The main dining rooms have two options for dinner: the flexible Your Time Dining, from 5:45 until 9:30 p.m. in Elation dining room, or a set time each evening (6 or 8:15 p.m.) in Destiny. Cruisers who select the set times are seated with the same tablemates and waiters at the same table each evening. Your Time Dining allows for more flexibility but you'll have different tablemates and waiters, and may have to wait until a table is available.
With the exception of the sea day brunch in the Elation dining room, the only true lunch option is at the Paris Restaurant (buffet) on the Lido deck.
Destiny and Elation Restaurants (Deck 8): Both of Carnival Paradise's main dining rooms have low ceilings and a mix of booths and tables, with simple decor and a handful of massive oval mirrors and maroon light fixtures. Destiny is reserved for set seating dining, while Elation is where Your Time diners go for dinner.
Trying to get to the Destiny Restaurant was a challenge in itself because the galley is situated between the two main dining rooms, thus blocking the flow of traffic. The restaurant has a center stairwell that leads to the Rotterdam Martini Bar, so cruisers can grab a drink before -- or after -- dinner before descending to the Destiny Restaurant. Both dining rooms are only one floor, so you don't have that elegant, grand feeling with high ceilings as you sometimes find on other ships. Decor is limited to lighting fixtures that unintentionally look like small spaceships, and orange string lights that blink during the crew's fun musical performances (on formal night and the final night).
On port days, Destiny offers open-seating breakfast from 7 to 9 a.m., with items like cereal, omelets, yogurt, pancakes and French toast on the menu. It's a great alternative to the crowded buffet, especially if you enjoy a sit-down breakfast with waiter service.
On sea days, breakfast is replaced by the sea day brunch and is moved to the Elation dining room. Offered from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., it consists of mostly breakfast items like steak and eggs, huevos rancheros and omelets with a handful of lunch options like Caesar salad, grilled pork chops and tomato soup.
We found dinner in the dining room to be significantly better than in the buffet, and it is also much easier for vegetarians, vegans and those with food allergies to have requests accommodated. Dinner menus vary each night, with well-known appetizers like shrimp cocktail and chicken quesadillas, as well as more exotic choices like chilled Vietnamese spring rolls or tiger shrimp creole. There are also side salads and soup du jour (including some unique choices like lychee bisque with lemongrass). With Carnival, you can order as many appetizers and entrees as you like, so don’t be shy if there’s more than one you’d like to try. Carnival also offers a "rare finds" section, where guests can sample more unusual items (like frog legs).
Entrees range from honey-glazed pork loin and braised beef brisket, to sweet and sour shrimp or vegetable lasagna. A selection of grilled items like salmon or chicken and an array of sauces are on the menu as well. Plus, passengers can always order side dishes like ratatouille, broccoli, mac and cheese or baked potatoes with the fixings.
Some of the excellent dessert options include Carnival’s fantastic melting chocolate cake, cheesecake with fruit toppings, varying flavors of creme brule and tiramisu, plus a selection of ice creams and a cheese plate that is always available. After dinner cocktails and specialty coffees can be purchased.
On Cruise Elegant nights, the main dining room menu switches to American Feast. The "feast" is a lively celebration during which time the captain and crew are introduced. On this night, there is a dedicated one-page menu with appetizers like lobster bisque, a pasta selection, high-end entrees like filet mignon and a creative dessert of sticky toffee brioche with coconut lime and strawberries.
Also on the menu are steakhouse selections, which include lobster, filet mignon and New York strip steak, of which each carry a $20 surcharge.
Paris Restaurant (Deck 10): This is Carnival's main buffet, which has two outside stations and four main stations inside. During lunch on sea days, it can get crowded but there are often a few under-the-radar seats outside the rear of the buffet that have great views. The salad bar is located in the center of the dining room next to the deli, and has a good variety of options for making your own salad as well as a changing cold salad choice (ratatouille, zucchini and other chilled vegetables). The dessert area has a variety of cakes and desserts, as well as two self-serve ice cream machines with vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The chocolate cakes were rich, tiramisu was flavorful and not soggy, and parfaits and other desserts also exceeded expectations.
