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Carnival Cruise Lines: Carnival Paradise

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
  • New

Dec 21, 2016

Cozumel

Wonderful ship. Amazing staff. Hats off to Albert in the Destiny dining room at dinner. A guy sitting at a table beside us was loudly complaining that his order had not been taken yet. The table had not even been seated. His family was still arriving. Albert handled the situation so professionally. I don't know how he does it. I wish I could have servers like Albert at every restaurant. Great Christmas celebrations. Great shows. Great room service

on the Emerald forward deck. My whole family wants to sail on the Paradise again. I loved all of the food. Very well kept cabin The staff attended to every need and more. Fun fun fun activities. Wish I had time to do it all. For an excursion, book online prior to the cruise and go to Nachi Cocum (private beach resort with max of 100 guests allowed) and see Angel at the bar. The whole family had a great time. Ages 4 to 52. Family of 7.

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Dec 26, 2015

western Caribbean

I have taken many cruises with Carnival over the years and sad to say I found a big decline on this cruise. We set sail out of Tampa, my parents, myself and my wife for a Christmas cruise in the sun. The positives: the staff is incredibly friendly, helpful and outstanding. Our oceanview room was clean and comfortable. Unfortunately it was near the Atrium and we had loud music and carrying on till late in the morning that seemed to be right in our

room. The dining in the main dining room was pleasant, not great but acceptable. On the negative Carnival has eliminated the small gift baskets in the room, no more mints on the pillows. They charge for certain new items for room service and in the dining room. We got the feeling they were trying everyway they could to make money. Great cruise for partiers, not so much for those looking for quiet, sophistication and relaxation. The buffet food was horrible and tastless. The Mongolian food and the Deli were okay but strangely tasteless. The ice cream and coffee on the Lido was good though. The Coffee bar also had excellent coffee and desserts. The main dining room food was good not great. They give giant portions and I would rather have high quality over quantity. Ordered room service twice, was okay. Very clean and comfortable. Only negative was a light out in the bathroom that we asked all week to be fixed and they never did. Do not get a stateroom on the Empress deck like we did. Five nights of trying to sleep with loud music blasting right outside until 4am. Plenty to do but they sure love their bingo which seemed to be going on 24/7. Thought they would do more for Christmas. Some decorations and activities but the shows had no Holiday themes at all just 80 reviews. Our shore excursion in Grand Cayman got canceled at the last minute with no explanation by the crew. One minute they said it was about to leave and then nope it's canceled with no explanation. Other excursions like ours we're not canceled and the crew just shrugged their shoulders. In Cozumel we did the Electric Bike, Beach Club and Snorkeling. Stay away from this one. The snorkeling was horrible and very, very disorganized. The biking was fun but we didn't see anything of interest at all. It was so disorganized that we spent so much time waiting that we had no time to enjoy the beach afterwards. A big thumbs down. The crew is always the highlight of my cruise and they did not disappoint with their great service and amazing attitudes. Unfortunately Carnival has gone down in quality and they seem more interested in making a buck than a good quality product anymore. I enjoyed my cruise but it was a let down from my previous cruises with the company.

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Nov 8, 2015

Cozumel

After reading other reviews of this ship, we were skeptical but were pleasantly surprised because the entire cruise exceeded our expectations. A lot of people we met, and I emphasize a lot, were from Florida. This is a party ship but there were also many families. The food on the Paradise is best described as average to above-average. Each night though we had no trouble finding something that sounded good and turned out to be delicious.

The buffets offer a good selection and we enjoyed the excellent service provided by Rattada, the head waiter, and her team. Each night (after the first night) she remembered our preferences. We had the open seating time, and we happily returned to her section each evening Our stateroom was clean and well-stocked. Frances (a gentleman) gave us great advice the couple of times we asked him specific questions. We had a room with a window and rooms with windows/balconies are a must in my opinion. Fantastic entertainment! The variety shows were very engaging! The first show contained versions of well-known country songs and the 2nd show was built on around songs from the 50's, 60's and 70's! The choreography was pretty amazing! The comedians were both funny and "Relationships" set for the 18 and over crowd was hilarious! The Improv "family friendly" show was also very funny - lots of sly jokes that fly over a kid's head, ones that adults can laugh at! We didn't want to do a beach or adventure type of activity, so the Jose Cuervo Tasting Experience was a very fun, laid-back type of excursion. Tequila tasting and good food. Two flavors of margaritas are absolutely authentic and delicious - mango and agave. You can walk through a small art museum and see a short cultural show near the end of your visit at the "Discover Mexico" park. If you're an adult and need some peace and quiet, find the Serenity Deck and stay there as long as possible!

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Nov 8, 2015

Cozumel

After reading other reviews of this ship, we were skeptical but were pleasantly surprised because the entire cruise exceeded our expectations. A lot of people we met, and I emphasize a lot, were from Florida. This is a party ship but there were also many families. The food on the Paradise is best described as average to above-average. Each night though we had no trouble finding something that sounded good and turned out to be delicious.

The buffets offer a good selection and we enjoyed the excellent service provided by Rattada, the head waiter, and her team. Each night (after the first night) she remembered our preferences. We had the open seating time, and we happily returned to her section each evening Our stateroom was clean and well-stocked. Frances (a gentleman) gave us great advice the couple of times we asked him specific questions. We had a room with a window and rooms with windows/balconies are a must in my opinion. Fantastic entertainment! The variety shows were very engaging! The first show contained versions of well-known country songs and the 2nd show was built on around songs from the 50's, 60's and 70's! The choreography was pretty amazing! The comedians were both funny and "Relationships" set for the 18 and over crowd was hilarious! The Improv "family friendly" show was also very funny - lots of sly jokes that fly over a kid's head, ones that adults can laugh at! We didn't want to do a beach or adventure type of activity, so the Jose Cuervo Tasting Experience was a very fun, laid-back type of excursion. Tequila tasting and good food. Two flavors of margaritas are absolutely authentic and delicious - mango and agave. You can walk through a small art museum and see a short cultural show near the end of your visit at the "Discover Mexico" park. If you're an adult and need some peace and quiet, find the Serenity Deck and stay there as long as possible!

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Apr 28, 2015

Review of Carnival Paradise

Burton Age: 52 Occupation:Manager Number of Cruises: 3 Cruise Line: Carnival Ship: Carnival Paradise Sailing Date: 2016-12-21 Itinerary: Cozumel Wonderful ship. Amazing staff. Hats off to Albert in the Destiny dining room at dinner. A guy sitting at a table beside us was loudly complaining that his order had not been taken yet. The table had not even been seated. His family was still arriving. Albert handled the situation so professionally. I don't

know how he does it. I wish I could have servers like Albert at every restaurant. Great Christmas celebrations. Great shows. Great room service on the Emerald forward deck. My whole family wants to sail on the Paradise again. I loved all of the food. Very well kept cabin The staff attended to every need and more. Fun fun fun activities. Wish I had time to do it all. For an excursion, book online prior to the cruise and go to Nachi Cocum (private beach resort with max of 100 guests allowed) and see Angel at the bar. The whole family had a great time. Ages 4 to 52. Family of 7.

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Mar 21, 2014

Mexico

Three of us took a girls cruise to relax and have fun.... I decided to surprise my friends by upgrading us from a cabin with a window to a Grand Suite (U107) It cost alot more, but I wanted us to be pampered..... Big mistake, service and room was worse than any small cabin I have stayed on in my past 5+ cruises. We got to the room and were very excited, we asked the steward what amenities were included with the room, I was told there were several,

he looked at us and said "a bigger room", the beach towels were severely stained, asked for hangers 3 times, finally gave up.... the room was shown with a couch, we never got to see it that way, it was always a bed, we asked for it to be turned back to a couch on formal night so we could have friends in for drinks, and was told it was to much trouble, our shower curtain had mold and mildew along the entire bottom of it, we told the steward, he said they did not keep extras on board, our refrigerator was barely cold, it did not seal, we were told it was a cooler not a refrigerator, one of our a/c vents did not work at all, we called twice and they sent someone up, she said it was cool enough in our cabin so they would not fix it. Formal night when we returned to our room the only thing done was our beds were turned down, dirty glasses still sitting there, trash not emptied, not itinerary of next days events...... I called when we arrived home and talked to a Carnival guest services person, she told me they would look into it and get back to me, a week later I called them back... I was told so sorry you had such a bad experience, we will give you a Bon Voyage gift on your next cruise.....as if we would sail with Carnival again... they obviously have lowered their standards of service and quality... I have always been a fan of Carnival and defended them to friends when asked aren't you afraid of getting sick...... well now I guess I see the problems first hand.... if the room is that dirty in the "Grand Suite" I can only image the standards across the board...... We do love cruising and are planning our next cruise, but it will be with Royal Caribbean!!!! If you do choose to take this cruise do it with caution.... you do get what you pay for........................... Very good food Grand Suite.... very dirty The horseback ride through the Myan Ruins was incredible!!! Very disappointing....

