We started our journey to Miami through Baltimore Washington Airport early Sunday morning. We were through security without a hitch although we did have to remove our shoes. We arrived in Miami around 10 a.m., and since we booked our air through Carnival, buses were there to take us and our luggage to the dock.
On the way to the dock, we passed the Norway, which looked really sad. Then we realized that several people on our bus had originally booked the Norway. After boarding, we found out that this Paradise cruise had sold out due to passengers who already had airfare to Miami for a June 15th sailing on Norway. We were booked to capacity at 2,600. The lines at embarkation were long but flowed rather well and in no time we were in our cabin on the Upper deck forward.
We made our way to the shore tour desk and booked our excursions, then headed for the Paris Restaurant for lunch. Afterwards, we toured the ship and joined in the sail-away party fun on Lido deck. The weather looked threatening, and our second night at sea was rather rough. Myhusband had a bit of trouble with motion sickness but managed with the Scopolamine patch, lots of fresh air and by keeping something light on his stomach. We did have early dinner seating, and our meals were very good with plenty of variety.
Our first excursion was to Goff's Caye in Belize. We boarded early the Rock Beauty and our guides were very informative and fun. We had about a 20-minute speedboat ride to a very small island that had a tent with lots of souvenirs and a large pit BBQ with a chicken roast going. We were the first boatload of tourists to arrive, and this proved advantageous to snorkeling. We snorkeled in the shallow water and found the elk-horn coral to be teeming with beautiful fish. (I will include photos in the gallery.) If you're new to snorkeling, I would recommend this tour. You could also stay on the boat and snorkel in the deep water along the reef. After we spent a couple of hours of swimming and sunning, our boat tendered those who wanted to return to the ship, and took the rest to the dock at Belize City. This port is hardly ready for tourism. There is a small flea market-type area along the first couple of blocks and the locals are a bit pushy. I am sure with the improvements that are planned, before long the area will make for an interesting stop. But for now it is uncomfortable.
The second port was the small island of Roatan, Honduras. This is an untouched paradise. We toured the West Side, the more affluent area. Several U.S. enterprises on this side include housing developments with Century 21 and Prudential. The roads are very narrow and steep. The drivers are not cautious, and I worried about the children in their navy blue uniforms walking to the bilingual school. The water was clear and pretty as we walked out onto a bar over the water to be entertained by some native dancers. After this we shopped along the dirt road of the main street. The vendors do enjoy horse-trading. We then visited a butterfly farm and the Carabola Botanical Gardens for fresh fruit tasting. On the way back to the ship, our guide stopped by her house to show us her iguana. We visited the Cameo House and Yabba Ding Dings, a gift shop. The island people made us feel very welcome and safe in all areas. The pier is only about 50 yards from the main shopping area.
The next stop was Grand Cayman. Coming into port, we saw three other ships docked and expected crowds. The streets were filled with tourists and so were the shops. We had decided to take a "swim with the stingrays" excursion and were not disappointed. These marvelous creatures have been hand-fed for 20 years now and are completely comfortable with humans. As they brushed along my thighs I was amazed at the soft pillow-like feeling. This is something you should experience at least once in a lifetime. Upon returning to dock we decided to bring home the famous Tortugas Rum Cakes. The tenders were very large and we had no trouble going back to the Paradise, but the lines for the ship in port were horrendous.
Our last port was Cozumel. We docked directly across from the town square and Senor Frog's. The pier was filled with bicycle taxis and tour signs. We had decided to do the Eco Jeep Adventure. There were 10 other jeeps in our caravan as we headed out to the Punta Sur beach area. We visited a nature reserve there, with salt water crocks and an old lighthouse. We also saw a small hut built by the Mayan Indians, which was interesting in that the top of the hut contained a pyramid of conch shells each facing N, S, E, W with holes through them. Our guide explained that the wind would cause the shells to make a horn noise, alerting the tribe to inclement weather. Thus these primitives had their own hurricane alert system.
Our guide then took us on an off-road "ride of your life" through some of the roughest terrain in Cozumel. It's not for weak backs or necks, but a riot for the young at heart. We were allowed to drive the vehicles and our leader was fearless. This tour ended at a local beach, where we were taken out snorkeling and the fish food did lure in some beautiful sea life. Afterwards we had plenty of time to eat and shop, since the ship didn't sail until 11 p.m. We were in the show lounge when the last group from Carlos and Charlie's came on board, and we could hear their singing. They were a rowdy bunch, and the party continued on the Lido deck around the pool as the ship set sail for Miami.
The Paradise cabin stewards and waiters were fantastic. The photographers were a bit pushy, but that goes with the job. The shows were typical, except for the two comedians, who were really great. The days did offer plenty of options, and even with a full ship we did not feel crowded at all. The midnight buffets were very nice, and the majority of our meals were tasty. Our table mates were also new to cruising, and we enjoyed their company. All in all, it was a wonderful vacation. We did see quite a few children on board, and most of them were well behaved. I would sail again on Paradise, and would recommend her to anyone who enjoys a more personal experience in a smoke-free environment.
First, let me give you a bit of information on us, to frame the review below. I am 46 and have been on 2 Carnival cruises before - Donna is 40 and this was her first experience on a cruise ship. I'll also add that these are our observations - colored by our experiences, likes and dislikes. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I welcome people to agree, disagree or ask questions about anything in this review - my email is posted below.
We booked the May 25th sailing of the Paradise directly with Carnival - as a past guest I got a reasonable discount, but would suggest going through a travel agent or internet service like I-cruise. We didn't have the opportunity to get any cabin credits and the ship was supposedly full, so no upgrades were available. Our cabin was an outside stateroom on the Empress deck aft.
If you are arriving in Miami the day before your cruise I highly recommend taking advantage of one of the early check in desks at several of the hotels. We stayed at the Hyatt downtown (using Hyatt points for thestay) and walked 2 blocks to the Marriott Sunday morning about 10:00 to pre-register - that saved us a ton of time when we got to the port. We took a $12 taxi to the port, gave our luggage to the porters with an appropriate tip and marched right past the check in lines and up the escalators to get our Sign and Sail cards. At approx 11:30 they started herding people through the process of taking pictures at the security station (matches your pic with your sign and sail card - these machines were used whenever you got on or off the ship) and once through that process, we were directed to the escalators. Not sure how this happened because there were 30 - 50 people in front of us, but we took a 'short-cut' and were the 1st ones on the ship - what a feeling!
I won't go through a description of the ship - I read one review where one person as disappointed with all the wood and brass. I've sailed the Inspiration and my personal feeling is that I liked the Paradise more - all the neon on the Inspiration was a bit much for my taste, but that's just me. Since all Fantasy-class ships have the same layout, I knew where I was going pretty much all week - poor Donna never did quite get her bearings, but when she ventured out on her own she always managed to find her way so no problem.
The ship was clean and well cared for, the staff friendly and helpful, although we did find the photographers a bit pushy at times. We did a tour of the spa - the staff there is rated and I assume paid, on the number of treatments they sell in a week. We found the services overpriced and while we initially made an appointment for a 'couples massage' we changed out mid later in the week (after seeing our interim Sign and Sal account statement) and cancelled before the 24 hour cancellation period kicked in.. We used the gym facilities twice during the week and were alittle disappointed by the services in the gym. For those unfamiliar with the equipment (air resistance as opposed to weight machines) the person assigned to work in the gym was more interested in selling metabolism evaluations that in helping people with the machines. The treadmills were crowded both times we were there, but the wait for machines were not bad and there were enough free weights for the hard-core lifters.
We had the 8:00 late seating in the Destiny dining room - we preferred to have free time in the early evening and our head waiter and assistant waiter were good - not spectacular, but good (Louis said he was just back from a 3 month vacation and seemed to be having a bit of a hard time getting back into the swing of things). For those that like to rag on Carnival for the quality of the food, all I can say is that we did not have a bad meal in the dining room or the buffets. We're not gourmets and when you're preparing meals for 2,500 people each night, you can't expect the Russian Tea Room at every meal. The food was well prepared, nicely presented and there was a lot of it - the shrimp, scallops and beef were particularly good.
