Carnival Paradise March 3, 2014- March 8, 2014
Arrived at the Port of Tampa at approximately 10:30 AM. Check in was easy and efficient. I was sent to the priority boarding area to await boarding. The wait was about 20 minutes. We were taken to the boarding area and in about 10 minutes time we were aboard the ship. I found my room and began settling in by unpacking the things in my carry on. While doing that my suitcase arrived and I finished unpacking. Unpacking done I went up to deck 10 for some lunch. After lunch I wandered around getting familiar with the layout. I was surprised at the dÃ©cor of this ship. Other ships of it's era are bright and colorful. This ship is subdued but pleasant for the most part. I did find one room that was just plain ugly. That was the Rex Lounge. The whole room was covered in bands of different animal prints even the ceiling. I have not seen a room this ugly since I saw the "Jungle Room" at Graceland.
I discovered that I was assigned late fixed seating. I hadasked for "YTD". I was unable to find the Maitre' D to get that straightened out so I ate late that night. The next morning I got it straight. I went to the dining room to eat most meals. The service was not just great but fantastic! This service team was right on the ball every meal. The food was excellent and I enjoyed many of my favorites.
I did not see a lot of the entertainment but what I did see in the main show room was very good. The dance team was excellent.
I stayed aboard the ship in Grand Cayman as I have been there many times. I did go ashore to wander the shops on the pier.
The food was very good and I was more than pleased with that. Everything was fresh and delivered in a timely manner.
I have to say this has been my best cruise ever. I had lots of fun and everything about this cruise was pleasant.
Sailed with elderly parents, one of which needed extra help in the dining room. The maÃ®tre 'D and wait staff went well beyond what was requested to make everything perfect. The Captain makes himself available to the passengers, and enjoys meeting each and everyone. His attitude and friendly nature, I'm positive, makes for the happiest overall crew I've seen on over 17 different cruises.
Just returned yesterday from a 4 night cruise with a port stop at Cozumel. The crew on this ship are awesome! So friendly and efficient in what they are doing and seemed to really appreciate it when we took the time to talk with them about "home". The food was very good and plenty of it! The stage shows were absolutely wonderful! The costumes were beautiful and the performers talent was top-notch! There were plenty of activities going on constantly, especially the Super Bowl party! The ship was extremely clean, crew members were constantly busy doing something to make the ship look nice. A very nice cruise, one of the best we've ever had!
My Carnival experience turned out to be the worst vacation of my life and I have had some horrible ones. I should have known when my father was going through the security check and they asked him for his card. My father has Parkinson's and it takes him while sometimes to be able to get an object in his hands. Instead of asking "Can I help you with it?" the gentleman (and I use the term most sarcastically) pushed my dad's wheelchair out of the way and said â€œJust get out of the way. - I should have taken that as a sign.
The trip only gets worse from there. The conditions of the boat were horrible and the floors were often wet or coated in spilled food in the dining rooms on the Lido deck. I complained that I have slipped several times on the floor and the staff just shrugged at me and continued their conversation. It wasn't until I fell and a bunch of cruise goers had to help me up that the staff even took notice to clean up what appears to be dressing I slippedin spilled all over the floor. My nephew suffered cuts and bruises on his knees because of the same indifference to safety.
We were part of a wedding party and supposed to be seated together in the dinning room. This trip was planned for 9 months ahead of time. Carnival inevitably screwed it up again and kept bumping people off of our wedding party in the dining room causing us to have to be split up for all but one night of the cruise.
One of the humiliating highlights of our dining experience was when one of the members of my family ordered veal for dinner. It came out so tough it was unable to be cut with a steak knife. She asked the server if he could bring her another one because it was too tough to eat. He started to make fun of her saying she needed to put some muscle into it and did she know how to use a knife? She was getting offended by his comments but the worst was yet to come. He leaned over her and began to cut her food for her and even he couldn't do it. She was about to leave the table she was so embarrassed by the way she was spoken to and treated.
