Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Paradise
Sailing Date: April 25th, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
2nd Cruise for myself and husband.
1st Cruise for three daughters (teens)
Good time was had by all. A different experience for us, since last time we went by ourselves.
Bringing the kids had advantages and disadvantages, but was a great experience for our family.
We stayed the night before in a Best Western hotel and arrived by Taxi around 11:30 am. We had NO problems getting on board and it seemed very fast - maybe half an hour. The ship looked great. It is not as big as some of the others, but had everything that was needed and more. It is an impressive looking ship. Very clean and has been well maintained. The Atrium is awesome.
We had two inside rooms booked and that is what we got. They were both the same and had ample room. We put three girls into one room and they had two lower and two upper beds. (used only one upper). They thought it was great. The bathroom is basic has shower, sink and toilet. Shower has shampoo and body wash only - no conditioner, so bring some. It did not have a blow dryer or robes. There is a small basket of 'goodies' for you - containing sample sized shampoo/conditoner/gel, Tylenol PM, mens and ladies razors, Rolaids, cream, and a couple of other things. We had our two beds made into one and there was a 'hump' in the middle. Bed was okay, not best or worst I have slept in. We were on Riviera Deck (4) which is LOW, so we did hear a few clunks and bumps during night from below but nothing that was too disturbing to us. We had put two bottles of liquor into our checked bags and received them with no problems.
I had originally booked the late seating, which turns out was 8:00 pm in the Destiny Dining room. I figured it would give us plenty of time to do our 'daytime' stuff and then have a lots of time to get ready for dinner. Everyone in my family objected to the late time, so we changed it and got the 5:45 in Destiny. We usually eat around 6:30 or 7:00 pm so I thought we might not like it. As it turns out it was fine. We usually arrived around 6:00 and that was okay. Our servers, Enny and Lady were wonderful. We loved them. They learned our names right away and figured out our preferences. They treated us royally. All of the meals we had were great. Plenty of choices and if you wanted more than one choice - go for it! On a couple of occasions the girls ordered something they had not tried before. If they did not like it, it was no problem to have another choice brought to them. Most nights there was usually a choice of: Pasta dish, Poultry dish, Beef dish, Seafood or Fish and a Vegetarian. All were very nicely presented and it is a good opportunity to try something different. Good dessert selection too.
We had five people so going on an Excursion through the ship was very expensive. We decided to do all our port days on our own. All were planned ahead and organized via Internet, etc. You must always ensure you plan to be back to the ship with PLENTY of time if you are on your own because they will not wait for you. With a little pre-planning this is not a problem.
There was not a whole lot that we found of interest to do here on our own. We decided to take a water taxi over to Paradise Island ($3 pp one way). It was easy to find right near where the ship docks. We wanted to see Atlantis so we walked from where taxi docked to the hotel. About 15 minutes. Paradise Island is very built up and wealthy. Atlantis is awesome. We walked in and around the hotel to see what would could for free. There is a walkway around most of the outside of the building and the upper part of the aquarium on the far side. Inside by the diningroom area we found the 'free' part of the inside aquarium. Very interesting. We had no idea where we were going and just kept walking to see different things. Lots of shops inside but they looked expensive. We had considered going to Cabbage Beach after Atlantis, but we were all getting too hot and tired, so decided to head back over for some shopping in Nassau and back to ship. Departure is at 2:30 pm so you do not really have a whole lot of time. This is also the first formal night so we wanted time to have a quick light lunch and relax before dinner.
We all 'dressed' for dinner. You can wear whatever you want because the 'formal' part is optional. My husband just wore dress pants, shirt and tie (no jacket). The girls wore dress or skirts. (we did not go for the "ball gowns and tuxedo's" - but you can if you like and plenty did)
At Sea (Tuesday, Friday, Saturday):
All of the Sea Days were much the same. There were inside activities planned (Bingo, Talks, Auctions, Spa) and outside activities by the pool on Lido deck. In my mind not a 'whole lot' of things to do outside. But if you read your Carnival Capers you can usually find something to do, or not, if you would rather relax on deck. Chairs are a bit hard to get. Good ones go early, but we always found somewhere if we needed to.
La Romana, D.R. (Wednesday):
We had arranged to have a private tour with Rafael Silva Taxi service. This was done over the internet prior to arriving. We do not speak Spanish and their driver's do not speak English so we were a bit concerned. I arranged with the Taxi company to have an itinerary with times on it so we would know what to expect. We visited: the town of La Romana (not really a whole lot that was of interest). A lot of locals hanging around and stores did not seem very nice. Might have been different if we spoke the language. Our Driver took us to one touristy type store. They were very nice and we bought a couple of things. Second stop (after about ½ hour drive) was Cuevas de la Maraveillas or the Caves of Wonder. This is a government run Cave site. Very nice and it has been fixed up very professionally. It is a guided tour and takes about 45 minutes. Next we drove back across La Romana to the other side to Alto de Chavon. Lots has been written about this. We found it interesting and beautiful but it was very hot and we wanted to get to our next stop - Bayahibe Beach. The beach is beautiful (and topless) and we spent about an hour. We returned to ship with plenty of time to spare and all agreed the day went very well.
St. Thomas, USVI (Thursday):
This was a beautiful Port. We had arranged to tour with Godfrey Tours (lots of info on Cruise Critic) Unfortunately it took us a long time to get through Immigration (as non US) and then the line up to get off the ship was huge. We were supposed to meet him at 9:00 and by the time we got off it was 9:10, and he had left. We eventually made contact via his cell phone, and he arranged for someone else to come get us at 10:00. Our guide (sorry forget her name) was great. We were able to Tour and see the whole island (Beautiful) and then spent a couple of hours at Coki Beach snorkelling (Beautiful). We also were able to shop downtown and got some very good deals on jewellery and a watch.
Debarkation (Sunday): We had a very early flight so we did the Express debarkation. You have to keep you bags and be able to carry them with you. This went very smoothly and we were in taxi on the way to the airport by 8:00 am.
Other Stuff: Pool was salt water (yuk) and it was very cold. I know they are all salt water on ships but I do not like it. It was cold though, and nice to cool off in when hot. The Slide was a big hit for all the "kids" (both young and old). Buffet - was good. We used it mainly for breakfast and quick snacks. It had a good selection and is pretty typical of any buffet you may have vistited. Nothing spectcular but certainly sufficient for what you may need. I thought the Pizza was very good. As for drinks you can usually at any time get Apple Juice, Lemonade, Fruit Punch and cold Tea (unsweetened). The soda card is rather expensive ($28 USD) so if your kids like any of the above it is probably not worth the card. You can buy a glass of soda for $1 or can for $1.50 so you need to drink almost 3 or 4 per day to get your money's worth.
Staff: Most staff we met were great. Room steward and dining staff outstanding. Others we met around the ship friendly and helpful. The Concierge desk was a bit impatient, but they do bear the brunt of any unhappy passengers so maybe their day gets a bit long?? This is a problem we had seen before - so perhaps they all need better training in their "people and conflict resolution skills".
Shows: We enjoyed almost all the shows. The comedians/magicians, etc were all quite funny. Some were a bit rude and offensive so may not be to everyone's taste. And, if you sit in the front row you may be subject to ridecule. The "Dream" Weaver show was a huge singing/dancing production and although they put a lot of work into it we thought it was so/so. They were all worth having a look at though. We did not really go to any of the Disco's. The Kareoke Bar was fun and some of the people quite talented. We attended the Animation/Sport Art Action but did not buy anything.
All in all we had a great time. The kids are all ready to go back any time. It was well worth the money we spent and I can not imagine a better value for you money.