Cruising the Mexican Riviera Part 3: Puerto Vallarta and Our Carnival Cruise Line Review From Entertainment to Food and Service

Puerto Vallarta was our last port stop and after Mazatlan it was a bit of a let down. A lot of it seemed very Hawaii’ish to me. Other parts felt like I was driving through Newport Beach. It was much more Americanized. But we had an amazing time and once we got out and away from the port area we really enjoyed it. It was scenic and beautiful and so green! it was like being on North Shore in Oahu…one of my favorite places!



we LOVED it! Our Cruise Planner, Scott was right! We loved the port stops and wish we had more time to spend there! The weather was nice (a little humid and hot in summer but tolerable) and the people were amazing! The kids could really pick and choose how busy they wanted to be and we got plenty of family time, plenty of alone time to ourself and plenty of “us” time. It was a good balance of everything.


We aren’t going to grade the ship itself because we know the ship will be changing soon. We were on the Carnival Splendor, but know that the Carnival Panorama will be taking over shortly. So we are judging the service, activities, ammenities, kids clubs and food.

SERVICE: “A” Unparalled. The service was amazing. We don’t openly share a lot of what we go through with people, but I was really exhausted. Just dead exhausted before this trip. The past few years have taken their toll and although I loved our vacation last year, it was more work than relaxation. I didn’t spend time last year recooping like I should have. I also couldn’t have foreseen last year all that I would go through this year. This trip allowed me to get the much needed relaxation I needed along with being able to spend time with the kids and my boyfriend individually and all together. Our dining staff was absolutely amazing! They would jump in and help the girls cut their food, they would go over meals for me for the next day since I needed allergy friendly meals, and they would sit and chit chat with us. They allowed us the time that we needed as a family to just talk and reconnect and spend time together while making sure that I got to relax and not have to make meals, clean up and worry about meal planning for all six of us. Our waiter was incredible and one day while in port saw us when he was on break and came over and talked and chatted with us for a few minutes. We told him to GO!! and take his much needed short break he got. He smiled and left but later chatted with us at dinner. our omelette man in the mornings was absolutely amazing in remembering the type of omelet I needed each morning with my food allergies. Our other staff waiters were so cute with the girls and my son and joked and talked with them each night. Housekeeping did a great job of being attentive to our room and even made sure my daughters stuffed animal dog was treated extra special each day. I truly don’t know if the staff knows how much it meant to our family to be able to spend time reconnecting together and to allow me the time to relax and recoop.

ACTIVITIES: “B” We enjoyed the activities on board and felt they had a good mix of activities that were free and ones that were a little extra. All six of us bonded over a few competitive games of BINGO in the theater and loved being able to go to the PG comedy shows as a family in the evenings. Lip Sync Battle was fun to watch and we even learned how to make the towel animals left for us. the teenagers loved the trivia games and made sure they were front and center for The Office trivia game, and at night the kids would hang out and watch movies on their tablets before bed while my boyfriend and I caught an 18+ comedy show together. We loved the outdoor movies and my son had to catch the hairy chest contest. We had a great balance of activities we enjoyed as well as free time and times we stayed busy. I did not like Lee our cruise director’s voice waking me up every morning. He drove me crazy—so much so he’s now my morning alarm! I get to hear him EVERY morning say “Well a verrrrry goooood morning Carnival Family. This is Lee, your cruise director wishing you a verrrrrry good day!” I wake up on time now. And I don’t hit snooze. So I give him that. In all seriousness the activities and activity directors were amazing and worked so hard. We would see them first thing in the morning and they were running activities until late at night. We wondered if they slept!

One of the highlights of the trip? My daughter played on Hasbro the Game Show!

She didn’t win but she won a barrel of monkeys!

AMMENITIES: “B-” We loved the ammenities on board. My son’s goal was to become a mini golf hole in one champion. We wish there were more ammenities for the teens but know this will change with the new ship. The older kids didn’t really enjoy the pools, nor did the younger kids. They were a little disappointed that they really couldn’t swim in the pool like they can at the pools at home and they were a lot smaller than pictured. The younger girls didn’t like that the pools were saltwater but goggles and a talk about how the saltwater pools were saving the sea life seemed to suffice them into not complaining as much.

KID’S AND TEENS CLUBS: “C” We loved the younger kids clubs. Our two girls seemed excited to go and loved the activities they offered. I loved that a parent had to check them in and out so they weren’t just running around the ship or at our hip all day. They both mentioned that the staff ran the clubs and did activities with them but didn’t really do much with them and they were both mad that the same boys got to play video games the whole time and they were upset the staff didn’t monitor it better. But they would always leave camp excited to show us bracelets they made, or talk about the magician that came or the day they got to explode a volcano.