The entertainment was good - the 1st comic was a bust (Eddie Capone - the "Godfather of Comedy" should be whacked), but the other 2 comics they had were very good. Troy Litton did a good job as cruise director and the 2 social hosts (Erin and 'Karl with a K') kept things going. We hung out one evening in the Americana bar - a sing-along piano bar where even is you don't know all the words to "American Pie" you can sign along with everyone else and have fun. The disco seemed to be deserted every night. The 'Vegas-style' shows in the Normandie lounge were good and the dancers and musicians give you your moneys worth in effort, if not talent (this isn't Broadway after all). The Majestic Casino was busy most evenings, although Donna was disappointed there wasn't more action at the craps table. All-in-all we did well, taking home a smidge more money than we came to gamble with.
On this trip the Paradise stopped in Nassau on Monday, Casa de Campo on Wednesday and St. Thomas on Thursday. As far as shore excursions are concerned, we booked our own in Nassau and has a great time. We used Barefoot Sailing Cruises www.barefootsailingcruises.com and it was well worth the money (print their add from the internet and you get 10% off the $49 ½ day sail and snorkel. We called Barefoot from the dock and met the bus there at 8:30 for a 10-minute ride to the marina. Even though they directed us to the wrong sailboat, we had a good time - motoring to Athol Island. After a short lesson for those that hadn't snorkeled before, it was in the water for 45 minutes or so of great snorkeling. The Disney Wonder was in port the same day as us and after about 30 minutes of pretty much having the reef to ourselves, a large excursion boat pulled up 75 yards away and started to disgorge about 100 people into the water. We pulled anchor and set sail for the return trip around Athol island and back to the cruise ship dock. With the exception of a squall that blew through and caused us to lower the sails and motor the last few miles in, it was a great excursion - Eryn at Barefoot was very, very helpful and I'd highly recommend these folks in Nassau to anyone.
We took a ship excursion in Casa de Campo and al other reviewers may have mentioned this is the only way to go here other than staying on the ship. Casa de Campo is a resort and there is nothing to do or see there. As took the Saona Beach Catamaran excursion and it was the best one Donna and I booked all week. After a 30 minute bus ride to Bayahibe (bi-a-he-bay), they put you on boomerang boats out to an (approx) 80 foot catamaran for a 2 hour or so sail to a their own section of beach on Saona island. Each tour company has their own spot and while the beach wasn't the best (lots of rocks and some sea grass) the food was terrific and the water crystal clear and warm. The sail to Saona was great - they break out the rum and Pepsi or beer for those who prefer that and the music cranks up for those who want to dance. After lunch on the beach and some time to relax or swim we boarded 5 speedboats for the ride back to Bayahibe. The ride was great and as long as people are careful getting into and out of the boats, you'll have a fantastic time. We stopped at the 'Pricina Natural" - a sand-bar about ½ mail off shore with waist deep water to swim in - more rum was consumed here with games in the water and a good time (with or without the rum) was had by all. The 20 minute ride back to Bayahibe was great as the D.R. coastline whizzed by. I've heard this tour sometimes runs the opposite way - speedboats to Sanoa and the cat back to Bayahibe - either way we had an excellent time.
Our last stop was in St. Thomas. Since Miami was going to be our next stop, everyone on the ship had to clear immigration in St. Thomas. This was a bit of a hassle as they tell you to line up early in the morning (7:30 AM I think) and tell you that everyone has to clear customs by 10:30. We could have gone to the Promenade deck at 8:30 and completed the process in 30 seconds - instead we went early and waited in line with everyone else. We booked the St. John Champaign Sail and Snorkel through the ship and while it as nice, we were alitttle disappointed. We had been told the catamaran would go to Trunk Bay on St. John and we ended up on Honeymoon Beach. I had really wanted to see Trunk Bay, after hearing so much about the beach and snorkeling there. The crew of our boat was very nice, we sailed over and back, along with Champaign, 'pain killers' and good snacks after snorkeling on a reasonable reef and still had time to take a taxi into the shopping area of Charlotte Amalie ($3 pp each way). There are other tours offered but it's very easy to get around St. Thomas and if we had it to do over again we would have done St. Thomas / St. John on our own. We'll definitely be back in the USVI.
Our last 2 days were at sea and the weather cooperated nicely - hot and sunny with lots of opportunities for laying out. We never had a problem getting a deck chair the entire week and the bar staff was always available if / when we needed them.
We ended up purchasing a number of the pictures and bought the duty free liquor from the ship instead of St. Thomas - if you want to bring back alcohol at great prices, St. Thomas is the place to do that. We also brought a bottle of vodka onboard in our luggage - most of our dinner-mates did the same and while Carnival frowns on the practice officially, they do nothing to stop it. Next time we'll bring a few bottle of wine for dinner - one dinner companion did just that (they brought on 3 bottle actually) and was kind enough to share with us all - thank you Tom ! Carnival charges a $10 'corkage' fee for wine brought to dinner - still less expensive than buying it off their wine list.
The one bummer the whole trip was when Donna lost a very expensive Movado watch. The Carnival staff were efficient, but not much help in seeing if anyone turned it in, so if anyone finds a gold and silver ladies Movado on the Paradise, please let us know!
Debarkation was relatively painless - you can wait anywhere on the ship for your luggage tag color to be called, which is different from my earlier experiences on Carnival. We made it off the ship (3rd color called), found our luggage and got out of Customs in about 40 minutes. Porters were there to help and I'd recommend using them - they save you from standing in the long customs line and it's worth the tip. We found a shuttle van to take us to Ft. Lauderdale ($15 pp) and were on our way home with one last look over our shoulders at our home away from home for the last 7 days.
All in all it was an excellent vacation and I highly recommend Carnival and the Paradise. Any cruise is what you make of it - if you go with an attitude and give people on the boat attitude, you'll get it back. If you go, relax, participate in the actives, meet and enjoy people, smile and have fun - well that's what life is all about isn't it? Treat people like you want to be treated, enjoy the experience for all that it offers you and leave the world a better place than you found it.
If anyone would like any additional information, my email address is email@example.com and I'll try and get some of the digital pics loaded in my yahoo briefcase later this week.
There should be an additional smoke free ship. You can go anywhere and breathe fresh air. The ship was clean, the crew was great. The food was great with a few exceptions. The late night on board activities could use some revamping. There weren't very many things to do at all. Made for very few late nites.
The excursions are overpriced as usual. Roatan was not much to see unless you went to the beach only. Hopefully some investment will be made in this port. The midnight buffets were served in the regular dining room which made it hard to get to the food with all of the people. The waits were longs. The cruise overall was great and I traveled alone. Looking forward to the Eastern Carib on the Paradise.
Greetings all who read this. Before I begin, let me state that I am in no way a difficult person. In fact, I am quite easy to please and do not numerous activites to satisfy me. I am 35 if that helps. That being said, let the review begin.
We arrived in Miami on April 5th and stayed at the Wyndham Airport Hotel. Overall not a bad place but a bit pricy. The best part was the Carnival rep present on the morning of our departure, which made embarkation a breeze.
Embarkation - We arrived at the port after waiting in traffic for about 35 minutes. (Took a cab) Frustrating but our cabbie got bored and became a madman getting us to the boat sooner by getting in an improper line (reserved for buses I believe). Went inside and because of the preregistration, we proceeded upstairs, got the room keys, and waited to get on the ship. This was by far the easiest time I have ever had. So far, so good.
Went aboard and as this is my 4th Carnival cruise, I knew what to expect with the room. Allwas still well. We went about exploring the ship. Nice for the most part - all done in typical Carnival fashion. Best part --- no smoke anywhere (gotta love it!!)
Cast off - For some reason, the Captain set sail DURING the lifeboat drill - a first for me. Not the way I prefer to begin my cruise but we let it go
Ok, I am going to abandon the painful day to day review. I will list the good and the bad and get this over with quickly. (I am sure you all have better things to do)
The Good 1)Wait staff (Assistant waiter much better and more service oriented than head waiter) 2) Ports of call (Did not particularly like Belize or Roatan but for personal reasons only) 3) We booked out own shore excursions in Cayman and Cozumel - both were OK 3) The new friends 4) Best of all - the smoke-free ship
The Bad 1) kids, kids, kids 2) Lunch on Lido deck - absolutely horrible except burgers and pizza (most I spoke with agreed with this) 3) Dinners - by far the worst food on any cruise thus far (Again, all at my table agreed) 4) Tips already on account - had them removed (see below) 5) BAd overall service - Felt that no effort was given at all by most - why should they? They get paid regardless. Room steward never introduced himself, never did as we were told he would 6) Wait staff spread VERY thin - lots of waiting for food. Food not presented in timely manner, etc.
