When Paradise was built, the trend in the cruise industry was to put theaters, like the Normandie, above the water line and use blackout curtains to keep it dark. It is a beautiful space with Art Deco-styled geometric designs, a gold ceiling and orange and purple carpeting -- not to mention some of the most comfortable theater seats we've encountered with individual drink trays attached. (Carnival knows their audience.) The theater is two stories with a bar and cocktail waiters, plus a handful of half-circle booths with colorful glass mosaic cocktail tables.
The enormous stage hosts imaginative shows in the evening with a talented cast. We found that each evening they seemed to get better, but "80s Pop" and "Amor Cubano," (a Cuban-themed musical) were our favorites. There are two show times each evening, corresponding with the early and late dining times, and shows were well attended. Fun fact: After the late show on the first night the cruise director leads a parade of passengers to the bars on the promenade, with brief singing and line-dancing stops at the Atrium Bar to keep things moving. It works: The promenade deck stays busy late into the night and sets the tone for the cruise.
* May require additional fees
During the day, the theater hosts bingo, shopping seminars, the "Love and Marriage" show (which tests how well audience members know their spouses), general cruise informational sessions and lectures. The cruise also hosts one "HASBRO, the Game Show" event in the theater, a life-sized version of favorite board games.
There is always something going on aboard Carnival Paradise, with many passengers getting in the spirit and participating in activities. In the morning, there are exercise classes like yoga, stretching and abs to get the day started, followed by educational classes; on our cruise, these consisted of learning about herbal remedies, Cuban culture and basic Spanish lessons. Cuban-related classes, including the Spanish lessons are only offered on sailings that stop in Havana. A Cuba Q&A is also typically offered on the first sea day of sailings that call there; there was so much vital information included we almost feel it should be mandatory.
The bars and lounges host interactive board games plus plenty of trivia ranging from Harry Potter to Elvis -- complete with giant, colorful "pie" slices from the Trivial Pursuit game -- plus versions of Yahtzee, Scattergories and Cranium.
Other afternoon activities include a Champagne art auction (a cruising tradition), casino tournaments and fitness, spa and shopping seminars. Dance classes like Zumba and salsa get passengers moving, and live music on the Lido Deck stage keeps the atmosphere lively for pool-goers. The Lido stage is also home to ice sculpture carving and the "hairy chest competition" -- two traditional activities on any Carnival sailing.
In addition to the theater shows, cruisers can head over to the Queen Mary Lounge (a secondary theater), for both PG-rated and adult-only comedy shows.
The Majestic Casino is another happening place, and has about 15 table games like roulette, "Let it Ride" poker and blackjack as well as approximately 80 slot machines and cash-grab machines. The casino is the center point of the ship and was fairly crowded on sea days and in the evenings. Be aware that smoking is allowed at select machines and tables in the casino.
The majority of the entertainment is on the indoor Promenade Deck, but on our sailing the Paradise crew did host a special "Havana Nights" outdoor deck party one evening with the theater performers, line dancing and Latin dance music. (Sailings that do not go to Cuba offer a different themed deck party.) Paradise did not offer movies under the stars or other themed events (although longer cruises do have more than one deck party).
Carnival does a great job of keeping the party atmosphere going and the extensive Cheers extra-fee drink package helps this along. A large variety of tropical cocktails are available like classic margaritas and mojitos, as well as a daily special for discounts on drinks like berry and vodka cocktails and variations of rum punch. As the pulsing entertainment hub, Deck 9 is packed with people (and an abundance of photographers) but even when the bars were empty, drink service was slow. The RedFrog Rum Bar and the BlueIguana Tequila Bar were added during a 2018 refurb, now providing lido deck libations.
Atrium Bar (Deck 7): Located in front of the shore excursions and guest relations desks, the Atrium Bar rests on the lower level of the lovely six-story, glass-domed atrium. The horseshoe-shaped bar is rarely empty, but calmer and more sophisticated than some of the others on the Promenade, making it perfect for a glass of wine and conversation.
