Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Paradise
Sailing Date: August 22nd, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Soooo smooth. My husband and I were completely shocked by how organized this process was. Although there was a line, Carnival had a lot of staff to move us through. Try to have your paperwork completed ahead of time, this speeds things up. After you sign-in you go to another area to pick up your "Sign and Sail" card. This is your ship credit card and room key. Then you're off to get a photo taken (you will have your picture taken 100 times during the week) and finally you can board. We were on by 12:15.
imaculate! Someone is always cleaning or painting. They do a fabulous job maintaining the cleanliness. Let's see what the reviews are like once guests are permitted to smoke on board. Having the ship be non-smoking was just wonderful. Hopefully Carnival will designante another ship as smokefree. The pools were disappointing. They are small and since my ship was filled to capacity, it was nearly impossible to get to the pool. I prefer a more quiet atmosphere for reading and sunbathing and although our ship was sold-out and there were tons of kids, I always managed to find a quiter spot. There is always the topless sunbathing deck. No matter where you are on the ship, Carnival staff are always trying to sell you something and this became annoying. On the decks they want to sell you drinks and inside they want to take your picture. The good thing about the photography is that you can have your picture taken as many times as you would like and you are not obligated to buy them.
Accommodations: We were pleasantly surprised by our cabin. It was larger than we anticipated. We had a queen bed and a room with a window. Next time we will get a room with a balcony since it's annoying to have to stroll down several hallways to get fresh air outside. The housekeeping was terrific and we loved the turn down service and towel animals. I slept the BEST I have ever slept in my life while I was on the ship. If you are sensitive to noise as I am, bring earlplugs and/or a sound machine with you. The walls are thin and you will hear a lot of doors slamming shut. Since our ship was full, there were often lots of people to walk around. This could be annoying, especially when people don't move out of your way (you know who you are).
Food: For my husband and me, two health conscious people, we were disappointed by the food and the dining options. The brochure makes it sound as though all of the restaurants and buffets are open all the time. They are not. The Paris Grill is outside near the pool. That was open the most but in our opinion it was like eating college dorm food. If you like mass-produced hamburgers, hotdogs and other fast food, you will like this. The good thing about this grill is they have water, lemonade, orange juice, ice tea, and fruit punch dispensers that you can use anytime for free. Sodas are $3.00. Inside at the Paris Restaraunt there is a hot food buffet and a salad bar. The hot food buffet was also like dorm food and the salad bar was mediocre. This restaraunt does not open after lunch until 6pm which stinks when you get back from an excursion at 3:30 and are starving. The 24-7 ice cream and frozen yogurt machines and pizza are here too. I thought the pizza was pretty bad. There were always lines for any of the buffets. The dinners served in the dining room were the best food on the ship. There's a variety to choose from and if you don't want anything on the menu, they try to accomodate you. If you don't like what you ordered, they'll bring you something else. The desserts at the beginning of the week were incredible. Several of us at the table ordered one of each so we could taste everything. An interesting thing happened, by the fourth night, our waiter no longer brough us a dessert menu. We don't know if the ship ran out of certain desserts or if this was normal procedure. He brought us an awful looking, smelling, and tasting soufle the last night and we all asked for chocolate cake which he managed to provide. On mornings when we docked early and had an excursion to get to we had room service bring breakfast. The servings are small so be prepared to order two fresh fruit dishes for one person. Even the dinners were small. The sushi bar opens at 5:30, if it opens on time. There is one sushi Chef and tons of customers. There was always a line. Either get there early or closer to the time it closes (8:30). The really need more help at the sushi bar. Consider bringing a case of bottled water in a suitcase. They charge a fortune for bottled water and then you will have an extra suitcase for souvinears.
Entertainment: the shows were surprisingly good. The Paradise dancers and singers are really talented. The comedians were good too. The juggler was talented but his delivery was awful and I felt embarassed for him at times! Bingo is okay. I think it was $7 per card or 3 cards for $20. There is only one winner per game so it's not that exciting and goes quickly. The Newly Wed Not-So-Newly-Wed game was hilarious. The games on the deck by the pool are pretty lame. It's hard to hear the announcer and there are no prizes.
Fitness Center: they have a decent selection of equipment but it was so hot in there that working out was not fun. The group fitness classes are not scheduled at the greatest times and they have the nerve to charge for classes such as yoga and pilates. I found the fitness center director to be rude. They misprinted in the daily newsletter called the Carnival Caper, the yoga schedule for one day. It said 5:15 but was not until 6 and she didn't even apologize.
