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Trip Report - 4 night Baja - Paradise - 1/31-2/4/05


Chele60

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I am a newbie here and have never posted a trip report for a cruise before. Please excuse the inexperience. I know that the shorter cruises are not popular with experienced cruisers, but hopefully this might help some one else who was in my shoes. (Warning: this is long and posted in parts.)

 

 

Passengers: Myself (female, age 44) and mother (age 70)

 

Length: 4 nights

 

Destinations: Catalina and Ensenada

 

Ship: Carnival Paradise

 

 

Monday, January 31

 

 

We arrived at the pier at approximately 11:30am. I had booked the cruise at the last minute (the Tuesday prior), so had received no cruise documents other than what was sent via e-mail. I was told all my documentation would be at the pier. My first frustration came immediately as I attempted to figure out just where/what I was supposed to do. No signs, no indications whatsoever on where to go or what to do. I had supposed this was a rather large cruise terminal. It appeared to be a rather amateur operation. After having several passengers tell me pre-boarding was “around the corner” – which there was no corner – I finally saw a person who looked like she worked for the cruise line. I asked her just where I was supposed to go. She told me the Queen Mary. The Queen Mary??? Huh??? What the ….?? Okay. Grab suitcases and schlep over to the Queen Mary to wait in line. I hadn’t realized how lucky I was until I saw the line build behind me.

 

 

When I got to the counter, check in was easy. The employee behind the counter was very helpful and answered all my questions patiently. Very enjoyable. However, now we had to schlep suitcases and all back to the terminal! Mom said it best when she stated she felt she was traveling in Europe. And here I had dreams of simply dropping off my luggage, grabbing my ticket, and walking on board! Silly me!!

 

 

Got into the left line (NOT the right one, oh no, couldn’t go there, though don’t know why) and waited. We looked around and noticed that most people only had a small carry on bag, and no suitcases. I didn’t relish the idea of carrying our 22” roll ons any farther than I had to, so I talked to the employee I saw earlier and asked her where I could check baggage. I was told to go back to the parking garage. What?? Why no signs as to where to check bags? So, we lose our place in line and schlep these things back across to the garage. We meet up with Mr. Friendly Porter (and yes, he was very friendly and helpful!), who gave us the tags for our luggage and sent us back to the line – which by now had grown exponentially. Oh well. Live and learn, I suppose.

 

 

Finally the line started to move! Yes! This is it! We are boarding! Got into the terminal building only to discover there is only ONE x-ray/metal detector for all these people! Are they seriously joking?!?!? Of course, the best show in town at that moment was watching people attempt to shove suitcases not meant for such a small space through the machine. Oh yes, great entertainment!

 

 

Finally get through there and then into the “picture zone.” Why do they do this? I’m not going to buy the picture, I’m not interested in the picture, so why not make this optional? Oh, okay, I’ll play along and say “cheese”. Move along up the escalator and then into a succession of showing ID to people who were no more than 10 feet apart. Exactly what kind of security can be breached in 10 feet? Finally reached the gangway and approaching the ship. We are both excited and starting to get into “vacation mode”. We enter the ship via the atrium. We look up to the top of the glass ceiling and listen to the classical music being played, and both look at each other and say: “Titanic!” Honestly, the line from the movie, “Music to drown to” just popped into my mind!

 

 

Okay, must rid myself of these thoughts – they benefit no one. We are told that our stateroom will not be available until 1:30pm and it is now 1:05pm. We are told we are to go to the Lido deck for lunch. Heck, I’ve no idea what deck I’m on now and where that it is in relationship to the deck my stateroom is on (Riviera) or the Lido deck. I slide into line at the Information desk and ask these questions and I’m looked as if I’ve just arrived from Mars. Sorry, Ma’am, but you do get newbies every once in a while. She told me my room was below and the Lido was above, but the rooms would not be available until 1:30pm, so I should go have lunch. Yeah. Right. I’m lugging a small carry-on and a purse and I’m supposed to balance a cafeteria tray? Don’t think so. I tell my mother we’re going to the room first. I doubt 20 minutes is going to make that big of a deal, and if the cabin steward really wants his $7.00 a day, he’ll make sure my room is habitable by 1:15.

 

 

We manage to make our way to the lower bowels of the ship and find our stateroom, only to discover – very pleasantly – that it is an outside. I had reserved for an inside (due to price), and this was a most unexpected and very pleasant surprise! We dumped what we had and made our way to Lido. It was chaotic to say the least, and the pickings were slim and appeared to have been left over from lunch the previous day. We both just grabbed something as we were starving.

 

 

Attempted to walk around, but without a map it was a bit difficult. Somehow we made our way back to the Atrium and decided to book a shore excursion in Ensenada. I had been to both Catalina and Ensenada, so I knew what to expect. Mom had not been to Ensenada. I booked the tour to La Bufadora and Santo Tomas winery. Finally ended up going back to our stateroom, and were not there 15 mins when our luggage arrived. Very good! Put things away and went to the Normandie Lounge for orientation. Got some good basic information, but the tour director just about drove me insane.

 

 

Walked to a bar and decided to have our first drink of the cruise. We were sitting, relaxing, watching people, and talking when we noticed all these folks walking around with life jackets. What? Ship going down already?? A couple sat next to us and we asked them what was up. They told us there was a lifeboat drill (oh, yeah, I read that somewhere) and we would need our life jackets out of our room. Shoot! We had about 4 minutes, so I told mom to stay there and I would get them. Since I’ve never met such slow elevators as were on this ship, I decided to take the stairs down 5 decks. By the time I reached the room they were already announcing there was drill and everyone was to get their life jackets and report to their “muster stations.” Naturally, I was preoccupied with getting the jackets untangled from the box, so missed all that information. Grabbed two (our room was set up for 3 people) and started to make my way back to mom. Now we were not supposed to use the elevators, so up 5 decks of stairs I go. Met up with mom who told me where the muster station was. We made our way there (and yes, we took our beers – let the captain have a word with me, and he can reimburse me!) and were told we actually had to put these things on. Well, okay, I’m game. Besides best to know how. The one mom had reeked of BO and mine was covered in stale perfume. I began to feel nauseous and wanted to take it off, but was told to leave it on. Yeah, okay, so if I up my cookies there in the lounge I’ll just destroy everyone’s day – no problem. Meanwhile, I tried to hold my breath and just gulped air. Then we get the okay to move up to the Lido deck and on to our where our boats are. Now we are packed like sardines on the deck, I’m beginning to sweat from this thing, and feeling nauseated. Great. Terrific start. Now I know how the pilgrims felt when they were put in the stocks. Besides, who is going to stay this calm in the event of emergency?? No one, I’m thinking.

