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CarnivalParadiseBaja, MexicoMathew Mattox

Age: 26

Occupation:Graduate Student

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Paradise

Sailing Date: September 5th, 2005

Itinerary: NOT FOUND

Baja, Mexico

Mathew Mattox

OVERALL RATING: Service was top notch, food not so much. Grade of B-.

WHY CHOOSE THIS CRUISE? This was our first cruise and my wife and I wanted to go somewhere tropical for our honeymoon. Carnival was recommended by both my parents and my best friend.

GETTING THERE. (Grade A) We flew in on united to LAX and arranged for Carnival to pick us up at the baggage claim. This was hassle free and really worth the money. I think it’s cheaper than taking a cab. We met a nice couple here so I’d recommend the shuttle service.

EMBARKATION (Grade: A) We checked in with Carnival early, probably around 10:30 or 11am. We were the first to board the ship at roughly 12:30-1pm. Our luggage arrived at our door at roughly 3:30pm. If you treat security the same as airport security ie remove all metal and take off your shoes it’s painless to board. We had our passports too which I think helps.

DEBARKATION (Grade A) We signed up for the tour of LA, unfortunately it was cancelled but we were the first to get off the ship. Note: Tie a bow or bright cloth to your luggage so it’s easy to identify. Take advantage of the breakfast before you get off the ship. The waiters are really fast and it’s nice to get one last meal. We declared everything we brought, customs was very friendly. They didn’t worry about the $3 in alcohol taxes we owed. I imagine you don’t want to upset these guys so don’t sneak anything. We declared everything and they were really friendly and easy to deal with.

ROOM (Grade: A). Outside w/Window. The room was great! Our room steward cleaned our room 2-3 times each day. He did such a great job we more than doubled his tip. These guys really work hard and it shows. We ordered room service one night and it arrived in less than 10 minutes. Honestly, room service was the best meal we had on the ship.

THE SHIP (Grade A). We took the 4-day cruise so we didn’t see too many drunken party animals which was nice. Most of the people onboard were honeymooners and celebrating an anniversary and most of the people on the ship are friendly and talkative. Never once did we think the ship was crowded. We had no problems finding a deck chair or a spot in the hot tub. We found plenty of places to just stand on the deck and watch the ocean, sunset, port, etc. On deck behind the buffet is the best place to eat and look at the ocean and its very seldom used. The smoking on the ship seems excessive the bars, casino and some places on deck just reeked of smoke. For a formerly non-smoking ship they sure have regressed on that policy. The ship was always clean.

FOOD (Grade: F-). In my end of ship review I mentioned the food tasted like below average dorm food and that about sums it up. The buffet food was the same as the food served in the fancy dining rooms with the exception of steaks. The fish was awful and there are very few non-meat options. I tried lobster which was ok. I never once finished a meal at the formal dining room. Most of the food reminded me of cheap greasy bar food. The 24 hour pizzeria is just ok. Deserts sucked, however they did have very nice looking deserts in the coffee shop, unfortunately you have to pay extra for them. If you take this cruise be prepared to spend a long time in your cabin bathroom so stock up on the Costco sized box of immodium. The breakfast in the formal dining rooms wasn’t bad and the room service was our best meal. However, when tuna salad on an English muffin and peanut butter and jelly was the best meal on board a cruise ship known for top notch food then you know something is wrong. I suspect Carnival is cutting corners with the food quality to pay for absurd fuel costs. The service in the dining hall is some of the best I’ve ever had. Unfortunately you can only drink water or tea with your meal in the formal dining room unless you want to pay extra. At least at the buffet you can have juice or lemonade with your meal for no extra charge.

I’m passing on the advice that worked for me. Spend the money on the excursions.
Catalina Island: We booked the eco-rafting tour at Catalina Island and it was great. The tour guide was really smart, the boat is really fun to ride in and it’s really neat to see all the wildlife. My suggestion for this tour is to bring a sweatshirt and some binoculars and enjoy the ride. We saw a bald eagle, sea lion, seal, flying fish, lots of large birds and we got to take in a lot of the island history from our tour guide. This was by far the highlight of our cruise.

Later we took the botanical garden tour. I didn’t care for it that much but my wife really liked it. We were the youngest people on the tour by about 30 years so the tour is geared towards the elderly. The botanical gardens are neat once you get there and they give you time to walk around. My advice is to bring a bottle of water with you. The heat really takes it out of you.

Ensenada: In Ensenada we booked the wine country tour. The drive to the wine country is about 40 minutes but it didn’t feel like it took that long. Our tour guide was very informative and did a great job. She even learned everyone’s name on the bus by the time we made it to the winery, no exaggeration! La Cetto winery tour was very nice. The wine was ok and the atmosphere was nice. Santo Tomas winery had great wines, much more selection of wines to sample, and an outstanding atmosphere. I think the wines at Santo Tomas were better but I think the bus was split 50/50 over which winery had better wines.

ENTERTAINMENT (Grade: B). The comedians were good although we didn’t catch any of the R-rated shows, we were just too tired by then. The newlywed show was hilarious. I’m not much into Las Vegas style shows but they had a couple of them. The casino sucked, it was always smoky and crowded. Pictures were nice although the photographers seemed pushy at times. The magic show was ok. My advice is to get to the theater early to find the unobstructed views.

SUMMARY. The service was excellent all around, waiters, room stewards, bartenders, etc. The food was disgusting, poor quality, much worse than cafeteria food and not fit for human consumption. The excursions were great and well worth the money. I’d probably give Carnival another shot just I’d read up on the reviews to see if the food quality improved before I book the next cruise.

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