by Tom Smith
October 27, 2002
This was my second cruise both overall and on this ship and itinerary. The most important thing I learned on this cruise is that each one is unique, even when the ship and the itinerary are the same. As you read this review, you should keep in mind that your experiences would most likely be different than mine. You most likely have different life experiences, tastes, and expectations than me. With that in mind, I will tell you what I thought of the entire cruise experience. I will present this in a day-by-day rundown, but I might do some foreshadowing as I see it appropriate.
My cruise was booked as part of a group cruise for singles from Discount Travel Club in Marcos Island, Florida (www.singlescruise.com). There were almost 300 people in our group from all over the country. Some who were not in our group seemed a little unhappy with some of the antics a few members in our group performed. To those who were upset, I apologize on their behalf.
October 26, 2002 - Flying down
I booked my own airfare on Frontier Airlines for about $300 less than what Carnival wanted for the air add on supplement, although by the time I booked my transfers and hotel, my savings was around $150 (still nothing to sneeze at). For those of you who have never heard of Frontier Airlines, they are a discount airline based out of Denver. They only recently started to serve the Miami area through Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport with flights that are convenient for cruisers. I arrived at Denver International Airport for my flight and checked my bags. The skycap that took my luggage commented that it looked like I was going on a cruise. I asked him, "What gave it away?" I think it was the luggage tags that said "Paradise" on them. I made my way to the gate and passed security. The Transportation Security Administration had just recently begun deploying guards to Denver and this was the first time I had dealt with them. I must complement them on their professionalism. Three guards act My flight made it into Fort Lauderdale ahead of schedule, which actually caused a little problem. The airport information screens showed the flight as on time, even after it landed. Since I booked my ground transfers through Carnival, the agent there was using that screen as to know when to go to greet me. I saw several representatives from Princess, though and they pointed me towards the Carnival representative. When they figured out that I had already landed, they were friendly and helpful. I retrieved my bags and waited for the bus to take me to the Sheraton Biscayne Bay in Miami. I was the only person who Carnival was expecting at that time, so I got the entire 40-foot bus to myself. For those of you driving down, there are express lanes on I-95 so you should feel no need to worry about traffic conditions causing an unreasonable delay.
I checked into the hotel and did some sightseeing around Miami. There is a people mover that circulates the downtown area that was quite useful, although I wouldn't trust it at night alone. Our group met at the Hyatt for cocktails and then split up. Some of us went to Bayside Marketplace for dinner, while others went to South Beach. I went with the former group and ate at Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company. The food was good, and the prices were not outrageous, but you better have liked the movie Forest Gump. Also, they automatically add a 15% gratuity onto your bill. After dinner, I wandered around with some friends. A street vendor wanted to look at my glasses, and I looked back and said, "you got to be nuts!" and walked away quickly. After a while, I caught a cab back to my hotel to catch the final two innings of game 6 of the World Series (what a game!) and turned in for the night.
October 27, 2002 - Embarkation Day
I woke up and looked out at the bright South Florida sky. I could just barely see the bow of Voyager of the Seas through my hotel window. Another building and my hotel's elevators obstructed the view of the rest of the port. This was not a major problem for me, although some booking this hotel for a port view should think twice. Carnival set up a check-in desk in the hotel lobby (they will do that if there are more than 25 passengers booked in that hotel that are also on Carnival), and this helped with getting through the line at the pier. After I checked in with Carnival, I checked out of the hotel and ate breakfast. The food was terribly expensive, and the service painstakingly slow, but I wasn't in a hurry and this would be the last time I would purchase food for the next week anyway. The bus came to pick us up to take us to the pier (there was a busload in the hotel). There wasn't much organization in trying to load us on the bus, although it didn't seem to take terribly long to load everyone and On my first cruise, the ship docked before completing the maneuver through the turning basin (bow pointed towards downtown Miami). On this cruise, the captain had already completed this maneuver (bow pointed out to sea). This caused me to get turned around when I went to look for my cabin (E-201). This particular cabin is close to the aft elevators, although I never heard any extra noise and is very convenient if you are in the Destiny dining room, which I was. They were also putting up the Christmas decorations, which was quite surprising to me. The decorations were fairly tasteful and understated, although there is something immoral about putting up Christmas decorations before Halloween. The ship itself is in good condition, although there was several carpet stains and burned out floor lights on the promenade deck. These were minor details as far as I am concerned, and nothing that couldn't be fixed after a couple of weeks in dry-dock; which I understand is scheduled for the Paradise in January. Tng lines were stored. All this occurred while still within sight of Miami. Fortunately, there was only one serious injury, and that was the result of the fire aggravating a pre-existing condition. After the drill, I went on deck for sail-away. I stood on the top deck where the jogging track is and watched as we pulled out into the Atlantic Ocean. While we were still in the dredged channel, a sailboat cut across our path close enough to where the ship reduced speed and blew the ship's horn. A 12-foot fiberglass sailboat would have been no match for a cruise ship over 850 feet long, but given the warnings about terrorism, I was a little nervous. Fortunately, the little boat scooted out of our way and towards a probable chewing out by the Coast Guard for being a total airhead by steering a tiny boat if front of a huge cruise ship.
