Age: 31 - 40
Number of Cruises: 6 to 10
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Paradise
Sailing Date: May 14th, 2000
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
My wife and I recently returned from our 6th/7th cruise where we had a terrific time aboard Carnival PARADISE on the Eastern Caribbean itinerary (May 14, 2000). Our previous cruises included MARDI GRAS, FESTIVALE, QE2, DESTINY and NORWEGIAN SEA. This review may run a little long, but we found lots of useful information from other reviews, so perhaps we can provide similar assistance.
When we were planning this cruise, in addition to the PARADISE we considered NCL (Norway), RCCL (Enchantment and Grandeur of the Seas) as well as one of the COSTA ships. We spent considerable time reading Internet reviews by past passengers on all of those ships. We found the comments on NORWAY and COSTA to be very inconsistent with reviews ranging from ‘loved it’ to ‘never again’, so we discarded those options. In the end we selected PARADISE based on the following reasons: the reviews were almost universally highly enthusiastic (notwithstanding the Millenium cruise), the ship is relatively new, the itinerary is good (notwithstanding San Juan), cabin space is generous, and the ship is non-smoking.
We booked our air flights through Carnival and paid the extra deviation fee to get a direct flight from Toronto to Miami at a decent hour. In the end our Air Canada flight home from Miami was re-scheduled from 12:30 to 2:30 but this was due to a merger between airlines. Unfortunately we booked our cruise just after a seat sale had ended so there wasn’t a huge savings to do the air on our own, and with Carnival we had the transfers thrown in so we went with them. Next time we’ll do air on our own.
We flew into Miami on the day prior to the cruise. We did this for a number of reasons – less worries in case of flight/luggage disruptions, opportunity to enjoy Miami, and a more leisurely day boarding the ship (vs. early wake-up and rushing through airports/transfers). We had no problem with our flight, but some others we met on our plane had been re-scheduled that morning due to storms. We thought about booking a hotel in Miami through Carnival, but during the few days it took us to decide to go ahead and give it a try, the hotel was booked up. One of the advantages to this programme would have been the ability to check onto the ship at the hotel. We had read some comments where people were frustrated with the process of getting a bus transfer from the hotel to the ship and ended up taking a taxi instead. In the end we ended up booking our own hotel, so we were only able to use the return land transfer from Carnival to take us back to the airport.
On arrival in Miami airport there were Carnival agents, as well as reps from other lines, to meet passengers getting off planes, and more reps in the luggage areas. We had read some reviews stating that there can be some real problems and long waits trying to get a bus to the ships, but we didn’t observe any problem areas. This may have been due to the fact that we arrived at 1:30pm and most of the crowds heading out to the TRIUMPH had already departed for the ship. We waited about 5 min for a taxi to come by and then headed downtown ($20).
Hotel. We stayed at the Best Western Marina Park Hotel in Miami. No, this isn’t the best hotel in the world, but it did offer the following features: location (directly across the road from Bayside Marketplace), the room was clean and non-smoking and it had a view of the bay, including the ships at the terminal, and the price was right ($75). When we stayed at this hotel previously, we found the staff to be very rude. This time the people at the counter were extremely polite and helpful.
On Saturday night we walked around the Bayside Marketplace. Lots of interesting shops, but we didn’t see anyone buying much – no real sales to be had. For supper we went to Dick’s Last Resort, which is a very casual and entertaining place.
On Sunday morning we took a cab over to the terminal ($6 + tip). The last time we arrived at the terminal there were long lines of buses and taxis just to drop people off at the terminal. This time we drove right up to the terminal – no line. That may have been explained by the fact that there were only two ships in port this time – VOYAGER of the Seas and PARADISE. Our previous cruise from Miami had been on DESTINY for Christmas 98 and it seemed that there were six or seven ships at the pier. Alaska and other cruises obviously take several ships away from Miami in the summer months.
