After a lazy day on Catalina, we woke up in Ensenada. Today was going to be a big, big day. But first, yet another breakfast in the dining room.
Now, if you have cruised before, you know that most people go to the buffet for breakfast. Sure, that's fine - get in, get out, grab your stuff, head ashore. For us, on the other hand, we like the food in the MDR (main dining room) much better. It is usually less crowded and a far less stressful start to the day.
You can't get a Masala Dosa with poached eggs in the buffet. Sorry.
Carnival has EXCELLENT Indian food, and has had it for years - a lot of their cooks on board the fleet are from the subcontinent, and thankfully, Carnival lets them cook their food for the guests. I have always appreciated that. I mean, the first night in the MDR I had the Indian vegetarian option and was met with questions from the other guests at our table. Seriously though, if you ever sail Carnival, you are missing out if you do not try their Indian cuisine.
Nathan had the Breakfast Board, because pastrami for breakfast.
Off the boat, through security, through the souvenir shops, and down the road out of the port and into downtown Ensenada. Here's a shot I got of the Inspiration at the port. This image has been my phone background for a few months now.
Walking down the road towards downtown. This canal here used to be FILLED with tires and junk. It was nice to see that it has been cleaned up significantly since I was last down here in 2003 or so. In fact, most of Ensenada has improved in the last 15 years. It was nice to see, honestly.
Most people, when the go to Ensenada, tend to take a tour to La Bufadora, a large, natural blowhole south of the city. Nathan and I, however, are not most people.
We were headed to the world famous La Guerrerense cevicheria, about a half mile from the entrance to the port. Anthony Bourdain (RIP) brought this place to the attention of Americans a few years ago, and I told myself that if I ever got back to Ensenada, I would eat there.
The owner Sabina, aka La Guerrerense (Spanish for The Lady of Guerrero), heads down to the fish market every day to get the best stuff for her cart and her restaurant, Sabina Restaurante across the street. Both serve outstandingly fresh ceviches with her 15 or so home grown salsas. But the restaurant also sells fresh made fish and shrimp tacos (specialties of Baja), agua frescas, and ice cold Mexican beer. We ate at Sabina.
Each tostada was piled high with a good half pound of fresh seafood. Clockwise from the top: shrimp, Guerrerense tostada, ensalada de jaiba con callo de hacha (crab salad with shrimp and scallops), and smoked marlin pate and scallop.
Let me tell you...the quality was extraordinary. So incredibly fresh and clean tasting - totally unlike any ceviche I have had stateside.
Just under $5 a piece. These would cost nearly three times that back in the States.
Cooked shrimp taco. About $1.50. We had a fish one as well, but Nathan hoovered it as soon as he could. He also put a mango habanero salsa on it which was utterly delicious...and nuclear. The abuelita working at the restaurant laughed at him, and rightfully so. My cucumber and jalapeno agua fresca hit the spot, and quelled the burn...a bit.
I am dead serious here - if you ever get down to Ensenada for whatever reason, GO. And they take credit card!!!
After lunch, we walked around downtown for a bit and tried to find a pharmacy that sold insulin so that Nathan could buy an extra bottle. Sure enough, Roma (right outside the port) carried a few bottles. Although the pharmacist did not speak English, I was able to get by with my meager Spanish to ask her if she had any, verified the brand and name, and how much it was - $40 per vial. No prescription needed. Stateside...nearly $150 per vial. Can we please fix the health care system? Please?
This dude was waiting for us that afternoon when we got back to the ship.
We took a nap (our favorite cruise activity), then headed to dinner. Afterwards, we went to see the late night comedy shows, both the PG-13 and the adult. Carnival's comedians are very, very good, and their entertainment is one of the hallmarks of this line.
Grab a seat, order a cocktail, and enjoy the evening.
Now, Catalina Island is a mere 26 miles off of the coast of Los Angeles. So, although technically we were sailing...we were not going very far.
But before we take a tender onto the island, breakfast.
Carnival's Dining Room Breakfast Menu. Typically the same every day (except for Sea Day Brunch, which I will get to). However, this is the updated version, which Carnival was testing on our ship. Items like Avocado Toast, Breakfast Board and Breakfast Bowl are all new to the fleet. And, since we were on the Best Coast, a Masala Dosa.
Breakfast done, and after a bit of lounging around the ship for a bit, Nathan decided that 10 a.m. was late enough for a drink at the Red Frog Rum Bar.
Believe me, Nathan was happy that they had a bar that was dedicated to rum. Very, very happy.
We headed ashore at 11 or so, and wandered around the beachfront in Avalon, walking down to the Casino and back.
Of course, Nathan had to find a tiki bar. And in Avalon, Luau Larry's is where you go. Got a drink and a few oysters. You know, the usual.
Despite the cocktail, Nathan's blood sugar was low, so we headed to an overpriced ice cream shop for Nathan to get a cone. Out on the beach, this guy was eyeing Nathan's cone. Look at that side eye...
We got back on the ship at about 3 - the tender boats in Avalon have gotten much bigger over the years since I had last been to the island, and they took about an hour to load and unload. So, despite the fact that I was missed food and drink trivia, we had just enough time to shower and get ready for Formal Night.