 

 

FINALLY we are given the okay to take these dreaded things off and go back to “enjoying” ourselves. We went back to the room and decided to change for dinner. (We had early seating) There was no line and we were seated immediately. Waiter and assistant were pleasant and efficient and professional. Enjoyed them both. A little shocked at the price of a diet coke with dinner, though. All this fine food and I have to pay for a soda? Huh. Okay. Now I know. Water only in the future.

 

 

Food was great, but a bit too much. Didn’t order dessert – no room. What was disturbing was this hokey dancing thing the wait staff did. What was that? And why? It certainly didn’t add to my fun, and I really felt sorry for the staff having to put on a dog and pony show. Really, a very tacky thing to do.

 

 

After dinner, we walked down to the American Bar for a drink, but as fate would have it, it was one of the two smoking bars so we had our drink and left. Wandered into the Normandie Lounge and caught some of Game Show Trivia. I think it is best appreciated when one is drunk.

 

 

Walked to Ill de France and bought (had to buy??) a couple of cookies to take back to the room. Got back to the room as we were both tired (I had gotten up at 4:30 as I had to work for a couple of hours before heading out). It was then I noticed the boat rocking. Now, I’m very sensitive to motion as I have balance problems, and one of my concerns about cruising was the ship rocking. I had been told by experienced cruisers not to worry about it: the ship had stabilizers and such and the ride was so smooth one didn’t feel anything. Can’t wait to get to talk to these people and let them know they were wrong. No, did not get seasick, as I seldom suffer motion sickness, but with the rocking sometimes I didn’t know if it was the ship or if I was having a balance problem episode. It was a good thing we had an outside room. Went to bed early, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the rooms are pretty soundproof – didn’t hear anything in the hallway or surrounding rooms.

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Tuesday, February 2

 

 

We arrive in Catalina. Both mom and I wake up at around 5:00am (neither of us are big on sleeping in, even on vacation), but manage to stay in bed until 6:00am. Mom had the bed by the window and she did enjoy looking out the window in the pre-dawn hour at the stars. Good thing. We were up at 6:00, showered and dressed and went to the dining room. Breakfast was okay, not great. Nice view of Catalina during breakfast, though.

 

 

Waited until time to leave for Catalina, and were able to take one of the first tenders to shore. Weather could not have been better. Almost seemed like summer! Walked around, poked into a few shops, and just enjoyed the warm sunshine. Had lunch on a patio – nothing special. Wanted to take the Casino tour, but it wasn’t happening until 2:00pm, and I decided it wasn’t all that important to me. (Mom had already done this tour, I had not) We bought water for the room and headed back around 2:00pm.

 

 

We dropped our stuff off and I decided I was going to learn the layout of this ship no matter what. Found the elevator that took us to the Sports deck, then climbed the stairs to the Sun deck. Took some great pictures of Catalina from there. Made our way down each deck, poking into every place I could get away with. I felt a bit better knowing the layout – more acclimated and comfortable. Had a beer before going back to the room to dress for dinner. (It was “formal night”) We took in the Captain’s Cocktail party, and was thankful for the free appetizers and drinks. We had dinner, then took in the “Las Vegas style” show at 9:00. The food was great, but again too much. Again with the dancing thing, which I did not think was enjoyable and took away from the formal atmosphere the ship was attempting to achieve. The show was just not my style. Heck, I don’t like Vegas normally, so a show geared to that was just not for me but it was too early to go to the room and there was no where else to go. (Only the two smoking bars and the US bar were open) After the show we went back to the room. Along the way photographers were taking pictures, and I really had the feeling I was at an overgrown prom. Weird….just….weird.

 

 

Nothing on TV to watch, so read before turning in. Ship was really rocking tonight.

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Wednesday, February 2

 

 

Arrive Ensenada. Woke up early and made our way to breakfast. This time I tried the omlette, and again…okay.

 

 

Caught the tour bus to La Bufadora. I had been here about, oh, 17 years ago, and was shocked at what I saw. Previously, one could park almost right next to the attraction and there were only a few shops off to one side. Now, one must “run the gauntlet”, being pushed and pulled along the way. I almost lost a couple of times and used my impolite Spanish, but managed to keep cool. La Bufadora was terrific, just as I remembered. We had a great day for it: clear, blue skies, azure seas, and warm sunshine. The tide was coming in, so we got some great height on the blows as well. We walked back up “the gauntlet” and I managed to duck into a bar for a cerveza. Somehow, sitting in a Mexican bar, drinking cerveza immediately puts me in relaxation mode. Mom tried her first churro (very fearful of that as she isn’t all that adventurous with food, especially a roadside vendor!), but was hooked with the first bite. Made it back to the bus in plenty of time.

 

 

Next, we went to Santo Tomas winery in Ensenada. It was okay, not great. Alejandro was knew his stuff and was able to answer any questions. He showed us around and was very pleasant. Of course, the purpose of the trip is to taste the wine and then to have people buy some. Actually, the wine was pretty good, although I’m no expert. We bought 3 bottles to take home.

 

 

We left the bus downtown to walk around the shopping district. Mom has been wanting a leather jacket and I told her Mexico would be her best bet. We strolled the shops and she finally found she liked and it really does look nice. She got a good deal on it as well. We decided to stop at a sidewalk café for a couple cervezas and nachos. It felt good to be able to practice my Spanish again, and since I’m going to Spain in September I need all the practice I can get!

 

 

We found the shuttle back to the ship, and made our way back on board. I was tempted to go back into town for dinner, but mom is not a fan of Mexican food, so I’ll have to wait for another time. We decided we needed to get some exercise, so we changed into some “grungies” and headed for the Sun deck to put in some laps. Walked a couple of miles and felt really good about that.

