Just the Facts:
Cruise: Carnival Paradise-4 Day Baja Mexico
Date: September 6--September 9, 2010
Captain: Domenico Cilento
Cruise Director: Jeff Bronson
Hotel Director: Keith Bunton
Ports: Catalina Island, CA, Encenada, Mexico
Weather: Cool in mornings and Beautiful
This was my 22nd Carnival cruise and 1st cruise on the Carnival Paradise.
Day One Monday Embarkation Long Beach California
No travel for this cruise as we stayed next door to the Carnival pier at the Queen Mary Hotel. You can see how close the two are to each other in the photo. About 11:00 am we rolled our luggage over and checked them and went to the VIP building. The embarkation process was much smoother than the Splendor the week before. We received our sail & sign cards and went down to the terminal entry about 11:30 and boarded soon afterward. We have a few friends on this sailing so it will be good to see familiar faces. First impression is very good, a beautiful lobby area perhaps the nicest of the Fantasy class ships. We were on Lido deck eating lunch before noon a big change from the week before. I was pleased to see a Mongolian Grill so ate there first before the other guests discover it. It was excellent. Cabins were to open at 1:30 so we went down to our cabin on Empress deck. It is my favorite deck on a Fantasy class ship as it’s the same level as the gangway, close to the lobby bar, and only a deck below the dining room. The Port Talk was at 3:30 so we attended that and got to meet Jeff the Cruise Director following the presentation. I’m not always keen on boat drill, but since we don’t have to drag out life vests we did attend. It was painless. After boat drill I had to go to the ‘naughty room’ to claim my luggage. It did have two bottles of tequila that we bought in PV on the previous cruise. Didn’t really think about it and wasn’t planning on drinking it as I had them rolled up in dirty clothes for the return. They took them and I’ll see them on the last night.
While passing the lobby bar I spotted a bartender with a familiar face, it was Maria from Romania. I sailed last with her on the Carnival Elation in October 2006 just after she won her employee of the month award. She remembered me as well and some of my drinks. She is a good bartender, but I may not see as much of her as I don’t drink like I did four years ago. We then had some cabin time and watched the movie Last Song. After the movie we went to the dining room for our first experience at AnyTime dining. We arrived about 8:00 and had a short wait before being seated at a table for two actually located in the regular dining section. (1/3 of the room was set aside for AnyTime) Our waiter was Vevik from India and his assistant Christian. They were excellent and a great change from the Splendor last week. I had a Shrimp Cocktail, the Fried Shrimp, Barley Soup, and the Pork Chop. All the food was hot when served, silver taken and replaced as needed and a good dining experience. The Welcome Show featuring Cruise Director Jeff Bronson was at 10:15 pm. in the Normandie Lounge.
Day Two Tuesday Catalina Island, California
A nice morning with cloudy skies and calm seas. I had a very nice breakfast of Eggs Benedict in the Elation dining room & DW ordered room service as usual. After returning from breakfast I caught CD Jeff’s Welcome Show from the previous night. About 9:00 am we met our friends for our trip to Catalina Island. This is a tender port and you are dropped at the pier in the center of Avalon. We rented a golf cart and had a nice 3 hour tour of the Avalon area and a stop at the local museum located in the casino building. I’m not sure if it was ever actually a casino, but a multi use facility serving the island. The views of the port area and Avalon are post card perfect. We did some shopping, had lunch, ate some very good ice creme, and did some people watching. The beach isn’t really much to look at, but adequate and as the sun came out several were taking advantage of the little beach area. We tendered back to the ship and while going up the gangway, DW lost one of her favorite bracelets. It belongs to Natalie now. We watched the Paradise sail away from Catalina and the sunset from the aft deck, it was pretty. This is elegant night and it is even more casual than it was on the Splendor. I saw few jackets worn by the gentlemen. We went to dinner earlier and by fortunate chance we were able to get the same dining table and wait staff. For dinner I had the Shrimp Cocktail, Pumpkin Soup, Stuffed White Mushrooms, and the Shrimp & Lobster. After dinner we attended the first production show Eight More Seconds. It was a Country/Southern music theme and very well done. The dancing was outstanding. We had just a few weeks ago attended a performance of “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and they performed the Aggie Boys dance from that show, it was Fantastic! The NEW comedy club performances started tonight and they had three shows, two for general audience and one ‘R’ rated. They will repeat later in the week.