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By K R_CR

  • New

Jul 19, 2013

Mexico

The worst vacation I have ever taken. The Carnival Paradise needs to be taken out to sea and sunk. It would be a better use for the boat. The majority of the staff needs to be fired. horrible old outdated and falling apart weak My Carnival experience turned out to be the worst vacation of my life and I have had some horrible ones. I should have known when my father was going through the security check and they asked

him for his card. My father has Parkinson’s and it takes him while sometimes to be able to get an object in his hands. Instead of asking “Can I help you with it?” the gentleman (and I use the term most sarcastically) pushed my dad’s wheelchair out of the way and said “Just get out of the way.” I should have taken that as a sign. The trip only gets worse from there. The conditions of the boat were horrible and the floors were often wet or coated in spilled food in the dining rooms on the Lido deck. I complained that I have slipped several times on the floor and the staff just shrugged at me and continued their conversation. It wasn’t until I fell and a bunch of cruise goers had to help me up that the staff even took notice to clean up what appears to be dressing I slipped in spilled all over the floor. My nephew suffered cuts and bruises on his knees because of the same indifference to safety. We were part of a wedding party and supposed to be seated together in the dinning room. This trip was planned for 9 months ahead of time. Carnival inevitably screwed it up again and kept bumping people off of our wedding party in the dining room causing us to have to be split up for all but one night of the cruise. One of the humiliating highlights of our dining experience was when one of the members of my family ordered veal for dinner. It came out so tough it was unable to be cut with a steak knife. She asked the server if he could bring her another one because it was too tough to eat. He started to make fun of her saying she needed to put some muscle into it and did she know how to use a knife? She was getting offended by his comments but the worst was yet to come. He leaned over her and began to cut her food for her and even he couldn't do it. She was about to leave the table she was so embarrassed by the way she was spoken to and treated. Finally, the disembarkation process was the worst. A porter was supposed to arrive at our room to help us the morning of disembarkation. This was part of the wedding party package that was paid for. The night before we confirmed this with both Guest Services and a supervisor because so much about this cruise was screwed up. At 8:15, no porter. 8:30, no porter. We called and he was on his way. 8.45, no porter. 9 am we called again and they sent someone. We sat in the lobby for over an hour waiting to disembark with our party. Guest Services lied and told us our party has already left the ship and we needed to do the same when in fact we were speaking to them on the phone and they said they were still waiting to be taken to meet us. By that time, I called Carnival customer service and loudly explained my situation to the customer service manager. Amazingly, the staff (all 5 that were standing around doing nothing but chatting with each other) were able to help us. It still took another 45 minutes to get the rest of our party (that was supposedly already off the boat) off the boat to meet us. Finally, once we were off the boat, we moved our bags and my father in his wheelchair to a designated handicap pick up area and I left to get the car. I returned to someone yelling, yes YELLING, at my father to move out of the way that he wasn't supposed to be there and he had to get all the bags and move NOW. Are you for real? With all of this drama going on, we had to contend with surly crew members, a less than helpful Guest Services staff, rooms that were either so cold my nephew had to sleep in two pairs of sweats and a hoodie and socks or rooms so hot they were uninhabitable most of the trip. The food was mediocre to poor at best and requests for no cheese on burgers and small special requests were greeted with a very poor attitude. We found the crew to be less than helpful and acted as if it was an imposition to help or do their job. Many of the crew were happier to stand around and converse than actually do their jobs. Finally, there seemed to be a sewage issue in many of the cabins for the entire trip. The smell permeated the hallways and was very unpleasant. When I asked about this, the staff shrugged at me and walked away. There were some amazing staff members aside from the horrible ones. The standout staff members were Ketut (our room attendant who tried to fix the temperature issue desperately), the kids club staff were excellent and always amazing to my nephew, and the dining room staff of the Elation were pretty good. They had no hand in the wedding seating disaster and made every accommodation to try and seat the party together. The rest of the staff needs to be replaced.

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By Phil_CR

  • New

Mar 27, 2013

Tampa

Overall, just spending time with wife and kids was well worth the value, After the Triumph disaster, Carnival cancelled our spring break plans but my quick thinking wife finally found the paradise! Ships going out of New Orleans and Galveston filled up immediately the day we got the bad news! The other families with us also managed to book unto the same ship! Yay!! Sailing with great friends and families makes our spring break vacations memorable!

Hate to say it but if I was to win the lotto tomorrow, I would book with Carnival AGAIN! Been on other cruise ships but I'm a firm believer that you make your vacation as good as you make it out to be! Got back on a Saturday, booked for next year Monday! Dining was wonderful, our head waiter was not bad, it's just we have had better ones in the past, I did request a Filipino dish for the last night and I must say it was very tasty and several in our group tried it and loved it! Room service around midnight was great especially the fajita wrap! Mongolian Wok was so so but still good, Pizza in the back was great according to the kiddos, we ate some breakfast in the dining room and it was very good but it was as good in the lido deck and Paris too. I only had the flat iron steak one night but it was good, the formal night, they served lobster and I had a couple servings of it, can't go wrong with the cocktail shrimp! Cheesecake at the dining was as good as the midnight room service snacks too! Due to carnival canceling the triumph on us, we received a 25% discount also, we wanted a balcony like we had already reserved but the paradise did not have any unless you got a grand suite, for an extra $168 along with our refunded money and 25 percent we tried the suite! It was nice and a lot more roomier than a regular balcony room but I'm okay with the regular balcony for the next cruise! Ben (Filipino bald guy) was our room attendant and kept our rooms very clean, he kept our belongings untouch and we even left some cash out and was not bothered! Tip: go to Walmart and buy a dozen or so wire hangers and pack it with your stuff, it worked out awesome for our hang up clothes! We always seem to over pack too!! The show with the country songs was good but me and the wife noticed that the girl was lipsyncing, not impressive, went to a couple of game shows and a comedy act, but spent a lot of time in the casino,!! Played with their money for most of the trip too, played the video poker machines by the cashier, my wife tough lost all her money on the blackjack tables!! Cashed out last night with their $100! Been to the Grand Caymans a couple of times and first time on the sevenmile beach! Not impressed, especially when the corals were 40 feet away and you could not walk on them or swim over them, we loved the snorkeling the barrier reef in the past! Well worth the money, In Cozumel, we have done several through carnival but this past was the first on our own, $100 could rent you a convertible jeep, we drove to another part of the island and then turned around and stopped at a all inclusive resort called Mr. Sanchos! $50 per adult and it was cheaper for the kiddos, but you had to pay extra to use their watersports! $65 per person to parasail which my wife and son enjoyed! Drinks there were awesome and the list was bigger than any resort I've been too, there food menu was also good and the best thing was it was all authentic! After a couple of hours on the beach, our huge group then had fun in their pool with the swim up bar, THEY LOST Money on our group because we drank and ate like kings and queens!! Next time in Cozumel we advised you to pay $18/for 4 people taxi ride and make your way to MR SANCHOS!!! Awesome and See ya next spring break! Carnival Sunshine be afraid! be very afraid!

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Mar 17, 2013

western Caribbean

I went on my first cuise with Carnival Paradise last year,I was so disappointed. When we went on the ship it was a smell of urine, so unpleasant. The room was really old, and out dated the tv, went out twice we lost power for awhile. Finally we went to have dinner, that was the worst food I have ever had, it was always something else, when we ask the waiter why everything was cold or tasteless he said there wasn't anything he could do.I couldn't believe

how horrible the food was, when all I ever heard was how good the food is. I would never go on Carnival again.They need to close all the ships down and overhaul them, not take peoples money. There dirty, and people the derseve better.

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Dec 11, 2012

Mexico

First cruise - very satisfied - XXXXX Very good food - plenty of choices - great service - XXXXX Excellent cabin - comfortable bed/bath/shower -Strange that magazine explaining off-ship places to visit did not appear in cabin until last night (at sea) AFTER our day in Mexico. - XXXXX Many activities scheduled every day - Shows were exceptional - I watched 1st and final show each time. The Dancers were the BEST...After watching

all shows - I think "TYLER" was having just too much fun, Great person with a greater smile and personality. All entertainers were great and experts at their showmanship abilities.- XXXXX PLUS-PLUS ..........Don't miss any of the shows....- XXXXX PLUS-PLUS...........I enjoyed the GO-JEEP Tour...Four persons to each jeep (1 person drives) Tour Guide XIO was GREAT, she knows her area and very pleasant.- XXXXX Would recommend this trip/ship to anyone... everything was enjoyable - great food , service and especially the entertainment shows.- XXXXX

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Dec 11, 2012

Mexico

First cruise - very satisfied - XXXXX Very good food - plenty of choices - great service - XXXXX Excellent cabin - comfortable bed/bath/shower -Strange that magazine explaining off-ship places to visit did not appear in cabin until last night (at sea) AFTER our day in Mexico. - XXXXX Many activities scheduled every day - Shows were exceptional - I watched 1st and final show each time. The Dancers were the BEST...After watching

all shows - I think "TYLER" was having just too much fun, Great person with a greater smile and personality. All entertainers were great and experts at their showmanship abilities.- XXXXX PLUS-PLUS ..........Don't miss any of the shows....- XXXXX PLUS-PLUS...........I enjoyed the GO-JEEP Tour...Four persons to each jeep (1 person drives) Tour Guide XIO was GREAT, she knows her area and very pleasant.- XXXXX Would recommend this trip/ship to anyone... everything was enjoyable - great food , service and especially the entertainment shows.- XXXXX

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Feb 18, 2012

western caribbean

We are four women in our early 50's, just wanted a girl's winter get-away. The price for the cruise and airfare was good and the trip was a great value for the money spent. We sailed out of Tampa on a 5 day, two port excursion. The ship was due to sail at 4pm, but did not leave until after 6pm. It was announced a couple of times that they were still loading supplies and luggage. As they do this on a daily basis, we were surprised this occurred.

Also, it was very windy with temperature in the 60's when we left. Apparently due to the late departure, the captain decided to make up time and around 8pm, the boat was really rocking, people staggering all over the ship and fleeing dinner due to motion sickness. This lasted until sometime in the middle of the night. We did make it to our first port, Grand Cayman on time, but that first night was unpleasant. The rest of the cruise we had no problems like this and we had beautiful weather. The food overall was good. Plenty of choices for all meals in the dining room and buffet line. We had the late seating in the Destiny Dining Room. The choices were varied each night, although we did not eat there one night. The night lobster was offered was the only night the food was not good. The lobster was really tough and not edible but other than that, no complaints. They were happy to provide another selection. Our stateroom was difficult to locate. We had cabin U299. Took us awhile to find the cabin as it is in the same hallway as U 51-99, next to the supply cabin. We wandered around for about 15 minutes before we found it. If we took the A stairwell each time we had no difficulty...but we wondered why this cabin is in such an odd spot. The beds were comfortable. We had 4 adult women in the cabin, so two bunks on bottom and two on top...storage was adequate. When I last sailed on Carnival the complementary basket of lotion/sunscreen/toothpaste was not as skimpy as this time. Shower was decent size, but no hair dryers in the cabins and no outlet in the bathroom. I showered in the spa after using the steam room and these showers are much larger, but again no hair dryers. There are four glasses provided in the cabin, which we took out of the cabin. The cabin steward did ask us to return these glasses to the room (we were leaving them in the buffet dining area) Also, do not lose the blue towels for the deck as they will charge you. BRING YOUR OWN HAIR DRYER ON THIS SHIP! We enjoyed the 3pm high tea on the days at sea, towel folding, singing with the band and the Carnival performers and the late night comedy. The games such as bingo, liars club, marriage game seemed to be well attended. None of us went into the casino due to smoking. Why smoking is still allowed on any ship is a mystery to me. I would have enjoyed the casino, but not worth it due to smoking. Also, walking down Carnival Blvd, smoking makes this unpleasant. At the safety drill you are told how fire is the most dangerous thing on a ship...why allow anyone to smoke at all??? We had fun getting our picture taken, but every night in the dining room seems a bit much, maybe take pictures at the formal evening. Deck chairs were plentiful. It was nice that they had a charity, St Jude's to support. I attended the art auction, very few people and I wonder why this activity is still on board. The few people there drank the free campaign and generally left. There were about 25-30 who stayed for the entire auction, as it was long, about 2 hours. Prices on several paintings were in the ten thousand dollar range...unlikely people will spend this kind of money on art offered on a cruise. We took the trip to Coba and it was enjoyable and well organized. I prefer just getting off the boat and walking around, but for the ruins, it probably is the best way to go. We enjoyed our trip, on the ship and in the ports. I would enjoy a no smoking anywhere cruise, but if the ship continues to allow smoking, keep it to outside only, that way everyone can enjoy the casino and the walkways. To continue to allow indoor smoking is a true fire and health hazard.

