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Raoul Pascual: Carnival Paradise Cruise Lines

(I normally start off my articles with a joke but since this article is pretty long, I decided to dispense with it. --- Raoul)

Paradise in Carnival Cruise Lines

side view of the Carnival Paradise at Long Beach

on't panic! Walk in an orderly fashion! Women and children first!" I was imagining the crew shouting as my family and I and some 2,000 guests adorned with bright orange colored vests made our way to the top deck where the lifeboats were located. No, this wasn't a scene straight out of the movie Titanic. But my imagination was running wild as we were briefed about the safety features of the Carnival Paradise Cruise Lines. I snapped out of my dream in time to watch our ship pull out of Long Beach and begin its journey south into Mexico. There are no icebergs between California and Mexico, I reminded myself. Now, my mind turned to enjoying my very first cruise.

Carnival Paradise moored at Long Beach
Carnival is a self-contained floating city where you are pampered with non-stop meals and entertainment for the whole family.

serving meals aboard the Carnival

Carnival Paradise Ship Facts
Total Staterooms - 1,026
Decks - 10
Passenger capacity - 2,052
Total crew - 920
Ship size - Large
Tonnage - 70,367
Ship length - 855

The Carnival Paradise is a massive floating hotel and amusement park. It's a marine engineering marvel, a maze of elevators and stairs that gives you access to over 10 decks. (There were so many levels I couldn't visit all of them.) Because of its size and number of decks we neither felt nor heard the engines rev up. We only realized we were moving when we looked out the window.

top deck showing swmming pool with slide and numerous recliners

Each wing of the ship offered different kinds of entertainment but my favorites were the dining and show rooms. There is a casino, dancing and music bars, a beauty parlor, an exercise room, spa, video arcade, internet café, a water park complete with a water slide, a Kid's play room, jacuzzi and children's pool, ping pong tables, mini-golf, a jogging track, a weight room with exercise machines, duty-free shops, a half basketball court, and sunbathing decks. There is even a small art gallery that features authentic works of Rembrant, Piccasso, Peter Max, Wassily Kandinsky and other famous artists. For the more privileged, there were several private parties (as we were soon to find out).

view of the Carnival Paradise's multiple decks

playing at the mini-golf course onboard

aerial view of the casino room

a sampling of the cuisine onboard
If there is one word that sticks out in my mind regarding this adventure land it would be "smorgasbord." I had asked more experienced travelers what to expect and every single one agreed that it was a gastronomic paradise. You could eat any time of the day - nonstop breakfast, brunch, lunch, mid-afternoon, dinner and after dinner meals. I have never seen food so abundant. You are guaranteed to gain half your body weight. And the food was first class too. Plus Saturday evening cocktails were free compliments of the Captain. There is even a sushi snack attack every 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

I do offer a suggestion: don't stuff yourself too much during the day because dinner offers the best choices and you can have double servings of everything. It was a strange feeling to march to the Lido room for dinner just an hour or so after we had sushi at the Promenade deck. I realized I was eating only because everyone else was eating.

The Entertainment
audience joins in dancing onstage
I used to perform in a band in my earlier life and so I can appreciate and understand the efforts on stage as well as behind the scenes --- whether it's a one-man-show or a Broadway production. Friday night was a double feature, stand-up comedy act. I don't know, maybe it's a "guy thing" because my gals weren't into it so they watched the movies on TV instead (some of them have yet to be released in DVD) while my son and I enjoyed the live act.

Saturday night was a song and dance country music routine featuring a live band on stage right while gorgeous singers and dancers occupied the main stage. We're not really country music fans but we still had a good time. Sunday night they had pop music (which we grew up with) so that was much better for us. The production was world class from the lights to the music … from the dancing to the costumes. I could have sworn the lead female singer was winking at me but the man in between us kept intercepting her secret signals … yeah, right!

Other Fun Activities Onboard
Having eaten so much, we felt guilty so my son and I visited the exercise room where I worked on the track machine while my son pumped iron. It was an exhilarating experience to jog on the treadmill
players at the casino room
while enjoying a majestic view of the Pacific Ocean. For my daughters it was a date with the spa room for a steam bath.

Carnival Paradise has a play room where younger parents can leave their little ones to laugh and scream to their hearts content. At the arcade teenage boys show-off their game skills to young ladies who play slower-paced adventure games.

If you're the gambling type, you'll love this cruise. The casino room was packed with high-rollers. According to the activities director, the casino gave away some $35,000 Saturday night. For the less adventurous gambler, every night is Bingo night where the winning pot is $200 Friday and Saturday but this increases to $1,000 on Sunday.

The Crew
I can't say enough about the crew. There were smiling faces ready to help us everywhere we went. There are 57 countries represented by the Carnival Paradise crew --- every one of them excited to grant our every wish. Whenever we returned from dinner, our rooms would be clean with a fresh set of towels, some of them creatively shaped into an animal form (i.e. a dog or lobster) and surrounded by chocolate packets. The waiters tried to outdo each other in giving us a fun meal. And when in doubt of what to order, ask the waiters. Their judgment is usually impeccable.

