We were set to go to NYC but because flights were full we thought cruise seemed to be a good idea.
Carnival Cruise Line is the top of mind when it comes to cruise. You can choose from various destinations such as Caribbean, The Bahamas, Mexico, Alaska, Canada & New England, Hawaii, Bermuda and Europe. And they have various ports to choose from as well like Los Angeles, Miami, New York, etc. We were eyeing to book for The Bahamas but unfortunately the schedule of departure did not sync with my schedule as I had to fly to Chicago in the next days. The best available date was for Ensenada, Mexico. This 3-day cruise was a popular weekend cruise for families and group of friends. So off we go to Mexico!
Booking is fairly easy thru online. You will have to choose the port, your preferred destination, the package, departure date and room type. You will be issued an account number (per passenger) and your credit card details will be requested so all purchases that may incur during the cruise will be charged here (ex. alcoholic drinks, souvenir items etc.). The lowest priced room is interior which does not have a view (and a window!) but we were hardly in our room anyway and the best ocean view is at the top deck where we found ourselves most of the time.
As of June 2015, as a Philippine Passport Holder, I just need a multiple US visa to get onboard. I had to check on this 3x before purchasing (so please check again when you’re planning one). On the day of departure, you will be issued a card upon check in. Bring this with you all the time. It serves as your ID and room card. The ship accepts guests as early as 11am so come early and lunch is served as well. The room may be ready by that time or latest 2pm.
Food and non-alcoholic drinks are included except alcoholic drinks which are being sold. There are two dining options namely Dining Room and Lido Restaurant. We frequent Dining Room for breakfast and dinner. There’s a simple dress code to follow here. Generally, they just don’t want us wearing too casual like a short and bikini top (you can wear this in Lido Restaurant though). Their dinner menu changes daily and some options (ex. Steak, Lobster, etc.) come with an additional fee sometimes. But there are nights too when steaks, lobsters and caviar are free! I had eaten lobsters twice; one is with an additional $20 and another free. On one hand, Lido Restaurant features more casual dining options like Mongolian Wok, Chef’s Choice, Salad Bar, Carnival Deli and more (pizza, pasta station, frozen yogurt, etc.). The burger station is open all day so guests can grab fries, hotdogs and burgers if they’re hungry (not my kind of food though!).
Most of the staff is Filipino — from housekeeping to restaurants. And there’s nothing like a Filipino service and hospitality. Our waiters were generous enough to satisfy our Filipino Food craving. They prepared us adobo and sinigang!
The 3-day cruise itinerary includes a whole day in the sea. And there are options on how you can keep yourself entertained. The ship includes a spa, water park, casino, stage shows, live band, library, bar and among others. There’s also a golf play area and a running lane if you need a muscle stretch. Or you can find a good spot for reading and writing postcards which I did.
Wi-Fi comes with a fee and plans to choose from. I chose the plan that covers the whole trip and select social media which cost me $10 (Viber though is not included). By the way, there is a kiosk which you can check your statement of account. It shows you breakdown of charges incurred. Take note there is an automatic gratuity that will be charged to you. For this cruise, I was charged $36.
A trip to Ensenada, Mexico gives you the opportunity to see La Bufadora, a marine geyser or blowhole and drive around the vineyards and taste the country wines. These are optional excursions, hence, with additional fee. Tip: Take the shuttle (just outside the ship) to down town for $3 (roundtrip). Here, there is an office that arranges also tours for La Bufadora and among others which is cheaper than the ones being offered by Carnival. So take this instead.
If you want to skip these tours and explore on your own, you can do so. You are expected to return the ship at 6pm so you have plenty of time to explore down town to shop, drink margarita and eat real Mexican food. Tip: Drink only within the legal areas such as bars and restaurants. Otherwise you will be jailed (no drinking on the streets or public areas!). Also, you can include in your itinerary to hit the beach. If weather permits, you can while away by the beach. Unfortunately for us, the weather (and the water) was very cold amidst a perfect sunny day. Lastly, do include shopping for real silver and beautiful hand-painted ceramics to delight your homes or as pasalubong . These shops accept US dollars.
Cruise is a different travel experience which I enjoyed. Hope to try this again. Hopefully Cabo or The Bahamas next time 🙂