4 Carnival Paradise Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

We wanted to go back to Panama. Unfortunately we didn't port there. We didn't realize that when we booked the cruise. We went through the locks into the big lake, anchored and then returned to the locks and headed out. It was ... Read More
We wanted to go back to Panama. Unfortunately we didn't port there. We didn't realize that when we booked the cruise. We went through the locks into the big lake, anchored and then returned to the locks and headed out. It was very interesting but we would have liked to spend a few hours on land there. The trip was 10 days we couldn't Port in Costa Rica due to 70 knot winds and 15 to 18 foot seas...pretty crazy. This cruise was very strange for us. There were only 21 children on board, that was a first for us. The rest of the people on board were all over 60 (us included). I have never seen so many walkers and scooters and canes on a cruise. The comedians even had jokes about all the scooter traffic. It was different to say the least. The crew was awesome as usual and did their best to keep us entertained and comfortable. Hats off to the captain. He did one hell of a job getting us through the turbulent weather. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
I can honestly say that this was one of, if not THE, best cruise that we have taken in about 20 years of cruising. For us, this cruise brought us many firsts, including our first out of LA/Long Beach, our first along the Mexican Riviera, ... Read More
I can honestly say that this was one of, if not THE, best cruise that we have taken in about 20 years of cruising. For us, this cruise brought us many firsts, including our first out of LA/Long Beach, our first along the Mexican Riviera, first through the Panama Canal, and first 14-day sailing. We have cruised The Carnival Paradise several times when it sailed out of Miami into the Caribbean and have always enjoyed this class of ship. As expected, we were amongst the minority on this sailing, that is to say that we are not yet retired and still "work-to-cruise". I can also say that we made some great friends on this sailing and hope to cruise with them again in the future (both through CCritic and people that we met on the ship). While the Carnival Paradise is an older ship and will be going into dry dock in early 2012, everything worked as expected, hot water was hot, cold air was cold, and everything was clean and neat for a ship of her age. What I would really like to point out are the officers, crew, and staff, of the ship. They were in one word amazing. From the officers to the maintenance workers, they all had smiles and seemed sincerely glad that we (and even they) were on the sailing. Maybe it was the change from 3 and 5 days party cruises to the 14-day canal transit or maybe it was that Carnival is going to great lengths to put customer service into everything that they say and do. I suspect that it might be a little of both. It did not matter if the crew members were assigned to our MDR table, our stateroom, or if we saw them daily, they all truly seemed to enjoy what they were doing and it showed in how they talked with us in the halls, on the lido, the bars, or anywhere. The Paradise is using the new Carnival MDR menus and the food was always hot and exactly as ordered; I like my beef rare (almost moo-ing) and that was never a problem. We had 6 (three couples) of us at a table for 8 and the wait staff were attentive and friendly throughout the sailing. One night we did the Chef's Table (as this ship has no private restaurant/steak house/etc) which I would highly recommend anyone who would like a fantastic 4-hour meal and discussion with the ship's head chef and several members of his staff, it was well worth the cost. The food in the lido was as expected and the lines were never a real problem for us, even during the busiest times of the day. Then again, we seldom let lines or such bother us when we cruise. On entertainment - we are very limited here given our enjoyment. We did the comedy club once or twice and it was great both nights. The selected comics were on target with their bits and the audience that they had that night. I can not say anything about the shows since this is just not something that we tend to watch. We are Piano Bar Flies and on this cruise - we closed the place down most nights - although often we and one or two other couples were the only ones there. I think that part of the issue here was the age of the cruisers, most nights by 12mid, the ship would be very quiet everywhere including the PB. We had a great time with the piano player who is a local from Florida and who we hope to see again - or a ship, in a band, or walking the beach in sandals. I know that there is much more that I should be writing and am sure that my wife would add a lot as well. If anyone has specific questions, they can find me on the cruise line boards and I'll be glad to offer more. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
My DH and I arrived in Long Beach 2 days before our cruise began. We Pricelined a room at the Long Beach Hyatt ($65) and it was great. No problems. We took Prime Time Shuttle from SNA to the hotel. The first day we took Sunseeker ... Read More