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Jan 25, 2012

Western Caribbean

This was my very first cruise. I had the time of my life. 5 days was not long enough! Good food was there, so was the bad, you just had to try a little of everything so you would know what you liked and what you didn't like. The service was good, nothing to base my next cruise on, but it was decent. Drinks on board are a bit pricey, and although I would order rum runners, I would end up with the drink of the day!!! I was still wasted and had a

blast! I think the people who complain about these cruises, are people who in general are just not very happy people. When everything about the cruise SOMEHOW ended up in a negative experience, SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH YOU!!!!! The others who had bad experiences are the people who have cruised for over 50 years. TIMES HAVE CHANGED, CUSTOMER SERVICE HAS CHANGED, PRICES HAVE ALL CHANGED SINCE THE 80'S! YOU CAN'T EVEN GET A PACK OF PEANUTS ON AN AIRPLANE ANYMORE! CRUISE SHIPS ARE NOT THE ONLY INDUSTRY THAT HAS HAD TO MAKE CUT BACKS. The food on the Lido deck was mediocre. The food selection and quality was better inside on the Lido deck than it was on the outside buffet line. The Mongolian Wak was the best in my opinion for a quick meal on the Lido's buffet line. Fresh meat, (you can choose chicken, beef, shrimp or combos of 2 or all 3 of them) and your choice of veggies cooked in front of you in a sauce of your choice. It was hot, fresh and delicious! Only thing I would touch in the buffet line! Dinning every night on the 8th floor at the Elation was my favorite though. The steak was cooked to perfection, so I ordered it every night! I ordered my steak well done and was afraid it would be tough, but all 5 nights it was so tender and juicy that you could cut it with a fork! Many, many restaurants get this wrong over and over! Either under cooked or badly burned! It was nice that they got it right on the boat! Our server Michael was awesome! He called me and my guest by our names and it really gave dinning a more personal feel. The most enjoyable at dinner, at the Elation, was our dining guests. The other couples were fabulous. At first, me and my travel companion thought our table was filled with old people, but let me just tell you, they were a lively bunch! I loved them so much, by our last night on the cruise we were all crying at dinner. We exchanged our contact information, and we have booked a cruise in April, that 2 of the couples we dinned with, will be joining us for "ROUND 2!!!" Our state room was great. There is lots of closet space, so if two ladies are sharing a room, (like we were), there should be no problems! Our steward kept our room clean and we enjoyed coming back to our room and seeing the different animal towels left on our beds. Every time you leave your room and come back, they have cleaned your room! One thing that can annoy you is that there is only 1 power outlet per room. I read reviews on this issue before my cruise, so I decided to bring an additional extension plug, (not extension cord, but a plug that goes into the wall and then it has 3 spaces to plug 3 different things into - sorry I don't know the name of those things!) that gave me 3 extra outlets! That's one way to outsmart the ship, or cause a boat fire! lol! The onboard activities were great! I never had the nerve to do Karaoke, but after a few drinks, I became a mic whore! The karaoke director, Mike, was a blast, and he had a pretty damn good voice too! He actually sang a couple of numbers, and his performances were a breath of fresh air compared to the drunkin' mess's that are usually preforming, (myself included)! lol! It was so much fun though. Everyone laughing and having a great time! Club Rex surprised me by playing up-to-date music. I had a ball in there EVERY NIGHT! I'm not big on the shows, but if you miss one, they play repeats of them on their own station that can be viewed from your room's tv. HONESTLY SHORE EXCURSIONS ARE LAME AND OVER PRICED. These options are for people that have a lot of money, are old and retired or families that saved up for the trip because "Sally wants to swim with the dolphins!"... Only to find out Sally was swimming alone and ended up petting the dolphin on the head for 5 seconds and $250.00 bucks later! The zip line excursion in Mexico was also a disappointment. The equipment/harness's were frayed and looked like they would fall apart. The picture on the brochure makes it look like you are hundreds of feet in the air, in the jungles of Mexico. In all actuality, you're about 75 to 100 feet up, and no where near the jungle! Then they are very short rides from one ladder to the next. Not like one really long zip line ride people are used to, and what people think they are paying for. HONESTLY YOU CAN DO BETTER BY SAVING YOUR MONEY AND SKIPPING THE SHORE EXCURSIONS! Buy your wife some reasonably priced jewelry or designer hand bags instead! In Mexico the men are very perverse sometimes. You are better off in groups or with your partner arm in arm. Although my partner is another woman, so this just made things worse for us I think!!! lol! They wolf whistle, grab at you and ask inappropriate questions. I was asked "How do you like to do it?" and I was grabbed repeatedly, and while taking a photograph with one of the jewelers I had purchased jewelry from, he slid his hand down my bra! Even kissed my chest last second and ended up with a picture of this ordeal. The clothing is way over priced. A dress that you can get here in the states for 10 bucks was going for $45.00 there. They say you can haggle with vendors to drop their prices, GOOD LUCK WITH THAT! Grand Cayman was beautiful. I should have done more shopping there. I thought Mexico would have the better deals and bartering/negotiating practices, but I was wrong! I cruised on the smaller Carnival Paradise from 12/31/2011 - 1/5/2012, and had the time of my life! What a way to have brought in the new year! It was my first cruise ever, (thanks to my boss who purchased my Carnival cruise package for me as a Christmas present)! I did things that I wouldn't ordinarily do, like Karaoke! After a few drinks, (which I NEVER drink by the way), I was a mic whore! lol! I am deathly afraid of needles, but ended up getting a tattoo in Cozumel, Mexico! Good times! To make a long story short, (too late), I booked another cruise this April on the Carnival Legend, and I can't wait! Looks like this ship is bigger than the Paradise, so that may mean a lot more fun! If you read bad reviews, IGNORE THEM! I heard all the gripes before heading out on my cruise, from the bad food to poor service etc. Yes, there were some foods I passed on, but there were great options all day every day. The staff was very friendly, as I only had to "get loud" with one staff member on the Lido deck and the situation was not that serious. Also, as an extremely motion sick person, (gets sick driving my own car, lol), I had NO ISSUES what so ever! I didn't even take any Dramamine or anything. You can't get more bang for your buck either! Come on, where else are you going to go for a whole week with 5 family members for a little over $2,000 bucks and lodging, food and gratuities are all included! Cruising with Carnival has been a great alternative. I look forward to becoming a gold member! Cruising twice a year will be a for sure thing for our family. One cruise for the adults, and the second cruise for the whole family!

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Dec 26, 2011

Cozumel and Grand Cayman

Good embarkation and great debarkation. Lunch served when you board. Breakfast while you wait to debark. Debarkation excellent with valet now bringing cars to terminal so you don't have to lug the luggage a block and across a busy street. Great value. Good to excellent food. Only reservation is about the retrofitted cabin. A disaster in my experience. See below. Food ranges from good to excellent. Seconds and even thirds of anything

are readily served upon request. Shrimp cocktail no longer offered daily. Carnival offers one of the largest cabins. The Paradise was just retrofitted. Bathroom had a medicine cabinet with doors added. Very nice. Rest of cabin a disaster. The bed is no longer high enough to stow your luggage. Have to put it into a closet. Life preservers were stowed in closet. Now stowed in big box (about 2 ft square) in corner under TV. Not able to walk to window. Only way to get out of bed at night if you're by the window is to crawl down your bed over a hard foot board. Very inconvenient. Mattresses very soft. I've sailed on the sister Inspiration 6 times. Enjoyed each one. Not sure I will sail on the Paradise again unless they fix these issues. Activities adequate for a ship of this size. Not the best shows. Great attention to children. Been to Cozumel and Grand Cayman many times. Preferred to stay on board and relax on Serenity Deck. Love cruising. Next trip is on the Legend in March. Carnival gives great value.

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Jul 29, 2011

ensendada

Went on a family cruise to Ensenada and I must tell you that the ship was a complete and utter disappointment as it is out-dated, dirty and smells awful. There is absolutely nothing acceptable about either the appearance of the ship or the manner in which guests are treated. The breakfast hall is operated by people who have absolutely zero common sense and seem to not be able to understand that parties traveling together would like to dine together.

Our plan was not to get off at the port in Encinada and just enjoy a relaxing day on the ship, however it seemed almost impossible to spend any more time on the ship and we all got off. The cocktail service was deceptive as they offer horrible mixed drinks that appear to be complimentary but once you accept they ask for a room key, so as a result my borther-in -law was forced to pay for drinks for a lady that wasnt in our group. I am surprised that Carvnival would keep such an old, out-dated ship on its fleet! The overall feel of the ship...a floating bad casino from the 1970s with a "spring break" crowd! Dirty bathrooms, disgusting pool and clumsy waiters(i had a waiter spill his tray on me). I will be posting this on review sites because this did not fit the image that Carnival portrays on advertisements.

