We booked this cruise 30 days out at a great price and it was perfect! We love to cruise this was my 4th. We had both had been on the Mexican Riviera cruise before, me with Carnival and my husband with Royal about 10 years ago but even so I have to give this trip a 10 out of 10. Everything about this trip was perfect we had a blast!
Our new tips for cruising....Eat breakfast in the main dining room we had Filet Mignon and eggs everyday and it was AWESOME! We very rarely went to the buffet on Lido unless we needed a snack. Make sure you check out Lido every once in awhile they might surprise you and put out a chocolate fountain when you least expect it!
If you are not getting stellar service at dinner just say something (nicely) to the main waiter of your section. We were getting out of the dining room at 10 pm for late seating and told them we didn't want to take that long and boy did they step it up! When cruising it is a crap shoot whether you get good table mates or not. On our last cruise we were with another couple who didn't speak English so the whole week we just nodded and smiled. This time we got lucky and had a great couple our age that were very nice and we had plenty to talk about every evening.
If you want a glass of wine with dinner get it on deck before you go into the main dinning room. It takes them forever to get you a glass of wine since they are so busy doing other things. They used to have a dedicated drink person but I didn't see one this trip, just the guy with the specialty shots walking around.
The dinners this trip were REALLY good and satisfying. We taught our table mates that you can order 6 appetizers, 3 dinners and 4 desserts if you want so we had a great time trying many things at every dinner. Carnival has made their portions smaller especially with the appetizers so I was very happy about that since I like to try more than one item and I didn't have to waste food. They also had choices of sides with your dinner this time which was very nice. BUT I have to say the most surprising thing this trip for the dinning room was the beef selections. I don't know if the chef was a master at beef or what the deal was but I have NEVER in my life had so many AMAZING beef dinners on a cruise! FORGET the paid dinner room upstairs!! The steaks, the filets, the short ribs etc were out of this world! I don't eat much red meat at home for many reasons so this was a nice change and I took advantage of it for sure! They also added pie to the dessert options since I have cruised before. Every night they have a different fruit pie just ask what it is. They will even bring you a whole pie for the table!
If you like Martini's this boat has the Alchemy Bar that specializes in just Martini's and the bartender is spectacular! They have drink specials most days in this bar and they are all different including a Martini Flight!
We don't have small kids so we spent some time at the back of the boat. They have converted the whole back of the Lido deck for 21 and up. With pool, Jacuzzi and fun seating. I just wish they would have made the pool and Jacuzzi a little bigger. They were always packed to the point where we started hanging out at the front of the ship instead. Plus it is supposed to be quiet (called Serenity) so they didn't even have music playing, I found it a bit boring and I am in my 50's. However they did have a dedicated bar which was very fast getting drinks so that was a plus.
One weird thing I noticed is the Lido Deck is VERY slippery. Don't wear just plain cheap flip flops you will find yourself on your back. Besides the kids dripping water everywhere they were consistently mopping it so it was wet all the time. I will be bringing non slip shoes next time just to be able to get from one end to the other faster.
Every staff person I met was very nice and willing to have an interesting conversation with you. I spent over an hour in the bathroom one day just talking to a delightful gal from South Africa. Get to know the staff if you are a friendly person they love to talk about their jobs, goals and dreams. They are on those ships doing the same thing day in and day out, 7 days a week, 10 hours a day for 8 months so make their day and get to know them.
Faster to the Fun - We did get this package for the first time and not sure it is really worth it for us. They say you can get on the boat at 11 am but that is not true. The last group of people debarking is at 11:15 am so you have to wait for hundreds of people to get off (walking very slowly with tons of luggage) and then they have to do a security sweep before the new group gets on. We got to the port at 11 am just like they said and yes we didn't have to wait in line to check in but we had to wait in a pile over by the entrance until 12:25 before they let us in. There were hundreds of people in line behind us but all they had to do is wait until we boarded and then they got on. It wasn't like they say in the brochures, you get on the ship at 11 am and no one else can get on until after 2 pm that is not true. Your basically paying to not stand in lines getting on or off. Or you can just wait until 2 pm and arrive at the terminal and walk right on anyway.
The comedy shows on this trip were top tier! We go to the Laugh Factory and Improve in Phoenix all the time so we like a good show. We REALLY liked the comedians on this trip! We laughed so hard so many times it was a great time! John DiCrosta was our favorite and Merl Hobbs was great as well. Be sure and check that out. They do have PG shows for the kids earlier in the evening. But we found the R rated shows MUCH funnier of course.