My DH and I arrived in Long Beach 2 days before our cruise began. We Pricelined a room at the Long Beach Hyatt ($65) and it was great. No problems. We took Prime Time Shuttle from SNA to the hotel. The first day we took Sunseeker Tours for an all day LA tour. The tour was arranged by a fellow cruise critic friend. Alberto was our driver and we enjoyed the day very much. We then met a group of about 25 other cruise critic friends at the Queen Mary Hotel for dinner. Great times. On Embarkation day we took the free shuttle to the local Albertsons for cruise snacks and bottled water to take on-board then a short taxi ride ($10) took us to the port. Embarkation took exactly 1 hour door to state room. The lines moved quickly. We ate a quick lunch on the Lido deck and unpacked our bags - as we carried them on. Day 2: sea day - a meet and greet with our HUGE cruise critic group and relaxation. Day 3: Cab San Lucas: A tender port. Our tender number was called at 3:40pm. We would have been ashore about 1 hour then would have had to rush back. There were 3 other boats docked that day. Anyway - we decided it was not worth the anxiety of rushing ashore then immediately tendering back. Day 4: Puerto Vallarta: We took a taxi to The Malecon with some other passengers in a van ($3ea). We enjoyed seeing the renovations. It is beautiful. Then we took a taxi way up the hill and had lunch at Casa Isabella. It was wonderful! Up at the very top of the hill - beautiful view and great food. I had done some research in Trip Advisor. Day 5,6,7 were at sea. WONDERFUL RELAXING DAYS....... Day 8: Puntarenas, Costa Rica: We took a tour arranged by a cruise critic pal with Okey Dokey Tours. It was a day long tour. Our guide was Evelyn. We lots of interesting things - ate a local restaurant and stopped at a grocery store to buy souvenirs at the end of the tour. There are also some outdoor vendors at the cruise dock. Day 9: Panama Canal transit. We went out on deck at about 6am with the hoards of other crazy people who saved places along the rails by SLEEPING OUTSIDE! Is that crazy or what? After about 9am you could stand wherever you wanted. The naturalist that was brought on-board did a great job. It rained later in the day and we moved indoors to watch on deck 9. Ended up with a better view. Really cool day. Day 10: Cartagena, Columbia: We were lucky to have a friend meet us who lives in Cartagena meet us and take us around for the day. We went everywhere possible and then some. It was HOT!! Loved Cartagena and would like to go back some day! Day 11: another relaxing sea day (much needed) Day 12: Grand Cayman Island: We ended up on a tour with Native Way tours that was arranged by another CC pal to see the Stingrays and snorkel! We had a great lunch on Rum Point and had an absolutely great day. Day 13: our final day to relax on deck. Absolute Paradise! Day 14: In Tampa. :-( We had an absolutely lovely time. Met lots of great people. I played games with my new CC friends everyday at 4pm on sea days. Great times. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Panama Canal Cruise -- Carnival Paradise -- November 28-December 12, 2011 Overall, this was a wonderful 14-day cruise on the Paradise with a somewhat unique itinerary (for Carnival) of passing through the Panama Canal from the Pacific ... Read More
Panama Canal Cruise -- Carnival Paradise -- November 28-December 12, 2011 Overall, this was a wonderful 14-day cruise on the Paradise with a somewhat unique itinerary (for Carnival) of passing through the Panama Canal from the Pacific to the Atlantic. This was my 10th cruise, and the 6th time on a Carnival ship. THE SHIP: The Paradise was a medium-sized ship (Fantasy Class), but compared to the newer ships I've been on (e.g., Freedom, Splendor, Magic) it felt quite small. The ship was built in 1998 and carries 2,000 passengers and 900 crew. She is definitely showing her age and is slated for dry-dock in 2012 where hopefully she'll receive some upgrades, refurbishment, etc. Overall there was nothing wrong with the ship -- she is just worn out in places and doesn't have that sparkly new look that so many ships have nowadays. My Oceanview stateroom (Category 6A) was on the Riviera Deck, cabin R216. It was close to the back of the ship and on the 4th deck. The cabin was of a standard size (approx. 175 sq. ft.), with a large window which added light and a feeling of space to the cabin. It had a very comfortable king-sized bed (two twin beds pushed together) with lovely linens, etc. There was no sofa in this cabin, just a small easy chair for sitting. There was plenty of closet and storage space. The bathroom was a decent size (shower only; no tub) with lots of room to put away toiletries, etc. The towels were plush and the bathrobe was very comfortable. There was a desk/vanity and chair, an old fashioned tv and no refrigerator. There was only one electrical outlet in the room (above the desk) and one outlet in the bathroom (up high near the ceiling). Hairdryers are not standard issue in the cabins, although I believe you could request one from the Guest Services desk. All in all, it was a very comfortable cabin. Because it was closer to the back of the ship and on a lower deck, the noise and vibration from the engines/thrusters was quite evident. However, I actually found the noise, etc. worse up on Main and Upper decks. There was a small laundry area on two of the decks (mid-ship on Upper and near the bow on Empress) with coin operated washers and dryers and irons/ironing boards. The décor of the ship was fairly understated compared to some of the newer ships. The colour palate was mostly brown, gold, and blue. There was an atrium in the center of the ship that went all the way from Deck 7 to Deck 12. Decks 4 (Riviera), 5 (Main) and 6 (Upper) were only cabins (ocean-view, interior, a few port-hole cabins near the bow and 2 dozen balcony suites at mid-ship) with no public areas. Deck 7 (Empress) had mostly cabins and the Atrium Lobby was located mid-ship with the Guest Services desk, Shore Excursion desk, a bar, and a small