23 Miami to Caribbean - Eastern Carnival Paradise Cruise Reviews

I am a 72 year old great grandmother who traveled single on this cruise. This was my 4th cruise, second with Carnival. My plane was late in arriving in Miami so I was one of the last ones on board. No embark hassle at all! My love was an ... Read More
I am a 72 year old great grandmother who traveled single on this cruise. This was my 4th cruise, second with Carnival. My plane was late in arriving in Miami so I was one of the last ones on board. No embark hassle at all! My love was an inside cabin on the Riviera deck. This is the first time I had an inside cabin but it did not bother me at all, much to my surprise. The Paradise is a beautiful ship, yet I enjoyed the Celebration much more....I think maybe the Paradise was a little to fancy for my taste and caters to the more affluent crowd. The food was excellent and the service was great...I wish I had been seated at a table with more people...There was only three of us at a table set for eight. I guess they must try to seat single travelers together as all three of us were traveling alone. I chose to go on the excursions the ship had to offer...It was much easier for me. The ship was scheduled to go to St. Thomas, Bahamas and D Republic. Because of Frances we only made it to Nassau...The ship was rerouted to Jamaica and Cozumel. I was soooo disappointed....I really enjoyed Jamaica though. I had been to Cozumel three other times so I was not to excited about going there again. A seven day cruise ended up to be eight days.... All in all the cruise was OK but not the best one I have been on. I am sure all the younger crowd had a wonderful time..... Read Less
Sail Date August 2004
My cruise on the Paradise was my second, and it was not any worse that the last cruise on the Carnival Glory! Size really doesn't matter in cruise ships, I guess. We cruised on August 28, 2004, to the Eastern Caribbean. Anyway, I am ... Read More
My cruise on the Paradise was my second, and it was not any worse that the last cruise on the Carnival Glory! Size really doesn't matter in cruise ships, I guess. We cruised on August 28, 2004, to the Eastern Caribbean. Anyway, I am from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and I am obsessed with cruising, even though I've only been on 2. My family and I and my cousins and Aunt and Uncle came, too. Cruises are such great family activities! We are planning our next one now, and it will most likely be with Carnival again, since they have proved great to my family and I. We stayed in Miami for two nights prior to the cruise. I highly recommend this, since it is like a second vacation. I got an incredible deal for a two-night stay at the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza Resort, in South Beach through Hotwire.com. I guess this information doesn't matter now, since the Paradise is now cruising from Long Beach, but what the hey. We all got very excited when we crossed the causeway, and saw Paradise in port. I am still very upset that Carnival removed the No-Smoking rule, since it was the greatest thing I the world!!! We didn't have to kill ourselves by breathing in toxic fumes!! If I ever had the choice to be healthy and have money, or waste hundreds of dollars a month while killing myself, I'll take the former, thank you very much. EMBARKATION I was shocked at how fast the embarkation process took! We drove up to the port, dropped off our bag, then walked to the entrance. The port of Miami was very clean, and attractive. We walked into one of the two lines, to pass through security, which took no time at all. Then, we went into the line for people who have their FunPasses completed, like us, and that line just kept moving. There was no point in even putting our bags down. At the counter, we handed the lady our FunPasses, she checked our passports, and we were through. We went up a couple of deserted escalators, and then it did get a bit confusing. There was a big open room, with a few groups of people around. Then we saw the security officers, so we went to them. They were not very friendly. Then, we got into a second line, in that room, which was divided with a few ropes. Finally, we went up one more flight of stairs, and got our picture taken, then we embarked. What a first impressing!!! An amazing, huge Atrium, with crystal eggs all around, and on top of all that; no smoky smell!!!!! So, we went up to the Lido deck for a great lunch. DINING Carnival never fails to impress their guests with their exceptional food. It is prepared incredibly, it tastes great, and what a variety! The Lido restaurant is a great choice for someone who doesn't feel like dressing up, and going down to their restaurant. Surprisingly, even the buffet food was prepared exceptionally. There is a great salad bar, in the Paris Restaurant, and next to it there is a dessert station. Oh my god, they make the BEST Boston cream pie!!! If you ever walk by, and see the pie there, be very sure to grab a slice. Or five. The room service has never been known for an incredible menu, but it is a good choice when you are hungry, but your favourite movie is on TV. We once ordered about twelve plates of food (my two brothers, me, and my two cousins), and we barely even touched the food. The lady who brought all this food did not make us feel embarrassed at all. That sure was a lot of wasted food. Finally, there was the dining room. Oh my god, how can I sum this up to keep it short?!? The dining room was absolutely incredible, despite our awful waiter. He was so bad, and he never smiled. His assistant was very nice, but he could not make up for all the gloominess that came out of our headwaiter. He was extremely sarcastic, and quite rude (made mean hand gestures behind the other family while they were ordering, to impress us, which was a little funny). He also always mixed up our orders, and when we told him, he would refuse to admit that he was wrong. It was hilarious! Most people would complain about him, but they have got to lighten up. People should stop being so picky. Surprisingly, our headwaiter almost made our cruise even better. He was so bad, it was funny! We would make jokes about him right in front of him, and we had a lot of fun. Sometimes, you have to make the best out of the situation! Anyway, the food was exquisite, and delicious, and worth the money. The espressos are great; they are free after dinner, but they cost money at the cafe, so take advantage of the after dinner coffee! The ice cream and frozen yogurt were a big hit; and I can see why! Who would turn down free soft serve, at anytime that you wish, with any quantity, and a choice of 6 kinds (ice cream- vanilla, chocolate, swirl; frozen yogurt- chocolate, vanilla, swirl)?! What a deal. And who can forget the pizza... what can I say? It tastes better than any old pizza place back at home, and the hours are great- 24 hours a day- and the price is right- FREE!!! Food is a big part of cruising, and Carnival has got it down! PUBLIC ROOMS Since my aunt is English, we spent a lot of time every afternoon in the America Bar. The selection of tea was great, and the finger sandwiches were great too. And how could I forget the live piano playing? The America Bar is worth looking into. The Fantasy class ships do not have as many useless lounges, which is fine, since they are useless! On the Glory, there were tons of unused rooms, which were cool to look at, but pointless in the end. Instead, the Paradise took a different approach- there will not be as many rooms, but they will all be used sufficiently! This means less wasted space, and less travel time from room to room! The library has always been a mystery to me... why do they have one, when the books are rarely available? Can't the hire a librarian, or something? We did use it once; we borrowed a board game, that e never played, then returned it ath the end of the cruise. It looked like the Casino was a big hit... too bad I'm not old enough... CABINS We had an inside cabin, on the Empress Deck, which has yet to seize to amaze me. How can a great rom fit into a small space like this? Inside cabins really are okay, outside cabins are not necessary. We had a little basket o goodies in the bathroom, with Tylenol PM, Rolaids, trial packs of shampoo and conditioner, and more. I really like the Lever 200 soap! If you want an even better shower, check out the Spa showers, they have 5 jets; one from the top, and two from each side of you! You don't even have to move to rinse off!! More about the spa below. Anyway, again, our cabin stewards were not very good, but the did not ruin our vacation, like it sounds like in other reviews. Again, I will repeat myself, for all of you drama queens out there who hate vacations because their cabin steward made the same animal twice in a row—LIGHTEN UP!!! You're on a cruise, enjoy yourself! Our cabin steward was awful—she made the animals way too early, and she didn't even talk—But it didn't ruin our vacation. We just let it slide. Overall, we loved the whole cabin situation. ENTERTAINMENT I don't care what anybody says- Jeff Brrrrrrronson was funny!!! Maybe I am easily amused, but I really enjoyed him. I even got to meet him, and he was very nice. He may make some corny jokes, so if he does, laugh with him, and at him at the same time! Trust me, it works. The crew of the Paradise did a great job with all the shows—They were all great (I went to EVERY one!), and funny, and just plain shocking. The comedian was picking on my brothers, my cousins, and I because we are Canadian, and it was the best time of our lives!! We were the centre of attention in the Normandie Lounge, which is the biggest room on the ship! And it was full! He kept calling us punk teenagers, and making us laugh, and he even asked us questions, that we answered, and he repeated them to the audience! This was the best moment of my life--- on a cruise ship, that is! The midnight comedy shows, which I snuck into, were pretty bland. The jokes were not very funny, and he really didn't connect with the audience. The mini game shows, like Win, Lose or Draw, and the Newlywed Game, were all a lot of fun. Lots of audience participation, and lots of laughs. FITNESS & RECREATION The spa was the bomb!! Wow, there was a steam room, and a sauna, and the most incredible showers! There were also two Jacuzzis, and a fitness room, and private treatment rooms, and a salon, and massage rooms! At the beginning of the cruise, a lady walked up to my mom, and asked her if she wanted to be a model for the spa. This means that she gets a free treatment, and people who take the spa tour, at the beginning if the cruise, walk in and see how the whole spa works. Of course, my mom said yes, so she was off for a free treatment for half the day. Carnival, you know how to treat your guests. Of course, I had to see! So me and one of my two brothers (they are 17 and 19, the 19 year old came with me), went to go on the spa tour, to see our mom. She happened to be in the first room, getting some sort of seaweed treatment, to soften her skin. When we walked in, she was wrapped in a foil bag, lying on her back! How funny! She said it was an incredible treatment, and she would even pay to get it again. The fitness room, which is in the same area as the spa, was a bit small, but was packed with new, state-of-the-art equipment. Unfortunately, it was a little crowded, but what do you expect when you are on a cruise full of non-smokers- we care about our health! Now, I am not a girl, so I would never dare take one step into a salon, but it looked appealing to the women on board. There were tons of specialists on board. My mom and cousin both got braids done in their hair, and they loved it! The only problem is that, if you are under 18, the receptionists give you a very hard time. I find them very rude, and I really don't like their attitude, but this did not ruin my cruise! FAMILY With my first experiences of Camp Carnival on the Glory, I was not impressed. The activities were not organized, nor did they ever happen. However, on the Paradise, the Camp Carnival program was a lot better. I met a lot of kids my age, and I had a lot of fun. We played cards, danced in the teen disco, ate, and just chilled and talked. The only good part of the Camp Carnival, in my opinion, was the ease to meet kids. And that is all I wanted to do. FELLOW PASSENGERS There were not many groups of people who stood out, attitude-wise. Everyone seemed to respect each other, so it all worked out. The Americans obviously dominated the ship, but there were also quite a few Canadians, like me, and there were Mexicans, people from the United Kingdom, and there were some Asian people, too. There were no pushy groups, and no one gave anybody any trouble. ITINERARY We were scheduled to go to St. Thomas, Nassau, and the Dominican Republic, but because of Hurricane Ivan, we went to Nassau, Jamaica, and Cozumel. We also spent an extra night on the ship, for free, because the hurricane was in Miami on the day of return! How fun! An 8 day cruise is always better than a 7 day cruise! Nassau, Bahamas We decided to book through Carnival, and go to the Blue Lagoon Stingray encounter. I wish it could have turned out better for me! We sat inside the boat (not a good idea!), so I got extremely nauseous. My stomach kept flipping, and it ached sooooooo much! When we got off the ship, I threw up in the sand. And that’s not all. I found out that is I moved too fast for my body, my stomach would get angry, and would punish me by aching for another 5 minutes. Over the 4-hour stay, this happened about 20 times, including twice while I was snorkeling with the stingrays! Bummer. Despite this, I somehow had a good time. I fed the stingrays; then I got out and relaxed on the hammock, to relax my stomach. We finally decided to walk back towards the dock area, to watch people swim with dolphins. That looked like fun. On the way back from the Blue Lagoon, somehow, my stomach stopped aching, so I bought a T-Shirt at Senor Frogs. That was a cool place. Ocho Rios, Jamaica I love Jamaica!! The people there were very nice, and our shore excursion was great! We went outside and made a deal with a cab driver. So we were off to Dunn Falls, to climb them! How cool! When we arrived, we got water shoes, and then walked out to the Falls, to wait for a bit. I went with my brother (17 year old) and my cousin, to walk into the falls, for some reason. Do not do this!! Wait for your guide to take you to the bottom! Anyway, I knew we weren’t supposed to be in the water, so we all got out. Then, we could not find our group! We were lost in Jamaica! We looked everywhere, but we could not find them. I panicked, and started running around looking for my family, then, when I was turning around a corner, I slipped, and scraped my leg on the concrete. Ouch!! That ruined my day. Too bad, since the shore excursion really was a lot of fun. P.S. I found my family at the top, exactly where we started. Cozumel, Mexico Cozumel is and has always been one of the best places for beaches with action. We went to a beach, of which I forgot the name, and It was a lot of fun. There was a water trampoline, a big inflatable igloo, and lots of equipment to rent. We decided to get henna tattoos, at a booth, and that was a lot of fun. Then, we rented a really cool piece of equipment; it was yellow, and snorkelers and scuba divers use it for getting around easier. It has a fan, and you hold on to it with both hands. When you want it to go, you put the little piece of metal on your thumb, and you press it against another piece of metal on the equipment. This completes the circuit, and the fan blows, then it pulls you around! That was worth the money. OVERALL Overall, this was the best vacation of my life! Cruising is the way to go, and now my family knows that. I want to finish with one point—I am very ashamed of Carnival for removing the no-smoking rule, since it really was a godsend for non-smokers. Their excuses for doing so are all below-par, and they are not convincing anyone. I will always think just a bit less of Carnival now—you proved that you really do care more about money than your customer satisfaction. Read Less
Sail Date August 2004
This was mine and my wife's first cruise. We're in our early 30's and wanted a "happening" line instead of a geriatrics boat like Holland America. The smoke-free environment made us immediate buyers. Our overall ... Read More
This was mine and my wife's first cruise. We're in our early 30's and wanted a "happening" line instead of a geriatrics boat like Holland America. The smoke-free environment made us immediate buyers. Our overall impression? 3.5 ribbons out of 6 (One ribbon going just to the fact that it's a smoke free ship). The ship: even though it was built only 6 years ago it looks like something that was designed in the mid 70's. Simply put the decor is VERY TACKY and it resembles more a Vegas casino. Although the ship is clean, we couldn't find a garbage bin anywhere to throw away napkins, paper, etc... The open-air decks: (nice feature) a lot of lounge chairs all over; (awful feature) not enough pools and the ones they have are FULL of kids. Our cabin: I've seen motel rooms with better decor... One thing that was good was the bed (VERY COMFY). The crew: I noticed that most crew walked around with a pout. We were situated at the very front of the ship not far from a storage room and it wasn't uncommon to see crew on break lounging around on the corridor floor. The restaurant and cabin crew were nice although the cabin steward was a little too chatty... The shows: again, we found them on the tacky side. The stand-up shows were funny but the variety shows too much glitter and cheap costumes. Finding seats was an adventure. The excursions: we had heard that it was cheaper to book the excursions in the port rather than on the ship. Problem is that the availability of port excursions varies tremendously as does the quality. We experienced very good service in this department although if you're in the USVI and absolutely want to go snorkeling to Buck Island beware that there are 2 Buck Islands: the first is just off St. Thomas (and it's a waste of time), the other is the world renowned snorkeling haven just off St. Croix. Make sure you are not taken in like we were. Bottom line: we had heard that the best way to start on a cruise line is to go with Carnival because everything else after that gets better. So if you're new to the cruise scene Carnival is just for you. Next time we'll work our way up to Royal Caribbean and eventually Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date August 2004
My cruise on the Paradise was my second, and it was not any worse that the last cruise on the Carnival Glory! Size really doesn't matter in cruise ships, I guess. We cruised on August 28, 2004, to the Eastern Caribbean. Anyway, I am a ... Read More
My cruise on the Paradise was my second, and it was not any worse that the last cruise on the Carnival Glory! Size really doesn't matter in cruise ships, I guess. We cruised on August 28, 2004, to the Eastern Caribbean. Anyway, I am a 15 year old from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and I am obsessed with cruising, even though I've only been on 2. My family and I and my cousins and Aunt and Uncle came, too. Cruises are such great family activities! We are planning our next one now, and it will most likely be with Carnival again, since they have proved great to my family and I. We stayed in Miami for two nights prior to the cruise. I highly recommend this, since it is like a second vacation. I got an incredible deal for a two-night stay at the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza Resort in South Beach through Hotwire.com. I guess this information doesn't matter now, since the Paradise is now cruising from Long Beach, but what the hey. We all got very excited when we crossed the causeway, and saw Paradise in port. I am still very upset that Carnival removed the No-Smoking rule, since it was the greatest thing in the world!!! We didn't have to kill ourselves by breathing in toxic fumes!! If I ever had the choice to be healthy and have money, or waste hundreds of dollars a month while killing myself, I'll take the former, thank you very much. EMBARKATION -- I was shocked at how fast the embarkation process took! We drove up to the port, dropped off our bags, then walked to the entrance. The port of Miami was very clean and attractive. We walked into one of the two lines, to pass through security, which took no time at all. Then we went into the line for people who have their Fun Passes completed, like us, and that line just kept moving. There was no point in even putting our bags down. At the counter, we handed the lady our Fun Passes, she checked our passports and we were through. We went up a couple of deserted escalators and then it did get a bit confusing. There was a big open room with a few groups of people around. Then we saw the security officers, so we went to them. They were not very friendly. Then we got into a second line in that room, which was divided with a few ropes. Finally, we went up one more flight of stairs and got our picture taken, then we embarked. What a first impression!!! An amazing, huge Atrium with crystal eggs all around and on top of all that no smokey smell!!!!! So, we went up to the Lido deck for a great lunch. DINING -- Carnival never fails to impress their guests with their exceptional food. It is prepared incredibly, it tastes great and what a variety! The Lido restaurant is a great choice for someone who doesn't feel like dressing up and going down to their restaurant. Surprisingly, even the buffet food was prepared exceptionally. There is a great salad bar in the Paris Restaurant and next to it there is a dessert station. Oh my god, they make the BEST Boston cream pie!!! If you ever walk by and see the pie there, be very sure to grab a slice. Or five. The room service has never been known for an incredible menu, but it is a good choice when you are hungry but your favourite movie is on TV. We once ordered about twelve plates of food (my two brothers, me and my two cousins), and we barely even touched the food. The lady who brought all this food did not make us feel embarrassed at all. That sure was a lot of wasted food. Finally, there was the dining room. Oh my god, how can I sum this up to keep it short?!? The dining room was absolutely incredible, despite our awful waiter. He was so bad and he never smiled. His assistant was very nice, but he could not make up for all the gloominess that came out of our head waiter. He was extremely sarcastic and quite rude (made mean hand gestures behind the other family while they were ordering to impress us, which was a little funny). He also always mixed up our orders and when we told him he would refuse to admit that he was wrong. It was hilarious! Most people would complain about him, but they have got to lighten up. People should stop being so picky. Surprisingly, our head waiter almost made our cruise even better. He was so bad, it was funny! We would make jokes about him right in front of him, and we had a lot of fun. Sometimes, you have to make the best out of the situation! Anyway, the food was exquisite and delicious, and worth the money. The espressos are great; they are free after dinner, but they cost money at the cafe, so take advantage of the after dinner coffee! The ice cream and frozen yogurt were a big hit; and I can see why! Who would turn down free soft serve at anytime that you wish with any quantity, and a choice of 6 kinds (ice cream -- vanilla-chocolate, swirl; frozen yogurt -- chocolate-vanilla, swirl)?! What a deal. And who can forget the pizza ... what can I say? It tastes better than any old pizza place back at home, and the hours are great -- 24 hours a day -- and the price is right -- FREE!!! Food is a big part of cruising, and Carnival has got it down! PUBLIC ROOMS -- Since my aunt is English, we spent a lot of time every afternoon in the America Bar. The selection of tea was great, and the finger sandwiches were great too. And how could I forget the live piano playing? The America Bar is worth looking into. The Fantasy class ships do not have as many useless lounges, which is fine, since they are useless! On the Glory, there were tons of unused rooms, which were cool to look at but pointless in the end. Instead, the Paradise took a different approach -- there will not be as many rooms, but they will all be used sufficiently! This means less wasted space and less travel time from room to room! The library has always been a mystery to me ... why do they have one when the books are rarely available? Can't they hire a librarian or something? We did use it once; we borrowed a board game, that we never played, then returned it at the end of the cruise. It looked like the casino was a big hit ... too bad I'm only 15 ... CABINS -- We had an inside cabin, on the Empress Deck, which has yet to cease to amaze me. How can a great room fit into a small space like this? Inside cabins really are okay, outside cabins are not necessary. We had a little basket of goodies in the bathroom with Tylenol PM, Rolaids, trial packs of shampoo and conditioner, and more. I really like the Lever 200 soap! If you want an even better shower, check out the Spa showers, they have 5 jets; one from the top, and two from each side of you! You don't even have to move to rinse off!! More about the spa below. Anyway, again, our cabin stewards were not very good, but they did not ruin our vacation, like it sounds like in other reviews. Again, I will repeat myself, for all of you drama queens out there who hate vacations because their cabin steward made the same animal twice in a row — LIGHTEN UP!!! You're on a cruise, enjoy yourself! Our cabin steward was awful — she made the animals way too early and she didn't even talk — But it didn't ruin our vacation. We just let it slide. Overall, we loved the whole cabin situation. ENTERTAINMENT -- I don't care what anybody says- Jeff Brrrrrrronson was funny!!! Maybe I am easily amused, but I really enjoyed him. I even got to meet him, and he was very nice. He may make some corny jokes, so if he does, laugh with him and at him at the same time! Trust me, it works. The crew of the Paradise did a great job with all the shows — they were all great (I went to EVERY one!) and funny, and just plain shocking. The comedian was picking on my brothers, my cousins and I because we are Canadian, and it was the best time of our lives!! We were the centre of attention in the Normandie Lounge, which is the biggest room on the ship! And it was full! He kept calling us punk teenagers, and making us laugh, and he even asked us questions that we answered, and he repeated them to the audience! This was the best moment of my life -- on a cruise ship, that is! The midnight comedy shows, which I snuck into, were pretty bland. The jokes were not very funny, and he really didn't connect with the audience. The mini game shows like Win, Lose or Draw and the Newlywed Game, were all a lot of fun. Lots of audience participation and lots of laughs. FITNESS & RECREATION -- The spa was the bomb!! Wow, there was a steam room and a sauna and the most incredible showers! There were also two Jacuzzis and a fitness room, and private treatment rooms and a salon, and massage rooms! At the beginning of the cruise, a lady walked up to my mom and asked her if she wanted to be a model for the spa. This means that she gets a free treatment and people who take the spa tour at the beginning if the cruise walk in and see how the whole spa works. Of course, my mom said yes so she was off for a free treatment for half the day. Carnival, you know how to treat your guests. Of course, I had to see! So me and one of my two brothers (they are 17 and 19, the 19 year old came with me), went to go on the spa tour to see our mom. She happened to be in the first room getting some sort of seaweed treatment to soften her skin. When we walked in she was wrapped in a foil bag lying on her back! How funny! She said it was an incredible treatment and she would even pay to get it again. The fitness room, which is in the same area as the spa, was a bit small, but was packed with new, state-of-the-art equipment. Unfortunately, it was a little crowded, but what do you expect when you are on a cruise full of non-smokers -- we care about our health! Now, I am not a girl, so I would never dare take one step into a salon, but it looked appealing to the women on board. There were tons of specialists on board. My mom and cousin both got braids done in their hair and they loved it! The only problem is that if you are under 18 the receptionists give you a very hard time. I find them very rude, and I really don't like their attitude, but this did not ruin my cruise! FAMILY -- With my first experiences of Camp Carnival on the Glory, I was not impressed. The activities were not organized nor did they ever happen. However, on the Paradise, the Camp Carnival program was a lot better. I met a lot of kids my age, and I had a lot of fun. We played cards, danced in the teen disco, ate and just chilled and talked. The only good part of the Camp Carnival, in my opinion, was the ease to meet kids. And that is all I wanted to do. FELLOW PASSENGERS -- There were not many groups of people who stood out attitude-wise. Everyone seemed to respect each other, so it all worked out. The Americans obviously dominated the ship, but there were also quite a few Canadians, like me, and there were Mexicans, people from the United Kingdom and there were some Asian people, too. There were no pushy groups, and no one gave anybody any trouble. ITINERARY -- We were scheduled to go to St. Thomas, Nassau and the Dominican Republic, but because of Hurricane Ivan, we went to Nassau, Jamaica and Cozumel. We also spent an extra night on the ship for free because the hurricane was in Miami on the day of return! How fun! An 8 day cruise is always better than a 7 day cruise! Nassau, Bahamas -- We decided to book through Carnival, and go to the Blue Lagoon Stingray encounter. I wish it could have turned out better for me! We sat inside the boat (not a good idea!), so I got extremely nauseous. My stomach kept flipping, and it ached sooooooo much! When we got off the ship, I threw up in the sand. And that's not all. I found out that is I moved too fast for my body, my stomach would get angry and would punish me by aching for another 5 minutes. Over the 4-hour stay, this happened about 20 times, including twice while I was snorkeling with the stingrays! Bummer. Despite this, I somehow had a good time. I fed the stingrays then I got out and relaxed on the hammock to relax my stomach. We finally decided to walk back toward the dock area to watch people swim with dolphins. That looked like fun. On the way back from the Blue Lagoon, somehow, my stomach stopped aching, so I bought a T-Shirt at Senor Frogs. That was a cool place. Ocho Rios, Jamaica -- I love Jamaica!! The people there were very nice, and our shore excursion was great! We went outside and made a deal with a cab driver. So we were off to Dunns River Falls to climb them! How cool! When we arrived, we got water shoes, and then walked out to the falls to wait for a bit. I went with my brother (17 year old) and my cousin, to walk into the falls, for some reason. Do not do this!! Wait for your guide to take you to the bottom! Anyway, I knew we weren't supposed to be in the water, so we all got out. Then, we could not find our group! We were lost in Jamaica! We looked everywhere, but we could not find them. I panicked, and started running around looking for my family, then, when I was turning around a corner, I slipped, and scraped my leg on the concrete. Ouch!! That ruined my day. Too bad, since the shore excursion really was a lot of fun. P.S. I found my family at the top, exactly where we started. Cozumel, Mexico -- Cozumel is and has always been one of the best places for beaches with action. We went to a beach, of which I forgot the name, and it was a lot of fun. There was a water trampoline, a big inflatable igloo and lots of equipment to rent. We decided to get henna tattoos at a booth, and that was a lot of fun. Then, we rented a really cool piece of equipment; it was yellow and snorkelers and scuba divers use it for getting around easier. It has a fan and you hold on to it with both hands. When you want it to go, you put the little piece of metal on your thumb, and you press it against another piece of metal on the equipment. This completes the circuit, and the fan blows then it pulls you around! That was worth the money. OVERALL -- Overall, this was the best vacation of my life! Cruising is the way to go, and now my family knows that. I want to finish with one point — I am very ashamed of Carnival for removing the no-smoking rule, since it really was a godsend for non-smokers. Their excuses for doing so are all below-par, and they are not convincing anyone. I will always think just a bit less of Carnival now — you proved that you really do care more about money than your customer satisfaction. Read Less
