First, a little background. My husband and I took this 3 day cruise to Baja for my 30th birthday. This was our first cruise and I was 23 weeks pregnant at the time. We decided to take a little "starter" cruise to see if we would enjoy the whole "cruise experience" before we book a week or longer more expensive cruise. Price was definitely an issue for this cruise. We did this on a "bare bones budget".
Booking After spending countless hours on the internet researching where and how to get the best deal, we ended up calling Carnival's 800#. I'm very glad we did because not only did they have the best rate and awesome customer service, but they told me that the information on their website regarding pregnancy was wrong. They recently changed their policy from 27 weeks to 24 weeks maximum to be able to cruise. I would have been 26 weeks at the time I wanted to cruise and would have been denied boarding, so I'm very glad they gave me that little tidbit of info. Because of this policy change we ended up booking at thevery last minute (5 days before departure), which worked out just fine because the price went down by $60 a person! The customer service rep that booked our trip gave us a free upgrade from the Riviera deck to the Main deck and gave us a cabin made for four people, we ended up in stateroom M220. She also walked us through printing out our funpass since we were so close to our sail date and she didn't want us to have any trouble. That was very thoughtful. I also called Carnival back at least 3 times during the 5 days prior to my cruise to ask random questions, which I was full of, and was never made to feel like I was a bother.
Embarkation According to Carnival embarkation starts at 1:30 pm, but I had read several reviews that talked about boarding early and having lunch so we decided to take our chances and get to the port at about 11 am. What a great idea that was! I had read horror stories about lost luggage when left with the porters, so we decided we would carry on our own luggage. We got into a very short line with our luggage and waited about 15 minutes before being allowed to board. We walked right up to the counter with no wait, showed our funpass, birth certificates, and IDs and gave them the credit card we wanted to use for our "sail & sign" card onboard. This took a grand total of 5 minutes and we were on our way. We had two photos taken on our way onto the ship, you don't have to stop but it's fun to get them done and there is no pressure to purchase them at all. Once onboard we stopped in the Grand Atrium and had a seat. We took this opportunity to grab a map and read the information they gave us on the way in. The packet explained that while they let us board early we would not be allowed to go to our staterooms until 1:30 pm. They needed this time to clean. So we headed up to the Lido deck and had lunch at the buffet. At this point I was starting to regret having carried on our own luggage as it was getting heavy and we weren't as free to roam the ship. We had an hour and a half to wait so we found a nice table by the window and began to relax. Within 15 minutes I discovered I needed to take the motion sickness pills the ship offered. Even though we were still in port looking out the window of a moving ship made me dizzy. So off I went to the information desk, I'm very glad they offered them for free. I took them regularly every 10-12 hours. As soon as I felt any dizziness I took another pill and I was great. I never got nauseous at all, I praise God for those pills!
Cruise We were very pleasantly surprised by the size of our stateroom. There was plenty of closet space, a king size bed, and lots of light. The bathroom really shocked us, we were expecting tiny but we were both able to fit in it comfortably together. It was very clean and felt nice and comfortable.
We had requested the 6:15 pm sitting for dinner but were assigned to the 8:30 sitting. When we checked the daily itinerary that would have meant that we would have missed all the shows and games we were interested in, so we went to the maitre d' as instructed to see if we could get it changed. This was our first task at trying to find something on the ship. Needless to say we got very lost and ended up going in through the back door of the restaurant. But once we found him the maitre d' was very kind and helpful. He changed our time to 5:45 pm with no trouble. Remember the maitre d' is one of the few people that are not included when you purchase the prepaid gratuities, so he really appreciates a few dollars.
The food on the ship was wonderful. The 24 hour pizza and ice cream were just what the doctor ordered. The lunch buffet was beautifully done and delicious. We were able to sample everything. The selections in the dining room were very impressive. I ordered as many appetizers and entrees as I desired without feeling strange and when I didn't like the dressing on the Caesar salad I was brought soup instead right away. We ate breakfast in both the dining room and the buffet and enjoyed it immensely. I liked the atmosphere of the dining room but liked the freedom of having the buffet open until 11 am for breakfast. My husband and I do not drink so we had the juice and tea that was complimentary with meals. However by the end of the first day I discovered that I needed to purchase the soda card so I could receive beverages at the bars throughout the ship and from the waiters during the shows. While tea, coffee, juice, and milk are always available at the buffet on the lido deck, and you are perfectly welcome to take your beverage with you wherever you go, it was not very convenient when sitting in a show at the front end of the ship to walk all the way to the back to grab a drink. So I purchased the soda card and had a great time ordering from every bar I passed and at every show or game we went to. Gratuity is already added to the purchase price of the card and the serving staff are included in the prepaid gratuities so I did not feel pressured at all to tip any additional amount with each drink I ordered.
One more tidbit of advice, go ahead and complete the room service breakfast order sheet you will find in your stateroom. Even if you are planning to eat breakfast in the dining room it's great to have some fresh fruit, coffee, and a bagel delivered to your door when you first wake up. Since you will want a drink before you leave your room and the mini-bar sodas are $4 apiece you can save yourself some unnecessary expense by ordering breakfast. Plus you will be hungry again by the time you get through the shower, get dressed and are ready to head to the dining room for a waffle. The portion sizes are kept small, which I appreciated since I was able to sample and graze constantly without stuffing myself.
There was plenty to do on the ship without spending any additional money. Lots of window shopping, games, karaoke, shows, not to mention the pool and Jacuzzi. We had a great time playing miniature golf on the top of the ship, and sitting in the Jacuzzi under the stars. Since we weren't interested in the "adult" comedy show, we would take advantage of the Jacuzzi at 10 pm when no one else was out there. We had a lot of wind and bit of rain on one of the days so we never went in the pool, not warm enough. We stayed away from the lido deck during the peak hours when many a drunken college age man could be found doing "body shots" off a scantily clad woman. (I thought this was a family cruise?) But really it wasn't that bad, everyone on the cruise was very nice. The staff was exceptional. Not a grumpy expression the whole time.
The shows were excellent. I have no idea how those girls can dance like that in high heels on a moving ship, but they do a great job! I would recommend sitting on the lower level if you are a person who likes "getting into the action." The people in the balcony tend to be "fuddy duddies." We skipped playing bingo at $10 a card and decided to spend our $10 in the casino. We got an hour's worth of fun at the slot machines and video poker for our money, so I think it was worth it. The TV in the stateroom has a channel that will show you exactly how to play all of the casino games so you don't have to feel like an idiot when you head down there for the first time.
