Party Cruises sail out of cities like New York and Los Angeles and are advertised as a way to blow off steam and have a good time. If you are not into drinking, dancing and just plain letting loose, you may need to rethink something like this.
A boat runs a weekend schedule that leaves at 5PM on Friday night (after work) and docks on Monday morning at 8am. The ships crew cleans everything up, loads a full compliment of food and drink, makes up all the cabins and opens the gate for the next bunch of partiers to board. The ship leaves port and sails until 8am on Friday when they do it all again. One trip is 4 days and the other 3.
There is a cruise that Carnival runs all week long from L.A. to Encinada, Mexico with a stop at Catalina Island. It is a fun cruise with live music, all kinds of lounge acts, pool parties, and an overabundance of young upwardly mobile 20 somethings looking to have a wild time. The party starts when you get on the ship, and ends when it docks.
For those of us needing motorized conveyances, the ship is easily navigated, as most cruise ships are, so there should be no issues, except that this ship is generally full to capacity and everyone seem to always be on the move.
The ship leaves port at 5pm, but usually starts loading about 2pm. Your luggage will get to your room before departure, so what do you do until you depart? Party of course!
The minute you go aboard, the ship is open for business. Go get checked in and get your ships ID; this gets you all the bar services you need and is basically a charge card for the ship. Next, go get a drink or two at the bar, and head for the buffet for your late lunch. I usually get the late dinner seating, so this gives us time to finish lunch, go to our cabin and get everything unpacked and stowed, and get ready for a late dinner. What could be better? The parties really get cranking about 9, so the timeline is perfect.
On the first morning, the ship anchors off the port of Avalon, Catalina, Ca. and you can go ashore from 8am to 5pm when the anchor comes up and the ship sails on. Hit the buffet and get a coffee and pastry and let the crowds die down.
Catalina Island is a beautiful place with no cars and lots of places to go and see. For those of us once more with a conveyance issue, this is a problem. On the Island there are electric “golf cart” type taxis or walking. The launches that transport passenger ashore are not allowed to manually handle wheelchairs, scooters, etc, and unless the scooter can be disassembled and carried by the passenger and friends, there is no way to take them ashore at all; much like many small ports around the world. If a passenger has his own collapsible wheelchair and it can be handled by a friend or passenger and the passenger himself can climb a few stairs the problem is solved. Although manual collapsible wheelchairs are in limited quantities on-board the ship, they may not be taken ashore.
If you don’t go ashore, and some people don’t, the buffet, the bars, the pools and all the normal facilities are available for use. If you do go ashore, take your beach bag to the buffet in the morning, where you can make sandwiches and snag some fresh fruit for your lunch or a snack; take baggies from home for ice to keep things cool. Take a thermos from home for coffee or juice too. On shore, there are tours of the historic parts of the island including the El Rancho Escondido (The Wrigley’s Ranch – as in chewing gum), a huge zip line that runs from a mountain top to the blue Pacific Ocean, and then there is Desconso Beach, with its white sand beach, cabanas, bars and restaurant at waters edge; snorkeling and beach gear are available, it’s a great place to hang out. Between the Desconso Beach cabanas and the town center of Avalon is the Avalon Casino Ballroom, an art-deco building where every weekend bands would play and people would come from the mainland to dance the nights away.
Back on the ship, at 5pm the Captain weighs anchor and sails southward to Ensenada, Mexico . After an other party night the ship docks at Ensenada and passengers depart after 8 am for a day on the town.
Since there are ramps, scooters and chairs have easy access to the pier, and your adventure begins. You can walk/scooter/chair into town and wander around the shops, bars and restaurants of the city, or, if you have some mobility, you can rent a golf cart for up to 4 people and buzz around to see the sites; I recommend this very highly. You can usually leave your scooter or chair on the ship in the loading are, while you are ashore.
There are wine tours and trips to the La Bufadora blow hole that you can schedule through the travel desk on the ship. This goes for Catalina activities as well.
When you disembark at Ensenada, there is information about tours and other things in shops that you are funneled through on the way to the city. The golf carts kiosk is right outside the door. When you get to the carts, via a shuttle bus, they give you a map and show you the best areas to go to. Although we saw no signs of drug cartels or other bad guys, and few people do, the area that is marked is a suggestion to stay within the area to avoid possible problems. The people within that area depend on tourists like us for part of their livelihood, so that is basically a security zone.
When you return to the ship at about 5pm, the party is on again, except that by now everyone has had a lot of fun and sun and there is a decidedly more mellow tone for most.
The next morning if you are on the 3 day cruise, it is Monday and you are back in L.A., headed back to the daily grind. If you are on the four day adventure, it is Thursday and the last day. It is at sea and gives you another day to “party on” or recuperate from the previous days. Since you dock on Friday morning and you have the weekend ahead of you, either one can be a good plan.
Something that goes without saying is that a party cruise can be expensive if you get caught up in the drinking. Drinks are relatively expensive and you don’t get the bill until you disembark. Even sodas that cost $.50 from Costco can be a few $$ on-board the ship. (There is usually an “all you can drink” soda card, so if that is your beverage of choice, get it)
Depending upon the time of the year, you may find the 4 day cruise is cheaper than the 3 day cruise, since most people just go for a weekend instead of a weekday cruise. If you don’t have any time constraints check it out.
You may choose to get Internet access aboard for from about $5 to about $25 a day. This may allow you to communicate with others on the ship, which, for people with mobility issues, is quite handy. Carnival has an App called HUB, and is for use with Apple and Android systems. It is apparently free. Check before you board. It is unclear if the ship Carnival Inspiration (the party boat) has the Internet/HUB system installed. The web site lists all ships that do, and the Inspiration is NOT on that list.
A word of caution. If you are on the pool deck, after dark or late in the evening, you may be confronted with somewhat wild “adult” activities which include wet T-shirt competitions and nude swimming. This activity is not sanctioned by the cruise, but it happens.
The Carnival cruise page will give you more information. You will note that this sales pitch page does NOT mention ADA cabins and other access information, which is typical of most information pages. If you do a lot of digging, you will be able to get information, but in many cases they do NOT respond unless you are booked for a cruise.
People start disembarking at about 8am, and few remember that the breakfast buffet is still open. Having packed up your luggage the night before and set it outside for collection, you might. Until about 10am, the luggage area is chaos, so relax. That’s why you came isn’t it? Most of all, enjoy. Want to enjoy your last cruise benefit.