Carnival Cruise Waitlist and Phone Reservation ExperienceWe were on a last minute plan to go on a cruise earlier this month. There were no rates available left for the 3 Day Carnival Cruise that leaves from Los Angeles (Long Beach, specifically), California within our vacation time frame so my husband decided to call Carnival to see if we could be put on a waitlist. After leaving his contact information, all that we could do was wish for the best and continuously search online every 30 minutes. There would be availability that would pop up for rooms that could fit 2 people, but not 4 people. Even the rooms that could only fit 2 got taken pretty quickly online so we were starting to give up hope. We needed a room that could fit 2 adults and 2 children so a total of 4 people.
I really thought that we were not going to be able to find a room for 4 that leaves on 7-7 as it's all so last minute and it's Fourth of July week. But then, on 7-3, Carnival called my husband and said there was a suite stateroom that just became available and that if we wanted, we could get it. The room was meant to fit only 3 people and it's a suite that costs more, but they said they'd bring in a trundle bed if we want it. My husband did not hesitate because this was the only week that he had vacation off. So, we took that suite and have no regrets!
Since we live on the Central Coast of California, driving south to Long Beach only takes us a few hours. We decided to hang out in Southern California for a few days before our cruise so that we would be already closer by. When the day finally came, we actually got lost because we googled "Long Beach Port" instead of looking for "Long Beach Carnival Port Address". Here's the correct address of the Carnival Cruise Long Beach Port: 231 Windsor Way, Long Beach, CA 90802. We lost about 10 minutes because we were on the wrong side of the bridge. However, when we've finally found our way, we parked in the terminal parking structure right next to the Carnival Cruise Terminal for $23 a day (this may increase over time). We walked to the dome called Long Beach Cruise Terminal to wait until it was our reservation time for check-in (which you book ahead of time online). The dome reminded me a little bit of a gigantic igloo.
When we walked through the dome, there were personnel who immediately directed us to where we needed to go. Boarding passes and passports in hand, the line went really quick. We had reserved the earliest check-in time so that we could enjoy as much time on the cruise as possible. Since we booked a suite (as that was the only availability as we were waitlisted), we were able to sit in a really nice waiting area with nice cushy chairs until it was time for us to embark. That was a nice surprise. I think it was a quarter til 11AM when we were called to line up on Zone 1 to walk on the ramp to get on our cruise ship from the terminal. We had missed the opportunity to check in our suitcases, so we had to roll three suitcases up the ramp.
It was not as bad as we thought it would be because the ramp was very smooth. It's the incline that may be tough if you have bad knees but we were in good health, so it was fine and in retrospect, we're glad we brought the suitcases on ourselves as they announced later that it could be as late as 6PM until those who checked in their bags could get their bags to their staterooms. Before we could proceed to explore the ship, we went to the mandatory safety briefing as a family and got the kids' their mandatory green wristbands that kids under a certain age had to wear. After that, we lugged our suitcases towards our stateroom floor. Even though it was a bit annoying and took a lot of room on the elevator, rolling our own big suitcases for that first half hour on the ship worked out better for us because we had everything we needed already with us once we got on the Carnival Radiance Cruise Ship. However, I did put our dinner clothes in my carry on bag already so even if we didn't get our bags before 6PM, I already had clothes for my kids to change into for dinner for their nice dining room because I had anticipated that we would check in our suitcases. We like to eat at their formal dining room for dinners as cruise ships' traditional service is typically wonderful.
Day 1 on Carnival Radiance Cruise
Day 1 on the Carnival Cruise was at sea. It sailed away at 5PM so we were able to enjoy the ocean view and skyscrapers of Long Beach on our cruise ship for a few hours before we started our sail. The day was so clear and the weather was perfect. We found out from another passenger that since we booked a suite, our stateroom gets priority and should be ready as soon as we got on the ship. We went to our floor from the elevator, found our stateroom and sure enough, our stateroom keys with our names, also known as Sail and Sign cards, were already right by our door so we were able to drop off our bags and check out our room very early on!
