Weather in February along the Southern California Coast can be a dicey affair, but ours was most pleasant throughout the cruise. We needed the sunscreen! Somewhat overcast just early on the day of departure, the sun shone brightly every day. The children thoroughly enjoyed and were consumed with the waterslide experience, and each were totally exhausted at the end of the day. Proper supervision was always present to keep the flow of 'watersliders' moving and free of delays.
It was evident that this is a well-mastered and crewed vessel. Even though we had a full compliment of passengers, it almost never seemed crowded, with the possible exception of the hot tubs. The ship was bright, clean and attractive, will little signs of being threadbare. This ship is in constant use, but it didn't show. It amazes me that this vessel does the three day-four day pattern and still maintains its bristol condition after such capacity, and short 'turnarounds'.
Early on the first day, the parents signed up the children for the Camp Carnival experience. The line delivered on its promise of keeping the children entertained throughout the cruise. On the Paradise at least, the line employs some bright, energetic, dynamic and knowlegeble counselors. There were a lot of activities offered to each of the childrens groups. They were seldom bored. Our biggest challenge was getting the kids to join us for dinner each evening! We chose traditional dining, with a first sitting. Assigned our own large round table, our dining room staff was prompt, polite and doted over the children, making sure that each received exactly what they ordered. We elected to have most meals together, and even during Breakfast and Lunch, we had our own table, which made the overall experience much more enjoyable. Certainly not Silversea Cruises by any stretch of the imagination, the fare in the dining room was very, very good to excellent. Well prepared and executed, the presentation was always artistic and pleasant. The selections were always varied, and readily available, but the ever-present requests for 'chicken nuggets and ketchup' was met with well prepared, fresh made-on-board, quality ingredients that the children relished in.
It is important here to mention that after all, it is unfair to judge these experiences without considering value for price-paid. Carnival offers a lot for the money. Some of these reviews I feel are far too critical. For roughly $70.00 per adult day, and less for the children, I think these experiences are well worth the money. If its truly fine dining at sea you want, then you might be happier on a Silversea type of experience. The chocolate melting cake, Carnival's Signature dessert was handsdown, the childrens (and adults!)favorite. The 'Lobster Night' was a surprise, as we were expecting rock lobster, but instead were served plump, well prepared, tender Maine lobster tails accompanied by a few jumbo shrimp. Delicious. Overall, the dining experience was exceptional, considering the value priced fares paid. The pizza station aft was very good, beating RCCL's by a country mile. The pizza was crisp, flavorful and tasty. The deli station was exceptional, too. Remembering that we had a full compliment of passengers, it was understandable that there occasionally was a wait in these two venues, but the wait was seldom more than a minute or two. The sandwiches were always made on baked aboard breads with quality deli-style ingredients. The visit to Catalina was pleasant for the family, but a few of us having been there on other occasions, stayed aboard and relaxed by the pool. Ensenada could never be considered a World Class port, but for the purposes of this short cruise family experience, it was fine. We strolled around the town picking up some souvenirs, with two adults venturing out independently to La Bufadora (everyone else had been there before) in a clean, private taxi driven by a competent driver/tour guide for 50% of the cost of a bus tour from the ship, including a generous gratuity. We seldom book excursions through the cruise line, as these always prove to be far more expensive and crowded than those better choices available on shore. Bar staff roving the decks hawking drinks not too intrusive. Incidentally, we had ordered four drink coupons a few weeks prior to the cruise. They are sold as 'good for four drinks' but found out that they were only worth $4.75 each, and if you ordered the 'Drink of the Day' you had to pay the difference, so this was seen as somewhat deceiving. Carnival would be well advised to print this on the face of the coupons, and mention this at the time of buying/booking them. Thats really the only negative thing that we can say about the bar service. The cabin steward was inobtrusive, polite, respectful, attentive and most capable. Certainly worth an extra gratuity. Cabins kept in tip-top shape, even with the children. Climate control in all of the cabins were fine.
Shipboard entertainment was well worth the price paid. If its world class entertainment you are seeking, then go to Las Vegas. It is patently unfair to evaluate these entertainers without seriously considering the venue. Disembarkation was a breeze, with Carnival calling decks for the 'Self Assist' passengers. Prior to disembarking, we had a leisurely family breakfast in the dining room. There was never the feeling of being rushed, and the staff was overall, excellent. We were all off the ship by 930AM refreshed and unhurried.
These cruises are excellent values, and represent a great way to enjoy a short, carefree family vacation. Its important to keep the 'value for price-paid' formula in mind when rating these experiences. We had a great time and considered this cruise a bargain.