by Kim Cornelius
October 20, 2002
My husband and I have been on 12 cruises; this was our seventh on Carnival. We are in our mid-thirties and were traveling with our 3-year-old son.
We booked this sailing after seeing very good rates and deciding that we would like to try the smoke-free ship. Also, we had earned enough points on our Capital One Carnival card for a $500 reward voucher that may have burned a hole in our pocket if we didn't use it right away! Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves and did like that there was no smoking. We especially appreciated that in the piano bar and the casino.
Before departure, I had read some negative reviews about the condition of the Paradise and the treatment by the crew, so I was a little concerned. But I was delighted to see that the ship was very clean and I constantly saw workers polishing, shining, steaming carpets, etc. We found the crew of the Paradise to be very helpful and accommodating.
This was a Sunday-to-Sunday cruise departing out of Miami. We flew to Miami on Saturday and stayed overnight at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay ($40 via Priceline). My husband and I joked that it was the nicest $40 hotel room we ever stayed in. We spent an enjoyable evening at the Bayside Marketplace, including a nice dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. There was an interesting array of ethnic food available at the food court. Outside there were kiddie rides, including a train ride that my son really enjoyed. At the waterfront, a live band was playing.
We took advantage of the pre-check at the Sheraton in the morning. There was a small line when we went down at 8:50 am. The check-in started at 9:00 am and we were finished at 9:25 am. As it ends up when we got to the port there didn't seem to be much of a line, but who knew. We got a cab around 10:45 to go to the port and encountered very little traffic. We went up to the waiting area and around 12:15, they started letting people board.
We were in cabin R232, an outside cabin on the Riviera Deck. The cabin was a nice size, with one of the bigger showers that we have had in a cabin. We had one of the best cabin stewards ever, Daniel from the Dominican Republic. We had robes in the cabin but there was no hairdryer. I was concerned about the cabin being cold, but the vent control on the ceiling allowed us to regulate the temperature easily.
We had the main seating in the Destiny Dining Room at 5:45 p.m. We were seated at table 246, a 6-person booth. Our table mates were another family of three with a 2-year-old son. They were very pleasant, the boys seemed to like each other and we had an enjoyable time dining together. Our waiter was Legowo from Indonesia and his assistant was Conrado from Philippines. Legowo was the best waiter that we have ever had. He has worked for Carnival for 20 years on many different ships; he said the Paradise is his favorite. We felt fortunate to have such wonderful cabin and dining service this week.
We really enjoyed the food in the dining room, and ate all our dinners there. The filet mignon was particularly good, served medium rare as requested. We also enjoyed many of the seafood selections. My favorite desserts in the dining room were the souffles, chocolate one night and vanilla another. The formal nights were Monday and Friday. For kids old enough for Camp Carnival, there were special children's dinners at the Paris Restaurant (informal Lido facility) on both formal nights. And on the first formal night there was a 'Coke-tail' party as well.
The Promenade Deck had a sushi bar that we really enjoyed. Unfortunately it did not open until 5:30 p.m. This made it tough with a 5:45 p.m. seating in the dining room; what's more, there was always a crowd waiting for it to open. It would have been helpful for it to open at 5:15 p.m. so people with the 5:45 p.m. seating could enjoy a sushi appetizer before dinner.
We most of our breakfasts and lunches in the Paris Restaurant on the Lido Deck. The breakfast was okay--the same selection every day, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns, cereal, flaky pastries. I enjoyed getting omelets and eggs to order. Breakfast in the dining room was slightly better, and the coffee in the dining room was significantly better. Lunch at the Paris Restaurant was a very nice variety and it changed daily. We looked forward to trying new things at lunch. There were different hot lunch offerings including meat being carved. On the salad bar there were interesting and different cold salads each day. They made deli sandwiches to order. And each day there was a different hot bread pudding with sauce that was very good. Of course pizza, burgers, and hot dogs were available each day. The pizza and soft serve ice cream were available 24 hours.
Fun Ship Activities
Josh Riffe was a wonderful cruise director. He made even routine things fun! We learned onboard that he was leaving for vacation after our cruise, so unfortunately, if you are going soon, he won't be there.
There was a main pool with a slide on the Lido deck. Aft of Promenade deck there was a kids' pool and small jungle gym. It was usually pretty quiet back there. Went we went to the pool, we had to take the beach towels that the steward provided in our cabin, or sign for one on deck using the sail and sign card. There was no charge as long as the towel was returned.
The fitness center, in the spa on the forward section of deck 12, had a variety of machines and free weights, including treadmills, steppers, and bikes, as well as two hot tubs, sauna and eucalyptus steam room (which helped the cold I developed while on-board).
