We live in St. Petersburg, Florida and my wife doesn't like flying, so we chose to take a bus to Miami. Cruise Connection, Inc handled this. They picked us up at a local shopping center at 6:15am on Sunday. We traveled down the West Coast of Florida, making about 5 stops to pick up all the other cruisers. We arrived at the Port of Miami around noon. After trusting the porters with our luggage, we proceeded to check in. This was our first cruise and we didn't know what to expect. Our travel agent told us to ask for the Skipper's Club because we were staying in a demi-suite (cat 11, Verandah deck).
I grabbed the first Carnival employee I could find. He took us to the Skipper's Club right away and told us someone will check us in shortly. I was a little dismayed at first. There was about 25 people in the room and two very slow employees checking everyone it at the desks. I decided that this was not a very productive scenario. After about 5 minutes, no progress was being made in the Skipper's Club. I amnot know for my patience, so I thought maybe we would get checked in quicker in the regular line. As I was leaving the Skipper's Club, an employee of Carnival was coming in the room. I asked her if there were more employees to work this area, because it was moving at a snail's pace. She said she came to check us in personally. She took our documents, disappeared for about 3 minutes and came back. Then she took us upstairs to get the keys for the room. She went to the front of the very long line to get our keys for us. Then she escorted us to our room and showed us around the ship a little. I was pleasantly surprised to get this great service. My advice to all: ask for the Skipper's Club and ask for someone to check you in. They didn't care what room we were in. It was never asked. I believe anybody could get this speedy check-in if they just ask. I must commend Carnival. We started our first cruise on a great note.
The ship was beautiful. Although I had studied the layout of the ship, I was disoriented the first day or so. But after that, I had no problem finding my way around the ship. Our demi-suite was just as expected. A very nice size, with a couch and a small balcony. It also had a refrigerator and a bar with plenty of glasses. The desk doubled as a vanity, which my wife enjoyed. The room was pristine. I felt like we were the first to stay in the room. There were no spots on the carpet, and no mildew in the bathroom. We dropped our carry-on bags and headed out.
Our first stop was the beauty salon. My wife wanted to have her hair done for the first formal night. This place seemed disorganized. Several employees walked by, but no one bothered to help the people waiting. Again, I grabbed a staff member and soon we were taken care of. Then we headed for the Paris Restaurant on the Lido deck.
The food in the Lido deck was of good quality. I would have like a better variety and perhaps some staples such as spaghetti or deli sandwiches. Most of the dishes were prepared in ways I had never tried. Everything I tried was very good. I am a mainstream eater, I eat steaks, pastas, hamburgers; you know, American food. This cruised pushed my limits. I was only disappointed with one dish the whole week (this was in the dining room, I will talk about that later). So eating was an adventure for me. I got to try lots of new things and I liked almost everything I ate. A favorite of mine was the carving station. The meat was very good. The deserts were average. The soft serve ice cream machine was very popular with the kids, but I wasn't impressed with it. Tasted like ice milk. Same stuff you'd get at any buffet style steakhouse. The pizza was superb. The Paris Restaurant itself was not impressive, but functional. It was clean, but it had the feel of a cafeteria. I don't like that type of atmosphere. The wait staff in the Paris Restaurant was obviously there just to bus the tables. They never offered me a refill on my drink even though there was always several bus boys hovering around. Bottom line on the Paris Restaurant: The food is very good, no atmosphere. Go there to fill your stomach, not to be enchanted. This seemed like where the families on board did most of there dining, because I never saw many small children in the main dining room.
After our first meal on the Lido deck, we went back to our room to nap. We were very tired after getting up at 4:30am. The nap was nice, and we felt refreshed for dinner. We had early seating in the Destiny dining room. The dining room was elegant, but not stuffy; Just our style. The service was great in the dining room. The bus boy and waiter was very friendly and prompt. The food was excellent, delivered hot and always well presented. I am not a food connoisseur, so I will leave it at that. Bottom line: the dinning was fantastic in our dining room. It exceeded my expectations for sure. I would have liked to see lobster more than once on the menu, but if that is my only complaint…..
I love this ship. It is very classy, but not stuffy. The passengers and the staff were very friendly. Only encountered one jerk the whole time; he was a passenger trying to pick a fight in the show lounge. Lot's of families, very few hard core party-ers. Didn't see much obnoxious behavior, and I heard very little foul language the whole week. Good family ship.
I'll start at the bow of the ship and work my way back describing the interior public areas first (and their respective activities). Then I'll take a whack at the open decks. I reserve the right to jump around without rhyme or reason:
THE NORMANDIE LOUNGE - The room is exquisite. But as others have noted, you better get a seat early for the shows. There are a lot of bad seats in here. We were fortunate most of the time to get a good seat, but we usually got in 45 to 60 minutes early. There were shows in the room every night. We didn't go to all of them, so I'll just comment of the ones were attended. The first event that we attended in this room was the Captain's cocktail party on Monday night. This was a lot of fun. Free drinks and hor'deourves. The Paradise Orchestra provided big band music and lots of folks were dancing and having a great time. That same night was the first big show of the week. This was entitled "Dream Voyage". This was superb. Much better talent than I expected. This show was my favorite of the two Vegas style shows in the week. The second was on Friday night. That was titled "Shout". Everyone loved this show as well; it was my wife's favorite show of the week. The featured singers were the same for both shows. Very energetic. Never a dull moment. The shows lasted about 1 hour. The talent show was held on Thursday night. This is a single seating show at 10:30PM so get there early if you want a seat. I saw lots of folks standing on the stairs. This was very enjoyable; all the talent was superb, but each cruise will obviously be different since it is the passengers performing. This event was host by Troy Linton, cruise director. Very quick-witted man. He does a great job. On Saturday we attended the juggler and the balancing acts. Both were very good world class acts. The juggler was very funny. We were also treated to a nice laser show before and after the entertainers. Later in the week I was able to catch a bridge and engine room video at 9:30 in the morning. I recommend this if the technical stuff interests you at all. There was a lot more stuff going on in this room during the week. One big draw was the bingo; games almost everyday. We only played the last game of the week. The prizes ranged from $150 to $1500 during the week. The last prize was a cruise for 2 in a Cat 12 room on any ship for up to 7 days. But we didn't win. Maybe next time.
THE ATTRIUM AREA - Of course the atrium area was beautiful. Not as flashy as I expected considering the things I heard about Carnival. The bar on the Empress deck at the base of the staircase was very popular. The teenagers especially enjoyed this as a meeting point (hopefully they were drinking sodas). They had a big TV behind the bar showing sports. I found this to be tacky in this beautiful area. I think it should go. It doesn't mix well with the classical trio playing. They should put the TV in one of the other bars. On both formal nights the beautiful staircases we closed off so the photographers could use these for pictures. We bought one of these pictures. Very nice. My wife loved people watching here.
INFORMATION DESK - Months before our cruise we ordered the Paradise video from Carnival. In that video they showed the information desk. Behind the desk was a VERY pleasant person (of course this is a staged video) answering questions. I remember making a cynical comment to my wife; something like: "Oh, I bet they really have someone THAT pleasant working for them. Must be a hired model. There is probably some rude jerk working there." Guess what? The same pleasant person shown on the video was behind the desk! And she was just as nice as in the video. I had to let here know about my shock. It was nice to see someone so helpful and polite. The information desk had lines sometimes, but I found if I came back a few minutes later, the lines would be gone.
SNORKEL and VIDEO DIARY DESK - Tried to rent rubber shoes at closing time and the clerk was very rude and didn't want to help me. Told me to come back in the morning. I never did. This was my only experience at this desk.
PHOTOGRAPHERS and PHOTO GALLERY - I cannot say enough good things about the photographers and the pictures on this ship. The only time we were asked if we wanted a photo was boarding and disembarking at the ports. And they were not pushy. If you didn't want your picture taken, no problem. Very nice people. Every night the photographers would set up in various spots around the ship. Each one had a different background and style of portrait they were doing. It was never the same twice. There were even more opportunities on the formal nights, of course. We have had pictures taken at many different studios and paid top dollar and we have NEVER gotten pictures of this quality before. We purchased about 10 8x10 photos throughout the week and several smaller ones and some reprints. Spent about $300.00 total on pictures. It seemed like a lot, but I have spent more than that for mediocre photos on land. The photographers were very professional and meticulous. We have decided that we will not bother to get our professional pictures taken at home anymore. We will save our money for the next cruise. Tip: get dress a little earlier for the formal nights and get your picture taken BEFORE dinner. After dinner lines for the photographers can be very long. As for the photo gallery - what a mess the morning after a formal night! But the rest of the time it was fine. For those curious, here are the prices as best I can remember: Snapshots of boarding and disembarking at the ports were $6.00. 5x7 Portraits were $9.00. 8x10 Portraits were $20.00. Wallet reprints were around $8.00 for a sheet of 6. If you wanted reprints or a different size you have to purchase the one on display first. Photo albums ranged from $15 to $20.
ELATION and DESTINY DINING ROOMS - We were seated in the Destiny dining room for dinner. It was fantastic. The food was varied every night and I definitely expanded my horizons. I do not feel qualified to critique the chef because my experience is limited. I will say this: the food was great and plentiful, it was presented with flair and grace, it was hot when it should've been and cold when it should've been., the service was OUTSTANDING, the free iced tea was very good, and I ate way too much! One particularly exceptional thing was the rolls on the table. The bakery on this ship is great. The bread was hot and delicious. I probably ate 100 rolls during the week. The only issue I had is with the maitre'd and the headwaiter. They never once came by to ask how everything was. I tipped accordingly. We had the opportunity to eat in the Elation dining room for open seating breakfast and lunch while in ports. Everything was fantastic as always. Don't miss the pancakes in the morning; they are some of the best I have ever had.
MAJESTIC CASINO - I had never gambled in a casino before. I did not think of myself as the type to get caught up in this atmosphere. Boy, was I wrong. I caught the bug on this cruise. I stuck to the slots (usually the nickel machines) and had a great time. I think I did slightly better than breaking even. I was very intimidated by the card games. I know how to play blackjack, but the minimum bet was $3.00 a hand. I would have like to seen a least one table with $1.00 minimum. This was something I wrote on my comment card at the end. $3.00 a hand can add up quickly when you don't know what you are doing. So I've been playing a lot of blackjack on the computer getting ready for the next cruise. A smoke free casino was wonderful. The casino host and staff were very friendly. Most of the gamblers were casual players. I only saw a few serious players, so it is a comfortable setting for the beginner. I'm glad I don't live near a casino cause I could lose a lot of money!
CARNIVAL BOULEVARD - This area was very nice. During the day it was quiet and I saw many people sitting in the very comfortable chairs reading and watching the waves go by. At night, it was full of life when the nightclubs opened. There is a lot of seating on the boulevard. I never saw a lot of people sitting here. Maybe 20 people sitting down the whole promenade. This was one of our favorite places to people watch and just relax. The Cafe Ill De France is very good, but it is not included in the cruise fare. A piece of cake was about $2.00. But it was excellent. They had a good selection of desserts and coffees. The sushi bar was also on the promenade, but you could miss if you weren't looking. There was no sign above it and it was only open a few hours a day. When it was open, there was always a line, so we opted not to try it. Maybe next time. But it was fresh sushi, hand rolled as you ordered it. The Leonardo Club looked very nice. They either had a band at night or played 70's and 80's type music and some oldies. We never had a chance to enjoy this but it looked like my kind of place. The United States Bar is right out in the open on Carnival Blvd. At night we saw a singer/guitarist behind the bar on a tiny stage. The place looked pretty dead most of the time. There was also a jewelry shop on the boulevard. Very nice watches and good prices. The Rex dance clubs was very nice, but too energetic for my tastes. It was packed at night with a mix of teenagers and 20 and 30 somethings. I overheard other guest complaining about the DJ, but we just walked through a few times. Again, it was nice to go into a dance club and not have to put up with the smoke.