Sail Date August 2004
Background information: We were a party of 6 that flew in from Washington, DC. We are all from VA and our group consisted of two married couples and two single girls and we are all affiliated with EMS. My husband and I have sailed Carnival ... Read More
Background information: We were a party of 6 that flew in from Washington, DC. We are all from VA and our group consisted of two married couples and two single girls and we are all affiliated with EMS. My husband and I have sailed Carnival Fantasy class ships 5 x's and the other couple have sailed the same class twice before. The two girls were new cruisers. We flew in the day before to FLL and spent the evening at the Comfort Inn Airport/Cruise Port Hotel. They have a shuttle to and from the airport and you just contact them from the baggage claim when you arrive. We got an internet rate of $69 per night. We decided on a limo from "A Family Limo" vs. the Carnival transfer b/c it was only $4 more pp and they picked us up at the hotel so we did not have to shuttle back to the airport. They picked us up at 11 AM, we were driven to the cruise port, checked in and were on the ship by 12:30PM. We all had completed our fun pass which helped expedite the process. The two couples did a guarantee 6A cabin and using the method of looking at the back of our sail and sign forms in our cruise documents, it showed that we were on the Empress Deck, which was a nice upgrade. However, when we arrived, we were even more surprised to find out that we had been upgraded even more - Verandah Deck, Cabins 1 and 3! These were very nice and the balconies were not obstructed by life boats. I was even more surprised to have a dozen yellow roses in my room that my husband had sent me. :-) Once we had checked out our rooms, we went to the lido deck for lunch. Here we met the bar waiter that made our trip even more fun - Richard. He is from India, has a great sense of humor and is a super nice guy. If you sail the Paradise before December '04, please tell Richard hello from Cyndi, Mike, Tammy, Sarah, James and Lisa. Nassau was our first port on Monday. My husband and I had been to Nassau several years ago and not much had changed - the straw market was moved due to a fire a couple years ago, but they still sell the same stuff. We negotiated a cab to take us around Nassau. He took us to the beach and came back 2.5 hrs. later and then took us downtown shopping. The cab driver did not take payment until the ride was over, which I thought was nice. We did some shopping and went to Hard Rock Cafe for lunch and then back to the ship. Monday was the first formal night. We took advantage of the pictures b/c typically they are good. We pick out a couple to take home but it is nice to have such a variety to chose from. Tuesday we were at sea and we spent the morning up on the Verandah aft deck beside the smaller pool. There was an emergency around 11 AM and everyone was cleared from the aft area. Apparently, someone was very ill and a coast guard helicopter had been called to come and pick them up. This was very exciting for us as I mentioned earlier, we are all EMS, so we were all interested in the rescue, as well as the other 2000 guests. The coast guard helicopter came in and hovered over the aft deck, a member was lowered down to the ship to assess the patient and then a stokes basket was lowered down to bring the patient into the helicopter. All in all, the rescue took about 30 minutes from the time they arrived, but it was done without incident and the Coast Guard deserves a lot of credit for this. It was very windy on this day so I am sure this made it much more difficult. Wednesday we were in the Dominican Republic. We took a tour to Catalina Island for $45 pp. This was your tender ride over to the island (approx. 30 min.) and 4 hours on the beach. It was cloudy and rainy most of the morning, but some of our group took some time to explore the island and got some great pictures from out on the point. Once back at the ship, we took a cab ride in to the city to shop. What we saw was a very poor area - kids knocking on the windows asking for money, run down housing, etc, The place we went to shop did very little negotiating but they were friendly. The cab ride cost our group of 6 $15 plus tip. Thursday we were in the Virgin Islands. Everyone had to clear immigration that morning b/c we were back in a US territory, but this did not take too long. Carnival has this type stuff down to a science. As long as all passengers pay attention and get to where they should when they should, all is well. USVI was the highlight of the trip. I had reserved on-line, a tour with Godfrey Tours. For $20 pp, you get 2.5 hours of beach time, 3 hours shopping and 2 hours of city highlights. We were transported in a open safari type vehicle which was very clean. Shopping in St Thomas is great. Lots to chose from, some great local stores with locally made merchandise. One store, Local Color, right on the water front downtown, was my favorite. If you head to the Hard Rock from the open air market, it is on your right mid way down. Thursday night we all went to a deck party. I believe our group of 6 was the party! People were telling us the next day that they were surprised we were even up and about! We had a great time, met some great people and most retired to our cabins around 3 AM. Friday (formal night) and Saturday we were at sea and nothing too eventful happened. My husband and I were invited to the Senior Officer's table for dinner on Friday night, which was a pleasant surprise and a nice event. We dined with the Staff Captain, the Head Purser, the Chief Engineer nd the Spa Manager. There were only two other couples at the table, so it was a nice evening. Disembarking was very easy - we put our luggage out and our cabins were called by 9 AM. The two girls traveling with us on Empress were about 20 minutes behind us. Because we had to clear immigration coming into the USVI, this had been done and did not slow things down on Sunday. Some things I noticed about the Paradise: 1. everyone was friendly - I never passed a staff member that did not speak and smile. 2. security was good - they were on the decks at night, walking the blvd., etc. I felt very safe. 3. the ship is very clean. The food was really good. I did not care for some things, but they were things I probably would not eat at home either. The Caesar salads at dinner and the pizzas were good. The frozen yogurt is also good and available 24 hours. We took advantage of this a lot. All in all, I loved the Paradise and staff, but the only port I would return to is St Thomas. If you have any questions, email me. Happy cruising! Read Less
Sail Date July 2004
We went on the Paradise June 20th and did the Eastern cruise. Embarkation went very well, do not try to sneak any liquor on a carry on, they do check and they do take it away. We meant to put a bottle of rum in a checked bag and forgot to ... Read More
We went on the Paradise June 20th and did the Eastern cruise. Embarkation went very well, do not try to sneak any liquor on a carry on, they do check and they do take it away. We meant to put a bottle of rum in a checked bag and forgot to do that and they did find our bottles of soda and a bottle of rum. We did get to keep the soda but had to leave the bottle of rum at port, we did get it back when we got off the ship. We got on the ship and it was a very pretty and clean ship. It is nice to go on a ship that is smoke free, but won't be for very much longer. They will be stopping the smoke free ship in September. Our room to us didn't seem as big as on the Sensation, but we also had 4 people in an inside room. There was plenty of storage for all 4 of us. The cabin was very clean. We requested early-but the later seating and got the 5:45 instead of the 6:15. We went to the maitre 'd' and he told us that the later one was full unless we wanted the late late seating and we declined. We wish we had gotten the later seating because trying to get 4 people ready for dinner by 5:45 was nearly impossible, especially when you have 2 teenage girls. We ate in the Destiny Dining Room, which to us was the prettier one of the two. The food was very good! The service wasn't all that great, and it seems since they switched to the automatic tipping, the waiters and waitresses do not go out of their way for you. The waiters and waitresses sang every night, which was very entertaining. As for the entertainment, not as good as on other boats! The theater has very poor seating, and you have to get there early to get a good seat. They have huge posts that are hard to see around. They didn't have much to choose from as far as shows go. They had bands playing in the small lounges that weren't bad. The drinks on board were not too bad in price. We bought the drink tickets ahead of time and it did save some money. We did not buy the soda card since we did bring some soda and water on board with us. There was always iced tea, punch, apple juice and orange juice and lemonade 24 hours a day. There was also soft serve ice cream 24 hours along with their pizza. Their main pool was rather small, but there were always plenty of chairs available. Excursions, we did our own in Nassau, took the bus #10 to cable beach, very nice beach, and then we went back and went to the straw market. We also did buy some liquor, and ended up walking on the ship and they never took it away from us. The ship does sell their own liquor too, which is also reasonable. The cheapest liquor that we found was in St. Thomas, Bacardi Rum was $6.49 a bottle. CHEAP. In the Dominican we were suppose to do 2 excursions, the excursion desk said that we would have plenty of time to get 2 excursions in, NOT. We did the catamaran experience to Catalina Island, we were suppose to be back by 11:30, and didn't get back until 2:30 so we missed out Outback Safari. The catamaran excursion was fun, free beer, soda and rum and coke. Also fresh fruit. We went and anchored near Catalina Island and snorkeled and then swam up to the beach. On the way back, the party started going and they got everyone to dance. We all did have a good time. When we got back we hired a taxi with 8 others and went into La Ramona and did some shopping. Amber is really reasonable. Coffee, best coffee, buy it at their supermarket, it is cheaper $1.50 a pound. In St. Thomas we went on our own and took a taxi to Magens Bay. We stayed there about 3 hours and then came back and were dropped off down town. Went and did some jewelry shopping at our friends Ballerina, we have dealt with them for 10 years. And then went to the open market and back to the ship. Our days at sea were very relaxing! Laid by the pool. Disembarkation went very well, we were off the boat before 10:00. As far as this being our best cruise we have taken, it probably wasn't, but the food was very good. The ship was in great shape, and it was worth the money. This was our second time we have been on a Carnival ship, we usually go on Princess. If you cannot have a good time on any cruise you take, then there is something wrong :} Read Less
Sail Date June 2004
BACKGROUND I'm 23 and my DH is also 23. I'm originally from Indiana, and he's originally from England. We took this cruise as a gift from my parents for completing my Masters degree. It was the first cruise for both of us. ... Read More
BACKGROUND I'm 23 and my DH is also 23. I'm originally from Indiana, and he's originally from England. We took this cruise as a gift from my parents for completing my Masters degree. It was the first cruise for both of us. The date of departure was May 9, 2004 and we returned on May 16, 2004. I've tried to write everything I can remember. The way this review is structured is chronological; with major things highlighted in the order I encountered them. I apologize for the length, but the review is as much as place for me to record my memories as it is for the benefit of others. Our itinerary was as follows: Sunday: Arrival and sail away Monday: Nassau, Bahamas Tuesday: Sea day Wednesday: La Romana/Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic Thursday: St. Thomas. US Virgin Islands Friday: Sea day Saturday: Sea day Sunday: Return to Miami ARRIVAL IN MIAMI We flew American Airlines out of Indianapolis. Our flight (1779) was scheduled to leave at 7:10 am, but we pushed back a few minutes early. We weren't due to arrive until 10:50 am in Miami, but we were off the flight and waiting for our luggage by 10:30. Once we had our luggage, we grabbed a cab (flat rate of $21) to take us to the pier. We left the airport at 10:40. I was under the impression that it was to take 30 minutes to get to the pier, but it took only 15 minutes (perhaps because of the way the cab driver drove!) We were at the pier at 10:55 am. EMBARKATION After reading endless tales of quick embarkation, I expected to be on board in less than 2 hours upon our arrival. At 10:55, when we arrived at the pier, we were quickly shuffled to the baggage stewards who took our bags. We had two to check and two to keep with us. We tipped $1 per bag. I had gotten several $2 bills from the bank for purposes such as these. It just makes life easier, so you're not fumbling around with endless single $1 bills. Once our bags were dropped off, we were inside the building about 3 minutes before 11:00. There was NO LINE! We handed off our Bahamian immigration forms, which I had filled out in advance. I noticed a large group of people off to the left busy filling in their paperwork, because they had not bothered to do so. Why would people wait to do this? Anyhow, we went through security, which was just like at the airport, except they didn't make you remove your shoes. The scanning devices are WAY smaller than at the airport, however, so stick to those carry-on guidelines that Carnival provides. They nearly made my husband check his suit carrier, except he was able to quickly fold it into half (again) and make it easily fit through the scanning machine. Once through, we walked through tons of tensa-barriers (but there was NO wait, again). By this time it was about 11:05 and we were greeted by a very friendly Carnival employee who took our tickets. She also took my husband's green card and passport, and issued him a receipt for this. This entire process took about 10 minutes. We went past the desk and I checked my watch; it read 11:15. At this point, we went up an escalator to encounter our first line, but not a very long one. We waited in line for only 5 minutes and proceeded to the desk, where we were issued our Sail & Sign card. We then walked off to the right and took a seat. It was 11:20. We were handed a "Welcome" sheet which welcomed us to the ship, but asked us not to go to our room until 1:00, as the cabins would not be ready. A friendly Carnival representative made periodic announcements, telling us they would be letting us aboard shortly, but first she reiterated what was on the sheet and told us to go to lunch on the Lido deck first. Here we waited for only about 10 minutes. At 11:30, they began to dismiss people in rows to begin boarding. Once you get up from the waiting area, you hand over your S&S card and have your photo taken. This photo is connected to your card, and each time it is used (example, for re-boarding the ship at ports) your photo comes up for the Carnival employees. Once this photo is taken, we found ourselves in a quick-moving line that took us up an escalator and into a short line where a "Welcome Aboard" photo was being taken. By the time we crossed the gangway, I checked my watch. It was 11:45! We were on board the ship less than 1 hour after arriving at the pier. Amazing! I would recommend getting there around the time we did (just before 11) and having all your documentation filled out. Any earlier and you'd be waiting in the waiting area longer than necessary, or wasting valuable time filling out things you should have filled out weeks ago. Things worked out perfectly. FIRST IMPRESSIONS I was hoping to be absolutely wowed once on board, but everything moved so quickly, I didn't even realize we were on board yet (duh). You enter right next to the internet cafe, into the atrium. Once I looked up (I had been concentrating on my bag) I realized we were in the atrium. It was beautiful! We decided just to get our bearing and locate our room, even though we weren't supposed to actually go in there. So, we were on the upper deck, so we walked to the right to the forward bank of elevators and went down one. We easily found our cabin, as I'd studied the deck plans ad nauseam prior to leaving. Our cabin steward (but we didn't realize it at the time) happened to be right there and asked us if we wanted in, but we said it was okay, we were just trying to find our room and we'd be back after 1:00 when it was allowed. We then proceeded up to the Lido deck to grab some food. I found a great table halfway between the pool and the grill, on the starboard (right) side. I sat with the bags while my husband went to get some food. He returned with a hamburger and fries. I went up to find something. There were a ton of meat products available - hot dogs, hamburgers, even boeuf bourguignon for lunch (I'm a pesco-vegetarian - I eat only sea creatures, and only then to keep my protein levels adequate, because one can only eat so much soy!) but I was able to find some potatoes. I got myself some iced tea and returned to the table to find my DH had gotten us both some drinks of the day. We had some drink tickets acquired in advance. Even through drinks of the day are $6.95 the first time (you keep the glass to refill all day); they let us use our drink tickets on them (which are only supposed to be good up to $4.75). Now is as a good time as any to say, I rarely drink (I'm always the DD) but I drank more than I normally do on this trip. Not to excess, but since I usually may only have a glass of wine once a month, it was somewhat out of the ordinary for me. Anyhow, the Lido deck lunch was surprisingly good. We hung out on the deck until 1:00, when we desperately wanted to drop off our bags. STATEROOM I had originally booked a 1A guarantee, gambling we'd get upgraded. We were upgraded to a 4C, cabin U8. I had cheated and was able to figure out our cabin number about a month early by using the Kelly method, and later confirmed this once we got our documents and I "cracked the code" on the back of the S&S form. So I knew right where it was. Now, if any of you have your deck plans handy, I'd ask you to look at the location of U8 on the Fantasy-class ships. It's ALL THE WAY FORWARD, right in the middle of the hallway that crosses the ship. I won't lie: we had a fair bit of motion here, but it was more of the up-and-down versus the back-and-forth type. It was actually better than other parts of the ship, during our really windy days, for this very reason. I got a case of motion sickness from late Tuesday until late Thursday, and the cabin became my refuge because of the lack of back-and-forth motion felt on the rest of the ship. Additionally, that motion made sleeping so wonderful. The only bad part was when pulling into port, there were horrible loud "EEERRRRRRRR" noises, but they only lasted about 10 seconds. It wasn't too cool, however, when we pulled into Nassau at 3:00 am and that was my wake-up call. The stateroom itself was surprisingly roomy. We had plenty of room to store our bags in corners and underneath the bed. When we arrived, the beds were already together into the King-sized formation. I couldn't figure out how to turn off that blasted corner light for some time, but of course once I set my husband to the task he noticed the huge switch that said "Corner Light" and turned it off - truly one of my less brilliant moments, indeed. The bathroom had the nifty shower that drained right into the floor. Yes, the toilet flushes with incredible ferocity. At first it's annoying, but now I'm upset with my puny toilets at home and miss the "WHOOSH." A note about the water: It is HOT!!! This is good and bad. The good: if you like a hot shower, a cruise ship is the place for you. There are even signs warning you against scalding, instructing you to always run the cold water first. The bad: The water in the sink never gets cold - it's always lukewarm. One of my foibles is that I MUST have cold water to brush my teeth, so I was less than pleased with this facet of ship-life for the week. But I got over it. The bathroom is equipped with tons of towels and hooks to hang your wet items, a nifty freebie-bowl with toothpaste, Tylenol PM, Rolaids, lotion, shampoo/conditioner/gel samples, and one of those cool Reach flossing sticks, which I fell in love with and quickly claimed as my own (I'm a compulsive flosser). The shower has dispensers with shampoo and body wash. If you need conditioner, bring your own. I also brought my own shampoo, and I'm glad I did, because that shampoo dried my hair. The shower gel is fine, but I prefer soap, so I'm glad I brought my own soap as well. The mirror in the bathroom opens into a medicine cabinet, but we never used that. There is no hair-dryer in the Fantasy class ships, nor did we have bathrobes, since we were an inside cabin. The cabins are always very COLD. The air conditioning cannot be turned off, only turned down, which is still too cold for me. I ended up using 3 blankets every night. Take long pants and warm things to sleep in! Also, the inside cabins are DARK, and unless you bring an alarm clock, you have no clue what time it is. I found myself waking up and having to turn on the light to look at my watch. I was under the impression that there was a television channel with an outside camera from the ship's bow, but there wasn't. I'm not sure why I thought there would be. Speaking of television, there is no FOX! Which, for a Simpsons and American Idol addict, was nearly too much to bear. Also, no CNN, which is hard for a news junkie like myself. However, there are the other 3 major networks, as well as several movie channels, one news channel (which was just text news, not live news) and the Travelog playing endlessly. Also, the cabin air is SO DRY that I had a sore throat from Wednesday onward. Overall, the stateroom exceeded my expectations. CABIN STEWARD These people are the hardest-working people you will EVER meet. It breaks my heart to know that there are people who refuse to tip these people. We left our tips alone, and gave him an extra $20. He introduced himself the first night (we had seen him earlier in the day when we first found our cabin) as Adolpho, from Honduras. He was immensely helpful, and so friendly, always smiling. I had always wondered how many rooms each steward had, so I asked. He had 15 rooms. Fifteen! How he manages to do this, in the impeccable way he does, is mind boggling. Turn-down service each night was a delight, as were our towel animals, which started on the second night. However, we didn't have one our last night, and I was looking forward to getting the monkey, which we never got. We had a collapsible cooler for our 6 bottles of wine/champagne and 5 mini-cans of Sprite we had brought on board. (FYI - I had bubble wrapped them carefully and put them in my carry-on, and they were fine. Wine and champagne, as well as soft drinks are perfectly legal to bring onboard). We asked him to keep it full of ice all week, and gave him an extra $10 for the trouble. Sure enough, it was full of fresh ice all the time. Any time we paged him for something, he magically appeared at our cabin door. Truly amazing people. Bravo for Adolpho, and all the other hard-working cabin stewards. SHIP LAYOUT It was so easy to find my way around this ship. Like I said, I had studied the layout for months in advance, so perhaps that helped. My husband, who does not share my compulsive need to over-plan, did not look at the map but once, and had no problem. Upon boarding, they give you a pocket-sized ship map which is also very helpful. There is really no way to get lost on this ship. The only mildly confusing thing is the Atlantic deck, where the dining rooms are, on which you cannot go all the way fore to aft. Once you've got that figured out, you're good! No wasting time going down wrong paths on this ship. Now, the larger mega-ships may be a different matter. We were docked next to the Victory in Miami, and were dwarfed by it. That may be difficult to navigate, I cannot say. The Fantasy-ship classes, I can say, are very user-friendly and well thought out - except for the Normandie lounge, with giant pillars blocking about 75% of the good views. I guess, however, if those pillars are necessary to hold the ship together, then they're a necessary evil. EXCURSION DESK Once we'd found our cabin and dropped our luggage off (1:00 pm), we had a few hours to kill until the lifeboat drill at 4:00. We explored the ship for awhile, located our dining room, took part in the scavenger hunt (fun!) for a prize drawing later in the night, and booked our excursions. There was a MASSIVE line for excursions, as people had all sorts of questions. I, however, thanks to my compulsive over-planning, had decided on excursions months ago, grabbed some forms, and dropped them off in the drop box. Done. Feeling tired from lack of sleep the night before (due to intense excitement), we returned to our cabin for a nice nap. LIFEBOAT DRILL We were woken at 3:45 by the "lifeboat drill in 15 minutes" announcement, our introduction to our Cruise Director, Jeff "Brrronson". We got up, changed clothes, and grabbed our life vests. At 4:00, the ship whistle sounded and we went to the Normandie lounge (Muster Station "A") and sat for about 20 minutes while everyone shuffled in. Once everyone was in, and wearing the life vests, we were herded out to our respective life boats, where we found we were beginning to head down the pier so the ship could turn around. Once at our lifeboats, Jeff came on the loudspeaker and announced our vacation had begun. It was 4:30. So, we returned to our cabin to return our fashionable life vests, and headed up on deck for sail away. SAILAWAY The Capers said sail away would begin at 5:00, but of course, it started during our lifeboat drill. No big deal, however, as it's not a fast process and there's plenty of time. We had a Cruise Critic's group to meet up with, and we found everyone and made introductions and took pictures. Sure enough, one of the ship's photographers was nearby and took our picture as well, for purchase. I'll say now that it is AMAZING how often you run into people on board. You'd think you wouldn't see people again all week - some people we ran into 5 or 6 times a day. Then again, some folks we never saw again until our planned party later in the cruise. Much depends on the assigned dinner time. Anyhow, sailing out of Miami was beautiful, and we walked around for awhile, exploring the ship further, until the Sushi Bar opened at 5:30. SUSHI BAR We're massive sushi fans, so I was pleased as punch the first time I read there was a sushi bar on board. The sushi chef is quiet, but efficient and great at what he does. Every day there are four selections. Typically, you receive four pieces, but you can ask for more, and go back as often as you like. Sake is available for a reasonable price, but I did not have any, so I cannot speak to the quality of if it is served hot (yum) or cold (yuck). Each day, there was a sushi tower with a different topping, a traditional roll, a nigiri selection, and a wrap of sorts. One selection was always a vegetarian offering. The wasabi is POWERFUL so beware! We visited the sushi bar each and every day - and I miss not having early evening sushi every day on a whim. It's on the Promenade deck, so you take your plate of sushi over and sit and watch the ocean go by. My my, life is tough, isn't it? DINNER/DINING ROOM TEAM Our dinner was the late seating in the Elation dining room. As you may have read, there are four seatings, and we were the last of four. This had its benefits, and its drawbacks. On the plus side, there were no children. The dining room staff is less hurried to get ready for the next seating, so you have an opportunity to sit and talk with them afterwards, which I recommend, as these are fascinating people. Also of benefit: while the early seating people are at dinner, the ship is a ghost town. No lines, and you get to see the sunsets (not to be missed!) Drawbacks: you're not hungry for the midnight buffets (which could be a good thing if you're trying to watch your weight!), and dinner ends around 10:00, and the late show doesn't start until 10:30. This was great for my DH, who is a night owl, but I tend to get up around 5 or 6 am, so I was dozing off during all of the shows, and had to leave to go to the cabin to sleep, so I missed the shows (despite my daily naps). The dining room staff is unbelievable: Our head waiter, German (pronounced Herman) was from Columbia, and the assistant, Roxana from Romania, was the cutest, sweetest, friendliest person we encountered our entire cruise. The sort of person you want to take care of and nurture. DH & I tend to frequent very fine restaurants, so we're accustomed to and expect the finest service. We were not disappointed - our every need was not only met, but anticipated in advance. The first night, I ordered a cappuccino and DH a double espresso after dinner (before dessert), and every night afterwards, they were brought out without asking. PLEASE leave the tips alone for these people, and tip them extra afterwards. Do not stiff these hard-working professionals. We brought 6 different bottles of wine/champagne on different nights, but were only charged corkage fees for our champagne on formal nights (according to our waiter: that's when they really crack down on that.) The Maitre'D had a joke each night, and the waiters sang and danced - conga lines, Macarena, The Ketchup song, "Leaving our Fun Ship" - so entertaining! Food was exceptional. Here is what we ordered each night, with comments where appropriate: Day 1: Starter (both of us): Hickory-smoked Alaskan Salmon - superb dish with fabulous salmon served with a spoonful of caviar. Soup (both): Crème de Funghi Slevatica - if you like or love mushrooms, do not miss this dish! DH wanted me to point out that any soup that says "cream of" isn't really thick, like some of you may be used to. It's looser than typical, but all are full of flavor and recommended. Salad (both): Mixed greens and field greens - this is a typical salad. In fact, I never ordered a salad again for the rest of the week but once, as I found myself filling up on this course. Entrees: Rack of New Zealand Spring Lamb Dijonnaise (DH); Sweet and Sour Shrimp (Me) - this