We were only in our stateroom for sleeping (wink wink) so I wouldn't have spent the extra money to upgrade to an ocean view or a veranda, it would have been wasted on us. There were always things to do on the ship, and when we arrived in Ensenada it was time to explore. We were a little nervous because we hadn't planned any shore excursions, and instead we decided to go it alone. I'm very glad we did. The tourist area consists of about 3 square blocks. You would not want to venture any further. Once off the ship there was a small shopping area right in port and busses that took you into downtown and back for $3 a person. The entire drive they try to sell you on taking their bus tour to the blowhole for $25 a person, but they do it in an entertaining way so it's still fun. We decided to stay in the downtown shopping area and pick up some souvenirs for the kids. We had a great time walking through all the shops and finding just the right trinket for each person on our list. A bit of advice, never buy from the people on the street. No matter what kind of deal you think you are getting you will find it cheaper at a shop a few doors down. Trust me on this. Also, don't buy Chiclets for $1. Those kids are being exploited and giving them money only perpetuates the problem.
After a couple of hours we had finished exploring every store within the 3 blocks and were ready to head back to the ship for lunch. We took the bus ride back, had a wonderful lunch at the buffet and were ready to head to a game of "Battle of the Sexes" when my husband broke his belt. This meant it was time for more shopping. Off the ship we went. We decided not to take the bus this time since we knew where we were going and we now knew that the walk was only 5-10 minutes. Shopping for something specific that you need is much different than just looking for souvenirs. But we were again pleasantly surprised by how nice people were. We would walk into a shop and ask if they had belts, if they didn't they would gladly tell us exactly where we could get one with a genuine smile. We ended up getting a very nice belt for $15, the lady even changed the buckle to fit my husband's taste. We were pleased.
Disembarkation Unfortunately the time came when we had to leave the ship. We had two choices, we could carry off our own luggage and leave anytime or we could pack up the night before and leave our luggage in the hall to be taken off by the crew. If we left our luggage out we would have to wait until they called our "zone". Once our zone had been called we could leave anytime after that. My husband was not comfortable with leaving our luggage outside our room (neither was I, just seemed weird) so we elected to carry it off ourselves. Most people elected to carry their own luggage so they could leave the ship early. This seemed strange to me as I was in no hurry to leave. We woke up and had breakfast at the buffet before heading back to our room to pack. I noticed the line to debark. It started at the bar in the grand atrium and was packed all the way down the ramp. People stood there for over an hour holding their luggage to get off the ship. I couldn't understand why they would do such a thing when they could be sitting down relaxing and having a nice breakfast. We packed up and left our stateroom at about 9 am. There was still quite a line to debark so we headed up to the Lido deck to wait and have a drink. The buffet was open so we had a snack and glass of tea and enjoyed the beautiful day. We took this opportunity to go check out all the pictures they had taken of us and purchase a couple. They are quite pricey and great quality so it was very tempting to blow our budget. We decided to buy a very nice 8x10 of us for $23 and a beautiful sandwich frame that came with a photo of the ship for $5. It was well worth it. At about 10:15 am the line was gone and they started calling all of the "zones" to debark. So we grabbed our luggage and off the ship we went. We made it through customs and out into the real world within 30 minutes. I would highly recommend relaxing and waiting on the ship the morning of debarkation.
If at all possible make your flight late enough that you don't have to rush and can enjoy the last moments of your cruise.
There is absolutely nothing negative I can say about our experience. It was truly a God-given vacation and I am very grateful for it. We did have a day of rocky seas, but as long as I kept up on my motion-sickness pills I had no problem. I will definitely cruise again, and probably on Carnival. They did a great job at a great price and had awesome service.
History: my 13th cruise, 6th on Carnival. Being the Paradise was the last of the Fantasy class ships it was what I expected. I do prefer the newer Spirit & Conquest class, however was going to be in LA and couldn't pass up the low cost of this 4-night sailing! Plus got an automatic upgrade from a 6A to 6D (ocean view) on the Empress deck. Our cabin was midship and in a nice location for easy access to all the public areas.
Since I am from the east coast we flew into LAX the day prior and also stayed 2 extra days in the Los Angeles area after the sailing to make it a week vacation.
Check-in at Long Beach: Well lets just say I have had smoother check-in's, however it seemed that most people arrived early at the terminal. When we arrived about 12:15 there was a long line that 'snaked' around outside of the terminal. Once they opened the doors they would let people in by groups I would say 25 or so at a time. I assume this was to prevent massive congestion inside the terminal building.Overall it wasn't too bad and we were on the ship about 1:30 or so. Cabins were not ready until about 2PM so we had a drink at the atrium bar until they opened the firedoors to access the cabins. Unpacked our carryon's then up to the Lido for lunch.
Food: Fair to Poor. I have had much better meals on Carnival. It was hit or miss in the Destiny dining room where we had late 8PM seating as requested. The Paris restaurant on the Lido was typical Carnival buffet, not much to comment about here since I feel a buffet is just that a quick grab and go meal. Pizza was always fresh and good!
Entertainment: here again I feel Carnival needs to update their shows. The past couple of cruises I have been on at least one, if not both of the productions were repeats that I already saw on other ships in the fleet. Also compared to some of the shorter 4 & 5 day cruises I have taken on the east coast there was much more activity on board regarding music and entertainment. On this cruise there was not one deck party the entire time? They did have a live band playing poolside each afernoon, but nothing at night on deck. Found it to be very mellow for a short Carnival sailing.
Ports of call were Catalina & Ensenada. Have never been to either and really enjoyed Catalina Island. Ensenada I don't think we would ever return! Again compared to the Caribbean port calls in Mexico i.e. Cozumel, Costa Maya we found Ensenada to be NOT attractive at all. We did book a shore tour to 'La Bufadora' (the Blowhole), it was interesting and a good photo-op to see but the open air flea market you had to pass thru first was terrible! Never had so many locals practically following you as you walked to get you to buy something! That got to be very annoying after a while and we couldn't wait to get back on the bus. We found a place to sit and have a Margarita since neither of us were looking to buy.
The staff & crew were very friendly and helpful, and the overall appearance of the ship was in decent condition except for a few items just from normal wear & tear. Again this is Carnival and the public areas showed it with the 'gawdy' decor that it's known for!
Overall we had a relaxing cruise and met some nice people that were our dining mates. Again value for dollar it was a 'no brainer' approx $80 per day/person is what it broke down to! I love to cruise and have learned nothing is ever perfect. I would recommend it for anyone looking to getaway without breaking the bank! Also a good experience for first time cruisers.
