My wife and I truly enjoy cruising. We have taken cruises that sailed as many days as 14, and as few as 3. This cruise, we were able to share with over 20 of us - including extended family and friends. Because it was Spring Break week, we were also able to bring my sister and her three boys, and friends of ours that were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. They were all new cruisers, and I couldn't wait for them to be wowed by Carnival. I do have three complaints, but I want to start out with the really good parts.
CONVENIENCE, FUN, PRICE, LOCATION. We chose the Paradise because of the affordability for everyone, and because it was setting sail out of Tampa. This was perfect for everyone going. We read the reviews, and were well aware of the age and size of the ship. After getting on board, taking a few photos and checking things out, we made it to our cabin. It was exactly as we expected, and we had sailed in inside cabins before. We are believers that you are really only there to shower, change and sleep. The only thing that seemed a little cumbersome was the large triangle cabinet that contained our life jackets in one corner. We had a king bed in our room, and a bed on the wall... so if you were unlucky enough to be the sleeper against the wall and needed to get out of bed, you needed to be a gymnast, or have good balance as not to trample or wake anyone else who might be sleeping. In my opinion, they really need to be removed, and just keep the life vests in the closet. It would have been much easier to duck under the bunk bed. There is only one crazy way to adjust the temperature in room . You have to open and close the vent in ceiling. It worked, but again, if you wanted to adjust the temp in the middle of the night... These are in no way deal breakers. As I said, we really don't spend much time in our room for it to TRULY be a big deal. The sheets and pillows are always soft, plentiful, and comfortable. It's something Carnival does really well.
SERVICE, SERVICE, SERVICE!! Service could not have been better. As always, the crew went above and beyond all expectations. Our waiters made dinner a lot of fun, and our cabin steward was always available when we needed him. I am still amazed how quickly they learn names cruise after cruise. I barely remembered the names of the people I came with. :O) Our cabin was kept spotless and serviced every time we stepped out for more than a few minutes. We were a big lot with all kinds of clothes, suitcase and messes spanning several cabins. They always stepped in to make sure we didn't need anything or to help keep things organized and fresh. My wife, daughter and I don't usually eat in the dining room. We like the quickness and ease of the buffet. However, with this many people, we decided it would be nice to do. Carnival added "anytime dining." All you have to do is show up, they give you a pager, and when your table is ready ... you eat. Our groups were big, and we didn't have to wait more than 20 minutes. There are things to see and do while you wait, or the library is right there if you would like to sit and chat. The wait staff is beyond entertaining. I had forgotten how much fun it can be. I am also going to throw in a plug for the bar staff. We got the soda sticker, AND we enjoyed the themed tropical drinks. As we would frequent our favorite bar spots, we would again be greeted by name, smiles and comradery.
SOMETHING TO DO ALL THE TIME. The entertainment is always amazing, and there are things to do all over the ship. This is a reoccurring theme for Carnival every time we board their ships. We were so busy that we didn't have as much time for the featured shows as we like. We did make it to a few. We saw the comedian, we took some dance lessons, participated in deck games, played Bingo, and caught the tail end of some musical numbers in the Normandie. The music never stops, and it literally reminds you that you truly are in (and on) Paradise!
Now onto the "complaints." I will use this term loosely, but I did want to mention them.
KIDDIE POOL? First, the kiddie pool area (toddlers and younger). We have been on many other ships with splash pads, slides and pools made for this age group in a wide variety of sizes shapes and activity levels. While the ship DID have a curly slide and nice lido deck pool, (what I call) the toddler pool was lacking. If you went to the top of the back of the ship, you will find the basketball court, deck chairs and three pools - the location of the kiddie pool. While it is nice for the kiddie pool to be separated, it seemed to merely be a hot tub with the middle filled in, and a sign slapped on it that says "kids only." I am not asking for bells and whistles, but this was extraordinarily lack-luster. It almost seemed like an afterthought. Our daughter is too small for the lido deck pool and slide, and kiddie pools offer her the opportunity to splash around and have a good time. Our daughter probably didn't notice the difference, but it would be nice if it seemed like there was a little more thought put into it - even if it is an older ship.
