My husband and I set sail on the carnival paradise on July 27, 2013. Initially I booked an oceanview room on the main deck, but decided to upgrade to a suite (for a price, of course) which carnival was happy to do a few weeks before we left. Embarkation was easy, as a suite guest we literally got out of the car (a family member drove us) walked through the door, checked in, sat on a cushy bench for 3 minutes and then strolled through security and up the gangway. They did open one of my suitcases (that had wine in it), which was fine, I figure they have to check to make sure its not hard liquor. Our room was lovely; we were in V42, which is obstructed. We did not mind the lifeboats. There was a large gap between the boats we could see out of and there wasnt anything above our balcony so we didnt feel enclosed at all. Everything was clean, and looked exactly as it does in the picture on the carnival website. It was odd that there was a VCR in the room. Who in the world uses a VCR anymore? Im guessing families with children might want to play their own videos, but Im pretty sure todays kids programming isnt even available on VHS. Anyway the room was fine. The bathroom was about the same size as the ocean view bathroom on the RC Monarch. This did not bother us, but I wondered how big are the bathrooms in the smaller rooms if this was the suite? Lol its an older boat though so I guess that is why. The muster drill was unusual. The lifeboats on the paradise are anchored all the way up at the Verandah deck; so all the people were crammed up on the lido and verandah pool decks. It was excruciatingly hot and I got the feeling that if we were actually sinking there would be sheer pandemonium. We would probably do better to crawl off our balcony and right into a lifeboat rather than join an unorganized crush of people scrambling around. The place where your muster station is is NOT where you get on the lifeboat. It is where they corral you into a big group and some of the people actually have to take stairs and walk around the boat to get to where the lifeboats are AFTER meeting their muster group. Unlike RC this crew did not count or organize guests at the drill. We probably could have hidden in our room and not been missed at all. OR joined a group that would be meeting somewhere cooler. (RC counts guests and takes roll call by room number at their muster drill, I missed that professionalism). I thought it was funny that the voice over the intercom (during the drill) sped up when it got to information about what to do if the captain orders abandon ship like they didnt want people to worry or think about it haha. Overall I was expecting more in the safety department. Given carnivals history, you would think they would be stepping it up.
The anytime dining staff was incredible, I could tell they worked together, and even if we had a different server every night I felt like they were genuinely interested in making sure we had a good time at dinner. The dining room dancing and singing was actually pretty funny, and I usually like to avoid that stuff. Obviously it was not Broadway material, but hey, these guys were hired as servers so cut them some slack! I wish I had noticed the fine print on the back of the card that said they automatically added gratuity to bar drinks. Even though we only had one or two apiece I felt it was kind of sneaky for them to give you a thing to sign with a blank tip line. Unknowingly I double tipped which kind of ticked me off. While we are on the topic of the bar, let me say that the number of people approaching you asking you if you want alcohol is excessive. It was not uncommon for three bar people to approach you trying to sell drinks before you even saw your server. Get ready to smile and say no thank you A LOT. The price of the cruise was so reasonable (compared to the other cruises we have taken with Royal Caribbean) I understood that most of the boats revenue probably comes from alcohol, so I was willing to overlook it and just go on with dinner. The food was delicious. We tried a few odd things like frog legs, but everything was presented beautifully and cooked perfectly.
The cruise director Steve was quirky and funny, he seemed like a cool guy. Loved his violin playing! The singing and dancing shows were fun to watch, Aretha and Nick need louder microphones. Overall the dancers were beautiful & graceful and you could tell they were passionate about what they were doing which is nice. The comedy shows were funny; the guy who was directing them was entertaining as well. It was a little deterring that we had to share circular couches with people we didnt know. We met some nice people one night, and sat on a double couch the other nights. In the Normandie lounge I would suggest a balcony seat. The couch backs on the first floor are much too low and make you sit at an awkward angle. We wasted some money at bingo. It was exciting, but we didnt win. Rats!
Our excursions in Grand Cayman (barrier reef snorkel) and Cozumel (Mayan ruins of Tulum) were both incredible with genuine and informed tour guides. Ill be writing separate reviews for those!
Room service was timely and tasty. I think we used it every day. We felt a little piggy at times because everything comes on its own plate, so if you both get a sandwich and salad and a fruit plate to share and drinks the poor server looks like theyre balancing a feast for 20 people lol
Debarkation went smoothly, we were among the first people off the boat and we simply waited for our checked baggage on the other side. This was kind of sneaky on our part, but when we saw how they had all the suitcases just arranged in huge lines (no conveyor belt) we were glad we snuck off first. I felt bad for other people who were going to get caught trying to run around in that big room with 1000 other people trying to find their luggage. This is of course, how the port of Tampa must work, and isnt carnivals fault.
Overall it was a great way to get away for a few days. I would love to go again. We had lovely service and met some very nice people. A BIG thank you to Carnival Team member Avinash who actually loaned us money out of his OWN WALLET when we left all of our cash on the boat in Cozumel and didnt have time to go back to retrieve it before our 7 hour excursion left. We paid him back, and will forever remember his kindness. Overall I was very pleased with the carnival experience, and look forward to sailing with them again.