Monday, August 8, 2011

Embarkation - Carmival Paradise we are here!

One of the perks of staying onboard the Queen Mary is early check-in for the cruise right from the Queen Mary ship. Between the hours of 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. we could bring all of our bags to the Engine Room of the Queen Mary and everything would be taken care of. Well, we were still running around the QM and really weren’t in any big hurry because we were enjoying what we were doing and, quite frankly, we were already there ... at the Port. There was a certain relaxation to Embarkation day that came with already being at the Port.

So, about 11:15 we decided to take advantage of this perk and hauled our luggage to the Engine Room. The process was simple, but what surprised us was the number of people checking in. Clearly we hadn’t seen that many people staying over on the Queen Mary. What we later learned was that all early arrivals to the Carnival Paradise were sent to the Queen Mary for check in. Perks for everyone!

We were given Zone 4 and decided to wander around the Engine Room and associated Museum for awhile before heading over to the Paradise.

The Engine Room was huge ... and amazing. I’m glad we were directed here for luggage check-in or we may have missed this cool area of the Queen Mary.

We had checked two small bags and a garment bag. We really did pack light, but like I said before, even packing light can still create a few pieces of luggage. With part of the load gone we made our way to the embarking area with our carry-ons. Here is where I have a question. I know Carnival allows a 12-pack of soda per person, a bottle of wine per person, and bottled water to be carried on the ship with the rest of your carry-on items ... how do you do that? LOL! Kudos to you who do. We thought about bringing soda, but never got organized enough (or maybe we were just lazy) to do it. Let me tell you, while embarking the ship, I’m glad we didn’t have those extra pieces.

We were led through the white dome which once housed the Spruce Goose (Howard Hughes’ heavy transport flying boat - plane). The authority at the entrance reminded us we were entering a Federal Building - so no photos allowed and she was pretty serious about this! One thing I found interesting is we weren’t asked to fill out a health form this trip. Moving through all the check points in the dome we were led to a photo moment. Pretty much mandatory because you weren’t allowed to bypass the people as they posed in the adobe Mexico facade for their first official Carnival Portrait. *SNAP*

The next stop was another mandatory photo. Only this was more fun because it was our official Security photo for our Sign & Sail card. *DING* Woo Hoo! Just a little bit farther and we are cruising!

The next photo moment was on the gangway and this one could easily be bypassed. But, I would suggest stopping for this one because the Carnival Paradise poses as a lovely real backdrop for your Sail Away photo. *SNAP*

I love the Sail Away photos because the whole trip is ahead of us and I can see all that excitement, anticipation and fun on our faces.

What we learned later is that the first ‘mandatory’ photo op (with the adobe Mexico facade) produced an 8X10 image promoting the words ‘Long Beach’ for a price of about $21. The second photo op produced a 5X7 image with ‘Sail Away’ printed on it for around $12. We even got a deal when purchasing this image with a photo portfolio including a Carnival stock photo of the Paradise for a total of $16. Just a heads up for you all.

Once onboard (12:30, not bad at all) we were thrown into a flurry of activity ... all of which kept us hanging out in the Paradise Atrium for awhile. Fine by me, the Atrium is quite beautiful.

I have been on other Fantasy Class ships before (Elation and Imagination) and while the layout is the same, the decor is always different and I find the Atrium usually sets the standard. The Paradise Atrium didn’t disappoint with the darker rich colors and subtle embellishments.

Looking up gave a unique perspective with all of the glass and mirrors lining the atrium dome.

I even liked the ‘Faberge Egg’ ornaments lining the grand staircase.

First to Guest Services to add cash to our account (so it’s not such a shock the last day). Then over to the Shore Excursion desk to add our names to the Behind the Fun Tour list and to sign up for our Ensenada excursion. We were really lax about excursions this trip. Usually we plan well ahead. But, we chose just to sign up once on board for whatever we felt like doing. I had heard that excursion prices were higher once on board the ship. So, I compared the prices of the excursions offered online with what was being offered on board ... and in the end I found that while some prices remained the same, there was a $1 to $5 increase per person for many of the offerings. How’s that for an experiment?

Next, the Atrium Bar seemed to be calling us over. How handy that it was just right there! So, what did we get? Remember how we chose not to bring any soda on board? Yes, that decision cost us, because we bought Soda Cards! For $29.70 each (including tip) we could drink all of the soda and juices from the bar we could possibly consume during the next four days. Yes, we are big partyers!

My International Encounter

We hung out at the Atrium Bar for a bit because it was close to 1:30 and the cabins would all be ready. Besides it was fun watching everyone embark on the ship! It was here I had my first International encounter. One of the bar associates was getting drinks and he opened up a can of soda using another can to pop the top off! Impressive! So, I said to him, “Wow, you just used that can to open the tab!” Caught off guard he replied, “Hmmm?” I repeated, “I was impressed by how you opened that can of soda with the other can.”

Him: “lnlnslkdflsndf.”

I paused and realized I didn’t understand a word he just said to me. Now there is a point when you are talking with someone from another country (or another part of the U.S. for that matter) where you decide to either just nod and smile OR invest the time to get through the accent differences and actually communicate.

I chose the latter.

Me: “What?”

Him: “t sv mmm nnnnls.”

Me: Pause “What?”

Him: “t sv mmmm nnnnls.”

Me: Even longer pause. “What?”

Him: “It saves my nails.”

“Oh, it saves your nails!” And he and I had a great laugh together. I would find out later that the Carnival Paradise hosts 70 different nationalities and as hard as it is for us sometimes to get through the different accents ... they have an equally hard time understanding our various English accents, as well. All I can say is that I’m glad I didn’t choose to just nod and smile.

Well, I see it’s about 1:30 ... time to go check out our Cabin!

But, before I go ... let’s have one last look at the Queen Mary!

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