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My Farewell to the Carnival Paradise Nov 2011

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Friday – Embarkation Day

It was a bitter-sweet cruise this past weekend. It was the last time I would cruise on the Carnival Paradise sailing from Long Beach, California. She was my first ship, and I will miss being able to board her whenever I get the urge for a quick cruise. It was also my birthday cruise, and my first one I was able to spend on a cruise ship!

Working in the morning, my friend Julie and I left for the Long Beach Cruise Terminal around 11:30am. Traffic was in our favor and we arrived at the cruise terminal in less than forty minutes. Parking was quick, and with luggage in hand we headed toward the terminal to check-in. At check-in they were fast and efficient and addressed us by name, and even wished me a Happy Birthday. The whole check-in process to being aboard the ship took us less than twenty minutes; quite possibly a new record for us.

On board, I headed toward the Guest Service Desk (GSD) to drop off some packages I had brought for the Cruise Director (CD) Jeff and the Assistant Cruise Director (ACD) Shawn. Okay, turns out Shawn was not going to be the ACD until the Carnival Paradise was leaving for Tampa, Florida, so I left the package for Laura, the current ACD. It sounds like an easy enough task right? Not hardly. First there was a line quite long, and I thought if I stood in the VIP line, it would go quicker. Again, not as easy as it sounds. The GSD personnel were busy taking care of a group of about ten people who thought it would be easier to pretend they were just one large group instead of ten individual accounts. Their issue was they wanted to remove the tips from their account. Their reasoning was they were going to pay cash. Their problem was, they hadn’t pre-paid the tips, and nothing had been applied to the account yet. So there was nothing to remove. Then they got upset because they found out they would have to come back the next day to remove the charges. Once the GSD member was able to take care of me, I thought quietly to myself this should be easy, as I only wanted to drop some packages off. Then I was told it would be a one dollar charge to deliver the packages. I know I was shaking my head back and forth, as I said ..”No, I don’t think I have to pay a dollar to give gifts to the CD and ACD.” Took about three tries to get this resolved, but soon I was on my way to the Lido Deck for my standard deli sandwich and drink of the day (DOD).

After lunch, we proceeded to the Lido bar, where we ran into a bartender (Edward) we had on a previous Paradise cruise in September. Amazing he remembered us, as we had only sat with him once during that last cruise.

By 1:30pm, we went to the stateroom to drop off a few things, meet our wonderful stateroom stewardess Jedee. I gave Jedee the little goodie bag I had put together for the stateroom staff, and she got so excited. So fun to watch the crew, when you give them a little something. Once in the cabin, I was surprised by some wonderful birthday gifts from my cruise related friends Tammy, Linda, and Chuck. (Thanks everyone!)

We then took a trip down to the Dining Room to see where are table was and say hello to the Maitre’D (Ramesh) Out of six cruises on the Paradise, it was the first time I had been assigned the Destiny (aft) Dining Room. We were also hoping to see our Hostess friend, Aleksandra, but were saddened to find out she had left the ship a few weeks earlier. Ramesh, also remembered us, and quickly changed our assigned table to make certain we were in a nice table, with a mix of people. I am glad he did, we had great table-mates, and excellent service!

We then wandered the ship for a bit, went back to the stateroom, and got ready for the muster drill. Since we knew we had to muster at or near the Casino bar we went down a little early, and made some new friends. One of them was nice and made me a paper rose out of a bar napkin for my birthday.

After muster drill, we meandered back to the stateroom to freshen up for dinner. The first couple to sit with us was a 92 year old man and his wife. They were celebrating their 43rd wedding anniversary. Eventually one other couple joined us. They were all a real pleasure to converse with and share cruise experiences. Dinner was okay, but for some reason not up to par with my last few cruises. The food just seemed bland and dry, and the vegetables were so raw, that the 92 year old gentleman said “I need to be a rabbit to eat these carrots.” He was right; they were barely cooked, and still almost cold inside.

But, the conversation was lively and the spirits were high, so we just kept talking and laughing.

After dinner, we wandered around some more. We ran into the Jeff, the CD and Laura, the ACD. I asked if they had gotten the items that were dropped off at the GSD, and they said they hadn’t. I also apologized to Laura about her package, because I thought she was Shawn. *Not really my fault, I asked someone before we were cruising and this is what he told me! We had Laura as an ACD twice before, in June when she came on board to take over for Six-Three (Amy) and in September. She remembered us, but Jeff didn’t until we reminded him we were on when his wife and son were sailing with him.

