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.
Just got home from our 15th cruise - this time on a non-smoking ship. I can't say that I have really noticed cigarette smoke on a cruise ship much before, so this was not a determining factor in why we took this cruise. But, if you are a smoker, and you choose this cruise to quit smoking, you may be choosing it for the wrong reasons. I saw lots of passengers getting off at our ports of calls, buying packs of cigarettes and smoking the whole thing before getting back on board ship. The cruise line is quite serious about bringing any type of smoking articles on board and they tell you this at check-in. No, lighters, no matches, nada.
If you are sailing out of Miami, I can really recommend flying into Fort Lauderdale and then taking the transfer over to the port of Miami. The bus ride is certainly no longer from Fort Lauderdale airport than it is from Miami's airport. Why this is, I have no idea, but took roughly the same amount of time, and the airport at Fort Lauderdale is much more manageable, plus itdidn't cost as much to fly into for us. We flew Northwest, and I can highly recommend their E-ticket process. Painless way to go. It may not work for everyone, but we had no problems and loved it. Our cruise check-in was a long and tedious process - because the lines were so very long. Once we got up to the check-in desk, it went very smoothly, but getting there was another thing. We have not experienced such a long wait since the last time we cruised Carnival and that was 3 years ago. This was our fourth cruise on one of their "Fantasy" class ships, and once you've cruised on one of those, you are pretty familiar with the layout. So, the previous experience helped there, it took no time to familiarize ourselves with the deck plans.
The first day - all of your gratuities are posted in advance to your sign and sail account. $9.50/per person, per day. This is my advice to you, future Paradise, or Carnival passengers. Have this amount completely removed, and pay what you want for your gratuities. We left our amounts on our account and when we decided to adjust them had a very difficult time getting that done. In fact, we were never completely satisfied that we got what we felt were the correct amounts posted for gratuities. I would still rather pay my gratuities in person, to the wait staff, or room steward, and know that they are getting the amounts that I intended for them to have. Our room steward was virtually non-existent, (never vacuumed our room or changed the sheets for the whole week) except for the day that he barged in our stateroom, unannounced, on my husband and I having a private moment. It was one of the most embarrassing moments I have ever experienced in my life, not just on a cruise.
Food - was inconsistent, (some items are just better than others that they serve - personal taste rules here, I know) but pretty much the norm with Carnival. The desserts seemed lovely, but flavorless. We tried the "Alternative Dining" one night, but were disappointed. We sat for over 30 minutes waiting for someone to take our order, finally gave up and sought out the maitre-d to find out why we hadn't been waited on. They have a salad bar for you to help yourself to, and then you have a choice of 2 main courses. It didn't take much longer to eat in the main dining room and that is where we chose to eat the remainder of the week. They have some great hot chocolate next to the coffee machines in the Paris Restaurant and it, as well as coffee, tea are available 24/7, as well as the pizza and caesar salad in the back, and the ice cream.
We didn't take any shore excursions, but our table mates were all unhappy with them, stating that they felt rushed and didn't enjoy them because of that. We would have enjoyed more time in Nassau, but most of our port days seemed concentrated on San Juan, you are there from 9:30 am to 9:30 pm, so plan ahead.
It's summer, it's Carnival, so don't expect to be able to get near a pool or whirlpool. The kids have the run of the ship. Where their parents were, we have no clue. But, this seems typical of any Carnival cruise we've ever been on.
We are always interested in playing in the casinos on board ship, and on some past cruises have done very well. (Wish there were more people who reviewed the casinos on cruise ships!) This was probably the tightest casino we've ever encountered, anywhere, period. If you want to play at a casino on this cruise, get off the ship in San Juan and go to the Wyndham, which is a short walk from the cruise terminal there. Don't waste your money on board, as that is what it will be. A waste. The casino staff seem a bit standoffish, and inexperienced. We had to watch closely when change was made and make sure that the dealer didn't misread the cards dealt at table games. I refuse to believe that the tight casino has anything to do with the fact that this is a non-smoking ship. There were plenty of non-smoking gamblers on this ship. We all did badly in the casino, and not just on slots. I never saw a hand paid jackpot the entire week on slots. They do have several nickel machines, however. The only table games they have are Caribbean Stud Poker, Caribbean Draw Poker (a variation on the previous), Blackjack (and a couple of variations) and they have Craps and Roulette. There are 2 full pay 10/8 video poker machines - quarter denomination, 1 dollar full pay. Don't bother with the Triple Plus Poker Machines or the White Hot Aces Poker machines. Most of the slots are 3 coin - there are a few 2 coin if you look for them. Good luck. Your best bet is to play in the tournaments that are held during the week. Most are only $10 and give you a better chance at $250 and a ship on a stick trophy.
This ship is more tastefully decorated than some of the other Carnival ships we've been on. Less neon, more teak and stained glass. The rooms are the same as any other Carnival cruise, same orange/coral/gray colors throughout.
I had a great massage in the spa -if you schedule one on the days that you are in port, it's 20% less- here we also found a couple of whirlpools that were somewhat secluded from the kids. You have to be over 16 to go into that area, so they pretty much keep the kids away from there. They have a nice workout area, separate from the gym and a fully equipped gym. We always enjoy the padded jogging track, too, it's a nice touch.
A note: I had left my hair dryer at home, but called room service and they brought me one to use for the week. They don't put any in the cabins, but if you ask, they'll bring you one. I also need to point out that Anthony Stephenson, who works at the Pursers Desk, went out of his way to ensure that we got the dining time that we requested. Our first request to have the time changed from 8:45 pm to 6:00 pm, was refused by the maitre-d in the Elation Dining Room. Anthony saved the day, followed up to make sure everything went smoothly and sent us a bottle of champagne, too.
If you've been on a different cruise line, like say Royal Caribbean, or Princess, you will probably be disappointed with this cruise. But, if you are a first time cruiser, or have low expectations of a cruise, you'll enjoy it.
We cruised on the Paradise July 15 and had a great cruise. I was really concerned because I had read some really scary reviews. But when we boarded the ship it was nice. The ship was clean, our service was great, meals were good. (Pizza was really good) The shows were first rate (the adult shows were really funny). We had no problem tipping the recommened amounts--they earned it.
We had a wonderful cruise and feel we got our monies worth. We have cruised on the Disney Wonder and hate to say it but the Paradise was just as nice. Of course there was no MOUSE but everything else was comparable. For more details or questions please email.
