Kevin and Sadie in front of the Carnival Miracle
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Carnival Cruise to Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada Mexico

Carnival Inspiration Dec. 2018

Taking a cruise can be a life changing event. Sadie and I took our first cruise together about 3 weeks after we met. We fell in love with cruising and all it has to offer. That being said, cruising before covid and after is definitely different.

We are going to tell you our story and our experiences with both.

When we cruised in 2019 we chose Carnival Cruise Lines and we had a blast. We left from Long Beach California and our cruise took us to Catalina Island and Ensenada. A 5 day cruise that left us wanting to go on more cruises.

Queen Mary in Long Beach California
Queen Mary in Long Beach California

Before our cruise we stayed on the Queen Mary. If you ever get a chance to check it out it is worth the visit. It is said to be haunted and if you follow us you know we love haunted everything. We even had a Haunted Honeymoon.

shuttle from the cruise to catalina Island  Catalina Island in the background
shuttle from the cruise to Catalina Island

Getting to Catalina Island was a bit tricky as you have to board a small boat to get you to the island as it does not have a cruise port. The shuttle boats can be a bit much for those who experience seasickness, motion sickness, or vertigo. So be forewarned.

restored church ceiling on Catalina Island
restored church ceiling on Catalina Island

Sadie did get sick on the boat ride to Catalina Island but she toughed it out and we had a blast playing putt-putt golf and visiting an old church they were renovating. From there we got back on the shuttle boat to get back to the cruise ship.

Our first trip to Ensenada. Ensenada sign at the cruise port.
Our first trip to Ensenada 2018

Off to Ensenada we went and they have a cruise port Yah!!!

We loved the vibe in Ensenada so much we decided to move here. In 2021 after a long ordeal, which I will talk about in a different post, we made the move and haven't regretted it at all.

A guy surfing at San Miguel. The best surfing in Ensenada
San Miguel the Best Surfing in Ensenada

Ensenada and the surrounding area has something for everyone. From surfing some amazing waves at San Miguel, to sport fishing, and the food is amazing.

Rock Cod fishing wtih Vonny's Fishing in Ensenada
Kevin Catching Rock Cod with Vonny's Fishing
Mara's Sportfishing in Ensenada. A picture of Maras boats they use to go fishing.
One of the best sport fishing companies in Ensenada
Kevin and Silvia fishing with Vonny's fishing in Ensenada Mexcio
Kevin and Silvia fishing with Vonny's fishing in Ensenada Mexico

Can't leave out the night life and Mercado Negro. We love visiting the Black Market just to see what things the people are selling. I (Kevin) love to barter and everywhere here you can get a better price if you barter a little. Bartering here is expected and can be fun if you just relax and go with the flow it is the Mexican way after all.

Being able to speak a little Spanish goes a long way to getting you a better price as well.

There are history museums if you are into that, oh yeah and of course the Ruta del Vino or Los Valle del Vino which means Wine Route or Wine Valley. The wine valley here is comparable to Napa Valley in the U.S. There is so much going on you are sure to have fun when you visit Ensenada.

Inside La Comadres Restaurant
Eating at La Comadres
outside La Comadres Restaurant
La Comadres


While we were here we ate at a kind of hidden restaurant called La Comadres. They had awesome authentic Mexican food that was not really geared towards the tourists.

Now it is 2023 and we are back on Carnival this time with 2 of our kids. and boy what a different experience this has been. First we booked a cruise early this year, but due to unforeseen circumstances we had to change our booking.

Carnival Miracle and shuttle boats in Cabo San Lucas
Carnival Miracle and shuttle boats in Cabo San Lucas

Not a problem. I hopped on the phone with our Carnival Cruise planner and voila all changed to a new date, and we are ready to go. I double and triple checked that all the stuff I ordered ahead of time was in place.