OK I have to stop. I am sounding like an old A#$hole. Email me if you want more.
All in all, a good vacation, but a less than satisfactory cruise. Will not be sailing Carnival again Sorry for the jumbled nature, but I get frustrated reliving it.
My husband and I were first time cruisers, and were married on March 16th (Paradise). I must say that we were both very pleased. It was a beautiful wedding. The wedding planner and cruise staff were superior. They made us feel special. The ship's photographer did a great job with taking pictures on board.
I highly recommend cruise ship weddings. We are both hooked on cruises, and plan on spending our anniversary on board. So anyone looking to get married in a unique kind of way, this is the way to go. We have no regrets! We love cruising!!!
Kim and Ed
This trip on Carnival's Paradise was my fifth cruise (my third on Carnival). I went with my friend John who only cruised once before. Last year at around this time, we sailed on the Sensation out of Tampa. The two are the same class ship, but are very different in style, (more later).
On Saturday Feb. 22 I got a "junk" email from icruise.com (sorry iCruise). Although we had already decided that cruise wouldn't be happening this year, I read the ad, did some investigating and discovered that the following week we could get a 7-day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean for $758 total for the two of us, ($189 each + $80 total for outside cabin + port charges + tax). Apparently last-minute deals are available!! We booked the cruise, packed our bags and drove to Miami all within 6 days!
We arrived at the Port of Miami at about 9:30am (after staying overnight in Miami). After crawling along in pier traffic for about 10-15 minutes, the person directing traffic pointed me toward the porters. A bit disorganized, but so what, the bags were taken. We charged the cost to park($10 per day = $70) and headed into the terminal.
Because we booked less than 3 weeks before sailing (6 days actually), our tickets had to be picked up at the pier. No problem! We filled out some forms, got our tickets, checked in, got our sail & sign cards and had a seat to wait all by about 10:45ish.
Around 12:15, they started boarding. It was like the running of the bulls! The stampede of people nearly trampled the employees as we, (yes, including us), tried to get on that ship first. We had our pictures taken and were on board the ship by about 12:30. Although we weren't supposed to go to our cabin until 1:00, we did. We dropped off our bags and headed up to the Paris Restaurant for our first meal on The Paradise.
Because our plans were so spur-of-the-moment, I didn't have time to get excited. That changed once we walked on the ship. Last year we were somewhat disappointed with the decor on the Sensation (Las Vegas gaudy is how I described it - most of the ship was metallic purple). This ship was elegant but still fun - lots of wood and subtle accents. Instead of the ugly sculpture at the bottom of the Sensation's atrium, the Paradise has a half-moon bar with a white baby grand piano behind it - beautiful! Now I was excited!
I shouldn't give my secret away about cabin choice, but I will...just for you! I intentionally chose the very last cabin in the back of the ship. Last year we had the 4th from the back and both proved to be a great choice! These were the quietest cabins I've had yet. There's almost no foot traffic (like running/pounding kids) in the back of the ship! The engines may have been louder in the back, but it didn't affect sleeping in the least.
Anyway, the ship itself was wonderful! The non-smoking atmosphere was amazing. The ship's scent was very different from any other I've been on - it smelled clean!! There was always someone somewhere cleaning, polishing, vacuuming or wiping to keep the ship spotless! The crew were incredibly friendly and helpful! Any inconveniences that we may have had were so minor that they're not worth mentioning!!
So then on to the ports. As I said, we did the Eastern Caribbean, stopping in Nassau, Dominican Republic & St. Thomas.
NASSAU: Last year we went to Grand Cayman. John regretted not having swam with the sting rays (which I had done prior to that trip). When we found out that we could swim with sting rays in Nassau, we jumped at the chance. A smaller ship took us from the pier to Blue Lagoon Island. The sting ray area was very different from Grand Cayman. Here, the water was from 8 to 15 feet deep. When we finally did see some sting rays, it was more like swimming above the sting rays than swimming WITH them. It was very disappointing and tiring! The saving grace of this tour was Blue Lagoon Island itself!!! What a beautiful place! A lagoon to swim in, hammocks to lay in, beaches to lay on and beautiful scenery wherever you looked! Bring film!! My suggestion would be to save some money by skipping the sting rays and spending the time on the island instead!
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: From what I understood, we were one of the first ships (if not the very first) to use this new port at Casa De Campo. The tours were all new and still had some bugs to be worked out. We went on the Amphibious tour. We boarded a air conditioned bus which took us around the island, including Altos de Cheval - a beautiful recreated stone village with lots of shops and an amazing view high above a river. Absolutely beautiful!! Again, bring lots of film!! Back on the bus, we drove to our "amphibious vehicle". This elevated bus/boat drove us to the river where it proceeded to drive into the water. We went for a ride up and then back down the river. Here's the problems: We only got 20 minutes in Altos De Cheval. WAY too short!! We needed 30 minutes minimum, maybe up to an hour to see all the scenery & shops. The river part of the tour was nothing exciting - plants, trees, shrubs...big deal! As we made our U-turn on the river, a speedboat came screaming up beside us and its occupants grabbed on to our "boat". We thought for a second that we were being hijacked...(boatjacked?). They turned out to be locals trying to sell hats, whistles & noisemakers. The other drawback to this port is tour prices! The cheapest tour was about $70 per person...and there's nothing within walking distance of the port! So take a tour or stay on the ship I guess! My suggestion: Don't take the amphibious tour, it's not worth it. DO take a tour that includes Altos De Cheval! Oh, other people at our dinner table hated (with a passion) the Jeep tour. They were supposed to be in Hummers which turned out to be Ford trucks with the backs replaced with seats. Plus they literally showered 3 times to get all the dirt off of them! Skip this tour too!
ST. THOMAS: What a beautiful island this is! (Lots of film!). We took the Best Of St. Thomas Island Tour at 12 noon and were very happy with it. An open, 20-person "bus" took us around to see the sights on St. Thomas. We stopped at all the "photo spots" including the highest point on the island and the "Great House". Just beautiful!! No complaints about the tour at all! We had plenty of time to take in the scenery & shop. And then there was still plenty of time before & after a tour to walk around the island - lots of shopping on the island!!!
FOOD: The menu on the ship was actually the same menu as last year on the Sensation. For some reason though, the food tasted better on the Paradise. Last year we were disappointed with the quality, but not this time! The pizza in the 24 hour pizza shop was terrific! We only ate from the Paris Restaurant's buffet for breakfast, which was always good (how bad can you mess up bacon, eggs & bagels?). We had hamburgers & fries several times from the Pool buffet, which were always great!!...followed by dessert in the Paris Restaurant. As a fan of bread pudding, it was great to see a different bread pudding every day in the Paris Restaurant at lunchtime! Oh, and by the way, they DO serve hot dogs at the Pool buffet, you just have to ask for them! We didn't order room service, so I can't comment on that.
CABIN SERVICE: Our cabin steward was not the friendliest of people and kind of laid down the "rules" for us on day 1 (which we were surprised at - "here's when I work, don't expect the room to be made up if you wake up late." - not that bad, but that's the impression he left). He did a VERY good job of keeping the cabin neat and clean, beds made, towel animals, etc. We didn't let the poor first impression interfere with his overall "rating".