Our group had a room reserved for a private cocktail party so I went there before dinner. While I was busy drinking several multi-colored cocktails, the ship turned around and returned to Miami. I later learned there was a medical emergency on board, and the captain decided it was most efficient to return to port to disembark the passengers. I never found out what exactly the emergency was. Rumors were that one passenger died, but it is my understanding that the ship would just store the body until the next port of call (which happened to be the next day anyway). I went to dinner in the Destiny dining room. Our group had half of the dining room reserved, so I was able to jump from table to table during the cruise. I did notice an unusual pattern during the cruise. The closer to the windows, the better the service. On some nights when I was close to the middle, my main course did not arrive until just before the waiter show, while on other nights my service was friendly and efficient. Carnival also
October 28, 2002 - Nassau, Bahamas
I booked the "Historical Highlights" shore tour and went to the pier at 8:30 am to depart on the tour. Because of the events of September 11, 2001, vehicles are no longer allowed on the pier so we had quite a walk to get to the vans for our tour. One woman was furious because she was on the glass bottom boat tour and thought she was with the wrong group. I double-checked the shore tour times and found out her tour wasn't supposed to leave until 9:00 so I have little sympathy for her. Her one legitimate complaint was that they took the ticket without looking at it closely. She did discover the error in time to make her tour, though. I was impressed with the tour and my tour guide. The tour went to the Queen's Staircase, the water tower, and Fort Charlotte. Our tour guide gave us a good flavor of the island as well. He was pleasant with a touch of humor, and he earned his tip from me. I would say the tour was worth the money, although if you have been to Nassau, you can afford to skip it.
I boarded the ship and we left the port at 2:00 pm. We left port and the ship began a gentle rocking motion due to some swells. I was taking ginger so they really did not bother me, and no seasickness bags were deployed. We changed into formal wear for that evening's dinner. A few men wore tuxedos, although most wore dark suits. Also, several men were less than formally dressed. Although none wore jeans, a few went without a jacket, or even without a tie. Several ladies did wear cocktail dresses, although a few were still very casually dressed, too. The captain explained what happened from the previous evening and also gave us a weather forecast for the rest of the voyage. The weather was spectacular throughout the week, although we did experience minor rolling for the next couple days. Dinner was the traditional lobster tail, and I ordered it as well as the prime rib (surf and turf!). It was quite good, and the portion sizes were larger than what I remembered from March. After dinner, I went to t
October 29, 2002 - At Sea
Since this was a sea day, I slept in as best as I could. Some people prefer days in port because of the chance to see a new and different place. I prefer sea days because everything is so relaxed and there are lots of things to do (or do nothing). On this day, our group had a private function in one of the lounges. We just played some traditional games and had a great time. Shortly after noon, the captain gave a position report that included our schedule. I really liked that. It gave me some interesting information. The captain read the report in English, Spanish, and French. Another thing that I was impressed with is how many passengers were from countries other than the United States. After lunch, I changed into my swimsuit and hung out near the pool. I witnessed Carnival security chase some teenagers out of the adults-only hot tub. I also took a few trips down the water slide. Carnival uses salt water (changed daily) in their pools, which was a bit rough on my nose and eyes. I decided to cha
October 30, 2002 - San Juan, PR
Since we were returning to the United States, we had to go through immigration before we were allowed off the ship. This seemed a little more organized as compared to March, although the Immigration and Naturalization Service agents were a little late getting on board. I did get through the process and took the Bacardi and Old San Juan tour. The tour started out by going to the Bacardi factory. The tour itself was fine, although there is something not right about being served raspberry daiquiris at 11:00 am. After the tour, we drove through the city and ended up at El Morro. I went there in March, but on this occasion I ran into some friends and found some new areas of the fort. There was one stairwell that was dark and steep. I did not have any problems with the stairs, although my friends were nervous, especially for me. After I went through the fort, I went back to the ship and had lunch. After lunch, I felt tired so I took a nice long nap. I had dinner on board, although several of my friends
