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12 Los Angeles to Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

OK...here we go. This is the official SakeDad review of the NCL Star Repositioning Cruise from LA to Vancouver on April 24, 2008. I originally booked USAir from Vegas through Phoenix to Long Beach to avoid LAX. But there was a flight next ... Read More
OK...here we go. This is the official SakeDad review of the NCL Star Repositioning Cruise from LA to Vancouver on April 24, 2008. I originally booked USAir from Vegas through Phoenix to Long Beach to avoid LAX. But there was a flight next to us in Vegas non-stop to LAX and we were able to get upgraded to First Class. Mom had never been in first class. So we got to LAX about 3 hours before we were scheduled to get to Long Beach. As we were only doing carry-on we went straight to the shuttles and got a PrimeTime Shuttle to San Pedro. It was an adventure as he zipped down the freeway at 85 mph but we were there by 10:00am and it only cost $32.00 for 2 people. Check-in finally began at 11:20am and we were one of the first in line. It does pay to be there early as they board in groups and we were Group 1. We boarded the ship at noon. Having read these boards I KNEW to avoid the buffet like the NoroVirus! We headed straight to the Versailles Room at the aft where no one was waiting. We actually had to wait until 12:30p for them to open for lunch. We had a very good, relaxing lunch and waited for our cabins to be ready at 1:20pm. We met some of our CC group while there and it was a great way to start the trip. I had the quiche, cold banana soup and BBQ ribs. All excellent. Once they announced our cabin was ready we went upstairs to Deck 10 (another reason to eat in Versailles as we only had to take the elevator to be near our aft cabin 10730). The cabin was MUCH smaller than Mom & I are used to as we had Jr Suites on Monarch of the Seas and a SA Suite on HAL's Noordam. However, once we unpacked and put the bags away and staked out "our space" we realized the massive balcony more than made up for a small cabin. There was a chaise lounge, another chair that would recline and a small table. BTW, I had never read here that there is a light at the back of the closet, look for the red "on" button. Also, there were 2 extra pillows in there. I went to the Spa to see if I wanted to purchase the extra package. I got a tour a realized the steam room and sauna are free. I knew I wouldn't swim as I was on an "eat & drink anything" weekend and wouldn't want to exercise. They have chaises at the aft of the pool area but they also have free ones by the treatment rooms you can use with the same aft view. However since I had an aft balcony one deck below and it was private I knew I would not make use of the package. Also, since the chaises were simply wooden ones and NOT thermal loungers like HAL there was nothing I felt I needed to pay extra for. Mom bought it so she could swim and really enjoyed it, so it is worth checking out for some. Mom actually liked the hydro pool on NCL better than HAL as it had rubber on the bars under you and you don't slip. At 3:45 we had muster drill. This was a slow process, as usual, but made even slower when they had 2 medical emergencies. So we started hearing "Code Alpha, Code Alpha, Code Alpha, Deck 7, Y3" over and over until we heard "Code Alpha cleared". Probably just a few folks tripping over their own feet. Muster lasted about 30 mins. Our Anniversary/Romance Package arrived. It was 5 chocolate covered strawberries and sparkling wine plus the info on dining at Le Bistro. So now it's time to start exploring the ship and getting to know her. MBPrincess had invited me to their Owner's Suite to take pictures before they messed it up partying! They had a lovely Bon Voyage package. The cabin was decorated and they had cake and champagne. The cabin was wonderfully spacious and colorfully decorated (think bordello meets the high seas!) The bathroom was great as well. Thanks, Catherine, for letting me in. Oh, I discovered if you want to open the partitions on the balconies you simply need a coffin key. Now off to see more of the ship! I discovered the Carousel Bar and that they have Soho Lychee Liqueur...one of my FAVES!! (they have this is all bars) So I ordered a Lychee Saketini and knew vacation had started! I carried my martini and explored. The pools opened, the BBQ had started and the ship was getting ready to sail! We had a planned CC Sail-Away party in the Bier Garten and got a table. I had my martini eyeglasses and Mom had her margarita eyeglasses. We were a HIT and easy for folks to spot us! It was a lot of fun as we had about 10 people. Mom & I decided to eat at Aqua the first night. We got right in and had a table by the window. It's a beautiful room. I had the Marinated Roasted Pineapple, Chilled Peach Soup and Cooking Light Jerk Style Chicken. Mom had the Cooking Light Potato & Fennel Soup and the Grilled Mahi-Mahi and we shared the Madras Vegetable Curry. The pineapple was supposed to be in a mojito sauce but I couldn't taste ANY mint in it, but there was a subtle rum taste. However the coconut cream on top tasted more like imitation whipped cream. The chilled peach soup was fabulous with pecans. A taste of the South. The potato leek soup was good and very light. Mom also had the salad with Roquefort and Sherry/Walnut dressing. Good but it stayed with your breath for quite some time! The chicken was OK and the Mahi-Mahi was great! The madras was also very good. I had the Cooking Light Sugar Free Coconut Cheesecake and it was light and tasty. One side note...the couple next to me had the International Cheese Platter and I would have been embarrassed to serve it at my house! It was a couple of slices of brie, cheddar, provolone, a couple of grapes, some celery (???) and SALTINES!!! Are they kidding???!!?? It looked like a cheese platter you'd buy at 7-11 on the way to work. Not pretty. Now it was time to go to the Star Bar for the first Friends of Dorothy meeting. For those who don't know, this is where any GLBT (Gays & Lesbians and their friends) onboard can meet and make new friends. Most lines have them. Several folks showed and it was a nice group. We had FOD meetings every night and I commend NCL for these. We had a nice core group of friends to hang with in addition to the CC group. Time to go to the showroom for their "Welcome Aboard" show. It basically had all the acts onboard do a number or two and tell you where you could find them throughout the cruise. Jana Seale and Sean Burns were real standouts as singers and performers. The comedian Peter Sasso was very funny. The Jean Ann Ryan ensemble were Ok was well. One note...JAR is going to be leaving all NCL ships. NCL is going to produce all their own shows as soon as the JAR contracts end. It's already happened on several ships. So off to the cabin to change and put my camera away and PARTY!!!!! Had lots of fun at several of the bars. Oh, I had actually emailed Sean Burns through his MySpace website a few weeks ago saying I was going to be onboard. I never heard back and forgot about it. As I was walking through the Red Lion Pub he was performing and I hear "NATHAN" shouted out over the PA in the middle of the song! He recognized me and had been looking for me. Very surreal and very fun! It was a good contact and he is one of the most amazing NOT TO BE MISSED performers around! When I got to the cabin I tried to set a wake up but it wouldn't accept, I ended up called reception. Also, I couldn't order room service breakfast as there was no form in our cabin. Slept good, woke up with a bit of a hang-over, turned the coffee pot on and ordered more coffee and OJ from room service, it came pretty quick. Went out to get breakfast. The buffet was very busy but when I went to the pool and they had the same food it was a pleasure to see no lines! So I had a nice, quiet breakfast of Eggs Benedict, sausage and tomatoes. As it was MUCH colder and windier today there was no one in the pool or using any of the chaises. Where are the famous Chair Hogs??? Well, no picture of them this cruise, I guess. I walked around the ship taking more pictures (surprise, surprise!) and discovered the bridge view from behind the curtain in the Spinnaker Lounge that folks on CC had mentioned. At 11:30am we had the CC Meet-n-Greet scheduled in the NY & London Conference Rooms. NCL had done a GREAT job of providing loads of pastries, coffee, hot tea, water and juice. We only had about 15 people show but it was fun. We had 5 Officers show (F&B, Hotel, CD Ricky Matthews and Engineering) and they apologized for having to be very brief as they were extremely busy. They told us that 2.0 will be happening on the Star the week of May 3-10, so if you're on that sailing it could be very interesting. You could have one bed one day and a brand new one the next! Got back to the cabin and our steward, Victor, didn't restock the coffee packs or leave a room service order form. I had to ask for both. Also, apparently the NCL Star doesn't do towel animals....BOO HOO! Mom & I split up for the afternoon and I went to Versailles for lunch. I wanted to keep it light as we were having dinner that night in Le Bistro. I ordered the Chilled Watercress Soup and the Chicken Souvlaki Salad. They were both delicious and light. I had a perfect window seat and there was no wait. There was a Martini Tasting at 3:45pm so off for that. They had a Classic Gin (or Vodka) Martini, Cosmopolitan, Sour Apple and Espresso Martinis for $15. This is great if you don't know how to make martinis and want BASIC. But the ones on Hal had made unique and fun martinis compared to these. Also, and anyone who enjoys martinis will be SHOCKED by this, they didn't use martini glasses!!! They used basic, unpretty rocks glasses! Oh well, this is why they have a reputation for the mass market mentality. But afterwards Beth gave them the recipe for her Beth-mo Martini and it was FANTASTIC!!! We had a few more of those later in the Carousel Bar. By the end of the sailing all the bartenders had the recipe! That afternoon the canapEs were delivered from the Romance Package. They were shrimp, salmon roe, brie, salmon and ham on toast points and some grapes and one strawberry. Pretty but I was rushing for dinner at Le Bistro and never even tried them. Mom had some later and said they were OK. We had reservations for Le Bistro for the Romance Package. This turned out to be the BEST meal and service of the entire trip! Our waiter was Juniser and he was perfect! I actually tipped $15 for dinner, the ONLY time I tipped extra the entire trip. The maitre'd told me that all extra tips are NOT pooled and do indeed go directly to the tipped server. I'm hoping he was telling the truth. I had the Lobster and Scallop Martini with Cauliflower Mousse...wonderfully light and tasty. I then had a double serving of Escargot, nice and tender but a bit salty. But I still enjoyed them and Mom even tried her first one. I had the Chilled Watercress Veloute Soup with Frog leg Meat and Mom had the Onion Soup au Gratin. Both were wonderfully light and the Onion soup was NOT salty as so many are. Mom ordered the Canard (duck) a l'Orange which was flambEed tableside and I had the Supreme of Corn Fed Chicken aux Morilles. It was stuffed, moist and delicious. We both had the Crème Brulee and enjoyed the entire dinner immensely! I can't recommend it enough. But I will say we had early reservations and the later it got the busier the wait staff was and they had less time to spend. So I would suggest an extremely early or very late dinner there to get the best service you can. Off to another FOD meeting in the Star Bar and watch the sunset, then off to the showroom for the JAR "Music of the Night" show. Basically an Andrew Lloyd Webber reprise show. Not very exciting as I am NOT an ALW fan, but the singers were talented and it was a decent show. I met up with the Technical