 

 

Didn’t feel like dressing for dinner, and we both agreed the food was too much and too fancy in the dining room, so we decided we would do the alternative thing. We arrived in the Paris restaurant, hungry and ready, only to discover it was closed. Closed?? I thought one could eat anywhere, anytime on a ship? What is this? I found out the outside Bistro was open, but wasn’t interested in food getting cold before I could get it inside. So, our only choice was the pizzeria. Yummy. (Yes, that’s sarcasm) Tried to fill it in with some frozen yogurt. I had read in the Caper that there was supposed to be chips and salsa served in the US bar, so we headed there. Nothing. Asked around, and found out it was at 7:00. Hung around until they served them up. Bought the happy hour, watered down margaritas and took some salsa and chips. Wandered into the Queen Mary lounge to discover Karoake (sp??), which is something I find mildly amusing but it wears thin fast for me.

 

 

Got back to the room by 8:15 and into bed by 9:00. Mom and I have decided that, unless we are at port, we are bored on ship. We felt like we were scrounging for food at dinner. The lounges open at staggered times, and we simply are not “night people” in that we are not late night partiers. (I have no problem staying up to the wee hours of the morning, but not drinking, dancing, or gambling) We are ending up in the same dining areas and in the same bars and it is getting old very quickly. We both are a bit concerned about Thursday, our day at sea, but will see what it brings.

 

 

I’m beginning to feel my biggest fear of cruising coming true: being trapped. When I vacation, the last place I spend any amount of time is the hotel I’m at. It’s why I usually don’t pick top notch places. A hotel is for sleeping, showering, and changing clothes. Everything else I do is somewhere else. A ship is just a big, floating hotel that you cannot walk out of. Places to eat are limited – example: I cannot go to that little Italian place that looked interesting, or try out that Mexican place that caught my eye earlier in the day. In the evenings, I like to stroll and hop into bars that look interesting. On ship, the only bar that is open is the same one, night after night after night. Not sure if this is a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it isn’t looking good.

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Thursday, February 3

 

 

Day at Sea. Okay, this is just great. I wake up with a cold! I never, ever, ever get sick on vacation! What is this??? Sore throat, congestion, feverish. Great, just freakin’ great. That’s when mom tells me she thinks I caught it from the kid I was sitting next to on the tour bus the day before – I thought he was cute and was talking to him, but mom thought his sneezing and runny nose meant he was ill. Sheesh. That’s what I get for not being a mom.

 

 

We managed to make our way to the breakfast buffet. Better than the dining room, that’s for certain! However, the only thing I could choke down were a couple pieces of dry toast, a cup of hot chocolate, and some diluted orange juice. Naturally, because I never get sick on vacation, I don’t bring cold medication with me and Ensenada is a fading memory by now. I’m tempted to try the infirmary, but with a cold, what can they possibly do? And at what cost? (Yes, I’m finally clueing in that everything on this tub comes at some sort of cost.)

 

 

We tried to sit on deck and read, but it was way too cold. I felt bad for mom, as this is her vacation as well, so I went to the Normandie Lounge to play Bingo with her. One game and they wanted $10 for a single card, $20 for a sheet of three. These folks are smokin’ something funny! We went ahead and played, though didn’t win. We stayed for the debarkation talk, though I wasn’t certain how much really sunk into my brain.

 

 

I was fading fast, but mom thought I should get something in my stomach. We decided to chance the dining room, and luckily they had a hot soup on the menu. Got the soup down, but not much else. By now I was feeling really feverish and achy in my joints and cold. We went to the room and I double-checked what meds I had brought with me. I found some Ibuprofen, so I took three and went to bed. There was another Bingo session at 3:00 and I promised mom I would try to make it. I napped and when I woke up had a terrific headache and was sweating which meant the fever was breaking up. Thank the heavens!

 

 

Managed to get dressed and went to the Normandie Lounge for Bingo. Another $20 for 5 games of progressive Bingo. Mom is a Bingo maven and even she was shocked at the prices being charged for the games. “Total rip-off” were her exact words. Oh well. At least it was something to do.

 

 

Wandered through the casino and played some of the machines. I’m not anyone’s idea of a gambler, so the $3.00 I gave to the casino was my limit. I think mom won a couple of bucks. It was actually nice to spend actual cash and not deal with those Sail and Sign cards.

 

 

We went back to the room, grabbed our books, and headed up on deck. We both tried to tell each other it was nice, but it was cold and windy. Our beautiful weather was left behind in port. Since we figured out the buffet was closed when the dining rooms were in operation, we gave in and got something to eat at the Bistro (grill). We had watched the sunset just prior, and something about that made mom a bit queasy, so she only had apple juice. We rushed inside so I could eat my hot dog (yeah, great food on a cruise, and I’m chowing down a hot dog) in relative warmth. We talked and decided cruising just wasn’t for us. I have to hand it to people who can do this. I really wish I could be one of them, but I guess some of us are just “land lubbers.”

 

 

As we were leaving the restaurant (we were on one side), we discovered that the buffet WAS open. What is this? Changing the rules on me mid-trip? Criminey, I can’t win for losing on this tub.

 

 

Now we were in limbo. I was still feeling crappy, neither of us felt like a drink, the noise and press of people was irritating me, and I couldn’t go back to the room as the steward had not yet done turn down service. Yes, folks, Chele was a grumpy cruiser at this point. So, mom and I took ourselves to possibly the least used place on the entire ship – the library. FINALLY I found my “home!” A quiet place, away from humanity, where I could curl up with my book and just read! We spent about an hour or so there, and it was the first pleasant spot on the ship I found, other than my room.

 

 

However…there was packing to do, and for those who do not know my mother does not do her own packing. So, off to the room we go. I managed to pack up pretty quickly and get the luggage outside.

 

 

We were a little hungry for something sweet, so decided on trying room service. I ordered “assorted cookies and brownies,” a pot of tea, and a pot of coffee. Room service was prompt, and it was strange to only tip the guy. Got a nice pot of coffee and mom had a nice pot of tea. The “assorted cookies and brownies”? Two small chocolate cookies and brownie. *sigh* I guess I should have expected that when it’s complimentary. Oh well, I really didn’t need the sweet stuff anyway, though it was tough splitting that small brownie in half!