This was our 5th cruise including 3 on carnival 1 on the norweigen dawn and one on the royal carribians flagship the empress of the seas haha. We flew in to lax and meet the rest of our 7 person party for this halloween cruise. 4 people took a cab and it woulda been cheaper to take the 16 dollar shuttle for our 3 person cab because it was 55 for the taxi. Embarkation was a breeze, they made me take my mp3 player off for some esoteric reason, more on the unfortunate case of the mp3 player later.
We spent the first hour getting adjusted to the ship and laughing at a member of our party who had taken the this ship last year but couldnt remember where anything was related to the copiuous amounts of alchohol he imbibed. The aforementioned intoxicated member did remeber enough from te last cruise to tell us we should do the 3 day weekend cruise as opposed to the 4 day weekay crise beacuse the weekend cruise was a way bigger party. We have cruised on this class of ship before on theelation so we were familiar with the layout of the ship and like it, all the lounges are together and close to the casiono so its just a huge party towards the back of the ship and u can do your own drunken pub crawl from place to place. When we returned to our room our bags were there and we proceeed to unpack. A coworker of mine was sharing our stateroom so she had a fold down bed, our stateroom had plenty of room as carnival ussually does and this is why like to cruise carnival with our 3 year old daughter.
THat evening we enjoyed our sdiner however now that we have been on other crusies the food didnt seem as good as good as our first cruise to the mexican riviera on the elation. Norweigen dawns extra priced restaurants are of course better but their regular restaurants fare is not as good. Carnivals deserts are definately the best. After dinner we got ready to party and headed over to the nightclub, the rex. The dj was good but unfortunately had to play music from all time periods so would clear the dance floor with some old lame song everyonce in awhile. The price of beer seems to have increased and so I paid like 20 bucks for 4 beers the first night. This ship this date was definately down to party we had mostly 20-30 year old people on the ship with some groups of single ladies in their mid thirty to forties and a few honeymooning couples, i only counted about 20 teens and less smaller children than that. Our hallway had a party most evenings with people drinking alchohol and fratrinizing. All but one of our party went to bed about midnight that night but we stayed up till 2 am and enjoyed the comedy show.
The next morning we arrived in ensenada and got off the ship about 1230, having read earlier that the trip to the blowhole " la bufadora" was about an hour long and not that exciting we didnt book it through carnival for 58 dollars. On our 3 dollar taxicab ride to town one of the local tourguides talked us in to going to la bufadora for 15 bucks, after being questioned repetedly he assured us it was only a 20 minute ride! however 4 members of our party just wanted to sit @ papas and beers and drink anyway and seeings as how the open container laws seem to be much more lax in mexico we bought 4 buckets of coronas and partied on the way to the blowhole.
Holy shamolies ensenada is the most expensive town we have ever shopped in with most sale items being twice as expensive as you can find in your local swapmeet. other mexican towns and the carribeen offer a much better value. but we didnt take this cruise to shop, the blowhole was kinda interesting. and it was time to get back to the ship for our formal ight. on the wa back we stoped at ensenada proper for some more expensive shopping and some tacos down the streets from papas and beers.
I like the fact that the ports have good security and check all passengers coming back with a metal detector twice and id's. This reminds me of our last cruise in cabo where a mexican soldier trianed his m 16 on me for stepping of the dock totry to get a picture of a crab on a rock!. We dressed up for formal night and had our picture taken. then prepared for another fun night, this time the rest of our party napped after ensenada and were able to go to the club with us the music was good again and we stayed out till about 2 am. We also enjoyed some time in the hottub before lunch, personally id light to soak in a hot tube after midnight but they always close them too early.
The last day at sea was the best, we always enjoy days at sea, i was up early @ 6 in the morning and went for some pilates yoga a 2 mile run and then ab work before 8am, we had breakfast in the formal dining room again and the omlettes were good the eggs benadict was a little dry the 2nd morning. My wife and coworker spent the morning getting mini spa treatments and their teeth whitened, i relaxed in the poolside hottub. So we were exited to do the survivor and amazing race events that afternoon but there were sceduled for the same time? why? So we asked and were told amazing race would be better because the pool was out of commision related to a kids previous accident. We took first place in the amazing race which was a combination scavenger hunt and boat trivia competition. The best thing about wining was the 12 day trip to australia we one for our victory" in that leg of the race" ha no actually it was being able to carry the trophy around for the rest of the nght and anounce ''attention passengers amazing race champions are now entering the pool area". So we then had lunch and prepared to put on our costumes for the halloween bash. A crazy couple were already running around @ 1700 with a sexy cop and fat "scurity guard" so we figured wed change as well. My wife had a sexy gheisha girl costume and i was a kung fu warrior our friend was a bier garten girl, the dance party in the open bar between the casino and lounge and dance club was crazy so we danced there and took pictures for about an hour. The sit down diner was next and t kinda put a downer on the night next time we might skip it and just dance and party all night.
Debarktion was also easy as we had an early flight bpoarding @ 1150 we went to the normandie lounge and got off in about 45 minutes, after an uneventful taxi to the airport and flight home here i am preparing to go the the store to get another mp3 player cause one of the stewards or stewards assistants must have taken it we will try calling carnival and see if it has been turned into lost and found now that they realize they cant change the songs without the software. We will definately do this same cruise next year for halloweeen!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ps watch for a future post as to wether my pilfered mp3 player is returned to me
When we decided to sail on the M/V Paradise it started out for one reason, to celebrate my 50th birthday, but a couple of reasons also popped up along the way. One was to try out noise canceling headphones (worked like a charm) and to see if my wife can handle an inside cabin. My wife gets a touch claustrophobic when she can't see outside. So with this in mind, off we went on a 4 day cruise.
Arriving at Long Beach airport from a short flight from Seattle was like stepping back in time. I can't explain it, you have to experience it for yourself to really enjoy the atmosphere. Cabs were plentiful and we were off. We were going to use Primetime Shuttle but they had called and said they would not be running on Monday, but that was not too bad since the cab ride was $5 cheaper!
Now at the drop off and pickup stations this was where the confusion started. Let's just say the stevedores did not really seem to know what was going on, but we were able to get our luggage on, I think wewere the last ones to drop off for a bit until their act got together. Off to check in we go.
Got to the terminal at approx 11:30am and we were sent to early check-in on the Queen Mary. Wow was it slow, but everyone was happy, lots of talk and banter going on. It was fun listening in on folks talking about smuggling in alcohol. From what I gathered no one got caught! After check in, we were off to the next line and every line was moving. At this time one of the Carnival personal saw my wife with her surgery boot and cane, and allowed us ahead of the line processing and we were on the ship with in 10 minutes. So check-in took about 1 hour and 10 minutes. So off to the Lido Deck for some food and a bucket of beer.
