I can honestly say that this was one of, if not THE, best cruise that we have taken in about 20 years of cruising. For us, this cruise brought us many firsts, including our first out of LA/Long Beach, our first along the Mexican Riviera, first through the Panama Canal, and first 14-day sailing. We have cruised The Carnival Paradise several times when it sailed out of Miami into the Caribbean and have always enjoyed this class of ship.
As expected, we were amongst the minority on this sailing, that is to say that we are not yet retired and still "work-to-cruise". I can also say that we made some great friends on this sailing and hope to cruise with them again in the future (both through CCritic and people that we met on the ship).
While the Carnival Paradise is an older ship and will be going into dry dock in early 2012, everything worked as expected, hot water was hot, cold air was cold, and everything was clean and neat for a ship of her age.
What I would really like to point out are the officers, crew, and staff, of the ship. They were in one word amazing. From the officers to the maintenance workers, they all had smiles and seemed sincerely glad that we (and even they) were on the sailing. Maybe it was the change from 3 and 5 days party cruises to the 14-day canal transit or maybe it was that Carnival is going to great lengths to put customer service into everything that they say and do. I suspect that it might be a little of both. It did not matter if the crew members were assigned to our MDR table, our stateroom, or if we saw them daily, they all truly seemed to enjoy what they were doing and it showed in how they talked with us in the halls, on the lido, the bars, or anywhere.
The Paradise is using the new Carnival MDR menus and the food was always hot and exactly as ordered; I like my beef rare (almost moo-ing) and that was never a problem. We had 6 (three couples) of us at a table for 8 and the wait staff were attentive and friendly throughout the sailing. One night we did the Chef's Table (as this ship has no private restaurant/steak house/etc) which I would highly recommend anyone who would like a fantastic 4-hour meal and discussion with the ship's head chef and several members of his staff, it was well worth the cost. The food in the lido was as expected and the lines were never a real problem for us, even during the busiest times of the day. Then again, we seldom let lines or such bother us when we cruise.
On entertainment - we are very limited here given our enjoyment. We did the comedy club once or twice and it was great both nights. The selected comics were on target with their bits and the audience that they had that night. I can not say anything about the shows since this is just not something that we tend to watch. We are Piano Bar Flies and on this cruise - we closed the place down most nights - although often we and one or two other couples were the only ones there. I think that part of the issue here was the age of the cruisers, most nights by 12mid, the ship would be very quiet everywhere including the PB. We had a great time with the piano player who is a local from Florida and who we hope to see again - or a ship, in a band, or walking the beach in sandals.
I know that there is much more that I should be writing and am sure that my wife would add a lot as well. If anyone has specific questions, they can find me on the cruise line boards and I'll be glad to offer more.
On this class of Carnival ship for such a long sailing (14-days) it was great to have the added space of the Grand Suite. The room, balcony, closet space, and bathroom are all oversized for a ship of this age. While this ship had very few balconies (or suites) - those with interior and/or ocean view staterooms all seems to have great sailing as well, and that is the bottom line for any sailing.
Our first port and my first of two (scuba) dive ports on this sailing. I booked though the cruise line, which I frequently do not do. This dive operators were professional and planned well. While there were both beginners and advanced divers on this excursion, they did a good job of giving our advanced group the room to roam and to see a little more than the beginning group which was appreciated.
Again, another first time port for us and the excursion (privately booked) was well run and allowed us to see much of this port. While I would have enjoyed the opportunity to Whale Watch - we were slightly ahead of the season, so another trip into the area will certainly be needed down the road.
Our first time to anywhere in Costa Rica and this was also a great port and (privately booked) excursion. While a little more action into the Rain Forrest would have been nice - we knew what we were getting ahead of time. When there again, we might try something a little more challenging.
Of the five ports on this cruise, four were new to us. Cartagena was by far the most impressive and interesting. We booked our own excursion with several other travelers and it could not have done any better. We had no concerns about our safety as we explored many areas of this fascinating city. Being in a smaller group and on a smaller bus, I believe that we were able to get to some areas that other (larger) groups may not have been able to. While the vendors can be very pushy - we would never let that bother us and would negotiate when interested in something that they had and avoid contact when not. Our tour guide also did a great job and keep them "in check" if they crossed the line or pushed too hard.
There is never a bad day diving in Cayman -- that is not possible. We had a great dive through the cruise line with Don Foster's which has a great operation on the Island and our dive (8 divers) was well managed and in picture perfect conditions.View All undefined undefined Reviews