Background Information: There were three of us going on our very first cruise. I was accompanied by my work friend (Lisa) and my sister. I don't normally spell my first name like that, but when I told Assistant Cruise Director Michael Patrick my name at the Ping Pong tournament, he spelled it like that...must be a British thing, but I liked the spelling of it ;)
Hotel Info (if any): None.
Travel To Port of Embarkation: We were driven by Lisa's significant other, David, from the Inland Empire. We were picked up at approximately 11:50 a.m. and arrived at the Port of Long Beach at approximately 12:30 p.m. Our paperwork said we couldn't embark onto the ship until 1:30 p.m., but we were let on quickly after checking in. We had to go to the purser's desk to put our separate credit cards on the Sail & Sign card and weren't able to get into our stateroom until 1:30 p.m., but that was fine.
Ship Info: Carnival Paradise. It sailed out of Long Beach, California.
Stateroom: We were on Riviera Deck, cabin R153, ocean view, with a nice large window. It was the lowest deck possible, in the middle of the deck, so we felt a little rocking movement when the ship was rocking heavily on the upper decks. A big kudos to the Carnival agent who told us which deck and portion of the ship we should be on to feel the least movement.
In the bathroom were two shavers (one for men, one for women), one trial size toothpaste (Arm & Hammer) and two sealed bars (circles) of soap. These were not replenished during the short trip.
There were two twin beds, in an L shape, separated by a corner trunk which held the lifejackets. Above one twin bed was the pull-out bed, for which Rodney, the steward, pulled down for us while we were at dinner.
The first night, our towel animal was a swan. The second night, it was a dog. The third night, it was a frog.
There is a safe in the closet for which you can code with any card that has a magnetic strip (other than a credit card and sign & sail card).
Activities: Lots of activities on the day that the ship was in port in Ensenada. We played in the ping pong tournament in the morning and lost, played miniature golf, and played ping pong. I also went down the water slide on the Lido deck a few times - there are spotters at the top & bottom of the stairs who will tell you when it is okay to ascend the stairs and when it is okay to go down the slide.
Spa: We also had a spa treatment - the Ionithermie treatment for which each of us lost at least 5 inches (they measure in six areas of your body). This occurred on the day that we were in port in Ensenada. It was an interesting experience and, of course, the salon tries to sell you on a home treatment program (costing anywhere from $1000-3000) but we declined.
Dining: On the first day, after dropping our luggage off in the cabin, we headed to lunch at the Lido grill (we didn't realize the Paris Restaurant was also open). It was a "fast food" environment in a buffet line. We were assigned the Elation restaurant, first seating at 6 p.m. for dinner. The dinners were fine - a choice of fish, beef, chicken and vegetarian entrees. For formal night, there was also lobster and tiger shrimp.
The lunch buffets were different on each side of the buffets. There were also salad bars in the middle of the dining room, along with the deserts (yum) and ice cream.
The maitre 'd was a bit rude when Lisa mentioned that her flat iron steak (she had this as her last dinner) was tough (it was ordered medium).
For dinner, we were seated at a round table that seats 10. Two of the seats were close to the waiters station, which made it difficult for those two diners to sit far back from the table. They were nice people (a family from Phoenix, AZ, and a family from Anaheim Hills, CA).
Children's Clubs: N/A. We did not have any children traveling with us.
Service: Great. The waiters were friendly.
Shore Excursions: N/A. As this was our first cruising experience, we didn't want to leave the ship. We stayed onboard when the ship docked at Ensenada so we could experience all the activities.
Entertainment: All the "main" entertainment occurred in the Normandie Lounge. The first night, we had a comedy show. The second night was a musical, showcasing the songs of Hollywood. The final night was also a musical, called "Shout!"
Disembarkation: This went smoothly. We attended the disembarkation talk at the Normandie lounge, which was also taped and played repeatedly on one of the TV channels. Skip, the Australian Cruise Director, explained how the process went. We waited until the deck two floors above ours had been called before moving to the elevators. By the time we were able to catch an elevator, our deck had been called. We were cleared through customs and disembarked at approximately 8 a.m. Since we were part of the self-assist group, we didn't have to wait for our luggage.
Summary: I have to say that Assistant Cruise Director (ACD) Michael Patrick from Liverpool, England (also where the Queen Mary was built) exceeded our expectations. He remembered our names and was an all around a pleasant person. I ran into him while he was handling the trivia tournament and was pulled into a team (who apparently didn't know a lot of the answers). In addition, Lisa & I had checked out the paddles and ball to play ping pong (didn't even know there was a tournament) and when others joined the tournament after we lost, they took our paddles and ball (they didn't bother getting their own). ACD Michael went to the towel station to get us additional paddles and ball so we could play on the other tables while the tournament was still going on.
Our room steward Rodney was also great, as was Mr. V (head waiter) and the second waiter (sorry, don't remember his name).
I don't know that we'd go on another cruise again. Lisa was happy and wanted to go on another one, but sis became sea-sick on the "fun day at sea" day (probably because we were farther out at sea and the ship was so rocky, except in our cabin, the rockiness wasn't quite as bad) so she didn't enjoy herself too much on our final cruise day.