My husband and I joined our son and his two teenage boys for a five night, four day cruise out of Tampa on the Carnival Paradise, because that was as long they could be away, and we all wanted someplace warm to escape northern chill. We were not surprised to encounter multiple other families doing the same thing, and the ship was loaded with happy children. We went from the airport to the cruise terminal by taxi, for $25 plus tip, somewhat less than the Carnival transport folks were asking. The terminal area was a bit hectic, but the porters were very efficient. I didn't feel particularly welcomed by most of the staff, but I must say the check in people did a good job and we were moved along briskly, much more efficiently than I had expected. No one on board was there to greet passengers or suggest they get lunch while waiting to got to cabins, but we knew the drill.
The sight of the quite beautiful atrium, decorated with greens for the holiday, was a welcome in itself, and remained a high point of our travel.
Carnival's "Fun" theme is followed through with constant, overlapping activities that no one could possibly do justice to. We found ourselves having to choose from a menu of games, shows and entertainments, so we were never bored. We carried around the list each day, as did many other passengers. The hot tubs were filled up with kids and adults, but because weather was cool and windy the pool was usually unused. There were plenty of deck chairs available, but having to wait in line to get a towel was a bit annoying (not my experience on other lines). There were plenty of opportunities to get served on deck, but none of the staff were pushy about it.
Food, always a subject to be discussed: The Elation Restaurant chef was very good at beef (his roast beef was a high point), but less so at vegetables, and really mediocre with fish, which was often inedible. The black forest cake was fantastic, and my grandson enjoyed the melting chocolate cake at every opportunity. The deck ten cafe could have been bigger, with more stations, given the population on board, and lines tended to grow at every station during peak times, especially the deck area where food was cooked to order and not enough staff were there to deal with it. When you had the patience to wait, the Mongolian hot pot cooking was excellent, and included properly done vegetables.
As a reader, I was disappointed in the so-called library, which was basically just a venue for other things, and books seemed no part of it. Good thing we had our own!
One complaint, our cabin reeked of smoke from day 1, and was clearly getting it through the ventilation system from the outdoor smoking areas. Avoid the starboard side if that will bother you.
The tender system to Grand Cayman was poorly managed, given that so many folks had trips booked there. I thought this was a place the cruise director should have stepped in and sorted it out--preferably before people got annoyed--but he left that job to his assistants. A better system altogether is needed here.
Disembarkation was much smoother, directions clear, and early departures made possible.