My husband and I chose to cruise the 4-night Mexico cruise on Carnival Paradise to celebrate our upcoming anniversary. While the price for our Grand Suite was similar to that on the Carnival Splendor's 7-day cruise, we preferred the itinerary to Catalina and Ensenada since we had not been to either of those ports. We had already visited Puerto Vallarta and Cabo on other cruises. Not sure why Carnival is now spending two days in Cabo, but it is definitely not a 2-day port, in our opinion.
Overall, we really enjoyed our cruise on Carnival Paradise. I do want to share some of the things we did not like because as a frequent reader of Cruise Critic, it really helps to know what people like and do not like. It definitely helps manage your expectations! I also suspect that Carnival reads the reviews as well, and I am sure it is helpful for them to understand customer preferences and areas for performance improvement.
The embarkation/disembarkation process from Long Beach was smooth with our VIP access. We arrived at the port earlier than expected since the crazy Los Angeles traffic took a break for the Labor Day holiday! Boarding began at approximately 11:45 a.m. Rooms were ready by 1:30 p.m. Our room was excellent. Our cabin steward was totally out of sight, although our room was always clean and refreshed. I particularly enjoyed the family of towel animals she created for us each evening.
We enjoyed breakfast on our balcony each morning. Room service menu is really limited, but we were happy with coffee, fruit, and a croissant. Just fill out the room service request form, hang it on your door, and breakfast magically appears in the morning. NOTE: If you are a stickler for arrival time, be sure to note it on the form. On the first morning, we requested delivery between 7 and 7:15 a.m., but our breakfast arrived promptly at 6:40 a.m. We weren't out of bed yet, so there was a frantic moment to find a robe and tip. Next day, we were careful to write "not before 7 a.m." so our alarm could go off and we could be ready for coffee pot arrival.
We took the Inside Adventure tour of Catalina Island. Our driver, Magdal (spelling?) was outstanding! We enjoyed hearing the history of the island and trip out the road to the airport. We saw several bison/buffalo, as well as other wildlife. The views from the top of the hill were just beautiful. Some of our dinner mates took the Scenes of Catalina tour, and they indicated our tour sounded better. Of note, the road is not an asphalt-paved highway. The trip is a bit like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland. If you are offended by potholes, this would not be a good trip for you. We enjoyed it so much, we would even considering doing it again. We appreciated learning about the great history of Catalina.
In Ensenada, we took the Beach Resort tour. We really enjoyed our tour guide, Martha, who provided great narration and history of Ensenada on our way to and from Estero Beach Resort. We had an excellent relaxing day, and the weather was beautiful. The pool area was enjoyable, particularly the swim-up bar. They turned on the pool heater, which was much appreciated. I would have loved a floating mat, but they did not have any floatation available. A Mexican buffet lunch was included. The food was definitely what I would call "Americanized." Living in Southern California, we have easy access to authentic Mexican food. The buffet was fine, but we definitely would have preferred local cuisine, carne asada, tamales, etc. Would I consider the facility a resort? I was not expecting a Four Seasons, but this hotel was definitely not my idea of a "resort." If you go with reasonable expectations, you are sure to have a good time.
I have read a lot of positive and negative comments about the Paradise. We found all of the staff to be extremely friendly. The food was hit or miss. We were surprised the dining room service was not of the same quality we experienced on Carnival Spirit. We had to ask for water refills, bread, etc. Even though all of the orders were taken at the same time, the food never came out at the same time for everyone at the table, which makes people feel uncomfortable as to whether or not it okay to start eating. Several times, the food delivered was different than what was ordered. It seemed like maybe our waiters had too many tables for them to handle efficiently. None of us really complained, but it was definitely a topic of discussion and a reason to compare service on different ships and cruise lines.
I definitely agree with another review about the pool being too cold. In our opinion, it was ridiculously cold, but definitely fun to watch the kids come down the slide. On the At-Sea Day, they anchor up in the channel. Apparently, it consumes less fuel. I would still think the ship is generating enough power to bring the pool water to a reasonable temperature.
In our opinion, the cruise director staff was definitely not at the same level we experienced on the Carnival Spirit. Danny and Laura, both of whom are very nice, were definitely not as interactive or enthusiastic as Stu and the "Bingo Dude." The show schedule seemed odd. First night no show, second night jammed with show and comedy, third night no show, fourth night again jammed with show and comedy. We did not enjoy the country-hoedown show. No offense to the singers and dancers, as they are great. We just did not like the theme or music. We found the comedy to be hilarious, and we particularly liked Jerome. We did not find the adult comedy to be offensive. While there is some adult language, we did not find it to be unreasonable.
Just before I wrote this, I read in another review about an erroneous in-room charge. Interestingly, we experienced the same thing. We did not use anything in the room because we brought our own beverages. We had to take our room bill down to Guest Services to have the charge removed. They did not give us any problem about removing it, but it was definitely inconvenient.
Overall, we enjoyed our time on the Carnival Paradise. We particularly liked meeting all of the other cruisers we encountered along the way.