Internet? check, decorations for the kids first cruise? check, decorations to surprise my wife? check, bubbles package for soda and juice? check. The day before the cruise I call just to check again so that I can make sure everything is set up and perfect. I get confirmation that it is all good to go.

Towel animal a puppy that the room steward made for us.
Towel animal, our room steward made a different one each night

We get on the ship and nothing is as I planned it. We have a double bed and not a king easy fix no problem, our room steward took care of that right away. No internet package, no bubbles package, no decorations, ok well we assume when I changed the cruise to a different date that the stuff didn't come over with it.

But remember, I double and triple checked so what happened? Who knows?? We made the best of it and had a blast anyway. Ok so on this trip we are headed to sunny Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada. Those who have been following us know we live in Ensenada so why would we take a cruise there? That is a story for another time.

Kevin-and-Sadie-on-the-shuttle-boat-to-Cabo
Kevin and Sadie on the shuttle to Cabo
Sapphire and Stephanie on the shuttle to Cabo
Sapphire and Stephani on the shuttle to Cabo

On our way to Cabo San Lucas we find out that we have to take another one of those shuttles to get ashore. Well we rented a mobility scooter and they told us that the shuttles they have for us are not compatible with the scooter and that we would have to rent a wheelchair from the cruise for $50 a day.

shuttle boats from the cruise to Cabo
shuttle boats from the cruise to Cabo

We are happy that we don't need the scooter all the time. But for those that do for whatever reason be it injury or chronic illness, be advised you may not be able to get ashore and have to stay on the ship. We are all about inclusivity and we want everyone to be able to enjoy all that cruising has to offer. We know not everyone can do everything but to not even be able to get off the boat?

They did tell us that they usually have a shuttle that can  accommodate the electric wheelchairs but on this occasion it is not available. I wish they would have told us that ahead of time. We did not know that Cabo did not have a cruise port either. I guess we should have done a little more research in that area. But we thought “Hey, Ensenada has one so Cabo definitely has one right?” Nope.

Let's go back to the beginning and I will catch you up to this point.

Day 1 Boarding and Departure

Boarding and Departure was easy and we felt well taken care of. We did have to park off site for the 2023 cruise but they had shuttle buses that brought me back to the cruise terminal from the parking lot. I didn't have to wait too long to get back reunited with my family. This was a plus as I had our tickets and Sadie had our passports.

our bags tagged when we got off the boat
our bags tagged when we got off the boat

We arrived at the cruise terminal a little early but it was already full of people. The staff are friendly and will let you know where you have to go to unload your bags. They take your bags to your stateroom for you. Once you arrive at the terminal they pretty much handle taking care of making sure your bags get to your room. It is awesome and makes you feel like a VIP right from the start.

In the terminal you clear a scanner that is similar to TSA but without the attitudes and stress. It really seems like a formality but they do check to make sure you are not carrying anything you shouldn't have. It is quick and easy also not like TSA 🙂 No cameras or photos allowed so we don't have pics of that process.

A view from the bridge to the ship
A view from the bridge to the ship

Once you have completed that part you are now in this big dome and you wait for them to call your boarding zone. You show your boarding pass to one of the staff members and you walk across a bridge to the ship. There will be people tempting you to take pictures and buy things like Lanyards along the way.

Kevin wearing the lanyard and those amazing jeans
Kevin wearing the lanyard and those amazing jeans

The lanyards are a great purchase and if you have cruised before I would bring the ones from your last trip so you don't have to buy them again. They are used for holding your sign and sail card, which is used as your identification while on board as well as during excursion when you port.

It is also how you buy things while you are on board the ship. You do not use cash at all, everything is charged to your card. Downloading their app is essential as well. In the app you can track how much you have spent as well as communicate with others in your party while on the ship. You do not have to buy the internet package which is a bonus if you want to unplug.

When we got on the ship our first stop was the muster point so we would all know where to go in case of an emergency. This is a must stop for all passengers and they make sure you go there first. After that we went up to the Lido deck for lunch. We were told our rooms would not be ready until 1:30 or so but that was ok there was plenty to explore and see until then.