shrimp was the only disappointment of the cruise, as the batter was overwhelming. It was okay though, as I was full from the salad anyhow. Dessert (both): Guava cheese napoleon - okay dessert - pastries sort of dry, but edible nonetheless Day 2 (formal night): Starter (both): Mississippi Delta Prawns Soup (both): Strawberry Bisque - DO NOT MISS THIS. It's like melted strawberry ice cream. Salad (DH): Mixed greens and field greens Entree: Lobster (both), Prime Rib (DH). DH ordered two entrees this night, and loved them both. The lobster was good - not the best I've ever had, but good nonetheless. Dessert: Tiramisu (DH), Cherries Jubilee (me). DH said the Tiramisu was the creamiest he'd ever had, and it looked like it. Cherries Jubilee was good, but I wish I'd ordered the Tiramisu, since everyone at the table said it was spectacular. Day 3: Starter: Escargot Bourguignon (me), Penne Mariscos (DH) - both were excellent, especially the snails. Soup: Lobster Bisque (DH), Chilled cucumber soup (me) - pass on the cucumber soup - too much dill. DH said the lobster bisque was good. So that's what they do with the leftover lobster from the night before! Salad: Mixed greens (DH) EntrEe: Catch of the day (me), Aged New York Sirloin (DH) - fish was, well, fish. It was supposed to be sea bass according to the master menu that's floating around on the internet, but it wasn't. DH loved his sirloin, cooked medium rare just as he likes it. Dessert: Pineapple sorbet (DH), Chocolate Rum SoufflE (me) - DO NOT MISS THE SoufflE!! The soufflE are the best I've ever had - even better than those I've had in France. Day 4: Starter: Smoked breast of Long-island duckling (DH) - he said this was very good, although it was served as a mousse, which may come as a surprise to some people. Soup: Cream of sun-ripened tomatoes (DH), Chilled cream of lychees (me) - the lychee soup was similar to the Strawberry Bisque - it tasted like melted lychees ice cream - yum! DH said the tomato soup was stellar. Salad: Artichoke Hearts (DH) - DH said it was the best salad of the week. If you like artichokes, it's a must. If you don't, but just want to try something new, it's highly recommended. EntrEe: Leg of Lamb (DH), Black tiger shrimp (me) - DH raved about the lamb. Shrimp were typical, but was served with whipped potatoes that were superb. Dessert: Napoleon (DH), lime sherbet (for my sore throat). Others at the table had crème brulee and said it was excellent. I would have, but my throat was in such pain, lime sherbet was all that was palatable by that point. Day 5: Starter: Tomatoes and mozzarella (both) - one of my all-time favorite appetizers. Since I'm from Indiana, I've grown up with the best tomatoes in the world (in my opinion), so I found the tomatoes slightly under ripe and very watery, but the mozzarella made up for it. Soup: French Onion Soup (both) - good Salad: Curly endives and tomatoes (DH) - DH said it was okay, but could've been better. EntrEe: Filet Mignon (DH), Coquilles St. Jacques (me) - best scallops ever! DH loved his filet mignon. Dessert: Amaretto cake (DH), Fresh fruit salad (me) Day 6 (Formal night): Starter: grilled mushrooms (DH) Soup: Broccoli and cheddar (DH) - good Salad: mixed garden (DH) EntrEe: Black tiger jumbo shrimp (me), Long-Island Duckling (DH) AND Chateaubriand with BEarnaise (DH). DH couldn't decide so he got both. The shrimp were okay. DH was floored by the Chateaubriand, and the duckling was excellent also. Dessert: Baked Alaska (both) - everyone gets this, and it was quite good. Day 7: Starter: Supreme of fresh fruit (both) - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Soup: Mango Crème (DH) - keeping with the melted ice cream theme... Salad: Vine ripened tomatoes and cucumber slices (both) - okay Entrees: Delice of the Ocean (me), Prime Rib (DH), Turkey (DH) - Delice of the ocean was a nice selection of seafood. DH liked the turkey and the prime rib, both. Good, but not breath-taking. Dessert: SoufflE (both), Chocolate fudge cake (me), brie (me) - I went all out on this last night. Again, the soufflE was great. I had to try the chocolate fudge cake - it was too rich. The brie was great - if I would've known it was so good, I would've ordered it all week long. NASSAU We arrived in Nassau around 3:00 am - I know this due to the loud "EEERRRRR" noise signaling our arrival. Fortunately, I was able to fall back asleep. We got up at 7:00, went down the Paris for breakfast, and got off the ship. We didn't book an excursion for Nassau, since it's so easy to get around and do your own thing there. We got off the ship around 7:45. Once you get off the ship, you walk a short distance into a "Welcome to Nassau" center, filled with scooter rentals and hair braiders. Warning: I've heard of cases of head lice from getting one's hair braided. Do so at your own risk! The women who braid hair and persistent, which is unfortunate for me, as I have hair down to my waist, so I was an easy target. Just be firm and polite with your "no thank you" and they'll back down, although sometimes it takes 2 or 3 times to get the point across. DH & I walked around downtown Nassau, which is quite charming. We enjoyed just exploring before the other tourists were up and around. There were 2 other ships in port that day: a smallish RCI ship and the Disney Wonder. So we were up before the city itself, which was a delightful time for exploration. After walking around until about 9:00, we ventured to the straw market. Such fun! It has a temporary "tent city" sort of feel, as the original straw market was destroyed by fire some time ago. The vendors are friendly, if not pushy, but that's part of the fun. My DH found a great white fedora-type straw hat with a great colonial-looking navy blue band. They wanted $35, we bargained down to $17. Some flea-market type stuff is around, but if you look closely, you can find some really cool stuff. We were here until about 10:30. So far, the weather was cloudy, but warm. We caught the #10a Jitney bus ($1 per person, each way) to Cable Beach. The helpful driver dropped us off in front of a hotel, which we simply walked through the lobby to get to the beach. Easy as pie! The beach was beautiful, the water warm. The clouds remained, however, and never broke. We were there until 12:30, when we decided to leave since the sun wasn't out. Naturally, once we were back on the return bus, the sun came out. Just our luck! We were hungry by this point, but first we wandered around the (now very busy and crowded) shops on Bay Street. We got back on board around 1:00, and the ship was nice and quiet as most were still in the town or on excursions. We grabbed lunch and I went up to lay out on the deck, and fell asleep in the now blaring sun. The weather was funny that way. We had clouds at Cable beach, yet we could see a massive rainstorm which seemed to be some miles away. We later found out that same rainstorm was over the Blue Lagoon, where many had excursions that day. We never felt a drop of rain. The time to be back on board was 2:30, yet there were two stragglers who came running up at 2:55, to be whisked back to the ship by a waiting golf cart. There's some in every crowd. I would recommend doing Nassau on your own unless there is an excursion you desperately want to take. MOTION SICKNESS Tuesday was our first full day at sea, and my, was it a windy one! I was fine in the morning, laying out in the beautiful fun from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm. There was never a noticeable problem with chair saving throughout the week - there were always enough for everyone. Obviously, the ones right by the pool fill up first, but that is such a high-traffic area, I can't understand why anyone would want to try to lounge there anyhow. The wind this day was a steady 35 knots. Yes, that's right, 35! So there was a fair bit of rocking around. Now, I've never had motion sickness in my life. I can be on small boats and be just fine. Roller coasters? No problem. However, around 4:00 Tuesday afternoon I started to feel funny, and this lasted until Thursday night. I never vomited, but was constantly dizzy. I started taking Meclazine Tuesday evening and kept taking it. By Thursday, when it wasn't making me any better, I stopped taking it and by Friday morning I was fine. So I wonder if it helped, or made me worse. Tuesday was so rocky it was probably a legitimate case of motion sickness, but then when I kept taking it (on two port days); perhaps it hurt more than helped. Others had some problems with motion sickness that day, as the wind was so unyielding. Even DH, an able seaman himself, had a bit of difficulty. INFORMATION DESK (Purser) While lying on the deck that Tuesday, we indulged in two Miami Vice frozen cocktails, which we paid for with our drink tickets. We handed them to our drink server when he came around to take our orders, yet he didn't ask us to sign the back, which I found strange. "Oh well", I thought to myself, "no big deal." Well, sure enough, when he returned with our drinks, he had rang up a charge to our account, and presented me a receipt to sign. I refused to do so, since we had paid with drink tickets. He said, "Oh yes" and said he would remove the charge. Yet something didn't feel right about the situation to me. Sure enough, he didn't remove the charge, and we had been charged for the drinks we had already paid for. So, I paid a visit to the purser's desk Tuesday afternoon around 2:00. She said his shift may not have yet ended, and to check back later that night. So, I checked back later that night and the charge was still on my account. So, we filed an inquiry to have it removed, and I was to check back on Wednesday. I did so - Wednesday, the charge was still there, so we filed another inquiry. By the third attempt, the charge was finally removed. So, make sure to check for erroneous charges, and be persistent! And if you are given a receipt to sign, and you know you shouldn't be charged, don't sign it! The fact that I did not sign the erroneous receipt at the time he brought our drinks worked in my favor, even though he apparently didn't retain our drink tickets that we paid for the drink with. Overall, the pursers were patient, professional, understanding, and helpful; even though it took three trips down to get the charge removed. BINGO Bingo goes on every day. Typically, it is $10 for one card and $20 for three cards, and you have to have new cards for each game. However, on this particular Tuesday, they had "Austin Powers" bingo where there were four games, and you got to keep the same card for each day. Being frugal, I thought "what a good deal!" and purchased myself a single card, for $10. I won $100 on the first game. Hooray! This helped to offset some of our painful casino losses (he he). AFTERNOON TEA If you're a tea drinker (or even if you're not!) this is something not to be missed. Every 4:00, on sea days only, in the American Bar, you can indulge in a one-hour tea time. Mark, the fabulous piano player, provides entertainment, while numerous servers bring around a choice of tea, done the correct English was, finger sandwiches (cucumber and tomato as vegetarian options, and they are fantastic!), and a selection of pastries in the last 15 minutes. This was one of the highlight of my sea days. Absolutely magnificent, and a great way to pass away that hour when there's not much else going on. Plus, it was never crowded in there. You don't have to show up right at 4:00 either, whenever you wander in is completely okay. INFIRMARY Tuesday afternoon my husband woke up from our afternoon nap and noticed his chest and arms were covered in a nasty case of hives. We had some cortisone cream with us, so we applied some of that in hopes it would make the inflammation go down. Well, it didn't. So, early Wednesday morning, we visited the infirmary so he could get a Cortisone shot. Now, Wednesday was a port day, visiting La Romana in the Dominican Republic, and we had an excursion leaving at 8:30. The infirmary didn't open until 8:00, so we figured go in, quick shot, plenty of time to make the excursion. Well, it would have been, except no one in the infirmary bothered to even show up until 8:15! Now, I'm usually pretty easy going. However, if you're supposed to open the infirmary at 8:00, then be there on time! 8:15 and 8:00 are not the same thing, folks! Anyhow, 8:30 rolled around and my DH was still waiting for the doctor to bother showing up (the nurse had already done the paperwork, blood pressure, etc). Our excursion was leaving! So, it became my job to run out to the excursion and have them wait until he got his shot. I told him to run like h#$% when he got his shot and get out there. So, at 8:29, I ran out to find a much longer trek to the parking lot where the excursions were being held than I had expected. DH showed up 15 minutes later, with a sore bum and some prescriptions for steroids and benadryl. I asked him how much it was, he said he didn't care to ask, he just signed and ran out to the busses. We went to our excursion, and went back to the infirmary upon our return for the total. This story is pretty funny so I'll try to recount it well, but it's hard to do in writing. But I'll give it a try. The nurse was figuring our total, and said "I won't charge you for the Benadryl." Finding this gesture very nice, I said "Thank you! What is the total?" "Six ten" replied the nurse. Both of our jaws dropped. "What was that?" I asked "Six ten." She repeated, wondering why we had these ghastly looks on our faces. "Six ten?" I countered. "How on Earth could a shot and some medications be that much? The nurse figured out what was going on. We thought the total was $610. She meant that the Benadryl, for which we were not being charged, was $6.10. She chuckled, and explained herself. I have never been so relieved in my life! The actual total was $87, including the $60 it costs just to see the doctor. Whew! LA ROMANA After our adventure with the late-arriving medical staff, I breathlessly made the surprisingly lengthy sprint to the parking lot to locate our guide "Coochie Coochie" for the Powerboat Pure Adrenaline Tour. I panted to him that my DH was getting a shot and would be right there, if he would hold the bus. He said no problem. I stood and waited to flag down my DH, who came sprinting out (despite his sore bum!) 15 minutes later. It turns out there was a large group, of about 15 people, who were holding up the tour anyhow because they had overslept, so all our panic about missing the tour was for naught. Once everyone was on board, we pulled out into the amazingly beautiful Dominican countryside. Now, based on everyone's reviews of this port, I had very low expectations. However, it turned out to be my favorite port of all. The bus took us for about 20 minutes to Casa de Campo, where we got off the bus and walked about 5 minutes to the pier. We had a chance to go to the bathroom before being divided into two groups for the powerboats. I wasn't looking forward to this excursion - I'm terrified of high speeds, yet I let my husband choose this excursion. I'm glad I went! Once we started going I had a blast. We first went past a picturesque harbor with lots of massive yachts, for a photo op. Next, we went past some neat eroded cliffs. Then the boats stopped and the guide fed some piranhas, which was quite a sight. Then we went about 50 more feet to the beach, and got out. Naturally, the piranhas don't bother the beach goers, if anyone is concerned about that. This beach was small but beautiful, and the sun was out (for once!) There was a young man selling fresh coconuts for $1 each from a wheelbarrow. He cuts them open, sticks a straw in them, and then when you've drank all the milk, he chops them in half so you can eat the flesh. Beautiful! There were some small vendor stalls about 100 feet off the beach, but they don't approach you. You only go up there if you wish, but there is a language barrier if you do not speak Spanish. After about 30 minutes on the beach, we went back to La Piscina Natural, the natural swimming pool. There are massive starfish on the floor of the "pool", which is simply a large area of very shallow, clear, warm water that extends quite a way off of the coast. We got back in the boats to head back to the Marina, and could see it was raining at our final destination. So, we waited some distance away until the rain left. So, in both Nassau and here, others got a heavy rainstorm on their excursions, while we watched from a comfortable, dry distance away. During the entire excursion, there was complimentary rum and cokes, water, and beer. I had only water, DH had beer (he said it was similar to Red Stripe) and rum and cokes. We were bussed back to the ship, but first went to an exclusive area and were shown the home of Sammy Sosa, the national hero from the Dominican Republic. Overall, I was very pleased with the DR and with this particular excursion, which was a bit pricey ($89 pp) but well worth it! IMMIGRATION Thursday was our final port, St. Thomas. Since this is a US territory, we had to go through immigration here rather than upon return to Miami. Immigration was due to start at 7:00 am for non-US citizens and 7:30 for US citizens. As my DH is British, but a US permanent resident, he reported to the Normandie lounge dutifully at 6:50, and I wandered over to the Queen Mary Lounge at the same time. I encountered a line of already about 50 people; DH was in a line of 5. So, we waited. And waited and waited and waited. The immigration officials weren't ready to start processing the US Citizens until 8:00 - bad news for those in the latter part of the line who had 8:15 excursions! DH & I had an excursion to St. John leaving at 8:30, so we agreed to meet back in the cabin before heading out. Well, since I was I in the front of the line, I was finished by 8:10, so I returned to the cabin. It turns out that immigration for non-US citizens didn't even begin until 8:30 (a full 90 minutes late!). Fortunately, DH was fifth in line and was done in 5 minutes. At 8:30, we ran out from deck 3 to our excursion, which was in no hurry to go anywhere since the majority of people were still going through immigration. We didn't set out until 9:30, a full hour late. The trouble was that, apparently after I had gone through, they announced that people with excursions should advance to the front of the line. Well, this made those who had been waiting patiently very mad and some shouting matches erupted. If the immigration officials had been ready and begun on time, there would have been no trouble. But, the way I look at it, it's better to do it here than in Miami, where people may have early flights that they couldn't make if there was an immigration snafu. Let's get it figured out here, and not mess with it in Miami. ST THOMAS/ST JOHN So, we left the port on the "Island Girl" ferry (?) at 9:30, and arrived at St John around 10:30. We boarded a safari bus with the craziest driver I've ever been with for the 30 minute drive to St John. We arrived to the National Park at 11:00, after several stops en route for photo opportunities of Trunk Bay. We had but one hour to snorkel, whereas we would've had two had we left on time. But it worked out, as after an hour I was ready to go, having snorkeled all I could. The snorkel equipment is included with a brief explanation. They turn you loose on the underwater trail, which was crowded but fine. The most interesting sections to snorkel in are off to the right, which is much less crowded with people and more crowded with fish. There is a snack bar with great greasy fries, but the birds here are VERY aggressive and will take the fries right out of your hands, so beware! We were back by 1:30, at which point DH & I changed clothes and grabbed lunch, to head out to Charlotte Amalie for some shopping. DH had his eye on a Raymond Weil, and we found some very nice ones for GREAT prices, so we know where to return to for jewelry shopping! We picked up some rum balls (yum!) at a nice gift shop, among other souvenirs. It is a bit of a walk to downtown, so take a taxi ($3 pp, each way) unless you really want to walk. All day here it was quite cloudy, but humid. If the sun would have been out, it would have been oppressively hot. We had a nice time here shopping, and it is a beautiful place. We were back on board at 4:00, even though we had until 4:30. WEATHER The weather was funny this week. On our three port days it was cloudy, and rained on some people on different parts of the island, but we lucked out. Some nights we encountered rain, but it wasn't noticeable in terms of any choppy waters. All of our sea days and both days in Miami were sunny and beautiful, but Tuesday was incredibly windy. SHOWS I was only able to stay awake for the final show, the talent show. The other nights included Vegas-style productions, which I sat through the first half of each but fell asleep, as I didn't find them too engaging, but then again I'm not really into that sort of thing. The magician was slightly cheesy, and I fell asleep about 10 minutes into it, so I went back to the cabin. DH went to every show, every night, including late-night comedians, which he really enjoyed. COFFEE BAR Starbucks-type venue on the Promenade deck, with great chocolate tuxedo strawberries and pastries, and coffees that aren't quite Starbucks, but then again they don't cost as much either. karaoke BAR DH went here and said it was always crowded with people having a great time. I, of course, was asleep. REX NIGHT CLUB DH was here as well, and went 4/7 nights. They had retro night (80's, old school hip hop) which he loved, and it was always crowded and popular, except for the final night (the one time I stayed up!) when there was no one there. GALLERIA SHOPS Strangely enough, this was comparably priced to the shops on the islands. We took advantage of the special of 4 bottles of Cruzan flavored rum for $24, a very good price. They had a surprising selection of liquors. Do not pass up rum cakes! They're no cheaper on the islands, and they have a 6-pack of 6 different flavors for $24. They offer samples throughout the week. Best cake ever! Even the souvenirs were not overpriced, as you may find at say, a hotel gift shop. NON-SMOKING It was so nice not to have to inhale the toxic death fumes from inconsiderate cigarette smokers at all, not even in ports did I encounter the nasty stench of death. I'm writing a letter, begging Carnival to keep a smoke-free ship. For those of us who enjoy life and do not want to kill ourselves and others, a smoke-free ship is such a nice slice of heaven. FUNNEL DECK Friday, when I was finally feeling great, with no touch of motion sickness, and the sun was shining, so I ventured up to the funnel (topless) deck nice and early (9:00) when there was no one up there. A strange thing happened. I was enjoying my solitude and my book, when every single person (men *ahem*) who was up there felt the compulsive need to come over and talk to me. Now, this was a strange phenomenon - all week, with my top on, no one stops to say hello. But as soon as the top comes off, everyone must come and introduce themselves. Okay, I get it, if you want to look, look! I don't care! But you don't have to stumble over your words and embarrass yourself (and me) by trying to make conversation to have an excuse to stare at them. Once others came up to the deck around 10:30, this phenomenon stopped. It was just strange, really. I don't mind others up there "enjoying the view" so to speak, the human body is beautiful and there's nothing to be ashamed of. But please, give me my solitude! I was up there to be alone, not to make feeble conversation with men who were really only interested in the view. CRUISE DIRECTOR Jeff Bronson (pronounced as the French would, a la "Brrrronson") was quite a character. Never pushy with the endless announcements, always funny, always friendly. I was amused by the capers, which began on Sunday saying "Cruise Director: Jeff Bronson", proceeded by Wednesday to read "Cruise Director: Jeff Brrronson" and by Saturday had degenerated to simply read "Cruise Director: Brrronson!" It's true, a good CD can really make a good cruise great, and he did. SOCIAL HOST Sara from England is a delightful social host, moderating the games and in general, providing lots of fun. CHILDREN There were very few children on this cruise. Those that were on board were rarely seen or heard, and always polite. No running on the decks, no running in the halls. I couldn't have asked for a better "children" situation, and I'm one who is easily annoyed by children. ROOM SERVICE Quick and good, we never waited more than 10 minutes. Try the shrimp salad sandwich! A fairly good room service menu, but I'm sure you could make special requests. Don't forget to tip! (This is where those $2 bills come in handy.) ICE CREAM Oh yes, I miss this! The one on the right is Frozen Yogurt; the one on the left is Soft Serve. My husband didn't notice this until about mid-week, and was wondering why the ice cream wasn't quite what he expected (he'd been eating frozen yogurt, which I prefer by the way). There are 3 choices: chocolate, twist, and vanilla. I was under the impression there was a toppings bar, but there is not. However, you can get a bowl rather than a cone, and mix in fresh fruit or granola (yum!) PIZZA This is every bit as good as you've heard. My husband enjoyed the meat-types; I had the "De Chevre", which was Goat cheese and mushroom, two of my all-time favorite foods. I'm not sure what makes this pizza so good. Maybe because it's free, maybe because it's 24 hours a day, maybe it's the view as you take it out on the Lido deck and watch the sea go by. But it's GOOD! Great toppings, not too much sauce, lots of cheese, fantastic crust. I want some now! SPA We had wanted to try the Chakra Alpha Balancing capsule, and we were lucky enough to both be able to do it. My DH went on Wednesday, when they were running a 25 minutes for $25 special, and had but one appointment left while we were in port. I was sad I didn't get to go, but wandered up on Saturday and they gave me the Wednesday port special price (actually, because there was some confusion, she gave me 40 minutes for $25, which got her a nice tip!). This thing is awesome. It's an egg sort of thing which you lay in, while music plays, your muscles are vibrated, and your body is wrapped in warmth. It's so relaxing! I fell asleep. 25 minutes in this is supposed to be equal to 2-3 hours of deep sleep, and I believe it. I felt so rested once I emerged. There is only one capsule in the spa, so if you want to do it, book early! The prices were fair, comparable to a land-based spa, but the in-port specials are not to be missed. GYM We both took our gym clothes, but I had taken a nasty St. Bernard-related fall the Saturday prior to leaving, so my knees were really banged up and sore all week, so I didn't work out. DH did, but found the weights strange and unnatural to use, so he didn't go back. However, it was usually pretty busy and the view from up there is spectacular. BREAKFAST We had breakfast in the Paris most days, where they have a nice buffet, omelet station (with vegetarian options such as mushrooms and cheese), cereal, fruit, pastries, tea, coffee, etc. We had breakfast in the Elation dining room one day, which was fine, but we really liked the Lido deck breakfast, so we returned to that. LUNCH Lido deck 5 days, room service 2 days. Typical lunch fare. GALA BUFFET This is so cool! It takes place after your second formal night. The detail of this food is unbelievable. After you take photos in the Elation dining room, you can go to the Destiny dining room and "tear into" the duplicate buffet set up over there. Yum! FORMAL NIGHTS Surprisingly few tuxedos were worn, mostly dark suits for men, evening gowns for women. Lots of picture stands everywhere - get your photos taken as much as you can! Everyone that I noticed was dressed appropriately (i.e. no jeans in the dining room on formal night! (He he). POOLS Filled and cleaned daily. They were never too busy, although I never did try the water slide. CASINO This took a fair bit of our money, but we love casinos as it is. As the cruise was a gift from my parents, including $2000 spending money, we were slightly more liberal with our casino donations than we may have been otherwise. We both entered the Blackjack tournament both nights, but the dealer (the Casino Host) was ruthless and kept hitting 20's and 21's, eating contestants up and spitting them back out. Everyone always says "don't play roulette!" but I did well at roulette, hitting pretty well and coming out ahead. DH played Blackjack all week and lost about $300, so between my slot, bingo, and roulette wins, we came out just slightly under even. There are many slot machines, several blackjack tables of different varieties (traditional, face up, fun 21), Caribbean Stud Poker, 3-Card Poker, Craps, and Roulette. PHOTO GALLERY Each day the new photos are put up, along with all the others from the rest of the week. I didn't decide which to buy until the last day, when all the formal night photos were finished. The photographers are absolute professionals, who take great photos. What a great souvenir, or gift for a loved one! SHIP CLEANLINESS There was always someone scrubbing, polishing, sweeping, washing, etc. The ship was spotless and beautiful, although I still managed to catch a nasty cold around Wednesday. CELL PHONE SERVICE We took our GSM T-Mobile phone, and surprisingly didn't have reception in Nassau, but we did in La Romana and St Thomas. DEBARKATION I attended the debarkation talk on Saturday, and since we'd already cleared immigration, everyone was eligible for express (self-assist) debarkation. Generally, it's only open to US citizens, but everyone could since we didn't have to mess with it in Miami. Jeff instructed those who wished to do express debarkation to not put their luggage out the night before, and around 7:00 am, open our cabin door and listen for the announcement, but to wait in our cabin until we heard the announcement. We wanted to do self-debarkation so we could get to the airport sooner rather than later. So, at 7:00, I opened the cabin door, and listened. Tons of announcements, mostly "so and so, please report to the information desk or dial 7777." 8:00 rolled around, when the announcement was supposed to be made, no announcement. 8:15, no announcement. By 8:25, we were antsy, so I called information. "Yes, the announcement was made at 8:00. The window closes in 5 minutes, so please proceed quickly to the debarkation area." What?! Turns out that announcement isn't made in the cabin hallways, only the public areas. So, even though I followed instructions to the letter, waiting in my cabin and listening to announcements as instructed, I nearly missed the self-assist debarkation. Good thing I called, huh? If we hadn't called, we would've had to be the last off the ship. Anyhow, leaving at 8:25 when we did was perfect, as we were off the ship by 8:30 due to there being absolutely no line. LEAVING MIAMI We grabbed a cab at 8:30, and we were at the airport by 8:45. Our flight wasn't until 1:27, but I'm the kind who would rather wait in the safety of the airport for 6 hours rather than running up to the counter with 30 minutes before the flight. TOTAL COST Overall, we spent a total of $3100 for two people, and we shopped, drank and gambled to our heart's content. The flight and cruise together were $1800. We spent $600 cash, mostly in the casino and on shore for souvenirs, and $700 on our S&S card, which included tips, drinks, 2 corkage fees, duty-free shop purchases, bingo, and little here-and-there purchases such as an extra pastry or coffee. We never watched our nickels and dimes and still spent well less than we had budgeted for. OVERALL IMPRESSIONS Great vacation! Any minor problems were dealt with. The ports were great, ship was immaculate, never a shortage of things to do. The value was good, considering one couldn't do a week at an all-inclusive resort for 2 for $3000, yet that's basically what this turned out to be. We will be doing another one soon, perhaps the western route since we want to visit Grand Cayman. Seven days may be about two days too long for me, as I was missing my dog horribly by day five. So next time, we may try a five day from Tampa. I'm just sad that any future cruises I take will be on smoking ships, but maybe Carnival will come to its senses and resume non-smoking service on some ship, somewhere after the Paradise goes smoking in September. The only bad part was my cold (not Carnival's fault) and the motion sickness (again, not Carnival's fault) which I now know how to handle (not so much medication!). We'll be cruising again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