Finally, the disembarkation process was the worst. A porter was supposed to arrive at our room to help us the morning of disembarkation. This was part of the wedding party package that was paid for. The night before we confirmed this with both Guest Services and a supervisor because so much about this cruise was screwed up. At 8:15, no porter. 8:30, no porter. We called and he was on his way. 8.45, no porter. 9 am we called again and they sent someone. We sat in the lobby for over an hour waiting to disembark with our party. Guest Services lied and told us our party has already left the ship and we needed to do the same when in fact we were speaking to them on the phone and they said they were still waiting to be taken to meet us. By that time, I called Carnival customer service and loudly explained my situation to the customer service manager. Amazingly, the staff (all 5 that were standing around doing nothing but chatting with each other) were able to help us. It still took another 45 minutes to get the rest of our party (that was supposedly already off the boat) off the boat to meet us.
Finally, once we were off the boat, we moved our bags and my father in his wheelchair to a designated handicap pick up area and I left to get the car. I returned to someone yelling, yes YELLING, at my father to move out of the way that he wasn't supposed to be there and he had to get all the bags and move NOW. Are you for real?
With all of this drama going on, we had to contend with surly crew members, a less than helpful Guest Services staff, rooms that were either so cold my nephew had to sleep in two pairs of sweats and a hoodie and socks or rooms so hot they were uninhabitable most of the trip. The food was mediocre to poor at best and requests for no cheese on burgers and small special requests were greeted with a very poor attitude. We found the crew to be less than helpful and acted as if it was an imposition to help or do their job. Many of the crew were happier to stand around and converse than actually do their jobs. Finally, there seemed to be a sewage issue in many of the cabins for the entire trip. The smell permeated the hallways and was very unpleasant. When I asked about this, the staff shrugged at me and walked away.
There were some amazing staff members aside from the horrible ones. The standout staff members were Ketut (our room attendant who tried to fix the temperature issue desperately), the kids club staff were excellent and always amazing to my nephew, and the dining room staff of the Elation were pretty good. They had no hand in the wedding seating disaster and made every accommodation to try and seat the party together. The rest of the staff needs to be replaced.
We just completed our cruise on the Carnival Paradise. This is our eighth cruise on Carnival. Six on Inspiration, one on Spirit, one just completed on Paradise and one scheduled on Legend. Obviously we think favorably of Carnival in general. These comments are for the Paradise sailing on December 12, 2011. The Paradise is the sister ship to the Inspiration. It has just been repositioned to Tampa. My comments are comparing the reburbished Paradise to the Inspiration and the Paradise as stand-alone comments. Some are very favorable and some are very seriously negative. Let me get the negative out of the way first. The Carnival has some of the largest cabins of any fleet. The Paradise has got to be the most stupid layout that could have been thought of. First, the height of the beds. I've always been able to store my luggage under the beds, out of the way. These beds were too low to fit my luggage. The same luggage I've use on all of my cruises. I had to stow them in a closet, thus losing closet space. Second, the life preservers use to be stowed ina top shelf on a closet. Readily accessible yet out of the way. Now they've added a big square box on the floor roughly two feet by two feet. This only holds the life preservers (which used to be out of the way). This box is in the corner, under the TV, by the outer wall. The only way to get to the space between the bed and window is to crawl over the bed. You cannot get by the box by walking on the floor; only crawling over the bed!. When I wanted to get out of bed at night (I was closest to the window for the benefit of my wife) I had to slide/crawl down the bed over the footboard and avoid the box to get to the bathroom. I asked the steward if the beds could be turned. He pointed out the reading lights would not be properly placed then. Also, I measured that one bed would interfere with the desk so couldn't be turned. Plus, the televisions are not flat screened but very large bulky old sets with big boxes built around them. This layout is so anti-comfort and irritating it may discourage me from future sailings on a ship which we obviously enjoy. Third, the bathroom now has a fluorescent light which is very low illumination. OK for guys but gals strongly prefer more light in the bathroom. Let me get to more pleasurable comments. The bathroom was remodeled and shelves above the sink were replaced with a medicine cabinet with doors and shelves within. The sink surface was increased for added convenience. Service is always exemplary. Our room steward, Michael, was always present and pleasant. Ice was always replaced twice a day. Michael made new towel animals and people I haven't seen before. Our waiter, Iputu, was pleasant, prompt, and got to know our preferences right away. He always had tea for my wife as soon as we sat down. Bussing is constant on the Lido buffet deck. We greatly appreciate that they accommodate late risers with breakfast until noon. Their sandwich bar makes sandwiches to order; the Reubens are the best I've had. Embarkation is smooth considering the many hundreds being processed. Debarkation is even better. You can wait in the breakfast buffet area until you are scheduled to leave. The valet parking now delivers the car directly to the terminal. We no longer need to walk a long block with luggage to the parking garage. Greatly appreciated by those with walking difficulties. Lido to car took 10-15 minutes. Truly a great way to end your cruise. Thank you Carnival.
