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Cruising | Ensenada, Mexico

Hello friends! We're now in 2019! Woot, woot! My husband and I are kicking off the year (finally) with our first international travel (cruise-style) to Ensenada, Mexico!

For me, it was my first ever cruise and my first ever time stepping foot in the country of Mexico, so I was pretty excited! My husband has been on cruises to Mexico before with his family when he was younger, so he was my go-to for any questions and when learning the ropes for my first cruise. If you're a first time cruiser (like me!) but don't have anyone to show you the ropes, not to worry! There's an instructional video that plays in your room.

As far as the cruise logistics, we booked a 3-day cruise to Ensenada, Mexico with Carnival Cruise Imagination. We booked our tickets about a month ahead of time and scored a very good deal on them (probably because we went during an off time and didn't care for a window for our room). Our cruise dates were February 7th-February 10th, and we left from the port of Long Beach, California.

If you can't already tell from my previous travel post to Japan (Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara), I'm pretty much loving the photo collage feel. Although I can't showcase as many pictures, it pushes me to showcase some of the highlights of the country/city that I visit. So expect to see more of these collage-type photos moving forward for our travel and food posts!

Exploring the ship

Let me start by saying, there's plenty to do aboard the ship.

Want to workout? There's a gym and an outdoors track area, where you can see the ocean and enjoy the fresh ocean breeze. There's also a ping pong table aboard the ship. If the gym or track aren't really your thing, there's a pool (although other cruisers aren't exactly using it for exercise...). There's also a waterslide and jacuzzi. Looking for a way to relax? There's a spa aboard. Attending their spa tour can land you some discounts/deals/coupons if you plan on going to the spa.

Looking for something family-friendly? There's a board game room, stocked with different kinds of board games. My husband and I haven't played the game Operation before, and we both found the game amusing since we both are in the healthcare field. You can also spend time exploring the different levels and decks of the ship (something my husband and I personally enjoyed doing). You'll also be pleasantly surprised to find a mini golf course on the same deck with the walking track. My husband and I enjoyed playing, although you have to be a bit more strategic when playing because of wind activity and boat movement (not a professional golfer...just saying). We also found a kid's care area for parents who want a little bit of time for themselves. For other entertainment, there are shows and karaoke (one of my personal favorite activities while aboard, and yes, your kids can go singing too).

Feeling lucky? The cruise is packed with different raffle activities where you can win prizes! Some of the activities require a buy-in of some kind (ie. bingo...where you need to purchase the bingo cards) or where they try to sell you stuff (ie. trying to sell you artwork). But if you are good at not being pushed/convinced to buy stuff, you can walk away with free stuff! The only thing you lose, of course, is time. My husband and I won two pendant necklaces by Effy Jewelry.

There really is a bit of everything for everyone to have fun!

Meals aboard the ship

When booking your cruise, you have pretty much two options for food -- table service (order off a menu and have your food cooked and served) or buffet (all-you-can-eat style). Once you select one of the options, that will be your option for the whole trip.

Since my husband and I were trying to be healthy and not overeat on the cruise, we opted for the table service option. We chose a dining time and were served what we were ordered. Some of the entree, appetizer, and dessert options were pretty delicious and expensive (alligator meat, shrimp cocktail, and creme brulee anyone?). And don't worry...just because you chose the table service option won't mean that you'll be starving during the cruise! There are other places to eat for free (because it's included with your ticket) and other places where you can buy food aboard the ship!

For a free (included with your ticket), but unique, food experience outside of the two main options, try out Guy's Burger Joint. No, we didn't get to meet Guy Fieri himself, but we got to eat at one of this Food Network personality's restaurants!

Also, if you're into afternoon tea, be sure to try out the Mad Hatter's Tea Party (additional cost: $10). My husband and I tried it out because I'm an afternoon tea fan. You'll get served some sandwiches, some tea (you can opt for premium teas for another additional cost), and plenty of cakes and sweets to try. You can leave as you please or ask for seconds or thirds!

Deboarding and exploring Ensenada, Mexico

So now that I've talked about the many things to do and foods you can enjoy while aboard the ship, let's talk about deboarding the ship and the things to do when in Ensenada, Mexico!

Upon approaching the port and docking, you'll already see the homes lined along the shore and hills, and the Mexican flag waving in the air (unless it's not a windy day). You can also see the same view a night too as the ship is leaving the port. The difference is that you can really see the city lights and how they reflect upon the ocean contrasted against the darkness of the night. And the city lights at night are just enough that you can still see the colors of the Mexican flag. It's beautiful!

When deboarding the ship, be sure to have your ID, ship room key, and your passport (at the minimum). You'll pretty much need these when reboarding the ship. Prior to deboarding and during your time on the ship, you have options to purchase activity packages to do while you're on shore. My husband and I opted to just explore parts of the city by ourselves by foot. There was a bus ride that my husband and I took that brought us away from the port and into the entrance of the city. In hindsight, it was walkable and probably would have given us a bit more time for exploring.

While in town, we visited rows of local shops, a local supermarket, and some popular local food places (yes, more food!). To satisfy my churro and flan cravings, my husband and I visited Café La Churreria. It took some time for the churros to be made, maybe 15 minutes or so. When the churros were done, they were hot and delicious! Nicely crispy on the outside with a warm, and not soggy, inside. Yum! They didn't have plain flan, so we bought a slice of the chocoflan (pretty much a chocolate cake on a flan). The cake was moist and very chocolatey. The flan itself was delicious -- custardy and creamy!

For food, we stopped by La Guerrerense, a place made popular by American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. The place was very popular indeed with a crowd of people waiting in line and another crowd of people standing and eating. My husband and I each enjoyed a ceviche tostada, and it was fresh and flavor-packed! It's something we would have had seconds of, but we wanted to save space to visit Guy's Burger Joint!

On our way back to the ship, my husband and I looked at some shops for gifts. We were able to get a blanket and a marble chess board at a good price. The hardest part was, of course, carrying the marble chess board around. We also picked up some locally made snacks from one of the shops. The owner was nice and let us sample the snacks prior to buying to make sure we liked what we bought.

Here's a quick rundown of the process of reboarding the ship. We went through metal detectors prior to entering the gate to the pier. Once we passed that, we had to line up to board the ship, where we had our passports and ID's checked and went through another metal detector. The metal detector process itself wasn't long, but there was a bit of a wait time since there were a lot of people reboarding when we lined up.

There are (for sure) tons of other activities that we didn't get to do or experience while on this cruise because there really is a lot to do -- whether you're aboard or on shore!

- Nicole G.

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