Carnival Paradise
Avg. Customer Review (2.5 Palms):
True 1 2.5 2.5 Palms
Number of Reviews: 1

Review Type: Cruise Ship
Dedicated GF: No


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Carnival Cruise to Baja California,
December 31, 2008

2.5 Palms
2.5 Palms
We went on a 4-day Carnival cruise over Christmas, our first time, with both pumpkinheads. I thought I'd post the basic aspects I wish I'd known, as pertains to 11 year-old Thomas with autism. I got all excited a day after I booked the cruise because somebody from Carnival called to assure me that they have gluten-free bread and pasta on board, and to be sure to tell my headwaiter about Thomas' special diet on the first night. This turned out to be almost completely irrelevant, because we were assigned to the 8:15pm seating in the dining room, which is prohibitively late for Thomas. I requested the 6pm seating when I made the reservation, but (as the maitre'd snidely informed me when I asked for a change) EVERYBODY wants 6pm and half the ship has to get 8:15. Sure enough there were other ravenous families with small cranky children having dinner at 8:15, so apparently they assign dining time at random, regardless of what you "request" when you reserve. We did have breakfast together one morning in the dining room, and over the considerable reluctance of our waiter ("you have to order gluten free bread in advance" and "we did" and "oh") managed to secure two slices of un-toasted gluten free bread, with poached eggs, for Thomas. Failing the formal restaurant, the self-serve cafeteria is open almost all the time. Between breakfast potatoes, plain hamburger patties and fries (steamed rice once on Asian night) Thomas got plenty to eat, if not much nutrition or variety. I can't vouch for the food he ate being 100% scrupulously CFGF, he did have one very loose stool, but he didn't have the behavioral indications of a major infraction so I think it was pretty okay. There is also fresh fruit most of the time, and an assortment of dry cereals including Corn Flakes, no soy milk. There is also free 24-hour room service, from a very limited and inflexible menu -- I couldn't get a tuna sandwich on sourdough instead of English muffin, so I wouldn't like the odds of getting a hamburger patty that hadn't touched a bun. Almost all the food on the boat, CFGF or not, is frozen and reheated. Imagine yourself eating out of the frozen food case at "Smart and Final" for four days and you'll get the picture. In the formal dining room, it's the exact same stuff, served on china by a waiter, with a squiggle of chocolate sauce squirted under the defrosted cube of cake. In terms of entertainment, there's a small outdoor pool with a water slide, and a hot tub, which counts for a lot with my little monster :) There's also Camp Carnival, with organized activities for kids 2-11, but we weren't confident enough to leave him there. Nor did we use the pay-per-hour private babysitting service, having brought along our own 19 year-old to pinch-hit occasionally. There's lots of racing up and down the halls to be done, a piano player in the lobby sometimes, miniature golf on the top deck, and so on. Our first shore excursion to Catalina was cancelled due to weather; the second one, to Ensenada Mexico, was okay (relief to get off the boat) but hardly thrilling to anybody. Kids 11 and younger are required to wear a plastic bracelet designating their assigned "muster station" in case of emergency; that's a complete non-starter with my kiddo but fortunately he looks older than 11 and the boat didn't sink. Very skimpy lineup on TV, Cartoon Network, Animal Planet, and a few other channels; no "adult content" if you don't count The Dark Knight every three hours, unblockable. If you bring your own DVD player be prepared that there is exactly one power outlet per stateroom. For being billed as "all- inclusive," we found the relentless catchpenny atmosphere pretty exasperating; starting with a barrage of waiters pushing an $8 Kool-Aid cocktail in a souvenir plastic cup on you every afternoon, $24/hr for Wi-Fi, $6/day if you want to be allowed to order one eight-ounce diet Coke at a time, $4 for the bottle of water in the room, and on and on. For overall ambience, I'd say it was like staying at a 2-star Las Vegas hotel that you can't leave. Overall, do-able with our boy with autism, interesting to have done, in no big hurry to do it again.

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Businesses marked with a Dedicated Gluten Free icon are DEDICATED GLUTEN FREE ESTABLISHMENTS.