America Piano Bar (Deck 8): The theme here is obvious with red, white and blue stained-glass walls, starry carpeting and oversized porthole "windows" with bronze sculptures of iconic American images like the Old West and the swamps of Florida. The central piano is enclosed by seats so guests can sit around and sip on musically named drinks and throw their song requests into the jar for the piano player. This was one bar that wasn't as crowded.
United States Bar (Deck 9): Not to be confused with the America Piano Bar, the United States Bar is almost always a happening place, sandwiched in the Promenade hallway of Deck 9, just behind the casino. Guests often face the barstools outward to watch a live band, dance competitions or karaoke on the small hallway stage area. It's also one of the few places indoors on Carnival Paradise where you can smoke (at the very end of the bar).
Leonardo Lounge (Deck 9): A hub for live Latin music, the lounge is also where salsa dance lessons are held. The walls have copper- and bronze-colored murals of Greek mythology, and there's a decent-sized stage and dance floor to keep things lively.
Rex Nightclub (Deck 9): Just a few steps from the Leonardo Lounge, the decor in this club feels straight out of the 90s -- but it works. Cheetah prints and stripes cover every inch of the club, and there is plenty of seating if you need a break from dancing. The entire rear area of the club (almost separate from the action) is a large lounge area full of cocktail tables, although few people used it. The club was always popular with a range of modern hits and theme nights (70s, 80s, etc.).
Queen Mary Lounge (Deck 9): Spanning the entire width of the ship, the Queen Mary Lounge is home to Carnival's Punchliner comedy shows, movie nights and karaoke; as well as a few daytime activities like seminars and Build-a-Bear workshops. We caught all the comedy shows, and although they were enjoyable, the comedians were average.
The lounge has a sophisticated feel, with seating that caters to larger groups with comfortable, circular booths as well as a handful of smaller, two-person bench seats. The bar here is massive and stretches across the rear of the room, so passengers can also take in the shows from a barstool.
Rotterdam Martini Bar (Deck 9): In keeping with the classic ship names, the Rotterdam Martini Bar is just outside the Queen Mary Lounge, and is perfect for a drink (particularly specialty vodka martinis) before a show. This bar was far less crowded than some of the others. A stairwell leads down to the Destiny dining room, and cocktail tables are situated in front of the windows.
Paris Bar (Deck 10): This bar is located in the back of the Paris Restaurant, and serves the buffet crowd. It's also the closest bar to the adults-only Serenity sun deck -- just one deck up.
RedFrog Rum Bar (Deck 10): If a pina colada is calling your name, make a beeline for the Rum Bar, where all your tropical favorites -- blended or straight up -- are made with your choice of rum. A midday fruity cocktail is an easy whim to appease, with RedFrog's prime location right off the pool. Carnival's RedFrog ale is also available on tap.
BlueIguana Tequila Bar (Deck 10): Also on the pool deck is a bar for those looking to down a shot of tequila or two on their cruise. Flights are available in addition to a variety of refreshing frozen margaritas.
Pour Your Own Beer Station (Deck 10): This digital machine lets guests swipe their card and pour a pint of icy-cold Miller Light beer -- without having to wait for a bartender. Oddly, the machines turn off at 9:30 p.m. The stations are located within the Paris Restaurant.
Carnival Paradise has just one main pool on its Lido Deck, which is the gathering place for most cruisers on sea days. The music is constant, and there are plenty of lounge chairs (including on the deck directly above it) and towel rental stations. There are also some tables and chairs that are out of direct sunlight, and two small and crowded whirlpools. In a 2018 refurbishment, the Deck 11 aft pool was replaced with Carnival's signature Waterworks water park, featuring splash areas and water slides. This lesser-crowded area has no break from the sun, but has great views off the back of the ship.
Carnival Waterworks offers a number of water slides and as well as a splash area to enjoy, but most are geared toward children. The mini-racers are two small, side-by-side slides for kids 3 feet and taller. Two regular-sized racing slides are just above them, in green and orange. To the left is the bendy yellow Twister slide.
