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Carnival Paradise- My mini-review of our 5-day sailing

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Hi, guys! First review here! I wanted to share our experiences from our 5-day Paradise sailing April 13-18. We just got back this morning, so I may be doing this in several segments. While sitting here typing this, I still have a phantom feeling of being on the ship and feeling the movement! I will try to post as many photos as I can, as I go... So here it goes!!!!....

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About us: This was our honeymoon cruise & also our first cruise. We were supposed to sail on the Pride last November, but had to cancel. We live here in Tampa, so we decided this would be a good choice & our most convenient option. At first, we were a little skeptical about sailing on the Paradise, as we have read both positive & negative reviews. Since we knew she an older ship, we decided to not have any super-high expectations going in.

 

Pre-planning: Since we were supposed to sail on the Pride in November, I had already researched both Grand Cayman & Cozumel very well. We booked our cruise in January and we were lucky enough to snag Faster To The Fun. If you can, I HIGHLY recommend purchasing it. It was well worth the $50. Prior to leaving, we had decided we were not going to participate in any excursions in Grand Cayman & we had researched excursions in Cozumel and decided to do a fishing/snorkel charter, not sponsored by the ship. Doing an excursion not sponsored by Carnival can be risky, but we felt good about it & the company we used got excellent ratings by Trip Advisor. More to follow on our excursion..

 

 

Day 1: Since we had FTTF, we arrived at the Port around 10:30am. We had a friend drop us off, but for anyone who is interested in parking information, there is garage located across the street from the port. It costs approximately $75 for a 5-day cruise. There are also several other parking companies that are cheaper, but they are further away and require a shuttle to and from the terminal, which they provide free. The parking is usually in a fenced lot. These we found to be as low as $47.

 

Once we we dropped off we checked our 2 bags with the curbside porters, we proceeded upstairs to check in. Since it was early, we beat the crowd. FTTF has it's own dedicated check in line, so that was super-fast & easy. We grabbed a seat in the waiting area and boarding began around 11:15am. Embarkation was a total breeze! We were on the ship by 11:35. Since we had FTTF, our room was ready when we boarded. We headed to our room and took a few minutes to settle in....

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Stateroom Info: We booked an oceanview cabin- U118. We were really pleased with the size of the cabin & the bathroom. The decor was a bit dated (orange carpet & drapes), but it was fine. Flushing the toilet is a bit scary. It flushes with the force of 1,000 land toilets. Also, something to note (which took us at least 20 minutes to figure out) is that the AC control is not a wall-mounted box, but a dial located on the ceiling. Yes, I said the ceiling. I thought it was weird but it worked, so no complaints here. You can adjust it from low to high or somewhere in between. We kept it on high and it seemed mostly comfortable. There were plenty of drawers & closet space and a desk that became a catch-all for anything & everything. The shower was a decent size, however the water pressure was terrible. Unless you wanted a super-hot shower (not recommended with a sunburn), you were stuck with a very weak stream of warm water. Also, the pressure varied depending on when you took a shower. It may have just been an issue with our room, I'm not sure. Also, a tip- you might want to pick up one of those suction cup shower soap holders, as there are no ledges or places to put shampoo/soap, etc. in the the shower. The sink is right outside, so it wasn't that big of deal. There was a little bit of confusion as to who our Steward was because they were changing out crew members, but we did meet Ernesto on day 2. He was awesome & always kept us with ice & fresh towels.

 

 

The Atrium: It was really lovely and had a great bar right in the middle. Guest services & the shore excursion desk were located near the bar, so it tended to get crowded down there in the evenings. There were some nice seating areas off to the side, as well as an Internet Cafe and a self-serve Sail & Sign kiosk. Speaking of Internet, The Paradise has the new Wi-Fi @ Sea program. They had 3 levels for our cruise- Social ($20- basically for social media like FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc), Value ($40- access to everything except music & video streaming, facetime & skype) and Premium ($80- all inclusive). We got the value plan and were pleased with the speed. One noteworthy pain is that you can only be logged into one device at a time, so if you are sharing with others in your cabin, it can become a pain- unless you want to shell out money for a second/third plan.

