Thursday, May 28, 2009

Catalina Island

We only made one stop during the cruise and it was Catalina Island, just off the coast of California. It's got one main coastal city, Avalon, where all of the shops, hotels, and restaurants can be found.

It's very much a walkable city with golf carts being the preferred mode of transportation for getting around to see the sites. We opted to bypass that and just wander aimlessly about for a couple of hours and sample the various tourist stops and souvenir shops that lined the streets.

The island is known for its resident herd of buffalo that have been raised there since they were brought to the island for a 1924 silent film. Although Avalon is littered with buffalo statues and art, we didn't actually see a live one...

I suppose they are easier to take care of in a city if you just keep parts of them encased in metal or mounted on a wall.

We strolled on over to see the infamous island Casino stucture (which doesn't actually have a gambling casino inside, btw). Here is a bit about it:

The gorgeous Catalina Island Casino is a two million dollar "Palace of Pleasure" located midway between Hotel St. Catherine and the town of Avalon. It is the only building of its size in the world erected on a full circular plan. A mammoth motion picture theater is on the ground floor and, above, the world's largest circular ballroom.

I think "Palace of Pleasure" might be stretching it a bit, but it had amazing architecture, a cool wrap-around balcony and was playing "Star Trek" in the downstairs theater. So, it won me over pretty quickly, as you can imagine.

As we headed back into town along the winding coastal pathway, I saw this locked up along the beach...

I hope that whoever secured their crutch before taking a swim wasn't in any kind of a cast. If so, that crutch is gonna be there for a very long time.

Since we didn't notice anyone in a hospital gown floating ass-up in the water, we figured it was time to head to the shuttle boat back to the ship. Catalina was a relaxing place to visit and would probably make for a nice weekend away from the stresses and chaos of a big city.

However, if you're in a leg cast....I'd say avoid the snorkeling and opt for a hammock on the shore instead.

Safety first, kids.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ship Shapes

Wherever I go with my camera, I always try to find interesting views or design elements within a particular location. The cruise ship was no exception...

The inside of the ship had a lot of Deco design elements and muted colors.

This area in the gym reminded me of the Ten-Forward lounge (where Whoopie and her large hats hung out on "Star Trek: The Next Generation").

Of course, there were several areas where you could eat pretty much around the clock (food-cooked-by-others is always my favorite).

And of course, viewing the ship at night when most people are inside dancing, eating, drinking, or sleeping is always nice. The way the light casts a soothing calm glow over the party-free deck as soft music plays in the background is always very relaxing to me.

A cruise can pretty much be whatever you want it to be, which is nice.

It's kinda like's whatever you choose to make of it.

But, in this case, with other people cooking and cleaning for you.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cruise Control

Welcome to the Lido deck of the Carnival Paradise!

Here's what it looked like at night...very purty.

Other than watching the "Love Boat" back in the day, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from my first cruise. I mean, Lola Falana and Charo weren't even on our ship (not even a Fun Ship Freddy sighting). Thankfully, my friend Andrew and his sister had been on a couple of them in the past, so Oscar and I were in good hands.

Our good hands were also often occupied by a variety of beverages, which the eager staff offers you every three minutes (drinks are not included, which I'm sure they hope you forget after your first one)...

Since we managed to get on very early, we had time to walk around the massive ship (drinks in hand) before the crowds took over. There are a variety of outdoor decks around the ship for fresh air and scenery enjoyment.

Before leaving the dock, we were able to get a great look at the Queen Mary parked next door.

The inside of the ship had this massive common area that rose up about seven floors all around you. It was like being inside a floating mall, but with a piano bar and duty free stores.

I was pretty impressed with the nice variety of architecture inside the ship (which I'll cover in a seperate post this week). It wasn't as tacky as I had envisioned, which was a nice surprise (I was thinking it would have the decor of a Motel 6, with coastal paintings and brightly patterned bedspreads). The rooms were tastefully deocrated with very comfy beds and nice bathrooms (with good water pressure to boot).

They also left us creative towel animal arrangments each night on the bed, complete with wee chocolates.

We were given a tour of the spa facilities which, as lovely as they all sounded, were a bit out of our price range. However, Oscar was treated to a free sample of the warm stone massage as we were leaving the spa...

Contrary to his expression, he left that chair more relaxed than he has been in months.

There was plenty to do on the ship...from putt putt golf, swimming, gambling (which we took full advantage of), a gym (which we took no advantage of), and, of course...all the food you could fit in your pie-hole 24/7. Our server in the formal dining room, Olga, took a liking to Oscar from the first night, so she did her best to keep him well-fed and happy.

We lucked out and got great dinner companions at our assigned table in the dining room. Thankfully we didn't scare them away with the first night of dinner conversation and, believe it or not, they came back the next two nights and even went out with us the final night for adult beverages and a little gambling.

There were over 2,000 people on the boat, a good portion of them bombed out of their unfortunate-fitting swimwear for most of the daylight hours. One hammered woman in particular had a bikini bottom that always looked like a twisted postage stamp fighting desperately to claw its way out of the crevice of a gigantic ham.

My eyes....MY EYES!

Part of me wishes I had my camera then and the other part (the nightmare side of my brain) is thankful that I didn't.

We got to spend a day on Catalina Island (which I'll also cover in a seperate post this week), which was really nice and relaxing. It was cool to see our ship waiting patiently in the background for our (hopeful) return.

A fun time was definitely had by all.

More to details to come...