Floating Paradise

Carnival offers something for everybody

By: Harry Basch

When I first sailed on the new Carnival Paradise in 1998, I wrote, this ship “has one thing most Californians would flip for a totally smoke-free atmosphere.”

Now the Paradise has repositioned to the West Coast to sail out of Long Beach. And, for some reason, the powers that be in Miami decided to open the ship to smoking. They still claim to be smoke-free with smoking allowed only on one portion of the pool deck, the America Bar, the Rotterdam Bar and the Casino,the rest of the public rooms and cabins are smoke-free. Call it the Carnival spin.

Nevertheless, the ship looks as good as it did six years ago. Public rooms and cabins have been well maintained and at this point show no sign of wear. This will be put to the test with the ship sailing rugged three- and four-day cruise itineraries to Ensenada and Catalina.

These cruises are great for anyone looking for a fun weekend alternative to a trip to Vegas or Palm Springs. There is a variety of activities and plenty of food available 24 hours a day. Best of all, late at night it’s only a short walk back to the cabin.

The old Carnival image the rowdy, bawdy party cruise has changed over the years, and this ship is no exception. Family cruising is well established with an expanded Camp Carnival children’s program that keeps the kids busy and lets the parents relax. A new youth spa program allows kids ages 12-14 and their parents to experience luxurious body and beauty treatments together on port days at discounted rates in the expansive Spa Carnival health and fitness center. Special programs are offered for teens, including exclusive use of the disco until 10 p.m. when it becomes adults-only.

Adult entertainment goes well beyond the tables and slots of the large casino. There is music in the Leonardo Lounge and dancing in the Queen Mary Lounge. You can request your favorites in the America Piano Bar. Showtime in the Normandie Lounge features two productions with a large cast of talented singers and dancers that brings the audience to their feet for “Here’s to Hollywood.” Another evening of comedy preceeds an adult midnight comedy act.

A day at sea on each itinerary allows a respite from shore activities in Ensenada and Catalina. The Paradise offers two pools and four outdoor whirlpools, plus a 12,000-square-foot gym with a multitude of treadmills, electronic exercise bicycles and rowing machines. Steam rooms, full locker-room facilities and two indoor whirlpools are adjacent to the spa, which offers a variety of massages, loofah rubs and special treatments designed to relax and rejuvenate. An outdoor deck has a volleyball and shuffleboard courts and a jogging track. (Eleven times around equals a mile.) Perhaps this will help you work off the extra pounds you may pick up along the way in the Paris Restaurant. The Paris Restaurant is the buffet lounge serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Salad and drink stations are set apart from the main serving area, which helps to reduce lines. A pizzeria is open 24 hours and a Patio Snack Bar by the pool dispenses hamburgers and hot dogs throughout the day. A room service menu of sandwiches and beverages is available around the clock, and a continental breakfast can be ordered in advance.

The two main dining rooms, Elation and Destiny, are open for dinner with four serving times staggered to give diners a wider choice of dining times. Clients should state their preference when booking. Menus are varied, with a half-dozen starters, two salads and a choice of four or five entrees. A special dessert and coffee menu completes the meal. An extensive wine menu has a wide range of offerings from $19 to $100 per bottle.

Cabins on the 70,367-ton Fantasy-class ships are modular and therefore the same size no matter which deck you book. Only the larger suites and penthouses have outside balconies. Each cabin, though compact, has TV, twin or queen bed configuration, a safe, two closets, shelves and a desk with four drawers. Bathrooms have shower with shampoo and shower gel dispensers plus a basket of amenities provided by various manufacturers. Each of Carnival’s ships has a design theme created by Joe Farcus, Carnival’s interior ship architect. The theme of the Paradise is a tribute to great ocean liners of the past. There is the Blue Riband Library, the America Piano Bar, the Rex Disco with its jungle motif, the modern Leonardo Lounge, the Queen Mary Lounge with scaled-down replicas of the ship’s funnels adorning the walls, the classic Rotterdam Bar and the Normandie Theatre. A seven-deck atrium with two glass elevators is the center of attention on the ship.

These cruises are not designed for those looking for a quiet getaway. The purpose here is to have fun, and days and nights are filled with activities to fulfill that plan. Pool games, bingo, newlywed games, art auctions and the casino keep the days moving while the shows, late night adult comedy and musical lounges and bars extend the entertainment action into the wee hours of the morning.

My cruise with more than 2,100 passengers (189 of them children under 15) was made up of young and middle-aged couples, singles and older couples who could still enjoy having fun. It seemed that everyone leaving the ship had had their share of the fun and looked forward to a return cruise.

JUST THE FACTS

Company: Carnival Cruise Lines
Ship: Paradise
Length: 855 feet
Passenger Capacity: 2,052
Year Built: 1997
Itinerary: Three- and four-day cruises from Long Beach, Calif. to Ensenada, Mexico. Four-day cruises also call at Catalina Island, Calif.
Hits: Entertainment options abound, appealing to a variety of tastes.
Misses: While still billed as a “smoke-free” ship, smoking is allowed on board in designated areas.
Contact: 888-CARNIVAL www.carnival.com

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