We boarded the Paradise on July 17th for a four day cruise to Catalina and Ensenada, Mexico. Boarding wasn't as easy as we thought it would be. We arrived a the Long Beach cruise terminal around 11:30am, a porter greeted us at our shuttle and offered to take our luggage. He gave us the correct tags (guess they sent us the wrong colored tags for where our room was) and looked up our stateroom on a very long list of passengers. I tipped the porter and noticed he was very helpful, told us who to look for while in line (couple in front of us didn't and I noticed he told them nothing) so I'd recommend you tip the porter a few bucks to ensure very good service. We then stood in a line for about 30 minutes outside the terminal dome, the line moved a little slower than I thought it would but I don't think it was the cruise line's fault...There were people lined up in the wrong area, who didn't have their boarding passes out or Id's in hand.
Once we got on the ship (around 12:45) we went up to the Lido deck and had some lunch at the Paris Restaurant. Food isn't quite as bad as rumor has it. We then walked around Paradise for a few hours getting to know the ship and it's details.
Paradise is a very nice and clean ship. It is easy to navigate once you know which deck is which. We then found our stateroom on the Empress deck. It was much bigger than we thought it would be, nicer than some four star hotels I have stayed in, we were impressed.
Around 4pm we met some friends we were traveling with for some drinks before the Muster Drill which was over in about 20 minutes. We then got ready for our late dinner seating, food wasn't bad...service is good though it may take a while to get drinks you order, expect a 15-20 minute wait. After dinner we went to Rex, the onboard disco...good music until about midnight, then they play mostly rap (which to me and my girlfriend isn't as fun to dance to as the 70's 80's and 90's hip hop they started out playing) Drinks were reasonably priced. You use your Sign and Sail cards to buy them...we only spent about $300 between the both of us (and a few rounds for our three other friends) on booze for the whole four day trip...not as bad as we thought it would be.
Catalina is beautiful, though don't expect luxury on this Island...lots of little slums around town, thought it isn't without it's charm. we rented a golf cart and drove around the island...lots of fun! We saw two shows that night, Hollywood was a nice Vegas style show..fast paced and fun to watch. Also the late night comedian was very funny...I wasn't expecting much but he was funnier than most of them I pay money to see at nightclubs. If you have kids, you don't want to have them around for the adult show...lots of language and content you don't want them to hear. SPeaking of kids, this is the ONLY thing my girlfriend and I had to complain about on this cruise. if you go on the four-day cruise, you will have to deal with LOTS of children. I love kids and am tolerant of them however, when their stupid parents let them run around on the stairways on the boat and play in the elevators (some of these kids were as young as five or six and had no parent supervision) It was hard to walk around restaurants on the boat without tripping over some unsupervised child. Kids should have fun on this cruise, but we really felt there were too many parents who just let their children run around and be loud and annoying. At first this won't bother you, but after the second or third day of hearing them running up and down the cabin corridor while yelling, tripping over them in stairways and in the restaurants, and waiting for an elevator that won't come because kids are playing on them, you will become very annoyed. there's nothing Carnival could do about this...but I do wish they would encourage parents not to let their children run all over the boat unsupervised.
You can't chose your shipmates. An example are the folks who showed up to the formal dinner dressed in shorts and tank top shirts while wearing mesh "Coors" hats... You should pack lots of patience for this trip. Again, nothing Carnival can do about this. This is the ONLY negative thing I have to say about this cruise.
Ensenada...Nice place to visit for a few hours, It's mexico and like many cities in a developing nation, it has its share of poverty. It is in a beautiful location, people seem very nice, lots of shops and restaurants, Papas and Beer is fun (downstairs, go upstairs and you may be shocked at what you will see, let's just leave it at that.) We went on the shopping tour, very informative and a nice tour of town.
All in all I would strongly recommend this cruise to anyone wanting to get away for a few days. The crew was friendly, professional (loved the towel animals our Steward would leave for us every night when we returned to our stateroom!) This is a great value for your money...We felt we got a lot for what we paid for, Carnival and the crew of the Paradise did a great job in making sure we enjoyed our vacation.