Review Carnival Paradise April 25 to May 2, 2004. 2nd Cruise for myself and husband. 1st Cruise for three daughters (teens). Good time was had by all. A different experience for us, since last time we went by ourselves. Bringing the kids ... Read More
Review Carnival Paradise April 25 to May 2, 2004. 2nd Cruise for myself and husband. 1st Cruise for three daughters (teens). Good time was had by all. A different experience for us, since last time we went by ourselves. Bringing the kids had advantages and disadvantages, but was a great experience for our family. Embarkation (Sunday): We stayed the night before in a Best Western hotel and arrived by Taxi around 11:30 am. We had NO problems getting on board and it seemed very fast - maybe half an hour. The ship looked great. It is not as big as some of the others, but had everything that was needed and more. It is an impressive looking ship. Very clean and has been well maintained. The Atrium is awesome. Rooms: We had two inside rooms booked and that is what we got. They were both the same and had ample room. We put three girls into one room and they had two lower and two upper beds. (used only one upper). They thought it was great. The bathroom is basic has shower, sink and toilet. Shower has shampoo and body wash only - no conditioner, so bring some. It did not have a blow dryer or robes. There is a small basket of 'goodies' for you - containing sample sized shampoo/conditioner/gel, Tylenol PM, mens and ladies razors, Rolaids, cream, and a couple of other things. We had our two beds made into one and there was a 'hump' in the middle. Bed was okay, not best or worst I have slept in. We were on Riviera Deck (4) which is LOW, so we did hear a few clunks and bumps during night from below but nothing that was too disturbing to us. We had put two bottles of liquor into our checked bags and received them with no problems. Dining: I had originally booked the late seating, which turns out was 8:00 pm in the Destiny Dining room. I figured it would give us plenty of time to do our 'daytime' stuff and then have a lots of time to get ready for dinner. Everyone in my family objected to the late time, so we changed it and got the 5:45 in Destiny. We usually eat around 6:30 or 7:00 pm so I thought we might not like it. As it turns out it was fine. We usually arrived around 6:00 and that was okay. Our servers, Enny and Lady were wonderful. We loved them. They learned our names right away and figured out our preferences. They treated us royally. All of the meals we had were great. Plenty of choices and if you wanted more than one choice - go for it! On a couple of occasions the girls ordered something they had not tried before. If they did not like it, it was no problem to have another choice brought to them. Most nights there was usually a choice of: Pasta dish, Poultry dish, Beef dish, Seafood or Fish and a Vegetarian. All were very nicely presented and it is a good opportunity to try something different. Good dessert selection too. Port days: We had five people so going on an Excursion through the ship was very expensive. We decided to do all our port days on our own. All were planned ahead and organized via Internet, etc. You must always ensure you plan to be back to the ship with PLENTY of time if you are on your own because they will not wait for you. With a little pre-planning this is not a problem. Nassau (Monday): There was not a whole lot that we found of interest to do here on our own. We decided to take a water taxi over to Paradise Island ($3 pp one way). It was easy to find right near where the ship docks. We wanted to see Atlantis so we walked from where taxi docked to the hotel. About 15 minutes. Paradise Island is very built up and wealthy. Atlantis is awesome. We walked in and around the hotel to see what would could for free. There is a walkway around most of the outside of the building and the upper part of the aquarium on the far side. Inside by the dining room area we found the 'free' part of the inside aquarium. Very interesting. We had no idea where we were going and just kept walking to see different things. Lots of shops inside but they looked expensive. We had considered going to Cabbage Beach after Atlantis, but we were all getting too hot and tired, so decided to head back over for some shopping in Nassau and back to ship. Departure is at 2:30 pm so you do not really have a whole lot of time. This is also the first formal night so we wanted time to have a quick light lunch and relax before dinner. We all 'dressed' for dinner. You can wear whatever you want because the 'formal' part is optional. My husband just wore dress pants, shirt and tie (no jacket). The girls wore dress or skirts. (we did not go for the "ball gowns and tuxedo's" - but you can if you like and plenty did). At Sea (Tuesday, Friday, Saturday): All of the Sea Days were much the same. There were inside activities planned (Bingo, Talks, Auctions, Spa) and outside activities by the pool on Lido deck. In my mind not a 'whole lot' of things to do outside. But if you read your Carnival Capers you can usually find something to do, or not, if you would rather relax on deck. Chairs are a bit hard to get. Good ones go early, but we always found somewhere if we needed to. La Romana, D.R. (Wednesday): We had arranged to have a private tour with Rafael Silva Taxi service. This was done over the internet prior to arriving. We do not speak Spanish and their driver's do not speak English so we were a bit concerned. I arranged with the Taxi company to have an itinerary with times on it so we would know what to expect. We visited: the town of La Romana (not really a whole lot that was of interest). A lot of locals hanging around and stores did not seem very nice. Might have been different if we spoke the language. Our Driver took us to one touristy type store. They were very nice and we bought a couple of things. Second stop (after about ½ hour drive) was Cuevas de la Maraveillas or the Caves of Wonder. This is a government run Cave site. Very nice and it has been fixed up very professionally. It is a guided tour and takes about 45 minutes. Next we drove back across La Romana to the other side to Alto de Chavon. Lots has been written about this. We found it interesting and beautiful but it was very hot and we wanted to get to our next stop - Bayahibe Beach. The beach is beautiful (and topless) and we spent about an hour. We returned to ship with plenty of time to spare and all agreed the day went very well. St. Thomas, USVI (Thursday): This was a beautiful Port. We had arranged to tour with Godfrey Tours (lots of info on Cruise Critic) Unfortunately it took us a long time to get through Immigration (as non US) and then the line up to get off the ship was huge. We were supposed to meet him at 9:00 and by the time we got off it was 9:10, and he had left. We eventually made contact via his cell phone, and he arranged for someone else to come get us at 10:00. Our guide (sorry forget her name) was great. We were able to Tour and see the whole island (Beautiful) and then spent a couple of hours at Coki Beach snorkeling (Beautiful). We also were able to shop downtown and got some very good deals on jewelry and a watch. Debarkation (Sunday): We had a very early flight so we did the Express debarkation. You have to keep you bags and be able to carry them with you. This went very smoothly and we were in taxi on the way to the airport by 8:00 am. Other Stuff: Pool was salt water (yuk) and it was very cold. I know they are all salt water on ships but I do not like it. It was cold though, and nice to cool off in when hot. The Slide was a big hit for all the "kids" (both young and old). Buffet - was good. We used it mainly for breakfast and quick snacks. It had a good selection and is pretty typical of any buffet you may have visited. Nothing spectacular but certainly sufficient for what you may need. I thought the Pizza was very good. As for drinks you can usually at any time get Apple Juice, Lemonade, Fruit Punch and cold Tea (unsweetened). The soda card is rather expensive ($28 USD) so if your kids like any of the above it is probably not worth the card. You can buy a glass of soda for $1 or can for $1.50 so you need to drink almost 3 or 4 per day to get your money's worth. Staff: Most staff we met were great. Room steward and dining staff outstanding. Others we met around the ship friendly and helpful. The Concierge desk was a bit impatient, but they do bear the brunt of any unhappy passengers so maybe their day gets a bit long?? This is a problem we had seen before - so perhaps they all need better training in their "people and conflict resolution skills". Shows: We enjoyed almost all the shows. The comedians/magicians, etc were all quite funny. Some were a bit rude and offensive so may not be to everyone's taste. And, if you sit in the front row you may be subject to ridicule. The "Dream" Weaver show was a huge singing/dancing production and although they put a lot of work into it we thought it was so/so. They were all worth having a look at though. We did not really go to any of the Disco's. The Karaoke Bar was fun and some of the people quite talented. We attended the Animation/Sport Art Action but did not buy anything. All in all we had a great time. The kids are all ready to go back any time. It was well worth the money we spent and I can not imagine a better value for your money. Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
we had a great time on our cruise this is a very nice ship and I was quite impressed with the condition and cleanliness of the ship. sure there are water stains on the carpet but everything else was very clean, they had people cleaning the ... Read More
we had a great time on our cruise this is a very nice ship and I was quite impressed with the condition and cleanliness of the ship. sure there are water stains on the carpet but everything else was very clean, they had people cleaning the ship all day long our cabin size was quite adequate and the amenities were good you get a shell in your room with shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, razors, toothpaste, and rolaids. we traveled with a group of 4 cabins and not all had all the stuff in there so if you need something ask you cabin steward our cabin steward kept up on our room very well except for the blue towels they give you to use we had to ask every morning for them when we went up on deck or on an excursion, it was no big deal , whey were warm and just out of the dryer so I figured they just didn't have enough to replenish the night before he also kept pur cooler of water and pop filled with ice. The drink guys and gals were awesome at first they seem to bug you a bit but you get used to it and then you have your favorites who remember your number and know what you like to drink (big dick and little dick were our favorites) we met big dick right away and we noticed his name tag and called him richard he said no you can call me big dick there was also a guy in the bar in the paris restaurant (ioseph) i think this was his last name, but he told some interesting stories in some sort of english.. the meals were excellent you always had food in front of you at dinner and they entertained you most nights while they serve desserts and the desserts were great..especially the baked alaska yummy the food in the paris restaurant was good too and on the lido deck try the pizza and the burgers these were my standard josh the cruise director does a great job and he is very funny one night he was more entertaining than the comedian sarah and tina the activities directors do a great job keeping you entertained with a ton of activities, those girls are flying all over the place overall we had a great time we got to the port shortly after 11 and after 15 minutes going through security we went right up to an agent and after 5 minutes there it was up to the holding are where you get you sign and sail after about 1/2 hour here we were on board . probably by 12:15 we were told to stay out of our cabins til 1 so we went to the paris and ate some lunch and by that time it was 1 at st thomas you go through immigration this line was the entire length of the ship but once it started moving it only took us about 15 minutes to get through it so don't be scared if you are lined up in the atrium and you have an early excursion it goes fast and they also come through asking what time your excursion is and move you up if needed disembarkment was also very fast they started calling colors around 9 and we never figured they would clear the ship by 10 but it went very fast and before you know it you are out on the sidewalk and your cruise is over :( I would definitely cruise carnival again it was a great deal for a vacation Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
This was the first time I had been on a cruise and heard several horror stories and several raving reviews. Since we lived only a few hours away we left home Sunday the 28th at 7:00am. Traffic was ok until we arrived closer to the port. ... Read More
This was the first time I had been on a cruise and heard several horror stories and several raving reviews. Since we lived only a few hours away we left home Sunday the 28th at 7:00am. Traffic was ok until we arrived closer to the port. Then, traffic turned into a thrill ride. Both cars arrived and we used the porters to help with the luggage. Parking was easy, and embarkation was swift as we used Carnival's FunPass service to help speed up the process. We only sat in the lobby for four minutes, then it was off to be photographed. We arrived on the ship and were informed we could go to our cabins. Once I found my cabin I was amazed to see that some of the luggage had already arrived. The first day onboard was very relaxing and enjoyable. Ports: St. Thomas is easy to do on your own, we took a taxi from the pier it was $20.00 pp for him to take us from the pier up the mountain, stopped to see the ship from the top and Drake's Seat, then he continued up the mountain to the top where they have a big tourist center and the view was AMAZING! He then took us down to Sapphire Beach and returned when we asked him to to bring us to the boat in plenty of time that we even shopped in the town near the pier before heading back. I did not think shopping here was as "cheap" as I thought it would be after all the hype. Of course I wasn't looking for diamonds either, but gold was about the same, just minus taxes. If anyone wants the Taxi drivers # email me... anyhow the trip was GREAT and Sapphire beach has great snorkeling up against the beach and it gets better the further out you go. Nice showers/bathrooms and a restaurant. Not too many people there either. DR- Do not do on your own if your looking to really experience the island. We did take a taxi/bus to Casa Del Campo's La Marina, for $4.00 rt pp, which was fun. However note that no one speaks English here. We were lucky to find a nice man in the coffee shop who was willing to translate to the shop clerk for us. The groceries are really cheap in the supermarket here so if you need anything for the ship stock up here. Prices are in Pesos but they accept american money. We managed to buy two bottles of pepsi, candy, postcards and a large bag of chips for under $3.00 american. There were a few nice shops here with handmade items for sale and some name brand stores. We purchased some rum in a hand painted bottle and some clay dolls. OH the bus we took gave us a 1/2 hour tour on the way to shopping, past Sam Sosa's houses... it was pretty nice. Nassau- Research, and it is easy to do on your own. We took a taxi from the pier to Paradise Island (dropped us off at the door of Atlantis)... it was $4.00 each way pp. We explored the resort, took photos and toured the dig, apparently before 10am or so in the morning there is no one there selling tickets, we just entered and looked around and then left. We then left the hotel and headed down to the beach about 2 blocks down to try to snorkel. Clear, beautiful beaches, but there were jet skis so we could not snorkel there. We found out later that just past the curve of the beach there is awesome snorkeling so next time we will know better. Otherwise this port reminded me a lot of Key West. Very tourist orientated. Lots of nice shops near the pier. Sea Days: There was always something to do onboard on the sea days. We were never bored, in fact sometimes we had to pick what to do because there was so much going on. The ship had television (ABC, CBS, NBC) and they also have three movie channels (free of charge) showing newer movies and also the TravelLog channel with clips from your cruise. The stations come in from Tenn and NY. We loved the Newly Wed Game, the big shows, trivia was always fun. The pool was nice, but crowded. Although the ship never really felt crowded, except right after a show when people were trying to get to their rooms, etc. My group did not use the laundry but I did use the iron, it is located near U154 and E$ if I remember correctly. Lines for food were never really that bad either, never more than 10 or so people long. Food/Dining: We ate in the Destiny Dining Room each night except the last. Our Asst. Waiter Eva and Carlos were wonderful. They remembered us and remembered how we liked everything. Our Head Waiter however needed improvement and we did let Carnival know. After hearing post about people's wonderful experiences with their waiters he really let us down. The food was great, only once did I try something I didn't care for. We always had two apps and sometimes two desserts to try. They were awesome. We had breakfast in the Elation once and the servers were wonderful and it was a nice change. Most times we either ordered room service (yeah BLT's) or ate on the Lido. If anyone needs an idea of the food or menus email me I wrote most down. Overall I would have to say that was the best vacation ever and we had such a wonderful time. If anyone has any questions please feel free to email me. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
Embarkation We arrived at the pier about 11:30. We were delayed a little while to fill out the Bahamas Immigration papers. I don't understand why Carnival didn't send this info out with our docs to save time. Things went fairly ... Read More
Embarkation We arrived at the pier about 11:30. We were delayed a little while to fill out the Bahamas Immigration papers. I don't understand why Carnival didn't send this info out with our docs to save time. Things went fairly smooth and we were on the ship by 12:30. Cabin Our cabin had my family of 5 in it: My wife, myself, our 11 yr old daughter, 8 yr old son, and our almost 6yr old son. The cabin was set up with a queen bed, two Murphy beds and a rollaway. A little tight but manageable. Ample storage for the clothing. The Bathroom is roomy with a nice amenities basket provided. The cabin steward was excellent. Our kids loved the Towel animals and the cookie turndown service. Ship: The Paradise in in excellent shape. The public areas are tastefully done and well laid out. The Atrium area is very beautiful. The main deck area has a very large pool with a spiral slide and a couple of hot tubs. A very large bandstand area for the live music. My main complaint is the design of the main theatre. Many obstructed views. Get there early or you will not be able to see the stage very well. The non-smoking aspect of the ship was a real pleasure. Too bad they will be changing that policy when the ship relocated to California. Dining & Service: This is an area Carnival is very inconsistent. We had all of our breakfasts at the main restaurant. This was good but limited menu. Lunch was served only on sea days in the dinning room. The port days we had lunch in the Paris buffet and the grill area or the Pizza. Very small variety in the buffet areas and not that tasty. They did have good Hamburgers. The Pizza we good but being from NY we are big Pizza critics. For Dinner we originally had a 5:45 early seating. We tried it the first night and felt very rushed. We changed it to 8pm. This was much better. Some of the dinners were very good for example the Lobster,Chateaubriand, and the Grouper. Beef dishes can only be ordered Med Rare or Med Well. Sometimes the meals arrived cold and had to be re-ordered. They never came around to offer 2nds. If you asked they would bring you another entree. They didn't serve shrimp as often as our previous cruises on Princess & Celebrity. The midnight buffets were basically repeats of the lunch offerings at the Paris with the addition of make your own crepes. The GrandBuffet was nice but again not that great. They had one deck party with a mexican theme. Room service was quick and efficient. Drink Prices We purchased one soda card for our 11yr old for $23. Our boys loved the Fruit Punch and Lemonade. We drank mostly Iced Tea. I found the drink prices to be on the high side. Virgin Pina Colodas ran $4, On Princess last year it cost us $2. Camp Carnival: This is where Carnival SHINES. My kids absolutely loved the Camp program. Our boys were put together in the 6-8 yr old group and had a fantastic time. They couldn't wait to go everyday. They ate dinner with the Camp Counselors everynight (this is a great feature). On the first formal night they had a cocktail party and had dinner then they took them to the show. The boys made several arts & crafts items they were able to take home. They were also given a Camp Carnival T-shirt and backpack. Our 11yr old enjoyed it also. She made several friends. She went to dinner with us adults. She also had an all night party- 10pm-8am (this cost $32 extra-but it was worth it!). The Counselors were excellent!!!! Ports Of Call-We basically went to beaches with the kids. Sightseeing would bore the heck out of them. Nassau We took a taxi to Paradise Island to a public beach. Nice beach but very rough swimming water. One tip-We heard many complaints from people who took the excursion to Blue Lagoon. Carnival's description of the tour said it was 5 1/2 hrs long. But the actual beach times is approx 2hrs. They charged a lot for this and people felt ripped off. Dominican Republic We took a taxi to Bayahibe Beach, beautiful..very tropical setting. Calm Warm Swimming water. Very Clean beach. The kids loved this beach. One word of warning-there were some topless sunbathers here. Our kids didn't notice. St. Thomas Everyone had to wake up early for US Customs. This is a new procedure when visiting this port. We all had to go to the main lounge to clear customs before they would let anyone off the ship. When we made it off the ship we were harassed by all the taxi drivers at the port. This really turned us off to the island. We did finally take one of the taxis to another beach. This time we went to Morning Star beach. Very nice-not crowded. The swimming water was not as calm as DR but not as rough as the Bahamas. Sea Days Hard to get deck chairs near the main pool. Much better luck getting chairs in the rear (AFT) pool area. Went to Afternoon tea twice- this is held in the America Piano bar area- not big enough to handle to crowd. Service here not great. Had to ask for tea and wait a long time for the snacks. Princess does this much better. We tried to go to the library to play Scrabble. Unfortunately they were out of Scrabble games (all checked out). The library has limited hours. The casino is very nice- calm crowd and no smoking!!! Entertainment Very nice production shows but hard to get a good seat. The Piano music was excellent. The Deck band was way too loud most of the time. You couldn't talk to one another without raising your voice. Staff Extremely friendly. The Purser's desk was probably the nicest people I have seen in this area. Debarkation Very smooth. Off the ship by 9:30am. No problem finding our luggage. Overall Very nice family vacation. Considering what we paid ($1950 for our cabin of 5 + Insurance) this was a good value. Carnival could improve there food and service some. I would definitely take the kids again on Carnival. When my wife & I get to go alone we will still look to go on either Princess or Celebrity again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2004
We sailed the Paradise on February 29th on its Eastern Caribbean Cruise. Same as last year, we took our 2 children (13 & 10) along with us. Everything was perfect!!! We flew Jetblue from Syracuse to Fort Lauderdale - only 2 hours drive ... Read More
We sailed the Paradise on February 29th on its Eastern Caribbean Cruise. Same as last year, we took our 2 children (13 & 10) along with us. Everything was perfect!!! We flew Jetblue from Syracuse to Fort Lauderdale - only 2 hours drive from our home in Ottawa / Canada and got a great rate for a car rental with Dollar through Travelocity - $29.00 for a full-size car. We stayed the night before at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami and returned the car the following day at the Miami airport - Dollar provides a complimentary shuttle to the port. We were at the port around 11:30am on Sunday and 45 minutes later we were standing in the lobby of the Paradise - no lines or wait anywhere, which was totally different from our last year's experience in Tampa. We had booked 2 inside cabins on the Riviera Deck and both were ready with our luggage standing by the door after we had lunch in the Paris Buffet restaurant on Lido deck...Amazing! This was our fourth cruise and we always booked insides because you don't spend much time in them. Save that money for good shore excursions!!!! The ship was very clean, no smoking anywhere (only until October 2004) and the staff was outgoing and very friendly. We had dinner every night in the Elation Dining Room and both food and service were outstanding - thanks Luna (waiter) and Arriz (assistant). We enjoyed our daily breakfast and lunch at the Paris restaurant and found the buffet style food better than last year on the Sensation. The Pizzeria was a big hit with our kids and I have to admit that it was very good with a wide selection. Sushi bar was great although it was only available between 05:30pm to 08:30pm. Our dinner seating was at 05:45pm so it doesn't really provide you with sufficient time to enjoy the sushis. The Vegas Style shows were all nice and professionally made but you have to make your way to the Normandie Show Lounge early if you want good seats. They had daily and evening activities for everyone's taste - karaoke, stand up comedian, big production shows, bingos, Survivor game, etc. All ports were nice especially St-Thomas. We booked a tour with Godfrey http://www.godfreytoursvi.com/ and it was only $20 per person, which is so much cheaper than buying on the ship. We booked through his web site and he phoned us back in Canada to confirm the time we would like to be picked up. He gives you 2 or 3 hours of shopping, a 2 hour/tour of the island + a 2-hour stop at a beach of your choice - Magen Bay or Coki Beach. He makes a stop at Mountain Top, which is the highest point of the island - no need to buy tickets for the Paradise Point Gondola that takes you only 500' above the port location. We choose Coki and the snorkeling there was really amazing. You can rent your gear right on the beach for $10, which includes the vest if you need one. Our kids truly enjoyed the experience!! In La Romana / Dominican Republic, we bought the Riverboat and Altos de Chavron tour with Carnival and it is worth the money ($236.00 for a family of four). We didn't buy any excursion for Nassau. We took a horse carriage tour of downtown for $30.00 and took a cab to Paradise Island to use the public beach beside the Sheraton. Don't buy the on-board tour for the Atlantis Hotel because you can tour the lobby aquarium and outside one for free. Cab is about $10 from Pier to Paradise Island. Tip for parents: bring walkie-talkies with you to keep in touch with your kids on-board. Disembarkation was fast and efficient and we were in our hotel in Fort Lauderdale by noon. Carnival provides you with great value for the money. We have sailed RCCL & Premier and Carnival is still our best choice for family travel! Happy Cruising! Read Less
Sail Date February 2004
This cruise on the Carnival Paradise was for my Mom's birthday/Family Reunion. She had never cruised before and has not been on a real vacation in a very long time. We booked 3 inside cabins on the Main Deck. My family and my bother ... Read More
