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Carnival Paradise – September 2011

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Last weekend at this time I was once again aboard the Carnival Paradise. One of my favorite cruise ships. I think if I could, I would go on one of those weekend cruises once a month. I have found that a weekend get-away on a cruise ship is probably the most “bang” for you buck that one can get. Carnival is a great value for the most part when it comes to cruising. However, a weekend cruise can cost just as much as a four or five day cruise, so you really have to shop around and plan. I had initially set up 6 cruises out of Los Angeles this year, all of them were booked early and I got some fairly decent rates.

One thing about taking so many quick cruises on the same ship, is that you see a lot of the same crew. The Carnival crew members I have interacted with over the last four cruises have been wonderful. From cruise-to-cruise, they remember you; and considering they see thousands of different people each week, this is pretty amazing in its own right.

Among some of the crew that have helped to make the last few cruises so pleasurable have been some folks in the main dining room. So thank you so much Aleksandra, Sanjay, Leslie. They were not even at my “assigned” dining table, but they still took the time out to say “hello” and pose for a picture.

Like over 18,000 other cruisers, I read a blog written by John Heald. He is Carnival’s Senior Cruise Director and Brand Ambassador. He also has a page on Facebook. I have sailed with John only once. It was on the Carnival Splendor the week before her famous fire cruise. John is a witty (some say “brilliant”) man and his blog and Facebook page show people an insight to the cruise industry they may not otherwise see. It was on one of John’s blog posts, that some one equated people that cruise Carnival with “Riff-Raff”, which stirred up a lot of emotion and a backlash of comments.
What amazes me, is that some one takes a short weekend or four day cruise on a cruise line dubbed the “Fun Ship”, pays considerably less than some other vacations, and then calls the clientele “Riff-Raff”. Now, I will admit there are some pretty odd people on some of these cruises, mostly younger folks who drink too much. For some reason, behavior that is unacceptable on land or in their local bars becomes “OKAY” when they are at sea. This last cruise had quite a few of “these” folks onboard, and I ignored them the best I could. There are sometimes where this becomes impossible, and that is when they start harassing the crew members or treating them like they are less than worthy of respect. I have no patience for people that cannot treat others with the respect they deserve.

Jumping off the soap-box now…..

This last cruise started the same as the others. My girlfriend, Julie and I left for the terminal around noon on Friday. Things always seem to go pretty smooth for us getting on the ship, and by 1:15 we were crossing the Lido Deck to grab our traditional deli sandwich and DOD (Drink of the Day). We ran into the first of many crew who remembered us. Hollywood, and in three cruises I am embarrassed to admit, I still don’t know his “real” name. Drink and sandwich in hand… we are officially on “vacation”!

Around 2:15pm or so, we went down to the Main Dining room, just to say hello to Stan (The Man) the Maitre ‘d and check out our table location. We wound up waiting in line for over thirty minutes and when Stan saw us, he chastised us for not just coming to the front of the line. Stan was the Maitre ‘d in our dining room in June. In July he was in the other dining room, but he came to visit us in the Elation Dining room. We will get to see Stan one more time in November, and I promised we will not “wait” in line to see him next time.

Some things never change and at 4:30pm we had to go to the Muster Drill. I guess the good thing was we were not in the hot sun on the Starboard side of the ship. By 5:15 we were back in the cabin getting ready for dinner. We went down to the backside of the dining room to enter and we ran into Aleksandra our hostess for our last two cruises. She hugged us both, and the people around us just stared, and one woman asked “So, you have been on this cruise before?”

The first night at dinner was pretty uneventful. We had a nice wait-staff team, Morito and Kristine. There were only three other people at our table, and they were very much into themselves so the conversation was limited. Julie and I both ordered the Prime Rib off the “Steakhouse” selection. It looked great, the presentation was wonderful, but for some reason the meat itself was grizzled and very tough. I was slightly disappointed, as the last time it was so fantastic it melted in your mouth. I let the waiter know to pass the information on to the chef. I have had worse cuts of meat from some fine restaurants and there was too much other food to choose from to let this deter me from having a relaxing time.

After dinner, it was off to wander the ship, stop in the Casino for a bit, and off to play some Trivia, Game Show Mania, and the Welcome aboard show. After another quick stop in the Casino and back to the cabin. [Okay partying is not a priority, but I got up early, went to work, had some fun, and now it was time to rest.]