We arrived at the terminal at about 11:15 am. We waited in line perhaps ten minutes before handing over our tickets to an agent. Almost all people had filled out all their forms before getting to the counter, but many overlooked the no-smoking agreement that everyone must sign. An agent will ensure that everyone has signed this form before they send you to ticketing. As non-US residents we had to surrender our passports to the ticket agent – this was the first time we had done this, apparently this was a change over the last two years. This isn’t a problem and you get it back on the morning you arrive in either Tortola or St Thomas. I forget which morning this was but all non-residents do this bright and early at 7:00 am in the Normandie Lounge. They do provide coffee and pastries as you enter the lounge to keep you awake until your row is called up to the stage for immigration.
After processing our tickets in the lower level of the terminal we went upstairs and picked up our sail and sign card – no lines no problem. We waited in that lounge for another ten minutes and then they called everyone forward to go through the photo line and then sat in the adjoining waiting room for another fifteen minutes or so. They then sent us on our way up the escalator and onto the ship. We finally boarded at 12:15. In total we waited an hour from the time we got out of the taxi until we boarded the ship, most of that time seated – all in all a painless process. I’m sure the shortest wait and lines would be for those who arrive at the ship after 2:00pm. The last person to arrive must have come on board around 4:30 – they made an announcement that the ship would delay departure from 4 to 5pm as there was one person arriving late from the airport. No one seemed to mind, especially after they added, ‘we are sure you would appreciate the delay if that was you trying to get to the ship’.
Cabin. As we were on Empress Desk, all we had to do was walk across the atrium and then down the hall to our cabin. The atrium usually featured a three-woman ensemble from Poland who played classical music and were very good. The cabin was quite spacious with a large window. Those that complain about the size of cabins on this ship probably haven’t spent time in smaller cabins on other cruise lines. There is plenty of room for storing all of your clothes and empty suitcases. The bathroom is a good size with a very large shower (for a ship). Some of the minor points about cabin specifics: The bathroom has a dual voltage outlet for shavers only. No hair dryer provided. For those trying to use minor appliances, there is one 110 volt and one 230 volt outlet in the cabin (we brought a dual voltage hair dryer with a 230V plug adaptor that left the 110 volt outlet for other items). I suppose you could bring a small extension cord but I don’t know at which point you would overload and blow the circuit to your cabin and become popular with the maintenance workers. You will need a credit card to operate the safe in your cabin – any type of card will do as long as it has a magnetic strip on the back. The TV has a remote but there wasn’t much on TV unless you used it to catch up on some news or if you missed the entertainment from the previous day. On DESTINY we could keep track of our Sail and Sign account on the TV but this feature isn’t available on PARADISE. They do slip a mid-week statement under your cabin door to give you an update on the Sail and Sign account, but somehow the purchases during the second half of the cruise always seem to be much higher than the first half! The cabin was normally cool but you can adjust the fan on the ventilation unit if you wish. The bathrobes are great, but I didn’t feel the need to buy one (around $39 I think). Cabins now have the complimentary welcome basket (shampoos, aspirin, etc). I’d be curious to know after everyone asks to get these products, how many people actually use them (e.g. how many people have their own specific hair products but complain if they don’t get a mini shampoo/conditioner that they never use?). Our cabin was very quiet and we never heard any noise from the adjacent cabins. We were below the galley and heard some bumps and noises from time to time, but nothing to worry about. There was also very little rocking or motion on the ship during our cruise. Our cabin steward did a terrific job and was professional and enthusiastic throughout the week. Unlike some stewards who are never seen (but still do a great job) we saw and spoke with him all the time.
Dining Room. After checking out our cabin we went to the Dining Room to confirm our table assignment. We were in Elation, Main sitting and were seated at a round table of ten. In the end only eight of us sat at our table, apparently there were two people who were assigned to our table but they must have made alternate arrangements. The two dining rooms seem to be very similar in design with the Elation having slightly darker décor than the Destiny dining room. For those trying to make decisions on seating arrangements, we didn’t observe any tables for two or four. Most of the tables for six were booth-style, open at both ends and a small number of tables that would have been more appropriate for four, vs. six people. There were predominantly tables for eight and ten people. We saw at least one group that had thirteen at their table. We also found the general noise level in the Dining Room to be quite low and it was easy to carry on a conversation across the table.
