by Rita M. Ippoliti (kryos)
March 14, 2008
This will be a very general review, listing my impressions, since I was only onboard the Paradise for four days. I normally would not sail a Carnival ship because the brand just doesn't suit my particular cruising style. I only took this cruise to attend a 30th Anniversary Battlestar Galactica Fans Convention that was being held onboard the ship on this sailing. Because I was busy with various convention activities, I did not have adequate time to thoroughly explore the ship in order to present a comprehensive review. Perhaps others will do that in their reviews.
I am a single woman, age 52, and traveled on this sailing alone.
I got to the pier relatively late -- at around 1:00 p.m. -- so perhaps that has something to do with the lines not being too bad. A good friend from the CC message boards, Copper, picked me up at LAX and drove me to the Long Beach Cruise Terminal. He told me he would meet me right outside of the United Arrivals Terminal, and I couldn't understand how he would be able to get away with parking there. Well, that's simple. He was in his Black and White. He's a cop. Hence, his screen name Copper.
We made it to Long Beach in no time (and, no, he didn't run the lights and siren), but traffic wasn't too bad so we made good time. It didn't take very long to dump the luggage and get on the ship. So, I give Carnival an A for embarkation procedures.
As a sidenote, I wouldn't normally recommend flying cross-country on the same morning as a cruise, but in my case, I was really boxed in for vacation time since I was taking another cruise right after this one -- for 35 days. I also knew that the Paradise would be at Catalina Island the next morning and if need be, I could catch the ship there if I missed embarkation in Long Beach. Fortunately, both my flights were on time and I made it to Long Beach in plenty of time for the 5:00 p.m. sailaway, but I wouldn't have cut it so close normally.
The cabin itself was cold. I didn't initially notice this because I was running around unpacking my carry ons and getting settled. When my one large piece of lugggage arrived, I used the spare bed to house that since I had no intention of unpacking everything in there since most of it was for the next cruise, the 35-day one. I set the suitcase up on the spare bed and then just removed the few things I would need for this cruise.
When I finally noticed that the cabin was awfully cold, I looked for a thermostat so that I could raise the temperature. Guess what? No thermostat. I tracked down my cabin steward and asked him how you control the temperature in these cabins. Guess what? You don't, is pretty much what he told me. He did point out a vent in the ceiling and said he could try to close it somewhat, which he did. But it really didn't help that much and I wound up sleeping with several blankets every night.
I'm used to Holland America ships where they give you some nice toiletries in your cabin -- Elmeris products. Here what I got was a small wicker basket with some "sample size" containers of various name brands of things like toothpaste and disposable razors. Why I had two disposable razors, a small tube of toothpaste and not much else, I have no idea. But that's what I got. Shampoo and body gel were dispensed from a dispenser contraption located within the shower.
I have to say that the cabin was not very clean. It was not overtly dirty, but that evening when I went to bed, I happened to brush my hand along the ledge above the bed. There was an unopened (thank God) package of condoms up there. Frankly, if that cabin had been thoroughly cleaned, I would have never found that. It had obviously been left by the previous occupants leading me to believe that this cabin steward wasn't very thorough in completing his work duties.
The bed was fairly comfortable, though the bedding, especially the bedspreads, looked old and dingy.
Except for the cold temperature in the cabin, however, I would have to say it was adequate, though far from luxurious. It was a decent size with a pretty good amount of closet and storage space, so considering I paid for an inside cabin -- I guess I got what was advertised.
For example, I would usually sit out on the Lido in the mornings having a cigarette after breakfast. Rarely did anyone come around emptying the ashtrays or cleaning off tables where people had eaten. One morning in particular, I saw a table a couple up from the one I was sitting at that was laden with dirty dishes, its occupants long gone. I needed to head to my cabin for a moment to pick up something I had forgotten. When I returned about half an hour later, and resumed my table for a final cigarette, that table was STILL laden with dirty dishes. No one had come to clear it in all that time. There was a chair near mine where someone had left behind an orange. It was just sitting in the chair. No one had removed that either. To me, this is inexcusable. Someone should be out there constantly sprucing things up; emptying ashtrays, removing used tableware, etc. Not on this ship, however. And that's strange, too -- because there is certainly no shortage of bar waiters coming around offering drinks, even in the early morning hours!
The public restrooms were not kept very clean either. The couple of times I used one, I noticed that it could really use someone to come in and clean up. Another convention attendee told me that she was absolutely appalled by the condition of some of the women's restrooms, especially the ones on the Lido. Again, there is no excuse for this. It is basic maintenance that should be provided at any resort -- including on a cruise ship.
