Occupation:Vice President Finance
Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Paradise
Sailing Date: April 25th, 2004
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation – Went very smoothly – we arrived at approximately 12:15 and after completing paper work were able to board immediately (we were told the ship opened for boarding at approximately 11:00). It is very helpful to have as much paperwork completed prior to arrival. Our room was ready so we were able to drop off our carry-on items. We went to the Paris Restaurant for lunch. They present a nice selection of hot buffet items, a salad bar and a salad special of the day. The 24-hour pizza and ice cream are also located in the Paris restaurant. The pizza selection and quality were excellent.
Ship – We found the ship to be very well laid out. It is not overly big where you cannot find your way around. The non-smoking feature is a real benefit of the ship. It is a shame that they are doing away with this. The pool is relatively small but was never very crowded. The winding slide is a big hit on the ship as everyone tries to out do the others with their yells and splashes. There also was never a shortage of lounge chairs, although sometimes you had to search a bit. I recommend taking a chair outside the main area and sit next to the rail. It is very calming to watch the ocean go by. There is a moderate size casino, situated in the middle of the ship so as to guarantee you will pass it numerous times throughout the day. There was never difficulty getting to play at a table.
Accommodations – We were situated in an outside cabin on the Main deck (Level 4). We had hoped for an upgrade to a higher deck since we had booked early and saw advertised specials offering 4 level upgrades after we had booked. We were pleasantly surprised with the size of the room, especially for 4 people. Two bunk beds come out of the wall. Each night the steward would put them down and put up the ladders. Each morning he would replace them. We saw very little of our room steward (in fact did not know who he was until the 4th day). New towels were provided multiple times during the day, chocolates were placed on the pillows each night and different towel animals were made each night, which the kids loved.
Food – We ate in the Elation dining room during the early seating (6:15). The time worked out fairly well since it wasn’t too late for the kids however at times we felt a bit rushed coming back from port or sitting by the pool since four of us had to shower and change. The food was much better than we expected. There are many selections of appetizers, entrees and desserts to choose from each night. I thought the quality and taste were excellent. The wait staff is very accommodating. Our waiter, Baris was terrific. He would bring multiple dishes if we wished to try more than one thing. In fact one night I liked one of the appetizers so much he brought me three of them (they were small portions). He was also extremely accommodating to our children. My younger daughter has a very limited selection of things she will eat. Most nights she ate off of the children’s menu (standard fare – chicken nuggets, hamburgers, mac and cheese, etc.). We had mentioned to our waiter that she like 3 kinds of fruit – strawberries, pears and grapes. Every night there was a beautiful fruit platter made up just for her. For my older daughter Baris would cut her steak for her.
Entertainment – There are two major productions during the cruise. We liked the second show much better than the first. It is very important to get to the theatre as early as possible and try to sit on the first level. There are a large number of obstructed review seats. There are bingo games and other activities that we did not really partake in.
Fitness Center – I went to the fitness center twice during the cruise. There is a good selection of equipment. I rode the treadmill – the view is of the ocean – this tends to get very monotonous after a while. In addition, it gets hot in the workout room – they have fans blowing but they do not help a lot. There is also a track on the top deck (11 laps to a mile). It is comfortable to run on but gets very hot, quickly.
Spa – My wife enjoyed the spa. She had read an article prior to cruising that she should sign up for a massage as soon as she boarded the boat. She did this only to find that prices continue to drop during the week for Spa services. She was able to get a free foot massage by complaining. I recommend waiting for the specials to be announced during the week
Ports / Shore Excursions – We enjoyed the 3 ports very much. The only negative comment we had was that we felt that a bit more time should be allowed in port.
Nassau – We chose to go out on our own and it was very easy. We grabbed a taxi right outside from where the ship docked to the Atlantis Hotel. It is not to be missed. For a family of 4 it would have cost $100 to go on the aquarium tour. For no cost you can view the aquarium from the inside of one of the restaurants. Just walk through the casino and then down the stairs of the restaurant. From there we walked a short distance to a public beach that is free. We were still able to use bathrooms at the next-door hotel.
La Romana, Domincan Republic – Since we did not have a good plan to strike out on our own we chose to take a shore excursion. We went on the Sugarcane Plantation Tour. We drove about 30 minutes in an open-air jeep to a sugar plantation. The tour guides cut off pieces of sugar cane that we all were able to eat. Alcoholic drinks were also served. We also visited a “typical” plantation home to see how locals live. We then stopped in a craft / souvenir center to do some shopping – the prices appeared to be high and geared especially to the tour buses that pass by on the road. Our last stop was a restaurant by the Chaco River to sample local fruits. We were led to believe by the brochure that we would be going to an actual fruit plantation so we were somewhat disappointed. After returning to the ship for lunch we tried to strike our on our own for town. The walk appeared dangerous (crossing a baseball field and through streets). We chose to turn around and enjoy some more pool time instead.
St. Thomas – Again we chose to go out on our own and had a great time. We took a taxi to the Red Hook Ferry Terminal. Ferries run every hour to St. John. The boat ride is about 30 minutes and is very beautiful. When we arrived in St. John we took another taxi to Trunk Bay. This is rated one of the nicest beaches in the world and I can definitely see why. The beach had white sand, calm, turquoise water and excellent facilities. They will rent snorkeling equipment. There is an underwater trail explaining much of what you see. After returning to our ship we went shopping at the duty free shopping mall right next to the dock. I believe almost all of the shops that are located in downtown have an outlet in this mall so it makes it very easy to shop. I think the duty free prices in St. Thomas are amongst the best anywhere. Liquor prices are between 30 – 50% less than in the US.
Camp Carnival – Camp Carnival is great. The kids loved it. My older daughter was in the 9-11 group. She met some very nice kids who she spent much of the cruise with. In addition since she was old enough she was able to sign herself in and out of camp when she wanted. She loved this freedom. In fact toward the end of the cruise she did not want to eat meals with us for fear of missing an activity. It is important to set the ground rules for the kids before they start camp. My younger daughter had mixed impressions about camp. She fell a few months shy of being in the older group (6-8) therefore she was in a group with 2-5 year olds. My daughter found many of the activities the group did to be boring or babyish. I would have preferred an older age group, which she could participate with. In addition, this age group does not go outside for activities although I took her out often to go swimming. I was extremely impressed with the security process. You are given a beeper at the beginning of the cruise and must sign your child in/out each time. The counselors are wonderful and you can see how much they enjoy being with kids. I am glad we went on an off week since there were only 150 children on our cruise. We heard that the week before for Spring Break there were over 700 children.
Disembarkation – There are basically three different options to disembark from the boat. If you are in a real hurry you can opt for express departure for which you need to carry all of your own luggage. Next is early departure, which we chose. You can still have your luggage taken the night before but you get to depart first if you should have an early flight. Remaining passengers leave according to when their floor is called. The process goes very smoothly – you leave the ship, all luggage is color coded and waiting for you to pick up. We got through so fast we did not actually need the early departure (we arrived at the airport over 3 hours before our flight).