Ensenada, Baja Mexico
Saturday morning found the Carnival Paradise at the port of Ensenada. There were tour rides beckoning us to the many shore excursions. This was your gateway to beautiful beaches where you could snorkel, play with dolphins, watch stingrays, drive a beach buggy, and do a host of other stuff. My family decided that we would just walk to the tourist sites and commune with the locals.

typical street scene in downtown Ensenada

former prison, now museum, Ensenada novelty shop in Ensenada

Ensenada to me looks just like a section of Los Angeles (except for the street signs) that was invented for tourists. No habla Espanol? No problemo! The locals are used to tourists. Even the horse carriage drivers spoke with a perfect California accent. My wife and daughters had a lot of fun shopping for novelty items in its many shops. We also went to a low budget museum which used to serve as a prison decades ago. There was no entrance fee which meant little or no funding so I wasn't surprised the museum was a bit run-down and disorganized. The cells were really tiny. It was easy to imagine the torture of a jail term. It looked just like the Mexican jails you see in the Zorro movies. Ensenada was nice but the real attraction for me was back on board.

Party Crashers
After our elegant Saturday dinner we decided to go dancing. To accommodate my 17-year old daughter, we made our way up to an ongoing dance party at the top deck. The music had an unfamiliar but nice beat. While my whole family was dancing I noticed two security officers approaching us on the side. It was then I realized that we had entered a private Armenian party! "How embarrassing," I thought, "to be arrested on my first cruise." But then a most unusual thing happened. One of the women pulled us into their circle as if to show the guards that we were part of their group. Dancing is to a woman as football is to a man so our gals shook their bodies for a very long time while my son and I watched the "experts" from a higher deck. Our hosts were so kind that they even told us to return the following night.

Monday morning finally came and it was time to say goodbye to Carnival Paradise. As we drove back home through the Monday morning traffic, I realized what an absolute treat we had just experienced. If you want to impress your family with a super vacation, treat them to one of these cruises. Thanks Carnival Cruise Lines for a taste of Paradise.

For Austin Deep in the Heart of Austin Texas-

From JRP, Iligan City, Philippines - Hi Raoul! When I was in Austin in 1957 it was a small town. I was even interviewed by a local newspaper & remember telling him our family is in the fishpond business. A Mexican brick layer in the lime plant I observed for a week took me to his houseboat in a lake near Austin & we had steak & beer while we fish. I thought the guy's lifestyle is better than the millionaire I stayed with in Salt Lake city.

For Italian Profiling -

From Pia Hugo, La Crescenta, CA - Hi Raoul! I came here to make reservations for our Sta. Barbara trip and decided to read the Italian jokes because. I have a few from my church. Very funny! Give Mike my thanks! And the illustrations are, as always, very creative! Thanks for the laughs :)

From Dette of Iligan City, Philippines - Always a treat and lift of the spirits whenever I see your cartoons. More power!

From Dette of Iligan City, Philippines - First of all, that cartoon of the lady reindeer and Sta Claus had me laughing loud. You really have imagination, lots. Original too. Congrats. But I really have to thank you for that X'mas story. It touches the heart. May I use the story for my own column in "Mindanao Scoop"? With your name and the "Traveling Boy" properly acknowledged of course. It says below "All Rights Reserved". Does this mean I can't reprint your article even if I acknowledge authorship? Merry Christmas!

From Nina of Quezon City, Philippines - Your Big Bear adventure sure looks cool. Most of my friends in San Diego only go there during winter probably because that's the best place to experience snow in Southern California but I didn't know that summer in Big Bear is a good treat as well.

From Hannah of Monrovia, CA - We've been to Big Bear for several anniversary week-ends and enjoyed kayaking on the lake. But we didn't know the history of the place and we didn't know the owners of the fabulous homes on the lake. Sounds like you had a lot of fun. You make us want to jump in the car and go this weekend.

From J.B. of Virginia - Nice [Big Bear Lake article] ... isn't [the pleasure of taking a vacation] why we are fighting wars, sacrificing, staying up long hours, suffering?.Isn't it for our freedom of self determination ... for our right to live our lives the way we want to and for the ones we care about?

From Tom of Pasadena, CA - Great Big Bear story Raoul. You definitely caught the essence of the place and remind me when my Mom and Dad and 5 brothers and sisters went there to camp in a 14 foot trailer and fish from a 10 foot boat with a 5 horse power Johnson Motor on it.One Summer I caught a 6 pound trout and got my picture in the paper. I was stoked as an 11 year old kid.Many happy memories came flooding back into my cranium regarding the great times enjoyed at Big Bear Lake.Thanks for your sharing them with me.