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By LW_CR

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Apr 15, 2011

Catalina Ensenada

We took the cruise on the Paradise to Catalina and Ensenada. It was terrible! The ship is very old, so it doesn't have modern things that the newer ships do. We had an old Zenith TV in our cabin with a green screen. We did complain about it and they brought in a flat screen with better color. We were looking forward to quiet time on the "adult' deck, but found it to be on the back of the ship where there wasn't a food stand or bar anywhere in sight.

The hot tubs were very old an unattractive, and to make matters worse, they were kept slightly warm, instead of hot. I asked the front desk about the temperature, thinking they just had to fix it, and was told they keep it at 74 degrees. Seriously? So the hot tub was useless. The weather was a little bit chilly during our trip, so in order to stay out on the deck, the hot tub was required. FOOD: terrible!. This was definitely a low-end cruise. Everything was cheap and not very good. The service was excellent, but that doesn't matter much when the food doesn't have any flavor. Our room was kept very clean and the ship was kept clean, however the ship had a lot of wear, so you would see a beautiful pillar with chips and scuffs all over it. I was surprised they didn't keep that up. There is a huge slide on the Lido deck that is fun, but they don't heat the water and it's straight from the ocean. The water was FREEZING cold. I couldn't believe they didn't heat it. So it pretty much sat unused the entire cruise, aside from a couple of kids. Overall, we realized this was a short, inexpensive cruise, so it was full of low-income type people and low cost food. Anything that would cost the ship money, they didn't have, such as heated pools and hot tubs. The ships director was nowhere to be found. Usually you see the director all over the place and hear him over the intercom. We saw this director once. Our day in Ensanada was super cold and windy, so most people went back to the boat. There was NOTHING going on for entertainment. Everything was closed, it was too cold to swim or sit outside, so everyone spent a whole day locked in their rooms or sitting in complete boredom somewhere on the ship. I was surprised they didn't open up the casino, or a few bars, or put something on in the lounge or showroom. That was a wasted day! Keep in mind when booking on this ship that there are no restaurants or steakhouses. You can do the cheap buffet or wait for your dining time in the dining room. We sat in the library and played monopoly a lot of the time. It was the ONLY game that had ALMOST all the pieces and wasn't all torn up and trashed. After sailing on this ship, I now know why so many people tell me Carnival is a terrible cruise line. It was a complete waste of money. The food was cheap and flavorless. Very unhappy. The stateroom was old, but kept very clean. There was almost nothing to do. We were extremely bored. It always costs twice as much to book an excursion through the cruise ship. Always wait until you get off the ship to pay for an excursion

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By Matt_CR

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Mar 19, 2011

Baja Mexico

I had sailed once before as even more of a youngster as I am now, on the Carnival Glory, and found that ship to be pretty fun. It went through the Caribbean, leaving from Cape Canaveral, FL. I enjoyed it thoroughly and would take that cruise again. However, I enjoyed my trip on the Carnival Paradise even more so. Maybe it had to do with my being several years older than I was on my first cruise, or maybe it had to do with me meeting several special

people that I will never forget. Either way, I had a blast. The food was okay, but not the freshest I ever had - that applies for the Lido deck. The food in the dining rooms was excellent, all-you-can eat (but not a buffet) gourmet cuisine that was some of the fanciest and most elegant I've ever had the privilege to indulge my taste buds with. The menu changed every night, however there were a few select items that remained on the menu each and every night. On the dessert menu, there were several items which I didn't even waste time reading - I set my eyes on the Chocolate Melting Cake, Carnival's signature chocolate dessert. It's a cylindrical ceramic cup filled with a liquidy chocolate fudge and a thin layer of chocolate cake on the top. It is served with two miniature scoops of vanilla ice cream. I had several on my first cruise and one each night on this most recent one that I write about now - they are delicious and you have to try one. As for the lido deck food, there is a Deli that will serve sandwiches made to order, a pizza bar that has pizzas of all sorts, a grill, an Indian food line, and another buffet "wild-card" line (serves different foods each day). The pizza was good, the grill served good hot dogs, okay burgers and pretty good fries (also served chicken fingers which I didn't try), and I didn't try the other lines. The ice cream was available there too, 24/7, and wasn't bad. My stateroom was great and I had no complaints. The beds were comfortable, and the room temperature was acceptable. My parent's complained of it being too cold in their room, which neighbored the one I shared with my brother, but I never had that problem. The shower was nice, the phone worked fine, the window was clean and had a good view of the ocean, and the TV was in good working condition (and although small, old, and poor quality, Carnival has plans to replace all TV's in their Fantasy class with plasma flatscreen televisions). The terminal in Long Beach, Florida (the departure city of the Carnival Paradise) looks like a stadium from the outside and is cramped on the inside. However, once I got on the ship, I found it to be very roomy, and have lots to do. For kids, Camp Carnival and Circle C (clubs for 2-11 and 12-14 respectively) are something that I can not speak for, considering I didn't experience either one on either of my cruises. However, if you are - or have a kid - aged 15-17, I wouldn't shy away from Club O2, the club for kids in that age group. Me being 16, I figured Club O2 would be some lollipop stand with a couple of rubes giving out free hugs. That certainly wasn't the case. Although I didn't spend much time with them in the day, their daily activities seemed somewhat legit. But at night, Club O2 turns in to a night club for teens, with good music and lots of hot girls; it wasn't a sausage fest like I thought it might be. I met some pretty cool girls and guys there and don't regret ever giving it a shot. Every night, there was a show in "Normandie", the Ship's theater. Some nights it was a Vegas-style singing and dancing show, other nights there was a comedy show. This is not to be confused with the Normandie Lounge, located below Normandie. The musical shows were pretty good, as were the comedy shows, however one comedian on my particular cruise wasn't the least bit funny (there were only two comedians, and the other one was pretty good). I heard murmurs of the comedians performing every hour in another location on the ship, but I never investigated further in to that. The ship had a mini-golf course, that was semi-poor quality for those who competitive, but if you're out there socializing with a buddy, it's good enough to have fun on. There is also 2 shuffle board games setup on either side of the funnel and one deck below it. I had to put my whole body and some mustard in to moving the disk across the board, though, but I don't know if that's the case for all shuffleboard games because I have never played shuffleboard before this cruise. The pool was butt-cold the whole time I was on the ship, but other than that, it looked like a nice pool. There were 5 adult-only hot tubs on the ship, and two kiddie ones. That was my biggest complaint; college kids crammed each adult-only hot tub full all day, and the two kiddie ones were just that - full of small children. I only had the opportunity to use a hot tub once on the whole cruise - that was in the evening when everyone else was off at the bar/casino/club/dinner (That reminds me, this was pretty much a booze-cruise). I didn't go on the excursions on the cruise, I simply got off the ship at the two stops my cruise made (Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico). In Catalina, IF you DON'T do an excursion, I recommend walking around Avalon and seeing the sights. You can also rent a golf cart for $40 USD/hour, which I saw many people doing and having fun with. The people I sat with at dinner had recommended that, as they were Long Beach residents who were 8-time veterans on that particular cruise. In Ensenada Mexico, I recommend going in to town just to try it if you've never been there, but if you have been to other more Americanized, English-speaking Mexican towns like Tiajuana, you've been to them all. Street vendors were annoying and persistent, but they are relatively safe, as is the rest of the city. My education in Spanish at school helped me communicate with some of the vendors with more ease, although most of them know basic English. One basic tip if you go in to Mexico - never pay the asking price for anything. Even if you are buying a candy bar, pretend like you are buying a car. I got a pair of sunglasses there for $5, even though the original asking price was 15. The terminal in Long Beach, Florida (the departure city of the Carnival Paradise) looks like a stadium from the outside and is cramped on the inside. However, once I got on the ship, I found it to be very roomy, and have lots to do. I spent my time sitting out on the deck in the daytime and going to Club O2 at night, and found both to be fun. I ate a lot, brought a case of Red Bull on the ship which I enjoyed throughout the day, and didn't exactly do much. The adult's night club on the ship, "Rex", looked like fun when I passed by it and I look forward to that when my days as an adult come along. The casino also looked like the one on the glory, but I can not compare it to Casinos on land as I am only a teenager. When I got to Catalina Island, I spent a couple hours walking around Avalon, the biggest city on Catalina Island, also the city that the ship pulls in to. With photography being one of my hobbies, I spent time taking pictures of the town and the harbor. I later went in to a local pub to have a coke while my family enjoyed a few beers.

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By ARY_CR

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Jan 18, 2011

Mexico

The ship is in Ensenada on Saturday and parked in the sea for all Sunday. You're mainly in a floating hotel with a lot of people that want to eat and eat. Don't be surprised if you find many people that you don't want to be around. This cruise is just too affordable for anyone to go, you're shopping in Walmart. The staff was very nice and helpful. The food is very much buffet food. The formal dinner food is not good quality. We were a large

party and many ordered the steak and no one was able to eat the meat. Chicken was ok because it's hard to mess up cooking a chicken! The soup and coffee was also cold. The only good food we found was deli and pizza in the cafeteria of the ship. Breakfast was also ok. Rooms are very small and once the upper beds are open, no one can watch TV. Do not let the travel agents sell you 5 in a room. There is not enough air and barely room to move if you get 5 beds in these small rooms. Most activities were ok. I just can't figure out how people in charge of the photo department think. Each picture you take at the photo night costs $22, does not matter if you buy 1 or 10. Most people just buy 3 or 4 and Carnival throws away the rest. I can't understand why the do not offer package deal so it's a win-win situation for both Carnival and the passengers. They disgard so many pictures and there is so much waste in paper. People would buy more if they make pictures more affordable. This is one deparment that Carnival people have no business sense and management skills. Casino and comedy shows were very good. Overall stay away from excursions. There are shops next to the Carnival ship that are approved by the cruise line however they are a lot more expensive than the shops in the city. For example, cloth wrist bands cost $5 in the port shops by the ship but in down town Ensenada they cost $1.50. Alcohol costs more than US in the same shops. Downtown shops are just across from the ship but Carnival does not tell you. It costs $3/person to take the shuttle but it's faster and more fund to walk 10 minutes to the shops. Stay away from anything avtive (horse, jeep rides ... because of safety unless you want to take a risk.

