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Saint Greg

Panorama LIVE - Feb 29th - Mexican Riviera +Vegas +Hollywood

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I'm starting this almost a week early. I'm flying to Los Angeles on friday. This is for the new people who want to catch up. 

These are newest to oldest:

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://saintgregtravel.com/breezy-like-sunday-morning/

 

 

https://saintgregtravel.com/seven-days-of-freedom/

 

 

https://saintgregtravel.com/i-will-triumph/

 

 

https://saintgregtravel.com/leaving-the-elation/

 

 

https://saintgregtravel.com/r1-my-intro-to-cruising/

 

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Booking

This cruise was originally a five day Dream cruise out of Galveston. I booked it when they announced the Dream was moving to Galveston because I wanted to go to Progreso again and this would be an opportunity to do it on a Dream class ship which you couldn’t do before.

 

This past fall when they announced the Dream was going to move to six and eight day cruises in 2021 and the Breeze would take over the four and five day cruises at that time I thought…If I’m going on the five day cruise I’d rather do it on Breeze than Dream and if I’m going on the Dream again I’d rather do it on a six or eight day cruise than a five day cruise.

 

I decided to look into switching cruises. I quickly found a good price on this Panorama cruise on the perfect week for me. It was less than I paid for Vista last year. I searched all future Panorama cruises and found it was the lowest priced Panorama cruise on the schedule. I called Carnival expecting to have to pay double the $50 change fee but they only charged me $50. I found something that doesn’t stick it to the solo cruiser.

 

Since the original booking was through Carnival more than 90 days prior, I wasn’t able to book through my travel agent and get their onboard credit. I was able to get $50 OBC from Carnival for the booking and $100 for being a stockholder. They increased those automatically from the $25 and $50 they originally gave me when it was a five day cruise.

 

Flights

I looked at a lot of options for flights. I really like Spirit’s low cost seat upgrades so that was my preference. I did have the option of flying Southwest into Long Beach at a good price ($230) with up to two checked bags included but that was without picking seats. This is an option I may consider in the future but since I’ve never been to Los Angeles I want to fly in and out of LAX and do some sightseeing.

 

I really dragged my feet on this booking because I was planning a post-cruise stay in Los Angeles and I wanted to make sure I secured my hotel before I booked my trip home. I actually booked the flight for my August cruise several weeks before I booked for this one. Of course since Spirit doesn’t fly into Miami, I had less options for that one.

 

I ended up with perfect timing on my flight booking. I booked my post-cruise hotel on Super Bowl Sunday and I booked my flight the next day. If I had booked my flight on Super Bowl Sunday the total would’ve been $308 with a checked bag and me getting an aisle seat on the exit row on each flight. The price went down to $250 the day after the Super Bowl and I jumped on it. The breakdown for that was $66 each way. The checked bag was $32 one way and $33 the other way. The trip includes three flights. The seat upgrade was $23, $11, and $18 for those flights.

 

For the major airlines I could’ve done Delta non-stop for about the same price but without picking my seats. Picking my seat would’ve been a $70 upgrade and then it says “additional fees may apply.” American would’ve been $300 without picking my seat.

 

The only way I could’ve flown non-stop on Spirit and arrived at a reasonable time would’ve been to leave at 6am and arrive at LAX at 7:30am. The next flight is at 7am, includes an hour and a half layover in Las Vegas, and gets into Los Angeles at 10:30am. There was another option to leave at 7am and get into Los Angeles at 2:30pm with a five hour layover in Las Vegas. This immediately became the flight I wanted. That would allow time me to get out of the airport and spend a couple of hours on the Vegas strip. I haven’t been to Vegas since I was 19 years old. I wouldn’t mind taking a peek around.

 

Pre-Flight Hotel/Parking

The early flight has me very nervous. I decided if I booked this early flight I would want to get a hotel the night before as close to the airport as I could get with an airport shuttle and parking. That way all I have to do in the morning is go down stairs and get on a shuttle.

 

I even looked into the hotel inside the airport going downstairs and walking on the plane would be even better. The hotel inside the airport required a five night stay. Who does that? Tom Hanks? I’m guessing they must cater to flight crew.

I booked the Westin on Hotwire.com for $79. That came to $98 after taxes and fees. The Westin is a nice hotel and it’s about as close to the airport as you can get without being in the airport. Booking this hotel without a Hotwire hot rate would’ve cost me $226.

 

Again with the early flight I don’t want to have to drive to a parking facility like I did last time. Prior to booking the Westin I knew I could book parking for the week at the Westin and the Doubletree, across the street from the Westin, on OneStopParking.com. Parking at the Westin for the duration would cost me $93. Parking at the Doubletree is around $50.