We then headed up to the pool deck for lunch at the Paris Restaurant. When we were on our last Carnival cruise they were handing out free champagne during embarkation, but this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. After lunch we went on a Spa Tour (the only way you can get a look at the fitness facilities on Sun afternoon). The fitness room is forward on the ship above the bridge and offers great views to the front, port and starboard sides. This facility is quite good and from what we observed was used more all day throughout the week than other ships we have been on. It opens at 6:00 am and closes around 8 or 10 pm. The fitness room has a good number of aerobic (rowers, step machines, treadmills, upright and recumbent cycle machines,) and strength machines and we never observed people standing around waiting to use equipment. There are also two hot tubs in this area, which although they aren’t out in the open like the ones on pool deck, they are rarely full and no children are allowed in the fitness area. There are also separate saunas and steam baths for men and women. If anyone finds the cabin showers too small, I’d recommend the showers in the fitness area – they have four side nozzles and a large nozzle on top you can adjust between normal or massage setting. All of these facilities are free – I mention that only because we ran into a number of people during the week that thought you had to pay to use those facilities. The only thing you pay for is if you get a massage/treatment/hair cut (salon co-located with spa). Simply put – if you are doing something by yourself, it’s free, if you make an appointment for someone to work on you, you’ll be paying. They also have several aerobic sessions throughout the day and although we didn’t attend those, I’m sure they are no charge. If you have your heart set on a facial, massage, haircut, etc., you should consider booking an appointment right away.
Luggage. We received one piece of luggage by 1:30, two more by 2:00 and our final piece just as we were leaving our cabin to go to supper for 6:00pm. Some people hadn’t received their luggage as they were still wearing shorts to dinner on the first night. No one seemed to get too excited about this. Approaches on how to best ensure that you will have appropriate clothes for supper on the first night are: 1. bring a garment bag or similar on board with you, 2. cross pack your suitcases to have an outfit in each one, or 3. don’t worry about it – if they can’t get your luggage to your room in time, you don’t have to worry about the dress code on the first night (remember you are on vacation). After having tried all of these approaches, we now go with the latter option, carrying as little as possible with us when we board, but do have bathing suits handy. It’s one thing to worry about getting your luggage through the airports and connecting flights, however our experience is that if you get your luggage to the ship terminal there is an extremely high probability it will make it to your cabin, even if it is a bit late. We have also observed in our experience that there is absolutely no direct relationship between the time you arrive at the terminal, the amount of tip you give the porter and the time your luggage arrives outside your cabin.
Casino. Neither of us has any luck gambling so we can’t comment on success/payout in the casino. The casino is a good size and had several different types of tournaments (Blackjack, Poker, Slots etc.,) throughout the week. They have a Rum Swizzle Party on the first night in the Casino with free drinks to encourage people to visit the casino. This proved to be a big hit with both gamblers and non-gamblers alike.
Beach Tours. On the first day at Sea there will be a talk by someone from the Dive Shop/Video Desk on beaches and dive tours offered by the ship. They gave away two sets of free snorkel rentals during this briefing. If you want to rent snorkel equipment from the ship you can make arrangements to do this at this time also. The cost is $19 for the week including mask, snorkel and fins. The equipment is OK, not great. If you do this you pick up your gear and keep it with you in the cabin for the week. If you want to rent a vest (for buoyancy) it is $10 and water shoes (popular for some on the Virgin Gorda tour) are $10 to rent. An underwater camera will cost you $26 with 27 exposures of 400 ASA film. You can check prices before you leave to see if you can find a better price. If you want to take pictures underwater with lots of fish, they recommend bringing small packs of crackers or cereal to attract the fish. Some mentioned feeding dog biscuits to the fish and another person mentioned feeding the fish frozen peas, which begs the question where are you going to get and keep frozen peas? I can think of better things to keep on ice in the cabin.
Shore/Shop Tours. The Cruise Director gave this briefing and had a number of freebies to give away from selected shops. We were glad we attended this briefing because he mentioned a few unique gifts/souvenirs in St Thomas that we might not have found otherwise.