We went down to the Normandie Lounge and Julie was picked to play Game Show Mania before the Welcome Aboard Show. She won a coveted Ship on A Stick! Chris one of the Entertainment Host had also been on our last cruise and he remembered Julie from our cruise in September. I won a ship playing TV trivia.

At the Welcome Aboard Show, when they introduced the Entertainment staff, Jeff made a point to address Julie and me which was very sweet. He also introduces Laura as “Laura the ACD but for Julie and Sage she was going to be called Shawna for the cruise.” This became a standing joke all weekend.

After the show, we wandered again for a bit and went to find our bartender Edward in the Leonardo Lounge. We didn’t stay long, as our day started early … so it was off to bed.

Saturday – Port Day Ensenada –
We have been to this port quite a few times and typically don’t get off the ship as the Spa usually has their best specials that day. While Julie was still asleep, I did my typical walking the ship, taking pictures of areas devoid of people, watching the sunrise, and grabbing a cup of coffee on the Lido Deck. Okay, in all my cruises, even I have to admit, this coffee was horrible! I mean by far the worst I have ever had on a cruise. Then I went to the Spa, only to find out they were not running their “in-port” specials. Oh my, I was looking forward to this for a month! I get back to the stateroom meet up with Julie and as we left the stateroom Jedee sang Happy Birthday to me. We go up to breakfast in the Elation Dining Room where the coffee is typically better than the Lido Deck but… ah..er.. um.. Not this time! But the service was great; we met some nice people, and were ready to start our day.

Our day aboard on a port day will typically consist of Spa time, but since there were no specials, so we ran around playing Trivia and meeting up with Edward our bartender on the Lido Deck. He was so sweet, as he and his friend sang Happy Birthday to me. More trivia in the US Casino Bar, and more happy birthday songs from Mike (Entertainment Host) – who can really sing!)

Time flies even on a port day, and we go to dinner with our great table-mates, and tonight there are two other couples who joined us. I gave Albert our waiter, and Budi his assistant a goodie package, and told them it was my birthday present to them. Great service, but once again, the food left a little to be desired. One of the “new” couples did nothing but complain, and never even tried to order anything else. Albert the waiter, could see there was some frustration with the food, and was bringing different things out for us to enjoy. Some good company, nice wine, and a birthday cake with yet another birthday song for me. I don’t believe I have ever felt so special.

Dinner done, we go over to the Captain’s Celebration at the Normandie Lounge. Now typically the Captain, some staff and the CD are on one side of the entrance to the lounge, and the ACD and another entertainment staff are on the other side. Yes, we dare to be different, so I had to go talk to the ACD, Laura and once again apologize if the package contained some more masculine items…. She was there with Chris, and Jeff soon joined us. We talked for quite some time. Well, enough time passed the Captain (Giulio Basso) finally came over to Jeff, pointed at his watch as if to say, “Can we get this show on the road!” I apologized to the Captain for monopolizing the staff, and he was so sweet about it; posing graciously for a few pictures.

We have seen the show before, but there were new talents on board. However, we elected to go to the Casino (where I won $112 and left!) then it was off to the Leonardo Lounge and see “our” bartender, Edward. The service was great, but did not care for the band at all. I know I have seen the lead singer before on a cruise, but not with this whole band, and frankly I did not care for their style… meaning “buy us a round of Jagermeister and we will play your requests” The lounge itself is not conducive to such a loud band. We stopped off at the US Casino Lounge and watched the “Fun Force” perform. We talked to them and them and they (Eric and Stitch) invited us to the Rex Lounge Disco, where they were performing later. We went back catch the late show of “Eight More Seconds” Very nice show, with a great tribute to the military at the end. The new singers and dancers were great! *not saying the previous crew was bad… never had “bad” entertainment in the shows!

Afterwards, we went to the Rex Lounge, where Eric and Stitch wished me a Happy Birthday, and made us dance. Oddly enough the bar did not clear out, so people must have had more than enough to drink by then.

Sunday – our “Sea day” …

Figures, today they ran the Spa Specials, but we had planned out a day of playing trivia games, and the slot tournament.