Food in the main dining rooms range from good to excellent. Seconds and thirds are available without question. I noticed two changes to increase Carnival's profits that were irritating. First, shrimp cocktail used to be offered everyday; not anymore. The casino's minimum bet (for blackjack) increased from $5 to $6 (20% increase). Still, the value compared to other cruise lines is quite good. Overall, if Carnival would only raise the bed height and remove that stupid life saver box I would have no hesitation to recommend the Paradise.
I went on this cruise with 2 other girl friends. It took about 30 minutes to get on the ship very organized and easy. We had an inside mid ship cabin that had 4 beds, 2 were pull down. There was plenty of room for the 3 of us and the bathroom had space for all our toiletries. The cabin steward greeted us and we asked for all the Carnival beverages to be removed so we could have more counter space. He never did that so we just put it all in our closet, getting ice in our bucket was hit or miss.
The beds were very comfortable. The food was better than I had expected this being my 1st Carnival cruise. Every day I had bagels and lox in the rear deli, there was a small salad bar next to the deli, both were very good with a good variety. We danced in The Rex until 2 am what was great is NO smoking in the lounge. We never made it to a breakfast but the early seating for dinner was always good. The food was a notchbelow Celebrity and Princess, but then our cruise was a lot less expensive too.
The food was always brought out quickly which was nice. There was a lot of wind so we had to sail around Catalina Isaland for a day which was made into our sea day. The tender was a lot of fun large swells but they did an awesome job getting us there and back. The entertainment was OK. The only big disappointment was the disembarking. We took the elevator down to the deck and it was a total mob scene, there was not one Carnival staff member there to tell passengers where to go. We walked to the end of the long line that went into a hall where there were cabins. Some people who got off the elevators did not realize that they had to go to the back of the long line and just got in the line by the elevator. They did not know they were ditching in front of those of us who were in the long line. I did inform those passengers getting off the elevator that there was a line but some hollered back at me or just ditched in line. Why in the world did Carnival not have staff directing passengers is beyond me.
We've sailed with Carnival many times before and I have been a loyal Carnival fan. I've even gone so far as to tell people that Carnival is much better than other cruise lines. We've sailed on Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity as well as Carnival. Carnival has always gone 'the extra mile' to make each cruise memorable.
But for the first time we were truly disappointed with our last cruise on the Paradise. I don't know if it is due to the economy or what but it seemed that everything was now being done 'on the cheap'. The buffet was smaller with fewer selections. The on board activities had been cut in half. The late night buffet was a joke. There were less bands and parties. The whole atmosphere was lacking and the crew seemed disengaged.
I always thought Carnival was on the top of the game for fun but we went on a Royal Caribbean Cruise just last fall to the same destination that beat the heck out of this one on the Paradise. It is really sad if Carnival is going this direction.
This cruise was the 2nd for my husband and me. Two years earlier we had gone on a 4 night cruise to the Bahamas on RCCL's Sovereign of the Seas and knew it wouldn't be our last. I was a little apprehensive about Carnival, but was totally impressed by the Paradise and all of the crew members.
We purchased the air package and left Iowa about 8:00 a.m. and were in Ft. Lauderdale by 1:30 p.m., arriving a little ahead of schedule. We saw other cruise representatives and asked if they knew where the Carnival representative was and they said probably downstairs. The lady was right down at the bottom of the stairs, so we gave her our names and she said we were the last people they were waiting on for the bus transfer and to hurry and get our luggage. She seemed a little snippy and was rushing us, but we don't control the baggage claim area! I'm glad the much-needed restrooms were close and luckily our luggage was some of the first to come through. We had had a long day, too, and thought the representative could havebeen a little more pleasant and welcoming. We immediately followed her to the bus and then sat on the bus for a good 10 minutes before we left. It was about a 30 min. drive to the ship. The driver reminded us of a tip, but our transfers say ‘all gratuities included', so we didn't give him anything….but we did tip the guys who took our luggage from there ($1 per bag). Since we were some of the last people to board the ship it took very little time to go through the lines, show our filled out documents and birth certificates, get our sail and sign cards, and have our picture taken. Just a reminder -you need to take your sail and sign cards everywhere you go…especially going off the ship. You cannot leave or enter the ship without it. (They even ask you to take another photo ID when you leave the ship just in case.)