Paradise also has a nine-hole mini-golf course on Deck 14 (just above the spa and fitness area) in jazzy, bright colors and affording great views over the Lido Deck and over the sides of the ship. Nearby is one lonely basketball hoop and a couple of shuffleboard courts that didn't get much use. Next to the main pool is a giant chessboard, cornhole (beanbag toss) and table tennis, which were all popular.
On either side of the funnel at the back of the ship is a small, lesser-known sun deck (Deck 11) with reclining deck chairs that also sees partial shade, depending on what side you're on.
Hidden behind the Queen Mary Lounge (also accessible through the rear stairs of the Paris Restaurant) is the free-access, adults-only Serenity Deck on Deck 9 that's designed as a quiet reprieve. This deck has two additional whirlpools and a handful of cushioned lounge chairs with umbrellas, but not nearly enough shade. It's rather sterile and could use some cabanas, fountains or other decor that would add a sense of relaxation.
Although Carnival Paradise does not have a full promenade, the front of the ship on Deck 10 offers a covered partial promenade walk that is a peaceful retreat away from the music and commotion of the neighboring pool area. However, the only furniture is a handful of storage benches.
The atrium on Deck 7 is home to the main service desks: guest services -- where there was always a line (Diamond and Platinum members have their own counter) -- and shore excursions. This area also has kiosks to check your account balance, and an ATM that charges a hefty $6 fee. When sailing to Cuba, money exchanges are done in the terminal in Havana.
One of the areas that really shines -- (literally, the wood furnishings are glossy) -- is the library. This gorgeous space is a throwback to the golden age of cruise travel, with memorabilia from famous cruise liners and other nautical decor. There are plenty of books and board games for guest use.
Pixels photo gallery is massive. It takes up both sides of the atrium area on Deck 9, and there are a variety of souvenir frame choices. The gallery features touch-screen kiosks for viewing and selecting photos for printing. (This also can be done on your phone using the free Carnival Hub app.) The ship's art gallery is located in a narrow hall behind guest services on Deck 7.
Self-service launderettes can be found on Deck 7 (forward) and Deck 6 (aft). Laundry is $3 to wash and $3 to dry. The machines do not take "Sail and Sign cards," and the only place that we found change (besides waiting in line at guest services) was the quarter machine in the casino. Extra-fee laundry and dry cleaning service is also available; you'll find an itemized price sheet in your cabin.
There is a computer area with internet just off the atrium on Deck 7, as well as two additional computers next to Cafe lle de France on Deck 9. Both are out in the open hallway, so don't expect quiet computing. Wi-Fi packages start at $5 per day for a basic package (which provides access to social media). In order to have full access to websites and to stream videos, the cost is about $25 per day. We found the internet on this ship to be painfully slow -- more so than we've experienced on other cruise ships. A conference room is located in the rear of the Destiny dining room.
On Deck 9, you'll find a small future cruise desk and a shopping desk with advice for what to buy in port (mostly aimed at selling jewelry). There's also an "everything for $10" store stocked with watches, purses and jewelry, along with a Guess Boutique selling branded items. Passengers can also order cakes and other special occasion items from the Special Occasions Shop adjacent to the casino. Additional outlets called the Fun Shops are located near the lower level of the Normandie Theater (Deck 8) with beach gear, clothing, perfumes and other souvenirs.
One service that we were impressed with was the Carnival Hub app that's free to download on your phone. The incredibly useful app can be used offline, and shows what's happening and when -- even before you receive the activity schedule in the cabin. It lets passengers "favorite" activities so they'll get a reminder as the time approaches, and they can even view dining room menus in advance.
Spa Carnival is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and has two saunas and two steam rooms that are free for passengers, in addition to 12 treatment rooms and a hair and nail salon. Lockers are available for securing items, as are showers and spa towels. The relaxation room is essentially a waiting room -- there's no lounge chairs to recline or any reason to hang around after your treatment. Kids ages 12 to 16 are allowed in the spa when accompanied by an adult, and mother/daughter or father/son massages are available as well.