Getting to our cabin was pretty easy and off we went to drop off our carry on. We had an inside cabin located aft on the upper deck, and we found it to be of pretty good size for a cruise ship. Plenty of storage space for a 4 day cruise and the suitcases fit under the bunk nicely. The Head (bathroom) was also, we thought, a pretty good size, not too big and not too small, and the shower we thought was perfect. One problem with the shower we found out later was it liked to change the temperature of the water. Really hot then super cold, made it interesting to shower! But like everything, we learned to deal with it and it became a laughing matter and a chance to chat with other cruisers.
On our first tour around the ship we checked out the places we might want to go and found the ship to be in pretty good shape. With crew members constantly cleaning all parts of the ship day and night. The inside of the ship we thought was done very nice, not too glitzy, and not too bright. The use of mostly brown tones with a touch of blue, green and yellow seemed tone it all down. Lots of wood trim around and I noticed none of it damaged. Back for a couple of buckets of beer and off to sail away. Very uneventful and off to dinner we go.
Early dinner at Destiny table 296 turned out to be the assignment, what a great group of tablemates we had! We were team red and, well, we had to carry the colors! We all took red names. Mine was Red Wine and Sue was Red Lobster. First night is lobster night. Did not hear a complaint. I don't like lobster so I did not partake of the shell fish, I had dead cow! Our wait staff was wonderful, they were always there to help and/or take our orders, we did not want for anything. Our tablemates found out the second day that they could have asked for more lobster if they wanted it, but after the first day they tried it all! The Maitre'd was wonderful, he even seemed to enjoy the antics at our table. Day 2 brought out the Billy Bob teeth. The look on everyone's face was wonderful, that made it funnier! Day 3 one of our tablemates DH was lost, and she was concerned, the Maitre'd called to see if he had checked in and was going to do it again when the husband finally showed up. Day 4 brought out the WWF masks. Again the looks on everyone's face was worth it. At this time we had gotten everyone around us to get a touch rowdy. So the dinning room was fun, and classy! The wait staff did the conga line and the parade stuff and most of them seem to enjoy the hoots and hollers and of course the applause. The food was pretty good, not perfect but I don't ask for that. The Beef Wellington did seem a touch off and was mentioned by several of us. But the gravy was able to cover it up. All other meals I did not have a problem with and was plenty in size for me and my wife.
The shows that we went to, most I would not write home about. The R-Rated comedian was okay but not what I thought it would be. Oh well, a few buckets of beer took care of that. The magic show we tried to see but Bingo players had the good seats. We found out most of the seats in the upper sections of the Normandy Lounge are poor, so we left and a couple buckets of beer later we did not care. We did get to see "Shout" and found it to be pretty good. The dancers did a wonderful job.
The crew members of the ship were very friendly and they were always ready to greet you and seemed to be genuine. The bar wait staff were able to take a no with no problem and were always friendly. But we did not have to say no to many times. Those buckets of beer just did not seem to stop, also those Fun Ship drinks seem to find their way into our hands! Also those with soda cards did not get fountain soda, they got canned soda. At the many bars we stopped at not one bartender refused or treated them any different from the booze drinkers
The other meals that we ate came from the other places. We did eat at the Destiny Room once for breakfast and it was pretty nice, got to meet other folks, including a couple from England. Talk included tea and politics, the English couple were great and fun. All other breakfast meals were eaten at the Paris buffet. Loved the omelets, and the cook would add other stuff from the buffet. The buffet line was the standard fare of eggs, pancakes, etc. The wife did not complain at what she ate, so it must have been okay. Lunch was had at the pizza bar and pool grill. The pepperoni was good and goes well with a bucket of beer. The hamburgers and the pool grill were okay, but I had the hot dogs and enjoyed them. They too went well with a bucket of beer. The Calypso band at the pool was pretty good, but had a limited song list. Yes, we heard the same songs again, but we did not care, again the bucket of beer can help out anything.
Our ports of call included Catalina and Ensanada. Catalina was nice, pretty and calm. We rented a golf cart and did the tour and got so lost! We ended going down roads we were not suppose to be on, but no one cared. Toured the Catalina museum it's small but I like neat stuff like that, and it looks like they are going to expand it. All in all, Catalina is nice little place to stop. Getting on and off was pretty easy, they had plenty of tenders running at all times.
Ensanada. What can I say! It's Mexico. We did the wine country tour and we found it enjoyable. Enjoyed hearing about Mexican history. I really like hearing folks talk about there country with pride. Oh, the wine tour, well it goes to 2 wineries, one larger and the other a small one. Nothing was going on (wrong time of year for grapes), but we were able to see the ageing barrels. Each winery had a wine tasting and they had some good wine. The last one gave out a free bottle to every one, and I enjoyed the red wine that evening at dinner. That afternoon we spend time shopping downtown. Papa&Beer was hopping and we did not really like the music we heard, so we skipped it. After dinner we went up on deck and watched sail way. We got to watch the last three folks come back. One left something in a car and had to run and go get it. You had to be there to, trust me it was funny. Much applause was heard on deck and she did not care.
Our cabin steward did a wonderful job, we only met him once, but we knew he was around. Those towel critters were cute and we enjoyed them. Night 3 we got the elephant and we had him pose in the fake window ledge for a few pictures, and steward must have thought that was a good idea as he left it there. Made the cabin a little more homey.
As with most cruises, they come to an end. So now you have to go through disembarkation. They go by colors, and we were purple and our color was called about 9:15am. Getting off the ship was easy and we were on our way to customs and immigration at 9:35. Immigration took about a half hour and this was the most grumbling I heard. Once through it was a hop and skip to pick up luggage and out to pick up our shuttle. Our porter was wonderful, he was not pushy, he just offered to help. We told him when our flight was and he told us places to go while waiting for our 5pm flight. We were free and clear by 10:30 and waiting to go to the Long Beach airport.
Well, was this cruise perfect? I would say no, but it was very good and we enjoyed ourselves a lot. Would we go on this same cruise again? I would say yes. Would I sail with Carnival again? I would say yes. Would that cruise be better? Maybe. Worst? Most likely not.