THE AMERICAN BAR -- This was in the atrium area. Very nice piano sing along bar. Two performers rotated through the week. It was very popular with guests over 35 it seemed. I guess I'm getting old, because I really liked this spot. The bar service was lacking here and the drinks seemed watered down (in this bar only).
ROTTERDAM BAR -- Right outside the Queen Mary lounge sits this nice spot. It never was crowded. I don't think many people realized it was here. We did not sit at the bar, but it seems it is connected to the bar in the Queen Mary, so it serves two functions. The drinks I ordered in the Queen Mary were always prepared well.
QUEEN MARY LOUNGE -- I love this place! We attended two shows in this lounge. The first was a Nat King Cole tribute by Rudy Lowe. He was the headlining male singer in the Vegas Shows for the week. He is excellent and I'm glad I stayed up late for this show. The shows in this lounge where usually at midnight. I also was able to catch a comedian one night. He was good, but not excellent and the show was only about 30 minutes. But this was one of my favorite spots on the ship. I will catch all the midnight shows next time!
BLUE RIBAND LIBRARY - My wife fell in love with the library. It is beautiful and always quiet. The hours you can actually get books are very limited. The rest of the time the library is open but the bookcase are locked. They had a nice selection of books on ships that I enjoyed flipping through. Take the time to enjoy this room and the history it portrays.
CARD ROOM -- Never used it. Looked functional, nothing to write home about.
VIRTUAL WORLD (ARCADE) -- The name is deceiving. It is just an arcade. Not a single virtual reality game. It attracts the appropriate clientele. Never played a single game. Would have liked to try a VR game. It is adjacent to the Casino. Saw many youngsters dart back and forth from the slots. Parents beware.
GALLERIA SHOPS -- I'm not a shopper (I leave that to the better half) but the shops were very nice. The jewelry looked good quality. The prices about normal. Lots of Carnival wears. Not much else to say.
HAIR SALON - My wife had her hair put up both formal nights. Make you appointments early, it fills up quick. WOW! They did a great job each time. It was very pricey, but that is to be expected. They hire good talent in this salon.
ELEVATORS - One of the elevators was out of service the entire trip. This caused even more wait time. We used the stairs most of the time. I loved the English woman's voice announcing each deck! Take the stairs if you are in a hurry.
THE OUTSIDE AREAS -- There was plenty of open deck space. The small pools were always packed with kids on the sea days. The waterslide was only opened on sea days it seemed. I wish the pools were open at night. We only got to swim once while in port. I do not like a crowd, that's not my idea of a vacation. Plenty of deck chairs unless you want to sit right by the pool. The upper decks are always uncluttered. I would have like to spend time at night on the open decks, but the pools were closed and the chairs were stacked up and tied up. I mentioned this to Carnival, haven't gotten a response yet. The Mexican buffet and deck party was very good (except for the rain!). The stern of the ship was nice spot to be a night, listening to the wake of the ship. Very relaxing. The bow was hard to find, but it was also very nice. Very few people on the bow. Quick tip: Go to Verandah deck and go down the hall(s) for the cabins. There is exit doors at the end of the hall(s) that go out to the bow. Found this the last day! And we were staying on the Verandah deck. The smoke stake area is a good place for sun worshippers. No children allowed and you can go topless, but we never saw anyone doing this.
SHORE EXCURSIONS - We didn't participate in any of Carnival's excursions. In San Juan, we walked over to the Wyndam Hotel and used their pay phones and deposited my money in their casino. I noticed the smoke right away! This is a very nice hotel, worth checking out and it is right across the street from the dock. We went back to the ship after that since it was getting dark. In Tortola, we took a taxi to Brewer's Bay Beach. Nice beach, crystal clear water, and nice snorkeling. There were maybe 35 people on this good-sized beach. You could even see a lot of fish without snorkel gear. Taxi fare was $6.00 one way. In St. Thomas, we went up to Bluebeard's Castle for the view. Very nice view. Watch out for the folks selling time-shares! Then we went downtown and enjoyed the open-air market. We were really into the days at sea and the shipboard life. The ports of call were a secondary concern for us.
SUMMARY: We had a GREAT time and we are planning our next trip on the smoke-free Paradise. I'm sorry the week had to end!
I'll be happy to answer any questions.Peter L. Stephens
We flew in a day early (Wednesday Oct. 2nd) to hang out with the "beautiful people" in South Beach. We stayed at the Best Western Marina Bay it was nice. They had all the roads partially blocked off due to the car races having their time trials this weekend. We checked in to our room, walked over to the Bayside Marketplace and had lunch at Bubba Gumps - very good! We then took a cab over to South Beach; the beach is absolutely gorgeous! We walked the whole length of the beach, some very interesting sights! We sat at the News Café and watch the "beautiful people" walking by until early evening. We then went over to Senior Frog's and bought t-shirts and caught a cab back to the hotel. We decided not to go to Mango's, as we would have been exhausted for our first night on the cruise.
We took a cab to the pier about 10:30 a.m.; we had to show our cruise documents at the toll before they would allow our cab driver into the pier area. It was a little hectic at the pier sincethe Paradise was still disembarking from the 11-day cruise it had just completed. It was fantastic not having to travel the first day of our cruise, I think I'll be planning all my future cruises this way. We started boarding around 11:45 a.m., found our room (E115) very quickly. We loved the location of our room, down the hall from the Internet Café, the Paradise Bar, Purser's office and the Photo Gallery.
The first two days were at sea. We are early birds so we found no problem getting chairs by the pool. Our pool towels were in our room every night for use the next day. A few times we forgot our room towels and got them at the towel station near the main pool with our Sail & Sign card, the towels had to be returned by 6:00 p.m. we had no problem with that since we had early dinner.
St. Thomas was beautiful. We took a cab over to Sapphire Beach; since it was Sunday the beach was very quiet. We spent the whole day there.
St. Lucia was pretty; I wasn't feeling well, so we only went to the stores near the ship. Man was it HOT that day!
Barbados, we went through Carnival on the cave tour, it was really interesting. We found out later that we could have done it for HALF the price on our own. Carnival claims the tour is 2.5 hours; our tour was 1.5 hours so we had the bus driver drop us off downtown to do some shopping. We ended up finding a store that sold all silver - VERY INEXPENSIVE.
Martinique felt like downtown Boston! I couldn't believe all the traffic. We took a cab to the flea market, bought a few gifts, walked to the end of the main street and back, walked down the side street found a PEPSI! You would think we struck gold we were so happy to just sit and have a Pepsi (not a Coke). Contrary to what I had heard not one person was rude to us. I was totally shocked!
St Maarten rained all day. We walked to Front Street, walked the whole length down one side and up the other. We didn't buy anything but it killed some time. I can't believe how built up St. Maarten is now compared to 1984. I really missed going to Orient Beach, but I'm sure I'll be back again someday.
We have been on 14 cruises (10 with Carnival) and somehow we always end up frequenting the bar outside the Casino the most. We found the United States Bar entertainment (Bobby Calabrese) was excellent, we even bought his CD. We loved "The Highlights", what a voice! We probably would have spent more time in the Queen Mary Lounge except it was always soooo cold. The Calypso band "Kooshall" was fantastic, the best Lido deck band we've every seen. We had early (6:15 p.m.) dinner and we still had a very difficult time getting decent seats for the early shows, so we missed most of the shows. I was surprised at the amount of poles in the Normandie Lounge; I thought most of the newer ships had solved that problem. The comedian Freddie Roman was good; we met him the night before at the United States Bar he even mentioned us in his act! He's even funnier in a one to one conversation. Before dinner we would partake in adult refreshments at the Paradise Bar located in the Atrium!
The Mozart Trio was excellent. We met Jon and Janelle along with Harley their dog. We asked Jon where Harley goes ... He stated that Deck 6 in the Crew Only area is known as the "poop deck". Jon also stated that considering the Paradise is a fairly new ship there wasn't any Braille in the elevators or on the cabin numbers. I found that very odd since some of the older ships have Braille. If Janelle wanted to get around on her own she would have an extremely difficult time finding her cabin. I sent Jon the Carnival president's e-mail address when I got home since I had discovered it on the cruisecritic.com message board.
We played Bingo most days and nights, this is the first Carnival cruise that I didn't win at Bingo. We did win a 24-Carat gold plastic ship on a stick playing trivia with Kevin (social host) then we won more playing "win lose or draw" (bye Kevin aka Billy Idol hope you come back on another Carnival ship). The Newlywed/Not So Newlywed game was quite the sight! Too bad the Video Diary was non-existent on this ship that tape would have sold out that night. We couldn't get into the talent show - no seats, just as well, we heard Josh Riffe the cruise director was doing 10 minutes in-between each act, instead of doing his 10 minutes in the beginning, introducing the acts, and his 5 minutes at the end. People said it got really boring.
I read another persons review and he complained about the stained carpets, I'd like to know what kind of carpet could hold up to this abuse. The Paradise is 4 yrs. old with 2400 passenger a week, 52 weeks a year that would come to roughly 500,000 passengers that have been on her. Considering how many passengers (and crew!) have been on the ship, she's in great shape. There was always someone dusting and cleaning. This persons review also complained about a broken mirror, patched with masking tape, which stayed that way for the entire ten days - this is true, but seriously, when did they start having glass companies on cruise ships???
Our waiter was excellent, his teammate was not, and we almost fell off our chairs when we found out he had been doing this for 9 yrs. We thought the food was just ok, we have had better on other Carnival ships. Our Maitre'd Mr. V. was phenomenal, he was everywhere, we would see him in the morning on the Lido deck checking the coffee machines, two minutes later we saw him help clean up after a large group had left quite a mess, we saw him patting one of the busboys on the back telling him he's doing a great job, we saw him every night in the dining room vs. just the "envelope" night. The photographers were very good I really liked the black/white pictures the best. We found all the bartenders and waiters very friendly, and bored. This ship has a reputation for being a little more laid back and less of a "party" ship.
We had a GREAT time, even though I had a bad cold all week, we loved the no smoking aspect. We have loved all of our cruises and for us there is no such thing as a bad cruise. We thoroughly enjoy our vacations; life is what you make of it and how you choose to react to certain situations, especially situations you have no control over.
We're already thinking of our next cruise, I think it's going to be to Hawaii. Does anybody have any suggestions as to which cruise line or ship?
This was our first cruise. It was great not having to experience any cigarette smoke or putrid ashtrays on this ship. I don't know if I could cruise on any other ship now that I know what it's like to be on a smoke-free one.
Some of my comments may relate specifically to the Paradise, others may be of my first cruising experience in general.
