by Mark Pennington
October 26, 2003
This was the fifth time that my wife and I have been on this ship. We have previously sailed on Inspiration, and Celebration.
We have continually picked this ship due to the enforced No Smoking policy. We have found that with my wifes Astham that this is one of the greatest ideas on any ship bar none.
This was the second week of a back to back cruise we did on this boat this year.
The ship is very nicely done, and is overall in very good shape. We greatly enjoy the Classical music in the atrium most nights. Our Cabin steward, (R136), was fantastic. We have had cabins on Riviera all of the other times except once on Verandah. I would have to say that I have never had any complaints with the cabin service. The room is always cleaned up as if by magic when I am gone. My wife and I have joked that we think they hide in the closet, because not only is it done by the time we get back from lunch, but on a couple of occassions, we forgot something in our room after leaving within 5 minutes, and our steward was already cleaning up the room.
The cabin is a good enough size, and is comfortable, even for two weeks. Typically in these cabins, they have two twin beds that are pushed together. In the past, it has been exactly that, two beds, sheeted individually next to each other. This time, we were pleasantly surprised to find that they had just started a few weeks previous to have a spacer put between the beds to cover the gap, and had King sheets so you could snuggle up next to each other under the same set of sheets. Kudos to Carnival on this one.
One nice thing I have seen change is that they have now added shower wash and shampoo in dispensers in the showers, and these were kept full.
We did have a few days that we did sleep in late, and as a result the cabin was not cleaned until that evening. Our room steward did tell us that it was standard practice that after a certain time, they do not clean the rooms. I don't remember what time it was, but I can completely understand this since these people work their butts off, and need to have a break on occassion.
We had our meals in the Elation Dining room the first week, and Destiny the second. The first week, our wait staff was fantastic. I think they were mind readers, because no sooner did I think I wanted something, and he would be there with it. Iced Tea glasses were never empty, and I like Hot Tea, and after the first night, I had hot tea just as I was getting my desert, just as I like it. Unfortunatly, I do have to say that the wait staff the second week was not as attentive. The service was OK, but was not stellar like we had the previous week. We have always found the food to be well prepared, and the staff always happy to bring anything more that we may want. Additionally, we did have the early seating, our table mates, and us many times were one of the last tables to leave. They did have another seating after us, and we never once, in either dinning room, felt rushed that we should go, but rather, they just worked on the tables around us, and were always very pleasant.
Cruise director Jeff Brooonson was great, as was "Karl with a K". This week was the last week for Karl to be on this ship, and he was going to another ship. He was one of the social hosts, but I felt he was every bit if not more qualified as some Cruise Directors to be one himself. One day on the elevator, he was there, and I told him so. As it happened, his boss was on the elevator, and his boss commented to him that even the guests thought he should be one. It was my understanding that he was unsure of his ability. I hope he does become a CD, if he does, he will be great.
Being on a back to back cruise, you get to know some of the crew a little better. I had all of the shop people, as well as the CD, and social hosts calling my wife and I by first name. I also talked with "Smack" (Lighting) on one occasion, and being that I have been involved with theater, he showed me around back stage, and all of the equipment they use. Very impressive. He told me that each show, of which there are two per week, costs $1 Million to build up for use, and that is why they keep them for several years.
Speaking of the shows, The two main shows were very good. Additionally we very much enjoyed the other comics and such.
The weather was a bit rough, and we did have some showers along the way. The boat does have stabilizers, and they do a very good job of keeping the ride smooth.
Isla Roatan: We went to the beach here, Tabbyana Beach Excursion. The ride there will make you very thankful of what you have. The people that live here, live in very spartan conditions. Everyone that I dealt with on the tour, and at the beach in the way of locals were very friendly, and honest. I truly enjoyed this stop.
Grand Caymen: We have been here several times before. As a result, we went ashore, and booked a trip for the stingrays in port. It is considerably less money, and is exactly the same thing. If you are a first time cruiser, I would recommend dealing with the shore tours on the ship, since you may not be familiar with the ports.