This was our 37th cruise overall and our second cruise with Carnival. Being that I was in desperate need of a vacation, we booked this cruise at the last minute, and reserved a category 6A guarantee. This was the first time I had ever booked under guarantee, and I must admit I was a little leary of not knowing my exact cabin until pierside check-in. I was expecting the worst, and what I got was a major surprise.....(more on that later)
We arrived at the Port of Miami at approximately 11:30am with our luggage trailing behind us. As we did not have our documents or cabin assignment it wasn't possible to check the bags curbside until after we checked in. Upon entering the terminal building we were directed to a check in desk marked "Pierside Document Pick-Up". At that point we were given our documents, including the famous Paradise No Smoking disclaimer to sign. I noticed on our tickets that the cabin number and dining was not assigned and was told that we would find this information on our Sign and Sail Cards. I was a little nervous at this pointto say the least. Upon completing our documents we passed through security (still with luggage in tow) and were queued up in the line for check in. The line was a bit long, but moved very quickly. We were at the counter in a matter of minutes, where I again inquired about dining and cabin assignments. I was given the same information as before, and was told that all of the information would be printed on our Sign and Sail Cards which we were to claim on the upper level of the terminal. Now I'm VERY nervous!! We checked in upstairs and claimed our Sign and Sail Cards which also double as your cabin key. I immediately checked to see what cabin we had and boy was I shocked!! We had been upgraded from a Cat. 6A (outside cabin) to a Cat. 12 SUITE!!! Category 12 is the highest category available on this ship and was very roomy. It's also important to note that our dining was confirmed for Second seating as requested.
THE CABIN: Category 12 Suite with Verandah. This cabin was approximately the size of a standard hotel room. It contained 2 almost queen size beds that can be pushed together to form a king. Large sectional sofa, coffee table, 2 chairs with cocktail table, bar, refrigerator, large vanity, walk in closet, 27" TV, mini-safe, and large bathroom with jaccuzzi tub and shower. The bathroom was very spacious and had ample storage space. The balcony was large enough for a full size lounge chair and 2 regular chairs, but did not contain any type of table.
THE SHIP: Upon unpacking we went to the Paris Restaurant (Casual Lido Buffet) for lunch. The buffet featured a variety of hot and cold foods as well as a huge salad bar, pasta station and the always available 24 hour Pizza Station which also served Calzones and Ceasar Salad. After lunch we explored the ship which was immaculate. The crew did a great job in keeping the ship spotless both inside and out. The atruim is less glitzy than other Carnival ships, and in the center of the atruim on lower level is a nice bar that had a large screen TV for sporting events and at other times a Trio played music which could be heard on the various levels of the atrium. Most of the colors throughout the ship were earth tones, and somewhat drab. One would think this to be an easy ship to navigate...not so. There were stairwell that went to "nowhere", especially the one at the rear of the ship that went from the Rotterdam Bar to the Dining Room and then you were at a "dead end". The atruim elevators only traversed the 4 or 5 decks of the atrium and were the only means of getting from one level of the atrium to another unless you used the main stairwells. I found it odd to design a ship with an atrium but not provide stairs to connect each level.
Most of the bars and entertainment areas are located off Carnival Blvd, and each contained a different form of entertainment each night. The Majestic Casino was about the most glitzy part of the ship (and rightfully so) but never had much activity. I found the slot machines to be quite generous at times, although this was pure luck. One thing I noticed on this ship is the virtual lack of people out at night. The ship was a near ghost town past 11pm. From talking to the crew, it seems that the non-smoking aspect of this ship draws a more sedate crowd, and this particular cruise seemed more like a Holland America cruise than a Carnival Fun Ship.
ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment on this particular sailing was the weakest point of the entire cruise. The Vegas style production shows were not very good, nor were the "celebrity" entertainers which only consisted of 2 comedians which were not funny at all. The poolside calypso band was very good, and were probably the most talented of the entire entertainment staff. A word of warning for anyone interested in watching the entertainment in the Normandie Lounge... Get there EARLY as there are only about 10 seats in the entire showroom that don't have an obstructed view and they are all in the first row. This was perhaps the worst designed show lounge I've ever seen in that there were columns obstructing the view of the stage from almost every seat in the place.
FOOD: We were pleasantly surprised with the food onboard. Breakfasts were spent in the Casual Paris Restaurant, where they had the usual buffet items, as well as a made to order egg/omlet station. The lines moved rather quickly and it seemed that most passengers opted for breakfast in this fashion. In addition there was also a large fruit bar, and coffee, tea, lemonade and fruit punch were available 24 hrs a day along with self serve ice cream. We ate 2 lunches in the main dining room and were pleased with the selection and quality of the food. The remaining lunches were taken in the Lido area and each day there was a varied buffet of hot and cold items as well as the ever present hamburger/hot dog grill and of course the pizza station. One point to mention here is there are NO trays in the Lido restaurant. You will definately get plenty of exercise walking back and forth from the buffet to the table and back to the buffet, then back to the table etc. We were assigned a table for 6 in the Elation Dining Room, and during our second seating dinner, we never encountered a bad meal all week. The selection was varied and the service was good. The tables were a bit closer together than on other ships and it did cause a bit of trouble for the waiters to manuver around at times, but this was easily overlooked.
PORTS: Since this was mainly a relaxation getaway and we had been to these same ports several times in the past, we didn't spend too much time ashore. In Nassau, we went to the Atlantis Hotel for the day and enjoyed their facilities for the daily rate of $50.00. In San Juan we stayed onboard the ship as this is our least favorite island. St. Thomas found us making a few purchases at the Havensight Mall and then we spend the balance of the day onboard Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas which was docked behind us. We were able to get onboard thanks to some friends of ours who are working onboard. We spent a nice day visiting with them and had a nice lunch onboard the Enchantment before we returned to the Paradise.
SUMMARY: All in all it was a very nice, relaxing week onboard the Paradise. Would I sail her again? Yes, but I still prefer Royal Caribbean for both the beauty of their ships and the excellent service provided by their crew. While the crew onboard the Paradise were nice, they only did what was required and never went out of their way to be friendly etc. The food and service were good, not overly exciting. The ship was spotless, the weather was beautiful and we were combining this with a back to back sailing on the Norwegian Sky when we got back to Miami so life was good.
We had the pleasure of vacationing on the June 25, 2000 sailing of the Carnival Paradise. Cruising on this trip were myself, my wife, our daughter (who celebrated her 16th birthday during the cruise), and my daughter's best friend. This was our fourth cruise overall, and the second on Carnival. We have also cruised on NCL and Royal Caribbean. If the Paradise is any indication, Carnival has definitely upgraded their product since our first cruise, which was on the Sensation in 1995.
The Paradise is definitely more subdued than other Carnival ships. There is a noticeable lack of neon lights and bright colors on the Paradise. Everything is more elegant when compared to the Sensation.
We had originally booked an air/sea package thru Carnival. However, when our flight were assigned by Carnival, we were very disappointed. We were flying out of Harrisburg, PA into Miami. The flights that Carnival arranged for us were on US Air, leaving Harrisburg at 6:30 am, arriving at New York LaGuardia at 7:40, with the connecting flight to Miami leaving LGA at 8:00 am. I was not pleased with leaving at 6:30 am, taking a commuter to NewYork, and then only having 20 minutes in New York to connect to the flight to Miami. Our original return flights were not much better. We were to leave Miami at 4:30 pm, connect in Charlotte, and arrive back at Harrisburg after 9:00. After contacting our travel agent and voicing our displeasure with Carnival's arrangements, she advised us that we could cancel the Carnival assigned flights and book our own. Since airfares are more expensive out of a small airport such as Harrisburg, we found non-stop flights from Washington Dulles (about 100 miles from our house) on United. By booking our own airfare, we flew at convenient times, and saved a total of $500 over the Carnival air/sea price.
