This is another extremely extremely overdue post from the Ensenada cruise that we took for our joint birthdays in June. We had decided that instead of buying each other materialistic things, we would invest more in experiences instead. I vaguely remember all the things that we did, but when we did those things is a bit muddled in my mind, so I’ll try my best to put the events in order below.
A bunch of our friends had taken this particular booze cruise and recommended it as a good ‘starter cruise’. Incidentally, I had just quit my job for a new job in San Francisco, and my last day at Disney was to be the day before my birthday! After that, I had one week off before I was to start working in SF. Luckily, there just happened to be a cruise running from the Sunday after my birthday until Thursday morning, which was the day before the movers came to pack up my apartment. The timing was pretty tight – I’d have half a day, essentially, to go through my apartment and clear out the stuff I didn’t want the movers to pack… but I’ll talk more about this later.
Sunday, June 22
The cruise departed from Long Beach on Sunday afternoon, which was really convenient for us because we were able to drive down and park our cars at Brian’s mom’s house, and have her drop us off. I hadn’t been on a cruise for 12 years, and Brian had never been on one at all, so we were both SUPER excited to get going.
Boarding the ship after filling out all the paperwork and checking in! It was pretty empty by the time we checked in (around 4pm). I guess people tried to check in really early to take advantage of the lunch buffet. Pro tip for next time!
The first thing we did, of course, was to drop our luggage off in our room. We had an inner room, sadly, so there was no ocean view, but there was this adorable towel animal on our bed!
The rooms were a bit bigger than I remembered, which was surprising, since I was a lot smaller the last time I had been in one of these rooms. There was enough floor room to open our suitcase all the way and lay it flat, and still have room to walk around it!
As soon as we dropped our stuff off in the room, we beelined to the deck to check out the views, as well as to get our first drinks of the trip.
The DJ was playing music on the deck’s raised stage, and a few people (mostly children) were dancing. We people watched for a bit from the 2nd level of the deck, which overlooked the pool area as well as the stage (in particular, there was a group of white girls and one gay boy who was grinding on the railing of the 2nd level deck about as enthusiastically as someone can grind on anything ).
After an hour or so, the ship finally sounded its horn, indicating that we were about to depart! From the deck, we watched as the ship slowly sailed out of port, away from Long Beach and onto our first destination – Catalina!
After the coastline had disappeared into the distance, Brian and I wandered onto the lower decks of the ship to explore. We found a sports bar where a large group of people had gathered to watch the World Cup. Caught by the contagious enthusiasm, we lingered to watch the game for a while.
On the same floor as the bar, there was a casino (which we knew neither of us would use, since we aren’t particular to gambling at all) as well as a small bar that served afternoon snacks in the form of hors d’oeuvres.
Finally, after walking through most of the decks, we returned to our rooms to get ready for dinner. If we chose to ate in the main dining room, we would have to stick to the dress code. I’m sure they wouldn’t have enforced it that closely, but since Brian and I love dressing up, we enthusiastically donned our best, and followed the crowds to the dining room.
Dinner was prix fixe, with a rotating menu based on locally available foods, and one ‘exotic’ selection (like rabbit, etc) per course. By the time we joined, the other patrons at our assigned table had already ordered, so we hastily tacked on our own orders. The servers were extremely personable, and joked with us continuously as they brought us each course – appetizers, mains, and then dessert. The food was what I’d expect of a fancy-ish dinner on a cruise: surprisingly good for free food.
Per Carnival’s alcohol policy, we had brought one bottle of wine with us on board. This being a booze cruise, we immediately cracked the bottle on our first night. Unfortunately, I was feeling a bit sea sick (despite the anti-seasickness armbands that we had brought), so we had to turn in after only half a bottle of wine and a bit more wandering around the ship.
Monday, June 23
The first thing we did Monday morning was beeline to the bar on the ground deck of the ship and buy tickets for unlimited drinks. After debating throughout the course of the previous day (with Brian’s mom heavily leaning towards a ‘Yes, of course you should get the all-you-can-drink!!’) we figured we had nothing to lose, except a lot of progress that we had gained from being on Paleo. But hey, if we were gonna indulge in the all-you-can-eat, anyways, might as well do the whole thing right, right? So we plopped down our credit cards (or rather, we charged it to our room), grabbed our drinks, and went on our way in search of breakfast.