Our Suite Stateroom
I loved our suite. It was on the 7th floor, had a balcony, vanity and tub. Day 1 was my actual birthday so my husband surprised me with the room already decorated with their birthday package when we opened our stateroom door for the first time. It made the trip so much more festive. At this point, this was my 5th cruise and on the ones before that, I only had a shower in our stateroom and never a tub. So the fact that this suite had options to either take a shower or a bath in a tub made it even extra sweet. The bathroom was significantly bigger than the cabins that I've stayed in on other cruises that I've been on. However, this is also my very first Carnival Cruise and my first cruise in a suite. The other cruises were on Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line ships. The ocean views from our balcony were phenomenal while we were at the Long Beach Port (play the video below to see our Long Beach ocean view on Carnival Radiance).
Soon after dropping off our bags and checking out our stateroom, we made a beeline for lunch on the cruise ship on the 9th floor. There were so many different things to pick from! There were: a burgers section, tacos section, and a main buffet called Marketplace. Everything tasted great and fresh! After we enjoyed our lunch, we walked around the main floors and pool area to check out all of the activities. After that, we jumped into the pool, water slides and hot tubs on the cruise ship. We were already in our swim clothes when we came on the ship so that we didn't have to change too many times on our first day. There were 2 different water slides and they were not too scary so my 7 year old could enjoy it with us!
Kids' Clubs on Carnival Radiance Cruise
During Day 1, we took advantage of Camp Ocean (kids's club) Open House hours and went on a tour at the complimentary kids' clubs on our cruise ship. I imagine all of the kids clubs on Carnivals are very similar so even if you're not on the Carnival Radiance Ship, other Carnivals may have their kids' clubs look very familiar to this one. I highly suggest checking out the Open House on Day 1 if you have kids as it's the only time parents and other adults can come in and take a look. Otherwise, it's a closed facility for safety reasons and only kids and Carnival staff could go in and out of it. I was very impressed with the kids' clubs decor. My kids were both under 12 years old so they got to go to Camp Ocean and enjoy their activities every day. Kids between 12 - 14 years old have a separate area on the same floor called the Circle "C" room, which I think is fantastic that they have a designated area for that age group. See the pictures of Camp Ocean and Circle "C" rooms below.
Camp Ocean is blue from top to bottom and really sets a wonderful mood with their sea theme. Circle "C" is more sophisticated and has a lot of screens for video game play. Checking kids in at these clubs are free during designated hours. If kids' who are 11 years old and under would like to stay past 10PM, the parents just have to pay an extra fee by the hour; up to 1AM when they close. There is also a designated area for kids between 15 - 17 years old but I didn't check that area out. When my kids get that big in the future and we go on another Carnival Cruise, I'll definitely make sure to look for it. The kids' clubs have a daily itinerary with planned activities like crafts, dance parties and games. We only utilized Camp Ocean in the evenings after having our family dinner so that the kids can enjoy organized kids activities while the parents enjoy the 18+ activities on the ship that starts happening later in the night. The kids both enjoyed going to Camp Ocean every late evening and after a few days, they started to recognize other kids around the ship who attended around the same time. I really thought their Dr. Seuss focus for story times and activities was really neat as well! Press play in the video below to see a video of Camp Ocean that I took during Open House.
Birthday Dinner at Sunset Dining Room
Because we were a last minute booker, we had "Your Time" Dining in the Sunset Dining Room and not a designated time. The Sunset Dining Room is on a different floor and in a different area than the Marketplace buffet, which you also have the option to eat at every day for dinner. My husband really likes having formal dinners at night where we get full service because it really makes it feel really eventful every night. I also like it because it reminded me of the fancy dinners that I would watch on TV when I was a kid. I didn't grow up with nice dinners like this. Fortunately, my kids have come accustomed to this routine on a cruise ship since our last cruise on the Royal Caribbean (read my Royal Caribbean Review on our 4 Night Cruise to Catalina Island and Ensenada). So, we've dined at fancy dining rooms for dinners instead of the buffet on cruises before. What I find helpful for the kids is I'd have a pep talk with the kids before we go on our cruise that every night is a nice dinner night where we have manners and order from the menu. We get to even have dessert if we behave well throughout the dinner. At Royal Caribbean, there's a dress code for dining in the dining room. I feel that Carnival may be more casual in this aspect but we didn't know for sure so we still packed nice clothes every night for dining room service in the evenings. My husband and kids wore collar shirts and khakis with nice shoes while I typically wore a dress. On our first night, it was my birthday so my husband alerted the servers that it was my birthday at the beginning of our dinner service and when it was dessert time, they made me a birthday hat with a napkin and presented me a tiramisu dessert with a "Happy Birthday" message. My husband and kids sang with the team of servers and I felt that it was the most perfect first night on our cruise. Before dessert, I had their sirloin that's on the Sunset Dining Room menu and it was very delicious. I enjoyed it so much that I also ordered the same steak for Day 3, instead of trying their other specials.
