We were looking for a cruise that was less than 7 days, and one that included a day-long stop in Key West, and the Paradise offered both. This was not our first cruise during hurricane season, but with so many powerful hurricanes being active the week before our cruise, pre-vacation stress level was pretty high! Under the circumstances, Carnival did a good job of posting updates and handling necessary changes, which included an intenerery change. (Grand Cayman instead of Key West)
We had a non-stop flight from CVG to PIE that arrived by 10am and a return flight that departed at 1043am, so we didn't do a pre or post cruise hotel stay. I requested a LYFT pick-up at PIE and the driver arrived at the curb just after we did, so that worked out well. It was about a 30 minute drive and was $22 each way. The convenience was priceless, especially on Thursday. Even tho we did self-carry and disembarked early, we were a little concerned about morning traffic to PIE from the port.
After a very stressful week of not knowing if the cruise or flights would be cancelled because of the hurricane, it was nice to be greeted with smiling faces and a welcoming staff at embarkation. We arrived early, at 11am, expecting a long wait, but since the ship had been unoccupied for a few days, we were allowed to board right away and had immediate access to our cabin.
Our typical cruise day starts with working out in the gym, (the gym was well equipped and had a great view) then heading to the lido deck for breakfast. We spend most of the afternoon on the lido deck enjoying the views, food, and entertainment. After dinner we like to walk thru the public areas and stop to listen to the music, etc. One evening we caught the 80's Tribute show, which was quite good, and another evening we watched a Newly Weds type show hosted by the cruise director that was hysterical. We spent a few hours shopping in Grand Cayman, but stayed on board while we were in Cozumel.
One of the things we like about Carnival is the cruise music and the festive atmosphere in the lido pool area. That seems like a given, but some cruise lines don't do it. Besides the music, there was always something entertaining going on at the main stage, which is our favorite place to just chill and relax. We found the cruise director to be very funny and entertaining, where ever he happened to be on the ship. He seemed to have the perfect personality for the job. We were really looking forward to a day in Key West and a week just relaxing on the ship, and while we didn't make it to Key West, we didn't let it spoil our trip and still had a nice, restful cruise.
We had an aft OV cabin (M256) that was in a great location. Very quiet area, convenient to elevators that went straight up to the dining area on the lido deck. The bed was comfortable, the shower was large, the window was large and the space was plenty for the two of us. We aren't night owls, so it was a nice surprise to get a good variety of TV channels at sea. Typical of most cabins (and hotel rooms), the vanity lighting needs to be improved. I would definitely choose and aft cabin again.
The only criticisms I have about the cruise are related to the food and dining. We aren't picky eaters and are generally easy to please when it comes to food, but having said that, good food is usually one of the highlights of a cruise. Breakfast and lunch were standard fare, and the coffee was good. But they kind of missed the mark on dinner. I can't say anything was memorable or impressive, either in the dining room or the buffet. Even the desserts were bland. Each evening there was a different theme in the main buffet (which closely mimiced the dining room menu), and some of the themes didn't offer much of a selection for those who didn't like that particular type of food. There were decent choices in the deli and the burgers were ok, but not what I expect on a cruise, especially if that's for dinner. And along those lines, the main buffet was closed from 3:30pm-6pm. Families who eat their evening meal from 4-6, were limited to pizza, burgers, or deli food. A lot of folks were not real pleased with that. Everyone has their own opinion on food, and that's just mine. It was ok and we didn't go hungry by any means, but if you're a first time cruiser who has heard great stories about cruise food and are really looking forward to an epic food experience, make sure you read lots of reviews before you pick a cruise.
I can't honestly say if I'd do this same cruise again. If I do, it will be to spend a day in Key West, and this current intenerery has the longest stop there. The ship, the staff and the service were great, but the food and lack of more drink package options were somewhat disappointing compared to the other cruises we've taken.
Cabin was a nice size, very large shower, plenty of hot water and good water pressure, good storage, comfy bed. Lighting in the bathroom was much too dim for applying makeup. Cabin steward Hendri, did a great job.