Number of Cruises: 16
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Paradise
Sailing Date: October 8th, 2004
This was one of the first cruises of the previously smoke-free Paradise since its move to California from Miami. Smoking is now allowed, but only in a very few limited areas, the casino, one bar and on the pool deck. Smoking in staterooms is still prohibited. Nobody seemed to mind. The stateroom steward said she'd "turn her head" if we wished to smoke in our cabin.
Embarkation and debarkation procedures were efficient and the shore personnel were friendly and courteous.
Staterooms were spacious, although mine, all the way forward on the "Main" deck, was extremely noisy when the ship was maneuvering in port in the early AM hours due to the forward thrusters operating. I'm sure it would have been equally noisy had the anchor been deployed. Stateroom service was exemplary and usually invisible, as it should be. The staterooms themselves, even our cheap "inside" cabin, were spacious and comfortable. There was a complimentary basket of shampoo, razors, etc in each bath.
These three-day cruises are usually populated by a younger and sadly, often more drunken crowd, and the first day there were several loud and obnoxious groups whooping it up on deck, making it difficult to hear yourself talk to the person next to you on the pool deck. The deck waiters seemed to encourage the sale of more and more "buckets" of beer and there was no effort made to control the groups often foul language, despite the p[resence of many children in the immediate area. Dining room food on the Paradise was up to Carnival standards, but certainly nothing to rave about. I found most of the beef dishes were a bit tough but the fish and chicken were excellent. The lobster was average. Not much imagination in the food overall, and they seemed to stick to the old standards. The Lido's informal dining was uninspired, although they did have some excellent and imaginative salads, especially the seafood salads. There was a "lo-cal" dessert selection on the Lido, as well as a pretty good pizza bar thatv was always open.
Our dining room waiter was a Turkish fellow, a little aloof, but efficient. His assistant made up for him in the personality department. The wine service was good. One of our table mates brought a bottle "Two-Buck Chuck" wine and they did the whole wine ceremony for it as if it was '78 Chateau Neuf. Overall though, Carnival seems to have let the staff get a little bland- they used to be much more friendly and outgoing, but maybe it was a function of the short duration of the cruise. There was not so much in the way of deck entertainment, and the Caribbean band was rarely on stage around the pool. When they were, they played the Bob Marley songbook...also not very imaginative or personable- just journeyman music makers. I think the raised stage area makes them interact less directly with the passewngers. The Carnival "background music" on deck used to be pleasant oldies or something of that ilk- maybe a little country, but this time it was non-stop hip-hop, noisy and annoying. Yeah, I know- "What does this old man know about music?" Well- I'd prefer something with more general appeal.
The only port on this cruise, Ensenada, Mexico, offers little in the way of sightseeing. Most of the tours were solely for the purpose of directing you to the favored shoppng places- so what's new? Some friends and I spent a few hours walking around town, and had a couple of beers at a nice sidewalk cafe called La Tortuga on the main drag. Shopping was for the same stuff they've been selling in Mexico for thirty years- have they no sense of innovation at all? The $3 shuttle from the pier takes you to town the long way so the "guide" has time to finish her spiel about why you should take their shuttle from town down to the "Blow Hole" (LaBufadora) for another $12 a head. It's an interesting trip if you've never been to Ensenada before.
The bars and shows aboard were all standard Carnival fare, glitzy and loud. The stage shows were "Vegas style" and some of the singers and dancers were quite good, especially one young woman who did a very convincing Tina Turner routine. The casino was pretty loose and was generally well attended. All in all, a successful cruise for a short weekend break with a sometimes rowdy young crowd. Perfect for you "party animals".