Spa: I didn't use the ships spa, it was really, really overpriced. Even though the costs of treatments decrease over the week, it's still expensive.
Ports / Shore Excursions: To save money and have smaller tours, BOOK YOUR TOURS YOURSELF ON LINE BEFORE YOUR CRUISE. Carnival might tell you not to, they might use a scare tactic such as "we don't wait for people to return from their excursions if they book them privatley." You are always back in plenty of time and when the Carnival Caper says they are leaving a port a 5pm, they don't leave until 6 or 6:30pm. We liked the ports of call but wish we had more time at each of them. We often felt incredibly rushed. The only day we didn't feel rushed was our last port of Grand Caymen. Most days you have to board the ship by 5, but in Grand Caymen it wasn't until 10:30. Be prepared
Belize City: we booked our cave tubing through Reggies. Our tour had 10 people on it and two tour guides. The ships cave tubing had a busload of people and one tour guide. Email Reggie at: email@example.com. The actual cave tubing was okay. Some parts were more exciting than others. I wouldn't do it on another visit to Belize but think you should do it at least once. It was slightly too long, but still worth it. On the return trip to the boat, our toar guides brought us to a local restaraunt for some native food. It was awesome.
Rhoutan Honduras: we had such a special day here. My husband and I wanted a spa day. We went to the Santa Wellness Center and Spa ( http://www.santewellnesscenter.com/). The owner Angela, picked us up at port and then drove us through gorgeous scenery and rolling hills. After a 30 minute drive we parked the car and took a 5 minute boat ride to her amazing house. The downstairs is the spa and she and her husband live upstairs. They are from San Franscisco and retired in Honduras. My husband and I were the only guests that day and had the place to ourselves. We hung out in the pool, looked at their parrots and at song birds, pet their dogs, napped in hammocks, and of course, had fabulous spa treatments. I had a one hour facial and one hour massage for a grand total of $75! She is extremly reasonable with her prices. For an extra $5 we had a lovely continental breakfast with fresh muffins, bagels, and fruit. The property is on the water and they have snorkel equipment and a kayak for guests to use. The snorkeling was GORGEOUS although a bit shallow. I ran up against some coral and had a bit of a skin reaction, while my husband was stung by a jelly fish. Angela, her husband, and their staff were so warm, friendly, and welcoming. I highly recommend spending the day with them. Honduras was beautiful and I would like to spend more time there.
Grand Caymen: We spent the morning at a local free beach. Some beaches charge an admittance fee while others do not. Then we went to stingray city and snorkeling through Captain Bryans (http://caymanislandsdiscounts.com/CaptainBryan.htm). My husband loved stingray city, I thought the creatures were creepy. The water is magnificant, clear, and a lovely color blue. The snorkeling was just okay. I've done better snorkeling. We were pleasantly surprised by what great pictures our disposable underwater cameras took. Buy this ahead of time as the ship charges a fortune for them. Unlike other snorkel trips I've been on, this trip didn't play any caribbean music or serve rum punch.
Cozumel: this was a great port! We began with horseback riding which was okay. The tour company who I will not refer you to said we would first ride through a jungle, then along the beach. Their jungle is the equivalent to a dirt path in the woods. It was nothing to get excited about and the only interesting wildlife I saw were a variety of butterflies. The trail was actually very polluted with garbage. Once we got back to town we had lunch at Pancho's Backyard. It was delicious and the atmoshphere was fabulous. The building is stucco and open in its design. There is beautiful tiled floors and a meriache band played. Oh, and the bathrooms were immaculate. I went twice and both times someone was there cleaning them. After lunch we walked around a lot. It was very hot. Make sure to wear a hat, wear sunblock and bring bottled water. At the last minute we decided to sign up for a sunset snorkel trip. We signed up with the dive shop located on the second floor of the mall near the port. This was the type of snorkel trip I was looking for. We went out on a glass bottom boat and the crew fed us drinks (bottled water, soda, and Corona). They blasted really fun music and got us excited to snorkel. The two spots they took us to were great. Full of tons and tons of different fish and live coral. The equipment they loaned us was good (I brough alcohol swabs with me to clean the mouthpieces before we used them). It was a great time.
So overall it was a great trip. This was the most relazing vacation I have ever had. After a few days I felt as though I had been away for two weeks. My biggest complaing or disappointment were: the lines for buffets and the quality and variety of food available at the buffets. I hardly noticed the boat rocking and don't know anyone who got sea sick.
consider renting a car