Travel Blog | Mexican Riviera Cruise

Hi friends! Today on the blog I am sharing my thoughts, tips, and of course photos and videos from our vacation in California and cruise to the Mexican Riviera aboard the Carnival Splendor.

Whether you’ve visited the Mexican Riviera, or planning a future trip, this blog post will hopefully provide some helpful insight. There's quite a bit of info to share and for you to digest, especially during the cruise, so please refer to the Carnival Splendor’s daily Fun Times newsletters to use as a guide! These newsletters will be listed at the bottom of the post for each cruise day.

If you're an experienced cruiser, then the Mexican Riviera Cruise might not be impressive, but for first timers, this can be an amazing experience that will open you up to the world of cruises! My first cruise years ago was also the Mexican Riviera, but it was aboard another Carnival ship and with a slightly different itinerary. That first cruise hooked me and since then we’ve done several – all so fun and different experiences. My favorite to date has to be our cruise around the islands of Hawaii, which you can read more about by clicking here.

As you will see, our vacation is very food centric, and we definitely gained at least five pounds from it. However, I have no regrets and am happy to report that we’ve lost said weight gain! Vacations are not about diets, in my humble opinion - especially for foodies like us!

NOTE: Life got in the way and unfortunately it took me a bit longer to post this blog - we took the cruise in December 2018!!!. Enjoy the photos and videos, and please let me know if you have any questions!

THINGS WE DID BEFORE THE TRIP

·    Downloaded movies and shows from Amazon Prime and Netflix to our smart phones and tablet to watch while on the cruise

·    Downloaded our favorite podcasts to listen to while on the cruise

·    Updated Kindle with e-books

·    Completed online check-in process for Carnival Cruise (the sooner it’s done, the earlier your boarding time)

·    Printed Boarding Pass and Carnival luggage tags

·    Downloaded the Carnival Hub App from the Google Play or App stores

·    Made reservations for the Pinnacle Steakhouse on Christmas Day ($38 per person, plus 18% gratuity)

·    Attempted to book The Chef’s Table’ dining experience ($75 per person, plus 18% gratuity), but received an email advising us we’ll be added to waitlist (more on this later in the blog)

CHEERS! PROGRAM

We didn’t purchase the CHEERS! beverage program this time because we learned from a prior cruise that we don’t drink enough to warrant the $51.95 + 18% gratuity per person, per day fee (approximately $370 per person for the cruise). Each adult assigned to the same stateroom must purchase the program. Each adult under the CHEERS! program can have up to 14 alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks per day. They do track the number of drinks since you have to present your stateroom card each time, and you can order two at a time. Kevin and I ended up ordering cocktails and giving them away to friends we made during our Caribbean cruise a few years ago because we didn’t want to waste what we paid for.

For soda drinkers, the Bottomless Bubbles package is a good option: $5.95/day for minors and $8.50/day for adults, plus the 18% gratuity.

CLICK HERE to get more info about the CHEERS! and Bottomless Bubbles packages.

WI-FI PLANS

I purchased Carnival’s Premium Wi-Fi plan because I had to stay in touch with my elderly mom in case something happened to her while we were on the cruise. Plus, I had to stay up to date on Social Media for photography-related work, as well as stay on top of emails. The Premium plan is $14.45 per day, and Carnival promises ‘the fastest possible connection, at speeds up to 3 times faster than our Value Plan. Supports Skype video calling, where coverage allows.’ Note that only one device can be connected to the plan at one time. I honestly would not recommend purchasing the premium plan because the service was very spotty and SLOW. CLICK HERE to get more info about Carnival’s internet plans.

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FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21ST - PHOENIX TO LONG BEACH

We picked up the SUV rental from Enterprise the night before, left Phoenix around 6am MST on Friday morning, and arrived in Long Beach around 12pm local time (PST). It was an uneventful drive and the traffic was not as bad as I expected. I used to live in Los Angeles, and traffic in and around the metro area is horrible! Like, even the biggest saint will develop road rage!

To kill some time, we grabbed lunch at Panama Joe’s Grill & Cantina in the Belmont Shore area and paid for metered parking behind the restaurant ($1.50). We were seated quickly and had the sweetest waitress. I ordered the Maschio Brut Prosecco (SO light and refreshing!) and the Slow Cooked Tri Tip plate, cooked medium, with a side of cilantro rice. My steak came out smelling wonderful, but was raw on the inside! I rarely do it, but had to send the plate back to have the steak cooked to how I ordered it. Kevin ordered the Chicken Tacos Al Carbon plate, which had Achiote chicken breast with quesco blanco, pico de gallo, and spicy sweet chipotle/roasted tomatillo sauce in grilled flour tortillas. Below is a link to the restaurant’s website.

http://www.panamajoescantina.com/

If you love Prosecco, I highly recommend the Cantine Maschio Prosecco Brut Champagne from Prosecco, Italy. It is the best Prosecco I’ve had to date! Below is a link for purchase from wine.com.

https://www.wine.com/product/cantine-maschio-prosecco-brut/117200?state=CA&s=GoogleBase_CSE_&cid=GoogleBase_CSE_117200_728&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=&utm_campaign=Google_Shopping_CA_Beta&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI7YnulsXr3wIVxyCtBh202QAGEAYYASABEgIKevD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

The Belmont Shores area, mainly Second Street, has many shops, bars and restaurants, and is a good area to spend a few hours, especially for people watching! You can grab pre-dinner cocktails at one place, have dinner at a second place, get dessert at a third place, and finish off your evening hitting up one of the lively bars. Be sure to read the posted signs as parking is restrictive in this area.

We checked in to the ‘Hyatt Centric –The Pike Long Beach’ at 1:30pm. The check in process was fast and easy, and the porter (who also serves as the maintenance guy) helped us with our three huge suitcases and rolling carryon. I mean, is it over packing if we’re just being cautious and want to be prepared if something happens where we would need the extra clothing/shoes/undergarments/swimwear/toiletries? I think not! Haha!

We were assigned room 626 on the 11th floor. The room has a King size bed, mini living room, workspace, and bathroom with a spacious shower. One neat feature is that you can watch TV either in bed or in the living room because it’s situated in the wall and you can twist and turn it!


I can’t speak to the parking situation since Kevin went to drop off the rental at a local Enterprise office and took an Uber back to the hotel. I did notice two public parking structures, so there’s plenty.

Kevin relaxed in the room while I was away for a couple of hours with my friend Sina for her photo shoot. It’s not work, even while on vacation, when you love what you do!

The Runaway photo shoot with Sina Vuthy in Long Beach, California. Photos by Jade MIn Photography.

Sina dropped me off after the photo shoot so I can have a couple of hours to relax and get ready for dinner. Sina is a foodie like us, so I trust her judgement when she says she considers Ellie’s the best restaurant in Long Beach.

Kevin and I caught an Uber to Ellie’s, a restaurant located less than 2 miles from our hotel. I knew we were in for a treat when the Uber dropped us off at Ellie’s, which is situated right in the middle of a residential area, and just a few blocks from my friend Somala’s place. The restaurant is small and offers inside and outside seating, and although it looks unassuming, don’t let the façade fool you! This restaurant is truly a gem, and both the food and service were outstanding!

