Age: 31 - 40
Number of Cruises: First Cruise
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Paradise
Sailing Date: May 14th, 2000
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
Our first cruise was a wonderful experience - it was everything we had hoped for and more.
We went on the Paradise because it was sailing from Miami and fit our schedule (we were in Miami for an industry conference on May 22/23). Having a NS ship was an extra bonus since we are both non-smokers.
The weather was great - very smooth seas to and from the islands (Puerto Rico, Tortola, and St Thomas). We weren't sure we were going to like the "Late" sitting in the Elation Diring Room (Table #104) since we are used to eating dinner at about 6 pm at home. In the end, we were glad we had the late sitting. It gave us more time in the morning while we were a sea and when we were in port we didn't feel like we were rushed to get to dinner on time.
The evening dinners were one of the highlights of the trip. We especially enjoyed our dinner companions (Joe & Helene, Horatio & Vicky, and Richard & Marsha). Our waiter Phillip was great and so was the assistant waiter Silviu. We really liked the food in the Elation Dining room. Excellent choice each evening from appetizers to desserts. The portions were adequate (didn't need anything larger) and extremely well presented and the service was wonderful. Every evening was a great relaxing experience. We might have missed a few events that were scheduled during the late sitting but we still had opportunity to go to the late show if we wanted to. We ate breakfast the dining room almost every day but only had lunch once - usually we grabbed a salad in the Paris restaurant since it was quicker and could fit our schedule - especially when we were in port. The food in the Paris restaurant was excellent - good variety and quality.
Our cabin steward Jaime took good care of us. We had cabin R97 so we were in the bottom deck about 1/3 of the way back. There was a couple of evenings when we could feel some pitch & roll upstairs but it was fine in our cabin. The cabin itself was spacious (was a standard outside cabin - Twin/King) and had lots of storage space with mirrors & plugs. The bathroom wasn't huge but everything worked great. Having the safe for our valuables was a nice touch (no extra charge - unlike most hotels....). Thanks Jaime for the towel "creatures" you left every night.
We enjoyed the shore excursions. We didn't have much time in San Juan. We made good time at sea but it took about 1 1/2 hours for us to dock at San Juan because we had to use the naval pier - was some pretty tricky docking by the captain. Was a little confusing getting a cab/bus to the old city but we did manage to get where we wanted. Unfortunately, the fort closed just when we got there. Seemed to be some confusion as to whether it was open to 5 pm or 6 pm (perhaps the 1 hour time change made a difference - we stayed on ship time...). We still enjoyed a walk through the old city for about 1 hour until the shops closed at 6 pm. No problem getting a taxi back to ship (wasn't safe to walk back to the naval pier).
We enjoyed both days at Tortola and St Thomas. We went on the 3 hr safari bus tour in the morning on each island. It was a great way to see the island - had several stops for pictures, shopping and drinks. We really enjoyed the "Great House" on St Thomas. We grabbed a quick lunch back on the ship and then changed to go the beach. On Tortolo we took taxi to Cane Bay Garden Beach and spent a couple hours - it was great. Some people said the water was cold but coming from Nova Scotia (where the water hardly ever gets above 50 degrees...) the temperature of about 75-80 was wonderful. On St Thomas we went over to Magen's Bay beach for the afternoon - it lived up to its reputation (according to Nat'l Geographic) as one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. We were able to some shopping on the islands but it wasn't a priority for us. We picked up some T-Shirts and souvenirs and one necklace for my wife. Generally, we found the prices excellent but since we were Canadians had to keep the exchange rate in mind ($10 US = $15 Cdn). Next time we visit the islands we would like to go on one of the sailing/snorkeling tours.
We hated to leave St Thomas since that meant we only had 2 days left. We enjoyed the entertainment on board the Paradise. The "Summertime Trio" (Piano, Cello & Violin) in the Paradise Atrium were great. I think a lot of people who normally wouldn't listen to classical music were really impressed. It was great to just listen to them while we were waiting to go into the Dining Room. We especially enjoyed the America Bar - it was a quieter spot to spend some time in the evening - Mark was great on the piano. We really enjoyed "afternoon tea" a couple of times in the America. We went to a couple of the shows in the Normadie - the dancers were great as well as the jugglers and acrobats. Tia Thompson was a great entertainer and we really enjoyed listening to Kooshall on the Lido deck during the afternoons at the pool and in the early evenings. We enjoyed the 2 Formal Nights - it was nice to get dressed up for dinner - get your pictures taken (sometime at 5 or 6 different spots - hopefully some of them would come out good...). We only went to one late buffet - the "Grand Gala Buffet" on Friday night - it was something else....
We didn't spend a lot of time up on the pool deck but we did get some sun - didn't want to get burned. It was really the only place on the entire ship that seemed crowded - there were only so many deck chairs and lounges. I expected the pool(s) to be bigger - couldn't really swim - just was a place to jump in and cool off. Nice to have salt water so you didn't have to worry about all that chlorine.
Getting on and off the ship was no problem. We arrived in Miami the day before and stayed at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay - booked by Carnival for us. We got our own cab from airport to hotel and then over to the port the next morning. We weren't in any hurry to go over to the port on the Sunday since we thought we couldn't load until after 1 - but a porter at hotel suggested we get over to port as soon as we could - that was good advice. We arrived at about 11:00 and check-in was quick & easy and we were only waiting upstairs for about 1/2 hour and then we boarded ship. By 1 pm we were having lunch and our luggage arrived by about 2:30. Getting off was a longer wait - we waited in the Normandie Lounge and were one of the last groups off. Didn't take too long to find luggage and within 1/2 hour were checked into hotel in Miami.
Paradise was a great ship. We
love kids but we were glad that there were only about 80 (under age 16) on ship.
April/May is a great time to go on cruise - it's after March Break & Easter and before
the kids get out of school in the US.