So I give Carnival about a C for ship cleanliness.
I give Carnival an A for food service and presentation.
As for other public areas of the ship, I can only comment on those I used. I went to one cast show and the theater was certainly nice. I also went to the piano bar one night and found it to be rather small, though adequate. Again, I noticed that rarely did waitstaff bother cleaning or replacing ashtrays, as least not while I was there, and I found this odd since it is not what I am used to when on a cruise.
Entertainment and Activities
I did see one cast show and found it to actually be superior to what I am used to on Holland America. The lead female singer in particular was excellent and the show well-produced. It would seem that Carnival places a high priority on quality entertainment and it shows -- at least from what I saw.
Carnival also ran a full children's program on this cruise, and while I know nothing about its details, I do know that it must have been good because you didn't see hoards of children running wild all over the ship. Even at night, I didn't notice any of the normal "horseplay" you would expect to see around a ship that was carrying lots of families with kids.
I talked with several other passengers out on the Lido in the mornings, many of whom were not with our conference group. Most seemed friendly and good natured, and I enjoyed their company.
The entire atrium area is festoned with what I can only characterize as eggs. They are on the elevators, the walls, everywhere. Maybe that was the theme of the ship when it was designed? If so, it's ugly. The eggs are also a wierd aqua greenish color that maybe was attractive when the ship was first rolled out, but appears ugly now. Several people from our convention group commented on them, trying to figure out why? I mean, I could understand seahorses or mermaids, but eggs?
This cruise, however, began in Long Beach and visited Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico. It also had one "Fun Day" at sea before returning to Long Beach for disembarkation.
I was scheduled to be away from home for 40 days. This was the first cruise and another one was to follow that was 35 days in length. Therefore, I brought along my own laptop for use in blogging on that longer cruise, and did not plan on even accessing the internet while on the Carnival Paradise. However, by the last day of the Paradise cruise, I figured I'd better at least check my email to make sure nothing was amiss at home. I have a 94 year old father, and I wanted to make sure that my brother wasn't trying to contact me concerning him.
The internet center was located on the same deck as my cabin, so I headed over there to buy a small internet package for this purpose. First of all, the center was dark and dingy -- not at all what I am used to. However, as long as I can get on the internet there, I figured I could deal with dark and dingy. I wouldn't be in there that long. Wrong! I found the center to contain an adequate number of workstations, I'd guess about 20, and several of them were vacant. I pulled up a stool -- yes, the workstations are on a long countertop so you have to sit on a stool (not very comfortable). At the time I was in there, the center was staffed by a manager, who seemed to know his job. He helped me to get an account set up and then I set about getting to my email. This is where the trouble started. Can you say slow? I mean sloooooooooow? It took me over 15 minutes just to get to the first email box, and I knew all of the appropriate internet addresses. They were written on a piece of paper that I had with me. Everytime I would try to access something, I got the indication that my request was proceeding, a little circle going round and round. It should have been a snail. I had purchased a 30 minute package figuring it would be more than adequate for my needs, but I wound up using close to 45 minutes -- at pretty hefty charges too, I might add.
I think that between the 30 minute package, and the overage, as well as the additional charge to print out one email, I spent close to $30 bucks! All that to check email. I should have waited and just done it the next day when I got to my hotel in Vancouver.
I realize internet service on cruise ships is never going to be fast, but this was ridiculous. A dial up connection would have been three or four times faster. I've been on cruise ships and I am familiar with the limitations of onboard internet service, but this was way beyond any of them. When I mentioned it to the internet manager, how much time this was taking, he pretty much shrugged his shoulders as if to say "what can you do?" My response would be "plenty! Improve your service!"
So just let this be a warning to you. Unless you have no problem spending a bundle, don't plan on using the internet on this ship!
If you were to ask me if I would ever sail the Paradise again, I would have to say probably not. Not unless the ship underwent a major overhaul and the service staff some major retraining. But I would have to say that I got my money's worth out of this sailing, so I guess it wasn't all bad.
I would have to add that in all fairness, Carnival is not my preferred cruise line and I knew that going in. So, maybe I am being a bit more critical that I should. But I just know that when I take a vacation, I like to be waited on, and I like a high level of service. When I sit down at a table on the Lido, I like it to be clean, and the tables around me clean. I like elegant public rooms with a smiling staff wanting to meet my every need. I don't think I always got that on this cruise, and for that reason unless there was really something special going on during the sailing, I doubt I'll ever set foot on the Paradise again.