SHIP: - As I said, the ship was always neat and clean! - The casino had more than enough slot machines & a wide variety of all kinds of games. The slots tournament was fun and other tournaments were available also. - The sushi bar (more like a sushi counter), was open nightly from about 5pm-9pm and had 4 varieties nightly, 1 of which was always vegetarian. I enjoyed all I had! - The shows were very good, some a bit hokey in theme, but all were performed incredibly well. The comedians (3 or 4 in all) ranged from hysterical to just funny. - The Formalities Shop sells a white cake (the same one you get with the "Bon Voyage" package, that is absolutely wonderful (the best cake I've ever had). It's a white cake with apple & buttercream filling with white chocolate icing. It costs $15.00 and is well worth it. We placed the cake & plate it came on on top of the ice bucket (in place of the bucket's cover) to keep it chilled, which worked well! - There's a dessert & coffee shop on the promenade where you pay extra for these items. They seemed to be of a better quality than dining room desserts, but I just couldn't bring myself to pay for dessert on the ship. John was in the mood for a cookie and bought one. A large cookie was $1.00 and he said it was VERY good, (not too bad for a buck). - If you see a Fossil watch that you'd like from the Fossil Watch shop, buy it ASAP! That shop is rarely open (6 hours TOTAL over 7 days). The prices are the same as Fossil's website which are cheaper than the Fossil stores on land. - The gift shops have a special each day, so if you can wait to see if what you want goes on sale, do that, you might save up to 50%! - Photos are pricy, but some are worth it! Take a picture at EVERY backdrop they have set up, but then wait until the end of the week to decide what you want. With all those pictures, you're bound to find some you like. By waiting, you won't buy one that you found out later you liked less than another later one...all sales are FINAL!!
DEBARCATION: Okay, so THIS was the worst part of the trip. Passengers started debarking at about 9:15-9:30. Each section of the ship has a color & that color's tag goes on your luggage. Naturally WE were in the last group called at about 10:30. We left the ship : ( and entered the warehouse where our luggage was. With not many bags left, we found ours quickly. But THEN came the line! I stood in line while John waited with our luggage near the "front" of the line. The line wrapped around the warehouse's walls, crossing in front of the exit from the ship, (meaning that people still coming into the warehouse had to push through the line). About half way around I grabbed a porter and asked him to help us, which he did. We passed through several rooms & customs & outside to the car. We left the parking lot at 11:45. Be careful! The floor in the warehouse is FILTHY!!! If you touch the bottom of your luggage, or lay it on your car seat, you WILL get it dirty!!
Overall, this was the best vacation either of us ever had. It'll take a while to pay myself back for what it cost in the end, but it was worth every penny of it! I would recommend this ship to everyone (except smokers that is). Feel free to email me with any questions you may have at firstname.lastname@example.org Do me a favor...if you DO email me, put PARADISE in the subject line so that my "junk mail" filter won't think it's trash! Thanks!
We flew out of Milwaukee on Saturday and arrived at Fort Lauderdale's airport about 1pm on Saturday. We used Tri-County Transportation to get us from FLL to our hotel, Hyatt Regency, in Miami. It was $55 for the 4 of us for this town car ride to Miami. We won the Hyatt Regency hotel on priceline.com for $45/night. We had no problem checking in early and got wonderful rooms. We had an ocean view and could see the cruise ships from our balcony. We walked down to the Don Pan Bakery and had some of the best sandwiches I have ever had. This is a Cuban bakery and is a great place for breakfast and lunch pre-cruise. The prices are very reasonable and the food is so good. To get to the Don Pan walk out the front doors of the Hyatt and turn left. Go under the metrolink rail and it is across the street, only about 1-2 blocks. That evening we walked to Bubba Gump's for dinner and to check out the Bayside marketplace. Bubba's is good food, a little pricey but a good way to start yourvacation. It took about 10 minutes to walk there.
On Sunday we got up and went over to Don Pan to get some fresh pastries for breakfast. They also have hot breakfast. Their Cuban bread makes wonderful toast. After breakfast we went back to the hotel, grabbed our cruise documents and passports and walked over to the Sheraton (about 1 block the other way, just over the bridge) and did the pre check-in with the Carnival representatives. The pre check-in took about 2 minutes; I estimate it saved us about an hour to an hour and a half in line at the port. We went on a little odyssey to try to find somewhere that sold hard liquor to take on the ship but failed. I don't think they sell hard liquor on Sunday's in Miami so be aware if you are planning finding liquor at the port area.
We took a cab to the port at about 11:30am. The cab ride was about $12.00 because there was already quite a back-up at the port of people picking others up and dropping others off. Make sure that you have your cruise documents handy because the cab driver will have to show them to the guard in order to get into the port area. We gave our luggage to the porters with an appropriate tip and went into the facility. There are signs up, after you get through the metal detectors, for those who did the pre check-in to go right up the stairs and get your sign and sail card. They started boarding the ship at about 12:30pm so don't plan to get there much earlier then we did or you will be waiting at the facility for quite a while and the chairs aren't that comfortable.
We had originally booked 4A guarantee cabins and received 6A cabins (R51 and R65). Our luggage arrived at our cabins before we set sail even though we had the wrong luggage tags (we got our final upgrade after we received our documents). The lifeboat drill was at 4pm and was one of the quicker ones we have experienced. The boat set sail on time and the fun began. Dinner the first night is resort casual because you should have your luggage before dinner time. We were at a booth for 6 in the Elation dining room at the 6:15pm seating, which was just perfect for us. Our cruise director was Shawn Bussey but this was her last cruise on the Paradise. She is being transferred to the Spirit for Alaska and Hawaii. The new cruise director for the Paradise is Troy Linton. We did the spa tour and got the couples massage the first day. The massage was okay but the ladies needed to work on their techniques as they used their elbows when they should have been using their hands. I would not do the massage again or recommend the massage on the ship.
Monday is at sea and is also the first formal night. It was just your average day at sea. Most people were figuring out the layout of the ship and getting their sea legs. We got a little sunburn on the deck and just enjoyed relaxing. There were always plenty of deck chairs available, pretty much everywhere but right next to the main pool. The rear pool area was practically empty when we made our way out there at about 11am. They now give you the Carnival beach towels in your room daily and that is your pool towel. You can also check-out a Carnival towel at the pool bar area but you have to return it by 6pm or your sign and sail card will be charged. It did really help cut down on chair saving. Since it was formal night they had quite a few different backgrounds set up that evening for pictures. We posed for them all, but only one turned out that night. The photographers are not at all pushy. The photos are some of our favorite souvenirs. The Captain's cocktail party was in the Normandine Lounge and they had plenty of waiters with drinks to keep everyone happy. The show was very good that evening. They have a 2 part "Shout" show on the Paradise.
Tuesday is Belize City. We had pre-booked cave tubing with Reggie so we didn't do any of Carnival's excursions there. Since we didn't book Carnival's excursion we had to get tender sticker numbers that morning. Instead of everyone waiting in line and pushing to get on the tenders you get a numbered sticker in the Lounge in the morning and then you wait for them to call your number and then you make your way down to deck 3 and get on the tender. I really like this new procedure for tenders and hope they continue to use it, and expand it to all the ships. Reggie was waiting at the dock with his sign and red hat as promised and lead the group (about 35 of us) to waiting vans (with a/c). There is about an hour van ride to the cave area and then another 30 minute walk to the river carrying your tube. So this is not the excursion for those who are out of shape or have any health problems as the walk is a bit strenuous. I wore water shoes but wish I would of just wore an old pair of sneakers. The path is rough and it was hard on the feet with the thin soles on those water shoes. It is all crushed rocks so sandals are not a good idea as you would be stopping every few feet to get the pebbles out. The current of the river is very weak in most places so you do have to do a fair amount of paddling to keep up with the group, you don't just float along. We had a great time cave tubing. On the ride back to the docks the vans stop at a bar/restaurant where you can get water, beer, soda and an authentic Belizean meal. We had chicken, cole slaw and beans and rice. It was very good and you are hungry after being in the water that long. The meal with a soda was $6, with beer it was $7. My hubby liked the beer and he is a beer snob so it must have been good. There is a little shopping area right at the pier with typical souvenir type stuff. We collect a magnet from each port we visit and easily found our magnet and then proceeded on to the tender back to the ship. We had a nice dinner in the dining room, saw the show and then crashed in our rooms.