It was kind of a mad house as we entered the ship's lobby…a lot of people hanging around and we had no idea which way to head. After we got through the mess of people we had no problem finding our room. We were in U194 which is an ocean view cabin at a pretty decent location. The cabins are more than adequate with plenty of closet space. It was nice to have the little safe in the closet to store our travel documents and extra cash in. There are a few amenities, like shampoo, rinse, lotion, razors, mints, but don't count on them to last the whole trip. You will need to take your own. The tux we had ordered for formal nights was already in the room. Since we had early seating dinner at 5:45 p.m. we didn't have much time to tour the ship after doing the required life-safety drill. We had all but one piece of luggage when we got back to dress for dinner and the last one was there after dinner. The room steward was very efficient, although on Tuesday I had to ask for the robes that are to be in every cabin. Just an oversight on his part. And yes, we got the cute little towel shaped animals that everyone talks about. From reading other reviews I had taken along a power strip, since there is only one plug-in in the room.. We had a small alarm clock (they have a wake-up telephone call, but there is no snooze on this feature), curling iron, blow dryer, hot curlers, and an iron and would have been grumbling if I had only one outlet. The bathrooms had plenty of room. Much bigger than some we've stayed in in New York City. We had no problems with noise from other cabins. When you walk down the hall you might get a startle by someone flushing their toilet. If you've never been on a cruise you will be intrigued by their suction.
We had most of our meals in the Destiny dining room. Our tablemates were a perfect match for us and we spent quite a bit of time with them. What a wonderful group of team waiters! Very personable, humorous, and willing to please. by the end of the trip they remembered who had ice tea with lemon and who had coffee and we didn't even have to ask anymore. The food was great!! There was plenty to choose from and the guys at our table had no problem ordering two appetizers or entrees. You eat as much as you want. Just remember that soft drinks are not included with the meals and need to be put on your sign and sail card. We did eat breakfast and lunch in the Paris Restaurant a couple of times and one day I just had to have a burger and fries at the pool snack bar. We ordered room service after our shore excursions because we just wanted something light like a sandwich and salad and we were always served within 15 minutes of calling in. The Paris Restaurant is very efficient and we could always find something that satisfied our taste buds. You had to wait in line a little, but the atmosphere is much more casual. We could put on our shore excursion clothes (usually bathing suits), go eat with a nice view of the port we were visiting, and then get right off the ship. The ice cream here is really good!! A lot of people brag about the pizza, and I love pizza, but I didn't see anything spectacular about it. There was always a midnight buffet, but gosh, we were so stuffed from grazing all day long and trying out the exotic drinks, we just didn't get excited about this meal.
The ship itself was very colorful. I was very impressed with the atrium decor and the over-all look of the ship. Very up-scale. The pictures we had seen in the brochures or on the internet just don't do it justice. There were plenty of places to go. We never had trouble finding a deck chair to lounge on to catch the sun's rays. We never went in the pools, but the slide looked like a lot of fun for the kids and the adults. We also had a good time relaxing along the window seats on Carnival Boulevard, having a drink, talking to new friends, and enjoying the ocean view…one time we even saw a dolphin.
My husband was a frequent guest of the casino. They even recognized him and spoke to him outside of the casino. A very friendly bunch! And he came out about $200 ahead, so he had a good time.
The cruise director, Trevor Block, was excellent. He had nice little humorous stories to go a long with his cruise talks. He has talks on shore excursions, shopping, facts about the ports of call, and the final debarkation talk. If you can't go to these, watch them on your cabin tv. They are very informative and you'll be glad you did. Make sure you don't miss the debarkation talk as it explains as to how and when you get off the ship. His helpers were very good with Bingo, the game shows, and other activities. The games were fun to watch and there was lots of money (and a cruise) to be won at Bingo. The dancing/singing shows were very entertaining and included a lot of variety and much talent. One night they had the comedian Jim Brick. He was hilarious! Don't miss him if you get a chance to see him. A lot of people have complained about the obstructed views in the Normandy Lounge where these shows are given and they are right! What a terrible set-up. Get there early if you want to really enjoy the show.