We had originally planned on getting up early to get off the boat, which had anchored off shore from Catalina early in the morning, but after seeing the discouragingly long line, which trailed all the way from the exit of ship – where people were boarding small shuttle boats that would take them to shore – all the way up 2 flights of stairs, through the door o the ground deck, and around the bar, we noped out of there real fast. The line would be much more manageable after the more enthusiastic tourists had braved the line, we knew, and we weren’t in any rush to see Catalina, since both of us had been before.
In the early afternoon, we finally made our way to the shuttle boats. True to our expectations, the line had dwindled, and we barely had to wait 10 minutes before boarding.
I had seen on a brochure that there was horseback riding on Catalina, which sounded really romantic (I mean, galloping along the shore, kicking up the foamy spray of waves while dramatic orchestral music swelled in the background? Come on, that’s pretty romantic). Unfortunately, a quick trip to the info booth revealed that all horseback riding had already taken place in the morning. I felt a pang of regret that we hadn’t braved the early-morning crowds.
Luckily, that regret was quickly forgotten as we meandered along the shore, taking pictures and wandering into the little souvenir shops that lined the main boulevard.
Our original plan had been to bring our snorkeling gear to Catalina, as we heard that there were a few great snorkeling locations. However, since we hadn’t anticipated the long wait to get off the boat, we decided to forgo that idea in favor of just looking at the beaches through the surprisingly clear waters.
We went into a few gift shops to see if we could find any souvenirs for our family, but didn’t see too much beyond typical beach-like souvenirs (little turtles made out of shells, postcards of the water, etc). At some point, we got ice cream. Then, we spied a strange-looking building in the distance.
This turned out to be a movie theater for the residents of Catalina (what – people live there?? ).
We got bored of walking around after a few hours, and returned to the ship in the early afternoon. Unfortunately, though we were starving, none of the main dining halls were serving proper meals. The one place that was open was the poolside grill, which served a mixture of typical grill fare (hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken strips), as well as Mongolian BBQ (what?).
Truthfully, it wasn’t authentic at all. But who cares, we were hungry, and we had to wolf down our food quickly to maximize our pool time!
We spent the next 2-3 hours (pretty much until it started getting cold on the deck) lounging on the pool chairs, reading and slurping down a variety of slushy cocktails. As the wind started whipping up and the shade creeped steadily towards our seats, we regretfully packed up and headed down to change for dinner.
The couple who sat next to us for dinner that night was ridiculously drunk and hilarious. They kept telling Brian and me that we were an adorable couple, and then the woman would complain loudly and obviously about how she and her boyfriend had dated for forever and he had yet to pop the question. Brian and I kept exchanging knowing glances and giggling to ourselves at how awkward they were.
One of the many stages on the ship was having a Rock Musical that night, so we hurriedly excused ourselves after we finished eating and rushed across the ship to catch the second half of the show. I was pretty impressed with the quality of the production – the singing was great, the costumes and set were surprisingly well done, and they sang a bunch of classic crowd-pleasers like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and Journey.
Eager to make our unlimited drink passes worth their cost, we headed over to a ‘nightclub’ that we had passed while wandering the decks the night before. I really wanted the nightclub to be even faintly interesting, but the lack of people coupled with the unbearable awkwardness of the people who were there made even staying there for 15 minutes a difficult matter.
Luckily, we discovered a mini-golf course on the topmost deck of the ship, and happily whiled away an hour or so sharing the green with a handful of teenagers and playing tipsy mini-golf.
Tuesday, June 24
Seeing as how we had just gone to Cabo, we were in even less of a rush to get off the ship than we were for Catalina. We didn’t even get up in the morning – if I remember correctly, we spent a good while just lying in bed playing Scribblenauts on my DS. However, since the whole point of the cruise was to go to Ensenada, we felt obligated to be tourists, if just for a bit.
The ship had docked quite a distance from Ensenada’s downtown area, so we had to take a shuttle bus, which dropped us off next to Ensenada’s biggest tourist traps. We avoided these like shitty tequila, and instead chose to wander the city aimlessly.
We weren’t quite sure what to make of the innumerable signs advertising Viagra – did the businessmen of Ensenada think all tourists had erectile disfunction, or was there really such a great demand for Viagra?
Like Cabo, Ensenada showed the same deceptive prosperity near the hubs of tourism; as we wandered farther into the back alleys and the sounds of raucous drunken laughter faded behind us, the facade disintegrated. So many of the stores were or seemed abandoned, with their peeling signs and empty aisles. It felt uncomfortable being there, as it reminded me of how fortuitous I was to be able to escape from the obvious poverty and retreat to the shelter of my cushy first-world life, and how I, as a tourist, was contributing to the cycle of hardship that the residents were subjected to.
