We went on our first Christmas Cruise in December, 2012. We left on Christmas Eve from Tampa, and returned 5 days later. Since we live in Tampa, we drove to the port.
We arrived at about 11:30AM. This seems to be the perfect time to arrive at the port, TSA security was less than 5 minutes, and check in took nearly no time at all. We were on board by 11:50. Note that you board this ship in Tampa on level 7 (Empress deck). With the exception of a few cabins on the Veranda deck, this is the highest level with rooms. Above us was a conference room.
Cabin: E240. This is an aft cabin on Empress deck. The window had a 2 foot shelf before it, which was very useful as a place to store "stuff". A great extra. The room did not have a refrigerator, something we have never experienced on a cruise ship. In addition, in the corner of the room, there was a 3 foot by 3 foot by 3 foot box, which held the life jackets. To get out of the bed on one side, one had to crawl over More
the "box" to get out. I don't know why the life jackets aren't kept under the bed, or in the closet. The room also had 2 small end tables, and a single chair. No sofa. It had a large screen TV. The shower was a full size shower, the largest I've ever seen at sea. I mean a real shower. We had no trouble with water temperature variation when taking a shower. Storage drawers in the room were limited, as was the number of hangers. Adequate for a 5 night cruise, if you don't pack to heavily. The room was tired, but clean. Our steward operated in the background, and did a great job. The room was quiet, we heard no one. We generally try to be under something that doesn't have a lot of night time activity, and were successful.Food: This is a cruise, lots of food, of generally OK quality. I'm on a low carb diet, and they were unable to offer me food with low carbs. They simply brought the carbs, and told me not to eat them. For example, I don't eat potatoes. I couldn't successfully request to "hold the potato, substitute additional veggies". They simply brought the extra veggies. A waste. Our wait staff made the extra effort to get to know our preferences (decaff coffee) and the like, and were quietly efficient. We had the early seating, and everything went smoothly. Note that one member at our table was on a gluten free diet, and had arranged for this special diet ahead of time. This need continued to mystify the wait staff, I don't believe any meals were served without some sort of problem.
Lido deck food was good, lines were never bad if the peak time was avoided.
Cruise Director: Steve Cassel was the best cruise director we have ever had the pleasure of sailing with. He was excellent! He also plays a mean fiddle! I'm not sure what he is doing on a small ship like the Paradise, but he was everywhere on the ship, doing his best to make everything fun.
Entertainment - Main Shows - Excellent. We were on the Carnival Freedom in September, these shows were better. The performers seemed to be having fun, which came through on the performances. The Cruise Director also played the fiddle in one of the shows, adding another dimension to the entertainment.
Entertainment - Comedy. we went to only the adult comedy, both performers were sub-par compared to what we had seen on previous ships. Funny and "R" rated is OK, but just "R" rated is just dumb. Maybe we hit them in the wrong mood, normally we really enjoy the comedy.
Entertainment - Live Karaoke - Absolutely terrific. This is a must see. Karaoke with the house band playing instead of a CD. The band was great, and the singer was excellent. One of our table mate performed, and the band got into it. This is a really good time.
Casino - We never went.
Other Entertainment - My only grip is that things seemed to be clustered together. Shows and comedy were on the same night. We did not go to the guest talent show, I cringe at Karaoke taken to the next level.
Ports - Grand Cayman - A great port. We snorkeled at Eden Rock, a 5 minute walk from the tender port. $5.00 for a locker (we bring our own equipment) for some of the best snorkeling in the area. If you are a first timer, Stingray City is a must visit. We have done that multiple times. Grand Cayman is a clean, safe place to wander around and explore. We were only there from 8AM to 3PM, a bit short.
Ports - Cozumel - We arrived at 11AM and left at 8PM, a bit strange. We went snorkeling with Mystic Divers, and Rosie arranged for us to snorkel the Columbia and Palancar reefs. We have been to Cozumel many times, and the snorkeling from the shore isn't very good The best we have found is at the Money Bar, that is OK at best. The the offshore reefs were fantastic. Lots of large fish, and very beautiful. For $70.00 each we received a small boat tour. From Carnival a similar tour was available for about the same price, but there were close to 200 folks on the boat. We had 2 people. The Carnival tour included booze, Rosie's did not.
Fitness Room - Tired. Everything worked but it was old equipment. It was clean.
Ship - When we get on and off the ship,there is rust streaming down from the portholes. This concerned me, as it indicates a lack of maintenance. Our cabin window was also filthy (from the outside). It seems like they are saving money on the little things, kind of sad since the cruise was so nice.
Conclusion - This cruise was fun, and well worth the money! Less
Carnival Paradise Cruises to the Western Caribbean