Cozumel had great snorkeling. It was very colorful. We did take the ships excursion for this and had a great time. We don't get into the shopping scene, but we did look around at the shops right by the pier and found all we needed. We shared a cab with our tablemates ($5 each way) and did some window-shopping at the jewelry and clothes stores. We had the most fun at Carlos and Charlies!! Go there just for the experience. This is a restaurant/bar, more of the ‘spring break' type crowd, but there were people of all ages!! We ran into a lot of people from the ship, including some of the crew.
We got off the ship at Grand Cayman and got a $30 shore excursion for a trip to Stingray City. They sell these right at the pier for less than Carnival's excursion. We made the mistake of getting off the ship as soon as we could and then waited an hour for the people selling the tours to show up. Ship time is an hour earlier than Cayman time. They put us in a big van and drove us to the yacht club where we boarded a boat for about 15-20 people and then it took about 20 mins. to get to Stingray City. We got to swim and snorkel with the stingrays and do a little snorkeling at the coral reef nearby. This wasn't as colorful as Cozumel, but it's a long reef you can swim along and one girl even saw a small octopus.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica was the BEST!!! We had arranged a tour with a local, Peat Taylor of ‘HEY MON, NO PROBLEMS'TOURS. My husband (and our travel agent) was very apprehensive about arranging on our own in Jamaica, but we were extremely pleased with this tour. We emailed Peat (firstname.lastname@example.org) ahead of time and he picked us up at the pier at 8:30. We got off the ship early and we asked a lady at the gates for Peat Taylor and he wasn't there yet, so she got her phone (or CB) and called him and he said he'd be there shortly. When we met him he had picture ID of himself and he had our email correspondence with our names so we knew we had the right guy (there have been cab drivers who said they were him and was taking away his business). Peat dropped us off at Dunns River Falls first. It costs $6 a piece to enter the park and then you can get a locker for $8 (they return $5 when you bring back the lock) to put your clothes in. We wore our bathing suits there and took clothes to change in to afterwards. Since we were there early we were the very first people to climb the falls. We had a guide to ourselves and he took over 10 pictures of us at different levels of the falls. This was the highlight of our whole trip!! I would highly recommend wearing water shoes for this climb! We still slipped in a couple of spots, but nothing major. After we changed we went back and watched other people climb up. We were glad we didn't have to climb with all those other people. It's like a maze leaving the park. They send you through a plethora of very pushy vendors. You just have to be firm and keep walking. Don't even acknowledge them!! Peat picked us up in two hours out front (along with another family that booked him) and took us downtown to do some shopping. We had fun just going into the local grocery store and getting a snack. We got most of our clothes/souvenirs in Ocho and my husband had fun finageling with the sellers in the flea market. Peat then took us for a drive out into the country side through Fern Gully. He pointed out the different trees, plants, customs, famous peoples homes, and we got to stop and get out and listen to nature. He even stopped and pulled some leaves off the spice tree for us to smell. Peat will even take you to the beach if you'd like to go there. The ride itself was an experience! The roads are narrow and have lots of curves. Peat charges $25 per person. Since it costs $6 to enter Dunns River he takes that off the $25, but we had such a great time we gave him the full $25 a piece anyway!! We highly recommend Peat!!! We knew others who took taxis to different places and had no problems. Just be careful downtown!!!
The days at sea were fun and relaxing. The formal nights were good opportunities to get dressed up and have some pictures taken. Take as many as you can - one is bound to turn out pretty good. They take your pictures for free, put them on display for you to search through and then charge you an ‘arm and a leg' for one picture. Still cheaper than going to a photographer if you want some updated pictures.
Bring your Dramamine along just in case. We had some pretty rocky nights!!! This isn't usually the norm on a big cruise ship, but there are times it gets rough and it even affects your walking. We had about 3 nights that everyone commented on how rocky it was. I unfortunately had to leave halfway through dinner one night and didn't leave the cabin till the next morning. The information desk has motion-sickness pills they will give you if you forget to bring yours.
Debarkation was extremely easy. I like the way the Paradise does this. You wait anywhere on the ship and when they call your baggage color tag you can leave. All the luggage is separated by the colored tags in a large room on the pier, so you just need to go to that section and find your luggage. We have our old 80s burgundy luggage and it was very easy to locate. If you have black I'd suggest putting a bright colored yarn on the handle so you can easily identify it. We had a bus transfer to Ft. Lauderdale and again the driver asked to be remembered with a $1 a bag! He didn't even handle the luggage! Again we did not tip the driver since our transfer says ‘all gratuities included'.