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Oct 5, 2010

Mexican Rivera

Best Vacation EVER!!!! Exceptional Superior Exceeded all expectations no On 13 September 2010 my wife and I left on our first cruise, on the Carnival "Paradise," from the Port of Long Beach, CA. This was ABSOLUTELY the best vacation we've ever had in our lives!!!!!!! "My" cruise experience couldn't have been better. Let me give it to you by category; STATEROOM: Comfortable, ALWAYS cleaned and serviced in a timely manner. I was

concerned about the "firmness" of the bed as I have severe back problems. I have to say that I slept better on that bed than any "hotel" bed ever. The linens were changed daily and the "comforter" was soft and warm. All aspects of the "bedroom" were far superior to most hotels that I have stayed in over the past thirty years or so. The shower size was more than adequate for our needs. The adjustable height of the shower head was a nice feature, one that I have in my own home. There was shampoo and body wash dispensers in the shower as well as "milled" soap on the sink along with other amenities. Although there were enough towels, face cloths and shower mats to last for at least two days, every time the room was services all of the "soiled" towels were replaced and every surface in the bathroom was cleaned. The sitting area was very nice. Each time that the room was serviced we received a fresh bucket of ice, the used glasses were replaced with clean ones and everything was kept clean, clean, clean. I KNOW that the room was serviced at least two times per day because of the linen and towel exchange and amenities replacement as well as the evening turn down service. They even left mints on our pillows! Our Room Stewards, Pambudi and Agus, did an EXCEPTIONAL job of seeing to our needs.Even though they receive a gratuity from the "automatic" gratuity charged to each passenger, we gave each of them an additional tip at the end of the cruise for their OUTSTANDING service. That may not sound too significant, but if you knew me you'd know that I'm kind of a tightwad when it comes to tipping. MEALS: Buffet is excellent. Lots of variety and the food is pretty good. We dine in buffets in our city on a regular basis. There are a LOT of buffets in Reno. I have to say that the buffet on the ship matched or exceeded most of the buffets that we've ever eaten at. Breakfast had a much better selection than other buffets what with the variety of pastries, fresh fruit, cereals and other items. Lunch & Dinner always had different dishes to offer daily as well as some "standard" fare that didn't change from day-to-day. Lots of opportunity for "food adventures." The nice part of this was that if you tried a "new" item and it didn't appeal to you, you could go back and get something different that you did like. Plus, no extra change on selecting something different and there were no limits on the amount of food that you wanted. EXCELLENT! There is also a "short order" area where you can get burgers, hot dogs, fries, etc. for lunch and dinner. On more than one occasion, I wanted "short order" and the wife wanted what was on the buffet. NO PROBLEM since the two areas are connected by a short hallway. We'd get our food and then either eat in the buffet dining area or sit outside by the pool area. Nice to have choices. The Late Night Buffet was pretty standard, mostly burgers, dogs, fries and usually some sort of pasta. No earth shattering menus, but at 4 am it's just fine. SANDWICH COUNTER: Open for lunch and dinner. ALL kinda of cold cuts, tuna salad, etc. GREAT Pastrami. Hot or cold sandwiches. Panini sandwich press for your hot selections. 24 Hour Pizza Counter: Night or day, always open. Although you have to select from a "menu" of various pizzas (no made to order like peanut butter and artichoke hearts) the variety is exceptional. You can order a slice or a whole pizza or mix-and-match different kinds. Eat in or take out. Whatever you want. Really nice option, especially for those traveling with kids. DINING ROOM SERVICE: Breakfast and dinner service only. Breakfast selections are about what is available at the buffet except for eggs to order and omelets. Service was exceptional! I don't know about you, but a big part of an enjoyable meal is the service. Service really made the dining experience superior. Dinner was "plush." Don't worry about spotty glassware or dirty flatware, everything was clean and shining. The dinner menu changed nightly, with the exception of the "favorites" that were on every menu, like the Flat Iron Steak and other selections. This was a real "Adventure in Dining." EVERYTHING that we tried was excellent. We tried a lot of "new" appetizers, entrees and desserts. Without exception, everything was OUTSTANDING! Even though we could have ordered additional appetizers, entrees and/or desserts the portion sizes were large enough so that, if you ate everything served to you, by the end of dessert you were stuffed. On our last night I anticipated having Escargot offered as one of the appetizers and had even asked one of the waiters on our first night if this would be offered at some time during the cruise. He told me it "should" be. I was disappointed when Escargot didn't appear on the menu and asked the waiter if there was any way that I could get just one order. You see, I'm kind of a nut for Escargot. The waiter told me that he would send over the Chef and I could ask him. Chef Remy came over and I told him of my request and he said he would see what he could do. To make a long story short, about fifteen minutes later the waiter delivered not one but two orders of Escargot. Talk about a perfect ending to a perfect vacation! I could go on and on about the food, but I think you get the idea. SHOWS & ACTIVITIES: The only reason a person would be bored on this cruise was because they wanted to be bored. Besides the pool, hot tubs, sunbathing, "Bikini-watching" and other "non-organized" activities, there were a lot of other activities to participate in. Various Trivial contests, audience participation games in the showrooms, Musical and variety "reviews" in the evenings in the showrooms, etc. We actually had to "schedule" breaks between activities because something is always going on. To wrap up this "novel" about our experience just let me say this vacation was as close to perfection as we have ever experienced. We will definitely cruise with Carnival again just as soon as possible!

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Feb 16, 2010

Ensenada

We've sailed with Carnival many times before and I have been a loyal Carnival fan. I've even gone so far as to tell people that Carnival is much better than other cruise lines. We've sailed on Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity as well as Carnival. Carnival has always gone 'the extra mile' to make each cruise memorable. But for the first time we were truly disappointed with our last cruise on the Paradise. I don't know if it is due to the economy

or what but it seemed that everything was now being done 'on the cheap'. The buffet was smaller with fewer selections. The on board activities had been cut in half. The late night buffet was a joke. There were less bands and parties. The whole atmosphere was lacking and the crew seemed disengaged. I always thought Carnival was on the top of the game for fun but we went on a Royal Caribbean Cruise just last fall to the same destination that beat the heck out of this one on the Paradise. It is really sad if Carnival is going this direction. The food was great. It always seems to be on Carnival, but the selection at the buffet was lacking. the stateroom was perfect and perfectly taken care of. it seemed that the on board activities were a lot less than before and the crew did not seem to have that much enthusiasm about them.

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Jan 14, 2010

Ensenada

This is my 1st cruise and 1st time to Mexico. 8 of us including 2 kids (3 & 5), 2 adults (34 -45) and 4 seniors (~60s). There wasn't much to do on the ship and at Ensenada, but I enjoyed it so much because I finally got a chance to sit down, relax and not think about cooking, cleaning, and planning for activities. I normally get motion sickness easily, however, I didn't get any sea sickness during the 4 days sailing (even though I felt the ship

moving from time to time). The dinners were excellent. We love the steak, crab cake, and lobster with tiger shrimp. Remember always choose from the waiter's suggestions since they know their food. Breakfast and lunch were just okay but worth trying are the omelets and the grilled sandwiches. The rest wasn't too impressive. It is totally worth it for an ocean view room. Since it was my 1st time on a cruise, the room and the window were larger than I expected. There were 2-3 times room service came around each day. We didn't get any tours because they seemed to be expensive and the downtown was close by so you don't need a bus. But the horse ride ($5/person for 1/2hr) seemed to be reasonable, I should try it next time if I go again.

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Nov 28, 2009

Catalina Ensanada

Our first two cruises were on Princess Cruise Lines (owned by Carnival I believe) and the Paradise was so disappointing. I will say that the kids area, Camp Carnival, was fantastic for our four-year-old. She kept asking if we could please take her to 'class' as she called it. The food at the buffet was usually very dry or very greasy. When we went to the dining room our waiter seated us at the wrong table and it was quite embarrassing to be moved

to another location after our meal had already started. Room service was prompt but the food we got wasn't quite what we had ordered. I like our stateroom. The bathroom had enough space for our stuff and the shower was much bigger than on Princess. It's hard to fit three people in a small room but our daughter's trundle bed stored under our big bed during the day - VERY helpful. Our steward, was fantastic. He knew all of our names after hearing them once and when my daughter lost her blanket he remembered what it looked like and was happy to help us round it up. The other steward that collected the linens was fine but was whistling at the girls in their swimsuits as the girls passed in the hallway - not professional. It's neat that they have a pool with a water-slide but we never used it because our daughter isn't yet big enough for their height restriction. Toward the back of the ship there was a big pool for kids and two hot tubs. The main pool was too cold - no one ever used it - but the hot tubs were quite popular. Our daughter LOVED Camp Carnival. We were worried about leaving her there but security is TIGHT and she had so much fun she kept wanting us to take her back to 'class' as she called it. The first evening show was fantastic! It was very patriotic, good choreography and a fiddler that simply can't be beat. I think they should have saved that one for Thanksgiving night, the last show. The other shows were OK but the choreography wasn't as good and you could tell not all the girls were wearing a bodysuit. The audience was treated to views of their thong underwear. There was a pair of dancers that worked together doing amazing lifts and such - I could have watched a whole show of just them! The comedy routines were OK. If you went to the adult one at midnight it was the same jokes with so much profanity that it detracted from his punchlines. The Hairy Chest contest was hilarious!! On Catalina Island we went on the semi-submersible tour and it was great. Our daughter loved it but was just as happy to be playing in the sand at the beach. Lots of excursions were available but not very many we could include our daughter. Because of unrest in Mexico we didn't get off the boat on Ensanada. There were great moments on the ship but they didn't outweigh the negatives for us. I would prefer to avoid Carnival in the future. I'm not able to fill out their rating system for some reason on this website but I would give it two out of five.

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Nov 21, 2009

Catalina - Ensenada

We had sooo much fun! The staff were excellent! There wasn't a thing we needed that wasn't provided for. The food was pretty good, although you needed to be discerning. On the Lido deck the create your own stir-fry was great. Dinner was good, I wouldn't say excellent, but definitely good. We only did breakfast in the dining room on one day and that was the only time I experienced a delay in service and the food was on the not-so-good side.