It was a chilly night, but we chose to sit outside (near the heaters) based on the hostess’ recommendation for our party of five. Sina was kind enough to gift Kevin and I a bottle of red wine, and since we already packed two bottles of champagne for the cruise (one bottle allowed for each adult cruiser), we opted to have the wine served to everyone with the dinner ($15 corkage fee). We ended up ordering another bottle of wine to share later on.

As you can see by the photos below, the food and presentation were top notch! Aside from the food, it was great to see our friends and catch up on life.

Gnocchi, Ribeye, Cavatelli, and Pappardelle from Ellie's in Long Beach, California. Photos taken by Jade Min Photography.

Top Left: Gnocchi with Pork Ragu, Bone Marrow Butter, Aged Sherry, and Marjoram ($25).

Top Right: Rib-Eye with Cauliflower Mash, Seasonal Mushrooms, and topped with Onion Rings ($36).

Bottom Left: Tagliatelle with Chicken, Serrano Chile, and Creme Fraiche ($18).

Bottom Right: Cavatelli with Chicken Confit, Mushrooms, Salsa Verde, Guanciale, and Preserved Lemon ($21).

Garnett Yam, Burrata, and Roasted Cauliffower  from Ellie's in Long Beach, California. Photos taken by Jade Min Photography.

Left: Burrata with Roasted Tomatoes, Black Garlic, Sourdough, and Fine Herb ($13).

Middle: Garnett Yam with Fried Egg Aioli, Pickled Red Onion, Sesame Seeds, and Soft Herbs ($12). This is SO delicious and was my favorite item off the menu!

Right: Roasted Cauliflower with Pistachio Dukkah and Smoked Eggplant Puree ($12).

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SATURDAY, DECEMBER 22ND – EMBARKATION DAY


Since our boarding time was scheduled for 1pm, we checked out of the hotel at noon and grabbed an Uber to Carnival’s cruise port ($6.08 fare), which is next to the Queen Mary. If you’re driving, enter the below listed address in your GPS. Parking is available at the structure for $22.00 per day.

Long Beach Cruise Terminal at the Queen Mary 

231 Windsor Way

Long Beach, California 90802

The Uber driver dropped us off as close as possible to the checked luggage line, and since we already had tags on our two suitcases, we were able to quickly drop them off with the porter (tipped $5). We kept with us the carryon containing our electronics and other valuables, as well as the 750ml bottles of champagne and sparkling Rose (each adult cruiser is allowed one bottle of wine or champagne).

There is a vendor booth right outside the terminal selling all sorts of knick-knacks, which is where I bought a floppy hat ($15) and maxi dress ($20). They offer clothing, fashion accessories, electronics accessories, and other goodies.

After that we were off to check in, which was inside the dome, which I’m sure will be a blessing during warmer weather. You’ll need to present the boarding pass and valid passport, as well as have your photo taken for the room cards (which also serves as charge cards for any and all purchases made on the ship). The room cards will also need to be shown each time you exit and re-board the ship. We were advised that our room cards will be delivered to our stateroom in a few hours.

After check in we hightailed it to board the ship and skipped the area where professional photos were being offered. Rest assured there are MANY opportunities to have professional photos taken during the cruise.

Boarding the Carnival Splendor in Long Beach, California. Photo taken by Jade Min Photography.

Embarkation at this cruise terminal is very easy, which is the not case for every cruise port, like the one in Galveston, Texas (slow and nightmarish). We arrived by 12:15pm and were on the ship by 1:30pm. Since our stateroom wasn’t ready, we went to Deck 9 to grab lunch at the Lido Buffet. We hung out on this deck until the announcement was made around 2:30pm that our stateroom was ready.

TOP LEFT: Me, with the Long Beach skyline in the background.  TOP RIGHT: The Queen Mary. She is open for tours, and you can even book rooms to stay there if you’re brave enough to encounter the spirits of the ship.  BOTTOM: View from the ship (Deck 10) of the Queen Mary and the Long Beach skyline.

TOP LEFT: Me, with the Long Beach skyline in the background.

TOP RIGHT: The Queen Mary. She is open for tours, and you can even book rooms to stay there if you’re brave enough to encounter the spirits of the ship.

BOTTOM: View from the ship (Deck 10) of the Queen Mary and the Long Beach skyline.

Carnival Splendor at Long Beach, CA port.

We booked our cruise less than three months before departure, so our choice of rooms was limited and we ended up on Deck 2 (#2429), which is an Ocean View (we’re used to a balcony room). The stateroom has a large window, two twin beds that we asked to be converted to a King upon booking, a sofa, and coffee table, as well as a desk and seat. There is a full bathroom with shower, as well as ample closet space. The Ocean View room is more than sufficient for two people – we didn’t feel cramped at all.

Our room steward, Belle from Singapore, came by to introduce herself and take requests for how often we wanted turn down service (we chose once a day in the evening) and whether we needed beach towels (we did). Since I’ve cruised multiple times with Carnival, I was upgraded to the Gold Level and received a free bottle of water, a coupon for an appreciation drink, and a pin. Additionally, since I specified that this cruise was to celebrate our anniversary, we also got a $50 Gift Card towards spa services, as well as a $100 Dreams Studio Gift Voucher.  

Carnival Gold Level Perks, Carnival Hubb App, Anniversary Gift.

TIP: Make sure to download the Carnival Hub App before the ship departs from Long Beach. Although the Carnival Fun Times newsletters are useful, I feel that their Hub App is much more beneficial, because you can do the following, among other things: schedule dining reservations; chat with members of your group via Instant Messenger ($5/pp charge for the cruise); view the ship maps; check times to plan out your day; and, manage your account balance. We paid the $5/pp fee for the chat service and it was well worth it! Since me and my husband do not always do everything together, I packed walkie-talkies so we could stay in touch during the cruise. However, we didn’t end up using them because Carnival’s chat service worked so well.

NOTE: The ship has its own time zone no matter where it sails, which in this case is Pacific Standard Time, the same as the port of embarkation (Long Beach). This is one of the reasons why it’s important to download the Carnival Hub App.

We only had time to relax for half an hour before we had to head to our assigned area for the mandatory safety briefing. Do not try to hide and skip the safety briefing – the crew will find you and it’ll only delay the inevitable. The safety briefing was supposed to start at 3:15pm, but was delayed until 3:45pm because of stragglers – luckily we were done and dismissed by 4:15pm.

Stateroom Pros:

Even though we were right by the stairs and elevators, we hardly encountered noise issues.

The El Morocco Aft Lounge, where the comedy shows are held, is located on Deck 5 and was an easy walk up the stairs (or a quick elevator ride up). We saw a few comedy shows during the cruise, so this was a definite advantage.

The Lido Restaurant is located above us on Deck 9 and was a quick elevator ride up. We went here several times for breakfast and lunch during the cruise – very convenient!

The Pinnacle Steakhouse is just a quick elevator ride up to Deck 11.

Stateroom Cons:

Pack a power strip because there is only one outlet in the room! With the power strip, I was able to use my flat iron and curling iron, as well as charge our iPhones at the same time!

Our assigned formal dining room, the Black Pearl Restaurant, as well as the Splendor Lobby & Atrium, are on the opposite end of the ship.