 

 

Decided to watch TV, and found something that looked interesting. Discovered it was the very end of “Without a Trace.” And here I had been looking forward to possibly catching “CSI” at 9:00. Now I was stuck with nothing but news. It took me a while (because of the cold), but I finally figured out the TV was on East Coast time and programs. “CSI” was probably on at 6:00! And the news we were getting was all about the East Coast. What is up with that? The Paradise is a West Coast ship. It sails exclusively on the West Coast. I would imagine the majority of her passengers are from along the Western US. So why, in the name of anything sacred, does the cruise line show East Coast shows at East Coast times?!?!? Okay, so that one went down on the comment card, as I felt it was just a given. (But then, I figure Carnival is an East Coast based corporation, so they probably contract with East Coast stations. Still, doesn’t make sense on the West Coast.)

 

 

Mom was in bed early. I managed to stay up until 11:00pm before turning in.

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Friday, February 4

 

 

Long Beach. Home! We are home!! I’m not feeling quite so bad as I did yesterday. Thankfully, my body seems to be bouncing back fairly quickly. We pack up the remaining items in our room, then head to the Lido deck with the rest of the herd for breakfast. Famished from not really being able to eat the day before, I manage to get more down today. Just being home makes me feel better – I’ll be in my own bed tonight!

 

 

Debarkation from a ship is truly funny. Perhaps the greatest show on the ship! We decided to wait on the Promenade deck, but made the mistake of trying to get off at the Empress (I think??) deck. We could barely get out of the elevator from the crush of people standing around! What is this? And isn’t this just a tad bit dangerous to have people blocking the entrance/exit to elevators? I would think that Carnival, to avoid a potential safety hazard/lawsuit would keep that area clear. After all, we are all getting off the ship, folks. I doubt Carnival is interested in anyone staying behind. Okay, so maybe some of these folks are not the brightest amongst humanity.

 

 

We manage to make our way to the Promenade deck (no easy task even taking the stairs – people blocking those as well). I’m beginning to think being the last one off the boat might just be a good thing. At 8:10 an announcement is made that there is some sort of problem with the gangway and the problem is being worked on. I smile as I read my book, thinking of all those poor folks crushed together waiting…for how long?? Glad I’m sitting in a comfy spot with my book.

 

 

At 8:30 the call comes that they will debark the boat and all Orange tags are the first to go. I’m tan/beige/whatever and have already figured I’ll be amongst the last to leave, so I settle in for a stay. Well, of course, tan is the next color called. What do you know? We gather up our stuff and head downstairs. As we wait for customs, I notice that passenger has a grey tag, and so does that one, over there. Oh, and this one over here has a green tag. I see. It doesn’t matter which color is called. One just leaves whenever they feel like it. Good. Got it.

 

 

Get through customs, collect our luggage, and retrieve the car. I’m home pretty early, all things considered.

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Final thoughts:

 

 

Ship: Clean, if a bit tattered in spots. Staff took care to keep things tidy and clean and that was appreciated.

 

 

Room: Larger than expected and comfy. Appreciated the instant hot water and water pressure. Beds were more comfortable than most hotels I stay in, but as I stated, I don’t stay in expensive hotels. We had two people in the room, and we never ran into each other. Not sure if there were three how it would work. Only major flaw was the temperature control was in the ceiling. I’m 5’5” and had to stand on my tip toes to barely reach it. A tricky endeavor while the ship is rocking. My mother is 5’2” and could not reach it at all. Not a good idea.

 

 

Staff: All staff I met were friendly, professional, and efficient. They seemed to go out of their way to make me feel comfortable, and I appreciated that. The tour directors were annoying as anything I’ve ever experienced, but I guess that’s job requirement #1. I really appreciated the cabin steward more than I had thought. He introduced himself on the first night, and then went about his job in a very “invisible” way – and that is a good thing. I never had to ask him for anything, something I appreciated. The dining staff were attentive and efficient and great at making recommendations. I really took a dislike to the Maitre ‘D when I discovered it was his brainstorm to make the wait staff dance around during dinner. I thought that stupid and humiliating and totally unfitting the atmosphere they were attempting to achieve in the dining room.

 

 

Food: In the dining room for dinner was excellent. Breakfast was best in the buffet. However, outside of the dining room dinners, food was average and bland. I had Jamaican Red Bean soup, which should be spicy and was not. I guess the ships have to allow for all tastes.

 

 

Sail and Sign cards: I came to despise these things. This is the biggest gimmick Carnival has going for itself. Use this little card and forget how much you are truly spending. I guess Carnival never met my mother. She writes down every penny spent during each day of a vacation so we have a running total at any given time. One of the reasons why we didn’t spend anything on our Sail and Sign cards at all on Thursday. We decided we had already spent enough.

 

 

General:

 

 

I think the Baja cruises get a bad rap overall. Experienced cruisers dismiss them entirely as not being a “real” cruise. But it is a real cruise – one has all the same amenities as any other ship. I think the problem lies not in the destinations but in people’s perception of those destinations. Catalina is a small island town. It is not glamorous, though it does have a very rich history. To find out that history, one would have to take the Inland Tour where they discuss the history of the island. The diving and glass bottom boats do not give a history of the island. The restaurants are not world class. Other than sitting and enjoying the scenery and people, there just isn’t a lot to do there. Ensenada is Mexico, yes, but it is a border town. It is NOT tropical Mexico. One needs to go further south for that. Border towns are a bit rough around the edges – Tijuana, Rosarito Beach, Mexicali, the list goes on. Don’t expect to find white, sandy beaches with Mariachis playing in the background. Ain’t gonna happen here. There are things to do and see, but if this is not a northern Puerta Vallarta. Carnival is trying to sell this tour, naturally. And tourism is the largest industry in both Catalina and Ensenada. It’s a kind of “know before you go.” It pays to know what to expect before one books this tour. I met people who had come from Canada and the Mid-West for this cruise. I doubt it met their expectations, and I’m really sorry for that. Yet, all travelers have the onus of responsibility in knowing where they are going.