1st Formal Night/Captains Gala. In general terms people were very well dressed for formal nights. Most men wore suits, but many were in tuxedos. Ladies seem to be dressed more formally than the men are. The reception was held in the Normandie Lounge and on entering the lounge the Cruise Director introduces you to the Captain, quick handshake and you’re in. Several waiters circulate with free drinks and hors d’ouevres. The band plays music for dancing, but it is not a practical setting to mingle or meet other passengers. Later on key members of the ship staff are introduced and then it's off to dinner.
Photos. For those new to cruising, the two formal nights are great opportunities for photographs and the ships photographers are set up around the atrium and along the boulevard for this purpose. Don’t wait until the last minute before supper to get your photo taken, as you will run into some long lines. After having several photos taken we found the close-up photos taken in front of a standard photographers backdrop to yield better results than formal photos on the staircases or trendy backdrops. One or two of the photographers will take both colour and black and white photos at the same time – this location will be posted in the photo gallery. You will find that the photos are moved around from time to time as the photographers make room for new photos. We have found it convenient to bring along a zip loc bag large enough to hold 8 x 10 photos. As the week progresses, we add our photos (those we might consider purchasing, throwing the others away) to the bag and then decide at the end of the week which photo(s) to purchase. We put the bag in some corner of the photo gallery – the photographers may move it around, but at least we know where all of our photos are. Unfortunately on this ship there are no table and chairs to look at your photos before deciding which ones you want. You should try to find a quiet time to make your final decision (be ruthless – the cost adds up quickly) as to which photos you want. We went to the gallery at one point on the day prior to our disembarkation and the place was shoulder to shoulder, with some people becoming very edgy about letting others through a line just to look for their pictures. We waited 15 minutes and came back when everyone else had left for the disembarkation briefing. At that point there were only five of us in the photo gallery. In general terms we found the photo quality good and the photographers very pleasant.
Port of Call - San Juan. We had been to San Juan twice before, both with Carnival. On our first visit we arrived early in the day and toured the island and the fort (El Morro). We enjoyed the sights in San Juan. On our next visit by the time we disembarked it was after supper and dark. We walked around the town a bit – most of the shops were closed and the streets were so crowded with traffic that we were able to keep pace with the city tour excursions from the ship. The Wyndham Casino wasn’t bad and the Duty Free shop at the terminal offered lots of free samples. As we weren’t due to arrive in San Juan until 6pm, our expectations for this port were pretty low, so we weren’t sure if we would even get off the ship this time. At lunch on the day we were due to arrive, it was announced that we would arrive in San Juan around 2pm (and there was great rejoicing by many on board…) Many people anxiously made plans on what they were going to do with all the extra time in San Juan – we went to the Art Auction on board. Unfortunately the early arrival in San Juan was tempered by the fact that the ship had to dock at the navy (?) pier, a few miles away from the traditional harbour docking area. RCCL Grandeur of the Seas was also in port that day and had to dock in the same area. The reason for this was that San Juan was preparing for a regatta festival at the docks. This required the ship to do some additional manoeuvring to get to our assigned docking station and in the end passengers didn’t disembark until shortly after 4pm. It was also suggested that walking to the old city from the ship wasn’t desirable due to some of the neighbourhoods along the way. If anyone was second-guessing this recommendation we also found out that most of the ship’s crew (bar staff, cabin stewards, waiters, had all been given the same instructions). In the end most people took taxis quite cheaply into town, some including tours of the city and we never heard of anyone having any problems. Fortunately this is not the normal procedure for docking in San Juan and you can get off and walk into town should you wish. My wife and I got off the ship for about 15 minutes just to have a look at the terminal in this area. It seems to be the terminal used by Carnival for embarking the Inspiration and Fascination. If you are used to the modern facility that exists in Miami, you’ll find this terminal significantly more austere.