Kevin and Sadie having fun
Kevin and Sadie having fun

We ate lunch and we all enjoyed it. It was buffet style and there was a lot to choose from. We each enjoyed our meals and it was off to see our rooms. I for one was very disappointed because all of the things I had pre-purchased were not there. I had the kids room decorated since it was their first time on a cruise.

I also had our room decorated because we have a forever honeymoon so wherever we go we are on our honeymoon. And we act like it. Anyway we did not get the amenities I would have liked but we decided to make the best of it and get on with our trip. We are catching up to where I began this story.

Side note before the trip we decided to do the whole matching clothes thing and it turned out great. We all had similar colors and really enjoyed complimenting each other.

We chose to go to the semi formal dining room for dinner and we all looked marvelous in our red matching outfits. We were underwhelmed with dinner. It was not the same as the cruise we took 5 years ago. Or maybe we aren't the same people. Who knows all I know is the rest of the cruise we were going to eat on the Lido deck. We enjoyed all the food up there. (it was on deck 9) the fine dining was on deck 3.

We did try the dining room again, see day 4 for more details.

Day 2 At Sea

Heart shaped towel on the bed
Heart shaped towel on the bed

Our day at sea was awesome. We took advantage of some of the things a cruise has to offer. We ate a lot of food, tried different foods, Sadie and I played bingo, the girls hung out and did what they wanted.

So they played in the arcade, window shopped in the stores, checked out all of the decks of the ship. You know teenage girl stuff. I will let them tell their story and what their experience was.

Check out Stephani's 1st cruise experience

Coloring on the cruise
Coloring on the cruise

Sadie and I had a blast and enjoyed each other's company. We went to early coloring early and got to color some Christmas themed pictures. mine turned out kind of psychedelic as we had limited colors. We stood in line to get free charm bracelets for our friends back home. We will buy them some charms to go on them that are more suited for them rather than the travel ones from the cruise.

Sadie with a scratcher and Playing Bingo
Sadie with a scratcher and Playing Bingo
Kevin playing Bingo
Kevin playing Bingo

We then went and played bingo. I am not a bingo player and I have not played at the professional level like some of the people here and Sadie. That being said, I did have fun and Sadie did too. We won $5 from a scratcher that was included with the package we bought. Yay us.

Sadie on the Lido Deck
Sadie on the Lido Deck

Dinner on the Lido Deck and while we are here, look out the window a whale! Sadie even got a look at it. She can not look at the ocean, it makes her motion sick even when we are in our house. So on a cruise ship looking out the window was a big thing. We got to see a whale breach the surface and even a baby whale as we were enjoying our dinner.

Sorry I did not get pics of the whale but it was an amazing experience to see.

Day 3 Cabo San Lucas

Sadie and Kevin in Cabo San Lucas
Sadie and Kevin in Cabo San Lucas

Here we go. We have an excursion to go on and we are all excited to discover Cabo. Last night I tried to find out how to get the electric scooter to shore and what I needed to do and where we needed to be to get that accomplished. The staff, while friendly, were not really helpful. At first they said we would have to wait to see when there was room and then less than an hour later they told us that we would have to rent a folding chair as the water shuttles would not be able to accommodate the electric one.

This was not true by the way as once we disembarked we saw a few scooter had made it to shore. I guess it was because I was black but who knows right? And to think we own stock in this company. I digress. We did not need to use the scooter all the time but it does help when the going gets tough. We left it behind and decided to enjoy our day. This is the Smiley way after all.

Craziness at the port in Cabo

We explored the port area before meeting up with our tour guide and getting on our bus. The people at the port area are a bit more aggressive than in Ensenada. The hawkers were very loud and tried to get business from everyone (which is their job). They were respectful but they were very pushy. There were just so many of them and combined with the taxi drivers it was mayhem.