This cruise on the Carnival Paradise was for my Mom's birthday/Family Reunion. She had never cruised before and has not been on a real vacation in a very long time. We booked 3 inside cabins on the Main Deck. My family and my bother & Girlfriend were traveling from NY. My mother and 11yr old nephew are from Florida. Pre-Cruise: The NY group flew out the day before (SAT) to FLL. We stayed at the Embassy Suites by the FLL. Pier. The hotel picked us up at the airport. The hotel is very nice. Beautiful grounds and pool. The room was big...sleeps 6. Free cocktail hour and buffet breakfast. If you are going out on a cruise from FLL. They will drop you off at the pier for n/c. Unfortunately it rained all day. My kids were determined to go swimming. We let them go in for a short while. They were going to get wet anyway. We ate dinner at the Outback Steakhouse across the street from the hotel. We made arrangements with a car service to bring us to the Port of Miami ($65). We had made arrangements with Cruise Connections to pickup my Mother & Nephew in Clearwater and bring them directly to the ship ($85 r/t). Embarkation We arrived at the pier about 11:30. We were delayed a little while to fill out the Bahamas Immigration papers. I don't understand why Carnival didn't send this info out with our docs to save time. Things went fairly smooth and we were on the ship by 12:30. Cabin Our cabin had my family of 5 in it: My wife, myself, our 11 yr old daughter, 8 yr old son, and our almost 6yr old son. The cabin was set up with a queen bed, two Murphy beds and a rollaway. A little tight but manageable. Ample storage for the clothing. The Bathroom is roomy with a nice amenities basket provided. The cabin steward was excellent. Our kids loved the Towel animals and the cookie turndown service. Ship The Paradise in in excellent shape. The public areas are tastefully done and well laid out. The Atrium area is very beautiful. The main deck area has a very large pool with a spiral slide and a couple of hot tubs. A very large bandstand area for the live music. My main complaint was the design of the main theatre. Many obstructed views. Get there early or you will not be able to see the stage very well. The non-smoking aspect of the ship was a real pleasure. Too bad they will be changing that policy when the ship relocated to California. Dining & Service This is an area Carnival is very inconsistent. We had all of our breakfasts at the main restaurant. This was good but limited menu. Lunch was served only on sea days in the dinning room. On port days we had lunch in the Paris buffet and the grill area or the Pizza. Very small variety in the buffet areas and not that tasty. They did have good Hamburgers. The Pizza we good but being from NY we are big Pizza critics. For Dinner we originally had a 5:45 early seating. We tried it the first night and felt very rushed. We changed it to 8pm. This was much better. Some of the dinners were very good for example the Lobster, Chateaubriand, and the Grouper. Beef dishes can only be ordered Med Rare or Med Well. Sometimes the meals arrived cold and had to be re-ordered. They never came around to offer 2nds. If you asked they would bring you another entree. They didn't serve shrimp as often as our previous cruises on Princess & Celebrity. The midnight buffets were basically repeats of the lunch offerings at the Paris with the addition of make your own crepes. The Grand Buffet was nice but again not that great. They had one deck party with a Mexican theme. Room service was quick and efficient. Drink Prices We purchased one soda card for our 11yr old for $23. Our boys loved the Fruit Punch and Lemonade. We drank mostly Iced Tea. I found the drink prices to be on the high side. Virgin Pina Coladas ran $4. Camp Carnival This is where Carnival SHINES. My kids absolutely loved the Camp program. Our boys were put together in the 6-8 yr old group and had a fantastic time. They couldn't wait to go everyday. They ate dinner with the Camp Counselors every night (this is a great feature). On the first formal night they had a cocktail party and had dinner then they took them to the show. The boys made several arts & crafts items they were able to take home. They were also given a Camp Carnival T-shirt and backpack. Our 11yr old enjoyed it also. She made several friends. She went to dinner with us adults. She also had an all night party- 10pm-8am (this cost $32 extra-but it was worth it!). The Counselors were excellent!!!! Ports Of Call-We basically went to beaches with the kids. Sightseeing would bore the heck out of them. Nassau We took a taxi to Paradise Island to a public beach. Nice beach but very rough swimming water. One tip-We heard many complaints from people who took the excursion to Blue Lagoon. Carnival's description of the tour said it was 5 1/2 hrs long. But the actual beach times is approx 2hrs. They charged a lot for this and people felt ripped off. Dominican Republic We took a taxi to Bayahibe Beach, beautiful..very tropical setting. Calm warm Swimming water. Very clean beach. The kids loved this beach. One word of warning: there were some topless sunbathers here. Our kids didn't notice. St. Thomas Everyone had to wake up early for US Customs. This is a new procedure when visiting this port. We all had to go to the main lounge to clear customs before they would let anyone off the ship. When we made it off the ship we were harassed by all the taxi drivers at the port. This really turned us off to the island. We did finally take one of the taxis to another beach. This time we went to Morning Star beach. Very nice-not crowded. The swimming water was not as calm as DR but not as rough as the Bahamas. Sea Days Hard to get deck chairs near the main pool. Much better luck getting chairs in the rear (AFT) pool area. Went to Afternoon tea twice- this is held in the America Piano bar area- not big enough to handle the crowd. Service here not great. Had to ask for tea and wait a long time for the snacks. We tried to go to the library to play Scrabble. Unfortunately they were out of Scrabble games (all checked out). The library has limited hours. The casino is very nice- calm crowd and no smoking!!! Entertainment Very nice production shows but hard to get a good seat. The Piano music was excellent. The Deck band was way too loud most of the time. You couldn't talk to one another without raising your voice. Staff Extremely friendly. The Purser's desk was probably the nicest people I have seen in this area. Debarkation Very smooth. Off the ship by 9:30am. No problem finding our luggage. We took the Carnival Transfer back to the Ft. Lauderdale airport. They only charged us for 3 passengers ($16ea) and let our sons travel for free. Overall Very nice family vacation. Considering what we paid ($1950 for our cabin of 5 + Insurance) this was a good value. Carnival could improve their food and service some. I would definitely take the kids again on Carnival. When my wife & I get to go alone we will still look to go on either Princess or Celebrity again. Our previous cruises: 1989 Chandris Victoria-Southern Carib. 1999 Celebrity Mercury-Western Carib. 2001 Princess Sea Princess- Mexican Riviera 2003 Princess Grand Princess-Western Carib. Read Less
Sail Date February 2004
Here is my review of our trip on the Jan 4th sailing of the Carnival Paradise. I traveled with a group of coworkers/friends that sailed on the S/S Norway together in January 2003. Pre-trip travel: We flew Southwest from Buffalo to Ft. ... Read More
Here is my review of our trip on the Jan 4th sailing of the Carnival Paradise. I traveled with a group of coworkers/friends that sailed on the S/S Norway together in January 2003. Pre-trip travel: We flew Southwest from Buffalo to Ft. Lauderdale. We had a quick stop in Baltimore, but did not need to change planes. The first half of the flight was full, and we could not sit together, even though we arrived quite early. The no assigned seats policy sucks if you have any more than two people traveling together. There are so many people who can preboard and then save seats for each other than we would need to arrive two hours early in order to sit as a group. Lucky for us, staying on the same plane allowed us to move around and sit together for the second leg. We rented a mini-van from Dollar, which was waaaaaay cheaper than taking cabs everywhere. Because we arrived around 8:30PM, there was no line to pick up the car and we only had to wait about 10-15 min for the shuttle, which wasn't bad at all. We stayed at the Holiday Inn - Plantation. It was a serviceable hotel, worth what we paid through Hotwire. They did not ask for a credit card because the rooms were prepaid, which was nice. I hate having to give my card when I know I won't make phone calls, order room service, or movies. We drove to the Miami airport to drop off the car and get their shuttle to the Port of Miami. We waited about 20 min here and were lucky to get on the shuttle. They were not running frequently and with the amount of luggage folks had, only three parties (6 people, 4 people, and 5 people) got on that shuttle. The ride was quick, and within a few minutes were approaching the terminal. Embarkation: It was about 11:30 when we arrived and the lines were non-existent. Once going through the lines and picking up our sail and sign cards, we waited a short while before boarding began. We were asked to not go to our rooms until 12:30, so we went directly to lunch. We were supposed to have a bottle of champagne and chocolate in our room as a thank you for a problem we had on our last cruise (never informed a shore excursion was cancelled and wasted a lot of time), but it was not there. I spoke with someone from the info desk, but the week came and went and we never saw anything. I will be writing to Carnival again about it. It was free, and I'm not trying to have my hand out, but if you promise a guest something, you should follow through. Cabins: DH and I had a 4A, the others had 1As. We all were quite happy with the size of the rooms. Being near a stairwell was quite nice. I preferred to go upstairs then travel the ship, rather than walk down an endless hallway of cabins. Our cabin steward never introduced herself to us. That's ok with me, as long as they do their job. On sea days we didn't get beach towels and others did, so I'm not sure if we were supposed to. Dining: I found the formal menus hit or miss. Some meals I was underwhelmed and not sure what to eat. Others, I would have liked to order many of the entrees. The mushroom and goat cheese pizza, French fries, and filet mignon were my favorites. Our wait team was Cupid from St Vincent and Mila from Russia. We enjoyed them immensely. They were warm, friendly, competent, and made us look forward to meal times. Cupid was a ham, so the dances were great fun to watch. I don't eat sushi, but those who did enjoyed it. Nassau: We went on Stuart Cove's half day snorkel ship. It was great. I was hoping the boat would not be full, since it was early January, but it was full. We had about 25 passengers, and two crew members. We had three snorkel stops - a shallow reef, a slightly deeper reef with a plane on the ocean floor, and a much deeper spot where they used chum to attract sharks. We didn't have time to shop after the excursion, which was fine with me. La Romana: We took a cab to Altos de Chevon (or, as I kept saying, Altos de Chevron) and then to La Romana to see the town. For our group of six, it was $8pp. Much better than the $79 the ship wanted for the same thing, but with a boat ride. I thought the town was beautiful, but probably wouldn't go again. It's so obviously created for tourism that it's not as quaint as I'd hoped. St Thomas: We took Godfrey's tour, which was wonderful. The sights were beautiful and those world famous banana daiquiris sure were strong, but they made the curves and hills to the beach seem like a ride. We spent our beach time at Coki beach, which was busy, but not overly packed. Activities: I was dismayed that many of the trivia events were either first thing in the morning or while in port. They were all held in open areas - the lido deck or US Bar (the promenade deck hallway). Why do sun bathers want to hear trivia and why do trivia people want to try and hear over the din of the deck? I suggested they move things inside. There was only one 30 min ballroom dance class, which was quite sad. I did enjoy the various parties as opportunities to drag hubby on the dance floor. My favorite activity was the open forum held by ship employees to answer questions about life on board. But most of the panel was white and American. I would have liked to hear from a waiter or a housekeeper. It just reminded me of the class structure on board. It was nice to know that the crew is dismayed that the Paradise will be made smoking. There were also similar activities held at the same time. For example, on the last day at sea, the galley tour started 15 min before the talk about life on board. As similar events - seeing backstage - wouldn't one think the same people would want to attend both? I went to the talk after the tour and the crowd only grew as people did what I did. Entertainment: Since the shows were the same as the last time I sailed Paradise (even some of the comics), we did not go to most of them. The adult comedy events were so well attended that the last one was moved to the Normandie show lounge from the smaller Queen Mary lounge. We sat on the balcony and there was a constant up and down shaking which made me feel ill and I had to leave. Roberta is the piano sing-a-long lady. She is so out of touch. She does not have a song list and gets angry when you suggest songs she does not know. When we were singing songs like I Will Survive and Summer Nights, the place was packed and everyone had a great time, but then she'll jump into I've Been Working on the Railroad and older songs I've never heard (and I love old standards) and clear out the place. She also doesn't play songs with the rhythm they were written, which makes it very tough to follow along. Unfortunately, the piano bar is one of the things we were excited about and it didn't quite live up to that. The ship: I didn't notice anything other than design choices that would let you know the ship was 6 years old. It's big enough to offer choices but small enough to navigate easily. It was tough to squeeze our party of 6 around a table at the Paris restaurant and I just don't care for booths when eating formal meals. Warning to parents: Make you keep a very close watch on your children. We saw a three year old almost pitch into the sea, before someone caught him, after climbing the railing. Mom was eating and her son wandered out of the Paris restaurant and she didn't know. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
We've just completed our third cruise on Carnival, we've been on the Imagination once, and this was our second trip on the Paradise. We chose the Paradise because it is the only non-smoking cruise ship in the U.S. (probably the ... Read More
We've just completed our third cruise on Carnival, we've been on the Imagination once, and this was our second trip on the Paradise. We chose the Paradise because it is the only non-smoking cruise ship in the U.S. (probably the world). Unfortunately, Carnival has announced that as of October 2004, the Paradise will shift to west coast and become a standard smoking-allowed ship. I haven't read any official word from Carnival on why they are discontinuing the non-smoking cruises, but the crew offered several opinions: * In the past they've had trouble getting enough non-smoking staff, although currently there is a staff waiting list to work on the Paradise. * The Paradise does not make as much money in extras (alcohol and casino) as it does on the smoking ships. Many smokers also drink and gamble, and this is a strong source of revenue on-board. Non-smoking guests are not as profitable and I guess Carnival would rather that the less profitable guests take their tightwad habits to the other cruise lines. Personally, I'd be happy paying a little more for my ticket so I can enjoy a non-smoking boat. I had forgotten how nice it was until I was on a shore trip in St. Thomas and other people on the beach next to me started smoking. Rumor has it that Carnival will start restricting smoking on all their vessels to specific areas. This may address the issue for us non-smokers. I remember the problems I had on the Imagination when I'd settle down on a deck lounger by the pool, and then 10 minutes a later a smoking family would settle down next to me (and always upwind of course!) If they create good non-smoking zones in each public area, then having an entire non-smoking ship may no longer be necessary. (But then from a business side you're just spreading around all the less-profitable guests with the more profitable guests, and the overall revenue will remain the same. It is just that you won't have one boat generating less profit than the others.) In previous cruises we've stayed on the Empress Deck and the Upper Deck. This time we tried the Riviera Deck. Not a good choice. We had selected it due to price and the thought that lower decks sway less than the decks above. However we had failed to realize that we would be just above the crew's working area. Some mornings the banging and booming woke us up before we were ready, especially on days were were in port. No more Riviera deck for us. There's five of us, two adults and three kids. Carnival is the only cruise line we've found that will accommodate five in one cabin. It is tight, but it works. On every trip we've had we've been impressed with the cabin stewards. They must be invisible. You rarely see them, yet you leave your cabin and come back an hour later and it is all cleaned up. I can see why the cruise director jokes that you're not allowed to take them home with you. My oldest kid is a teen. You know: sullen, resentful, doesn't want to do ANY organized activity, doesn't want to be seen with the parents or the younger siblings. On last year's cruise he was bored and more resentful than usual. The Teen activity offerings didn't appeal to him at all (Dad! that's lame!) This year was very different. They have a new Teen hang-out. He met many other sullen, resentful (uh, I mean future leaders of tomorrow) kids and had a very good time. His only complaint was that the teen club played only rap, and he doesn't like rap. (He is a jazz saxophonist and appreciates good music and feels rap music is only appropriately named if you add an initial "c" to the word.) My daughter's situation was the exact reverse. Last year she had the best time ever, having made many friends and enjoyed some of the Camp Carnival activities. This year she mainly moped that she wasn't old enough for the Teen club and that there was no one her age in Camp Carnival. (right, sure. over 2000 guests on the ship and she's the only 11-year old. I think she's heading for sullen and resentful ahead of schedule.) She did make one friend, and that mollified things a bit. My youngest is 9, and he also didn't find many enjoyable activities with Camp Carnival this year. He didn't really give it a fair try. My observation is that kids have fun when they can hook up with other similar kids. It is a crap shoot on every trip as to who the other guests will be. Sometimes the kids make a lot of friends and have a great time, and other times they don't. We cruised in late December. One thing we really appreciated was that they had 0a Menorah lighting ceremony on each night of Hanukah. In the previous years, they've always had a giant menorah in the atrium lounge, but this was the first year they had a public ceremony. On the first night, so many people turned out that the Atrium was packed, and people had to line the balconies to get a good view. After that night they moved the Menorah to a lounge that could accommodate all of us. This turned out to be a very positive event as it allowed us to make friends with other Jews on board. They even served latkes and applesauce. Okay, it wasn't the best latkes I've ever had but, hey they made an effort for us, and I gotta appreciate that. Which brings me to the topic of food. Overall the food is good, but not great. I don't know why people rave about how great cruise ship food is. When you're preparing 2000+ dishes, it can't be gourmet. Let's be realistic, it is mass-produced food. Now then, for mass-produced food, it is very good. They achieve this by offering only a few entrees every night. When you restrict the choices, you can get very good quality control on the taste and presentation. I like plain food. Give me a steak and a potato and I'm happy. Carnival likes to dress up every dish with colorful, uh, food-like somethings and sauces. I spent most of my time keeping my main food item away from the extras on the plate. My wife and oldest boy however, loved the extras and usually did me a favor by taking them off my plate. My youngest two always ordered an adult entree and tried it, but usually had to resort to one of the kiddie-menu items. For people who like fancy-sounding foods and exotic flavors, you'll like the main dinners. Plain food people like me can usually find at least one entree, but I've learned to ask the waiter what else is on the plate and then specify which items I want and which ones I don't want. The waiters and busboys almost always hail from outside the U.S. They are unfailingly polite and eager to please. Talking with them is a great way to expand your knowledge of the world and its people. Andrei from Moldovia was our busboy on this trip and judging from his energy and enthusiasm I know that he's going to be famous one of these days. A few shows changed a bit from the previous years. I understand that every show is so costly to create and produce that they run them for five years each. So, on a seven-day cruise, only a few shows will be new each year. For shore tours, we went for all beaches this time. Bad move. By the end of our second beach day we were all so sun burned that couldn't enjoy the third beach. Here's a capsule review: Bahamas: We did the Blue Lagoon trip. Beautiful. Lovely. I want to go back. Last year we did the "Swim with the Stingrays" trip there and had a great time. This time we skipped the stingrays and just relaxed on the hammocks and did some swimming. Dominican Republic: We did the Catalina Island beach trip. The trip was nice and the beach was great. Just two minor complaints. The guys running the boat did not speak English. They had to press a passenger into service as a translator to give us the rules of the boat and when to tell us when we had to be ready for the return trip. Second complaint: the island has a small "business district". If you wander over there you will be given a free necklace and then hit with the hard sell for every trinket in eyesight. If you like trinkets and haggling, you're gonna love it. I don't and I didn't. St. Thomas: We went to Magen's Bay, which purportedly is one of the top 10 beaches in the world. It was ok, but I thought Coki beach (which we did last year) was better. Both beaches get very crowded as tours from every cruise ship in harbor show up there. One warning: our Safari bus driver was a maniac. Over half the passengers on our trip got off early and took taxis back to the ship rather than continue to risk their lives with "Berserker Bernie". He's easy to recognize if you want to avoid him: he's an older white guy with a balding pate and glasses so thick that they make you think of Mr. Magoo. Also, you'll notice that all the other bus drivers constantly yell at him. With the Paradise on the west coast next year, we'll probably try a different cruise line for our winter trip. We're gonna miss it! Read Less
Sail Date December 2003
We drove to the port of Miami and found the parking garage where to park our vehicle. It cost about $84 for us to park our vehicle for one week. Once we arrived, we got our bags together and walked to the terminal which was located about ... Read More
We drove to the port of Miami and found the parking garage where to park our vehicle. It cost about $84 for us to park our vehicle for one week. Once we arrived, we got our bags together and walked to the terminal which was located about 1/4 of a mile away. We have luggage with wheels and it makes it easy to walk any distance needed. Once we arrived at the front of the terminal, we dropped our bags off with cruise line representatives and proceeded inside the terminal for processing of paperwork and boarding. The M/S Paradise was set to sail at 4PM but we arrived a little after lunch so we could get settled early. We had registered on-line and had our paperwork in hand, yet it still took about one hour for us to get through all the lines and board the vessel. One comment about the terminal was the presence of escalators that were not in operation. Thus, travel lightly or be expected to lug your bags up stairs -- not too nice a thing to do! Once we arrived on the ship, we used the ship's layout map to find our deck and room. We had booked an inside cabin and were pleasantly surprised to find that we were upgraded to an ocean view cabin -- not bad! Once we had found our cabin, we dropped off our carry-on bags and went exploring. We walked from one end of the ship to the other and finally settled in the Lido Deck's open area near the Paris Cafe where we got a hamburger, French fries, and soft drink for lunch. During this time the waiters and waitresses were walking around offering complimentary champagne to all guests and there was live music being played by a Caribbean band. Since we don't drink, I was beginning to get annoyed at all the requests for me to consume champagne or other alcoholic beverage. However, I brushed it off and went about exploring the ship. Before the ship set sail we were told to get out life jackets (traditional bulky orange type) and meet by our designated lifeboat. With all the scrambling and confusion this exercise took about one hour. The ship finally set sail around 5PM and we were on the rear deck watching as we left Miami harbor. As the light of day became less and less and Miami was beginning to recede in the distance, we walked to our cabin to drop off our life jackets and decide what to do for the evening. Since we didn't feel like dressing up for anything formal, we decided to eat dinner in the Paris Cafe near the rear of the ship. This is a restaurant where you can serve yourself (like a buffet) and the staff picks up your plates, cups, etc. when you are done. After dinner, we continued to explore the ship and engaged in some time-passing activities (i.e., played ping pong). The wind was pretty strong (about 30 knots) and the ship was rocking quite a bit. I noticed from time to time that several passengers were craning over the edge feeding the fish. Thus, if you might be subject to motion sickness, please take something or wear a patch behind your ear with motion sickness medicine. Anyway, we decided to turn in relatively early so that we would be fresh for the next day -- a port stop at Nassau, Bahamas. My wife found the cabins to be a bit small and was a little claustrophobic -- be warned! The night at sea was uneventful, just a little bit rocky (I'm surprised that a ship this size moves so much). We arrived in Nassau in the morning, got ready, ate breakfast in the Paris Cafe, and went ashore. Make sure you carry all your documentation with you -- you will probably be checked. We decided to get our passports and it came in very handy. Once in Nassau, we walked around the town, took a ride on a horse drawn buggy, and shopped in the straw market. We had an enjoyable time in Nassau and don't recommend any tours provided by the cruise line (you dock in the middle of town and everything is nearby for you to walk to). While shopping in the straw market, feel free to haggle price -- never pay what they initially ask for the item. Also, there are plenty of people who will want to braid you hair (be careful -- each braid will cost quite a bit). After exploring Nassau for a good portion of the day, we decided to return to the ship, store our purchased souvenirs, and get ready for the ship to sail. On our way back to the ship we were asked by Bahamian immigration personnel for our passports and then were allowed to proceed to the dock. At the gangplank we were asked for our sail and sign cards to be allowed back on the ship. Again we decided to eat in the Paris Restaurant and watched the ship leave Nassau for the Dominican Republic. The next day we spent at sea and it was uneventful. We arrived in the Dominican Republic in the morning and I looked out our cabin window to be surprised by an old working port -- nothing fancy! After breakfast, we went up on deck and checked out our new location and noted that it was very underdeveloped. We were the only cruise ship docked in port and there were no easily accessible areas (i.e., on foot like in Nassau). In fact, people who got off the ship to go to the nearby town of La Romana were taken by locals on the back of their mopeds from the dock area to the main road. Other than the tours offered by the cruise line, there didn't seem to be anything going on in this port. I was disappointed with the port and its lack of amenities. In my opinion, stopping at La Romana, Dominican Republic was a total waste of time. My family and I decided to stay on the ship, watch what was going on, listen to the stories of those who spent a load of money to go on cruise line sponsored tours (not worth it), and just relax. The next night we spent at sea and arrived in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands in the morning. After breakfast we got off the ship and met with our tour guide -- Godfrey Renal. We had booked the tour on-line with him as a result of many recommendations from other individuals who had been to St. Thomas. Godfrey was superb and his tour was great!! We were picked up at the dock and taken to the downtown shopping area for several hours of shopping. At the designated time and location, we met Godfrey and he took us on a tour of the beautiful Island of St. Thomas. We went from one end to the other and from the base to the top of the mountain. As we were traveling about, Godfrey narrated and told us what we saw, stopped for photographs, etc. At the end of the island tour we were asked if we wanted to go swimming and, if so, he gave us an option of several beaches. We chose Coki Beach by Coral World but didn't stay because it was very crowded. We decided to return to the ship and were taken there by Godfrey. Those who decided to swim were later picked up by Godfrey and returned to the ship in plenty of time for sailing. The tour we took with Godfrey was practically all day (10AM to about 4PM) and it only cost $20 per person -- a great deal! Further, if anyone who is reading this review is going to St. Thomas, book with Godfrey -- you will not be disappointed!! To get the same thing from the cruise line you'll end up paying twice as much or more! The next two days were at sea and we watched shows, stayed busy, and waited to reach Miami. Two days and three nights at sea are just a little too much for me! I wish that the ship had made at least one more stop at another port, a place where we could get out and about and enjoy ourselves -- no such luck!! ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN: We traveled with my 10 year old son and found that activities for him were lacking. I saw plenty of stuff for the little tikes and the older teenagers, but very little for the kids in my son's age group. I was disappointed with this scenario and feel that this is a big problem that should be corrected by Carnival! FOOD: I was not impressed with the quality of food that was served on the ship. The food served in the Paris Restaurant where we ate most of our meals was average. We were led to believe that there would be grand feasts and this was not the case. You can dine better in most typical restaurants in the United States (i.e., Golden Corral, Ryan's, Western Sizzlin, etc.). For example, we were informed in the Carnival Capers (local activities publication) that one evening we were going to have a Mexican buffet at midnight. Well, we decided to eat light and save our appetite for the Mexican cuisine. We were expecting tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, etc. but to our surprise we found none of the above. We found a buffet with about a half dozen items and none of them looked Mexican in origin or preparation technique. We were very disappointed by this! On another occasion, we decided to eat in the formal dining room and dressed accordingly (male: suit and tie; female: evening gown). Well, to our surprise they allowed guests wearing shorts to eat in the dining room. Further, after we ordered our food (i.e., appetizer, main course, and dessert); it took a very long time to be served each component of our meal -- almost two hours from start to finish. Further, our dining partners never showed up for a meal at the formal dining restaurant. As a final note about the food, I was pretty disappointed!!! PORTS OF CALL: Nassau and St. Thomas were enjoyable experiences. However, La Romana, Dominican Republic should be eliminated from their itinerary. There is nothing to walk to nearby where the ship docks (unless you want to ride in the back of a local's moped and risk your safety). The only game in town is a series of shore tours offered by the cruise line -- designed to overcharge you and not give you a good value for what you've paid (see other comments by fellow cruisers on this topic and La Romana). IRRITANTS: Neither I nor my wife drink alcoholic beverages and it is an irritant for you to be asked to buy an alcoholic beverage 40 or 50 times each and every day. Further, if you do drink, be aware of the prices for your drinks -- significantly higher that you would pay stateside! In addition, it seems that any little thing you may want beyond normal food and beverages costs something extra. For example, if you want a chocolate chip cookie or a milk shake from the La France serving area, you have to pay for it. If you want to drink a soda pop, you have to pay for it ($2.50 for a plastic 20 oz bottle). If you want to play bingo, you have to pay extra money to do so...and on, and on, and on. This was rampant throughout the ship and I was extremely irritated and disappointed!! Come on people, we've already paid a hefty sum to be on the ship, the least you could do is provide free of charge soda pop, chocolate chip cookies, milk shakes, and other little things! POSITIVES: I enjoyed the "smoke free" atmosphere on the ship and some of the shows. It is really nice to be able to walk about and not have to smell stale smoke which embeds itself into everything. Unfortunately, in one session of the "meet/get to know your crew" we were told that Carnival was going to discontinue the smoke free ship because it did not make as much profit as the smoking vessels. This is terrible!! Carnival needs to look beyond the just the bottom line. Yes, the ship is profitable, but smoking ships are more profitable. Where did customer satisfaction go? Where is the concept of give the customer what he/she wants? I'm saddened by this turn of events!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2003