Director, Shawn, after the show to discuss working for NCL and get "the real dirt". We got along great and I got some really good information. He offered to give us a backstage tour the next day. Oh, someone won $2,000.00 on the pull tabs before the show. I then went to the Red Lion Pub to catch Sean Burn's show and was not disappointed. Not wanting to give away his style I'll just say he's VERY FUN and I hope his liver lasts until you can get onboard to see him! I partied the night away, danced in the Carousel Lounge until 3am, made lots of new friends and went to bed! Woke up feeling better today (I stuck to Cajun Martinis so I didn't get a hangover) The seas are very calm today. The weather is less windy and feels warmer. Everyone is very surprised how calm the seas are as we head north. I head to the buffet and have a large breakfast. The food was good, it's breakfast, what do you want? I spent the day wondering the ship, running into friends, having cocktails, relaxing and taking MORE pictures! Had a light buffet lunch of chilled fruit soup, Tandoori Chicken (YUM!) sautEed mushrooms and a fish cake (not that great). At 3:00pm it was time for a margarita tasting in Endless Summer. $15 for 4 margarita types. As I was disappointed in yesterdays martini tasting glassware I chose the margaritas. They were good, cold and refreshing. I had the backstage tour scheduled for 4:00pm so Mom, Beth and Bill met me there. Shawn gave us the tour. I have only seen the backstage area of RCCL Monarch of the Seas which was TINY! NCL actually planned the backstage area here pretty well with large dressing rooms (although a bit far from the stage), a good fly system and other areas bigger than RCCL. While there were also a few design flaws it was very interesting to see and we were grateful for the chance. Beth & I are both Theatrical Stage Managers, Bill is a Lighting Designer and Mom has done Wardrobe for some shows here in Vegas, so we really enjoyed seeing all this. THANKS SHAWN AND CREWMOM!!! We didn't have dinner reservations for anywhere as we didn't know what we wanted. We headed to Versailles when they opened but the line was through the Blue Lagoon so we headed off to see what else we could find. All the other places couldn't get us in until 8:30pm to 9:00pm and it was only 5:30pm. We headed back to Versailles and were pleasantly surprised to see there was no longer a line. We got right in and had dinner. Mom's was good but I was really disappointed tonight!! I had the Cured Salmon Tartar which was decent and Mom had the Goat Cheese & Potato Gratin, again decent. We both had the Chilled Black Cherry Soup with Vanilla Genoise & Kirsch Cream. Mom liked hers but I didn't like mine at all. She had the Pecan Crusted Snapper over Gumbo which was excellent. I had the English Cut Strip Loin with Yorkshire Pudding. I was EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED with this meal. I expected a nice cut of strip steak but it was just cut up prime rib meat. The meat was OK but a little fatty. The Yorkshire Pudding was HARD and tough.....but here's the most disappointing thing to me....for vegetables they had peas & carrots!! I don't mean a nice array of peas & carrots with a nice sauce; I mean peas and carrots like you get in an elementary school cafeteria! WOW! Again, just another case of NCL appealing to the masses. This is what I meant earlier when I said there were hits & misses...this one missed. Mom had Trifle for dessert. It was light and tasty, but no lady fingers. I went to the Second City show in the showroom. This was the last show for them on the Star until Mexico. A music tribute show of some sort is replacing them for Alaska. They were funny and the crowd enjoyed them. Afterwards was the "This is your crew" show were all the departments line up on the stage. Every cruise line does this one. More partying all night long for me! Went to bed around 4:00am!!!! I woke up around 7:00am as we were just pulling into Vancouver Harbor. I could see land outside the open balcony door so I grabbed the camera and went out just before we went under the bridge. I really enjoyed the aft balcony as there was constantly something new coming into view. It was a beautiful, peaceful morning as we sailed in. I think I would be equally happy on an aft in Alaska, the Caribbean or anywhere else. Mom & I planned on staying onboard as long as possible. We weren't scheduled to leave until 10:40am which was fine with us. I had room service delivered and stayed in the cabin until we were tied up. I packed and showered and headed out to explore the ship one last time. All the THOUSAND or so folks scheduled for Express Disembarkation were lined up and NOT looking happy as it wasn't moving very fast. The lines went from the Starboard doors by the reception area on 7 all the way through the Blue Lagoon, through the aft hallway, back through the Red Lion on Port and through reception and back toward mid-ship!!!! WOW! So I was very happy to not be in the mix and to be able to relax. I saw several friends and said my good-byes as Mom took a nap in the room. We were called at 10:40am and were through security and out the door by 11:10am! There wasn't even a line to get to the doors to exit the ship! Nice and quick....TIP....in Vancouver if you disembark on the Starboard side choose the immigration line on the left as the one on the right snakes and turns and is where the handicapped in wheelchairs bypass you. We did the on-and-off trolley tour with Vancouver Trolley Company (you can catch them just outside Canada Place) and really enjoyed it! It was a great way to see the entire city including Stanley Park. It's 2 ½ hours roundtrip from Canada Place if you don't get off but you can explore any areas you like and continue on all day. It was $35.00CAD per person ($32.00 senior/student) our guide was Sandy. She had been a local bus driver for 30 years and was very knowledgeable and a great driver. Unfortunately it started raining as we got back to Canada Place so we didn't go back to any of the neighborhoods and explore like we had hoped to do. We just had a very nice lunch at the microbrewery near the pier before retrieving our luggage and taking a cab to the airport. Some final, random thoughts in no particular order as I go through my notes: Blue Lagoon had a pesticide smell most of the sailing. Wine tasting in Soho looked like it was going to be very nice based on set-up but I didn't do it. We used the luggage storage in YVR which was $4-5.00 per bag and you could have up to 4 bags transferred to the airport for an additional $15.00CAD if you wanted. The cab from Canada Place to the airport was $30.75CAD for 2 and took about 25 minutes. USAir counter in YVR doesn't open until 4:30pm as none of the airlines will check you in until 3 hours before departure. The "DJ" in the Carousel Bar the 2nd night was NOT very good as he was also the showroom lighting guy....not a real DJ. They shut the Carousel Bar down even though about 20 people were still dancing and having fun on the last night. Blue Lagoon ran out of some food on the last night even though they stayed open. I was not impressed with the chicken wings as they were over fried and hard. But that may have just been because it was late and the last night. There was a table every day in Endless Summer to make dinner reservations....we never had a problem doing this and they even changed our Le Bistro reservations when I needed to. I heard some people complaining they thought is was hard to navigate the ship. There are a few places where passenger access ends and you have to go to the other side of the ship to continue. I got caught more than once on the Port side in the buffet trying to go from forward to aft. The steam room had mold, peeling paint on the seats and caulking coming up from the floor. The sauna light was out from the 2nd day on. The steam room and sauna are NOT left on at night so they are not usable until about an hour after the Spa opens so they can heat up. There is cold water in the room aft of the spa by the treatment rooms. You can take this into the sauna/steam area if you want cold water in there. Extra spa package was $20.00 a day. Stardust Showroom seats were very comfortable and the theatre doesn't seem to have any sightline problems that I could see. There are 3 showers in the men's spa area you can easily use to get ready if your spouse or roommate wants to use the cabin shower at the same time. Jana Seale is on vacation as of 4/27/08 (don't know how long). I did not play in the casino as I live in Vegas and felt if I was sitting at a machine I'd be missing everything else on the boat! I thought all the cocktails were a reasonable price compared to on-land prices. I got bottles of Alderbrook Chardonnay for $32.00 and had them for dinners in the dining rooms. I thought it was a decent wine for the price. So to wrap up the review.....All in all we enjoyed the trip a lot. The repo cruise is fun because the ship is your main port. I guess anything with 3 or 4 sea days in a row would feel the same but I liked having lots of time to just explore the ship and relax. The crew was mixed, some were OK and not very friendly while others were very nice and always smiled and greeted you. This is NOT a luxury ship and neither is the crowd that travels them, but you also aren't paying a luxury price so you DO get what you pay for here. Would I sail NCL again? Probably not unless they had an itinerary I wanted and no one else did AND I could get a great deal on an aft BA or a suite. I prefer the spoiling that HAL does of passengers, but that's me. There is no reason NOT to go on NCL if you're looking for a fun, inexpensive cruise line. Just don't expect to be spoiled. Of course, I think a lot of this depends on what your everyday life is like. Mom says she'll never cruise again without an aft balcony and I tend to agree. We absolutely LOVED being out there watching the wake & leaving the door open all night as we listened to the white noise of the wake. Also, the one day it was cold and windy on deck it was warm and NO WIND on the balcony as I laid in the sun on the chaise lounge. You will know my pictures are up as soon as I change my "SAILED" signature to a link of the pictures. Feel free to ask any questions and I'll try to ask them. Thanks for ALL your help preparing for the cruise and for reading this LONG review. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
This was my third cruise and second time with Carnival. The other Carnival cruise was on the Ecstasy Ship, the other cruise line experience was the Norwegian Sky. For the price you pay for a cruise, in my belief for what you get you ... Read More
This was my third cruise and second time with Carnival. The other Carnival cruise was on the Ecstasy Ship, the other cruise line experience was the Norwegian Sky. For the price you pay for a cruise, in my belief for what you get you should have no complaints, however, I was very disappointed with this experience compared to the other two times. I found the ship overall to be dirty, the bathrooms had odors, and the stairs on the ship were very dirty, hand railings were not polished and sparkling like I had experienced on the other ships. As a matter of fact, everytime we went to eat at the buffet, we had to clean the table we sat to eat at. This had not been my prior experience either time. Both other experiences I saw staff all over the place cleaning up and polishing things and everything was just beautifully clean. I will say that our room didn't seem dirty, it was the common areas of the ship that were not up to par. I was also disappointed in the buffet food. We do not use the restaurant eating facilities as my husband doesn't like to dress up, so we eat at the buffet. This cruise the food was just not up to the standards that both other ships offered. There was very little fresh fruit compared to what I was expecting and everything seemed dry and bland just not my choices of food. Not as much of a variety as I remember from the other two times either. We still had a wonderful time, my husband and I and we traveled with another couple to celebrate a 50th birthday. I would go again and I would go again on the same cruise, because like I said, for the money, you just cannot beat a cruise vacation, I am just hoping that this ship's standards get raised a bit and that my future experiences with the cleanliness and the food on any ship are a bit better than this experience. The ship night time shows were great, the staff was friendly when you saw them, there just didn't seem to be enough of them. I did think they could have had a bit more music on the lido deck than they had, because that is my favorite place to hang out and the music is just a favorite of mine. The band on this cruise was wonderful. I highly recommend cruise vacations for everyone, they are fun and a bargain. Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
