by R W
October 26, 2003
My husband and I are in our early 30's, my parents in there late 50's also traveled on the Paradise. We did the Eastern Caribbean. We did tire of the repeated security check while traveling. My father has a pace maker, and was frisked and searched at every security checkpoint. The two things we learned from this trip is that we should have used our small carry on with rollers rather then our kit bag, even a backpack would have been much better! Both Montreal and Miami airports are huge and it gets tiring lugging a kit bag! Miami charges $3.00 to use the carts and there are many areas you cant use them in. Also use bright colored tape or ribbon on your luggage so you can pick it out of the other 500 pieces of plain black baggage!
We stayed at Sheraton Biscay Bay and were able to pre-register with Carnival in the lobby Sunday morning, which saved us from the long line at the port and we went straight upstairs to wait to be called through security and boarding. There was a United Way fundraiser going on so we were able to purchase bottled water and pop at a reasonable price and have it delivered directly to our stateroom! It was a great deal, half of the price of the pop card and the case lasted the whole cruise. (We are not huge pop drinkers) And the on board water tastes like big city water.chlorinated, so if you are used to well water buy your bottled water!
I had memorized the deck layouts long before we boarded but it took my husband 4 or 5 days to figure his way around the ship, the trickiest thing if finding the Destiny Dining room if you are in a forward room. It is Aft directly behind the Elation Dining room but as the kitchen is between them you cannot get through on the same level and must access it either from the deck above or below. We had a great room on Empress Deck the main floor right off the atrium where you enter and exit the boat in Miami. It is also where you find the photo gallery. The pictures are very overpriced. $20. for the 8X10 and you cant have copies made of smaller sizes unless you first buy the large one. The travel log is exactly as you see it 100 times in your room, what you see is what you get. I thought the copy you purchased would be a bit longer.it's not. Our room was quite far forward and I think we felt the sea swells more then in some other cabin, as well as we had a fair bit of noise when the ship maneuvered into ports. But it did not bother us too much. We did have more motion then I expected, despite the stabilizers they boast of. My parents took something for motion sickness a couple of times. I didn't use any, but have felt like I'm on a boat for several days after leaving the ship. (At least we didn't hit any hurricanes so it could have been worse!)
We took advantage of all the onboard trivia games and activities. We even won a couple of the coveted "ship on a stick(s)" Some games they pick the people who are the most energetic and jump up and down and screamed (or even get up on tables). For others they are looking for the people who looked like they least want to be there! For some you had to submit your name and then be drawn. It is good to check what the physical activity level is before volunteering, as my husband bruised his chest muscles throwing himself over a pool divider in the pool games. For most games you volunteered for the gift was 24 caret plastic ship on a stick trophy. For games when you were dragged out of the audience you often received Champaign, or even spa treatments if you won. No prizes were given of for group events like Win Lose or Draw but they were great fun.
We also enjoyed the karaoke and piano bar a lot! Roberta played in the American Bar most nights and was fabulous, able to change keys to best suit the singers and sang loud enough to drown out those who don't know they can't sing. soft enough to let the ones who could shine! Bring lots of dollar bill with you when you go, she never asks for any but she sure deserves them!
The food was all beautifully prepared, and I tried a number of things I had never had before. Our server Rulsan from Estonia was excellent and put up with all our torment, with a smile. The quality of the food was very good, but not outstanding. The best cappuccino and deserts were the ones you had to pay for at the Ills De France Café. They were wonderful. Much better then the free ones in the dinning rooms.
Ports of Call
Nassau, Bahamas: When you get off at this port you are bombarded by merchants selling their services and wares. Some are very persistent! I was so glad we choose to do the ship's excursion to the blue lagoon! It is a scenic 45-minute boat ride to the Blue Lagoon Island where we snorkeled with stingrays. What a marvelous adventure. It was high tide so you were quite high above them for safely observing them. You did sort of feel like a "herd" going into the water, and had to be careful not to get kicked or hit while floating along. But I loved it when we were given the opportunity to feed them and rub their soft underbellies! After most of the crowd had started to go some of us were even able to hold them right up along our chests, hands under their flowing wings. The guide even dove down and brought up sea amenities and other creatures for us to touch and hold. Awesome! Then we just relaxed in paradise! NO pushy merchants or panhandlers allowed on this private island. There are stands for services and gifts, but they are not allowed to approach you! We found a private area with a hammock between the coconut trees and relaxed for the afternoon. We also watched some dolphins here and swam in the lagoon. My parents chose a different route. They made their way past all the sales people on the pier and found the local bus run. For $1.00 each they road the entire route, and saw how the local people lived and worked. Saw the touristy areas and the shanties, and absorbed the local culture. It is also worth taking the ferry or taxi to Atlantis where you can walk through the common areas and aquarium. We did not have time to see it but others who did enjoyed it very much.
