A 3 day Carnival Inspiration Cruisin

I remember the first time I saw a cruise on TV.  I thought, “Wow!” with all the activities on the ship it must be a fun experience.

In 2014, I got married and found out going on a cruise was on my husband’s bucket list. March 2015, we both decided to go on a cruise.  We booked for tickets for our daughter and my mother-in-law.  It was not cheap.

https://youtu.be/_56gDUKNwGY

Time in L.A. And Check in

May 29,2015, we flew to L.A. and hung out there for a day or two.  We checked out the city and drove to Long Beach just before departure.  We arrived 4 hours early but there were already hundreds of people there in line for the cruise.  Carnival is so organized that they process people pretty fast.

I really thought we were not allowed to bring water but I seen an Indian couple bringing their own water and sodas.  When it was our turn, we filled out the health department paper with a few questions about Ebola.  My husband and I, submitted our IDs.  Although I am not a US Citizen, I was able to use my passport and I-512 EAD to go on the cruise.  We were given our card keys that also serves as our id while on the boat.  It also has a $100.00 credit per stateroom that we could spend while cruising.  When it was my mother-in-law’s turn, she was told that she needs a birth certificate since she did not have a passport.  She had only brought a State ID which we all thought was good enough because on our tickets that is what we thought it said.  It also says in a Customs and Border Protection website that a US citizen can present a government issued id.  She was not able to go with us on the boat and we were given a paper that state her denial of boarding.

On the Carnival Inspiration

After boarding, they had an orientation on Paris Lounge. There were hundreds of people sitting. There were older people but what stood out the most are the college students and 30 + adults who were acting like little kids. The crew told them to keep quiet and the college students would try to make a scene and keep talking.  It made the orientation even longer. After that, we went on to find our stateroom.  It was chaos. There are tons of people everywhere and many are already tipsy and drinking.  We finally found our room and rested for an hour.

We went to the “Mardi gras” restaurant. The food is included in what you pay for your cruise. They have two restaurant. One is an a la carte and one next to the pool area which is a buffet. The food was delicious. The buffet has so much variety. The food was what I enjoyed the most.  I was on vacation and did not have to cook 🙂

The second day, we landed in Mexico.  There were many tours offered each with their own fee, but you can get off the boat and walk around free if you want (just make sure you have your identification so you can get back on the ship).  For those who want it, you can take pictures as you disembark (which they sell back to you at a ridiculous price once you are done with the cruise).

We had chosen an express “Fun Bus” that took us on a tour around Ensenada, Mexico for an hour and dropped us off in a shopping/bar area.  Ensenada is rich with a proud Mexican heritage, a high level of academia and decades of foreigners from all over the world coming to visit and/ or live.  We notice that a lot of citizens of Ensenada had California accents since they had strong connections with the Westcoast of the United States.  On the way back, we saw Steve Job’s yacht parked at the docks.  It was really just a glimpse from the side of the highway because we did not stop.

We return to the boat in just 2 hours. Over all it was “okay” but not great.  The souvenir shops were overpriced.  It was more expensive than Hollywood Blvd souvenir prices!  We got some shot glasses and a dress for mom.  We got back to the ship to eat and rested.

Carnival Cruise put out an itinerary everyday that detailed all the events throughout the ship.  There were dance events, night clubs, kid’s clubs, auctions, pool parties and MANY other events.  One of the most popular events was Cruise Elegant nights were everybody dressed up formal for pictures.

The third day we were at sea there was a huge pool party.  There was a DJ, people dancing, a contest for the hottest guy and girl.  It was very entertaining.  The buffets were so packed that day.

On the 4th day, we arrived in L.A. We woke up at 6:30 am, had breakfast and disembarked at 9am.  Overall, it was a fun food adventure with a spring break party feel but I was wanting a more peaceful experience.

Prices summary:

Ticket for 4 people + vacation protection insurance   : $ 1745.32

Shore excursions tours 2 adults + 1 child                    : $      54.97

Souvenier shop glass                                                     : $     10.00

low quality house dress                                                  : $     25.00

3 pcs 4 R photos                                                              : $     48.00

housekeeping & restaurant service fees $ 36.00/day : $   108.00

 

Tips:

1. Check in early. Like 4 hours before departure. You would think you are early but theres already hundreds lining up for check in.

