992 Carnival Paradise Cruise Reviews

As Senior Citizens it was with some trepidation that we booked a cruise on a Carnival ship, having heard so many stories about the boozing and partying. But, the price was right and so we did. Embarkation was not fun. It would have ... Read More
As Senior Citizens it was with some trepidation that we booked a cruise on a Carnival ship, having heard so many stories about the boozing and partying. But, the price was right and so we did. Embarkation was not fun. It would have been made much simpler if the signs showing where one should be were above the table instead of on it. As it was you had to stand in line, get up to the table to find out you were in the wrong line and start over again. Then, upon reaching the table realize that it didn't make any difference what line you were in as they were all "working from all the boxes" of sail and sign cards. Again, wonder if we had made a mistake. What a wonderful surprise to enter the ship in the Atrium and hear the fantastic Mozart Trio playing. Found our cabin without any difficulty and because our fares were so inexpensive were not surprised to be in the bow. This is only a problem when then bow thrusters are working at 5 AM. Or, as was the case on this cruise at 1 AM when the ship was being turned to return to Miami to meet a Coast Guard helicopter for a medical emergency. The cabin, bathroom and storage were more than ample and our cabin steward, Renaldo, very congenial. Loved the towel animals we found each night. We thought the ship was very pretty in general, especially the Atrium and the Paradise Bar where we joined friends each night before dinner for cocktails and The Mozart Trio. They also played in the Ile de France Cafe each afternoon. Unfortunately, there was Karaoke going on in the lounge next door a couple of times and the Trio was having a hard time competing. The no smoking ship was heaven. You could spend time in the casino without having to leave for a breath of fresh air -- however the slot machines were not very friendly! But, I did win at bingo the last day. So, I pretty much broke even! Our night life consisted of the shows in the Normandie Lounge and the Piano Bar with Roberta. We thoroughly enjoyed the singers and dancers but the comedians seemed to think that degrading someone in the audience was the best way to get a laugh. Several people around us walked out. They also have an "R" rated show at midnight where this might have been more appropriate. The food in the dining room rivaled any other ship we have been on, except for one night when we thought the chef must have taken the night off -- the fish appeared to be fish sticks, the veal was tough and the pasta had almost no sauce. Dennis and Capistrano took good care of us. Dennis, with the serious side and a new baby on the way any day now; Cappy with the mischievous twinkle in his eye. Breakfast in the Paris Dining room was adequate but not as sumptuous as most buffets on other ships. It was very good for lunch and unfortunately, I didn't try the pizza bar until the last day. Otherwise I would have had lunch there everyday! Scrumptious! Shawn Bussey was an excellent cruise director and she had her work cut out for her because of the medical emergency. Our arrival in San Juan was delayed by 6 hours and then we had to go through customs since we had been to Nassau -- another couple of hours. All tours were canceled and they scrambled to try to arrange others in the evening. It was disappointing not to be able to spend the whole day in San Juan but comforting to know that the health of one little boy was the main concern of the crew. We, of course, had some concerns about the Norwalk virus but they seemed to be cleaning continually. However, on the first night one of our tablemates became ill at the table. As he left the table his wife remarked that he was ill before they boarded. I have a feeling that this is the source of this virus, not the crew or ship. Although I am sure that ill passengers do pass it on to crew members. Disembarking was a breeze. Luggage is color-coded and very easy to find. We were in our car and headed out of Miami by 10:30AM. Would I recommend Carnival's Paradise? ABSOLUTELY. Sueseb@aol.com May, 2003 Read Less
After 14 months of planning, 10 ½ months since booking, and sweating out the days since September 11, it was finally our time!!! We were actually going on OUR CRUISE!!! Let me introduce ourselves. We are Harry and Jackie (I am ... Read More
After 14 months of planning, 10 ½ months since booking, and sweating out the days since September 11, it was finally our time!!! We were actually going on OUR CRUISE!!! Let me introduce ourselves. We are Harry and Jackie (I am "Maple Hts" on the Cruise Critic boards.) We live in, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. We have 4 children, 16, 14, 14, and 6, and are celebrating our 20th anniversary. Flight / Pre-cruise stay Originally I booked air with Carnival, but found a cheaper, direct flight a day earlier, and switched. This almost backfired with the events of 9/11, as my flight was canceled 2 days before we were scheduled to leave. Unfortunately I was notified of the cancellation. Fortunately I was constantly checking Continental's website, and called them as soon as I noticed the cancellation. We got another flight, same day, but had to connect in Newark. As it turned out, this was no big deal, and all our flights were routine and pleasant. Upon arrival we took the Avis shuttle, picked up our rental, and were on our way. We stayed at the Days Inn North Beach, 7450 Ocean Terrace, right on the ocean. I would highly recommend this hotel for its price and location. I paid $39.20, PLUS an additional $5.00 off coupon from the Internet! The location was great - quiet, uncrowded, and on the ocean. We asked for a recommendation for dinner, and were VERY pleased with the "Las Vegas Restaurant", a family-run Cuban restaurant, very delicious, very inexpensive, very close to the hotel. Sunday morning we went to Church, about a mile from the hotel. Quite a pleasant experience attending a local church, English/Hispanic mix, with an Irish Priest! Embarkation / First Impressions After breakfast, we checked out and headed for the Port, dropped off our rental, and were shuttled to Paradise. This was about 12:00 noon, and by 12:30pm we were on board! I can't begin to explain the joy and excitement we felt as we took our first steps into the magnificent atrium. I thought I knew what to expect from all the other reviews, pictures, etc., but this was way beyond our expectations. Those who have cruised before know what I mean. After thoroughly checking out the ship, taking many photos and video, we went to our cabin, R82, an interior room. Plenty of space, very clean and bright. Next stop, Lido deck and our first buffet, "umbrella" drink, and poolside music. Very cool. Food /Wait Service We ate all our meals in the Elation Dining Room. This was one of the real pleasures of the cruise. The food was AWESOME, no complaints from anyone. Some of the entrees I had included lobster, prime rib, rack of lamb, leg of lamb, duck, shrimp, scallops, beef Wellington, and more. To any future Paradise cruisers: I hope you have the pleasure of being served by headwaiter Tatiana from Slovakia, and her assistant Leonardo from Philippines. Please, if they are your wait team, tell them Harry & Jackie say "hi" and send our best. We all (6 at our table) bonded with them very quickly, and by the end of the cruise, it was just like saying goodbye to family. Tatiana & Leo, you are the BEST!!! As stated by many cruisers, the pizza was very good, and we also enjoyed the late night buffets, although we probably didn't need to pile it on at midnight! The gala buffet was beautiful and very tasty. Please do not miss it! Cabin / Steward Our room, interior on Riviera Deck, was quite nice. Plenty of room for clothes, luggage, and also ample open space. Our tablemates (and new friends) were on Upper Deck, and I liked our room better. The layout in our room gave us more usable space. Also, we were relatively close to elevators / stairs, and the room was also in a quiet location. Didn't notice much ship movement, either. Our cabin steward, Carlos, was fantastic! The room was always immaculate when we returned, full ice bucket, bed made, and the famous "towel animals". Carlos, you're the man!! On-board Activities We really enjoyed all the entertainment, starting with cruise director Lenny Halliday. He's quite a talented and witty man. The "Vegas-style" shows were incredible, as was the stage band. Tia Thompson, a singer / comedian, is a "must see." She'll have you in stitches, especially the midnight "spicy" show. We also enjoyed the passenger talent show, and the games, such as Family Feud & Newlywed Game. Very funny! We also played the obligatory BINGO. Didn't win, but missed the $1,000 by 1 number! Other favorites were the America Piano Bar / singalongs as well as a night of bar-hopping. It was great - no worries about driving home! Favorite daytime activities were hanging out by the pool, or sometimes sitting under the lifeboats, in the shade, gazing out at the ocean. Oh, and of course, eating and drinking! Ports of Call Cozumel Our first port was Cozumel, and we were fortunate to have a full day (15 hours) to spend there. We decided to explore the island on our own, so 4 of us rented a sub-compact Chevy from "Smart Car Rentals". I found them on the Internet and had a coupon for 30% off. The price for the day (until 7:00pm) was about $33.00, plus $12.00 collision insurance (more on that later.) We started south and drove around the perimeter of the island - so beautiful! Most of the island is uninhabited, wild and tropical. We stopped at Mescalito's on the east side of the island for a cold one. We were the only ones on the beach - it was wonderful! We then continued our drive, which took us into the back neighborhoods. Some of the living conditions were really sad, but I'm glad we got to see how the typical families live in Cozumel. We found a restaurant that was recommended on another board, "El Moro Restaurant." It's off the beaten path, so you'll need transportation, but it is absolutely awesome. The seafood was so fresh and flavorful, reasonably priced, and family-run. I would highly recommend this place. After some shopping, we went to Chankanaab Park to try our luck at snorkeling. The park is very nice, but we did have some difficulty in the water. It was very rocky and we did get cut up a bit. The fish were beautiful, though. More shopping, then time to return our car. This is when we were rear-ended by a local, right in front of our rental car rep! To make a long story short, the lady that hit us had a very influential husband who took care of everything. We were anticipating the worse, but all involved were very pleasant and polite. I would still recommend renting a car if you want to see more than just the main street in town. Even more shopping, then finally a taxi back to our ship. The night concluded on board with a Mexican dance troupe, and a Mexican buffet. Grand Cayman I booked an excursion with Captain Marvin, based on many Cruise Critics' recommendations. You were all correct! We were picked up right in town and transported to the boat, only 8 passengers! Captain Kirk was a very interesting and friendly guide. First stop was a reef with absolutely crystal clear water teaming with colorful fish and coral. Words can't describe the beauty. Then it was off to Stingray City to swim with the Rays. A true once in a lifetime experience! We even got to hold them - very soft and docile! Please don't miss out on this! Jamaica I had read some negative things about Jamaica on the various boards, so my expectations were not great. Boy, was I wrong! Jamaica turned out to be a real highlight of the cruise! The island is absolutely gorgeous with the white sand, blue-green water, and the lush hillsides. We booked a Carnival tour, the "Coyaba Garden Tour", which included a drive thru Fern Gully, a 45 minute tour of the Coyaba Gardens, 2 shopping stops, and finally Dunn's River Falls. I highly recommend this tour - a great value for $31.00. The gardens were absolutely beautiful - I thought I was in Paradise! Climbing the falls was another once in a lifetime experience - way too cool! The vendors at the falls were nowhere near as bad as I expected. Sure, they tried to make a sale, but when we said "no, thanks" once or twice, they got the message. I would definitely go there again. "No problem, Mon"! Disembarkation This was much easier than expected, too. Our color was called about 9:40, and by 10:00 we were in a cab on our way to the airport. Final Thoughts First of all thank you so much to all the Cruise Critics who provided so much information, advice and support over the months. You all really were a tremendous help! Next, thanks to Carnival for having such a wonderful, non-smoking ship - it truly is PARADISE! We would cruise with her again in a heartbeat! What a FUN SHIP!!! Also, anyone having additional questions, please feel free to email me and I'll try to answer in a timely manner. Email is harry_rimmel@yahoo.com. The best surprise of the cruise was having a renewal of wedding vows ceremony Saturday morning. Believe me, there were few dry eyes in the house. This ceremony was only possible because Paradise has a Priest on board for one year. No other Carnival ship offers this. So, if this is something you would like to see more of, please mention it in your comment cards at the end of the cruise. Finally, the best part of the cruise was meeting so many wonderful people. As I mentioned earlier, our cabin steward and especially wait staff were like family. We truly looked forward to seeing them each day, and I can honestly say they felt the same way, too. Then there're our new friends from Elation Dining room, Table 136. Brad and Lindsey from Indiana - who by the way were married in Jamaica last Friday- -what a sweet couple. Bob and Judy from Michigan, celebrating their 25th anniversary. It seems like we've known them for years. We already made plans to get together with them soon.. And of course we all made a pact: we WILL cruise together again in 5 years. Let the countdown begin!!!!! harryrimmel@yahoo.comFebruary 2002 Read Less
My family took this cruise on the Feb. 15-23, 2003 vacation week. The Carnival Paradise sailed out of Port of Miami and it sailed to the Eastern Caribbean. This was my 16th cruise and first on Carnival. Since most of my cruises are on ... Read More
My family took this cruise on the Feb. 15-23, 2003 vacation week. The Carnival Paradise sailed out of Port of Miami and it sailed to the Eastern Caribbean. This was my 16th cruise and first on Carnival. Since most of my cruises are on Celebrity, I will compare this ship to the Celebrity Line. Embarkment was no problem. We arrived at 1:00 P.M., and within the hour we were on board. Security at the port was on high alert and more noticeable then other cruises. We arrived at the port by taxi so I can't tell you how Carnival handles the travel arrangements from the airport to the dock. As soon as we stepped on board on the Paradise, we noticed that there was no staff to escort you to your cabin. We found our cabin on the fourth floor of the Rivera Deck. To my delight, we found our i/s cabin spacious compared to other lines. Also to my surprise, our travel agent purchased a bottle of Champagne for both cabins along with a tray of chocolate strawberries. We never expected theses items because I purchased this cruise through an Internet auction site. What I particularly loved about our room was the large tiled shower and functional bathroom. Also to our delight we found numerous bath items that Carnival gave out as trial items. The Paradise is a beautiful ship, not to say that the Celebrity ships aren't. The grand foyer was very large and nine stories high. The Promenade deck was gorgeous and the lighting easy on the eyes, unlike the Ecstasy. All the major bars, clubs and entertainment are located on this deck. I was surprised to find a rock/country western band on board. Finally we found a ship that had a band other then a reggae band for live entertainment (for our age group). Bravo for Carnival!! However we were disappointed in the quality of the reggae band on board. They never got the passengers involved in the activities on deck. We were also very disappointed on the quality of the Broadway shows in the main lounge. The stage sets were below par to other lines. My wife and I have seen some incredible Broadway shows on the Mercury, Century and Galaxy. Lastly, we were very disappointed in the food. If you enjoy good quality food on a ship, avoid Carnival. The buffets were the worse I've experienced and the dining room food was a five out of a possible ten. Celebrity and Princess Line have much better quality food in all their restaurants and buffets. The breads need improvement and cooked longer, while the desserts were a 3 on a scale of 10. In conclusion, we had a wonderful time on the Paradise, a nonsmoking ship because how can you have a bad time on any cruise. But if you demand good quality food and excellent service in and out of the restaurant, I suggest you stay away from Carnival and look to Celebrity or Princess. compobasso@aol.com May 2003 Read Less
My husband and I have been on twelve cruises and this was our seventh cruise on Carnival. We are in our mid-thirties and were traveling with our 3½ year old son. We booked this sailing after seeing very good rates and deciding that we ... Read More
My husband and I have been on twelve cruises and this was our seventh cruise on Carnival. We are in our mid-thirties and were traveling with our 3½ year old son. We booked this sailing after seeing very good rates and deciding that we would like to try the smoke-free ship. Also, we had earned enough points on our Capital One Carnival card to get a $500 reward voucher that may have burned a hole in our pocket if we did not use it right away! Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves and did like that there was no smoking. The places where we especially appreciated that were the piano bar and the casino. Prior to our departure, I had read some negative reviews about the condition of the Paradise and the treatment by the crew, so I was a little concerned. But, I was pleasantly surprised that the ship was very clean and I constantly saw workers polishing, shining, steaming carpets, etc. We also found the crew of the Paradise to be very helpful and accommodating. Getting There: This was a Sunday to Sunday cruise departing out of Miami. We flew to Miami on Saturday and stayed overnight at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay for $40 via Priceline. It might not be as luxurious as some of the other hotels, but my husband and I joked that it was the nicest $40 hotel room we ever stayed in. We spent an enjoyable evening at the Bayside Marketplace. We liked dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. After dinner we explored Bayside. There was an interesting array of ethnic food available at the food court. Outside there were kiddie rides including a train ride that my son really enjoyed and at the waterfront there was a live band playing. We took advantage of the pre-check at the Sheraton in the morning. There was a small line when we went down at 8:50 am. The check-in started at 9:00 am and we were finished at 9:25 am. As it ends up when we got to the port there didn't seem to be much of a line, but who knew. If we had gotten stuck in traffic and arrived later, a line may have formed. We were going to have breakfast in the hotel, but when I saw that it was $11 for a waffle, we decided to peek outside to see if there was anything nearby. Across the street was a place called The Coffee Beanery. It was more a coffee house sort of place, but they had breakfast sandwiches on croissants or bagels, muffins, and pastries. We had breakfast and beverages for the three of us for $13. We got a cab around 10:45 to go to the port and encountered very little traffic. We went up to the waiting area and around 12:15, they started letting people board the ship. Cabin: We were in cabin R232, an outside cabin on the Riviera Deck. The cabin was a nice size with one of the bigger showers that we have had in a cabin. We had one of the best cabin stewards ever, Daniel from Dominican Republic. We had robes in the cabin but there was not a hairdryer. I was concerned about the cabin being cold, but the vent control on the ceiling allowed us to regulate the temperature in the cabin very well. Dining: We had the main seating in the Destiny Dining Room at 5:45 pm. We were seated at table 246, a 6-person booth. Our tablemates were another family of three with a 2½ year old son. They were very pleasant tablemates, the boys seemed to like seeing each other and we had an enjoyable time dining together. Our waiter was Legowo from Indonesia and his assistant was Conrado from Philippines. Legowo was the best waiter that we have ever had. He has worked for Carnival for 20 years on many different ships; the Paradise is his favorite. We felt very fortunate to have gotten such wonderful cabin and dining service this week. We really enjoyed the food in the dining room. We ate all of our dinners there. The filet mignon was particularly good, served medium rare as requested. We also enjoyed many of the seafood selections. My favorite desserts in the dining room were the soufflEs, chocolate one night and vanilla another. The formal nights were Monday and Friday. For kids old enough for Camp Carnival, there were special dinners for kids at the Paris Restaurant (informal Lido restaurant) on both formal nights. And on the first formal night there was a 'Coke-tail' party as well. There was a sushi bar on the Promenade deck, which we really enjoyed. Unfortunately it did not open until 5:30 pm. This made it tough with a 5:45 pm sitting in the dining, compounded by the fact that there was a good crowd of people waiting for it to open, so when it did, there was immediately a long line. I thought that it would have been helpful for it to open at 5:15 pm for people with the 5:45 pm sitting to be able to enjoy a sushi appetizer before dinner. We ate almost all of our breakfasts and lunches in the Paris Restaurant on the Lido Deck. The breakfast was okay up there; it's the same selection every day, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns, cereal, flaky pastries. I enjoyed getting omelets and eggs to order. Breakfast in the dining room was slightly better, and the coffee in the dining room was significantly better. Lunch at the Paris Restaurant was a very nice variety and it changed daily. We looked forward to trying new things at lunch. There were different hot lunch offerings including meat being carved. On the salad bar there were interesting and different cold salads each day. They made deli sandwiches to order. And each day there was a different hot bread pudding with sauce that was very good. Of course there was pizza, burgers, and hot dogs available each day. The pizza and soft serve ice cream were available 24 hours. Fun Ship Activities: Josh Riffe was a wonderful cruise director. He made even routine things fun! We learned onboard that he was leaving for vacation after our cruise, so unfortunately, if you are going soon, he won't be there. There was a main pool with a slide on the Lido deck. And on the aft of Promenade deck there was kids' pool and small jungle gym. It was usually pretty quiet back there. We needed to take to the pool our beach towels that the steward provided in our cabin or sign for one on deck using the sail and sign card. There was no charge as long as the towel was returned. The fitness center was located in the spa on the forward section of deck 12. A variety of machines and free weights were available, including treadmills, steppers, and bikes. There were two hot tubs in the fitness center. Located in the locker rooms were a sauna and a eucalyptus steam room (which helped the cold I developed while on-board!) We enjoyed the variety of live music throughout the ship. Our favorite was the piano music in the America Bar, the piano bar onboard. We enjoyed listening to both Mark and Roberta - Roberta had booklets for those who wanted to pick a song and sing along on the microphone. The production shows were Dream Voyage and Shout. We missed Dream Voyage, but made to Shout and it was very enjoyable. We also saw a comedian named Adam Ace who was very wild. His comedy was more physical than your ordinary stand-up comedian. The casino onboard was a nice size with a variety of machines. It never seemed to get very crowded. My husband and I learned what we could about playing craps before our trip. So we played it for the first time on the Paradise. The casino personnel we encountered were very friendly and helpful. There appeared to be good opportunities to try out new games at uncrowded tables in the Paradise casino. Our son enjoyed participating in activities at Camp Carnival. The orientation and family party the first night were informative and enjoyable. The schedule of activities for the week allowed him to pick the things that he wanted to participate in. Almost every night at dinner he could not wait to finish eating and go up to the Children's World. One evening they had a Family Fun Fest for parents and kids at Children's World, where they had a lot of creative activities and crafts for the kids to make including sand art, face painting, spin art, and friendship beads. Ports of Call: We were on the western itinerary, which is scheduled to change in February. Traveling with a 3-year old, we kept things simple and low key. Basically we went to a beach at each stop since he loves the sand and water. Cozumel - The ship docked at the Puerta Maya pier. There was a lot of construction going on, but appeared as though there will be a lovely shopping village right at the pier once the work has been completed. We took a cab, which cost $14 to Mr. Sanchos Beach Club. There was no cover to enter and there were small shops as you walked through to the beach area. Each shop owner was telling us why it's best to come into his shop. The beach area was beautiful; white sand and beautiful blue water. The sand wasn't as powdery as I thought it would be, but instead appeared to be made up of little shells. It had a consistency of sesame seeds. My son still had fun playing in it, but wanted his water shoes on since he didn't like the feel of it. Although he didn't mind the feel of it when he wanted to get his body buried in the sand like he saw one of our fellow passengers having done. We got there around 10:00 or 10:30, so it was not very crowded at all and we had our choice of a palapa (table shaded by palm leaf roof). Around lunchtime we ordered some appetizers and beers. We had the best guacamole and it was a serving bigger than I have ever seen. For the appetizers and four beers in all, it was only $20. Dinner times on the ship were moved early to allow passengers time to go back out onto the island. Our early seating was at 5:00 pm (the other was at 5:30). And the late seatings were at 7:00 and 7:30. After dinner we went to the Mini Golf (or Golfito) that I had read. It was as nice as I had read; it was beautiful and lush. It was $7 each for 18 holes ($3 for a plastic putter for our son). And beers were $2 each and $1 for a bottle of water. And just as described, we were given a walkie talkie to call in for additional drinks, delivered to our hole. We all had a fun time at the mini-golf. And enjoyed meeting Scott (although Sally wasn't there.) Grand Cayman - We went to Seven Mile Beach this day. There are public accesses in between many of the hotels along the beach. The hotels do not own the beach, but the beach chairs are only for the guests. Having a three year old at the beach does not allow for lounge time on the chairs anyway, so we went onto a beautiful stretch of beach near the Westin Hotel and played in the sand. To get up to the Westin, we took the bus, which is really a van. Either yellow #1 or lime green #2 will take you out to Seven Mile Beach. The cost is $2.00 CI (or $2.50 US) per person. After we returned to town, we stopped in a grocery, Fort Market, where they had the 16 oz. rum cakes for $10 (they were $12 on the ship). Ocho Rios - The Island Village Complex just opened in February 2002. You can see it off to the right of the pier. It is an easy walk from the pier, but you have to walk out through the taxis inland to get to the entrance on the right. There are many shops and restaurants including Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. We walked through a little and then stopped at Margaritaville. They have a nice pool with a cool slide. There is a little bit of beachfront too, where our son spent some time playing in the sand. There was a sand volleyball court, but no one was playing. Although, we were there early and I think it got busier and a little more active, later in the day. The margaritas and the mango daiquiris were delicious. Return: We booked a USAir flight direct from Miami to Pittsburgh scheduled to depart at 2:00 pm. We learned about a month before our trip that the flight departure time was changed to 12 noon. I was very concerned about being able to make this. I thought about calling USAir to try to change it, but when I looked at the other flights, there really wasn't a favorable alternative. Early in the week, I inquired at the Purser's desk about debarking with the first group. He instructed me to bring my tickets to the desk. Upon doing so, he issued me luggage tags to be in the first group and told me where to be Sunday morning. I started getting antsy while waiting for the ship to be cleared. At about 9:45 am, someone arrived to our lounge to tell us that the ship had been cleared and we could proceed to the Empress Deck for debarkation. We had no trouble getting a taxi and it is a short drive to the airport. There was not a long line at the ticket counter, however there was a long line at security. Nevertheless, after passing through security I looked at my watch and it was 11:00 am. I think a flight earlier than 12 noon could be problematic and we were fortunate that everything went smoothly and had no problem making our flight. Overall: We had a fabulous vacation. It was a wonderful family trip for us; we got to spend time with our son and some time just the two of us as well, while our son had a ball with the other kids. I hope there is some helpful information for any of you planning to go soon! kmcornelius@lycos.com February 2003 Read Less