The flights to and from Miami were uneventful and on time during both legs. Both flights were 100% full. On the way to Miami, United managed to lose all of our luggage, even though it was a non-stop flight. The bags were delivered to the wrong gate at Dulles, and never made it onto our flight. We went to United's customer service desk at the Miami airport who was aware of the missed luggage, and advised us that it was already on its way and was due to arrive in Miami about 3:00 pm. The Carnival representative at the airport assured us that they would pick up the luggage and deliver it to the ship prior to our sailing, even though we had opted out of Carnival's air/sea package. When we returned from dinner on Sunday night, all of luggage, except one piece, was outside of our cabin. The one piece missing was our daughter's friend's garment bag, which held all of her dresses, including her formal attire. We found out later that this particular bag did not make it to Miami in time, and would be delivered to our first stop, San Juan, on Tuesday.
Carnival handled the situation extremely well. They issued her a $50 credit to use in the gift shop, plus a free tuxedo rental, which I used on the one formal night. Since the second night at sea was a formal night, she used the $50 credit to buy a very nice dress in the gift shop for $72, which only cost her $22 out of pocket. The bag did arrive in San Juan and was delivered to our cabin while we were in port. Apparently, we were not the only cabin with misplaced luggage, as many men were waiting in line for a free tuxedo rental on the first formal night. Again, Carnival handled the situation very well, even though the lost luggage was not their fault.
Meals Carnival has definitely improved their menus since our last cruise with them in 1995. At that time, neither lobster tail nor filet mignon was offered during the cruise. Now they are both offered during the week. The meals in the dining room ranged from good to very good, with the exception of the one breakfast we ate in the dining room. Our waiter in the dining room, Mohammed from Sri Lanka, was excellent, as was his assistant, Jose.
The meals in the 24 hour alternative restaurant were excellent. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in this area. The 24 hour pizzeria had the best pizza I have ever had - a sentiment shared by everyone in our party. The girls would have pizza for a late breakfast/early lunch, plus as a late night snack. The breakfasts included an omelet station, plus freshly made French Toast, in addition to eggs, bacon, sausage, plus a large selection of cereal, breads, and bagels. Lunch usually featured three or four hot entrees, grilled chicken and hamburgers, plus a large variety of fresh fruits and salads. Dinner had some sort of a carving station (roast beef, ham, etc. plus the salads.
Entertainment One area that I thought was weak during the cruise was the entertainment. The nighttime shows in the main showroom were fair at best. The first production show (I can't remember the exact name) was pretty lame - it made no sense to us whatsoever. The second production show (Shout?) was pretty good - lots of good music from the 60's, 70's, and 80's. The other performers during the evening shows were somewhat entertaining, but certainly not memorable. The seating in the main showroom was terrible - you had to arrive an hour or so before show time to ensure a good seat. If you were a late arrival, the remaining seats were had obstructed views. Another thing that contributed to the lack of good seats was the saving of entire blocks of seats by one person - when questioned if these seats were taken, the answer was invariably "Yes, they are in the rest room".
With two exceptions, the entertainment in the lounges at night was not good. The two dance bands in the show lounges played to empty lounges every night. The calypso band by the pool was only so-so, compared to other calypso bands we have heard.
The two exceptions were Mele in the American Piano Bar, and a string trio that played classical music in the main atrium. Mele would play to a packed house every night, often foregoing her breaks to continue playing. It was amazing how many songs she had in here repertoire and how many she could play from memory. The string trio was excellent, playing in the evening before and after dinner.
Summary Overall, this was an excellent cruise, one of the best we have had. Carnival has improved their product over the past few years. The non-smoking aspect of the ship was Paradise (pardon the pun). It was such a pleasure not to be subjected to smoke in the lounges and pool decks. The clientele that sails on the Paradise is definitely a lot more subdued than Carnival's normal passengers. I would sail on Carnival again, but only on the Paradise or another non-smoking ship.
My boyfriend and I cruised on Carnival's Paradise April 23, 2000. From the beginning to the end we had a fantastic trip. I did a lot of reading on this site and many others both before booking and right up until we left. I hope some of what I learned can help you as you plan your cruise. I will try to include the information I kept looking for and found most helpful on our trip.
We went on the western Caribbean (Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios Jamaica) and had heard some bad things about Jamaica even from crew on the ship, but we found it wonderful. Of the three ports, this was where we found the best deals for shopping. Merchants in both Cozumel and Ocho Rios both wanted to bargain on price, but we found the ones in Ocho Rios the most intent on selling and therefore the best prices.
One thing I would note is that the local merchants really want cash, American cash for sales. They will take credit cards, but usually only for large purchases and will take a lower price for cash than creditcard. So even though all of your costs are covered with credit on the ship, take plenty of cash for purchases, taxis, meals, etc. in port.
The few disappointments we had:Ships captain was rude when asked about getting a tour of the bridge Although beds were put together, they would not make them up with king sheets, leaving a big crack in the middle of the bed, right where we wanted to sleep together Pools and hot tubs close at 8 p.m. so no evening dips in the pool Would like to have seen a pool for adults only just for a little peace and calm from all the kids Kids running down the halls of cabins -- I fault the parents for not controlling them, but it did get out of hand a few times. I found the required 15% gratuity on drinks absurd. If you sat on your but and someone walked it to you or if you had to chase down a waiter or go to the bar yourself, it was till included, even if the drink was bad or the service surly.
Overall, I was totally impressed with the cruise, the efficiency of the operation and the crew. Embarkation was amazingly fast and painless. Within 15 minutes of parking our car we were in our cabin. The agents in Miami were very efficient and had us upstairs to get our picture taken in no time! We were in cabin E93. I loved the location, just a few doors down from the main level of the atrium, information desk and one hall over from the photo gallery. Sure saved a lot of walking from being down several levels. The Elation Dining Room was right above us, but that was only minimal noise. We never heard the people in the cabins on either side of us.
The food was great and plentiful. Plan to gain weight on the cruise. Take something not very form fitting for the second formal night or you may find yourself miserable! The lobster and the alfredo was a little overdone but other than that the food was always great! There is a sushi bar before dinner every night outside the casino and that is also where they have the crepe buffet one night. We only ate in the dining room at night so we could enjoy the sun and the buffets on the lido deck was always good. The 24 hour pizzeria had great breadsticks and pizza.
Take a multiple outlet, there is only one in the room. Also, a clock, especially if you have an inside room. When you wake up, it is impossible to tell if it is 5 a.m. or 5 p.m. They did have a basket of goodies in the bathroom, but bring all of your own toiletries, they don't replenish this supply.
There are lots of activities, we didn't make a lot of them, our main interest was just relaxing and enjoying the cruise. You can do as much or as little as you choose. The photographers take great portraits, but not many candids around the ship or by the pool.
We didn't take any of the ships shore excursions and had fun just taking off ourselves and saved some money too! Although the drinks will cost you, I always found them to have ample alcohol in them, so at least you are getting something for your money. The Mexican fiesta party when departing cozumel was really fun.
I've read lots of people brag about how nice the smoke free ship is, but since we have never cruised before it is hard to comment on that aspect, but we sure had a blast and can't wait to go again.
My biggest complaints were rude children taking over, but you can get that anywhere you go and it ended way to soon!