Wednesday is Roatan. We chose to take the catamaran sail and snorkel excursion through Carnival since we couldn't find too much about Roatan on the web. The first look out the window to Roatan is a bit scary, lots of old school buses waiting for you and lots of taxis on the other side of a fence. We had breakfast and got off the ship and found the bus that would take us to the catamaran. We had a nice ride to the Parrot Bay Plantation where the catamaran left from. This is a beautiful facility, when we return to Roatan we will see if we can just spend the day there. The catamaran sailed us over to a protected little bay where we snorkeled. There were lots of fish and beautiful coral. It was quite windy that day so the protected bay was an ideal location, otherwise the waves would have been too much. When we re-boarded the catamaran they had a fresh water hose so you could rinse your face off (very nice perk) and you got a free rum punch. They sold Honduran beer on board for $1, again my hubbie tried both the dark and regular version and liked. Since you are not in Roatan very long (6am-2pm) the excursion takes most of the day. The bus took us back to the dock area and we did a little shopping right across the street. They have beautiful wood carvings and are very, very inexpensive. We bought a salad bowl set (big bowl, 6 individual bowl, and tongs) that was hand carved mahogany for $23. All the prices are negotiable. This was one of those times when I wished I had a car parked at the port so we could have bought more. They had hand carved and painted chests for $50 that were big enough for a child to crawl in that I would of loved to get but had no way to get it home. Since the ship sails at 2pm they have plenty of activities planned for the rest of the day. Tonight was the returning cruisers party. Once again we relaxed, stopped at the sushi bar, had dinner, saw the show and crashed in our rooms.
Thursday is in Grand Cayman. We decided to do the Reef and Wreck snorkel tour with the ship. Since it was a later leaving excursion, met at noon on the pier, we needed to get tender tickets for the same type of process that I explained in Belize. We did some shopping in Grand Cayman and got a bottle of liquor, a rum cake, and our magnet. Then we returned to the pier to meet our tour and snorkel. You first snorkel over cheeseburger reef, which is in wonderful shape. The water is too deep for people to swim down and touch/kill the coral so it is very beautiful. They sell fish food on the tour so lots of fish come to eat. Everyone gets back on the boat and you sail over to the shipwreck and snorkel over that. I had never done a wreck snorkel before and really enjoyed it. We took lots of pictures with our underwater camera. This tour was done in conjunction with the Conquest which is in port with the Paradise, so we got to meet some new people. We went right back to the ship after we returned from snorkeling because Thursday is the second formal night. Once again we did all the picture backdrops and these turned out much better. The show is a continuation of the first night's show "Shout". Right before the show was to begin the cruise director came on the intercom with an announcement that we were turning back to Grand Cayman to take an injured crew to the hospital (we had been sailing for about 3 hours at this point). A helicopter couldn't be sent to the ship because of our location any faster then we could get the person back to Grand Cayman ourselves. A crew member fell down a flight of stairs and cracked his skull along with breaking a few other things. At that point she just told us that it would affect our arrival in Cozumel but they wouldn't know exact times until morning. So we should just enjoy the night and they would update us all in the morning about the status of the next day. I think that the ship crew handled the emergency very well; you could see the concern in their eyes about their friend. So we all watched the show and enjoyed the formal night. I didn't make it to the grand gala buffet but our friends did and said it was very impressive.
Friday in Cozumel. As promised the cruise director made an announcement at about 9-10am with our status. We were scheduled to get to Cozumel about 1pm but because of the turnaround the night before we would not be arriving until 3:30pm. Many tours were cancelled, including ours, but the captain decided to stay in port until 1am. There were several people who complained to the purser about the delay and he promptly told them that the life of the crew member was the most important thing and they would not be receiving any other compensation (other then a refund for the cancelled excursions). He was much more polite then I would have been to these whiners. Friday was also the first day of Carnavale (Marti Gras Mexican style) so we had a great time staying late. Our friend's cabin was right under the entrance to the ship and they heard the Carlos and Charlies crowd come in right before the ship sailed. Since our tour was cancelled we decided just to walk around downtown. It is a $6 cab ride each way.
Saturday morning was very quite on the ship, I think a lot of people had a really good time in Mexico and were sleeping it off until late in the morning. We ate all the meals in the dining room and went to some of the scheduled events. We slowly packed all our stuff up and put the luggage out after the evening show. The liquor we bought in Grand Cayman was delivered while we were at breakfast; our cabin stewardess put it right in the cabin.
Sunday, debarkation day. We woke up far too early for a vacation day. Early seating breakfast in the dining room was 7am. We went and enjoyed our last Carnival meal. The capers said we could wait in our cabins until 9:45am so we did. We watched the news and found out that we would be returning to a very cold Wisconsin, they had frigid right over our part of the state. At 9:45am we went up to one of the lounges and waited our color to be called. It was the last color called which made it very easy to find our luggage. We purchased the bus transfers to Fort Lauderdale's airport and easily found the bus and got our luggage loaded up and settled for the ride. There was quite a line for taxi's and I think it would have been more then $60 (4 people at $15 each) to take a taxi to Fort Lauderdale. There was no line to check in at the airport at all. We just walked up to an available agent, handed our luggage over to the TSA woman in charge of the machine and went to the security check point. Once again there was no line at all at the security check point. I had no problem asking for a hand check of my film. There is a sandwich shop within the secure area. So we set down all the carry-ons and got a sandwich and waited for our flight. We were checked in and sitting eating by noon. We had a great time on the Paradise. We really liked the smoke-free atmosphere. My husband has smoke allergies and has never had a major problem on the other ships but we didn't have to avoid any areas on this ship, we could enjoy all the bars and the casino if we chose. I am very happy they switched to the new routes and plan to sail the new eastern route at some point in the future. The crowd that the Paradise attracts is a bit more laidback, the casino is much emptier then on the other ships we have been on and the night life is a bit more tame. We had 2 large groups on board the ship that might of contributed to ours being a very, very laidback cruise as a majority of the members of both didn't drink or gamble. I would recommend this ship to anyone looking to see some unspoiled areas. Roatan has only had a tourism industry for about eight years and is very unspoiled. There were several people kicked off the ship for smoking or possessing smoking materials so make sure you are not caught doing that as they are very strict about their set rules.
Well, I just returned from another wonderful 7 day cruise on the Paradise. I have been on 3 other Carnival cruises, and I must say the non smoking ship was really paradise. I will write my thoughts down day by day as everyone else does I guess.
We flew in on Saturday from Denver. Flew into FLL and paid for the Carnival transfer to our hotel also provided by Carnival. I like this option the best. We were able to find our own airfare, and get the hotel and transfers through Carnival, and save $150 per person over the Air/Sea package through Carnival. Not bad savings. We stayed at the Biscayne Bay Sheraton, three blocks away from the pier. Nice location, expensive food. What else could be expected from Miami though huh? The next morning we took the transfer to the ship, but there was a problem with the busses and we waited over an hour and a half between busses before we got to the pier. We were able to check in early at the hotel and when we got to the pier, went through security, picked up oursail and sign cards, took our picture, and got on board. The Paradise has a lot more wood throughout the ship, compaired to the Sensation which I have been on three times! Beautiful ship though. The atrium or Paradise bar became one of my favorates. The lifeboat drill went without a hitch, and we were on our way to Nassau. Dinner in the dining room, and off to the Paradise bar for drinks, check out the show, win some money at the casino, and then to finish the night off stop by the Rex club.
We docked at Nassau pretty early Monday morning. It was cloudy, but not too hot which is nice for me. We took a taxi over to Atlantis and walked around the resort. It is an amazing place. The aquarium is amazing. The whole building is huge and took us quite a while to walk through. There is a lot of shopping to do there also. We made our way back to the ship in time and left at 2. I was not that impressed with Nassau at all, flat, and not much to see. Dinner was wonderful as usual. Had the welcome aboard party, and got to meet the captian. Everyone was dressed up and looked really nice. Free drinks for everyone! Yahooooo....
The next day we were at sea the whole day headed to San Juan. It was cloudy once again but the sun did manage to peak through every now and then so people were able to get a little sun. I had time to explore the ship today too. It really is nice having no smoke everywhere you go. I did notice that the casino is a little slower and not as many people are crowding around the slots or other tables. The ship was really clean, with the normal wear and tear. The ship is going into dry dock here at the end of the month. The head bartender at the Paradise bar, Simina from Romania, is wonderful and I recommend everyone to stop by and say hi!