Back-to-Back Cruises May 13, 2001 & May 20, 2001 We are back from our dream cruise and I though I would write a review to help out anyone else going! I was worried that 2 weeks would be too long! It wasn't! It was ... Read More
Back-to-Back Cruises May 13, 2001 & May 20, 2001 We are back from our dream cruise and I though I would write a review to help out anyone else going! I was worried that 2 weeks would be too long! It wasn't! It was fantastic! It seemed like we knew everyone on the ship by the end of the second week! My husband was ready for another week! The ship is beautiful and well maintained. We always saw someone cleaning! It was almost sacrilegious to get back on the freshly shampooed carpets after we were drippy and sandy from being at the beach! We enjoyed just strolling around! The Blue Riband library was a wonderful place to sit and wait for dinner or relax. We enjoyed dancing in the Leonardo Lounge. I even won in the casino! I had a budget of $20 each week for the slot machines and they just wouldn't take it! The largest pot I won was $250. I won about $400 total for both weeks! My secret is to leave when I win. It is really tempting to put that $20~30 back in the machine, but I resisted! The food was wonderful. We often ordered more than one entrEe and shared them to taste everything. The menus were the same on the second week, so we were able to have our favorites over again and try new things we didn't have room for the first week! Our wait staff was fantastic! Our headwaiter was very friendly and professional. He kept his two assistants, I Gede and I Wayan, on their toes! We are tea snobs and brought our own on board. They kept the box in the dining room for us and had it ready every morning and after dinner! They serve Lipton's as their hot tea and have a "special box" of the fancy Lipton flavors. We brought a box of Starbucks Tazo Awake Tea. You gotta love us Seattlites! We were upgraded from a Category 6A to 6D. The rooms were the same, we were just closer to the action! We were in cabin E 173. We were on the Starboard side in about the middle of the ship. We were under the galley. There was a little bit of banging after meals, but it wasn't bad and they settled down quickly. We had our beds pushed together but not made up as one. We slept like babies with the gentle rocking. Our cabin steward, Richard Fernandez, was great! Our room was kept spotless for the two weeks! He knows how to do 12 towel animals, so we had a different one each night! My favorite was the monkey that sitting on the floor wearing my tennis shoes! We were in hysterics! We never had any trouble finding open lounge chairs. We did like to sit in the front of the Lido deck. It was quieter and under cover. I don't really enjoy sitting in the direct sunlight. The weather was only so-so during our trip. There was a spectacular thunder and lightening display on our second night! A bridge officer told us that it was not a storm. We did have driving rain and 20 mph winds, so I'm not sure I would want to see a storm! The first week was the Eastern Caribbean. We stopped at Nassau, San Juan, and St Thomas. The crowd was much older and predominately female the first week! There was a table of 10 single grandma's at the table next to ours. They called the waiters "honey bun!" Nassau was nice. We did some shopping in the morning and sight seeing in the afternoon. Everything is very close to the ship, so we didn't take a tour or cab. We went on the Bacardi tour in San Juan. It was very interesting! We also saw Fort Morro and did some shopping in Old San Juan. We did some shopping in the morning in St Thomas. I was a little disappointed. I had been hearing for years how wonderful it is St Thomas. We couldn't leave a shop without being harassed by cab drivers to take a tour. There were as many hawkers outside the stores as other stops and the stores were the same! (Diamond International, Colombian Emeralds...) That of course, didn't stop me from buying an Emerald ring though! We went on a ship tour to ST John in the afternoon. I know that you can get there on your own, it just seemed easier to us to let someone else worry about it! It is gorgeous there! Definitely worth the effort to see the island! We enjoyed the underwater trail! The pictures are the highlight of our vacation album! The second week was the Western Caribbean. We went to Passion Island on Cozumel. It is where the Corona commercials are filmed! It was very beautiful. We were served a very nice lunch and did some swimming and sunbathing. The water was shallow and not very good for snorkeling. We did see a dolphin on the way to the island! We booked a tour with Captain Marvin's on Grand Cayman. We used him last year and it was wonderful. We went to two snorkeling sights and then Sting Ray City. That is a must do! It was unbelievable! We did a little shopping and bought some Rum Cakes. Things are rather expensive, so we did not buy much! We went on Highlight Tour B on Jamaica. They take you to a plantation. It was very interesting and the guides were funny. They did go on a bit about the price of education, but since the plantation supports a school, that is where their focus is! We stopped at a "craft market." I didn't even get off the bus. Several people that did go out came right back. The vendors are really aggressive. I don't think anyone bought anything there! We then went to the Taj Majal shopping center. We bought a lot of souvenirs there. The next stop was suppose to be Dunn's River Falls. We had climbed them last year and I was suffering from a little sunstroke, so we skipped the Falls and walked the couple of blocks back to the ship. The tour guide was a little put out. We did tip her and the bus driver. It was very nice not having to get off the ship after the first week. We waited for everyone to disembark and then checked in with the Purser's desk. We took a cab to Bayside Market for some lunch and a trip to Starbucks for more tea. We breezed by all the lines and got back on the ship. The photographers taking our second embarkation picture recognized us! It was a running joke the whole second week! The downside of two weeks, if you can call it that, is that all the jokes and acts are the same. We went to most of them the first week and skipped them the second week. We did do a lot of dancing. We have been taking ballroom lessons for two years and were under strict instructions to dance! Over all, this was the vacation of my dreams! I can't wait to cruise again!deyoung@probusiness.comJune 2001 Read Less
My family just returned from a cruise on the Paradise and we had a great time in spite of some things. It is a beautiful ship and our waiters were very attentive - (I ketut, Julius, and Ernesto). The staff in other areas were not ... Read More
My family just returned from a cruise on the Paradise and we had a great time in spite of some things. It is a beautiful ship and our waiters were very attentive - (I ketut, Julius, and Ernesto). The staff in other areas were not so friendly however. The 24 HR pizzeria and Paris dinning room attendants were cool to say the least and actually seemed to be bothered to have you there at times. The ship was very crowded and it was all but impossible to find a deck chair. The pools were filled with children at all times. The children were everywhere and without parental supervision. At any time of day or night the kids would be in the discos or on the deck, running around the halls and making noise, running into people who happened to be there. We noticed several young people who appeared to be teens drinking alcohol. The youths card will be flagged so they must have been using an adult's sign and sail card. But they were obviously not 21. I suppose if they have the card they don't care. The seating for shows following late dinning was difficult. Many people didn't come to the seating following their early dinner but waited to come to the later showing and many many people saved seats in spite of the prohibition against it. This left people standing in the isles and sitting on the stairs. The visual field is terrible in the Normandy room poles, bars, lights, or in the balcony the ceiling are always in the way. We sat in the balcony once and saw an entirely headless cast of players and that was if you laid your head on the table to see that much. The party atmosphere was less than we experienced on former cruises. At midnight the scheduled singers, bands, and any entertainment was finished. Once you leave the late showing in the main lounge everything is finishing up. If you eat late seating expect to turn in following dinner and the show. We would dress for dinner, eat the meal, go to the show, then to promenade deck and find everyone (the entertainers) finishing up and closing down for the night. My suggestions for change are as follows - checking dinner seating times for show time seating to avoid overcrowding at the late showing, assigned areas and pools for the kids to allow for adults only swimming and lounging, and staggering entertainment start times to allow for later ending times. We still enjoy cruising and had a good time but I think I may try another cruise company for my next vacation. It just isn't a fair trade to have non-smoking and in turn to have children running rampant over the ship. Aspire2829@aol.comJune 2001 Read Less
We chose this particular sailing date because it was the first sailing of the new western Caribbean route on smoke-free Paradise. We have been wanting to try the Paradise for some time but were not intrigued by the old routes. We were a ... Read More
We chose this particular sailing date because it was the first sailing of the new western Caribbean route on smoke-free Paradise. We have been wanting to try the Paradise for some time but were not intrigued by the old routes. We were a group of four. It was my 8th cruise, my husband's 4th cruise, and our friend's first cruise. We are mid-twenties and our friends are mid-thirties. We flew out of Milwaukee on Saturday and arrived at Fort Lauderdale's airport about 1 pm on Saturday. With the weird winter we have been having in Wisconsin we decided to fly down to Florida a day early to avoid any last minute weather delays. As it turns out this was the smartest decision we made about the whole trip because they did have bad weather on Saturday evening and Sunday morning and we would have most likely missed the ship. We used Tri-County Transportation to get us from FLL to our hotel, Hyatt Regency, in Miami. It was $55 for the 4 of us for this town car ride to Miami. We won the Hyatt Regency hotel on priceline.com for $45/night. We had no problem checking in early and got wonderful rooms. We had an ocean view and could see the cruise ships from our balcony. We walked down to the Don Pan Bakery and had some of the best sandwiches I have ever had. This is a Cuban bakery and is a great place for breakfast and lunch pre-cruise. The prices are very reasonable and the food is so good. To get to the Don Pan walk out the front doors of the Hyatt and turn left. Go under the Metrolink rail and it is across the street, only about 1-2 blocks. That evening we walked to Bubba Gump's for dinner and to check out the Bayside marketplace. Bubba's is good food, a little pricey but a good way to start your vacation. It took about 10 minutes to walk there. On Sunday we got up and went over to Don Pan to get some fresh pastries for breakfast. They also have hot breakfast. Their Cuban bread makes wonderful toast. After breakfast we went back to the hotel, grabbed our cruise documents and passports and walked over to the Sheraton (about 1 block the other way, just over the bridge) and did the pre check-in with the Carnival representatives. The pre check-in took about 2 minutes; I estimate it saved us about an hour to an hour and a half in line at the port. We went on a little odyssey to try to find somewhere that sold hard liquor to take on the ship but failed. I don't think they sell hard liquor on Sunday's in Miami so be aware if you are planning finding liquor at the port area. We took a cab to the port at about 11:30 am. The cab ride was about $12.00 because there was already quite a back up at the port of people picking others up and dropping others off. Make sure that you have your cruise documents handy because the cab driver will have to show them to the guard in order to get into the port area. We gave our luggage to the porters with an appropriate tip and went into the facility. There are signs up, after you get through the metal detectors, for those who did the pre check-in to go right up the stairs and get your sign and sail card. They started boarding the ship at about 12:30 pm so don't plan to get there much earlier then we did or you will be waiting at the facility for quite a while and the chairs aren't that comfortable. We had originally booked 4A guarantee cabins and received 6A cabins (R51 and R65). Our luggage arrived at our cabins before we set sail even though we had the wrong luggage tags (we got our final upgrade after we received our documents). The lifeboat drill was at 4 pm and was one of the quicker ones we have experienced. The boat set sail on time and the fun began. Dinner the first night is resort casual because you should have your luggage before dinnertime. We were at a booth for 6 in the Elation dining room at the 6:15 pm seating, which was just perfect for us. Our cruise director was Shawn Bussey but this was her last cruise on the Paradise. She is being transferred to the Spirit for Alaska and Hawaii. The new cruise director for the Paradise is Troy Linton. We did the spa tour and got the couples massage the first day. The massage was okay but the ladies needed to work on their techniques as they used their elbows when they should have been using their hands. I would not do the massage again or recommend the massage on the ship. Monday is at sea and is also the first formal night. It was just your average day at sea. Most people were figuring out the layout of the ship and getting their sea legs. We got a little sunburn on the deck and just enjoyed relaxing. There were always plenty of deck chairs available, pretty much everywhere but right next to the main pool. The rear pool area was practically empty when we made our way out there at about 11 am. They now give you the Carnival beach towels in your room daily and that is your pool towel. You can also check out a Carnival towel at the pool bar area but you have to return it by 6 pm or your sign and sail card will be charged. It did really help cut down on chair saving. Since it was formal night they had quite a few different backgrounds set up that evening for pictures. We posed for them all, but only one turned out that night. The photographers are not at all pushy. The photos are some of our favorite souvenirs. The Captain's cocktail party was in the Normandine Lounge and they had plenty of waiters with drinks to keep everyone happy. The show was very good that evening. They have a 2 part "Shout" show on the Paradise. Tuesday is Belize City. We had pre-booked cave tubing with Reggie so we didn't do any of Carnival's excursions there. Since we didn't book Carnival's excursion we had to get tender sticker numbers that morning. Instead of everyone waiting in line and pushing to get on the tenders you get a numbered sticker in the Lounge in the morning and then you wait for them to call your number and then you make your way down to deck 3 and get on the tender. I really like this new procedure for tenders and hope they continue to use it, and expand it to all the ships. Reggie was waiting at the dock with his sign and red hat as promised and led the group (about 35 of us) to waiting vans (with a/c). There is about an hour van ride to the cave area and then another 30-minute walk to the river carrying your tube. So this is not the excursion for those who are out of shape or have any health problems as the walk is a bit strenuous. I wore water shoes but wish I would of just wore an old pair of sneakers. The path is rough and it was hard on the feet with the thin soles on those water shoes. It is all crushed rocks so sandals are not a good idea as you would be stopping every few feet to get the pebbles out. The current of the river is very weak in most places so you do have to do a fair amount of paddling to keep up with the group, you don't just float along. We had a great time cave tubing. On the ride back to the docks the vans stop at a bar/restaurant where you can get water, beer, soda and an authentic Belizean meal. We had chicken, cole slaw and beans and rice. It was very good and you are hungry after being in the water that long. The meal with a soda was $6, with beer it was $7. My hubby liked the beer and he is a beer snob so it must have been good. There is a little shopping area right at the pier with typical souvenir type stuff. We collect a magnet from each port we visit and easily found our magnet and then proceeded on to the tender back to the ship. We had a nice dinner in the dining room, saw the show and then crashed in our rooms. We didn't make the midnight buffet. Wednesday is Roatan. We chose to take the catamaran sail and snorkel excursion through Carnival since we couldn't find too much about Roatan on the web. The first look out the window to Roatan is a bit scary, lots of old school buses waiting for you and lots of taxis on the other side of a fence. We had breakfast and got off the ship and found the bus that would take us to the catamaran. We had a nice ride to the Parrot Bay Plantation where the catamaran left from. This is a beautiful facility, when we return to Roatan we will see if we can just spend the day there. The catamaran sailed us over to a protected little bay where we snorkeled. There were lots of fish and beautiful coral. It was quite windy that day so the protected bay was an ideal location, otherwise the waves would have been too much. When we re-boarded the catamaran they had a fresh water hose so you could rinse your face off (very nice perk) and you got a free rum punch. They sold Honduran beer on board for $1, again my hubbie tried both the dark and regular version and liked. Since you are not in Roatan very long (6 am-2 pm) the excursion takes most of the day. The bus took us back to the dock area and we did a little shopping right across the street. They have beautiful woodcarvings and are very, very inexpensive. We bought a salad bowl set (big bowl, 6 individual bowl, and tongs) that was hand carved mahogany for $23. All the prices are negotiable. This was one of those times when I wished I had a car parked at the port so we could have bought more. They had hand carved and painted chests for $50 that were big enough for a child to crawl in that I would of loved to get but had no way to get it home. Since the ship sails at 2 pm they have plenty of activities planned for the rest of the day. Tonight was the returning cruisers party. Once again we relaxed, stopped at the sushi bar, had dinner, saw the show and crashed in our rooms. Thursday is in Grand Cayman. We decided to do the Reef and Wreck snorkel tour with the ship. Since it was a later leaving excursion, met at noon on the pier, we needed to get tender tickets for the same type of process that I explained in Belize. We did some shopping in Grand Cayman and got a bottle of liquor, a rum cake, and our magnet. Then we returned to the pier to meet our tour and snorkel. You first snorkel over cheeseburger reef, which is in wonderful shape. The water is too deep for people to swim down and touch/kill the coral so it is very beautiful. They sell fish food on the tour so lots of fish come to eat. Everyone gets back on the boat and you sail over to the shipwreck and snorkel over that. I had never done a wreck snorkel before and really enjoyed it. We took lots of pictures with our underwater camera. This tour was done in conjunction with the Conquest which is in port with the Paradise, so we got to meet some new people. We went right back to the ship after we returned from snorkeling because Thursday is the second formal night. Once again we did all the picture backdrops and these turned out much better. The show is a continuation of the first night's show "Shout". Right before the show was to begin the cruise director came on the intercom with an announcement that we were turning back to Grand Cayman to take an injured crew to the hospital (we had been sailing for about 3 hours at this point). A helicopter couldn't be sent to the ship because of our location any faster then we could get the person back to Grand Cayman ourselves. A crewmember fell down a flight of stairs and cracked his skull along with breaking a few other things. At that point she just told us that it would affect our arrival in Cozumel but they wouldn't know exact times until morning. So we should just enjoy the night and they would update us all in the morning about the status of the next day. I think that the ship crew handled the emergency very well; you could see the concern in their eyes about their friend. So we all watched the show and enjoyed the formal night. I didn't make it to the grand gala buffet but our friends did and said it was very impressive. Friday in Cozumel. As promised the cruise director made an announcement at about 9-10 am with our status. We were scheduled to get to Cozumel about 1 pm but because of the turnaround the night before we would not be arriving until 3:30 pm. Many tours were cancelled, including ours, but the captain decided to stay in port until 1 am. There were several people who complained to the purser about the delay and he promptly told them that the life of the crewmember was the most important thing and they would not be receiving any other compensation (other then a refund for the cancelled excursions). He was much more polite then I would have been to these whiners. Friday was also the first day of Carnavale (Marti Gras Mexican style) so we had a great time staying late. Our friend's cabin was right under the entrance to the ship and they heard the Carlos and Charlie's crowd come in right before the ship sailed. Since our tour was cancelled we decided just to walk around downtown. It is a $6 cab ride each way. Saturday morning was very quiet on the ship, I think a lot of people had a really good time in Mexico and were sleeping it off until late in the morning. We ate all the meals in the dining room and went to some of the scheduled events. We slowly packed all our stuff up and put the luggage out after the evening show. The liquor we bought in Grand Cayman was delivered while we were at breakfast; our cabin stewardess put it right in the cabin. Sunday, debarkation day. We woke up far too early for a vacation day. Early seating breakfast in the dining room was 7 am. We went and enjoyed our last Carnival meal. The Capers said we could wait in our cabins until 9:45 am so we did. We watched the news and found out that we would be returning to a very cold Wisconsin, they had frigid right over our part of the state. At 9:45 am we went up to one of the lounges and waited our color to be called. It was the last color called which made it very easy to find our luggage. We purchased the bus transfers to Fort Lauderdale's airport and easily found the bus and got our luggage loaded up and settled for the ride. There was quite a line for taxi's and I think it would have been more than $60 (4 people at $15 each) to take a taxi to Fort Lauderdale. There was no line to check in at the airport at all. We just walked up to an available agent, handed our luggage over to the TSA woman in charge of the machine and went to the security checkpoint. Once again there was no line at all at the security checkpoint. I had no problem asking for a hand check of my film. There is a sandwich shop within the secure area. So we set down all the carry-ons and got a sandwich and waited for our flight. We were checked in and sitting eating by noon. We had the strange route back to Milwaukee, via Dallas. So we didn't get home until 1:30 am because of the 3.5 hour ride back home from Milwaukee. Our flight from Dallas to Milwaukee was one of the stranger flights we have taken. About 4 different people did counts and apparently they couldn't count because they came through the cabin with the passenger manifest and had to check off each person's name. The person taking attendance was having a horrible time pronouncing names, he got Carter wrong (the people behind us). Then mid-flight the captain came out of the cockpit (I didn't know they did this anymore, I thought the door had to remain locked) and talked with our friend for about 10 minutes waiting for the bathroom to open up. We had a great time on the Paradise. We really liked the smoke-free atmosphere. My husband has smoke allergies and has never had a major problem on the other ships but we didn't have to avoid any areas on this ship, we could enjoy all the bars and the casino if we chose. I am very happy they switched to the new routes and plan to sail the new eastern route at some point in the future. The crowd that the Paradise attracts is a bit more laidback, the casino is much emptier than on the other ships we have been on and the nightlife is a bit more tame. We had 2 large groups on board the ship that might of contributed to ours being a very, very laid back cruise as a majority of the members of both didn't drink or gamble. I would recommend this ship to anyone looking to see some unspoiled areas. Roatan has only had a tourism industry for about eight years and is very unspoiled. There were several people kicked off the ship for smoking or possessing smoking materials so make sure you are not caught doing that as they are very strict about their set rules. michellemathis@hotmail.com June 2003 Read Less
