Trying to eat healthy on Carnival Paradise is difficult, and dining options are limited. The only specialty restaurants onboard are Guy's Burger Joint, from Food Network personality Guy Fieri, and BlueIguana Cantina, Carnival's popular Mexican restaurant -- both are free. There’s also only one other for-fee dining option onboard Paradise: the Chef’s Table, which is only available once during each sailing.
As for the main dining choices, cruisers can choose from either the Carnival Paradise dining rooms or the buffet. We preferred the dining room to the buffet but found Carnival Paradise food to be heavy at the included main venues. Although the quality of dining could be improved, the desserts were some of the best we've had on mainstream cruise ships -- not dried out, but moist and flavorful.
With the exception of the sea day brunch in the Elation dining room, the only true lunch options on Carnival Paradise are at the buffet on the Lido deck, grabbing a burger at Guy's or a taco at BlueIguana.
Food on Carnival Paradise is available throughout the day at different venues: breakfast at the buffet, the man dining rooms, or even BlueIguana Cantina; lunch at all restaurants except for the main dining rooms, and dinner at either the buffet or the main dining rooms. Room service and Pirate Pizza are available around the clock.
The main dining rooms have two options for dinner: the flexible Your Time Dining in Elation, or a set time each evening in Destiny. Cruisers who select the set times are seated with the same tablemates and waiters at the same table each evening. Your Time Dining allows for more flexibility but you'll have different tablemates and waiters, and may have to wait until a table is available.
Destiny and Elation Restaurants (Deck 8): Both of Carnival Paradise's main dining rooms have low ceilings and a mix of booths and tables, with simple decor and a handful of massive oval mirrors and maroon light fixtures. Destiny is reserved for set seating dining, while Elation is where Your Time diners go for dinner.
Trying to get to the Destiny Restaurant was a challenge in itself because the galley is situated between the two main dining rooms, thus blocking the flow of traffic. The restaurant has a center stairwell that leads to the Rotterdam Martini Bar, so cruisers can grab a drink before -- or after -- dinner before descending to the Destiny Restaurant. Both dining rooms are only one floor, so you don't have that elegant, grand feeling with high ceilings as you sometimes find on other ships. Decor is limited to lighting fixtures that unintentionally look like small spaceships, and orange string lights that blink during the crew's fun musical performances (on formal night and the final night).
On port days, Destiny offers open-seating early breakfast, with items like cereal, omelets, yogurt, pancakes and French toast on the menu. It's a great alternative to the crowded buffet, especially if you enjoy a sit-down breakfast with waiter service.
On sea days, breakfast is replaced by the sea day brunch and is moved to the Elation dining room. It consists of mostly breakfast items like steak and eggs, huevos rancheros and omelets with a handful of lunch options like Caesar salad, grilled pork chops and tomato soup.
We found dinner in the dining room to be significantly better than in the buffet, and it is also much easier for vegetarians, vegans and those with food allergies to have requests accommodated. Dinner menus vary each night, with well-known appetizers like shrimp cocktail and chicken quesadillas, as well as more exotic choices like chilled Vietnamese spring rolls or tiger shrimp creole. There are also side salads and soup du jour (including some unique choices like lychee bisque with lemongrass). With Carnival, you can order as many appetizers and entrees as you like, so don’t be shy if there’s more than one you’d like to try. Carnival also offers a "rare finds" section, where guests can sample more unusual items (like frog legs).
Entrees range from honey-glazed pork loin and braised beef brisket, to sweet and sour shrimp or vegetable lasagna. A selection of grilled items like salmon or chicken and an array of sauces are on the menu as well. Plus, passengers can always order side dishes like ratatouille, broccoli, mac 'n' cheese or baked potatoes with the fixings.
Some of the excellent dessert options include Carnival’s fantastic melting chocolate cake, cheesecake with fruit toppings, varying flavors of creme brulee and tiramisu, plus a selection of ice creams and a cheese plate that is always available. After-dinner cocktails and specialty coffees can be purchased.
On Cruise Elegant nights, the main dining room menu switches to American Feast. The "feast" is a lively celebration during which time the captain and crew are introduced. On this night, there is a dedicated one-page menu with appetizers like lobster bisque, a pasta selection, high-end entrees like filet mignon and a creative dessert of sticky toffee brioche with coconut lime and strawberries.
