With the Paradise being the last built of the Fantasy class ships, and having had taken two cruises on the Fantasy itself previously, we knew that the ship was likely going to be somewhat dated and also knew what to likely anticipate. Call that lowered expectations if you will, but we found this cruise to be very satisfactory for the price paid.
Embarkation: The Port of Tampa is, in my opinion, the best place for embarkation we have experienced, having also utilized Port Canaveral and Miami for previous cruises. The ease of arriving early and having great lodging options either close to the airport or the Port is very convenient. We chose the Embassy Suites Downtown next to the Convention Center, but the Marriott it faces would also be a great option. The streetcars make it easy to explore Ybor City, and you can easily walk to Channelside, or even the mile-or-so to the cruise terminal if need be. The embarkation process itself was expeditious and efficient. Cruising from Tampa will definitely be a consideration for the selection of future voyages.
Cabins: Exactly what was expected in terms of cabin layout and amenities, with the exception of delivery of ice to our daughter's cabin. They stayed in a cabin adjacent to us, and for whatever reason, we got ice from the steward and they did not. Unfortunately, they did not bring this to my wife's nor my attention until the last day of the cruise. Not sure what the outage was here, but I certainly would have found out, had we have been aware of this.
Ship Staff: Very cordial, moreso than we have experienced in the past. There seems to have been a bigger emphasis on making sure guests are addressed with a "hello" than we have been used to. The entertainment staff on this ship seemed to enjoy their jobs more, and I personally took to the cruise director more than on past trips. Loved our dining room wait staff.
Food: This was a disappointment. Food in the dining room often arrived lukewarm at best, and there were a few selections during the week that were just not prepared well. We have come to expect better from Carnival. Buffets tended to remind one of those you may find on the lower side of Las Vegas casinos. Pizza was OK.
Be advised that the dining rooms on this ship (as the other Fantasy class ships we have experienced) do not appear to have tables of 4 only, at least as far as we were able to tell. Most if not all of the tables in the dining room are the classic 10+ passenger variety. So be prepared to converse or feel uncomfortable.
Entertainment: Others have discussed about the dearth of activities onboard for the Paradise, and this did seem to be the case. Sea days seemed to be a little slim on action. There were the usual trivia and other contests allowing for "ships-on-a-stick" to be taken home (and we took our share), but it just seemed like there was a lot of dead time.
The two major shows were well-conceived, but the cruise-ending show--a country show--was really hurt by the sub-standard quality of the vocalists. Need an upgrade here. This outage was somewhat redeemed by an outstanding fiddle player and vocalist who made attendance at the show worth it.
Sightlines from the balcony of the major ballroom, the Normandie lounge, are horrible, exascerbated by the presence of computer screens at the control desk of both ends. Avoid if possible.
Lots of karaoke on this boat, which is great if that is your thing. Or if you think it's your thing.
The "Fun Force" break dancers put on quite a show whenever they appeared, and would definitely be worth checking out.
Gym Facilities: As expected, no gripes here, other than the steam room not being ready when the gym opened at 6. Some of us like to get started early.
Ship Atmosphere: Although there is a certain level of crowding/jostling/line-breaking/oblivious standing in walkways/lousy staircase etiquette to be expected on any cruise, I did not find this ship to be nearly as crowded or annoying as I have other vessels. The Destiny cruise we took out of Miami two years ago set the bar pretty high for rudeness and general lack of regard for your fellow man, and this one didn't approach that level. Perhaps it was that we are now conditioned to ill-mannered crowds on cruises, but the line-breaking and absence of concern for others didn't seem to be quite as prevalent. I think the cruise director and staff went a long way to set a nice tone for fun, which are what these cruises are supposed to be about. We also seemed to meet many more passengers who were just downright friendly. At any rate, it was a nice group of people to go cruising with.
Debarkation: Smooth as silk. Easiest time we've ever had leaving the ship, and with a late flight, we had plenty of time to go to the aquarium right next door, shop at the Channelside complex, and catch a shuttle to the airport. There is a great place right in front of the cruise terminal that stores your luggage--$7 for two people--and has discount tickets to the aquarium.
Overall: Not a bad ship or cruise. A few gripes, but nothing to ruin an otherwise great vacation. Ship appears to be well run, and a short-to-medium length cruise on the Paradise is worth the money. Leaving from and returning to Tampa is a major plus.