Pre-cruise: My daughter and her family had never been on a cruise before so I thought that the weekday run from Long Beach to Catalina and Ensenada would be the perfect introduction to cruising. It would be a low cost foreign travel adventure, leaving from a port near home and provide the experience, features and atmosphere of a modern cruise ship and besides; it made a good birthday present. After a quick search I settled on the Carnival Paradise.
Embarkation: All of us live in Lancaster, CA so it was only a 2 hour drive down the freeway to the port of Long Beach. Carnival Cruise Lines has it's own pier, parking garage and cruise terminal. It shares the property with the Queen Mary so it is quite easy to find. After parking and locking your car you simply roll your luggage to the elevator and that lets you out in front of the cruise terminal. Carnival employees are there to direct you to the boarding line and from that point the entire process took less than 30 minutes. This was my 5th cruise and without a doubt the easiest boarding that I have ever experienced, even with 3 kids. Once aboard we dropped our hand luggage off in our cabins and went up to the buffet.
Once aboard: The ship is close to 900 feet long and rises 13 stories out of the water so it's not like the fishing boat at the lake. There several elevators to take to the correct floor, 20 in all. so moving about the ship is easy. The names of the floors is sometimes confusing, some one may tell you that you need to go to deck 10 but all of the signs call it the Lido deck. I thought that all of the meals in both the buffet and the dining room were great. The maitre d was everywhere, greeting, guiding and inspecting. The food service staff is used both in the dining rooms and the buffet and they were great. Nothing missed their attention and they just appeared out of nowhere. If you don't enjoy that type of service, go up to the Lido deck, next to the pool and have a hamburger.
My 3 grand kids, ages 8,7 & 3, all went to Camp Carnival for 3 days and loved every minute of it. They were closely watched and led in fun, games and crafts by the staff. The rest of us just read and laid around. I will say that my wife trounced me in miniature golf, but maybe next cruise I"ll get her back. One of the high points of the trip was that the children were abe to see an entire pod of dolphins from our table in the dining room, that experience couldn't be bought.
The big thing that I didn't like on the cruise was the space in my stateroom. They had build a big wood box to hold the life jackets and they placed it at the foot of the bed, effectively blocking the walk space around the bed. We had to either roll or climb over the bed to see out the window. On other ships the windows were never blocked and generally had a seat there where you could look out the window while reading or resting.