My husband, 16 year old son, and I returned from sailing on the Paradise Sunday Sept. 2. I very much hated to leave the ship!!!
We arrived in Miami Saturday early evening. After checking into our hotel we got the name of a traditional Cuban restaurant from hotel staff. It was called Latin America, located not far from the airport. It was a casual diner, very clean and welcoming. We were the only non Cuban patrons there. The owner came to the table and was very helpful in selecting authentic Cuban dishes for us to try, with a guarantee no less!! The food was fantastic, we now know that we love Cuban food!
The next morning we drove to South Beach to see the ships and sights. It was very pretty, and quiet on Sunday morning!
We then headed to the pier to drop off our bags, and my son and I stayed behind while my husband took the rental car to the Avis office on the pier. There was some confusion as to which gate to enter for the Paradise, but not that bad. We only waited a short timeand we were all checking in and upstairs to wait in the lounge for boarding. We were in the first 10 people on board the ship, at around 12:15 pm. What a beautiful sight! The Atrium is so nice to have, adding light, you don't feel closed in at all. Our outside cabin was clean and had plenty of room for us. The bathroom was a good size, and the shower was roomy.
We had the pleasant surprise of finding out that the Captain was the captain of our cruise last year. Also there were two dancers from our cruise last year, from a different ship. The dancer Suzy was fun, and helped make my son's cruise!! The shows were impressive, I have been to Vegas, and those kids on the ship never missed a step! They were dynamic, and well done. The first comedy act was the best in our opinion. Tia had her show on Wed. and you shouldn't miss her show either, wonderful voice, and funny. The Illusionist was not so hot, nor was the guy with the puppets.
We ate in the dining room every evening, and it was wonderful, and plentiful. Our waiter figured out the first night that our son would consume 3 beef entrees per sitting, even though he is thin! We got the special attention to detail that helps make cruising so lovely. None of us at our table was ever unhappy with our selections. We were at a window table in the Destiny Dining room. Our one complaint is about the layout of the deck where the dining rooms were. It can be a bit confusing getting there, but worth it. We had 2 single sisters, and 3 single guys at our table, and we had good conversation, and lots of fun with them. All well mannered, and polite. We had some lunches, and a couple midnight buffets in the Paris dining room. The food was better on this cruise in the alternative dining room than it was on our last cruise.
If you get the chance, go to the America Bar and see Bonnie for the sing along! You don't even have to be able to sing, we can't, and it was a blast!!
Be sure to take lots of pics, and then you can weed through them for the ones you want. We had some really good ones, even though they aren't cheap, we were happy with them.
We never had a problem finding a deck chair, especially if you go to the Aft pool area.
Since we had been to Cozumel before we chose to go to Chankanaab on our own. My son tried the Snuba ($50), and loved it, very safe, and well run. I elected to snorkel, and was rewarded with beautiful fish, coral, lobsters, and a very large Barracuda was feeding right below me!! Don't miss the walk through the Botanical park there. We had an interesting time feeding the Iguana bananas!! After a quick cab ride to the ship and a shower, we went into town for lunch at Ponchos Backyard. We ate there last year, and it was still a good choice! Food was reasonably priced and very good, not to mention the purified water, and strong drinks!!! Then it was time for shopping. We did get some nice things, but I think we got better deals in Jamaica. The Mexican Folklore show is well done, and interesting.
Days at sea are full of things to do for everyone, or do nothing at all, that's why cruises are perfect vacations!
Grand Cayman was beautiful as always. We chose to go on the early Stingray/Island tour. It was nice to be on the sandbar earlier in the day, that way you still have time to go to 7 mile beach, shop (if you have lots of $), or go snorkeling at Eden Rock. The snorkeling there is incredible!! If you have equipment, it is free to snorkel there, and it is very close to where you catch the tender back to the ship. I can not say enough about the underwater sights there!! The water is relatively shallow, bringing the fish closer to you. We had the pleasure of seeing a school of Squid. Just be sure to buy your Tortuga Rum Cakes at one of the bakery stores, and not on the ship. The ones we got on the ship were drier than those we got on Cayman.
Words cannot express how pleased we were that we had booked Peat Taylor for our tour of Jamaica! He thinks of everything for you, and so helpful, interesting, and fun!! The tour bus was clean, and air-conditioned. He sang, told stories, and gave us lots of info about the island. We were the first group at the falls, which is a big plus. The climb is not that difficult, and we had people ranging in ages 6 to 68 in our group climb. You take it slow, and it is so tropical, and shaded. When you leave the falls go to the top of the hill to the exit and veer to the right to avoid the market if the pushy peddlers bother you. It was not as bad as we had anticipated. Peat then takes you through Fern Gully, telling you about all the plant life and culture along the way. He was so good that even my son was interested! We then went to a mountain overlook area and saw the Blue Mnts. Then we turned around and went back down the mountain the "back way", through typical Jamaican neighborhoods. At this point you can choose to shop, go to the beach, or the ship, what ever you want to do. Peat is very safe and efficient. You can't go wrong with him, and be sure to have the Jerk Chicken!!! Peat knows where to take you for the best!
Being able to relax in your cabin for debarkation is a nice plus! Be sure to leave your cabin door open to hear your tag color called!
All in all, our cruise on the Paradise was all we hoped it would be and then some Like any vacation, it is what you make it, but it helps a lot to do it in such a pleasant, clean atmosphere. We are looking at the new 10 and 11 day cruises Paradise will be doing next year. Maybe we will see you on one of them!!
This was my and my wife?s second cruise, the first for my daughter (12). We started our day very early at 3:00 AM. Our flight out of Norfolk Virginia was at 6:00 AM and my daughter would never forgive me if we missed the flight, she actually slept with her clothes on. Our flights were on time, imagine that, and we got into Miami at around 11:30 AM after our connecting flight from Philadelphia.
We did not purchase our airfare through Carnival nor did we purchase their transfer service from the airport to the port. Once we arrived at the airport I immediately spotted some Carnival employees; they were all over the airport. I asked about the cost to get to the port and was told it was $10 per person. I questioned if this included the handling of my bags and was told that I would need to carry my own bags to the bus and then at the port I would need to once again carry my own bags to have them checked in. I found that this was not worth the price since a cab only charges $18one way to the port. This saved me $12 right from the start even though after the cab tip it came out to $8. It is a relatively short ride to the port, about 20 minutes.
Once we arrived at the port the cab dropped us off right in front of the porters collecting the bags. No need to carry your bags but be prepared to tip, $1 per bag is reasonable. We then made our way to the entrance to our ship. Once we entered we were handed three slips, one per person. These are for immigration purposes since the Bahamas are not considered US soil. The forms need to be completed prior to checking in. We proceeded to check in and since we were early, it was around 12:15 PM we did not have any lines to wait on. At check-in you are asked for your tickets, birth certificates and credit card for all of your on ship purchases. You are then asked to go up one flight where your picture is taken once you have been given your sail & sign card. This card will be your key to board the ship, enter your room and make purchases on board. You must always carry your card especially when going ashore for your tours since you will need to put your card in a card reader when you leave the ship and when you return.