Anyone for San Juan? It was really hot and humid. We got off the ship and tried to find transpertation to Bacardi, only to find that they wanted $25 a taxi to go over there, no matter how many people there were. We found a different way over. We took the local boat transfer over to the other side of the island for $0.50 per person, and then paid the taxi driver $2.00 per person to take us to Bacardi. The tour was wonderful, you only get two very small free drinks though. I guess I should not complain, they were free. After the tour we took the boat back to old San Juan and walked around town, went to El Morro, did some shopping, took pictures, and then back to the ship and the A/C!
St. Thomas today. One of my favorate islands! It was cloudy again, but not as hot at in San Juan. I was able to do quite a bit of shopping, finding some great deals on watches and other gifts. I took the tram up to Paradise Point I believe it is called and got some great pictures of the island from the top. I had lunch up there as well with a local lady as my waitress. She was great! Some more shopping after that at the docks. We were the last to leave of four ships docked, and it was a lot of fun to watch these huge ships move around the little harbor. Two more days at sea to look forward to....
The other two days were very smooth days at sea. "Fun days at sea" as they are refered to. There was always something going on. I have never felt the ocean that smooth. You could hardly tell the ship was moving. The sun came out the last two days and everyone was burnt, or really really red.
Now some general thoughts about the cruise. Both the Las Vegas style shows were good, Shout! being the best of the two. The Cruise director, Shawn, was pretty good. She was always smiling and having a good time so that was good. We had an outside cabin on the main deck. We had an inside cabin on the Empress deck and on the day before we left, were able to get a free upgrade to the outside cabin on the Main deck. Our room steward, Kristina, was wonderful and did a great job. Our waiter, Ketut, and asst. waiter, Yawoaman, were also good, but service was a little slow in the dinging room compaired to the Sensation. The Rex dance club was lively the whole cruise and the DJ did a wonderful job with the music and kept everyone on the dance floor. Everyone has to go visit Simina at the Paradise Bar! She was great! Had our folio number memorised the 2nd day! You go through customs in San Juan, go getting off the ship was the fastest of the four cruises I have been on. All in all it was a great vacation, I have no complaints as Carnival did a great job. I would recomend the Paradise in a second to anyone who does not like smoking. It was a little more laid back then other cruises I have been on, but very relaxing and an enjoyable time. The whole staff was very friendly and went out of their way to fill your request.
Please let me know if you have any questions as I would be happy to answer them.
Happy Crusing Everyone!
This was my second cruise both overall and on this ship and itinerary. The most important thing I learned on this cruise is that each one is unique, even when the ship and the itinerary are the same. As you read this review, you should keep in mind that your experiences would most likely be different than mine. You most likely have different life experiences, tastes, and expectations than me. With that in mind, I will tell you what I thought of the entire cruise experience. I will present this in a day-by-day rundown, but I might do some foreshadowing as I see it appropriate.
My cruise was booked as part of a group cruise for singles from Discount Travel Club in Marcos Island, Florida (www.singlescruise.com). There were almost 300 people in our group from all over the country. Some who were not in our group seemed a little unhappy with some of the antics a few members in our group performed. To those who were upset, I apologize on their behalf.
October 26, 2002 - Flying down
I booked my own airfare on Frontier Airlines for about $300 less than what Carnivalwanted for the air add on supplement, although by the time I booked my transfers and hotel, my savings was around $150 (still nothing to sneeze at). For those of you who have never heard of Frontier Airlines, they are a discount airline based out of Denver. They only recently started to serve the Miami area through Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport with flights that are convenient for cruisers. I arrived at Denver International Airport for my flight and checked my bags. The skycap that took my luggage commented that it looked like I was going on a cruise. I asked him, "What gave it away?" I think it was the luggage tags that said "Paradise" on them. I made my way to the gate and passed security. The Transportation Security Administration had just recently begun deploying guards to Denver and this was the first time I had dealt with them. I must complement them on their professionalism. Three guards act My flight made it into Fort Lauderdale ahead of schedule, which actually caused a little problem. The airport information screens showed the flight as on time, even after it landed. Since I booked my ground transfers through Carnival, the agent there was using that screen as to know when to go to greet me. I saw several representatives from Princess, though and they pointed me towards the Carnival representative. When they figured out that I had already landed, they were friendly and helpful. I retrieved my bags and waited for the bus to take me to the Sheraton Biscayne Bay in Miami. I was the only person who Carnival was expecting at that time, so I got the entire 40-foot bus to myself. For those of you driving down, there are express lanes on I-95 so you should feel no need to worry about traffic conditions causing an unreasonable delay.
I checked into the hotel and did some sightseeing around Miami. There is a people mover that circulates the downtown area that was quite useful, although I wouldn't trust it at night alone. Our group met at the Hyatt for cocktails and then split up. Some of us went to Bayside Marketplace for dinner, while others went to South Beach. I went with the former group and ate at Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company. The food was good, and the prices were not outrageous, but you better have liked the movie Forest Gump. Also, they automatically add a 15% gratuity onto your bill. After dinner, I wandered around with some friends. A street vendor wanted to look at my glasses, and I looked back and said, "you got to be nuts!" and walked away quickly. After a while, I caught a cab back to my hotel to catch the final two innings of game 6 of the World Series (what a game!) and turned in for the night.
October 27, 2002 - Embarkation Day
I woke up and looked out at the bright South Florida sky. I could just barely see the bow of Voyager of the Seas through my hotel window. Another building and my hotel's elevators obstructed the view of the rest of the port. This was not a major problem for me, although some booking this hotel for a port view should think twice. Carnival set up a check-in desk in the hotel lobby (they will do that if there are more than 25 passengers booked in that hotel that are also on Carnival), and this helped with getting through the line at the pier. After I checked in with Carnival, I checked out of the hotel and ate breakfast. The food was terribly expensive, and the service painstakingly slow, but I wasn't in a hurry and this would be the last time I would purchase food for the next week anyway. The bus came to pick us up to take us to the pier (there was a busload in the hotel). There wasn't much organization in trying to load us on the bus, although it didn't seem to take terribly long to load everyone and On my first cruise, the ship docked before completing the maneuver through the turning basin (bow pointed towards downtown Miami). On this cruise, the captain had already completed this maneuver (bow pointed out to sea). This caused me to get turned around when I went to look for my cabin (E-201). This particular cabin is close to the aft elevators, although I never heard any extra noise and is very convenient if you are in the Destiny dining room, which I was. They were also putting up the Christmas decorations, which was quite surprising to me. The decorations were fairly tasteful and understated, although there is something immoral about putting up Christmas decorations before Halloween. The ship itself is in good condition, although there was several carpet stains and burned out floor lights on the promenade deck. These were minor details as far as I am concerned, and nothing that couldn't be fixed after a couple of weeks in dry-dock; which I understand is scheduled for the Paradise in January. Tng lines were stored. All this occurred while still within sight of Miami. Fortunately, there was only one serious injury, and that was the result of the fire aggravating a pre-existing condition. After the drill, I went on deck for sail-away. I stood on the top deck where the jogging track is and watched as we pulled out into the Atlantic Ocean. While we were still in the dredged channel, a sailboat cut across our path close enough to where the ship reduced speed and blew the ship's horn. A 12-foot fiberglass sailboat would have been no match for a cruise ship over 850 feet long, but given the warnings about terrorism, I was a little nervous. Fortunately, the little boat scooted out of our way and towards a probable chewing out by the Coast Guard for being a total airhead by steering a tiny boat if front of a huge cruise ship.
