This will be a very general review, listing my impressions, since I was only onboard the Paradise for four days. I normally would not sail a Carnival ship because the brand just doesn't suit my particular cruising style. I only took this cruise to attend a 30th Anniversary Battlestar Galactica Fans Convention that was being held onboard the ship on this sailing. Because I was busy with various convention activities, I did not have adequate time to thoroughly explore the ship in order to present a comprehensive review. Perhaps others will do that in their reviews.
I am a single woman, age 52, and traveled on this sailing alone.
Embarkation Embarkation was relatively easy despite the fact that this ship holds over 2000 people. I'll be honest -- I was expecting a mob scene, but the whole embarkation process was very well organized.
I got to the pier relatively late -- at around 1:00 p.m. -- so perhaps that has something to do with the lines not being too bad. A good friend from the CC message boards, Copper, picked me up at LAX and drove me to the Long Beach Cruise Terminal.He told me he would meet me right outside of the United Arrivals Terminal, and I couldn't understand how he would be able to get away with parking there. Well, that's simple. He was in his Black and White. He's a cop. Hence, his screen name Copper.
We made it to Long Beach in no time (and, no, he didn't run the lights and siren), but traffic wasn't too bad so we made good time. It didn't take very long to dump the luggage and get on the ship. So, I give Carnival an A for embarkation procedures.
As a sidenote, I wouldn't normally recommend flying cross-country on the same morning as a cruise, but in my case, I was really boxed in for vacation time since I was taking another cruise right after this one -- for 35 days. I also knew that the Paradise would be at Catalina Island the next morning and if need be, I could catch the ship there if I missed embarkation in Long Beach. Fortunately, both my flights were on time and I made it to Long Beach in plenty of time for the 5:00 p.m. sailaway, but I wouldn't have cut it so close normally.
Cabin I believe I was on the Empress Deck -- can't quite remember Carnival's deck names -- but it was on the same level as the Internet Center. But I was in an inside cabin. The cabin was adequate, though I was disappointed to find that the beds were in an "L" configuration and could not be put together. Thus I was forced to sleep in a twin bed for the four nights. I could have dealt with that if that was all that was wrong with the cabin, but there were other problems as well.
The cabin itself was cold. I didn't initially notice this because I was running around unpacking my carry ons and getting settled. When my one large piece of lugggage arrived, I used the spare bed to house that since I had no intention of unpacking everything in there since most of it was for the next cruise, the 35-day one. I set the suitcase up on the spare bed and then just removed the few things I would need for this cruise.
When I finally noticed that the cabin was awfully cold, I looked for a thermostat so that I could raise the temperature. Guess what? No thermostat. I tracked down my cabin steward and asked him how you control the temperature in these cabins. Guess what? You don't, is pretty much what he told me. He did point out a vent in the ceiling and said he could try to close it somewhat, which he did. But it really didn't help that much and I wound up sleeping with several blankets every night.
I'm used to Holland America ships where they give you some nice toiletries in your cabin -- Elmeris products. Here what I got was a small wicker basket with some "sample size" containers of various name brands of things like toothpaste and disposable razors. Why I had two disposable razors, a small tube of toothpaste and not much else, I have no idea. But that's what I got. Shampoo and body gel were dispensed from a dispenser contraption located within the shower.
I have to say that the cabin was not very clean. It was not overtly dirty, but that evening when I went to bed, I happened to brush my hand along the ledge above the bed. There was an unopened (thank God) package of condoms up there. Frankly, if that cabin had been thoroughly cleaned, I would have never found that. It had obviously been left by the previous occupants leading me to believe that this cabin steward wasn't very thorough in completing his work duties.
The bed was fairly comfortable, though the bedding, especially the bedspreads, looked old and dingy.
Except for the cold temperature in the cabin, however, I would have to say it was adequate, though far from luxurious. It was a decent size with a pretty good amount of closet and storage space, so considering I paid for an inside cabin -- I guess I got what was advertised.
Ship Here's is where this review will get very general. I only had four days on this ship and spent most of that time attending convention activities, so I really didn't make a thorough survey of the ship. However, what I will say is that this isn't a very clean ship. I don't know if the reason for this is because they are shortstaffed, or if the workers just don't care, but the whole ship seemed "dirty."