Day Three Wednesday Ensenada, Mexico
The seas were very calm overnight and another cloudy start to the day. I had another full breakfast in the dining room, it was very good. We were docked early, but didn’t leave the ship until about 10:00 am. They have a shuttle you can take into town for $3 or you can walk. We took the shuttle and decided to book a tour to La Bufadora with the shuttle company. It was $15 pp and you ride a bus about 50 minutes to the site. The seas were calm so the water wasn’t going that up that high at the blowhole, not like the photo on this day. A flea market of Mexican crafts line each side of the road from the parking lot to the actual site. This was very interesting indeed. We had nice lunch at a local restaurant before returning to the bus for the trip back to Ensenada. We were dropped off downtown and we made our way to the famous Mexican cantina Hussong’s. The cantina has been open since 1892 and holds Baja California liquor license No. 2. They are supposedly the birthplace of the margarita. It is a very nice and clean place. We had a great time at Hussong’s with our friends. Just looking at the bill as I’m writing this and it looks like we had 29 margaritas, 4 cervezas, and 1 agua for $1155.00 pesos. Sounds like a fun time, but really the glasses are smaller than most bars. Lot’s of Mariachis come by to play and interesting people as well. Great place. We did some shopping and took a taxi back to the ship arriving about 9:00 pm. The Paradise looked great all lit up at night. Once on board, straight to the cabin & bed.
Day Four Thursday at Sea
The best nights sleep of the trip. Ten hours and really woke up feeling surprisingly well; however, the cabin was a mess and the poor towel animal was crushed. I wonder why? I had another good dining room breakfast to start the day. The ship is traveling at less than 1 knot and really didn’t move much the entire day. We found our Hussong friends on the Promenade deck and between the four of us we were able to determine one train of consciousness or recollection of the previous evening. Yes we did have fun. Weather is best of the cruise so many are taking advantage of outdoor activities. People are having Fun. For lunch I had a nice salad from the Lido buffet and later in the afternoon a very nice BLT from room service. We attended the Farewell Party in the Normandie Lounge in the early evening. Watch for these events as they are really not publicized that much in the Fun Times newsletter. We went to dinner about 7:00 and they saved our usual table for us and I appreciated that very much. The waiters were very good and Christian was the vocal star of the dining room when the waiters performed. For dinner I had the Crab Cake, two Shrimp Cocktails, Onion Soup, the Short Ribs, and Apple Pie with ice creme for dessert. All very good. After dinner we went to see the final production show: Shout! in the theater. It was even better than the first show. Very high energy and non stop dancing and action. Excellent!! After the show we attended the comedy club located in the Queen Mary Lounge and saw Lance Montalto. He was very funny. This was the adult show so it was very different as he had comments about many nationalities, but fairly presented. When we returned to the cabin, the liquor had been delivered, so we were ready to start packing and get some rest.
Debarkation Friday Long Beach, California
I was up early to pack and get a final dining room breakfast. It was good and I again made it each morning for breakfast. When I returned to the cabin I turned on my cell phone as I had hoped to call American Airlines to see if it were possible to get an earlier flight. Within just a few minutes my cell phone rang and who should it be calling me? American Airlines. They said our scheduled flight was overbooked and would I consider an earlier one. Of course I said yes, and guess what? We also got upgraded to First Class. Woo-hoo--just what we wanted. We then hurriedly finished packing, put our Group 1 luggage tags on and headed out while they were still doing self debarkation. We got off the ship easily and headed to the Carnival airport shuttle buses. The trip home went very well.
Ship Stats: Built: 1998, Tons: 70390, Passengers: 2052, Speed: 19.5, Length: 855, Beam: 103. The Carnival Paradise is the last of the Carnival Fantasy Class ships built. The ships decor and theme is other cruise ships and there is more wood and faux wood in the decor. The public rooms are named for other cruise ships. I like the look and style very much. The ship is very clean and the crew seem to take great care in maintenance.
Our Stateroom Attendant was good. He kept he cabin clean and usually had ice for us. As mentioned the wait team was outstanding. They really restored some confidence in Carnival training as we had poor waiter experiences on the previous two Carnival cruises.
We had cabin E82 an Oceanview on Empress deck. It is an average sized cabin. The safe is a card swipe, no hair dryer, flat screen TV, one electrical plug on the wall next to the vanity/desk, robes, two section wardrobe, small chair, and the usual. No refrigerator. Carpets and furniture all clean. We had our beds split as it allows for much more floor space.
We did the AnyTime dining and enjoyed the wait service so much more than the previous cruise. The Mongolian Grill was great, the BLT’s from room service are great, the salads in the buffet are wonderful. I think the food was much better than the Carnival Splendor. DW's tip: Get a bowl of ice creme or yogurt from the machines on Lido deck and sprinkle with sugar coated almonds or walnuts from the chocolate buffet. Makes a great topping and unique dessert.
The weather was very good. Some cloudy mornings and clear in the afternoon.
The check-in building at the pier was very nice. We didn’t use the laundry service. I did use my Slot tournament entry and we did request escort for the Catalina tender.
As with the previous cruise I had never sailed this ship nor visited these ports so I wanted to experience them. It was good to combine the two cruises into one trip, I feel better about the overall experience.
The food and the production shows were the highlights by far. We loved both ports although they were very different. I really enjoyed this short 4-day cruise.