It was my 40th birthday and I went on this cruise with my sister, mother, and girlfriends. We partied hard, even taking naps in the Normandy Lounge undisturbed. Dancing at the Rex was fun; good music. Ensenada is somewhat touristy but everyone is very helpful and tequila flows on every street corner with music. Dinner was good. Fancy night they served lobster which is a little small so we just ordered two. Overall the dinners were pretty decent. Breakfast in the dining room wasn't so good and we only did it on the first day. there was a long wait and the food was just so-so. We did breakfast on the Lido Deck poolside every other day at the buffet. It was my birthday and the beautiful maitre d "Hatem" brought my birthday cake to our table while they sang-it was lovely. The stateroom was small but cozy. Beds were comfortable and they left chocolates and towel animals everyday. We didn't spend much time in the room at all. The only thing I wasn't fond of was the fake window- next time we go it will be a real one. Again, we partied hard. I will be recovering for the next week. Dancing at the Rex was fun, good music. The show we caught was cute, not a Broadway musical but cute. It looked like their youth program was a hit, while we were out on the deck at midnight having a drink the youth program (teens) were out doing their activities, it almost made me wish I had brought my 14 yr old son along. On the last day at Sea they had a "Chesthair" competition that was hysterical. We died laughing. The last night at sea they have a thank you complimentary cocktail hour and dancing. That was fun and the drinks weren't watered down. The spa is nice but never got around to using it. Its a bit expensive. Catalina Island is boring. Unless you want to spend a lot of money on things you can buy at home or buy expensive drinks (there are many bars) there isn't a lot to do. The ferry ride is nice though. I wish they'd had a boat ride around the island instead. One bit of advice, do not try to bring alcohol in a glass bottle, they will confiscate it when you board.

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By MJ_CR

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Aug 23, 2009

Ensenada

The destination, Ensenada, is really not worth going to unless (perhaps) you spend a lot of extra money on tour packages. Otherwise, it is a more or less drab tourist trap, other than the pleasant art gallery near the debarkation area. One of the pools was closed the entire time, as were parts of the deck being refurbished, making for inconvenient movement. There was way too much aggressive photo taking went on, with people (sometimes in costume)

grabbing you for a photo physically but without asking. Wait staff in the formal dining room and cabin crew were very polite and friendly. However, in the buffet area, for more casual dining, the wait staff let the plates pile up - they do not really keep that under control. Cabin staff are constantly in the halls, so there was no excess noise. There was a Teen club which was a plus for my daughter, and the on board gym is very nice. Beware of the "mandatory" onboard account they set up and then automatically, unless you tell them otherwise, deduct $10, per day, per person for "gratuities". For a family of 4 on a three day cruise, that's $120 above and beyond what you thought you were paying. You can, however, simply go to guest services and adjust your "gratuity" up or down, however you like, but you must set up an account and "close it out". My brother in law was "detained" when he tried to disembark because he hadn't "closed out" his account for the room. In fact, he hadn't set one up at all, and hadn't purchased anything. He had also tipped in cash to the waiter and other staff. He handed over the $30 they were after, because he wanted to get off the boat, but it really is highway robbery. Drinks are also very expensive, and they charge you $3.95 if you bring your own into the stateroom (per bottle?). If you bring your own wine to dinner, they charge $14.95 "Corkage" but it's probably cheaper than $6 glasses if you want to drink wine. Needless to say all other drinks are high: $5 beers, $7.50 mixed drinks (but no one expects cheap bar drinks). Also, I noted that when customers are wanting to get off the boat, the staff in charge of that process is not necessarily as polite as they were before. It seemed like post-tip behavior to me. The food in the fancy dining room (Elation) was OK, but not at all exceptional. The portions are tiny. I am not a huge eater, but I was hungry after most of the meals we had there. I guess this is based on the idea that you will eat 8 times a day on the boat, so you don't need much. If you are not constantly grazing though, this is not a place to fill up. In the morning, if you go to this restaurant for breakfast, you get seated with strangers. We had trouble getting them to sit us with our (extended) family if everyone did not come in at the same time. The food in the buffet area is OK. There is a lot of fresh fruit at all times, and something for everyone, but it's like going to any basic American buffet. I do not recommend not having a window in your room, but having one costs a lot more. The entertainment was just fair. There was decent music on different parts of the boat. I didn't really participate in any other events to comment.

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By Ryan_CR

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Aug 9, 2009

Ensenada

Went on this cruise with my mother, sister and 9 month old nephew because it was the one cruise that fit in our schedules. Would not suggest this cruise line to others. While the "on the ground" workers were great, we LOVED our dining room waiter and assistant waitress as well as our room steward. The people "higher up" were rude and there were problems with the ship that adversely affected our vacation. The food was decent. It was very much "buffet

food". We ate breakfast and lunch on the lido deck and I pretty much had the same thing because it was the only thing that looked good. There was a stir-fry bar out by the pool where you could pick vegetables and your choice of meat and then tell them what degree of "hotness" (mild, spicy thai, very hot schezuan) you wanted and it was stir fryed on the spot. Otherwise, the food was nothing worth mentioning. Between the three adults and child we had two rooms. Because we don't have extravagent monetary means, we always travel in a less expensive, inner cabin. While the design was dated, it worked fine for us. My mother and I had one room with 2 twin beds and in the second room they pushed the bed together to make a queen for my sister and brought in a porta-crib for my nephew. I was very disappointed by the fact that every one of the hot tubs on the ship (all 4 of them) were shut down for maintenance. In addition, the "kiddie" pool (a set of 3 wading pools for young children that we were all looking forward to using with my nephew) was shut down for maintenance. I understand that items need to be fixed... but to have EVERY hot tub shut down as well. It seems to me that the ship is not providing what it advertizes to customers. The least they could do is shut down 2 at a time and rotate so that passengers could still enjoy them. Due to traveling with a small child, we did not do excursions. Although, I would reccomend going into Ensenada later in the afternoon. My sister and I went in the morning (while my mom stayed on board with my nephew for his nap) and the town was pretty dead (about 10am). We then came back for lunch and my sister and mother went in the afternoon while I watched my nephew for afternoon nap (they went in around 2:00pm) and my sister said it was bustling! There were more stores open, more people around; a totally different experience. There were 3 big issues I had on the trip... and most of my frustrations with them is because I feel they could have been prevented if the cruise line cared about customers. Again, the service people that served us directly were wonderful! 1) The lack of facilities (hot tub, kiddie pool) that were mentioned above. 2) There were not enough high chairs. We were lucky that we got a high chair for each meal for my nephew but we spoke with other parents of young children on the ship and they were not so lucky. In addition, on the lido deck we often had to SEARCH to find a high chair and haul it across the room to where we were sitting. The ship knows how many young children are booked, and appropriate accomidations/ammenities should be provided. Carnival is supposed to be recognized as a kid and family friendly cruise... but we didn't see that for a young child. 3) On Saturday morning, there was a safety drill. While I appreciate the need for these; from 10am till approximately noon, the captain made an announcement that started with "this announcement is for the crew only...." and proceeded to go with the announcement. This happened approximately every 10-20 minutes. There were over 10 announcements made from the time I started counting. All of these announcements were piped into every stateroom although I can't figure out why any crew member would be IN a personal stateroom. Even if they were, after the first announcement was made commencing the safety drill, all staff would have been in public places. Traveling with a 9 month old who was trying to take a morning nap, this was quite disturbing. While I understand that announcements in public places are loud so that they can be heard, the same announcements are EXTREMELY loud in the stateroom. I can only imagine what the hungover college students who were trying to sleep in must have been feeling. When I went to information to ask if there was a way to turn down the volume, I was treated very rudely. I feel that these trainings should be happening when customers won't be disturbed and, if they MUST be done while passengers are on board, conduct them on a 7 day cruise. This was a 3 day cruise (Friday at 5:30pm to Monday at 7:30am), to have a morning disturbed like that was not something I appreciated.

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Jun 1, 2009

Catalina Island

My husband and I went on this cruise looking for a quick trip away from the kids and not too far from home. We had a great time reconnecting with each other and not hearing "mom. dad. mom. dad." Unfortunatley, the cruise itself was lacking. The second night our shipboard entertainment featured the song "Razzle Dazzle" from "Chicago" and it seemed very appropriate as a Carnival Paradise theme. The food on this cruise was quite a disappointment.

As expected, food was found in abundance! The restaurants were open at great times and there was a great variety of food. Room service was available 24 hours a day and featured a pretty decent menu with sandwiches, salads, drinks and desserts. All the breads were fabulous. Breakfast was good. Other than that the food was not as good as I expected. My beef was always tough (even the prime rib). I had a hard time choosing what to have for dinner each night because there was little that I got excited about. The best things I ate were a melting chocolate cake and the apple pie a la mode - if you go on this cruise you really need to try these desserts. Overall, I felt like while there was plenty to eat, none of it was prepared with much care. Our stateroom was nice. We stayed in a ocean view cabin. It was as roomy as you would expect and very clean. The bed was a little harder than we're used to but the pillows were amazing. The linens were very nice and kept us the perfect temperature. The A/C system was a little primitive, but we were able to choose our climate and were very comfortable. We had plenty of space to hang our clothes as well as for things we folded. We had a small safe. We had plenty of towels and even had soft bathrobes. There was a small basket in the bathroom with toothpaste, soap and even a razor. And the shower had shampoo and body wash. We didn't have a clock in our room. Fine by me, but if you have issues with that, you'll want to bring one! The curtains blocked out much of the light coming in. We had a small TV that played movies, ship goings on, and a couple of channels out of Denver. The movies were all good and recent releases, but both channels started at the same time and only played the same 5 or 6 movies. If I were a drinker, gambler, or hard-core partier I would've been thrilled with the activities. The parties, dancing, and drinking went late into the night. There were singles events and they had what sounded like great activities for kids and youth. We didn't bring kids or teens. The nightly shows were okay. We had 2 comics the first night who did family comedy. They were both funny. Later in the week they did R-rated shows that I heard were pretty funny but very raunchy. The 2nd and 3rd nights a dance group performed "Vegas-style" shows. Again, razzle dazzle 'em. I felt like there was a definite lack of talent. But, if you're interested in seeing long-legged ladies in thongs with mediocre talent...this is your show! There were several things that went on during the day. The hairy chest contest, a scavenger hunt, pool games, etc. They had 1 or 2 quick dance classes and a few game shows, but I really feel that this was a ship that catered to those who wanted to drink HARD and gamble. This is a little hard to dispense. Due to the swine flu our ship was diverted from Ensenada to Catalina. Catalina was beautiful. If you go to Catalina, my best advice would be to take care of your excursions when you get off the boat. Don't book through Carnival. You can find the same things on your own for, sometimes, 50% of the cost. And there's so much to do. If you are interested in SCUBA diving, you might want to book through Carnival. We walked the streets and the "boardwalk" and then walked a bit through the town. We rented a 6-speed tandem bike for an hour for $12 and rode around town and then up to the Botanical gardens. We didn't go in, but I understand it's only $5/person. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from and lots of shopping to do. Despite my mostly negative review of this ship, we really had a great time. The crew is great. Our room steward and our servers were fantastic and did all they could to make us comfortable and happy. The crew is friendly and helpful. I would consider cruising with Carnival again, but not on this ship.

