Carnival LineParadise ReviewBaja MexicoTom Canty
Age: NOT FOUND
Number of Cruises: 7
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Paradise
Sailing Date: July 10th, 2006
Itinerary: NOT FOUND
Carnival Cruise Line
Paradise Cruise Review
Just got back from the 4 day short cruise
from LA to Catalina and Ensenada on the Paradise. We cruised on the Paradise 7
years ago on our honeymoon, when the ship was only a year old and it was a
non-smoking ship. While there is now smoking allowed, I found it to be much,
much less than any other ship, and was not bothered by it. In fact, I noticed
the times when people did smoke, mainly in the Rotterdam (where cigars are
allowed) and the casino, because it was unusual.
This ship had kids on it (summertime), with a fairly even distribution of little ones to teens, but I never felt bothered by them. They fill up the pools, of course, which is probably the only bad thing. But otherwise they were fairly well behaved, and were clearly kept busy. This length of a cruise is probably ideal for the 4-8 year olds.
The ship essentially hasn't changed in 7 years, except for the new "O2" club for teens and the miniature golf topside. Decor is exactly the same, and it's looking a bit gaudy now. But still, a very nice ship, nicely maintained.
The most significant difference was the food. As others have reported, the quality, variety, and portion size has changed substantially. It isn't all bad, it's just a crapshoot. For example, the won-ton soup one night was outstanding, but the veal was like shoe leather. One person at our table had 3 lobster tails on formal night, and said that each one that came out was better than the previous one - all I can think is that the first ones were prepared long before dinner, and had time to get a little chewy.
We had "issues" with our table (namely that nobody spoke English!), so we went to the Maitre 'D. The Assistant Maitre'D was useless and frankly not very nice, but the head Maitre'D was wonderful, and moved us to a table where we really enjoyed the other couple. On every cruise the first thing I do is race to the dining room to check on and change our table/seating time, if needed, but this time I didn't and I should have.
Our cabin was literally on the back of the ship, which concerned us at first. When we got to the cabin there was a horrible banging sound, but it turned out to just be the mooring ropes, and the sound disappeared as soon as we left the port. Oddly the sound did not return in Ensenada, where we also moored, but did when we got back to LA. In any case, the engine sounds and such were very, very light, as most of the cruise the ship doesn't go very fast (because it doesn't go very far!).
Catalina was wonderful - we had never been - but it is small. The best thing to do is rent a golf cart, although they're expensive. We used one for 1.5 hours and had a ball. Be sure to head immediately out of town and go on the sky road - the view is spectacular. Remember that it's one-way though - look at your map to see how to get there. We drove up to the Wrigley memorial (and botanical gardens, which is really just a collection of some interesting cacti), and I feel sorry for anyone that tries to walk (or even bike) up to it from town - it's uphill the whole way. We then drove through town, over to the former casino (now basically a movie theatre), and a little past it to a beautiful beach and beach club. We didn't stop there, but it looks far less crowded than the "beach" by the dock, and much nicer. After that we returned the cart and wandered around. The obvious place to go is Luau Larry's, where you get a straw hat for drinking some special drink. It looked like fun. Getting back on the boat took a long time - the line stretches the length of the dock, because you have to take tenders (small boats) to and from the cruise ship.
Ensenada is, well, Ensenada. I will say it's improved some since we were there about 8 years ago, but it had room to do so. There is a new dock for the ship, and the main area near Papa's and Beer Hussong's has improved a lot, with a new bar/restaurant called Mango Mango and very nice stores. Finding an internet cafe was a challenge, but if you go about 3 doors up from Papas and Beer, there is a small clothing store with an i-cafe in the back - it cost a buck for about 30-40 minutes (much better than the ship). There is also a brewpub on the main drag, which is a branch of the Tijuana Brewing Company. Pretty decent beers considering the source, but street vendors come in and bug you constantly - they don't keep them out. But a nice place. The blow-hole (La Bufadora) was supposed to be spectacular that day, really shooting high in the air, but we didn't go as we'd been before. Take the advice of others and do NOT use the shore excursions; just go into town and make your own arrangements - it's very easy. Also, as we were leaving, my wife saw a necklace she liked that an old woman was selling, and she bought it. Big mistake. All of the little street urchins immediately converged on us and pestered us relentlessly (literally pushing us and stopping us dead) until I had to scream at them so we could get past. Luckily we were only a half-block from the return shuttle, so we raced onboard once we broke free. Don't buy anything from the street vendors!
Back on the ship, I spent most of my time at night playing limit hold-'em on the two poker tables, which were usually full all 4 nights. I ended up paying for about half the cruise this way. Unfortunately they don't play no-limit, only limit (3/6 and 4/8, when the second table is going). Still, plenty of drunken home players to take money from.
Shows were good, usual stuff. The female singers were outstanding, as were the comedians, but the male singer and dancers were pretty lame.
The sushi bar: it is still as good as it was when we last sailed, and free too, which is one of the best little unadvertised features of the cruise. The problem is the line, because there is only one guy working it. The best time to go to it is right after the second of the early seatings (6:15), because most people are either eating or else getting ready for the late seatings, so very few people are around. If you try to go before dinner, expect a long line.
Getting off the ship was SLOW, but once off, customs was very smooth. There are two lines that form on the ship, one fore and one aft. The aft one is much, much longer. Also, stay to the right once you get off the ship - the line on the left is for non-US citizens, and is much slower.
One last thing - I expected this to be a major booze cruise with a lot of obnoxious drunks. I was pleasantly surprised that people were having a great time (and there was plenty of drinking) but it was much, much less obnoxious than the 3-day weekend cruises, which we've done once before. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of fun (this is Carnival, after all), but on the 3 day one we did before, 12 men were kicked off in Ensenada for trying to rip clothes off of women at the pool. There was nothing like that on this cruise, it was much more families and young to middle-age couples. People were very friendly and everyone was having a great time. Note, avoid the "drink of the day" - that's just Carnival's way to push low-alcohol drinks (and therefore low cost) in a cheapo plastic glass you probably won't keep anyway. Stick to beer (Fosters is the best "deal") or cocktails that can't be watered down, otherwise you'll be paying more for mixers than alcohol.