 

 

I can see some advantages in cruising, and I can see why the majority of people enjoy them. I’m glad they do – lots of people are relying on those tourist dollars! However, realistically, I don’t think cruising is for everyone. I’m not putting it down. (Even one day back and I’m getting some very defensive responses from people in my life!) I’m just saying that I don’t think I’m cut out for cruising. And no, I don’t think spending even more time on a boat would make things better. If I was bored after two days, I can only imagine what I would be like after 7. Granted, I did get a cold half-way through, but I was already feeling this way. For me, the days in port were the best. The day at sea was dull. This is me. Just me. It is NOT a reflection of all people. As well it shouldn’t be. Some folks were really enjoying themselves, and I am truly happy for them. (It sounded as if one guy was doing really well at Blackjack, and I hope he walked away with a bundle!) But this just isn’t my type of vacation.

 

 

I’m glad I went. I’m glad I experienced this. No one was to blame. The staff was terrific. My fellow passengers were friendly enough and generally considerate. Actually, most were just having a good time and wanted to spread those happy feelings around. I didn’t find the “unchecked children” problem at all. I was expecting to see children running rampant, but quite the contrary. The children around the pool areas were well-behaved, and those walking around the ship were actually quite considerate and respectful. Only once did I see a kid running, and it was only for a few steps to his stateroom. Parents seemed to have their children well under control, and it was pleasant to see kids and parents sharing good times together. Even the teens were well-behaved, which did surprise me. But I am thankful to the parents – they evidently raised good kids, so they have positive things going for them.

 

 

Finally, I do wish to thank this board for the information I gathered from here. This cruise would have been disastrous if I’d not read some of the tips and helps that others passed along. I don’t know who all of you are, but I hope this board keeps up the good work. The help here is invaluable to a new cruiser!

 

 

If you are still with me, I thank you for reading this. My apologies for the length, but I’ve sort of poured myself out here. Any questions/comments are appreciated.

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I leave on this same cruise Feb 7th. I have been on both short and long cruises before. A cruise is what you make of it. You can look for all the faults or you can be glad you are not sitting in the office. If this cruise wasn't to your satisfaction maybe you need to try the much more expensive crystal crusies.:)

 

P.S. I too booked my cruise just two weeks notice (OV 6D ) 4 night cruise that cheap how can anything be wrong!!!

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I was on the Paradise in March 2004 for the Western Caribbean itinerary. This was when the ship was non-smoking. Although, my husband and I had the time of our lives, I understand why they moved it. The ship was too small for a 7 night cruise. Some people might find it hard to believe that cruising is not for everyone, but nothing is right for everyone. I am not sure what you were expecting, but having booked the cruise on short notice, I guess you didn't have time to research and find these things out ahead of time.

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I read with interest about cruising with your mother. Wish mine would go with me. She is 80, however, and says she is not "able" because she is on a walker. Sounds lke the two of you went with the "flow" which is what you have to do. I'm sure it will be a cherished memory even though maybe everything waasn't what you were expecting.

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I enjoyed reading your review and thank you for taking the time to write it. I am sorry that your cruise (sounds like your first) did not meet your expectations. Every Carnival cruise I have been on there has been someone standing there to greet you with a little map of the ship. They also have these maps at the Purser's desk. We always take a tour of the ship on the first day. We also always read the Capers, the little newspaper they leave on your bed at night. It states all the days activities including all the dining times. For all first time cruisers who have yet to cruise, please make sure you read this so you are prepared to know when the lido restaurant areas are open. There is also room service where you can always order sandwiches 24/7. As for the pizza, many people on this board rave about it. I personally think it is fine but would not rave about it. As far as all the pictures being taken, you are right. It is a big money maker HOWEVER you can always say no thanks and just walk on by. We have done this many times and there is no problem. We have also learned to just play bingo near the end of the cruise when it is much cheaper.

 

Dancing in the dining room is done on all Carnival ships, not just the Paradise. Some of the waiters look like they do not enjoy dancing while others look like they are fun loving people and having a grand old time.

 

We cruised this ship for the second time this past September when it went through the Panama canal. It was a 14 day cruise and we loved every minute. We have only been on 1 larger ship but loved this size better. We may change our minds when we cruise on some of the other style ships. As far as the muster drill, all cruise lines must do this by law. No one wants a mishap to occur where people do not know what to do or where to go. It is just like a fire drill in school. We though have never had a problem with life vests that smell. Unfortunately yours probably was not the norm.

 

I am surprised that they kept the satelite dishes turned to pick up east coast stations. I figured when they arrived in Long Beach that would change but I guess not. Maybe it is too difficult to change. I don't know what is involved to do so.

 

Again, thanks for your review. I hope your next vacation will be to your liking.

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I leave on this same cruise Feb 7th. I have been on both short and long cruises before. A cruise is what you make of it. You can look for all the faults or you can be glad you are not sitting in the office. If this cruise wasn't to your satisfaction maybe you need to try the much more expensive crystal crusies.:)

 

P.S. I too booked my cruise just two weeks notice (OV 6D ) 4 night cruise that cheap how can anything be wrong!!!

 

You are right. At $279.00 pp it was a deal I just couldn't say no to! And I had always wanted to get my feet wet (no pun intended) cruising, so this was a good opportunity. It is simply that what I like to do on vacations is different than what a cruise can offer. Not saying my interests are better or worse, just different.

 

I think you will enjoy yourself very much. I actually did have a great time while in port, and it seemed most of the people enjoyed themselves while on the ship. Enjoy and bon voyage!

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I was on the Paradise in March 2004 for the Western Caribbean itinerary. This was when the ship was non-smoking. Although, my husband and I had the time of our lives, I understand why they moved it. The ship was too small for a 7 night cruise. Some people might find it hard to believe that cruising is not for everyone, but nothing is right for everyone. I am not sure what you were expecting, but having booked the cruise on short notice, I guess you didn't have time to research and find these things out ahead of time.

 

 

I wish they would have kept this ship as non-smoking, although I have to admit most of the time the smoking didn't bother me all that much.

