Carnival Cruise Live Blog (Day 4): A Final Day at Sea Featuring… Whales?! Plus Final Thoughts

For my first time, I’m sailing from Long Beach aboard Carnival Radiance. While I’ve sailed ships up and down the Carnival fleet, I’ve never sailed this ship, from this port, or this itinerary. That’s why I’m sharing each day with you so you can follow along and get an idea of what it’s like.

You can read other days here:

After three straight days of constant going between travel days and ports of call, a day at sea is exactly what I needed. Thankfully, the last day of this cruise is a day spent puttering around the ocean before heading back to the Port of Long Beach.

For the first time seemingly on this cruise, I’ve been able to catch my breath.

Following a late night it was nice to sleep in a little bit before heading down to breakfast. One thing I’ve noticed is that bacon has been a no-show on the buffet this trip. I’m not a huge bacon-eater, so it’s no big deal to me. However, I know social media has been talking about Carnival and the “will they/won’t they” aspect of bacon with the morning buffet.

Bacon on cruise ship buffet
Bacon seemed as precious as prime rib. I saw it served for the first time the final morning and only by a crew member from a protected area!

This morning it was finally there, but it was being treated like prime rib… literally. The station where there is prime rib in the evening now housed a member of the crew that was doling out pieces. No getting it yourself!

Of course, with it being a sea day, that means lots of people want to spend the day topside on the pool deck, including me. For the morning, however, the weather didn’t cooperate. Until right at noon, the day was largely overcast, breezy, and chilly.

Since the pool wasn’t a great option, I thought I’d try my hand at a hole-in-one contest on the mini-golf course. There were about 20 entrants and the rule was simple — hit a hole-in-one to win. What happened next was pretty cute.

With a slow and easy sea day, I took a chance to compete in a mini-golf competition. You could tell that the man who won had his day (maybe his year!) made by getting the trophy.

Three people hit holes in one (I wasn’t one of them, so no trophy for me). Those three went on to play again and the winner was an older man who had competed alongside his three grandchildren. The man was awarded the “ship on a stick” trophy and shared it with the kids. What was neat was that you could not wipe the smiles off of all their faces. You would think they just won the Masters.

As they were walking away, I told the man congrats. He turned to me with a big grin and said, “You know, the cool thing is I go to all their games. For them to cheer me on is awesome.”

There you go. A plastic ship trophy completely made this family’s day. You love to see it.

Following golf, things started to clear up a bit so I took the chance to get in one final day of sun before returning home. That was followed by a lido deck competition with those folks who are brave enough to sing, dance, and flaunt it in front of the entire pool deck. I could never do that, but it’s highly entertaining to watch others put on a show.

Then something amazing happened.

Busy pool deck at sea
The pool deck was hopping once the clouds broke. But something cool happened that many people missed. While the party was going on the pool deck, whales were breaching the surface on the port side of the ship.

I am eating lunch on the pool deck, sitting on a barstool overlooking the water. I’m just kind of hypnotized by the ocean when I noticed that way off in the distance there is a whitecap.

“That’s weird. The water is calm and there aren’t any other whitecaps anywhere.”

Then I keep watching and see a stream of mist shoot up. Then another. Then another. Well off the side of the ship there is a pod of whales breaching the water.

The distance was too far to see what kind of whales they were or to even get a good photo. But there is no mistaking what they were. Whale-watching is definitely not something I had on my agenda for today, but what an experience.

The final night of a cruise is always a little strange to me. It’s a mix of getting ready to have an early morning getting off the ship and heading home combined with wanting to get in that last night of fun.

Let’s start with dinner. The typical move might be to head to the main dining room for one last hurrah. But I’ll be honest, the dining room is always hit and miss for me. Instead, I realized that this is my last chance to snag a Guy’s Burger before I’m off the ship. It may not be what many people consider immaculate dining, but I’m not trying to impress anyone here.

Of course, the burger was fantastic as always. It was funny because I had to wait a few minutes while they cooked up a fresh batch… and then the crew felt the need to apologize for making me wait. Yeah, I’m happy to wait a minute or two if it means I get a burger that’s fresh off the grill.

A little mojito while watching karaoke never hurt anyone. Drinks have bumped up in price since the last time I sailed Carnival. A typical cocktail is now $12 plus gratuity.

With a full stomach, I sure was thirsty now. To round out the evening, I headed to karaoke in the RedFrog Pub, with a mojito (always my favorite) to quench my “thirst.” Let me tell you, this place was packed. It’s not an exaggeration that they should consider holding it in a theater or a larger lounge. I see why, too. It’s tons of fun for everyone.

And when one guy belted out Purple Rain? You would have thought Prince himself was singing based on the applause.

Karaoke was absolutely slammed to the point where moving to a larger venue might be a good idea. When Purple Rain was sang, the crowd went wild.

Karaoke over, I didn’t learn my lesson from breaking even in the casino the night before. I just had to try my luck again… and this time my luck ran out.

Seriously, I’m not sure I would have lost money any faster if I had just lit it on fire. That’s not a fun note to end the cruise on, but maybe one day I’ll learn something (eh… likely not).

Final Thoughts & Takeaways From This Cruise

Carnival Radiance in sunlight
My main takeaway with sailing Carnival Radiance? It doesn’t excel in any one area like being the biggest or newest, but it’s an absolute solid all-around ship that’s a fantastic option for a lot of people.

So what’s the overall impression of this cruise? I came away very impressed in that it delivers in exactly what it’s trying to be. Let me explain…

If you’ve sailed a million cruises to exotic places like Antarctica, Europe, and Asia, then a four-day trip aboard an older ship likely won’t be high up your list. There’s nothing too groundbreaking about the itinerary or the ship.

But that’s not what Carnival Radiance or this itinerary is trying to be. And it’s highly affordable. For this cruise, I paid about $700 all in. Given that two people could sail for that price, that’s a great deal considering how much cruise prices have soared.

Meanwhile, with Carnival Radiance you’re getting a solid ship. It’s not the newest. It’s not the biggest. There are no roller coasters or 20 decks or 6,000 people. But many cruisers don’t want those things. Instead, they want a ship that features plenty of amenities but in a size that’s much easier to handle. For those people wanting a smaller ship, this is the perfect cruise for them.

I’d also highly suggest this as a first-time cruise. (In fact, I’ve seen lots of the “blue” cards around that signify a first-time Carnival passenger.)

If you’re not sure about cruising, this trip is ideal. It’s affordable. It features decent ports of call. It has the full cruise experience aboard a ship that has a lot to offer without the price tag of newer/larger ships. The trip is also short enough that if you decide cruising isn’t your thing, then it’s only a few days long and you’ll be back home soon.

I’ve sailed a lot, and I straight up had a lot of fun. There are definitely ships I’d prefer over Carnival Radiance, but they can also cost a fortune to sail these days. This ship fits a perfect niche of the market.

Meanwhile, I got to visit some beautiful spots (Catalina is an absolute gem), won my first Carnival trophy, and most importantly, got some time away from the day-to-day grind back home without breaking the bank.

I call that a win.

Interesting Observations

  • Carnival has a new electronic disembarkation survey that you complete through the app. I’m not quite sure of the point of it. You simply answer if you are going to self-debark or if you have luggage. Then you select a time to get off the ship. Are they going to hold you if you try to leave early? Normally they just want people off as quickly as possible to get the ship ready for the next cruise.
  • Do you watch Cruzely on YouTube? Evidently lots of people do. I’ve had several people come up and say hi during the trip and let me know they watch the channel. It’s surreal! That said, if you ever see me on your cruise, don’t hesitate to say hello.

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