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Review: Paradise Feb 28 - Mar 4, 2011 - Long Beach, Catalina Island, Ensenada

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We explored Santa Barbara, including the Mission. The history alone is worth the trip.











Late in the afternoon we started our trek back to Long Beach. The views were just as pretty the other way...



I'm glad you enjoyed Santa Barbara, it is a truly beautiful place and I am lucky to call it home :) The mission is amazing

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Hi Sheryl - I live here in LA and I work in Malibu. I am SOOO glad you guys took a day to travel PCH and see our gorgeous coastal communities. I'm glad you guys enjoyed yourselves.


Oh, and gas prices as of this morning? $4.15. :mad:


We thought the PCH was gorgeous. I only wish we could have continued several hours further north. I spent nearly a decade in Florida and always loved the coastline. However, you get coastline and mountains. That's gorgeous!


If $4.15 is the price to pay, I'd be pretty tempted. :D


~ Sheryl

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Once we finished up our excursions, we met back at the entrance to the port. My tour guide had recommended a restaurant downtown for good food and drink. Chuck and I were sitting at a table discussing the possibility and decided to figure out the shuttle system to head back downtown. From a nearby table we hear, "Would it be okay if I went with you?"..... ??????????????


This is the moment Sylvia came into our lives. Sylvia was an older woman (Sylvia if you're reading this - sorry about the 'older' thing!), cruising alone, and very much wanting to see the ports but afraid to venture out on her own. This was a no-brainer for Chuck and I. Sure! So she picked up her cane and off we went.





We found the shuttle, tucked Sylvia into her seat, paid our fares and off we went. We strolled by stores and locals... equally intriguing.



We arrived at El Corralito - reportedly home of the best authentic Mexican food and drink.



What a dive but the rumors were true!





Great margaritas!!


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And Sylvia had an absolute blast. We heard all about her life, why she was traveling solo, and that she had to work up a lot of courage to ask us to take her into town. She knew if her minister son heard she'd let perfect strangers take her into the heart of Ensenada, she'd never hear the end of it... lol



On the way back to the shuttle, I wanted to have some bracelets made for the kids.



And in a matter of moments, Gabriele whipped these up for us. It was amazing to watch how quickly he made them!



Once we shuttled back to port, it was time to tell Ensenada goodnight.



Cool view from our room.



We had another fun evening with our tablemates. The waitstaff did their nightly dance routing and this one turned into a conga line.




How can you not enjoy a conga line included vacation?? :)


~ Sheryl

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Looks like you and hubby had a great time. That's so cool you got to see dolphins! The winery looked awesome. I've never done a wine tasting, but that's definitely on my to do list. Wine and margaritas- we'd get along great. :D

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Looks like you and hubby had a great time. That's so cool you got to see dolphins! The winery looked awesome. I've never done a wine tasting, but that's definitely on my to do list. Wine and margaritas- we'd get along great. :D


The wine tasting in Ensenada was my first at a winery. I would definitely like to do another, next time at an operational winery. And yes... wine and margarita travelers always seem to get along great... lol


I see you've been on the Freedom. We're booked in November. Can't wait to try a new ship!


~ Sheryl

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Those margaritas look wonderful. Wish I had one right now.


I did a tequila tour in Puerto Vallarta so I hope to do a winery tour next year.


Lisa -


It was finally warm enough today in freezing Michigan to get out and do a little yard work. I'm pretty sure that warrants a margarita. Bottoms up! :D


~ Sheryl

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Can you walk to the shopping area from the ship?


I saw some people giving it a try. Don't know if they were successful. I would take the shuttle just for convenience sake. It's $2 to go into town. $1 on the return. They run every 10 - 15 minutes and go right into the heart of the little shopping and restaurant district.


As part of my excursion, I went shopping on my own for about an hour. I didn't mind the "Come see my things, pretty lady" because almost all politely backed off when I firmly said no thank you. In fact, the shop where I purchased a piece of pottery ended up giving me an additional few dollars off when I went to pay, even though we had already agreed on the price. I was confused and the shop owner said thank you for just being so nice to me. I don't know if it was because I asked his advice about a few things and we ended up talking about his family or if it was a sales ploy but either way it made for a very nice memory.


There were a few shops I would have liked to have checked out but they were set way back into alleyways. I try not to cross that line from fearless to foolish. Later when I wasn't by myself, I didn't think twice about exploring more.


~ Sheryl

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We woke up to an overcast sea day. Decision made... be lazy slugs and just enjoy it.



The Carnival crew were giving dance lessons on the Lido Deck. Oddly enough, they didn't get any takers on the break dancing lessons... lol




We went up to the Sky Deck and found a perfect spot to watch the world go by.



It was cold and windy but a few brave souls were playing miniature golf.




Some were even jogging around the jogging track. On purpose.




This was the extent of my exercise. My feet were on the jogging track for a photo. It counts! haha!


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The cool weather had many passengers inside. Plenty of deck chairs for once!



We saw a few kids brave the slide



At 3:30 we went to afternoon tea in the America Lounge. On past cruises the afternoon teas were held in the aft diningroom. I'm not sure why the Paradise holds them in the America but there wasn't nearly enough room. People were waiting in line for a seat around tiny bar tables and by the piano. Several grew tired of waiting and left. The waitstaff came by with a cart and offered us cucumber sandwiches and salmon bites. They had sweets as well but never came back to offer those. In fact, we saw several passengers having to go to the cart with plates and ask to be served. This is an activity that could use some improvement.



