Paradise passengers have two options for dinner in the main dining rooms. They can opt for traditional, set seating (6:15 and 8 p.m.) or go with the flow via Carnival's "Your Choice Dining" program. With the flexible option, passengers can have dinner in the main dining room anytime they like between 6 and 9:45 p.m. (times may vary). Dining assignments -- which you select before the cruise -- are made on a first come, first served basis, so if you have your heart set on one or the other, consider booking earlier rather than later.
The two dining rooms, Destiny and Elation, are located on Deck 8, but while Elation is easily accessible from the main atrium, Destiny can only be reached by the aft elevator or stairs from Deck 9. The dining rooms have low ceilings and are partitioned into sections with both round and rectangular tables and banquettes.
A short cruise still offers the same dining traditions as any longer cruise, with a Captain's Gala formal night dinner (complete with lobster tails) on the second night, an excellent wine selection, a well-rounded menu each night, and wonderful entertainment by cheerful waitstaff who stop service for a few minutes each evening to make people smile, sing, dance and laugh.
The menu selections were excellent each evening, with a fresh fish option, beef, chicken and a specialty of lamb or pork. The breads and rolls were warmed, salads creative, and desserts -- usually the weakest part of any shipboard meal -- were excellent as well. The food was appropriately spiced and arrived quickly. We particularly loved the cream of pumpkin soup and the mixed lamb dish, a deliciously spicy mix of stewed shank and grilled loin with vegetables. Spa Carnival (featuring lower-calorie, lower-fat options) and vegetarian items are always on the menu. In addition, diners can pay an extra $18 for "Steakhouse Selections" -- featuring premium seafood and USDA prime beef -- including filet mignon, prime rib, Maine lobster tail, and surf and turf. As Paradise does not have a full-fledged alternative, for-fee restaurant onboard, these selections are passengers' opportunity to order a fancier dinner.
The Paris Cafe on the Lido Deck is one of the prettiest of this type of cafeteria-style restaurant at sea, and the way the stations are broken up makes for few lines and few bottlenecks. Lines flow well, and the fare, typical buffet food, is nonetheless quite good, whether it's omelets for breakfast or roast pork loin and fresh pasta for lunch. At night it is transformed into the Seaview Bistro, a more upscale version of the same cafeteria-style service, but with menu items from the main restaurants, presented to those who prefer to dine casually.
We did have to wait for service on one day; no one was behind the counter at a busy lunchtime for quite some time while the line backed up and guests began to grumble, but once served, the meal was excellent. The salad bar (with a good selection of veggies, beans and premade salads)and dessert area are located in a circular station in the middle of the room, away from the hot food counters, which allows people to pick through the little tomatoes and cucumber slices without causing a backup for hot meals. A made-to-order panini station is nearby.
Just outside the Paris Café is another serving counter, offering grilled items (including premade hot dogs and chicken fingers), a small selection of salads and desserts, and a made-to-order Mongolian stir-fry station that was very popular.
Carnival's light-as-air, bubbly-hot pizza is served at the back of the Paris Restaurant, 24 hours a day, with freshly made Caesar salad. If the pizza that is pre-sliced looks like it is a bit old, ask for a fresh one. It takes about five minutes and is worth the wait. The server behind the counter will happily oblige.
For a real treat, choose to sit outside on the covered aft deck right behind the pizza bar. There are two of these promontories, one on each side of the ship, overlooking the Serenity deck. They are little known and little used and offer a haven of privacy overlooking the stern wake.
Carnival offers late-night buffets every night for those midnight munchies, held in the Paris Cafe. One of the nights is the Grand Gala Buffet, a beautiful display of culinary craft with exquisite chocolate confections, fruit and vegetable carvings, and ice sculptures. Another night had crepes and sundaes as the late-night offerings, along with hot and cold savory items.
One of the nicest little bonuses on this ship is the sushi stand, open every evening from 5:30 until 8 p.m. It's small, with only one server, and the line forms early and lasts quite awhile. The offerings are fairly standard tekka maki (tuna roll), California roll and spicy tuna hand rolls. They are served fresh with ginger, wasabi and shoyu, and the little stand was a huge hit with everyone who tried it.
The Ile de France Cafe, located on Carnival Boulevard, offers great specialty coffees for an a la carte charge, along with cookies and chocolate confections (dipped strawberries and milkshakes). Also available on all of Carnival's ships is the Chef's Table dining experience, which affords a dozen passengers a multicourse dinner with a master chef, a private cocktail reception, and a tour of the galley and its operations. This dining option usually takes place in a nontraditional venue, such as the galley or library, and it can be booked onboard at the information desk for a per-person cost of $75.
Room service is streamlined and efficient, with excellent continental breakfasts (including smoked salmon and bagels) and cold items for the rest of the day. Carnival's room service menu is standardized fleetwide, so our favorites were on it, including the usually wonderful roast beef and brie on a baguette sandwich. Why someone in Paradise's kitchen would choose to slather half a jar of yellow mustard on it is beyond us, but otherwise the 24-hour service is a great luxury.
Suite guests are entitled to an expanded room service menu that includes a choice of hot breakfast items and dishes from dining room offerings.