This was our 45th cruise and many of them have been on Carnival over the years dating back to the 80’s. So, we are no new to cruising and not easily impressed. In fact, I’d say we are pretty critical, especially of some of the older ships. I sailed on the Paradise when it was one week old and a non-smoking ship back then.
We booked this 4-day Cuba itinerary on the Paradise because it was easier for us to get to Tampa and also because of the price. (Less than 1k for both of us in an inside cabin) We’ve always wanted to visit Cuba and this was a great opportunity to do so.
We arrived at the ship at about 12:30 for our 1PM boarding appointment window. There was a bit of a a line up, but I’d say we waited no more than about 20 mins. Check in was a breeze and within a few minutes, we were on board. As the rooms weren’t ready until 130, we had lunch on the Lido deck. It was a bit crowded, but we had no problem finding a table outside. I had a salad and my wife had a Guy’s Burger. Both were good!
We booked an inside guarantee and ended up with R18 on the Riviera Deck. We usually sail in a balcony cabin, but this was a short cruise and the stateroom wasn’t important to us. That said, I was really impressed with the size of the room as well as the amenities. The Samsung flat panel TV on the wall was HUGE for a cruise ship. Probably 42” maybe? The room was spacious as was the bathroom and the bed very comfortable. Much more room than some balcony cabins we’ve had on other ships. I was really impressed by how well the hallways were lit and how wide they were on Deck 4. Best of all the AC was incredible. We could get it very cold in the room which is how we like to sleep. The water pressure also was very good in the shower. Another plus!
We chose late dining and was assigned to a large table in the Destiny Dining. After reading the reviews, I was a little concerned about how the food would be. I am please to report, the food has been as good or better than any prior cruise we’ve ever been on, bar none. The options are endless and the quality good. I have how they have increased and stepped on the quality of the “healthy” offerings as I have been practicing a carb smart diet lately. I had no problem choosing carb smart options. We ate in just about all venues at one time or another over the four days. Service was phenomenal as you’d expect from a much higher priced cruise.
Debarkation in Cuba was a bit of a challenge. However, this is not the fault of Carnival. There are limited customs/immigration officials, security checkpoints and money changes, so Carnival issues tickets with letters and calls up about 80 people at a time. If you arrive at the coffee bar early, you can get a lower letter and get off early. We were about an hour late docking, so some people didn’t get off the ship until 230 pm.
We ignored the push for booking a ships excursion and booked a 7 hour tour with Cuba Outings. What a wonderful day we had. Our private guide for the two of us was Ernesto and we spent about 2-3 hours in a 1954 Plymouth convertible driving around the city with a stop at Fusterlandia, and Revolution Square. They we had lunch at a local restaurant recommended by Ernesto. He was quite surprised when we asked him to eat with us and offered to buy his lunch. I take it this is not the norm. It was so nice getting to know him and his English was better than mine! After lunch, we visited an “official” cigar and rum outlet and walked through Old Havana. There are options that may be less expensive, however, I highly recommend spending a little extra on Cuba Outings. Owner Gloria will take good care of you.
On Saturday morning we left the ship early at around 8am which was a mistake. NOTHING was open. Cubans obviously sleep in. Around 915, we hired a horse and buggy for an hour or so for about 40.00 The driver took us to the flea market where he dropped us off and patiently waited for us for about an hour while we shopped. They we continued the tour of the old town where he returned us to the ship.
All in all, I wish we had more time in Cuba. I am not sure what the rush to leave at 1200 was. It is such a short trip back to Tampa, I wish we could have stayed in Havana until 5-6 pm that evening.
We attended the Ships shows including the headliners as well as the two comedians on board. The shows were very well done in my opinion and provided a quality entertainment experience. You didn’t get the feeling that they save the best entertainers for the longer, more expensive cruises. We also attended a few of the comedy sessions. The late show was a bit raunchy, even for my taste, but all in all, good quality comedy.
If I have any complaint, this is it. We booked the mid range internet package PRE-Cruise and I even upgraded to the premium package during the cruise. The Internet is SOOOO slow and intermittent. Surely Carnival can do a better job with this. Royal Caribbean must have better technology on their ships, because their connections are lightning fast compared to Carnival. We did maintain connection during most of the trip, including being in Havana while on the ship only. The connection, even at the premium rate was poor at best.
To be on the safe side, I booked two flights leaving Tampa with the option to cancel one without penalty. One was at 945am and the other at 130pm. We really hoped we could get off early enough to make the early flight. I stopped by the desk and got assigned to the “Early Flights” room. As fate would have it, we were off the ship and clear of customs by 8am. Even with a little traffic, we made it to the airport (via taxi) by 835 am with plenty of time to make our flight.
Without hesitation, we would sail on the Paradise again. And, we’d love to go back to Cuba. The food and service were some of the best every and we really appreciate the effort the crew puts into making it a great vacation. It’s funny because as we were leaving, there was a lady in front of us saying it was her worst cruise ever. Not sure why, but we didn’t have that experience.
Larger than most interior cabins we've had. Very clean and well appointed. No issues at all for our 4 day cruise. Love the new TV's with the large screens! Bathrooms are also bigger than most. Still with the obnoxious clingy shower curtains though. But, you can't beat the water pressure of a cruise ship shower. Love it.
We ignored the push for booking a ships excursion and booked a 7 hour tour with Cuba Outings. What a wonderful day we had. Our private guide for the two of us was Ernesto and we spent about 2-3 hours in a 1954 Plymouth convertible driving around the city with a stop at Fusterlandia, and Revolution Square. They we had lunch at a local restaurant recommended by Ernesto. He was quite surprised when we asked him to eat with us and offered to buy his lunch. I take it this is not the norm. It was so nice getting to know him and his English was better than mine! After lunch, we visited an “official” cigar and rum outlet and walked through Old Havana. There are options that may be less expensive, however, I highly recommend spending a little extra on Cuba Outings. Owner Gloria will take good care of you.View All 251 City Tour Reviews