My friend and I decided on the 4 night Carnival Paradise cruise because we both wanted to try cruising and this one offered the best value, since we live in California.
We drove to port and found adequate parking for $12/day. Port directions were easy to follow. Embarkation probably took about an hour, involving a lot of waiting, but that's to be expected. The only thing truly unpleasant about waiting was all the crying babies and whining kids around us. The woman who checked us in was very friendly.
Our inside cabin was roomy and comfortable. The beds were very comfortable, with plush white duvets. The steward happily brought me a firmer pillow when I requested one. We used our plush robes often. The bathroom was roomy, with plenty of hooks both there and in the room. Storage space was plentiful.
The dining room was beautiful, with a very elegant, understated ambiance. Our waiter was very courteous, and we were seated with young singles our age.
The first night we went to a singles mixer in the piano bar, and the piano player, Barry, was really good at breaking the ice between everybody with a lot of humor and some racy jokes. My friend and I met all our cruise friends at this event.
LOVED the disco! We danced every night until we closed the club down. Great modern dance music.
I found the drink prices to be very reasonable.
Went to both R rated comedy nights. First one was funny, second one was just gross.
With a few exceptions, food was really good. I had hamburgers at the grill everyday. In the dining room, the prime rib was excellent. Stuffed pork loin was also great, and the salmon.
The service was very good. Most people were very courteous and helpful. I enjoyed meeting employees from all over the world. Seeong, the Thai bartender who serves on Carnival Boulevard next to the casino, makes excellent martinis.
Catalina was an excellent stop. The island was charming, clean, and relaxing. I wish we could have spent two days there instead of going to Ensenada. We did not take any shore excursions.
I met a lot of great people, and we made some great friends we will stay in touch with. Again, we met all these people at the singles mixer we went to the first night.
24 hour room service was great. We had breakfast in bed one morning. Make sure the operator understands you. When we ordered an early light dinner of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and turkey with added cheese, we received a turkey and cheese sandwich, and a PBJ with cheddar cheese. We laughed about that one for a while.
Loved the spa. Didn't pay for any massages, but did enjoy the workout area and walking track. The gym has huge floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the open sea. The sauna and steam room areas were very sleek and clean.
A few of the negative things: -when we first entered, our room smelled moldy of a greyhound bus bathroom. It took awhile for that smell to go away. -good water was hard to come by. The tap water was free, but had a very unpleasant taste. The price of bottled water was outrageous: $2.50 for a 16oz bottle. -Kids! I don't mind kids, but 1000+ on one ship was a bit much. Several staff mentioned it was the most kids they'd seen. It was spring break, after all. Because of this, I witnessed several occasions where kids were yelling while chasing eachother up and down the stairs, as well as sprinting down the halls. Where were their parents?? -Ensenada. My friend and I spent as little time here as possible. It was very ugly, and the vendors and begging children were aggressive. -Dirty tables. As other reviewers have mentioned, tables in the buffets were rarely wiped off. Several times, I went from table to table with my tray, trying to find one that didn't have crumbs and chunks of other people's food on it. It was a tough search. Even the tables that looked made up, with fresh napkins and silverware, had crumbs. Once, my friend and I found a table we liked that had dirty dishes. We beckoned a server over, and asked him to clean the table for us. He simply scooped up the dirty dishes, smiled, and pointed us toward the new and improved table. It's like Carnival has a policy against wiping down tables! -My meal the first night. Like I said, most of the food was very good. My first night in the dining room was one exception. I ordered the hamburger and fries. The burger patty was very large, but extremely salty to the point of being unappetizing. There was one tiny little onion ring in it. And my serving of fries was the most anemic I've ever seen. About seven limp, cold fries clung to life under the shadow of the huge, salty burger. Subsequent meals had much better fries, however.
Things I would do differently next time I cruise will be to: 1) get a room with a window so we can see whether it's light or dark outside. 2) bring some sort of timepiece. Neither of use brought a watch, and we had to call information from our room when we wanted to know the time. Add that to a room with no windows, and you can see where the sense of discombobulation came in. 3)bring my own bottled water!!!!
Overall, the positive far outweighed the negative, and we had a great time. A few improvements, and this cruise could go from good to great!!