 

I had been interested in taking a cruise since the 80s when a travel agent, concerned about me traveling alone to Cancun, suggested I take one. I decided against it at that time, but my curiosity was piqued and I would pick the brain of anyone who took a cruise after that. All I ever heard was: "We had a great time," "we relaxed" ("relax" means different things to different people), and the dreaded "you can do it all or nothing." I had researched different cruises going to Alaska (my intended destination for 2006), but didn't want to commit for 7 to 10 days as I had feared ships would make me feel trapped. I decided on this cruise just to get a feel for how things worked. So, I guess you could say I've been researching this for about 20 years. I just hadn't been asking people the right (specific) questions about their cruises and exactly what they meant when they said "good time" and "relaxed." Not their fault - I take total blame for that. I'm usually more detail oriented than that.

 

It did seem small, and I had a hard time envisioning being on this ship for longer than we were. However, she is a good vessel and for her ports of call now, I think she is a good choice.

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I read with interest about cruising with your mother. Wish mine would go with me. She is 80, however, and says she is not "able" because she is on a walker. Sounds lke the two of you went with the "flow" which is what you have to do. I'm sure it will be a cherished memory even though maybe everything waasn't what you were expecting.

 

Thank you about the comment on humor. I find it is necessary no matter form of travel one takes!

 

It is a shame about your mother. I noticed quite a few people (young and old) in wheelchairs, with canes, and with walkers and I had to really admire them. They were not going to let anything get in the way of their good time! One gentleman we shared a table with at breakfast had just had surgery not too long ago and was using a walker, and he was extremely pleasant and enjoyable to talk to. He was having a good time no matter what - how can one not enjoy being around people like that?

 

It seemed the ship's staff did everything they could to accommodate those individuals needing special assistance, and I even noticed the passengers were considerate and patient with those individuals who couldn't get around as quickly as others. I hope your mother re-considers at some point. Despite my experience, I do believe cruising is something a person should at least try once in their life.

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I enjoyed reading your review and thank you for taking the time to write it. I am sorry that your cruise (sounds like your first) did not meet your expectations. Every Carnival cruise I have been on there has been someone standing there to greet you with a little map of the ship. They also have these maps at the Purser's desk. We always take a tour of the ship on the first day. We also always read the Capers, the little newspaper they leave on your bed at night. It states all the days activities including all the dining times. For all first time cruisers who have yet to cruise, please make sure you read this so you are prepared to know when the lido restaurant areas are open. There is also room service where you can always order sandwiches 24/7. As for the pizza, many people on this board rave about it. I personally think it is fine but would not rave about it. As far as all the pictures being taken, you are right. It is a big money maker HOWEVER you can always say no thanks and just walk on by. We have done this many times and there is no problem. We have also learned to just play bingo near the end of the cruise when it is much cheaper.

 

I read the Caper religiously (I thought) each day, but I guess I needed to carry it around with me. I do agree that it is vital to at least look at it and get a feel for what is happening. And the only picture we felt compelled to take was the one before getting on the ship. After that, I simply said "No, thanks" and was left alone. That I did appreciate.

 

Dancing in the dining room is done on all Carnival ships, not just the Paradise. Some of the waiters look like they do not enjoy dancing while others look like they are fun loving people and having a grand old time.

 

Perhaps this is just a "different strokes for different folks" thing. Some of the diners seemed to enjoy this, some did not. I guess it's just up to the individual.

 

We cruised this ship for the second time this past September when it went through the Panama canal. It was a 14 day cruise and we loved every minute. We have only been on 1 larger ship but loved this size better. We may change our minds when we cruise on some of the other style ships. As far as the muster drill, all cruise lines must do this by law. No one wants a mishap to occur where people do not know what to do or where to go. It is just like a fire drill in school. We though have never had a problem with life vests that smell. Unfortunately yours probably was not the norm.

 

I did like the size of the ship - it wasn't so big that it was difficult to get around. It was just a bit intimidating when first arriving. But then, I suppose all who have never cruised before might have the same feeling.

 

And yes, I looked at the lifeboat drill as a necessary distraction. After all, airplanes do them, they just can re-enact them with the oxygen masks and all. In the whole scope of things, it was more an annoyance than anything but the smell from the life jackets was overwhelming. (Now that I think back on it, perhaps I should have notified the cabin steward and he might have done something. Oh well, live and learn.)

 

I am surprised that they kept the satelite dishes turned to pick up east coast stations. I figured when they arrived in Long Beach that would change but I guess not. Maybe it is too difficult to change. I don't know what is involved to do so.

 

I'm thinking Carnival has a contract for all of their ships, and it just happens to be the East Coast because that is where they are headquartered and I believe the majority of their ships sail from. Hopefully they can look into this.

 

Again, thanks for your review. I hope your next vacation will be to your liking.

 

And thank you for reading it. My next vacation is to Spain for 3 weeks in September/October of this year and I'm very much looking forward to it!

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Thank you, Chele for the excellent review. Very descriptive and absolutely hilarious, at points. You obviously have a great command of the language and an interesting writing style. Superb ! ! :)

 

Cruising is definitely not for everyone and it seems your "next one", if at all, is a long time away. :D

 

When, and if, that "next one" comes, try a newer ship with a more port intensive itinerary (e.g., The MIRACLE with 4 out of 7 port days). I must also say, some of my most memorable experiences were on the ELATION (Fantasy-class, sister ship to the PARADISE) and even smaller ones. The newer ships have many more eating choices and bazillions of bars to fit almost anyone's fancy.

 

I quite agree with you about the waitstaff dancing. I find it so humiliating and degrading, especially in such an elegant and refined dinner setting. Takes on an organ-grinder-monkey thing for me. Makes me wonder what all these crew members from all over the world, must think of Americans, in general. I find it disgusting and demeaning.

 

I also agree that TRUE Mexico is not found in its border towns or even some of its "tourist-trap" ports. I love Mexico, especially the Mexican people (even speak a little Spanish, thanks to my employees :) ) and fly there often when not cruising there. And I also enjoy eating and drinking at the bars and restaurants that the "locals" dine at (little mom & pop places far from the "standard" restaurants and bars where cruisers eat Americanized over-priced bland Mexican food and the "drink-'til-yah-puke" bars that sell jello shots at 3 bucks a whack). My, they must think we are stupid ! ! :D

 

Incidentally, the last time I flew to Mexico, I stayed at a little mom & pop hotel for $16 per night. Old 50s furniture, scraps of tile imbeded in the concrete for tile, Spanish TV, no air, BUT ABSOLUTELY IMMACULATE. You could eat off the floor. The maid on my floor had been the maid on this floor for 29 years. She considered me a "guest" in her own home. And it showed. God, I love those people ! !