The Spectacular Main Show Lounge, where all the playlist productions, Lip Sync Battle, game shows, and other presentations are held, is located on the opposite end of the ship. What’s worse is that we have to walk past the smoke-filled casino on Deck 5 in order to get to the lounge.

The Serenity Adult Only Retreat is located on the opposite side of the ship, on Deck 12. I love this area and spent time there, but it’s such a hassle to get there. The Cloud 9 Spa is located next to the Serenity.

We relaxed in the room after the safety briefing and waited for our checked luggage to be delivered – they were dropped off outside our door around 5:30pm.

DINNER - CRUISE CASUAL

When we booked our trip, we were assigned the early dining at 6pm; however, when we got our stateroom cards, it was changed to ‘Your Time Dining’, which is open seating for dinner between 5:45pm and 9:30pm. There are two drawbacks to ‘Your Time Dining’: 1) we weren’t served by the same people each night, which meant that the dining room service is less personable; and, 2) we had to wait until seating was available, which resulted in a one hour wait on the three evenings we dined at the Black Pearl Restaurant. We killed time by hanging out at the Splendor Lobby & Atrium, which usually has live music and other events going on during the evenings.

TIP: Plan to spend at least 1.5-2 hours at dinner because the wait staff are serving tons of people, and your food can arrive at sporadic times.

The Black Pearl Restaurant is open for dinner only, and offers traditional American food such as seafood, steaks and salads. The same classic entrees are offered each night (Salmon Fillet, Flat Iron Steak, Chicken Breast, and Pork Chop), and you’ll get your choice of a salad, appetizer, main course and dessert. For an additional $20/pp fee, you’re able to order ether the Broiled Maine Lobster Tail, Surf & Turf, Broiled Filet Mignon, or New York Strip Loin Steak (highly worth it). Additionally, each night the menu will also have featured entrees based on the Port of Call.

Dinner Menu from Black Pearl Restaurant on the Carnival Splendor.

We checked in for dinner at 6:30pm and were given a pager. We ended up waiting about an hour for tonight’s dinner service, so hung out at the lobby bar, where I ordered a Cosmopolitan ($12.39, inclusive of 18% gratuity). We killed time people watching and listening to the live band.

Once we were seated, our head waiter (Anita) introduced herself and her assistant waiters, and brought over some iced water, bread, and butter. Kevin ordered a glass of Merlot ($9.75), while I still had the Cosmo from earlier).

TIP: You are able to order more than one of any item on the menu, so don’t be shy about asking for multiples of something you really enjoy.

Dinner in the Black Pearl Restaurant on the Carnival Splendor. Photo taken by Jade Min Photography.

WHAT WE ORDERED FOR DINNER (PICTURED ABOVE)

Top Left: Duck Potstickers topped with an orange duck glaze. Kevin and I shared the potstickers, and we agreed the filling is very flavorful.

Top Right: Pan Seared Fillet of Pacific Mahi Mahi, served on a Bed of charred Swiss chard and potatoes. Kevin ordered this as his entree and enjoyed it.

Bottom Left: Braised Beef Brisket with corn pudding and roasted root vegetables. I ordered this as the entree and was disappointed - the beef was dry and not very flavorful.

Bottom Right: Kevin and I ordered the tiramisu to share, and it was good. The portion is more than enough for two people.


AFTER DINNER ENTERTAINMENT

After dinner we walked up two flights of stairs to the Spectacular Main Show Lounge (Deck 5) for the ‘Welcome Aboard Show’, which starts at 8:45pm. The show is hosted by the cruise director, Lee, and is just a highlight of the activities, productions, and other stuff that will take place during the cruise. This is not a must-see, so skip it if you have to choose between this and another activity happening around the same time. The presentation lasted just under an hour.

Afterwards we made our way back down to the Splendor Lobby & Atrium (Deck 3) for the ‘Spirit of the Season: Tree Lighting’ ceremony at 9:30pm, also hosted by Lee. I am so glad we got married in December, because I love Christmas decorations and it was very festive on the ship (same with our Christmas cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line).

We love standup comedy, so after the tree lighting ceremony, we took the elevator to Deck 5 and rushed off to the other side of the ship to get to the El Morocco Aft Lounge because the first show starts at 10pm. Usually we arrive at least 30 minutes prior to show time to grab good seats.

The first show started at 10pm and featured Manny Oliveira; the second show started at 11pm and featured Bob Biggerstaff. Both shows lasted about 45 minutes each, and we stayed in the same seats. We were disappointed with both comedians. Between the two of them, there was maybe about 3 funny moments. Based on tonight’s performances, we opted out of seeing either of them at future shows while on the cruise. (Two different comedians will be onboard in a few days.)

We went back to the stateroom after the second show ended at midnight.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW TODAY’S FUN TIMES NEWSLETTER.

There were tons of scheduled activities, and we barely scratched the surface of all that was offered.

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SUNDAY, DECEMBER 23RD - FUN DAY AT SEA


MORNING & AFTERNOON

We awoke around 6am, and Kevin went to the Lido Restaurant (Deck 9) to grab us some hot coffee. Afterwards we spent about a couple of hours walking and jogging the track on the Sky Deck, by the Mini Golf area. The view can’t be beat! This area is on the opposite end of where our stateroom is at. I love this time of day on the ship - no crowds, very little noise.

After our exercise, we headed to the Lido Restaurant for the buffet breakfast. On non-port days, Sea Day Brunch is offered at the Gold Pearl Restaurant (Deck 3), on the same side as the Sky Deck. We chose the buffet breakfast option because it’s quick and easy.

Buffet Breakfast at Lido Restaurant on Carnival Splendor. Photos taken by Jade Min Photography.

After breakfast Kevin went to grab a cabana at the Serenity Adults Only area while I went to the room to change into bathing gear and grab stuff to hang out for the next couple of hours (e.g., Kindle, sunscreen, hat). We had our choice of cabanas because it was still early in the morning (before 9am) and it was pretty windy. I was only able to handle about two hours out there because it was just too cold. We had to use our beach towels to keep warm and it just wasn’t relaxing. Kevin stayed behind to get his tan on while I went back to the room to do some work.

TIP: Tomorrow’s water shuttle boarding passes for Cabo San Lucas are available for pickup at 12:30pm, so Kevin stood in line to get us a couple while I ordered a caramel macchiato from the Coffee Shop next door ($4.43). Although Kevin was in line before 12:30pm, we still ended up with Group 14. I highly recommend getting in line at 11:30am if you want to the first ones off of the ship in Cabo San Lucas. See the below water shuttle flyer for more information.

CARNIVAL SPLENDOR - CABO SAN LUCAS WATER SHUTTLE INFO

Afterwards, we went to the Lido Restaurant (Deck 9) to grab lunch before heading back to eat in our room. Kevin opted to change and head back out to explore and ship and spend some time at the casino, while I opted to relax in the room. Below are screenshots from the Carnival Hub App of today’s activities through 3pm, which neither Kevin nor I took advantage of.  

Carnival Hub App - Timeline of Events

DINNER - CRUISE ELEGANT

Tonight’s dinner dress code is Cruise Elegant, which means the following: Men should wear dress slacks/dress shirt/sport coat, a suit/tie, and/or or a tuxedo; and, women should wear a cocktail dress, pantsuit, elegant skirt/blouse, and/or evening gown. Although jeans, men’s sleeveless shirts, shorts, tee-shirts, sportswear, baseball hats, flip-flops and bathing suit attire were not permitted on Cruise Elegant nights, I still saw people in VERY casual attire. We love to dress up when dining out in general, so we appreciated the Cruise Elegant evenings.