Beverages include coffee, tea and juice machines, as well as filtered water that tasted crisp and fresh.
Breakfast has classic American favorites like oatmeal, eggs, grits, pastries, sausages, bacon and fresh fruit as well as baked beans and a make-your-own omelet station. Lunch tended to have hearty options like fish with sauces, cheese vegetables and pastas and was similar to the dinner selections, although dinner at the buffet included some specialty items that were also found on the dining room menus, like chicken Florentine or blue crab ravioli.
Although Carnival bills the Mongolian Wok, Carnival Deli, Off the Grill, Pizza Pirate and Comfort Kitchen as separate restaurants, they are essentially different stations at the buffet.
Off the Grill: This is the main section of the buffet and has a changing themed menu like Italian favorites, Latin options or American fare. We found that oftentimes some of the dinner options at the buffet were also offered in the dining rooms. The lines (especially at breakfast and lunch) are long at the grill, and finding vegetarian/vegan options that are clearly labeled isn't easy.
Carnival Deli: Attached to the salad bar, the chef at the deli prepares Reubens, corned beef, turkey sandwiches and other favorites that can be pressed on the grill. There was usually a short wait for the deli.
Pizza Pirate: Rarely was there no line for the pizza area, which was a cut above what we've had on other ships. It's also the only dedicated food venue that is open 24 hours. Pizza options include Margarita, mushroom, four cheese, pepperoni and prosciutto; gluten-free pies are available by request.
Mongolian Wok: Create your own Asian noodle dish by choosing the meat, veggies and sauce you want and then watch the chef prepare it for you. This was a popular option just outside of the Paris Restaurant, but the line always moved quickly. While others seemed to enjoy the dishes, we found them to be salty.
Comfort Kitchen: Adjacent to the Mongolian Wok, this poolside buffet station offers burgers, hot dogs, french fries, mac and cheese and other comfort foods, but the items were the same each day. Like the wok, the line moved quickly. When the ship enters dry dock, this venue will be replaced by Guy's Burger Joint.
The Taste Bar (Deck 9): On select days (refer to the Fun Times daily program), the Taste Bar offers tapas-sized bites of specialty restaurant items. It is a small counter behind the Pixels photo area that resembles a grocery store's free sample stand. We were hoping for a flight of food bites, but the Taste Bar only provided one choice. Samples can be enjoyed on the neighboring leather love seats that span the length of the indoor promenade. It's a great space for people-watching or soaking in ocean views out the windows.
Room Service: Free room service options include breakfast and all-day items. Basic continental breakfast choices are yogurts, pastries (a gluten-free bread option is available), fruits, cereal, coffee and orange juice (not freshly squeezed). We placed the form with our selections on the door knob the night before and it arrived exactly on time. The all-day options are a variety of deli sandwiches with chips, pretzels or potato salad (which we found bland), salads and a vegetable platter with blue cheese dressing. We ordered room service twice and it took about 30 to 45 minutes each time.
Chef's Table (various locations); $75: For a change of pace from the dining room or the buffet, the once-per-cruise Chef's Table is a great option. The multicourse dinner is hosted by the chef and includes a behind-the-scenes galley tour and cocktail reception. It can be reserved online or onboard.
Cafe lle de France (Deck 9); a la carte: Although the buffet has plenty of American coffee, Cafe Ile de France serves up Italian espressos, lattes, frozen coffees and even "spiked" coffees (although no Cuban coffee) at prices that range from $2 to $6 The shop also has a small variety of pastries and sweets. Shop hours vary, but it is open surprisingly late (until midnight most nights).
Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast (Destiny Restaurant, Deck 8); $5: On one morning during the cruise, Destiny hosts a special "Green Eggs and Ham" breakfast with costumed characters from Dr. Seuss' books. Yes, the eggs are green, but there are other options on the menu like French toast and pancakes. The characters perform a dance number that kids love and pose for photos with anyone who wants.
Room Service: Additional items like chicken tenders, quesadillas, fried shrimp and Philly cheesesteaks can be ordered for around $5 to $7.