This may be a little lengthy but I wanted to offer as much detail as possible. I scoured this site before our cruise and am so appreciative of all the information I gathered here.
This was our first Carnival cruise and a first cruise for my children. I purchased this vacation as a surprise for my husband's 50th birthday and my son's 16th birthday. Gave it to all of them on Christmas Day - needless to say we were all very excited and very much in need of a vacation! We flew into Tampa on the 19th - didn't arrive until very late - about 1am. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott as I had rewards and the hotel stay was free. It was adequate and certainly close to the port. Breakfast was horrible - I would not recommend staying here unless it is was free! Had a beautiful day Monday to head out to see - about 75 and sunny. We headed to the port around noon and when all was said and done we were on board by 1pm. Very easy! We were told our rooms would be ready around 1:30. We immediately headed to the pool area to lounge and have our first cocktail! Kids were pretty excited to see the size of the ship. We explored, played ping pong for a bit, grabbed lunch and then headed to our room. Muster was at 3:30 and then we headed to the front of the ship for sail away. It was incredible - going under that bridge! I got some great pix. We had all intentions of going to the dining room that evening but everyone was having a good time and not hungry for 6pm dinner so we skipped it. Wound up eating at the buffet later that night. After the sail away we headed back to our rooms to unpack. I had mentioned on John Heald's FB page that we were cruising to celebrate birthday milestones and he sent us some champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, 2 ships on a stick and Paradise medals. Nice surprise!
My son met up with some kids in Club O2 and had a great time that night. My daughter who is 10 was still leery of going to the kids club. We let her stay with us that night but told her the next night Dad and I were going dancing! LOL! Tuesday was a sea day so after breakfast I headed to the pool. It was packed! But the smaller kid pool up at the front of the boat had a few empty chairs - so we moved things around and made ourselves comfortable. The boys didn't stay long and went exploring. My daughter swam and then we headed to one of the activities at the kids club so she could see what it was all about. Beautiful day over all. Formal night Tuesday night - that was fun and dinner was great. The bread pudding is to die for! I wanted it every night but unfortunately they only had it on Tuesday!
Wednesday was Grand Cayman day. I had booked the Stingray/Snorkeling adventure online a few weeks before the trip and unfortunately our time slot was changed from 11am to 8am. Oh well. We met in the lounge as directed, but they never called our particular tour. I asked the person running the show and he confirmed that he had not called us yet to get off the ship. So we waited and waited and finally got into the tender line at 9am. It took nearly 30 minutes to get off the ship and then a 10 minute tender ride to shore. Well needless to say, our excursion left without us, and about 10 other people. A little ticked off to say the least and I let them know it! They refunded the excursion of course, but we were so disappointed. So, I took my chances and went with a local - George's Stingray tour. $100 for all 4 of us. I was a bit nervous when she walked away with my money and said I'll meet you over there in 20 minutes, and when we all loaded into 2 vans, and when I saw the size of the boat (can you say small????) but it all worked out. We had a great experience, some awesome pictures and good snorkeling. Oh, and besides the fact that the engine died on the boat on the way back and we had to be towed in while I and a few others were having serious panic attacks that our boat would leave without us in the next 30 minutes! But stress aside, it turned out to be a good time. Oh I almost forgot - my daughter also lost her sign and sail card. Yep and I can still say it was a good day!
Thursday was Cozumel. We didn't book any excursions for this day and decided it would just be a day of walking around and some shopping as my daughter had way too much sun on Wednesday. I have to say I wish we had done the beach. Not a fan of the town or the shops - everything in every shop is exactly the same. We did buy a few touristy things. We hit Senor Frogs for lunch and a drink - always fun there and it was nice to sit and relax. Headed back to the ship early and played some bingo.
Friday was another day at sea and another day of lounging for me. The kids were up late Thursday night so they slept in until 11 or so that day. We just relaxed all day - played in the arcade, walked around the ship, ate and drank. :-) And before we knew it Saturday morning was upon us and it was time to head home. Went by way to fast.
I liked the Paradise - it was a little difficult to navigate, but that could just be me. The food was good - nothing to knock your socks off except that bread pudding! The deli was great and the omelets in the morning were very very good. Service was great at all the bars and the pool area - in the dining room, not so fabulous, but it didn't ruin it for me. The Caesar salads were awesome - something about the dressing they used just put it over the top. The entertainment was great - especially the comedy shows and the awesome band that played most nights at the casino bar. They were incredible! We had a fabulous time and I would definitely book a Carnival cruise again!