Overall, this was an excellent cruise! The ship was clean and nice. The crew was friendly and helpful. Our cabin steward, Juulius was great and attentive! Special shout out to Petar, bartender at the Rotterdam bar, and Dara, bartender at ... Read More
Overall, this was an excellent cruise! The ship was clean and nice. The crew was friendly and helpful. Our cabin steward, Juulius was great and attentive! Special shout out to Petar, bartender at the Rotterdam bar, and Dara, bartender at the Atrium bar! They are a lot of fun and mix a great drink. The food was quite good, with an attentive staff. The musicians on the Paradise were outstanding, Matthew and Dariel on guitar in the Atrium and on the Lido deck; Lady Red in the America Piano Bar; and a band called Aquaholics playing in the evening at the United States Bar were simply great!
My question to Carnival would be, “Do you really need ALL those photographers at night to take pictures? After about the 3rd night, don’t most passengers who want their picture taken have done so by now? I am just asking.
The dry dock upgrades seemed to have a made big difference. Yes, this is an older ship; yes, there are 16+ coats of paint on the white hand rails on the upper decks; yes, the pool is very small; and yes, if you look hard enough, there are minor things you can find to complain about. But overall, with the excellent crew and the affordable price, you cannot go wrong booking a cruise on the Paradise!
For more details, keep reading:
We booked this cruise with Carnival very in early 2018. Many of the reviews from late 2017 and early 2018 (prior to dry dock) were less than stellar. Often times, they reported a tired, old ship in need of updating and repair, but with a great price, we took a chance that the refurbishment would improve things. After the dry dock in 3/2018, the reviews started to change more favorably. With such a mixed bag of reviews, we were a little apprehensive about what our experience on the Paradise was going to be.
We went into this cruise with an attitude that we were going to have a great time no matter what, and I am happy to report the experience was great, awesome, fun, terrific and more. We had a travel party of 7, ranging in age from preteen to late 50's. At the end of the cruise, everyone chimed in with a stellar experience. As with any cruise or vacation, there are highs and lows, plusses and minuses.
First, embarkation was easy and very organized. From the time you enter the embarkation center, there are plenty of people to help guide you through the process and show you to your assigned waiting area--in our case, zone 1. Our time in the terminal was about an hour, or a little more, from our arrival to boarding the ship mostly because we arrived so early.
Once on board, with plenty of time before we could go to our cabin (without the purchase of ‘first to the fun” package, they are not available until 1:30pm), we made our way to the Lido deck for lunch and a cocktail. The buffet was open and we sampled our first taste of Paradise food. The theme on this day was "American", serving plenty of traditional "American" food choices, fried chicken, broiled fish, roast beef, etc. The food for the most part was very good, nothing fancy or elaborate, but tasty and filling. The dessert area was small, with about a half dozen or so choices, but all of them were nicely done and tasty as well.
We also took a few minutes to set up the Carnival HUB app on our phones. It was very easy and simple to use! Our group really liked that we could see the day’s plans and entertainment schedule, see what attire was requested for dinner, look at deck maps, chat with each other, and more. There are some weak points, however, but they were easy to work around. For example, if you want to chat with your group members, you have to keep the app running in the background. You cannot kill or close the app if you want to receive or send messages. Also, the app does not work well the farther away from mid-ship you are. The main areas we had trouble with were up on Deck 11 and 12 towards the back. We could not send or receive messages there very well. We just had to confirm plans and locations beforehand like on any other cruise. Also, just a heads up, one of our older members of the group purchased the value package for the internet and found it to be painfully slow.
From there, we decided to explore the ship. Unfortunately, being in port, with the shops and casino closed, there was not much to do except grab a cocktail and sit out on the deck until the ship departed.
The ship quickly filled with travelers. The rooms were not available for a few more hours, so the decks and passage ways became crowded with our fellow shipmates. With maps in hand, they also were attempting to orientate themselves with the intricacies of finding their way around the ship.
From our first moments on the ship, we were very impressed with the cleanliness and appearance of the Paradise. It was apparent to us that the dry dock upgrades really were impressive. New carpet and furniture throughout the ship gave it a modern, upscale look and feel. After lunch and a cocktail, with the rooms available, the remainder of day was spent in our cabin, unpacking and resting from our very early inbound flight. The room was spartan to say the least, but it had plenty of closets, drawers, and shelves to hold all of the apparel we brought with us.
We had “Your Time” dining for this cruise. The first dinner experience in the Elation dining room was good. If you are looking for fine cuisine, you may be disappointed, but we thought it was still very tasty. Throughout the cruise, we found the dinner selections, choices and presentation to be very good. This did surprise us as many of the reviews we read complained, or did not speak highly of the quality of the dinner meals. But overall, we thought the food was good, with some of the entries very good. Most of our group had the chocolate melting cakes at least once and for some, three times. You have to try it, it was that GOOD!
