We met in the Blue Riband Library at 9 a.m. where we were offered coffee, juices and pastries. Once everyone arrived we were asked to give up any cell phones we may have on us, we were wanded by Security and then the tour began.
We were led through the Elation Dining Room, through the large revolving waiter doors and then we entered one of the coolest parts of the ship ... the Galley. Chef Jorg Schneider met us and gave us a tour of the kitchen, explaining how they make meals and how much food they order each week.
Just think (being Chef Jorg) if you had to run to the store for the basics - bread, milk and eggs - you would be buying 45,000 eggs, 850 gallons of milk and enough loaves to give you 16,000 slices of bread. And for those keeping an eye on the Bacon Police ... here is some ammunition for you. Each week the Paradise has on hand 35,000 slices of bacon!
Once leaving the Galley it was as if someone turned off the glitz light and opened a reality window. It was about then we realized ‘we weren’t in Kansas anymore.’
The famous I-95 passageway runs the length of the ship and was a lot wider than I expected (there were crewmembers moving some palettes using a forklift!). The walls are painted white and it’s brightly lit down there. It was also pointed out that you could see both port and starboard sides of the ship. So, while I-95 was wider than expected, it was also smaller than I imagined ... if that makes any sense at all.
We were led into a storage area that held many of the drinks for the ship. In a week on the Carnival Paradise, guests would go through 12,500 cans of soda and 11,950 bottles of beer. Wouldn’t if be fun to have a key to that room!
We visited the Laundry Room and saw all of the large industrial machines used to clean everything. There were crew feeding wet sheets into this long machine that both dried, then pressed the sheets flat. Then came the folding machine where the sheets were folding into nice sized rectangles, easy enough to handle ... fascinating!
We also went into the Engine Control Room and spoke with the Chief Engineer. There were so many knobs, buttons, lights and schematics on the walls I felt like I was on a Star Trek episode.
Next we were led up some stairs (steeper than stairs but not quite ladders) and before we knew it we were heading toward the Bridge. The first impression was the incredible panoramic view of the world and the reverent quiet that surrounded us. My father was in the Navy and worked on the Bridge of aircraft carriers, so this was an immediate familiar sight for me. However, the instant change of atmosphere was very surreal.
We learned we had a new Captain onboard. Captain Domenico Cilento arrived from Miami the night before to take over so Captain Pierluigi Lanaro could go on vacation ... even the Captains need a vacay sometimes! Captain Cilento was very accommodating and patient as he spoke with us and fielded questions about what he does. We learned Carnival employs 35 Captains, some of which stay with specific ships while others rotate around.
A Ship Photographer showed up and Captain Cilento graced us with a photo on the Bridge with him. This really was a highlight of the tour.
Next we went down to the Bow of the ship, saw the ship’s bell and then we toured some of the Crew areas. We saw the Crew Training Room, the Crew Bar, the Crew Dining rooms (there are three!) and the Exercise Room. This part was particularly comforting for me because my oldest daughter, Holly, just started working on the Carnival Valor. As a mom, seeing the types of areas below the passenger decks and learning how Carnival provides a variety of options for the crew’s off times, really has helped me in knowing my daughter has made a good choice.
And finally, we were led backstage of the Normandie Theater where we had the opportunity to speak with the head Lighting guy and the Dance Captain. The interesting thing I learned here was that the 12 people in the cast stay together throughout an entire contract.
After about 3.5 hours, the tour was over and we were led through the backstage curtains back into the comforting and glitzy world of the audience.
This tour was well-worth the $55 per person it cost. On other class ships, the tour is more ($95) and maybe lasts a bit longer. Although I don’t know what more we could possible see, it seemed like we saw everything! We received some gifts after the tour ... hats, lanyards and a delicious plate of chocolate-covered strawberries, compliments of Chef Jorg, himself.