In the spirit of my New Year’s resolution to try new things while traveling, a friend and I opted to go on a short cruise. We opted for a three-day cruise out of Long Beach on Carnival Cruise Lines. Now before anyone says, well, that’s probably not the best route to take or the best ship to experience what it’s like to go on a cruise, I hear you. But, what I was interested in was seeing if cruising was something I could even get onboard with. Let me explain, I’m the kind of person who likes to experience the cities and destinations I visit. I like making plans and having schedules, but no so much so that I have to be back at a certain time. I will never forget being in Santorini and watching the cruise ships pull out and take off at sea – well before sunset, which in Santorini is the whole point of being there. I love boats, I love day cruises, but I wasn’t so eager to try a cruise. My partner has been wanting to try one and my friend said she’d been on short ones before and they were fun. So I took the plunge and decided to go for a short cruise just to see if I liked it.
The results? Well, I went into it with no expectations. What I had heard was that it wasn’t going to be a luxury cruise, but it was fun and the boat was clean. Was it? Yes, the facilities were really clean. Kudos to Carnival on that. Sure, the boat was a little tired, but I expected that. But the fun, well, I had fun, but I think it’s what you make of it, because there definitely were not as many activities as I would have expected. I thought there would be so many events and activities to entertain us. The short answer – no.
Day 1 – The Excitement Phase
My friend and I flew from Phoenix to Orange County and caught a Lyft to Long Beach. It was painless. Boarding was easy. Everyone was SO friendly. We got on the boat. We had some time before our room was available so we went to lunch. The lunch options are terrible. There is a buffet. (We aren’t buffet people). There is Guy Fieri’s Burgers, and there is a Mexican restaurant. I opted for the Mexican restaurant. The toppings were great. The chicken was really chewy and not good. My friend had a burger. It was cold. They don’t grill the burgers for you there, they are all cooked on a cookie sheet in the oven. So much for a burger from the grill. The French fries were also mushy. But the drink service was decent, so we were like, hey it’s not a big deal.
We got into the cabin. The cabin was an inside cabin. We opted to go cheap and not do a balcony or outside room. I was OK with this (until the last day). The cabin was clean and had a good amount of space.
Soon it was time for the safety briefing. This is required and the staff try to have fun with it, while still being serious. Some of the people in our assigned briefing were a little rowdy which irked the staff. After that was over, it was time to set sail. We visited the Alchemy Bar for a fancy cocktail. That was nice. The staff was friendly, and it felt a bit more upscale there. Then, we went to the adults lounge in the back as the ship took off. This area has a hot tub and a lot of deck seating. We visited this a few times while on the cruise. They had a choice of beachy cocktails and the service was good. There were some children there as we disembarked, but they weren’t allowed in the rest of the voyage.
We opted for the dining option where you pick when you want to dine vs. an assigned time. I think this was a good choice as we had the opportunity to go when we wanted and sit by ourselves. The service in the dining room was good. The first night we had alligator bites, steak, and this chocolate molten cake-like thing. That was so delicious we had it every night. The food at all the dinners was really good.
We went to the Hasbro Game Show that evening and that was entertaining. Then, we went to one of the areas where they had live music. It was karaoke. People were having fun, but let me tell you after you hear the same person sing a song 8 times, it gets old.
Day 2 – Ensenada – Let’s Have Some Fun
The next day, the ship docked at Ensenada. We had no desire to visit Ensenada so didn’t get off the boat. We stayed onboard and had breakfast. This was not a pleasant experience. We went to the dining room that was the one used for set dining times at dinner. We were seated in a large table with others. This was fine. The service though was SO slow and the waiter was very rude when we asked for coffee. The fruit was fresh and tasty, but my waffle was cold and boring. It also took forever for our food and drinks to arrive.
The rest of the day was filled with relaxing outside and enjoying the weather. We could see the seals near the ship and the shore. That was fun to watch.
Dinner that night featured good food, but unfortunately, we were seated next to a large family with a teenage girl who kept flipping her hair all over the place. We very much enjoyed having her hair in our food. I mean, really who wouldn’t?!
Day at Sea – Please Let Me Off
The day started with breakfast. We were able to get a table to ourselves. The service was slow, and my chocolate chip pancakes were the most bizarre thing I’ve ever experienced. They weren’t actual chips, it was chocolate syrup dumped on top of a listless pancake. The bread basket was good though.
We attended an art auction. This was hilarious. People buying $8,000 paintings on a Carnival Cruise? Um, OK.
We attended a Game of Thrones trivia contest. This lasted about 20 minutes and was fun, but I thought they could have done more with these trivia contests.
Later that evening, we enjoyed dinner. I had a noodle dish that was alright (I should have selected something else), but that cake was good! Service was good too.
Onboard, you have the option to have your photo taken and then purchase the photos. We didn’t do this, but we enjoyed looking at all of the other guest photos. Some of those travelers have an awesome sense of humor.
We attended a late comedy show. There were a lot of kids at the show which surprised me. The comedian was funny at first, but then all the women bashing got real old real fast. What a disappointment.
By the day at sea though, I was ready to get off the boat. I felt a bit claustrophobic and bored. You could see the shore from where we were anchored and a part of me seriously wondered if I could just jump and swim to shore. (Yes, that would have been a bad decision and the water likely frigid.)
The next morning we were off the boat early. It was a relatively easy process. We caught a Lyft to John Wayne Airport and checked our bags. Because we had so much time, we took an Uber to the local South Coast Mall to hang out for a few hours. We enjoyed having lunch at Ruby’s because were starving and hadn’t eaten breakfast.
I knew the boat wasn’t a luxury liner. I thought the staff for the most part was friendly and the boat clean. Sure the facilities were a little older, but this was OK. The food from time to time was very good. Breakfast and lunch were not great. Lunch was inedible. We bought the drink package, and I felt did not get our money worth on that, but it was probably better to have it than not.
I thought activities were pretty lacking. They should have had more shows at night – or spaced out the shows so you could see more of them.
I’m sure there are better routes and ships with much more offerings. And for those who love cruises, that’s great. I can see the appeal of cruises for certain aspects. But when I look at the cost, plus all the extras, it’s not for me. I confirmed on this trip being on a boat for an extended period of time is not where I want to be. I’m glad I went, and got outside my comfort zone.