of this.
We would have liked to dine one night at the Teppanyaki restaurant, but they were booked solid for the sailing, we were put on a waitlist but we were never called. Well, we might have been called but they say that they don’t leave a message, they either get you in the cabin or they move onto the next person on the list. Stupid. There are ONLY 2 tables that seat 8 people per table & they have 3-4 dining times each night. The odds are not in your favor to get a reservation here unless you book months in advance.
Public restrooms: we noticed that most of them were imbalanced. There might have been 4 toilets and 1 sink, then another would have 3 toilets and 2 sinks. The colors were awful & we noticed some rust at the bottom or the doors on the stalls. This is a brand new ship, we should not be seeing rust anywhere! Also, very small bathrooms near dining rooms, 1-2 stalls outside of a restaurant is just ridiculous!
Ocean Plaza was a strange venue, sort of an open house, catch- all venue for trivia, evening pre-dinner music, tables where you can play cards/games, it has a nice dance floor but didn’t feel as though dancing was encouraged.
Liquid Lounge is the big showroom, we never got there early enough to find 2 seats together, let alone 4 seats! So I can’t talk about the entertainment at night! The Limelight Lounge is the comedy club in the evening and then turns into the Disco at night. We did not catch any of the comedy shows, we did visit the lounge on New Years Eve for the countdown, service was lacking, the tables are very small, the music is loud & the vibration of the music makes your drinks dance...right off the table! Also, they were “off count” for the countdown! No Balloon Drop!! I was shocked that there weren’t any balloon drops on the ship for the countdown, supposedly it’s all about the anti-plastic initiative….but they sell plastic water bottles all cruise long!!
Music around the ship was good, the New Age strings were fantastic. There were a couple of other bands/duos that did a lot of cover music which was decent. The Salsa band in Havana Bar was also good, that ended up being our background music most nights since we were there playing cards/dice!
Most of the bars were severely understaffed. I’ve never had to go to a bar to get my drink as much as I had to on this cruise. I also didn’t feel as though the staff in general was super friendly. We had a few exceptions to this rule, but overall we did not feel the warm and fuzzy from the crew!
We never lounged by the pool, the weather didn't cooperate. We did walk around the outdoor sports deck area and there are a lot of cool things: mini-golf, ping pong, life-size billiards (using your feet), the rope course and the sky rider. We did not do the sky rider or the ropes, but watched others. We had a mean game of mini-golf though!
Their Photo package is probably the most unfriendly package & they have zero flexibility to make on the spot decisions or deals. It was very disappointing. I prefer to have all digital prints, which does not cost them anything..but their package is 5 digital photos plus 1 canvas OR you can get 5 prints of those same digital photos. Really stupid!
The Wi-Fi worked well, but if you had any problems you’d be hard pressed to find someone at the internet cafe. We walked by everyday and never saw anyone there to help.
We spent a large part of our time in the Havana Bar playing cards and dice with our friends. We had the least amount of steps on the cruise, it was embarrassing to be honest! But the dancing options were just not conducive to our needs. We’ve never had this issue on Carnival before so it really was disappointing.
We also spent one long afternoon/evening in the Tribute Heros Bar to watch the NFL last game of the regular season- 49ers vs. Seahawks. We had an awesome time here, the service during the game was excellent & of course, our team won!
The ship is pretty, the cabins were comfortable. We did not starve even though service was not great. There were a lot of kids on the ship and honestly just a lot of rude people. I think if I was going to do this ship again, I would hide myself away in the Havana cabins- adult only section of the ship with their own Havana pool with hot tubs, etc.
Our itinerary was the Mexican Riviera to Cabo, Puerto Vallarta & Mazatlán. We stayed on the ship for Cabo. We did an excursion in Mazatlan to Salsa & Salsa (we’ve done it numerous times & it’s a ton of fun). We intended to go shopping in Puerto Vallarta, but it was pouring rain, so we watched movies and stayed indoors. No sunny days by the pool for us this time around!
I do want to add that just because this was not a great cruise for us, doesn’t mean it’s not a great cruise for YOU! I have had clients sail two weeks after us (a couple) & they stayed in a Havana cabin and did not have any issues. I had a friend who celebrated her 40th birthday on board with family the end of January, also in the Havana Cabins and had a wonderful time. She mentioned being very happy to be away from kids because she was having a kid-free vacation without her 3 year old! She loved the cruise. I have another friend who is a die-hard Carnival Cruiser and he just got off the ship this middle of February and admits that there are some kinks that need to be worked out, but overall had a wonderful cruise with extended family.