Carnival Cruise – Paradise

This review isn’t a typical gear or gun review. Instead, it’s an experience I had as a Carnival Cruise Line passenger.Everyone needs a vacation at someone point – even for those who are less deserving. Vacation is an opportunity to explore new opportunities and experiences that may change one’s perspective. Those who work back-aching hours may find themselves enjoying the stress free environment. A vacation may provide a certain level of inspiration or those who are traditionally less deserving.

My CCL trip was an opportunity for me to relax after four years of college. Granted, my experience in college wasn’t horrid – it was of course challenging. This trip was also the outcome of the intense planning from my parents. Their desire was to have a final family trip before we’re all too busy living our adult lives. Their effort to put together this family trip was worthwhile and enjoyable for myself and I assume for the entire family.

The ship I was boarded on was called Paradise. CCL has a series of Fun Ships such as Destiny, Elation, etc. Paradise happens to be the 3rd best rated ship for service. Paradise’s sail destination was Catalina USA and Ensenada, Mexico. It’s described as a boat with 10 decks with rooms ranging from Penthouse Suites (top of the line) to the Interior Stateroom (somewhere to sleep).

CLL Paradise is a basically a large boat with all the amenities and items you need to live. Rooms vary anywhere from full sized rooms, to small cabins that are generally suitable for up to four people. Our cabin had a two twin sized beds with comfortable mattresses and linen along with two pull down beds. The mattress on those beds weren’t to die for, but it was a bed. The bathroom in my cabin was excellent. The water heated up with little wait – it was one of those small things I noticed and wished I had similar results at home. Sheets were changed everyday along with extra services that blew my mind. The labor hours that go into creating a splendid experience for their passengers is amazing.

Food was served 24 hours a day at a buffet, along with the normal dining hours for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food was included in the price of the ticket – the only exception to that rule was alcohol and soft drinks. A 12oz. can of Heineken was $5.78. CCL Paradise offered an excellent variety of dinner meals each evening and many of them were delicious. Yes – we were allowed to have multiple main course meals (totally awesome). However, I must honestly admit that the food gave many people gas. You can smell, hear, and sometimes feel the awful stench. For such a small cabin space, it can be uncomfortable.

Activities and shows were also available to see. Two of the performances I watched were called Hollywood and Shout – performed by excellent singers and dancers. Many of the activities were difficult to keep up, as there were so many going on.

They had a full service gym that I didn’t take full advantage of. The sauna provided was very nice. 24 Hour Fitness pale in comparison to the sauna – on a ship! Games such as ping-pong and shuffleboard were also available. To my recollection, they had two whirlpools, a small swimming pool with a water slide. Gambling was also available.

Duty-free shops are supposedly a big deal on the ship. Items included LOTS of alcohol, jewelry, scents, clothes, gifts, and other silly items one might buy out of impulse (no, I didn’t buy anything).

Perhaps the most one could get out of this trip besides fat belly and a skinny wallet are the shore excursions that are available. Shore excursions are basically small field trips when the ship makes a stop. For instance, our destination was Ensenada, Mexico with a stop to the Catalina Islands, USA. There were variations in our trips. In Avalon, some of us took an Eco Tour raft ride of the island and others did a snorkeling tour or kayaking. Ensenada provided us with a mini-jeep tour and a horse ride. I personally only participated in the Catalina raft and the mini-jeep tours.

The city of Avalon on the Catalina Island was nice. The weather was great, but the water was too cold to swim in. Avalon is small, but has the tourist feeling – that shouldn’t be a surprise. There were lots of small shops with inflated prices. Among the plethora of shops is a place called Del Sol. Del Sol provides color-changing products that are activated by the sun’s UV rays. Nail polish seems to be the main attraction, but they also sell other accessories and apparel. We were hoping to find some clear nail polish – for entertainment purposes of course.

The staff who guided our tour around the island were professional and had lots of interesting information to offer. Our tour around the island provided a great view close to the shore along with an overview of one of the most biologically diverse environments in the world. Some stops were made to highlight certain segments and introduce some of the wildlife on the island. The tour then concluded an extended ride far from the island. Despite the excellent view of the island, I personally thought it was the dullest part of the trip – you’re really just in a fast boat getting cold. However, those who really enjoy the water will get a kick out of it.

Eye of the island.

Ensenada, Mexico was certainly interesting. Not only do they boast a tattered, 500lbs Mexico flag, but they have small little children to keep you company for about a half a block before they must find another companion to tug on. Of course, I must not forget the the street salesman selling hammocks, wallets, and hair braiding services. According to my parents, there was once upon a time when Ensenada was a different place – smaller, quieter, more attractive. Now it’s like a Disneyland, but without the rides, Disney characters, and any indication of dreams coming true. The shops were a lot more eclectic and I saw a few things I might actually buy. There was a leather shop that had holsters and rifle cases for a really awesome price, but I couldn’t justify the purchase as I really wouldn’t use it anyway – I am a Cordura whore after all. Another shop had some wire art for sale that proved to be entertaining. Many of the other shops were small gift shops that closed early in the evening. A place called Papas and Beer seemed to be the hype of the trip. Supposedly a landmark in the tourist town, I ended up buying the only souvenir I took from this trip – a Papas and Beer shirt. Don’t mess with me, it’s official gear

The highlight of the trip would be the mini-jeep tour. It was exciting, bumpy and a absolutely dirty experience. We were all paired to one jeep and instructed to put our goggles and bandannas on to keep the dust out – they weren’t joking about that. I was smug enough to not use the goggles provided and used the Revision eye protection I brought along with me instead (awesome piece of eye wear). The tour was a two hour trip along dusty road that gave us plenty of opportunity to fishtail, drive fast, and purposely drive over rocks. As the end of the trip, all of us were covered in dust – even the slightest pat ensued a thick puff of Baja dust. A few cameras ate some dust and almost proved to be electronically fatal. The shore excursion concluded with wine tasting. It was horrible. I’m surprised anyone bought that cheap crap. Of course, the excursion itself was very fun. I would recommend it to anyone. The only reservation I have is that the ATV might have been better – oh well.

There were a few criticisms I had about the cruise, but nothing significant. A noteworthy example however is the destination. I didn’t understand the choice to choose Baja – not exactly an ideal destination for a boat called “Paradise.” But I did enjoy the destination nonetheless and perhaps that is why CCL continue to sail there.

Some may laugh, but the most I took out of this trip was the time spent with the family. It was nice to get together, especially for dinner given that we haven’t for the past three to four years.

I would definitely do it again.

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3 Comments on “Carnival Cruise – Paradise”

  1. Jerome Spence
    July 25, 2007 at 7:40 pm #

    I’m heading out on the same cruise on 7/27. Thanks for the report, very informative!

  2. July 25, 2007 at 8:02 pm #

    Bon Voyage! I’ll be happy to answer any question you might have outside of this write up.

  3. May 5, 2009 at 10:11 pm #

    Cool! You do know that Jeff Cooper grew up in Avalon, right? He has some interesting tales about his youth on the island in at least one of his books.

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