If you are traveling with family then this is the cruise for you. There were quite a few teens and LOTS of elementary age kids. by the end of the cruise the kids were getting more comfortable with the ship and the whole cruising experience and they began to get a little obnoxious!!! Where are the parents??? This is still a pretty minor complaint because we did meet a lot of nice people with families. We have no regrets about taking the Paradise. This cruise was our best vacation ever!!
Check-In at Long Beach Check-in was speedy. We got in around 1:30 and were onboard within 20 minutes. Lady at the counter was very nice and our room was ready by the time we got there.
Food Food was good to fair. I have had much better meals on Princess and Royal Carribean. It was hit or miss in the Destiny dining room where we had late 8PM seating. We requested 5:45, but somehow got changed. We tried to get it changed back, but the 5:45 sitting was already full. The Paris restaurant on the Lido was typically fair buffet. Wasn't too impressed with the buffet food served. It was just okay. Deserts were just okay too. My son loved the access to the ice cream machine at all times. And we enjoyed choices of lemonaide, juices, and fruit punch. Pizza was always fresh and good! We ordered breakfast room service on the Ensenada day and it never showed, so we ended up at the buffet. We did order the chocolate cake from room service and it was very good.
Entertainment The first "Hollywood" show was too long, but the costumeswere nice to look at and the music at the end of the show finally became upbeat and enjoyable. The beginning was slow and felt like it would last forever. The second music show was much better and of a good duration. The comedian and magician were good, but with only one showing, it got crowded early. My son sat on the floor, away from me, and other kids we met said they left since they couldn't see from their vantage point.
Ports of Call The ports of call on this sailing were Catalina Island & Ensenada. Catalina Island tendering took too long. We waited over 45 minutes to get tendered. Since they do this itinerary all the time, you would think they'd be better at it. Ensenada was fine. We did the "Taste of Mexico" excursion and enjoyed ourselves.
Staff and Crew The staff and crew were very friendly and helpful, and the overall appearance of the ship was good. The windows needed cleaning in my room and up in the public areas. The last sea day we went really slow and the boat rocked a lot. I ended up feeling queasy and was in my room for most of the morning, trying to sleep it off. Recommend you bring Dramamine for these types of days. I took one, but not until I actually felt queasy. I heard a few people complaining they didn't feel well on the 9th floor, and I heard the rocking was worse the higher up you were on the boat.
Overall we had a relaxing cruise and met some nice people at our dining table. I wish we'd had an earlier dining time, but we got through it. Other than my few complaints, I'd cruise Carnival again. Lots of families onboard since it was spring break.
First, a little background. My husband and I took this 3 day cruise to Baja for my 30th birthday. This was our first cruise and I was 23 weeks pregnant at the time. We decided to take a little "starter" cruise to see if we would enjoy the whole "cruise experience" before we book a week or longer more expensive cruise. Price was definitely an issue for this cruise. We did this on a "bare bones budget".
Booking After spending countless hours on the internet researching where and how to get the best deal, we ended up calling Carnival's 800#. I'm very glad we did because not only did they have the best rate and awesome customer service, but they told me that the information on their website regarding pregnancy was wrong. They recently changed their policy from 27 weeks to 24 weeks maximum to be able to cruise. I would have been 26 weeks at the time I wanted to cruise and would have been denied boarding, so I'm very glad they gave me that little tidbit of info. Because of this policy change we ended up booking at thevery last minute (5 days before departure), which worked out just fine because the price went down by $60 a person! The customer service rep that booked our trip gave us a free upgrade from the Riviera deck to the Main deck and gave us a cabin made for four people, we ended up in stateroom M220. She also walked us through printing out our funpass since we were so close to our sail date and she didn't want us to have any trouble. That was very thoughtful. I also called Carnival back at least 3 times during the 5 days prior to my cruise to ask random questions, which I was full of, and was never made to feel like I was a bother.