We sailed on the Paradise on 2/10/02. Flew into Ft. Lauderdale the night before. We had reserved a car from Avis using the special USA code along with a Winter special code I found on the Bidding for Travel.com web site. We got an Impala ... Read More
We sailed on the Paradise on 2/10/02. Flew into Ft. Lauderdale the night before. We had reserved a car from Avis using the special USA code along with a Winter special code I found on the Bidding for Travel.com web site. We got an Impala for 30.00 and was upgraded to a minivan for no extra charge. A word of advice - print out your rate and the confirmation number - Avis wouldn't give it to me without the print out. We stayed at the Comfort Inn on the beach in Miami Beach - hotel was very nice-good pool, right on ocean, has a free continental breakfast.Drove to the pier on Sunday - the pier in Miami is a madhouse-you pull up and porters direct you as to where to park. I started hauling bags out of the van since our porter started talking to a friend nearby - tipped him a dollar a bag to lift the luggage about 2 ft to a cart. Avis has a return on the pier but it is down about a mile. They will shuttle you back to the Carnival pier for no charge. Embarkation is very exhausting - we arrived at 12:30 and didn't make it in to the ship until 2:30. The line goes thru security first which moves very fast and then you wind very slowly up to the check-in desk. By 2:00, most of the line was gone - next time I would check in at 2:00pm. The room that the line winds thru is very warm - bring as little as possible with you as a carryon or you will regret it. Once you get your papers to board you take an escalator upstairs and wind thru another line which moves fast to get your final documents. They then take your hot, sweaty picture and you are on. Finding the cabin was easy. We had an oceanview stateroom on main deck with 2 bunks. The best thing I brought, thanks to Cruise Critic friends was the over-the-door shoe holder with clear pockets and the power strip. There is one outlet in the room and none in the bathroom except one funky plug that said "for razors only". There are also only about 12 hangers-plan accordingly. I did forget my steamer-something I constantly regretted, but I remembered my Downey Wrinkle release which worked for most items. Paradise has closed both the laundry rooms on the Main and Riveria decks so don't bother looking for them-they are still listed in their directory in the room. That leaves 2 laundry rooms with a total of 8 washers and dryers and 4 ironing boards for all the passengers and some of the crew. Lunch when you board is served on the Lido deck which has a open air food line along with the Paris cafe which has 24 hr pizza and ice cream. We always ate breakfast and lunch up there - food was very good. We had dinner in the Destiny dining room every night - was a little bit hectic to get cleaned up and dressed in decent clothes every night but the service was good and it was fun to try new foods on the menu. The chef is French so some of the dishes were very unusual to me - wouldn't recommend the frog legs. The waiters dance for you almost every night - the Austin Powers dance, the Conga, etc.. You are invited to join in. I get carsick easily but did not have any trouble even when it was choppy. Took ginger pills if I felt like I had the slightest potential to get queasy. The water slide was a lot of fun - didn't have a problem with deck chairs being saved. If a towel is on the chair and it isn't touched in 15 min. just move the towel and enjoy - most people just are lazy and leave towels lying around even if they have no intention of coming back. We purchased one drink card for our teenager for 29.95 (11 -day cruise price). She would give it to her little sister at times or get diet Cokes for me with it. None of the bartenders, except one, checked the name on the card - the kids just wave it and their order is filled. I'm so glad we only bought one. The kids figure out the system very fast. For the parents, bring an insulated mug so you can fill it with ice water, juice, iced tea or lemonade when you are by the pool or even in shows. I also brought wide mouth water bottles with insulated shoulder holders that we used on the shore tours and the beach. The ship sells bottles of Evian water for shore tours but who wants warm, expensive water to drink. We also kept a collapsible cooler in the room for my private stash of diet Coke and some small water bottles we carried on and refilled. We used this when we went to the beach. My 10 year old loved Camp Carnival - she checked herself in and out - checked in for dinner-other than dinner I rarely saw her. I felt very safe on board - security is everywhere-they also watch the pool and keep the kids in line. The cabin steward was very efficient - kids really liked the towel animals he made. The shows were very good - especially liked the comedians. Go at least 45 min early. The Normande longe has numerous blind spots - is a very poor design. There is usually a pre-show show with bingo or game shows with a lot of entertainment so you aren't bored if you do go early. There is TV is your cabin with movies running, along with the major networks. Never had time to watch anything. There is a library on board that has books you can check out - they also have the news highlights faxed to them daily. We didn't book shore tours in Aruba or Curacao - I am so glad we didn't spend the extra money. Both islands have very cheap taxis - We got a 2 hour tour in Aruba for 10.00 each which was very good. They are right on the dock trying to get your business when you get off the boat. We then took a taxi to the Low-rise hotel beach-taxi was 6.00. The beaches are free and the hotels let you use their restrooms and beach chairs for free. Amazing, beautiful beaches in Aruba. In Curacao, we went to the Sea Aquarium beach-12.00 per van load for transport, and 3.00 to get in to the beach. The beach was very clean, good snorkeling, restrooms, showers, tiki bars. In Panama and Costa Rica we booked Carnival tours - I didn't feel safe going it alone in these countries. Debarkation wasn't too painful - the Paradise allows you to wait anywhere to debark. We stayed up on the Lido deck to catch the last rays of sun and eat breakfast. Once you are called, which is by the color of your luggage tag based on your cabin assignment, you walk out, and after a short wait you are in the luggage area which was very organized. We put plastic shopping bag bows on all our handles which made it easy to spot everything at once. We booked a Carnival transfer back to the FLL airport - the bus had cockroaches in the very back seat, bathroom was filthy, driver begged for tips which say included on your ticket - Carnival will be hearing about this one. All in all it was a great vacation - the ship was very clean, in great condition, the crew friendly and competent. We would sail with Carnival again, but only on the Paradise due to its non-smoking rule. And a word about packing - everyone on cruise critic is right - pack your suitcase - then take out half of what you packed - you won't need all those clothes. Email me if you have any questions. rndm0803@msn.comMarch 2002 Read Less
We just got back from fantastic vacation and cruise. We vacationed in Miami/KeyWest area for 1 week prior to cruising on Paradise-Eastern. First of all I want to say that this trip was made especially nice by all you guys out there in ... Read More
We just got back from fantastic vacation and cruise. We vacationed in Miami/KeyWest area for 1 week prior to cruising on Paradise-Eastern. First of all I want to say that this trip was made especially nice by all you guys out there in Cruise Critic land who unselfishly gave of your time to answer all my questions and gave me the best advice an inexperienced cruiser could ever hope for. I am grateful and now hope to do my small part in perhaps helping someone else. INTRODUCTION We are a family of five which includes 21/18/16yr olds. We also traveled with my parents 79/73. I am going to say it like it is. By the most part we really did have a great time. No complaints about Carnival, the cruise, the wait staff, everyone was great. Yes, there are some things I will not do again and I learned a few things for next time. I was going to skip over these little problems, but I thought that maybe someone might benefit from me including these "learning experiences" in this review. So here goes..... WEEK PRIOR TO CRUISE Just a short line on the vacation in Miami/KeyWest prior to cruise. We stayed just outside of Key West on Cudjoe Key in a private home we rented from a friend. Very nice but a little far from the "action." Key West was a lot of fun, would like to go back. Miami: stayed in North Miami Beach, drove to So. Beach. Nice relaxing time on the beach. First lesson learned: Do cruise first, then vacation. We were sun burned and a little tired by the time we did cruise. 2nd Lesson-although I love my parents, it was hard to be two weeks with them on vacation. My father was great. HE loves he beach and was in the water as much as us. He loves to walk and leaves us blocks behind. (hint; I gave him a business card from the hotel we were staying at in case he got lost he could call a taxi). Mother on the other hand had it tough. She has trouble walking, doesn't like beach, doesn't get wet. But, she wanted to "try" to do all the stuff we did. This didn't work out very well, as you will understand later. EMBARKATION We arrived at the port at 11:00am. I had packed some water bottles with rum/tequilla and put it in my checked in luggage along with real water bottles and coke. WE TOOK TOO MUCH CLOTHES! Packing was done in a hurry and my thought was more is better. But after first week of wearing almost the same stuff, I realized we had over packed. Luckily, we had family in Miami and I left half our clothes with them prior to getting on cruise. Good thing, with all the coke, water, booze, snorkel stuff, shoes, etc., we would have needed to buy another suitcase. 3rd lesson learned: Decide what you are going to wear each day and then pack your suitcase, then take out at least 3 entire outfits including shoes. Anyway, arriving early really helped. We had no lines to wait in and after all the paperwork was done we sat in an air-conditioned lobby for about 45min. until we could board the ship. Very smooth. Boarded around 1:30pm. Found our cabins (great cabins directly below eating areas-didn't have to go far for food). We carried on small bags with our bathing suits and changed clothes immediately. We hit the Lido Deck for lunch. Stuffed ourselves till we could no longer eat a bite. (We had not had breakfast or lunch-saving money-just kidding!). Then we went swimming (pools were not crowded yet) and waited for sailing time. We could see long lines down below of people still boarding. Before we knew it we were sailing. We were disappointed Carnival didn't have music playing as we sailed away. In fact, the music on the Lido deck really needs improving on the Paradise. All week they played same stuff, and when we left ports there was usually no music playing. Too bad, last time we cruised on Carnival (different ship) music was playing all the time, it was one of my fondest memories. It was kind of rainy, but the cruise ship next to us had music. I hope they improve this. Anyway, next thing we know we are eating again. The eating never stopped from this day on. Food was great in Destiny Restaurant and we ordered as much as we wanted. Our wait staff was fantastic, in fact, by the end of the week, he we bringing us extra helpings without us even asking. The Lido deck food was O.K., but nothing special. Breakfast was the same every day, they could change it a little from one day to next. Lunch we also had on Lido deck, we were usually wet and it too was OK. Pizza and ice cream were the best I have ever had. NASSAU Arrived in Nassau at 8am. We walked from ship about 6 blocks to catch the 10A Bus to Crystal Beach Marriott. Hotel was beautiful, we walked straight through lobby to pool and lagoon area. Next door was beach area. It was rainy so beach was deserted and slides were closed. We still swam around in beach and pools. Nothing special. We did a little snorkeling, not much to see. Next time I will book one of the ship snorkeling excursions for this island. There wasn't enough time to do much. Mother stayed back on ship when she saw how much we had to walk (she was upset). Taxi's wanted $4p/p for ride to same place. Bus was .75. We told Mom to take the taxi and meet us there, she didn't want to do that. Dad came with us and had a good time. 4th Lesson learned-next time I will look for an itinerary that has first day at sea, then second day a port. We felt pretty rushed, not ready for Nassau. We were not used to ship, cabin or schedule. PUERTO RICO Thanks to fellow Cruise Critic help this port ended up being a lot of fun. We rented a mini-van drove to the El Yunque Rainforest. We walked all the way down (an extremely long way straight down and then most people have to walk straight up to get back) to the Mina Falls. Extremely difficult if you have a health condition or are not in shape. Mother stayed in picnic area next to car, Dad insisted on going down with us. Lucky for us, once we got down the falls, I noticed people were coming in from different direction. I asked them which trail they took and found out they had mostly gone uphill to get to the falls. We quickly figured this one out, we sent the two teenage sons up the way we came, they picked up grandma, and drove the car down the road to the first trailhead they came to. The rest of us went down hill with only a short uphill climb at the end to the waiting car. From there we stopped at Liquilla beach and jumped in for a refreshing swim. Mom stayed under palm tree, sweating bullets. Then we still had time to go to Old San Juan. Drove right through the middle of town. Found some street parking and stopped to do some shopping. Everything was pretty easy to get to. Rental car company gave us map. No problem. Cost $60.00 verses $40+ per person just for rainforest. 5th Lesson learned: Make sure you have credit card with you when you go rent car. I had left it in cabin safe, which I locked with Driver Lic. Rental car picked us up at pier, got to agency (10min), no credit card! and the driver took me back to ship for credit card, half way there I realized the agency gal had my driver lic. so I couldn't open safe. Back to agency. OK hubby wasn't to happy and you can stop laughing. The ordeal took-up about 1hr of our precious time. I won't make this mistake again. ST.THOMAS/ST.JOHN This was truly the highlight of our trip. Unfortuntely, I felt bad for my dad who would have really liked the beach at Trunk Bay. But after the ordeal in PR we knew my Mom could not make the trip to St. John. So my father stayed with her on St. Thomas and went shopping. He really likes the beach, but my Mom would not go off ship by herself. I still feel like my dad missed out on something he would have loved and may never get to see again. We took taxi to Red Hook ($8p/p) ferry to St. John ($3p/p) taxi to Trunk Bay (4$p/p). We caught the 8am ferry and we were first ones on the beach at Trunk Bay. The beach was closed so we just walked in (normally 4$pp charge) It was truly beautiful. Paradise on earth. We snorkeled, saw lots of fish, coral, sting rays, barracudas, you name it. Water was clear and warm, sand was fine and white. It is the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. My husband and I made plans to someday retire here if can ever swing it. We left when the hordes of people started arriving, around 11;30pm. By 12:30 we were back on ship, having lunch. We then changed clothes and took taxi to Charlotte A. for shopping. Did not care for shopping. Liquor and gold jewelry were pretty reasonable, but nothing else. No crafty stuff, just the usual tourist t-shirts, straw hats, etc. We bought some liquor and that was about it. We should have taken my dad to a beach on St. Thomas instead. DAYS AT SEA We had no problem finding deck chair as long as we stayed away from the main pool area. It was extremely hot in that area anyway. We found the sides of the ship to be cooler and we just took lounges to this area. Two days at sea at the end of the cruise is a little much. Kind of sad to know our trip was almost over and there was no more ports to visit. 6th Lesson- next time do the days at sea first and port visits towards the end. I guess I better navigate my own ship! We played a lot of bingo lost every game, played some in the casino, lost every game too. Hubby played ping-pong and won his ship on a stick. In general, Paradise was OK. Nice not having any smoke to contend with. But a little dead. Deck games and tournaments need to be made more exciting and we found music to be lacking on the Lido deck. More variety and longer playing times would be helpful. Also the nighttime music in the discos and bars seemed to be all the same. One night we went searching for salsa, none to be found. I remember last time we cruised on Inspiration music blared from every disco/bar and there was a huge variety. Paradise is differently more subdued, but I don't think it is because passengers don't smoke, Carnival just didn't have the same "party" music and entertainment on board as they do on other ships. 7th Lesson learned: Don't take cruise right when kids get off school. Millions of young kids running all over the ship. The pools were 99% kids all day long. Next time we will try and go during school and just take my 16yr old out for a week. OVERALL We had a good time! We are planning our next trip in 3yrs when my youngest graduates high school. Until then, I guess I can dream and read message boards. July 2001 Read Less
Note: This review is in two parts. Don't miss Part 2 Introductions The cruisers in this report are myself (Mary) and my husband (Bob), both in our mid-40's. Are those our real names?... You will just have to guess! This ... Read More
Note: This review is in two parts. Don't miss Part 2 Introductions The cruisers in this report are myself (Mary) and my husband (Bob), both in our mid-40's. Are those our real names?... You will just have to guess! This cruise was planned to celebrate our 25th anniversary and although it was our "first" cruise, it certainly won't be our last! From start to finish this was an absolutely WONDERFUL vacation and the only "negative" part about it is that we had to come home Prelude Planning this cruise was a year-long endeavor, but then I am one of those rare people who find the planning as much fun as the actual vacation. For me it was a wonderful diversion to come home after a long day at work, log on to the internet and plan, plan, plan. Eventually it was decided that a cruise on the Carnival Paradise going to the Western Caribbean would fit our needs perfectly! Four factors helped make this decision an easy one for us...1) The ship is smoke free...the thought of not being around ANY smokers for the entire week sounded heavenly. 2) Bob was recently certified in scuba and was anxious to do a "real" dive. The Western route of the Paradise would take us to Cozumel...one of the top scuba diving spots in the world. 3) The best time for us to cruise would be in June while our kids are away at camp (we were celebrating our 25th anniversary...do you think we wanted kids along???) Although the Paradise alternates between the eastern and western route, the week we wished to sail was a "western" week. 4) The price...the Paradise was one of the least expensive seven day cruises we could find. I did lots of price checking both online and through "a" (or I should say "the") local travel agency...in a small town you don't have a lot of choices! Ignoring the advice that "newbies" should use a TA, I eventually booked with [a .com agency] based on recommendations from a personal friend and lots of good reviews that I read online. [They] were always quick to answer my questions and the only minor glitch we had (getting luggage tags for the Elation instead of the Paradise) was taken care of with a quick phone call. Saturday, June 15th - Travel Day Flying to Miami the day of the cruise was never an option that I considered. In recent months, we had two different sets of friends who missed their cruise due to their airline connections and both had even booked the air through Carnival. Finding a decent airfare was an ongoing quest, but in the end I settled for paying more than I had hoped. Bob did have a $500 voucher that we were able to apply to the cost so I guess I shouldn't complain. We were up bright and early for our flight out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Well...maybe not "bright" since it was well before dawn but it definitely was "early"! After the one hour drive to Sioux Falls, we grabbed a quick breakfast at Burger King and were at the airport the recommended two hours before our flight. Sioux Falls is not a "busy" airport at anytime of the day, and certainly not at 6 a.m. We settled down for what we figured would be a long, boring start to our day. The TV by our gate was preset to one channel and could not be changed so our only entertainment was an infomercial on some sort of video series that would help customers get rid of anxiety and depression. Contrary to the purpose, it became more and more depressing listening to one person after another talk about their problems. Time was crawling by when we looked up to see some close friends walking by! Unbeknownst to us, Mark and Janet were boarding a plane at the next gate to fly to Arizona. Having their company turned the morning into a fun time and was just the first of several strange "meetings" of our trip. (OK...lets all start humming "It's a Small World After All"...) There are no direct flights to Miami from Sioux Falls and since we were flying on American Airlines we made the customary stop in St. Louis. Only a half an hour between flights and of course our arrival gate was far, far away from the one where our next flight would depart. Running like mad (think OJ Simpson style) we made it to the gate just as our next flight was boarding. As we were waiting in line I noticed a large group of teenagers in matching green t-shirts with a Santo Domingo logo. I was somewhat curious about exactly where the group was going because our own church had sent our youth group to Santo Domingo seven or eight years ago. As we were settling into our seats on the plane, I looked up and standing right behind us was Greg, the former youth pastor at our church!! We had been close friends with he and his wife, Yvonne but hadn't seen them for several years since they had moved out of state. (Keep on humming "It's a Small World"... This will be our theme song for this trip!) After lots of hugging, we switched our seats around so that Yvonne and I could sit together and Bob and Greg could be together. Good grief...Yvonne and I probably did more talking on that flight than we did when we lived close to each other! Yack, yack yack.... Once in Miami, the wait to collect our luggage was l-o-n-g. There was one lone bag that kept going round and round and round on the carousel, but none of the luggage from our flight appeared for at least 45 minutes. As we waited we saw representatives from different cruise lines collecting their "passengers" and shuffling them off to busses for the ride to the port. Finally as the luggage started coming out we breathed a big sigh of relief to see the lime green ribbons that helped identify our bags. Knowing how close our flights were in St. Louis had me a little concerned that even though we made it, our luggage maybe wouldn't have. Getting a taxi was no problem at all...they are lined up and waiting for you to hop in. It was raining cats and dogs that afternoon in Miami (we heard they had 6 inches) so I was glad to let someone else do the driving for us. Living in a small town, taking a cab is foreign to us but I must tell you that it was a bit disconcerting for me to watch the meter go up every time I blinked my eyes! At last we reached the Best Western Marina Park Hotel where we were to stay. After waiting for the driver of a van in front of us to unload a mountain of luggage under the hotel awning, it was our turn to unload. (I was surprised that the taxi meter kept rising the whole time we were waiting...I think it went up about $2 just sitting in front of the hotel!) I think our final bill was right at $20. As I was checking in, I overheard the lady next to me complaining about how much she was being charged for her room. Armed with my email confirmation, I was a bit smug knowing that we were getting our room for $69 a night including a "deluxe" breakfast. When making the reservation online, I had requested a room on an upper floor facing the bay, and we weren't disappointed...we were on the top (10th) floor! At the time I made the reservations online I thought it was strange that you had the choice of either booking a room with or without breakfast but the price was the