 

General Decor/layout of the ship: It was okay. We didn't find it overwhelmingly beautiful or especially tacky, just a bit dated. The decor definitely had a Vegas-like theme. The one thing that bugged me were the ugly turquoise "Easter eggs" that seemed to appear everywhere on the ship, lol. At one point, I started counting them. I got to twenty something and stopped. I have read that the Fantasy-class ships are some of the easiest to navigate. I like to Pride myself on my stellar ability to always find my way. Not so much on this ship. We had a really hard time figuring out how to get from A-B. My suggestion would be to keep the small ship map in your pocket at all times. They have them at GR and we had one in our stateroom. It saved us a few times. By day 5, just in time to leave, we finally got the hang of it!

 

Pools/Outdoor areas: We were disappointed in the pool area. It was really small and always seemed super-crowded. The aft pool was closed on day 1 & 2. We never went back there to check after that to see if it was open. There were several hot tubs, including 2 on the Serenity deck. We spent some time on the first sea day out of the Serenity deck. It's located on the very back of the ship. Perfect area, but kind of hard to get to. I wish they had put an adults-only pool back there. There were plenty of seats available, even in the late morning/early afternoon. In fact, one thing I have always read about here on these boards are about the "Chair hogs". I never noticed that on this sailing. Always plenty of room in every area we stumbled upon.

 

More to come...

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Casino/Bars/Promenade: I enjoy Blackjack, so I spent a fair amount of time at the tables while we were at sea. The casino was great. The table minimums were great and there were plenty of slots. The cash cube game was addicting! Only complaint: I HATE the fact that smoking is allowed in the casino and the long bar right outside. Flame me if you must (pardon the pun), but smoking should be done OUTSIDE on a ship. My wife has severe reactions to being around smoke, so most of the time, she was unable to join me. I understand that people gamble more when they can smoke/drink, but my suggestion would be to make at least a couple nights "non-smoking" nights the casino so everyone can enjoy it. Our stateroom was on deck 6 near the elevator/stairwell, 3 decks directly below the casino and you could still clearly smell smoke right outside our room. We spent some time in the Rotterdam bar, Promenade aft. It seemed to be the least crowded bar and the bartender made some awesome rasberry daquiri's! Same for the atrium bar. There were plenty of photo opportunities on the Promenade deck, with Carnival photogs and backdrops every few feet, especially on elegant night. The pixels photo area is also on the same deck, in the atrium area. by the end of the cruise, there were so many photos for sale that they covered the entire atrium level of deck 9. We purchased one Photo from the Cozumel gangway. The 5x7's are $14.99 each, the 8x10's were $19.99 each.

 

Food: We had "Your time dining", so we ate in the Elation dining room nightly, except for elegant night. We opted to not participate. In hindsight, I wish we would have. Everyone looked so nice and we heard the lobster was amazing! That was the only night we ate at the Paris Buffet. They had great Prime Rib, so it was not a total loss! The food in the Elation dining room was fabulous. The grilled Flank Steak (served on the nightly menu) was yummy, as well as the bing cherry chilled soup served one night as an appetizer. The french onion soup was the best I have ever had! That leads me to desserts- The chocolate melting cake..OMG. Amazing! I will miss that so much! We didn't get to try the Mongolian wok or the poolside grill, but judging from the lines, I would say it was good also.

 

More to come tomorrow!!!

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Shows & Entertainment: There is plenty of onboard entertainment to keep everyone busy- shows, trivia, karaoke, games... We only attended one show, Shout!, which was just okay. I wish we would have caught one of the comedians, but we were always off doing something else. The comedians usually held two shows nightly and the folks we talked to who attended had rave reviews. We did stumble upon a show in the Normandie lounge one afternoon. A crew member was teaching a group of women how to do Beyonce's "All The Single Ladies" dance. It was really funny. Also, if you enjoy Bingo, they seemed to offer it a couple times each day. I would suggest bringing your own dobbers or a highlighter so you do not have to spend the extra money to buy one. If you are unsure about shore excursions, they do offer an informational session (on the first sea day, I believe) that covers some of the excursions at are available to book and information on the ports of call.

 

Shopping: The Galleria shops had a fair amount of merchandise to buy. Everything from duty-free booze (which you cannot have until your last day), cartons of cigarettes, jewelry, clothing & accessories, Carnival-themed merchandise, make-up, etc. If you are planning on making a big purchase onboard, check the funtimes for scheduled sales. They also had a small selection of personal items & medicines. I ended up with a cold by the second night and paid $16 for a package of Dristan cold medicine (circa, 1985). Next time, I might pack some just in case, because the stuff they had was so expensive. Also, if you just need advil, tylenol, bonine, etc, they can give you individual doses at GR for free.