Our group had a room reserved for a private cocktail party so I went there before dinner. While I was busy drinking several multi-colored cocktails, the ship turned around and returned to Miami. I later learned there was a medical emergency on board, and the captain decided it was most efficient to return to port to disembark the passengers. I never found out what exactly the emergency was. Rumors were that one passenger died, but it is my understanding that the ship would just store the body until the next port of call (which happened to be the next day anyway). I went to dinner in the Destiny dining room. Our group had half of the dining room reserved, so I was able to jump from table to table during the cruise. I did notice an unusual pattern during the cruise. The closer to the windows, the better the service. On some nights when I was close to the middle, my main course did not arrive until just before the waiter show, while on other nights my service was friendly and efficient. Carnival also
October 28, 2002 - Nassau, Bahamas
I booked the "Historical Highlights" shore tour and went to the pier at 8:30 am to depart on the tour. Because of the events of September 11, 2001, vehicles are no longer allowed on the pier so we had quite a walk to get to the vans for our tour. One woman was furious because she was on the glass bottom boat tour and thought she was with the wrong group. I double-checked the shore tour times and found out her tour wasn't supposed to leave until 9:00 so I have little sympathy for her. Her one legitimate complaint was that they took the ticket without looking at it closely. She did discover the error in time to make her tour, though. I was impressed with the tour and my tour guide. The tour went to the Queen's Staircase, the water tower, and Fort Charlotte. Our tour guide gave us a good flavor of the island as well. He was pleasant with a touch of humor, and he earned his tip from me. I would say the tour was worth the money, although if you have been to Nassau, you can afford to skip it.
I boarded the ship and we left the port at 2:00 pm. We left port and the ship began a gentle rocking motion due to some swells. I was taking ginger so they really did not bother me, and no seasickness bags were deployed. We changed into formal wear for that evening's dinner. A few men wore tuxedos, although most wore dark suits. Also, several men were less than formally dressed. Although none wore jeans, a few went without a jacket, or even without a tie. Several ladies did wear cocktail dresses, although a few were still very casually dressed, too. The captain explained what happened from the previous evening and also gave us a weather forecast for the rest of the voyage. The weather was spectacular throughout the week, although we did experience minor rolling for the next couple days. Dinner was the traditional lobster tail, and I ordered it as well as the prime rib (surf and turf!). It was quite good, and the portion sizes were larger than what I remembered from March. After dinner, I went to t
October 29, 2002 - At Sea
Since this was a sea day, I slept in as best as I could. Some people prefer days in port because of the chance to see a new and different place. I prefer sea days because everything is so relaxed and there are lots of things to do (or do nothing). On this day, our group had a private function in one of the lounges. We just played some traditional games and had a great time. Shortly after noon, the captain gave a position report that included our schedule. I really liked that. It gave me some interesting information. The captain read the report in English, Spanish, and French. Another thing that I was impressed with is how many passengers were from countries other than the United States. After lunch, I changed into my swimsuit and hung out near the pool. I witnessed Carnival security chase some teenagers out of the adults-only hot tub. I also took a few trips down the water slide. Carnival uses salt water (changed daily) in their pools, which was a bit rough on my nose and eyes. I decided to cha
October 30, 2002 - San Juan, PR
Since we were returning to the United States, we had to go through immigration before we were allowed off the ship. This seemed a little more organized as compared to March, although the Immigration and Naturalization Service agents were a little late getting on board. I did get through the process and took the Bacardi and Old San Juan tour. The tour started out by going to the Bacardi factory. The tour itself was fine, although there is something not right about being served raspberry daiquiris at 11:00 am. After the tour, we drove through the city and ended up at El Morro. I went there in March, but on this occasion I ran into some friends and found some new areas of the fort. There was one stairwell that was dark and steep. I did not have any problems with the stairs, although my friends were nervous, especially for me. After I went through the fort, I went back to the ship and had lunch. After lunch, I felt tired so I took a nice long nap. I had dinner on board, although several of my friends
October 31, 2002 (Halloween) - Charlotte Amalie, VI
Saint Thomas was the most gorgeous port we visited. The lush green hillsides overlooking the blue water of the Caribbean is really hard to beat. I purchased tickets to go on the Paradise Point tramway. You can get a nice view of all the ships in port from there. On that particular day, the Paradise, Enchantment of the Seas, and Millennium were docked at Havensight Mall. The Norwegian Dream was docked at Crown Point, and the Norway was anchored off the shore. At the top, you can purchase souvenirs and get a quick snack. However, prices were outrageous, and the shops did not take credit cards. This is an unbelievable oversight on their part. There is a nature trail, but it is short and very steep in spots. I would not recommend it if it is raining, or you aren't in decent shape. Later, I went on a sailing and snorkeling adventure to Buck Island. The snorkeling was good, although some evil force possessed my body and caused me to wind my underwater camera backwards, so I only got five pictures on it
November 1, 2002 - At Sea
I had difficulty sleeping so I got up early to get breakfast. The ship went through a brief rainstorm just before I woke up and I could still see the clouds off the stern of the ship. As I ate breakfast, I saw the captain on his rounds and said, "Hi" to him. He acknowledged my greeting and continued on his rounds. Later, we had a galley tour and I was very disappointed in it. All we did was walk through the galley with no explanation as to what we were seeing. After the galley walk through, they had a towel folding demonstration that was quite fun to watch as they turned towels into swans and elephants. I was feeling tired so I took another nap. Since this was our second formal night, I changed into my suit and went to dinner. I started not feeling well just after the salad, so I did not eat much. After dinner, we had a group photo scheduled in the atrium. We were quite the spectacle as we tried to cram 250 people into as little space as possible. We took up all of one side of the staircase, half
November 2, 2002 - At Sea
I felt better this morning so I went to breakfast and then went to the debarkation talk. The cruise director, Risa Barnes, gave the talk. While I felt she was a decent cruise director, she has room for improvement, especially here. For example, she stated that you were allowed five bottles of liquor duty-free (the correct answer is liters), and that there would be a chance to smoke the rest of your Cuban cigars by the ship's funnel later since you aren't allowed to bring them back into the United States. Keep in mind that the Paradise has a very strict no-smoking policy where you can be thrown off the ship for possession of matches. After the talk, some passengers came up and corrected her oversight. She just transferred over from the Imagination and she was a little nervous. The other major surprise on this cruise was that there was no horse racing. I thought this was a staple of cruise ships, and made a tidy little profit for the line. I suppose not too many people missed it, though. After lunch
November 3, 2002 - Returning Home
I retrieved my items from the purser's desk and called my sister-in-law in Kansas where my mother had been staying (she was going to give me a ride from the airport when I got in). They handed out the travel log videos at this time, which is a major improvement over what they used to do. The video is actually watchable now, rather than what appear to be just amateur camcorder recordings. I said some more good-byes over breakfast, and they started calling colors at 9:00 am. My color was called at 9:15 and I made my way down to customs to retrieve my bags. Unfortunately, my bags were put in separate parts of the piles for my deck, so it was a little difficult to find. I finally did retrieve the bags, but there were a couple items I had to stuff inside another bag so I went to the side to re-pack. As I was doing this, a customs service dog sniffed my bags looking for illegal drugs. After he didn't find anything, the dog moved on. I scooped up my bags, handed my customs declaration form to the agent, anweek.
I had an excellent time, and I would not hesitate to recommend this cruise to my friends. While other lines may have better service or better food, Carnival delivers on what they promise, which is a great vacation for a reasonable price.
My husband and I have been on 12 cruises; this was our seventh on Carnival. We are in our mid-thirties and were traveling with our 3-year-old son.
We booked this sailing after seeing very good rates and deciding that we would like to try the smoke-free ship. Also, we had earned enough points on our Capital One Carnival card for a $500 reward voucher that may have burned a hole in our pocket if we didn't use it right away! Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves and did like that there was no smoking. We especially appreciated that in the piano bar and the casino.
Before departure, I had read some negative reviews about the condition of the Paradise and the treatment by the crew, so I was a little concerned. But I was delighted to see that the ship was very clean and I constantly saw workers polishing, shining, steaming carpets, etc. We found the crew of the Paradise to be very helpful and accommodating.
This was a Sunday-to-Sunday cruise departing out of Miami. We flew to Miami on Saturday and stayed overnight at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay ($40 via Priceline). Myhusband and I joked that it was the nicest $40 hotel room we ever stayed in. We spent an enjoyable evening at the Bayside Marketplace, including a nice dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. There was an interesting array of ethnic food available at the food court. Outside there were kiddie rides, including a train ride that my son really enjoyed. At the waterfront, a live band was playing.