October 31, 2002 (Halloween) - Charlotte Amalie, VI
Saint Thomas was the most gorgeous port we visited. The lush green hillsides overlooking the blue water of the Caribbean is really hard to beat. I purchased tickets to go on the Paradise Point tramway. You can get a nice view of all the ships in port from there. On that particular day, the Paradise, Enchantment of the Seas, and Millennium were docked at Havensight Mall. The Norwegian Dream was docked at Crown Point, and the Norway was anchored off the shore. At the top, you can purchase souvenirs and get a quick snack. However, prices were outrageous, and the shops did not take credit cards. This is an unbelievable oversight on their part. There is a nature trail, but it is short and very steep in spots. I would not recommend it if it is raining, or you aren't in decent shape. Later, I went on a sailing and snorkeling adventure to Buck Island. The snorkeling was good, although some evil force possessed my body and caused me to wind my underwater camera backwards, so I only got five pictures on it
November 1, 2002 - At Sea
I had difficulty sleeping so I got up early to get breakfast. The ship went through a brief rainstorm just before I woke up and I could still see the clouds off the stern of the ship. As I ate breakfast, I saw the captain on his rounds and said, "Hi" to him. He acknowledged my greeting and continued on his rounds. Later, we had a galley tour and I was very disappointed in it. All we did was walk through the galley with no explanation as to what we were seeing. After the galley walk through, they had a towel folding demonstration that was quite fun to watch as they turned towels into swans and elephants. I was feeling tired so I took another nap. Since this was our second formal night, I changed into my suit and went to dinner. I started not feeling well just after the salad, so I did not eat much. After dinner, we had a group photo scheduled in the atrium. We were quite the spectacle as we tried to cram 250 people into as little space as possible. We took up all of one side of the staircase, half
November 2, 2002 - At Sea
I felt better this morning so I went to breakfast and then went to the debarkation talk. The cruise director, Risa Barnes, gave the talk. While I felt she was a decent cruise director, she has room for improvement, especially here. For example, she stated that you were allowed five bottles of liquor duty-free (the correct answer is liters), and that there would be a chance to smoke the rest of your Cuban cigars by the ship's funnel later since you aren't allowed to bring them back into the United States. Keep in mind that the Paradise has a very strict no-smoking policy where you can be thrown off the ship for possession of matches. After the talk, some passengers came up and corrected her oversight. She just transferred over from the Imagination and she was a little nervous. The other major surprise on this cruise was that there was no horse racing. I thought this was a staple of cruise ships, and made a tidy little profit for the line. I suppose not too many people missed it, though. After lunch
November 3, 2002 - Returning Home
I retrieved my items from the purser's desk and called my sister-in-law in Kansas where my mother had been staying (she was going to give me a ride from the airport when I got in). They handed out the travel log videos at this time, which is a major improvement over what they used to do. The video is actually watchable now, rather than what appear to be just amateur camcorder recordings. I said some more good-byes over breakfast, and they started calling colors at 9:00 am. My color was called at 9:15 and I made my way down to customs to retrieve my bags. Unfortunately, my bags were put in separate parts of the piles for my deck, so it was a little difficult to find. I finally did retrieve the bags, but there were a couple items I had to stuff inside another bag so I went to the side to re-pack. As I was doing this, a customs service dog sniffed my bags looking for illegal drugs. After he didn't find anything, the dog moved on. I scooped up my bags, handed my customs declaration form to the agent, anweek.
I had an excellent time, and I would not hesitate to recommend this cruise to my friends. While other lines may have better service or better food, Carnival delivers on what they promise, which is a great vacation for a reasonable price.