A group or 13 of us cruised on the Carnival Paradise on July 17th, 2006. 10 of the cruisers were first-timers, so a 4 night cruise out of LA was the plan. * Day Before: We drove down from Northern California to Long Beach and stayed at ... Read More
A group or 13 of us cruised on the Carnival Paradise on July 17th, 2006. 10 of the cruisers were first-timers, so a 4 night cruise out of LA was the plan. * Day Before: We drove down from Northern California to Long Beach and stayed at the Holiday Inn Downtown. It was one of the lowest priced hotels ($129) that allowed us to keep our cars in their garage for the week and provided free transportation to and from the pier to go along with a one night stay. * Embarkation: Our group gathered in the lobby of the hotel around 10:45 and loaded up the shuttle. The shuttle was only for 9 people, so we had to split our group, no big deal. The shuttle dropped us off at the pier, we passed our baggage to Carnival Porters and then jumped in line. It was just after 11:00 am and we were in the first 25-30 people in line (besides those with VIP check-in, and those who checked in even earlier then we did on the Queen Mary). We waited in line for about 20-25 minutes, then they moved us into show our passports, get our sign and sail card, etc. This was a very easy and organized procedure. Took our welcome aboard photo, and got on the ship. We found our oceanview cabin, U154, very easy and then started to check out the ship. * Room notes: With only one electrical outlet in the room, the surge protector that had been suggested all over the boards was ideal to have. We were able to plug in our camera batteries, our cell phone (which we used as an alarm clock), my wifes hair dryer, etc, without having to pull cords in and out. This is a must pack. The room was very spacious, bigger then I remember, with plenty of room to move around. We were able to put our luggage under the bed and out of the way of everything, which saved some more room. There are a limited number of hangers and only small drawers so be sure to bring some hangers. That way you can hang a lot of your clothes. The closets are plenty big enough. TV mounted in the corner. It picked up Denver stations (we were just off the coast of LA, not sure why we got Denver, oh well), and had CNN International, a couple stations that played music, and 2 movie stations. The only thing it was lacking was ESPN, or some type of sports station. I would have enjoyed knowing the latest sports news as I got ready in the morning, but I survived without it for a week. Over all, the cabin was very clean. In the bathroom there are mounted soap and shampoo dispensers in the shower, so if you dont care what kind of soap you use, you can leave that stuff at home. Also, they provide you a basket of toiletries (toothpaste, mouthwash, lotion, etc). One of our cabins didnt have the basket when we first got on, but it was there about an hour or so later. * Buffet/Dining: We toured the ship quickly, which is to say we found the nearest bar to our rooms, and the quickest way to the Paris dining area on the Lido Deck. About half our group purchased the Fountain Card (unlimited soda) for $22 and got plenty of use out of it. The hot sandwiches at the grill, most notably the pastrami, were outstanding. The pizza bar was also good, but got pretty busy most of the time. The pizza did come in handy late at night on the way back to the room. We had the late seating for dinner, which I would strongly suggest. Although its a bit late, you can snack throughout the day, plus it allows you to say on shore a bit longer, and there is no one after you so you dont get rushed out. Im not sure if the early seating people felt rushed, but I know at about 8:25 as we were waiting to get into the dining room, people were still filing out. The late seating had none of that, very relaxed and you stayed as long as you wanted to or needed to. I was very worried about the food in the dining room. I had been reading reviews for months that mentioned everything from horrible to great, and considering I had talked up the food as a big selling point to many of the first time cruisers in our group I was a little nervous about what was going to be served. However, there was nothing to worry about. The food was outstanding!!! Like I said we had 13 people in our group, so we had a table of 8 near the window (very nice) and a table of 6 right next to us. So we were always able to talk about what we were going to get, or how many of each we were going to get. Our wait staff, Alexsander from Macedonia and Paulo from Peru were great. They enhanced our dining experience with their jokes, tricks, food suggestions and up-beat attitude. Back to the food. I can only attest to what I had, but nearly everything was prepared and served just the way I liked it. I prefer my beef to be cooked on the rare side of medium-rare and that is how it always came. I did hear one complaint, from someone not in our group, and that was the beef was never cooked well enough. So, if you like your meet cooked really well done, ask them that up front, otherwise enjoy. Some entree highlights included the lamb, filet mignon, prime rib, lobster, beef Wellington, sweet & sour shrimp, & veal. Some said the lobster was tough. Of the 5 lobster tails that I had I didnt have anything to complain about. The starters are fairly small, so if you see something you like, or think you may like, order two. Many in our group ordered a couple orders of escargot, shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, egg roll, etc. I really enjoyed the hot soups (wild mushroom, beef & barley, minestrone, lobster bisque). I didnt have any of the cold soups, but heard that the pumpkin soup and mango were flavorful. The caesar salad was very good, the other salads were ordinary but fine. The disappointing part of dining was the dessert, nothing to exciting. Standard desserts, key lime pie, ice cream, cheesecake, chocolate cake, etc. Most nights we made our way up to the Lido Deck and got ice cream cones from the Paris dining area. Outside of the dining area, things were fine. The grill was standard, burgers, hot dogs, fries. We got room service every morning, smoked salmon with bagel and cream cheese. Great start to the morning. * Entertainment: The entertainment was fairly cheesy, but Im not one for shows. The magic and comedy were good, and the adult comedy show on Tuesday night was very funny. My only thought on that, was the cruisers need to just sit back and enjoy the show instead of trying to heckle and be a part of it. But the comedian rolled with it, and was very funny. We played Bingo on our day at Sea and wouldnt you know it came up one number short on a few games. They also do a version of Deal or No Deal, which is very entertaining, but would be even more entertaining if they did more then just pick one person. If they picked two or three Im sure they would still do fine. The pool as Im sure you know by now is salt water, so dont think its like your pool in the backyard. Although we are 30 years old we went down the waterslide a couple times, always fun. We also spent a lot of time, particularly the last night, at the piano bar with Trevor the piano player. Trevor was outstanding, he knew and played everything from Billie Joel and Elton John, to Broadway Shows, to TV theme songs, even AC/DC. It was a huge sing-a-long what was very enjoyable. * Service: Service was great, we never felt like those selling drinks were pushy, if anything they didnt come around frequent enough. Our cabin steward was good. Cleaned the room twice a day, had a new towel animal each night, he even noticed that we had a bottle of Champaign and brought an ice bucket and kept it full. Like I said earlier, our wait staff was great! They always remembered out names and made the dining experience enjoyable. * Ports: Catalina and Ensenada. Catalina was good, we had to take a tender to the island, but got on one quickly. We rented a 6 person golf cart ($45 hour) and toured around the island. It let us get some good photos, and we were able to find a good little Mexican restaurant off the main strip that we stopped at for lunch. After the golf cart we sat on the beach and went swimming in the water. 4 of the people from our group went parasailing, which they said was pretty fun. Ensenada was below average. We got off the ship and took a shuttle ($2 per person) into downtown, a block from Papas & Beer. We had a lot a margaritas, and a few appetizers. Although a typical tourist bar we had a lot of fun. We then started to walk the 10-12 blocks toward the ship and do some shopping. We hit a few bars on the way back and had some dollar beers, and put our dollar on the wall at one bar (if you go or see it youll know what Im talking about). We ended up buying some jewelry, sunglasses, t-shirts, etc. We then stopped at Viva Wings, not recommended. They market themselves at a sports bar, but a couple pictures on the wall and ESPN International doesnt make you a sports bar. The food wasnt very good either. AND it may have made some of the people in our party sick. They warn you forever not to drink the water, but sometimes you forget that the ice in the margarita is made from the water, so stick with beer in places you arent sure of. * Other notes: We brought three different bottle of alcohol on board in our checked luggage, which worked out well with the fountain cards that many people got. Even without soda, we used the free punch or lemonade from the Lido Deck to have free drink. A couple people in our group bought the photos. I wasnt thrilled with them, but they got them more as souvenirs then anything&The sushi bar that opens at 5:30 was a nice midday snack if you had the late seating, but try and get there early because the line starts getting long&I know I didnt see everyone on the ship, but Id say that 75% of the people were under 40, and there were a lot of kids, which is another reason to take the late seating over the early one. The kids never really got in the way, but they did tend to monopolize the pool and spas. Not to mention they were out late. It would be 2:00 am and wed be getting some pizza and there were groups of kids all around. Overall a great cruise. This was my fourth and I have no intention of stopping now. I know some of the first time cruisers really enjoyed it as well, in fact they were already trying to plan the next one. This was the perfect cruise for our group. It was a younger crowd, the food was great, plenty of things to keep us busy, enough variety that we werent doing the same things over and over again, and perfect for the money. If anyone has any other questions that I didnt cover, feel free to drop me an e-mail  tkleinheinz@sbcglobal.net. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
This was our second cruise, both with Carnival, the first being a 3 day to Nassau, Bahamas from Miami. This cruise, however, was a 4 day that left from the port of Long Beach and visited Catalina Island, and Ensenada, Mexico. We flew ... Read More