Any questions feel free to contact use and ask questions Hope you all enjoyed this
We went on the Paradise June 20th and did the Eastern cruise. Embarkation went very well, do not try to sneak and liquor on a carry on, they do check and they do take it away. We mean't to put a bottle of rum in a checked bag and forgot to do that and they did find our bottles of soda and a bottle of rum. We did get to keep the soda but had to leave the bottle of rum at port, we did get it back when we got off the ship.
We got on the ship and it was a very pretty and clean ship. It is nice to go on a ship that is smoke free, but won't be for very much longer. They will be stopping the smoke free ship in September.
Our room to us didn't seem as big as on the Sensation, but we also had 4 people in an inside room. There was plenty of storage for all 4 of us. The cabin was very clean.
We requested early-but the later seating and got the 5:45 instead of the 6:15. We wentto the Maitred' and he told us that the later one was full unless we wanted the late late seating and we declined. We wish we had gotten the later seating because trying to get 4 people ready for dinner by 5:45 was nearly impossible, especially when you have 2 teenage girls.
We ate in the Destiny Dining Room, which to us was the prettier one of the two. The food was very good! The service wasn't all that great, and it seems since they switched to the automatic tipping, the waiters and waitresses do not go out of their way for you. The waiters and waitresses sang every night, which was very entertaining.
As for the entertainment, not as good as on other boats! The theater has very poor seating, and you have to get there early to get a good seat. They have huge posts that are hard to see around. They didn't have much to choose from as far as shows go. They had bands playing in the small lounges that weren't bad.
The drinks on board were not too bad in price. We bought the drink tickets ahead of time and it did save some money. We did not buy the soda card since we did bring some soda and water on board with us. There was always iced tea, punch, apple juice and orange juice and lemonade 24 hours a day. There was also soft serve ice cream 24 hours along with their pizza.
Their main pool was rather small, but there were always plenty of chairs available.
Excursions, we did our own in Nassau, took the bus #10 to cable beach, very nice beach, and then we went back and went to the straw market. We also did buy some liquor, and ended up walking on the ship and they never took it away from us. The ship does sell their own liquor too, which is also reasonable. The cheapest liquor that we found was in St.Thomas, Bacardi Rum was $6.49 a bottle. CHEAP.
In the Dominican we were suppose to do 2 excursions, the excursion desk said that we would have plenty of time to get 2 excursions in, NOT. We did the catamaran experience to Catalina Island, we were suppose to be back by 11:30, and didn't get back until 2:30 so we missed out Outback Safari. The catamaran excursion was fun, free beer, soda and rum and coke. Also fresh fruit. We went and anchored near Catalina Island and snorkeled and then swam up to the beach. On the way back, the party started going and they got everyone to dance. We all did have a good time. When we got back we hired a taxi with 8 others and went into La Ramona and did some shopping. Amber is really reasonable. Coffee, best coffee, buy it at their supermarket, it is cheaper $1.50 a pound.
In St.Thomas we went on our own and took a taxi to Magens Bay. We stayed there about 3 hours and then came back and were dropped off down town. Went and did some jewelry shopping at our friends Ballerina, we have dealt with them for 10 years. And then went to the open market and back to the ship.
Our days at sea were very relaxing! Layed by the pool.
Disembarkation went very well, we were off the boat before 10:00.
As far as this being our best cruise we have taken, it probably wasn't, but the food was very good. The ship was in great shape, and it was worth the money. This was our second time we have been on a Carnival ship, we usually go on Princess. If you cannot have a good time on any cruise you take, then there is something wrong :} We did meet a lot of nice people through the message board on "Cruise Mates".
Embarkation and Deembarkation Smooth and well organised.
Ship Beautiful.Fresh and clean
Cabin-Sea View As expected with good amnenities and a wonderful view of the sea.
Food Fair to very good.The Grand Marnier Souffle was outstanding whilst the lobster was like trying to eat an eraser!!
Dining Room Service. Pleasant and unhurried, We had late seating which really makes a difference re the relaxing dining experience.
Cruise Director and his staff. Jeff Bronson was rather juvenile at times and his assistants were forgettable.
Entertainment. The main shows were excellent. Others including the majicians and comedians were no more than fair.
Shops. Lots of variety with something for all budgets.
Ship's Officers and Staff For the most part very friendly although we did encounter the occasional "sour puss" in the Paris dining room on the Lido deck.
Room Steward. We rarely saw him. However he frequently did not replace wet towels and used drinking glasses unless we asked him to do so.
Shore Excursions. Apart from the Stingray Encounter in Nassau they were dreadfully disappointing and definately not worth the money. Catalina Island in the D. R.was an ordinary beach full of beach sellers and pushers who rarely left usalone. Trunk Bay in St. John was a sensational beach but it was extremely crowded and very few fish were to be seen during the snorkelling. Time at the beach just 40 minutes. It was advertised as a 4 1/2 hour excursion. Overall rating for this cruise 7 out of 10.
Finally we learned the following lessons: Never go to the Caribbean in the Summer unless you enjoy extreme temperatures on board ship and on land. Make lots of enquiries re shore excursions not operated by the cruise line you are taking. Don't take back to back to back cruises to the same area with the same cruise line within a period of 18 months. It's a case of same old, same old and same old.
The night before the sailing we stayed at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay. (an excellent choice) They allowed us to check in at 10AM. (since that is when we had arrived) This hotel is convenient to Bay Front. (where all the shops and restaurants are) The room was a good size and the staff was very friendly.
The next morning, it was a short drive to the ship. We had our car, so we dropped the luggage and hubby took the car to the garage. I thought I had read they took credit card, but it was cash only on that morning to park. ( $70.00 ) So just be prepared for either way. It is a nice parking garage, so your car is out of the elements during the week.
We arrived at 11:00AM. They had just started letting the line move. It went quickly for us, since we had the Fun Pass and all our documents properly filled out and signed. We picked up our keys and went to the holding room. This port is a little more disorganized than others we have been to where the hold roomis concerned. The lady seating the guests was not making sure all the chairs were filled. And when it came time for boarding, she had no control over the situation. Everyone just got up and headed for the pictures. The rest of the embarkation went smoothly. We were having our picture taken by noon and headed for our cabins to drop off the carry on luggage. They were ready. I pulled out the can of Lysol and disinfected both rooms thoroughly, while the guys went up to get in the pizza line.
Our rooms (for the 4 of us) were R 87 and 91. We always book the cheapest inside we can get; while maintaining the location we like. Whether 4 to a room or 2 to a room, we have always had plenty of space. (and our 16 year old is 6' 2") Our cabin steward was quiet, but very efficient. He never introduced himself, but always got the job done and when we finally realized which one was ours..we would speak and he would always return our greetings with a smile. By the end of the cruise, he was more talkative. He is probably just very shy. But he got an A+ from us for the job he did and that is all that matters. The safe was big. Cruising suggestion..use a credit card to open and lock your safe. The magnetic strip on the back of your room key is not a good enough quality to handle this kind of use for a week.