Cruise Elegant night on the Carnival Splendor.

If it wasn’t for my husband, we wouldn’t have any photos of us together. I don’t like asking people to take photos because, well…guess it has something to do with me being a photographer? I much prefer being behind the camera instead of in front of it.

Left Photo: This was taken with the selfie stick in our Ocean View stateroom. I definitely have the selfie face!

Right Photo: This was also taken with the selfie stick at the Splendor Lobby & Atrium as we waited to be seated for dinner.

We checked in for dinner at 5:30pm, were given a pager, and again killed time at the lobby bar listening to the live band. I loved seeing others dressed up for the evening, and there are plenty of places to have formal photos taken by professionals. We skipped this part of the evening because I do not like how Carnival photographers edit the images.

We were seated at a different area tonight and were served by another head waiter and his team. We decided to use our bottle of sparkling Rose with dinner this evening, so we each had about a couple of glasses. (There is a $15 corkage fee.)

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Another benefit to Cruise Elegant evenings is the FOOD! To start off, I ordered the ‘Tart with Braised Kale, Blackened Pork Tenderloin’, while Kevin ordered the ‘Fried Oysters’ (not pictured). I highly recommend the tarts – SO GOOD!

Cruise Elegant Dinner in the Black Pearl Restaurant on the Carnival Splendor. Photo taken by Jade Min Photography.

Kevin and I both ordered the ‘Broiled Maine Lobster Tail’ with ‘Wild Mushroom Risotto’, which we were pleasantly surprised to find was topped with grilled jumbo shrimps. We were prepared to request another entrée, but what we had was pretty filling. The lobster and shrimps were cooked to perfection…mmm.

TIP: You are able to order more than one of any item on the menu, so don’t be shy about asking for multiples of something you really enjoy.

Cruise Elegant Dinner in the Black Pearl Restaurant on the Carnival Splendor. Photo taken by Jade Min Photography.

For dessert Kevin ordered the ‘Malted Chocolate Hazelnut Cake’ while I ordered the ‘Vanilla Crème Brulee’. Both were delicious and completed our meal perfectly.

Cruise Elegant Dinner in the Black Pearl Restaurant on the Carnival Splendor. Photo taken by Jade Min Photography.

Stick around towards the end of dinner service and you will see the waitstaff dancing to hit songs! I enjoy the dancing, but sometimes it goes on for multiple songs, which can become repetitive. Some of the poor staff looked exhausted.

AFTER DINNER ENTERTAINMENT

After dinner we hung out at the Splendor lobby for several minutes before we walked up two flights of stairs to the Spectacular Main Show Lounge (Deck 5) for the ‘’80s Pop to the Max’show, which starts at 8:15pm. The show lasted about an hour and was a good way to kill time and let the food from dinner digest. To be honest, I wasn’t impressed with the Playlist Productions cast for this performance because they aren’t as talented as performers from prior cruises. However, I love ‘80s music, so overall enjoyed the hour.

We skipped the Punchliner Comedy Club tonight because the same comedians (Bob Biggerstaff and Manny Oliveira) were scheduled to perform.

Stingray Animal Towel by Belle, our stateroom steward of Carnival Splendor.

We went back to the stateroom to turn in early because tomorrow is Cabo, and we wanted to be ready when our boarding pass was called to get on the tender. Belle tidied up our room and left the above pictured stingray towel animal - so cute!

CLICK HERE TO VIEW TODAY’S FUN TIMES NEWSLETTER.

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MONDAY, DECEMBER 24TH - CABO SAN LUCAS


MORNING & AFTERNOON

We awoke around 6am ship time, left our room around 7:30am, and went to grab breakfast from the Lido Restaurant (Deck 9).

 TIP: Please note that for today only, ship time is an hour behind Cabo San Lucas time. The ship arrived in Cabo around 9am ship time (10am local time), and since there is no cruise pier, the Carnival Splendor had to anchor away from the port.

We awoke around 6am ship time, left our room around 7:30am, and went to grab breakfast from the Lido Restaurant (Deck 9).

 After breakfast we went down to Deck 5 to wait for our group number to be called to board the water shuttles. Groups 1 and 2 were called to bard the first tender at 9:30am ship time (10:30am Cabo time). There are two water shuttles, one on the Aft side and one on the Forward side, both with room to fit about 30-40 people. It was a slow process, with groups 8 & 9 called around 10:21am ship time (11:21am Cabo time). Groups 12, 13 & 14 were called around 10:25am ship time (we were with group 14), at which point we headed down to Deck 0 (Forward).  

Carnival Splendor - tender to Cabo San Lucas pier. Photos taken by Jade Min Photography.

Remember that your stateroom card is needed to leave the ship and to return. It was a quick enough process to board the water shuttle. We were on it by 10:45am ship time (11:45am Cabo time), and arrived at the port a couple of minutes before 12pm Cabo time.

Carnival Splendor - tender to Cabo San Lucas pier. Photos taken by Jade Min Photography.

So today was supposed to be our whale watching tour with Whale Watch Cabo, which was to start at 12pm local time and end at 2:30pm, giving us enough time to take a water shuttle back to the Carnival Splendor (the last tender leaves the pier at 5:15pm ship time).

When we initially booked with Whale Watch Cabo a couple of months before our cruise, their office was located at Local E-16 Tesoro Los Cabos Resort, Plaza de la Danza, a short walk from the pier (about a 10min walk). However, we received an email about two weeks prior to our cruise, informing us that they moved to an office at Plaza Bonita, near the Puerto Paraiso Shopping Mall. Given that we weren’t able to find info on when the first tenders were leaving the Carnival Splendor this morning, we didn’t want to chance missing the tour and rescheduled for the the 12pm tour the next day (December 25th). They offered us the 2pm-4:30pm tour on their fast (and small) Zodiac boat, but since I suffer from motion sickness, we declined

We timed ourselves walking from the pier to their new office location and it took us about 25 minutes (we speed walked). While this was fine, the tour was supposed to wrap up at 2:30pm tomorrow, and since the last tender was scheduled to leave for the Carnival Splendor at 3:15pm, we ultimately decided to cancel. The young lady at the front desk was very understanding and did not charge us, so that was nice.

While Carnival Splendor offers their own whale watching tour, we chose Whale Watch Cabo because of its high rating on Trip Advisor, their staff are marine biologists, and they place a high value on environmental protection. We were bummed we had to miss this tour, but it was too risky to chance not getting back on the ship. Carnival will only guarantee that the ship will not depart without you if tours are booked directly through them. We definitely would not have made the 12pm meetup time because we arrived at the Cabo pier at 11:58 Cabo time.

TIP: We later learned that water taxis from the pier to the other side of the marina are plentiful, which ranged between $5-$10 USD.

Cabo San Lucas

To soothe our disappointment, we decided to head to the Puerto Paraiso mall to catch a movie – specifically, Aquaman! However, yet again we were disappointed because the movie was dubbed in Spanish, with no subtitles! (There were a couple of movies that were subtitled, but we didn’t want to watch them.)