Although Carnival Paradise lacks a steakhouse, the main dining room menu includes steakhouse selections such as lobster, filet mignon and New York strip steak; each carry a surcharge.
Paris Lido Restaurant (Deck 10): The Carnival Paradise buffet has two outside stations and four main stations inside. During lunch on sea days, it can get crowded but there are often a few under-the-radar seats outside the rear of the buffet that have great views. The salad bar is located in the center of the dining room next to the deli, and has a good variety of options for making your own salad as well as a changing cold salad choice (ratatouille, zucchini and other chilled vegetables). The dessert area has a variety of cakes and desserts, as well as two self-serve ice cream machines with vanilla, chocolate and sometimes strawberry. The chocolate cakes were rich, tiramisu was flavorful and not soggy, and parfaits and other desserts also exceeded expectations.
Beverages include coffee, tea and juice machines, as well as filtered water that tasted crisp and fresh.
Breakfast has classic American favorites like oatmeal, eggs, grits, pastries, sausages, bacon and fresh fruit as well as baked beans and a make-your-own omelet station. Lunch tended to have hearty options like fish with sauces, cheese vegetables and pastas and was similar to the dinner selections, although dinner at the buffet included some specialty items that were also found on the dining room menus, like chicken Florentine or blue crab ravioli.
The main section of the buffet has a changing themed menu like Italian favorites, Latin options or American fare. We found that oftentimes some of the dinner options at the buffet were also offered in the dining rooms. The lines (especially at breakfast and lunch) are long at the grill, and finding vegetarian/vegan options that are clearly labeled isn't easy.
Attached to the salad bar, the chef at the deli prepares Reubens, corned beef, turkey sandwiches and other favorites that can be pressed on the grill. There was usually a short wait for the deli.
Pizza Pirate (Deck 10): Rarely is there no line for this pizza joint, which many consider a cut above the pies on other ships. It's also the only dedicated food venue that is open 24 hours. Pizza options include Margherita, mushroom, four cheese, pepperoni, and prosciutto; gluten-free pies are available by request.
Guy's Burger Joint (Deck 10): Also located on the Lido deck, Carnival Paradise’s Guy’s Burger Joint -- in partnership with Chef Guy Fieri – is a good spot if you just want to grab a quick bite for lunch or a snack between meals. It's hard to come here just once, especially since this venue is typically open until mid-afternoon and conveniently located on the Lido Deck with shaded seating.
BlueIguana Cantina (Deck 10): Burrito-lovers take note: BlueIguana is a pool deck favorite, featuring burritos, tacos, arepas and more (for lunch -- and breakfast). A stellar toppings bar means you can customize your plate with salsa, cilantro and even a slice of watermelon. This is one of Carnival Paradise’s best dining options.
Room Service: Free room service options include breakfast and all-day items. Basic Continental breakfast choices include yogurt, pastries (a gluten-free bread option is available), fruit, cereal, coffee and orange juice (not freshly squeezed). Place the form with your selections on the door knob the night before and it should arrive within the half-hour indicated. The all-day options include a variety of deli sandwiches with chips, pretzels or potato salad (which we found bland), salads and a vegetable platter with blue cheese dressing. We ordered room service twice and it took about 30 to 45 minutes each time.
Chef's Table (various locations); prix fixe: For a change of pace from the dining room or the buffet, the once-per-cruise Chef's Table is a great option, typically held in the library. The multicourse dinner is hosted by the chef and includes a behind-the-scenes galley tour and cocktail reception. It can be reserved online or onboard.
Cafe lle de France (Deck 9); a la carte: Although the buffet has plenty of American coffee, Cafe Ile de France serves up Italian espressos, lattes, frozen coffees, and even "spiked" coffees. The shop also has a small variety of pastries and sweets for a price. Cafe hours vary, but it is open surprisingly late.
Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast (Destiny Restaurant, Deck 8); prix fixe: On one morning during the cruise, Destiny hosts a special "Green Eggs and Ham" breakfast with costumed characters from Dr. Seuss' books. Yes, the eggs are green, but there are other options on the menu like French toast and pancakes. The characters perform a dance number that kids love and pose for photos with anyone who wants.
Room Service: Additional items like chicken tenders, quesadillas, fried shrimp and Philly cheesesteaks can be ordered for a fee.
* May require additional fees