We found the spa prices onboard to be more than they were during the online booking. For example, a 50-minute Ionithermie treatment was $159 at the spa (or $139 with the port day discount), but the advance booking price was $127. A 75-minute bamboo massage was priced at $199 at the spa, while the advanced online booking price was about $30 less. While some of the special combination packages that are offered for purchase only onboard are a good deal, if you have your heart set on a specific treatment, you'd be better off booking it in advance as the spa does book up quickly.
Massage treatments in the spa include classic Swedish, couples' massages, bamboo and hot stones. There are also more unusual treatments like acupuncture, seaweed massages and Thai herbal poultice. A handful of medi-spa options are offered such as Botox and dermal-filler treatments. The salon has teeth whitening, waxing, haircuts and styling (for men and women), manicures and pedicures, and makeover packages.
The fitness center is located at the front of the ship and is accessed through the spa locker rooms; it offers plenty of machines facing the windows for a workout with a view. It's a decent-sized facility, and every time we visited there was no wait for machines or weights -- in fact, it was fairly empty. Some of the cardio machines lacked a space to set a water bottle, so you might have to put yours on the floor. A separate room is reserved for fitness classes; some classes like abs and stretching are free, others like yoga, Pilates and cycling cost $12 per class, while body sculpting is $35.
The gym is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., but there's a small jogging track (eight times around is 1 mile) located around the mini-golf course at the front of the ship that's accessible any time.
Carnival Paradise attracts a number of families, and its "Seuss at Sea" program with costumed characters and themed-events is a big hit with kids. There are three distinct activity clubs for kids, tweens and teens with age-appropriate activities. Paradise does not have family-specific accommodations, but there are cabins with adjoining rooms.
Carnival Paradise has strollers available for rent, and high chairs are readily available in dining areas. Kids must be a minimum of 6 months old to sail and have to be potty-trained in order to use the pool or splash area. Swim diapers are not allowed.
Carnival does not offer in-cabin babysitting but it does have the extra-fee Night Owls program, which starts at 10 p.m. each night, with pajama parties and other activities that continue until 1 a.m. Kids from less than 2 years of age to 11-years-old can participate in the Night Owls program, but a $6.75 per hour, per child charge applies (plus 15 percent gratuity).
Located on Deck 12, Camp Carnival is the main kids' fun zone, where activities are broken up into three age groups: 2 to 5; 6 to 8; and 9 to 11. (Kids can sign themselves into and out of the club starting at 9-years-old.) Activities include arts and crafts, science and discovery, and evening movies (for younger ones) plus lip-sync battles, pirate-themed nights, scavenger hunts and magic (for the older kids). Not to mention, there's the "Seuss a Palooza" parade that kicks off during the sail-away party (an adult must be present), where kids can join Dr. Seuss characters as Paradise sets sail.
Camp Carnival is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the exception of embarkation/debarkation days when hours are reduced, but it breaks for an hour for an optional kid's dinner at the buffet with items like chicken nuggets, mac 'n' cheese or hot dogs. Lunch is only provided on port days.
The Circle C club is for kids ages 12 to 14 (Deck 8) and has similar programs as the older teen's Club O2 (some events are combined). Arts and crafts, magic shows, Ping-Pong tournaments and karaoke are a few of the things to do at the club, plus kids often group together to go see shows in the main theater.
Club O2 (Deck 9) is designated for kids ages 15 to 17 and is a social hangout with planned activities ranging from shipwide "selfie" scavenger hunts and hide-and-go-seek to late night movies and dance parties.
A video arcade can also be found on Deck 9 with eight "win a prize" crane games, air hockey, boxing and car racing games, and even a "Walking Dead" video game.
There are also dedicated treatments at the spa for teens, including "fruity" facials (to help with acne), massages and ice cream manicures and pedicures.