We chose this cruise because it went to two of our favorite ports: Grand Cayman and Cozumel. This was our third cruise, second time on Carnival. The first Carnival cruise was 5 1/2 years ago, to the Southern Caribbean, out of San Juan (on the Valor), and we really enjoyed it. This cruise on the Paradise was disappointing in comparison.
Embarkation was extremely quick and painless. Our assigned time was 1-1:30 and we made it there closer to 1:30. Probably waited about 15 minutes total to get onboard , which was superb.
Our cabin (R228) was comfy and clean enough, and our steward, James was AMAZING! He took such great care of us while we were onboard. This oceanview room had what we needed and was quiet. The aft location was great for being close to the buffet and the Serenity deck, where we like to spend time. The worst part about it was that the hallway almost constantly smelled like sewage. James did his best to report and get the smell dealt with, but it would return. Luckily the smell did not extend to our cabin! But there was something going on in that area of the ship, for sure, to keep causing that smell.
We had anytime dining and never had to wait more than 15 minutes for a table in the Elation restaurant. The waiters, waitresses and hostesses were very friendly and did a great job, however, the food left much to be desired. We had much better food on our last Carnival cruise, years ago. The soups were all very good, as was the shrimp cocktail, but the main courses were barely okay. Chicken, fish, and steak were all overcooked and dry - tasted reheated, and came with about a tablespoonful of vegetables. Ordered grilled fish a couple of times and it was baked - nothing grilled about it whatsoever, not to mention the fact that it was old (fishy tasting). Nothing to write home about with any of the main courses. No lobster, either, unless you paid an extra $20. The beef lasagna was the one we enjoyed most, although it could have used more sauce. The desserts were good and we looked forward to them each evening. The melting chocolate cake (Carnival's signature dessert - formerly called Molten Lava Cake) however, was revised since our last cruise and was no longer good. We only ordered it the first night (on our first cruise, we ordered it every night!). It used to be delicious and now it's just a ramekin of lukewarm completely uncooked cake that's not even good as a custard, and the ice cream on the side doesn't fit with it at all. We were not impressed with the changes they made to it.
The best desserts were the S'mores parfait, the hazelnut chocolate cake and the roasted pineapple. The food in the buffet - The Paris Restaurant - was better than we got in the Elation most days. The omelettes were great and they had a good variety of breakfast foods. We enjoyed lunches at Guy's Burgers and the Blue Iguana Burrito Bar. The pizza at Pizza Pirate was good, too. We wished they had had more of a variety of fruit available, though. Mostly apples, oranges, bananas and melon. No berries of any kind, or even grapes.
We enjoyed sitting on the Serenity Deck every day and it was usually not too difficult to find lounges available. The whirlpools there were not too hot, which was good, because the air temps were in the 90s. Very relaxing!
The main pool area on the Lido deck was usually pretty crowded (and loud) and we only got in the pool once. It was on the cold side, which wasn't all bad, since the temps were pretty hot. One thing we didn't like about the pool area was that there was no airflow, so it remained extremely hot, whereas the Serenity deck had a nice breeze.
The cruise director, Adam, was AWESOME and we really enjoyed his audio messages each day, his Love and Marriage Show, and his 70s and 80s parties in the Atrium in the late evenings. Lots of fun! In fact, every crew member we interacted with over the 5 days was very polite and friendly. We felt very welcomed and well cared-for.
We felt that this cruise didn't have quite as much available to do as the other Carnival cruise we had been on and the ship seemed a bit small (and maybe not laid out as well as it could've been). I know it was refurbished about a year and a half ago, but whoever did the interior decorating should be fired! It was just plain ugly and none of the decor seemed to coincide or flow smoothly. The whole ship is just old and tired and should be retired!
As far as entertainment, we enjoyed the dance shows each evening, but the shows were definitely not as professional as the ones we'd seen in the past, or on the other cruise line we've been on. Their choices of music were great though - 80s, Latin, and rock n roll. There was one girl and one guy who could sing really well, and the rest should have remained as back up singers only. They were all amazing dancers, though! We also liked the Love and Marriage show (hilarious) and the late night shows with Adam.
The candy shop is cute and has lots of yummy goodies, although they have it hidden away behind one wall of the casino and it took me three days to find it! (again, not laid out as well as it could've been, for sure.)
The ports were excellent choices, but we wished there could have been one more port and one less sea day. We were disappointed about the short amount of time in Grand Cayman. We were on the first or second tender off the ship in the morning, but still only had about 5 hours to spend in port. We felt rushed. We did a cool excursion that stopped at StingRay City and one snorkeling spot (we booked on our own through Trip Advisor), but afterward we barely had time for lunch a couple of blocks from port and no time to shop. In Cozumel, we had a long day (about 9 hours) - plenty of time. It would have been nice if they could have made the Grand Cayman day a little longer and the Cozumel day could have been shortened a little bit. In Cozumel we rented a Jeep and went to Playa Corona for snorkeling, sunning and a snack. Very reasonable prices, good snorkeling right from shore, and great food. Then we drove the rest of the way around the island and ate at Senor Iguanas - we'd been there before. Amazing food and spectacular views! We had a little time to shop when we arrived back at the port, too. One note of caution - if you are renting a Jeep, the traffic in town near the port is extremely hectic, so be careful! If we were going to Sky Reef or Playa Corona, or one of the other beach resorts on the west side, we could have had a cab take us there for the day, and it would've worked fine, and been less of an expense. The Jeep did give us more options to drive around and view the east coast of the island (although it was too windy/ wavy to swim there). Our main goal was to head to Punta Sur (an eco-park that we thoroughly enjoyed last time, but the weather didn't allow for swimming or snorkeling there this time around). All in all, a good day.
Disembarking was smooth and ahead of schedule (as far as Carnival was concerned), but the problem came with customs....they didn't have enough agents and we waited over an hour to get through the customs line. We've never waited that long to get off a cruise ship before!
We had a fun and relaxing (albeit short) vacation, but we probably won't sail on the Paradise again.
Our cabin (R228) was comfy and clean enough, and our steward, James was AMAZING! He took such great care of us while we were onboard. This oceanview room had what we needed and was quiet. The aft location was great for being close to the buffet and the Serenity deck, where we like to spend time. There was a recurring problem of a sewage smell in the hallway near our cabin, though.
Embarkation in Tampa was very smooth!
We enjoyed the port and planned our own stingray/ snorkeling excursion through Trip Advisor, but the day was too short to really enjoy the island.