Sadie and Kevin on the bus in Cabo
Sadie and Kevin on the bus in Cabo

We walked a little ways and bought Saff a hat to protect her from the sun. (She looked cute) We know from living in Ensenada not to buy from the stores that you come across first as you will most certainly pay more. We walked around a corner and found a guy selling the same hats for half the price. Take note, always look for a deal and never buy from the first store you see.

The Tour Glass Blowing, Tequila tasting, and shopping

The tour guide was funny and tried to be entertaining. He droned on and on but it was ok. He is knowledgeable about Cabo and the surrounding area.

Sapphire in a  hat at the glass blowing demonstration
Sapphire in a hat at the glass blowing demonstration

Our first stop was a glass blowing and if you have never seen glass blowing in person you will be amazed. We were and we have seen glass blowing before. The gentlemen here were very skilled in their craft and even gave us a demonstration. We looked at the different items they had for sale and we got to check out the warehouse where they work.

San Jose del Cabo sign
San Jose del Cabo sign

Our next stop was a little shopping at a historic square. Nice quaint little shops. It had a sleepy “small town” vibe to it. We found a nice little coffee show and we were pleasantly surprised at the great tasting espresso. Remember everywhere you go you are bound to find someone who is going to try to ruin your day. Don't let them.

Almazén Coffee shop menu
Almazén Coffee shop

We ran into a couple who were literally rushing us. Turns out they booked this excursion which didn't end until around 5pm local time and they booked a dinner on the cruise ship at one of the restaurants at 5:30 literally impossible to do both, so they decided to rush Sadie and I while we were trying to find coffee.

This was still at the beginning of the tour, amazing what some people will try to deflect on to others. We got our coffee and I even bought Sadie another water cup. Sapphire bought a keychain and we were on our way to the next stop.

Tequila tasting is up next and well I like tequila but the stuff they had us tasting was lacking. First we tried some of their liqueurs. We tried 3 liqueurs chocolate, vanilla, and almond. Then they had 1 tequila for us to taste and I did not care for it. Neither did anyone else in our party of 38 people.

Chocobar in San Jose del Cabo
Chocobar in San Jose del Cabo

They had a chocolatier in the same store as the tequila tasting. Free tequila and chocolate for Sadie. It was a good stop and a perfect set up for the next tequila tasting stop.

But hey the best tequila is free tequila right?

Kevin Smiley

We head down the street to a restaurant that is owned by the great great grandson of Jose Cuervo. So tacos and tequila for lunch. We had a fish taco and a chicken taco. Authentic in a corn tortilla with sides of guac and salsa.

First we get a history lesson of tequila and how to tell an authentic tequila from some imposters on the market.

We were all starving by now and this history lesson is going on too long. I tried to find a seat away from all the people at a table where we all would be able to sit comfortable.

I chose wrong. The sun coming in from the slats near the ceiling combined with the oscillating fan made for a seizure waiting to happen. We asked a staff member to turn the fan off and that fixed that problem. Yay for customer service.

We get our first sip of tequila then more history lessons including a film, then lunch finally arrives. We hungrily gobble up the tacos. They taste delicious.

Then a game with 3 tequila bottles, guess which one is real tequila. followed by a dessert tequila tasting that was delicious. Sadie even enjoyed it.

Two more stops for shopping and we are headed back to the port to get back on the ship and sail away headed towards Ensenada. Back on the ship we met the girls for dinner and then off to our rooms it was a long day and we all needed the rest.

Day 4 at Sea

Today we ate a lot today 🙂 Sadie and I had breakfast right after sunrise. We sat for a while and people watched and enjoyed talking to each other. We planned our day out and decided to take it easy. In the afternoon we went to a scotch and watch event which I had a blast at, but Sadie doesn't really like watches the way I do.

Kevin trying more scotch cause he knew all the answers. The watch store on the cruise.
Kevin trying more scotch cause he knew all the answers

Free scotch tasting and I get to talk about watches I am in.