This was our second cruise, both with Carnival, the first being a 3 day to Nassau, Bahamas from Miami. This cruise, however, was a 4 day that left from the port of Long Beach and visited Catalina Island, and Ensenada, Mexico. We flew down one day early to avoid any problems with flight delays etc. and stayed at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Long Beach. A modern hotel with nice rooms and a helpful staff, but in a rougher area of Long Beach. Embarkation - We completed the Fun Pass online and as a result had a very smooth embarkation. My wife was driving a mobility scooter so we were given preferential treatment and whisked through the line-up. We boarded the ship too early for our stateroom to be ready, so we headed up to the Lido deck for a bite to eat. Stateroom - We had a class 4B inside stateroom that was wheelchair accessible (wider doorway and open shower). The room met our expectations with the exception of the shower drain plugging on the last day and flooding the bathroom. The room was fairly clean and we had no complaints apart from the constant low hum and vibration of the ship's engines. Ship info - This was a very ornate ship, as are all of Carnival's fleet, and has a nautical theme for all of it's public rooms. A little difficult to find your way around at first, but with a ship map from the pursers desk and some exploring, you are able to find your way around by the second day. Dining - My favorite part of cruising - The Paradise has 2 dining rooms with an early (5:45pm) and a late (8:00pm) seating time for supper. Dress is more formal as shorts and t-shirts are frowned upon. We had the early seating which suited us just fine. We enjoy fine dining so the menus were very much to our liking, although we had two couples at our table of 10 who looked at the menu and said they preferred simpler food so they went up to the Lido deck. Selection was very good each night. The food was cooked to your liking and if you had trouble deciding, they had no problem bringing you more then one selection. The Lido deck offered a pizzeria, a deli, and buffet (featuring food from a different country each day). There was also a sushi bar (which was only open for a couple of hours each day), and a coffee bar on promenade deck. All the food we sampled was cooked well and very tasty. No big announcements were made about the Grand Gala Buffet so if they had one, I guess we missed it! Entertainment - All of the your basic cruise entertainment was represented such as: hairy chest contest, line dancing, comedian, magician, ice carving demo, art auction, and wonderful musicals to name a few. Public rooms  This is the one section where I was disappointed in Carnival. At one point in time the Paradise was a non-smoking ship, however, that is definitely not so now! The piano bar, which we were looking forward to enjoying, was so thick with cigarette smoke we couldnt even stay for one song! The casino as well as one other bar that I know of, also allowed smoking and was clouded with smoke the entire cruise. We did not attend the other bars as the music was a little too heavy for us. We did attend several functions in the Queen Mary lounge that was non-smoking, however, you had to walk through a smoking bar to get to it. Service  The service was very good all over the ship. The cabin crew was practically invisible, as they are supposed to be, but the cabins were always made up for you when you returned to your room. Service in the Queen Mary lounge as well as the Normandy lounge was a little spotty. You sometimes had to flag down the drink staff and usually waited a while if you ordered a drink. Shore excursions  Catalina  The tender boat was not the ideal situation for my wife, who has less mobility, but the short boat ride to the island was uneventful for the most part. We booked a scenic tour of the city of Avalon from a private company on the island that was quite enjoyable and informative. It was also cheaper than what the cruise ship was offering. The tour lasted about 45 minutes by trolley and it took you high into the hills of Avalon with many picture opportunities to be had. We ate lunch at a ocean-view restaurant and returned to the ship about 2:30 pm. The return tender ride was quite choppy due to the wind and waves that day so some people got wet! Ensenada - We didnt book any excursions here, probably should have as you can only get harassed by the locals so many times before it gets old! Debarkation  Two options here, they encourage you to take the self-assist option where you carry all of your baggage off the ship yourself. If you choose this, be prepared to leave the ship early. Self-assist people debarked from 7:00  7:45am and the people who checked their luggage followed. If you have an early flight, this is a good option but the restaurants dont even open till 7:00 am, so you may have to go without breakfast. They also dont tell you that the self-assist people have a very short time to leave the ship. We rushed out so fast we forgot some souvenirs in our stateroom! Summary  Overall it was a very enjoyable cruise, apart from the smoking issues! I dont think we would choose to go to Ensenada again but Catalina was beautiful. The ship itself was impressive and almost everything met with or exceeded our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
Paradise 5/26/06, 3 day Memorial Day Weekend Embarkation -- We arrived at the Long Beach terminal around 11:30 & found a parking space on the first level immediately. We took our bags straight to a porter & he told us the ... Read More
Paradise 5/26/06, 3 day Memorial Day Weekend Embarkation -- We arrived at the Long Beach terminal around 11:30 & found a parking space on the first level immediately. We took our bags straight to a porter & he told us the previous cruise passengers had only just been able to debark. We headed to the Queen Mary to see about early check in & they had just closed... so we walked back to the cruise terminal & got in the small line that had started forming. It appeared that there were only about 25 people in the early check in line & I was #39 in the first line to form for check in. They opened the terminal & processed everyone through quickly. We were on board enjoying lunch by 12:15pm! This truly has to have been close to the easiest embarkations I have ever experienced! Room -- We had room R4, a category 5A (porthole)... I had just booked this trip less than 2 weeks prior to sailing & there was not much left to choose from - I booked a 5A guarantee & that was what we got. Being a holiday weekend - the ship was at capacity! Overall, the room was fine. Being in the front of the ship, though, I was awakened early as the engines 'changed' when we pulled into Ensenada & then again back into Long Beach at the end of the voyage. This was a slight annoyance, but nothing I couldn't deal with for a couple of nights. The beds did have the new comfort bedding & pillows which were good, but I am not convinced that the beds were the ones everyone else has called comfortable! They were new, it seemed - but hard as a rock! I actually felt as if I had slept on the floor & am a bit concerned about having to sleep on one of these for a full week when I cruise on Conquest in July. I'd be anxious to know (didn't have a chance to ask during this quick trip) if they have toppers available. This room also did not have a 'sofa' or table & chairs... plenty of floor space, but not a lot of 'counter' space. This was fine since it was just a 3 day cruise & we were living out of suitcases. Our room steward was great. He kept it very well & always kept us full of ice in both our little room ice bucket, as well as one of the buckets from a 'bucket of beer'. Ship & Entertainment -- I was impressed with the condition of the ship... she is not new, so that shows in some of the color schemes - but overall, she is in great condition. I didn't see terrible wear & tear on the carpets, everything was always clean & polished ... and everything seemed to function as it was supposed to. The casino was fine - nothing to write home about... and only 1 craps table, but we didn't gamble too much anyway. The waterslide was open for most of the cruise & several people were enjoying it. We enjoyed spending some time in the piano bar late one evening & I liked the 'piano man', Trevor. It wasn't crowded - but he was having fun, so it was contagious. We only went to one show - the last evening's adult comedy show. There were two comedians, Seth Buchwald & Lance Montalto... it was fun & wasn't terribly crude. It was a nice way to end the night. We didn't use the spa, or the gym, or play bingo, or go to any classes or art auctions... these things were all there but we mostly enjoyed sitting in the sun & people watching during our day at sea. Being a holiday weekend cruise, it was a 'party boat' & there were a lot of antics to watch. There was a large mix of passengers, but the rowdy ones seem to be the most noticeable &/or humorous. If only some of them knew how they looked! Ensenada -- I'm from San Diego - so Ensenada is just Ensenada... a typical Baja town. We didn't go to Papas & Beer... and from the stories we heard back on board we were glad to have missed it. If anyone has questions about the town - feel free to ask. We simply took the $2pp shuttle into town then walked, shopped a little & had a few beers - making our way back to the ship on foot as we went. Food -- The food was fine. Not exciting, not bad. Just fine. We changed tables after the first night (Four of our tablemates began fighting with each other & creating an obnoxious scene - and they hadn't even met one another until dinner that night!) so unfortunately lost having an excellent waiter in the process. Our second waiter was horrible - we waited over an hour to get our salads... needless to say, I let him know I wasn't pleased with the service. The last evening was quicker, but after having such an excellent waiter at our first table, it was a disappointment. We didn't let that ruin our experience by any means, though. We were having too much fun to let it be more of a problem than it was. The pizza was good, loved the De Chevre. The buffet was good as well, always plenty of things to choose from & the grilled sandwiches at the deli were VERY good. I had wanted to try the sushi, but the line was always very long, so I passed. I saw fish & chips on the first day, but didn't have them. I never saw them offered again after that. Debarkation -- Again - kudos to Carnival here. We did the self assist at approximately 7:30am... had no problem getting an elevator to take us from deck 4 to the gangway on deck 7 & practically just walked right off the ship without any line. There was a bit of a line getting through customs, but it only took about 5-10 minutes.... then we were on our way. I had walked to the car, loaded our bags & were driving out of the parking structure at 7:58!!! Amazing & by far the best debarkation I have ever experienced! Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
My girlfriend and I did the 3 day cruise on the March 31-April weekend aboard the Paradise. We went specifically for the KKJZ-FM (88.1FM) annual Blues Cruise. This was our second cruise. The first was a similar 3 day Ensenada cruise aboard ... Read More