Port of Call - Tortola. Tortola has some nice beaches but not much shopping to offer (most people are holding off until St Thomas the following day to shop). If you want you can go to Virgin Gorda at this time. There are two means to do this. The first one is to purchase the ship excursion for $49 and you get off the ship around breakfast time and you are tendered over to Virgin Gorda and then the ship proceeds to Tortola. They bring you back around lunch. The other option is to get off in Tortola and then catch your own ferry to Virgin Gorda. This was what we were going to do (cost around $23 for the do-it-yourself plan) but we ended up snorkeling on Tortola instead. We were going to go to Smuggler’s Cove, but by the time we got off the ship there wasn’t anyone else going that way and the taxi price would have been much higher for just the two of us. We quickly turned to plan B and went to Brewer’s Bay – I think it was around $5 per person, each way with a number of other passengers. It was a relatively short drive (15 min) over the hills to the other side of the island. At the top of hill you get a nice view down to the ship/port/town on one side and the water/beach on the other side. Just as we were pulling away from this scenic spot where our driver stopped to let everyone take pictures, he did his bit to help keep the environment beautiful by throwing his empty pop can into the bush, which left all of us in the van shaking our heads. Brewer’s Bay is not a large beach, but it wasn’t crowded either (we were the only ship in port). We didn’t see a place at that beach to rent snorkel gear, but as we had our own we weren’t looking too hard. The skies were a bit overcast, which cut down on the visibility in the water somewhat, but there were several different types of coral and fish that could be easily seen. Our taxi came back to pick us up a few minutes prior to the arranged time and it was back to the ship. If you do consider going to Virgin Gorda be aware that you will have to climb over/along several good size boulders by the water to get down to the beach. You don’t have to be a mountain climbing specialist by any means, but you do need to be sufficiently mobile to take some long steps and make awkward movements. As I mentioned earlier we didn’t do this tour but others told us about it and we viewed some of this on the ship video channel the next day.
Port of Call - St Thomas. This was our third visit to St Thomas. On our first visit many years ago we did a tour and shopping. We found the prices to be much cheaper for most goods back then. We have since found that real bargains are a bit harder to find. On our second visit we went to Magen’s Bay and thoroughly enjoyed our time on the beach. For this trip we had a very short list of souvenirs to purchase and intended to spend most of our time at a beach. As we had snorkel gear we decided to try Coki Beach. En route to Coki Beach our taxi dropped off a couple at Red Hook (?) who were taking a ferry across to St John. We then proceeded past Sapphire beach, and although we didn’t get a good look at it, it seemed quite nice. We finally arrived at Coki beach and our overall assessment was that this beach is OK – not great. It is not a large beach and there were many people there (a RCCL ship was also in port that day - I believe it was ENCHANTMENT of the Seas) so it was quite crowded. The snorkeling wasn’t bad, but if we had to do it again, we’d go to Magen’s Bay. Magen’s Bay also attracts many people, but it is a longer beach and it is wider (from the water up to the trees – where one can go to hide from the sun if necessary). St John is another option that many people take, but you will have to add a little more time for the ferry over and back. Our cab came back to pick us up and take us back to the ship where we had a shower and lunch before heading into town for a little shopping. Taxi price to Coki is around $5 or 6 per person, each way. After lunch on board the ship, we disembarked at 2:30 to head into town and we were directed into a taxi. We should have known this would not be simple when we were the first people in the van. We didn’t realize at the time that although the driver said he would be leaving right away, a more precise statement would have been that he’d be leaving right after he filled up his van. Well at this point in the day most passengers are returning to the ship, not leaving it, so filling up the van was not a quick and easy task. I think he must have sensed a mutiny among the six passengers he had so he finally decided to depart just before we were going to leave the van, walk down to the street and find someone who would leave immediately. We then proceeded into town in what was now stop and go traffic, all mindful of what a colossal waste of time this had been. Halfway into town the driver made a sudden turn and we were no longer moving towards downtown. Next thing you know we are at Bluebeard’s Castle/ Hotel/ Giftshop. The reason for this unscheduled pit stop was so that he could pick up two more paying passengers trying to get downtown. Needless to say the original passengers in the van were not a happy lot by this time, although we couldn’t blame our two new captives (I mean passengers) who also turned out to be from PARADISE. Once we were within sight of the downtown shops we had the driver stop the van and let us out, for fear he’d go somewhere else to fill up the remaining two empty seats in the van. I can’t imagine why he didn’t offer to pick us up at a set time/place and take us back to the ship as the taxi drivers often do…? I offer this taxi story only so that others may learn from it, if you are in a hurry, don’t wait for the driver to fill his van. Walk down the pier past the regular van/open air taxi lines and you’ll find someone who will take your $ and drive you into town. Taxi ordeal behind us, we set out to find some small gifts. Someone on board had mentioned a small, tented bazaar/market at the edge of downtown. Some of these shops had some good deals, nothing fancy, but worth a look. By and large we found the liquor prices on board the ship to be competitive with St Thomas, except for some isolated specials at the stores here and there. As Canadians, our duty free limit for liquor is only one 40 oz bottle, so we don’t have to worry about where we buy it for qualifying limits. Fortunately our taxi ride back to the ship was much easier. We walked out of a shop by the waterfront and someone asked us if we needed a ride to the ship, so we jumped right in with some passengers returning to ENCHANTMENT of the Seas and made it back to the ship with lots of time to spare. Taxi price to town is $2.50 per person, each way. Most of the bigger downtown shops in St Thomas also have identical stores, albeit slightly smaller, right beside the ship in the Havensight Mall. If you are short on time you may wish to consider shopping there.