Kevin Smiley

She still had fun with me, to hear her tell it. There was a trivia session about watch history and I answered all the questions. Each right answer got to taste more scotch.

I had 5 samples and gave one away. It was fun and although I didn't learn anything about the history of watches, we did learn about a new brand, Phillip Stein, that makes watches that help to balance your frequency.

We are thinking of buying the wristbands that they have created that have the same technology as their watches. I looked at some pre-owned Rolexes and Invictas and with Sadie's help decided on buying an Invicta.

Another Invicta lol I have quite a few.

Towel art on the Carnival Miracle
Towel art on the Carnival Miracle

After that event we joined our children in the karaoke bar to listen to some music and more people watching. Our favorite pastime. We were going to go to dinner and then to watch family feud Carnival edition, followed by the comedy club, but we had a drink before dinner (Sadie had a margherita) and then we went to bed 🙂 We are getting old lol.

our stuffed mushroom plate. 3 tiny mushrooms on a plate with some green sauce
our stuffed mushroom plate

Let's talk about the dinner we had. We tried the dining room again because they had stuffed mushrooms on the menu. Sadie and I love stuffed mushrooms so off we go.

We get to the restaurant and we are waiting for the place to open (we are on the wrong floor) it says it is open at 5:30pm.

We get there a little early and another couple informs us that they don't usually open the doors until 10 till 6.

We decide to get a drink while we wait, the doors open and they tell us we were on the wrong floor so up the elevator we go to the 3rd floor and we are seated. We are late because our table was ready at 5:30.

The first thing the girl at the desk (Lulu) tells Sadie is that she cannot take her scooter into the dining area and that she will have to walk.

What if she couldn't walk? What if that was not an option for her? What kind of service is this where they don't even ask?

This girl just tells Sadie you will have to walk. While we are seated several other people in wheelchairs are admitted to the dining area seemingly without incident or being told they have to walk.

I don't think Carnival Cruise Line is as accessible as we are lead to believe. At least our experience thus far has shown us that they are not.

Kevin smiley

Ok, breathe Kevin it's ok just a girl having a bad day or something it's all good. Sadie can walk and she will be fine so no need to get upset. Yet!

We get seated and the waiter (Harold) brings us some water and asks what we want to eat. Stephani orders and so far all is going well.

Sadie tells him her order and he takes it down. He then asks her what she wants for dessert but I miss heard him and thought he said Sir? He spoke a little fast and had an accent that I am not used to hearing but it was ok. He repeated himself and asked if she wanted dessert. She said no, and now it is my turn to order.

Ribs,corn and slaw on a plate
Ribs,corn and slaw

I order an appetizer, 3 entrees and Harold stops me and says it is $5 extra if you order a third entree. It didn't used to be this way. But ok change. Sadie says well I only ordered one you can add what he wants to my order.

This dude, Harold's reply was “well I already put it on yours” welI didn't tell you to do that buddy! Luckily, Sadie picks up the conversation and says just put it on mine. Harold says well they are big portions just order 2 and let me know if you want the third entree and proceeds to ask me if I want dessert.

fish and mac and cheese on a white plate
fish and mac and cheese

I am hungry. I ate a smallish breakfast, (Harold doesn't know this), and a small lunch , (Harold also doesn't know when I ate lunch), so I wanted to enjoy my dinner.

We have eaten at this restaurant before and we know how “large” the portions are. I do not need someone to tell me what I can and cannot eat. But here we are.

Sapphire isn't feeling the best and the flashing lights from the cameras make her dizzy and feel ill so we asked Harold if we could take a dish up to her. He says you will have to ask my manager.

He never got the manager.

Stephani asked him to make a plate for us to take up to Sapphire, and he did. He is going to make it because she asked him to. I am feeling discriminated against at this point.