We took advantage of the pre-check at the Sheraton in the morning. There was a small line when we went down at 8:50 am. The check-in started at 9:00 am and we were finished at 9:25 am. As it ends up when we got to the port there didn't seem to be much of a line, but who knew. We got a cab around 10:45 to go to the port and encountered very little traffic. We went up to the waiting area and around 12:15, they started letting people board.
We were in cabin R232, an outside cabin on the Riviera Deck. The cabin was a nice size, with one of the bigger showers that we have had in a cabin. We had one of the best cabin stewards ever, Daniel from the Dominican Republic. We had robes in the cabin but there was no hairdryer. I was concerned about the cabin being cold, but the vent control on the ceiling allowed us to regulate the temperature easily.
We had the main seating in the Destiny Dining Room at 5:45 p.m. We were seated at table 246, a 6-person booth. Our table mates were another family of three with a 2-year-old son. They were very pleasant, the boys seemed to like each other and we had an enjoyable time dining together. Our waiter was Legowo from Indonesia and his assistant was Conrado from Philippines. Legowo was the best waiter that we have ever had. He has worked for Carnival for 20 years on many different ships; he said the Paradise is his favorite. We felt fortunate to have such wonderful cabin and dining service this week.
We really enjoyed the food in the dining room, and ate all our dinners there. The filet mignon was particularly good, served medium rare as requested. We also enjoyed many of the seafood selections. My favorite desserts in the dining room were the souffles, chocolate one night and vanilla another. The formal nights were Monday and Friday. For kids old enough for Camp Carnival, there were special children's dinners at the Paris Restaurant (informal Lido facility) on both formal nights. And on the first formal night there was a 'Coke-tail' party as well.
The Promenade Deck had a sushi bar that we really enjoyed. Unfortunately it did not open until 5:30 p.m. This made it tough with a 5:45 p.m. seating in the dining room; what's more, there was always a crowd waiting for it to open. It would have been helpful for it to open at 5:15 p.m. so people with the 5:45 p.m. seating could enjoy a sushi appetizer before dinner.
We most of our breakfasts and lunches in the Paris Restaurant on the Lido Deck. The breakfast was okay--the same selection every day, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns, cereal, flaky pastries. I enjoyed getting omelets and eggs to order. Breakfast in the dining room was slightly better, and the coffee in the dining room was significantly better. Lunch at the Paris Restaurant was a very nice variety and it changed daily. We looked forward to trying new things at lunch. There were different hot lunch offerings including meat being carved. On the salad bar there were interesting and different cold salads each day. They made deli sandwiches to order. And each day there was a different hot bread pudding with sauce that was very good. Of course pizza, burgers, and hot dogs were available each day. The pizza and soft serve ice cream were available 24 hours.
Fun Ship Activities
Josh Riffe was a wonderful cruise director. He made even routine things fun! We learned onboard that he was leaving for vacation after our cruise, so unfortunately, if you are going soon, he won't be there.
There was a main pool with a slide on the Lido deck. Aft of Promenade deck there was a kids' pool and small jungle gym. It was usually pretty quiet back there. Went we went to the pool, we had to take the beach towels that the steward provided in our cabin, or sign for one on deck using the sail and sign card. There was no charge as long as the towel was returned.
The fitness center, in the spa on the forward section of deck 12, had a variety of machines and free weights, including treadmills, steppers, and bikes, as well as two hot tubs, sauna and eucalyptus steam room (which helped the cold I developed while on-board).
We enjoyed the variety of live music throughout the ship. Our favorite was the piano music in the America Bar, the ship's piano bar. We enjoyed listening to both Mark and Roberta - Roberta had booklets for those who wanted to pick a song and sing along on the microphone. The production shows were Dream Voyage and Shout. We missed Dream Voyage, but made it to Shout, which was very enjoyable. We also saw a comedian named Adam Ace who was very wild. His comedy was more physical than your ordinary stand-up comedian.
The casino was a nice size with a variety of machines. It never got very crowded. My husband and I learned about playing craps before our trip, and played it for the first time on the Paradise. The casino personnel were very friendly and helpful. There were good opportunities to try out new games at the un-crowded tables in the Paradise casino.
Our son enjoyed participating in activities at Camp Carnival. The orientation and family party the first night were informative and enjoyable. The schedule of activities for the week allowed him to pick the things that he wanted to participate in. Almost every night at dinner he could not wait to finish eating and go to the Children's World. One evening they had a Family Fun Fest for parents and kids at Children's World, with lots of creative activities and crafts for the kids to make including sand art, face painting, spin art, and friendship beads.
Ports of Call
We were on the western itinerary, which is scheduled to change in February. Traveling with a 3-year-old, we kept things simple and low key. Basically we went to a beach at each stop since he loves the sand and water.
Cozumel - The ship docked at the Puerta Maya pier. There was a lot of construction going on, but it looks like there will be a lovely shopping village right at the pier once the work has been completed.
We took a cab ($14) to Mr. Sanchos Beach Club. There was no cover to enter and there were small shops as you walked through to the beach. The beach area was beautiful; white sand and beautiful blue water. The sand wasn't as powdery as I thought it would be, but instead appeared to be made up of little shells. It had a consistency of sesame seeds. My son still had fun playing in it, but wanted his water shoes on since he didn't like the feel of it. We got there around 10 a.m., so it was not crowded, and we had our choice of a palapa (table shaded by palm leaf roof). Around lunchtime we ordered some appetizers and beers. We had the best guacamole and it was a serving bigger than I have ever seen. For the appetizers and four beers in all, it was only $20.
Dinner times on the ship were moved early to allow passengers time to go back out onto the island. Our early seating was at 5 p.m. (the other was at 5:30). And the late seatings were at 7:00 and 7:30. After dinner we went to the Mini Golf (or Golfito) that I had read about. It was as nice as I had read; it was beautiful and lush. It was $7 each for 18 holes ($3 for a plastic putter for our son). And beers were $2 each and $1 for a bottle of water. And just as described, we were given a walkie-talkie to call in for additional drinks, delivered to our hole.
Grand Cayman - We went to Seven Mile Beach this day. There are public accesses in between many of the hotels. The hotels do not own the beach, but the beach chairs are only for the guests. Having a three-year-old at the beach does not allow for lounge time on the chairs anyway, so we went onto a beautiful stretch of beach near the Westin Hotel and played in the sand. To get up to the Westin, we took the bus, which is really a van. Either yellow #1 or lime green #2 will take you out to Seven Mile Beach. The cost is $2.00 CI (or $2.50 US) per person. After we returned to town, we stopped in a grocery, Fort Market, where they had 16 oz. rum cakes for $10 (they were $12 on the ship).
Ocho Rios - The Island Village Complex just opened in February 2002. You can see it off to the right of the pier. It is an easy walk from the pier, but you have to walk out through the taxis inland to get to the entrance on the right. There are many shops and restaurants including Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. We walked through a little and then stopped at Margaritaville. They have a nice pool with a cool slide. There is a little bit of beachfront too, where our son spent some time playing in the sand. The margaritas and the mango daiquiris were delicious.
We booked a US Airways flight direct from Miami to Pittsburgh scheduled to depart at 2 p.m. We learned about a month before our trip that the flight departure time was changed to 12 noon. I was very concerned about being able to make this. I thought about calling the airline to change it, but when I looked at the other flights, there wasn't a favorable alternative.
Early in the week, I inquired at the Purser's desk about debarking with the first group. He told me to bring my tickets to the desk, then issued me luggage tags to be in the first group and told me where to be Sunday morning. I started getting antsy while waiting for the ship to be cleared. At about 9:45 a.m., someone arrived to our lounge to tell us that the ship had been cleared and we could proceed to the Empress Deck for debarkation.
We had no trouble getting a taxi and it is a short drive to the airport. There was not a long line at the ticket counter, but there was a long line at security. Nevertheless, after passing through security I looked at my watch and it was 11:00 a.m. A flight earlier than 12 noon could be problematic and we were fortunate that everything went smoothly and had no problem making our flight.
We had a fabulous vacation. It was a wonderful family trip for us; we got to spend time with our son and some time for just the two of us as well, while our son had a ball with the other kids. I hope this provides some helpful information for any of you planning to go soon!