Delicious lunch at La Central in Cabo San Lucas - port of call for the Carnival Splendor. Photos by Jade Min.

After the double disappointment, we decided to just find a place to eat and chill for a couple of hours. There are many options along the marina, but we ended up at La Central, which just opened in November 2018. There is outdoor seating at the bar with nice view of the marina; however, Kevin and I ended up on the second floor’s outdoor seating area for full waiter service.

Our waiter was very attentive and suggested the Prime Tacos, which Kevin ordered, while I ordered the Baja Fish Tacos. It was 2 for 1 margaritas, so Kevin ordered the regular one and of course I had to have the mango. The drinks were so refreshing and the food so delicious!

Exploring Cabo San Lucas, one of the ports offered by the Carnival Splendor. Photo taken by Jade Min.

After lunch we could have caught a water taxi back to the pier, but decided to walk off our food and drinks. This gave us an opportunity to take in the scenery and people watch (this was Kevin’s first time in Cabo). We had no interest in shopping or doing any of the tours, so decided to head back to the ship. I debated for a hot second about the fish pedicure, but knew I wouldn’t last long since I’m so ticklish.

We boarded the tender at the pier (no wait time) and were back on the Splendor by 3:30pm ship time (4:30pm Cabo time). Kevin decided to hit up the Sports Bar while I went to the stateroom to chillax. The ship is usually pretty empty during port days, so this is a good time to hang out by the pool, hit up the spa, and other ship areas without dealing with crowds. The casino and shops are closed while in port, but will reopen once everyone is back onboard by 5:45pm and after the ship pulls away to be back in international waters (~6pm ship time).

CHEF’S TABLE: We attempted to book the Chef’s Table experience prior to the cruise, but was notified that due to the overwhelming response for this cruise, they were only able to add us to the waitlist. Cut to today, when we got a call from the Pinnacle Steakhouse asking if we were still interested in the Chef’s Table experience, and of course we said yes. They offered us Wednesday (12/26) or Thursday (12/27), and we chose the latter because we had a tour scheduled in Puerto Vallarta on Wednesday. Once we were confirmed for Wednesday, the cost was billed to our stateroom, which came to $177 for two people.

DINNER - CRUISE CASUAL

Tonight’s dinner dress code is Cruise Casual, which means you can wear anything except cut-off Jeans, men’s sleeveless shirts, tee-shirts, gym/basketball shorts, baseball hats, flip-flops and bathing suit attire.

We checked in for dinner at 6:30pm and again killed time at the lobby bar listening to the live band. This time we asked to be seated with Emy and her wait staff from the first night, and gave an additional cash tip at the end of dinner service.

Cruise Casual Dinner in the Black Pearl Restaurant on the Carnival Splendor.

Tonight’s menu features items representative of Cabo San Lucas, which Kevin took advantage of. His drink of choice was the Margarita, and he ordered the Tosdado De Pollo for the appetizer (pull chicken with mayo, chipotle and other spices, served on a fried tortilla and refried beans), as well as the Tilapia Serrendeado for the entrée (seared tilapia fillet).

I ordered from the regular menu and got a glass of Prosecco, the Seared Tuna as the appetizer, and the Rosemary Lamb Shank for the entrée. We skipped dessert this evening.

Cruise Casual Dinner in the Black Pearl Restaurant on the Carnival Splendor. Photo taken by Jade Min Photography.

AFTER DINNER

We caught the ‘Playlist Productions: Studio VIP’ show at the Spectacular Main Show Lounge (Deck 5), which started at 10pm and lasted for about an hour. We called it a night after the show and skipped the Mega Deck Party (11pm), as well as Manny Oliviera’s comedy show (11pm).

Belle made us an elephant animal towel tonight – my favorite! Also, we were notified that the ship’s time will be changed at 2am (Tuesday), which means that tomorrow the ship will be synced with Cabo San Lucas time.

Elephant towel animal by Carnival Splendor stateroom steward.

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TUESDAY, DECEMBER 25TH - CABO SAN LUCAS


MORNING & AFTERNOON

TIP: For today, ship time is the same as Cabo San Lucas. The ship arrived in Cabo around 7am ship time, and passengers were allowed to board the tenders at 7:30am. Boarding passes are not necessary for today’s water shuttle service, and the last tender from the Cabo pier will depart at 3:15pm.

Since we had no plans to explore Cabo further, we slept in and awoke around 7:30am, fit in some exercise at the jogging track (Sky Deck), and grabbed breakfast from the Lido Restaurant (Deck 9).

View of Cabo San Lucas from Carnival Splendor. Photo by Jade Min Photography.

We spent the day lounging around the Serenity Adult Only Retreat (Deck 12) and exploring the ship. The majority of passengers were off exploring Cabo, so it was nice to feel that we had the ship almost to ourselves. I went back to the stateroom to escape the sun and get some work in while Kevin hung out at the Sports Bar.

 The ship pulled away from Cabo at 3:30pm, and we are off to Puerto Vallarta folks!

DINNER - CRUISE ELEGANT

Tonight’s dinner dress code is Cruise Elegant, plus it’s Christmas folks! Although Kevin and I didn’t pose for any professional photos, we managed to fit in some selfies. Kevin looked so good in his tux, like James Bond! Does anyone else think they have a horrible selfie face like I do? Like why can’t I have cute selfie face, ha!

Cruise Elegant night on the Carnival Splendor. Selfies of Jade and Kevin Urness.

We made a reservation with the Pinnacle Steakhouse prior to the cruise because we wanted to celebrate Christmas at a fancy restaurant. For $36 per person, this is a fantastic deal because the food and service are top notch! Our dinner was reserved for 7pm, but we checked in at 6:45pm with the hostess. Our table wasn’t ready until 7:10pm, but we killed time at the restaurant bar chatting with the wonderful bartender, Oksana. We brought our bottle of champagne for dinner, so Oksana asked to keep it chilled for us. She was so sweet and regaled us with tales about her home in the Ukraine. Apparently she is scheduled to work on the Carnival Splendor for six months, at which point she gets to go home and spend time with her family and fur baby before serving another 6month ‘tour’.

Several minutes after we were seated, the waiter brought out our chilled champagne in an ice bucket. (There is a $15 corkage fee that will be added to the bill.)

Dinner at the Pinnacle Steakhouse onboard the Carnival Splendor. Photos by Jade Min.

WHAT WE ORDERED FOR DINNER (PICTURED ABOVE)

Left: We each ordered the Ice & Smoked Fresh Oysters with Apple Mignonette, Butter & Mace as the appetizer. Wow, the presentation of this was just amazing! It was delivered to our table in a covered dome and when the lid was lifted, the “ice smoke” filled the air for a few seconds. We love fresh oysters and this appetizer did not disappoint!

Top Middle: We asked for another appetizer, the Bone Marrow & Hand-Cut Beef Tartare, served with a Parsley Shallot Salad, Parmesan Pillows, and Country Toast. Kevin loved the bone marrow, but wasn’t a fan of the beef tartare; I enjoyed it all!

Bottom Middle: This was freshly churned parsley butter, with two crisps. The waitress told us it was compliments of the chef – it was SO good with the soft bread rolls!