Ports of Call – Itinerary E Caribbean. If you aren’t already aware, Carnival will be changing the PARADISE itinerary to the Eastern Caribbean in the next few months. I think the official change is on 20 Aug. This change will see the ship arrive in San Juan earlier in the day to permit a daytime visit, visit Nassau in lieu of Tortola/Virgin Gorda and keep St Thomas. There is no change to the W Caribbean itinerary.
Food – Dining Room . We found the food in the Dining Room to be much better than the Paris restaurant (buffet). Normally our best option was to go with the recommendation of our waiter. He wasn’t shy about recommending what to order (or what not do). Usually his choice happened to match our own so dining was easy. We had the most satisfaction ordering beef entrees. Everyone at our table had both the steak and lobster on the first formal night. No one at our table had any difficulty getting second plates if they wished – for starters, salads, entrees or desserts. One notable disappointment was the Coquille St Jacques but generally the food was good. Our approach to dining on ship is borrowed from a review we read some time ago which is basically ‘instead of trying to critique every plate, keep in mind that we didn’t have to prepare it, we didn’t have to serve it, and we don’t have to clean up’. Food preferences are always subjective so we’ll leave it at that.
Food – Paris Restaurant. This is the buffet, we didn’t eat here often but it was OK. For those interested, trays were not provided during our cruise. It is very convenient for those not wishing to rush to try to make their assigned seating in the dining rooms. Omelettes are made fresh there during breakfast and are great. We found the fruit selection was quite good and plentiful and we often had fruit plates here. The pizzas are also served in the back corner of this restaurant and are very good. They serve a number of different types of pizza. At times the lines get a little long but not often. If this was the case we’d go do something else and come back 10-15 minutes later and the line was normally gone by then. You can also get Caesar salad here (including chicken pieces if you wish), although we didn’t try it. There is no alternative quiet dining room on this ship that you can find on some other cruise lines.
Food – Room Service. We were very impressed with the speed of service compared to other ships we have been on. We only used this service a few times but our orders arrived within five to ten minutes of calling.
Food – Sushi/Crepes. There is a very small serving area on the Boulevard just before you get to the Atrium. This is where they serve Sushi (before dinner) and selected crepes (after dinner). Although we knew they were serving sushi, we didn’t notice this area until late in the cruise. We didn’t try the sushi, but had a nice dessert crepe there one night. I think they prepare crepes nightly for the midnight buffet in the Paris Restaurant.
Food Service Dining Room. Our waiter and assistant waiter both did a good job throughout the week but had even better service on our last Carnival cruise (DESTINY). The Maitre’d and Head Waiter both did a good job of walking through the dining room and actually talking to people on many occasions throughout the cruise. On some cruises we haven’t seen them until the night before the tips are handed out. All dining room staff participated in the ritual song and Dance routines of Macarena and HOT HOT HOT. On the last night we were also treated to the Dining Room Staff trying their best to sing God Bless America. I guess these song and dance numbers must get lots of good reviews from other passengers, which is why they keep them.
