Cruise Review of Carnival Paradise

Name: Cruizer Date Submitted: 08/05/2008
Age: 52 Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Lines
Number of Cruises: 11 Cruise Ship: Carnival Paradise
Overall Rating: Date Sailed: 07/04/2008
Embarkation: Los Angeles, CA Destination: Mexican Riviera

Carnival Paradise three night cruise to Ensenada, Mexico – July 4 to 7, 2008

This is my eleventh cruise, fourth on Carnival. This is also my third time on this weekend cruise to Ensenada. While Ensenada holds no great attraction to me, this cruise had some advantages:

1) I wanted to see a Fantasy class ship before it had been refurbished.
2) Because Friday is a holiday, I can take this cruise without taking any days off from work.
3) Being close to home, I don’t have to fly to the port.

After I signed up for this cruise I realized July 5 was my friend’s birthday. So I asked him if he would like to come. I took my friend on this cruise 7 ½ years ago on the Carnival Holiday. The Paradise is about 50% bigger and thirteen years newer. My friend then invited his two daughters and one daughter’s friend. So there are six of us in three cabins.

For those that are interested, I’m in the cabin myself. My friend and his wife are sharing a second cabin and the three girls are sharing the third cabin. However, we booked this as two per cabin. The cabin steward knew we had changed the sleeping arrangements. So there is no need to be sneaky about these things.

In response to someone’s comment for more details in the review, I have been writing my reviews while on the ship, while the details are still fresh in my mine.

Day one – embarkation

I left home around 10:10am and arrived at the port right around 11:00am. Being a member of the Carnival Vacation Club (CVC) I was able to go to the front of the line. By 11:30am I was putting my stuff into the cabin. Part of that half hour was spent waiting for the ship to be cleared for arriving passengers.

Soon my friend called. Turns out the lines were very short, and he was on board very quickly. Having been on several ship tours, I knew how to get past the fire doors and put out stuff in the cabins. The cabins were not ready, but we only wanted to drop off our luggage. However, the room steward, seeing six people walking into the rooms was not too happy. We assured him that we were only dropping off our luggage. He accepted this and we were soon out of his way.

We went up to the Lido deck for lunch, and then took a self guided tour of the ship. My interest was in the pool deck and the back deck that would soon be turned into a small water park. My goal is to take another cruise on a Fantasy class ship so I can compare the before and after layout of the ship.

During our self guided tour I realized that navigation on this ship is not easy. The location of one of the restaurants mid ship prevents someone from walking from the back to the front of the ship on deck eight. The main problem this presented is deck eight is one of the public decks while deck seven has cabins. So if someone wants to get to the public areas in the front of the ship on deck eight (the main show lounge and the stores) one has to go up to deck nine and then back down.

Another thing I noticed is that the lifeboats block the view from the Verandah deck (the deck above the Lido deck – the pool is on the lido deck). Normally people go to the Verandah deck to either sun their selves or enjoy the view. Unfortunately the view is partially blocked by the lifeboats.

Another problem is that all the elevators do not go from top to bottom. The glass elevators in the atrium begin on deck seven and go up. My cabin is on deck six. However, the main bank of elevators (about 30 feet away) do go all the way down but not all the way up. My cabin is near the aft elevators, which do go all the way down, but only has high as the Lido deck (even though the Verandah deck is above the Lido deck above the aft elevator shaft.

There are a couple of things I like however. One is when you open the door is stays open with a magnetic stay. This is quick and easy compared to the wedge that you have to manually put under the door on most other ships. Also, the bathrooms and showers are a very nice size.

All the way forward on the top deck is a very nice looking miniature golf course and jogging track. It is called the City Sports Park.

My friends carry on their entire luggage, while I checked my big one and carry on my small one. The luggage arrives in time for us to get our bathing suites on and do a little swimming.