ARE WE THERE, YET? Second, getting off the Paradise took the longest of any ship we have ever been on. Again, this is not a really BIG deal, but it did take longer than usual. I also witnessed a crew member loudly arguing with a guest who was stressing about trying to get tendered into Grand Cayman. She was to be on the pier in 15 minutes, and was obviously not going to make it. The lines spanned 2 to 3 floors, around corners, and blocked passengers from even getting in and out of their rooms. We were truly shocked that the crew member was actively yelling back at the passenger. I wish I would have been closer to see his name tag. I do know he was part of the entertainment staff, as I had seen him before. Getting off in Cozumel was a little faster with the use of the pier, but we have been to Cozumel countless times before - on larger ships - and it still didn't take as long as what it did with Carnival Paradise. Getting off the ship in Tampa took hours. While not excited to leave Paradise, we were ready to get things organized and repacked in our cars to make the trip home. We were part of the group who didn't want to schlep our luggage with us, but even those that did waited too long. Our parking guy had even made the comment on how long it took to get passengers off the ship. The pictures we have of passengers waiting to get off the ship looks like what television news crews would show of an airport whos flights had all been cancelled due to inclement weather.
EMERGENCY DRILL. Lastly, this complaint has to do with our muster station drill. I am all for planning and making sure that everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency. Sincerely, I do like to know what to do in case something would happen - ESPECIALLY since my young daughter now cruises with us. That said, and this kind of goes along with my second complaint, it was the longest drill I have ever been through on any ship - and last cruise, we waited 20 minutes until some of the missing passengers could be found and brought up to their muster station. This is a full-on, full-fledged complaint. First, we had to congregate in a show lounge. THEN, we had to wait until all the people were filed in. THEN, we had to wait on instructions on what to do when we actually would be led outside to our muster stations. Not only was the lady in charge trying to talk to us about what to do, but the ship kept chiming in over her saying the exact same thing... and cutting off her microphone. THEN, we waited as they counted everyone in the lounge. THEN, we waited some more for the "alarm" to go off to start the evacuation to the actual station. It was so hot in there, and people were so tired, I actually saw people sleeping, and others just trying to stay focused, all the while watching their heads bob up and down trying to stay awake. I was in the fourth row from the stage, and was going to be released close to last. FINALLY, the alarm sounded for us to be released to our muster station. It took FOREVER for the passengers to file out of the lounge, up the stairs and out to their muster stations. I told my wife that I wished I had left my watch on, or noticed the time when we had started. I would really have liked to know just how long we participated in the drill. I am not trying to diminish safety in any way, but there truly has to be a faster, more efficient way of evacuating that ship. If this truly had been an actual emergency, the way we were evacuated from that lounge would have had dire consequences.
Now, all that said, it still was an outstanding vacation. I don't want this review in any way to reflect that we didn't have a great time. Carnival and it's crew does an amazing job of keeping their passengers entertained, fed and well taken care of. This is why we cruise with Carnival more than any other line.
Our cabin was kept spotless and serviced every time we stepped out for more than a few minutes. We were a big lot with all kinds of clothes, suitcase and messes spanning several cabins. The Steward always stepped in to make sure we didn't need anything or to help keep things organized and fresh. We are believers that you are really only there to shower, change and sleep. The only thing that seemed a little cumbersome was the large triangle cabinet that contained our life jackets in one corner. We had a king bed in our room, and a bed on the wall... so if you were unlucky enough to be the sleeper against the wall and needed to get out of bed, you needed to be a gymnast, or have good balance as not to trample or wake anyone else who might be sleeping. In my opinion, they really need to be removed, and just keep the life vests in the closet. It would have been much easier to duck under the bunk bed. There is only one crazy way to adjust the temperature in room . You have to open and close the vent in ceiling. It worked, but again, if you wanted to adjust the temp in the middle of the night, good luck