same! The room itself was nice enough...king sized bed, easy chair with ottoman, desk, and also a separate table and chairs by the window. But the real attraction was the view...the street below us was lined with huge palm trees and the sidewalk was done in an interesting tile pattern. Just across the street was the entrance to the Bayside Marketplace and beyond that the Port of Miami. There were several ships in the port that afternoon and although the view of some was blocked, we knew they were Carnival ships by their tailfin smokestacks poking up from behind some buildings. Even though it was still raining heavily, we sat glued to the window taking in the sites. I had hoped to see the ships set sail, but fatigue from the day began to set in and we both succumbed to nap attacks! We slept less than an hour but when we awoke, the ships were gone! Rats! At least the rain had stopped which meant we could wander over to Bayside Marketplace without getting soaked. Bayside Marketplace is made up of lots of little shops and restaurants...many of which you would find in any good-sized mall. But unlike other malls, this one had its own unique character about it. There was a guy with parrots and other brightly colored birds who, for a fee, would let you pose with the birds. And not only birds, but a huge yellow snake. That was enough to get me to hurry by quickly! Bob did pose on the park bench (next to the suitcase and box of chocolates) in front of Bubba Gumps while I snapped a picture. We debated about eating there, but it was early and the place looked deserted. We wandered throughout the marketplace looking in the various shops while trying to decide where to eat. Eventually we wound up at the food court where Bob ordered Chinese and I got a plate of Cajun food. We carried our trays out onto an upper deck area overlooking the bay and enjoyed the view while we ate. There wasn't much happening as far as entertainment at this point so we went back to the hotel. Around 8:00 p.m. we made our way back to the Marketplace and enjoyed a live band called Viva! The evening was perfect...clear, not too hot with a nice breeze and we were on VACATION! Sunday, June 16th - Embarkation Day The day started out with a trip down to the lobby where breakfast was served. A sign said "deluxe" breakfast $7.50 (remember the cost of a room reservation was the same whether it included breakfast or not!) There was nothing wrong with the food being served but it was definitely not what I would consider "deluxe". The buffet consisted of the usual stuff...cereal, pastries, fruit, bagels, toast, etc. It also had cold sliced ham and cheese which I thought was a weird selection for breakfast. (The buffet on the ship also had cold ham and cheese, so maybe its just me that thought it was strange.) We were able to get filled up easily enough but I was glad I hadn't paid $7.50 each for what little was offered. Around 11:15 we went downstairs and within a couple of minutes were loading our luggage into a cab and on our way for a "wild" ride! These cab drivers know all the tricks and aren't afraid to use them! This guy (and other cabs that we saw) would deliberately stay in the right hand lane although the signs said to be in the left lane to turn into the Port of Miami. We bypassed the long line of cars waiting to turn and at the last minute he started honking and butted into the line. On the way to the port we had to pass through a toll booth and for some reason our cab got picked to be stopped. I had to show my cruise documents which were in my carry-on bag in the trunk so that was a bit of a hassle (we weren't too popular with the line of cars behind us either that had to wait for me to dig around and find them!) I probably should have kept all of that stuff with me, but I didn't know. Once near the port, there was a lot of congestion with people trying to stop and unload stuff. Our cab driver got impatient and instead of waiting, he just started a "new" lane between the other two. Another coat of paint on his cab and we would have never squeezed through! We had gambled and booked a 4A "guarantee" for this cruise. I had read about using the "Kelly Method" to try and determine your cabin assignment ahead of time, but it seemed like a waste of time to sit for hours typing in cabin numbers. I had been corresponding with another cruise critic person (Hi Gaines!) who had also booked a guarantee 4A and he had found out he was getting bumped up one level to cabin M45 on the Main Deck. So armed with this knowledge, a couple of weeks before we sailed I gave it a try. I started on the Main Deck and within 3 minutes, I typed in M36 and BINGO our names popped on the screen! I was a bit disappointed when I discovered we had only been moved up one level because in the back of my head I had been fantasizing that maybe we would somehow miraculously be upgraded to a Category 12 suite with a balcony! Oh well...we were at least one level higher than what we paid for! I didn't mean to digress from my story though....Once the cab driver dropped us off, the porter had to look up our names on the manifest to find out what cabin we were in so it could be recorded on our luggage tags. Sure enough...it was still M36 so no surprise there. It was around 11:40 when we entered the cruise terminal and there were very few people waiting in line. We joined them and within about a minute, a separate queue was opened which sped things up even more! Everything was in order with our documents so we were on our way up the escalator to the next step in the boarding process...getting our Sail & Sign cards. We entered a very large room with many seats (most of which were already taken.) Going by the description I had gotten from the other Cruise Critic family that we knew was going to be on board, I couldn't believe it when they were one of the first people we spotted! We quickly got our Sail & Sign cards (no line here) and were told that we could begin boarding at 12:30. We had about a half an hour to wait so decided to stake out a place on the floor near the spot where we would board. Well 12:30 came and went and we were still sitting there, except by now the rest of the crowd had started to get impatient and were ever so slowly creeping closer and closer to the roped off area. Eventually we gave up our little patch of floor for fear we would be trampled and joined the masses hovering around the spot where we would enter the ship. It was after 1:00 p.m. before the rope was dropped and we lined up to get our security pictures taken. No explanation was given so I suppose there had been some hold up in the debarkation of the previous week's passengers. You enter the Paradise in the Atrium on the Empress Level (Deck 7). Our cabin was on the Main Deck (Deck 5) so we took the stairs down and were able to find the cabin quickly. The cabin was in the front where the ship just starts to get "pointy". To our surprise, a huge bouquet of flowers was sitting on the desk with a note from my cousin wishing us a Happy 25th Anniversary! After a quick look around the cabin, we put our money, passports, etc. into the safe. The safe was small, but big enough for the video camera and the other stuff that needed to be there. It is operated by using a card with a magnetic strip. Although it would work, we were cautioned to not use our Sail and Sign cards for the safe. The cards have your room number printed on them and if you lost the card, anyone finding it would have access to your room AND your safe. Instead we used a Wal-Mart gift card that had depleted funds. I brought along some lanyards with card holders and that made it easy to keep track of the Sail & Sign cards and also the Wal-Mart card. Our "deluxe" breakfast had worn off so headed up to the Lido Deck (Deck 10) where lunch was being served in the Paris Restaurant. "Paris" is an appropriate name for this restaurant...in case you didn't know, "buffet" is a French word meaning "get it yourself" ;) A trip through the buffet line and then we settled into a table for two next to the windows in the rear of the dining room. For some reason we gravitated to this same spot throughout the whole week. Following our late lunch we did a little exploring throughout the ship and then it was time for our "muster drill". We first had to report to the Normandie Lounge wearing our life jackets and from there had to go to an outside deck and stand at our muster station. The spot we ended up in was in the hot sun and we stood there crammed into three single file lines for what seemed an eternity. After taking the lifejackets back to the cabin, we made our way to the outside decks to check out the view of Miami and the other cruise ships in port that day. The Norway passed by us on their way out to sea, followed by the Victory. Cars driving across the waterway by the port that day would honk and wave to us as we were getting ready to sail. It was 5:30 or so before the Paradise started moving and I was getting anxious to get back to the room to get ready for dinner so didn't stay outside to see our ship completely clear the port. All of our luggage, except for the garment bag, was waiting by our cabin when we returned to get ready for dinner so we were able to get unpacked. The cabin had plenty of storage space, but I was glad I had brought along extra hangers...only about 12 or so were provided in the closet. I had also brought along an "over-the-door" shoe organizer for extra storage space but I could have easily managed without it. I figured it would be a pain to have it hanging on the back of the bathroom door, so we hung it from the light soffet near the desk. Between the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, the closet shelves and the desk drawers there was plenty of storage space for all my "doo-dah". Once we were unpacked, the luggage fit underneath the beds. In the bathroom there was a bowl of various sample-sized items sitting on the corner of the sink ...shampoo, conditioner, body soap, razors, mints, etc. These were just foil packets for one use, not the small bottles of stuff that you get in hotels. No hair dryer was provided on the Paradise. I was very pleased to see that we had been assigned the 6:30 p.m. dining time in the Elation Dining room...this was "exactly" what I was hoping for. The 5:45 main seating was just a little "too early" and both of the later seating times were much too late for people like us who are not "night owls". (A side note: at the galley tour later in the week, we learned that the cabins in the front half of the ship are assigned the Elation Dining Room while the rear cabins go to the Destiny Dining Room. The dining times are 5:45 and 8:00 for the Destiny and 6:15 and 8:30 in the Elation.) We hadn't bothered to check out our table (#143) earlier so I was a bit sorry to see we were at a booth for six. I had hoped to avoid the "booths" and also thought it would be better to be at a larger table so that hopefully there would be someone who we would be compatible with! What is the correct seating "protocol" for three couples sitting in a booth for 6? I thought perhaps that each of the couples should sit across the table from each other, but when our first tablemates showed up, they made it clear that they wanted to sit "side by side". That was OK by me...Bob and I just sat side by side opposite them. That meant that the third couple had no option except to sit across from each other when they arrived. Sharing our table that night were a middle-aged, engaged couple from Indiana. He was a truck driver and she was a first grade teacher in a small private school. Although it was her first cruise, the guy had done several cruises on different lines. They were excited because they had booked a category 6C outside cabin and were upgraded to a balcony suite! (That made our one-category "upgrade" seem pretty piddly!) Bob is a supervisor/quality control manager for a large animal feed company here in Minnesota and I am a jr. high math teacher so we seemed to have plenty in common with these other Midwesterners! The other couple was from New York City and he was a stockbroker...oops, not much common ground there! As the dinner progressed, it was apparent that the NY couple was very, very quiet and didn't take part in any of the conversations. The food on the Paradise was "top notch" all week as far as we were concerned. Bob and I both tended to order seafood at most meals. Living in the Midwest, we have a freezer full of farm fresh beef and pork so we usually chose dishes that we don't have frequently. The one night that I ordered filet mignon, I was sorry I did because it just didn't compare to our home-killed beef that we fix ourselves. Each night the dinner menu had six appetizers which included two hot soups and one chilled soup. I often had trouble deciding between the appetizers so on a couple of occasions I just ordered two! (Oink, oink) Other times Bob and I would each order a different appetizer and then get a third one to share. The portions were small so I didn't feel too guilty! The salad choices were much more limited...only two salads were offered each night and one was always just a mixed green salad. Rather than set a bread basket on the table, our assistant waiter, Roland, would come around with a basket of bread and we would each "point" to what type of bread we wanted and then he would place it on our plate. If someone decided they wanted more bread later in the meal, then we would have to flag down Roland and asked him to bring out the bread again. I wonder if Carnival's "bread rationing" was worth the hassle that it caused the waiters! One interesting note about our tablemate from Indiana...he was a heavy smoker (three packs per day!) His girlfriend had been nagging him to quit so he figured coming on the Paradise would force him to do it cold turkey. He said wearing a nicotine patch was helping, but towards the end of the week he seemed to be a little irritable which I chalked up to a lack of cigarettes. After dinner, we made a fast trip to our cabin and were glad to see that our final piece of luggage had been delivered. There was also a flyer under our door cautioning cruisers to double check and make sure they did not have luggage that belonged to someone else because some people were still missing pieces. (Wonder if they didn't tip the porters??) We learned a valuable lesson that night...even though the trip to the cabin had been a "quick" one, by the time we got back to the Normandie Lounge for the evening show, the good seats were taken. The upper level seats we chose weren't awful, but they did require looking around one of the many poles in the lounge. The "Welcome Aboard Show" was hosted by the cruise director, Josh Riffe, who was very quick witted and humorous. Music was provided by Braxton Hicks and the Paradise Orchestra along with singers Amy Sexton and Jon McNally...both very talented singers. Our cruise was Braxton's last week on the Paradise so throughout the week, he was the butt of many jokes. (Side note: I thought it was unusual that anyone would name a child "Braxton Hicks" since that is the name given to early labor contractions that many pregnant women experience! I recently read a post on the Cruise Critic board saying that Braxton is actually a grandson of "the" Dr. Braxton Hicks for whom the contractions were named!) The main feature of that night's show was a comedian named Gene Merola. Neither Bob or I thought he was exceptionally funny however. A walk on the outside decks ended our first day. It amazed me that over 2000 people were on the ship (a sign at the purser's desk said the cruise was sold out) and yet when we took our late night strolls we were all alone! Before calling it a night, we stopped by the 24 hour/day pizzeria and had a late night snack. I've read other people rave about the pizza on Carnival ships and by golly, they are right! It was delicious! (One morning some of the Camp Carnival kids were in the Paris Restaurant having breakfast with their counselors and I overheard one of them say "You mean I can have pizza for breakfast?!" The look of amazement on the little boy's face was priceless!) I thought I had read that calzones and Caesar salad were also available too, but I never saw these (but then again I didn't ask either.) Soft serve ice cream was also available 24 hours a day which Bob liked, but I didn't care for...I thought it was a little too icy and not very creamy. Monday, June 17th - Sea Day Sleeping in an inside cabin means you never know when it is morning...not that I think that's a bad thing! It was just as dark at noon as it was at midnight! Following packing suggestions I had read, I took a night light along, but we never used it. We both REALLY liked the dark cabin and the light coming from under the hallway door was just enough to help us navigate if we needed to make a nighttime trip to the bathroom. We really didn't sleep as late as I expected, however, but since this was our first "sea day" there was no rush to get anywhere. It was too late to make our seating time (8:15 a.m.) in the Elation Dining Room so we ate at the buffet in the Paris Restaurant. The breakfast buffet was exactly the same each day in the Paris Dining room. The hot choices were: ham slices, bacon, sausage, hash browns (more like Tater Tots), grits, scrambled eggs, French toast, and pancakes. There was an omelet station where a cook would prepare made-to-order omelets while you waited. I also discovered on the last day of our cruise that the "omelet man" would also fry eggs in addition to making omelets. Wish I had known it sooner! Rather than wait in line for an omelet, the first day I had the scrambled eggs...not a great choice. They were cold and rather runny...it was worth the extra couple of minutes to have a hot omelet instead. At the "cold" section of the buffet there were bowls of honeydew and cantaloupe melon and a bowl with orange and grapefruit sections. It was a luxury to have the fruits peeled, seeded, sectioned and all ready to eat! Grapefruit halves were also available if you wanted to do the work yourself! I may not remember everything, but I do know there was cold sliced ham and cheese, tomato juice, yogurt, individual boxes of cold cereal and maybe lox. At the end of the serving area were various baked goods...croissants, Danish (yum!), muffins and also bread, English muffins and bagels that could be toasted. Coffee, hot tea, hot chocolate, milk, orange juice, grapefruit juice, and apple juice were available in self-serve dispensers. Since trays weren't provided, it usually meant two or more trips to the buffet to get all of your food and drinks. One morning one of the dining room staff offered to go get my coffee for me which I thought was nice. Silverware was rolled into cloth napkins and was provided at the table. The staff were pretty prompt in removing dishes once you were finished with them. After several attempts at finding other Cruise Critic folks who were taking this cruise, we had only come up with two others from the board...Gaines and his family and Bouldergal and her husband. We made plans to meet up with them along "Carnival Boulevard" just outside the Leonardo Lounge that morning at 9:30. Bob and I went there right after breakfast but no one showed up. Nevertheless, we still had an enjoyable time sitting by the windows watching the ocean go by. Having already met and identified Gaines and his family, we were able to visit with them on several occasions during the cruise. We never did get the opportunity to meet Bouldergal though and have since learned that they were at the late seating for breakfast at 9:30...by the time they had finished, we had already left. Our loss...they sound like a fun couple! Bob and I split up for the rest of the morning...he went off to explore and I relaxed for a bit on the lounge chairs outside the Atrium on the Lido Deck before heading to the Normandie Lounge for cruise director Josh's shore talk on Cozumel. Having already booked all of our shore tours with private guides via the internet, I wasn't sure if it was necessary to attend this talk, but I did gain some useful knowledge. Unfortunately I wasn't able to stay long enough to hear the shopping portion of the talk because it was time for lunch. (The whole talk was shown on TV later that afternoon so I was able to catch it as we dressed for dinner.) We had decided to have lunch in the dining room today and I was to meet up with Bob in the cabin no later than 11:45. We both arrived at about the same time. After doing a bit of exploring, Bob had gone to the gym and worked out on the weight machines and then ran a couple of miles on the jogging track on the top deck of the ship. He grabbed a quick shower and we were still able to make it to the dining room by noon for lunch. (How I wish I could shower and get ready so quick! Of course the fact that Bob is almost bald means it takes literally no time to fix his hair!) Twice we had lunch in the main dining room. I enjoyed being waited on plus the small portions helped limit our intake! When we ate at the buffet it was too tempting to want to just "sample" everything and before you knew it, you had a heaping plateful of food! The dining room was not even half full and the relaxed atmosphere gave us a chance to visit and get to know our head waiter, Patrick, a bit better. The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging on the Lido deck once again. I am a fair-skinned redhead and my goal for the week was to "not" get sunburned. The area around the main pool and stage was where things were really "hopping" on sea days, but I knew that I was asking for trouble if I were to stay out in the sun. Instead we usually found our way to the lounge chairs underneath the lifeboats. The area was shaded and usually we could find a couple of chairs together without much trouble. Although I missed getting to hear Kooshal, the Caribbean band that played poolside, the spot we chose was so quiet and tranquil that I felt truly relaxed. We both did some reading and a little napping too! Bob grumbled when I told him I wanted to take along big mugs for the cruise. The ones I chose were some that Bob had gotten from the hospital (he is a EMT in addition to his regular job) and they were very large with a lid and a straw. After numerous passengers and staff commented on our great mugs, Bob decided that it had been a good decision! We would fill the mugs with lots of ice and then either lemonade, ice tea or punch from grill area on the Lido Deck. The drinks would last all afternoon as we lounged on deck. Monday was the first of two formal nights on the Paradise therefore I left Bob napping in his lounge chair on the Lido Deck so I could start getting ready for dinner. (Remember he can shower and change in 10 minutes!) After showering, I sat down at the desk to dry my hair. I had taken along a power strip as many had advised, but found it wasn't really necessary. Other than my hair dryer, the only other thing that needed to be plugged in was my video camera and these two things did not have to operate simultaneously. There was also a plug built into the light above the medicine cabinet in the bathroom with a note that said "for razors only". While getting ready, I could feel that the ship was really starting to "move". It was even more apparent when I laid a tube of lipstick on the desk and watched it first roll across one way and then back again! This being our first cruise, neither Bob or I wanted to take a chance with seasickness. Rather than buy the higher priced Bonine, I had the pharmacist at Wal-Mart order a bottle of meclazine (same as Bonine) for us. She was able to get a bottle of 100 tablets (25 mg chewables) for less than $5.00. We had started taking these on Sunday morning before we boarded the ship and continued taking one tablet in the morning and one at night for the duration of the cruise. Not once did either of us have even a hint of seasickness...in fact, we both thought it was great when the ship began to rock and roll! I do think the tablets did make us both a bit drowsy...or maybe that was just the totally relaxed feeling one gets on a cruise! After dressing, we left a bit early for dinner so we could have a few formal pictures taken. Numerous photographers had set up their backdrops in various spots throughout the ship and we went to several. In the end, I didn't buy any of the formal pictures although I regret that decision now. Even though I never like the way I look in pictures, we should have at least gotten one of them because who knows when we will ever have another formal portrait taken. I also wish we had gotten one of the "face only" shots taken instead of just all "full body" pictures...maybe I would have liked that better. The 8 x 10 pictures were $20 which may seem high, but still its much cheaper than going to a professional photographer. My other regret was not getting more pictures that night with our own camera. I did ask one lady to take our picture but it is obvious now that photography was not one of her talents! If we had gotten other shots, probably some of them would have been good. I found that people were very willing to take pictures for you and we often did the same for others. The Captains Cocktail Party was held in the Normandie Lounge from 5:00 to 6:00 for people with early seating times and from 7:00 to 8:00 for those with late dinner times. The Normandie is on two levels and anyone wanting to actually "meet" the Captain were instructed to enter on the lower level (we passed on that opportunity and just went to the upper level.) Waiters walked about the room with trays of various types of drinks (all complimentary) and also hors'doerves. Braxton Hicks and the orchestra were there to play and some passengers enjoyed dancing on the stage. At 6:15 we made our way into the dining room to table #143 and lo and behold, in place of the NY couple was a young, honeymoon couple! After introductions, we learned that they had been assigned late seating which they didn't like so they had requested a change. I suppose the same situation in reverse must have happened to the NY couple. Our new tablemates were from Virginia...he was in the navy and she was a teacher. Three teachers at one table! The whole dynamics of our group changed and the rest of the week we anxiously looked forward to seeing our new friends at dinner each night. Being from a small, Midwestern town, I was worried about knowing what to do when dining formally each night. Let's face it...we are hicks and aren't used to having 10 pieces of silverware at one sitting! As it turns out I was very much at ease with our tablemates and anything we weren't sure of, we would just ask our waiter, Patrick, and he would "instruct" us all in the ways of finer dining! More often than not I could not even pronounce the names of the dishes on the menu but then neither could the others! Table #143 was full of laughs that week! I also changed my mind about sitting in the booth...I think it was just perfect having 6 people at a table. Had we been at one of the long tables for eight next to where we sat, it would have been impossible for people at opposite ends of the table to have a conversation. The round tables for 10 in the center of the dining room would have been OK for conversation, but then they missed being able to see out the windows like we could. The booths were open at both ends so were not hard to get into or out of. Formal night also meant "lobster night" which we had been looking forward to! The guys at our table each ordered two lobsters apiece and they were delicious! I had a hard time deciding on appetizers that night so skipped the salad and got two appetizers instead. I had mushrooms served in puff pastry as well as the pumpkin soup that I had read so much about (I thought it was just OK). Dessert was cherries jubilee which we were all expecting to be served "with flames" but it was not. The waiters did do one of their singing and dancing numbers that night though. At the end of dinner Patrick showed up with a small anniversary cake for Bob and I and he and Roland sang to us! Great gesture, but we were stuffed and no one at our table was even remotely interested in a piece of cake. Instead, Patrick found a cover for the plate and sent us off with the cake and a couple of sets of silverware so we could enjoy it later. The movement of the ship had continued to increase during dinner so I decided that I would be much more comfortable wearing some flat sandals instead of the heels that I had on with my formal dress. (This was prior to my bunion surgery and the heels were killing me!) Tonight was the Las Vegas style production show "Shout" and we wanted to get good seats so we made a VERY fast trip to the cabin to make the shoe swap and drop off the anniversary cake. Since the Captain's Cocktail party for the later diners was still going on in the Normandie, quite a crowd had assembled by the lounge waiting to get in. Although our intention wasn't to cut into line, we had no choice. The forward elevators which were near our cabin deposited us right by the doors to the Normandie...there was no way we could get through the crowd to go to the back of the line even if we had tried. The next 15 minutes or so were spent crunched up next to the elevators waiting on the lounge doors to open for the show. Ordinarily this might have been a drag, but with the ship swaying back and forth, it was quite entertaining to watch the crowd groan and sway in unison! Bob and I both thoroughly enjoyed the show "Shout!"