Last year, my family and I also celebrated my birthday on a cruise but it was on the Royal Caribbean Cruise (read my Royal Caribbean Cruise Review that departed from Los Angeles). However, for the last 4 cruises, we always got the strict 5:30PM dining time for dinner. Now, I feel like we should just use the "Your Time" type dining service from now on. On this Carnival Cruise, their Carnival HUB app is the key to many activities and even reserving your table for "Your Time" Dining. When we were all dressed and ready, we would check in on the app when we're ready for Dining Room service at the Sunset Dining Room and wait for them to alert me via the app. Once I got the alert on my app, we just let them know on the app on my phone that we're on our way with a touch of a button and beeline there with our table number displayed on my phone. It was very efficient service and we could roam around the ship while we waited for the app to alert me in the meanwhile. "Your Time" open seating dining is very ideal, especially if you always have a family member who tends to be late. We're typically early diners so we were always ready by 6PM and the wait for a table had always been 10 minutes as suite passengers. I think that if you're aiming for dining closer to 6:30PM or 7PM, the waiting time may be longer as that could be prime time. I don't know for sure but that is my guess.
After a wonderful dinner service, we came back to our room and found a cute towel monkey art waiting for us, and that the attendant had pulled the trundle bed into our suite because we have 4 sleepers. He had checked with us a few hours before to make sure that we wanted that because the trundle bed crowds our stateroom and we were definitely fine with it.
Then, it was time for the kids' evening kids' club activities that started at 7PM that night, so we went to the 12th floor to find Camp Ocean and checked both of our kids in. It's a closed club so only the kids are allowed to enter and leave their door. No other adults besides for the youth staff, who work there, are allowed to walk through the door, which gave me peace of mind. After dropping them off, my husband and I went to the Trivia Night event for a bit and then, headed to the Piano Bar.
Alchemy Bar & Piano Bar
It was packed by the time we got inside the Piano Bar. Part of the reason why we didn't come right on the dot was because we wanted to get a drink. We didn't know that we could order a drink inside that Piano Bar room so we went to Alchemy Bar to get a drink first and that took awhile. It was so busy there because they were also having a mixer during that timeframe. It was pretty much busy every where during that hour on that floor. I didn't take a picture of the Piano Bar but I did take a picture of the drink that I ordered from Alchemy Bar (image below).
The Alchemy Bar's menu was so unique because it would light up when you open it. It was giving me Harry Potter vibes.
Day 2 at Sea on Carnival Radiance
On Day 2, we were at sea all day but the cruise had a full day packed with activities. Just like other cruises that I've been to, a paper itinerary is provided every day (you may need to check the front of your room where they had placed the Sail and Sign cards on the card holder by your room on Day 1 if it's not inside your stateroom). We could also see the same itinerary on their Carnival HUB app during the cruise. Just like Day 1, we hit the Marketplace during the day and ate at the Sunset Dining Room in the evening for dinner. What I did differently on Day 2 than Day 1 and Day 3 is I woke up very early around 5:30AM and got ready to go to their fitness center. I am usually the first one to wake up in my family so I took advantage of this time for some "me time". So, after getting ready, I walked from my floor to the 9th floor using the stairs. Then, I walked from that end to get on the other side so that I can get on Deck 11 AFT (opposite from FWD) by walking up more steps and passing through the water slide areas, which were on the way to the fitness center. I loved being able to explore the usually busy areas in peace with only the sounds of the ocean as my soundtrack. I went on a walk like this last year on my Royal Caribbean cruise as well. Here is the video clip that I recorded during my quiet morning walk on Carnival Radiance below. Just press the play button.
When I got to the fitness center on the 11th floor, it had just opened and I walked on the treadmill as my work out instead of my usual jog because I had lost my balance last year on the Royal Caribbean Cruise while jogging on the treadmill and almost fell on my face (you can read about this on my Royal Caribbean Cruise review blog entry). There were only a few other people working out around the time that I was there, but when it was my husband's turn later that morning, he said it was packed!