My girlfriend and I did the 3 day cruise on the March 31-April weekend aboard the Paradise. We went specifically for the KKJZ-FM (88.1FM) annual Blues Cruise. This was our second cruise. The first was a similar 3 day Ensenada cruise aboard the RCCL Monarch of the Seas. So this gave us a good opportunity to compare the two ships. Entertainment: I have to qualify my review of the entertainment because the Blues Cruise was a private affair for only about 200-300 guests who booked the cruise through a travel agent who does this annually. So the majority of the entertainment we participated in was related to that, and not open to all of the guests. That being said, the general activities we participated in were great and the rest of the guests appeared to be having a great time. Of the two ships I definitely like the Paradise better. It was recently overhauled and the dEcor is very nice. It was much newer and more appealing than on the Monarch. The Promenade deck contains 2 theaters, the casino, a disco, a nightclub and a couple of other bars. It is well laid out with access to all of those places via the Carnival Blvd. Dining: This is the only area where I had a problem with Paradise, and it was a big issue. The food, for the most part, was just awful! Not one meal could be classified as good. The only thing that was consistently decent was the midnight pizza. And thats something I really shouldnt eat very often. Unfortunately, given the poor quality of the other meals I looked forward to the midnight snacks. On our previous cruise the casual dining choices were very good. If like us, you preferred the buffet to the formal dining room you could be assured of a decent meal. Not so aboard the Paradise. Breakfast fare was bland at best. The only lunch I had that was edible was a grilled turkey sandwich on Friday before we got underway. On Saturday we went ashore in Ensenada briefly just to look for some leather goods. I was looking forward to getting back in time for lunch, expecting it to be quiet, since most people would be ashore. Bad idea. I should have had some fish tacos out in town. After seeing what the buffet had to offer and coming up empty, we opted for the grill outside. I had a burger with the limpest lettuce and onions Id ever seen. The burger itself was tasteless, and no combination of condiments could change that fact. Dinners in the dining room were inconsistent as well, but better than the buffet by a long shot. On Friday night we had a seafood dish with shrimp and scallops. Not terrible but also not very satisfying. On Saturday night I opted for the prime rib. That was the only dinner I actually enjoyed. However, my lady had the lobster and did not like it, and at least one of our table mates who ordered it echoed her sentiment. Saturday nights late night buffet featured Mexican food and it was probably the best spread of the entire cruise. We went up to get a slice of pizza and found the place packed! If the rest of the buffet meals had been as good as what they had on Saturday night I would rate the food very good. Instead it took me about a week to get back to normal after 3 straight days of bad food. That being said, I am planning to go again next year, but only because of the Blues Cruise. If it was up to me I would request that they move it to RCCLs Monarch of the Seas, where I know I can expect decent food. However, if Carnival can improve the quality of the food I would prefer Paradise because I really like the ship. Read Less
Sail Date March 2006
We just arrived home from the Paradise 4-NT sailing 02-06-06 to 02-10-06. We had a great time, and since there doesnt seem to be too many posts for the Paradise, I thought I would try to give some information about our cruise. We spent ... Read More
We just arrived home from the Paradise 4-NT sailing 02-06-06 to 02-10-06. We had a great time, and since there doesnt seem to be too many posts for the Paradise, I thought I would try to give some information about our cruise. We spent the night on the Queen Mary and went to early check-in which is easy to find because there are Carnival employees who will direct you to the right place. We gave our two pieces of luggage to a fellow located at the entrance to the parking garage, and then we went back to the Queen Mary for some breakfast. At the Queen Mary, they told us that early check-in starts at 9:00 am, and boarding usually starts around 11:30 am or 12:00 pm. Once the line started moving at the dome, check-in went fairly quickly and we were on the ship in good time. This was our third cruise on the Paradise, and the first since it became a smoking ship. They restrict smoking to certain areas on the ship, so smoke was never a problem for us. We were blessed with beautiful weather throughout the cruise. It was foggy a few times, but the sun soon burned it away. We did the semi-submersible tour in Catalina and took the shuttle to La Bufadora in Ensenada. Our guide on that tour showed us the safe places to eat in the vendor area, and we had the BEST fish tacos of our lives!! There is a small taco stand/bar across from Havana Banana that you shouldnt miss. They make the corn tortillas fresh for each taco as you order, and they also had carne asada tacos and shrimp tacos. The best part? They were only $1.00 each (shrimp $2.00), and the beers were two for $3.00. For the most part, we were happy with the food in the dining room. However, the Beef Wellington was the worst we had ever had. The Prime Rib, Lobster, Filet Mignon, and Chateaubriand were very good. My favorite desserts were the Key Lime Pie and the Chocolate Fudge Cake. We were fortunate to have two other couples at our table that we really enjoyed, and that made the dining experience even better. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Paris Lido Restaurant, and it was your standard buffet food. My husband had some cheese pizza right from the oven which was terrific, and we had Chicken Caesar Salad a couple of times from the Pizza place. I didnt have a sandwich from the sandwich bar, but they looked really good. Of course, there was the Hamburger/Hot dog/French fry bar, and they were pretty good as well. I can't fail to mention the frozen yogurt, which I have become addicted to!! There was carved meat every day at lunch time, and that was always good. My only complaint for the Paris restaurant is that they had a very limited selection of fresh fruit available. It was always the same... three types of melon cut up and thrown together. We found some apples at the chips and salsa party on the Promenade Deck on Wednesday, and we pocketed a few!! I can honestly tell you that the service every where on the ship was excellent. I didnt come across one crew member that wasnt happy to help you, and they were very friendly and always smiling. Our safe was malfunctioning, and they had someone up to fix it within fifteen minutes. Now thats service!! A fellow named Trevor Block (?) was the Cruise Director, and weve had better and weve had worse. For us, he was just okay. However, he was getting off the ship for his vacation, so Im not sure who was replacing him. The process of disembarkation was well run, very organized. We were out of our cabin by 8:00 am, and went up to the Paris for breakfast. We were the fifth color called, and were off the ship and in our car by 9:30 am. If you had an early flight, they made the orange tags available to you, and they were the first color called. We left our car in the Queen Mary parking lot, which was $10.00 a night. The parking was free the night we spent on the Queen Mary. It is fun to walk around that grand old ship and experience the history of her sailing days. In conclusion, we had a great time on the Paradise. We have always loved this ship, and it did not disappoint. For a short fun getaway, I would definitely recommend this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2006
My husband and I took the Princess Sapphire in December, 2005 from Los Angeles to Mexico. We flew in the day before from Chicago and stayed at the Westin Hotel in Long Beach. This was wonderful - not having to worry about missing the ship ... Read More
My husband and I took the Princess Sapphire in December, 2005 from Los Angeles to Mexico. We flew in the day before from Chicago and stayed at the Westin Hotel in Long Beach. This was wonderful - not having to worry about missing the ship on the day of departure due to weather. The Princess Rep was waiting for us at the baggage claim area and stayed with us till our luggage arrived. She escorted us to the vehicle that was taking us to Long Beach. We wished we had come in an extra day to see more of the sights in Long Beach. The Westin has the "heavenly bed" which is awesome. From the time we left the hotel to getting to our state room took last than an hour. There was a Princess Rep at the hotel on the day of departure who explained everything that would happen. Everyone was extremely helpful. Once we got to the ship, we were escorted to a line with only 2 people instead of the other line with approx 100 people. We found out this was because we had an upgrade (room with a balcony). It is worth the extra money to have the larger room. We had a balcony which was really great. We would spend time out there reading, etc. The other extra that I like - was the laundry on our floor. Only a $1.00 for washer and dryer (dryer - only 20 minutes) They also have irons set up in the area which was great. I have read reviews with much negativity. I believe nothing would make these people happy. Our steward and waitress at dinner were a "10". Polite, efficient, and trying to please us in any way. We thought most of the shows were just as good as a show in Vegas. We didn't care for "undercover" but enjoyed the comedians, the female singer, and the "Piano man" show. The food was extraordinary. We had the early sitting which my husband wanted. We did have to rush a bit but then we went to the 8 PM show then to one of the lounges to dance. We ate one night at the Italian restaurant and it was worth the extra $20.00 each. All in all, we really had a good time. Again the comments about everyone being older. We knew this before we left. I had did a lot of research about what ship we wanted to be on. If you are looking to party, go on Carnival. Our travel agent knew we wanted a quieter crowd which was on the Princess Sapphire. I would say most people were in their 40-60's. No one was drunk, or acting belligerent. We would definitely travel Princess again - but to a different location. I bought the Princess cookbook which has some beautiful photos and great recipes. Read Less
Sail Date December 2005
A group of 12 of us went on Carnival's 3 day cruise to Ensenada. Four of us had cruised last September on Carnival's Ecstasy with a larger group so we knew what to expect. The atrium on Paradise was beautiful and the decor ... Read More
A group of 12 of us went on Carnival's 3 day cruise to Ensenada. Four of us had cruised last September on Carnival's Ecstasy with a larger group so we knew what to expect. The atrium on Paradise was beautiful and the decor exceeded my expectations. The food, as always, was good. We dined in the main dining room all 3 nights. Our head server Edgar was efficient, at best. The first night I brushed it off thinking everybody is entitled to a bad day but it didn't improve over the next 2 nights. The other server (whose name escapes me right now)was a star! He remembered that one of our table mates liked second and thirds on the bread so he kept it coming! He automatically brought us extra sugar and lemon for our tea and seemed to anticipate our every need. Food at the buffet on the Lido deck was good. We ate breakfast and lunch there. I enjoyed the variety of foods served and the fact that I didn't have to go to the grocery store to buy it and then cook it for everybody!!! Once in Ensenada we did not book our tour through the ship but rather through the shuttle that takes you into town. For $13 we went to La Bufadora and shopping. If booked thru Carnival it would've been closer to $30. The shopping at La Bufadora is better than downtown as they are more willing to negotiate. We visited Papas & Beer for the first time and let me tell you it was WILD! Definitely for the college-aged crowd. Our shuttle was supposed to leave downtown at 4:30 but we were tired so we made our way back to the meeting spot about 45 minutes early. Our driver was more than willing to take us back to the ship early. I really enjoyed the late night adult comedy show. I laughed the whole time! Did pretty well at the casino for the limited amount of time I spent there. I came out ahead...can't ask for more than that. We partied at Rex's (the disco) Saturday and Sunday night until almost 3 in the morning. The DJ seemed to have music that pleased everybody! A large Indian group came into the club about 2 am and he seamlessly started playing Indian "hip hop". They were partying on the dance floor with turbans and all, raising the roof!!! It was great! Disembarkation was a drag as always. We were "tan" so our color was called next to last. We got off the ship around 10:30. Sitting around waiting for your color to be called is probably the biggest let down of the cruise. I was already sad about the end of a fantastic weekend then to have to wait around a couple of hours to be "released" was like salt on my wound. :) One last thing, I recommend the drink special called the Yellow Bird...mmm...tasty!!! Overall, we had a good time. Service was better on Carnival's Holiday and Ecstasy but not bad enough to complain about. We find we have more fun if we take a group with us so we're planning on taking a 7 day cruise with the whole family next August. Maybe it'll be the start of a semi-annual family reunion on the high seas! Read Less