Cozumel: I went to Playa Del Sol, while my wife did some Snorkeling. We have been here a few times before, and it has seen perhaps the largest change in any port. In the past, the cab drivers were rude, driving cars that looked like they would break down a couple of blocks down the road, and would try to rip you off, and would harass you to take their cab. This past time, however, this has changed. Many times I had a cabbie ask nicely if I needed a cab, and when I said no, that was it. They did not hassle you, Period. Additionally, I did rent a car, Avis, but did talk to other people that took cabs, and they said that they were clean, and polite, and did get the correct change back.
Nassau: We went to the Atlantis to look around. It is a pretty place, but I found that 30 to 40 minutes was enough time to look around. I did go with my wife to the straw market, her favorite place, and left before she did. I don't much enjoy the markets.
I did however use the Nautica Spa when I got back on, and as I was leaving the locker room, I did have the opportunity to meet Bob Dickinson (President of Carnival). He was onboard doing some inspections. As I have mentioned before the ship is in very good shape, but there are some small details that need attention. I mentioned this to him, and he mentioned that is why he was on board the ship. I did notice the rest of the week, every staff member was working like crazy. Additionally, Paradise is the only ship that is totally smoke free like I said. My wife and I have long wondered why they have not built another smoke free ship, and I asked Mr. Dickinson this. He stated that while the majority of the US population does not smoke, that they have a difficult time getting Travel Agents to push this. I noticed that Carnivals web site states that it will be smoke free thru September 20, 2004. I can only assume that they are going to allow smoking after that time. I find this terrible, and I would encourage you to contact Carnival, and let Mr. Dickinson know that you disaprove of this.
La Romana: While we were here we did the Catamaran Tour. This was several hours and went out to a private island with lunch. This was a fantastic tour, and I spent my time going out laying on a net at the front of the Catamaran just a foot or so over the water. This was truly heaven. On the way back, and a significant amount of Rum punch, there were some people mooning, and flashing their chests at the other boats. They were responsible enough to not flash the one boat that had the young children on it though.
St. Thomas: We took this time in St. Thomas to try and go to St. John. We ended up over there, and it started to rain. We were about half way thru the trip when it started, so unfortunately we did not get to spent much time in the ocean since there was lightning as well. They did not refund any money for this, but I didn't expect them to since we were already there, and when you take a cruise in October, you get used to the fact that you might get some rain.
I found the people at the Pursers Desk, especially Tom, and Tiberu (sorry about the spelling) to be fantastic people that were friendly, helpful, and remember most peoples names on sight. Additionally, I saw many other crew members, even before Mr. Dickinson's visit all over the place making sure the ship was kept up in very good shape.
I would very strongly recommend this ship to a Non-Smoker since the clean air is wonderful. If you do smoke, this is not the ship for you since they take the policy VERY seriously.
Debarkation: This is the part that everyone hates, because after being on the boat for a week, you don't want to leave. In times past, you had to wait in public areas for you luggage to be called, but now you can wait in your cabin. If you do a Back to Back cruise like my wife and I did, you will still be required to get off the boat after the first week, and go back thru the line. This is due to Customs, but the second time thru will get you back on the boat around 10:30 since the personnel in the terminal will take you basically in hand, and get you back on before the general boarding. When we did this there were about 8 passengers onboard from 10:30 to 12:00. You feel like you own the boat.
An additional comment about Carnival's tipping. You will see many people write that they do not like this. In years past, you had to put the money in an envelope (Cash) at the end of the cruise and give it to your wait staff, and room steward. I think the idea of adding it to your account is a good idea. Our first week one couple at our table did have the full amount removed the first night, and I talked with them about their perception of the service, and never once did they feel that they received poorer service due to the tips not being on their account. The staff does not know ahead of time if you have changed it, or taken it off. The advice I give in this situation is true in life, if the service you are receiving is not up to what you expect, then address it immediately, this is the only fair way to handle it. If the person that you are talking to about a service need is not met, then go up the chain. I do truly believe that Carnival does care about the service they give. I have seen enough examples of it to believe that they do mean it. You may see in other posting that some people did not like this or that, if they did not mention it to anyone ever, then that is their fault, and they have no one to blame but themselves. I have had concerns, minor ones, but upon mentioning them, they have ALWAYS been addressed and resolved.
If you have any questions or would like to talk to a fellow Paradise cruiser, please feel free to contact me at: email@example.com