Embarkation According to Carnival embarkation starts at 1:30 pm, but I had read several reviews that talked about boarding early and having lunch so we decided to take our chances and get to the port at about 11 am. What a great idea that was! I had read horror stories about lost luggage when left with the porters, so we decided we would carry on our own luggage. We got into a very short line with our luggage and waited about 15 minutes before being allowed to board. We walked right up to the counter with no wait, showed our funpass, birth certificates, and IDs and gave them the credit card we wanted to use for our "sail & sign" card onboard. This took a grand total of 5 minutes and we were on our way. We had two photos taken on our way onto the ship, you don't have to stop but it's fun to get them done and there is no pressure to purchase them at all. Once onboard we stopped in the Grand Atrium and had a seat. We took this opportunity to grab a map and read the information they gave us on the way in. The packet explained that while they let us board early we would not be allowed to go to our staterooms until 1:30 pm. They needed this time to clean. So we headed up to the Lido deck and had lunch at the buffet. At this point I was starting to regret having carried on our own luggage as it was getting heavy and we weren't as free to roam the ship. We had an hour and a half to wait so we found a nice table by the window and began to relax. Within 15 minutes I discovered I needed to take the motion sickness pills the ship offered. Even though we were still in port looking out the window of a moving ship made me dizzy. So off I went to the information desk, I'm very glad they offered them for free. I took them regularly every 10-12 hours. As soon as I felt any dizziness I took another pill and I was great. I never got nauseous at all, I praise God for those pills!
Cruise We were very pleasantly surprised by the size of our stateroom. There was plenty of closet space, a king size bed, and lots of light. The bathroom really shocked us, we were expecting tiny but we were both able to fit in it comfortably together. It was very clean and felt nice and comfortable.
We had requested the 6:15 pm sitting for dinner but were assigned to the 8:30 sitting. When we checked the daily itinerary that would have meant that we would have missed all the shows and games we were interested in, so we went to the maitre d' as instructed to see if we could get it changed. This was our first task at trying to find something on the ship. Needless to say we got very lost and ended up going in through the back door of the restaurant. But once we found him the maitre d' was very kind and helpful. He changed our time to 5:45 pm with no trouble. Remember the maitre d' is one of the few people that are not included when you purchase the prepaid gratuities, so he really appreciates a few dollars.
The food on the ship was wonderful. The 24 hour pizza and ice cream were just what the doctor ordered. The lunch buffet was beautifully done and delicious. We were able to sample everything. The selections in the dining room were very impressive. I ordered as many appetizers and entrees as I desired without feeling strange and when I didn't like the dressing on the Caesar salad I was brought soup instead right away. We ate breakfast in both the dining room and the buffet and enjoyed it immensely. I liked the atmosphere of the dining room but liked the freedom of having the buffet open until 11 am for breakfast. My husband and I do not drink so we had the juice and tea that was complimentary with meals. However by the end of the first day I discovered that I needed to purchase the soda card so I could receive beverages at the bars throughout the ship and from the waiters during the shows. While tea, coffee, juice, and milk are always available at the buffet on the lido deck, and you are perfectly welcome to take your beverage with you wherever you go, it was not very convenient when sitting in a show at the front end of the ship to walk all the way to the back to grab a drink. So I purchased the soda card and had a great time ordering from every bar I passed and at every show or game we went to. Gratuity is already added to the purchase price of the card and the serving staff are included in the prepaid gratuities so I did not feel pressured at all to tip any additional amount with each drink I ordered.
One more tidbit of advice, go ahead and complete the room service breakfast order sheet you will find in your stateroom. Even if you are planning to eat breakfast in the dining room it's great to have some fresh fruit, coffee, and a bagel delivered to your door when you first wake up. Since you will want a drink before you leave your room and the mini-bar sodas are $4 apiece you can save yourself some unnecessary expense by ordering breakfast. Plus you will be hungry again by the time you get through the shower, get dressed and are ready to head to the dining room for a waffle. The portion sizes are kept small, which I appreciated since I was able to sample and graze constantly without stuffing myself.
There was plenty to do on the ship without spending any additional money. Lots of window shopping, games, karaoke, shows, not to mention the pool and Jacuzzi. We had a great time playing miniature golf on the top of the ship, and sitting in the Jacuzzi under the stars. Since we weren't interested in the "adult" comedy show, we would take advantage of the Jacuzzi at 10 pm when no one else was out there. We had a lot of wind and bit of rain on one of the days so we never went in the pool, not warm enough. We stayed away from the lido deck during the peak hours when many a drunken college age man could be found doing "body shots" off a scantily clad woman. (I thought this was a family cruise?) But really it wasn't that bad, everyone on the cruise was very nice. The staff was exceptional. Not a grumpy expression the whole time.