I run into my room steward upon my return and he wants me to sign for the room. This is new, as I’ve never done that before. He says it is not new. I was on the Carnival Glory in April 2006 and I didn’t have to sign for the room. It is no big deal. I put down my name, dining time. It is at this time that I see the room steward has already figured out that we are not sleeping in the same cabins that we are registered in.

Soon it is time for the muster drill. Our meeting place is inside the Queen Mary Lounge, the aft lounge on deck nine. After the demonstration on how to put in the lifejacket, we move up one deck so that we are standing under the lifeboats.

Soon after the life boat drill it is time for dinner. The two restaurants are the Elation and Destiny restaurants. There seems to be a ship’s name theme on this ship. The Destiny restaurant is the aft restaurant while Elation restaurant, the one we are in, is mid ship.

We are moving slowly, I estimate about 13 knots or 15 MPH) on a calm sea (not glass smooth, but close enough). Yet my friend, one daughter and her friend are complaining about feeling seasick. You’ve got to be kidding. If I didn’t know the ship was moving I would not know it was moving. I can’t feel any movement.

As far as dinner goes, I think it is fine. Not great, but not bad. The three complaining about the ship’s movement are not too happy about dinner. The other two don’t make any comments about dinner.

After dinner I do a little shopping and catch a sunset. I note that motion sickness medication is available in the store. I don’t need it, but my friends purchase some.

Later in the evening my friends are interested in playing BINGO while I am feeling very tired for some reason, so I end up watching the discovery channel and uploading my photos to the computer.

Day two – Ensenada

I wake up shortly after 6:00am and it is already light outside. So I decide to rest a bit longer. However, shortly before 7:00am I feel the maneuvering engines. I look out the window and sure enough we are in the harbor. So I shower and when I look out the window the view has changed. The captain has decided to turn around before docking. So where I though I would have a harbor view instead I end up with a dockside view.

I had suggested visiting the blow hole prior to the cruise. My friend was a little leery about going 45 minutes from the ship in a cab in a foreign country. I also suggest a van cab as there are six of us and I figured we could get a van taxi for $60 to $80 for half day. There is a church in town that my friend wants to see.

So in the morning we headed out. First we have to head down to deck three forward. But the elevator only goes to deck four. No wait, two go to deck four and two go to deck three. The only problem is each one that goes to deck three is paired with one that doesn’t. So the chance of getting the right elevator is 50/50. We let the first one go and finally decided to take the next one and walk down the last flight of stairs. Then another family shows up and realizes what we did, that the elevator doesn’t go down to deck three. So they go down the stairs and we take the elevator.

Unfortunately for all of us there are no stairs from deck four to deck three next to the aft elevators. And when I say all of us I mean the six of us and the family of four that didn’t take the elevator. Okay, this requires a little thinking. I realized we had to go forward, since the aft end of the ship was not next to the dock. So I suggested we walk forward on deck four. My friend told the family of four (Mom, Dad and two elementary school aged boys) that I had been on several cruises, so they should follow me.

We proceed to the mid ship elevator shaft and find a sign telling us to proceed to the forward elevator shaft. There we walk down to deck three and out to the pier. From there we head outside and find a large van/small bus. It looks like it will hold fifteen people. My friend, who is fluent in Spanish, negotiates a deal for $15 per person for all day. For the six of us that works out to $90, which is in line with my estimate of $60 to $80 for half day. While negotiating the family of four shows up and joins us. So we get a private tour guide with a customized tour for $15 per person. The basic three hour tour to the blow hole is $27 per person. So for just a little over half price we get to set our own schedule – not a bad deal.

And it turns out the other five in my group want to go to the blow hole, so off we go. I was a little disappointed. I was here in December on the Monarch of the Seas. It was not as crowded seven months ago as it is today. It is so crowded that I don’t even try to get close enough to see. I still have my pictures from last time and I don’t feel a need to fight this crowd for a better view. Another disappointment is that the donkey painted like a zebra is not here.

