I wanted to share my review because this was my first cruise and I couldn't find any recent reviews of Carnival Paradise, so hopefully this will help others out there, mostly new "cruisers"
First off, I'm 27 and my girlfriend is 32. We booked a suite, mostly because I get car sick a lot, so I figured the cruise would be a nightmare. Therefore, if I was going to spend the 4 days throwing up, might as well make it as a nice bathroom!
We live in AZ, so we made a quick flight over to LA (55 minutes... whew!) and took a taxi down to Long Beach. We arrived in LB at 12:30, and our cruise departed at 5:00PM, so we were one of the first people on the boat. Since we arrived so early, there wasn't a line but since we had suites we went to the VIP check in. Check in took two minutes, gave them my passport + credit card, they gave me my Sail + Sign card and I was off to the boat!
Once we got on the boat (5 minutes later) the rooms weren't open yet (they opened at 1:30) so we just stayed on the Lido deck, admiring the ship and grabbed some food.
We were originally going to Ensenada, but due to the lovely Swine Flu, they took us to Catalina instead.
After the fun lifeboat drill, we took off at 5:00PM. Very exciting! We started to get hungry so we decided to get some food. When we booked our cruise, we chose the Choose your time dinning which I recommend!
You just go there between 5-9 when you get hungry and they seat you. We didn't have to wait at all, especially since we went kinda early.
The first night, our waiter was awesome. He told me not to order the steak medium because it's 'not good' and so I took his recommendation to med-well, which was a great suggestion! Food was so good....
We went to bed early that night, lots of exciting things that happened...
We woke up the next morning and looked out on our suite balcony and there were dolphins swimming along the side of our ship!
A few hours later, they told us we can get off the boat and check out Catalina. Our ship was so big, so we couldn't dock in Catalina, but they had small boats that came out to our boat and took us to the Island.
We spent a few hours in Catalina, mostly renting a golf cart and driving around the Island, a lot of fun...
We had dinner that night again (it was the formal night) so we had the Lobster + Shrimp. I'm not much of a seafood person but since it was free, I had to try it! Very good..
We went when it was very busy (but no wait..) and our waiter wasn't as good... I imagine just because he was busy, he didn't pay attention to us and we were sitting around for refills a few times... Oh well... Food was excellent.
We saw a few shows, "Hollywood" and "Shout", both were great shows. Played at the casino, lost too much money! (I swear, it was rigged!) hehe and called it at night.
The next day, they took us down to Ensenada, but they wouldn't dock... We could see the Island, such a tease and we spent our "fun day at sea" in Mexico. Mostly spending the day in the sun....
We went to bed and the next morning, we were back in Long Beach, and had to get off the boat This is where our fun vacation didn't become so fun.... The debarking process sucked!
In Carnival's defense, it had nothing to do with them, it was US Customs... They started to debark at 6:45AM... We decided to give them our bags the night prior, we were group 2 so I figured we would get off early and be able to catch out 5PM flight. In fact, I changed our flight to 1PM instead.
They were planning on starting group numbers at 8:30AM... 8:30 came around, nothing... 9:30... nothing... 10:30.... nothing... 11? No.... 12... Ok fine. US Customs decided to interview every person off the ship, causing us to sit around for hours and hours, trying to get off the boat. Missed our flight, no biggie... but it sucked, especially since we didn't even get off in an International country. Waste of time, really..
Motion sickness: I get motion sickness really easy on land, didn't get motion sickness at all... I took bonnie before I went to bed every night and it worked wonders.
Stewarts: We had two guys that took care of us and our room during the trip. These guys went completely out of their way to help us... In fact, even helped me put on my tie for formal night. They would tell me where certain things were on the ship, etc... Always as nice as can be... We gave them a huge tip at the end and they thanked us so much and gave us about 500 pieces of chocolate in return (gf loved the chocolate they give you every night)
Dinner: Don't miss them... Even if your waiter sucks (which is not common) the food is to die for!
Casinos/Shops: I was surprised when carnival advertises "shopping" on the ship. There's 3 shops, one for booze, one for cologne, and one for "gifts" (shirts, etc) hardly shopping
The shops and casinos are only open when you are in international waters so it wasn't open very often which sucks. I rather they also open it when you are in US waters but just tax you accordingly.
Pool: Small... Wasn't really worth it.
Cruise Director: Good guy + little crazy....
Debarking: Take your time, don't get an early flight.
Suite: Worth the money, imo.
Sail + Sign Card: Dangerous
Unlimited Credit Card.... Be careful!
Overall, we both really enjoyed the cruise and will be booking again very shortly.
Sorry it was so long, hopefully it will be useful to someone!