computer/internet area with about 12 computers. There were no "hot spots" with computers set up throughout the ship (as was the case on the Magic - a great innovation). Deck 8 (Atlantic) has all public spaces -- the main level of the Normandie Show Lounge at the front of the ship, with shops, small library, Circle C Club, and piano bar located towards mid-ship. The dining room is split in two with the Elation Dining Room at mid-ship and the Destiny Dining Room at the back of the ship. Similar to most ships, the galley is situated between the two dining rooms and there is no way for the public to walk between the two dining rooms. To walk from mid-ship to the back of the ship on the Empress Deck you need to either go up one deck or down one deck and use the hallways on those decks. Both Dining Rooms were only one level and there were a few windows along each side. There was not a wide variety of table sizes in the Destiny Dining Room -- just 6, 8 or 10-tops. I believe there were smaller tables in the Elation Dining Room which had "anytime dining" as well as fixed seating. Deck 9 (Promenade) has the Queen Mary Lounge (small show lounge) at the back of the ship, bars with dance floor, casino (very smokey), coffee bar, sushi bar, Club O2 and photo gallery mid-ship and the upper level of the Normandie Show Lounge at the front of the ship. The Normandie Show Lounge was on the small size (but certainly big enough for this ship) and had fairly comfortable seating. Because of the smaller size it felt more intimate and the sight lines, sound, lighting, etc. were very good. The Normandie Show Lounge was used throughout the day for various events (i.e., port talks, bingo, etc.) and each evening there was a stage show. Deck 10 (Lido) was laid out a bit different than other ships. There was no aft pool -- the Lido Buffet took up the space from mid-ship to the back of the ship. It was not large, but, again, suitable for this size of ship. There were various stations set up on both sides of the Lido serving the usual hot choices, salads, desserts, deli area, pizza area, and a Mongolian grill and hamburger/hot dog grill near the mid-ship outdoor area. Mid-ship was a small pool with a deck area surrounding it and a waterslide and also a stage area (hopefully it is removed during renovations and a larger pool installed). Deck chairs in this area were fairly easy to come by (the chair hogs were not out in force on this cruise). Deck 11 (Verandah) had outdoor spaces with lounge chairs set up overlooking the mid-ship pool and a fairly quiet area at the back of the ship set up with lounge chairs. There was also a "Serenity" (adults only) area at the back of the ship on Deck 9 (you could get to it either by walking down the stairs from the Lido deck or by going through an unmarked door at the rear of the Queen Mary Lounge. Note that on Deck 11 at the very front of the ship there is a small outside deck overlooking the bow. Not many people knew about this deck, so it was a great place to get pictures during sail in/sail away. However, by the time we entered the Panama Canal it was packed and fights were breaking out over space, etc. On Deck 12 (Sports) at the front of the ship overlooking the bow was the spa/salon and gym area. The gym was quite small, but had treadmills, elliptical machines, weights, etc. and it was always quite busy (especially early in the morning and on sea days). The children's area (Camp Carnival) was also in this area. Deck 14 (Sun) was half a deck located above the gym. There was a cushioned jogging/walking track that encircled the mini-golf area (11 laps to the mile). Overall, the ship was easy to navigate and there were lots of elevators and staircases and wide hallways, etc. Therefore, it never felt overly crowded. For the able-bodied, the ship was great. For those with mobility issues, there seemed to be good access to all the public spaces, with room for wheelchairs, walkers, etc. There were some bottleneck areas near the elevators in the atrium, and also near the entrance to the dining rooms and to the Normandie Show Lounge. THE PASSENGERS: Not so typical of Carnival, the majority of passengers were older. There were only 20 children on board and a few honeymooners, etc., but the average age was at least 67. About 80% of the passengers were from the United States and 400 from Canada and elsewhere. I think there were about 2,000 passengers on board. Overall, I found the majority of people on board to be friendly and kind. CREW and CUISINE and ENTERTAINMENT: I found all the crew members I dealt with to be friendly and professional. My cabin steward (Bagus) was amazing. The Guest Services desk staff were always very helpful. As were the Shore Excursion desk staff. The dining room staff were terrific (Gusti and Ida) and overall my dining experience was great. I was seated at a table for 10 in the Destiny Dining Room. Our maitre d' was Ian, who "ran a tight ship" and was well-respected by the staff. About every second evening the waiters got up to dance, sing, etc.. It was entertaining and lots of fun. However, entertainment in the dining room is not eveyone's cup of tea and there were some complaints. Personally, I really enjoyed it. The cruise director (Jeff Bronson) was good and his staff (Shawn, Mike, Rollie, Chris) were fun and energetic. Carnival makes a point of hiring staff from around the world and I expect that there were at least 30 countries represented. I found the staff on this ship to be the friendliest of any cruise I've been on. That is a direct reflection on the management of the ship and I commend the Captain, Hotel Manager and Cruise Director for their great work. I thought the