A Change In Paradise! My wife Carol and I wanted a warm getaway from the dank drizzle and gray overcast of winter in the Ohio Valley. It was Christmas time, and e-mail blitzes were bombarding us with sail/sale values on cruises, so we ... Read More
A Change In Paradise! My wife Carol and I wanted a warm getaway from the dank drizzle and gray overcast of winter in the Ohio Valley. It was Christmas time, and e-mail blitzes were bombarding us with sail/sale values on cruises, so we were off to paradise — on Paradise. We could not wait to escape the weather for a glimpse of the glistening turquoise waters that encapsulate the Caribbean islands. Carnival Cruise Line's Paradise would be our ship, and this would be our second time on the huge well-appointed luxury vessel. Paradise touted a unique cruise-industry specialty, but there is news afloat on that sea, so let's get into a review, opinion, and overview of this Christmas Paradise cruise: Inaugural Voyage: It was November 25th 1998 — passengers were welcomed on Carnival Cruise Line's newest ship, the 'Paradise'. This was the maiden voyage for the 70,000 ton ship which boasted the 12,000 square foot Nautica Spa with its luxury atmosphere in the locker and steam room area. This was a special day — as would be December 12th 2003 — read on. Here is an example of common headlines in the Cruise Industry of 1998: — "AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY PRAISES CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES' LAUNCH OF WORLD'S FIRST SMOKE-FREE CRUISE SHIP" On November 19, 1998 The American Cancer Society Celebrates Great American Smokeout' with 'A Day on Paradise' CBS News anchor Paula Zahn Christens Paradise at Society's Black-Tie Gala ... a new era was beginning, read the news and press releases. On December 12th 2003, I was interviewing the Paradise Hotel manager, Mr. Keith Bunton, when a wire service announcement came across his computer. He shared the world-wide announcement with me. "Carnival's Paradise will be redeployed to the West Coast as a smoking ship", said Bunton. Bob Dickinson, Carnival President worded the explanation quietly and briefly. "The Sept. 20th, 2004 cruise of the Paradise will be the last cruise the Paradise will offer as a non-smoking vessel." One has to wonder what went wrong with this seemingly savvy and right policy for only one of its 21 ship (and growing) fleet — a one of a kind ship in the world. Carnival is the largest and dominate cruise line corporation in the world, and the Paradise no-smoking icon seemed to be right on course strategically. Somber Mood: The dumped policy had been in place for six years — any person who smoked on-board Paradise was disembarked at the closest port, and fined. This was adhered to, and was also the policy for the crew. On Dec. 12th, when this non-smoking crew found out the news, they felt as though a family tie had been broken ... this news quickly spread among the over 2000 clients on-board. How did this happen? How did the world's only one hundred percent smoke-free ship policy falter? Some industry insiders speculate that non-smokers (78 percent of Americans) just do not spend adequately on gambling and alcohol to make this unique non-smoking cruise atmosphere viable. As an enthusiast and supporter of this single world-wide ship policy, I was taken quite off-guard — because, I was interviewing Mr. Bunton and asking how the smoking policy was going after six years afloat. He stopped starkly and said "I am not being rude ... listen to this," and he read the notice to me from his computer. It was a bubble-burst to the mood in his office. Ship: Paradise was the last in the Carnival Fantasy Class ship, which was most successful to that point in Carnival history. The Paradise, features a luxurious interior decor and a fine art collection in the style that is legendary of historic ocean liners. She seemed to add an exclamation point to the success of the Fantasy-class series having re-created the romance and entertainment of a classic sea-voyage ambiance but in a contemporary atmosphere. Paradise was built at Finland's Kvaerner Masa-Ship-Yards. Careful attention was given to hire and use only non-smoking workers on the pride-filled project. Paradise was to give an alternative to those who wanted to venture into casinos and piano bars aboard ships without taking in unwanted smoke. Her crew was especially hand-picked and became like a family of ardent non-smoking people from 34 countries with a goal: Keep Paradise pure and clear of air! On December 12th 2003 ... that mission went, well — up in smoke. Preference: Thus far in this review — I sound perhaps lamenting? The soon to be abandoned policy for Paradise is in fact a loss to those of us that saw a ray of sunlight in a concept for the 78 percent of us who do not smoke, but in reality Paradise is 1/28 of the ships we have sailed, and they all offer checks and balances to keep the clean-air-peace among clients. For example; there is no smoking in show lounges on most ships, no smoking in dining areas on most ... and common areas about the ships of today are well ventilated. It is usually not a huge issue. Additionally, smokers today seem (at least 75 percent I estimate) more courteous than smokers even five years ago. I have found though that on mixed smoking vessels that I do avoid casinos, and piano bars, which is a shame because we love a soda, low light, and the peaceful ambiance of jazz. But, I am willing to give these two activities a bypass in return for the tremendous value and variety of things to do on today's cruise ships — from small boutique cruise lines, river lines, to the mega-monsters that prowl the seas — cruising is an unmistakably perfect 'all-in-one-vacation'. Cruisers unpack just once and enjoy a variety of places along the way, along with fine food and entertainment. Itinerary Selection: Paradise alternates routes out of Miami until its Sept. end to the no-smoking policy and redeployment in California. We chose the eastern Caribbean route since we have done a western route five times. The Paradise eastern route gives you three full days of glorious sun and sea time ... and three port stops; St. Thomas, Nassau Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic. We enjoyed our route selection, and we chose to do non-scheduled activities on all three stops using local cabs and splitting fares with new friends. In St. Thomas it is a per-person ride fare to various points — like our favorite, Sapphire beach — lovely water, and views of St. John's and the British Virgin Islands! Overview: I feel Carnival should have kept the Paradise as its shinning one example of smoke-free venue, or plan to designate another ship to replace her in that concept. This would be a glowing banner for the cruise line and supporters that touted her inaugural gala along with world health organizations — my opinion — the concept should be kept alive! As for a ship review? Paradise is a very youthful, sleek and well-maintained six year old in a growing industry that goes one-up on everything every day. Paradise is still futuristic enough to keep clients satisfied with her charm and overall amenities. Cabins are well appointed with ample space. In fact luckily we were placed in a forward cabin, outside, and our room steward told us "You will have no children in the front area of the ship ... the cabins are slightly smaller and there are no three or four person cabins". This is a tip I had not thought of in the past ... forward is a good thing if you do not want to share other's children! The food, and entertainment were quite nice, and the design of Paradise is one that works well for 2000 plus patrons. You can find a quiet place to relax, or join in activities all about the huge, but personally attended vessel. This was a sure-fire-four-star ship decked out festively for Christmas. I suggest: — always fly into your embarkation city the day before your cruise. Our December cruise had bad weather in the Midwest and East coast. You may imagine that this is irrelevant to your plans — but it is not. Your plane is likely arriving from one of those city areas, so you will be late and things get bogged down. With a city like Miami ... why wouldn't you want to savor her magnificence for at least one day and evening? Ask your travel agent about on-going specials for your cruise vacationing. Happy sailing! WHEN YOU SAIL: Miami Visitors Center www.gmcvb.com (888) 76-Miami Read Less
Sail Date December 2003
Despite some confusion in the departure port (first Miami, then Port Everglades and then back to Miami at the last minute) due to protests against a trade conference in Miami, the boarding process went very smoothly. We were traveling with ... Read More
Despite some confusion in the departure port (first Miami, then Port Everglades and then back to Miami at the last minute) due to protests against a trade conference in Miami, the boarding process went very smoothly. We were traveling with a family group of about 25. The Bad - One piece of luggage was not delivered to a member of our party by the morning after departure. In general, the cruise personnel were helpful and allowed a $100 credit against clothing purchases in the ship's store. On Thursday (after a Sunday sailing) the bag was delivered. It had been found in Miami and eventually flown to St. Thomas to meet the cruise. Nothing was missing. - There was some sort of utility room behind our cabin and on most nights, we heard noises through the wall. We like inside cabins because we seem to sleep better but the noise defeated the purpose. The noise didn't last all night but it did wake us on a couple nights. I spoke to the cruise staff but another cabin was not available. - As a general observation, the entertainment shows were inconsistent. One comedian was good, the other mediocre. One stage show was decent but the other was boring. - Maybe it was my imagination but the mixed cocktails seemed very weak to me. The Good - NO SMOKE. It really was nice not to have to breath 2nd hand smoke. I wonder if other ships might go this way. - The food was better than we expected. We had taken another Carnival cruise in a ship of the same class last year and were disappointed in the food then so our expectations were not high but in general, I would rate the food a B to a B+ in both the dining room and in the Lido deck buffet. The pizza and Caesar salad station was great. The sushi bar was just average. - The service was very good both in the cabin and the dining room. - The gym was clean and had a good variety of machines. Ports of Call We travel a lot on our own and generally don't go for cruise ship excursions. This trip was no exception. In Nassau, we have been there several times and were looking for something different so we arranged for a private tour of the historic district with Vernita's Walking Tour. It was a bit low-key but we had a lot of fun. In La Romana, we hired a driver and van and spent a couple hours at a local beach then drove through the Casa de Campo neighborhood to look at all the million dollar houses, including one owned by local sports hero Sammy Sosa. Then we made the obligatory shopping stop for some very cheap Dominican rum, cigars (which we had to turn over to the ship until we disembarked in Miami) and coffee. In St. Thomas, we took a cab to Red Hook where we caught the ferry to St. John. Once there, we took another cab to Trunk Bay to snorkel. The snorkeling was good (but not great) but it is a beautiful setting. We had just enough time for a quick stop at the Havensight Mall before boarding the ship. While we weren't involved in any way, on the night after we had departed St. Thomas for the 2-day sail back to Miami, a passenger had to be evacuated from the ship after suffering appendicitis. A helicopter hovered over the rear Lido Deck and lifted the passenger and a ship's nurse. It was my understanding that the passenger (a 17-year old boy) was taken to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for surgery and at last report was doing well. Read Less
Sail Date November 2003
Paradise - Eastern Caribbean - Nov. 23 - 30, '03 So much has been written in other reviews about the Paradise, I'm only going to highlight a few things which I hope might be useful. I will add my praise to the many who have ... Read More
Paradise - Eastern Caribbean - Nov. 23 - 30, '03 So much has been written in other reviews about the Paradise, I'm only going to highlight a few things which I hope might be useful. I will add my praise to the many who have written about the pleasure of being on a smoke-free ship. It really does make a difference. And I will also add that, of the 4 ships we have been on, this was the most grandiose atrium we have seen. It was always a pleasant place to visit, made more-so by the excellent 3-piece orchestra group that often played there. It was a very clean ship everywhere we looked, even with 600 kids on board that week. We had been told that we should prepare ourselves for a bit of a letdown on Carnival, that we would not see the kind of service or the quality of food we had experienced on other lines. In fact, we thought the Paradise exceeded the quality we found on other ships in many respects, and both of us hope to return to the Paradise in the future. The pillows were flat, but we had 2 each. The mattresses were in good shape. My wife and I were on our 4th cruise on our 4th different cruise line. We are early 50's. We used Priceline to arrange a room at the Sheraton Biscayne for Saturday night ($37 + $10 Priceline fee). Paid $25 for cab from airport (inc. tip and toll fee). We asked for a room on an upper floor facing the cruise port and ended up with a wonderful view including a little of Bayside park. It's a very nice place and a great bargain through Priceline. We were treated very well. It was probably the best hotel bargain we've ever found. We walked over to Bayside Saturday afternoon (about 6 blocks, 10-15 minutes) and cabbed back after dinner at Bubba Gump's. We did see a rat scurry under a dumpster on the way over, and some of the streets are not well lit, but we could have walked back without any real safety concerns. As a matter of fact, we saw a young couple head back about the time we got into the cab, and they beat us back to the hotel as we were delayed (with the meter running) while a boat passed through a lift bridge. Bayside is a large collection of shops, stores, restaurants (Hard Rock, Hooters, Bubba Gump's, a Chilli's opening soon, and others), and fast food places. They have free, live music. We also found a "discount store" on a back corner between the hotel and Bayside where we picked up a few bottles of water and Pepsi. There is a post office, and we heard there is a grocery store in the area. They were setting up quite a little Santa's village in the park that weekend. There was no preboarding check-in available at the Sheraton that Sunday. We cabbed to the port Sun. at about 11:30. With the traffic delays and confusion, it cost us $15. Check-in: Speaking of confusion. After the security scanner, we were directed to a line being served by about 8 people. Just as we neared the front of that line, some of us were directed to the back of another line being serviced by about 4 people. From there, we were directed upstairs where we picked up our sail and sign cards and the confusion and delays really got pretty awful. This check-in process might take you 15 minutes or an hour, depending on the whims of line monitors. Next time, we'll wait till 1:00 or 2:00 to avoid the frustration. On board: The cabin was ready when we boarded and the last of our luggage arrived by 4:00. The cabin attendants were friendly, courteous, and efficient. We had dinner in the Elation dining room and all other meals in the Paris buffet. The buffet crew was, by far, the most efficient group we have encountered on a cruise; plates and tables were cleared quickly, and we never had trouble finding a place to sit. We really appreciated having the napkins and utensils placed at the tables. The tables outside by the pool area were often not available due to people refusing to vacate them after eating. (Deck chairs were also hard to come by in the pool area, though there were almost always at least a few scattered chairs without stuff on them). We enjoyed all of the shows, particularly Adam Ace, one of the comedians. We were entertained by several of the contests and competitions and saw lots of people win the 24 carat gold plastic ship on a stick. Brent, Karl, and Tina worked very hard at providing entertaining activities in several different venues. Tina, especially, impressed us with her vitality and smiles, though all three seemed to genuinely enjoy their work. We did attend a question/answer session with Brent and Tina on the last day. My question was, "Do you know about the cruise critic web site?" Their answer was that they were familiar with it and corporate also paid close attention to it. We learned the breakfast lines were always shorter outside; the seats in the Normandie balcony are more comfortable with the high backs but require you to look through a brass railing and around posts; the gift shop prices match prices at shops on shore, there is a small, secluded deck at the rear of the ship; only about 10% of the men wore tuxes on formal nights, about 1/2 wore dark suits, and I was the only one wearing a sport coat on casual night; and some parents bring their children to adults-only entertainment. Disembarkation: Whatever you may hear, there is no such thing as "express" disembarkation. Sleep in, relax, enjoy the ship those last few hours. Not sure if it works that way all the time, but we were told if we carried our luggage off, we could disembark between 7:30 and 8:30, dependent on clearance by immigration officials. Since we cleared immigration in St. Thomas, we assumed that would be a quick and painless process. At 7:15, we found an out of the way place on main deck near the elevators and waited - and waited - and waited - until the elevator lobby was so full people couldn't get off the elevators. At 8:20 they announced we could leave, but by that time, we were at the back of the pack with lines of people coming from everywhere. I took us 45 minutes to get to the exit. Miami Airport: The standard rate from port to airport is $20 plus tip. We had thought we might be able to get on an earlier flight, but, after the delay leaving the ship and spending nearly an hour in the airport security line, that wasn't going to happen. Paradise Eastern Ports 11/23-30/03 Nassau We had toured Atlantis before. On that trip, arriving at 7:30, we found no one at the doors to the dig or anywhere on the grounds looking for room keys or wrist bands and spent a few hours wondering around for free. We assume that would have been true this trip as well. This time. we took a walk up to the Queen's Staircase, then to Fort Fincastle, then over to the pirate museum and the British Hilton and back along the waterfront. The Queen's staircase is about 4 - 5 blocks from the pier up some narrow side roads where there are not always sidewalks. It is just behind the hospital at the bottom of the water tower. It is a pretty little grotto cut into the sides of limestone walls. At the top of the staircase is the water tower and the fort where there are several open stands with t-shirts and nick-knacks similar to those found at the straw market. Prices are about the same. There is a short, decrepit stairway leading down to an alley at the front of the fort. It's ugly but a much shorter route into town than following the cab/bus route. The pirate museum was interesting but probably not quite worth the $12 entry fee. The "pirate" out front was entertaining but pretty intimidating to the kids. The grounds of the British Hilton are very pretty, but nothing compared to the Atlantis. They do have a pretty little beach there, but I'm not sure if it's available for cruisers. Nobody asked us for ID of any kind while we walked through. The straw market is the place to go for bargains on t-shirts and woven bags and placemats, but the aisles are very narrow and it gets warm by afternoon. There is a good-sized grocery store on one of the side streets at that end of town. We did check the price of a perfume we were looking for and found the price was considerably higher than on the ship. We didn't see any bargains at the nice shops in town. Dominican Republic The ship docks up in the mouth of a river coming out of La Romana. The town was larger than I expected, but, according to what we have heard, there is just nothing there for tourists interested in shopping. There are some baseball fields separating the port area from the town. We saw some passengers cut through the home base area of one of the fields and walk into town from the ship. Otherwise, the road used by taxis leads way around and would involve a few miles of walking. We spent the morning at Altos de Chevon ($20 taxi ride + $10 for each hour waiting). The taxis are all minivans, so you might want to share the ride and cost with another couple. It's about a 10 - 15 minute ride, mostly through the sprawling grounds of the resort, Casa de Campa. The reconstructed, stone-crafted village and adjoining gardens are charming and very nicely landscaped. There are some pricey shops, several restaurants, and a small convenience store. We did enjoy our hour of wondering and could have stayed a little longer. The shoreline along the port area is very rocky but not very high above the waterline- reminded me of the north shore of Lake Superior. From the ship, we could see a small bay about 100 yards down the shore which would probably have been accessible for snorkeling. No one was walking along that shoreline though, so it might be a restricted area. St. Thomas We rode with Godfrey into town to shop for a few hours, then with Timmy (Godfrey apparently subcontracts when he has more than one load) up to Mountaintop and around to the other side of the island to Coki beach. Although we originally thought we would have a choice of beaches, as it turned out, we were all taken to Coki. Between the 4 ships in port and everyone off for Thanksgiving, the town and the beach were very crowded. Coki does have clear water and lots of fish, but most people snorkel around the rocks at the east end near Coral World. I found much more vibrant coral and sea life toward the west end about 50 feet out from the beach and near the hills at the west end of the beach. If you (or your children) go that way though, you need to be careful not to touch the black, spiny sea urchins. There are lots of them in the shallows there and, as I understand it, they are very poisonous. There is a hut/restroom for changing with a fresh water hose outside to rinse off. There are hair braiders and people renting chairs and umbrellas. There is limited shade available. Besides only costing $20 for the full day, a big advantage of going with Godfrey is being able to leave purchases, cameras, and other valuables locked inside the cab of his truck when at the beach. A few things we've learned along the way: We each travel with a different credit card, so if one gets lost, we can cancel it and still have a card available. We carry our credit cards and passports on shore. If we don't make the ship, we can still get out of the country quickly and catch up to the ship. We bring along a small Minnesota Xmas tree ornament which we tape (of course, we always bring duct tape) to our door, so we can always find our cabin easily. (I could tell you a story about how my wife misplaced her card and made a cabin attendant open "her" cabin only to discover a couple in their cabin having some afternoon fun time, but I always try not to tell stories on my wife.) We eat late on board even though we eat early at home. Fewer kids, less interference with shore trips and daytime activities, more sunsets, and less late night snacking. I hope some of this is helpful to others. We have learned a great deal from cruise critic and had much better cruises as a result. Feel free to ask anything. Read Less
Sail Date November 2003
Paradise - Eastern Caribbean - Nov. 23 - 30, '03 So much has been written in other reviews about the Paradise, I'm only going to highlight a few things which I hope might be useful. I will add my praise to the many who written ... Read More
Paradise - Eastern Caribbean - Nov. 23 - 30, '03 So much has been written in other reviews about the Paradise, I'm only going to highlight a few things which I hope might be useful. I will add my praise to the many who written about the pleasure of being on a smoke-free ship. It really does make a difference. And I will also add that, of the 4 ships we have been on, this was the most grandiose atrium we have seen. It was always a pleasant place to visit, made more-so by the excellent 3-piece orchestra group that often played there. It was a very clean ship everywhere we looked, even with 600 kids on board that week. We had been told that we should prepare ourselves for a bit of a letdown on Carnival, that we would not see the kind of service or the quality of food we had experienced on other lines. In fact, we thought the Paradise exceeded the quality we found on other ships in many respects, and both of us hope to return to the Paradise in the future. The pillows were flat, but we had 2 each. The mattresses were in good shape. My wife and I were on our 4th cruise on our 4th different cruise line. We are early 50's. We used Priceline to arrange a room at the Sheraton Biscayne for Saturday night ($37 + $10 Priceline fee). Paid $25 for cab from airport (inc. tip and toll fee). We asked for a room on an upper floor facing the cruise port and ended up with a wonderful view including a little of Bayside park. It's a very nice place and a great bargain through Priceline. We were treated very well. It was probably the best hotel bargain we've ever found We walked over to Bayside Saturday afternoon (about 6 blocks, 10-15 minutes) and cabbed back after dinner at Bubba Gumps. We did see a rat scurry under a dumpster on the way over, and some of the streets are not well lit, but we could have walked back without any real safety concerns. As a matter of fact, we saw a young couple head back about the time we got into the cab, and they beat us back to the hotel as we were delayed (with the meter running) while a boat passed through a lift bridge. Bayside is a large collection of shops, stores, restaurants (Hard Rock, Hooters, Bubba Gumps, a Chilis opening soon, and others), and fast food places. They have free, live music. We also found a "discount store" on a back corner between the hotel and Bayside where we picked up a few bottles of water and Pepsi. There is a post office, and we heard there is a grocery store in the area. They were setting up quite a little Santa's village in the park that weekend. There was no preboarding check-in available at the Sheraton that Sunday. We cabbed to the port Sun. at about 11:30. With the traffic delays and confusion, it cost us $15. Check-in: Speaking of confusion. After the security scanner, we were directed to a line being served by about 8 people. Just as we neared the front of that line, some of us were directed to the back of another line being serviced by about 4 people. From there, we were directed upstairs where we picked up our sail and sign cards and the confusion and delays really got pretty awful. This check-in process might take you 15 minutes or an hour, depending on the whims of line monitors. Next time, we'll wait till 1:00 or 2:00 to avoid the frustration. On board: The cabin was ready when we boarded and the last of our luggage arrived by 4:00. The cabin attendants were friendly, courteous, and efficient. We had dinner in the Elation dining room and all other meals in the Paris buffet. The buffet crew was, by far, the most efficient group we have encountered on a cruise; plates and tables were cleared quickly, and we never had trouble finding a place to sit. We really appreciated having the napkins and utensils placed at the tables. The tables outside by the pool area were often not available due to people refusing to vacate them after eating. (Deck chairs were also hard to come by in the pool area, though there were almost always at least a few scattered chairs without stuff on them). We enjoyed all of the shows, particularly Adam Ace, one of the comedians. We were entertained by several of the contests and competitions and saw lots of people win the 24 carat gold plastic ship on a stick. Brent, Karl, and Tina worked very hard at providing entertaining activities in several different venues. Tina, especially, impressed us with her vitality and smiles, though all three seemed to genuinely enjoy their work. We did attend a question/answer session with Brent and Tina on the last day. My question was, "Do you know about the cruise critic web site?" Their answer was that they were familiar with it and corporate also paid close attention to it. We learned the breakfast lines were always shorter outside; the seats in the Normandie balcony are more comfortable with the high backs but require you to look through a brass railing and around posts; the gift shop prices match prices at shops on shore, there is a small, secluded deck at the rear of the ship; only about 10% of the men wore tuxes on formal nights, about 1/2 wore dark suits, and I was the only one wearing a sport coat on casual night; and some parents bring their children to adults-only entertainment. Disembarkation: Whatever you may hear, there is no such thing as "express" disembarkation. Sleep in, relax, enjoy the ship those last few hours. Not sure if it works that way all the time, but we were told if we carried our luggage off, we could disembark between 7:30 and 8:30, dependent on clearance by immigration officials. Since we cleared immigration in St. Thomas, we assumed that would be a quick and painless process. At 7:15, we found an out of the way place on main deck near the elevators and waited - and waited - and waited - until the elevator lobby was so full people couldn't get off the elevators. At 8:20 they announced we could leave, but by that time, we were at the back of the pack with lines of people coming from everywhere. I took us 45 minutes to get to the exit. Miami Airport: The standard rate from port to airport is $20 plus tip. We had thought we might be able to get on an earlier flight, but, after the delay leaving the ship and spending nearly an hour in the airport security line, that wasn't going to happen. More about ports to follow. Paradise Eastern Ports 11/23-30/03 Nassau We had toured Atlantis before. On that trip, arriving at 7:30, we found no one at the doors to the dig or anywhere on the grounds looking for room keys or wrist bands and spent a few hours wondering around for free. We assume that would have been true this trip as well. This time. we took a walk up to the Queen's Staircase, then to Fort Fincastle, then over to the pirate museum and the British Hilton and back along the waterfront. The Queen's staircase is