We just returned from the 4 night cruise aboard the Carnival Paradise. This was my first cruise and my husband's second (he was on the Carnival 3 day to Mexico several years ago). We really enjoyed the trip and would highly recommend it for people looking for a short, affordable cruise.
We booked an inside room to keep costs low. We were pleasantly surprised by what a nice room it was. The room was larger than we expected and it was very quiet. Our cabin steward made our bed and straightened the room nearly every time we were out.
Embarkation was quick and smooth. I had read you could arrive early so we got there around 11:15 and were on board in less than 30 minutes. This may not work every time- I think it depends on how disembarkation has gone for the last cruise.
We ate lunch- pizza and a Reuben sandwich- and were glad we did so as soon as we arrived because service was pretty slow. We then walked around the entire ship to get ourselves oriented. We took the spa tour but decided not to book any treatments. We enjoyed a round of miniature golf before the boat drill. As soon as the drill was over we went to the sushi bar- which was a good idea because a long line immediately formed. The sushi was pretty good but not excellent. We were at the late seating so enjoyed the early evening snack every night except formal night (when it is closed).
Our servers at dinner were excellent. The thing I loved about cruising is that you can order as many items as you want. I love variety so I ordered several appetizers, tried each one and only ate what I really liked. When ordering beef order medium rare unless you like it really well done. Even ordering medium rare we usually got one piece m/r and the rest well done. The mashed potatoes were overdone- I think they crisped them in the oven. The gazpacho was very salty but the creamy broccoli soup was delicious. Our favorite item the entire week was escargot. If you haven't had it now is the time to try it. They were delicious. The lobster was pretty salty but the shrimp that came with it was very good. The prime rib was good. The sherbet, coffee ice cream and chocolate melting cake are good for dessert. We enjoyed tea and cappuccino every evening with our dessert. The food on the cruise was a bit disappointing. I was not expecting anything amazing but most of it was mediocre.
On Catalina Island we wanted to go kayaking but did not book through Carnival because we found a deal online to kayak and snorkel for 4 hours for less than kayaking for 2 hours. We ate breakfast in the morning so we could be on the first tender out at 8am. We enjoyed breakfast in the Elation dining room the rest of the week. We had the shuttle boat to ourselves. Heard from others it was very busy later, which deterred some from even going ashore. We enjoyed walking around town and even did some geocaching.
In Ensenada we wanted to see the blowhole, but again, did not book an excursion through Carnival. We started walking toward town and were stopped by a taxi driver. The cost was $10pp with a minimum of 4. We told him we wanted to go but couldn't pay the price for 4 so they found another couple from our ship and we went together. The drive is about 45 minutes each way. We just had an hour there and probably could have used an hour and a half to see the blowhole and check out the shops. Right now the observation area is under construction so we found it best to go up the stairs to an area above. I had been to Ensenada before and loved the fish tacos. We had the taxi driver drop us off at the fish market and looked for while little restaurant had locals eating there. The fish and shrimp tacos were excellent. We visited a few of the shops before returning to the ship.
As far as activities and entertainment we enjoyed the comedian the first night (Lowell Sanders), the magician (Bobby Borja), the Newlywed Game and Karaoke Idol. The comedian after the magician on the third night (I think his name was Tom) was terrible and was not appropriate for a family show. I think everyone in the place wanted to walk out. We went to the whirlpools on the Verandah deck because the ones by the main pool were really overcrowded. We also enjoyed playing shuffleboard on the Verandah deck and donated some of our money to the casino.
Overall I would recommend this cruise- it is a great value for the money.