...and having great seats made it even more enjoyable. We were on the lower level near the center aisle about three rows back. Even though the view from these seats was great, I do have a minor grip concerning ALL of the seating in the Normandie. The bench style seats on the lower level all had very low backs which offered no support. I would find myself leaning on Bob instead...hopefully he just thought I was being romantic but the real reason was because my back was killing me! The theater style seats on the upper level of the theater were much more comfortable on the back, but were so high off the floor that my legs just dangled! Anyway...we thought the show was great! The Paradise dancers had non-stop energy, great talent and must have changed their outfits a million times during the show (I am impressed at how quickly they made these changes too!) The show featured the lead singers Amy and Jon and also the duo of Maria and Dmitri who did an act that might be described as "pretzel ballet" because of the way they could twist and contort their bodies. After the show we changed back into our shorts, grabbed the anniversary cake and found an outside table at the rear of the ship where we could enjoy the cake while overlooking the wake of the ship. Back at our cabin, our steward had left the first of the nightly towel animals. Tonight it was a puppy dog! Our beds had been turned down with a mint on each pillow. (During the week I noticed that the beds were turned down a different way each night!) Before dropping into bed, we organized our scuba stuff in anticipation (or apprehension in my case) of the next day's adventures! Then we just let the sea rock us to sleep... Tuesday, June 18 - Cozumel, Mexico The day had come that Bob had been anxiously awaiting...he was going to do his first "real" dive since becoming certified in scuba last summer. Although we share many common interests in our marriage, when it comes to physical activity we are as different as night and day. Bob is the athlete...he enjoys rock climbing and mountain climbing, lifts weights, has run several marathons, plays ice hockey...you get the idea. My idea of a physical activity is power-shopping through the Mall of American in Minneapolis! I do enjoy swimming though so last spring we got the idea that maybe we could take up scuba as an activity that we could enjoy together. The process to becoming a certified scuba diver started with classroom sessions which included quizzes and a final test in combination with "confined" water dives that we did at our local YMCA. I did an excellent job during the classroom portion (I tell everyone that I'm a great diver "on paper".) However being in the pool with all of the scuba equipment was not something that I particularly enjoyed. Bob had a great time and could hardly wait to finish the certification by doing the "open water" dives. Although Minnesota is known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" none of them are particularly places that you would want to dive. Our scuba instructor convinced us that we should do our open water dives in a former lead mine that is now a deep, deep lake. We were assured that the water was clear and we would have a great time. Unfortunately, only one of us had the "great time"...and it wasn't me! Right from the beginning I had trouble with my equipment, found that the "clear" water really had very limited visibility and that in short I freaked out and never made it through the rest of the certification process. Cozumel is one of the top diving spots in the world and I wanted Bob to have the opportunity to dive here. (Getting to scuba dive was one of the reasons that I was able to talk Bob into coming on this cruise.) Also the fact that we were in port from 7:30 a.m. till midnight meant that he could dive in the morning and we would still have time to do something together later in the day. We had looked at several different options and had pretty much decided that Bob would book his dives through the ship and I would spend the morning either shopping at the stores on the pier or just relaxing on the ship till he got back. The afternoon would then be spent at Chankanaab Park for a little snorkeling. A few weeks before our cruise I read many good reviews about the individualized service that Eagle Ray Divers provided in Cozumel. I emailed Chellie and Antonio (the owners) and explained that although I was a scuba "flunkie", Bob would very much like to dive. I thought perhaps that I could at least ride along in the boat while he dove so that that we would "sort of" be doing something together...after all, this trip was to celebrate our 25th anniversary and we should be TOGETHER! After numerous emails back and forth Chellie convinced me that I should try scuba again by doing a "discover" scuba dive. Although I wasn't crazy about the underwater stuff, I did want to share the experience with Bob so I agreed to give it one more try. My plan was to get the dives over with as quickly as possible and then spend a relaxing afternoon at Chankanaab Park. Our day started with breakfast in the Paris Dining room. Knowing that we probably wouldn't make it back to the ship for lunch, I grabbed a couple of bagels and some yogurt to take with us. We had brought along a collapsible cooler so I made a quick call to our steward and had him fill it with ice to take with us. Besides the bagels and yogurt, I stuck in several bottles of water and some other snacks. Two large Carnival beach towels were left in the cabin the night before for us to use on our port tour. I didn't want to be responsible for keeping track of the towels so I took some that we had brought from home. (Your Sail & Sign card is charged if you lose the towels.) The Carnival Jubilee was docked next to the Paradise that day in Cozumel which means there would have been literally thousands of people making their way into Cozumel to see the sights. The ship was one hour ahead of Cozumel time so we did not have to rush and by the time we got off the ship, most of the large tour groups had already departed. At the end of the pier was a line of taxis just waiting for passengers. As I told the driver that we wanted to go to the Caleta Marina, a couple standing next to us piped up and said "That's where we are going too!" Turns out they had also booked dives with Eagle Ray so we saved a few bucks and shared the cab. I thought it was so cool that out of all those people on the two cruise ships, that the four of us (the only ones diving with Eagle Ray) just happened to be catching a cab at precisely the same time! (Continue singing now..."It's a Small World After All"...) The drive to the marina was very short (fare was $6 total for the 4 of us) and we got there by 8:30 a.m. local time. The dives were scheduled for 9:00 a.m. so we had a bit of a wait during which time we got acquainted with Nichole and Jeremy and also watched the morning activity around the marina. Eventually one guide showed up and said Antonio would be there in a few minutes (but he reminded us that those are "Mexican" minutes!) Another diver, Steve, (who was spending a week at Cozumel) showed up also. Two boats were being prepared and when Antonio arrived, he informed me that I would be going with him on one boat to do my "discovery dive" while Bob and the other certified divers would take the second boat. Chellie had made it quite clear that Bob and I would be together so I was disappointed that the plans were changed. Antonio said Bob could come with me instead but then he would miss the deep dive that the others were going to do. Bob had been looking forward to this dive for so long that I decided to just keep my mouth shut and not make a big deal about us not being together. Once the boats were ready, Antonio told me that I should just get on the boat with Bob and the other divers after all. He apologized for the mix-up in plans...their computer had been zapped by lightening in a recent storm (which Chellie had explained to me also) and then Chellie had to go back to the States to be with her sick grandfather. Chellie is the one who handles all of the bookings so things weren't running as smoothly with her being gone. Compared to all of the other boats in the marina, Eagle Ray's were very old and sort of run down looking, but I knew to expect this based on the reports that I had read. The boats were also slow, but we had all day and didn't feel the need to be in a hurry anyway. (This was Mexico...life was supposed to be slow and laid-back!) Due to the computer mix-up, Antonio had to pick up another group of divers from a dock in town. Apparently they had been waiting for some time because they made the comment "It's a good thing we like you so much or we wouldn't have waited! As we headed out to our dive locations, we passed Chankanaab Park and some other nice resorts. During the trip, Antonio spent the time with me reviewing some of the basic scuba skills that I would need to remember. Eventually we met up with the other Eagle Ray boat that now contained a couple of related families from one of the resorts. The husband of one family (Ron) had just become certified and would be diving with Antonio and I...the rest of the family would snorkel with another Eagle Ray guide. Antonio and I transferred over to the second boat and Bob and the rest of our group went on to their dive along the Santa Rosa Wall. Eagle Ray makes it a point to take divers to spots that are not elbow to elbow with other divers so they may actually change plans once they get to a site and find it too crowded. Antonio helped me get into the scuba gear and as soon as I got in the water I managed to swallow a mouthful and began to choke. My first reaction was to panic and get out of the water FAST! Antonio got me calmed down and didn't give me a chance to change my mind...the next thing I knew we were going down into this world of beautiful coral and fish of every size and color! As I concentrated on taking in all of the sights, I slowly started to relax and remember the scuba skills that I had learned. Antonio never left my side and often would hold my hand and guide me along. At one point we saw a "real" eagleray and began to follow it as it glided effortlessly through the water. Before I knew it, Antonio was motioning to me that the dive was over and it was time to surface. I had done it!!! We joined the other families back on the second boat for a short time until we met up with our original boat. Ron and I transferred back to that boat while Antonio stayed on the other boat with the snorkelers. Bob and I both were so excited trying to share all that we had seen on our dives! His dive had taken him down about 90 feet along the Santa Rosa Wall where he had swam through huge coral formations and saw sites that I can't even imagine! By then it was probably already 1:00 p.m. and I realized that my plans to visit Chankanaab probably weren't going to happen but I didn't care! We still had another dive to do! The second dive was to be at Paradise Reef closer to where the cruise ships were docked and this time I would be diving with Bob. Arturo, another dive master with Eagle Ray, would be diving one-on-one with me. My first impression of Arturo was that he reminded me of a Mexican version of Gilligan. (Sailing through the ocean on that old boat probably just helped reinforce that impression too!) How wrong I was...not only was Arturo understanding and patient with me (the world's worst diver) but I found out that he has a master's degree in marine biology! The waters around Cozumel have very strong currents so once we went below the surface, we just let the drifts carry us along without any effort on our part. Although Arturo never left my side, I became more comfortable and was able to maintain neutral buoyancy on my own better. Our dive lasted about 50 minutes but the time just flew by and before I knew it, we were back on the boat headed toward land. Although it was extra work for Antonio to rearrange his day so that Bob and I could dive together it made the day just perfect for us! The dock where we dropped off the others on our boat wasn't too far from the cruise ship pier so rather than go back to the Caleta Marina and take a cab, Bob and I and Nichole and Jeremy decided to walk back to the Paradise. It was further than I had estimated, but I was still so pumped up from the scuba dive that I was full of energy and could have walked further! There is a long line of shops on the dock so going back to the ship, we cut through to take advantage of the air-conditioning. Although I didn't look very closely, these shops seemed to have about the same stuff as many of the stores downtown. At the dock (here as well as the other two ports) there were security "agents" at the gangplank for the ship who would "wand" each passenger as they boarded. Once inside the ship, the next step was to insert your Sail & Sign card into the "ding, ding machine" which brought up your picture on a small screen. A few steps away was an x-ray machine that all bags and packages had to pass through. The extra security measures really didn't take much time but it often looked like they were just "going through the motions". It was probably close to 5:30 p.m. by the time we got back to the ship which gave us just enough time to shower and dress for dinner. In all of the excitement of the day, neither of us had touched the food we took in the cooler and now we realized we were really hungry! After missing lunch, I didn't feel guilty ordering my two appetizers that night! The lobster bisque was very good but I couldn't force myself to finish the escargot (I wanted to at least try it though!) For the main course I had jerked pork loin with black beans and then most everyone at the table had the key lime pie for dessert. Getting some food in our stomachs gave us our second wind so after dinner it was off to do some shopping in Cozumel! At the end of the pier we were able to find another couple who were willing to share a cab downtown and off we went! Our main goal was to get some Mexican vanilla and we found several of the stores that had some but no one was willing to negotiate on the price. About 15 years ago my parents brought us back the most wonderful vanilla from Mexico that they had purchased very cheaply in a liquor store and I was anxious to find more of the same. Unfortunately I have my doubts that what we bought is actually "pure" vanilla and it really wasn't any great bargain ($12 for 32 ozs. And $8 for 16 ozs.) Using our credit card to make the purchases did give us a small break in price because of the value of the peso compared to the dollar (don't ask me to explain because I can't!) We bought some for ourselves and a couple other bottles to take back as gifts. I encouraged Bob to buy a "diving" t-shirt to commemorate our day and we were able to do a little bargaining on it...eventually we paid $5 for the shirt. (I fully expect the shirt to fall apart the first time it is washed however!) The heat and fatigue were starting to take their toll on me so we grabbed a cab back to the ship, getting there just before a big storm hit! It rained and rained and rained! The "sail away party" on the Lido deck was cancelled and we also missed getting to see the drunks returning to the ship at midnight (the highlight of being in Cozumel according to the cruise director!) We did go to the Mexican Folkloric show (put on by locals) in the Normandie Lounge but rather than being entertained, the music was putting me to sleep so we left. Even though the deck party was cancelled, the late night Mexican buffet was moved indoors to the Paris Restaurant and we sampled a few of the offerings. On our way to the buffet, we encountered the head "hotel manager" who was watching water pour in through the doors of the ship on the Lido deck! He said he had never seen it rain so hard as it was that night! He explained that when the ship docks it is at a "list" (slant) to make it easier for passengers to disembark. As a result the water was collecting on the decks on the "high" side of the ship and pouring in through the doors! Yikes...we were going to drown "inside" a ship while it was docked!! They were still running fans the next day trying to get the carpets dried out! Climbing into our beds we felt the ship shudder as it moved away from the dock and onto our next destination! Wednesday, June 19th - Sea Day I liked the itinerary for the Paradise because of the way that port days and sea days alternated. After being so busy on Tuesday, it was nice to have a whole day at sea to relax! Following breakfast in the Paris Restaurant, my plan was to do some videotaping throughout the ship. After taping most of the indoor spots, we moved outdoors on the Lido Deck. The shock of going from the cold air conditioning to the warm, humid sea air was more than my camera could handle! Immediately it shut off and began flashing a warning signal..."condensation inside camera"! Nothing I did would fix the problem. I even resorted to holding the camera under the hand dryers in the women's restroom, but no luck (I got some strange looks though!) I'm not sure if it was just time or all of the fiddling I did, but eventually the camera decided it would start working and I was able to get some outside video of the ship's decks. One thing we saw (but I didn't get on video) was flying fish along side the ship! I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, but Bob saw them too and later we heard others talking about the fish! I left Bob snoozing on a lounge chair and went to the port talk on Grand Cayman and Ochos Rios that was being given in the Normandie Lounge that morning. Once again, in order to make it to lunch on time, I had to leave the talk early. At least I knew that I could see the entire talk later that afternoon on the TV in our cabin. Bob and I met up and went to lunch in the Elation Dining Room...no buffet for me, I was on vacation and wanted someone to wait on me! None of our tablemates were there so it was just the two of us! I think Bob had BBQ ribs that day while I had spinach and ricotta ravioli and then bread pudding for dessert. For someone with little self control (me!) the small portions in the dining room kept me from over-doing the food intake. Just laying around watching the ocean go by occupied us until 3:30 when it was time for the galley tour. The tour started in the Elation Dining room with a talk by the maitre'd, Yusov. Hearing the amounts of food that are necessary to feed passengers and crew aboard the Paradise for a week was staggering! By the time we got into the kitchen area it was close to 4:00 p.m. and knowing that the first dining time was 5:45 I figured things would be really bustling...wrong! The galley was deserted...no activity whatsoever! Yusov explained that none of the food is prepared until the passengers see the menus and place their orders! All I can say is WOW! The galley tour finished up along Carnival Boulevard where staff members were demonstrating their skills...napkin folding, towel animals, food carving, etc. We noticed that "something" was going on in the Queen Mary Lounge that afternoon but wasn't sure what it was. Lots of crew members going in and out with trays of drinks and hors'doevres. Later we found out (from our tablemates) that the Carnival "past cruisers" party had been that afternoon. (Something for us to look forward to on our next cruise!) After spending the day doing nearly nothing, I was exhausted! J A nap in our cool, dark cabin was just what I needed (and wanted). Bob opted for a workout instead (don't you just hate people like that?) and headed up to the sports deck to do a little running. When he returned later he said the wind had gotten so strong that they wouldn't let anyone on the top deck to jog for fear that they would blow off the ship! As an alternative, he used the treadmills in the gym and then did a weight workout. After my nap, I did find time to do a bit of "window" shopping in the ship's stores. I didn't buy anything until later in the week, but did have fun looking at some of the jewelry in the "$10 Boutique". Continuing with the slow pace of the day, we showered and leisurely got ready for dinner while watching the shopping talk on TV. There was a trio (piano, violin, and cello) that played classical music in the atrium each night before dinner (and other times during the day) and Bob liked to go early to hear them. We would watch from above on the Atlantic Deck just prior to going into the dining room. Now that we were getting to know our tablemates better, it was always fun to meet at dinner and compare notes on how we had all spent our day. The newlywed gal at our table was allergic to all kinds of nuts so each night she would go through the menu trying to pick items that would be "nut-free". She tried to be "low-key" about it, but I think I would have been much more assertive in talking to the maitre'd, waiter, chef or someone! One night she ordered apple pie for dessert and assumed that it was a safe choice only to find it contained almonds. Luckily she noticed them before starting to eat the pie. Bingo was always held in the Normandie Lounge just prior to the evening entertainment with the Paradise "dancers" doing double duty in "bingo card sales". Only one game would be played each night so Carnival must have really been raking in the dough. I think one card was $10 and you could get 3 cards for $20 (what a bargain!) The nightly jackpot ranged anywhere from $600 to $1000 during the week. Although we didn't play (we're too cheap!!) I enjoyed hearing the assistant cruise director call the numbers each night. She was from Australia and had a wonderful accent! The Paradise orchestra was also playing jazz and swing music before the main entertainment that night. The Wednesday night entertainment consisted of an "illusionist" John Duffy (who was OK) and a comedian Adam Ace. Actually "lunatic" would be a better word to describe Adam Ace! I wasn't sure what to think of him at first, but he was so quick-witted and just kept getting funnier and funnier as his act continued. Adam also did a midnight "adult" comedy show but we didn't stay up to see that. Up to this point, we hadn't even stuck a big toe into a pool or hot tub...it was time to give it a try! We changed into our swimsuits and joined two other couples in the hot tub on the Lido Deck. The other pools and hot tubs closed at 8:00 p.m., but the whirlpool on the Lido deck was open until 11:30 p.m. How relaxing to soak in the warm water while watching the moon peak out from behind the clouds above! Thursday, June 20th - Grand Cayman The sound of the Paradise anchoring in Grand Cayman awakened us. Like Cozumel, the Cayman Islands were one hour behind the ship time and since we needed to be at Captain Marvin's office by 9:15 a.m. (10:15 ship time) we had plenty of time to eat a leisurely breakfast in the dining room before leaving the ship. On sea days the early breakfast time was 8:15 a.m. so we never made it up in time. When the ship was in port, there was an "open" breakfast time from 7:00 to 9:00. The breakfast menu was pretty much identical to what was being served on the buffet in the Paris Restaurant plus a few extra items. We both ordered eggs benedict but this was misleading. Eggs (plural) implies that you get more than one but when it arrived we each had one puny egg in the middle of the plate. For breakfast, I decided I liked the buffet better. There is no dock at Grand Cayman so cruise ships anchor in the harbor and passengers must take small boats called "tenders" to get to shore. The Carnival Capers newsletter cautioned passengers to allow at least 30 minutes for the process. Our cabin was on deck 5 (Main Deck) so we took the stairs down to Deck 3 where we were to catch the tender...except we didn't make it down to deck 3 because the lines were so long. People were backed up the stairs to Deck 4 waiting in line. It probably took us a half an hour before it was our turn to board the tender. A family in front of us was getting in a panic because it was time for them to meet their tour on the pier in town and they hadn't even gotten off the ship yet! Once on the tender, the trip to shore only took about 10 minutes. It had been raining that morning when we first got up, but the weather cleared up and was very nice all day long. Once reaching the pier, we started walking to Captain Marvin's office a few blocks away. It was still very early, but we dropped off our stuff in the store (we were carrying all of our snorkeling gear) and checked in with Ruth who handles all of the bookings. Ruth had mentioned to me in one of her emails that she had previously lived in Minnesota. It turns out that her dad had grown up just a few miles from where we live now! (One more chorus of "It's a Small World...") Rather than just sitting and waiting on our tour to start, Bob and I started walking up and down some of the side streets. Grand Cayman is a "rich" island (according to Josh the cruise director) and has many, many banks and nice homes! However, we knew we weren't back in the U.S. when we saw chickens and roosters running loose! It was still early when we got back to Captain Marvin's so I went into a Tortuga Rum store next door and sampled MANY kinds of Tortuga Rum Cakes. The same cakes were for sale at the same price on the ship so buying them in Grand Cayman didn't really save you any money. Around 9:30 (island time) a couple of vans showed up to transport everyone to Captain Marvin's docks on the other side of the island...about a 20 minute drive or so. It gave us a chance to see a "little" of the island, but mostly just the resort hotels along the shore. Once there we were assigned to board "The Highrider" one of two boats that would be doing the snorkel tours. The boat had several areas to sit...some shaded, some not. There were a couple of coolers full of gallon jugs of fruit punch and water that we could help ourselves to and also a very small bathroom down some VERY steep steps. I've heard that Captain Marvin himself still does some tours, but we had a "Captain Paul"...a salty looking guy who looked right at home on the boat! Besides a younger guide that also went along, there was a guy in scuba gear who videotaped our tour. Snorkeling equipment was provided on the tour, but we had our own and didn't use their stuff. Although their equipment looked "ok", it was cheaper stuff. I was glad to have my own mask and snorkel that I knew were "clean" and fit well. Continue Reading Part II of this Paradise Review. Read Less