Next we head back to the town and the church. There is a wedding taking place when we arrive. Then we head to downtown where my friend and two of the girls want to do more shopping while three other of us head back to the ship with the family of four. The driver then returns to downtown and brings the three shoppers back in time.

Meanwhile I’m tired and decide to rest for a while. I lay down at 4:00pm and when I wake up I think it is 5:30pm. So I quickly shower and get ready for dinner, only to realize it is actually almost 5:00pm (not 6:00pm).

Tonight is formal night and I decide to have a little fun. It’s July and I not going to wear a jacket. However, just in case I do have a dress shirt and tie. Nonetheless, I put on a tux shirt. It draws some smiles and a few laughs.

And then my friend’s daughter’s friend starts complaining about the ship moving again. We are not even out of the harbor. She is just too sensitive to motion.

Again, I think the dinner is fine, while the rest are a little more neutral about it.

Today is my friend’s birthday, and one of his daughters has purchased a birthday cake for him, which he shares with all of us.

After dinner is the captain’s welcome aboard reception. We end up on the ship’s video, so I’ll buy one tomorrow.

I head back to the cabin to relax until 11:30pm when the ship has a Mexican buffet. I show up at 11:40pm. There is a long line, but the three girls are munching away. A quick question brings the answer. They arrived at 11:15pm and were the first in line.

It’s good to see them taking advantage of their opportunity this time. The last time they were twelve and thirteen and were not feeling to well, so they spent most of the cruise in their cabin. This time they are reading the Carnival Capers, planning which activities they want to participate in and taking full advantage of their opportunity.

Well, it has been a fun day, but it is late and I am tired. Fortunately tomorrow is a full day at sea, which means a day of rest and relaxation to me.

Day three – day at sea

Well I wake late. It is shortly before 8:00am. I can see it is overcast. However, I expect that it will burn off early afternoon. I decide to go top side and retake a few photos that I am not happy with. Then I’ll do a little shopping. However, I get to the store around 8:45am and it does not open until 9:00am. So I head over to the buffet and get a cooked to order omelet. Then it is over to the shore excursion desk to order the video. Then back to the store for a couple of shirts, two key chains and a water wallet.

When I return to the cabin I notice it has been cleaned and the room steward is working on my friend’s cabin. I apparently just missed my friend. I ask about the girls and the room steward tells me they are still asleep.

Back in the cabin I upload my photos. Then my friend’s wife shows up looking for her husband. I tell her I apparently just missed him ten minutes ago. So we get to talking about the girls, who are having a lot more fun than last time. I also note that I am surprised that we are dead in the water. The cruise lines are very concerned about fuel usage. The least amount of fuel is used by proceeding slowly from point A to B. Nonetheless, even if the ship sits still for ten hours, it will only need to go about seven knots (about 1/3 full speed) to make it to Long Beach on time.

My friend’s wife goes off to find her husband while I decide to work on this while waiting for the overcast to burn off. Then I hit on a better idea. I’ll go check for any new photos.

I found a few photos and came back to my cabin to sort them all out. Then my friend shows up and mentions a few photos he cannot find. Also apparently the girls have left their cabin. So they are out having fun somewhere on the ship. I’ll go back and check for more photos and then hopefully the sun will come up. Meanwhile the captain has us on the move again and my friend is complaining about the ship moving. I can hardly feel it. I don’t think my friend would survive a long cruise where the ship spends most of at least one day at sea moving at a good rate of speed. Personally I can barely feel the ship moving and I get seasick easily, though I have never gotten seasick on a cruise ship.

A few odds and ends:
• It remains overcast. So I decide to just relax in the cabin in the afternoon.
• The picture mystery has been solved. The girls have been grouping the photos, and the staff has been ungrouping the photos as they rearrange the photos racks to make room for new photos.
• My friend wants to skip the dining room tonight (tips are being charged to the room, so that is no problem).

So we leave the cabins and everyone heads forward. I catch up with them and explain the buffet is behind us. Seems everyone wants to eat in the restaurant except my friend. So, it is off to the restaurant after all.