 

I decide to book my parking at the Doubletree starting the night before my flight that way I don’t have to move my car in the morning. That only bumps the cost up from $47.50 to $51. A bonus about parking at the Doubletree is if there’s a problem with the Westin shuttle, the Doubletree shuttle is included in my parking.

 

Hotel

I was looking at this from a couple of angles. I’m flying into LAX the day before the cruise. The most cost-effective plan would likely be to get a hotel with an airport shuttle for the night. Then just pay for a ride to the port the next morning.

 

The other option would be a hotel in Long Beach but it’s very possible I would have to pay for a ride from the airport to the hotel then pay for another ride from the hotel to the cruise port.

 

Back in November I received a coupon code in an email from Hotwire that offered an additional $15 off of a $100 or more hot rate hotel. The code was only good for 24 hours. I decided this would be a good time to research hotels.

My search didn’t last long. The first hot rate hotel I found in Long Beach turned out to be the Queen Mary which I thought was out of my price range since the cheapest room on their website came to $280 after tax.

 

On Hotwire the hot rate version came to $152 after taxes. The $15 coupon brought it down to $137 which is right in the range of other Long Beach hotels. You can walk to the terminal from Queen Mary so that would also save me port day transportation. I went ahead and booked the Queen Mary on  Hotwire.

 

Excursions

This isn’t going to be a heavy excursion cruise for me. I never looked into this itinerary until Carnival put a new ship in Long Beach. This very well may be the only time I visit these ports. I want to make sure I check out the towns we’re visiting.

 

When researching excursions I was looking to see what was popular in the area. Whale watching came up for Cabo. It turns out I’m coming the right time of year to see these whales in Cabo. I decided to book that excursion and just do my own thing at the other ports.

 

Originally I was going to book on whalewatchcabo.com due to good reviews. Their tour costs $89 if you pay online or $75 if you book online but pay in cash. I was going to go with the cash option.

 

Once I found out the Carnival Excursion had a successful price match, I decided to check it out. The reviews on the Carnival Excursion were excellent as well.

 

I went ahead booked Whale Watching & Coastal Cruise with Open Bar for $79.99 using my Carnival Mastercard which gives me a 10% statement credit on Carnival excursions. That took my cost down to $72. I submitted the Carnival price match form which successfully matched with the Shore Excursioneer Whale Watching Excursion with Breakfast and Open Bar and $16.50 OBC was added to my onboard account.

 

Puerta Vallarta has a hop on hop off bus that can be booked online for $29. I have read good and bad reviews on it. The one that was concerning was from someone who claimed they waited at a stop for over an hour and didn’t see a bus. The buses are supposed to run every 45 minutes. I have heard you can get a ticket for $15-20 as a walk up so I decided not to lock that in right now.

Puerto Vallarta also has a free walking tour three days a week. They have them at 9am and noon on Wednesday so that’s another option for me.

 

In Mazatlan I would like to hike to the El Faro lighthouse which is the second highest lighthouse in the world. They have a glass bridge over the water up there and great views of the city. They are discussing adding a zip line and cable car which will bring even more tourists in the future.

 

Specialty dining

My primary focus this cruise for specialty dining was making sure I get to try Bonsai Teppanyaki since this venue is only available on Horizon and Panorama with very limited seating.

 

I do feel like the Teppanyaki setup will benefit the solo cruiser. They have the large shared tables and I’m sure there will be times when they are left with one seat available. I didn’t want to take any chances though. I wanted to make sure I got a reservation.

 

I started looking at the website when I first booked. I didn’t want to book too early because I didn’t want to end up booking it for an elegant night by mistake. At this point Panorama hadn’t even had made her maiden voyage so there were no previous schedules to go off of.

 

When they added the cooking classes to the website, the specialty dining disappeared. Carnival Brand Ambassador John Heald said it was a glitch that would be fixed soon. A couple of months went by and I still wasn’t able to book specialty dining online. False rumors began to circulate on social media that specialty dining was sold out for our cruise.

 

I decided to take matters into my own hands by emailing the Bonsai Teppanyaki and make a safe reservation for a night I know won’t be an elegant night–the first night.

 

My next choice for specialty dining is JiJi’s since it is only on Vista class ships and I did enjoy the food there when I was on Vista last year.

 

I have heard Panorama has a special dining package you can purchase onboard for $60 which includes one meal in the steakhouse ($38) and a meal in two other specialty restaurants with the exception of Bonsai Teppanyaki. Paying with my 10% off gift cards would save another $6 so that’s practically one meal for free.

 

Cucina is not a priority for me because it is on all of the Dream Class ships I frequent. I’ll have a chance to eat there this summer on Magic or a year from now on Breeze–Possibly another time in between.

