Before we move cross country and our new kitten arrives, we thought we’d jump on the Carnival Radiance out of Long Beach for a 3-night cruise to Ensenada. We’ve had a lot of fun in Ensenada and for the last couple of times, we’ve stayed on the ship. But we were looking forward to getting on another ship, especially now that masks are optional. And this is Carnival’s 50th birthday. This fall will be 40 years since my first cruise (original Mardi Gras).
Top 12 Highlights:
Steel drums by the mid ship pool
Shaq’s Big Chicken (and I’m not a big chicken lover) – so good, we ended up choosing that over Guys Burgers this cruise
Steak house (Best Filet ever for me – best oysters for Rich)
Sushi Bar (best sushi ever)
Main dining room service (best ever) – food and service were soooo good!
Best dining room (loved the decor and the booths)
Best dessert (love Carnival’s Chocolate Melting Cake!)
Suite service in the dining room (they knew we were in a suite and really upped the level of service)
Lunch at Cucina Capitano
Rich liked the dressing area in the suite – I did not – it reminded me too much of the group dressing area on the original Mardi Gras – lol!
Parrots in Ensenada (so disappointed when they weren’t there in Puerto Vallarta on the Panorama)
Top 3 Lowlights:
Lack of evening service
Promenade deck is often closed off to passengers for part or most of the cruise (we did get out there, though, unlike the Panorama)
Cabin steward could have done better. She greeted us as we left the cabin on the first day and we were thinking, oh good, our room will be clean in no time. After we returned from Brunch and other stuff, it was still no clean and this is only one service a day. She made some sort of lame apology. Also, we’d asked for evening ice and she did deliver that the first two days but not on the final night. By early afternoon, service was over for us.
I say new because the Panorama was christened in Long Beach in December 2019 and only cruised with passengers for 3 months until the whole cruising industry shut down. She began cruising again in August of 2021 and we set sail on her in November, still in her inaugural year.
We were excited to try a new Carnival ship with serene, more elegant decor after mostly experiencing the tacky Joe Farcus ships. Our favorite Carnival ship class is the Spirit Class (a fan favorite), so we were hoping the Panorama would just be a bigger version of that. Here’s what we liked/didn’t like after sailing the Panorama.
What We Liked
Embarkation – was pretty speedy (but not as fast as “Faster to the Fun” [FTTF], which is how we embarked pre-Covid.) It took us app. 40 minutes from car to cabin, which isn’t bad at all).
Tides Bar – this is the aft pool bar that makes a stunning impression as soon as you get off the elevators on deck 10. Views of the aft pool and the wake of the ship.
Ocean Plaza Bar – awesome rock band when we were there, great seating both inside and outside.
Our cabin location in the aft – up 3 to the Marketplace (buffet – love the salad bar) and Tides Bar, aft pool and down 2 to the Ocean Plaza Bar, restaurants, bars, entertainment, etc.
Guy’s Burgers – still awesome and the fries haven’t changed (unlike rumors we’ve heard about the Mardi Gras).
Muster drill – I think this is true on every ship on every cruise line now. A huge improvement over the old way. Still, hundreds of people has to be nagged at to check in before we could sail away.
The elevators – there’s been a lot of talk about how terrible they are because nobody knows to enter the number of passengers when you punch in your desk. Truth is, the number of passenger doesn’t matter at all, and once you punch in your deck, you know exactly which elevator is coming for you.
The main dining room – quite lovely and one night we had incredible service, complete with staff entertainment. That’s what Carnival is all about and what we love about them.
Carnival App – handy to check in to the dining room, see menus (like the dining room menu), but would be nice to be able to pick up the old “Fun Times” to see activities at a glance. More cost-saving measures resulting in not having enough servers, stewards, etc. Not fun!
Disembarkation – incredible! The best ever! We were called first and all we did at Customs was have our passport scanned as we walked through.
What We Didn’t Like
Ship Layout – just didn’t have a nice flow like the Spirit Class.
Service – one really prominent reason we’ve sailed Carnival is that their service has been pretty awesome. Maybe it’s just the Covid restart, but we think some things are just how Carnival is doing business now. Cabin steward comes only once a day so that ice you requested has melted by evening when you really need it. No wine sommeliers or any kind of bar service in the dining room other than what you request from your waiter. Seaday brunch (a longtime favorite of ours) has changed the menu and removed my favorite cappuccino muffin and the service is hurried, unfriendly, and full of mistakes. The “fun” is gone so it’s impossible to “Choose Fun.”
Midship pool – only one tiny pool with lounge chairs taking up where the second pool used to be, making the pool area quite removed from the bar area.
Pig & Anchor – absolutely horrible. Simply couldn’t eat the food. And some items listed on the menu were not available, such as cole slaw, collard greens, and some beer selections.
Alchemy Bar – location felt like a hallway so we didn’t ever stop in for a drink and it’s one of our favorite bars on other Carnival ships.
Cabin – seemed narrow. People have complained about the cabin size on the new Mardi Gras but we think it’s the same size as the Panorama (which is smaller than older ships), just the bed is in the middle of the cabin, making the room seem smaller. We think we might prefer the cabin layout of the Mardi Gras. Bathroom is smaller in both classes of ship.
Main showroom – the chairs down in front of the stage make it look like a conference room, not a showroom.
Promenade deck – closed off. One of our favorite places to get some fresh air is the promenade deck. And being able to walk it is a great way to get some exercise, talk, and think. These are rare today so we study the deck plans carefully. So to have it blocked off was totally unacceptable.
The two small atriums – neither had an inviting vibe and the shops were tiny with very little merchandise.
Passengers – how you connect with other passengers can be hit/miss (we met some lovely people on our PV excursion, for example). We’ve even had a lot of fun with the drunks we’ve run into – lol! – but we didn’t seem to connect with as many as usual (could it be these Covid times?)
Disneyland and the cruise industry seem to have one thing in common (besides the fact that both are our favorite recreational choices): lots of talk about what they’re doing to restart but without any real dates. Both tried last summer and both were shot down.
It looks awesome to me, and Florida and Europe have actually pulled it off, proving that what they are doing works. But restarting cruising in North America and Disneyland out west is still just talk. I’m starting to think by the time cruising and Disneyland actually get back to business, this whole situation will be over. And maybe that’s what Governor Newsom and the CDC are hoping for.
Enough delays. Give us some real dates. Give us something to start feeling!
If you’re feeling it, check out these videos (music created/produced by me during 50/90):
With the release of French Martini on Kindle, I was inspired to create a video looking back at our life through cocktails – lol! This was so much fun to put together (PS – a link to a recipe for a French Martini is in the video description). Enjoy! Also, please subscribe, like, and/or comment on the video. Thank you!