 

It seems like "land travel" is more to your liking. I'm sure you'll have an absolute ball in Spain. (take me with you :) ) Thanks again for a great review.

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Chele60:

 

 

Thank you for taking the time to relate your experiences. Very informative.

 

Maybe I missed it, but how much did you pay for your cruise booking the week before?

 

Sorry, got busy yesterday and couldn't respond. I paid $279.00 per person for an inside stateroom. With tax and everything included (I did not purchase travel insurance), the total came to $303.00 per person. Looking ahead at the more popular summer months, this same cruise sells for around $500.00. Outside cabins, booked a week prior, were selling for just over $300.00, and we were upgraded at no additional cost. (Though there were plenty of folks in the interior cabins, so I don't know why we were upgraded, except that perhaps there were two of us in a cabin that could hold 3 and most of the interior cabins being used had the upper berth(s) pulled down.)

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Alrounds:

 

Now that mom and I have been back a while and things have digested a bit, we are still talking about perhaps cruising Alaska in 2006 but with a different cruise line. I know a few folks who have cruised Alaska, and now I'll know exactly what questions to ask so it will make my research easier. Will still compare to doing Alaska as a land-based vacation.

 

Thanks for your comments - they are appreciated! And I, too, love Mexico. It's just a fun and relaxing place to forget about everyday life!

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Thanks for the review!

 

It sounded like you ran into alot of issues that could have been avoided.

 

1. When boarding any ship on any cruiseline they will take your picture which is used for security purposes. Each time you leave and board the ship that picture will come up on the computer screen when your sail and sign card is inserted.

 

2. In your capers it will list the times the buffet is open and times for other activities onboard.

 

3. Im really surprised that your TA didnt tell you how embarkation is handled for Paradise.

 

4. The left and right line at embarkation was separated by those who had and hadnt completed the fun pass.

 

5. TV on carnival is from east coast feeds regardless of where the ship departs from. There will be stations from Nashville Tenn, Erie, PA and NYC

 

Hope that helps for your next cruise.

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Thanks for the review!

 

It sounded like you ran into alot of issues that could have been avoided.

 

1. When boarding any ship on any cruiseline they will take your picture which is used for security purposes. Each time you leave and board the ship that picture will come up on the computer screen when your sail and sign card is inserted.

 

2. In your capers it will list the times the buffet is open and times for other activities onboard.

 

3. Im really surprised that your TA didnt tell you how embarkation is handled for Paradise.

 

4. The left and right line at embarkation was separated by those who had and hadnt completed the fun pass.

 

5. TV on carnival is from east coast feeds regardless of where the ship departs from. There will be stations from Nashville Tenn, Erie, PA and NYC

 

Hope that helps for your next cruise.

 

 

Thanks for the helpful hints! The picture for security purposes I understood. It was the one they take with the artificial background that I was opposed to. I understood the reason for the one they take just prior to boarding for security purposes and didn't mind that.

 

I booked the cruise just under a week before sailing and did everything online, so while I dealt with a TA of sorts, it wasn't one that I had sought out and was in communication with on a regular basis.

 

Thanks for the explanation on the right and left lines. It did appear ours was moving faster, so I wonder why folks don't use the funpass thing. Unless there is something I'm not aware of, which is entirely possible!

 

That's what I thought about the TV thing, but it would have been nice to have West Coast programming. Of course, since I wrote this up on my comment card, Carnival probably thinks I'm a "dud" of a cruiser - only want to sit in my room and watch TV! :)

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Chele60, I enjoyed reading your review. True, cruising is not for everyone, but I think some of your dislike was the ship and itinerary you chose. If you do decide to go to Alaska by ship, try to pick an itinerary that is more port intensive, and a ship that will be more to your liking. HAL might be a good choice. They are more upscale than Carnival and tend to have an older crowd that is not into the party scene as much as the Carnival crowd.

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I also enjoyed reading your review. A few cruises back, I decided to take all my children on a cruise and couldn't really understand why my daughter (then mid 20's) really hated it but as you've noted, it's just not for everyone. I look for the itineraries with the most sea days but we go on the larger ships and always with a balcony. Sorry you didn't enjoy it.

 

I read with interest about cruising with your mother. Wish mine would go with me. She is 80, however, and says she is not "able" because she is on a walker.

 

Debbie, in less than 2 weeks, me and my Mom will be going on our 8th cruise together. She turned 80 last year and although she doesn't use a walker, she is handicapped and has the State permit. The last few cruises, we have requested wheelchair assistance in the ports which was very helpful. Sometimes the lines can be very long and slow. If the time comes that she needs a chair or other assistance on the ship, I don't think that will stop her from going. On last year's cruise, I noticed many people with electric scooters on board rather than the standard wheelchair. I've been told that there is a company who will have the scooter in your cabin when you arrive. Maybe this is something your Mom would consider. We have a great time and look forward all year to our next cruise.

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  • 1 year later...

You are one funny lady! Ever think of getting a job as a stand-up comedian on....a.....heaven forbid....CRUISE SHIP?! :D Seriously, you have an awesome way with words that really kept my interest.

 

Myself, three other moms and our four 8th grade daughters will be on this ship in a little over 3 weeks. It will be the third time my daughter and I have done this itinerary. And, I've been to Catalina a number of times. It wasn't the cruise of choice for me...but two of the other women have never cruised and they aren't ready for a week "on a boat in the middle of the ocean." :) Not to mention, not in their budgets right now. What I really wanted to do is take them to the Mexican Riviera on the Sapphire Princess. Oh, yes...now that's a ship! I was on her younger cousin, the Star Princess when it was brand new back in 2002. Gorgeous. And, two of my daughters and I sailed for 10 nights on the Sun Princess in 2003. Also, nice.