Our cabin steward and dining room wait staff were outstanding. I have never had a better dining experience. The food was awesome. Being on a vegetarian low cholesterol diet, I was quite pleased that every meal's menu had a section of healthy items and listed the number of calories, fat, and cholesterol for those items. That didn't mean they weren't delicious. All the food was fantastic, except for the lobster tail, which was a bit on the tough side.
The bar drinks on the ship were not as good as I expected. The bar staff was less enthusiastic than the dining room staff and cabin steward.
Our cabin was excellent, although with three of us and an increasing number of gifts and souvenirs, it became quite fulland chaotic and hard to find things.
There was very little relaxing time. There was always something to do or somewhere to be. I always felt rushed while in port. Rush onto shore, do the tour, and rush back to ship. It would have been nice to spend more than one day in the same port.
The Paradise had events all day in the show lounge (the Normandie Lounge) but coffee was not served there, only bar drinks. The lighting booths on the balcony in the Normandie were not low enough. Anyone remotely behind them had an obstructed view. They should have lowered them a couple of feet.
The quality of the photos taken by the photo staff on baord was great, but the photo prices were outrageous. We ended up spending about $140 for just a few of their photos. They also had a video crew recording events on and off the ship, but we never saw the crew and thus were never caught on videotape. Perhaps they only followed the young, beautiful beach bunnies.
It was annoying that you can get towels at the main pool but not at any of the other pools on the ship.
Being that there were 2000 cruisers on board, the cruise often seemed impersonal. The frequent lines and crowds did nothing to help this. But, as previously mentioned, the cabin steward and dining room staff really went out of their way to make us feel special.
If I were to cruise again, I'd definitely cruise on the Paradise. However, with the cost of airfare, the cruise, drinks, souvenirs, bingo, and photos, I spent well over $4200. I can fly my family to St. Thomas and spend a week there for less.
Carnival Cruise Lines Paradise by Roger & Judy Best Eastern Caribbean September 1, 2002
CARNIVAL PARADISE, sailing 9/1/02 for 7 nights to the Eastern Caribbean, visiting Nassau, San Juan, and St. Thomas. This was our third cruise, second on Carnival. Cruise Director was Josh Riffe. It was just the two of us, 40+ business professionals, cruising for our 23rd anniversary. We like good food, good service, dancing, karaoke, and cruising!
AREAS WE DIDN'T USE, SO NO REPORT: We took no cruise shore excursions, did them all on our own. We didn't use the spa, gym, or the casino. Since we had late seating meals, we did not visit any of the late-night buffets. No kids along, so no Camp Carnival!
PRE-CRUISE: We left Little Rock, AR, on Saturday morning, flying on American Airlines using Frequent Flier miles. Flight times had been changed, we had not been notified, but we made it anyway. When we arrived in Miami, the Jetway was not working, so we were delayed briefly waiting for airport maintenance to arrive to get the Jetway repaired and us off the plane.
We caught a taxi at the airport, asking the driverto take us to the Sheraton Biscayne Bay. He repeated it, and we headed out. When he got to the first fork in the road, he asked us which way to go. Omen! Sure enough, he stopped six times asking total strangers for directions, including one person who said he didn't speak English. (He finally confessed that he had been in the city for less than one week!) We drove around for almost 45 minutes. We asked him to call in to his office for directions, but he wouldn't. We finally got out our cell phone to call the hotel for directions. When he heard us doing that, he picked up his cell phone to call his office. He got directions, we got the same directions, and we then arrived is less than 5 minutes.
My husband was getting us checked into the Sheraton Biscayne Bay, while I protected the luggage. I heard someone call my name from behind - who do I know in Miami? It was Denise and JoAnn, who I had connected with via the Internet and cruise BB. We had exchanged pictures, and they had recognized us. We said quick hellos and made arrangements to meet the next morning for breakfast in the hotel.
We had a lovely room on the 9th floor at the Sheraton. We had called a few weeks ago, after reading a note on a cruise BB about doing so, requesting a room overlooking the pier. They had warned me at that time that the current room reserved for us overlooked the city, but they would try. Unfortunately, they did not pull it off, but it was still a very nice room.
We had a couple of drinks in the hotel bar, then grabbed a taxi to the Bayside Marketplace -- $3.00 each way. We had dinner at Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company. We both had a great drink called Lava Flow and an excellent appetizer called Bubba's Far Out Dip. My husband had Shrimper's Net Catch, and I had Bucket of Boat Trash, both very good. We chose to dine on the patio, and a small boy slipped up from the outside asking for a few of our chips. We gave them to him, so then he hit us up for money, which we refused. It was an experience, but next time we'll probably look for something a little more upscale.
Then we went for a stroll around the Bayside Marketplace. Lots happening, good entertainment, lots of places to snap pictures, and great places to eat. Beware the kiosks. Attractive young people approach you to demonstrate and sell their wares. A young lady shined one of my fingernails to demonstrate her nail shining product, and a young man cleaned my husband's glasses and rings. Both products were supposed to last for a couple of weeks. So while the demonstrations are impressive, everything was normal the next morning - save your money!
Also watch your wallet and purses. Police were visible all over, but an adolescent made a reach for my husband's wallet. Mistake, because he's constantly aware of such movements, preventing a pre-vacation catastrophe. The kid was able to slip away though before we could point him out to the police. We eventually caught a taxi back to the hotel.
EMBARKATION: The next morning, we headed to the lobby a little early for the Carnival Pre-Cruise check-in scheduled for 9 to 10:30 a.m. Both Carnival and Norwegian had tables set up for early check-ins, but Norwegian also had chairs for their guests - a nice touch! Denise and JoAnn were the only ones ahead of us, so the two Carnival agents checked us in simultaneously. Our agent smiled, showing us a nice upgrade. We had already discovered the upgrade several weeks early using the Kelly Method. We had booked Cat 6A Oceanview and had been upgraded to a Cat 11 with obstructed balcony. She advised us that we would be able to use the Skipper's Club to wait in the Captain's Lounge since we'd been upgraded to a Cat 11, and suggested we arrive at the port about 11 a.m. to avoid the rush. She said to keep the boarding pass she had given us in our hand, wave it every time we went by a Carnival employee, and keep asking for the Skipper's Club.
That completed, we all moved over to the lobby Grill for breakfast. Breakfast buffet for $12.50 per person, or order from the menu for about the same, so we all ordered the buffet. We watched the line for pre-cruise check-in grow as we ate our breakfast. We parted ways and checked out about 10:45 a.m.
We caught a taxi in front of the hotel. This taxi driver was great! Their was lots of traffic at the pier that time of day, because guests were still leaving the ship while others, like us were arriving. Our taxi driver cut-in and out and honked with the best of them. While others might hate this scene, we found it part of the embarkation excitement. With tightened security, we had to show our boarding pass and our proof of citizenship before they would even allow our taxi to enter the pier boarding area.
We unloaded our luggage right in front of the luggage bins marked Paradise. (There were two Carnival ships sailing this day, so it's important to make sure your luggage is sent to the right ship!) The pier employees assisted us, and they were so busy, we had to force the tip on them.
When we moved into the terminal, we found that better than a hundred guests had arrived even earlier than we had. We waved our boarding pass, just as the agent had instructed, and the gate agent said that when the line starts moving to go through the x-ray machine, then bypass the lines and go straight through to the Skipper's Club. Although the boarding pass said boarding would start at 1:30, the line opened by 11:30 a.m. We did what the gate agent had said and ended up the second guest party in line at an escalator. We waited at the start of that growing line for about 30 minutes, and then took the escalator to a large waiting area in the terminal.
We picked up our cabin keys, and it quickly struck us that we had totally missed the Skipper's Club somewhere. No problem though, because everything was moving smoothly and quickly anyway. On the opposite end of the waiting area, we could still see departing guests exiting. A Carnival representation was trying to keep the embarking passengers out of the far part of the lounge to keep the embarking and departing guests well separated. But, people kept trying to enter that part of the lounge to wait, because that was where the action was and appeared to be the quickest way aboard the ship. In reality, the people seated in that area were the last out of the lounge, so trust the rep when they steer you away from an area!
While we were waiting in this area, again we heard our names called, and again had that feeling of "who knows me here". This time it was honeymooners, Mark and Joelle, who we had also met via the Internet on the cruise BB. It was a pleasure passing time getting to know them before boarding.
We boarded by 12:00 Noon, stopping briefly to get our picture snapped with our "sail and sign" card and then again to get our first of many ship photograph taken while boarding. We quickly found our way to our Verandah suite 42. We liked the extra space and amenities in the room, including two closets, extra large desk, TV/VCR, refrigerator, and cabinet with glassware . and most important, a queen-size bed. The balcony was very small, holding only two plastic chairs and a small table, with very little room to move about. But, it didn't appear to be obstructed, while we could see a walking platform outside our balcony. (Surprise, surprise . By the time we sailed, they had arrived with an orange 6-person boat that hung outside our room - the obstruction. We could still enjoy a nice view and enjoy the balcony even with the boat!)
We had noted when getting our cabin keys that our dinner seating was early, when we had requested late. So, we immediately headed to the Card Room where these changes were being made. We were the only guests there, so they made the change immediately.
We then moved on to the Paris Restaurant on the Lido Deck for a lunch of pizza. Very few guests were there when we first arrived, but many were filling the tables by the time we left about an hour later. We ordered beers at the Paris bar, but we were told that our "sign and sail" cards listed us as minors. At over 40, we were clearly not minors, so they served us, but this required a visit to the information desk to fix this very important problem. So, that was our next stop.
We had time to tour the ship, join the Nassau Travel Talk at 2:30 (got a free t-shirt), and check out the dinner menu before the muster drill. The muster drill was fairly painless and required. This time, however, they not only lined us all up, but they also walked you from your muster meeting area to where you would actually board the lifeboats, which took a little longer. We dumped our life jackets back into the cabin and headed for the Sailaway Party on the Lido deck.
SAILAWAY: We found our usual spot on the top deck overlooking the pier, where we start relaxing watching the terminal get smaller and the ocean get larger, with a couple of frozen drinks in hand. We met Steve and Connie there, who were on their 11th cruise and enjoy this same ritual, and they became our best friends on the cruise, meeting us often in various locations! The photographer found us again to snap our picture, followed soon after by the Video Diary videographer.
We then headed for a Free Liquor Tasting in the Gift Shop Lobby. We tasted samples of the exotic flavors of Cruzan Rum - banana, orange, pineapple, coconut, and VANILLA (so wonderful the gift shop sold out!), plus other spirits. A great way to start the cruise!
We dressed early, so we could make the Ballroom Dance Lesson at 7:30 in the Normandie Lounge. We learned or brushed up on the Cha-Cha for 30 minutes, then the Band played until 8:30 to allow us all the pleasure of dancing for another 30 minutes. Great fun!
We were in the late seating for the Elation dining room with Maitre d' Ricardo (his famous sayings: hellllooo, you look mahvelous, and ciao for now), head waiter Som and assistant waiter Kat, both from Thailand. Our table #176 seated six, in the center of an area with large circular tables in each corner. We were constantly bumped by waiters and passengers squeezing past our table - one of my few complaints on my end of cruise comment card. Som and Kat were attentive and friendly! Our table was three Southern couples - us from Arkansas, Johnny and Betty from Texas, and Herman and Deborah from Louisiana. It took us a few meals to relax and enjoy one another, but we became friends.