We were then directed to a lobby where we waited for about ½ hour, maybe less to board the ship. Boarding took a little long because they stop all passengers to have their picture taken as you board. This is the first experience with the photographers. At every port of call the photographers are there to take your picture as you leave the ship, this you will soon learn is what causes the long lines trying to get off the ship. Having to swipe your sign & sail card also adds to the congestion (as there are those that do not have their cards readily available in hand). Once we were on board it was easy to find our room. Since we stayed on the Empress deck we did not need to go far. Everyone boards the ship on the Empress deck the same when you depart on the last day. All ports of call debark on the 3rd level of the ship.
Once we boarded we went to our room and found it to be very comfortable. We had a porthole and plenty of closet space. I was thankful for this since my wife and daughter packed as if we were going to be away for a month. The bathroom was spacious and even had a few essentials such as razors, deodorant etc. These of course would not be enough for the whole cruise so make sure you bring your own. Also be prepared the first time you flush the commode, it is something you have never heard at home.
Since we were all very hungry our next stop was at the Paris restaurant on the Lido deck. At about 1:15 PM we were having lunch. My daughter made a path straight to the pizza, she can eat pizza all day long. I must say that just about every single review I read praised the pizza as being great, I must disagree. The pizza is probably one of the least tasteful food items you will find on the ship but the kids seem to love it. The Paris restaurant itself is comfortable but don?t expect the service you will receive in the formal dinning rooms, Destiny and Elation. The waiters are swarming all over the place but all they do is take your plates once you have finished, if you are not careful they might even take them before you finish but don?t worry there is more where that came from. There is food at the Paris everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This gives you an alternative in case you do not feel like dressing up to go to the dining rooms for dinner. Do expect to wait on line, but they move relatively quickly. This is also where the midnight buffets are served. The menus vary from day to day but I think that the Mexican buffet was the best of all. I would have liked to see more of a variety other than 24-hour pizza. Chicken wings and ribs come to mind.
Once we finished lunch we sat around for awhile and then went back to our rooms to change. Our luggage was already at our room. The ship did not leave port at 4:00 PM since we were still waiting on some passengers to arrive according to the announcement. This did not impact our schedule since we made every single port of call as scheduled. Once we set sail we had to deal with the emergency drill. It was very hot the day we left and we almost baked while we waited to complete the drill. It is nonetheless one of those things that we want to be ready for and hope we never need to use. Once this was over?guess what?it was time to eat. We had early seating 5:45 PM in the Destiny. I would have preferred 6:15 PM but we made the best of it. We arrived on time and very hot from the drill. The Destiny is a very nice dining room with all the amenities one would expect. Dress code for the formal dining rooms includes no shorts, jeans, tank tops, etc. We were very pleased as we were seated with another family from Boston who also had a daughter, Jamie 11 years old. Our two daughters got along very well and were almost inseparable from that moment on. We as well as Jamie?s parents were very pleased that the girls got along so well. We also enjoyed their company, they are a very nice family and the experience enhanced our cruise.
In addition to the great seating arrangement we had we were also very pleased with our waiter and his helper. Our waiter?s name is Gusti from Indonesia and his helper is Ferdinand from the Philippines. They both made our dining experience one to remember. They catered to our every need and desire. We ate as much as we wanted and even tried more than one entree per night. My wife is a vegetarian and does not eat dairy. Gusti made sure that she was always taken care of. She ordered a special salad and every day after that he made sure that there was one available for her if she wanted it. My daughter ordered a ginger ale the first night and every night after that there was one waiting for her. Our table guest had ordered lemonade and they also had lemonade every day after that. One word of advice, if you have children or drink a lot of soda yourself, purchase the fountain card at the start of your cruise. It cost $19.95 per child or $29.95 per adult. It covers all the soft drinks you want throughout the cruise and you can get them at just about any bar, we got ours at the Atrium bar at the Empress deck. If you don?t, expect to pay about $2.50 per soda. Dinner was great and the menu always had something new. If I have one complaint, it is that I would have liked to have seen lobster on more than one night.
After dinner there was always a show in the Normandy Lounge. If you want a good view I would suggest you head to the lounge right after dinner. We did this every night and we were able to get seats toward the front every night that were unobstructed. This meant that we were normally at the lounge at least one hour before the show started. There are a large number of seats with obstructed views so be sure to get there early. We did meet a family from Ohio by getting there early and we had a nice time thereafter talking with them.
The shows for the most part were very good. The only exception would be the comedians. Not only were they not very funny, but their material was not appropriate for the children. This is something I don?t understand. We attended the Camp Carnival orientation on the first day and they mentioned that we had about 700 children on board. If they know this why do they then condone the subject matter of the comedians. Not to mention that the same comedians have midnight shows. If they want to get very colorful this is the time?not when the room is filled with children. One of them, I won?t mention names but will say that he takes great pride in his Italian heritage, was the worst of all.
On the positive side, Tia Thompson was great. She is a very talented singer and entertainer. Everyone we spoke with really enjoyed her act. She was funny and involved the audience in a very positive manner. It?s too bad that there were not more like her. The ventriloquist was also very good as well as the two main shows. I enjoyed ?Shout? the most but both were very good.
All in all we really enjoyed the cruise and had a very good time. There are a few things I would do differently. The tours are all very much overpriced. In San Juan we did the Barcardi tour. No one ever told us that the plant was being remodeled and that we would not see everything. The price nonetheless was the regular price. Had we been given advance notice we would have probably done something else. In addition all tours are run in such a way that you are rushed at all times. When you go on vacation you do not want to be rushed. The time you get to spend at one place is normally not enough. Our Barcardi tour included a stop at ?El Morro.? This is the larger of the two old forts in San Juan. We only had 45 minutes, which is not nearly enough to see the whole thing. Next time I believe I will skip the overpriced hurried tours. If you do want to tour be advised that you can normally see and do the same things for a lot less if you are willing to go out on your own. There are plenty of locals offering tours for less money. If you team up with a few others you will be able to save some money. Just be careful where you do this. San Juan for example has free trolley service within Old San Juan. The trolley will take you around Old San Juan and it stops at El Morro, best of all it?s free.
St. Thomas and St. John are both very beautiful. I would have liked to have more time there. Trunk Bay in St. John is really worth seeing. Cab fare in St. Thomas is $3.00 per person to take you into town for shopping one way. Unless you want to see many liquor and jewelry stores, it?s not worth the trip. You can do shopping right at the pier where they have many of the same stores and you save yourself the $6.00 round trip.
Nassau was really a disappointment. Nothing to really write about. My daughter did want to swim with the stingrays. I tried to book a tour for her to swim with the stingrays and I would just go along with my wife but not swim. On the ship they told me they were sold out on this tour. I believe it was just because instead of selling three tickets at $40. Plus they were only selling one and two at a reduced price. We purchased three tickets to Blue Lagoon and once we got there I was able to buy a ticket for my daughter to swim with the stingrays for $15.00. Word of caution, this is deep water and you need to ensure your child or yourself can really swim.