 

The Brewhouse|Smokehouse is only on Horizon and Panorama so I will probably either eat there to finish out my dining package or book a second night a JiJi’s.

 

Post cruise

This is my first time to visit California. Until four months ago I didn’t know I was making this trip. I don’t yet know whether or not I’ll do it again. I want to make sure I get my sightseeing in.

 

I decided the best way to do this would be using a hop on hop off bus. I used the one in London and thought it was a great way to see a lot of sites in a short amount of time.

 

I found two main hop on hop off buses in Los Angeles. Big Bus Tours and Starline. Starline has more routes and more stops but also costs a little more. If you opt to go with Big Bus Tours, they have a nice discount on Groupon.

 

When looking at hotels it seemed that even low class hotels in the touristy areas were over $100 before taxes on Hotwire.com. Nicer hotels were all over $200 per night. I decided to look in the LAX Airport area because the Starline bus stops at a few of them.

 

I thought I had settled in on the Sheraton Four Points for $85/night. Then I realized the hop on hop off bus only picks up at LAX hotels at 8am and 8:30am. They don’t return until after 5pm to drop passengers off. My plan was to book a two day hop on hop off pass and it’s highly unlikely I can be outside of the hotel by 8:30 on debarkation morning.

 

It looks like it would be a $30 Uber to meet the bus along it’s route. I start to think about having to pay for more $30 uber rides if I miss the last bus back or if I’m not ready to head out at 8:30 the next morning. If I’m going to pay that I might as well just pay more for a hotel along the bus route.

 

I began looking for Hotwire hotels in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood. My preference is to be near the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I don’t know my Los Angeles hotels very well so I would feel more comfortable with a big name brand hotel as well.

 

I come across a hot rate hotel for $149 that I’m able to determine is the Loew’s Hollywood which is right next door to the Dolby theater which is stop #1 for the Starline Tour. The total after tax comes to $380 for two nights. I start doing some research on pricing for this hotel. Booking through the hotel website comes to $576 for my nights. Booking through travel sites where you can see the hotel name ahead of time comes to $448 for my nights. $380 sounds like a good price but I decide to wait for a coupon code for Hotwire. I had success using an 8% off code when booking the Queen Mary. I didn’t have to wait long. The next day was Super Bowl Sunday which brought a 10% coupon code from Hotwire . I went ahead and locked in the Loew’s at $350 for two nights.

Edited by Saint Greg

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I did a lot of research on the history of this carnival port. I found this to be the best video as far as a lot of information in a short amount of time.

 

 

 

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Our CD is Emma Pack. I'm guessing Emma Nixon married Mike Pack. That or Carnival is secretly cloning CDs and making half man, half woman super CDs. Probably they just got married though.

 

This morning Matt Mitchem posted that he's going to be coming on Saturday for an early turnover. Then returning mid-April to take over. I don't know if that means Matt is going to sit back and watch Emma..or if Emma is going to sit back and watch Matt..or if we're going to have two CDs. But it should be interesting.

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9 minutes ago, Saint Greg said:

I did a lot of research on the history of this carnival port. I found this to be the best video as far as a lot of information in a short amount of time.

 

 

 

 

This may be more familiar.

 

 

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Hey Greg! You know we're along for the ride. The memories of our visit last April to Long Beach, Queen Mary, and the dome are still fresh in our minds. Looking forward to see your take on it. We will also be heading back out there next year to sail the Panorama and finally complete our Fantasy Class ships by also sailing on the Imagination. We can't wait to head back to Catalina. Did you give any thought to doing a S2S while you were out here? :classic_cool:

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Off the PANORAMA several weeks ago, I'm looking forward to your evaluation of her. Love the detail in your story. Carry on . . . 🙂

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3 minutes ago, Jamman54 said:

Hey Greg! You know we're along for the ride. The memories of our visit last April to Long Beach, Queen Mary, and the dome are still fresh in our minds. Looking forward to see your take on it. We will also be heading back out there next year to sail the Panorama and finally complete our Fantasy Class ships by also sailing on the Imagination. We can't wait to head back to Catalina. Did you give any thought to doing a S2S while you were out here? :classic_cool:

 

Great to have you, Jeff! It's crazy. Less than a year ago following your review I had no idea I'd be heading that way. S2S would be great but it would really stretch things with work and vacation time. I think I'm out for 11 days this time which will be my longest absence yet.

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13 minutes ago, glrounds said:

Off the PANORAMA several weeks ago, I'm looking forward to your evaluation of her. Love the detail in your story. Carry on . . . 🙂

 

Welcome! Several weeks ago...So you aren't the one that broke it then. I'm hoping the people who are boarding today can keep it intact for another week.