Room service was always prompt with my bagels arriving still warm every morning at the requested time. This is one of the reasons I cruise..to be awaken every morning with my coffee and bagels. Cruising suggestion..always pack about 50 $1's for tipping.
The ships décor was beautiful. It was colorful without being overwhelming. Yes, there are some areas of carpet in the hallways on our floor that need replacing, but that kind of stuff never bothers me.
The food is one thing I have always liked about Carnival. It is consistent. The Lido deck was always clean and tables cleared promptly. And if you did not like the buffet that day, there is always the pizza, burgers and hot dogs. We eat at the formal sitting for dinner every night and most lunches. (never for breakfast) We were in the Elation restaurant at the 6:15 seating. Our waiters were excellent. The food in the formal dining room again was consistent with Carnival's other ships. I only eat beef, so I can tell you the sirloin will always be dry and a little tough. (mainly because I tell them to "burn it") The rest of the beef dishes are fine. This time, the sirloin was a little better than usual. While I have dined at many 5 star restaurants..I am not picky. Basically, as long as I don't have to cook it..I am happy. My family enjoys the soups and the desserts. We have always been able to order as much of whatever we wanted without question. By the second night, Chedenjive (our waiter) automatically brought me an extra chocolate dessert. Our bar waitress Jana automatically brought my son is Coke after the first night. Chedenjive took the time to write down our names and every night called us by name when asking for our order or talking with us. Very impressive. And after the second night, when I ordered by beef entrée.he would say " I know, burn it!"
The entertainment on board was fine. Hubby likes the shows and Shout is his favorite. He doesn't care how many times he has seen it. The comedian the first night promised his midnight show would be saucy.but that there would not be one 4 letter word.and guess what ...he kept his word. We don't go to the midnight comedy shows because, personally, I find the language ignorant and insulting. Anyone can say 4 letter words. But when he said his show would be different, we took a chance and he really delivered. He provided a hilarious, intelligent midnight show. I am so sorry that I don't remember his name, but he is completely bald and about 55 years old.so if you get the chance to hear him.don't miss it. The rest of the entertainment was the usual you would expect from Carnival. The karaoke was fun, but there were a lot of kids (5 - 11) this time that did not have parents. And their constant running on stage when someone was singing and screaming was more than I could handle. They swarmed Jenny (the karaoke social host) like a beehive the entire time, where adults could not even get to her to ask a question or hand in a request. There was plenty of karaoke, (afternoon and night) but the night session should be for folks 16 and older. By 10 or 11 pm, there are a lot of drunk folks in there and that is no place for a 6 year old little girl by herself.much less the 8 and 9 year olds that were on stage doing pelvic thrusts like Madonna. Cruising suggestion, if you do karaoke a lot and have your own custom cd's.take them. The selection varies greatly from ship to ship. The karaoke hosts have always been very careful with my cds. They don't mind a bit.
I can't speak to the Casino or Spa, since I don't do either. Everyone in the casino seemed to be having a good time. I can see why Carnival is making her a smoking ship, though. The casino was only about half full most of the time. This is a money maker for Carnival. And after all, this is still a business.
Pat (the soloist on the Promenade) was wonderful. We have sailed with him before and he actually remembered me. (I haven't figured out if that is a good thing.) His voice and instrumental talent are the best I have heard on a Carnival ship. He is usually on the Spirit and will be returning to her this September. He was just filling in for the usual guy that has held this spot since the Paradise sailed in '98. The guy in the piano bar was willing to let anyone sing (and even had the books with the lyrics) but he could only play the songs in the keys he had learned them in. Being a pianist myself, I know that any good musician can transpose. While he seemed nice enough, he did not seem to enjoy what he was doing. It was just a job and it showed. He spent more time telling us Americans (he was from Scotland) what we were doing wrong in our country and criticizing our religion.than entertaining us. This wasn't part of his "act". (I know the difference) So, I just didn't go in there any more. The Asian band in the back lounge was consistently good as well. The talent they have in the back lounge always surprises me. There usually isn't anyone in there and the bands are some of the best I have heard. Unfortunately, I can't be in two places at once. Karaoke and listening to Pat won out over listening to the Asian band. Pat does mainly country, so if you like a mixture of dance music..the back lounge is the place to be. I only set foot in the disco (Rex) one time.just to say I had been there. Lots of folks were having a great time, but it just wasn't my thing.
We sailed the Paradise so that we could experience the non-smoking ship at least one time before she changes over. We usually go out of New Orleans, Port Canaveral or Tampa and don't get all the way down to Miami..because I don't like to fly. We sailed the Eastern route, since we have done the Western so many times. The ports were fine.
Nassau: We had been there before. We love aquariums, so we headed to The Dig. We arrived by 7:30am which means we got to walk around it for free. (the kiosk to pay the admission does not open until 8am) Since we have been there before (and paid the $100.00 for our family to view it). we did not feel badly viewing it this time for free. We had a wonderful visit. We returned to the ship for lunch. We then walked down to the straw market to shop and grab a frozen marq. at Senor Frogs. It was very safe and lots of fun. And now they have the little shops right at the ship.
La Romana: This was the only port we had never been to before. Since we have a special needs child, we don't do ship excursions. He can't last 3 or 4 hours that the excursions entail. Since we don't speak Spanish at all, we were at a disadvantage. However, we just grabbed at taxi at the green taxi building. There is a sign with all the taxi charges plainly listed. There is young man who speaks fluent English to help you get a taxi to where ever you want to go. True, our taxi driver did not speak English. However, we have found that a good attitude and a smile will pretty much get you where ever you want to go. I must admit that we are spoiled with ports like Cozumel (where you can pick up and drop a taxi all day long where ever you go). That is not the way it is done here. You hire a taxi driver for the entire trip and you do not pay him until you arrive back at the ship. We wanted to go to Altos De Chavon for an hour. For a family of 4, it was $20. The sign at the taxi stand spells out completely how much each additional hour is. It is about a 10 minute drive. We walked around for about an hour and then had the driver take us back to the ship. We were gone about 1 ½ hours, but he did not charge us any additional fee. Just $20 bucks. (of course, we tipped him $10) He was Cuban (he had a green shirt on). Although he did not speak English, I was able to understand that he has 2 granddaughters and 1 grandson in Miami. He was so nice. If you want to do a beach, the charge for 2 hours to Bayhibe was $45.00 round trip. (for 4 people) Again, your driver waits for you. Our driver sat in the shade and talked, while we walked about Altos. It was so clean and so nice. We saw the amphitheater and church. No one hassled us. The view was beautiful. We felt very safe. The taxis were new, air conditioned 9 passenger buses. Not paying the driver until the end and having him wait around was different for us, but we got use to it quickly. We had planned to take the shuttle to the Marina before grabbing a taxi to Altos.but our little one wasn't up to that much that morning.