Okay, I passed on the Sunrise Stretching class, and the Pilates and Body Sculpt Boot Camp. So after breakfast we started with more Trivia. Roly, and Mike did an excellent job hosting as we won a few more medals.

Julie had won the Slot Tournament before, and I frankly have never played, but this time I did. I made it to the final round and won a T-shirt.

We spent the whole day going between slots and trivia. We had a great time with the crew, especially the entertainment staff.

Our last night with our table-mates, less the complaining couple. So in spite of the food not being all that it could be we had a great time. Amazing how hard it is to say “farewell” to people you have only known a couple of days.

We went to the Normandie Lounge to play Bingo, watch the show, and then it was off one last time to see Edward(our now favorite bartender) in the Leonardo Lounge. Again, I didn’t care for the band, I really was there to see the bartender!

Can’t stay up too late, can’t drink too much, because when we get back to port, Julie and I leave the ship and go directly to work!

Monday – Ugh… back in Long Beach

Now, I like Long Beach, as sometimes it means I am on a cruise ship leaving on a cruise. But the flip side is, it also means I am returning from a cruise.

I don’t know why, but I wake up long before we are in port, and I sit on the balcony, watching as we get closer to Long Beach, and watch the sunrise over the cruise terminal dome. It was a very cold morning, so I actually broke out one of those robes I see people wearing all over the ship.

We say our goodbyes to our stateroom stewardess Jedee, and her helper Simper, and go to breakfast. Shared a few niceties with the folks at our table and went and waited to be escorted off the ship.

Laura came to the Library to take us down to debark. When we were at the front of the line Roly (EH) came over and hugged us goodbye. I put my Sign and Sail Card in the little machine, and all of a sudden there were sirens, lights, and a very embarrassed person standing at the front of the line of people trying to exit the ship.

Now mind you, there are only a couple of times I have “seen” the alarm go off when someone is trying to exit the ship. One is when the Border Patrol flags you for a search, the other is when you have an outstanding balance on your Sign and Sail account. Since my bill was paid, I thought maybe I was the random person for a full search.

As I looked at the Security person looking at the screen once the alarm sounded against my failure to pass the exiting of the ship, he was just smiling and laughing. Mind you, I am standing there, believing I am having a heart attack, I was so stunned and scared. Turns out, Laura and the great Entertainment Staff wanted to make certain that Julie and I did not exit the ship without them giving us a little token of appreciation. They gave us a very nice photo album complete with a picture of all of them that they had signed.

I almost cried, to think that we had made such an impression on them to do something so special for us.

In all the cruises I have ever been on, the ten I have been on with Carnival account for less than half of them. But in all those cruises, I have never felt more special than on my Farewell to the Paradise Cruise.

The Review
The Good –
By far the Entertainment Staff.. Jeff, Laura, Mike, Chris, Roly, Sam, and the gal behind the scenes… Sarah. Also, this staff always introduced themselves when first addressing any crowd. They would always say who they were, where they were from, etc. This was sorely lacking on the Carnival Spirit cruise just two weeks prior.
Jedee, and Simper – Housekeeping
Albert and Budi – Destiny Dining Room
Zofia, Buenaventura, but especially Edward – Bar Staff
Many thanks to all of them for making everything so special!

The Not So Good –
The food – it was just not up to par with where it has been on my last four cruises since May. Not horrible, but definitely not up to the Carnival standard to which I have become accustomed.

The Bad –
There was no bad. Seriously, I am on a cruise ship. I am not at work. I am being pampered. How could any of this be bad?

The Interesting –
If anything – this ship with it’s four and three day cruises seem to have it down to a science. They accommodate, and make it all work, knowing that in four days or less they will have to start all over with a different crowd. Perhaps it is just some of the longer cruises I have had with Carnival that I can say this, but this shorter more established cruise seems to have “It’s ducks in a row!”

Areas of Improvement –
Well if nothing else, and this is the second time I have seen this, and I have been promised it would be fixed…. But in the Formalities Shop, the Malted Milk Balls and other Chocolate Covered candies are melted, and appear unappetizing.
Also, the ship itself needs some work, and I know this will be taken care of in January 2012.
Better care needs to be taken when cleaning the bars, specifically passenger side, under the counter, where it is obvious drinks been spilled and dripped down under the counter tops.

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