Catalina Casino Rating:
We took the advice offered by Carnival and left the ship early. The Fun Times suggested that we should leave prior to 9:30 or after 11:30. We were ashore by 9am and encountered no lines. Others we spoke to tried to leave the ship around 10am and found the lines to be very long.
We decided to purchase the Casino - Behind the Scenes tour from a local operator on the dock. It is exactly the same tour, given by the same tour guide, for less than Carnival charges on board. the tour was excellent, but more about that in a moment. The tour didn’t start until 12:30 and here it was 9:00, what to do now?
We found a great little miniature golf course that was unlike any other course I've ever seen. It was in a garden are with lots of shade and very fun hole layout. No dragons and windmills here. Just good fun in a cool place. It is located just a couple of blocks from the dock. After that, we stopped in at Vons (grocery store) and picked up some snacks and water then sat down in some shade. After wondering around through the shops, we decided to head for the Casino. There is a little restaurant next door that serves some of the best fish tacos. We had a quick bite to eat and then went to the tour.
The tour was excellent and the tour guide made that possible. One of the best tour guides we have ever had, anywhere. Great projection and enunciation. No trouble hearing or understanding anything. You start at the backstage door and are treated to a typical theater backstage arrangement with original lighting panels and rail controls. From there you walk out on stage where the view of the auditorium is spectacular. The guide talks about the artwork on the walls and then walks you past the pipe organ where you learn what makes it go. Then you are seated in the theater for a short film before making your way to the lobby. Next is a stop at the dressing rooms, green room and other backstage areas typical of live theater. The guide then walks you up the ramps where you are eventually taken to the projection room, private viewing room and a few other treats. The final stop is the large ballroom and a walk outside with an excellent view of Catalina's Avalon Harbor area. The tour is every bit of 90 minutes and does require walking and climbing stairs, but it isn't strenuous. It is about a 20 minute walk from the Casino to the dock.
We chose to board the ship after the tour, again avoiding long lines at the tender station.