So quickly, we decided that we had seen enough. We eschewed the bus ride in favor of walking all the way back to the ship, as this was our favorite way to sightsee! Surprisingly, the farther we got from the tourist area and the closer we got to the ship, the nicer the area looked. In fact, if someone had told me I was walking around San Diego, I wouldn’t have been all that surprised.
There were a bunch of memorials and commemorative statues along the main boulevard, so determined to get at least a few touristy pictures, Brian took a bunch of pictures of me making silly poses next to each of a row of giant golden heads.
We got back to the ship a little past 1:00pm, and spent the rest of daylight lying by the pool (par for the course, at this point), reading and drinking pina coladas.
At some point, we found a Harry Potter trivia hour, and found out that, despite our proclamations that we were huge Harry Potter fans, we actually did not know that much about Harry Potter. Or rather, we were defeated by our goldfish memories and their lack of ability to remember minute details 😦
The strange drunken couple from the night before did not show up for dinner.
There was a dance party on the pool deck that night, but it didn’t start until 9pm. To kill time, we snagged 2 seats at the bar just below the stairs to the pool, and watched people embarass themselves at the open-mic karaoke stage conveniently located right across the walkway. The bartender was a small Asian woman who made killer Scoobysnacks, so we ordered quite a few rounds. I learned that night that Scoobysnacks are delicious!
We spent the rest of the night being goofy and dancing on the stage of the pool deck. Brian guzzled Long Islands like there was no tomorrow, and we grooved until… well, I don’t remember, but it was a really long time.
Then, we headed to the comedy club, which supposedly starred a selection of stand-up comedians personally picked by George Lopez (which meant nothing to me, since I had never seen George Lopez’s standup). The comedian that night was absolutely fantastic though – definitely blew all of my expectations out of the water (heh, its a cruise pun!).
Wednesday, June 25
Wednesday was scheduled to be a day at sea, which meant that we could spend our whole day discovering the various activities they had planned around the ship.
I’d wanted to go to High Tea for ages, so imagine my excitement when I saw that on the schedule! It was located at a piano bar, although sadly, the pianist was not scheduled to play.
The setup was really quaint – waiters wheeled around dainty carts stacked to the brim with cakes, pastries, and cookies, while others proffered a selection of various tea bags and coffees. I had pretty much one of everything, even though we just came from brunch 😀
We did end up making our way back later that day to see the pianist, as Brian and I both love love love piano bars. As we walked in, the pianist yelled, “HEY, THERE THEY ARE!” and everyone burst into applause. Startled, we glanced around, unsure if he was addressing us; later, we would learn, he greeted every new guest this way (and we quickly joined in the cheering). Though he wasn’t as strong of a singer as the pianist at Lefty O’ Douls in SF, the few original songs he sang made up for that disparity and much much more. They were absolutely hilarious, and crude enough to make me blush (which is saying something – I don’t blush at crudeness often ), but I’ve decided that’s how rowdy piano bar originals should be.
The last dinner of the cruise was somewhat special: the waiters all donned flamenco outfits and put on a surprise dance performance halfway through dinner. Our waiter in particular was spectacular – he danced with a gusto and flamboyance that distinguished him from his fellow dancers, who were in general much less enthusiastic. Of course, my phone had perfect timing, and flipped out while I was trying to record the performance, and I ended up capturing none of it 😦
The other part that made dinner stand out was – they were serving lobster. Anyone that knows my relationship with lobster can guess how excited I was. Now, imagine my lack of composure when I discovered that I could keep asking for more. Brian pretty much had to roll me out of the dining room when I finally stopped eating.
Since we had so much fun at the comedy club the night before, we decided to try to catch both of the comedy shows happening on the final night of the cruise. Unfortunately, neither of the comedians were nearly as good as the first guy we saw – the one performance I distinctly remember was much more caustic and blatantly offensive than it needed to be.
Since we had a long day the next day (what with my impending move and Brian having to go straight to work from the port), we turned in early, hoping to catch some shut-eye before the next few stressful days. I’ll probably blog about that later, once I’ve caught up on the trips Brian and I’ve taken since this cruise. I want to remember the experience of moving out of the city I’ve called home for 17 years, in order to settle down in a city where I knew no-one (well… one person), and where I would be the farthest I had ever been from home.