Mini Golf and Arcade on Carnival Radiance
After the rest of my family woke up, during the day, we played mini-golf first and then took our kids to the arcade to play some games. The mini-golf is tucked on the top floor of one side of the cruise so it took a bit of effort to find, but the search was worth it. It's complimentary to play mini-golf and the views from up top were very cool.
The arcade was on the 5th floor so we trekked our way down to find it next to all the shops. To play on any of the games in the area, we used our Sail and Sign Carnival card to pay for plays so no tokens or an additional play card were needed. When we played games that earned tickets, we just had to feed them into a machine where it would load the total to our Sail and Sign card. Then, we took that same card to another machine to redeem the tickets for prizes. My sons really enjoyed playing the virtual reality game that they had there.
It's so great that they had a lot of kid-friendly activities on the ship. The kids had a lot of fun playing mini-golf and games at the arcade on the cruise ship.
Cruise Elegant Night
The Cruise Elegant Night was also on the evening of Day 2 on our cruise. We found out by looking at the top of our itinerary for the day. This night is usually really special, in which passengers dressed their best in their nice attire. It's also when they have a mega party and many cruise photographers would scatter around the ship with nice backdrops for you and your group to take a lot of pictures. Taking pictures on the cruise by professional photographers is always free on the ship. It's purchasing them that costs money. You'd always find photographers around the ship and at the Sunset Dining Room every day of this Carnival cruise. However, on elegant nights, you can take really nice family portraits. If you love getting a picture taken, you will love the many portrait opportunities on the cruise. On elegant nights, there is also usually a late night party on the main floor. We didn't stay up for the late night party on our cruise for Day 2, but did take many pictures while we were waiting for our table for dinner at Sunset Dining Room. At the end of our cruise, we bought a total of 7 prints of professional pictures taken by the cruise photographers.
Day 3 Ensenada, Mexico Port Stop on Our Carnival Radiance Cruise
Our cruise ship arrived in Ensenada in the early morning of Day 3. When I woke up, I opened my balcony door and looked outside to check out the view. I was so excited! Press play in the video clip below to see my view from my stateroom when we arrived in Ensenada.
For this particular cruise, Carnival Radiance only stopped at one port and that's Ensenada, Mexico. We've been to the Ensenada stop before through another cruise that we went on during our Royal Caribbean Cruise the previous year and did a 4 hour excursion (read about this). This time, we decided to skip an excursion and just got off of the ship and walked to the nearby tent area with a playground. Before we hopped off the ship, I decided to get breakfast from the Marketplace and brought it back to our stateroom balcony to enjoy the views of Ensenada. I was the first one awake again in my family and used this time to have another little "me time". On the way there, I saw a display of beautiful towel art scattered all over the pool area. It made me so happy! I loved that they did this.
Then, I went to the buffet line and got everything I wanted so that I could take it all back to my stateroom and enjoy my serendipitous balcony suite view. See my balcony view below with breakfast.
After we got ready and my whole family had breakfast, we went to Deck 0 from our elevator with our passports (for ID purposes since we were in a different country now) and Sail and Sign cards (Carnival key cards) to step off the ship and start our adventure. Immediately, I spotted the large Mexico flag.
At the Ensenada port, there was a nice bridge that we saw on the left side as we walked away from the ship that allowed us to cross over to an area that had tents with food and souvenirs for sale. They also had a clean playground with slides, which my kids were really pleased about.
After the kids played in the playground in Ensenada for awhile, they got thirsty so I went to buy water. They originally told me at a stand in Ensenada the price of the water bottle in pesos and since I didn't exchange any of my money into pesos, I asked if I could pay with U.S. dollars. There was a little bit of confusion about the money exchanges from pesos to dollars but I gave them $2 and told them to keep the change and they were content with that. After less than an hour of walking around, both of my kids wanted to hop back on the ship! That confirmed that our decision to not book an excursion this time was a good decision. There were so many fun things to do on the Carnival ship, like jump in the pool, eat all we want, play mini golf and watch movies so it just made more sense to just continue our fun there. Right when we got back on the ship and got our passports and stateroom cards checked, we immediately headed to the buffet and took our food by the pool area because they were showing the movie Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022). The kids were so hooked on the movie that we sat out there until the movie ended. Since, most of the passengers were still off the ship, we took this slow time at the pool to enjoy more water play. We changed into our swimsuits and enjoyed it for a couple of hours. I even had a second lunch by the pool area. Boy, I ate a lot on the cruise.