Sail Date October 2005
PRIDE OF AMERICA By Ernie Roller 2-Night Preview Cruise Los Angeles / San Diego / Los Angeles Departed: July 8, 2005 Returned: July 10, 2005 Cabin: 9138 Category BD (Oceanview with Balcony) Over 200 Pictures!!: ... Read More
PRIDE OF AMERICA By Ernie Roller 2-Night Preview Cruise Los Angeles / San Diego / Los Angeles Departed: July 8, 2005 Returned: July 10, 2005 Cabin: 9138 Category BD (Oceanview with Balcony) Over 200 Pictures!!: http://public.fotki.com/eroller/pride_of_america/ When I received my invitation for this 2-night preview cruise for travel industry and media professionals, I wasn't initially excited. I had seen pictures of PRIDE OF AMERICA online and frankly I wasn't very impressed. Her exterior sported a stubby bow and I wasn't sure about the stars & stripes "hull art". The interior pictures unfortunately did nothing to elevate my opinion of the ship. I'm ecstatic to proclaim my initial observations were way off base. I absolutely loved PRIDE OF AMERICA and I think she is probably the most unique new ship to come off the blocks in quite some time. PRIDE OF AMERICA (POA) is in fact a one-off design. She will never have a sister ship like so many newbuilds today that are number 6 or 7 in an ever growing series. This fact alone makes POA something rather special. I also leaned that first impressions are not always correct and not every ship photographs well. I took over 200 photographs of POA (see link above) and I must say they don't do justice to the ship. She is a ship that needs to be experienced in person. Embarkation: Things got off to a rough start at the pier. Computers were down and check-in took 1 ½ hours. NCL America did provide a little entertainment to keep spirits up. There was a comedian on stilts dressed up as Uncle Sam trying to keep us all entertained. The entire pier was dressed up with NCL America flags and banners and it looked great. Were the computers initially working things would have gone much smoother. Check-in itself was the usual process. ID's were checked, credit cards swiped, deck plans and ship information handed out, and a picture taken that is embedded in the magnetic strip of your cruise card. The obligatory embarkation picture was taken, followed by a security screening, then on to the ship. Once onboard your cruise card was swiped and several staff members welcomed you onboard. You were on your own to find your cabin which is fine by me. Cabins: Many cabins were not yet ready, which was surprising considering it was almost 3 p.m. I had heard disembarkation from the previous cruise was delayed, but this was never confirmed. I did go inside my cabin to drop off luggage and have a quick look around. It seemed about half way made-up and I figured the rest would be completed later. There is a nifty dial outside the cabin with a few different settings. You can set the dial to "Welcome," "Make-up Cabin," Do not Disturb," etc. This is a great idea since Freestyle Cruising means you are not on a set schedule. Your cabin steward/stewardess requires a little help to know what your requirements are at any given time, and the dial achieves just that. My category BD standard balcony cabin was small by industry standards, at approximately 178 sq feet according to the NCL brochure and I believe that includes the balcony area. Even so, it was well laid out and attractive with Hawaiian themed carpet, wood veneer on the shelves and closets, and comfy white duvets. Closet space is very limited even for two people, so don't plan on bringing a lot of excess clothes. Formal nights are not required on NCL America and this is a good thing considering the limited closet space. Cabin amenities include a coffee maker with coffee, ice and glasses, an interactive TV (called Freestyle iTV which was not yet operational), safe, and refrigerator. The bathroom was also on the small side including the shower stall. There was an amenity kit that included lotion, a shoe shine, and shower cap. Soap, shower gel, and conditioner are provided in dispensers in the shower and above the sink. One side of the mirror opens for additional shelves, but space is still pretty tight. The perpetual "hugging shower curtain" is eliminated by having a shower curtain with several steel rods in it that keep it hanging straight. Water pressure and temperature were fine. The balcony was average size (which means it's not too large), and included a table and two chairs of good quality. Definitely better than the plastic resin that many mass-market cruise lines use. One thing missing in the cabin were master light switches over the bed, and robes. To turn off the main cabin lights you had to get up and go to the switch by the cabin entrance. Suites were absolutely gorgeous and very well appointed. Be sure to check out the pics! Each one had unique dEcor so they were not cookie cutter in design or shape. If you can afford one, go for it. They were some of the nicest and unusual suites I have seen on any ship. A very pleasant surprise were the inside cabins. I think they were about the nicest inside cabins I have seen on any ship. They actually seemed larger than the balcony cabins because of their layout. I liked the fact there were two desks/dressing tables as opposed to only one in the outside and balcony cabins. POA is one ship I would not mind booking an inside cabin on. Outside cabins had the same setup and layout as the standard balcony cabins. If you can snag one, go for the category CC on Deck 7. These eight cabins have huge floor to ceiling windows and are located directly midship. I would almost prefer one of these over a balcony cabin ... almost! One thing worth mentioning is the cabin corridors. They are probably the widest and most attractive I've seen on any ship (including QM2). The corridors have wonderful indirect lighting, subtle Hawaiian music is played, and the carpet is either flower or stars pattern. There is artwork along all the corridors, and one side is a wood veneer which gives them a very welcoming and soft touch. Bravo to NCL for creating corridors that don't look like they belong in a hospital. Staff/Crew: I was more than a little curious about an all-American crew working on a new cruise ship. American's are generally not used to working 7-day weeks with 12 + hour days. I wasn't sure if the service would suffer, and I think for the most part it didn't. The American crew was generally the friendliest I have come across in some 60 cruises. They were young, very attractive, energetic and eager to please. Each one had a story and they were more than willing to share it if you were willing to listen. Personally I greatly enjoyed hearing about their experiences. I know not everyone will appreciate the informality of the crew, but I found it charming. NCL America had some major difficulties with the initial crews on PRIDE OF ALOHA. As many of you may recall, there were reports of massive crew turnover and walk-outs during the initial inaugural period. The two major issues NCL had to overcome were expectations and training. All crew for NCL America now attend the most extensive crew training program in the entire industry. The facility is located in Piney Point Maryland and every crew/staff member spends several weeks there before joining the ship. Not only do they learn the basics about shipboard life and what is expected of them, they discover if shipboard is something they desire. NCL creates an environment at Piney Point that is very similar to what the crew experience onboard ship. The turnover at Piney Point is high, but those that do graduate are the best in their class and more importantly, truly want to be there. This was certainly apparent on PRIDE OF AMERICA based on my personal experience. Service in some areas was a bit slow, but this could be expected on any new ship regardless of crew nationality. Unfortunately there was one exception, and that is cabin housekeeping. At first I thought the problem was limited to my cabin and section, but after chatting with several passengers the problem seemed to be widespread to all decks and cabin types. I've never had such a filthy cabin. Greasy hand prints on all the mirrors; hair and crumbs in cabin drawers; dirty faucets, dirty countertops and dispensers; and even my toilette was never cleaned. In fact there were left over remnants from the previous occupants. I actually used public toilettes the first night onboard as they were spotless (as was the rest of the ship). My bed was never turned down (and never had a bedspread), carpets never vacuumed, the safe was locked shut, the refrigerator was filthy, and even the glasses didn't look clean. I can only hope the bed sheets were laundered. Tissues in the bathroom were never provided, but toilette paper was. I didn't say anything the first night as when I first entered the cabin after embarking I figured it wasn't finished being cleaned. I enjoyed the evening (way too much to drink!) and when I returned the only thing in the cabin that changed was some towels were supplied in the bathroom. Nothing else! The next morning I got up and went down to the Reception Desk. I advised of the unacceptable cabin condition and that I couldn't even use the toilette. She wrote my cabin number down on a long list and ensured it would be taken care of. A couple hours later I returned to the cabin and it was somewhat serviced. The greasy hand prints were still everywhere but new towels were added and the toilette was cleaned. The sink was still dirty and no tissues were supplied. The bed being made was a joke ... she simply threw the duvet back on the bed and didn't even bother to rearrange the pillows. A bedspread would have been nice. Nothing else was cleaned. Had I been in this cabin for a week I would have had a chat with the Chief Housekeeper and also had all room steward gratuities removed. I don't think I've ever stayed in a hotel or cruise ship where the housekeeping service was so poor. Unfortunately others had similar problems, but mine seemed to be the most extreme. I also spoke to other passengers who had wonderful cabin service. Spotless cabins, bedspreads, turn-down service, etc. Basically what you would expect. I hope this is a problem that NCL America gets under control, and soon. Other than the cabin, the rest of the ship was extremely clean and you always saw crew polishing, vacuuming, and keeping things tidy. Dining: The dining choices on POA are numerous. There is really something for everyone. Not all venues are free, but even if you didn't spend an additional dime on food you would have a vast array of choices. I had absolutely no complaints about food. One night I ate