August 7, 2012

Carnival Cruise Trip Report: We're On a Boat!

 More than a week off the ship and I'm still recovering.  Which is why it's been a week already since the last post.  Still tackling some laundry (although, when is that ever really "done"?), still putting random gear away, still dealing with some post-trip motion sickness.  Seriously.  (It was getting much better yesterday, but after a late night in front of my monitor, it's back again.) 

But I'm braving the vertigo and the heat and restless, needy kids to give you a little cruise trip report.  Today is going to be about life on the ship itself, and tomorrow I'll share stuff about the two ports of call.

So, the deets:  our cruise was a 7-day trip out of Long Beach, on the Carnival Splendor, bound for 2 days in Cabo, and 1 in Puerto Vallarta.  To say I did exhaustive research on this trip, and deciding to even do a cruise, is the understatement of the year.  I started figuring it all out back in January, and even late 2011.  Many options were initially discussed: a land-based trip to the Caribbean, or Florida? A cruise to the Caribbean?  Cruising out of Orlando pretty much demanded that we also visit Disneyworld and Universal Orlando.  Cha-ching, cha-ching. Costs started adding up fast, not the least of which was the airfare to get from the West Coast to any of these destinations. 

In the end, we opted for the easiest option as cruise newbies: a trip from right here in SoCal.  No airfare, no hotels.  (Just the parking garage fee, which was still over $100.) 

But enough about all that. Let's get on the boat. (I know it's a ship. I just prefer to keep saying boat.)

Although we initially booked an oceanview room, I was able to upgrade to a balcony room, thanks to a series of price drops after my initial booking.  And here is where I need to stop and give serious thanks and kudos to the Cruise Critic site, whose forums proved to be both invaluable and slightly addicting. Thanks to them, I learned that I could get just about every price drop before final payment.  In the end, the balcony cabin was actually less than the original price of the oceanview. 

And thank goodness for the balcony!  It was a small, narrow cabin about 185 sq. feet.  The kids slept bunk-bed style (the top bunk comes out of the ceiling, and our room steward put the metal ladder up and down each night) and the Husband and I slept in two twin beds that were pushed together to form a king.
 The balcony allowed each of us to step out for some fresh air, some moments alone, and to see the sea.  (Down the Baja coast, Lily and I spotted lots of flying fish. I was hoping for a dolphin or whale sighting, but no luck.) 

It's weird to be out on the open water.  I'm not that huge of an ocean person -- give me a babbling stream or waterfall any day -- but it was different to be way out there, with nothing but the vastness of the water and the horizon. 

The decor of the ship is gaudy, to say the least. I was expecting this: I knew the Splendor is dubbed The Big Pink because of the theme of pink, blush, mauve and rose all through the public areas.  The pink wasn't as much an issue for me as the circles. Oodles and oodles of circles and dots and spots.  So many circles, it was a relief for the eye to land on a square.
Splendor Lobby: How many circles can you spot?  There are embossed dots on the chairs, too.

Splendor hallway. Dots even  on the floor.

Out on the open decks was better: blue sky (most days), fresh air, and not too many crowds. At least compared to the buffet at lunch time.   Here we are at Sailaway, leaving Long Beach on the afternoon of the first day.  A preview of all the terrible things that would happen to my hair in the moist ocean air. Moist ocean air and stiff breezes turned me and my short, curly 'do into Frizzy Medusa. Not to even mention the two days that I actually swam and went underwater in the ocean.  Ay, ay, ay.

Happy & excited...the ship is moving!
Some more interior shots. These vintage-inspired folks were on panels lining the cabin hallways. I liked these panels, although they had nothing to do with anything on the rest of the ship. It's not like there was an understated "you're in the 1940s on a regal ocean liner" vibe going on anywhere else onboard. 

These dapper men were on a tile above our toilet.
 There are 2 "Cruise Elegant" nights on the ship.  We went all out on both nights: my men wore suits, and Lily and I rocked our fancy new frocks.  The cruise elegant dress code, or lack thereof, is a big, testy issue over on the Cruise Critic boards.  No one is required to get dressed up for the dining room on those two nights, as there are other options for eating, at the buffet, the hamburger grill, or the  deli.

On the other hand, it was a motley bunch in the dining room on elegant night: kids in shorts, men in cowboy hats, women in jeans.  (My husband also spotted a dude in a trucker cap with flames.)  Considering that the population on a Carnival cruise is much like the varied crowd at your average suburban mall, this didn't feel too out of place. But even in my long, beaded chiffon gown on the first elegant night, I wasn't out of place either.  (Especially compared to the two ladies I saw in full-on hoop skirt ball gowns, like the sisters from Cinderella.)   Bottom line: as Humpty said, do watcha like
Kids on the first Elegant night.
Me and the boy on the 2nd Elegant night. (My hair plastered down with the boy's Extra Sticky Spike goo.) (Which I obviously forgot to use on him.)
It was fun to get dressed up for once, which our casual work-from-home family never gets to experience.  On the other hand, it was a bit of a harried hassle, especially on the first night. As I told my mom: "It was like getting dressed for the prom in a camper."  I can see why seasoned cruisers are pretty much over the elegant night thing (the food itself, on this and other nights, was nothing that special.  B minus, all the way.)  When and if we ever cruise again, I can see us choosing to do it for just one night.  But it was fun, and I have $200 worth of cheesy, posed portraits to prove how snazzy we looked.  ($200 doesn't buy you that much, really.)
The towel animals. Sigh. The towel animal drama could inspire a whole other post, as Tucker got er,  very attached. My sentimental little boy was convinced that buckets of tears and pleading would convince us to let him bring these guys home. Just let me talk to the person in charge of towels, he begged on the last night.  For obvious reasons, we refused.  It made for a long last day and evening on the ship.  He might have been just a tad exhausted, as we all were by that point. 

The negatives of cruising is that for loner-types like me and the Husband, it felt a bit like a vacation at the mall.  With all the people and the emphasis on drinking and food, it was like a combo of Mall Rats and Wall-E.  Then again, we've taken many vacations to Vegas in the past and enjoyed those, and I'd say this was a similar experience. Gaudy decor, sparkling lights, navigating crowds, lots of buffets, and feeling guilty for going to bed too early.

The positives: you get a lot of bang for your buck, in terms of options. You can lounge the day away on a deck chair. You can participate in contests and see shows, you can park in front of a slot machine or the blackjack table and smoke and drink the night away.  There's a lot we didn't do (club dancing, the casino, the open-air movies on deck, and uh...relaxing), but a lot that we packed into our week vacation, too.  Not to even mention the options you have off the ship, in port.  Are you exhausted yet?

I am. (Still.)  Tomorrow: the ports of Cabo and Puerto Vallarta. There will be boats, booze, and donkeys.  And more bad hair.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting! :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Blogger Template by Designer Blogs