We knew going on a cruise in the summer would be full of kids and it was, so if that bothers you cruise in September when they are in school. There are always kids that are out of control because the parents think it is everyone else's job to police their kids since "they" are on vacation but for the most part the kids were fine and didn't effect my trip one way or another.
We read on Cruise Critic about a great hotel to hang out at while in Puerto Vallarta. The review was years ago so we called the hotel before we left just to make sure they had the same deal and they did so here it is. Go out near the street to get a cab if you get one right off the ship they will charge you double to go anywhere. The Marriott CasaMagna is only minutes away from the ship and you can get there for $6. Go to the front desk and get a Day Pass. For $450/pp pesos ($23USD) you can get access to the pool, beach and water activities for the day! PLUS they give you $350 pesos ($18USD) in FREE vouchers for drinks and food!! We bought all our drinks and a meal at the swim up bar and had a great time!! You cannot beat that price! I personally think the prices for the excursions off the ships are RIDICULOUSLY priced so this deal was right up my ally. It is SO easy to get off the ship in Mexico and hire your own driver to do what ever you want for half the price of what the boats charge. We could have hired a private boat to take us anywhere for the whole day including snorkeling, scuba anything for $200USD. It is safe in Puerto Vallarta the people are cool just negotiate and pick who you would like to do business with. If you get a weird feeling just say no and talk to someone else. Do your homework though not all Ports of Call are this way. I have been on other Carnival cruses where the entire town is basically on contract with the ship lines and they won't take you anywhere without buying your excursions through the boats.
In Cabo we went snorkeling on a large Zodiac type boat. We have our own gear (highly recommend the full face masks) It was SO much FUN! The crew was fun and they let me ride on the side going back. Basically it was like a 45 minute banana boat ride as I bounced up and down in the huge waves! I had a blast and laughed the whole time. They stopped at two locations and we had plenty of time in the water. Special Note: If you go to Cabo and stay snorkel in the afternoons when the tide is down the water is calmer. It was high tide for us plus there was a storm coming the next day so the water was ruff for snorkeling. The crew helped a bit by feeding the fish so we saw quite a few.
Speaking of Snorkeling buy the Full Facial Masks they were worth every penny! For about $69 they don't fog up, you can see even peripheral vision, you can breath through your mouth and/or your nose, they don't fill up with water easily, and you cannot accidentally get water down the breathing hose. They are awesome! We bought them on Amazon search by "Full Face Snorkeling Mask + Adjustable Diving Fins" When you jump in the water just hold your hands to your face and that's it!
Rum Runners!! Again thank you to Cruise Critic for the suggestion of using Run Runners for smuggling on board alcohol! They worked perfectly and we saved a lot of money! Be sure and buy them from a good source on Amazon Prime we tried to buy some from the place someone on CC recommended and they never showed up. Amazon Prime 1 day they were at my house in time for the trip. FOLLOW the directions on how to fill and hide in your luggage and you will be fine.
Gambling on Board - The machines are very "giving" on the first sea days but take all your money back the second half of the trip. We stopped in time but just know lots of people were winning big the first 3 days then after that forget it! We were fortunate enough to win enough to pay for almost our entire bill including tips. We walked away with a $108 total bill for the week! YES!!!
Summer in Mexico - Note about the weather. It was perfect at sea and Cabo but Puerto Vallarta in July and August is brutally hot. I mean if you cannot stand to have your clothes dripping wet to your undies in 5 minutes do not go to Puerto Vallarta in the summer. I knew it was going to be hot so we picked activities in the water. Walking around town shopping is NOT something you want to do.
The other thing that I love about Carnival is how casual they are. They even lowered the level of dress for the dinning room. Now I am all for dressing up and being respectfully dressed at dinner but it was nice to be able to wear a nice top and a nice pair of capri's to dinner and not have to dress business casual for dinner every night like we used to. Yes there is always some douche bag in a "wife beater" shirt and flip flops in the dinning room but for the most part people dressed appropriately. I was able to pack a lot less clothes because I was able to dress more casually for dinner.
I would definitely go on this cruise again. We had a great trip even the people on the boat this time were a great group. I met a lot of new friends and enjoyed ever minute of it.