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7 minutes ago, Saint Greg said:

 

Great to have you, Jeff! It's crazy. Less than a year ago following your review I had no idea I'd be heading that way. S2S would be great but it would really stretch things with work and vacation time. I think I'm out for 11 days this time which will be my longest absence yet.

Around 12 years ago we did a three week long (no cruises) trip to California with the boys. We started in San Francisco. spent most of our time in LA, then finished in San Diego. When we were planning our Hawaii cruise we initially were going to spend some time seeing some of the sites in LA. but after pricing hotels, attraction tickets, meals, and such, we determined that it was much more cost effective to just book another cruise! :classic_laugh: Of course, being retired, we have no time constraints. You'll get there one day!:classic_cool:

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1 minute ago, Jamman54 said:

Around 12 years ago we did a three week long (no cruises) trip to California with the boys. We started in San Francisco. spent most of our time in LA, then finished in San Diego. When we were planning our Hawaii cruise we initially were going to spend some time seeing some of the sites in LA. but after pricing hotels, attraction tickets, meals, and such, we determined that it was much more cost effective to just book another cruise! :classic_laugh: Of course, being retired, we have no time constraints. You'll get there one day!:classic_cool:

 

In our roll call we had talked about if something happened and the ship got re-routed. I guess someone in the past had been re-routed to San Francisco. Since this is my first time to California I wouldn't mind being sent to San Francisco and San Diego. It's great unless you're from San Francisco. Those people wouldn't like it much. It made me think of your guy that flew from Charleston to New York to go to Bermuda and got re-routed to Charleston.

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3 minutes ago, Saint Greg said:

 

In our roll call we had talked about if something happened and the ship got re-routed. I guess someone in the past had been re-routed to San Francisco. Since this is my first time to California I wouldn't mind being sent to San Francisco and San Diego. It's great unless you're from San Francisco. Those people wouldn't like it much. It made me think of your guy that flew from Charleston to New York to go to Bermuda and got re-routed to Charleston.

That couple took it quite well. The 100% FCC probably helped. :classic_laugh:

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Staying at the Queen Mary the night before your cruise was a good move. Being able to get up and make a 5 minute walk to the dome is priceless. What kind of cabin did you get using Hotwire?

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5 minutes ago, Jamman54 said:

That couple took it quite well. The 100% FCC probably helped. :classic_laugh:

 

100% would help me. In this case I'm down for anything. I haven't been anywhere on the west coast. What would upset me would be if I flew to Florida and got re-routed to ports I could've done out of Galveston or New Orleans. Or when they had the Cuba cruises which costed more...and you missed Cuba.

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5 minutes ago, Jamman54 said:

Staying at the Queen Mary the night before your cruise was a good move. Being able to get up and make a 5 minute walk to the dome is priceless. What kind of cabin did you get using Hotwire?

 

It just says (hotel chooses bed type). Probably sharing a crew cabin with someone 😀

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I may have deleted the screen shot I took back then but when I was searching for LA hotels they had some places for $10-15/night that looked like military dorms with bunk beds and everyone in the same room. Scary stuff. That's why I wanted to make sure I had a nice hotel there.

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You will enjoy the atmosphere at the Queen Mary.  As well as the easy walk to the Dome.  Wife and I stayed there before and after our Panorama cruise in December.

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4 minutes ago, lincdax said:

You will enjoy the atmosphere at the Queen Mary.  As well as the easy walk to the Dome.  Wife and I stayed there before and after our Panorama cruise in December.

 

Thanks! I really think I'm going to like this port. It's smaller like New Orleans. It has a couple of hotels nearby. The free passport bus. Cheap water shuttles. The more I've learned about it. The more I like it.

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Before I switched cruises I was supposed to embark today. I was a little bummed when I found out Wilder vs. Fury II was going to be tonight. So one of the bonuses to switching cruises is I get to see the fight. 

 

For anyone who doesn't follow it. Wilder is undefeated. Fury is undefeated. Wilder in my opinion knocked Fury out last time. He hit him with a shot that people don't get up from. But Fury got up at the last second and survived the last round. You can argue it was a slow count and the fight should've been over. They go to the scorecards and it ends up being a draw. I'm really glad I get to see the rematch.

 

 

 

Edited by Saint Greg

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17 minutes ago, Saint Greg said:

 

Thanks! I really think I'm going to like this port. It's smaller like New Orleans. It has a couple of hotels nearby. The free passport bus. Cheap water shuttles. The more I've learned about it. The more I like it.

 

We rode the Aquabus over to the aquarium and back.  Nice ride and we even saw dolphins over by the Hotel Maya.

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19 minutes ago, jean87510 said:

Following also. Can you share if true about the $60 specialty dining? TIA

 

Will do.

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