From here we went to the Farewell Party in the Normandy Lounge. A day of drifting around a ship is a good day. :) The Farewell Party offered free drinks (Manhattans, Screwdrivers, Whisky Sours, wine and beer) but no small bites. There was a singer on stage who entertained. We waited for the program to begin. We thought this would be similar to a Past Guest party. After about 45 minutes we finally decided to go, appreciative of the free drinks but wondering when the program would start. Come to find out, the difference between Farewell and Past Guest is the program... lol We later learned that shortly after we left the CD came on stage, thanked the crowd for sailing the Paradise and called it a day.


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Friday morning eventually came and it was time to say goodbye to the Paradise. We had decided to use self debarkation since we were spending another day in California. I envisioned lugging my cases up/down stairs and fighting crowds. I was so surprised that neither happened. Our deck was called at 7:45am. We left the cabin, hopped in an elevator, waiting in line for all of 5 minutes before hearing that final, sad "ding" of our Sign & Sail card before we were heading down the gangway to Customs.



Customs was cleared in a snap and we were back on U.S. soil.




Bye, bye Paradise... :(




For those interested, I'll include a few more California pics if you're interested in post-cruise exploring.


We were headed down to San Diego for the day but stopped at this coffee shop along the beach in Long Beach. The name says it all... lol


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In no particular order...


The ship was in good working order and most areas were very well maintained. The only thing that seemed dated were the furnishings in our stateroom.


The porthole room was roomy enough for two with plenty of storage. I wish I had known we could have moved the bed away from the footlocker. Lesson learned for next time. ;)


Our room did not have a blow dryer (have learned to take mine anyway) or a refrigerator. It did have the nicest room steward we've had cruises to date. Thanks, Lena!


Speaking of Lena, she did her best to deal with the cigarette smoke smell in our room. This was our first cabin where this was a problem. We're non-smokers and don't mind if others do. But the cabin smelled drenched in stale smoke and it remained so the entire trip. Lena would "refresh" the room twice a day. I think "refresh" is Carnival for "febreeze". It would smell fine for an hour or two tops.


After only sailing conquest class before this trip, we appreciated the smaller intimate feel of the Paradise. It's easy to navigate.


We talked about our impression that there seemed fewer activities available than on previous cruises. We're still undecided if it was because there truly were fewer offerings or if it felt that way because we'd done others on different cruises so we didn't feel overwhelmed by so many choices.


The food in MDR wasn't up to par compared to previous trips. Everyone at our table noticed the same thing. They redeemed themselves on formal night (lobster was fabulous) and the flat iron steak was served often but the majority of the other items on the menus were often mushy and overcooked. I'm not a fussy eater and neither is my husband, so it's surprising when we both feel blah about the meals. We thought it was just us and opted not to say anything. No need to foist our negative opinions on our tablemates. However, when one couple casually mentioned they thought the food wasn't as good as previous trips, and others voiced their disappointment as well, we knew it wasn't just us.


I'm grateful we had the opportunity to go on a 4 day but it did feel like we were just settling in and it was time to leave. Planning weekends front and back made it a longer vacation but I think I like staying on the ship better. I'm crazy organized and planned my packing well. I was able to live out of the carry-on when we were in hotels. Maybe I'm simply spoiled being able to get on a ship, unpack once and wake up somewhere new every morning.


We felt all of our excursions were worth the price we paid. This is our first trip booking all of our excursions through the ship. There weren't many private excursions to be found. It turned out fine. The only thing I would change is getting the golf cart on Catalina Island earlier in the day and keeping it a full three hours. I'm still saying NO to ziplining... lol


For those asking for the Fun Times... John Heald posted them on his blog and I've copied the link. The first four entries would be for the Paradise 4 day we sailed. I looked them over and they match up with our cruise. http://johnhealdsblog.com/funtimes/2011-02-21/


If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I'm coping with my cruise withdrawal by researching ports for our November cruise on the Freedom. New spots for us will be Antigua and Tortola. For you who have been before and wrote a review about them - thank you!


Happy sailing everyone,


~ Sheryl

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HELLO fellow feb 28th cruisers! my mother & I were on the same cruise as you & also had a porthole room (R7) & it was HUGE sry no pic yet very long room & a huge ledge me & another person can stretch out in the cove/ledge thing! I was a nerd at work & had time to do some research on the "secret" bigger rooms & as soon as i saw it i booked it! Also if you do the ensenada cruise again there is the "wine country tour" which takes you to 2 working wineries, one huge commercial one(L.A. Cetto) & a tiny family owned & operated one("la casa dona lupe") im not big in booking through the ship either but i took this tour 3 times now & just cant get enough of the friendly people & beautiful wine country in what everybody calls a "dump" of a port! Im proabaly one of the few that loves ensenada! anyhow sorry for being longwinded AWESOME AWESOME review! & DUH me I almost forgot the highlight of my trip also was the 100's of dolphins passing by our lil tourboat I was amazed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ive been to ANTIGUA beautiful limestone island! best tour $moneywise & less crowdedwise "IN MY OPINION" hiring a taxi & he can take you everywere like he did for us, he even took us to the "DEVILS BRIDGE" & waited for us to swim at a local beach! the Devils bridge is like the blowhole but 1000 times better! hope I helped lol! sry no tortola info either :(

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I thought the Imagination got rid of the blue water slide and added a water works area in the back. Looking at your pictures, I was wrong! I would totally do the zip lining in Catalina. Looks like a lot of fun! Thanks for your review and have fun on the Freedom!

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