We enjoyed the variety of live music throughout the ship. Our favorite was the piano music in the America Bar, the ship's piano bar. We enjoyed listening to both Mark and Roberta - Roberta had booklets for those who wanted to pick a song and sing along on the microphone. The production shows were Dream Voyage and Shout. We missed Dream Voyage, but made it to Shout, which was very enjoyable. We also saw a comedian named Adam Ace who was very wild. His comedy was more physical than your ordinary stand-up comedian.
The casino was a nice size with a variety of machines. It never got very crowded. My husband and I learned about playing craps before our trip, and played it for the first time on the Paradise. The casino personnel were very friendly and helpful. There were good opportunities to try out new games at the un-crowded tables in the Paradise casino.
Our son enjoyed participating in activities at Camp Carnival. The orientation and family party the first night were informative and enjoyable. The schedule of activities for the week allowed him to pick the things that he wanted to participate in. Almost every night at dinner he could not wait to finish eating and go to the Children's World. One evening they had a Family Fun Fest for parents and kids at Children's World, with lots of creative activities and crafts for the kids to make including sand art, face painting, spin art, and friendship beads.
Ports of Call
We were on the western itinerary, which is scheduled to change in February. Traveling with a 3-year-old, we kept things simple and low key. Basically we went to a beach at each stop since he loves the sand and water.
Cozumel - The ship docked at the Puerta Maya pier. There was a lot of construction going on, but it looks like there will be a lovely shopping village right at the pier once the work has been completed.
We took a cab ($14) to Mr. Sanchos Beach Club. There was no cover to enter and there were small shops as you walked through to the beach. The beach area was beautiful; white sand and beautiful blue water. The sand wasn't as powdery as I thought it would be, but instead appeared to be made up of little shells. It had a consistency of sesame seeds. My son still had fun playing in it, but wanted his water shoes on since he didn't like the feel of it. We got there around 10 a.m., so it was not crowded, and we had our choice of a palapa (table shaded by palm leaf roof). Around lunchtime we ordered some appetizers and beers. We had the best guacamole and it was a serving bigger than I have ever seen. For the appetizers and four beers in all, it was only $20.
Dinner times on the ship were moved early to allow passengers time to go back out onto the island. Our early seating was at 5 p.m. (the other was at 5:30). And the late seatings were at 7:00 and 7:30. After dinner we went to the Mini Golf (or Golfito) that I had read about. It was as nice as I had read; it was beautiful and lush. It was $7 each for 18 holes ($3 for a plastic putter for our son). And beers were $2 each and $1 for a bottle of water. And just as described, we were given a walkie-talkie to call in for additional drinks, delivered to our hole.
Grand Cayman - We went to Seven Mile Beach this day. There are public accesses in between many of the hotels. The hotels do not own the beach, but the beach chairs are only for the guests. Having a three-year-old at the beach does not allow for lounge time on the chairs anyway, so we went onto a beautiful stretch of beach near the Westin Hotel and played in the sand. To get up to the Westin, we took the bus, which is really a van. Either yellow #1 or lime green #2 will take you out to Seven Mile Beach. The cost is $2.00 CI (or $2.50 US) per person. After we returned to town, we stopped in a grocery, Fort Market, where they had 16 oz. rum cakes for $10 (they were $12 on the ship).
Ocho Rios - The Island Village Complex just opened in February 2002. You can see it off to the right of the pier. It is an easy walk from the pier, but you have to walk out through the taxis inland to get to the entrance on the right. There are many shops and restaurants including Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. We walked through a little and then stopped at Margaritaville. They have a nice pool with a cool slide. There is a little bit of beachfront too, where our son spent some time playing in the sand. The margaritas and the mango daiquiris were delicious.
We booked a US Airways flight direct from Miami to Pittsburgh scheduled to depart at 2 p.m. We learned about a month before our trip that the flight departure time was changed to 12 noon. I was very concerned about being able to make this. I thought about calling the airline to change it, but when I looked at the other flights, there wasn't a favorable alternative.
Early in the week, I inquired at the Purser's desk about debarking with the first group. He told me to bring my tickets to the desk, then issued me luggage tags to be in the first group and told me where to be Sunday morning. I started getting antsy while waiting for the ship to be cleared. At about 9:45 a.m., someone arrived to our lounge to tell us that the ship had been cleared and we could proceed to the Empress Deck for debarkation.
We had no trouble getting a taxi and it is a short drive to the airport. There was not a long line at the ticket counter, but there was a long line at security. Nevertheless, after passing through security I looked at my watch and it was 11:00 a.m. A flight earlier than 12 noon could be problematic and we were fortunate that everything went smoothly and had no problem making our flight.
We had a fabulous vacation. It was a wonderful family trip for us; we got to spend time with our son and some time for just the two of us as well, while our son had a ball with the other kids. I hope this provides some helpful information for any of you planning to go soon!