Carnival Panorama Trip Review: Day 1, Embarkation
Welcome to our day by day Carnival Panorama Trip Review. This is our first time recording our trips in written format, but rest assured, we’re still creating videos of our cruise experience, and can’t wait to “show and tell” along the way. In fact, for LIVE sneak peeks of our trip, visit us over on Instagram, and be sure to follow our “stories”. We’ll save a Carnival Panorama Highlight, just in case you miss the live stories.
We’re going to loosely format for this live trip review series where we’ll cover: Our Location, A Daily Highlight, Foodie Fun, Drink of the Day, Venue of the Day, Activities we Missed (because who can squeeze it all in!? Nobody!) & A Fun Fact.
We chose this cruise for several reasons. First and foremost, as West Coast residents, ANY cruise that home ports in California will always be a top choice. Why? Well, they’re a GREAT value, we can drive to port, and they offer a level of relaxation that hauling our family of three cross country just can’t satisfy.
In addition to the ease of driving to port, cruising on Carnival Panorama has been at the top of our list since well before the industry shutdown. While I (Sheri) had attended the media event in December of 2019, 6 hours on the ship was not enough to experience ALL there was to see, do and EAT onboard.
Carnival Panorama is the first NEW cruise ship to permanently homeport out of Long Beach, California in over 20 years, and by golly, we needed to get onboard to experience all this Vista Class ship has to offer! SO many of the venues on this ship will be totally new to us, so we’re eager to do it all! From the Sky Ride (biking high above the sea!), Sky Zone (at sea trampoline park!), to Seafood Shack & Guy’s Burgers, we are SO ready for a week of NEW, FUN & Family time!
And finally, we chose this cruise because Carnival permits vaccine exemptions, at the moment, to 5% of it’s cruise passengers. Our minor son requires one of these exemptions, so we did our research, paid for the cruise in full, then applied for the exemption! GULP, the wait was nerve wracking (especially having paid in full), but the exemption came through in approximately 24 days from the time we booked. Note: Carnival had shared that they would give us an exemption no later than 2 weeks before the cruise, but thankfully it came much faster – closer to 6 weeks before our sailing date.
Let’s Board! Our Embarkation Experience & First Day FUN!
We opted to drive to port on this cruise, rather than booking a pre-cruise hotel. We arrived at the newly renovated Long Beach Cruise Terminal and parked our car in covered parking for the week. The current rate daily rate is $23.00 per day. Once we arrived, we were greeted by the friendly staff at the terminal who directed us to a special line for cruisers who needed to get a pre-cruise COVID test on embarkation day (children, and those who were sailing with a vaccine exemption). We immediately checked our son in for his antigen test, and within minutes, he’d completed his swab test, and we were told to have a seat to wait for results.
Backing up for a moment- our arrival appointment was the earliest possible time- noon. We arrived at about 11:30am and the terminal was PACKED with thousands of people. It seemed that most people were not observing their boarding appointment, and showed up several hours early to board. There was plenty of space for seating, so this wasn’t an issue, but it made the check in lines inside the terminal feel crowded & long, which, if you’re concerned about social distancing, could be frustrating.
Back to the pre-cruise testing process for our son. Results came by email & text in less than 15 minutes, at which point, we proceeded to a line where the testing staff verified all of our documentation (passports, COVID tests, vaccine cards for my husband and I and boarding passes). They then escorted us OUT of the testing area and to the front of the line at the general check in area inside the terminal.
This was much appreciated because we’d already stood in a long line waiting to get out of the testing area. Standing in another line would have been frustrating for all of the families who had just tested, because the line to get OUT of the testing area was quite long and all necessary documentation had already been reviewed (boarding passes, pre cruise tests, etc). Check in was speedy and efficient and the moment we were finished our boarding group (D3) was being called. By this time, it was about 12:30pm, and we were excited to get on the ship!
Once onboard, we headed straight for our cabin to offload our luggage. Cruisers who required testing at the terminal were not permitted to drop off their luggage with porters, because if they didn’t pass the COVID test, their luggage would have made it’s way onboard, and well, it would be hard to retrieve. So, even though our cabin wasn’t ready (1:30pm is the standard time), our room steward kindly allowed us to drop our bags in the hall so we could roam the ship.
Now, it was finally time to explore Carnival Panorama! We did so much, but probably only saw 30% of the ship on our first afternoon!
First, we visited the sports square to check out mini-golf, and all the fun outdoor games available. Junior tried the ropes course, which he LOVED.