Last night on Carnival Radiance Ship
By the evening of Day 3, I was getting a bit sad as I knew it was our last night on the cruise ship. I've had so much fun thus far and there was still more to do. For dinner, we ate at Sunset Dining Room one last time where I enjoyed a shrimp cocktail, another steak (had the same steak as Day 1 on my birthday night) and a chocolatey dessert.
After our dinner, we took the kids to Camp Ocean where they partook in their last kids' party with other kids at the kids club. Even on the 3rd night, they showed no resistance to hanging out there with kids their age. It had been so great that they have enjoyed these fun activities in the evenings after dinner while my husband and I could attend an adults-only event every night. When they were toddlers, they didn't want to stay in the kids clubs on the cruise nor were we comfortable with it because they were still so little. We had taken them to cruises when they were babies and toddlers before on the Royal Caribbean and they had stayed with us the whole time and not go to any kids' club, so this is the first time we've really utilized the kids club to this extent where they went every night. (You can ready about our kids' club experience with Royal Caribbean on this blog link to compare.) As they've gotten older, so many things have changed as they've learned to become more social with their peers. I also have to give credit to the crew at the Carnival Cruise for being so awesome. My kids referred the personnel who worked at Camp Ocean and ran the kids' activities, the "fun guys". While the kids enjoyed their party, we went to the 80s party at the bar that night and they gave away these big glow sticks, which my husband was able to catch one for me.
It was such a great finale to our night as my husband and I were born in the 80s. After the party was over, we walked around and I wanted to eat again! I'm not sure what was happening to my metabolism but I got so used to eating so much food by the last night that I suddenly had more room in my stomach. I decided to do something different on the last hour before we picked up our kids. I wanted sushi! We paid a bit extra to dine at Bonsai Sushi so that I could get a spicy tuna roll and miso soup. I was so impressed with my big, delicious roll. My spicy tuna roll was only $6 (maybe more now if they have increased the price by the time you've read this) and it was fresh and delicious. The miso soup was quite interesting as well because they put the toppings inside my bowl and poured the soup from a teapot in front of me. I loved it all.
It was a great finale to my night. When it got close to 10PM, we went to Camp Ocean to pick up our kids. Since it was the last night, the staff gave my sons each a free Camp Ocean backpack with a cookie inside. It was a good complimentary souvenir to take home. When we got back to our room, a heart shaped towel art was waiting for us. We had planned to get off of the ship the next morning for Debarkation Day by 7:30AM so we all went to bed earlier than usual to ensure that we'd wake up on time.
There were two options to debark. We could either carry off our luggage ourselves and get off the ship sooner at 7:30AM or we could check our luggage and have the crew take our luggage the night before so that they can do the heavy lifting, but we wouldn't be able to debark until an hour later. We had made the decision to bring all of our bags and suitcases off the ship ourselves so that we could leave the ship and hop in our car to drive 4 hours home as soon as we could, because my husband had to work later that evening.
The floor to get off the ship was Deck 3. All of the elevators were clogged up because so many people were leaving at the same time so I convinced my husband to just roll our suitcases down the stairs. It's not bad since they had wheels. We did make quite a racket but the others saw what we were doing and caught on. It encouraged more passengers, who were waiting for the elevator, to use the stairs with their bags too. If you're in good health and can manage to do it, why not? It was the best decision for that scenario and we got in line to get off the ship quickly.
I had such a great time on our last minute 3 Days Carnival Cruise. Right when got in our cars to head home, my husband and I already thought of planning the next cruise. Next time, we hope to not wait so last minute and avoid being waitlisted. Although, everything did end up working so well for us. All, on a whim.
- Read about my 4 Day Royal Caribbean Cruise on the Navigator of the Seas Cruise Ship that also stopped at Ensenada.
- Read about our 5 Nights at Moon Palace Cancun - The Grand Resort. It was like being on a cruise ship because food, drinks and entertainment were inclusive but I didn't have to be on a boat!
- Read about our family trip to Great Wolf Lodge to celebrate one of my son's birthday.
- Read about our trip to Universal Studios Hollywood to check out Super Nintendo World during our Spring Break.
In : Cruise Review
Tags: birthday package carnival carnival radiance cruise review carnival reviews long beach ensenada no tour review los angeles cruise review la cruise