about 4 - 5 blocks from the pier up some narrow side roads where there are not always sidewalks. It is just behind the hospital at the bottom of the water tower. It is a pretty little grotto cut into the sides of limestone walls. At the top of the staircase is the water tower and the fort where there are several open stands with t-shirts and nick-knacks similar to those found at the straw market. Prices are about the same. There is a short, decrepit stairway leading down to an alley at the front of the fort. It's ugly but a much shorter route into town than following the cab/bus route. The pirate museum was interesting but probably not quite worth the $12 entry fee. The "pirate" out front was entertaining but pretty intimidating to the kids. The grounds of the British Hilton are very pretty, but nothing compared to the Atlantis. They do have a pretty little beach there, but I'm not sure if it's available for cruisers. Nobody asked us for ID of any kind while we walked through. The straw market is the place to go for bargains on t-shirts and woven bags and placemats, but the aisles are very narrow and it gets warm by afternoon. There is a good-sized grocery store on one of the side streets at that end of town. We did check the price of a perfume we were looking for and found the price was considerably higher than on the ship. We didn't see any bargains at the nice shops in town. Dominican Republic The ship docks up in the mouth of a river coming out of La Romana. The town was larger than I expected, but, according to what we have heard, there is just nothing there for tourists interested in shopping. There are some baseball fields separating the port area from the town. We saw some passengers cut through the home base area of one of the fields and walk into town from the ship. Otherwise, the road used by taxis leads way around and would involve a few miles of walking. We spent the morning at Altos de Chevon ($20 taxi ride + $10 for each hour waiting). The taxis are all minivans, so you might want to share the ride and cost with another couple. It's about a 10 - 15 minute ride, mostly through the sprawling grounds of the resort, Casa de Campa. The reconstructed, stone-crafted village and adjoining gardens are charming and very nicely landscaped. There are some pricey shops, several restaurants, and a small convenience store. We did enjoy our hour of wondering and could have stayed a little longer. The shoreline along the port area is very rocky but not very high above the waterline- reminded me of the north shore of Lake Superior. From the ship, we could see a small bay about 100 yards down the shore which would probably have been accessible for snorkeling. No one was walking along that shoreline though, so it might be a restricted area. St. Thomas We rode with Godfrey into town to shop for a few hours, then with Timmy (Godfrey apparently subcontracts when he has more than one load) up to Mountaintop and around to the other side of the island to Coki beach. Although we originally thought we would have a choice of beaches, as it turned out, we were all taken to Coki. Between the 4 ships in port and everyone off for Thanksgiving, the town and the beach were very crowded. Coki does have clear water and lots of fish, but most people snorkel around the rocks at the east end near Coral World. I found much more vibrant coral and sea life toward the west end about 50 feet out from the beach and near the hills at the west end of the beach. If you (or your children) go that way though, you need to be careful not to touch the black, spiny sea urchins. There are lots of them in the shallows there and, as I understand it, they are very poisonous. There is a hut/restroom for changing with a fresh water hose outside to rinse off. There are hair braiders and people renting chairs and umbrellas. There is limited shade available. Besides only costing $20 for the full day, a big advantage of going with Godfrey is being able to leave purchases, cameras, and other valuables locked inside the cab of his truck when at the beach. A few things we've learned along the way: We each travel with a different credit card, so if one gets lost, we can cancel it and still have a card available. We carry our credit cards and passports on shore. If we don't make the ship, we can still get out of the country quickly and catch up to the ship. We bring along a small Minnesota X-mas tree ornament which we tape (of course, we always bring duct tape) to our door, so we can always find our cabin easily. (I could tell you a story about how my wife misplaced her card and made a cabin attendant open "her" cabin only to discover a couple in their cabin having some afternoon fun time, but I always try not to tell stories on my wife.) We eat late on board even though we eat early at home. Fewer kids, less interference with shore trips and daytime activities, more sunsets, and less late night snacking. I hope some of this is helpful to others. We have learned a great deal from cruise critic and had much better cruises as a result. Read Less
Sail Date November 2003
Age: 25. Occupation: Academic Adviser. Number of Cruises: 2. Cruise Line: Carnival. Ship: Paradise. Sailing Date: August 31st, 2003. Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean. My husband and I just returned from our second cruise, our first on the ... Read More
Age: 25. Occupation: Academic Adviser. Number of Cruises: 2. Cruise Line: Carnival. Ship: Paradise. Sailing Date: August 31st, 2003. Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean. My husband and I just returned from our second cruise, our first on the Paradise. We chose the Eastern Caribbean itinerary as we had explored the Western route on our first cruise, on the Sensation in May of 2001. I'll do my best to rate the Paradise on its own merits, and also report on some of the changes in Carnival we noticed from 2001 to 2003. This review is pretty long, but I did my best to include all the things I wish I could have read about in my research, and included the topics I found most helpful in other reviews. First a little bit about us - we are both 25, married 3 years. My husband Shawn is a systems analyst for a utility company, I am an academic adviser at a public university. We aren't into the party scene, we like to take our vacations to relax and explore or see new places, and to spend some quality, romantic time alone together. We enjoy reading, hiking, music, and eating out. Our one real problem with the Sensation was the terrible amounts of cigarette smoke. We found it unbearable to be in the atrium, and could not enjoy any of the sing-alongs in the bars and lounges due to it, it made even using the elevators unpleasant. So we were very excited to hear that Carnival offered an entirely smoke-free ship! BOOKING THE TRIP: We started researching our options back in February, and found that the lowest price was available at an on-line at a travel agency. So while we never actually met our TA, she was very good at responding to e-mails, and when we found the price had dropped (on two occasions) and gave her a call, she re-figured our bill for us. We ended up paying $499 plus tax for a category 6A, a much better price than we had paid in 2001. Five days before our sail date (8/31/03), we called Carnival for one last price-check and found they were offering our category for $495 including tax, and after a little bit of the run-around (Carnival told us to call the TA, the TA told us to call Carnival, etc.), we received $100 ship board credit! The moral of the story - be persistent! The squeaky wheel gets the grease! PORT OF MIAMI: I have always enjoyed road-trips, my family always took at least one every summer during my childhood, so I talked Shawn into driving to Miami from Akron, Ohio. People seem to think we are loony for this, but the drive was very pleasant! We left right after work on Friday, drove all night in shifts, and arrived in Miami around 11 on Saturday, which gave us plenty of time to relax and enjoy our first visit to the city. We had bid $35 on Priceline about three weeks before for a hotel in the downtown Miami area, and the bid was accepted by the Radisson on Biscayne Blvd. What a deal! The only complaint we had about the hotel was the parking fee - it was $2 for the first hour and $1 for every additional hour, for a maximum of $10. Still, with the price of the room we didn't pay all that much! The hotel is just a few blocks north of I-195, very easy to find. Upon checking in, I asked the clerk if any of the rooms faced the port - I was not asking to be in one of those rooms, but I think English was his second language and due to a very fortunate misunderstanding, he said he would change us to a king room (instead of 2 queens) that faced the port at no additional charge! What a way to begin our vacation. We enjoyed a dip in their beautiful roof-top pool, and took a nap to catch up on our sleep. Around dinner time we got up and drove over to Miami beach to see what all the fuss was about. Since we're really not into clubbing, we soon determined it really wasn't our style, and drove north up to The Crab House, and had a very nice dinner of snow crab and coconut shrimp. The next morning we woke up and excitedly went to the window - off in the distance, you could see the Paradise had arrived! We checked out around 11 and headed to the IHOP we had seen last night, just a few blocks north, then headed down Biscayne the other way to Port Blvd. The Miami Port is very well designed. We had no idea what to expect, but upon crossing the causeway we simply followed the signs towards the Paradise in Terminal 8, went through a security checkpoint, and then continued following the signs to the baggage drop-off. From there it's just around the corner to the long-term parking. We were very happy to see it was in a garage so our car wouldn't get too hot. Keep in mind, Terminal 8 is on a cash-only basis, $10 a day all in advance. EMBARKATION: We estimated that arriving around 12:30 would be "early," since our tickets said boarding began at 1:30. I should have paid more attention to other reviewers! Apparently 12:30 is around peak-time, so there was quite a line in the terminal, but it really did go quickly. As we approached the line a Carnival employee gave us a letter telling us they were closely monitoring the progress of Hurricane Fabian and would keep us informed of the situation. We first had to go through security with our carry-on, which consisted of two bookbags, our digital camera, and a beach bag. We had 4 bottles of water and 3 bottles of juice as well as various snacks (which I'm sure you could see through the X-ray scanner) and apparently Carnival considers that to be within their "reasonable amount" since no one batted an eye at it. After that we got into the check-in line, which was about 45 minutes long. They really keep it moving, the clerks at the desk are very efficient without being pushy or rushing you when it's your turn, but they don't dawdle. At the desk we asked the Carnival representative about the possibility of early disembarkation since we had quite a drive to get home. She said to go to the Information Desk on the ship and tell them we had an early flight and didn't have the tickets on us to receive an early disembarkation tag. She also told us that when people get off the ship has a lot to do with customs, and that this particular morning customs hadn't cleared the Paradise until nearly 10:00 so even the early people didn't get off until 10:30 or so, preparing us for that possibility. We were grateful for her frankness on this matter. THE SHIP: As other reviewers have mentioned, we were struck by the much classier tone of the Paradise compared to the Sensation (and, I assume, other Carnival Fantasy-class ships). So I won't go into too much detail here, but the wood-tones and Faberge egg motif was very attractive. It still has the twinkly, glitzy Carnival look, but toned down a bit. The carpeting was identical to what we remembered on the Sensation, and the pinkish-orange hallways in the cabin-areas were the same also. Our room was midship on the Riviera (we prefer the lower deck as we feel the motion is not as noticeable, and walking the stairs helps you work off those midnight buffets!), and pretty much identical to our room on the Sensation, although opposite in lay-out. The one difference that we appreciated immediately was that Carnival had installed soap and shampoo dispensers in the shower, which was very convenient. Our room steward Ted refilled them every time they got low. We went around exploring the ship and found that it is of course very similar to the Sensation as they are both Fantasy-class, so it wasn't hard remembering how to get from place to place. The biggest difference of course - no smoke or smoky smell! We appreciated that right away. DINING: Dinners: We had requested the early seating, as on our previous TA's advice we had done the late seating on our first cruise. Her point was that early diners had to rush back to the ship and didn't get to enjoy the ports. We found that we didn't spend that much time in port anyway, and when you have dinner at 8:30, you miss so many of the evening activities and have no appetite at all for the midnight buffets, so we were excited to try our new dinner time. An unintended benefit of the early seating seemed to be that dinner moved a little more quickly (or maybe that is just because there were less people than our first cruise), and the meat was always cooked as we ordered it. Shawn is a steak-man, and he was a little disappointed on the Sensation that his steak was always too well done. He orders it medium-rare, and this time around, it actually arrived medium-rare. The food just seemed a little hotter, a little fresher. Last time we had been seated at a large round table right next to the dining room entrance right in the middle of the room, so we didn't have a real ocean-view. This time we had a booth which is just one row away from the window, so we had a great view even if we weren't at a window-table. The booths seat 6, but we had only one other couple at our table, honeymooners from Virginia named Mike and Antoinette. Either the other couple never showed up, or only the four of us were assigned to that table - I think it might be the latter because it didn't appear to be a full ship. There were always plenty of open seats in lounges and around the pool, even during peak times. We found that the dynamic is definitely different when you have just one other couple at your table instead of four - but luckily we had a lot in common and got along very well. Antoinette was originally from St. Vincent and had gone to college in St. Thomas, so we were able to get a local point of view during the week! Our head waiter was Rommel from the Phillipines, and Bart from Poland was his assistant. We also had a waiter-in-training named Olga from Lithuania. Please remember if you have a waiter-in-training that they are not included in your automatic tip, so it might be nice to give them a little something. Olga worked very hard for us, and we appreciated her efforts. We soon met Svitlana, our bar waitress who was diligent in bringing me my soft-drink every night after I showed her my fountain card that first Sunday. The menu was identical to what we remembered on the Sensation - literally. I know because they had the strawberry bisque and roasted pumpkin soup on the same night - and again I couldn't choose between them, so I had both! I did my best to remember what I had ordered before and try something new each night. As a result, I tried a little bit of everything - the seafood (perch, lobster tail, red-skinned snapper), beef, lamb, and pork. I'm especially fond of Carnival's soups and had two on some nights! The only course I didn't care for was the salad. There wasn't a lot of variety and many of them had "mixed greens," which I can't stand, they're too bitter for me. So instead of salad I usually ordered a soup and some other appetizer. On the night that the dining staff sang "Happy Birthday, Anniversary, Honeymoon, etc" Rommel found out that we had celebrated our anniversary 3 weeks before and two days later gave us a cake as well, which was really sweet. One thing we did notice about dining that had changed was that instead of leaving a basket of bread at the table, they came around with the basket and served a piece of bread to each guest (more than one if you asked). I'm sure this is a cost-cutting measure, and it didn't bother me a bit - since if bread is in front of me, I tend to keep eating it, and have less room for dinner! And any time you wanted more bread you just let the staff know and they brought the basket around again. There also seemed to be more of the staff performances - I remembered the Italian song, the Macarena, Mambo #5, and God Bless America on the final night...this time around there was some song or dance every single night except the first one, and God Bless America was replaced by the Carnival rendition of "Leaving on a Jet Plane," called "Leaving Our Fun Ship." I'm pretty neutral on this aspect of the dining experience. It does make for a fun, party atmosphere on one hand, but on the other hand I feel bad for the staff, that's already knocking themselves out to wait on us hand and foot, and then must entertain us as well. Breakfasts - Breakfast had changed as well - on the Sensation, there was always an assigned breakfast time in your normal dining room for a full-menu breakfast only. This time around, on sea days breakfast was at your assigned time in your dining room; on port days, only the Elation dining room was open and it was open-seating. There was also a buffet available in the dining room. It was pretty similar to the buffet on the Lido, with a little more selection in fruit, better-looking eggs, and French toast. We never ordered from the menu, and went to a buffet each day - in the Elation on port days, and on the Lido deck on sea days. Unlike lunch and dinner, we found the food pretty comparable in quality in the formal dining room and the Lido deck. Buffets - the buffet opened at either 11:30 or midnight each night, in the Paris Restaurant most nights, but one night there was a Mexican buffet on the Lido deck. Most of the time it was fruit, leftover desserts from the formal dining room (which was nice if you couldn't decide between two desserts - there is a chance you could try your second choice later that night!), and cold cuts. One night they had a make-your-own-crepe buffet. I had never tried crepes, and thoroughly enjoyed loading one up with chocolate, almonds, and whipped cream. Friday night they had the gala buffet; first picture taking in the Elation, and then you could go right upstairs to the Paris to eat it! Honestly, I think this buffet is more eye-candy than anything, creative and amazing in presentation but not so striking flavor-wise. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but it wasn't much different than the food I'd had all week. Since we'd eaten at 6, we managed to fit the buffet in almost every night, and it was very enjoyable, sitting at one of our favorite spots on the deck (the back of the Lido deck behind the Paris), enjoying a midnight snack. Room Service - the menu was very similar to what I remembered from 2001, there may have been a few additions. We used it three times - once for an early lunch when we slept in, once for a late-night snack (just because we could), and on Friday night we put out our order card for breakfast-in-bed on Saturday. The fruit salad is good, as is the roast-beef and brie sandwich, and the chocolate cake! The service was always very prompt. THE PORTS: Nassau, The Bahamas: We had decided very early on to take only one excursion to keep costs down, and I hadn't heard a lot of good things about Nassau so we decided to make it just a low-key day and hang out on our own, return to the ship early and get a discounted couple's massage while the ship was in port. When we first arrived at the pier on Monday there was a light rain. We ate breakfast on the Lido deck and by the time we finished the weather was clearing up. We exited the ship from Deck 3 and took the walk down the wharf to the actual city. The wharf is maybe a quarter-mile walk. There were a few people waiting at the end of it offering us tours, but were not persistent when we declined. We walked into the "welcome-building," which can be a little bit tricky. We assumed the official-looking people behind the counters were there to give us information, but apparently these are just tour operators with enough status to get an official-looking spot behind the counter! One woman offered to braid my hair when I asked her about local beaches, and the man next to her told us the only public beach was on Paradise Island and offered to ferry us there. I knew from reading reviews that this was not true, so we just decided to walk. Coming out of the welcome center, we went right down Bay Street, and walked until it dead-ended at the British colonial hotel private beach behind Senor Frog's. We made a left and then another right on Marlborough to go around the hotel, and lo and behold on the other side of this huge hotel is a little public beach! I think it is called Lighthouse Beach, as it is right across a little bay from a lighthouse. We could see the Paradise about a half-mile away. There was a vendor there who offered to rent us chairs, umbrellas, etc., and to braid my hair, but again stopped bothering us after we declined. We laid towels down on the sand and went for a quick dip in the calm, warm, crystal-clear water. It is really a tribute to this beach that I got in at all - I used to love the ocean, but after five encounters with jelly-fish in South Carolina, Alabama, and Florida, I have developed a phobia of being in water that I can't see into. This was like being in a pool it was so clear, I had no fears at all! After our swim, we laid out to dry off, reading our books. Around 11:30 we headed back the way we had come, and stopped at Conch Fritters across from the hotel to try this local delicacy. We had read on the web and in several guidebooks that this restaurant prepared it well. We split a Coke and ordered the fritters, which were delicious! Warning, for those of you who haven't tried them - don't ask what they are until you're done! : ) We walked back through all the pier-side vendors and were back on the ship by 12:30, enough time to shower and get ready for our 1:45 massage. La Romana, Dominican Republic: This was the most confusing port to research, in my opinion, since the Paradise is one of the first ships to visit it. At first the Carnival website said the port itself was Casa del Campo, so I wondered if that meant we would be able to just hang out at the resort. I called the resort and Carnival on 3 separate occasions and no one knew. After receiving the excursion costs from Carnival, I decided to do a little research and see if I could see the same sights for a lesser cost (which you can usually do). I found several agencies that offered the same tours, but got one confusing message from one of them that Carnival forbids its guests from taking any non-Carnival excursions. This sounded fishy to me, but rather than fight it, we just decided to use our on-board credit for an excursion. The best one seemed like the Saona Beach Catamaran, which actually combined 2 other excursions - the trip to Saona and the speedboats to La Piscina Natural ("natural pool"), for $85/person. The Paradise appeared to actually dock on Casa del Campo property, but I never saw the resort, just a locked gate leading to it; my guess is to use anything on the resort you would have to take one of the excursions that used their facilities. The big difference between this port and all the others I've been to is that it doesn't dock anywhere near a city; it's pretty isolated and there aren't people crowded around waiting for you to sell you something. You get off the ship basically in a parking lot area from which the tour buses depart. Despite all the discouragement of Carnival in the pre-port talks, it is very possible to explore the island on your own. We later found out our tablemates got a cab from the parking lot to take them in to Santo Domingo. They said it was pretty easy; the one thing to look out for is that there is very little English spoken on the island (although sometimes I got the impression our tour guides understood more than they let on). We boarded a bus in the parking lot at the pier, and met our guide Jose, who has run several tours to Saona for the local resorts. He took us to a beach where vendors were waiting to sell us hats and Jose warned us we would need them to be protected from the sun. We decided to take our chances. There was a group of guides waiting for us that divided us up into canoe-like motorboats to take us out to the waiting catamaran for the sail to Saona. We started at around 9:30, and it was close to a 2-hour trip. That's when they start with the open bar. Now, we have no problem with drinking, we just rarely do it (especially at 9:30 in the morning). But rather than the nice relaxing sail we had hoped for (since this was not marketed as a 'party boat' as some others were), we got loud music blasted in our ears and some very, very drunk obnoxious people. I didn't mind the music at first, but for those of us trying to relax on the shady part at the back of the boat, it actually began to become painfully loud, and some of the songs had very explicit lyrics that I don't think I was old enough to hear, not to mention the two kids on the tour. Then, once everyone (except a few of us) had plenty to drink, the guides came around and plopped a do-rag on everyone's head. I was actually trying to doze and the guide sat me up and tied it on, even when Shawn and I protested (in English and Spanish) that we did not want one. We gave up, not wanting to offend their "hospitality," and then five minutes later the female guide came around collecting $5 per do-rag. We gave ours back to her but wondered how many other people had worn them and returned them. It was a pretty good little trick, since some people were pretty out of it by then and just forked over the cash. The other thing that turned us off was that the guides kept pouring drinks down the throats of two attractive college girls on the trip - now mind you, no one made them drink that much, but as they got drunker and drunker the guides at first tried dancing with them very suggestively, and eventually got them to the point where they were looking down their bikini tops and grabbing their breasts, which got offensive in my opinion. If this had been guests doing this to each other, that's their own business, but it was very unprofessional for guides to be doing this to guests. When we arrived at Saona, I cheered up a little - we were boated in to a totally isolated beach where a buffet was being prepared, and a line of lounge chairs lay under a row of beautiful palms. The water was kind of murky at the beach, but for people who wanted to play in the clear water further out, the guides took them out in a boat. At first I tried to return to my nap in the shade. It was nice for about 20 minutes, and then I heard people around me yelping about mosquitoes. I figured they were farther inland since generally mosquitoes don't go near the ocean. But then I began to feel little stings and pricks, and was slapping them off of me left and right. I don't know why they suddenly showed up, I suspect they were drawn by the buffet - but then the guests became the buffet! After making a small dent in the mosquito population, I gave up and headed for the water. Amazingly, they followed! These were hard-core mosquitoes! I had to go in all the way up to my neck, and still wave them off of my face. After about ten minutes, Jose called us up to lunch, and now that was an adventure! No one had thought to bring bug spray (since this was a beach trip, not a rainforest or river or something) and they ate us alive as we got our food. I dropped my plate three times trying to get them off of me. They were also all over our food. I hurriedly got myself some rice, fresh fruit, and a piece of grilled chicken and ran back out to the ocean. There were picnic tables but it was impossible to eat there. One girl wrapped herself up in clothing from head to toe and they still hovered around her bare hands and face, so most people ended up joining me in the water. Even then you had to look out for them. And if you've never tried it, it's pretty hard to hold your plate and manage to eat while neck-deep in water, so I really didn't eat all that much. Poor Shawn had at least 25 bites on his back and neck, and as we all began to compare bites, we found the winner from our group - this guy had close to 50 his torso! Be warned!! While this is a beautiful island, you will be eaten alive unless you bring spray, and I'm not even sure that will slow them down. We were supposed to stay at the island until 1, but there was a lot of grumbling and whining at this point, so as soon as lunch was over they let us board the speedboats for the trip to Piscina Natural. If you've never been, this is about halfway between the beach where we started and Saona. It's an area of the ocean about 200 yards off the shore that is only 3-4 feet deep and very clear! So it's very similar to a pool. I really enjoyed the speedboat trip out there, the guides would zigzag back and forth and we'd bounce in each other's wake. They really did go pretty fast, it was a lot of fun as the three boats would race. Once at the pool, we all jumped out and had some fun playing with one of the guest's Frisbees. Jose found a starfish and brought it over to let us touch. It was much spinier than I thought it would be, and the weirdest thing was, he had us touch a crack on its bottom while he held it under water. Little suction things came out to suck on your finger, which you could see when he turned it back over. That was a new experience! After about 30 minutes, several of us got back onto the speedboats. There really wasn't a lot to do there other than swim, drink, and throw Frisbee, and if you hadn't had a lot to drink, that wasn't fun for a super-long time. We had to sit in the boats until 3 since we'd left Saona early while they kept playing and drinking. Finally everyone else boarded (one guy with quite a bit of difficulty - he fell off the ladder twice he was so wasted; I was afraid he would throw up when the boats started racing again, but instead he just passed out, while his wife hung onto his life jacket to keep him from falling out). We were back on the beach we'd started at around 3:20 where vendors waited with ice cream. Warning - the price of this ice cream varies depending on how much they see you have in your hand! We bought a cone for a buck and got back on the bus to be taken back to the Paradise. While I can't say I didn't have fun on this trip, the day was a little over-long for me, and I'm not sure it was worth $85 based on the fact that I drank only water and had a pitifully small lunch, and the mosquitoes made Saona more painful than pleasant. One of my suggestions to Carnival at the end of the week was that they should offer two prices for the excursions that include an open bar, and not assume that everyone is going to drink - why should I, who had 2 waters, be charged the same price as someone who has a dozen alcoholic beverages? Maybe they could put a hand-stamp or something on people who haven't paid for the bar, and then they can pay for any drinks they do want out-of-pocket. From this excursion I would say the best part is the speedboats and Natural Pool, which you can get for almost half the cost on the Speedboat excursion. St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands: This was by far the best port on this cruise, and of our Western itinerary as well! I knew it was going