with a large group (12 of us I believe) in the Liberty Restaurant, and the second night I had wonderful sushi in "East Meets West" with another large group. So what is free and what isn't? Here's the skinny. Free: Skyline Restaurant; Liberty Restaurant; Aloha Cafe; Key West Grill; Cadillac Diner (except milkshakes); Little Italy. Cover Charge: East Meets West; Jefferson's Bistro; Lazy J Texas Steakhouse Something unique being implemented on all NCL ships and currently onboard POA and NORWEGIAN SPIRIT are flat panel dining availability screens. They are located all over the ship in most public areas. I was initially skeptical of these screens, but they are a great feature. NCL actually modeled them after similar software used for ski lift wait times at major ski resorts. These flat panels list each restaurant (free and cover charge) along with the current wait time at each venue. The color will change from green (empty), to yellow (filling up), to red (full, wait involved). The system is linked to every restaurant onboard so any maitre d' at any restaurant can reserve a time for you at any other restaurant. It's really a cool system and I believe it can also be viewed on your cabin TV once the iTV interactive system is up and running. If your restaurant choice is full and you don't want to switch to another dining venue, you are given a pager so you can enjoy yourself in any one of the lounges until your pager goes off. Lounges / Activities / Entertainment: POA has a wonderful assortment of lounges, entertainment, and activities. Just like the dining arrangements, there was something for everyone. There are whimsical lounges such as the Mardi Gras nightclub. Elegant and eclectic areas like the Lanai Bar, and sophisticated night spots such as the Napa Wine Bar. Pink's Piano Bar and the Gold Rush Saloon are also festive choices. There are plenty of quiet areas as well, with John Adams Coffee Bar and the SS America Library ranking as top choices. The SS America Library deserves special mention. This library is huge and beautifully decorated. It's themed after the liner S/S AMERICA and includes artifacts from this beautiful ship as well as a gorgeous painting of the ship and a very detailed model. The only library that comes close at sea is onboard the QM2 and QE2. Great job NCL! Unfortunately I didn't attend either of the production shows. This is unusual for me as I tend to enjoy them, but I was too busy enjoying myself with new found friends to give them a second thought. Both shows received raves from passengers who saw them and hopefully I'll get a second chance as I plan to book POA for a 7-day cruise later this year. NCL hosted amazing deck parties both nights, and something I've never done before was ride a mechanical bull! Yes, one was set up right on deck. The second night they removed the "bull" and set up a mechanical surf board instead. It was great, but I'm not certain if this is a permanent activity or just something special for these industry cruises? The Santa Fe spa is quite lovely and offers very soothing Southwestern decor. The treatment rooms looked very comfortable and there is a relaxation area as well. There are separate men's and women's changing rooms along with single sex saunas, steam rooms, and showers located inside the changing rooms. A nice touch is the "star lit" ceiling in the steam and sauna that changes colors creating a unique atmosphere. I believe there will be no charge to use the steam rooms and sauna. The workout area is large and well equipped, and there are individual flat screen panels above each cardio machine which is a nice touch. Another unique feature onboard POA is the Diamond Head Auditorium. This is without a doubt the most extensive meeting area onboard any ship. While I would have liked to see an observation lounge in this spot, it does work very well as a circular meeting space. NCL America has high hopes of attracting extensive meeting and incentive groups. There is the added incentive for US corporations to book POA and her running mate in Hawaii for added the tax benefit. As these ships are registered in the United States, US corporations can use the meetings as a tax write-off. This is simply not possible on foreign flagged vessels. I hope the Diamond Head Auditorium becomes a multi-use facility, and as the ship becomes broken in maybe a few of the ship's activities can be scheduled up there. Pools / Decks: Swimming pools are one area that could be improved upon. The pools are not the most attractive (compared to other ships) and are a bit small. The main pool area (South Beach Pool) is simply too cluttered. The Ocean Drive Bar is an excellent and large pool bar, but the rest of the area is lacking. The aft Oasis Pool is one of the smallest pools I've seen on a ship, but it's a very attractive area and I imagine it will be much quieter than the midship pools. Be sure to check out the adorable oversized shower up on Deck 14. It's one of the many whimsical features that make POA a stand-out. There is plenty of open deck space and most of it is covered with a blue plastic surface. I would have rather seen teak but that is rare these days, especially on mainstream ships. There is also a full wrap-around Promenade Deck on Deck 6. It's wide but unfortunately chairs are few and far between. Special mention goes to the Sports Deck on Deck 14. It's huge and will prove very popular to sports fanatics. It's also located out of the way as not to disturb the rest of the passengers. The good and not so good: Good: cabin decor; overall ship decor and detail; Aloha Cafe outdoor buffet stations; Liberty Restaurant; American crew; restaurant choices; inside cabins; the amazing suites; onboard artwork; the dining availability panels; food and overall service; spacious corridors; ship's overall atmosphere. Not so good: cabin housekeeping is poor; small pools, cluttered decks; minimal closet space; slow embarkation; inaccessibility to Santa Fe Spa and gym. Disembarkation: A short note about disembarkation. Since PRIDE OF AMERICA is a US flagged ship and calls at no foreign ports, there is no need for passengers to fill out any forms or clear US Customs and Immigration. This means that very shortly after the ships docks, you are free to go. I saw people disembarking as early as 7:20 a.m., and I disembarked at 8:15 a.m. and easily made a 9:30 a.m. flight out of LAX. NCL America provided each of us with a commemorative inaugural gift that will make a wonderful addition to my ship collection. It's an American flag folded into a triangle and framed in a wood and glass case. There is a plaque that reads "PRIDE OF AMERICA Inaugural Season 2005" on the outside and there are hooks on the back for hanging. It's one of the nicest inaugural gifts I have come across. It was a bit awkward to carry on the plane, but there was no way I was leaving that behind! As we walked off the POA, many of the staff and crew from POA and the NCL Miami office were standing on both sides of the Promenade Deck clapping and cheering as we disembarked. It was a thoughtful and appreciated gesture, not to mention memorable and unique. I think it's something they should do after every cruise as it really left a lasting impression and made you feel valued by NCL. What's next for NCL and some tidbits: * Look for a new NCL website coming in early 2006. It will encompass a new interactive booking engine for both travel agents and consumers. * Freestyle will be taken to the next level. Part of this will be the ability to pre-book all restaurant reservations before you leave home on the new website. Basically you will be able to plan your entire dining week in advance. Also incorporated will be the ability to pre-book all your spa treatments and of course shore excursions. The other aspects of how Freestyle will evolve are in the works, but expect innovation. * Latitudes, the NCL past passenger club is getting revamped. Currently all past passengers receive the same recognition regardless of how many NCL cruise you have taken. Beginning this Fall, Latitudes will have different benefit levels based not only on how many times you sail, but how much you spend as well. Those passengers that consistently book suites will receive higher recognition. * With the addition of NORWEGIAN JEWEL, PRIDE OF HAWAII, and two additional "Star Class" ships, NCL will have the youngest fleet in the industry. In 2006 NCL is actually accounting for half of all new built tonnage in the N. American cruise industry. * A new class of ship is currently in development. It will follow the two unnamed "Star Class" ships already on order. Expect innovation and many surprise features. * All the older NCL tonnage will be phased out of the fleet by 2010 at the latest. This includes DREAM, WIND, MAJESTY, and CROWN. * Keep an eye out for some interesting itineraries for PRIDE OF HAWAII. Prior to her year round 7-day Hawaii cruising, she will embark on a few trans-Pacific itineraries between the West Coast and Hawaii. Some interesting ports will be included (Hawaii and the mainland) and there is no need to stop at a foreign port since she will be US registered. Her fast 25 knot speed will also make the crossing to Hawaii in a shorter time. * None of the NCL America ships are permitted to sail in Alaska or the Caribbean. This was a last minute mandate lobbied by some of NCL competitors. Interesting. * The SS UNITED STATES, currently laid up in Philadelphia and owned by NCL has not been forgotten. I was able to personally question NCL executive Andy Stuart (who BTW is a very dynamic speaker and charming man) about her future. He informed me NCL had created a team to determine the feasibility of bringing the SSUS back to service. Results were very positive and he even spoke of her excellent hull condition. Unfortunately when POA encountered her troubles at the shipyard in Germany, the team switched their objective from the SSUS to getting POA into service. I truly feel the SSUS has a good possibility of being brought back to service after speaking with Mr. Stuart. He seemed to appreciate the value and recognition a ship like the SSUS could bring NCL America. Stay tuned! * Following the 2-night cruise I enjoyed, the crew of POA were getting a short cruise of their own. Andy Stuart and the rest of the NCL management team onboard (including POA Officers) were switching roles and becoming waiters, bartenders and entertainers for the crew onboard POA. Meanwhile the crew becomes passengers and can enjoy the hospitality of their superiors on an overnight cruise up to San Francisco. A massive deck party was planned. What better way to show employee appreciation and sustain excellent morale as well? This gesture really helped earn my respect for NCL as a caring company. * Look for NCL to split from parent company Star Cruises later this year and become public on the NY Stock Exchange. What happens after that is anybody's guess. The Final Word: In a nutshell, I loved PRIDE OF AMERICA and have found a new appreciation for NCL. To be honest, NCL was fairly low on my personal scale up until now. With PRIDE OF AMERICA and the rest of the new ships NCL is building, I've discovered what an innovative company NCL has become. They are not perfect (and no cruise line is), but I think they have a bright future and they certainly have earned my support and new found respect. I wish them great success! Any questions or comments? Please email me at: eroller@msn.com Read Less
Sail Date July 2005
When we decided to sail on the M/V Paradise it started out for one reason, to celebrate my 50th birthday, but a couple of reasons also popped up along the way. One was to try out noise canceling headphones (worked like a charm) and to see ... Read More