I am not ready to pull that card because people make mistakes right? But let's move on and see where this goes. He brings bread out, 15 minutes or so later, our appetizers arrive, and he serves my appetizer to Stephani. Ok maybe he made a mistake but all of this together is adding up to more than just mistakes.

Sadie and I ordered stuffed mushrooms, Stephani did not order an appetizer at all, Sadie and I ate our 3 tiny mushrooms and then clam pasta arrived. I really want to try it. I got 1 very tiny clam with my pasta. That's it just 1. Stephani ordered the same thing and it came with 3 shells of clams as well as some loose clam meat in the pasta.

chicken parmesan and broccoli
chicken parmesan and broccoli

I don't know if Harold had a hand in preparing the pasta. but it is starting to seem like he does not like me at all. The next part of the meal is the entrees. Sadie got chicken parmesan, looks good, tastes good and she is happy. I ordered the ribs and so did Stephani.

Ribs corn and coleslaw
Ribs corn and coleslaw

Here comes Harold ….wait let me back up a bit. Harold was waiting on the tables around us as well so we got to see how he interacted with the other guests as well as how he served them.

This way you know this is not me just taking this out of context or projecting my bad night onto the waiter because I know that does happen. Remember I was having an awesome night before this, I got to look at and talk watches as well as enjoy some music.

Most of all I got to spend quality time with Sadie.

Harold did not bring my food out with Sadie's or with Stephani he waited, now maybe the cook was still preparing mine? Who knows but since we were seated right by the prep area we could see the food as it came out. Mine was there. So we know he waited to bring mine out last.

I waited and got my ribs. They were delicious but the portion sizes were smaller than what we are accustomed to in the U.S. that's ok but I wish he would not have assumed to know how much I could consume.

There were a lot of other little things that happened that led me and Sadie to believe he was racist or prejudiced. Or just a racist prejudice a$$. (You be the judge.)

He didn't ask us to refill our waters, he didn't bring us more silverware when he cleared the table from our appetizers and took the forks and knives.

Remember we got to watch how he performed for other guests and if it was comparable we would have written a completely different post .

He brought them more silverware but not me. He forgot the bread we ordered. Another waiter had to bring it to us. He didn't want to accommadate me when I asked about taking food to my daughter but he did everything when Stephani asked him to do it.

If it looks, acts, and quacks like a duck it is a racist a$$ duck.

Kevin Smiley
sunset from the starboard side of the ship.
sunset from the starboard side of the ship.

After dinner Sadie and I headed to bed, the kids went to the comedy show. I am sure they had a blast. We had fun all day enjoying each other and taking in what the ship has to offer. We even got a picture at sunset, what an amazing time. One small hiccup but the rest of the day was great.

Day 5 Ensenada

Don Meson restaurant in Ensenada
Don Meson restaurant in Ensenada

We live here so we feel like we are home but there is so much that Ensenada and Mexico in general has to offer it is sometimes good to get a look at it from a different perspective.

Things to do in Ensenada

Sometimes it is fun to act like a tourist and see your town, city or country in a different light. We explored a little of downtown and then had brunch with our friends who we told when we would be there. We tried a restaurant we had not been to before and walked around to see what the vendors were selling. It was a good day and we all enjoyed it.

Day 6 Day at Sea

Carnival Miracle
Carnival Miracle

We are headed back to L.A. and no one wants to get off the ship. We had a great time enjoying each other's company and exploring new and interesting places. We also had a blast on the cruise and seeing the girls enjoy themselves.

This day was spent getting ready to disembark and having a little last minute fun. Sadie and I relaxed enjoyed the sunset. We had dinner on the Lido deck and people watched some more. We checked out the shops again and the casino and arcade.

We don't gamble but we do enjoy playing games together in the arcade. It was a fun trip and we had a memorable experience. We are glad to have been able to take this trip and to be able to share it with you. We stayed an extra day in Long Beach and then headed back to Mexico.

In the future we will take more cruises and have more family adventures. We will write about them here so stay tuned.

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