St Thomas: We have been to this port several times before. Usually hubby and older son snorkels, while younger son and I bum around at a beach. This time, they all just wanted to go sit on a beach. Personally, I would recommend grabbing a taxi to the ferry ($ 7 per person one way) and then taking the ferry to St John ($6 round trip) The ferry ride is about 30 minutes from downtown. Our table mates did this and it was about $20 per person for transportation. They said the beach was beautiful. We did not do this, again because the water was a little choppy and our youngest son would not do well. We just grabbed a taxi to Coki Beach. Again, $7 per person one way. Be prepared, this beach is not what we usually would describe as a beach. It was clean, but very, very small. We are use to huge long beaches. This is not the case. But it does have what we enjoy. The boys play in the waves, while Dad and I sit in the shade at Uncle Buddy's enjoying the beans and rice (which are the best) and a drink..while watching them. Uncle Buddy's is at the far end of the beach (away from the snorkeling and scuba activity). We were back at the ship by lunch. Afterward, we went shopping at the stores right at the ship. They had many stores without having to go back into town. Our taxi driver told us that the deals are just as good at the ship as in town, without having to hire a taxi. The days at sea were fun and relaxing. Jeff Bronson (our CD) was wonderful. He made as few announcements as possible. He was always upbeat and you can tell he loves what he does. Sara (a social host) was adorable. And they had the usual fare of fun activities. The Talent Show was so much fun. Be aware that they use the "first come, first serve" method for the talent show. You must be one of the first 8 people signed up that morning. Cruising suggestion: if you are not in the top 8, go to rehearsal anyway. We had one lady that signed up to tap dance and discovered she could not use tap dance shoes on the stage floor. So sadly, she could not perform. Another person who had come to rehearsal was put in her slot. I can not praise Chris (the sound guy) enough. He was so kind and willing to do whatever we needed to help us. Eric and his orchestra were fabulous. They learned a song from India (the lady sang it in her native language of Hindi) in 5 minutes and did an great job. All the folks that run the shows made us feel like celebrities. Everything they did was with a wonderful attitude. After dealing with professionals every day, I know they get tired of us amateurs . but they never let it show. We never felt like an inconvenience. It was so much fun. Cruising suggestion: If you plan to do the talent show and have your own accompaniment tapes or cd, bring them. You can even use karaoke cds, as long as you realize the words will not come up anywhere. The band knows a ton of songs and are willing to do whatever it takes to help you, but they may not know your song.
Debarkation: We got off the ship at 10am. The luggage was easy to find. Be aware if you use the parking garage, it is quite a distance from the building, if you choose to haul your own luggage to the car. We always do this..but it was much further this time.
A great cruise, as usual. Thanks Carnival!! Plus non-smoking as a bonus. I am disappointed that they are changing this in September to a smoking ship. Hopefully, Carnival will make some concessions and have some smoking only outside (or in the casino) on some of their cruises, for those of us that don't smoke.
We arrived in Miami on Saturday after a nice airplane ride from Cincinnati. There were 8 in our group, 4 adults 4 kids. We stayed at the Radisson, Priceline $50. It is about 1 block from the metromover which is free! We took this to Bayside for dinner.
Embarkation was a breeze! Much easier than I expected. Make sure when you get your documents if you are going to Nassau you fill out the form before you try to embark. Sign and sail cards were taken care of..and we were on the ship. The other family met us at embarkation and now our final group of 6 adults and 6 kids were assembled.
Our luggage arrived pretty quick. We met Cheng our room steward who kept the kids happy with a total of 5 towel animals. They also brought cookies to the kids on 2 separate evenings.
Since much of what we did had kids I will start with Camp Carnival. It is great!! My youngest who is 5 looked forward to going after breakfast in the morning and then back again for dinner and staying until late. They did severalcrafts and Becka and Tara are really good with the kids. My oldest son is 9 and he was able to sign himself in and out. They did several scavenger hunts and had many different activities. We did utilize baby sitting as we had been given the 8:30pm dinner seating. Camp Carnival is no charge until 10pm, so we used it after 10pm several nights. The youngest was usually sleeping when we picked him up and the oldest was playing games or just hanging out with his new friends. We did utilize walkie talkies and they worked pretty well.
I am not much of a jewelry or shopping person so I can't speak to the bargains available. The only port we shopped in was Nassau and that was because one mom and her daughter were missing a suitcase (which of course was waiting on her when we returned to the ship). The 3 moms went by themselves to Nassau we took a taxi to Paradise Island walked around Atlantis for a bit then walked to the beach. Very pretty beach and we exited through another exclusive resort that looked really nice. The dads and older boys did a half day reef fishing trip ($60pp) and had fun doing that.
On our stop at La Romana we took a taxi to Bayahibe beach. The water was comfortable and very calm. We all had a great time here. Ended up buying a painting from a guy with a stand on the beach.
Next stop St Thomas. One of our party had been to Trunk Bay before so we took a taxi to the ferry then another taxi to the beach. The surf was a little rough here, but the water temperature was nice and I did my first snorkeling trip. There is a decent shower facility here with facilities and snack bar and a place to rent snorkel vests and other gear. I did like that there was a life guard on duty on the beach and one out near the reef on a surf board. I have never seen such beautiful water as I saw going into St Thomas and at Trunk Bay.
We did all our trips on our own. Taxi rides were a bit more than we anticipated, possibly because we had such a large group and kids are charged regular fare. I guess the best advice here is negotiate before getting in the vehicle with anyone.
All the staff from our waiters Rohan and Alvaro to the social hosts, Tina and Sara were very good. Cruise director Josh Riffe was very amusing. I enjoyed the evening shows. Amy Sexton is a very talented singer. One night the regular entertainment was unable to land in Dominica (air controller strike) so Amy sang for 30minutes along with the Paradise orchestra and it was very nice.