Top Right: Kevin ordered the Australian Wagyu, which is touted as the “highest quality Japanese beef, unparalleled in flavor and tenderness”. Kevin said he liked it, but didn’t think it was anything special…oh the horror!

Bottom Right: I ordered the Surf & Turf and LOVED my entrée. The Maine lobster tail and filet mignon were cooked perfectly…mmm. I shared the lobster tail with Kevin since he was unimpressed with the Wagyu beef.

Okay y’all, the highlight of the dinner for me was the dessert! We chose the ‘Art at Your Table’, which is described as ‘abstract in presentation, focused in flavor’. The fun part is that the sous-chef will come to your table to prepare it. It’s hard to put into words the amazing experience, so check out the video above to get a good sense of the wonder! (Oh, and excuse the weird noises I made.)

The only caveat to ‘Art at Your Table’ is that everyone in your party must order it. They bring out a pastry board and all, so the sous-chef will need the room for his masterpiece! So if Junior wants cheesecake, then ‘Art at Your Table’ is not an option.

Pictured below are the full display of the ‘Art at Your Table’ masterpiece (left) and the beautiful and oh-so-delicious white chocolate sphere (right)!

Dinner wrapped up around 9pm, and we gave an additional tip when the bill came because service all around was top notch!

The 'Art at Your Table' Dessert offered by the Pinnacle Steakhouse on Carnival Splendor. Photos by Jade Min.

AFTER DINNER

We stopped by the Spectacular Lounge after dinner and spent half an hour at the Showtime: 88 Keys production. We weren’t impressed with the piano sing-along songs and so made our way to the El Morocco Aft Lounge to watch the karaoke competition, which was very lively and entertaining.

We made it back to the room close to midnight and saw that Belle left us a bear towel animal.

Showtime: 88 Keys show and bear towel animal on the Carnival Splendor. Photos by Jade Min.

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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 26TH - PUERTO VALLARTA

We awoke around 7am ship time, left our room around 8:30am, and went to grab breakfast from the Lido Restaurant (Deck 9).

 TIP: Please note that for today, ship time is an hour behind Puerto Vallarta. The ship arrived in PV around 8am ship time (9am local time). Debarkation is a lot easier because the ship is docked at the port.

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Since we had the ‘Rhythms of the Night’ dinner and show to look forward to later today, we left the ship around 9:30am and explored the nearby areas by foot. We ended up at the Wal-Mart across from the pier. You can buy lots of cheap souvenirs at the Wal-Mart, among other things. We also spent a couple of hours hanging out at the upscale mall next to Wal-Mart.

View from the Carnival Splendor of Wal-Mart and Puerto Vallarta Mall. Photo by Jade Min Photography.

Based on our research, the Rhythms of the Night excursion comes highly recommended, so we booked our tickets through Carnival several weeks before the cruise. This was one of the highlights of our vacation, so I also highly recommend booking this excursion if you’re looking for something to do in Puerto Vallarta. This adventure will take up 3-5 hours, so it’s a good way to spend your day.

TIP: Carnival will only guarantee that the ship will not depart without you if tours are booked directly through them. This worked out for us because the catamaran didn’t get us back to the ship until after 9pm ship time (everyone was supposed to be back on board by 8:30pm).

We checked in for the excursion at the Spectacular Lounge at 3:15pm and were given a green wristband to wear. Once everyone was present, we were led to the Gangway (Deck 0, forward) and were onboard the catamaran by 3:45pm ship time for our trip to the private cove, Las Caletas, where ‘Rhythms of the Night’ takes place.

The captain and his crew entertained us the whole way there, and an open bar was available for the duration of the ride. The trip from the Carnival Splendor to Las Caletas took about 40 minutes. It was a scenic and fun ride, albeit a bit windy, so hold onto your hat and tie your hair back, ladies.

Rhythms of the Night dinner and show in Las Caletas. Photo taken by Jade Min Photography.

Rhythms of the Night’ description provided by Carnival:

“Your adventure begins with a scenic ocean cruise across Banderas Bay to the isolated cove of Las Caletas. Hidden deep in the heart of the tropical rain forest at Las Caletas lays a mystical amphitheater under a starlit sky. Tucked away, this timeworn pyramid stands overgrown by trees and brush from years gone by. A small village surrounds the structure full of people who have lived in harmony with nature for generations.

Each night, the spirit world of the ancients comes to life in a theatrical presentation. Legend has it that there were four civilizations of humanity prior to ours. Each period saw the evolution of the human race as well as its demise. These previous worlds were destroyed by tornadoes, fires, and floods, yet rituals and sacrifices have kept the human spirit alive. From the bones and ashes of the ancients comes the celebration of a new sun and the hope for a better world. Powerful images, original music, dance and acrobatic performances surround you in this magical environment. Nourish your imagination and stimulate your creativity with Savia: The Legend of the 5 Suns.”

Rhythms of the Night dinner and show in Las Caletas. Photo taken by Jade Min Photography.

From the greeting by the young lady blowing a conch shell, to encountering actors dressed as creatures of the jungle camouflaged along the trail, there was a magical feeling in the air.

We followed the paved trail to our assigned section and since we were the first catamaran to arrive, we lucked out and got a dining table by the water. We just loved the ambiance of the whole island! Our waiter greeted us, poured me a glass of white wine, and poured Kevin a glass of red. After basking in the views for a few minutes, we made our way to the buffet.

Gourmet buffet on Las Caletas as part of the Rhythm of the Night dinner and show. Photos by Jade Min Photography.
Gourmet buffet on Las Caletas as part of the Rhythm of the Night dinner and show. Photos by Jade Min Photography.

Description from the vendor: “Dine by candlelight with tropical palms swaying gently overhead. The dinner buffet is complimented by freshly prepared vegetables, salads and authentic handmade tortillas. Our dessert trays boast brownies, pies, traditional rice pudding, and plenty of local fresh cut tropical fruit. Delectable offerings and a complimentary welcome beverage awaits you.”

Gourmet buffet on Las Caletas as part of the Rhythm of the Night dinner and show. Photos by Jade Min Photography.

I tried the steak, fish, shrimps, potato salad, rice, some veggies- all delicious. Also tried the chips and HOT salsa, so my tongue was burning. I can handle a lot of spice, but even this salsa had me huffing and puffing for a bit - had to cool my mouth down with the sweet papaya.

Dinner with a view on Las Caletas Island. Photos by Jade Min Photography.

Dinner was served from 6pm-7:30pm local time (5pm-6:30pm ship time), and afterwards we were led via beautiful walkways to the outdoor theater seating area. Everyone had to stop and take the obligatory souvenir photo with two cast members in costume – really, you’re not allowed to pass and be seated until they’ve taken a photo (which needs to be purchased of course). Seating is bench style, and although I’m 5’4”, my feet didn’t touch the ground, so that made for some uncomfortable shifting around during the show. Speaking of which, the show lasted about an hour and is a Cirque du Soleil type production featuring acts depicting Mexico’s history. We really enjoyed it as we are fans of Cirque du Soleil and have seen most of their shows – mainly in Las Vegas.

Below is a video of one of the acts, one of my favorites. The live music, dancing, and acts make for a very enjoyable experience!

