"Long Beach--There was a lot to see and do on our short Carnival cruise"

.. By Joe Hilbers

The Carnival Paradise is admirably suited for what it does best. You could call it 'Introduction to Cruising 101'. Year round the Paradise makes three and four day cruises from Long Beach.

These short cruises are a good fit for two types of passengers. One-- younger people, some with small children, busy and always short of time. The second-- people who have decided to try a cruise but want to start on a short junket before committing to a lengthy trip aboard a ship.

For this Writer our stay aboard Paradise, with Catalina Island and Ensenada as ports of call, was a reporting assignment for Vittles and also a way to escape weeks of 100 degree heat in the San Fernando Valley.

Aboard ship we met with Hotel Director Frank Dillinder who kindly arranged for us to interview Chef de Cuisine Erwin Gomes and Ganese Klalipe, food and beverage director. Both men, true professionals, hail from India and enjoy long careers in their fields; Chef Gomes 15 years with Carnival and 12 years for Ganese.. Chef Gomes explained how he is responsible for 15,000 meals to be served each day, 2600 passengers and 900 crewmen.

Chef Gomes added that these short cruises are a very good way to determine which entrees are most in demand and to adjust menus accordingly. For Ganese, he has 13 bars and cocktail lounges aboard ship and livens these up with a different featured cocktail each day.

We were fortunate to have lunch with Frank Dillender and learned much about what makes Carnival and particularly Paradise so successful. He told us even with two ports of call 99 per cent of the passengers eat all three meals a day aboard ship.

The ship has two rooms for formal dining, Elation aft and Destiny forward. Both seat over 600 people. The Lido has the Paris restaurant which serves buffet food at all hours including a 24 hour pizza station. One afternoon we were given a personal tour of the kitchen by Hatem Marzouki who is Maitre d' of the Destiny dining room. He showed us how it all comes together with teamwork when its time to host some 1300 people in two dining rooms and provide a meaningful dining experence. And we looked in on the wine cellar with its 200 labels from around the world. We liked the concept on Paradise that when ordering a bottle of wine with dinner it is notnecessary to finish it in one sitting. The waiter places your name on the bottle and it is on the table , again properly chilled, the following evening. We also learned from Hatem how Carnival trains its staffs. On Paradise the service staff has an eight month training cycle starting with bussing tables in the crew dining rooms. And then moving step by step through various positions until they are judged ready to work in the Elation and Destiny dining rooms.

Our first night at the Elation dining room we met Maitre d' Konstantin and told him since we were alone we would like to be seated with some women. He took me at my word and I was assigned a table with ten women ranging from age 80 to age 20. The 80 year old woman, traveling with her daughter, had a most interesting background including many years in India allowing her to chat with members of our serving staff from that country. The 20 year old, also traveling with her mother, was a college student.

My dining companions were most interesting in conversation and from varying backgrounds including education, public relations and another writer. Six were mothers-daughters traveling together. I found common ground with a mother, Suzanna and daughter, Alicia, who were from Mammoth Lakes where I spent much time skiing, camping and fishing over a period of four decades.

From the server staff which included Head Waiter Thashmath Raghu Sudhir from India and Team Waiter Krivicic Kristian from Croatia. I did receive some good natured chaff about dining with 10 women.

At Elation we thought the menu selection excellent and were impressed with the professional but friendly work of the serving staff. Maitre d' Konstantin, who hails from the Ukraine, has a remarkable singing voice and he regaled us each evening with song often accompanied by both the serving staff and diners. This also led to much waving of napkins and such as well.

Lido, the deck with the buffets was, of course, always busy. Our favorite was the New York Deli station. Here one day we had a memorable hot pastrami sandwich and on a second visit smoked salmon on a bagel. Like the other 99 per cent of passengers we took all our meals aboard ship. One day we did try the poolside Asian stirfry served Mongolian style.

In decor Paradise is bold and brash and this carries over to the activities as well. It calls itself a "Fun Ship" and it is certainly that. The schedule of activities never ceases. It was summer and the ship was swarming with children and teen agers. The toddlers were adorable, the less said about the teen agers the better. The sound of flip-flops resounded throughout the ship for 20 hours each day. There were many families traveling together often made up of three generations.

We noted with some interest that while everyone seemed eager to go ashore at Catalina this was not so at Ensenada. Anchored off Catalina the lines were long to board the tenders for the short ride to shore. On board the Paradise I asked people what they would do on Catalina and most had most definite plans for their day ashore. A teenage girl told excitedly of para-gliding, a small boy spoke for his parents about the glass bottom boat trip and another youngster eager to see the buffalo.

I returned to Paradise from my outing at Ensenada about 2 p.m. and was amazed to see how many people were still on the ship, either in Paris restaurant or lounging around the pool enjoying the sun on a most pleasant day. At Ensenada dockside there is an area with several businesses selling typical Mexican handicrafts. These were busy and it appeared some passengers never went into the city itself but were content to buy what they wanted and return to the ship. Our stories on what we did ashore in Catalina and Ensenada will appear in the next issue of Vittles.

The theater aboard Paradise was special. We saw two stage productions--one well named "Shout" which was a song and dance tribute to the rock and roll years of the 1960s and 1970s. The second named "Extreme Country" we thought outstanding. The western costumes and choreography were designed and did bring out the outstanding song and dance talents of the entire troupe. Added was the wonderful country fiddle of Barry Van Wie.

We will treasure the memory of our afternoon English tea time. The younger generation was not present and the service staff and kitchen outdid themselves with a appealing selection of tea cakes and desserts. Most important for us was the tasteful piano renditions of Allison as graceful and pretty as she is musically talented. It was a nice respite from the sometime frenetic activities of the 'Fun Ship'. The Paradise was perfect for our short cruise but this Writer is not sure how much he can stand of a 'fun ship' on a longer voyage.

Perhaps this is because of our duties aboard ship which we take very seriously. This involved helping Captain Adriano Binacchi get the Paradise in and out of its ports of call. We cruised into Avalon Bay and had to help get the ship safely anchored exactly 53 and one half cable lengths from shore at Catalina. Then later in the day weigh anchor and head out to sea setting a course of south south-east. And we watched a large fishing vessel until it was hull down on the horizon.

Early next morning we were on watch as the Baja coast came into view with Todos Santos islands to starboard.and then helped guide Paradise into Bahia de Todos Santos in the early morning to its mooring in Ensenada.

At 10 o'clock that evening we again had the watch to aid the Captain as we slipped our cables and got underway moving through the darkened waters of the harbor and once again at sea. The last morning we were up at 5 a.m. and watched as dawn slowly arrived with overcast skies but a brightly lit Southern California coast line off the port bow.. Then maneuvered the Paradise back to its home dock in Long Beach.

We do not believe Captain Binacchi was aware of our help but nevertheless we did have the watch. We consider it a great responsibility but then we must not complain.

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Last Update:9/1/09

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