I honestly don't know how this ship has a 3.5 star overall review. It's easily the worst cruise experience I've ever had, even scaling down expectations based on the low price. In short, I'd recommend paying $50 to $100 more per passenger to avoid Carnival Paradise and move up to a better cruise. Read on to find out why.
To make it a quick read and so you can focus on what you're most interested in, I'm going to break this review up into "bad" and "good" sections of the following topics:
1. Ship Layout
3. Activities and Entertainment
6. Final Verdict
1. Ship Layout - the bad:
The single biggest issue is that practically every point of interest is concentrated on the Lido Deck. A vast majority of activities and dining options are either on or directly adjacent to the Lido Deck. This creates a crowded, noisy, impossible-to-relax environment with long lines for basically everything. The next biggest issue is the layout of the casino; it's disproportionately large for the size of the ship, sparsely arranged, and wastes a lot of space. If they had rearranged all of the exact same casino activities, equipment, etc, they could have easily added an additional venue or two on the ship (more about this later).
1. Ship Layout - the good:
With the Paradise being small, there are major advantages in traversing the ship. You may see other reviews say that there aren't enough elevators and that the elevators are too slow; that's simply not the full story. Aside from the main staircases, there are many staircases scattered throughout the ship that connect 2 or 3 decks at a time. Once you learn them, you can get from any part of the ship to another in almost no time at all, so long as you avoid the Lido Deck and casino as much as possible. Not only can’t you do this on a huge ship, but you can’t do this on a small ship that doesn’t have strategically well-placed stairs like the Paradise. It also makes picking a state room much easier; they're *all* easy to get to.
2. Service - the bad:
Almost across the board, the service was awful. I would say that roughly 95% of the staff and crew (please look up the difference between "staff" and "crew" if you don't already know) were just plain rude. This majority always had attitude whenever you asked for something, even if you were tipping huge numbers. They gave off the "how dare you bother me by making me do my job" vibe. Common areas were frequently dirty, a lot of the time to the point where you couldn’t even clean it up yourself with just napkins, and crew would sometimes outright refuse to clean up. Crew and staff would also frequently yell in the stateroom hallways and slam doors, despite it being 4 in the morning. Bartenders, in general, were largely inattentive, incompetent, and downright rude, with or without large tips. It did not matter. Shop attendants were outright jerks and would get very angry and ask people to “move on” when they pulled out their phones to look up prices of similar items (mainly alcohol) back at home. There was *one* bar that had mixed good and bad service, and when it was good, lines were long.
2. Service – the good:
There was one bartender named Cathy that was just plain awesome. She was attentive, funny, fast, and could juggle 20 conversations at the same time. Amazing. I’ve never tipped anyone so much in my life; she deserved it because she made our trip great! Also, our room steward was overall fantastic, making sure everything was pretty much spotless, and I’m the type of guy to bring a blacklight with me. I can tell you with 100% confidence that our room was sanitary at all times.
3. Activities and Entertainment – the bad:
Lido deck, lido deck, lido deck; everything is on the lido deck! Crowds, chokepoints, and chaos non-stop without a break. They completely failed at spreading people throughout the ship to diffuse the crowds. Also, every 15 to 30 minutes or so, you’d get a *very* loud, 2 to 3 minute “announcement” about some kind of sale, raffle, or contest at one of the stores, the lido deck, casino, lido deck, or (you guessed it), the lido deck. I mean you could literally be sitting at a table drinking your morning coffee, relaxing and slowly waking up, then BAM – smacked in the ears with an infomercial! I felt like I was at Walmart on Black Friday. It was HORRIBLE. They would even interrupt dinner in the main dining hall sometimes to announce a stupid lap-dancing contest on the lido deck. It just never ended! To add insult to injury, the actual organized activities, such as the stand-up comedy, hardly had any capacity at all. We had to get to the stand-up show over 1 hour early just to make the last one on the cruise. Otherwise, unless you specifically like gambling on cruises, there really wasn’t much to do.