* * *

So glad you enjoyed the article Tom. Your childhood must have been fun. A 6 pound trout? Wow!! That must have been delicious. --- Raoul

* * *

It was delicious but the fame of catching it was tough to take with all the paparazzi hanging around. Ha! You have a real gift for writing, I thought I was right there with you in that article. --- Tom

From Mike & Trish Marzell of Lucky Bear Fishing Charters, Big Bear Lake, CA - Hi Raoul, You wrote such a wonderful article on summer in Big Bear! Nice website. Thank you for coming out fishing with us - we had so much fun with Josh, you and Dan. We're thinking up good legends and "UFO" is priceless! Please tell us whenever you come up the mountain; we would love to take you and your family out again. You are a great writer (kept us interested). We are going to read your other articles. Thank you again.

Some responses from my Lake Tahoe Adventure

From RV of Covina, CA - I enjoyed reading your Lake Tahoe blog. It brings back memories when I brought my mom & dad to Tahoe in 1999. My dad loved the place so much that when my brother arrived two weeks later, we drove up to Tahoe again. I'm sure you had a wonderful time with Danny, Edwin and their families. Those are golden moments, including the snow chain malfunction, which you won't get tired of re-telling over and over again.

From Hannah of Monrovia, CA - Thanks for your story about the blizzard. It made our day to see how God protected you guys. Otto remembered your bear story--same result; exciting adventure and no one got hurt; but now you have another marvelous God adventure to share!

From Kathleen of Massachusetts- Just read your mini-blog and let me tell you, you guys are very blessed. I won't say, lucky, I'll say blessed. Those slippery ice/snow scenarios are really dangerous. Glad God sent you the snow plow!

We don't get that much snow where we live, but in blizzards, we don't go out. It's too scary. One time we were retrieving our daughter Mercy from Providence, a 25 minute trip in regular weather. It took us 3 hours to get home, driving on the highway in blinding snow. Blinding. We couldn't see a foot in front of us, and if we pulled over there was a chance of getting plowed in to. Never again.

That stuff is pretty, but it's deadly on the highway and for hikers.

From Cindi of Connecticut - A great story and your family has an everlasting memory. There is nothing like home, especially when home is in So CA!

From Terry os Santa Monica, CA - Wow, what a compelling story about snowy Lake Tahoe and the tire chains!

I remember driving my van up to Mammoth to go skiing in my much younger days and having similar episodes with chains. One time a rear chain came loose and wrapped itself completely around the axle. It took two of us, on our backs in the icy slush, in the dark, without wire cutters, hours to untangle that dang chain. It still seems like yesterday. So I empathize with your plight, and glory in your release.

Welcome home.

From Ding of Vancouver, BC- Wow, brave souls, glad you got home safely ;-) Thanks for the TGIF, as always!

From Maria of San Antonio, CA (the email that my article was based on) - Only nuts and daredevils went to Lake Tahoe last weekend. The lat time we went up to the mountains in spite of the blizzard warning, we got snowed in. We just stayed home and watched our own leaks.

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Raoul Pascual Boitano:Carnival Paradise Cruise

  • Before the cruise I was worried that my kids would feel seasick but the size of the boat flattened any kind of wave. Bring Dramamine if you want to but I doubt you'll ever need it.

  • Inform all your friends about your trip and tell them not to call your cell phone otherwise, once you cross the border, you will need to pay roaming charges because you will be in international territory.

  • Try to pack light. Most people dress casually --- shorts, T-shirts, sandals and sunglasses. The only time you will probably need to dress up is the one formal dinner where guests dress to the hilt. But even that is optional. In the website there is a certain size of baggage you are allowed to bring so balance your need to impress with your need to relax..

  • The parking structure in Long Beach is right beside the boat. It costs about $15 a day..

  • When you arrive at the drop-off zone, you can leave your baggage to the porter who will see to it that it gets delivered to your cabin. It's very important that you label your bags correctly. There is a label you can print out from the website but I suggest you stamp a label of your own with the cabin number. One of our bags was in the lost and found section because the label was torn off.

  • You are allowed to bring food to your rooms so if you are one for a midnight snack, you can save yourself a trip up the buffet counter.

  • Just like in hotels, the snacks provided in your room is not free. A can of soda will cost you almost $5.

  • Internet access is available but there is a fee per minute of use. You can either go to the main lobby or you can use the Wi-Fi of your laptop. The same charges take effect.

  • There are photographers who go around taking pictures and asking you to pose for a family shot. Those aren't free.

  • You are free to tip anyone to your heart's content but tips are already included in your bill and it's $10 a day for each passenger. Not need to feel uncomfortable about not tipping.

  • Bring cash in case of an emergency but there are ATM's near the lobby. And as long as you are in the boat, there is no need to bring any cash or credit card because everything you spend will be charged to your Carnival Card. That card serves as your ID, is the key to your cabin, allows you in and out of the boat when you "port-to-call."

  • There's a Laundromat in case you need to wash your clothes but bring along a needle and thread. Believe it or not, the receptionist said they don't have any.

  • There are 110 volt electrical outlets in the cabin just in case you need to charge your batteries. Sorry, no flat irons or blow driers available.

  • If you take on a shore excursion, be sure to return before departure time because if you miss the boat, it could be really expensive getting back. Remember, these local tourist industries are not connected with Carnival Cruise Lines so they are not aware of your schedule.

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