Our Elation late dining times are breakfast at 9:30, lunch at 1:30, and dinner at 8:30. The 8:30 late dinner seating made it very difficult to make the late shows and find decent seats at all - another complaint on my comment card. The seats we always found were either awkwardly located or required viewing through a pole. For this reason, we attended very few shows in the Normandie lounge.
First Night's Dinner: Appetizer: Hickory smoked salmon, Grilled satay of chicken tenderloin (this was so great!) Soup: Cream of mushroom. Entrée: Rack of New Zealand Spring Lamb Dijonnaise, Catch of the day (Tilapia). We ordered a bottle of wine from the Chef's Recommendations for five nights of the cruise, only one we didn't love. The other two nights we brought a bottle of wine and a bottle of champagne to the dining room that we had carried aboard. Our waiter uncorked those bottles without charge on those two nights.
We slipped into the Normandie Lounge at the last minute for the 10:30 Welcome Aboard Show, which was fun and entertaining. However, we didn't enjoy the comedian, Joe DiCaprio, at all. He had a couple of funny one-liners, but the rest was simply dull in our opinion.
DAY TWO, NASSAU, BAHAMAS, 7 am to 1:30 pm: Let me tell you the difference between eating breakfast in the Paris Buffet on the Lido deck and eating in your dining room on a port day - coffee refills! Both places serves buffet with the option of an omelet. In the dining room, you are seated at tables in the order you arrive. In Paris, you find a seat wherever. But coffee and juice refills are essential to those of us that require several cups to get going in the morning!
We had visited Nassau previously, prior to the Straw Market fire, so we went into town at our leisure, visiting the stores we were interested in. We did not visit the new Straw Market. Then we caught the Ferry Boat to Atlantis. The cost is only $6 per person roundtrip. Beware: They say it leaves every 30 minutes, but it doesn't leave until it's full! We were the first ones on the boat and waiting over 40 minutes. We wished we had spent that time shopping nearby and got on closer to when it was full. There was a long walk from where they dropped us off, again manageable if you have no problem walking. Atlantis was beautiful! We visited the Casino, the shops, and the bar. Our main purpose was to pick up a Christmas present for a niece who likes Atlantis! We went back to the boat, waiting about 20 minutes before it headed back to the Nassau side. We got back to the ship in time for lunch!
We sunned on deck with a bucket of beer for him and a frozen thingey (or two) for me. by the way, no problems with deck chairs at all. Chairs were always available around the pool and on every sun deck! Also, the water slide was popular with the young and the young at heart. A Carnival employee sat at the top of the slide to maintain control!
Then we headed to karaoke at 3 pm in the Leonardo Lounge. I have to say, we had some very talented singers on our ship. Karaoke was fun, fun, fun! Unfortunately, they didn't open the bar - they said they'd had problems in the past the first day with drinkers heckling singers, so they wanted to keep it nice the first day. Well, we all just wondered out to the US Bar, got our drinks, and brought them back. No hecklers found!
Roger loves sushi, so we were at the Sushi Bar almost every night. The Sushi Bar is open every night from 5:30 to 8:00, and Larry is the sushi chef. It's located just outside the Casino on the Promenade near the US Bar. Larry only gives four pieces of sushi per person. Toward the end of the week, he told Roger that he was his most regular customer, so he started giving him eight pieces each time, because Roger always went back for more. On day 3, others found this as well and formed long lines! We settled into the Promenade window seats with sushi and drinks as our pre-dinner snack! We noticed after several days that one of the ship's captains was in the sushi area with us every night as well, so we engaged him in conversation one evening. Vito was delightful! He expects to return to the Pride shortly, then on to captain his own ship, maybe in 2003, maybe a ship called the Miracle!
Tonight was the first formal night! Formal portraits were taken from 4:45 to 10:30 pm. The Captain's Cocktail Party for Late Seating was at 7:15 in the Normandie Lounge. We enjoyed appetizers and Whiskey Sours and Rum Punch doctored with a Gin Martini on the Captain until dinner. We enjoyed the Band and dancing for the second night in a row!
Dinner: Tonight we had the delicious Cream of Pumpkin Soup. I was the only one at our table who ordered it. My husband tasted mine and asked for him own. Then one by one everyone else at our table tasted it and ordered their own as well! Save your time - order it! If you don't like it, don't eat it - but I'll bet money you'll love it. This was also Lobster night. Som said everyone gets lobster, what else do you want. So everyone ordered Lobster and something. DH ordered Lobster and Prime Rib, I ordered Lobster and Pasta. (As others have stated, if you regularly get good lobster, this won't excite you. But if you rarely get lobster, this will probably be a thrill.) Dessert: Chocolate Souffle. (Steak Note: The server offers only Medium Rare and Medium Well. That's all! DH always asked Som to bring him the rarest piece he could find, and Som always accomplished this well!)
Tonight at 10:45 was the first Broadway-style show called Dream Voyage. I didn't think the shows were very good this week, but maybe it was just me and the struggle to find seats. Enough said!
DAY THREE, SEA DAY: We slept in, grabbed coffee and a quick bite in the Paris Restaurant on the Lido deck, and went to the Normandie Lounge to attend the San Juan/St Thomas Travel Talks starting at 9:30 am. (They're serving drinks in the lounge, but not coffee, so bring your coffee with you from the Paris!) They threw out free souvenirs and artwork, so arrive early and sit close on the lower level! It's worth it! Played Bingo . lost! Then we sunned on the deck until our 1:30 lunch time.
Lunch in the dining room .. Always fairly empty, always very good!
Bingo again at 2:45 . lost! While playing bingo, our new found cruising friends, Steve and Connie, asked if we were going to the Repeat Cruisers Party next. We had not received our invitation even though we had marked Repeat Cruiser on our boarding pass and our TA had put our Past Cruiser number on our booking. So, this required yet a number trip to the Information Desk to straighten out . no problem, quickly resolved.
The repeat cruisers party was at 3:30 in the Queen Mary's Lounge - had to present your invitation to get in, but no one dressed up! More free drinks, appetizers, and small desserts! Music by the Highlights and dancing . we had a great time doing the twist all over the room! They gave away a bottle of champagne as a door prize.
Sushi, of course, and then we dressed early for dinner because tonight they were taking more pictures! We posed for a few before heading to the dining room, and these turned out to be some of our best for the week, as we were dressed in clothes we were more comfortable in.
Dinner: Appetizer: Freshly Grilled Portabello Mushrooms, Louisiana Tiger Prawns. Soup: Etoufee of Langoustine, Cream of Broccoli and Wisconsin Cheddar. Entrée: Grilled Black Tiger Jumbo Shrimp, Prime Rib.
We met up with our cruise BB friends in the America's Bar after dinner. We all moved to the Queen's Mary Lounge to dance to more of the excellent music of the Highlights - the female singer was great! The comedian we didn't care for was performing in this lounge at Midnight, so we left when he started and headed to bed!
DAY FOUR, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: The ship had to clear customs before we could leave the ship. The first people allowed to leave the ship then were those who had booked morning shore excursions. The last were people like us who were taking in the city on our own. So, we enjoyed breakfast in the dining room before leaving.
The cruise director had informed us that it was an easy walk for able-bodied people up to the fort. However, it was an extremely hot day, and we were very hot after just a few steps from the ship. The street was full of independent tour guides seeking willing tourists. A young man named Javier approached us, seemed trustworthy, had a nice looking 22-passenger van with at least 6 people already on it. He promised a tour of the city, a tour of the Bacardi Rum Distillery with at least 2 drinks each, and then drop-off in the shopping area. (Others were promising the Rain Forest and other such stops, so just look for one offering what you want to see. You can also work out other arrangements like a swim and ride back to the ship instead of shopping - just ask!) The cost was only $20 each. Beware though - they don't leave until their vehicles are full!
The tour was wonderful. In addition to seeing the forts and other points of interest, Javier also told us about the history, demographics, political and economic information about San Juan. We really enjoyed the visit to Bacardi, picked up some nice shirts there, and enjoyed trying a variety of mixed drinks (very small). However, we didn't buy any liquor there, as it was less expensive and we could buy more duty-free in St. Thomas.
Javier dropped us off at the Barachino Village, where the Pina Colada was invented, so, of course, we had to drop in there for a Pina Colada and some appetizers since we had missed lunch. We visited a few shops. Right across the street from Barachino was Gems and Pearls. I wasn't interested in any of their jewelry, but they had some lovely pieces of artwork, and Roger negotiated a lovely piece of the Don Quixote collection for me. (We have a special affection for Don Quixote because of our Marriage Encounter connections!) At another store, we got postcards, t-shirts and souvenirs for home. Then we had an easy downhill stroll to the ship.
We had planned to eat dinner at the Parrot Café this evening, and Javier, who had previously worked there as a bartended, had suggested we dress nicely for the evening meal there, so we were returning to the ship to change. But clouds rolled in with lightning during our return to the ship, so we decided to stay aboard for dinner! But, we still had time for sushi and drinks before dinner!
Dinner: Appetizer: Duet of Gratinated Mussels and Shrimp Provencale, Grilled Baby Vegetables (everyone said, those aren't baby vegetables, they're just veggies cut small!) Soup: Wonton Soup, Cream of Tomato Entrée: Black Tiger Shrimp, Beef Wellington
After dinner, we went to the Lido deck to watch the sailaway from San Juan. Then we went to the Leonard bar for karaoke singing in progress until midnight. No seats, standing room only, we sat on the floor, couldn't get drinks, so we finally headed back to the Lido deck to enjoy Kooshall's dance party - great fun and dancing!
DAY FIVE, ST. THOMAS, US VIRGIN ISLANDS: We had breakfast in the dining room before heading ashore. We both had great omelets!
We had made arrangement over the Internet for a tour guide to meet us on the pier for a day of activities. Unfortunately, we waited for more than 30 minutes past the times we had agreed upon and he never arrived. We gave up, taking a cab into St. Thomas for shopping, which was the first part of our plans anyway.
Our first stop was Tanzanite International. Beautiful stuff, but my heart was set on some black pearl, opal, or coral jewelry, which I told the young lady that was assisting me. She said, oh, let me show you where to go, and she starts walking, and we follow. She walked out the door with us and down the street past many shops to the Bernard Passman Black Coral store. She took us in, introduced us to one of her friends, and she left! Her friend called over another person and together they assisted us in trying on several pieces. There were so many beautiful things in this store and exactly what I wanted. My husband suggested we wait to purchase later - and I'm hoping he's surprising me with one of these pieces for Christmas!
We visited Caribana to order our liquor, which they delivered directly to the ship for us - customs allows 4 liters of liquor per adult purchased in St. Thomas only. Great prices, and we got souvenirs, t-shirts, and postcards here as well.
We were going to head back to the ship for lunch then catch another taxi to the beach for the afternoon. But, first we stopped at the St. Thomas post office to send our postcards. Leaving the post office we ran into Roy, who claimed that he'd been voted the #1 tour guide by the St. Thomas Chamber of Commerce for 14 years running. Roy said he would give us a 2 hour tour of the island, take us to Coki Beach for 2-3 hours, then another brief tour as he returned us to the ship, all for $20 per person. Since this was exactly what we wanted, we agreed to meet him back there at Noon.