The first day of the cruise was spent at sea. There were a lot of chair pirates who dropped items off on select lounge chairs around the pool area and then disappeared. Even with a number of chairs "reserved" there was plenty of space and chairs on the Lido deck and on deck 11 to accommodate everyone. There was always a new lounge chair somewhere to relax in.
One of the minuses of the Paradise is the one pool is very small. It is very, very small. It does get crowded early, and stays that way throughout the day. The pool deck is loud and noisy with many activities, contest and DJ's doing their thing all day long. Our preteen and late 20s people reported that the DJ and Entertainment Director always made it fun, however. If you do not like crowds or noise, this is not the place for you, though. Carnival Paradise has an adult only area on deck 9 aft, called the "Serenity". It is a small area restricted to 18 year old's and older. It is very quiet, and relaxing with two hot tubs to enjoy. Unfortunately, there was little to no breeze blowing. As such, it got very hot. Even under the umbrellas, without a whiff of a breeze, for my crew, it was uncomfortably hot. Our remedy was to go up two decks to the water park area. There is usually a breeze up there and we were not disappointed. At first, our concern was about the noise from the small kids using the splash area. This was not the case. We were able to find chairs a little bit away from the splash works where the noise was not bad at all. And it was cooler then the Serenity area. Quick tip: wear sandals, flip flops, water shoes or something when walking around the deck—it gets hot!!
Day two and we were in Cayman Islands. If you are taking an excursion, there is a short tender boat ride to the dock. Paradise crew did a good job of organizing this process. It was pretty quick and painless. Most in our group took the "Cayman by land and sea" excursion. It was wonderful! A short bus ride to the Nautilus. The tour guide on the Nautilus was informative and funny. We saw lots of different fish and coral, along with a few sunken boats. From there, it was a bus tour of Georgetown, with the highlight being the sea turtle farm. The other stops were your typical tourist traps, rum cake store, and to "Hell". From there it was back to the ship. All the while our driver, Jose, provided us with informative tidbits of info about Georgetown and the Cayman Islands. Our other group with the preteen swam with the sting rays and had a good time too! Hint from Jose: 40% of the island is owned by one person.
Day three and Paradise was in Cozumel. After a late and leisurely breakfast, we made our way to the pier. Some in the group decided on the “Champagne Catamaran”. After boarding the catamaran and casting off, the crew gave us a safety talk and opened the bar. About 5 or so minutes into the boat ride, the captain turned off the engine. We were probably only ½ mile, or a little more, from the Paradise and the pier. According to the crew, we were at the start of the 2nd longest reef in the world. Most of the people on board the catamaran jumped into the water and snorkeled. The comments from the snorkelers when they returned were very good. With everybody back on board, the captain took us to the next stop. Along the way, we were served a very good lunch of chicken salad, guacamole, and cheese. The champagne was also served at this time. At the second stop, due to the strong current, the crew threw out a long rope for the swimmers to hold onto and pull themselves back onto the catamaran. This excursion was fun, albeit, there was a “bit” of alcohol consumed, which may have added to the joviality.
Day four found the Paradise back at sea for a ssssllllloooooww trip back to Tampa. Once again, the pool area filled up quickly with partiers, and again, we found some really great lounge chairs on Deck 11 in the water park area. Most of our group went down the slides and had a great time. It was the hottest day of our trip, but the water park had these tall mushroom-looking fountains where everyone stood under to cool off. After dinner, there was an atrium party starting at about 10:30pm. The host of the party was the ship’s new cruise director, Cam (the former Entertainment Director). This was by far the best on board ship party I have attended in all my cruise adventures! Lot of fun, lot of singing, lot of love!
Day five, and back in Tampa. As well as the embarkation went smooth; as well as the week on board the Paradise went great; debarkation sucked! Our group, and it seemed like half the ship, met in the lounge area of deck 9. We sat there for some time while the group numbers ahead of us disembarked. Finally, our numbers were called. The embarkation terminal had friendly, smiling people to show you around the terminal. The debarkation process was almost the opposite! You were taken off the ship into a warehouse, whereby you had to find your row with your luggage. From there, you were herded into serpentine lines that ran and back forth the length of the warehouse; eventually, you saw the immigration personnel. The process took nearly two (or more hours). Whereas the embarkation terminal had people willing to assist you in the process, the debarkation had people constantly yelling things like “two rows; tighten it up; keep it moving”. I wish that Carnival had a better system in place for this process, especially when you are standing or shuffling along in lines for so long.
Most of the issues for the lengthy debarkation process seemed to lie in the fact that there were only two federal security officers to process 2,000+ people. (Not much Carnival can do about this)
Overall, this was a pleasant, fun cruise to take. The Paradise is not a new ship. With upgrades that were installed in dry dock, we found the Paradise to be very enjoyable. If you want a newer, larger ship experience, book another ship. If you look for things to complain about on the Paradise, you can find them but you have to look hard.
At the end of the trip, my group of weary travelers all agreed that the Paradise and her crew were up to the task of providing a very enjoyable cruise at a reasonable price. Hopefully, you will too.
Bon Voyage!! Read Less