I just returned yesterday but felt a need to get up and write my review immediately!! We returned yesterday from a 4night, 5day cruise on Paradise(July 4-8), stopping in Catalina and Ensenada. We traveled with our two girls, ages 12 and 9, their aunt and uncle, and friends with two girls, ages 15 and 11.
I highly suggest arriving early to take advantage of the pre-boarding. It was super easy and was great relaxing on the ship's deck for a few hours without the crowds . By 2pm, our bags were delivered to our rooms and our kids were able to start swimming. Our stateroom was amazing!! I was a little concerned about the amount of room we would have but it was plenty. The configuration was perfect and the stewards were so attentive, timely and efficient in cleaning and tidying our rooms mid-morning and at night before we turned in. The beds were SUPER comfy, showers hot and amenities more than sufficient. SUPER IMPRESSED!!
We had early dining which worked out fine with our families. The meals were great and more than filling. Our kids LOVED having the ice cream machine in the buffet available at all hours of the day!! Omellete bar was a hit for our family for breakfast and the lunch buffets offered a great variety.
We didn't take adavantage of the shore excursions offered by the ship so I can't speak to that. We did sign our girls up to parasail on Catalina and that was the highlight of their trip, highly recommend it!! It was easier for us to schedule it off the ship so we wouldn't have to be on a time schedule. Because you have to take a ferry to Catalina, I would suggest getting up early to disembark the ship if you don't want to stand in long gangway lines. It took us a good 45 minutes to an hour just to stand in line and get to Catalina (we got in line about 11a). Because we didn't have an agenda, that worked fine for us but you'll need to plan ahead if you have multiple excursions planned. Getting back to the ship was super fast and easy though. We enjoyed walking around the shops on Catalina and enjoying the beautiful weather.
Day 3 was in Ensenada, and once again we had no excursions planned(felt that was safer in Mexico this year). We walked around and shopped for 2-3 hours, letting our girls experience the "hustling" from the merchants. It was fun and we came away with some fun buys. We returned to the ship for an afternoon of swimming and working out. The gym facilities are to die for!! That evening we enjoyed a comedy show and karaoke. Other evenings they had shows by the pool but by night 3 they became a little repetitive(too much electric slide and same 'ol, same 'ol!!) They definitely need to add some variety and improve the employees' dancing abilities so that participants can follow along. All staff was very enthusiastic and energetic so I can't complain too much.
My girls didn't participate too much in Camp Carnival, found most of the activities a little boring and juvenille(9-11 year-olds). Most of what they wanted to participate in was after 10pm and was an additonal charge so we opted to not participate. The 15 year old friend found her clubs entertaining and spent most late evenings there(there's no charge for teen late-night clubs). Our 12 year old enjoyed Camp magic show and karaoke. She probably would have participated in more activities had she befriended someone. Quite frankly, our girls had a blast roaming the cruise ship(always in pairs, at least), swimming, playing miniature golf, ping pong, eating ice cream or just goofing around. They had their own room keys and felt very safe and independent. It was very relaxing for us too!!
Last day was at sea so we got up early and saved chaise lounges out by deck 10 so we could enjoy the music and entertainment all day. We had fun lounging, playing on the waterslide and drinking. The first day we had picked our bar waiter, Evanston, and only bought drinks from him so he took great care of us. The evening had less entertainment as everyone was organizing their bags and getting ready to disembark the next day. Disembarkation was easy and fast and we were headed home in no time.
Overall, I was blown away by the service, hospitality and facilities that Carnival had to offer for such a great price!!