My friends and I do a guys cruise each year, and for the last five years it has been on Carnival. This year the group decided to do the Carnival Paradise out of Tampa. We’re part of a larger group that had a contract for the old corporate open-bar package. It is different from the Cheers program in that it isn’t capped at 15 drinks per day, which would not be enough for our group of professional partiers.
Unfortunately Carnival, in their infinite wisdom, has chosen to rescind our package in an attempt to get us all into Cheers. So this may well be my last Carnival review for a while, as our group will be heading to Royal Caribbean next year. It’s disappointing, since Carnival’s party scene is better. But we’d end up having to smuggle booze onboard an “open bar” cruise which is ridiculous. Royal’s drink packages are unlimited, so it’s really a no-brainer.
We did get one last romp on Carnival though, and it was a blast.
This cruise departed on 9/25/14, and we drove down the morning of. We parked off site at The Parking Doctors, which is only a few blocks from the terminal. Check in went very quickly. My roommate and I went to the VIP area, but the rest of our group was done at the same time we were. We were all on the ship within about twenty minutes of arriving at the terminal.
My last cruise on the Paradise was back in 2008 when she was doing sailings out of Long Beach. The ship looked about the same as it did the last time I saw her. As usual, everything was clean and well kept. Since Paradise is the newest of the class, her décor is a little more modern than her sisters.
It was so nice to be back on a Fantasy Class ship still mostly in original configuration. The Rex nightclub has not been chopped in half to make way for a useless conference room. The aft pool hasn’t been eliminated in favor of the Waterworks, which makes the main pool a lot less crowded. She does have the adults-only Serenity area installed, but I never went there on this cruise. The one downside to an un-renovated Fantasy Class ship is that the cabins are now 15 years old. They still have the old CRT televisions and life jacket boxes in the corner.
Food and Service:
We ate in the dining room for the brunch on the two sea days, and also in the dining room for dinner each night. The food was great overall, and our serving team was excellent. I only ate in the buffet twice, but the food was decent both times.
Unlike our experience on the Destiny a few years ago, bar service could not have been better. Most of the bar staff was friendly and kept us well stocked with fresh drinks. Not always an easy task when we started at noonish, and didn’t stop until around three in the morning.
Our first afternoon onboard was spent around the pool bar enjoying beverages and music. We stopped by the Taste Bar for snacks, followed by pre-dinner drinks in the atrium. After dinner it was time for a visit to the piano bar, which is very nicely decorated on the Paradise. The rest of the night was spent in the Rex dance club; we stayed until around 3 in the morning. After the club let out we hung out on the back patio of the buffet eating pizza and finishing our drinks.
My next three days went along the same general schedule since I didn’t bother debarking in Cozumel. I woke up around 11 am, after getting about six hours of sleep. On the two sea days we ate in the dining room for brunch, on Cozumel day we ate at the buffet. A trip to the gym was called for to help eliminate excess calories and toxins. After the gymnasium we spent the rest of the afternoon partying around the pool. The sheer volume of beer and shots consumed was absolutely obscene.
With the exception of the port day, we spent some time lounging around on the promenade creating stacks of Taste Bar plates. Then, without fail, we would meet at the Lobby Bar for pre-dinner drinks. After dinner it was again time for our merry band of idiots to descend upon the piano bar for the sing along. The rest of the evenings were spent in the spacious, unmodified Rex.
Debarkation went fairly quickly, especially for being at Tampa. We were to the car and back on the interstate within an hour of leaving our cabin.
I hope that Carnival will someday eliminate the fifteen-drink cap on their Cheers program so that we can return. It really should be left up to the bar staff to decide whether a guest has had “too much”. My friends and I drank all day and all night, but never caused any problems. No one got out of control, just good solid buzzes all around. Their blanket cap seems to be more for profit protection than for the good of the passengers.
I’m going to miss my annual visit to Carnival and my beloved Fantasy Class ships. My first CCL cruise was on Sensation, and I’ve had more cruises on Fantasy Class ships than any other by a wide margin. So they’ve always felt like home to me. Next year will be on the Enchantment of the Seas, a ship I also know very well, but it just won’t be quite the same.
This annual guy’s cruise goes by much too fast. By the last morning I’m usually very tired. Four days of fourteen-hour benders will cause this sensation. But I’m still always sad to see it end.
The pictorial version of this review can be found on the Cruise Critic message boards by following this link:
Original Fantasy Class configuration, which means old CRT television and un-renovated bathroom. Still one of the biggest showers available in an inside cabin of any ship class I've been on. Will benefit from the cabin renovations that the Paradise will eventually receive.