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Jun 1, 2009

Catalina Island

My husband and I went on this cruise looking for a quick trip away from the kids and not too far from home. We had a great time reconnecting with each other and not hearing "Mom. Dad. Mom. Dad." Unfortunatley, the cruise itself was lacking. The second night our shipboard entertainment featured the song "Razzle Dazzle" from "Chicago" and it seemed very appropriate as a Carnival Paradise theme. The food on this cruise was quite a disappointment.

As expected, food was found in abundance! The restaurants were open at great times and there was a great variety of food. Room service was available 24 hours a day and featured a pretty decent menu with sandwiches, salads, drinks and desserts. All the breads were fabulous. Breakfast was good. Other than that the food was not as good as I expected. My beef was always tough (even the prime rib). I had a hard time choosing what to have for dinner each night because there was little that I got excited about. The best things I ate were a melting chocolate cake and the apple pie a la mode. (If you go on this cruise you really need to try these desserts.)Overall, I felt like while there was plenty to eat, none of it was prepared with much care. Our stateroom was nice. We stayed in a ocean view cabin. It was as roomy as you would expect and very clean. The bed was a little harder than we're used to but the pillows were amazing. The linens were very nice and kept us the perfect temperature. The A/C system was a little primitive, but we were able to choose our climate and were very comfortable. We had plenty of space to hang our clothes as well as for things we folded. We had a small safe. We had plenty of towels and even had soft bathrobes. There was a small basket in the bathroom with toothpaste, soap and even a razor and the shower had shampoo and body wash. We didn't have a clock in our room. Fine by me, but if you have issues with that, you'll want to bring one! The curtains blocked out much of the light coming in. We had a small TV that played movies, ship goings on, and a couple of channels out of Denver. The movies were all good and recent releases, but both channels started at the same time and only played the same 5 or 6 movies. If I were a drinker, gambler, or hard-core partier I would've been thrilled with the activities. The parties, dancing, and drinking went late into the night. There were singles events and they had what sounded like great activities for kids and youth. (We didn't bring kids or teens.) The nightly shows were okay. We had 2 comics the first night who did family comedy. They were both funny. Later in the week they did R-rated shows that I heard were pretty funny but very raunchy. The 2nd and 3rd nights a dance group performed "Vegas-style" shows. Again, razzle dazzle 'em. I felt like there was a definite lack of talent. But, if you're interested in seeing long-legged ladies in thongs with mediocre talent...this is your show! There were several things that went on during the day. The hairy chest contest, a scavenger hunt, pool games, etc. They had 1 or 2 quick dance classes. And a few game shows. But I really feel that this was a ship that catered to those who wanted to drink HARD and gamble. This is a little hard to dispense. Due to the swine flu our ship was diverted from Ensenada to Catalina. Catalina was beautiful. If you go to Catalina, my best advice would be to take care of your excursions when you get off the boat. Don't book through Carnival. You can find the same things on your own for, sometimes, 50% of the cost and there's so much to do. (If you are interested in SCUBA diving, you might want to book through Carnival.) We walked the streets and the "boardwalk" and then walked a bit through the town. We rented a 6-speed tandem bike for an hour for $12 and rode around town and then up to the Botanical gardens. We didn't go in, but I understand it's only $5/person. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from and lots of shopping to do. Despite my mostly negative review of this ship, we really had a great time. The crew was great. Our room steward and our servers were fantastic and did all they could to make us comfortable and happy. The crew is friendly and helpful. I would consider cruising with Carnival again, but not on this ship.

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Oct 26, 2008

Catalina-Ensenada

I had read both terrible and fabulous reviews of this particular cruise, but for me, it was exquisite. The staff was over-the-top friendly and the service was top-notch. If I passed an employee in the hall he/she would always acknowledge me. I was in awe at the facilities in this ship and how well-maintained it all was. There were over 2000 passengers aboard and I never felt crowded, not even on our day at sea when all were aboard. I never had a problem

finding a quiet place to curl up with a book and cup of coffee. There are numerous well-appointed bars and lounges to choose from. I especially liked the one with the copper bas-relief wall decorations. Several had pianists at cocktail hour and that was quite soothing. I did not avail myself of the spa but I made certain I got a long walk every day about the decks or the running track on the sun deck. I also opted to use the stairs instead of elevator, but by late Thursday my knees were feeling it. Lol. My dining time was 6:00 in the Destiny dining room and I never had to wait to be seated. I traveled single and was seated in a booth with a couple about my age who hailed from Seattle and they were very fine conversationalists. Food was superb. On dress-up night I had the lobster and shrimp and was quite pleased. Another memorable dish was the Fillet of Perch. I also enjoyed, as appetizer, the cold strawberry soup and the cold mango soup. But you have a fine list of appetizers to sample and these changed each night as did the entrees. The melting chocolate cake was devilishly delicious. And always warm bread served by the assistant from a basket. The team of waiters remembered my name from evening to evening. The moment I sat down a napkin was in my lap and someone appeared to get me a cocktail. I ate breakfast in the Elation dining room which is walk-in. I was always seated at a table of ten with different dining acquaintances each morning. That was neat. Soon as I sat down someone appeared with a basket of assorted pastry. Next I ordered juice and melon. The Eggs Benedict had been pre-prepared and the sauce was a bit dry from sitting in the pan. So on subsequent days I ordered the cheese omelet which was moist and fine. The serving was small but it was enough for me. I ate lunch in the Paris restaurant on the Lido deck. This is buffet style and featured a different foreign cuisine each day and an over-stocked and decadent dessert area. I sat out on the deck to eat as the days were sunny and warm. They also have a sushi bar that is open most of the day and a gourmet pizza bar which is very fine. I ate there once when I got the late-night munchies. The cabin was quite small compared to a hotel room. I suggest if you are sharing a cabin that you know the person quite well and are accustom to close quarters. I had an ocean view room, mid-ship, and it was delightful to wake up to the sea outside my room. But it was too cool in the evening and I could not, as in a hotel room, get any heat. But I did adjust the flow of air and they had a down blanket in the room that I used. They have a neat little safe which required a magnetic strip to open and close. They didn't want you using you ship card nor credit card so I used my grocery store discount card! lol. My steward was a friendly little Filipino guy and he turned up my bed twice a day, left the cruise newsletter, mints, and cute little towel animals. There were soft drinks and water on the dresser but you pay extra for these. I didn't avail myself of them. BTW you can buy a soda card which entitles you to free sodas on the trip. I drink very little soda so I did not use this. This cruise was mainly a relaxation trip for me so I did not plan to participate in activities. When I noticed they had a listing that said ˜Friends of Dorothy" meet, 11:00 pm in Rotterdam Bar I headed up, but found only heterosexual couples. No singles of any kind, either night they had that listing. So I figured I must be the only ˜friend of Dorothy" aboard. The casino was well-appointed but I didn't gamble. I brought some extra cash to play live poker but the tables were the new computerized contraptions and I wanted the experience of a live table and dealer. Stay away from: Downtown Ensenada The eggs Benedict Don't miss: The production shows Dress-up night the strawberry soup This was my first cruise. The check-in process was highly efficient. After making the four hour trip form Vegas to Long Beach I parked in the parking structure at 12:30 pm. I was in my stateroom by 1:00. I opted to carry on my two pieces of luggage rather than have them checked and delivered later. I was warmly greeted by the cabin steward who was friendly throughout the trip. Then I then headed up to the Paris restaurant for lunch and hung out on the outer deck with coffee and a book. At about 5:00 they had they held the life boat drill which is mandatory. It was cumbersome and time consuming, but absolutely necessary. The lifeboat drill ended too close to my 6:00 dining time, leaving me just 15 minutes to get ready for dinner. As for ports-of-call, I wasn't on the cruise particularly to visit Ensenada nor Catalina, so I did not book excursions. I got off the boat anyway and enjoyed meandering about Catalina for a couple of hours. Because the Catalina harbor is too shallow to dock they tender you to shore in small boats. Ensenada was terrible. I had not purchased an excursion to Buffadora so I hung around downtown. I got bothered quite a bit by street hawkers, the Chicklet kids and it wasn't the cleanest of places. I went back to ship after an hour. There are many photo opportunities and dress-up night was a lot of fun. As for the entertainment I only took in the production shows, both of which were well-done. They don't come up to the grandeur and scale of the big production shows here in Vegas, but for a cruise ship they were fine. The dancing was great as were the costumes. The lead male singer left something to be desired, but the black female vocalist was tops. The checkout process was quick and easy. I opted to leave my bag in the hall the night before so that I could have breakfast before debarking at 9:00. If you want to carry your own bags you have to disembark earlier. In all, this was a trip which I took to relax and be pampered and I was 100% pleased.