The teens clubs were horrible. Our kids tried to go to several activities but no one showed up. My son’s activities were things that weren’t too interesting. He tried showing up to some of the sports things that he did enjoy and no one showed up. Everytime we looked into the older teens club, it was empty. They spent most of the time with us or each other. I thought it would be nice and draw the teens into their clubs more if they maybe had the comedians do a special teen show in their club area during the afternoons. Or if the spa (which often offered classes and facials and things to the 18+ crowd) did some free makeup or hair classes for the teens–in their club area. Or if they magician went to their club area and taught classes on magic. Or if the cruise directors and fun squad had a basketball game or sports activity or video game contest where they were against the teens or divided up themselves amongst the teens. But hold them in their club area so it’s not just wasted space! My teens enjoyed BINGO and the PG shows at the comedy club and the Trivia games in the atrium area. The teens stayed busy but I would’ve rather they had less time sitting around the cabin watching videos. We also heard a lot of parents complain that their teens racked up some hefty bills at the video arcade. They told them to go be busy and one kid spent $120 in ONE HOUR at the arcade on his sail and sign card. My boyfriend and I ran downstairs quickly after hearing that story to make sure the kids sail and sign cards had limits put on them. We would’ve loved a better mix for the teens and a little more low key ways to meet other teens during the day.

FOOD: “B” The food was good. We loved that the buffet had several options that were available day in and day out and others that were themed on a daily basis. I wish they changed up the salad options a little more. If you have food allergies, the chefs are good to talk to you and work out your menu each day. However when I got to Puerto Vallarta and saw a Walmart, I hightailed it to the gluten free aisle because I could not stomach another fruit plate for dessert. That was my only option for dessert. Gluten free white, multigrain and rolls were offered for breakfast at the buffet but then they weren’t offered for lunch or dinner. I’m not a huge potato person and I was sick of potatoes by the third night because thats all that was offered to me for lunch and dinner. The little girls loved the steaks and fancy desserts and they actually tried new things! The food was delicious overall but allergy friendly options could be a little more friendly.

Overall we would give our cruise a B. We loved it! There are only little tweaks we would make to make it better. But otherwise it was a blast!


Puerto Vallarta was our last stop along the way. We didn’t tell the kids what we were going to do here because we wanted it to be a surprise.

We took them to the Zoologica de Vallarta. We paid for the Educational Interactive Experience which included zoo admission, food to feed the animals and a souvenir.

Our favorite part of the experience though was doing the animal encounter. We got to hold and pet real baby zoo animals. I LOVE baby animals. The paws on this baby jaguar are so soft. These babies were about 8 weeks old and gain about seven pounds a week.

Yeah, my poor boyfriend was holding it in the picture above and you can see me trying to reach in and keep petting it. Me and baby animals. Too much adorableness. I got in trouble though for trying to kiss the animals and cuddle with them.

All of these babies will be adopted out to zoos around the world once they get a little bigger. I loved the jaguar the best. It just wanted to play and play.

The soft paws were my favorite. And you just wanted to treat them like a normal cat but the zookeeper wanted us to hold them a certain way and didn’t want them nibbling on our fingers. The interactions with humans have to be pretty controlled and positive. We also learned that they could only come out at certain times for human interactions. If they started to get overstimulated and cranky, they had to stop the baby interactions for the day. Typically they only do the animal interactions in the morning hours.

In addition to the jaguar, we also got to hold a tiger. The paws were massive! And it’s cute belly!!

The colors, the paws, and the cuteness overload!

The kids said it was one of the most amazing experiences they’ve ever had. The interaction was short but so worth it. The kids really gained an appreciation for animals and for how special of a treat it was to be able to interact with these amazing cats.

Then we walked throughout the zoo. It was fun to see the animals and interact with them. Some of the enclosures were very small for some of the larger animals which was tough to see, but most of the animals in the park were taken from extremely bad or abusive situations or were being bred to go to different zoos around the world. The zoo seems to be trying hard to control the amount of breeding it is doing and has successfully rescued animals from cruel situations. It even successfully bred surviving bengal tigers; something that other zoos have not been successful at being able to do. I tried to put away some my feelings and just enjoy the rarity of the moment. Being able to feed some of these amazing animals up close is something I would not necessarily have the opportunity to do in the states. The zoo really does a good job of maintaining the health of the animals. All the animals looked healthy. Some of the enclosures were needing a little bit of TLC, but the zoo is constantly fighting the humidity and sea water erosion. I have certain feelings about zoos and was a little worried about going. The zoo is set in the jungle setting so expect plenty of humidity and sidewalks can be slippery from the moss in areas.

Feeding flamingos:

Feeding and kissing the giraffe:

Awkward First Kiss (With a Giraffe)–My Son and Giraffe Definetely Have Some Work to Do on Kissing…

Feeding Monkeys (My Favorite Next to the Babies!)

Pot Bellied Pigs. I had trouble not taking these pigs home. I’ve always wanted a pig. Maybe not this big though.

Warthogs! It was like Lion King in real life. They do like to eat a lot!




And hungry hungry hippos:

And don’t forget the kings of the jungle:

After the zoo we walked the city and enjoyed the architecture:

And beauty.

Then we hit the beach one more time:

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