Dinners were alway great. I had soups as appetizer 3 nights and they were all excellent. I am not an adventurous diner, but I enjoyed all of my meals. We had dinner in the Elation dining room at 8:30pm. I kind of wish we had done dinner a little earlier. They had 4 seatings beginning at 5:45.
I did do laundry on the ship, my advice don't do it on a sea day! Take your own detergent and quarters are available at the pursers desk.
Debarkation was smooth. We did the express due to the time of our flight and we were sitting at Miami airport by 9:30am. Taxi is fixed rate from port to airport, $21 total.
Overall it was a great vacation and I am already looking forward to the next one, without kids. I really enjoyed the smoke free atmosphere. Enjoying a drink in the bar without smoke was great! Too bad Carnival is discontinuing this. If you have questions please feel free to e-mail me.
Back to reality...and it's a cold one here in Indiana. We returned Sunday from the Eastern Carribean cruise. It was great. Good weather in all ports, (a little shower in St. Thomas but it didn't last long). Also, there are thirty bazillion jewelry stores and every stinkin' one of them has someone out front trying to lure you in. We personally weren't buying any jewelry so who knows which shop you should be lured in to? Carnival does help you before that port to recommend jewelers to go to, etc.
The ship embarkation was very efficient and took little time at all. Same with debarkation. We arrived by Taxi to the terminal and drove right up to a group of men taking your luggage and putting it on these huge bins. Assumed it was a Carnival service...NOT! Those guys almost chased us down for a tip. Very aggressive. Hubby went back when he found change for a twenty and gave the guy a tip. He'd actually left a sizeable amount of cash in the front of one of the suitcases and had to go back to retrieve it from thepile already accumulated. So, a tip was necessary at that point for life or death purposes! kidding....?
We got our luggage in plenty of time for dinner but it was casual that night anyway. Didn't matter. Formal night was the next night and again on Friday night. People wore everything from soup to nuts. Very classy sparkly gowns to simple pantsuits. Lots of photographers taking pic's for you. The gallery where they are later displayed gets rather congested and it's not easy to find your own pic. Try and hit that when people have thinned out a bit. Our cabin steward was a doll. They are so friendly and accomodating. You almost feel guilty using the room because they just come in after you and clean up. It's wonderful! The dining room (we were in the Destiny/early seating, and Gus and Timea were our servers) food was wonderful too. That first night one of the dessert choices was chocolate Decadence. Don't miss it! My mouth is watering. My husband and I agree that it's hard to imagine why anyone would skip those three meals in the dining room and eat in the other places. I do understand about kids and getting undressed and redressed and all that. But it's worth the effort. For those couples sailing alone, the meals are far superior in the dining rooms. You meet so many people that way. We requested early seating when we booked the cruise with our TA but were given late seating. My husband went almost immediately to the Maitre'de (sp?) and requested we be changed to early. We did get changed but evidently 65% of the people asked for early and obviously they can't accomodate everyone. If you don't go right away and request a change, chances are you may not get it. We like early because the food is so rich and you get sleepy after you eat. Well, we do anyway. This cruise, third of three, was our first early seating meal and we did stay up much later than previous cruises. I do recommend early for those who don't want to go to sleep right after dinner. Don't miss the Gala Buffet either. WOW! very impressive. Our first time to stay up late enuf' to see that. The shows that we made it to were fun and had many talented people. We missed the comedian and wish we hadn't. He was pretty good we hear.
Room service was FAST. Only did it once in late evening. Surprised how quick they showed up.
We had never bought shore excursions before either and did this time. A little dissapointing but only because you just don't get enough time anywhere. Bahamas we did the Blue Lagoon and while it's absolutely gorgeous there isn't enough time to do that and see the city sights. Next time we'd go on our own there. Dominican Republic was just okay. I'm not real sure why this is a Port. We went up by shuttle to the Altos de Chevon village. Pretty, but not enough time to even look around. It was in and out of there then down to the river boat thing (land/water vehicle). Rum and coke, or beer, flowing freely. Merengue (sorry, probably spelled wrong) music playing and crew wanting you to get up and dance with them. Not my thing at all, but plenty of people got up and danced and had a great time. The actual boat ride was slow and easy. Nice and safe feeling for chickens like me. Get back into the shuttle and back to the ship. Nice, friendly people all around. Oh, they drove us through the resort area of Casa de Campos first and that was time consuming. I kind of think they are trying to drum up foreign touristry which is totally understandable, however, we really could have skipped that part of the trip and spent more time up at the village. I got mosquitoe bit about six times on that little jaunt, so use bug spray before you go. I had to pay $6.25 for some Caladryl lotion in the little market up there.
In St. Thomas we started by taxiing from the dock to the shopping area of town. By 12:30 we had to be back at the dock for the ferry over to St. John. Then we from the boat (ferry) to Trunk Bay for snorkeling. They had the snorkel stuff there. It was in good working order. The bay is so beautiful. Clear and warm and wonderful. Again, not enough time. From dock to dock it's at least 45 minutes. Then from dock to Trunk Bay has to be at least 30 minutes or so. You get to snorkel for less than 2 hours, then reverse the order. When we got back to the ship the line was HUGE. Looked like everyone was returning at once. The shuttle dropped us off as far from our ship as possible while still being on the dock. There were 3 or 4 ships docked end to end and ours was at the far end. Until you walk the length of those ships you can't imagine the size of them.
What would we do differently next time? First, know that we are always on a budget. We didn't chose the cheapest shore excursions, but neither did we choose the most expensive. Some are very pricey. We would probably be a little more adventuresome and go off on our own little excursion.
In the Bahamas we would probably go to the Atlantis and look around and then maybe the town tour. There are lots of taxi's waiting o the dock to take you wherever you want to go.
In the Dominican Republic we wouldn't change anything. We wouldn't want to stay on the ship, but neither did we want to spend an arm and a leg. We were satisfied with the excursion as already stated above.
In St. Thomas we would definitely go over to St. John again, but probably on our own.
We stayed in Miami the night before and the night after cruise day. Hotel InterContinental was very nice and close to the Bayside Market, which is a fun place. The Four Ambassadors in the same general area is a dive and I would never recommend it one bit. Furthermore, we purchased it thru Hotwire and it was a rip-off. I've emailed them and told them what I think about their promotion of that place as a 3 1/2 star hotel. We paid at least 60.00 more for the room than what we would have paid by contacting them ourselves. Be sure and go over to South Beach and experience that! WOW! Not a good place for children though! Too much skin showing, and saw several illicit deals go on right there in front of us. (Prostitution and drugs) There are plenty of "normal people" but definitely in the minority.
Email me if you'd like any other info.