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Heidi Lowe

Age: 27

Occupation:Substitute Teacher

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Spirit

Sailing Date: October 24th, 2004

Itinerary: Mexican Riviera

This was our first, and sadly, our last cruise. I will start with our background. We are a military family and my husband had just gotten back from Iraq two weeks prior to sailing. We had been saving up for this trip for quite a while so we treated ourselves to a Penthouse Suite since we would be celebrating all of the holidays and missed special occasions from the last eight months. This I am grateful for since we spent a lot of time there. I will start with embarkation. This process took a little over three hours and couldn’t have been more miserable. We started off in a LONG line outside in the hot sun with no cover over us so before the cruise even began we were already sunburned. This lasted about 1 ½ hours. It was VERY unorganized because people kept getting dropped off from taxis or hotel shuttles and then would just merge into the line of us who had already been waiting for an hour. There didn’t seem to be anyone from the Carnival staff overseeing this and it just bottlenecked into a huge freaking mess. Once we made it inside the building we had another hour to wait in a twisty turning line that resembled a Six Flags roller coaster line only with no televisions to keep us entertained. At least we were now out of the sun with a weak air conditioner blowing on us. On the internet it recommended checking in before the cruise so we did that thinking it would cut down on our wait time, but since EVERY OTHER person waiting seemed to do the same thing we were all just put in the same long line. Our last line was about 30 minutes on the gangway with the ship SO CLOSE but just out of our reach. One of my biggest annoyances was that I saw people carrying on six-packs of wine and 24 packs of soda or bottled water which I was specifically told that we COULD NOT bring on (only one bottle of fine wine) by a representative on Carnivals 800 line. By the time that we got on the ship we were grumpy and tired to say the least.

We found our room and since we had a suite our luggage was waiting outside our room when we got there which was better than the alternative…piles of unattended luggage in the elevator waiting area on each floor. Our room was great. In my opinion it was a little small for what we paid but we had to keep reminding ourselves that we were on a ship and this was one of their biggest rooms. By the end of the cruise however it seemed VERY spacious. Every time we returned it was cleaned, room service trays were gone and our bed was made. The stewards (I think that’s what they’re called) did a FABULOUS job.

Next is the food. It was OK. The room service and breakfast menu were a little lacking, (I will get to the dining room later) and by the eighth day everything seemed to look and taste the same. Here’s my favorite example: refried beans, cheddar cheese and lettuce served on a whole wheat burrito shell. “Great” I thought, “one of my favorite lunches.” Well, when we got it, it wasn’t heated, wasn’t even room temperature, it was freezing cold. I thought that maybe it was a mistake so when my husband ordered one later he asked for it to be heated, but it was served the exact way that mine was. However the food in the dining room was better. Breakfast was just OK, it was the same menu every day and reminded me of cafeteria style eggs and bacon. Lunch was better, defiantly interesting creations and it changed every day. Supper was very good and it also changed every day. We really liked that you could order any amount of it. If you wanted three appetizers, two soups, a salad, three entrees and two desserts, nobody even batted an eyelash. The portions were very small so maybe that’s why people ordered so much. There was food served on the Lido deck (where the pools are) from noon until 6pm and that reminded me of a mall food court, only buffet style. Pizza (24 hours) Chinese food, sandwiches, salad bar, dessert bar etc…but only during lunchtime would they all be open at once so if you were a little late some would be closed. This food was fine, but nothing special.

Finally the ports. First of all, we didn’t go to the meeting about the different excursions that the cruise director puts on because we knew that we didn’t want to do any group things, just go off by ourselves, but that was a mistake. We didn’t know what there was to do in each town, but luckily everything is taped and shown on a TV channel in loop so anything you miss can be seen at a later time. Our first stop was Acapulco. It was HOT and HUMID, quite honestly, really miserable. The men trying to get you into a taxi were insanely pushy, bordering harassment. We did our own excursions, jet skiing and para-sailing which Carnival does not recommend, but it’s a LOT cheaper than their excursions and we were fine. We talked to a lot of people who did the same. The town is HUGE and kind of dirty, but it’s not that bad. Just make sure to do research into each town that you are going to so you have an idea of what you want to do. Secondly was Ixtapa/Zihuatenejo. This was a nice town and we did one of the organized excursions which we regretted. We paid $60 per person to go on a 4 ½ hour snorkel and relaxing island getaway. What we didn’t realize was that it took almost 45 minutes to get to the marina and then a quick boat ride to the island. Our tour guide was nice but he seemed more concerned about getting people to order their lunch and drinks than he was about the people who paid extra $$ to snorkel. We were told that we had to wait for a guide to show us where to go and we ended up waiting an extra half hour when they just had to tell us to walk through the restaurant and follow a path and we would be there, about a 45 second walk. Our guide just wanted us to tip the men “helping” us find the place. It was ridiculous. Our last stop was Manzanillo. I will just say that we regretted getting off the ship and wouldn’t recommend this town to anyone. It is an industrial town that is not interesting or pretty at all and we have no idea why Carnival stops there. Honestly, all of these towns are totally gorgeous from a distance on the ship, but once you are actually on land, they lose some of their beauty.

I would like to finally add that we just aren’t the cruise type of people which we learned the hard way. I’m sure that many people LOVED the cruise. They probably liked that something is planned for them almost every hour of every day. It seemed a little like summer camp. Silly games, “Survivor” type shows, bands playing, bingo, but if that’s what you like, then I’m sure that you’ll LOVE IT. We wanted a vacation that we could just relax and do nothing and while you certainly CAN do that on a cruise, it made me feel a little guilty that we spent quite a bit of money and didn’t participate in any of the activities that were planned for us. Our next vacation will just be renting a hotel room on the beach and we will probably spend a third of what our cruise cost.

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