We had talked about going on a cruise for many years, no one in my family had ever gone on one. The opportunity came when my mother was desperately trying to find something affordable to do with her daughters for Mother’s Day. I suggested maybe a cruise out of Long Beach, CA. With me, living in Hollywood, it would be easy for her and my sister to get to California and then spend four days out to sea on a big boat. Plus, the prices were relatively cheap.
We ended up finding our tickets through Expedia for roughly $950 including the taxes. That’s about $315 a person and we all shared a stateroom. Here’s a picture of our stateroom. It’s pretty small, but I read this particular ship is the smallest of the Carnival Fleet. The beds were comfortable enough, and we only spent time in the room getting ready and sleeping.
The 4 Day Cruise Schedule looked like:
Day 1: Board the ship, head out to sea around 6:00 PM
Day 2: Day at Sea
Day 3: Day in Catalina
Day 4: Day in Ensenada
Day 5: Arrive back in Long Beach around 7 AM.
I recommend downloading the Carnival Cruise App.
It was the easiest way for us to see what was going on, on the ship at all times. Stateroom crew members also left us a paper schedule every day.
Definitely head to the big show every night. They are usually around 8:00 PM and are a blast. Get there at least 15 minutes early to get a seat. We saw an awesome divas show and played along with the Hasbro Game Show.
On Day 1, we chose to have a later check in, around 3:30 PM. We zoomed through security, got our cruise cards and boarded with ease.
Just a tip! You can bring one bottle of wine or champagne in your carry-on.
This rule is per person, not per cabin. So we each had a bottle of wine (that’s 3!) in our cabin.
Once on board, we wanted to do a little exploring since this was our first time ever on a cruise! We skipped eating in the buffet, because we had already had lunch and began wandering. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to wander very much, because we had to attend a MANDATORY Safety meeting. Yes, safety is important and they told us it would take maybe 40 minutes. It took much longer and it was a whole lot of standing around. They also don’t serve any drinks during this time. BOO.
After that, we had dinner at the buffet. Unbeknown to ourselves, there was an actual dining hall, which we discovered the next night and never went back to the buffet, except for one breakfast. The buffet was mostly unappealing and the food wasn’t that great. On the other spectrum, the food in the dining room was fantastic! The menu changed every single night and it was delicious. You can order as much or as little as you want, but always get dessert! You’re on vacation, so why not?
We opted for the “your time dining” which was in its own dining room. This meant we could go to dinner at any time from 5:45 to 9:30 pm. The other dining room option was either early dinner at 5:30 or late seating at 8:15.
After dinner we headed for the Martini Bar. On the schedule it said there was a martini tasting and I thought that sounded like a great way to end the night!
Day 2: At Sea
The weather was on and off chilly, with bouts of sunshine, but we stayed out on the adults only back deck the entire day. It was relaxing and beautiful. We grabbed lunch from the burger joint and ate it at our deck chairs before heading into the cabin for a late afternoon nap.
Day 3: At Catalina
We opted to not book any activities on Catalina, because I had been there before and had a good idea of what to do.
Day 4: At Ensenada
Although I had never been to Ensenada, we also opted to not do any scheduled activities. We wanted food truck fish tacos and the best damn margarita, plus lots of shopping. That’s exactly what we did.
Day 5: Port
The schedule handed out the night before gave detailed times of when each level of the ship could depart, we were set to be ready by our departure time, when they started de-boarding 45 minutes before that. We were off the boat with ease through customs by 8:30 AM.
An important notation:
When we booked, we read that instead of picking our stateroom, we could opt for “cruise guarantee cabin” which means they choose for us a few weeks prior to departure. I had heard mostly good things come out of this, so we chose to risk it. The risk paid off and we were upgraded to a ocean view room on the top level. Our room was close to the stairs, in the back of the boat. We were really happy with our choice. For a more detailed description on what “Cruise Guarantee Cabin” means, read this nifty article by Cruise Critic.