Then, we ventured to the main pool area, which was cleared out and ready for the sailaway party that was set to start at 4:30pm.
After working up quite the appetite, we grabbed our FIRST Guy’s Burger of the cruise, which was surprisingly uncrowded. The toppings bar seemed a little scaled back (obviously the “bacon shortage” was one reason), but we’re not sure what items were missing.
Then, it was time for a spa tour. The staff offered first day discounts and specials for everything from massages to acupuncture, and showed us every corner of the spa, salon and gym, as well as the thermal suite which was complimentary for my husband and I as we’d booked spa cabins.
After the spa tour, it was already time for the sailaway party, which was well attended. As the ship pulled away from the shore, Cruise Director Lee Mason led a high energy dance session, and all the usual fun was had! The Cupid Shuffle, Wobble, and YMCA standby’s kicked off the fun, and we didn’t miss a minute of it!
After the sailaway party, a quick champagne toast on our balcony was in order, and it was off to roam the open decks and see more of the ship. We caught the sunset and snapped some fun photos out on deck, before returning to our stateroom to clean up for our dinner onboard, and Fahrenheit 555, the onboard steakhouse.
We opted for a Category 8T Spa Balcony on this Carnival Panorama cruise (officially called an “Outside Balcony”), which includes access to the Carnival Panorama Thermal Suites. The price was just a few hundred dollars more than a standard balcony, and because we don’t plan to get off the ship much on this cruise, we felt it was worth it.
With Carnival’s “cancel for any reason” insurance included, we paid $2495.00 for three people. The insurance accounted for $267.00 of that price. Contrary to what we’re seeing with some other cruise lines, prices on Carnival Panorama seemed to be lower than usual to us. We also like the location of this stateroom. Very high on the ship on Deck 14, adjacent to the pool deck and just a few short flights of stairs from Guy’s Burger Joint :-).
We were originally scheduled for the traditional 7 night itinerary, as follows: Sea Day, Cabo, Mazatlan, Vallarta, 2 Sea Days. But, a few days before our cruise, we were alerted that due to the ongoing propulsion issues, the itinerary would reverse, putting those Sea Days up front, and Puerto Vallarta as our FIRST top, vs. last. Fine by us, as our plan on this cruise is to mostly stay on the ship.
Foodie Fun: Our First Dinner on Board
We had a pre-planned dinner reservation for 7:30pm tonight, and once we arrived we were immediately seated. The restaurant was at about 30% capacity, so if you’re looking to check out the Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, night one is a good option. We were surprised to be offered a free bottle of wine as a night one perk as well, which we thought was a thing of the past. Such a nice touch! We enjoyed surf and turf – lobster and filet mignon all around, as well as some lovely appetizers and desserts. The steak was cooked to perfection, and the bernaise was on point.
Download Carnival Panorama Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse Menus here: Download Menus
While we “did” a lot today, my favorite moments were spent walking the outer decks and taking photos as a family. Our 23 year wedding anniversary is tomorrow, and being back at sea together, after a rough 18 month break from cruising, just feels like a dream. We’ll never take cruising or travel for granted again!
Drink of the Day
The Heroes Tribute Bar on Carnival Panorama is the first of it’s kind in the Carnival Fleet, and we love that they donate proceeds to Operation Homefront, so we headed to this open-concept sports bar to kick off our “drink of the day” series for our cruise.
I chose the Heroes Tribute cocktail, a tasty (and strong) blend of Bombay Gin, Skyy Cherry Vodka, Flor de Cana rum, El Jimador Tequila, Patron Citronage, Sierra Mist and Blue Curacao. It was the perfect night one cocktail.
Venue of the Day
The Heroes Tribute Bar stole our hearts today, with military memorabilia lining the walls, friendly staff and cool cocktails like “Shore Leave” on the menu. We’ll be back over the next few days! Sports bar lovers, you’re going to LOVE this spot on Carnival Panorama.
Shipboard Activities We Missed Today
So much to do on Carnival Panorama, so little time! We didn’t make it to the welcome aboard show, the shops or casino today (hey, gotta redeem that $25 credit for our first cruise as Platinum Carnival Cruisers!
At Carnival Waterworks, you’ll find something called PowerDrencher, which is a Tipping Bucket. The bucket holds 300 gallons of water.
What’s on tap tomorrow?
After an action packed embarkation day, we’re looking forward to a sea day. Tomorrow is formal night, but otherwise, we have nothing planned. We hope to see more of Carnival Panorama, celebrate our anniversary, and enjoy some fabulous food.
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