3. Activities and Entertainment – the good:
The cruise director at the time, Calvin, was hilarious and a super cool guy. His humor was a bit jarring for some people (especially if you were vegan or vegetarian, since he’d crack these jokes a lot), but it was right up our alley. He made the muster drill its own entertainment event! Also, the stand-up comics they got for our cruise were first-class. Again, maybe not good for sensitive people, but that’s part of the fun.
4. Dining – the bad:
Other than the main dining hall, there was a buffet and two cafeteria style walk-through lines that, allegedly, served their own cuisine. While this was true sometimes, about 75% of the time, these walk-through lines (despite having Asian and American themes) would simply just serve whatever was in the buffet. Additionally, lines were super long and really, the food wasn’t good at all at these places. Again, service was horrible and staff/crew were always displeased to do their jobs. In the main dining rooms, crew would repeatedly interrupt your dinner conversations with sales pitch after sales pitch to upsell you on stupid stuff. Sometimes you’d even get interrupted by the intercom system during an announcement for a contest on the lido deck! There was an interesting food place called “taste” that had difference cuisine every day, but I think we only saw it open just once. It may as well not even have been there.
4. Dining – the good:
The main dining room food during dinner was a lot better than I would have expected, given that everything else was pretty bad. It was actually quite good, so long as you don’t expect lobster (which you shouldn’t, on this value-level cruise). The dining room had the traditional, share-a-table arrangement, which I’m considering neither bad nor good, just mentioning it.
5. Amenities – the bad:
The pool was too small and overly crowded. It was impossible to enjoy. The only time I was in it was when I waited 45 minutes to go down the water slide; you splash into the pool. Also, it’s salt water, which I consider a negative (trust me, due to bacteria, chlorine is your friend on a cruise). Out of the two hot tubs on the entire ship, only one was actually heated. Of the two fresh water showers (for when you’re getting out of the pool or hot tub), only one worked with proper water pressure. Spa services (massage, specifically) were over-priced and below average in quality. Carnival also charges for on-ship, passenger-to-passenger instant messaging with their app, even though it costs them nothing, is available for free on other ships, and improves the crowding problem of the ship since people don’t need to travel just to find their friends and ask them a question.
5. Amenities – the good:
While I think charging for on-ship instant messaging is ludicrous, at least it’s only $10 per person for the whole trip; that’s significantly cheaper than other cruise lines and it’s definitely nice to have. Sadly, that’s all I have to say that’s good about the amenities on this cruise.
6. Final Verdict – the good AND the bad:
Cruises on the Carnival Paradise are the extreme low-cost option, and I’ve very carefully chosen those words. I definitely did not say the word “value,” and there is a difference. I do not think the money you save going with a cruise on this ship is worth the grief you face on your vacation. There are other value cruises that cost a bit more, but they’re absolutely worth it. Considering that you can get 4 night cruises on Carnival Paradise for $250 a person, it is, in fact, as cheap as you can get. If that’s important to you, then it’s a win. But my argument is that for “enjoyment per dollar” for a value cruise, you’d be better off spending $350 per person on basically any other similarly sized ship from Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Line, each of which come with their own pros and cons, but will generally give you a better experience for the money.
So why didn’t I give it a one out of five, rather than the two that I’m giving it? Well, look at the Carnival Triumph disaster, or even something like the more recent Norwegian cruise that got stuck in a storm. While the experience on the Paradise was bad, nothing went inherently wrong. Plumbing didn’t fail, we didn’t run out of food, and we stayed on schedule. Also, Cathy, the bar tender, made the trip better. So in my eyes, a 1 out of 5 would basically have to be some kind of disastrous experience, which this was not.
Simply put, cruising on the Carnival Paradise may cost less money than other options, but I believe it is money poorly spent. The only way I’d go on this ship again, or a similarly classed Carnival cruise, is if it were free. Even then, considering the time I’d have to take off work, I may even pass on it in favor of a non-free, but better experience.
My final thoughts:
Going on a cheap cruise on the Carnival Paradise is the definition of being penny wise and dollar foolish. And that, my friends, is my two cents on the Carnival Paradise. I hope you find this review useful.
Great service, super fun floating obstacle course, okay open bar, horrible food, terrible shopping.View All undefined undefined Reviews