Some other tips. If you plan on drinking, be prepared to pay. Drinks are not included in your fare. Beers are around $3.50 plus 15% gratuity. They add the 15% gratuity to everything. Drinks like pina colada will cost you over $5.00 once they have added the gratuity. I purchased drink coupons. They are $19.50 for four. You basically save yourself the gratuity charge. 15% savings add up if you are going to do a lot of drinking. You must purchase these before you leave on your cruise. The information can be found in the back of the book you receive with your boarding tickets. I was able to purchase beer at the port and bring it aboard. No one objected to this. You can also bring bottled water aboard if you like. A bottle of Evian water will cost you $3.75 plus of course the gratuity. You can also purchase photo coupons. The pictures will add up very quickly. If you are not disciplined you will find yourself spending a lot of money on pictures.
The crew for the most part is very willing to help. There are as always a few exceptions but you will find these to be a minority. Not having to deal with smoke filled air is also a very big plus. All in all we had fun and would probably cruise on the Paradise again. I doubt that we would ever cruise on anything other than a non-smoking ship.
I would be more than willing to answer any questions.
This was my second cruise and my wife's fourth. We sailed on the Disney Magic last year and she had sailed the western Caribbean route twice with Commodore. My wife is a teacher and I'm an engineer. We also own a piece of a tour company.
Overall - We enjoyed the cruise. Carnival did all of the big things right. However, my wife and I both felt that Carnival has some serious issues with both service and the small special touches. We have decided not to travel with Carnival again.
Pre-cruise We did not trust the airlines to get us to Miami on time so we booked our air and a one-day pre-cruise tour with Carnival. We had bus transfers from the airport to the hotel; this is when we encountered our first let down. We were both used to not having to handle our bags when you have transfers, not so with Carnival. First, we retrieved our bags from the airlines then had to carry/drag them the 300 ft from the terminal to the bus. Not bad until you consider midday Miami heat. Carnival loaded us onto a bus forthe hotel. We stayed the night before the cruise at the Sheraton Biscay Bay. Prior to leaving for the cruise and at the airport we were told that we would be able to check-in for the cruise at the hotel and skip all lines at the pier. When we got to the hotel we were told that Carnival decided not to offer this service based on the number of people staying at the hotel. The day of the cruise our bus showed up on time and we headed off to the pier. At the pier we had to tip our driver to get our bags off the bus and then tip the porters to get our bags on the ship. Carnival will not let you carry your bags onto the ship so you have to tip the porters if you want your bags for the next week. In total, we calculated that it cost us $20 in "tips" to just get to the pier.
Cruise We booked a 6D on the Empress Deck. Great room. As I've read in other reviews, Carnival does not make the beds into a Queen/King as stated in their advertisements. Instead, you get two twins made up separately pushed into the corner and you have to request this once you are on board.
Day one - At sea My wife and I enjoyed our "Fun day at sea." The casino has $1 tables for a hour in the afternoon. We enjoyed this but felt sorry for anyone not there at the start. The casino has a limited number of tables and most people just watched (my wife and I were lucky to have seats). It was the most packed we saw the casino the entire week. We both recommended that Carnival give up some revenue and expand the hours they offer this. After gaming, we went to a couples message class in the spa. The class was a lot of fun even with the product push.
Day two - Cozumel We went on the excursion to Tulum. We enjoyed the trip. Tulum is on top of a beautiful cliff looking out across the Caribbean. We had fun traveling with our table mates and spent 2 hrs at the ruins. The ruins are small but interesting to see. Two hours is more than enough time at the ruins. Just be aware that Carnival is not kidding when they say it's a walking tour. We then returned to Playa del Carmen for our boat ride to Cozumel.
The seas were rough the day we were at Cozumel and resulted in a "fun" ride to the island. However, Cozumel makes the trip worth it. By far it has the best value shopping of the three ports. My wife and I had lunch at Carlos and Charlies. This is a must experience for adults. Lots of fun. We then spent the rest of the day shopping. Our recommendation is to buy everything you want in Cozumel. Grand Caymen is much more expensive and Jamaica lacks some of the nicer stores.
Day three - At sea Another "fun day", we spent most of our time recovering from Cozumel. Most of the activities on ship while at sea are designed to generate on board revenue (i.e. you have to spend money) or sun worshiping.
Day four - Grand Caymen At Grand Caymen you have to tender in (i.e. you have take a small boat to shore). We took another excursion (the trip to Hell, the Turtle Farm and Stingray City). The trip is a guided tour in a cab. Hell and the Turtle Farm are both tourist trap type places, although the Turtle Farm is interesting. Stingray City is a must see. We took a small boat out to a sand bar in the middle of the ocean (20-30 min). The sandbar is only about waist deep and the stingrays are harmless. The will suck food out of your hand. The only danger is stepping on one. The rays will generally leave you alone unless you are between them and food. They'll shove past you to get to the food. It's actually fun. You need a waterproof camera for this.
We went shopping after the excursion. Grand Caymen is very expensive. The only real deal my wife found was make-up.
Our trip back to the ship brought about another one of our sore points. The Voyager of the Sea and the Inspiration were both in dock with us. As a result, there were only a few tenders for our ship. This resulted in a long line to get back on board. This did not annoy us. What set us off was the crew members by-passing the line and walking on to the next tender before any passengers were allowed on. My wife and I both felt that at a minimum the crewmembers should have stood in the same line as we did.
Day five - Jamaica We loved Jamaica. We took the excursion to the Brimmer Hall Plantation. It approx. 45 min from the dock to the plantation and back. At the plantation, we had a 30 min guided tour with one of the farmers. They explain how they grow at harvest each one of their crops (coca, coconuts, sugarcane and bananas). The plantation then has a buffet of sorts set up when you get back with each one of their crops, jerk chicken, and alcohol. They also have a small area to buy local items.
After the plantation, we were then taken to one of the two "recommended" malls in town for 30 mins of power shopping. While my wife and I did not buy anything, I noticed that the prices were about the same for most items except rum and coffee, which were both cheap. We finished up our excursion at Dunns River Falls.
Dunns River Falls is a must do. Just be prepared. You will get wet. The falls never gets deeper than waist deep but you have to climb up through the falls at points. You will get soaked. We bought Aqua shoes at Target before we went and they came in handy. We paid $4 for them instead of renting them for $5. This is another place for the waterproof camera.
Day six - At sea Same things to do as day three expect that they have bingo and a drawing for a cruise.
Dining We had a great team wait on us the entire week. The food was tasty and plentiful. At one point during the week everyone at our table doubled up on something when we couldn't decide. My wife and I did miss the intimacy of the waiter/ asst. waiter system used on the other lines. Our poor team always seemed rushed serving 36+ people but never rushed us. My wife, a truly picky eater, found something to eat at every meal. She also fell in love with the pizza served 24 hrs a day. The late night buffets did leave something to be desired for. The deserts were basic cakes with different icing and crepes.
Room steward Our room steward was one of the best we've ever had. He lived up to the old joke about getting up in the middle of the night only to come back and find your bed made. We went up to breakfast one morning only to come back 10 min later to find our room serviced to include folding any clothes left out. His towel animals every night were great.
Shows The lounge stinks. There are few, if any, good seats where you can see the whole show. Get there early and try and grab a seat before the crowd. The quality of the show was pretty good, not Disney but good. The Comedy acts were funny and their adult only shows after midnight were worth staying up for.