For example, I would usually sit out on the Lido in the mornings having a cigarette after breakfast. Rarely did anyone come around emptying the ashtrays or cleaning off tables where people had eaten. One morning in particular, I saw a table a couple up from the one I was sitting at that was laden with dirty dishes, its occupants long gone. I needed to head to my cabin for a moment to pick up something I had forgotten. When I returned about half an hour later, and resumed my table for a final cigarette, that table was STILL laden with dirty dishes. No one had come to clear it in all that time. There was a chair near mine where someone had left behind an orange. It was just sitting in the chair. No one had removed that either. To me, this is inexcusable. Someone should be out there constantly sprucing things up; emptying ashtrays, removing used tableware, etc. Not on this ship, however. And that's strange, too -- because there is certainly no shortage of bar waiters coming around offering drinks, even in the early morning hours!
The public restrooms were not kept very clean either. The couple of times I used one, I noticed that it could really use someone to come in and clean up. Another convention attendee told me that she was absolutely appalled by the condition of some of the women's restrooms, especially the ones on the Lido. Again, there is no excuse for this. It is basic maintenance that should be provided at any resort -- including on a cruise ship.
So I give Carnival about a C for ship cleanliness.
Food Service I certainly didn't eat in all the venues onboard this ship, but I have to say that the ones I did eat in, primarily the Lido and the main dining room, were fine. The selection was good, and the food was great. I'm not a lunch person, so it was only breakfasts and dinners that I partook of. Breakfast was always in the Lido and dinner in the dining room. Service was reasonably quick in the Lido and the food items tasty. I was traveling as part of the Battlestar Group, so we had an assigned group of tables in the dining room. The celebrities in attendance would "rotate" tables so that everyone got the chance to dine with a few of them over the course of the four day cruise. The food choices each night for dinner were plentiful. I enjoyed every meal I had there and could always find something to suit my somewhat picky tastes. Service was excellent and the waiters seemed to have no problem catering to special requests. The dining room itself was attractive and it was a pleasure to dine there.
I give Carnival an A for food service and presentation.
Public Areas I noticed that most public areas of the ship were cold. It didn't take very long for most of us convention goers to learn to bring along a sweater or wrap to many of our group's activities. But other than being cold, the meeting and conference venues were certainly adequate. It appeared that Carnival had competent personnel onboard to assist the Battlestar Conference planners with anything they needed for particular events, such as projection equipment, sound, adequate seating, etc.
As for other public areas of the ship, I can only comment on those I used. I went to one cast show and the theater was certainly nice. I also went to the piano bar one night and found it to be rather small, though adequate. Again, I noticed that rarely did waitstaff bother cleaning or replacing ashtrays, as least not while I was there, and I found this odd since it is not what I am used to when on a cruise.
Entertainment and Activities I really didn't participate in any of the Carnival shipboard activities, preferring instead to attend the ones specifically for the convention. However, I noted from the Daily Program that there were certainly plenty of them -- far more than I normally see on Holland America. There was also a wider variety of activities, for people of all ages and tastes, and I could well see that no one need get bored on this ship. There were sports-type things, as well as poolside activities, art auctions, bingo and casino-type games. In the evenings there were shows, as well as karoke and other goings on in the bars and lounges. Like I said, I'm at a disadvantage in commenting on these, because we had our own activities specific to our convention and I participated exclusively in these.
I did see one cast show and found it to actually be superior to what I am used to on Holland America. The lead female singer in particular was excellent and the show well-produced. It would seem that Carnival places a high priority on quality entertainment and it shows -- at least from what I saw.
Fellow Passengers Contrary to "popular" opinion, Carnival Cruise Lines would seem to have an undeserved reputation for running exclusively "booze cruises." This one certainly wasn't like that. Sure, there was a brisk business at the bars, but it wasn't like everyone was drinking themselves silly all cruise. Now, from what I understand, it could be that because this cruise ran from Monday until Friday, there was a different type of passenger environment than you would get on one that ran Friday to Monday. This group was primarily couples and families with kids. Most seemed to be young to middle aged with a smattering of older folks. None of the kids that I saw were unruly -- they were just kids onboard to have fun and they appeared to be well-behaved and mannerly. I give credit to Carnival in keeping things orderly at the pool area too. They have a large snaking waterslide, and a Carnival employee is stationed at the entrance to regulate how many people are at the top of the slide at a time. This cut down on the normal pushing and shoving you can get, along with the resulting risk of injury.
Carnival also ran a full children's program on this cruise, and while I know nothing about its details, I do know that it must have been good because you didn't see hoards of children running wild all over the ship. Even at night, I didn't notice any of the normal "horseplay" you would expect to see around a ship that was carrying lots of families with kids.
