This was our third cruise, our first Carnival Cruise (previous 2 on Royal) and first inside cabin. We decided to do a 4 night, 3 day Mexican cruise on the Paradise as it was my parents 50th wedding anniversary, who live in Vegas, and since my mother has a fear of flying it was a short drive to Long Beach. We also took my daughter and our new son in law who were married on that previous Saturday.
EMBARKATION -- We arrived around 2:00 P.M. and were pleasantly greeted by the porters who helped us take our luggage off the roof of our vehicle. Check in was a breeze, there were no real long lines and since we used the online Funpass registration, they had us all checked in a matter of around 10 minutes. Security was tight in the terminal, we were asked for ID when we entered the building, when we were going on the escalator, when we got to the top of the escalator (couldn't figure that one out) and after we walked across the gangway onto the ship. Since it was my parent's anniversary and my daughters honeymoon, we prearranged on line to have their rooms decorated and gifts waiting, this was money well spent, Carnival really did a fantastic job with the decorations. Both my parents and daughter & son-in-law got extremely emotional as we entered each of their rooms. But the biggest surprise we had, was all our luggage was outside our rooms. I have to say I was really impressed normally we don't see our luggage until after we've set sail and have eaten dinner.
After inspecting our room and putting our clothing in the dresser it was off for lunch in the Paris Restaurant. I was really impressed with the food on this ship, for lunch they had carved turkey and I about fell off my chair when my 140-pound son-in-law came back with two big turkey legs. Shortly after eating, the captain announced muster, we got our life jackets and proceeded to the Normandie lounge. Muster lasted approximately 20 minutes. Leaving port was uneventful as it was raining and the temperature was in the low 60's. Weather on this trip was not very good as it rained 2 out of the 3 days. But we didn't let it spoil our fun.
Shortly after we set sail, we headed for the dining room. Now I have to tell you, the dinning room staff was the best we've ever experienced of all the cruises we've taken. I was really impressed. Our headwaiter, Dixie, treated us like we were royalty. I was also pretty impressed with the meals on this cruise they were all very good. That evening they served lobster tails and my son-in-law had three. The remainder of the evening was spent listening to my daughter sing at Karaoke and doing a little gambling in the casino. Then it was off to bed.
In the past we've found that we have spent very little time in our cabin and so decided on this cruise we would try an inside cabin. I though maybe we might feel a little claustrophobic or loss of orientation. Not at all, as matter of fact going forward we will be booking inside cabins and using the money we save for excursions and such. As far as Carnival cabins are concerned, they are much larger than the cabins on Royal. Closet space was plentiful and we didn't have to stow our suitcases under our bed.
CATALINA -- We tendered that morning and of course it was raining. When we arrived on the island we decided to rent a 6-seat golf cart. (There are a number of locations on the island when you get off the ship to rent golf carts.) The cost was $45 an hour and an additional $45 refundable deposit ($30 & $30 for a 4-seat). They give you a map of a recommended self-touring route to take to see sites on the island and indicate that it takes an hour if you stick to the route. However, I can tell you an hour is not long enough to drive the route. We did half the route, partly due to boredom and returned the cart. Afterward, my wife and daughter went off to spend money on gifts and souvenirs. Since the weather was not pleasant we headed back to the ship around 2:30 and sat in the Paris restaurant and talked until it was time to get ready for diner.
Tonight was formal night and I was pleasantly surprised to see that almost everyone was dressed up for the event. There were even men wearing Tuxes. They served filet mignon, you guessed it, my son-in-law had two. That evening we went to a show paying tribute to Hollywood, which we all agreed was very good.
ENSENADA -- Another rainy day. My wife, mother and daughter booked a Carnival excursion for a tour of the city and shopping, while I had booked a fishing charter for us guys outside of Carnival. The women enjoyed their excursion, they went to a winery, toured the city and off downtown to shop. Us guys didn't have that good of a time. We arrived at the charter office to learn that there were 6 to 8 foot swells, no way were we getting into a boat with those kind of waves. So, we decided to walk around the fish market and ended up downtown and then at Mango Mango's where we had the best Chicken Fajitas I've ever eaten. After eating we grabbed a cab back to the ship. BTW, cabs to and from downtown are only $4 per cab. That evening we went to a show where there was a hypnotist that put on a show that had everyone laughing hysterically all evening.
DAY AT SEA -- Wouldn't you know it a beautiful sunny day, but it was still only in the 60's. Too cool to swim, however there were some kids in the pool. We spent most of the day in the Normandie lounge for assorted activities, Bingo, the Not So Newlywed game, TV show trivia contest (almost won), etc. The remainder of the day was spent depositing money in the casino and listening to a group from Russia who was playing piano, violin and viola.
DEBARKATION -- Now this was a nightmare, but not the fault of Carnival. US Customs and immigration were performing a very meticulous job of checking documents, which as a result took a long time to debark. My parents were in the first group off the ship and we were the last. We waited 2 hours after they got off before our color was called and then had to stand in the customs line for another half hour. Oh well, at least the weather was nice while they waited for us.
PROS -- The crew on this ship was the friendliest of any cruise ship I've ever sailed. From the fellow mopping the floors in the public restrooms to the Captain, all were pleasant and always said hi and asked how we were doing. The crew was/is original crew that sailed on the Paradise in the Caribbean before it was relocated to the West Coast. The food and shows were great. Ship was clean and not run down. The Ile de France Cafe has the best 7 layer chocolate cake I've ever tasted. Cost $3 but worth every penny.
CONS -- They could have done a better job of providing activities on sea days. They had tendency of not being on time for things like opening shops and starting shows. Elevators were very slow, which made it difficult for my 70 something parents.
COMMENTS -- I was a little apprehensive about cruising on Carnival. For some reason they have developed a reputation of being a rowdy bunch of party goers. They have even been referred to in a book I once read as a beer and pretzel cruise line. All I can say is this is NOT true at all. The people on this ship were no different then the people I've met on Royal. Additionally, I thought the food was much better than that on Royal. Would I ever cruise Carnival again? You bet I will!!