Tips This was our last pet peeve of the cruise. We actually tipped the people that served us during the week more than the recommended amount. Our problem was with drink tips added to every bill. When you get anything on the ship they add 15% gratuity on automatically. This includes a bottle of water or pop. So you are tipping the person to hand you a bottle. This is on top of NYC level pricing for drinks (ie 20 OZ of coke for $2.50 plus tip or $3.50 for a liter of water plus tip).
My wife and I felt sorry for the other couples at our table. For all of them, this was their first cruise and the things that upset us upset them. Unfortunately, they decided to not cruise anymore because of it. I understand that the new view in the cruise industry is to increase on board revenue. My wife and I both feel that Carnival has taken this to the extreme and lost the things that make cruising great.
I delayed this review for a month because my wife and I expressed these comments on our end of cruise comment card. I was waiting to see if Carnival would respond to anything we had said. As of today, we still have not heard from them.
I arrived on Saturday night to avoid the rush of flying, transfers to the ship, etc. and so I could begin to relax. I stayed at the Marriott near the Miami Airport. For a Marriott, I thought I had a great rate - one of their "Come Out and Play" rates of $69.
Embarkation I left my hotel to go to the pier around 10:40 and was at the pier by 11:00 AM. When I arrived at the pier, the Royal Caribbean's "Voyager of the Seas", NCL's "Norway" and Carnival's "Paradise" were the only ships in port. There were apparently people still leaving the "Paradise" from the last cruise but I was surprised that it wasn't any more crowded than it was. My stateroom was "to be assigned" at embarkation but Carnival was already on their toes before I got in the terminal. The porter who was loading my luggage to take to the ship handed me a manifest and asked me to look up my name and find my cabin number. I had originally booked a category 6B oceanview cabin on the Main Deck and had been assigned to cabinE194 on the Empress Deck. After the porter helped me get my luggage properly tagged and ready to take to the ship, he pointed me towards the terminal entrance. I had been dropped off at Terminal 9 and had to walk down to Terminal 8.
The check in area in the terminal was very colorful. There were only about 5-6 people in line but all of the Carnival reps at the counter were busy with someone. The line moved very quickly. I'd say from the time I got dropped off at the pier, I had checked in, received my Sail & Sign card and was in the waiting area to board the ship within 15-20 minutes. There was a sign posted that they would begin boarding the ship at 12:15. There were not many people in the waiting area yet but it was interesting watching everyone arrive. I was surprised at the wide age range of people taking a Carnival cruise. Carnival is obviously not just for the young anymore but the young at heart as well. There were babies, children, adults young and old. The oldest person I actually came across was a lady who said she was 82. Finally, someone noticed that they were ready to start boarding and everyone started lining up.
When we finally boarded the ship, we entered the atrium on the Empress Deck. All I had to do to get to my cabin was turn right and walk down a very long hallway. I stopped for a moment to look around the atrium and was amazed at how subtle everything was as compared to pictures of the Fantasy's atrium that I had seen in the brochures. No neon - a lot of brass, wood and stained-glass look trim within the woodwork. By 12:25, I was in my cabin.
Cabin When I got to my cabin, I was kind of surprised at how small it was but impressed with how big it was at the same time. My cabin had two lower beds in a "L" shape with a small table in the corner between them and two upper berths, plenty of closet and drawer space. I even had plenty of space in one of the closets to put my suitcase so it was completely out of the way for the week. The bathroom had a small amenities basket with razors, shampoo, soap, etc. and there were several extra bars of soap in the "medicine chest". The only complaint I had about my cabin was that the mirrored doors on the "medicine chest" would not completely close. My cabin steward was from the Philippines and was polite and kept my cabin spotless.
Restaurants A buffet style lunch was being served in the Paris Restaurant on the Lido Deck on the day of embarkation as was throughout the cruise. There was a steam table set up with several hot entrees, vegetables, etc., and a salad/desert bar set up in the center of the restaurant with a salad bar, specialty salads, fruits and deserts. There was also a soft serve ice cream machine in this area. Also in the Paris Restaurant, in the rear, was a small bar on the starboard side and the 24-hour pizzeria on the port side. There was a buffet style breakfast served in the Paris Restaurant every day except embarkation and debarkation days. The steam table usually consisted or scrambled eggs, bacon, link and/or patty sausage, grits or oatmeal, hashbrowns (patty style like Hardee's), toast, etc. There was also a made-to-order egg/omelet station. The cold bar area in the center of the restaurant was usually set up with fruits and cereals and an area to make your own toast or toast a bagel.
I had lunch and breakfast in the Paris Restaurant a couple of times and this is where they also served the midnight buffet every night except for two. I'd heard that at night, if you have dinner in the Paris Restaurant that they lay out linens, etc. on the tables.
I had been assigned to the Destiny dining room and had requested Main Seating dining. This dining room was very elegant. I had been assigned to a table for 10 of which I had 8 other dining guests. This was a first cruise for two of my tablemates, girls in their early twenties I'd say. My other tablemates were seasoned cruisers and apparently frequented Carnival Cruise Line and the Paradise especially. Most of us found ourselves hanging out together throughout the cruise when on board the ship. A couple of us met up on a shore excursion in Nassau. In St. Thomas, a couple of us ran into each other shopping downtown and shared our favorite shopping places.
Our head waiter was from the Philippines and our waiter was from Honduras. The wait staff made a genuine effort to learn your likes, dislikes and preferences early in the cruise as did the bar waitress. By the second night our head waiter, knew how I liked my steak cooked and knew that I liked for him to make suggestions for me. Our other waiter learned quickly who liked coffee with their desert and what you preferred to drink with your dinner.
Food in the Destiny was about the same as going to any upscale restaurant in Atlanta. I'm always willing to try something new and tried to do so each night. I only had lunch in the Destiny dining room twice and the food was about the same. By the end of the week, I was tired of trying something new and had a good old fashioned cheeseburger and fries. In fact, I think most of us did that particular day.
Room service is advertised available 24-hours a day. This can be misleading unless I misunderstood something. The room service menu is very limited - continental breakfast items, cold cut sandwiches, chips, pretzels, salads, an assortment of cookies/brownies, coffee, milk, and tea were available. By 24-hour room service, I assumed that if you chose to have dinner in your cabin, that you would be offered the same selections as in the dining room. Granted, I never tried this but assumed this was not the case since there was a specific room service menu in your cabin. I did order room service three times - twice for breakfast and once for a mid-afternoon snack. Delivery of your order was within a pretty reasonable time - I'd say 15 minutes. Once of the times that I ordered breakfast by leaving an order form outside my cabin door the night before we arrived in Nassau. The next morning my breakfast arrived at 7:00 AM sharp - I had requested between 7 and 7:30.
After the first night on the cruise, they would serve a specialty desert each night. After they served the specialty desert, you were offered a choice of deserts from the menu.