Formal Night on Carnival coincides with their American Feast menu in the main dining rooms. Carnival, unlike other lines, gives you the option of having set dining (set table and time each night) or anytime dining (like going to a restaurant, sans reservation). Personally, I like set dining - you get the same wait staff every night, and they get to know you (and vice versa) over the course of your cruise. It makes for a more personable experience, and something that you really do not get on dry land. Here above is a picture of the appetizers. I had the crab cake and the Kale Caesar. Both great.
Prime rib for my main. About an 8 ounce portion, just enough. The grill selections are similar every night. Entrees usually have one pasta, one vegetarian, one Indian vegetarian, one fish, one meat, etc. They are happy to accommodate most dietary restrictions. And, there's the buffet if you would rather not dress up.
As for dressing up...after our last experience on Norwegian where NOBODY dressed up for anything, boy was I shocked to find out that my vintage dress and Nathan's polo shirt and slacks were slightly under dressed for what I thought was a 4 night booze cruise. Everyone dressed nicely and nobody acted poorly. Note to self - only sail from the West Coast.
We spent the evening just meandering the ship, which has long been one of my favorite activities. It is so nice to be able to easily stroll from one area to another, pop out on deck and smell the clean ocean air while looking up at the night sky.
In May 2018, Nathan and I took a 4 night cruise down to Catalina Island and Ensenada, Baja California del Norte, Mexico. This trip was a celebration trip for my completion of my first year teaching college.
Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about sailing Carnival again after not sailing in over a decade - we last took a cruise on Norwegian in 2016, and it was just not very good. But, since I love the ocean so much, I wanted to give another mass market line a shot, but one I was much more familiar with.
And so, I booked an interior cabin for a 4 night quick trip out of Long Beach.
The Inspiration on a cloudy, May Gray Monday morning. Built in 1996, she is one of the oldest ships in Carnival's fleet, but at a double occupancy of 2056 passengers, she is one of the smaller vessels sailing for a mass market line.
Overlooking the bow, where a crew member is on the phone in the crew area.
Cunard's classic Queen Mary is parked next door to Carnival's dock at Long Beach, where she is currently undergoing restoration. You can actually stay on the Queen Mary - she is a converted hotel!
Next to the Queen Mary is the geodesic dome that once housed the Spruce Goose, that is now leased to Carnival as their embarkation/disembarkation area. Inside, the dome has been redesigned to look like a park, with references to the history of the building and California's natural beauty. It is easily the nicest embarkation area I have been in by far.
Once checked in, you head up a few switchbacks, then across a long bridge onto the Empress Deck (7) in the Atrium, aka the Grand Spectrum. Take one of the elevators up...
Get out on the Veranda Deck (11), and head to the V Cabins...
The first cabin after you turn the corner is V40, where we stayed. 185 square feet. Not the most comfortable, but what do you want for less than $100 per person per night? With food, entertainment, and transportation included!
Not to mention this little guy. One of Carnival's long standing traditions - the towel animal, waiting to greet you when you board.
Tomorrow, the historic town of Avalon.
Day 4 had us walking around the French Quarter quite a bit. At about 5pm that evening, this went past our window:
The Carnival Triumph was on her way to the Caribbean. Shortly after that, we headed to Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar and Fish House for dinner.
Charbroiled oysters, a specialty of New Orleans. Gulf oysters grilled with garlic butter and parmesan cheese. My husband could not get enough of these.
My dinner: Crawfish etoufee, andouille sausage, jambalaya, red beans and rice. New Orleans on a platter.
My husband got the Creole Redfish - redfish fillet with BBQ shrimp, a creole meuniere sauce, jambalaya and vegetables. A nice last meal before the cruise the next morning.
Day three started with an attempt to visit the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park along the riverfront...
...which failed miserably. It was a relatively cold and rainy day, so we decided to check out NOLA's famed Vietnamese cuisine.
Although it smelled fantastic, this bowl of phở tái was utterly tasteless. And this was from an old, well-regarded Vietnamese restaurant in the city. Well, at least it was warm.
As a surprise to nobody that knows my husband, he's a massive Tikiphile. So, wherever we go in the world, he has to find a Polynesian-themed bar. We went to Beachbum Barry's Latitude 29...
...and the delightful Tiki Tolteca, both in the French Quarter. If you go to Tiki Tolteca, be sure to pay $10 and get a spin on the Wheel of Happenstance. Accept your fate, and enjoy.
We started the day off with a trip to the National WWII Museum.
If you have not been, it is worthwhile to see it. I was pleased with the exhibits, which are extremely detailed and full of fantastic memorabilia.
In New Orleans, seafood is king. I could not resist the amazing gulf oysters, and my husband could not resist the amazing bloody mary's that are served all throughout the city.
Dinner that evening was at the spectacular Donald Link/Stephen Stryjewski restaurant, Cochon. Get yourself a boucherie plate...
...and an order of smoked beef brisket with horseradish potato salad. One really cannot go wrong here.
Back in December 2016, my husband and I went to New Orleans as part of our belated honeymoon.
Man, when you're in NOLA, there is no question as to where in the country you are. It's a lovely place and completely unique.
We were fortunate enough to stay at the Hotel Monteleone, which we were given a free upgrade to one of their Vieux Carré suites.
We had a stunning view from our 14th floor corner suite.