 

Up next: Ports/Excursions!

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Grand Cayman: Grand Cayman was our first port. Since you tender to shore in GC, FTTF came in really handy. We received a note in our stateroom the evening before letting us know to meet in the Leonardo Lounge at 8am (I think, or close to it) to be escorted to our tender. We waited in the lounge with the diamond/platinum & wedding party. We were quickly escorted to our tender and onshore by 8:45am. We decided to not do a ship sponsored excursion in GC. We knew we wanted to do snorkeling, do after much research, we decided to take quick 10 minute walk from the port to the Eden Rock dive shop. There was a nice paved pathway all the way there and it was really close. For a $22 (american dollar) rental fee, we both got a mask, snorkel & fins. They staff was friendly and explained to us where the reef was and where we could enter and exit the water. If you dive, you can also rent dive equipment there. They also had lockers you can rent for $5, so you know your stuff is completely safe while you are out in the water. They have ladders in a few places where you can climb in and out of the water. I would say the water is about 8 feet deep at the shore. You can see plenty of awesome fish as soon as you get in, but if you want to see the best you will need to swim out to the reef, which is about 100 yards from shore. It sort of freaked us out at first, but before you know it, you've snorkeled your way all the way out to the reef! It was amazing. we saw fish in every color and size and the water is crystal clear- even when you get out into the deeper section of the reef. They also have several lounge chairs, so once we were done we hung out and for a while enjoying the view and drying off. After we returned our equipment, we decided to grab lunch at the Hard Rock, which was directly across from our port. One thing to make note of is that most prices are listed in Cayman Dollars, not US dollars. Some places will have both prices listed. Things can be quite expensive in GC, so be sure to ask if the prices are US or CD so you are prepared. Hard Rock had both prices displayed, but for 2 burger & fries and 2 cokes we still paid $50 USD. We still had plenty of time, but decided to head back to the ship early because snorkeling wore us out! We were supposed to depart GC at 3pm, which we did, but we were forced to turn around and return to port because someone on our ship was involved in a fatal jet-ski accident on shore. He and his family were escorted off the ship, luggage and all, by the GC police. Very sad. The man who died was a passenger on the Carnival Conquest, who was also in port that day. Soon thereafter we were underway to our second port of Cozumel, Mexico......

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Cozumel: Our second port was Cozumel. We arrived around 11:30am. Due to currents, the Captain had a hard time docking the ship, so we had to try it a few different times. Getting off the ship in Cozumel was a mini-nightmare. Even though there were at least 5 announcements for people to not come down to to deck 3 or 4 until the ship was cleared to allow passengers off, people did. Eventually, we ended up in a line that wrapped around the hallways of deck 4 and finally down to deck 3 where we were able to get off. We opted for a (non-Carnival) private fishing/snorkeling charter because there were 24,000 other cruise guest in port that day, so avoiding the masses was fantastic. We made our way through the never ending maze of port shops to get to the taxi stand. We took a $9 taxi ride to Caleta Marina which was about a mile and a half from our pier. The charter we did was through Chi Chi Charters. We did the 6 hour private fishing/snorkel charter. We researched them very carefully and they had outstanding reviews on Trip Advisor, as well as some other sites. The boat was nice and our guides, Manuel & Luis, were excellent. They let us know the game plan and we were on our way to the southern tip of the Island to begin fishing. The trip there took a good hour or more but we got to see some of the resorts and beaches along the way. Once we reached "the spot", Manuel set up the lines and poles and we began fishing. It was slow at first, but I got to reel in the first catch, which was a decent sized Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish). Shortly after, my wife also caught one. We were completely satisfied with our catch! Since it was pretty choppy that day and the boat was being tossed around by the waves, my wife wasn't feeling good so we ditched the fishing and they took us to an amazing snorkel spot near the southern tip of the the Island. Luis said the locals call the reef "Columbia" and it was one of the nicest ones on the island. I will admit, this reef was at least a mile off shore, so I was pretty freaked out to just jump into open water off the back off a boat. It took me a few, but once I jumped in it was like nothing I had ever seen before. The reef was gorgeous! Alive and full of all kinds of coral and colorful fish. The current was a bit strong, so it carried us without having to swim very much. The highlights was seeing a barracuda and a very large moray eel. The fish would swim right up to our masks. We snorkeled for a while then boarded the boat and headed back to the marina. On the way back, Manuel made us some homemade guacamole with chips, which was outstanding. They had a taxi waiting for us and we headed back to port. I would definitely recommend this company if you want a private experience. On the way back tot he port I noticed how run down the area was right outside the port and how there are apparently no traffic laws, lol. We saw two people on a scooter with the driver holding a baby. Scary. Anyway, we made it back safe and sound. We shopped around the port shops and picked up some souvenirs. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at Bar Mandy, located right in the middle of the shop area. The steak tacos were so good and nothing beats a Mexican coke! If you don't really feel like you want to venture out of the safety of the port, there is a small beach area by Senor Frogs where you can get into the water and swim (even snorkel if you have your own gear). We headed back to the ship. We were docked next to RCI's Behemoth of the Seas (Aka Oasis). That is one BIG ship! Especially, parked next to the Paradise!!! Getting back onboard was a breeze. We headed back up to our room and I parked myself in the window to watch all of the Oasis "pier runners". We saw one couple get left behind. I can't imagine that feeling and NEVER want to. We sailed away on time,into a beautiful Caribbean sunset!