Saturday we docked in Ensenada, had breakfast in the dining room, and met some very nice people. A family with two of the most adorable girls, and a twenty-two year old young lady that was taking her eighty-nine year old grandmother on the cruise. Typically, this would be the “spa” day, but they changed the specials around, so our day was spent playing trivia with Roly and Chris, two nice young gentlemen with the Entertainment Staff. I also got to talk to the Environmental Officer – Vinay. I had requested the meeting with him, to talk about Carnival’s policies and get some insight as I am currently working on getting my company certified to the ISO 14001 Environmental Standard. [hmm – work related – wonder if I can write the cost of the cruise off?] It took a few calls and conversations with the Guest Service Manager to arrange the meeting, and I had told them that John Heald said he e-mailed the ship about my request. It was when it got all the way to the Captain (Cpt. Domenico Cilento) that I had requested the meeting through John Heald, that all of a sudden, I became the “Lady that knows John”. The meeting was granted!

At dinner on Saturday, I had taken some chocolate covered strawberries (sent to me by the wonderful John Heald – Thanks!) to share with my tablemates, only to find they had left us for the “Your Time Dining”. I don’t know, I for the most part like the “assigned” dining. I enjoy meeting and getting to know the same people and wait-staff. I know for some the preference is to eat when you want, but for now I think I will stick with the assigned dining. We had five new people at our table on Saturday. Two nice woman (roughly my age), and three men from Texas who claimed they were “re-assigned” (er.. kicked out of the Destiny dining room). They were loud and boisterous, but very fun-loving and true gentlemen. They were however, a bit too much for a husband and wife sitting close by; who called the Maitre ‘d Stan over and had him find them another table.

The tablemates really enjoyed the chocolate covered strawberries, and we all headed over to the Captain’s Celebration. On a three day cruise this is at such an odd time 7:15pm and I am sure most people don’t go because they are either getting ready for dinner or at dinner. The “guys” from Texas shocked the ACD when they piled up on the stage to sing “Happy Birthday” to a lady sitting in front of us in the lounge. (No reason for it, they had just overheard it was her birthday – and they actually did this at dinner the night before to someone on the other side of the dining room!) After the Captain’s Celebration, Bingo and the show (Eight More Seconds), the tablemates and Julie and I went our separate ways. Pretty routine by now, that was stop off in the Casino one last time (maybe in hopes of finding the previously lost money.)

Sunday – Sea Day. Dang there are my “spa” specials! No time for the spa, I had trivia to play – lots of trivia. Chris and Roly kept me entertained most the day, and I won three more medals to add to the ones from the previous day. Julie played in the slot tournament and won $500, a ship on a stick, and a t-shirt. We also played that blasted machine that just pushes quarters around, but managed to win some tokens that were worth a free drink, a t-shirt, and one was a mystery prize. The real mystery was not one person working in the Casino knew what the mystery prize was supposed to be. I was hoping for a free cruise, but they gave us another t-shirt. (they got off cheap!) In between trivia and slot games we stopped off in the Atrium bar for a drink. I wanted to get another souvenir glass for Carnival’s branded beer “ThirstyFrog Red”, but they had run out. Kanchana the bartender, actually ran up to the Lido deck and brought me back a beer and glass. Seriously, does service get any better than that?

Across the Carnival Fleet they held a moment of silence in memory of the victims of 9/11. They did this at the same time they were having the lighting ceremony in New York. As Captain Cilento made the announcement you could hear his voice crack with emotion. I have never heard so little noise on a ship before.

We ran into the our tablemates on and off during the day as we all wandered around the ship. Those guys from Texas seemed to know everyone, including the eightynine year old “Betty” and her granddaughter. Dinner Sunday was with the same tablemates as the night before and just like before the guys from Texas kept us quite entertained. We met up with them later and went to the late night comedy show.

I hate packing, I hate leaving the ship. It is amazing how many new friends you can make on a cruise.

Special Kudos to the following staff members, and I know there are some I missed and I apologize…

Constantin and Simpen – Room Stewards (good luck with the new babies Constantin
Kanchana – Atrium Bar
Edward – Casino Bar
Hollywood – bar server Lido Deck, Elation Dining room and Queen Mary Lounge
Morito and Kristine – Elation Dining Room
Stan (the Man) Maitre ‘d Elation Dining Room
Ramesh – Maitre ‘d Destiny Dining room (for trying to woo us away from Stan)
Vinay – Environmental Officer
Roly and Chris – Entertainment Staff
All the Guest Service Desk personnel and Manager.
And my friends from cruises past – Sanjay, Leslie and Aleksandra

Will see some of them in November on the Paradise, and meet more new crew members then and on the Spirit in October.

So bottom line –
The Good – Everything mentioned above and then some.
The Not so Good – There were a lot of young obnoxious drunk people who felt the need to harrass the crew.
The Bad – Nothing really comes to mind
The Interesting – The Formalities Shop on the Paradise is a small closet type space behind the Casino. It was very hot in there when Julie and I went in to purchase a few things. Because it was so hot, the candy in the candy bins, was basically melting.

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