The shows were excellent. I have no idea how those girls can dance like that in high heels on a moving ship, but they do a great job! I would recommend sitting on the lower level if you are a person who likes "getting into the action." The people in the balcony tend to be "fuddy duddies." We skipped playing bingo at $10 a card and decided to spend our $10 in the casino. We got an hour's worth of fun at the slot machines and video poker for our money, so I think it was worth it. The TV in the stateroom has a channel that will show you exactly how to play all of the casino games so you don't have to feel like an idiot when you head down there for the first time.
We were only in our stateroom for sleeping (wink wink) so I wouldn't have spent the extra money to upgrade to an ocean view or a veranda, it would have been wasted on us. There were always things to do on the ship, and when we arrived in Ensenada it was time to explore. We were a little nervous because we hadn't planned any shore excursions, and instead we decided to go it alone. I'm very glad we did. The tourist area consists of about 3 square blocks. You would not want to venture any further. Once off the ship there was a small shopping area right in port and busses that took you into downtown and back for $3 a person. The entire drive they try to sell you on taking their bus tour to the blowhole for $25 a person, but they do it in an entertaining way so it's still fun. We decided to stay in the downtown shopping area and pick up some souvenirs for the kids. We had a great time walking through all the shops and finding just the right trinket for each person on our list. A bit of advice, never buy from the people on the street. No matter what kind of deal you think you are getting you will find it cheaper at a shop a few doors down. Trust me on this. Also, don't buy Chiclets for $1. Those kids are being exploited and giving them money only perpetuates the problem.
After a couple of hours we had finished exploring every store within the 3 blocks and were ready to head back to the ship for lunch. We took the bus ride back, had a wonderful lunch at the buffet and were ready to head to a game of "Battle of the Sexes" when my husband broke his belt. This meant it was time for more shopping. Off the ship we went. We decided not to take the bus this time since we knew where we were going and we now knew that the walk was only 5-10 minutes. Shopping for something specific that you need is much different than just looking for souvenirs. But we were again pleasantly surprised by how nice people were. We would walk into a shop and ask if they had belts, if they didn't they would gladly tell us exactly where we could get one with a genuine smile. We ended up getting a very nice belt for $15, the lady even changed the buckle to fit my husband's taste. We were pleased.
Disembarkation Unfortunately the time came when we had to leave the ship. We had two choices, we could carry off our own luggage and leave anytime or we could pack up the night before and leave our luggage in the hall to be taken off by the crew. If we left our luggage out we would have to wait until they called our "zone". Once our zone had been called we could leave anytime after that. My husband was not comfortable with leaving our luggage outside our room (neither was I, just seemed weird) so we elected to carry it off ourselves. Most people elected to carry their own luggage so they could leave the ship early. This seemed strange to me as I was in no hurry to leave. We woke up and had breakfast at the buffet before heading back to our room to pack. I noticed the line to debark. It started at the bar in the grand atrium and was packed all the way down the ramp. People stood there for over an hour holding their luggage to get off the ship. I couldn't understand why they would do such a thing when they could be sitting down relaxing and having a nice breakfast. We packed up and left our stateroom at about 9 am. There was still quite a line to debark so we headed up to the Lido deck to wait and have a drink. The buffet was open so we had a snack and glass of tea and enjoyed the beautiful day. We took this opportunity to go check out all the pictures they had taken of us and purchase a couple. They are quite pricey and great quality so it was very tempting to blow our budget. We decided to buy a very nice 8x10 of us for $23 and a beautiful sandwich frame that came with a photo of the ship for $5. It was well worth it. At about 10:15 am the line was gone and they started calling all of the "zones" to debark. So we grabbed our luggage and off the ship we went. We made it through customs and out into the real world within 30 minutes. I would highly recommend relaxing and waiting on the ship the morning of debarkation.
If at all possible make your flight late enough that you don't have to rush and can enjoy the last moments of your cruise.
There is absolutely nothing negative I can say about our experience. It was truly a God-given vacation and I am very grateful for it. We did have a day of rocky seas, but as long as I kept up on my motion-sickness pills I had no problem. I will definitely cruise again, and probably on Carnival. They did a great job at a great price and had awesome service.