 

Final thoughts, observations & tips to follow~

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Thanks for the review!!! My hubby and I are hoping to be able to book the May 11th sailing on the Paradise...I hate being so last minute but we have to make sure he can wrap some jobs up at work before we committ. Anyways it was fun to read your review...keep your fingers crossed for us that we can make this trip we really need it! PS: We are like you we live in bradenton just an hour S of Tampa so it's our closest port.

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So, final entry- sorry it took me a couple of days...

 

Debarkation in Tampa:

 

Debarkation was slightly hectic, but not so bad- who wants to actually leave the ship, right??. We had FTTF, so we had a flyer placed in our cabin with clear instructions on where to wait until our "zone" was called. We choose The relaxed disembarkation and left our bags outside our stateroom the night before. Our assigned zone was "Zone 1", so we got up at 7am, ate breakfast in the MDR, gathered our carry-on's back in our cabin, and headed to the lounge we were directed to wait in. Again, like Cozumel, there were several announcements for people to not gather in the atrium area until their zones were called...which they did...It got a little hectic when they called "zones 1-4" to debark and the staircases got a bit bottle-necked. Once we got off the ship, it was simple to find our luggage and get through customs. The terminal was very organized & efficient!

 

Final thoughts/tips/etc...

 

Overall, we had an excellent cruise. We enjoyed most of the things the Paradise had to offer, and, if the price is right, we would sail her again! Hoping for a second ship in Tampa! Are we die-hard Carnival Cruisers? We are in the early planning stages and are definitely leaning toward Carnival again (a bigger ship this time, hopefully!). I wouldn't rule out sailing on another cruise line just to see how the other half cruises. I like the relaxed atmosphere, the informality & the crew members and employees who make the Carnival experience a great one. Final thoughts: I will always purchase FTTF, if available, on any future sailings. I hate lines- I'll admit it- and more time on shore and less time waiting is a bonus for me. Next time, I will remember that there are virtually no trashcans in any area, so I will have to train myself to leave items on tables or with crew members. I will remember that even windy, and not-so-hot days at sea can still cause a sunburn. I will not fear the chair hogs!!!!! I will bring one of those giant Armageddon respirator masks to wear in the casino. I will attend more onboard shows- especially the comedy ones. I will have a better budget planned now that I have an idea of how quickly onboard charges rack up (we spent about $100 a day and we do not drink. In my opinion, that's a lot, so I will need to be better next time!). Most of all, I will relax, have fun and forget reality!

 

I'll happily answer any questions you might have! Thanks for reading!

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Thanks for the review, I enjoyed reading it. I'll be on the Paradise in 19 days. This will be my 4th Carnival cruise.

 

Thanks again, and smooth sailing..............

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Looking forward to the rest!!

 

Hey Captain, did Paradise get a drydock yet? I thought she was supposed to get some upgrades this year?

Also

Any word on if and what ship CCL might add to Tampa for 7 day cruises?

Thanks

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I like the Paradise but disembarkation was the worst ever for me. That was last August i was hoping they had that down better by now. Thx for review!

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