When we decided to sail on the M/V Paradise it started out for one reason, to celebrate my 50th birthday, but a couple of reasons also popped up along the way. One was to try out noise canceling headphones (worked like a charm) and to see if my wife can handle an inside cabin. My wife gets a touch claustrophobic when she can't see outside. So with this in mind, off we went on a 4 day cruise. Arriving at Long Beach airport from a short flight from Seattle was like stepping back in time. I can't explain it, you have to experience it for yourself to really enjoy the atmosphere. Cabs were plentiful and we were off. We were going to use Primetime Shuttle but they had called and said they would not be running on Monday, but that was not too bad since the cab ride was $5 cheaper! Now at the drop off and pickup stations this was where the confusion started. Let's just say the stevedores did not really seem to know what was going on, but we were able to get our luggage on, I think we were the last ones to drop off for a bit until their act got together. Off to check in we go. Got to the terminal at approx 11:30 a.m. and we were sent to early check-in on the Queen Mary. Wow was it slow, but everyone was happy, lots of talk and banter going on. It was fun listening in on folks talking about smuggling in alcohol. From what I gathered no one got caught! After check in, we were off to the next line and every line was moving. At this time one of the Carnival personal saw my wife with her surgery boot and cane, and allowed us ahead of the line processing and we were on the ship with in 10 minutes. So check-in took about 1 hour and 10 minutes. So off to the Lido Deck for some food and a bucket of beer. Getting to our cabin was pretty easy and off we went to drop off our carry on. We had an inside cabin located aft on the upper deck, and we found it to be of pretty good size for a cruise ship. Plenty of storage space for a 4 day cruise and the suitcases fit under the bunk nicely. The Head (bathroom) was also, we thought, a pretty good size, not too big and not too small, and the shower we thought was perfect. One problem with the shower we found out later was it liked to change the temperature of the water. Really hot then super cold, made it interesting to shower! But like everything, we learned to deal with it and it became a laughing matter and a chance to chat with other cruisers. On our first tour around the ship we checked out the places we might want to go and found the ship to be in pretty good shape. With crew members constantly cleaning all parts of the ship day and night. The inside of the ship we thought was done very nice, not too glitzy, and not too bright. The use of mostly brown tones with a touch of blue, green and yellow seemed tone it all down. Lots of wood trim around and I noticed none of it damaged. Back for a couple of buckets of beer and off to sail away. Very uneventful and off to dinner we go. Early dinner at Destiny table 296 turned out to be the assignment, what a great group of tablemates we had! We were team red and, well, we had to carry the colors! We all took red names. Mine was Red Wine and Sue was Red Lobster. First night is lobster night. Did not hear a complaint. I don't like lobster so I did not partake of the shell fish, I had dead cow! Our wait staff was wonderful, they were always there to help and/or take our orders, we did not want for anything. Our tablemates found out the second day that they could have asked for more lobster if they wanted it, but after the first day they tried it all! The maitre d' was wonderful, he even seemed to enjoy the antics at our table. Day 2 brought out the Billy Bob teeth. The look on everyone's face was wonderful, that made it funnier! Day 3 one of our tablemates DH was lost, and she was concerned, the maitre d' called to see if he had checked in and was going to do it again when the husband finally showed up. Day 4 brought out the WWF masks. Again the looks on everyone's face was worth it. At this time we had gotten everyone around us to get a touch rowdy. So the dinning room was fun, and classy! The wait staff did the conga line and the parade stuff and most of them seem to enjoy the hoots and hollers and of course the applause. The food was pretty good, not perfect but I don't ask for that. The Beef Wellington did seem a touch off and was mentioned by several of us. But the gravy was able to cover it up. All other meals I did not have a problem with and was plenty in size for me and my wife. The shows that we went to, most I would not write home about. The R-Rated comedian was okay but not what I thought it would be. Oh well, a few buckets of beer took care of that. The magic show we tried to see but Bingo players had the good seats. We found out most of the seats in the upper sections of the Normandy Lounge are poor, so we left and a couple buckets of beer later we did not care. We did get to see "Shout" and found it to be pretty good. The dancers did a wonderful job. The crew members of the ship were very friendly and they were always ready to greet you and seemed to be genuine. The bar wait staff were able to take a no with no problem and were always friendly. But we did not have to say no to many times. Those buckets of beer just did not seem to stop, also those Fun Ship drinks seem to find their way into our hands! Also those with soda cards did not get fountain soda, they got canned soda. At the many bars we stopped at not one bartender refused or treated them any different from the booze drinkers The other meals that we ate came from the other places. We did eat at the Destiny Room once for breakfast and it was pretty nice, got to meet other folks, including a couple from England. Talk included tea and politics, the English couple were great and fun. All other breakfast meals were eaten at the Paris buffet. Loved the omelets, and the cook would add other stuff from the buffet. The buffet line was the standard fare of eggs, pancakes, etc. The wife did not complain at what she ate, so it must have been okay. Lunch was had at the pizza bar and pool grill. The pepperoni was good and goes well with a bucket of beer. The hamburgers and the pool grill were okay, but I had the hot dogs and enjoyed them. They too went well with a bucket of beer. The Calypso band at the pool was pretty good, but had a limited song list. Yes, we heard the same songs again, but we did not care, again the bucket of beer can help out anything. Our ports of call included Catalina and Ensenada. Catalina was nice, pretty and calm. We rented a golf cart and did the tour and got so lost! We ended going down roads we were not suppose to be on, but no one cared. Toured the Catalina museum it's small but I like neat stuff like that, and it looks like they are going to expand it. All in all, Catalina is nice little place to stop. Getting on and off was pretty easy, they had plenty of tenders running at all times. Ensenada. What can I say! It's Mexico. We did the wine country tour and we found it enjoyable. Enjoyed hearing about Mexican history. I really like hearing folks talk about there country with pride. Oh, the wine tour, well it goes to 2 wineries, one larger and the other a small one. Nothing was going on (wrong time of year for grapes), but we were able to see the aging barrels. Each winery had a wine tasting and they had some good wine. The last one gave out a free bottle to every one, and I enjoyed the red wine that evening at dinner. That afternoon we spend time shopping downtown. Papa&Beer was hopping and we did not really like the music we heard, so we skipped it. After dinner we went up on deck and watched sail way. We got to watch the last three folks come back. One left something in a car and had to run and go get it. You had to be there to, trust me it was funny. Much applause was heard on deck and she did not care. Our cabin steward did a wonderful job, we only met him once, but we knew he was around. Those towel critters were cute and we enjoyed them. Night 3 we got the elephant and we had him pose in the fake window ledge for a few pictures, and steward must have thought that was a good idea as he left it there. Made the cabin a little more homey. As with most cruises, they come to an end. So now you have to go through disembarkation. They go by colors, and we were purple and our color was called about 9:15 a.m.. Getting off the ship was easy and we were on our way to customs and immigration at 9:35. Immigration took about a half hour and this was the most grumbling I heard. Once through it was a hop and skip to pick up luggage and out to pick up our shuttle. Our porter was wonderful, he was not pushy, he just offered to help. We told him when our flight was and he told us places to go while waiting for our 5 p.m. flight. We were free and clear by 10:30 and waiting to go to the Long Beach airport. Well, was this cruise perfect? I would say no, but it was very good and we enjoyed ourselves a lot. Would we go on this same cruise again? I would say yes. Would I sail with Carnival again? I would say yes. Would that cruise be better? Maybe. Worst? Most likely not. Any questions feel free to contact use and ask questions Hope you all enjoyed this. Read Less
Sail Date February 2005
My husband, mother-in-law and I sailed over Thanksgiving week on the Paradise. This was my husband's mother's first cruise, our 7th. We had a verandah suite which had a queen bed and a sofa sleeper. The cabin and storage space ... Read More
My husband, mother-in-law and I sailed over Thanksgiving week on the Paradise. This was my husband's mother's first cruise, our 7th. We had a verandah suite which had a queen bed and a sofa sleeper. The cabin and storage space were large enough for the 3 of us, but could have used some refurbishing in the upholstery and bed linens. Our cabin was kept quite clean and always done in a timely manner. The towel animals really made a hit with Grandma! Dining was a highlight for all of us. The food was always presented beautifully and was very good. Service was terrific and Marcelo and Ihar reinforced our love of traditional dining. They even made up for getting the late seating when we wanted early. The ports were fun, clean and worth the full day stop. We did the obligatory golf cart tour of Catalina Island, in 1 hour exactly. I look forward to visiting there again sometime. Ensenada was a pleasant surprise. We took the 4 hour winery tour and thoroughly enjoyed it. Our tour guide, Juan Jo, was entertaining, informative and a lot of fun. The 2 wineries had an impressive selection of wine, as well as olives, tequila and souvenirs to choose from. Back in town we had a good meal at La Tortuga, seeing fellow passengers as well as crew members dining there. The entertainment on board the ship was very good. Most fun were the comedian and magician. But the musical revue shows were better than most we have seen and the performers really put their hearts into it! The Paradise atrium area was so elegant. The Blue Riband room was a popular place for families playing games together, but I found it also a cozy place to curl up with a book in a sunny spot. The Casino had a good variety of slot machines, and some of them even paid off! We had fun at the art auction even if it ran too long--had to leave before the end to make the galley tour in time, so missed out on the free artwork! Camp Carnival wasn't something we used, but did appreciate how busy the counselors kept all the kids on board! Saw a couple groups of kids marching down the halls and they sure seemed to be having fun! Embarkation and disembarkation were the BEST we have ever experienced. Princess should take lessons!! Our time to meet in the theatre the last morning was 7:30 a.m. and we were off the ship in less than 15 minutes! What a perfect way to end a cruise! This was our first time spending a holiday at sea, and we were very happy with our decision! It was a relaxing, peaceful way of celebrating a holiday. Gave us lots of good, fun family time together. And Carnival's crew did a good job of ensuring that it happened for us! Read Less
Sail Date November 2004

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