2. Bring valid passport or birth certificate. Always have a passport or birth certificate even on travelling a closed loop.

3. Review the coverage of your insurance. If you have to cancel your trip for emergency reasons, call immediately days before your trip. Vacation Travel Protection do not give a refund if you are denied boarding.

4. Expect a crowd. People are not as well mannered as you think.

5. Prepare to spend more money. Everything has a corresponding amount except for the buffet food.

Cruise identification

*k1 visa Closed Loop Cruise*

During our 3 day cruise from Long Beach, California to Mexico, I was worried that they would not let me on the ship since I am not a US Citizen.  I am a citizen of the Philippines and my status in the US was that of a “nonimmigrant” in the process of getting a permanent residency card.  At the time I had been issued an I512 parole card.

We called Carnival Cruise customer service and they said they did not have an answer on whether or not I could go.  The next day another Carnival cruise representative called me and asked about the cruise.  His name was Emmanuel.  I was so thankful that he called me back saying that I can go on the cruise.  Our cruise was only 3 days and was a “closed loop”.  A closed loop means it is going back on the same port where it started.  I also presented my passport and my I512 parole card and I was able to go.

When I returned, border patrol needed to see the same documents to determine my status in the US.

I had been researching the identification needed before we left for the trip. I have read in the cbp https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/1139/~/documents-needed-to-take-a-cruise of what kind of identification has to be taken.

We were surprised that my mother inlaw couldn’t go with us on the cruise. For us citizens, a government issued ID is good enough but in the carnival cruise case, they require a birth certificate as a form of travel document or a US passport. She was confident enough to bring only her State card. She did not bring her birth certificate and did not get a US passport. This is a huge lesson for us. To always be prepared especially if you are planning on travelling outside the US. Because even when it is just a neighboring country. Their rules can get pretty strict.

cruise travel tips: Intro

In about 2 months we are going on a cruise.  The first thing we did was to research what the best cruise would be for us.  Here are our first set of cruise travel tips.

How we searched for the best cruise?

We are a big fan of review sites.  If you want people’s real raw opinion beyond any flashy marketing jargon, then you have to listen to people who have been there.  For cruises, the best place to look at cruise reviews is http://www.cruisecritic.com/reviews/?src=nav

cruise-travel-tips

You can look up critiques on specific cruise lines and even ships in a cruiseline.  Most people have nothing to gain and nothing to lose by giving their honest, unfiltered opinion of their experience.  These are REAL TIME reviews.  Not review from a year ago, but from days or hours ago.  Read the bad and good reviews objectively.  Some of the reviewers are “cry babies” that complain about petty nonsense but some are legit complaints that happen to more than one passenger on the same line.  Things like food poisoning or super high prices should not be ignored when scores of passengers on the same line and same ship are complaining about consistently.

When should you get your tickets?

Choose early because the good deals go fast.  Also prices tend to go up as it get closer and closer to big vacation days.  For example, the closer you get to summer the faster the slots fill up.  The space on the ship is limited so don’t wait.

What are the Travel requirements?

We noticed that the requirement actually vary based on where the cruiseline goes and what your citizenship status is.  For example, a “closed loop” travel is when the ship will return to the same port it originally traveled from.  A closed loop can be traveled by a nonimmigrant of the United States who has proper documentation (a passport and applicable documents).  But if the cruise will end in another port, their maybe issues for nonimmigrants in the US.  The situation really depends on where the travel will end and the status of the citizen, immigrant or nonimmigrant.  The only way to be sure is to contact the cruiseline.

It seems like a good idea to have a passport just in case you miss the ship and get stuck in another country.

Travel Insurance

While booking tickets travel insurance is your best bet to be safe. Just in case emergencies happens where you have to cancel your trip or you change your mind and decided to travel somewhere else instead of a cruise, the only way for you to get your money back is to be insured.  In the cruise policies (Carnival cruise), I noticed that there is “No refund”.  Once you have book your trip you cannot get your money back if your trip is within 2 months.  You will have to pay a $200.00 cancellation fee.