Have you read Part 1 of this review? The boat passed by some VERY nice Cayman homes as we left the dock and then headed out to sea. Our first snorkeling stop was at Coral Gardens. The water was crystal clear and probably about 15 feet ... Read More
Have you read Part 1 of this review? The boat passed by some VERY nice Cayman homes as we left the dock and then headed out to sea. Our first snorkeling stop was at Coral Gardens. The water was crystal clear and probably about 15 feet deep with lots of coral and fish to see. I started out wearing a snorkeling vest, but it bothered me so I took it off. I was surprised that even without the vest I just naturally floated! Sean, the videographer, had some food to attract the fish and even attracted a stingray that wouldn't leave him alone! Everyone tended to bunch up around Sean (so they could see the fish) and it felt a bit congested at times. The second stop was at Barrier Reef which was very close to Stingray City. (You could see the boats and crowds of people.) The water here was more shallow and you had to be careful that you didn't bump the coral with your fins. Each stop was about a half hour I suppose. The crowds at Sing Ray City were unbelievable...gobs and gobs of people and boats! We even had to "jockey" to get a spot to park the boat! I got the feeling that the stingrays were probably "full" by the time we got to the sandbar. None of them rushed around us like I've read about...in fact it took some time before we could even entice some of them to come sample the squid that we were offering! Finally a small group of rays did gather, but they weren't very interested in eating. The guide caught one of the rays and patiently let everyone in our group have a chance to hold and pet the ray if they wanted. He also would hold the ray up in the air so we could see it "smile" and "spit"...pretty cute! On the way back to the dock, they played the video that Sean had just made and he went about the boat taking orders from those who wished to purchase the video. The price of the video was $54 which I thought was a bit steep, but I would rather spend my money on "memories" than trinkets or junk so we ordered it. It took about 2 weeks to receive the video (it is mailed to you) and once viewing it, I was glad we had gotten it. Reggae-type music had been added and the video showed the people on our boat, underwater at the snorkeling sites and everyone having fun with the stingrays. I like being able to "show" our family and friends what we saw underwater instead of trying to just describe it. We probably would have had enough time to do a little shopping once we returned from the snorkeling trip, but since we were lugging our snorkel equipment we went on back to the ship. The time in port at Grand Cayman is short and I didn't want to take any chance of missing the boat. We lucked out because a tender was just starting to load as we reached the pier so we didn't have to wait. Dinner that night started with Alaskan snow crabmeat cocktail followed by filet mignon with California Cabernet Sauce and Gorgonzola Butter. Out of all the meals I had during the week, this was my least favorite, but it wasn't bad. I've read how people brag that after the first night their waiter knows exactly what they want and brings it automatically...well I thought our waiters were good (and especially friendly) but Roland never could get it figured out who drank coffee and who didn't. Out of the six people at our table, the same three had coffee EVERY night and he never did remember. Also, every single night our "newlywed gal" would start the evening by saying "when you get time, could I have some lemon for my water?" But yet, Roland never did catch on and bring it without her asking. Oh well...it was Roland's first week in the dining room so we will chalk it up to inexperience. He was a really nice guy and had a great smile! The evening entertainment started with ventriloquist, Kyle Wayne and his "dummy" bird...pretty funny actually. The second guy on stage was Jim Brick, a comedian. This guy was hilarious! There were three kids (about 10 years old) watching the show from one of the side stairways (not supervised I may add) and he made them the brunt of his humor. I would have died of embarrassment if I had been one of the parents, but since the same three kids were back the next night (interrupting the show again) they must not have gotten the message that everyone was tired of kids running wild through the ship. None of the bars or lounges on the ship seemed to be very lively in the evenings but that is most likely because we were there too early. I kept forgetting that some people were just finishing dinner at 10:30 p.m. and that the later seating for the evening entertainment was just getting started. Us old folks just need our sleep I guess! Bob and I did wander into the America Bar that night to hear Bruce McGhie (from Scotland) on the piano. Although the crowd was small, people were singing along and having a good time. Bruce played lots of "oldies" that we knew and it was fun to join in. (He was great doing Elton John & Beatle numbers!) We did check out some of the other lounge entertainment, but weren't too impressed. Friday, June 21st - Ochos Rios, Jamaica Ochos Rios...our last port of the cruise. I had made arrangements to meet up with Peat Taylor a half-hour after we docked. The Carnival Capers said docking time would be about 8:00 a.m. so I figured we should be there around 8:30. In reality, I think we probably docked around 7:30 so it made it a bit confusing as to when we should meet Peat. We grabbed a quick breakfast and as we made our way to the end of the dock, there was Peat waiting on us, just like he promised. The Paradise was the only ship in port that day so besides Bob and I there were only three others on the tour...a couple and their daughter who was about 12 years old. The skies that day were bright blue without a cloud in site... The first stop on our tour was Dunn's River Falls and we were the first ones there! Peat dropped us off and said he would be there in a couple of hours to pick us up. The park was nicer than I had expected...lots of flowers and lush foliage. I had a good sized duffle bag and the other couple had a backpack, but the lockers at the falls were large enough that we could share. I think the cost was $8 to rent the locker, but you would get back $3 of the cost when you returned the key...(or was it $5 you got back?...I can't remember.) We had to wait around a bit until there were enough people there that the "guides" were willing to start climbing the falls. You begin the journey by walking down a bunch of steps to the beach where the waterfall spills into the ocean. The guide made a big deal about making sure that everyone formed a human chain and held hands while they climbed. There were times when this was helpful, but most of the time I wanted my hands free to help keep my balance. We had bought cheap water shoes at Wal-Mart before the cruise, otherwise there were places you could "rent" the same type of shoes for $5. It is also a good idea to have some sort of eye glass strap if you wear glasses. Bob had forgotten to bring one along so Peat loaned him one to use while climbing the falls. The falls are pretty much entirely in the shade so we didn't worry about sunscreen. Anyone that had a "good" camera gave it to the guide and he would carry it for you up the falls, taking pictures of you and your group along the way. I didn't trust them with my good camera (and rightly so after watching them) therefore I only took along an underwater disposable camera. I wanted my hands free to climb, so I wore a cheap, nylon fanny pack to put the camera in. Several times I had the guide take a picture of Bob and I and when he was done he would just toss the camera back at me. A couple of times the camera landed in the water, but he didn't seem concerned. As you've probably gathered by now, I am not athletic and very much "out of shape" but I was able to climb the falls OK. Having said that though, the potential is definitely there for some type of injury! (There was a man in a wheel chair on our Captain Marvin tour the previous day from a different cruise ship. We found out that he had just gotten hurt the day before at Dunn's River Falls!) In places the rocks were slippery and often times, the rushing water made it hard to see where you were putting your feet. Also the guides tended to rush you through so the people behind you didn't get backed up so much. (By the time we left the falls...there was a HUGE line of people coming up!) The waterfalls reminded me of a "vertical" version of Johnson Shut-Ins State Park in Missouri in case any of you have ever visited there.BR> At the top of the falls, the guide was there holding out his hand asking for tips. I hadn't carried any money with me in the falls (no way to keep it dry!) so I just by-passed him. Peat had told us that the guide's services were "included" in the $10 admission fee to the falls so I didn't feel too bad. After climbing the falls, I grabbed my video camera from the locker and did manage to take a bit of video from the stairs at the top of the falls. There was a restroom building with flush toilets where we were able to change clothes. I don't know if all of the toilets were the same, but a female attendant had to fill a bucket of water and dump it in the toilet that I used to make it flush! I was nervous about encountering the aggressive vendors (that I've read about) on the way out of the park so I convinced the others in our group to go out the way we came in. They did stop and take a picture with a "flower lady" (actually a guy in drag) and her donkey and then realized they were expected to give a tip. Peat was waiting for us in the parking lot as planned and we started on our tour of Jamaica. He offered to take us back to the ship and wait on us if we wanted to have lunch onboard, but no one was particularly hungry and we were anxious to see the island. For the next two hours or so, we saw parts of Jamaica that most tourists will never see (unless they go with Peat!) Peat drove us up into the mountainside, through Fern Gully, into a smaller Jamaican village, all over the place! He would often stop to show us various plants and let us smell some of the wonderful spices that grow on the island. When Bob found out that nutmeg is grown there, he just had to have some. (There is nothing like freshly grated nutmeg over rice pudding!) Peat knew a guy that we could buy some from and stopped at his road-side stand. This guy was so friendly and also showed us cocoa beans and other spices that he had. Before leaving he gave each of the women a bright red flower for us to wear in our hair! Peat also stopped at a couple of other roadside stands where we could look at their wares. Peat told us we were under no obligation to buy at any of the stands and none of the vendors even asked us to purchase anything. I wonder if they were friends of Peat's and didn't want to make his customers feel uneasy by being agressive. I did buy some beads at one place...three strands for $2. Overall the tour was great, but at times I just closed my eyes because the traffic made me so nervous. The roads through the mountain are narrow and very "twisty". When coming to a curve, drivers would just honk which I assume means, "get outta my way I'm coming around". Jamaicans drive on the "wrong" side of the road which probably added to the illusion that we were constantly in danger! Once, on a narrow country road, a big truck in front of us was unable to get through so it just started backing up! Peat was able to squeeze around him, but I swear he was only two inches from the truck! (Peat told us he greases the sides of his van!) After touring the island, Peat gave us the choice of what we wanted to do. He was willing to take both families to different places if we wanted, but we both decided to do a little shopping. My main goal was to get some Blue Mountain coffee so Peat dropped us off at a store where he knew was a good place to shop. This store was next to an open-air craft market and across the street from the Soni Shopping Plaza. I was nervous about dealing with the vendors at the craft market, so we chose to spend most of the time going into the shops in the shopping center. We did end up going into the market area shortly before we were scheduled to meet up with Peat but then didn't have much time to shop. I was so sorry that we hadn't spent more time there. Not once did I feel threatened by the vendors and Bob and I both had a good time "bargaining" with them...I bought a couple of necklaces and Bob bought a carved wooden mask. In planning this trip, I was actually dreading going to Jamaica because of all of the negative things I had read. In the end it was a very enjoyable experience and I came away with an appreciation of the Jamaican people! By the time we finished shopping, it was time for us to return to the ship. Peat insisted that we pay him no money until we were done with the tour and he knew we were satisfied. (He joked that since we owed him money we knew he would always come back and never leave us stranded somewhere!) Peat's tour was $30 per person but that included the $10 admission fee to the falls...similar tours through the ship were much more expensive and no where near as personal as what we were treated to! Peat dropped us off right at the dock and we made sure to give him a generous tip...he was great! The lunch buffet was still available when we got back onboard so we ate a bit while sitting outside looking at the gorgeous Jamaican shoreline. Out of the three ports, I thought that Jamaica was by far the most beautiful. Cozumel and Grand Cayman were both very flat islands (the ship was usually the tallest thing around!) but Jamaica was mountainous. To me it was the picture of a "tropical paradise". The ship set sail at 3:30 so that gave us plenty of time to dress and get ready for the second formal night. I had a grilled portabella mushroom for my appetizer, zucchini soup, and grilled black tiger jumbo shrimp. I think that baked Alaska was the dessert that night and once again the waiters did some singing and dancing for us. A couple of nights Patrick just brought us all the same dessert without giving us a dessert menu to order from. I did notice that some of the other tables got the same "special dessert" but had also ordered other desserts as well. Friday was the second production-type show, and we were all anxious to get a good seat so no one at our table was concerned about other desserts anyway. Unfortunately many other people had the same idea. I suppose the folks from the 5:45 seating had first chance at the seats, but by the time we got there we had very few "good" seats to choose from (and we were there an hour early!) I noticed some people even brought decks of cards to help pass the time. The show, "Dream Voyage" was quite good, but I enjoyed the previous show "Shout" a little more because of the selection of songs. Up to this point, the only late night buffet that we had attended was on Tuesday for the Mexican food. Other nights we either weren't that hungry or were too tired to wait up. But this night was the "Gala Buffet" and I did not want to miss seeing it! The doors opened to the buffet in the Elation Dining room from 11:30 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. for picture taking only. We got there a little early and waited in line because I knew this was going to be a popular event. (I actually saw a guy eating an ice cream cone while waiting in line for the buffet! Only on a cruise ship!) A pre-recorded commentary was played as you walked along the buffet which described the unbelievable food creations. I have never seen so much food nor seen it displayed so elaborately in my life!! The same buffet was also set up in the Destiny Dining room (still very fancy, but I didn't think it was quite as extravagant as the one in the Elation) and was served from 11:45 till 12:45. (The buffet in the Elation was from 12:30 to 1:30.) Neither of us were really hungry, but we wanted to at least try some of the food. I almost felt guilty taking the desserts though because they were like works of art! Read Less
This was our second trip on the Carnival Paradise. We took the Eastern Route on her in September, 2002. My husband and I left our home in Jacksonville, AR on Saturday morning, 2/22/03, in order to arrive in Miami the day before our ... Read More
This was our second trip on the Carnival Paradise. We took the Eastern Route on her in September, 2002. My husband and I left our home in Jacksonville, AR on Saturday morning, 2/22/03, in order to arrive in Miami the day before our cruise departs. We experienced our first airplane ride since security has started checking all bags. American Airlines treated us well on our entire trip with on time arrivals and departures and all bags accounted for at each destination. We used a free night we had earned to stay at the Fairfield Bay Airport, which is attached to a full service Marriott. We arrived at the hotel at dinner time, so we slipped over to the Marriott restaurant for a nice meal before going to bed for the night. The next morning, we had the complimentary breakfast outside by the pool under a large tent. Light rain was falling and lower temperatures were forecast for the day. Many cruisers were with us under that tent, and everyone was excited and unworried about the weather. We left the hotel about 10:15 a.m. in a taxi to the pier. We showed our cruise documents and passports to security at the pier, and then waited in traffic for about ten minutes before arriving at our Carnival terminal. The porters were assisting the departing passengers, so we had to wait a few minutes for one to assist us with our luggage. We tipped the porter, watched him put the bags in the correct bin, and then headed into the terminal. Even though it was only 11:00 a.m., the ticketing gates were already open with no waiting. We zipped through both security and ticketing, then headed upstairs to pick up our Sail 'n Sign card. One couple was ahead of us, so the Carnival agent started talking to both of us. We suddenly realized that the other couple was "Maplesugar", someone we had communicated with on the cruise BBs prior to the cruise. So, we all sat down together in the lounge to wait to board the ship. The agents kept coming by to say later and later times to board the ship, but shortly after 12:00 Noon, they allowed us to board the ship without delay. We went directly to the card room on the Atlantic deck to request a change in our dinner time. (We've always had late seating and had decided to check out early seating this time, but our cards indicated we had been given the late seating.) We asked the maitre d' for a table in early seating with no children. He said there were very few tables in early seating without children, but he would put us on a waiting list and try to accommodate us. He instructed us to go on to the table we were assigned to that night, and if he could change our table, we'd receive a note in our cabin the next day. We then went to our cabin to drop off our carry-on bag. We had booked a 6A guarantee room, and we received a 6E room, Oceanview on the Empress Deck aft. The room was fine. I think I felt the vibrations and noise from the engine more since we were near the very back of the ship, but slept like a baby anyway. Our room steward was Ernest. We didn't see him very often, but our room was kept impeccable, and he delivered the few things we requested without delay. And, of course, we had neat towel animals almost every day! We visited the Paris Restaurant Pizzeria for a pizza lunch that was delicious. The 24-hour pizzeria on Paradise kept us happy throughout the cruise. After pizza, we wandered the ship to check out some of our favorite hideaways and see what had changed. The ship had not changed, just most of the staff. The Captain was the same, the maitre d' Ricardo (you look MAHvelous, Chow for now!), the piano bar singer Roberta, and one of our waiters, Som, from our last cruise was there. Roger headed out to soak up the sun by the Lido pool, while I took a nap in the cabin. When I woke up, the bags were there, so I unpacked them and settled us into our week-long cruise home. I then gathered Roger, who was making friends, from the pool to go to the muster drill. The muster drill seemed to take longer than others, but we survived. We met some really nice folks during the sail away and enjoyed watching the shoreline disappear along with the Carnival drinks in our hands! As soon as the shoreline had totally disappeared, we headed to the Promenade deck with our new friends for sushi. More people were there for the first night of sushi than we had on our first Paradise cruise. Then we had to change for our 8:00 pm dinner seating in the Destiny dining room. The dining room was probably less than half full this first night. We were seated at a table for ten with only two other couples, so our table had four empty seats. Our servers were wonderful. We enjoyed our meal and our dining companions, so we told them we had requested a change to early seating earlier and not because we had not enjoyed their company. The menu had not changed since our first cruise, so I won't be discussing what we ate much. While the meals were good, they were not up to the standards of the dining establishments we frequent on land, and if this dining room were a land restaurant, we probably would not have returned to it a second time. The service was great, but the food was just so-so most of the time. On our first formal time, the lobster I ordered was bad, dissolve in your mouth bad. I asked the server to take it away, and bring me back salmon, because I didn't think I could consider another lobster after that taste! The chateaubriand was a little tough. Steak is an ongoing struggle on Carnival ships, because they say they only make it medium rare and medium well. I prefer my steak medium, and Roger likes his rare. No steak came to our table prepared less than well done. Very disappointing! And, it wasn't just us; our table mates were sending food back as well. We did have some good entrees, but probably only because we finally got smart and started asking the servers what they recommend. When we would order something that others on prior weeks had sent back, they would silently shake their heads warning us. The next morning we did get reassigned to early seating, which put our dinners at 5:45 pm in the Destiny dining room. We noticed that the dining room was ¼ to ½ empty every night, except the last night when for the first time it was almost full. We asked our servers about this, and they said late seating was even emptier than early seating. That was very unusual in our experience. Our new servers at our early seating were Aquino from India and Gabriel from Hungary. We received excellent service from both of them. Since we had four ports in a row on this cruise, we did not take breakfast and lunch with them for those four days. So, we mostly only saw them for the evening meal. We enjoyed both their service and their pleasing personalities. Our new table was six-person booth. Another couple, Ken and Janie, were also reassigned to that booth, as we were. We enjoyed getting to know one another for a couple of days, when another couple, Duane and Marilyn, were reassigned to join us as well. Ken's brother, Harvey, sent him a bottle of champagne, which Ken shared with the table one night - thanks, Harvey. And, Duane and Marilyn, married 53 years, were in the Newlywed/Not-so-Newlywed Game, and they brought the champagne they received as participants of that game to share with us one night as well. We enjoyed one another's company so much, laughed more than I'd laughed in ages. I hope we weren't disruptive to others, because other tables often joined in our gaiety as well! We took our first port breakfast in the Destiny dining room. Service was poor, we couldn't get toast and eggs and coffee refills. Later in the day we spoke to Ken and Janie who told us they had a wonderful breakfast in the Paris Restaurant on the Lido deck, with hot omelet and toast. So we took all the rest of our breakfasts there enjoying the hot omelets and toast. We came from the pool deck for most lunches to the Paris Restaurant, where we had lots of pizza and some excellent pasta ... and everyone enjoyed the ice cream! Sunday, our day of departure, was wrapped up in the Normandie Lounge for a Welcome Aboard Show. Most of the shows had not changed since our September cruise, but the entertainers had. The comedian this night was Adam Ace. He's a young twenty-something, with a tall blond flat-top. (You'll have to see it to believe it.) And, he dresses in bright, bold colored suits. One night he had on a lemon-color suit, and another night he a red suit. His comedy was kind of goofy, and, at first, we thought we weren't going to enjoy him, but he was very funny. Our table mate, Ken, was taken on stage for a routine with toilet paper, that dubbed Ken the label of" Toilet Man" for the rest of the cruise. After the show we headed to the Queen Mary's lounge to dance to the tunes of Doug Allen and the Chicago Mob. We did this almost every night, so we made friends with people who joined us for the same fun each night. Monday was a Sea Day. After breakfast, we went to the Travel and