La Romano, Dominican Republic: I expected to Dock at a private pier at Casa De Campo in a remote area. So I was greatly surprised to pull into port at a bustling little city. While the pier is quite a walk to get in and out of it is by no mean remote. I found the excursions to be very overpriced here. My Husband and I had the good fortune to be seated next to a couple of ladies at breakfast that morning that spoke fluent Spanish. We had a nice conversation with them and bumped into them again in the area where the taxis come in. My husband and I had agreed to spend the day with my parents and go out on our own. Our new Spanish friends had found out that the best fares were for groups of 6 so we all decided to go together. This worked out wonderfully. We agreed on a two-hour tour with a driver for $30.00 US for all 6 of us. (just $5.00 each-sure beats the ships rates!) We spent an hour getting a feel for the history and culture of La Romano, a city that has had electricity for less then a decade, and experiences regular outages. So they mainly use kerosene for cooking. There is almost no refrigeration, so food is bought daily at markets. We shopped at a wonderful market with pottery, jewelry, leather good, art, and woodcarvings. Our new Spanish friends were great help in haggling over prices. Our next stop was Altos Des Chevron. It was a beautiful Spanish styled villa with an amazing view of the Chevron River far below, and more little shops, and eateries. Our driver was kind enough to take us around the villa tell us some history, and our friends translated it for us, saving us from other entrepreneurs eager to charge us for the same service. Then back to the ship. We had been practicing our Spanish with the girls and our driver. We ended up spending an extra ½ hours on tour and our driver Michel did not want to accept any thing for it, as he had enjoyed our English/Spanish lessons. But we gave him an extra $10.00 for all his help. (Someone was left behind at this port, as the ship waited 30 minutes and then had to set sail, I later learned she had managed to get a flight back to Miami and was safe. P.S. the local time is one hour behind ship time here)
St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands: As this is the port I was most looking forward to I ended up being the most disappointed. Okay so maybe I was just having a bad day. It all started when room service messed up and we didn't get breakfast before the customs clearance. We got a very grumpy customs officer who seemed to hassle us for no reason. Room service had come to our cabin while we were going through customs and so we ended up grabbing a bite at the Paris Restaurant, and then shopping for souvenirs at the straw market. Just about the time we needed to head back for our ship booked excursion it started to pour rain! We got drenched. I can laugh at that. We got dried off and prepared for our sail and snorkel trip, pleased to see the sun breaking thought the clouds and the showers subsiding. That is when they announced it was cancelled. By the time I got to the excursion desk it was sunny again, and although they fully refunded our money, they refused to go ahead with the excursion, and there was nothing available to replace it with. So we went to the Paris restaurant to decide what to do next. We got our lunch, and I was in the desert line when the person ahead of me got the last piece of chocolate cake.no more was being served..When I'm having a bad day you at least need to give me my Chocolate!!! We did decide to go up the tram to the top of paradise point. It is $15 per person for a round trip, but you can get it for $13 if you get the passes at the shops in the market. Still I felt it was overpriced for the 3 minute ride each way. It is a beautiful vista, but humidity was worse at the higher altitude, and so some of our pictures appear a bit misty. There is a stand with exotic birds where you can have your picture taken. The best deal is if you buy two of her fancy frames for $20. She will take 5 pictures of you holding the birds using your own camera. We got most of our liquor/t-shirt/costume jewelry, and souvenirs haggling in the straw market, and found some good deals. The ships recommended stores are over rated, and expensive. The jewelry is so overpriced that even with 50% off sales I'm sure I could get just as good prices at home in Canada.
I heard later for a dollar you could catch a bus to Corki beach, a phenomenal place to sunbath and unwind.
Overall we had a wonderful vacation! I thought I would come home refreshed but we never stopped. We stayed up for the shows and buffets, and singing at the piano bars, and then I was up early to work out. I would definitely do it all again.