Cruise Director and Staff. We thought Larry Garlutzo did a very good job, but then his mother was on board so he had to be on his best behaviour. The assistant cruise directors also did a good job. We attended a number of the Trivia/Game Shows. Both contestants and audience members had a lot of fun at these. These also provide good opportunities to win a coveted ‘Ship on a Stick’.
Entertainment. The main production shows were fine; we enjoyed SHOUT more than DREAM VOYAGE. DREAM VOYAGE is the show after the first formal dinner and SHOUT follows the second formal dinner. Perhaps when you add up all the sun and activity from the first day at sea, have a pre-dinner reception, then steak and lobster dinner, and then sit down in a dark room, it would explain why the first show of DREAM VOYAGE was extremely successful, based on all the people that were nodding off into DREAMLAND by the end of the show. It would be better it the rows of seats in the Normandie Lounge directly in front of the stage had higher seatbacks. The entertainment we enjoyed most was The Bestsellers band in the Queen Mary Lounge and Mele in the America Bar. The Best Sellers did a great job with all types of dance music and Mele takes requests in a Sing-a-long piano bar. If we went back to the ship we would spend most of our evenings at these two lounges. The ship also offers the REX Disco (with a few Karaoke nights), The Leonardo with Country music and a few other bars along the way. One night Larry the Cruise Director was playing guitar and singing at the Bar by the Casino. A final thought about the Normandie Lounge and the problem with posts. Here is our two cents worth. Yes there are some posts in the lounge, but if you do end up with a post in your way, you’ll find that the entertainers aren’t glued to the floor, so if your view is obstructed, the performer won’t stay in that spot long, and they’ll quickly move back into view. If that’s not acceptable, you can always grab a book and go to the lounge early.
Public rooms. Some of the lounges on the ship can be quite cool. My wife and some of the other ladies at our table were happy they had a shawl/sweater/jacket with them.
Art Auction. We didn’t buy anything while on board, but on our last cruise we found the auctioneer to be extremely entertaining – even for those of us not serious about making purchases. Unfortunately this was not our experience on this cruise. We went to the first auction, which was underattended because we were early arriving in San Juan and most people were likely getting ready to get off the ship early. Perhaps the poor attendance had an affect on the auctioneer but we weren’t impressed so we didn’t return.
Bingo. We aren’t big bingo players, but several people found the price of bingo getting to be a little high, $10 for one bingo card or 3 for $20. Prizes didn’t seem that big. There is a big bingo on Saturday night for a free cruise. If you don’t win a cruise at bingo, head up to the casino and at 11:45 pm they have a draw for a free cruise. You can purchase tickets throughout the week, but must be present at the draw to win.
Drink coupons. We purchased these prior to our departure. They were supposed to receive them at dinner on the first night. When they didn’t arrive, we went to see the Maitre’d after supper and obtained them from him. The tickets are worth $3.75 however all but one waiter allowed them to be used for the drinks up to and including $4.50. Gratuity is included in the coupon.
Adult top optional sundeck. Couples generally use this deck, most choose to go topless but not all do. Compared to some of the other sun decks on the ship, this deck is much less crowded and less noisy.
Medicine. There are a number of pills for headaches, seasickness, etc that are available free at the infirmary and also the information desk I believe.
Sail and Sign cards. We received a note under our door after a couple days stating that our sail and sign card couldn’t be used because the credit card we used was not being accepted. I went to the information desk to check on this and it turned out to be a simple matter that the sequence for the credit card expiry date (month and year) on our original form was not the same as the sequence it is entered on the ship’s computer. The officer at the information desk sorted this out immediately. No further problems.
Laundry room. There is a laundry room on each of the four decks with cabins – don’t know about Verandah deck. Laundry rooms have washing machines and dryers with a vending machine for laundry soap if you need it. Didn’t use the machines but did use the irons/ironing boards once. You might want to bring a normal hangar because there is no place to hook the in-cabin hangars in this room. One of the dancers was ironing at the same time and she provided interesting comments about life on board from a different perspective.
