Good morning! My husband, our 12 year old daughter and myself just got of the Panorama yesterday and thought I would pass along our thoughts about the trip. We have been cruising NCL for the past 8 years because we liked the flexibility they offered but both my husband and I have sailed Carnival before. This was the first Carnival cruise for our daughter.
Over all, we had an amazing trip! There were a few hiccups along the way but for the most part they were very minor.
Pre-cruise - As we all know Carnival required Covid tests 3 days prior which caused a few weeks of stress trying to figure out which tests were acceptable and locating a place to test. They also switched up the itinerary a few days prior to leaving causing us to reach out to our tour operators to revise reservations. Once our excursions were confirmed and we negative Covid test, we were able to relax.
Embankment - we had a 10:30 appointment and showed up at the terminal at 10:00 AM. We were shown into the terminal and after a few minute wait directed to a desk where our vaccine cards, COViD tests and passports were examined. Our Abbot ID NOW tests were acceptable. We were asked to review a sheet with several questions about symptoms and answer no to all of them. After we were able to go through security. The whole process took about 10 minutes. We waited another 20 minutes or so while some ceremonies celebrating the first sailing took place. Shortly after 10:30 boarding groups were announced. All in all a very smooth stress free process. The crew were all gathered clapping and cheering as we boarded the ship which honestly got me a bit teary.
Ship - Panorama is a lovely ship! We loved all the seating on deck 5 and all the different spaces on the Lido deck where loungers could always be found. Pools were a bit small but that seems to be the new normal on the new ships. There do seem to be a few choke points coming out of the buffet where Guys Burgers and Blue Iguana taco / burrito bar was, which I imagine could be an issue when the ship is at full capacity.
Cabin - we had an aft balcony cabin on deck 2 with access to the Family Habor Lounge. The room layout was great with plenty of room for all 3 of us. We appreciated that the couch turned into a bed that was parallel to the wall instead of perpendicular, so we had clear access to the bathroom. The blue color in the bathroom was for us not pleasing but it wasn’t offensive. There was plenty of storage. The beds, bedding and pillows were some of the most comfortable I have ever encountered on a cruise ship. I loved the pillows so much that we are looking to see where we can buy some. This room would have been perfect except there was so much vibration when the ship was moving that made it difficult to sleep at night. The vibration also caused a panel in the hallway outside our cabin to rattle loudly.
Food - Food is always subjective so take my comments with with a grain of salt. Your tastes may be different than mine. Overall we thought the food was OK. We ate most of our dinners in the main dining room where the food was mediocre. Not bad but also not great. We ate at JiJi on night which was an outstanding experience! La Cucina was another night and the food there was good, not great. The few times we ventured into the buffet we were underwhelmed with the options, there just didn’t seem to be a lot. Guys Burger was also average, not great. The Blue Iguana burritos and taco were good. The lobster rolls at the Crab Shack was good and getting two of them was unexpected. Pig and Anchor was a disappointment. The pork butt was good but the rest was OK and the Mac and Cheese was very bland.
Service - We knew going on this trip that it was the 1st sailing and service might be an issue when everyone figured out to do their jobs. Dinner service the 1st night was about 1-1/2 hours but every night after was about an hour. We never had to wait for drinks, almost never had an empty plate or glass in front of us before someone swooped it away. The service was warm, consistent, and plentiful. While certainly not stuffy and formal, we felt the service was amazing. We had Your Time Dining and never had to wait for the 10 or 15 minutes for a table using the Carnival Hub.
Activities - There always seemed like there was something to do. We did a bunch of trivia, watched the shows, attended some comedy, and watched some deck games. While the shows were not what we were accustomed to, they were enjoyable and the rest was a lot of fun. My husband and daughter really enjoyed the slides. My husband and I did the Carnival Kitchen for the BBQ and truly enjoyed that experience. Best part of that was we got the recipes for the pork butt!
Kids club - My daughter loved the Circle C kids club for 12 - 14 year olds. Pretty much anytime it was open, she was there. On the NCL she she was pretty meh about the kids club but this one was really enjoyable for her. Whatever they did, she loved.
Ports - We almost never book our excursions with the cruise lines and instead prefer to book with vendors ourselves. This time, we also wanted to choose things that we felt would be safe with Covid precautions. In Puerto Vallarta we booked day passes and a deluxe cabana at the Westin through Resort Day Pass. It was $230 for all of it which included an allowance for food and drinks that we didn’t use all of. The day was perfect between the pool, beach, and cabana. We would book there again in a heartbeat. In Mazatlan we booked an electric bike tour with Mazatlan Smart Bike Tour. It was a 2-1/2 hour tour with just us and two guides for $107. Both guides were great, the bikes were easy to use and the tour a lot of fun. In Cabo we rented a private pontoon boat for a 2 hour tour for $380 with Rancho Tours. I believe we could have up to 4 people for that price. The tour was fun and the guide had snorkel equipment so we were able to snorkel for about an hour.
COViD protocols- This was a bit of a mixed bag. Overall I feel that Carnival did a good job of ensuring all the staff were masked and had a lot of people devoted to keeping table clean. It was a bit surprising that adherence to social distancing requirements were lax. Our 1st night another family was seated at a table about 6” away from our even though there was plenty of space in the dining room. From that night on, we had to always ask to ensure our table would be socially distanced. The comedy club was always packed to capacity so there was no social distancing in there. The hosts did as that people wear their masks in the shows, which most people complied with but there were always a few that simply ignored the request. Otherwise, most everyone was masked in public spaces and elevators. We felt very safe but a lot of that was due to the reduced capacity which made it easier to socially distance.
Disembarkment - This was, frankly, a mess. It was requested that we be out of our staterooms by 9 AM and that we wait in a comfortable spot until either your muster station was called if you were taking your luggage or your luggage tag if you checked your luggage. We found spot on deck 5 and were excited to see that we pulled up at the pier around 9:30 AM. After that, it took quite a long while until platinum guests were allowed off and there were not a lot of announcements about what was going on. As we waited, we noticed a steady stream of guests leaving even though no muster stations were called. It appeared as though about half the people waiting on deck 5 just went down to deck 4 and walked off, even though no muster stations were called. It wasn’t until after 1:30 when our muster station was finally called. We waited 5 hours with no food offered and very little updates. We had a 5 PM flight out of LAX and we were very worried that we weren’t going to make it. I’m not sure what the issue was, but hopefully Carnival gets it worked out.
In conclusion, Panorama is a fun ship with a great crew and a lot to do. We would highly recommended this ship and itinerary. Please feel free to ask me any questions.