food on board the ship was very good. The presentation was good and the food was usually hot when it arrived at the table. The food in the Lido was also very good. I enjoyed all the variety of foods. I ate all of my breakfasts and most of my lunches in the Lido Buffet. I went to about half of the shows in the Normandie Show Lounge. The staff singers and dancers were very good and the 2 "production" shows that they put on were excellent. The rest of the shows were typical...comedians, jugglers, singers, etc. The orchestra was comprised of a very good group of musicians and they were excellent. There were good musicians performing in the various lounges. All in all, the entertainment was above par. PRE-CRUISE AND EMBARKATION: This cruise left from Long Beach, CA. I flew into Long Beach Airport the evening before the cruise and stayed at the Best Western on Long Beach Blvd. There was a free shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel. The hotel was clean, quiet and my room was very comfortable. Breakfast was included in the price and there was a free shuttle bus from the hotel to the pier. All-in-all, it was a very convenient place to stay. Embarkation was similar to what I've experienced in the past at other ports (although quite a bit longer). I had entered all my information online before hand, and it took about 1 hour to check in, clear security, etc. and then board the ship. The cabins were not available for occupancy until 1:30 pm, so most guests lingered in the Lido area having lunch, sitting beside the pool, etc. until that time. PORTS and SHORE EXCURSIONS: For this cruise I decided, for some ports of call, to book private shore excursions with some wonderful people who I had met on Cruise Critic prior to the cruise. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Nothing planned -- just took the tender to shore and walked about the town for about 2 hours. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Nothing planned -- just walked about the town for about 2 hours. Puntarenas, Costa Rica We had an all day excursion booked with Okey Dokey Tours. There were 12 of us in a large van and we drove along the coast and into the rain forest where we got to feed monkeys, see crocodiles, enjoy the great views, crush sugar cane to make juice, walk through the rain forest, learn about flora and fauna, etc. We had a very good lunch at a local hangout. All in all it was a fun day and a well-run excursion. Panama Canal Transit This was the highlight of the cruise. We spent 11 hours travelling from the Pacific to the Atlantic. People were up at 3:30 am putting out chairs, etc. to secure a place by the railings -- which led to fights, etc. in the morning. Other than that, the transit was fascinating. There was a local person on board who gave a running commentary throughout the day with lots of information regarding the history, building, operation of the canal. Cartagena, Colombia We had an excursion booked with Dora the Explorer. There was 22 of us split between to vans. We travelled up to the St. Augustin Monastery -- the road had been washed out and we were the only tour to make it up there that day. We also went to the old fort, walked through the old town, had a shopping stop, drove along the beaches, and had a very nice lunch at a local restaurant. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands I did a Carnival excursion called "Grand Cayman by Land and Sea". It was o.k. -- but not great. We did the semi-submersible tour to the shipwrecks and reefs in the harbour area, drove to Hell, went to a rum cake factory and toured a turtle farm. We had 9 "sea days", which was quite different from most cruises. I found the sea days to be very relaxing. The weather was hot and sunny, so I was able to be out on deck quite a bit walking or just sitting and reading a book, etc. There were lots of activities planned throughout the day, so there was never any chance to become bored. Some favourite activities were the arts & crafts classes in the early morning, bridge instruction and games, ballroom dancing classes, and the trivia contests held throughout the day. DISEMBARKATION: Disembarkation was a bit of a hassle. I had to clear immigration in the Normandie Lounge at 6:45 am along with the 400 other foreigners on board. Once started, the process went quickly, but it was a long wait to get to that point. Because my flight was before noon I chose to do "self-assist". We had to be out of our cabins at 8 am and there never was an announcement saying the ship was clear and we could leave. I finally made my way to the gangway around 9:15 am and they were allowing people to leave at that time (I'm not sure when they got clearance, but I think it was only around 9 am or so). Once off the ship we only had to walk a short distance to the shuttle bus to the airport. It was so hard to say good-bye to the ship...I certainly wasn't prepared to leave. FINAL COMMENT: As stated at the beginning, I had a wonderful cruise vacation. The 14 days I was on board certainly lived up to all my expectations. Carnival is known for their short "fun ship" cruises and so this longer cruise on a route that they don't normally travel, was a real treat. Seeing and transiting the Panama Canal for the first time was a great experience. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Carnival Paradise Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 3.9
Dining 4.0 3.7
Entertainment 4.5 3.7
Public Rooms 3.5 3.9
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.5 3.8
Enrichment 4.0 3.3
Service 4.5 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 3.0 4.2

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