Shopping Talks in the Normandie Lounge. Shawn Bussey was our cruise director, and we honestly probably enjoyed her more than any other cruise director before. She sometimes gets a "Davey DJ" voice on stage during shows, but she had a delightful, helpful personality. Since our port days were four in a row - Belize, Roatan, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel - she covered all the information in one talk. She gave away a 6-pack box of Tortuga Rum Cakes to the first person showing her a picture of Ben Franklin. Roger ran up with his $100 bill and got the prize, which we shared with family upon returning. Shawn tossed out several other small prizes. I caught a bottle of nail polish and a ring, both which change colors in the sun. This became gifts for my 11-year old daughter, Rachel. We spent some time soaking up the sun on this sea day, and then headed to the Queen Mary's lounge for the Art Auction. We had lots of fun seeing the various pictures and artists and bought one picture for our home. We had planned to meet some other cruisers we had corresponded with online prior to the cruise at 4 p.m. at the US Bar, but there was just too much going on to slow down for that. We went up to the bar at 3:55 p.m. and waited until 4:10 p.m. Maplesugar showed up right about 4 pm, so by 4:10 we headed for karaoke which we all wanted to watch. Sorry to anyone that missed us, but there was simply too much to do! Monday night was our first Formal night and the Captain's party. We had to get ready early since we now had early seating. It was fun seeing all the different clothes - from nice pantsuits to evening gowns for women, and polo shirts with sport coats to tuxedos for men. Everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. We had our pictures taken instead of attending the Captain's party. The photographers were set up all along the Promenade deck every night, and we purchased some beautiful pictures. They had some new backdrops that require you to pose while seated on the floor - these were used on casual nights. Most folks didn't want to try this, but we did it even though we were leery of it, and it turned out to be one of our best pictures. This was especially great for those with children in the group. Children can't seem to find a nice standing pose, but they had no problem giving relaxed smiles while seated comfortably on the floor. The Monday night show was the Dream Voyage with the Paradise Dancers, and singers Sharon Johnson and Eric Dalton. Then we headed to the Queen Mary's lounge for more dancing before the late night Adult Comedy of Adam Ace. Adam is such a goofy comedian, he had trouble making his comedy adult, which was fine with me. It was great fun though. Tuesday was our first port day of Belize. We were in Belize from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and we had to tender ashore in Belize. Here's a word about tendering. We had to tender ashore in both Belize and Grand Cayman. Anyone booked on a ship excursion were assigned an area of the ship to meet at certain time and their excursion ticket was their tender pass. Everyone else had to go to the Normandie lounge at a certain time to get their tender ticket. A large crowd is in that lounge to get tender tickets first, many because they had independent tours booked ashore at a certain time. So, if you need to get off the ship early or at a certain time, get to that lounge early and sit right up front. Our cruise was Carnival Paradise's first stop at Belize, which I think caused the tendering to move more slowly there. I think it will speed up with subsequent cruises. In Belize we decided to take the ship's excursion of Goff Caye Snorkeling. We tendered from the ship directly to a small island. Anyone who did not want to snorkel off the boat got off on the island at that time. The island was very small - you could see all the way across it. It had maybe six palm trees on it, and a small open-air hut where they were selling drinks, snacks and crafts - you need cash to buy any of this - I heard the brownies there were fabulous. Lots of sand, water and sun - but not much else. There were two port-a-potties on the pier for restroom facilities, but no toilet paper! The tender then took us out by the Barrier Reef in the middle of the ocean, and we offloaded from the side of the boat. I'm not a strong swimmer or confident snorkeler, so I was afraid to jump off the side of the boat, and another passenger finally agreed to give me a shove which got me safely in the water. For those like me who lacked confidence, they had us wrap a regular orange boat vest around our waists. This worked fine, but if you want to take this wonderful snorkeling tour, I would strongly recommend you bring your own snorkeling vest, because those are so much more comfortable. We snorkeled out there for a long time. Our tour guide joined us in the water. He would swim down and point at things, then come to the surface to explain what it was - he was great! After a while, he said he was going to take us to even deeper water, so anyone who was tired or just ready could swim back to the boat, which I did. About half of us waited in the boat for the others, including Roger, to complete the deeper water snorkeling. They saw some really neat things. Then after everyone had loaded back on the boat, we returned to the island, where we all soaked up the sun and drinks, while the tour guide took those who had unloaded on the island on an hour-long snorkeling tour right off the island. Throughout this excursion, the tender boat operators were giving us cold water bottles, which helped keep us all well-hydrated - a nice service! When we returned to the port, we cleaned up to take a tender into Belize City. Belize is not really a shopping port. They have a small shopping mall right off the tender port with mostly crafts, t-shirts, etc. Nothing exceptional. It was nice visiting their little shopping area and buying postcards for friends and family. The Belize excursions most talked about back on the ship were the Shark Ray Alley snorkeling and the Cave Tubing. Mixed reports on cave tubing, younger folks seemed to have enjoyed it more than some of the older folks. We returned to the ship and it wasn't long until dinner. After dinner, we headed to the Normandie Lounge for Bingo and the show. I always play cruise bingo, but I've never won. On this night, I won $600 in Bingo - helped pay for that cruise tab! The show was Eddie Capone, a comedian, and a magician, John Duffy. The magician was nothing special. I liked Eddie's routine, but others weren't so thrilled. He was older and talked a lot about the way things used to be - I enjoyed him. Then we headed to Leonardo Lounge for karaoke. We left there about midnight for bed, but we heard that karaoke went well into the night, with a large crowd having great fun. Wednesday was our Roatan port day, where the left the ship right onto Roatan's port - no tenders. It was also a short day, arriving in Roatan at 7 a.m., back on board by 2 p.m. We had purchased a ship excursion to the Parrot Bay Resort Beach Party. Leaving the ship, we saw some Roatan dancers performing on the pier, and, just beyond that, was a parking lot full of vans and busses. Beyond that was an 8 or 10-foot fence that went low down below the water as well. That was kind of scary - what were they trying to protect us from? On the other side of the fence, many Roatan citizens and cabbies were pressed against the fence hoping, I think, to offer their services to passengers who were brave enough to pass through the fence. Most of the vans and busses had a sign in their front windshield where they were going. We couldn't find ours, so we located a Carnival agent, who located an MC tour operator to get us in our van. Turned out our van driver had placed his sign on the side door which we couldn't see from the front of the vehicle. It was a long drive to the Parrot Bay Resort Beach, which turned out to be a manmade beach with outlets to the ocean on both ends. As we drove, we asked the driver about the best beaches, and he recommended the beaches on the west end of the island, which others who went there confirmed were wonderful. Parrot Bay Resort is a work in progress. There's a small hotel and cafe a short walk from the beach. The beach has bathrooms and six beach shower heads in the open air to wash the sand off. There is a small open-air hut, where they served drinks only. There were a couple of hammocks behind the hut. They had a local band playing music near the hut - pretty funny hearing songs we hear on our American radios sang with an island accent! The sandy beach wrapped all the way around the man-made beach with plenty of chairs, didn't see any umbrellas. But, you could place your chair in the sun or in the shade which was plentiful. This beach felt safe for a family with children, and they did have a piñata, which the children got to break open. But, we didn't have a beach party as advertised, so if you want a party, this isn't for you. It was a very relaxing, lay in the sun on a chair and swim in the lagoon day. They had some small kayaks for two that you could rent and use. It was a great, relaxing day. The Roatan excursions most talked about back on the ship was the Roatan West Side Island Tour (that's where the better beaches were) and the Catamaran Sail and Snorkel. Back on board we watched the ice carving demonstration and the Men's Hairy Chest competition, and then soaked up the sun, until the Sangria sail away - I love Sangria! Then the Repeaters Party was at 5 p.m. in the Queen Mary's Lounge. Dinner, more pictures, and then showtime - tonight was the comedy and soul of Tia Thompson. Tia was a great soul singer, but a so-so comedienne. Thursday was our Grand Cayman port day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tendering again, same as earlier. We had bought a ship excursion to the 7-Mile Beach, but you got your transportation whenever you were ready to do it. So, we went to the Normandy Lounge to get a tender pass to get off earlier, so we could do some shopping before heading to the beach. We got one of the first passes and got off promptly. We enjoyed the shopping, then tendered back to the ship. There was almost no one on the ship, and it was lunch time, so got salad and pizza and ate it on the deck overlooking Cayman - it was very relaxing and delicious. Then we tendered back to the island and caught a taxi cab to the 7-Mile Beach. Our pass got us admission, a chair, and a drink. We paid $5 for an umbrella as well. They also had a tent set up where you could purchase lunch. The night before Roger had overheard someone say the 7-Mile Beach excursion was sold out, and we wondered how you could fill up a 7-Mile Beach. Now we had the answer. The Colony Hotel providing this excursion had roped off a small area for the cruise passengers to use, with a separate larger area for just their guests. For those who had arrived earlier in the day than we did, they were packed into this beach pretty tight. By the time we arrived, many of them were leaving, and we enjoyed relaxing on this beach. There were vendors nearby offering parasailing, kayaking, diving, and other water sports for a price. This was our second formal night. So, we had to get back to the ship early to get dressed for formal night. We went to dinner, had pictures made, and then dancing, skipped the show to go to our cabin early, because the next day was supposed to be a long day in Cozumel. About 8:30 p.m. an announcement was made that a crewmember had been badly injured and they were turning the ship around to return him to the hospital in Cayman, which would delay our arrival in Cozumel, but they wouldn't know until the next morning how much. (We later learned that he had fallen down some steps, had a lot of bleeding from a head wound, and they were concerned that he had a concussion. We were even later told that he was better and would be rejoining the ship in Miami.) Even though we had fallen asleep, we felt the ship stop in Cayman and start up again. So, Friday morning, we were well rested. We hung out on the ship all day, soaking up the sun, it was so relaxing. We heard a few passengers complaining about the delay, but we were only so happy to spend the day on the ship. At Noon, they announced that we would be arriving in Cozumel at 3:30 pm, and that the Captain had agreed to stay in port until 1:00 a.m. (We were originally scheduled to be in Cozumel from 1 to 11 p.m.) They then announced which ship's excursions were still on and what time they would now be leaving. They said that all other excursions had been cancelled and sail 'n sign cards would be credited. The excursion we had purchased was cancelled, and the credit was on our final bill. A long line immediately formed at the excursion desk with folks trying to get on the remaining excursions. We were only too happy to shop, eat, and drink in Cozumel. We took a taxi into town, walked the shopping route, buying a few things, and then went to Carlos 'n Charlie's for a meal and drinks. We met Ken and Janie there, and then we all took a cab back to the pier. Once we got there, we stopped in a Fat Tuesday's at the pier for a few more drinks. We met up with Greg and Roz there, and we all had a great time. By the time we boarded the ship again, we went right to our cabin and went to sleep. The guest talent show was that night, but I didn't hear anything about it. The sail away party on the Lido Deck included the music of Doug Allen and the Chicago Mob and a Mexican midnight buffet. I heard that was great! Saturday was a Sea Day. Just laying around relaxing, enjoying the ship, sun, and companions. We picked up our early departure luggage tags from the Information Desk before the Debarkation Talk in order to avoid the long lines. We took the Galley tour in the afternoon. We started packing our bags before dinner, then finished packing when we changed after dinner. We tried to find somewhere to dance, but Doug Allen had disappeared, and we didn't like the music of Just Du-et who played in the Leonardo Lounge almost every evening. Let me say, however, that Just Du-et drew a large crowd most nights, so it was obviously just not our preference in music. Sunday, we grabbed our breakfast in the Paris Restaurant, before going to the Queen Mary's Lounge to wait with the others with early flights, handicaps, or ship excursions in Miami. We were off the ship by 9:30 a.m. Caught a cab to the airport and had an uneventful flight home. All in all, this was one more great cruise vacation. While we were disappointed in the food, we'll make some different choices in the future. The service was great. We had two great drink servers on the Lido Deck, Reginald and Rexco, that remembered our numbers from the first day and took great care of us! As always, we made some great new friends. In my review of the Paradise in September, I commented how laid back it was. Now, I have to say that may change from week to week depending on the passengers. While this was not a loud, rowdy, partying bunch of people, we could always find a good time. The crowd did seem to settle together in one place or another from night to night, and once you found them, you could have a great time as late into the night as you wanted to stay up. Sometimes we joined the crowd, but most of the time, we did our own thing. But, I was glad to see people joining together to have fun than on our last Paradise cruise. We're ready to book our next cruise! judyjbest@hotmail.com June 2003 Read Less
Although I didn't want to return to the real world I am back. I went on the Paradise with 6 other adults. Sorry, no kids so I can't help with kid questions. We did a one night pre at the Sheraton Biscayne bay booked thru ... Read More
Although I didn't want to return to the real world I am back. I went on the Paradise with 6 other adults. Sorry, no kids so I can't help with kid questions. We did a one night pre at the Sheraton Biscayne bay booked thru Carnival. We booked everything through Carnival. The hotel had Carnival agents there to register us so Sunday morning we hopped on the busses, headed to the pier and basically bypassed the lines. It was nice. Our cabins were all great. We had one cabin decorated for a b-day. It was done when we got on. Our dinning room staff was great. Most of us brought on Pepsi and they had ice for us to use. I am a picky eater and our waitress put up with me very well. After 7 days of new and different foods I was glad for the pizza bar! But the food seemed good to me. No one in my group had any complaints. It wasn't spectacular, but it was good steak and a variety of other things. I did miss the baked Alaska being "baked," and the cherries jubilee being flambaed, due to the no smoking policy. I will give that up though for no smoking! Most of us enjoyed the shows. You need to get there early to get a good seat. Some shows it doesn't matter if you can see, as long as you can hear them. The Dream Voyage and the juggler are 2 that you will want a good seat for. I wouldn't sit up front for the comedians. Ours seemed to like to pick on people, but he gave them a gift for being a good sport. The day time at sea games are fun also. Even if you can't make it to them, you can watch them on TV. I got several good laughs in that way. Dave, cruise directory, was entertaining, we all had a good time the first night listening to him. We used drink coupons for all our alcohol drinks with no trouble. Sodas with the gratuity were 2.88 so we used the sign and sail for them (when I forgot mine in the room) Tonia, our waitress told us to try bbc's and we used most of our coupons on them! It is a banana frozen drink. Very rich and good. We tried to make it to every bar at least once and that was fun, but hard if you have late seating and want to got the shows. In Nassau we signed up for the dolphin tour but canceled it when there was confusion with what time the tour really was. We then did Atlantis on our own and saved a lot of money but still had fun. The other half of our group did the dolphin encounter and enjoyed it. Not as much time with the dolphins as expected but they liked it. In San Juan we did the rain forest tour. Because of the political rally we spent a lot more time in the bus then in the forest. Unless you ran deep into the trails you didn't see many birds, I did see a few thought. The other half of my group did The Bacardi tour. They said is was just okay. St. Thomas wins my vote hands down! Everyone in my group loved it. Half did the Captain Nautica's Ultimate Snorkeling, the other half did the Atlantis Sub. We all saw beautiful sea life. The girls on the sub saw a sea turtle, sharks, lots of fish. We didn't fare that lucky, but at least snorkeling we didn't see any shark! We saw squid, star fish, and tropical fish. We all had time to go shopping on our own after our tours. All the girls bought Tanzanite jewelry and different stuff from Del Sol. We were sad to see St. Thomas getting smaller as we sailed away, but with 2 days at sea to look forward to we got over it. Because we cleared immigration in San Juan debarkation went smoothly. It really didn't take much time at all. We went to our dinning room, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, went to our disembarkation floor and 10 minutes after arriving there we were released. Luggage collection was the not so fun part. I recommend putting something on you luggage so it is easily recognizable to you. Then you can grab it and run. Customs was a breeze and we were on our way home. Hope everyone has as much fun as we did. Smooth sailaing always, CK (Iamrma@aol.com>10/30/00 Read Less
My husband, 16-year old son, and I returned from sailing on the Paradise Sunday Sept. 2. I very much hated to leave the ship!!! We arrived in Miami Saturday early evening. After checking into our hotel we got the name of a traditional ... Read More
My husband, 16-year old son, and I returned from sailing on the Paradise Sunday Sept. 2. I very much hated to leave the ship!!! We arrived in Miami Saturday early evening. After checking into our hotel we got the name of a traditional Cuban restaurant from hotel staff. It was called Latin America, located not far from the airport. It was a casual diner, very clean and welcoming. We were the only non-Cuban patrons there. The owner came to the table and was very helpful in selecting authentic Cuban dishes for us to try, with a guarantee no less!! The food was fantastic; we now know that we love Cuban food! The next morning we drove to South Beach to see the ships and sights. It was very pretty, and quiet on Sunday morning! We then headed to the pier to drop off our bags, and my son and I stayed behind while my husband took the rental car to the Avis office on the pier. There was some confusion as to which gate to enter for the Paradise, but not that bad. We only waited a short time and we were all checking in and upstairs to wait in the lounge for boarding. We were in the first 10 people on board the ship, at around 12:15 pm. What a beautiful sight! The Atrium is so nice to have, adding light, you don't feel closed in at all. Our outside cabin was clean and had plenty of room for us. The bathroom was a good size, and the shower was roomy. We had the pleasant surprise of finding out that the Captain was the captain of our cruise last year. Also there were two dancers from our cruise last year, from a different ship. The dancer Suzy was fun, and helped make my son's cruise!! The shows were impressive, I have been to Vegas, and those kids on the ship never missed a step! They were dynamic, and well done. The first comedy act was the best in our opinion. Tia had her show on Wed. and you shouldn't miss her show either, wonderful voice, and funny. The Illusionist was not so hot, nor was the guy with the puppets. We ate in the dining room every evening, and it was wonderful, and plentiful. Our waiter figured out the first night that our son would consume 3 beef entrEes per sitting, even though he is thin! We got the special attention to detail that helps make cruising so lovely. None of us at our table was ever unhappy with our selections. We were at a window table in the Destiny Dining room. Our one complaint is about the layout of the deck where the dining rooms were. It can be a bit confusing getting there, but worth it. We had 2 single sisters, and 3 single guys at our table, and we had good conversation, and lots of fun with them. All well-mannered, and polite. We had some lunches, and a couple midnight buffets in the Paris dining room. The food was better on this cruise in the alternative dining room than it was on our last cruise. If you get the chance, go to the America Bar and see Bonnie for the sing along! You don't even have to be able to sing, we can't, and it was a blast!! Be sure to take lots of pics, and then you can weed through them for the ones you want. We had some really good ones, even though they aren't cheap, we were happy with them. We never had a problem finding a deck chair, especially if you go to the Aft pool area. Since we had been to Cozumel before we chose to go to Chankanaab on our own. My son tried the Snuba ($50), and loved it, very safe, and well run. I elected to snorkel, and was rewarded with beautiful fish, coral, lobsters, and a very large Barracuda was feeding right below me!! Don't miss the walk through the Botanical park there. We had an interesting time feeding the Iguana bananas!! After a quick cab ride to the ship and a shower, we went into town for lunch at Ponchos Backyard. We ate there last year, and it was still a good choice! Food was reasonably priced and very good, not to mention the purified water, and strong drinks!!! Then it was time for shopping. We did get some nice things, but I think we got better deals in Jamaica. The Mexican Folklore show is well done, and interesting. Days at sea are full of things to do for everyone, or do nothing at all, that's why cruises are perfect vacations! Grand Cayman was beautiful as always. We chose to go on the early Stingray/Island tour. It was nice to be on the sandbar earlier in the day, that way you still have time to go to 7-mile beach, shop (if you have lots of $), or go snorkeling at Eden Rock. The snorkeling there is incredible!! If you have equipment, it is free to snorkel there, and it is very close to where you catch the tender back to the ship. I cannot say enough about the underwater sights there!! The water is relatively shallow, bringing the fish closer to you. We had the pleasure of seeing a school of Squid. Just be sure to buy your Trough Rum Cakes at one of the bakery stores, and not on the ship. The ones we got on the ship were drier than those we got on Cayman. Words cannot express how pleased we were that we had booked Peat Taylor for our tour of Jamaica! He thinks of everything for you, and so helpful, interesting, and fun!! The tour bus was clean, and air-conditioned. He sang, told stories, and gave us lots of info about the island. We were the first group at the falls, which is a big plus. The climb is not that difficult, and we had people ranging in ages 6 to 68 in our group climb. You take it slow, and it is so tropical, and shaded. When you leave the falls go to the top of the hill to the exit and veer to the right to avoid the market if the pushy peddlers bother you. It was not as bad as we had anticipated. Peat then takes you through Fern Gully, telling you about all the plant life and culture along the way. He was so good that even my son was interested! We then went to a mountain overlook area and saw the Blue Mnts. Then we turned around and went back down the mountain the "back way", through typical Jamaican neighborhoods. At this point you can choose to shop, go to the beach, or the ship, what ever you want to do. Peat is very safe and efficient. You can't go wrong with him, and be sure to have the Jerk Chicken!!! Peat knows where to take you for the best! Being able to relax in your cabin for debarkation is a nice plus! Be sure to leave your cabin door open to hear your tag color called! All in all, our cruise on the Paradise was all we hoped it would be and then some. Like any vacation, it is what you make it, but it helps a lot to do it in such a pleasant, clean atmosphere. We are looking at the new 10 and 11-day cruises Paradise will be doing next year. Maybe we will see you on one of them!! If you have any questions e-mail me at cowtown@magiccablepc.com aka. CruisecrzySeptember 2001 Read Less
I just came back from my first cruise. I read many reviews before I left and decided it was my turn. To start at the very beginning, I would never make reservations directly with Carnival again. My travel planner was horrible. She ... Read More
