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No offense to the Howard Johnson’s Hotel Chain (well, maybe a little…)

I’ve held off on posting this blog entry in regards to my cruise on the Carnival Elation last March.  However, I just can’t hold back any longer!  I must spill the beans; get it off my chest, etc…

First off – I PROMISE TO NEVER BOOK ANY OF YOU, MY DEAR, DEAR CLIENTS, ON THIS SHIP!!!  The good news for us West Coasters, she has left us for her new homeport of Mobile, Alabama.  So sorry for all ya’ll Southerners.

It started out great, since the ship was leaving from San Diego for a 6 night cruise to Cabo San Lucas for a 2 day stay and a stop at Ensenada (okay, so that port is not so great).  What was truly splendid was the ease of flying into San Diego and taking a 5 minute cab ride to the port.  (And, folks I truly mean it.)  Why the Port of San Diego is not used more, completely baffles me?  Forget crummy San Pedro or Long Beach, let’s hear a big cheer for San Diego!!!

Okay, back to the “Ho Jo….”

I knew we were in for an interesting crowd, while waiting for our group number to be called to board the ship.  The 4 gentlemen (ahhhemm) sitting next to me were already drunk!  During this embarkation period, we got to watch Holland America’s Oosterdam also board their guests.  Who do I see while waiting????…Ronald Regan, Jr. and his family boarding the “dam” ship!  Now he’s not a huge celebrity, but geez, I would have much rather cruised with him than the “ahhhemm gentlemen” that I had the unfortunate circumstance of not only seeing, but smelling.

Once on board we headed to check out our lovely peach & orange oceanview cabin, aka our home away from home for the next 7 days.

Why, oh why???

Fine, it’s a very 80’s color palette, fine they seem to have the Titanic as a light fixture, but really Carnival that painting over the beds must scare small children.  Frankly, it’s even a lot creepy from an adult’s perspective.





Now what is one of the major attractions or in some cases fear for cruisers? – the food!  As I headed toward the dining room on the first evening, I was not expecting a 5-star or Michelin rated meal, but geez how about something edible?  I can only describe the food as a cross between school cafeteria and hospital food.  Each night when it came time for dinner, it was getting harder and harder to drag the feet into the dining room.

Now earlier you might have winced at the thought of Ensenada, but wow was it truly welcomed.  Thank you Habana Banana for your great margaritas and FOOD!!!

The entertainment onboard was either lacking or just plain bad.  However, the best entertainment found on the ship was art auctioneer, Ellis.  He was full of energy and a great comedian.  So even if you don’t plan on purchasing any art, still go and check it out.  Not to mention you will receive free champagne while you there.

As the tradition goes with Carnival’s “fun” factor, returning each evening to a towel animal in the cabin puts a smile on one’s face.  I am still wondering what the cabin stewards do if you don’t leave out your sunglasses for them to use?  Personally, my favorite was the Towel Monkey!

The Pool Area continued with the strange color scheme of the ship – Orange and yellow tile with a blue slide… I mean really, does this draw you to want to hang out if you are over the age of 12?

So Carnival heard the pleas from the over 21 crowd and created an adults only outdoor space.  No pool, but there are 2 Jacuzzis.  They refer to this as The Serenity – an adult retreat.  Great idea, no screaming children to be found anywhere in sight, but…Carnival you lost me on the serene part with all of the engine noise!

Overall, I found the ship décor to be dated, worn and tired (in some cases walls were cracked and falling apart), the crowds at the buffet areas were overwhelming due to poor space planning and the cabins, especially those located mid-ship on the port side to be very noisy!  There are much better, nicer and palatable ships out there sailing the Western Caribbean!

– Coming soon, Cabo resort reviews!!!

So last March I lucked out and got to do more than spend an afternoon doing a ship inspection – I got to sail on Carnival Cruises brand spanking new ship, the Splendor!  It was a 3 day/2 night cruise to nowhere out of San Francisco.  Okay, I can see some of those heads cocking to the side like a cute poodle…  A cruise to nowhere is when the ship simply sails around and does not stop at a port.  There’s this long boring regulation called the Jones Act, which simply says any foreign registered cruise liner (in which 99% of them are – the NCL Pride of America is the exception and it will be discussed in another posting at a later date) must make at least 1 stop in a foreign port.  Otherwise, it can only do an itinerary and say it loudly, “A Cruise to Nowhere.”   In our case, we just putted along in the Pacific far enough out that we did not see the coast.

Of course, I did not sail alone, as I had my partner in group travel, Rita & my agency owner Anita along for the ride.  Lots of fun, lots of laughter and of course, LOTS OF WINE!  Why not?  It was free!  Not that has ever stopped this crowd before…

Now let’s talk about this ship – she is the competition for RCCL’s Mariner of the Seas (see earlier posting), doing 7 night Mexican Riviera out of Los Angeles.  Personally, I think even though they both cater to families, I would actually prefer to put clients with young children on the Splendor, than the Mariner.  The reason – I found the children’s areas and programs great!  RCCL has great entertainment and amenities (like the rock wall, inline skating, etc…) that older kids would totally enjoy.

Kids Waterpark. Yes, I got soaked trying take this pic

Kids Waterpark. Yes, I got soaked trying take this pic

They even thought of the little people when designing their bathroom in the play area, called Camp Carnival.

Camp Carnival Bathroom - So Cute!

Camp Carnival Bathroom - So Cute!

I thought this was a really nice ship, with 1 exception.  When the designers got together, I picture someone shouting out in the meeting “PINK POLKA DOTS” and everyone must have agreed how brilliant.  Really?  They went a little overboard in that department…

Pink Polka Dots

The two story dining rooms were impressive.  Not as beautiful as Mariner, but still very nice.  They are named the Gold Pearl and Black Pearl.

The Black Pearl Restaurant
The Black Pearl Restaurant

In regards to food, I have always been pleased with Carnival.  This is surprising, because I don’t think that highly of their other brand – Princess Cruises’ cuisine.  Don’t get me wrong – they are not as good as Celebrity Cruises, but the food was good and plentiful onboard.  I still really enjoy their pre-dinner sushi bar (and, one night they did Tapas), located on the Promenade level.  Because you know when you cruise, one MUST feed every few hours!

I found that there were a lot of bars on this ship vs. places to just lounge around.  However the décor of the public spaces are great and I loved the casino the best!


The staterooms were what I have come to expect from Carnival.  Décor was strange, while also being on the plain side.  I like the size of the standard balcony stateroom.  Plenty of space, lots of mirrors and a nice sized seating area.  And, of course, no Carnival cruise is without coming back at the end of the night to your towel buddy…

Towel Buddy

Carnival has some of the best pricing and I would be happy to discuss booking your next family vacation and include some extra amenities!

Lauren Liebert

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