The show ran from approximately 8pm-8:55pm local time (7pm-7:55pm ship time). After the show, everyone was dismissed by your assigned catamaran (based on your wristband). We were aboard our catamaran by 9:10pm local time (8:10pm ship time). I was dreading the long ride back to our cruise ship, but was pleasantly surprised by the Queen show that the captain and his crew put on for us! They dressed up and sang Queen songs, there was even a fire show, and a grand finale – so awesome! For those wondering, free drinks were still offered during the ride back.

We were back on the Carnival Splendor at 10:15pm local time (9:15pm ship time), and it pulled away from the port at 10:45pm local time (9:45pm ship time). This was an instance where booking an excursion with Carnival is best – the ship was supposed to pull away from port at 8:30pm, but it had to wait until we were back onboard. Had you booked your excursion via a third-party vendor and not onboard by 8:30pm, the ship would not have waited for you.

We skipped the rest of the night’s festivities (comedy shows & Lido Deck party) and opted for sleep instead.

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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 27TH - FUN DAY AT SEA

We slept in this morning because it’s a day out at sea and we had no morning commitments. However, this evening we have the Chef’s Table experience to look forward to.

Carnival usually has a lot of activities planned for guests during sea days, but we mainly hung out at the Serenity Adults Only area, and grabbed food here and there from the Lido Deck. Later in the day I lounged in our stateroom while Kevin visited the sports bar and casino.

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As previously mentioned, we attempted to book the Chef’s Table experience prior to the cruise, but was notified that due to the overwhelming interest, we were added to the waitlist. Either a few spots opened or Carnival added another night because three days into our cruise we were given a call and asked to choose between the Chef’s Table experience on either Wednesday (12/26) or Thursday (12/27).

Bear in mind that the cost of the dinner experience will be billed to your stateroom upon confirmation, which came to $177.00 (inclusive of the 18% automatic gratuity). With this price you’ll get a tour of the kitchen area by a Sous Chef, a multi-course meal including dessert, wine, and a group photo.

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We left our stateroom at 5:15pm and made our way to the Lobby Bar area on Deck 3 to wait with the other Chef’s Table guests for the Sous Chef and one of the waitstaff to arrive at 6pm to greet us. The experience started off with a champagne toast as the Sous Chef explained how our evening will unfold. Afterwards we were led by the Chef to the galley for a behind-the-scenes tour. I recommend wearing comfortable shoes because it can be slippery walking through this area. We gained a better appreciation for the employees working in the galley because the area is bustling and we can see how hard they worked to get food to the cruise ship passengers.

The Chef had us gather around a table, where he explained the process of feeding 2000+ passengers and crew. On hand was another Sous Chef to demonstrate how to make Carnival’s famous chocolate melting cake! (Video and photos were encouraged by the Chef!)

After the cake demonstration, we sampled four delicious amuse-bouches, and were given info about the process of making them. My favorite was the Salmon Tartar Cornet!

Top Left: Mango Sphere (replicating the look of a raw egg yolk) on a Rosemary Cracker Crust.

Top Right: Rosemary Biscuit (served at the dinner table)

Bottom Left:  Salmon Tartar Cornet

Bottom Middle:  Beef Carpaccio on an Air Pillow, Topped with Chocolate Bacon and an Apple Ribbon!

Bottom Right:  Double Cooked Lamb with Indian Spices in a Fried Tapioca Ball.                          

Chef's Table Experience aboard the Carnival Splendor. Photos taken by Jade Min Photography.

After we finished in the galley, the Chef led us to a private dining room located within the Black Pearl Restaurant. Aside from the Chef, two wait staff was there to serve us the multi-course dinner and to replenish our wine and water glasses. Unlimited house white and red wine are included with the price of the experience. Just be aware that this is not a course-by-course pairing experience, so you’ll have to get their attention if you want another pour. Below is a photo of one of our servers with plates of yumminess.     

Note: My last Chef’s Table dinner was in 2016 aboard the Carnival Sensation during our Caribbean cruise, and it was held in the ship’s library – very nice ambiance.

Aside from the Chef, two wait staff was there to serve us the multi-course dinner and to replenish our wine and water glasses. (Unlimited white and red wine are included with the price of the experience.) Below is a photo of one of our servers with plates of yumminess.     

Chef's Table experience aboard the Carnival Splendor.

Before we were seated, we had to gather for a group photo - women in front and men in the back. (This will be given to us at the end of the dinner - gratis).

Seating is assigned, and once we were seated, they came around to pour us some water and our preferred wine (you can ask for both red and white). At each place setting is a rolled up personalized menu topped with a star anise - so cute!

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Chef's Table experience aboard the Carnival Splendor. Photos taken by Jade Min Photography.

Left: Duck Textures (Creamy Quinoa, Parmesan Churros, Olive Snow, Port Wine Jus)

Middle: Beet Blanket, Spiced Grape Tea (Asparagus, Cauliflower, Honey Carrot Tian, Mache, Lemon Streusel)

Right: Crab Stack (Corn Custard, Polenta Cracker, Tangerine, Passion Caviar)

Keven wasn’t fond of the last two, especially the Crab Stack because he found the taste too strong. I enjoyed all three dishes, as each offers different flavors for my palette. The Crab Stack for me was light, tasted fresh, and the textures of the corn custard and polenta cracker, as well as the complimentary white wine rounded out the dish nicely.

At this point we were surprised with a show by their magician. It was an entertaining show, and he had some tricks up his sleeves – literally.

Chef's Table experience aboard the Carnival Splendor. Photos taken by Jade Min Photography.

Left: Wagyu (Bone Marrow Souffle, Scallion & Garlic Panisse, topped with a Gremolata Crisp

Top Right: Bisque Our Way (Two Tomatoes, Three Basil, Crisped Brioche, Garlic Chip

Bottom Right: Sea Bass (Chorizo Crust, Fried Pop Corn Pudding, Lemon Macaron, Lobster Foam)

I did not enjoy the Wagyu because the sauce was too strong. (I prefer my beef without sauce or with it on the side.)

The Bisque is the best dish of the whole dinner for me. The flavors of the two tomatoes are different, but yet meld together so well with the heavy cream…so divine! The sea bass as cooked perfectly and delicious.

Chef's Table experience aboard the Carnival Splendor. Photos taken by Jade Min Photography.

Menu Item:  Pastry Chef (Sea Salt Praline Chocolate, Raspberry Mojito, Key Lime Cake, Apricot Vanilla Gel, Citrus Cream)

As you can see, the dessert was beautifully plated. I took a small bite of each, but was too full at this point to do it justice.

After dessert, we were given our group photo and the recipe of the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake in a Pixels envelope.

Note: Allow at least three hours for this experience because our dinner ended around 8:30pm. Although I enjoyed everything about the Chef’s Table, Kevin thought it was too long and became tired towards the last hour.

This is my second Chef’s Table experience, and both are very similar. To find out more about the other experience, click here.

Chef's Table experience on the Carnival Splendor. Complimentary photo provided by Carnival Splendor.
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We headed over to the El Morocco Lounge for the Punchliner Comedy Club showing at 9:15pm. Lowell Sanders was the comedian for this show and he was hilarious! We were so happy to experience a good comedy show during this cruise! One of the highlights of cruising for us is the slate of comedy shows!