We were the last people to board a full open-air bus. Roy's tour was great! He stopped to let us take pictures many times, and, in the most scenic areas, we lined up with our cameras, and Roy took our pictures against the scenic backdrop. Roy told us all about the island just like he was teaching school. I can probably tell you more about St. Thomas than I can for our hometown. He kept saying, is there anything else you were wanting to see. He dropped the beach lovers off at Coki Beach and took the rest on the remainder of the tour and returned them to the ship early.
While my husband visited the changing rooms, I went to the beach to get chairs and an umbrella. An older man immediately began assisting me. A young man with dreadlocks came over, started yelling, knocking the chairs out of the older man's hands. I started backing off quickly when the shouting began. Finally another man came over, removing the young man from the scene, and the older man took me and the chairs to the beach, with the younger man following us from a distant still shouting. As the older man set me up, he explained that the younger man didn't want to greet customers, but only wanted to take them from him when it was apparent we were buying a service. A young woman approached me offering to braid my hair, but immediately backed off when I refused. Roger showed up about then asking questions about the services, and I advised him just to settle in to avoid another scene!
We had missed lunch again, so we got hot dogs, french fries, and Island Girl drinks for me, beers for him! We dipped in the ocean several times, watching others snorkel and scuba dive. The beach was wonderful. A young lady sold me an ankle bracelet she had made for $5. We sunned, drank, relaxed, drank, dipped, and drank, until time for Roy to come. We washed the sand off our bodies at the changing rooms and got back to the gift shop just as Roy drove up, and we headed back to the ship. Roy was great . if you can find him, he's a most kind, pleasant, interesting tour guide and person!
We headed to the Lido deck for the Sailaway party, then to the US Bar for sushi before dinner!
Dinner: Appetizer: Southwestern Style Egg Roll, Alaskan Snow Crabmeat Cocktail (there was one tiny sliver of crabmeat on top a pate of some sort!) Soup: French Onion. Entrée: Filet Mignon. Dessert: Crème Brulee.
DAY SIX, SEA DAY: We slept in and still had time to make our late seating breakfast in the dining room at 9:30 a.m. Then we sunned until about 1 pm, because we had decided to take in our first cruise Art Auction at 1:30 in the Queen Mary's Lounge. We registered at the door for the auction and got our raffle ticket. We purchased one lovely Thomas Kincaid picture to add to our collection of one at home! The line afterwards to complete the paperwork was long and painful. We had planned to go to the Galley Tour at 3:30 pm, but we were still standing in the line at that time! We got done just in time for . you guessed it, sushi and drinks!
Tonight was the second formal night, so we dressed and did the picture stroll again! by the way, on this cruise, they took pictures somewhere on deck almost every night! So, take advantage of the opportunity to take the pictures, because you only buy them if you like them!
Dinner: Appetizer: Escargo, Penne Mariscos. Soup: Black Bean Soup. Entrée: Tender Roasted Sirloin. Dessert: Baked Alaska.
The second Broadway-style show, Shout, was in the Normandie Lounge at 10:45. It was a fun energetic show, and a great finish to our evening!
DAY SEVEN, SEA DAY: We were awakened (it wasn't early) by a knock on our door, where they were delivering the liquor we had purchased in St. Thomas. Good thing, because we had just time to get to our late seating breakfast in the dining room at 9:30. "Win a Cruise" bingo was at 10:30 . I lost! Then Josh did the debarkation talk at 11am. We went to the Lido deck at 1 pm for an Ice Carving demonstration, which just got done when a light rain started. Besides it was 1:30, time for our late seating lunch. Back to the Normandie Lounge at 2:30 for the always funny Newlywed and Not-So-Newlywed game. I stayed in the lounge for 10-game bingo, while Roger went to the deck to sun. We both enjoyed the sun and music of Kooshall, until it was time for sushi and drinks!
Dinner: Appetizer: Smoked chicken fillets, Fettucine tossed in mushroom cream. Soup: Gumbo Creole, Navy Bean. Entrée: Chateaubriand. Dessert: Grand Marnier Soufflé
Since we had boarded with gray TBA luggage tags, the debarkation instructions said to replace those with the correct color for your cabin which you could get from your room steward. We tracked him down and he said we had to get them from the Information Desk. Then we had to go stand in a long line at the Information desk just to get new cabin tags. (We really would have loved this correct information earlier in the day before everyone had their bills, complaining at the desk).
You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned much about our room steward. He never introduced himself to us. We only got three towel animals. That was okay with us since this was our third cruise, but I felt sorry for the first-timers who were being served by him. The rooms were kept spotless all week. On Thursday, we wanted to take advantage of the laundry special, so we phoned him - that's when we first saw him, and we had to have him name on our laundry order. His name was Peter.
We were both tired and hadn't even begun packing. Unfortunately, Roger was headed from the cruise to a business trip instead of home, so this required packing much differently than we'd packed coming in. It took a very long time, and when we finished we headed out to our balcony for one last breath of ocean air.
DISEMBARKATION: Our late seating for breakfast this day was 8:15, so that was our first stop. We enjoyed many cups of coffee there with our tablemates who all showed up for this last meal, because we all had late flights. We left at 9:25 to clear our rooms by 9:30 as requested. (People with handicaps with one companion only, those with Miami shore tours, and those with early flights met in the Queen Mary lounge at 8:45 a.m. for early disembarkation.) They then called colors based on your cabin tag colors. (Those with TBA gray tags picked up new tags with the correct color for their cabin the night before at the Information desk.) Our color was called early, but we moved very slowly since we weren't in any hurry to wait hours at the airport. by the time, we disembarked, our luggage was one of the last in the area, so it was easy to collect and leave. We dropped off our custom declaration form and caught a taxi cab in front of the terminal, providing a swift ride to the airport.
OVERALL: While I've shared our real experience with you above - the good, the bad, the ugly - reality is that in our opinion there's no such thing as a bad cruise. Nothing could ruin this cruise! We had a great time! We enjoyed San Juan, and we adored St. Thomas! The Paradise is decorated rather garishly, so the formal portraits taken against the actual ship décor were rather gaudy! We opted for the portraits with backdrops instead. The ship was kept clean, although there were frequently areas blocked off for cleaning or maintenance. We felt like the quality of the food had declined since our first cruise in 2000. We don't know if it is just this ship or not. Service was good, but not exceptional! And, the shows were disappointing. The Paradise was a little too laid back for our tastes, so we probably won't sail her again even though we enjoyed the smoke-free atmosphere! Our cabin was wonderful and well-maintained. We love our dining room servers! We made great friends, and we can't wait to cruise again!
We can only sum up this entire experience by one word ... PARADISE! The ship is fabulous, our excursions were fabulous and the friends we met were fabulous.
This ship is gorgeous....the service we received was excellent, the food was wonderful, the entertainment was great. We can only say we will definately sail again on the Paradise.......If you have any quetions, please feel free to email us at any time.
When: 5/12/2002 Who: Barry & Kathy Where: Eastern Caribbean (Nassau - San Juan - St. Thomas) Last Cruise: Carnival Ecstasy - Mar 02 Next Cruise: Carnival Sensation - June 03
Flight to Miami
Took United from Washington Dulles to Miami on Saturday night. Airport was crowded. Noticed they were singling out numerous people (seemed random) at the gate for extra security checks. Luckily, not us.
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami. Could see the port and the Victory and the Paradise in the morning. Hotel was nice and comfortable. Would have liked to have stayed closer to the port, but used Hyatt points, so could not argue with free :) Took taxi to the hotel and to the port. Both were quick and convenient.
We got to the port about 10:45 AM. We waited until 11:00 to go through security (pretty simple). We were about the 5th group to be registered. Not a lot of clerks in the beginning that we could see. We then waited in another line before being allowed to go upstairs (about 11:45). They did not start letting people board until 12:30 (there were plenty ofchairs to sit and wait).
The ship is beautiful!!! It is much more subtle and muted than the Fantasy and Ecstasy which we have been on before. A lot more wood rather than brass. We really like it. Also liked the bar in the center of the atrium along with the musical group and piano player that played there. Our room V15 on the Verandah deck was great. As someone on one of the groups said, once you have a verandah, you will never want to go back and I certainly agree with that.
This was our 8th time in Nassau. It seemed like the vendors/tour people were a little more aggressive than I remember in the past. They no longer allow taxis/buses at the pier, but there did appear to be a shuttle that would take you to the beginning of town where you could get transportation. All we did was do a little shopping (bought our favorite rum cakes - Don Lorenzo Caribbean Double Chocolate Ecstacy Cake :).
Did not do any tours. Walked to the El Morro Fortress ($3 entry fee) and walked around it and took pictures. Did some walking around town, but did not buy anything. It was a pretty warm day and the sweat was flowing freely. Spent a relaxing afternoon/evening on the ship.
Did the Kon Tiki Party Boat (had done this same tour 11 years ago). Seemed to be a bit more lively than the one we had done previously. My wife was not feeling well, so I ended up going by myself (I did behave myself. That's my story and I am sticking to it :) The only shopping we did was at the mall at the dock.
Pretty much the usual shipboard games. Went one of the production shows and one of the variety (magician and comedian). Both were entertaining and worth the time spent. Lost way too much money in the casino, but the casino staff was very friendly. Tried my first BBC and I am hooked. Also tried a Malibu Bay Breeze and it was not bad either. Miami Vice was good as always.
Most painless and easiest of any of previous cruises. Waited in our cabin. Called our cabin color by 9:15. Had our luggage and were at our bus by 9:30.
Worst part of the trip. Bus let us out where there was baggage check-in for everyone but United. Had to walk to terminal (not the end of the world, but no skycaps). Skycap found us on the way into the terminal and took us to check-in. Was asked the usual questions and said no, but the clerk asked about whether our luggage had been left out at night. Answered truthfully, so we had to have our checked baggage xrayed. No real problem and since we were way early for our flights, not much of an inconvenience. For some reason, they decided they did not like what was in my carry-on, so they checked it over and over (did not really bother with my laptop). Warning: rant ahead! While I know these checks are for our protection and security, to my untrained eye, the people I saw doing the checking and screening couldn't find a gun, knive or explosive if they were told what it was. Rant over. All-in-all, while a little bit frustrating, this certainly did not ruin my post-vacation high.
Paradise is just that. What a wonderful week. The new cruise director Micheal and his wife Jen were wonderful and very helpful. They were entertaining and always kept us informed. Our room was on the main deck at the back of the boat. I must say I would always pick the back of the boat in the future. The walk was sometimes long but you did not notice the motion at all. When I was in the Normandie Lounge everynight for the show I could feel the motion and had to take something for it. Our dinner guests were perfect and we had so much in common.
I traveled with my two teenagers, one girl and one boy who are very different. They found so much to do and they were never bored and let me enjoy the R & R in the sun. I loved the back of the boat for sunbathing as well. Why fight for the chairs down on the Lido deck were there is no breeze. The food as well as the presentation was awesome. I also liked having the tips put on my sign andsail card so I didn't have to worry about that. I would sign up for shore excursions quickly. I knew we were going to do our own thing in Cozumel (Chankanaab Park was great) but the others go really fast. Take beach shoes. The Dunns River Falls were great but the beggers scared my kids.Monica
I just returned from my 1st cruise on the Carnival Paradise. I was traveling with a singles group coordinated by Discount Travel out of Marcos Island, FL (web site www.singlescruise.com). Overall, I had an excellent time and would not hesitate to chose this ship again, or any Carnival cruise for that matter.
