For starters: We chose this cruise for our annual cruise to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The days, dates and departure port of Tampa were convenient, so we booked the Paradise 4-day Cozumel cruise. It's a convenient getaway since you can make a long weekend into a mini vacation - depart Thursday and return on Monday. Tampa, for those who fly, is an efficient airport and the transfers with Carnival are a breeze for getting to your ship and back to the airport. Embarkation began early and was a breeze - super quick - and they were incredibly efficient at getting people fed asap. There was plenty of food and drink while we waited for our cabins to be made available. Carnival even accommodated late arrivals, as I saw at least a dozen people (probably delayed flight arrivals) being allowed to board while we were still in port doing the evacuation drill on deck.
Our cabin: Spacious and comfy enough, a bit dated, but clean and tidy all the time. I was pleasantly surprised that we could get TV and news out of the States for the whole trip. The shower was awesome, albeit VERY hot water, but a decent size, unlike the corner/tiny showers we've had on other ships. LADIES: BRING YOUR HAIR DRYER!!! There are none in the bathrooms or the dresser drawers. Only one outlet, right near the dressing table area. Loads of closet and storage space. Our steward, Michael, was awesome - personable, efficient and unobtrusive.
The Crowd: Since school was in session, there were a few kids on board, and a few babies, but mostly adults. There were a few college students/frat boys who must have been on their fall break (often in October). These guys should probably have been in the dorms studying for their midterms or writing their mid-term papers, but alas they were staying across the hall from us. I think they tried to tone it down, but you can imagine: frat boys + unlimited drink package = God help the steward who has to clean that room and the folks who want to fall asleep before 3 a.m. Let's just say they weren't thinking straight -- or thinking at all. They could have been worse, though.
Food: Since we booked last minute, our only dining option was Your Time dining, and this was a first for us. It is not an option we would choose again. Although it does have its advantages by affording your flexibility, especially on excursion days in port when it can be a time crunch to get to the dining room for your scheduled dining time. The service, which on Carnival is generally top-notch in the dining room, was lacking in the My Time dining area: there were errors in our order each and every day, i.e., one night they brought the wrong wine...and we are pretty easygoing folks, but the waitress seemed ticked off when I told her the wine was incorrect (they brought me a white instead of a red, not even close.) Another evening, it was the wrong dessert; another, the wrong side dish. The food (in the dining room) on this ship was not as good as the food on other Carnival cruises, but the steaks and braised beef brisket were delicious. Dessert offerings were more limited than I remember, but still quite good. The buffets and food on the Lido deck was good -- plentiful and freshly prepared, much as expected. The food wasn't bad, but it was .... weird. For example, my roast turkey dinner with sage and onion dressing had some unidentifiable ingredients in it; the yams were whipped with scallions, and there was no potato with the meal. The "gravy" was a cream sauce of some kind. It seemed like a foreign chef had tried to prepare a typical American meal -- having never seen or experienced a typical turkey dinner him/herself. The next meal had diced potatoes au gratin, but the mixture was full of chopped olives. ??? Another weird combo.
Drinks Package: If you drink more than a few drinks, including sodas and iced coffees, during the day, get the "Cheers" drink package. Well worth it, and it includes sodas, bottled water, milk shakes, and specialty/gourmet coffees and teas from the coffee bar.
Adults-Only area: We enjoyed the adults-only Serenity retreat, which has two hot tubs and the music is pleasant enough. The Lido deck tended to be LOUD, and when a Led Zeppelin fan like me thinks it's too loud, well, 'nuf said. The music, base, and emcee's voice literally reverberated up through the chairs and shook your insides. The need to tone that down!! The usual activities were all going on -- hairy chest contests, etc., and the Groove for Saint Jude fundraiser for children's cancer care, which is a wonderful fee-good program they offer that makes it easy to donate with your fun card/room account.
Entertainment: was the best we've had on a cruise -- and we've been on 7, both with Carnival and Royal Caribbean. The Leonardo Lounge had a live band called "Groovealicious" which played everything from Motown (Supremes, Aretha, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Earth, Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, Temptations, Commodores,) to classic rock (Journey, Ozzy Osborne, Benatar, Joan Jett, ZZ Topp,); disco (Pointer Sisters, KC and the Sunshine Band, etc.). In short, everything from early 60's up to the early 90's. And they were AWESOME, instrumentally and vocally. The Rex Lounge has a DJ and was crowded with dancers each night, usually a young crowd (Bruno Mars, etc.) But they also had a Motown night there as well. The performers in the Atrium Bar were classical musicians who did everything from classical to Queen, and they were unbelievable. The Comedy Club - we saw Roman, who was side-splitting funny (we usually don't even go to the comedy shows, but this guy was really good.) The show was an 80's rock extravaganza, which we skipped but could hear from the hall, and that also seemed wonderful.
So...I know this was long, but after seeing so many unhappy reviews, I think in the end a cruise is what you make of it. You can spend your time complaining about what wasn't perfect, or focus on the wonderful time and amenities available to you. Your choice. As for us, we had a great time and would book on the Paradise again in a heartbeat, remembering that if you want a bigger, newer, ship, you will pay more -- and have to put up with lots more people everywhere. This ship is big enough to have a great time and has all the amenities, including the casino, but isn't so big that it loses its charm.
More spacious than the cabin we just had on Royal Caribbean. This cabin was a bit dated, but the shower was a NORMAL size. :-) We had no issues with plumbing, just be aware and pay attention to the scalding warnings posted for the hot water....it is HOT! There are NO HAIRDRYERS and only one outlet in the room, which is fine for a couple, but might be a challenge if you have 3/4 females staying in a cabin. Steward was awesome and the room was always spotlessly cleaned, towels replaced twice a day.
I'm rating Tampa because the airport is super-efficient and easy to negotiate. Transfers to and from the ship were a breeze!
This was an AWESOME excursion, especially for history buffs. The scenery was beautiful, the guide so knowledgeable. I am a Spanish teacher and will be sharing the photos we took and information we learned with all of my students!View All 425 Mayan Ruins Reviews