to be a great day when I woke up and looked out of my window to see a beautiful hillside spotted with villas. The weather was perfect. We had a quick buffet breakfast in the Elation dining room and were off the ship by 8. I had decided way back in March to do St. Thomas on our own since this was a very reputable, safe island. We wanted to see St. John based on the stories of friends of ours who had visited it and fallen in love; but we didn't want to pay Carnival prices and go with a huge crowd. As it turned out, it's a good thing we booked with a private company, as all Carnival snorkeling excursions were cancelled due to Hurricane Fabian (hundreds of miles away) stirring up the ocean floor, making conditions murky. Several of the companies I had e-mailed turned out to be closed during that week, as this is their downtime. Two wrote me back, and based on what they offered I decided to go with Jester Sailing Adventures. We only wanted a half-day sail to make sure we'd have plenty of time to make it back to the ship, and while there was a 4-person minimum for a half-day, Captain Jim assured us that he could find the other two, so we tentatively reserved a spot. About a month before we sailed, we wrote him with our credit card and reserved the day from 9-1. He still had not found 2 others but told us if it was just the two of us it was OK. We had one little problem when he wrote us about 3 days before we left and told us he had another request for a group of 4 for a full day, and since he hadn't heard from us he reserved with them. We were pretty confused by this as he had heard from us, but it was cleared up very easily with a phone call - it turns out an e-mail virus had caused him to lose our reservation, but when we forwarded our copy of it to him he was very apologetic and eager to honor his prior agreement with us - he said if the group of four still wanted to go, we could do the full-day with them for the half-day price. As it turned out, they backed out anyway, and so we got a half-day with just the two of us! The day was everything I had hoped for with the Saona beach excursion! Upon getting off the ship, we caught a taxi to the Renaissance Resort where the boat was waiting for us. The taxis all line up right alongside the ship, and many are open-air trucks with several rows. The driver was very informative along the trip. Once we arrived at the resort, Captain Jim brought his dinghy over to the beach to take us out to the Jester, and then he invited us to kick off our shoes and relax. He served us his very own beverage called Jester Juice - a combination of island juices (such as guava, passion, pineapple), vanilla rum, topped off with coconut cream and fresh nutmeg. I could have had these all day! It was the most refreshing drink I've ever had. Literally. The two of us relaxed on a cushion on the bow of the boat for the 1-hour sail over to St. John. Captain Jim played some relaxing, tropical tunes for us, and made the trip very pleasant and romantic for us. He put the anchor down at Honeymoon Beach and gave us snorkel equipment and encouraged us to swim one beach over to see some beautiful coral (assuring me they rarely see jellyfish in the Virgin Islands). We had a great time snorkeling, sure the conditions weren't crystal-clear but we saw a lot of neat fish and sea urchins in the 7-foot deep water. When we swam back to the boat, he had brought out floating Styrofoam mats to relax on. After a little more relaxation we climbed back aboard the Jester where we were supplied with more juice, fresh fruit and cheese, and nachos with a fabulous homemade salsa. He also had a cooler of pops and beer available, but we didn't even touch it since he kept us supplied with his special drink. The sail back to St. Thomas took a little longer, which was fine with us. The sky, water, and surrounding scenery was so beautiful we could have stayed on the boat forever. We arrived back at the Renaissance around 2, took care of payment, and the hotel got a cab to take us back to the pier. I highly recommend Jester Sailing; we hope to take a full-day trip with him the next time we are in the area. Captain Jim is very knowledgeable, accommodating, hospitable and easy-going. He promised us the best day of our trip and he really delivered! The Spa: We did not use the Spa on the Sensation, so this was a new experience for us. One of the first things we did was take a tour of the spa (hoping to win some free treatments, but no such luck!). At first I was astounded at the cost of the official "Couples Massage" ($220), but then I asked if any of the treatments we were being told about were available to couples and assured that most of them were - this is just something they don't mention since it is significantly cheaper. After our tour we booked the Spa Teaser/Reflexology as a couple for the next day to get de-stressed for our vacation. The in-port price was $79/person. When we arrived at the spa we turned in our Sign and Sail cards to get locker keys, changed into the supplied robes and filled out lengthy medical forms, and then were re-united in the couple's massage room. The Spa-Teaser was a 25-minute Swedish massage concentrating on whichever muscles you preferred, and the Reflexology was an additional 25 minutes on your feet. The massage itself was wonderful; we had two girls from the Philippines as our therapists. I've only had five other massages and technique-wise, this one was up-to-par. It was Shawn's first massage, and despite his concerns that he would feel "girlie," he stated after the massage that we should get this done once a month! Yippee! : ) It was after the massage that our troubles with the spa began. After leaving us alone to relax in the darkened room, the girls returned and began pitching their various oils and other products to us. I had been expecting this from other reviews, and knew this was the main difference between a Carnival spa experience and a regular one. We politely declined and they brought us our bill. The bill stated that we had received the full Couple's Massage, which we had not. We took it to the front desk and the manager graciously adjusted the amount. But things went downhill from there. We both turned in our locker keys; the manager who had taken our Sign and Sail cards was on the phone, so the therapists looked for them. They gave Shawn his but couldn't find mine. When the manager finally got off the phone she got very impatient with them, wondering what they were doing. They explained that my card was missing, and she said to them very condescendingly, "Well, what are you girls going to do about this?" They became very apologetic, explaining that they had never even seen my card or taken it from her - they had charged it to Shawn's card, not mine. Disgusted, she waved them off to their next client, and assured me that I should "be calm, there is no problem." I was perfectly calm, I just wanted my card back. She told us it would be taken care of, and then she proceeded to help every single person who came to the counter while we stood there, waiting. We were there a good ten minutes and would have stood there longer as more and more people arrived had not the phone rang just then - it was another client who had been given my card by the manager by mistake when she turned in her key. Now, mistakes happen, and I don't get angry when they do; I get upset if the mistake is not handled correctly. Instead of asking for the woman's name, or sending one of her staff to the woman to get the card (since I can see why she shouldn't have to stop what she was doing to come turn it in as it was the spa's mistake), she told her to bring it to the Information desk where I could pick it up. She didn't say when to do so, and then sent us down there. Of course, after we waited in the 15-minute line down there, it had not been turned in, so they ended up issuing me a new card. This was much more complicated than it had to be in my opinion, and I didn't appreciate her reprimanding her employees publicly for what turned out to be her mistake. But the saga continues. We checked our Sign and Sail the following day to make sure the other guest had not accidentally charged anything to our account while she had my card. We found 2 charges (from the spa), both of which had been cancelled. There was a third charge from the spa on my NEW card, for $100 the day after our massage! We went back to the spa and spoke to the same condescending manager, who told us the spa employee who had put the charge on my card was not there, and we'd have to come back and deal with it later. She kept telling us to calm down in a very fake-friendly way, when again we were perfectly calm. This time my husband would not be put off, and suggested she do what she could about it right then. After some huffing on her part (and questioning me as to whether or not I was sure I hadn't had my hair cut and colored the day before, like I would forget!) she finally found the erroneous receipt, with my name and account but another woman's signature. The spa employee had entered the account number by hand, entered one digit wrong, and it happened to be charged to me. Again, an easy mistake to make - but getting it corrected while being talked down to was very unpleasant. Despite the fact that we enjoyed our massages, I think we'll avoid the spa in the future, at least while that manager is there! ON-BOARD ACTIVITIES/ENTERTAINMENT: One of my favorite perks of cruising is the ability to do as much or as little as you like on the ship! You can be a couch potato and hang out in your cabin all day or a party animal. We are somewhere in between, but due to the fact that I had a severe back injury during our last cruise, we spent a lot of time in the cabin as I was in too much pain to do much. So I was looking forward to exploring ship life! We attended a dance class, the Game Show, the Great Carnival Quest, the Love, Sex, and Romance Game, and our favorite from the last cruise, the Newlywed and not so Newlywed Game! All of these were a lot of fun - one complaint about the Love, Sex and Romance Game was the entire audience was strong-armed into coming up on stage to participate, when some people just wanted to observe. The pressure was really put on by the cruise director, Jeff Bronson. He was a little fake and cheesy for my taste, only got a couple of really good laughs from me during the week. I thought our director on the Sensation was genuinely funny. However, I came to appreciate Jeff a bit more when I attended the second Game Show, which was run by the assistant director Brent and the social director Karl with a K, who pretty much destroyed any organization the Game was intended to have, by playing the wrong sound clips for the question deliberately, screwing with the score, running around the stage, etc. It was much better handled by Jeff, corny as he may be. But overall, we really enjoyed all these activities. We went to several of the evening shows as well - I really enjoyed the musical production, "Dream Voyage." The performers were really talented - I especially enjoyed their tribute to the men and women of World War II, sentimental that I am! We didn't make it to Shout, maybe next cruise. The magician on Tuesday night was decent as well, he had some really good illusions and musical accompaniment. The "zany" comedian that followed him, Adam Ace, wasn't nearly as entertaining. From what we saw he was pretty much a pro-comic, and enjoyed toilet-papering people. At that point we decided our time would be better spent in the hot tub on Lido deck! I didn't remember them being open so late, but the main ones by the pool out there were open till 11:30, and this became a favorite spot to hang out before the midnight buffet for us. The third show we saw was on the last night, a ventriloquist comedian that we are still getting mileage out of - his ostrich Hanky-Panky was hilarious, and he was followed by the sarcastic comedy of Jim Brick, who got many laughs out of us at our own expense, making fun of cruisers. They were both very funny. As far as the in-room movies goes, there was MUCH more variety than we'd had in 2001. Instead of the same 4 movies running back-to-back, they had 3 different movies each day, each on its own station playing over and over. They got around to the same movies by the fourth day, but in a different mix. There was probably a total of 8-10, and some were pretty new releases, like The Two Towers and Chicago. Definitely an improvement in this department. We really enjoyed all the live music on-board, the jazz band in the Normandie lounge, the reggae band at the pool, and the orchestra in the atrium. We also spent a little time at the sing-alongs with Roberta in the American Bar which was a lot of fun. There was a lot more karaoke than I remembered as well, at least 4 or 5 nights. CUSTOMER SERVICE: Two thumbs down. I'm not referring to the cabin steward, or dining room staff, but in general the dealing with any problems we had. We were aware of the bad reputation of Carnival in this area, but had no problems to be fixed on our last cruise. I wish I could say that was the case this time around. Around noon on Friday we started to notice an annoying, high-pitched squeal in our room. It got louder until it was bang-your-head-on-the-wall piercing. It even drowned out the TV. We called Information and they sent down a security guard to verify the noise. Shawn went to Information while she investigated the noise and I stayed in the room. Shawn called me about ten minutes later to see what was going on, and it was still loud. Then, while we were on the phone it suddenly stopped. At that moment Information got a call from the security guard saying she had "asked someone to stop doing something," and that seemed to correct the problem. Satisfied, we let it go, until it woke us from a sound sleep at 4 in the morning. We went to Information again (at least they were open) who told us we were mistaken, the security guard had done nothing earlier to get it to stop, so the only thing they would do is offer us a new cabin. Well, the prospect of moving all our stuff to another cabin at 4 in the morning where we didn't even have a double bed was not a happy one. So we stuffed cotton in our ears and dealt with it. It was still going on at 11 the next day, so we went to Information again. The most frustrating thing was that they wouldn't even investigate it at all, and it sounded electrical which could have been dangerous. They seemed baffled that giving us a new room didn't satisfy us. I explained we didn't want to move all our stuff, tip another steward to put the beds together, etc., if there was a simple way to make it stop. They wouldn't send engineering, but told us another security guard would be down in 10 minutes. In 35, no one had showed up, so we gave up for awhile and went to the pool. On the Lido deck we saw the security guard who had helped us the night before. She said at the time we heard the noise she found several rooms being vacuumed, and once all the vacuums were off, it went away - so it was an electrical problem. Grateful to finally have an answer we went back to Information to get it fixed since, after all, it had not been happening all week and people had been vacuuming all week! They told us an engineer had investigated it, and it was an engine vibration that had somehow worked its way from the back of the ship and popped out in our room, perhaps due to the increased speed of the ship (due to a medical emergency), and that they were "working on it." I think this was a bunch of crap to shut us up, as it only got worse throughout the day, forcing us out of the cabin. We finally gave up and had the steward make up the bed in our other cabin since we had to pack up the last night anyway, and slept in the other cabin which was in the very front of the ship and right where the waves crashed into the hull, so it had its own problems. Luckily we docked early in Miami (by midnight) and things calmed down enough that we could sleep, but it was still frustrating feeling like no one would listen to you when a simple investigation could have solved the issue. Again, I just want to stress that we weren't bothered that there was a problem - they happen and there is nothing that can be done about it. However, it isn't too much to expect to be taken seriously when trying to have a problem remedied. DISEMBARKATION: Overall, this went pretty smoothly and we did get off the ship in time to start our road-trip, although it was by accident! Following the Carnival representative's advice at embarkation, we went to Information to request an early departure due to having an early flight; they said to come back with the tickets. So that foiled that approach; we went back and talked to a different employee this time, telling the truth - that we had hotel reservations in Tennessee Sunday evening that we would like to get to by 10:30, and we were driving. We were told this did not qualify for early disembarkment; this seemed unfair that people who fly are given preferential treatment. The lady told us this was Custom's policy, not Carnival's, and that Customs would be checking for flight tickets as the early people got off. However, she assured us that after the early people got off the ship, we could get off next no matter which color was called, since they wouldn't be checking luggage tag color (although she was somewhat skeptical that we could make it to Tennessee by 10:30 pm). This was somewhat encouraging, and things worked out even better than that! After breakfast on Sunday we dragged our carry-on to the Atlantic deck and noticed other non-early people waiting on the Empress deck right next to the exit. When there were gaps in the early disembarkers, the impatient customs people waved whoever was standing nearby over to get off the ship. After seeing entire groups of people with regular tags get off, we decided to give it a try. Sure enough, we were waved over to go through security, no one asked for flight information or anything, so we were off at 9:15. The one fly in the ointment here is that when we got to the luggage warehouse, I realized I had left our video camera in the Atrium on the ship! Luckily, it was less complicated getting back on the ship than I would have thought. A warehouse employee had to accompany me, but we were able to walk right on, and thank goodness it was still laying where I had left it on the floor - close shave there. At any rate, we were on the road by 10, and to all the skeptics out there - we were at our hotel by 10:15 that night! : ) SUMMARY: Overall, this was a fantastic vacation. The ports were great, the ship activities/entertainment was great, the massage was wonderful, and wow do I miss my dining staff and cabin steward after doing housework the last two nights! We were a little concerned about Hurricane Fabian, but Carnival did a good job keeping us up-to-date, posting location charts around the ship every six hours. There were two nights that the motion on the ship got pretty bad due to the "swells" the storm caused, but that was the worst of it. We fell in love with the idea of a smoke-free ship, and I don't see myself going on another cruise where smoking is allowed, this gave me so much more comfort and freedom to go where I pleased and do what I wanted. We would sail the Paradise again, but it would be nice if other cruiselines followed suit to offer a smoke-free environment, or if Carnival would create more of these. We would sail Carnival again; the few bad experiences we had were not enough to spoil a lovely, relaxing, romantic week - but I think we'll be a little bit wiser about what we can expect from Carnival in the future. Read Less
Sail Date August 2003
Just returned this am on the paradise. i'd rate an 8 out of 10. in belize, cave-tubing was cancelled after our bus was delayed for an hour by a downed power wire. they also said the water was too high for caving so they took us to the ... Read More
Just returned this am on the paradise. i'd rate an 8 out of 10. in belize, cave-tubing was cancelled after our bus was delayed for an hour by a downed power wire. they also said the water was too high for caving so they took us to the zoo instead. walked in pouring rain for an hour; not very enjoyable even if you're into nature. later, was credited on ship for the cave-tubing excursion but, later that day, charged for a "zoo and city tour." at $45 (six of us) many passengers complained that they were not given the choice to go to the zoo or return to ship. we were all credited and essentially got a free trip to zoo and lunch at cheers. (i would have gladly paid for lunch. it was good.) many were disappointed by the cave-tubing cancellation but we made the best of it. others said the river raft and ruins tour was great. roatan was fantastic. beautiful mountain scenery and we rented a van and female driver at $20 each and she took us everywhere, including the east side of the island, west end village (which was great) and to the beach near cabana where we snorkeled, then back to the ship on a smooth unpaved road that went thru rustic villages. she answered all our questions in great detail in perfect english (her native language). i will e-mail her and ask if she minds if i post her name and e-mail for others. roatan has lots of potential and is still unspoiled. cayman islands was good except the tender drops us and passengers from two other ships in the same cramped spot where we jostled aimlessly in a mob for a half-hour. the stingray city 10am tour had left (?), even tho we were only just dropped off at 10:30. we had to beg a ride on another tour's bus (old school bus, no ac) to the dock and then boarded the boat. stingray city was crowded but very enjoyable. we had a great time. on the school bus back to the tender, the driver sang songs for us and made everyone forget how hot it was. times like that really contribute to everyone's well being. he loved his job. in retrospect, i'd skip the ship tour and just book from some of the many vendors selling stingray tours on the dock. you'll probably be on the boat while everyone else is wandering the dock trying to hook up with the tour. cozumel was, well, cozumel. great snorkeling at chankanab but beware they now charge $10 per person for use of the beach. (you only live once, go for it!) if you like, shop 'till you drop! (not for me!) all-in-all, a good time to some exotic ports. the food was very good (not quite fantastic) and the service was excellent. only complaints is the first day was b-o-r-i-n-g with little planned activities and, as usual, carnival is always peddling you something at every turn and in every nook and cranny in the boat. further, port talks center around shopping, shopping, shopping, with no history or local culture info offered. enjoy this unique itinerary. please don't miss the chance to see all of roatan, not just the beach. this was the hi-lite of our trip. Read Less
Sail Date July 2003
This was our 8th cruise; 7th with Carnival, and the 2nd for our two children, 5 and 7. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale 2 days prior and stayed in Miami to enjoy the sights. We reserved our hotel through Expedia.com and stayed at the Dupont ... Read More
This was our 8th cruise; 7th with Carnival, and the 2nd for our two children, 5 and 7. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale 2 days prior and stayed in Miami to enjoy the sights. We reserved our hotel through Expedia.com and stayed at the Dupont Plaza Hotel. It is located on Biscayne Blvd. Way. It's approximately ½ mile from Bayside. Although the hotel was rated 3 stars, it didn't really turn out to be all that was promised. It's a very old hotel that's in desperate need of renovation. It also has a large number of long term residents (most who work on various boats/ships which sail from the Port of Miami). Overall, the hotel was spotless, so it turned out to be suitable for the $65.00 per night price we paid. EMBARKATION We were lucky enough to upgrade to a Category 12 Suite at the last minute for a nominal price increase. This allowed us to utilize the Skipper's Club (which we had used in the past). We proceeded to a private room and were able to sit at the desk while we checked in. Unfortunately, due to Sept. 11, you no longer are escorted directly to your suite. You must proceed to the waiting area, obtain your Sign & Sail cards and wait with the masses. Overall, the wait for boarding was approximately 1hour. Not bad, considering. THE SHIP Our first impression was "wow". It's the first Carnival ship that had virtually no neon lights or loud, bold colors. The tones are on the neutral side with copper, rather than brass accents. Very pleasing to the eye. Although I'm a recently reformed smoker, I immediately noticed the absence of smoke and that the overall condition of the ship was superior to newer ships we have been on. The layout is exactly the same as the other Fantasy class ships. Very easy to get around and find what you're looking for. We did notice, however, that the main pool located midship is MUCH smaller than on the other Fantasy class ships. There is a large bandstand area, that takes up a lot of space in the pool area. We spent most of our pool time either at the children's pool or aft on the top deck. THE CROWD Overall, we found many families with small children (it was the week AFTER Easter vacation) and couples ranging from mid thirties to mid sixties. The overall atmosphere of the cruise was less noisy and rowdy than other cruises we've been on. The night life was also rather subdued. We enjoyed that aspect very much. I opted to purchase a tuxedo as we plan on cruising again and again. My wife wore gowns as did my 7 year old daughter. We purchased a double breasted suit for our 5 year old son. All of these items were purchased at local department stores for significantly less money than casual clothes (suit, dresses) would have been. Shop several months before and the deals will come. CAMP CARNIVAL My wife and I cannot say enough about Camp Carnival. Our children made some great friends right away and many times we had to tell them they couldn't spend all day and all night there. We did utilize the babysitting/slumber party service on 4 of the nights. We picked up the children by midnight and put them right to bed. We usually send them in their sleepwear, which makes it much easier to put them to bed once you're back in the cabin. CABIN/SUITE On the Fantasy class ships, the only way to have a balcony is to book a Category 11 or 12 suite, unfortunately. Our suite was quite large. It had a sitting area with large, sectional sofa and 2 chairs, sleeping area, large vanity/desk area, tv/vcr/bar area with refrigerator, walk in closet and a pretty decent sized bathroom with whirlpool tub. The kids used the whirlpool tub almost every night! The balcony was a decent size also, allowing room for all 4 of us to be out there without feeling cramped. We do feel that Carnival should provide some "extras" to passengers in the suites. We didn't even get a deck or cards or keychains like we did on previous cruises. Just a suggestion. SERVICE The service was some of the best we have ever had. The room steward worked very hard during the week and did an excellent job. With 2 small children, we had brought a lot of toys/books/games and they were always kept organized. The dining room staff in the Elation Dining Room were prompt and attentive. I did notice, however, that they didn't remember likes/dislikes as much as they used to. That did NOT affect our overall experience. It's just an observation. ENTERTAINMENT This is the only area we thought could use some improvement. The first production, called Dream Voyage was probably the worst we've seen at sea to date. Many people left in the middle. It was very drab and lifeless. The second show, Shout, was much better, however, still not up to par with previous shows we've seen. Usually our children love the ornate costumes and sets. The show lacked those items but overall, it was an enjoyable show with top 40 hits spanning the 50's through the 90's. The Talent Show is always enjoyable but there were more "real" people who participated. Usually, there are several who would qualify as the next American Idol. There were no professional singers in this show. Jeff Bronson was our cruise director, filling in for Troy Linton who was off for a few weeks. Jeff did a good job. He was very friendly and approachable. The jokes were old, but after several cruises, you tend to hear them over and over again. FOOD The food was much better than our cruise last year on the Sensation. The beef on this trip was cooked perfectly and was delicious. The Filet Mignon, Sirloin and Chateaubriand could be cut with a spoon. The lobster was a bit chewy, but we're used to Maine Lobsters and when you're cooking for 2,000, not everything will be perfect. The desserts were pretty good. Our all time favorite is still Decadence of Chocolate. The food in the Paris Restaurant on the Lido Deck is standard cruise fare. The pizza, as always, is very good. The kids loved the salad bar and the ice cream. They also had a sandwich station with tuna, corned beef and other cold cuts. Very nice for a change. PORTS OF CALL Nassau: The shopping in Nassau is decent and the islanders for the most part, are just trying to earn a living. When you say no, they pretty much back off. We took the Blue Lagoon excursion through the ship. It's beautiful! We spent the day swimming and just relaxing. The kids loved it! You can also take part in the Dolphin Encounter (for more money) if you wish. There is a snack bar and restrooms. A must, for families! St. Thomas: What can I say? One of our favorite ports. Having been there 2 other times, we chose to take the Red Hook Ferry over to St. John. The ship's excursions were very expensive and didn't give enough beach time. It cost about $90.00 total, roundtrip, for taxis/ferry to St. John. $3.00 pp for admission. For 2 adults and 2 children, that was a bargain! The ship was charging nearly $60 pp for the same trip. St. John is perhaps one of the most beautiful beaches we've ever seen. There were 5 ships in port that day. That means approximately 12,000 passengers, yet there were only about 150 people at St. John. I guess Aegean's Bay had the rest!! Casa De Campo: This is one of Carnival's newest stops, and you can tell. We opted for the Catalina Island Excursion. We had heard that the islanders were very pushy and not used to cruise passengers. The Paradise only stops there alternate weeks, so they've got to make their money when the ship docks. I don't believe any other ships stop there yet. The ferry ride over was EXTREMELY rough. Several passengers got seasick. Take your Dramamine! The island was crowded but very nice. The surf is very rough and the undertow, at times, a bit unsettling. We had to hold on to the kids the entire time. We still had a great time. There are restrooms, snack bar and some gift "shacks". They will try to charge you outrageous money for junk. Be prepared to bargain! Overall, we had a fantastic time. I highly recommend the Paradise as well as Carnival overall. With small children, Carnival's programs can't be beat! I also think that there isn't a better bang for your buck. Royal Caribbean was almost twice the price. I'd rather take 2 cruises! Norwegian was comparable in price, but I've heard some negatives about the kids' programs. Feel free to email me at born2crooz@aol.com and reference the Paradise in the comment section (so I don't think it's junk mail). Read Less
Sail Date April 2003
Carnival Paradise Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 3.9
Dining 4.0 3.7
Entertainment 4.5 3.7
Public Rooms 3.5 3.9
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.5 3.8
Enrichment 4.0 3.3
Service 4.5 4.2
Value For Money 4.0 3.8
Rates 3.0 4.2

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