There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love to cruise and those who haven’t tried it yet. Until recently, I fell into the latter category. (Yes, I’m sure there are people who don’t love to cruise, but I can’t fathom why.) I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise. It just seemed like such an easy way to vacation. But it wasn’t until my friends suggested a three night, girls only Ensenada cruise on Carnival Inspiration that I finally got on board. (Pun intended.)
Day 1 – Long Beach, California
I boarded the Carnival Inspiration with my friends, Anne, Katrina, and Mallory, at the Long Beach cruise terminal. We chose a later boarding time so we could get blow outs and free Sephora makeovers beforehand. If you’re going to cruise, you should do it in style. You should also come prepared. Make sure to check out my guide What to Pack: Cruise Essentials before you embark.
We booked a small ocean view stateroom. With four women in one cabin, it was a tight squeeze. Luckily, staterooms are a lot like Legos or Ikea furniture. Think hidden storage compartments and cubbies everywhere.
After stowing our bags, we dressed up for dinner and made our way to the main dining room for our late dining time slot. Some people don’t like the formality of the main dining room on a cruise ship, but I love it. You don’t have to dress super fancy for dinner except on formal nights and that’s where you find some of the best food on the ship. For all more cruisewear tips, check out my guide What To Wear On A Cruise. Also, you can order as much as you’d like. Anne’s grandmother who we call “Gammie” is the queen of cruising so she imparted a lot of wisdom before this cruise:
Gammie’s Cruise Tip #1: Order one of everything at dinner. Eat what you like. Don’t eat what you dislike.
You can also select the size of your table in the main dining room. If you’re social, select a larger table than your party and you’ll be seated with other guests. We were seated with two couples who were traveling together. We loved chatting with them and sharing tips about what to do next on the ship.
After dinner, we hit the casino. I seriously don’t know how I waited so long to go on a cruise since it combines so many of my favorite things: vacation, food & drinks, getting fancy, and gambling. Unfortunately, the casino on the Carnival Inspiration was nearly too full of cigarette smoke to even breath. That is the downside of cruising on an older ship. Carnival Inspiration was built in 1996 and upgraded in 2007. Those upgrades didn’t seem to reach the air filtration system in the casino. Katrina and I played craps for an hour or so before we needed fresh air.
Day 2 – Ensenada, Mexico
We docked in Ensenada in the early morning of our second day while we were all still asleep. Since this was such a short cruise, we didn’t plan any shore excursions in advance. Instead, we just walked off the ship and into Ensenada. While we were enjoying our first margarita of the day, we decided to take a tour out to La Bufadora or the blow hole.
The ride took about 30-45 minutes. When we arrived, we walked through a lengthy mercado or marketplace before we could see the blow hole. The blow hole was awesome, and the view of the coast was lovely.
After seeing the blow hole, we checked out the shops in the marketplace.
Gammie’s Cruise Tip #2: Bring lots of small cash for shopping, tipping, cab fare, etc.
This cruise tip is very important if you’re going to be shopping in the mercado. You don’t want to haggle about exchange rates and credit card fees. You also don’t want to be escorted to the back of Moses’ shop where you can get cash back with his credit card machine. Since Katrina and I spent all of Anne’s money playing craps and buying knock off purses, we paid Moses a reluctant visit. Although, he did offer us some nice almond tequila while we waited that almost made it worth it. We ate street tacos and churros for lunch then headed back to the ship.
That evening we ate dinner in the main dining room again, Afterwards, we went to the late night, adult’s only comedy show which was hilarious. One of the most surprising things to me about cruising is the quality of entertainment. I honestly haven’t been to a cruise show that I didn’t like except for Cats. But that’s another story about a different cruise and it wasn’t really their fault.
Day 3 – At Sea Day
One of my favorite days on the cruise was the at sea day. Our ship just made circles in the Pacific Ocean while we enjoyed the amenities. We did Harry Potter trivia and lost. We did the ship wide scavenger hunt and lost. But made a good showing. And we shot ice off the highest deck with a $5 sling shot that I bought for Mallory in Ensenada. This was surprisingly fun even though I managed to injure my thumb. We also went to brunch and afternoon tea in the anytime dining room. Both of which felt like the golden age of cruising to me, but I’ve been told I’m mistaken.
That evening was formal night. Since I love getting fancy, this was my favorite evening on the ship.
Gammie’s Cruise Tip #3: Go all out for formal night and take lots of photos.
They set up photo backdrops all around the cruise ship for formal night. The photos cost extra but they’re just good fun. We each chose two pieces of “Gammie’s Cruise Wear” and took photos at nearly every backdrop.
After our final dinner in the main dining room that included a dance party with the wait staff, we changed into more comfortable clothes. We went to another show then went to the nightclub for dancing. After someone spilled a drink on Mallory, we decided to retire to the library to play games in peace and quiet. I wouldn’t say we were hiding, but we were definitely trying to avoid some unsavory individuals. The only downside of hanging out in the library is the distance to the bar.
Day 4 – Los Angeles
We docked in Long Beach before dawn. On embarkation day, you must be out of your state room pretty early so we ordered continental breakfast in our room. This consisted of something like 10 croissants (for Anne and me) and coffee (for Katrina and Mallory). Once we cleared out of the state room, we sat down to wait.
Gammie’s Cruise Tip #4: Bring a deck of cards.
It took about two hours between when we left our stateroom and when we left the ship. Since we all had checked baggage, we had to wait until our deck was called. We found a quiet corner of the ship and played hearts while we waited.
Points and Miles Roundup
Points & miles did not play a huge role in this trip. I’ll share some of my strategies for using points & miles for cruises in another post. But I did book the cruise with my Chase Sapphire Preferred. As a travel purchase, I earned 2x the Chase Ultimate Rewards. I put the whole cruise on my card and my friends reimbursed me so more points for me!
I booked 1 night before the cruise at the Beverly Hills Marriott for 21,324 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. With a redemption rate of 1.25 cents, I saved $266.50 which is nearly how much the cruise itself cost. For more information about Chase Ultimate Rewards points, read Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards and Evaluating Value: Chase Sapphire Preferred.
This 3 night Ensenada cruise is a great option for a long weekend or a girl’s only trip. While cruising may have lost some of the magic from yesteryear, or so I’m told, you can still find lots to do and tons to eat and drink. It’s a nice way to relax and connect with friends both old and new. If you’re interested in a longer cruise, check out how much fun we had on our Caribbean Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. Before you start packing for your first cruise, check out my guides What To Wear On A Cruise, What to Pack: Cruise Essentials, and 10 Tips For A Well Organized Suitcase.