Lifestyle for crew . On several occasions during our cruise we took the opportunity to talk to various crew members about their life on ship. We spoke to a number of different staff members who had been hired based on their internet or fax applications. After the Saturday afternoon game show in the Normandie Lounge the Assistant CD answered questions on this same subject. We then proceeded on a backstage tour, which was really a continuation of what it is like on board for the entertainers. Someone asked about the smoking rule - no crewmembers had been kicked off the ship because of smoking in a long time, but two or three weeks prior to our cruise a 16-yr. old was caught smoking on board. The parents were extremely unhappy because the result was the entire family left the ship at the next port. We were also told that in general the entertainers find the PARADISE crowd a little harder to please than other ships in the fleet. He also went on to say that our cruise was really slow to warm up and that they had some louder crowds the previous month, with private and public school breaks and kids out of college. Perhaps some of us planned it that way…. On our cruise we had over 1,000 repeat Carnival cruisers.
Children on board. Our children didn’t accompany us on this cruise so we didn’t pay much attention to Camp Carnival. That being said we had a peek at the Children’s World facility and it looked quite good and is in a great location. There were very few school age children on board although there were several very young children aboard. We never saw or heard of any incidents of children running around on the ship or causing trouble whatsoever.
Strange but true stories. #1. One of our dinner mates met a distraught woman who had just discovered that her boyfriend had brought her on the cruise to ‘dump her’. That was pretty low. #2. We had a buffet meal with a woman who had just dropped a previous boyfriend in order to accept a first date with a new friend – that first date being a week-long cruise. By all accounts it was working out fine. #3 After listening to waiters struggle through several iterations of Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary all week long, we heard them singing a slightly different version at a distant table on the last night of the cruise. It took us a while to realize they were singing Happy Engagement. Most of the women at our table felt that would have been an appropriate way to start the cruise. Some others suggested that perhaps the groom-to-be was keeping his options open until the very end…
Disembarkation. This was very smooth. On other cruises we have been on, non-US residents often have to go to a special immigration clearance early in the morning. This wasn’t required for this itinerary, perhaps because we had already done that earlier in the week. For those that have first seating in the Dining Room, you may wish to consider sleeping in and going for the buffet breakfast instead of going to Breakfast at 6:45 am. You have to be in your assigned area by 8:45 and we were off the ship by 9:45. Finding our luggage was easy. After that we walked out of the terminal and the buses waiting to take us to the airport were right in front of us. Unless you really need one, I wouldn’t recommend getting a porter at this point to move your luggage a maximum of 200 ft. If you have the Carnival Air/Sea you are put on buses according to airline. We were on Air Canada, so we went on the same bus as American Airlines. After getting deposited at the Miami airport in front of American Airlines and then walking all the way to the Air Canada desk, we couldn’t figure out why the Air Canada passengers were grouped with the American Airlines passengers. Perhaps someone did the allocation alphabetically by airline. We didn’t take the Carnival transfer to the ship, but the return trip went well. The bus filled up quickly (there are several) and off we went. On arrival at the airport the bus driver mentioned that he would accept gratuities, so technically he’s not asking because the coupon states gratuities are included, but you know what he’s after. As we got off the bus he was standing there with his hand out. Some people gave him tips, others didn’t. He did some minor grousing to the couple ahead of us who didn’t tip, but he didn’t push the point too hard.
We had not sailed on a FANTASY class ship before, but found the size and layout very good. All
things considered, we liked the design, layout and décor of the PARADISE more than DESTINY. For our
next Carnival cruise we might try a SPIRIT class ship. This was the first cruise my wife and I had
been on without our children or a number of other family members in a long time. Our approach was
that we would take things easy and if we didn’t get to do all the things we wanted, in order to
maintain a slower pace, then so be it. We planned on enjoying ourselves, so we went with a ‘glass
half full’ approach to our cruise. We met a number of great people throughout the week – notably
our dinner mates from Florida, Tennessee and Louisiana, and others we struck up conversations with
either at a buffet, standing in a line, or joining up with to take taxis to a beach. We had a superb
vacation and found our experience on PARADISE most closely resembled the enjoyment of our first
cruise. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.