I just came back from my first cruise. I read many reviews before I left and decided it was my turn. To start at the very beginning, I would never make reservations directly with Carnival again. My travel planner was horrible. She made many mistakes and was very difficult to contact. I stayed at the Howard Johnsons near the port. It was convenient but very noisy. The cruise was fabulous. I had a wonderful time and have no complaints at all. The staff was great and everything was well organized. The ship was spotless and of course the no smoking was greatly appreciated. The food was delicious and there was a wide variety available for all tastes. You will not be hungry. Whoever, thought of the 24-hour pizza and ice cream was a genius. The formal nights are FORMAL. My biggest dilemma before we left was what to bring for formal night. My advice is have fun and go all out. Men don't really need a tux but definitely a suit. Take advantage of the pictures offered around the ship. I spent a fortune on pictures they turned out so nice. We took the shore tours offered by Carnival in Cozumel and Cayman. The ship tours are convenient and not terribly overpriced. In Jamaica, we hired a private guide. His name is Dennis Mullings at denmill@cwjamaica.com. He's great and I strongly recommend him. He knows his stuff and it was a very interesting off the beaten track tour. If I had found a person like him in the other ports I would have hired them too. We had no problems with kids running around. Carnival has areas set up for the younger kids with stuff to keep them busy and the teenagers hang out at the Rex so everybody has there own space. That?fs great organization. We had no problem taking wine on board. Your bar bill can get out of control if you aren't careful. Trying to find a taxi after you get off the ship is a horrible experience. There are no lines and it's survival of the obnoxious. People step over people to get a taxi. Make arrangements ahead of time. My biggest advice is take a thermos. You can fill it with tea or lemonade and carry it around with you and to your room. We also filled them and took them on shore trips. They were very convenient and we never had to buy bottled water. Also, don?ft spend your whole vacation complaining. So many people moaned and whined about trivial things the whole time. I don't want to hear it and you are ruining your vacation all by yourself. Get over it. I had a wonderful vacation and would take a cruise again. I hope you have the wonderful experience I had. nagaom-a@yhb.att.ne.jpMarch 2003 Read Less
This was my first cruise, so I was very excited. My friend had cruised several times before. We were originally scheduled for the S/S Norway, but due to the terrible accident we were cancelled. That put us into a bit of a dilemma. We ... Read More
This was my first cruise, so I was very excited. My friend had cruised several times before. We were originally scheduled for the S/S Norway, but due to the terrible accident we were cancelled. That put us into a bit of a dilemma. We scrambled a bit trying to find another cruise for the same time frame because we already had our flights and hotels scheduled for the day before and after. She talked with her travel agent and he suggested the Carnival Paradise but she declined because I am a smoker. There just weren't too many other options. When we talked, I told her to go for it on the Paradise because if I had to choose between a 7-day cruise and smoking, the cruise would win hands down. She was a little nervous, but I was definitely all for it. I know how I react to a challenge! and the $250 fine and being removed from the ship was a great incentive. We did see a family put off in St. Thomas because of that problem and I'm glad Carnival sticks by its rules. (By the way, I made it without any problems and I've still not started again!) Anyway, we booked and I started doing all my research on the internet again for the new ports. We arrived at Salt Lake City airport at 5:00 A.M.!!! for our 6:20 flight to Chicago, a 4-hour layover there, and then on to Ft. Lauderdale. When we booked, these were the only flights available. It really wasn't that bad, although kind of a long day. We took a taxi to our hotel, the Bahai Cabana on the Intercostal Waterway. Small, but nice and relaxing. Had a great dinner there and did some time in the hot tub to get all the kinks out. The desk manager arranged a shuttle to the Port of Miami for us the next day -- $45 for the two of us. We realized after, considering the cost of the shuttle and the taxi, a rental car would have been smarter! So much for hindsight. We arrived at the Port with no problems at about 1:30 p.m., walked through the entrance, checked our paperwork at the desk, were directed upstairs for our Sign and Sail cards and photos, and were in our room by 2:00 p.m.! After reading some other horror stories about boarding, I think we had pixie dust on us for this trip. Our cabin, U174, was larger than I expected with a beautiful window looking out over the waterway. Our luggage arrived shortly after and we settled in and headed up to the Lido deck for lunch and people watching. I felt like one of those rear-window dogs with my head on a swivel! Everything was just so fascinating. Lunch, drinks and the music were great. Then on to the lifeboat drill. That, as usual, was hot and crowded. The ship started leaving port as we were standing in our very straight lines at 4:45! That was a little disappointing because I wanted to be up top to watch. We did make it there eventually, dragging our life jackets along with us. During the course of the cruise, we usually ate the breakfast buffet, lunch on the Lido deck and then late seating for dinner. Our dinner table companions were great people. There was never any lack of conversation or laughter. Our waiter was a great guy, although I think he was a little over-extended, so we didn't quite get the service that could have happened. A lot of the time, our entrees were cold which was a little disappointing. Some of the dinner items were not exactly what I was expecting. But overall, considering the number of meals they serve, the flavor and presentation were excellent. My favorite was the frozen yogurt that was ALWAYS available on the Lido deck. I miss that even now! Our room was quiet and the air conditioner worked almost too well! The cabin steward was the sweetest guy on the ship. He was very efficient. Wish I could have taken him home. My friend was having a lot of trouble with pain while walking and the Purser's desk supplied us with a wheelchair for her use during the cruise. Other than just about launching her out of the chair when I hit one of the raised doorjambs and her declining my offer to take her down the stairs, it worked out very well. The ports were exciting. We didn't go on any excursions at Nassau, but instead decided to head over to Paradise Island on our own. A $4 taxi and a short walk to Cabbage Beach gave us a great day of relaxing. The obnoxious taxi drivers at the port were easy to ignore. Most of the stores weren't open because of a religious holiday, but we didn't go to shop anyway! At the Dominican Republic, we took the Country Safari excursion. I don't think it was worth the price, but getting a chance to see the 'inside' of the country was nice. Actually, because the scenery was so great, I got some of my best photos there. My favorite was definitely St. Thomas/St. John. We did the snorkeling at Trunk Bay and if I didn't have a job and family here at home, I'm sure I'd still be there! The days at sea were relaxing with lots of time spent in a deck chair reading. Someone might have said there were kids on this cruise, but I really didn't notice them. Either they were really hidden or very well behaved. Kudos to the parents! There was just so much to do. We hit a couple of the shows and enjoyed them and spent several evenings at the America Bar listening to and singing along with Brie. She was absolutely wonderful! I played Bingo one evening and won! Being my first cruise, I couldn't have asked for more. (Well, maybe more days in St. John.) The fever has hit and I can't wait to go again. The Paradise cruise was better than many of the reviews I've seen and I would definitely take her again. The immigration and customs inspections were worthless, but I guess it's a necessary evil and I'm sure they can pick out trouble when they see it! Of course, there were little 'problems' and inconveniences, but you'd have that on any vacation. Everyone, crew and passengers, were friendly and helpful. I hope this helps any other first-time cruisers out there that are thinking about 'jumping in'. starfire0803@attbi.com July 2003 Read Less
My husband and I, age 44, and my two sons, ages 17 & 14 (15 on August 1), just returned from an absolutely marvelous week aboard the Paradise on its Western Caribbean route. This was my second cruise, the first aboard the Destiny about ... Read More
My husband and I, age 44, and my two sons, ages 17 & 14 (15 on August 1), just returned from an absolutely marvelous week aboard the Paradise on its Western Caribbean route. This was my second cruise, the first aboard the Destiny about 6 years ago, but the first for my husband and sons. I can't say enough about how wonderful our week was. We were in Cabin U181 & U183 upgraded from Rivera deck. I liked this location---we tended to walk up/down stairs more than I think we would have on Rivera since it was only 2 flights to the dining room. I made the mistake of not traveling the day before, so I did have a little stress about whether we would make the ship. I hadn't found the boards with all the great advise until after I booked and didn't want to pay the cost to change our flights. We were booked on a US Air flight out of Philadelphia that arrived in Ft. Lauderdale at 12:50. I did pre-book the Carnival transportation because it somehow gave me peace of mind that if the flight was late, Carnival would know we were missing and why --- I may have been delusional, but it kept me from stressing too much. As it turns out everything went without a hitch and we arrived at the ship by 2:30 after collecting our luggage and taking the 40-minute bus trip to the port. Embarkation at the late hour was a breeze, with absolutely no lines at all. We were starved, so we dumped our bags and headed for the Paris restaurant. The boys checked out the pizza and my husband and I had a small tasting of just about everything on the buffet --- we did want to save our appetites, though, for dinner, as we had the 5:45 seating in the Destiny restaurant. I wasn't sure we got the main seating though and when I went to our cabin, I was checking around for some kind of notification. No one had told me it was on the Sail and Sign card and I hadn't inspected it too carefully. I did figure it out, though, before dinner. We spent the next hour exploring our surroundings. We went back to the cabin for muster drill which I must say was rather torturous. We had about 200 people gathered in the Queen Mary Lounge with our lifejackets on, then after an endless amount of time, they called out sections to venture out to the deck. Before we were called, the boat began to sail, which was a disappointment. I wanted to be up on one of the front deck areas for the sail away, instead I was crammed onto the deck with 200 other people with a life jacket on and what seemed like no air. Well it was over and we could officially begin the fun. We all went to dinner that night and were delighted to find we had a table for 8 by the window. We came to find out throughout the week, that our waiter and asst waiter were great. Jo-el (pronounced like Noel) and Miguel were wonderful. The entire week we always had our ice tea glasses filled, pleasantly served whatever we ordered, and even entertained delightfully. I have no complaints about the food at all. Between the 4 of us, we literally only had one meal that wasn't up to par --- but since I had ordered 3 appetizers and planned on two desserts that night --- it really didn't phase me. At home, there are usually at least 2 or 3 meals during the week that my boys won't touch, but they were very happy with all the selections---even my pastatarian (vegetarian that really only eats pasta and pizza). Mike ordered pasta with plain tomato sauce every night, but was also willing to try other vegetarian dishes ---- he loved the mushrooms ragout. He is also the one who ordered peanut butter and jelly at least once a day from room service. The novelty never wore off. During the week, we ate all dinners in the dining room, but all breakfasts and lunches in the Paris Restaurant. Between the pizza station, the buffet, or the grill there was always something to accommodate us. The pizza is great!!! That night my husband and I went to the show, a comedian, who was good enough, not great, but we had a few good laughs. The boys ventured out to find some friends, which they easily did. Throughout the week, that was pretty much the routine, eat dinner together then Rich and Mike would meet up with their friends for the evening while Joe and I wandered the ship, watched the shows, listened to entertainment and then crashed. We were always in bed before the boys, but when I did a bed check one night and Rich was nowhere to be found, I had to set some guidelines which they abided by for the rest of the week. By the way, Rich and his new friends thought it would be cool to sleep on the lounge chairs on the Verandah deck aft that night ---- at least that's their story and they are sticking to it. The rest of the week's entertainment was good to excellent. I really like the second production show - Shout. I thought the first was just ok --- and if my boys were younger I would have been a little disturbed at the dance girls in thongs doing their pole dancing and the illusion of a stripper behind a screen. I thought the shows were supposed to be family shows!!! I really liked Tia Thompson's show that combined her wonderful soul/jazz music with comedy. I also really liked the illusionist. We only made it to one midnight R-rated comedy that was actually hilarious --- Jim Brick. I am not opposed to risquE and down right raw in the right environment. Our ports during this cruise were Belize, Roatan, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. I had done hours of research to decide what to do in each port. Belize I chose the Shark Ray Alley and Coral Garden Snorkel offered through Coral Breeze Limited. This tour was awesome. Check out their website http://www.coralbreezelimited.com/freebelize. The website indicated you could get a free tour for you and companion if you solicit 10 other passengers, but they have recently eliminated that requirement and you can sign up directly. The price was $70 for adults, $50 for 12 and under. Belize is a tender port and you have to get a tender number. On the Paradise, they start passing them out at the Normandie Lounge about an hour before docking. There didn't seem to be a problem getting an early tender in Belize. We were on the second one out and it takes you to the tourist village where I was to meet Scott from Coral Breeze. Coral Breeze is owned by two Americans. We had been told that they would depart by 10:30; we arrived at 9:30. So we had an expected hour to wander around the shops in the tourist village. We departed at 10:30 with just our family of 4 and another family of 4. Our first stop was shark ray alley. As we approached you could see some rays under the surface. We all entered the water with Leon our guide. Leon was excellent, stopping where you could stand occasionally to let others catch up or to explain something. We saw fewer sharks than I expected. Most of us saw two, but they would quickly swim away and you could miss them if you were in the back of the group. Throughout the trip Leon would explain what we were seeing - other islands; mangroves, and also gave a little history of Belize. He was very knowledgeable. Another Coral Breeze employee, Monique was also very good at telling us where we were and what we were seeing. After shark ray alley we boarded the boat and moved over to coral gardens were we snorkeled the barrier reef some more. I thought it was great when Leon, the experienced guide, got very excited about seeing a juvenile spotted drum and pointed it out to most of us. He also showed us lobster hiding. After we snorkeled here, we left to go to Caye Caulker where we were having lunch. Lunch was at a cafe on the water called the Rainbow Cafe. They had a variety of things on the menu from traditional Belizian dishes of Chicken, Rice, & Beans to grilled cheese, which was ordered by my vegetarian son. It was wonderful to look out over the water. After lunch, Scott told us he was moving the boat to the "split". We could explore the little village and/or go and swim at the split. They would be there ready to depart in about an hour. We explored the various shops, bought our required magnet, and then went to the split to swim. My sons sunbathed on the concrete barrier but I did swim. The only problem I had was entering and exiting the area ---- it seems to be surrounded by concrete and you have to hoist yourself over. Coral Breeze returned us to the tourist village to catch the tender back to the ship. It was a wonderful day spent in Belize and I highly recommend Coral Breeze. Roatan I was a little nervous about Roatan because I had decided to be brave and hire a taxi for the day to do site seeing of the island and then snorkeling/beach at the West Bay. I had read a couple reviews that explained how to do this and negotiate your fee. Even though the reviews said wait until you get outside the fenced area, I was overwhelmed by people in my face that wanted to give me a deal. Roberto who was inside negotiating for the taxis outside did meet my price, which was $60 for the day for 4 people so we said ok. He then took us outside the gate and said to get in a certain taxi. The taxi looked good, we got in but then Roberto wasn't the one driving ----we didn't understand that inside. When my husband asked the cab driver if he spoke English, he answer - "only a little"---but in Spanish. We all instantly jumped out of the cab and said we needed an English-speaking driver. A very soft-spoken gentleman said he could take us and we said ok, but then there was some disturbance (in Spanish) about that. It turns out it wasn't Victor's "turn" to get the fare. We ended up insisting on Victor and after the rocky start had an incredible day with him as our guide thereafter. The lesson is ignore everyone inside the gate, go outside and ask for Victor Bodden Cab # 081---- you'll have a wonderful day. I told Victor we wanted to see the Iguana Farm, the view from the airport tower, and West Bay --- but would leave anything else up to him. Victor was so well spoken and gentle mannered, it was easy to like him right off the start. He drove us around showing us construction, large mansions, the local jail, several shipwrecks off shore, giving us history and answering about a million questions that we had. We went to the Iguana Farm and saw iguanas just starting to come down out of the trees for the day. There is also an area to see lobsters and tarpons ---- there are also some parrots that talk. We then continued around the island to the airport tower. Victor then stopped at West End (different than West Bay). He asked if we wanted to stay there for a while - you could snorkel and swim without the crowds of West Bay. We decided that this was for us ----not much of crowd people. We stayed for a couple hours and enjoyed the serenity of half moon caye. It was really nice. Afterward Victor took us to a souvenir shop --- had to get the magnet ----other than that I am not much of a shopper. What Victor did next was incredible to me. He asked if we wanted to sample some mango and guava. We said yes. He took us to his home. It was very humbling to see the living conditions, yet he was very proud. We sampled 2-3 types of mango from the trees in his yard and also a guava --- not quite ripe yet. Afterward, Victor took us back to the port. Our day in Roatan was just too short. My two boys ---17&14----thought this was the best port of the trip and they really appreciated Victor's tour. If you are going to Roatan, do a trip on your own and ask for Victor Bodden. Tell him Lisa, Joe and the boys say "hi". Grand Cayman In Grand Cayman I had booked Nativeway for the Stingray City and Coral Gardens. I had been fooled into thinking that getting an early tender in Grand Cayman would be as easy as in Belize ---- I was wrong. It really seemed like the calling of the tender numbers was at a snail's pace. When we made it over, we immediately saw the Nativeway sign with our name on it. As it turns out, the family that were on the Belize excursion with us had taken my advise on Roatan and loved it and now were also joining us with Nativeway. There was one other twosome from the ship. We left and our driver told us he was picking up 7 more passengers from an area hotel. We arrived at the boat and waited a little for 6 others that were to arrive. They were late and eventually only 4 showed up. We were underway. We anchored at Stingray City and immediately got into the water. It was incredible. My boys loved the stingrays. By the end of our visit they were "riding" them --- you'd have to see it to believe it. I held and fed the stingrays. We then went to Coral Gardens for some snorkeling. I liked the snorkeling here because it was deep - about 8-10 feet, but clear ---- I don't like the fear of touching the Coral. The Coral wasn't as nice as in Belize, but the fish were good. We even saw a barracuda. A little hitch was that when we arrived back at the yachtclub, there was no driver for the bus to take us back to port. We waited a while, then the boat's first mate called his dad and he drove us. It really wasn't a big deal. The boys took the tender back right away while Joe and I did some window-shopping and bought the obligatory magnet. It was a really nice day in Grand Cayman - we just felt rushed because the tendering takes so long. I would use Nativeway again ---- we only had 21 people on the boat vs. the huge boats with 100 or more. Cozumel In Cozumel, the plan was to go to Mr. Sanchos beach and then eat dinner on the ship then out to shop a little and play mini-golf. We took a cab to Mr. Sanchos - it was $15 for 4 of us one-way. The cab driver on the way there was very sociable and we enjoyed the ride. Mr. Sanchos beach was really nice. We rented two floats ($5 each) and just enjoyed the warm Caribbean water. The boys did rent a wave-runner ----they are very experienced in the water with water skiing and the like so I wasn't too worried and they really loved it. It was by far the most relaxing port day and very enjoyable. I was disappointed that Mr. Sanchos didn't have a water trampoline ---- their website said they did and I thought the boys would have fun on that, but they don't. They do have a Jacuzzi ---- or more like a small pool. We ordered nachos and drinks --- I even used a couple of the free margarita coupons on their web site http://www.mrsanchos.com. After several hours, we took a taxi back to the ship. We ate dinner that night in the dining room. It was July 4 and my husband and my 3 yr anniversary. As it turns out on Cozumel days they have a mariochi (spelling) band in the dining room. They played and sang happy anniversary to us. It was nice. Also since it was July 4, the dining staff did a rendition of "God Bless America". It was a nice anniversary dinner. After dinner, all of the sudden the boys didn't want to play mini-golf. They wanted to hang with their friends. Rich, 17, wanted to leave the boat and go shopping in the shops along the waterfront----at least that is what he told me and I believed him and I eventually said ok. Joe and I ventured off to mini-golf but didn't have good directions so we got a little lost. We were at Punta Lagosta pier and the cab driver said we should walk----we eventually got there. We got to meet Sally who has been so great in providing Cozumel information on the boards. The mini-golf is gorgeous. Since it was just the two of us, we breezed through the game never using our walkie-talkie to order more Sol----I guess we should have done it just to try it out. Sally had asked where the boys were and I explained that I had allowed Rich to shop along the waterfront with his new friends. She then informed me that he would be able to get served in Carlos n Charlies and/or Senor Frogs ---- AM I NIAVE OR WHAT. Well then I was worried he wouldn't make it back to the ship. I had left instructions for him to check in at the Mexican folklore show that we were going to when we got back to the ship. I was very nervous. At 10:30 (the time we were to be back on the ship), Joe went down to check to see if he had come back on yet ----they track it with your Sail and Sign card. They must have crossed paths because as soon as Joe left, Rich walked in. I immediately asked to smell his breath ---- hmmmm---- very minty, too minty. So yes, Sally, he had two shots at Senor Frogs - or at least that is what he admits to ---- he didn't seem drunk. Now I am more the wiser. Just a few more comments, you may have noticed I didn't comment on our room steward. Dimitri was much better than most hotel maids, but he was very stingy with towel animals. This was a big disappointment to me. Every night I would expect one and we only got two --- a penguin and a dog. Our tablemates raved about monkeys, ducks, stingrays, etc. and had a different one every night except for the first night. The other minor complaint is that my husband and I pretty much decided that we would book the same cruise for next year. The Capers encouraged you to do that by saying that if you booked while on this cruise you would get on-board credits and get to pick your seating time. We went to the information desk to check this out and the purser looked at me like I had three heads. She proceeded to tell me to go to any travel agent to book or for information. I asked if they had information and prices here, she offered to loan me the cruise book that they had, but said that I had to bring it back in an hour. I took the book then returned it, but I feel we missed out on an offer because this purser wasn't familiar with it. I am going to write to Bob Dickenson to see if we can still get the offer. We had two minor maintenance problems that were fixed within hours. In my son's room, the toilet wouldn't flush and the flusher actually fell into the toilet. We called that in and by the time we got back to our room after one of the ports it was fixed. The second was our shower sprung a leak. That was fixed very quickly. We even got a comment card under our door to fill out about the service. We purchased bar credits and photo credits in advance so that we would keep to our budget. This worked out well for us and kept the Sail and Sign to a minimum. I only bought one soda card for my son. The rest of us were very happy with lemonade or ice tea. I brought 20 oz. insulated mugs for our tea/lemonade---that worked out well. The one thing that really gets me is that the guy who won the free cruise was at the table next to us and he was the same guy who ate through the flag march and singing of God Bless America ---- now where's the justice in that. Now that I had such a great experience, I can't imagine any other vacation than a cruise. LisaMc0719@cs.com July 2003 Read Less
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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