 

When you talked about being bored during sea days....it brings to mind my mom who was almost 72 in 2002 cruised for her first time on the Ecstasy which sailed the same itinerary as the Paradise before she came out West. It was an extended family group. She also said that she felt bored a lot of the time, especially during the day. The art auction was a highlight for her. You know, sometimes I know what you mean. I am not one to try out all the various activities, so that pretty much leaves EATING and drinking. I don't drink much and am too cheap to pay for a lot of drinks, anyway. :) But, I'm great at wandering around the ship looking for food. I am not into loud, smoky bars. And, even when my husband is along, it's not much better. He's not Mr. Social and is usually in bed by 10 PM. So, that usually leaves the nickel and penny slot machines.

 

I sure hope these women I'm traveling with don't have the same experience as you did (or even my mom) and feel bored a lot of the time. I know our four girls will have a great time. And, we really are taking this cruise for them! They are straight A students and graduating from 8th grade in June. We're proud of 'em! So, you could call it an early graduation gift. We moms just get to go along! :D

 

Thanks for an entertaining and honest review!

 

Final thoughts:

 

 

 

Ship: Clean, if a bit tattered in spots. Staff took care to keep things tidy and clean and that was appreciated.

 

 

 

Room: Larger than expected and comfy. Appreciated the instant hot water and water pressure. Beds were more comfortable than most hotels I stay in, but as I stated, I don’t stay in expensive hotels. We had two people in the room, and we never ran into each other. Not sure if there were three how it would work. Only major flaw was the temperature control was in the ceiling. I’m 5’5” and had to stand on my tip toes to barely reach it. A tricky endeavor while the ship is rocking. My mother is 5’2” and could not reach it at all. Not a good idea.

 

 

 

Staff: All staff I met were friendly, professional, and efficient. They seemed to go out of their way to make me feel comfortable, and I appreciated that. The tour directors were annoying as anything I’ve ever experienced, but I guess that’s job requirement #1. I really appreciated the cabin steward more than I had thought. He introduced himself on the first night, and then went about his job in a very “invisible” way – and that is a good thing. I never had to ask him for anything, something I appreciated. The dining staff were attentive and efficient and great at making recommendations. I really took a dislike to the Maitre ‘D when I discovered it was his brainstorm to make the wait staff dance around during dinner. I thought that stupid and humiliating and totally unfitting the atmosphere they were attempting to achieve in the dining room.

 

 

 

Food: In the dining room for dinner was excellent. Breakfast was best in the buffet. However, outside of the dining room dinners, food was average and bland. I had Jamaican Red Bean soup, which should be spicy and was not. I guess the ships have to allow for all tastes.

 

 

 

Sail and Sign cards: I came to despise these things. This is the biggest gimmick Carnival has going for itself. Use this little card and forget how much you are truly spending. I guess Carnival never met my mother. She writes down every penny spent during each day of a vacation so we have a running total at any given time. One of the reasons why we didn’t spend anything on our Sail and Sign cards at all on Thursday. We decided we had already spent enough.

 

 

 

General:

 

 

 

I think the Baja cruises get a bad rap overall. Experienced cruisers dismiss them entirely as not being a “real” cruise. But it is a real cruise – one has all the same amenities as any other ship. I think the problem lies not in the destinations but in people’s perception of those destinations. Catalina is a small island town. It is not glamorous, though it does have a very rich history. To find out that history, one would have to take the Inland Tour where they discuss the history of the island. The diving and glass bottom boats do not give a history of the island. The restaurants are not world class. Other than sitting and enjoying the scenery and people, there just isn’t a lot to do there. Ensenada is Mexico, yes, but it is a border town. It is NOT tropical Mexico. One needs to go further south for that. Border towns are a bit rough around the edges – Tijuana, RosaritoBeach, Mexicali, the list goes on. Don’t expect to find white, sandy beaches with Mariachis playing in the background. Ain’t gonna happen here. There are things to do and see, but if this is not a northern Puerta Vallarta. Carnival is trying to sell this tour, naturally. And tourism is the largest industry in both Catalina and Ensenada. It’s a kind of “know before you go.” It pays to know what to expect before one books this tour. I met people who had come from Canada and the Mid-West for this cruise. I doubt it met their expectations, and I’m really sorry for that. Yet, all travelers have the onus of responsibility in knowing where they are going.

 

 

 

I can see some advantages in cruising, and I can see why the majority of people enjoy them. I’m glad they do – lots of people are relying on those tourist dollars! However, realistically, I don’t think cruising is for everyone. I’m not putting it down. (Even one day back and I’m getting some very defensive responses from people in my life!) I’m just saying that I don’t think I’m cut out for cruising. And no, I don’t think spending even more time on a boat would make things better. If I was bored after two days, I can only imagine what I would be like after 7. Granted, I did get a cold half-way through, but I was already feeling this way. For me, the days in port were the best. The day at sea was dull. This is me. Just me. It is NOT a reflection of all people. As well it shouldn’t be. Some folks were really enjoying themselves, and I am truly happy for them. (It sounded as if one guy was doing really well at Blackjack, and I hope he walked away with a bundle!) But this just isn’t my type of vacation.

 

 

 

I’m glad I went. I’m glad I experienced this. No one was to blame. The staff was terrific. My fellow passengers were friendly enough and generally considerate. Actually, most were just having a good time and wanted to spread those happy feelings around. I didn’t find the “unchecked children” problem at all. I was expecting to see children running rampant, but quite the contrary. The children around the pool areas were well-behaved, and those walking around the ship were actually quite considerate and respectful. Only once did I see a kid running, and it was only for a few steps to his stateroom. Parents seemed to have their children well under control, and it was pleasant to see kids and parents sharing good times together. Even the teens were well-behaved, which did surprise me. But I am thankful to the parents – they evidently raised good kids, so they have positive things going for them.

 

 

 

Finally, I do wish to thank this board for the information I gathered from here. This cruise would have been disastrous if I’d not read some of the tips and helps that others passed along. I don’t know who all of you are, but I hope this board keeps up the good work. The help here is invaluable to a new cruiser!

 

 

 

If you are still with me, I thank you for reading this. My apologies for the length, but I’ve sort of poured myself out here. Any questions/comments are appreciated.

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