by Doug Eads
December 7, 2003
Inaugural Voyage: It was November 25th 1998 - passengers were welcomed on Carnival Cruise Line's newest ship, the 'Paradise. This was the maiden voyage for the 70,000 ton ship which boasted the 12,000 square foot Nautica Spa with its luxury atmosphere in the locker and steam-room area. This was a special day - as would be December 12th 2003 while Carol, my wife, and I were aboard the fun and luxurious liner this past Christmas season.
These were common headlines in the Cruise Industry in 1998 - "AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY PRAISES CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES' LAUNCH OF WORLD'S FIRST SMOKE-FREE CRUISE SHIP" On November 19, 1998 The American Cancer Society Celebrates 'Great American Smokeout' with 'A Day on Paradise' CBS News anchor Paula Zahn Christens Paradise at Society's Black-Tie Gala ... a new era was beginning, read the news and press releases.
On December 12th 2003, I was interviewing the Paradise Hotel manager, Mr. Keith Bunton, when a wire service announcement came across his computer. He shared the world-wide announcement with me. "Carnival's Paradise will be redeployed to the West Coast as a smoking ship", said Bunton. Bob Dickinson, Carnival President worded the explanation quietly and briefly. "The Sept 20th, 2004 cruise of the Paradise will be the last cruise the Paradise will offer as a non-smoking vessel."
One has to wonder what went wrong with this seemingly savvy and right policy for only one ship - a one of a kind ship in the world.
Somber Mood: The policy had been in place for six years - any person who smoked on board Paradise was disembarked at the closest port. This was adhered to, and was also the policy for the crew. On Dec. 12th, 2003 when this non-smoking crew found out the news, they felt as though a family tie had been broken ... this news quickly spread among the over 2000 clients on-board. How did this happen? How did the world's only one hundred percent smoke free ship policy
Some industry insiders speculate that non-smokers (78 percent of Americans)just do not spend adequately on gambling and alcohol to make this unique non-smoking cruise atmosphere viable. As an enthusiast and supporter of this single world-wide ship policy environment, I was taken quite off-guard - because, I was interviewing Mr. Bunton and asking how the smoking policy was going after six years afloat. He stopped starkly and said "I am not being rude ... listen to this," and he read the notice to me from his computer. It was a bubble-burst to the mood in his office.
Ship: Paradise was the last in the Carnival Fantasy Class ship, which was most successful to that point in Carnival history. The Paradise, features a luxurious interior decor and a fine art collection in the style that is legendary of historic ocean liners. She seems to add an exclamation point to the success of the Fantasy-class series by re-creating the romance and entertainment of a classic sea-voyage ambience in a contemporary atmosphere.
Paradise was built at Finland's Kvaerner Masa-Ship-Yards. Careful attention was given to hire and use only non-smoking workers on the pride-filled project. Paradise was to give an alternative to those who wanted to venture into casinos and piano bars aboard ships without taking in unwanted smoke. Her crew was especially hand-picked and became like a family of ardent non-smoking people from 34 countries with a goal - Keep Paradise pure and clear of air!. On December 12th 2003 ... that mission went, up in smoke.
Preference: Thus far this review - I sound perhaps lamenting? Paradise is in fact a loss to those of us that saw a ray of sunlight in a concept for the 78 percent of us who do not smoke, but in reality Paradise is 1/28 of the ships we have sailed aboard, and they all offer checks and balances to keep the clean-air-peace among clients. For example; there is no smoking in show lounges on most ships, no smoking in dining areas on most...and common areas about the ships of today are well ventilated. It is not a huge issue.
Additionally, smokers today (at least 75 percent I estimate) are more courteous than smokers even five years ago. I have found though that on mixed smoking vessels that I do avoid casinos, and piano bars, which is a shame because we love a soda, low light, and the peaceful ambience of jazz. But, I am willing to give these two activities a bypass in return for the tremendous value and variety of things to do on today's cruise ships - from small personal cruise lines, river lines, to the mega-monsters that prowl the seas - cruising is an unmistakably perfect 'all-in-one-vacation.' You unpack just once and enjoy a variety of places along the way, along with fine food and entertainment.
Itinerary Selection: Paradise alternates routes out of Miami until its end to the no-smoking policy and redeployment in California. We chose the eastern route since we have done a western route five times. The Paradise eastern route gives you three full days of glorious sun and sea time ... and three port stops; St. Thomas, Nassau Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic.
We enjoyed our route selection very much! We chose to do non-scheduled activities on all three stops using local cabs and splitting fares with new friends. But in St. Thomas it is a per-person ride fare to various points - like our favorite, Sapphire beach - lovely water, and views of St. John's and the British Virgin Islands!
Overview: I feel Carnival should have kept the Paradise as its shinning one example of smoke free venue, or plan to designate another ship to replace her in that concept. This would be a glowing banner for the cruise line and supporters that touted her inaugural gala along with world health organizations - My opinion - the concept should be kept alive!
As for a ship review? Paradise is a very slick and well-maintained youthful six year old in a growing industry that goes one-up on everything every day. Paradise is still futuristic enough to keep clients satisfied with her charm and overall amenities. Cabins are well appointed with ample space. In fact luckily we were placed in a forward cabin, outside, and our room steward told us "You will have no children in the front area of the ship...the cabins are slightly smaller and there are no three or four person cabins. This is a tip I had not thought of in the past ... forward is a good thing if you do not want to share other's children!
The food, and entertainment were quite nice, and the design of Paradise is one that works well for 2000 plus patrons. You can find a quiet place to relax, or join in activities all about the huge, but personally attended vessel. This was a sure-fire-four-star ship.