After the comedy show we hightailed it to the Spectacular Main Show Lounge (Deck 5) for the ‘Playlist Productions: Epic Rock’ show from 10pm-11pm. We loved this show, because who doesn’t love Rock music, am I right? The performers did an amazing job and got the audience dancing and singing along!

Animal Towel provided by Carnival Splendor room steward, Belle. Photo taken by Jade Min.

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FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28TH - FUN DAY AT SEA

We slept in again because today is another Fun Day at Sea and we had no morning commitments. Sleeping in for us is waking up no later than 8:00am, ha!

Since tomorrow is debarkation day and we have to check our luggage, Kevin stood in line to pick up some luggage tags on Deck 5, across from the Coffee Shop. Luggage tags are available for pickup between 9:00am-6:00pm today. Although Kevin was in line before 9:00am, we still got Zone 14, so plan to be in line early if you want off the ship sooner.

I spent a lazy day lounging in our stateroom, packing, watching movies, and ordered room service for lunch. Kevin visited the sports bar, casino, and hung out at the main pool.

Room Service Menu offered by Carnival Splendor.

I ventured out of the room to meet Kevin at the Lido Restaurant for the Chocolate Extravaganza offered between 12pm-2pm. If you’re a chocolate lover, which Kevin is, you will definitely want to check this out because the offerings looked amazing (see menu). I’m not a big fan of chocolate, so stuck to sampling a few slices of the coconut marshmallow, a small chocolate dipped donut, a chocolate dipped almond biscotti, and a chocolate dipped pineapple portion. Kevin sampled a slice of the Windmill Chocolate Cake and a slice of the Turtle Chocolate Layer Cake.

There are plenty of things to do on the ship during the day, such as the towel folding presentation and $5,000 Jackpot Bingo.

We lazed around in the stateroom the rest of the day and since we didn’t want to sit through a 4course meal, so we ended up at the Lido Restaurant for a quick buffet dinner at 6:30pm.

We headed over to the Spectacular Main Show Lounge afterwards to catch the Lip Sync Battle at 7:30pm. This show was so much fun, and the contestants did an amazing job!

We went back to our stateroom after the show to finish packing and left our tagged luggage outside our stateroom door around 11pm for overnight pickup by the crew. I kept one carryon suitcase containing my camera gear and the bare necessities.

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SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29TH - DEBARKATION DAY

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

We were up around 6:00am and saw that they left a final statement of onboard charges in the slot by our door – everything looked to be in order. We left a generous cash tip in an envelope for our steward, Belle, and exited our stateroom around 8:30am. We went to grab a quick breakfast from the Lido Restaurant and relaxed there until our group number was called to disembark.

The ship pulled into the Long Beach port around 6:15am, and the first set of guests (seniors, families with young children) were allowed to disembark via the gangway on Deck 3 at 8:30am. Passengers able to carry their own luggage off the ship are allowed to disembark next, with Decks 1, 8, 9, 10, and 11 called to the gangway at 9:00am – Deck 2 was called to the gangway at 9:40am.

Even though we had checked luggage, we didn’t have to wait long for our group number to be called, and were able to disembark by 10:30am. Once off the ship, we had to wait in line to grab our luggage before getting into another line to go through Customs. Overall, the disembarkation process at this port is relatively quick and pretty organized. We called for an Uber (which arrived fairly quickly at the designated pickup area) to take us to the nearest Enterprise car rental office. Once we picked up our SUV rental, we were off to San Diego, one of my favorite domestic vacation spots. The drive from Long Beach to downtown San Diego is about 115 miles (~two hours).

We arrived in downtown San Diego around 2:30pm and were lucky enough to stay with a friend during our time there. We love being in the downtown area – so much to see and do on foot!

We relaxed for a few hours and in the evening walked a couple of blocks to Craft & Commerce for dinner.

We loved the ambiance of this place! We didn’t have a reservation, but were seated fairly quickly at an outside table with a small fire pit in the middle. We ordered a few items to share: Braised Beef Cheeks & Potato Gnocchi; Brussels Sprouts in a kimchi vinaigrette topped with a poached egg; and Wood Fired Bone Marrow. All items were delicious and beautifully presented, and the service here was great!

Dinner at Craft & Commerce in downtown San Diego, California.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30TH (2018) - SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

We spent a chill morning hanging out at my friend’s apartment and just enjoying the lovely views of downtown San Diego. Kevin and I always make a point to eat at our favorite taco joint, Fat Fish Cantina Grill in the Pacific Beach area, so we drove out there for lunch. We discovered Fat Fish several years ago when we visited San Diego for the first time as a couple and stayed at the Ocean Park Inn, a couple of blocks from the restaurant. There is a small metered parking lot next to the restaurant, and they will validate for up to two hours. We ordered the Ceviche, lobster tacos, and scallop tacos. The food is always so fresh and tasty, and their blended mango margaritas are sooooooo refreshing and good!

Lunch at Fat Fish Taco in San Diego, California.

One of the great things about being in downtown San Diego is the walkability factor. Amazing restaurants and entertainment options are within walking distance from my friend’s downtown apartment. Plus, there’s also ‘The Free Ride’ app, which allows passengers to catch a – you guessed it, FREE- ride via their cute shuttles any day of the week between the hours of 12:00pm and 9:00pm. Just make sure to check the app for real-time availability, and please note that it’s limited to their downtown routes. Click here to visit their site for more info.

We wanted a chill night so went to see the ‘Aquaman’ movie at the Theatre Box, located a few blocks from my friend’s place, which also houses a Sugar Factory restaurant. We chose this theater because of the assigned recliner seats and dine-in option. We ordered a couple of food items to share since we weren’t really hungry. I didn’t order any cocktails because although there was plenty of offerings, they all looked too sweet. This was a good way to kill a few hours in comfort.

Watching a movie  at TCL in San Diego, California.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 31ST (new year’s eve)

We didn’t leave the apartment all day until we had to catch an Uber to the Hornblower Inspiration for the NYE Yacht Party. We purchased tickets a couple of months before the event for approximately $159 each (inclusive of the processing fee). The ticket price got us five hours aboard the 3-level yacht (8:00pm-1:00am), an Open Bar with 12 bars to choose from (unlimited beer, wine and premium/top shelf liquors), a selection of steward passed and displayed hors d’oeuvres, a glass of champagne upon boarding, beautiful 360° views of the San Diego Harbor from the top deck, free access to the photo booth, three levels of music, as well as party hats and noise makers to ring in the New Year.

We had an amazing time, and it was a great way to ring in the New Year safely. The yacht was full but did not feel overcrowded. Afterwards we caught an Uber back to my friend’s apartment (less than two miles away).

New Year's Eve Yacht Party on the Hornblower Inspiration in San Diego, California.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 1ST (2019)

We’re early risers no matter how late we stayed up, and decided to head home so that we can see my mom and our pups ASAP. We packed up the car, cooked a quick breakfast, and were out the door by 9:00am. Traveling is always fun, but there’s nothing like bring greeted by loving and enthusiastic pups upon arrival at home.

I hope you all enjoyed reading this blog and found the info useful. Pardon any grammatical errors and/or needless ramblings. As you can see from the blog, there are tons of stuff to absorb and filter through. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions and/or comments; I love getting feedback!

Until the next blog…CIAO!