DAY 0 (Flying to Miami)
I booked my air through Carnival (price was virtually the same) and was assigned a flight leaving Denver on Northwest Airlines at 9:15 a.m. (Denver time) with a connection in Minneapolis at 1:25 p.m. (Minneapolis time) and arrival at Miami at 5:54 (Miami time) The plane in Denver, however, developed engine trouble and was held on the ground until noon. I was going to meet my cousin in Miami for dinner, and since this was in jeopardy, I borrowed a flight attendants cell phone (I don't have one and wouldn't have packed it anyway) and called my mom to relay the message. Northwest assured us that they were working with us on our connections. How they were "working" with us is that when we got to Minneapolis, they gave us a coupon package for afree meal (up to $10.00 which I took full advantage of) an eight minute pre-paid phone card, a coupon for up to $100.00 on a future flight, and a comment card (which did get filled out). They also told us that we had to go to the ticket counter to make our own arrangements. I was lucky since I was traveling alone that they had an extra single seat on the next flight that left Minneapolis at 7:11 and was scheduled to arrive in Miami at 11:45.
Other passengers had more difficulty. One couple on our cruise booked a flight to Orlando and changed planes there to American Airlines for the final leg into Miami, and another couple booked a connection through Detroit to Miami and arrived at 3:00 a.m. I called the toll-free travel emergency number and after being on hold for about 15 minutes, I told the representative my problems and my solution and he assured me that it was no problem. (In reality it wasn't necessary, but I was hoping they would have someone at the airport to greet me when I finally arrived.) I finally arrived in Miami at midnight after being stuck next to someone who hadn't bathed since the Johnson was president (that's Andrew Johnson), and found my way to baggage claim. There was NO ONE there to assist me in finding anything, except a uniformed security guard who told me that Carnival's representatives had long since gone home and I was pretty much on my own for getting to the Wyndham Airport (at least their shuttle was still running) where I was staying. I arrived at the hotel, checked in, and found my room. I finally went to sleep at 3:00 a.m.
DAY 1 (Boarding day)
After breakfast, I checked in with the Carnival representative at the hotel at 8:00 a.m.. There were two other ships (the Spirit and Victory) also sailing that day, so the hotel was overwhelmed with Carnival passengers. I then left my bags and was told to be back at 9:30. They took all our bags, lined them up outside, and had us stand by them so we could have a security sticker placed on them. This was a huge mess, compounded by the fact a brief rainstorm came up and got some bags wet. This finished by 11:00 where we were told to go inside and wait for the busses. The busses came at noon and another mess ensued. It was completely unorganized and could have been a lot more efficient. I finally boarded a bus at 12:30 (after having to drag my bags to the bus) and left at about 12:45. We got to the Port of Miami at about 1:00. We then had to identify our bags to the porters so they could receive the correct tip amount (they told us that it was to separate Paradise passengers from Spirit passengers, but the tags already had that information on it). At this point I was pretty much resigned to the fact I would not be on board until around 3:00 p.m. I then stood in another long line to go through security (but this was quick), bypassed the main check-in line, and went up stairs to finish the process, which was mainly to get my sail-and-sign card, security photo, and the final step, the "welcome aboard" photo before boarding the ship. I looked at my watch and was amazed to find it was only 1:30 When I boarded, I was handed a deck plan (the one in the brochure is superior) and sent on my way to find my cabin, M136. The cabin was nice and spacious and had plenty of room for what I packed. I went up to purchase a fountain fun card (the wisest investment I made), eat lunch (the pizza was good, but the crust was a little raw), and also have one of the "welcome aboard" drinks. That thing was the strongest drink I ever had. After I finished that I went down to my room and discovered that my bags were delivered (this was about 3:00) and decided to unpack. It was a neat trick unpacking while falling down drunk, but I finished fairly quickly and hung out until the lifeboat drill. The drill took about half an hour, and was pretty straight forward, with a good explanation of the procedures that would be followed if something happened. They gave us a 20 minute and 5 minute warning before the drill started. The crew wears green baseball hats during the drill and they guide you along to your station. Believe it or not, they still follow the "women and children first" policy, although they wouldn't break up families. While at our lifeboat station, we saw a NCL ship leaving, (I think it was the Sun) and we waived to them. After that, our group had the disco reserved for a private cocktail party (free cruise booze). We went to dinner at the late seating and had a section of tables reserved for our group. After that, I wandered the ship some and went to the disco at about 11:00. After some dancing, I went to bed.
Day 2 (Nassau, Bahamas)
I woke up early and left the ship. I tried to find the Queen's Staircase, but ran into problems. There are virtually no sidewalks in Nassau south of Bay Street, and driving is on the left. Further, street signs are European standards (circles for regulatory signs, triangles for warning signs). I failed to find what I was looking for, so I went looking for the straw market to buy a hat. The straw market burned down last September, so they set up in some tents a couple blocks west of where it was. After that, we (I joined up with part of our group) caught a water taxi and went over to Paradise Island and the Atlantis Resort. They wanted to charge us $25 per person for the aquarium, so we passed. We wandered the hotel before heading back. The contrast between rich (Paradise Island) and poor (Nassau) is very striking. I re-boarded the ship, and we sailed at 2:00 p.m. After an hour, the seas became rough. We took some pitching and rolling for the next day and a half. This was our first formal night, so everyone got spiffed up. the photographer was everywhere taking pre-arranged photographs. Dinner was fine, and I went to the American Bar afterwards. The pianist was good, but he had a reverb mike which was very annoying.
Day 3 (at sea)
I met up with some friends, and we continued to explore the ship. One of them wanted to find the best vantage point for a picture so we went to the funnel deck (where the top-optional sunbathing is). Big mistake. They DO NOT allow cameras up there and the passengers there were ready to throw him over the side. I guess there is a big concern that someone would take pictures there and post them on the internet. Can't say it isn't justified. Also, lets just say some men have bigger breasts than some women. After lunch, I found some other friends, and we hung out in the hot tubs and tried the water slide. The slide is a great way to cool off on a hot day. We took our group photo that afternoon, but many people didn't show, especially the under 40 set. I finally started feeling the effects of the ocean (we were taking 15 degree pitches and 10 degree rolls all day) after dinner. About lunch time, white bags began appearing at strategic locations around the ship, such as near elevators, in the dining rooms, and in public bathrooms. I went to the infirmary and grabbed some sea-sickness pills and took them. They knocked me out so I went to bed early.
Day 4 (San Juan, PR)
EVERYONE must go through immigration before they will let ANYONE off the ship, except for scheduled shore tours. A couple also was let off who were suffering severe sea-sickness. Another part of our group had to go home from here due to a death in the family. Carnival was excellent in making the arrangements to go home for them. I went to El Morro, and afterwards did some snorkeling at Condado Beach. The cab ride is $10 for what was an alarming short ride, although I wouldn't walk it. I came back on board, and took a nap. Dinner was good, and I went to a show afterwards. At midnight, they did a conga line, and had some dancing on the Lido Deck stage. More on this in tomorrow's report.
Day 5 (Saint Thomas, VI)
In terms of sheer beauty, this port blew the others out of the water. I went on an island highlights tour, and afterwards went to Trunk Bay for snorkeling. The island is still suffering some of the side effects of Hurricane Marilyn from 1995, but most of the damage has been repaired. The snorkeling was great, although the water was a little cloudy from the wind of the last couple of days. I was on deck when the ship pushed back from the pier that was very interesting to watch. After dinner, some friends and I got into a seat duel in the show. A couple went to the restroom and returned to find that one of the seats had been taken by someone else who refused to yield, insisting there was no seat saving. Therefore, we squeezed in. Another couple left in the middle of the show, so I relieved the pressure by moving there (I didn't want to bother the other couple who I was sitting next to, who were innocent bystanders to this whole mess). After the show, other couples told us that we were in the right, and they were quite sympathetic to our plight. All in all, it was an ugly situation that could have been resolved a lot more amicably than it was. I had my arm twisted by several people who saw the highlights from yesterday they played on the cabin TVs into buying the day 4 video diary. They said I was the only one who did the Macarena right. I finally broke down and ordered it.
Day 6 (at sea)
This was a very relaxing day. I really didn't do much. The motion of the ship finally calmed down about 10:00 a.m. and we had smooth sailing the rest of the way home. I took a dance lesson, and it is very hard to do a line dance on a ship that is rolling like it was. I won $160 in bingo, of which the casino got $70 back. Just hung around the pool, caught the horse race, wandered the promenade, and a few trips down the slide. We watched the sun set from the Sun Deck. I was watching a game of shuffleboard while walking about, when I tripped over a light fixture they line around the deck. I was not hurt, but about four people came over right away to assist me. We had another cocktail party in the evening before dinner. Since it was formal night, everyone got dressed up for the party. We then went to the show. and wandered around for a while before turning in.
Day 7 (at sea)
This day was much like the day before, except we took time out of our afternoons to pack. It was a sad feeling to realize that your vacation is coming to an end. We had the group cocktail party (Carnival does a complementary cocktail party for all groups at the same time, but we were the only group on board). We had our final dinner and took in our last shows, and had our final dance at the disco before going to bed.
Day 8 (going home)
The ship came into Miami and we hung out until our ship cleared customs. I would like to take this time to complement my cabin steward Yunbo Lu from China, and my head waiter, Mr. Z (I think he was Italian, but don't hold me to that). Our ship cleared customs at 9:00 a.m., and all colors were called by 9:20. I found my bags, handed my customs forms to the officer present, and headed for my bus to the Miami Airport for my 2:30 p.m. flight. The busses drop you off in a rather remote area of the terminal where you can check in with your airline and not have to lug your bags across the terminal (unless....). I, however, was "randomly" selected for the "extra special" security treatment and would have to drag my bags into the terminal. I told the Northwest representative that I was selected for screening and she told me to go stand by a special room on the side for the bag x-ray machine. When I got there, they told me to go to the counter to check in first (but I didn't have to wait in line). The agent almost made me check my carry-on bag, until I told her I had a bottle of rum inside. I then left my bags and went to stand in line for security. Miami does their security by calling your flight times to go through the screeners if it is busy. This was not explained to us, and we were not provided an area to sit down. After an hour and a half, a passenger behind me became frustrated and requested to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor came down and politely explained the procedures and assured us that it wouldn't be much longer. About a minute into the conversation, four national guard troops arrived to make sure the problem didn't escalate. Normally, the troops had smiles on their faces, and their guns were pointed at the ground. When they arrived, they had their guns chest high, pointed to the side, and not a smile to be seen. (When they left, they had their smiles back, and the guns were pointed down again.) After nearly two hours, I made it through the detectors, and went to my gate. My flight was then delayed by an hour putting my connection in Memphis in doubt. I was told that the plane would be held, and to relax.