It seems my friend does not feel that the soup is being served hot enough. There are two different soups being served tonight, a cream of mushroom soup and an onion soup. One of the girls orders the onion soup and my friend and I order the mushroom soup. My friend asks the waiter to make sure the soup is hot. Turns out the onion soup is too hot and the mushroom soup is somewhere between warm and hot.

Nonetheless we survive dinner and even have a little fun with the waiters, who pose for pictures with the girls.

Back at the cabin I am presented with a box of liquor purchased off the ship. Only I didn’t buy any, so the room steward took it back. I’m sitting in my cabin and since I usually take one week cruises my internal body clock does not realize I have to pack today. Fortunately everyone else is packing, which serves as a clue to me that perhaps I should do the same.

The luggage tags I received are numbered fourteen (out of thirty). However, being a member of CVC I receive an upgrade to number one.

Day four – disembarkation

By the time I wake up the ship is already tied up. So, as the self disembarkers line up to leave the ship, I decide to get a little breakfast. Then it is back to the cabin to wait for the numbers to be called. I kept a spreadsheet on my computer with the charges I was running up on my Sail & Sign card. That is when I realized that I did not get my bill this morning. So I go down to the purser’s desk and request a copy of my bill. He shows me a bill for all six people! I say no, I only want my bill. So he separates out the charges and I sign the credit card receipt.

When I return to my cabin my friend is asking me about his bill. Seems his bill includes my charges. Back to the purser’s desk to get that straightened out. This is actually the second time I have had this problem with Carnival and I know where the problem is occurring. Whatever is listed on the computer when filling out the Fun Pass information is how the charges will be handled by the computer. Even though each person uses their own credit card at check in, the computer goes with the information in the Fun Pass. So my advice is either make sure the Fun Pass information is correct, or don’t enter any credit card information. Or else, make sure to check your bill before you leave (through even that would not have prevented the problem I had on the Pride – because even though both cabin’s bills were billed to my credit card, I only received the invoice for my cabin).

Back at the cabin and now the oldest girl is asking about the liquor she bought. She had it labeled for my room because that is the room she is registered it, but not the room she is staying in. Had she told me then I would have accepted the liquor and given it to her. Back to the purser’s desk (by now I know the way). One call and we are told the liquor will be delivered. I wait and wait, only to find out the cabin steward has delivered the liquor to the cabin.

After all of that they start calling the disembarkation numbers, so I get in line. The line moved fairly quickly and soon I was in my car. I found out later that my friends were only about 30 minutes behind me. Yes, they were number fourteen and I was number one. However, I think they called everyone in groups of five, so I was in the first group and my friends were in the third group.

Day five – looking back

In summary I much prefer the longer cruises. I took this cruise for two reasons, because I could without taking any vacation time and to see what the ship looked like before it was upgraded. To that end everything worked well.

The best part of the cruise was that everyone, especially the girls had fun. Last time I took them on this cruise the girls were not feeling too well, so they did not enjoy the cruise too much. Also, they were teenagers then and thus restricted in what they could do. This time, being over eighteen, they had a lot less restrictions and took full advantage.

As for me, the Fantasy class of ships is my least favorite class of Carnival ships. I thought it would be a bigger version of the Holiday, and while in some ways it is, in other ways it is not. As a result navigation while on board is even more difficult then the Holiday or Conquest class ships. Also, I am not thrilled with the lifeboats blocking the view from the Verandah deck.

The staff did a good job, but I did not feel like they went above and beyond, as was my experience on the two one week cruises I have taken with Carnival. Also, the food was not as good as the food on the Pride or the Glory.

So, the bottom line is, I achieved all my goals. I saw the ship, I didn’t use up any vacation time and my friend enjoyed it so much he wants to go on a longer cruise, which surprised the heck out of me - he was complaining about being sea sick before we even left the harbor. However, for me personally it was just too short and too average. So while nothing negative really sticks out in my mind, nothing really positive does either.