Spa/Gym Facilities I took a tour of the spa and gym facilities given the afternoon of embarkation before the ship pulled out of port. A wide variety of spa, aromatherapy and massage treatmeats were available with prices ranging from $27 to $199 dollars, depending on the treatment and length of the session. The salon offered hair and nail services with prices ranging from $21 to $58. Personal trainers were onboard to assist you with fitness programs. There was a good selection of equipment for our use although I wasn't familiar with any of it other than the treadmills and step machines. There were both men and women's locker rooms as well as a whirlpool in the gym/spa area.
Entertainment There seemed to be a wide variety of entertainment onboard to please practically everyone. In the Normandie Lounge, there were a couple of comedians onboard throughout the week, a magician one night and the ship's dancers put on two shows during the weeks (Vegas style).
Bingo games took place throughout the week and there were numerous activities for the guests to get involved in. There was a "Newly and Not-So-Newly Wed Game" (similar to TV's "The Newlywed Game"), "Sea Feud" (similar to TV's "Family Feud"), the "Love, Sex and Romance" quiz, the "Numbers Game", "horse races", and how can I forget the "Men's Knobby Knees" contest (I was the judge of that one). All these activities took place in the Normandie Lounge and was another great way to meet your fellow passengers.
Up on deck, there was the "Men's Hairiest Chest" contest, the frog races in the pool (we used plastic wind-up frogs that you buy in St. Thomas). There was a calypso band that played by the main pool on the Lido Deck, a country/western duet in one of the lounges (good time/place to learn some line dances), a pianist or orchestra trio would play in the atrium, sing alongs and kareoke in the American Bar, dance music in the disco - the list goes on and on.
Ports of Call and Shore Excursions The cruise director would give a "Port Talk" before we reached each port of call. He would go over the shore excursions that are available and let you know what bargains are to be found in each port for those that like to shop.
Nassau - shore excursions varied from city tours, snorkeling/beach excursions, sailing, diving, glass bottom boat tours and a dolphin "enounter". Prices ranged from $12-89. I opted for the Dolphin Encounter. The "encounter" is just as the ship's shore excursion flyer says - you are put through an educational orientation on the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, you stand on a platform in waist deep water in groups of ten and feed, kiss, hug, touch and "dance" with a dolphin and that's it. Great photo/video opportunity but that's it. Unlike the video that is shown by the shore side operator, you do not swim with the dolphin nor learn to give commands. This "swim" was apparently an option at the site but was not offered to us by the cruise line. Regarding the "Snorkel with Stingrays" excursion, if you have never done this type of thing before, try it - it's a wonderful experience. However, if you have ever been out to what is called "Stingray City" on Grand Cayman and snorkeled with the stingrays, I've been told that this excursion in Nassau would be a disappointment to you. In Nassau, there are only 3 stingrays in the water with you whereas off Grand Cayman, there are dozens. I've done this type of excursion off Grand Cayman and someone from the shore excursion desk on the ship advised me that I would be disappointed in Nassau.
San Juan - shore excursions varied from City tours, rainforest, kayak and snorkel/beach excursions. Prices ranged from $32-79. I opted for the San Juan City/Bacardi Rum Distillery Tour. I was disappointed in the city tour in that the only stop you made on the "city" portion was at the El Morro Fortress where there were some spectacular coastal views. I found the Bacardi Distillery tour very interesting - you were also given coupons for two free drinks at a bar in the pavillion. There was a gift shop at the Bacardi Distillery offering t-shirts, hats, beach towels, etc. and of course products that are made or distributed by Bacardi. Hint - the liquor prices are still cheaper in St. Thomas. After the tour, the van driver offered to drop us off in town for shopping or take us back to the ship. The ship was the first stop and I got off to go have lunch and relax for a while. I understand why they spend so long in San Juan but learned the next day that I'd rather have the extra time in St. Thomas.
St. Thomas/St. John - shore excursions varied (again) from city tours to sailing, diving and snorkel/beach excursions. There was a shopping tour offered but the cruise director actually advised against it because you don't really need it - and you don't. Shore excursion prices varied from $12 to $99. I did purchase a ticket to take the tramway up to the top of the mountain where you will find spectacular views of the Virgin Islands. The cruise director suggested that you do your shopping in the morning and beach activities in the afternoon in order to save you "shower the sand off and change time" if you did it the other way around. I seriously didn't think 2-3 hours would be enough time for me to shop around, take the tramway up the Paradise Point and look around up there, have lunch and get ready to go on a shore excursion by 1:15. I was right! My shopping excursion pretty much took all day! Havensight Mall is just across from the pier. You can take a taxi to downtown Charlotte Amalie for $3 per person and it's about a 5-10 minute cab ride. Taxicabs are VERY plentiful at the pier and downtown. I was impressed by the fact that they do not hastle you at all to take you anywhere but make sure you know that they are there if you need them and were very polite about it. On my way downtown, my taxi driver slowed down and asked some folks if they were on their way downtown and needed a ride. Once downtown, again, I got asked several times while walking around if I needed a ride back to my ship. I politely replied "no, not yet" but when I was ready to go back to the ship, I didn't have a problem at all catching a ride. Shopping in St. Thomas was a lot of fun and found some really great bargains. Liquor is most definitely a great bargain here. Liquour, linens, china, crystal are good buys. I even found some summer clothing on sale - "end of the summer" bargains. The best places I found to buy liquor were Caribana (downtown) and Dynasty (Havensight Mall). Sona International was a great place for clothing and other souveniers.
Summary I love this itinerary but would like to see St. Thomas offered for 1 ½ days if not 2 - one day to shop - one day to spend at the beaches. I loved the fact of being on a non-smoking ship. It was nice not having to smell second-hand smoke across a dinner table or that terrible stench in a room where a lot of people have been smoking. Our ship was full occupancy and I had been worried about feeling crowded. The only time I felt crowded or just flat out too many people being in one area at the same time was the night they had the midnight buffet by the pool on the Lido Deck and the night of the Grand Midnight Buffet - too many people in too small of an area. There were not a lot of kids on this cruise and you hardly noticed the ones that were.
I did have a problem with my cabin neighbors. I apparently was in a cabin that was between a large family in the two cabins on either side of me. Two adults and five children (that I counted) ranging from I'd say 8 to 13 occupied the two cabins on either side of me. The parents obviously had no control over the kids whatsoever and apparently didn't care to. The kids were constantly running in the hall, pounding excessively on the doors (where was their key?), fighting in the cabin, yelling, screaming, etc. Several passengers in the area were complaining, even the stewards but I guess I was the only one voicing my complaints. I finally got a little cooperation from security but am still not happy with the way Carnival handled the situation. The day after I filed my first complaint, the purser's office did send a bottle of champagne to my cabin with their apologies (they added insult to injury when they didn't even get my name right and addressed it someone who wasn't even on the ship!). The night we left St. Thomas, they did offer to move me to another cabin after someone disembarked in St. Thomas but I had no desire to move from a mid-ship cabin to the very last cabin at the rear of the ship on my deck. I didn't think that I should be the one to change cabins and I figured it was too late in the cruise to move so I just dealt with the situation the best I could for the last two days. The day after we left St. Thomas, the chief purser did sent a letter to my cabin, again with Carnival's apologies, and have offered me a 15% discount off my next cruise. Again, I'm still not totally happy with the way that Carnival handled the situation but will not let this incident deter me from cruising with Carnival again.