When I went to board the plane, I was given part two of the "extra special" security treatment. They searched my carry-on bag, and gave me the full wand treatment. They took my shoes off, and examined them. and wanded me head to toe (or at least neck to toe). I even had to flip my belt buckle over to show there was nothing on the other side. When I got to Memphis, we pulled into the gate at 5:02 p.m. (Memphis time) and my connection was scheduled to leave at 5:00. I was told by a gate agent that my plane was still there, but I had to hurry. I then did a mad dash through the B concourse (they had to put my flights at opposite ends of the concourse) only to find my flight hadn't started boarding yet. We finally left Memphis at 6:00 and arrived back in Denver at 7:02 (Denver time). My bags did not arrive at the carrousel for another hour (and I am lucky to have them).
Overall, I had a great time. I made some new friends, and had a lot of fun doing so. I would to this again in a heartbeat, although I might pay extra not to fly Northwest Airlines (zero for four flights were on time, and I was blatantly lied to about what they were doing for me for my missed connections was annoying).
For months prior to our cruise on the 12/16/01 sailing of the Carnival Paradise, I read many, many reviews and scoured the message boards for tips and advice. Now, almost 3 months after cruising, I'm starting to feel a little guilty about not giving a little back by writing a review of my experiences. So here it is!
I'm 26 (male) and was traveling with my sister Ally (22) and my dad (50). The cruise was my dad's Christmas present to my sister and I. We all live in different states (Colorado, Georgia, and Ohio), so it was also a way for us to be together before the holidays. It was the first cruise for my dad and I, while Ally had been on a shorter 4 day cruise last year on RCCL's Sovereign of the Seas. I was elected the official "travel planner" and spent a few months researching cruise ships and itineraries. We had originally booked on the Celebrity Horizon based on itinerary and price. After 9/11, and rates began to fall, we were able to get a better deal on the Paradise and thought it would be abetter fit for us anyway, with a younger crowd and glitzier ship. The non-smoking aspect was also a huge enticement.
We had a 2-day pre-cruise stay in Miami. We stayed at the Holiday Inn South Beach (www.holidayinnsouthbeach.com) that we booked through Priceline.com for $30/night! The hotel offered free parking and even free beach chairs and umbrellas.
The hotel itself was very nice and recently remodeled. It was located right on the beach and was about 4-5 blocks (an easy and safe walk) from the heart of South Beach. There were two hotel restaurants including an Outback Steakhouse. There was also a large drug store onsite to buy soda and beer/alcohol if you're so inclined. The hotel was made up of two buildings, a 11 or 12 story tower and an adjacent 2 level structure housing rooms with outside entrances around a central jungle-like courtyard complete with caged birds and paths. We stayed in the tower. There was also a large oceanfront pool and hot tub with an outdoor Tiki Bar. Overall, I'd say that the hotel was nicer than most Holiday Inns and definitely a bargain for $30/night! I found www.biddingfortravel.com to be an invaluable resource for booking anything with Priceline. Be sure to check it out!
We took a taxi to the hotel from the Miami airport. The fares to hotels are pre-set and I believe it was around $20 or $21 to the South Beach zone. You could also take the Supershuttle (www.supershuttle.com) from the airport to the hotel if you wanted. It was $8 or $9/pp I believe and no reservation was required. Taxi fare from the hotel to the pier was around $20 as well and about a 10-minute ride.
Our taxi driver dropped us off right in front of our pier at around 11:00am. We gave our bags to the porters, who gave us a list of passengers and rooms so that we could look up our assigned room since we booked a guarantee. We booked a category 5A (porthole) and were upgraded to a Cat 6A on the Riviera Deck. We tipped them the porters the obligatory $1/bag, then preceded to the terminal.
We were expecting heavy security as others had reported post 9/11. Just to be safe, I applied for a passport about a month prior to travel and received it within 2 weeks. We also discovered that my dad had a hospital-issued birth certificate. Even though this is the only BC he's ever had, and had a raised seal, it is not valid for travel as it is considered a medical record rather than a legal record. Luckily we found this out about a week prior to cruising and he was able to have the state of Ohio overnight him a state-issued birth certificate. We put our carry-ons through the scanner, but nothing was searched. We walked right up to the check-in representative, as there was no line. I had a Passport, and my dad and sister used a driver's license/birth certificate combo. My Passport was not even opened! She didn't check the name or even look at my picture! I couldn't believe it! I kept thinking that maybe it would be checked at some other point, but it wasn't. I'm sure it was just an oversight on the rep's part, but it doesn't give you a very good feeling about their security in general as you hop on board. It seemed especially lacking when compared to the hoops we all had to jump through for airport security.
After checking in, we waited in the terminal for about an hour until they started boarding at 12:30. The terminal was very nice with plenty of seating and large windows looking towards the ship. Once the boarding process started, they would take everyone's picture for the Sail and Sign card, then again for the Sail-Away photo. Within a few minutes we were on the ship and in our room.
I had seen hundreds of photos and read dozens of reviews, so I knew what to expect onboard. That said, I was VERY impressed in general with nearly all aspects of the ship's layout and design. You board the ship right at the bottom of the 6-story atrium. There was a three-piece orchestra playing music and though it has been said many times in other reviews, you really do feel as though you've arrived in "Paradise."
We made a bee-line for our room so that we could drop off our carry-ons. We were on the lowest deck (Riviera) about 5 cabins aft of the aft stairway on the starboard side. I was initially disappointed with this location, but it turned out to be great. The room itself was very spacious and nicely laid out. The colors (orange and tan Formica) leave a little to be desired, but really aren't that bad. We had two single beds plus a single Murphy bed that pulled down from the wall. The bathroom was a nice size with a large shower and sink area. Everything was spotless. We were very glad that we brought a power strip. It was worth its travel weight in gold!
We then started exploring the ship. It seems that as we turned each corner we found something new and incredible. There were little twinkling lights EVERYWHERE.in the walls, in the floor, in the ceiling, and even in many of the tables and chairs! I thought it was very tastefully done, but I tend to like a gaudy "Vegas-esque" decor.
The theatre was spectacular, but as other's have said, has some obstructed seats. Get there early and have a drink while waiting for the show to begin.
The pool area was always crowded and usually had a live band. Many sunbathers gravitated towards other decks, specifically at the very rear of the ship above the Paris Restaurant. I never had a problem getting a deck chair and didn't notice any chair saving. The deck loungers were plastic-type with a stretched fabric part that you sat/layed on. They weren't particularly comfortable and didn't lower to a completely flat position, making it particularly uncomfortable to lie on your stomach.
The seas were very rough for most of the week. I was surprised at the amount of movement. We were really rockin' and rollin' for several evenings. Several times in the Dining room, there would be a particularly noticeable movement, and you'd hear everyone groan in unison. It was fairly amusing! On a couple of days, bags were placed in various places just in case. Even though you could almost always "feel" the ship moving, I never felt queasy, nor did I see anyone else who was obviously so. Dinner and shows were always crowded, so I guess that most people were ok.
Several nights the wind was VERY, VERY strong. They had closed the upper deck, but people would just take the ropes down and go up anyway. I went up a couple of nights and it was really amazing how strong the wind really was. There were times when it was a struggle to stay standing. It was like I was standing in a wind-tunnel.
While I didn't utilize any of the spa services, my sister and I did surprise my dad with a massage as a gift. He had never had one and thoroughly enjoyed it.
There was a very good mix of ages onboard. It seemed that the bulk of the passengers were 20-40. There were a good number of families as well, but considering that this was the week before Christmas, probably not as many as other times. There were also some seniors, but not the "old fogey" type I was expecting. They all seemed young at heart and enjoyed socializing with all of us "young-uns."
The disco was usually active until very late in the evening, when a lot of the staff would join in the party. I usually went to bed before midnight or 1:00am, but Ally would often "dance the night away" until the wee hours.
I didn't use the pool except to try the slide a few times. The idea of a salt-water pool just didn't sound all that refreshing to me. The hot tubs were plentiful, but always seemed crowded. I really don't understand why they close the pool and hot tubs so early. (before dark) I'd be more inclined to use the hot tubs late at night under the stars.
Being soda-fiends, my dad and I both bought soda cards almost immediately after boarding. This turned out to be one of the best purchases on the cruise. The card says they are for fountain drinks only, however, nearly every bar that we got sodas from would open a can of soda and pour it into a large glass with ice. In fact, only one bar (the pool bar) actually filled our glass from a fountain the entire week. It seems like Carnival could really save some $$ if they would just put soda fountains in more locations.
We were assigned the 8:00 dinner seating in the Destiny Dining room. Out table mates included three girls in their twenties from rural Tennessee, another two girls in their twenties from NYC, and a gay couple in their late 40s from New Jersey. We all had a blast and were the envy of our neighbors every night. Bill and Peter (the gay couple) were simply hilarious and instigated much of the fun. Peter had planned to quit smoking before the cruise, but didn't. At each port of call, he would put out his cig just as he was boarding. I WOULDN'T recommend doing this! J
The food at dinner was MUCH better than I had expected. I usually ordered 2 appetizers, two entrees, and dessert. I usually skipped the salad so I'd have more room for other things. The standouts were definitely the Escargot appetizer and the Lobster Tail entree. I had three of each!
Our waiter, Mr. Z., was also great. After we had finished, he would usually bring one or two of EVERY dessert for our table to split and taste. If there was a specific appetizer or entree that one person particularly liked, he would bring a few more of them for the table to sample.
My dad and I both had an official weigh-in on the scales in the fitness center the day we arrived and the day we left. I gained 8lbs! (I'm 6', 159lbs) My Dad weighs about 10 lbs more than me and gained 4lbs. Luckily, it only took a few weeks of "normal" eating to lose the weight.
We only ate lunch twice in the dining room. It was very good both times, but not as convenient as the Paris restaurant. It was also not nearly as much fun as dinner since most people ate elsewhere.
Speaking of the Paris, I would have to say that it's just OK. They serve the typical buffet-fare and often duplicate entrees throughout the week. The pizza is another story though! It was great and available 24-hours a day. We would usually eat pizza several times throughout the day. It was a great early day, mid-day, early evening or bedtime snack. J They usually had 2 or 3 types available all the time and would make one of the other types for you if you wanted to wait.
I thought that most of the singer/dancer Broadway-type shows were decent, but not nearly up to par with Broadway or Vegas. There was one really funny comedian and two that were really un-funny. The talent show had acts ranging from "outrageously funny and talented" to others you wished you could Gong.
Ports of Call
We took the Fiesta Party Boat excursion here. We booked through the ship and it cost $30/pp. (I think) The boat itself was a 3-level catamaran and was docked right next to our ship. All alcohol was included in the price of admission. They offered Rum Punch, Margaritas, and beer. On the way to Playa Sol Beach it started raining, so everyone was crowded into the bottom two decks. They had a band that played on the first level. The band did a good job of getting people involved in the festivities. Upon arrival at Playa Sol, nearly everyone had a good buzz going.
It rained almost the entire time at the Beach, sometimes very hard. My sister and I didn't care as we swam out to the floating trampolines and the "iceburg," which are both a sizeable swim from the beach. For most of the swim, the water is about 7-8 feet deep, so there's lots of treading water. Additionally, the iceburg was very physically demanding. Try swimming for 25 minutes (while tipsy) then pulling yourself up out of the water and up to the top of a 30-foot inflatable iceberg. Further, many of the handles on the iceberg had been torn off, making it even more challenging. Most challenging of all, however, was finding the strength to do it all again after the drunk guy near the top loses grip and takes you and five others out as he falls to the water.
by the time we swam all the way back, it was almost time to go. Although, my dad and sister did pay a few bucks to try the land-based trampoline, which looked like a lot of fun. I didn't think my stomach could handle any more action though, so I videoed. J
The way back was even more drinking and dancing. Most people were having a blast, though there were several who obviously didn't know what they were getting into when they booked the excursion.