I talked with several other passengers out on the Lido in the mornings, many of whom were not with our conference group. Most seemed friendly and good natured, and I enjoyed their company.
Decor The only thing I can say about this is "huh? Eggs? What's the deal?"
The entire atrium area is festoned with what I can only characterize as eggs. They are on the elevators, the walls, everywhere. Maybe that was the theme of the ship when it was designed? If so, it's ugly. The eggs are also a wierd aqua greenish color that maybe was attractive when the ship was first rolled out, but appears ugly now. Several people from our convention group commented on them, trying to figure out why? I mean, I could understand seahorses or mermaids, but eggs?
Ports I really can't comment at all on the ports since I didn't leave the ship at all. I had made the decision not to venture out into any ports on this sailing specifically because I had already spent a bundle on shore excursions for my next cruise, a 35-day Hawaii/South Pacific voyage on Holland America's Statendam. I just wanted a relaxing four days on the Paradise, participating in the onboard Battlestar Galactica Fans Convention events.
This cruise, however, began in Long Beach and visited Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico. It also had one "Fun Day" at sea before returning to Long Beach for disembarkation.
Internet Internet would not normally be a category included in a cruise review, but I had to include it here because of what I encountered while on the Paradise.
I was scheduled to be away from home for 40 days. This was the first cruise and another one was to follow that was 35 days in length. Therefore, I brought along my own laptop for use in blogging on that longer cruise, and did not plan on even accessing the internet while on the Carnival Paradise. However, by the last day of the Paradise cruise, I figured I'd better at least check my email to make sure nothing was amiss at home. I have a 94 year old father, and I wanted to make sure that my brother wasn't trying to contact me concerning him.
The internet center was located on the same deck as my cabin, so I headed over there to buy a small internet package for this purpose. First of all, the center was dark and dingy -- not at all what I am used to. However, as long as I can get on the internet there, I figured I could deal with dark and dingy. I wouldn't be in there that long. Wrong! I found the center to contain an adequate number of workstations, I'd guess about 20, and several of them were vacant. I pulled up a stool -- yes, the workstations are on a long countertop so you have to sit on a stool (not very comfortable). At the time I was in there, the center was staffed by a manager, who seemed to know his job. He helped me to get an account set up and then I set about getting to my email. This is where the trouble started. Can you say slow? I mean sloooooooooow? It took me over 15 minutes just to get to the first email box, and I knew all of the appropriate internet addresses. They were written on a piece of paper that I had with me. Everytime I would try to access something, I got the indication that my request was proceeding, a little circle going round and round. It should have been a snail. I had purchased a 30 minute package figuring it would be more than adequate for my needs, but I wound up using close to 45 minutes -- at pretty hefty charges too, I might add.
I think that between the 30 minute package, and the overage, as well as the additional charge to print out one email, I spent close to $30 bucks! All that to check email. I should have waited and just done it the next day when I got to my hotel in Vancouver.
I realize internet service on cruise ships is never going to be fast, but this was ridiculous. A dial up connection would have been three or four times faster. I've been on cruise ships and I am familiar with the limitations of onboard internet service, but this was way beyond any of them. When I mentioned it to the internet manager, how much time this was taking, he pretty much shrugged his shoulders as if to say "what can you do?" My response would be "plenty! Improve your service!"
So just let this be a warning to you. Unless you have no problem spending a bundle, don't plan on using the internet on this ship!
Conclusion I realize this is a far from comprehensive review of the Carnival Paradise, but I've tried to make it as balanced as I can. The bottom line is that there were some good points (the food) and some low points (the cabin and the cleanliness level of the ship), but overall I would say that I got my money's worth on this sailing. I had a great time at the Battlestar Convention, though I had a few issues with that as well. I didn't spend a whole lot of money on this sailing, in fact it was actually rather cheap, so I guess I got what I paid for.
If you were to ask me if I would ever sail the Paradise again, I would have to say probably not. Not unless the ship underwent a major overhaul and the service staff some major retraining. But I would have to say that I got my money's worth out of this sailing, so I guess it wasn't all bad.
I would have to add that in all fairness, Carnival is not my preferred cruise line and I knew that going in. So, maybe I am being a bit more critical that I should. But I just know that when I take a vacation, I like to be waited on, and I like a high level of service. When I sit down at a table on the Lido, I like it to be clean, and the tables around me clean. I like elegant public rooms with a smiling staff wanting to meet my every need. I don't think I always got that on this cruise, and for that reason unless there was really something special going on during the sailing, I doubt I'll ever set foot on the Paradise again.
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.
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.
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
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.