We got back to the ship in time to shower and go to dinner. They moved all dinner times forward an hour for this night only so that people could go out in Cozumel after dinner since the ship didn't leave until midnight. We chose to go to Carlos and Charlie's. It was a $5 cab fare and a scary 10-minute drive. The new location of C&C had just opened that week, so everything was brand new. Lots and lots of wild stuff going on here. I was really shocked by a few things and I'm not easily shocked! J C&C's is definitely worth a stop, although I wouldn't bring the kids.
Grand Cayman was the only stop, which required us to tender to shore. This was a relatively painless process, although obviously not as nice as docking right at the pier. We booked a 10:15 Stingray City tour with Capt. Marvin. Captain Marvin's office is about a block to the right of the tender pier, but since I forgot to bring the address, we figured we would just ask people once we got there. Wrong! Even though everyone knows where the office is, no one will tell you, or they will lie. We asked a taxi driver and she said that she knew, but wanted us to get in the taxi. It was literally right across the street! We went to a bar that also was RIGHT across the street from where we needed to go, he told us that he had never heard of Capt Marvin, but that his company did stingray tours. Moral of the story - bring directions!
We did finally find it, and were bussed about 20 minutes across town to the boat. There were about 25 people for our trip, which was perfect. They have someone who videotapes the entire trip, and even gets into full scuba gear to take underwater footage. We bought one of the videos for $25 (I think) and it arrived about 2 weeks later. We were very glad we did.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
We booked a tour with Ionie Mcbeam (www.ocho-rios.com) and were very satisfied. We paid $25/pp plus gave a good tip. Since Ionie had another group that she was taking, her husband was our driver. He had a brand new van and, since it was just the three of us, we had no space problems. We first went to Dunn's River Falls. While hiking the falls, he waited for us in the parking lot, storing our valuables (cameras etc.) inside. We then just asked him to take us to places he thought we would like. It was amazing to see the levels of poverty that the people are subjected to. People literally live in shacks. He stopped at several little shops/stands along the way. At first we were really leery of this, but it turned out to be great. We stopped at a couple of places that sold wood-carvings. I almost felt guilty paying so little for these hand-carved goods. I paid less than $4 for most of the things I bought.
He also took us to a great restaurant that sat up on a cliff overlooking the ocean. We had some very good jerked chicken here.again, it was very reasonably priced.
To top it off, he had a cooler full of cold soda and beer that were available to us at no charge.
Overall, we felt that this was a fantastic value and would absolutely recommend Ionie!
We received early disembarkation tags since we had early flights. We waited for about an hour in the designated area before they finally started letting people exit. We then spent about another 20 minutes looking for our luggage in the terminal. Next time, we will be sure to put something wild and bright on our bags to help distinguish them from the hundreds of similar black suitcases. One thing that was amazing to me though was that they managed to take our bags (together) from our room and put every single one in a separate area of the terminal. Logically, it seems as though they would be relatively close together. Not so. I've heard that some RCCL terminals now use an airline-style conveyer for luggage, which makes so much sense. Hopefully other lines will follow suit.
After walking by customs without so much as a glance, we hopped in a waiting taxi (around $20) and were at the airport by 9:45.
I think all three of us agreed that this was one of our best vacations ever. I'm officially hooked on cruising and booked my second one within weeks of returning from my first. There really wasn't much that I would change about the whole experience. Everything was perfect: the ship, the itinerary, the service, the food, and even the price!
Our family (wife, son(15), daughter(13), and I cruised on the Paradise from 12-16 to 12-23. We had two cabins on the Riviera deck. We drove from N.C. and stayed at the Comfort Inn by the Miami airport. Budget said they had free transportation to the port from the Sheraton-Brickel Avenue. However, when we dropped the car off, the clerk said they did not have a shuttle. We did pre-register with the Carnival representative at the Sheraton. Thought this would save some time later. Took a taxi to the port and arrived at the Paradise around 11:00 A.M. Quite a few people were still debarking. The line inside the terminal was very short. We were able to bypass this short line and go upstairs to get our sail and sign cards. This was also a short line. At this point on our two previous Carnival cruises, we had already taken our ID photos. At 1:00, we began to board. This was a slow process, because they took your ID photo now.
This BASS Ackwards process should be changed to the way it was handled on the Triumph and Sensation. Since we werenear the front of the line, we were on the ship by 1:10. Once again I was impressed upon entering a Carnival vessel. We dropped our carry-ons in our rooms and headed to lunch at the Paris Restaurant. They had cafeteria style food, hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza. I noticed that the Triumph was a wider ship. The Triumph had a second floor to eat on and more food choices. I really missed the Hong Kong Noodle Company and the New York Deli. But, the smaller setting had a charming appeal to it. After lunch, we explored the ship a bit and returned to our rooms. Surprisingly, our luggage was at our doors and it wasn't even 3:00. Took a spa tour and then went to a brief muster drill. Only took about 15 minutes. We requested early dinner, but were given late. We went to the maitre'd to get this changed. Yusef, the maitre'd, was on the Sensation when we cruised. He said on the first night you must eat in your assigned dining room. But, he would try to change our time. The next morning we had a note under our door saying we now had main dining. On the first night, we ate at a booth for four in the Destiny dining room. We like tables so we can meet others on cruises. Our food and service was great that night. Watched comedian Gene Merola tonight. He was good. We snacked at the midnight buffet, but were not very hungry due to the late supper.
Monday, day at sea. I like to jog and work out in the gym. I enjoyed doing both this week in great weather. Plenty for everyone to do on the Paradise. We ate breakfast in the Paris and did so the rest of the week because it was fast. We ate breakfast once in the dining rooom and it wasn't any better. We ate lunch in the Elation when at sea, but in the Paris when in ports. The Captain's Cocktail Party was held before dinner. We met Captain Gaetano Giglotti. Very captain-ish. This party was in the Normandie Lounge and included free cocktails. At dinner, now in the Elation, we were escorted to our new ocean-view table that was already inhabited by a family of five from Utah. They were quiet and enjoyed their meals just as we did. The show tonight was shout. We got there early and had good seats. Later in the week, we found that there are not a lot of good seats in the Normandie Lounge. Yes, the columns cause a lot of seats to have obstructed views. We dropped a little bit of money in the slots tonight. The casino was dead all week. I guess non-smokers do not gamble as mush as smokers. It sure was nice to leave the casino and not smell like a cigarette.
Day 3. Saw Cozumel when we went to breakfast. Oh no, rain. We decided to go to Chanakab whether or not it rained. Taxis are $5 one way into town, $8 one way to Chanakab. With this in mind, we decided to rent a car from one of the vendors that approached us as we left the shopping pier. We rented a VW from Enterprise for $30. This turned out to be a great decision, since we could go wherever we wanted to on the island and come and go to the ship as often as we wanted. The rain was now a light drizzle and came and went for the entire day. It did not spoil the day. Chanakab was nice, not spectacular. My wife enjoyed seeing the giant iguana. The snorkeling was fun. We all enjoyed watching the dolphin show up close. It suprised me that the sea lion show cost $5 more per person. Went back to the ship and had tacos for lunch. Shopped after lunch in town. Bought 1 liter bottles of Kahlua for $9.50. Found out later that RCI had a deal in the same store at $8.95 for their passengers. Blankets were 4 for $12. Bought other touristy items and a little jewlery. Drove to the uninhabited part of the island after shopping. Sure was a different world out there. Ate dinner in Paris, since we got back late. Tonight's show was the Mexican Folkloric Show. Lido deck party at 11:00 P.M. was moved inside due to bad weather (rain and wind). Mexican buffet was yummy.
Day 4, day at sea. Survivor challenge, Galley tour, bingo, Austin Powers dance class and a lot of sushine today. Show today was comedian Merl Hobbs and magician John Duffy. Wife got down to her last nickel and then won 300 nickels in the slots.
Day 5, Grand Cayman. Ship got into port a little late, so we were late getting to Captain Marvin's. No problem, our reservations were there and they moved us to the 3 stop tour from 10 A.M. to 1 P.M. Captain Kirk was our captain. We did see Captain Marvin. What a wonderful tour. There was only 10 people on the boat, including us. Not like the cattlecar tours from the ship. We held the stingray. Go to Stingray City and do the tour on your own. It was memorable and cost half of what Carnival charges. Shopped until 3:30, ship left at 4:30. Guest talent show tonight was mixed. Some good, some bad performances, but all had courage to get on stage. Lost some money in the slots.
Day 6, Ocho Rios. Raining again. Cruise director Trevor said prior to our arrival thhat it has only rained 3 times in the 7 years he's been coming to Jamaica. No problem, we're going to Dunn's River Falls to get wet anyways. Once again we're doing a tour on our own. Met Peat Taylor, but did not go on a tour with him since we only wanted to go to the falls. The cost is $5.50 per person payable in advance for a round trip to the falls. We really didn't want to shop, but the driver insisted on taking us to Soni's. Taj Mahal has the same stores, but he insisted on taking us to Soni's. Bought a few items there. Coffee for $12/lb. Rum is not cheap here. Another couple rode back with us to the ship. Said they went to the grocery store in town and bought a lot of spices there. They bought coffee, 1 lb. for $6.50. Red Stripe was $1. per bottle, Dragon beer was $0.40. Gave the driver a $5 tip when we got back. Then he said we owed him more money for going shopping. He said we owed him $22.00 more. Mr. Rip Off got no more. Show tonight was Dream Voyage featuring the Paradise dancers. Grand Gala Buffet was at midnight. Foods displays and ice scupltures were spectacular.
Day 7 was another sunny day at sea. Top deck was closed much of the day due to rough seas. There was a Holiday Show with Santa in the afternoon that was very nice. The show tonight was comedian Kyle Wayne and entertainer John Henry Gates. Kyle was hilarious, John was terrible.
Day 8, Miami. Enjoyed relaxation debarkation. You can now wait in your room until your tag color is called. We were off before 11:00 a.m. The taxi drivers did not want to take us to the Sheraton They want longer fares. We finally got a driver to take us. What a tgreat week!
Some final notes. Shore excursions are cheaper to do on your own. Trevor tries hard as a cruise director, but isn't very entertaining. The food was very good. Our waiter, Ruben from Honduras was very nice. Assistant waiter, Graciel from Brazil, was on her first cruise and tried hard to please us. She did please us Our cabin steward, did not measure up to the stewards on previous cruises. We had all we needed. The room was clean. He just was not motivated to please. We would come back to the room a couple hours after breakfast and the room still had not been cleaned. Nice fellow, just not hard working. We came out a little ahead in the casino for the week. I don't think the ship was full. Ruben said there would be many more passengers on board for Christmas. This is a great ship for non-smokers. I would definitely go on the Paradise again. We've only been on Carnival, may try RCI or Princess in the future. Carnival is great for the price.