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Apr 19, 2008

Western Caribbean

Our 10 day cruise on Carnival was our longest cruise and our favorite so far! Our family of four travels on Carnival every other year for vacation if possible. We are a typical family of four from New England, so tropical cruises are heaven to us! No trips to Alaska planned at this house , ha-ha. We have been on 4 Carnival cruises so far, with many more to come, we hope! The Holiday took us to Mexico- 2 ports, Jamaica. and Belize. Amazing

ports and remarkable days full of culture and warm ocean breezes! You have the ability to relax on board or tour until your hearts content! You set the bar and have the right to raise it or lower it at your desired whim. The staff is from all over the world, what an education…. What a gift all the world’s population can live on a ship in peace, it is truly a better world onboard. The cruise world sets an example to how the world should live in peace. Our family has had many wonderful experiences! Here is our glance at our voyage on the grand old Holiday! She is old, but she is still amazing if you set your mind on being kind and relaxing. The port in New Orleans is great to park at, but not so easy to get to with all your luggage. Plan ahead of time to get there early and board the cruise ship with your bathing suite in your carry on, as you may not see your suitcase for hours after boarding. NOTE: there is no water in the pool until you are at sea the next day, and it is salt water in the pools, but we spent time laying out and relaxing while others were wondering why they too did not bring their suites with them. We drove from New Hampshire, yes, we are that crazy! But what a way to see America! We spent 2 weeks traveling and cruising and bonded as a family in way I could never have dreamed of! Stay the night before if you can an soak in the New Orleans vibe, it is rich and fun. Try a binget (sp?) at café de mond, walk the waterway, we did Bourbon Street at noon and my boys still got an eye full and the streets do smell a bit rank, even at noon time! We loved the buildings, the food, and the people. We love southern charm!My husband and I were lucky enough to have booked our cabin with the option of an upgrade. We were pleasantly surprised when we checked in we were bumped to the Veranda deck…. WOW! We had a balcony right under the DAY of HOLIDAY and looked into the bridge from our balcony. We had a Jacuzzi tub, two beds, pullout sectional, and amazing views! GREAT surprise! The carpet and décor is not new or even very fashionable but who cares, we were not there to stay in a cabin! We paid for the gift packages for the boys, DON’T GET THE KIDS HATS OR SHIRTS unless you order much larger than your expect. The large child did not fit my 12 year old at all! We needed adult sizes for both boys…. They fixed the shirts for us, but not the hats, the hats fit on a small child! We gave them to a 5 & 7 year old across the hallway. Cabins are private and quiet, lots of ability to disappear if you want. We, my husband and I, loved the ship. We were able to relax and play, quality time with or without the boys! The Holiday is not a new ship, she is a bit over the hill, but she is still able to provide all we needed to relax and have the time of our lives for our 10 day break! The Holiday may be older but, if you allow her to, she can pamper your soul and allow you to see the world from an entire new view! I got my husband a massage surprise at the spa and they burnt his back, he is still scarred today,. BEWARE of the spa treatments. The cruise line has nothing to do with the spa treatments, we had to fight to get the massage money refunded. He was on antibiotics for 10 days after the doctors visit from the burns, poor baby! BAD last day for him. We have a special needs child, our youngest child has high functioning autism. Carnival’s special needs coordinator is the reason we stay with Carnival! Bravo to them for making our life so easy onboard. We have had very good luck with the Camp Carnival program. Our son has been allowed to do all the camp activities he wants with close care and they allowed him to stay with the younger group of campers since their activities were more to his ability levels. The camp allowed us to have freedom and we were always just a page away…. Great idea! The Carnival’s daily newspaper allowed us to plan what activities he wanted to do and what he wanted to skip ahead of time. He loved the camp program and wanted to do many of the fun activities and felt very comfortable in the surroundings. He even participated in the Camp Carnival talent show and believe it or not, HE WON! Singing the world famous song, “nifty fifty”! Our oldest son loved the teen program! He was able to hang out with peers in fun activities, yet he still had the ability to take off and explore the ship when he wanted. Arcade nights, closed teen disco nights, midnight pool parties, midnight buffets, and even scavenger hunts to thrill a teen! He spent a lot of time eating ice cream and pizza…. All free- twenty-four hours a day - every day! The soda card is s VERY good idea if you have a soda kind of kid. Our oldest son got our moneys worth in soda with the card! (We liked the free lemonade and tea ourselves…the soda card would have been a rip-off for us.) Our oldest decided Disney and other themed vacations have NOTHING on a cruise with the family. We kept in touch with walkie-talkies, GREAT IDEA! Get them ahead of time and you and your kids can have freedom with all the benefits of being close and the rental fees onboard can pay for a set back home. Research the tours ahead of time, we have saved a lot of money booking tours on our own when possible, we also took plenty of carnival booked tours but saves a lot of money on some tours going it solo.. Relax and enjoy the tours, Carnival may run late leaving but we still had a blast on our tours. We loved Jamaica’s Dunn’s river falls tour, beautiful for the physically fit… not for couch potatoes! Swim with the dolphins, snorkel, take a city tour, see the sites around you. Some places in Mexico charge a camera and camcorder fee…..stupid but true, beware! Be a smart cruiser and research the plans and costs, and don‘t forget your bottled water! When you go on a cruise I have a few recommendations for you…………… #1- Bring bottled water with you from home, it is WAY over priced on the boat and at some ports and you need it for day trips! #2- BE NICE! I am always amazed at the “bitching” some people do when they are on vacation! RELAX…. Be nice, it wont hurt! The ship wont leave without you if you are on a planned tour. You will make life easier for EVERYONE if you chill out on vacation. #3- Plan tips ahead of time, have them in envelopes marked for each attendant and move cash as needed for excellent service. Planning ahead of time leaves the time to relax & not scramble the last day for tip money. Remember to tip CAMP CARNIVAL people, they are not a part of the “tip rules”, but they deserve it more than a head waiter you’ll never see, ha-ha. We tipped them best of all! #4- BE NICE! Again, I say don’t go on a ship with attitude, relax, say hello to others, make friends, live! You are here to have fun…. If you want a personal servant don’t go on Carnival, this is a real people cruise line, not a goddess/god program. High maintenance people, get a private boat, ok? #5- Don’t belittle the staff, many languages are part of the charm of a cruise ship….. Meet many different people and learn from them, smile! #6- Did I mention BE NICE! Standing in line for a pizza can be fun, don’t gripe because you want to sit……….MOVE, it burns off all the food you are eating anyway! #7- bring underwater cameras, batteries,sea sickness patchs or pills, and sun-block with you! They are sooooooooooo expensive on the boat and at the ports, Wal*mart has them super cheap, load up! I actually gave a guy 2 AA batteries- because the port charged $5. For 2 batteries! #8- Thank the staff when you see them daily, they are here for you and take much better care of you when you are kind….. Gripers don’t get the perks positive people do! #9 - Get out an see the world, it is an amazing place! People can be wonderful! Our world is getting so much smaller, and I am happy to have met many amazing people and seen how the rest of the world lives…. We are so blessed in America. #10- finally, spend time looking at your family, watch the learning and smiling , it is a calm peace you can easily forget about in day to day life. What a blessing you are on this vacation and with these amazing people. Cherish life and tell the people around you, you love them. Just my advise to you! I wish you an amazing vacation, please relax, look around at the world, it is such a blessing that you are meeting the people you are meeting today. See the beauty in the world, the poverty of Belize was a sincere wake-up call to my boys, we appreciate the pizza, clean water, and the comforts of life in America. It was an education I can never put a price tag on, EVER! My boys saw how lucky they are and now they send money and school supplies to charity groups that see everyday what we saw on vacation. You could never put a price on that type of experience. May you have a wonderful trip and remember…. BE NICE AND LEARN!    

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Mar 19, 2008

Eastern Caribbean

This was our third cruise with Carnival, and the best by a safe margin. We have cruised aboard the Fantasy on a 4-day to the Bahamas (1998) and aboard the Carnival Triumph (January 2000). My wife (Debbie) and I chose this cruise for our honeymoon because it went to Tortola and Virgin Gorda, which aren't featured on many cruises. Other ports included San Juan and St. Thomas.  Much has been written about the embarkation and debarkation processes,

so I'll spare you the usual gripes. It's a small price to pay for the week-long enjoyment that you experience on a cruise. Besides, it's not really as arduous as some would have you think.  Upon boarding in Miami, you enter the Atrium. Unlike the earlier ships in this class (especially the Fantasy) the Paradise Atrium is nicely subdued. Very little of the mirror, glitter and neon in comparison to the earlier Fantasy class ships. In the last few ships in this class Carnival has placed a bar with a small bandstand in the center of the Atrium's lower level. This is much better that the strange sculptures on some of their ships. The rest of the Atrium is decorated attractively. It's very possible that your first impression upon entering this area will be that this is one of the classier Carnival ships.  If you've ever been on a Carnival ship before, your cabin will not be a surprise. We had a midship outside Category 6C cabin on Upper deck (U-129). Furnishings are simple but functional and attractive, although some of the shades of orange, red and purple are not to my taste. Nothing overtly offensive, mind you. Just not the way I would want my house to look. The strong suits to these cabins are plenty of drawer and closet space (even for my wife) and plenty of space for two people on a 7-day cruise. The bathroom was also a decent size, but those vacuum toilets could wake the dead when they flush. The overall theme aboard the Paradise is that of past ocean liners. Being a devoted ship fan, this was right up my alley. Most public rooms bear the name of a past ocean liner.  The main show lounge, Normandie, is at the forward end of the ship and is one of the most appealing rooms in my opinion. It spans two stories and most areas will afford you a good seat for one of the shows there. However, the number of view-blocking columns was somewhat annoying. The shows presented aboard were quite good, but do be sure to get there early if you want a really good seat. I'm a real stickler for details. Be sure to take time to look at the rosewood inlays in this lounge's decorations. The only better nautical woodwork I've seen was aboard the Carnival Triumph, which was spectacular in it's detail and finish. Another of my favorite public rooms was the Queen Mary lounge at the ship's aft end. Here, the room's connection to its namesake was evident. Secondary and late-night shows are held in this cabaret-type lounge. The bar stools and table supports are cylindrical and done in the colors of the Cunard funnels and look like small replicas of them. Shows in this lounge rivaled the best I've seen anywhere. Comedians were on hand nightly, but be warned that they are often skewed toward adult humor. Attendants are given fair warning of this. When there was not a show in this lounge, there was an outstanding musical group performing. They were Filipino (I think) and did a great job with lots of 70s and 80s music. The Rex Dance Club along the ship's main promenade was the site of nightly karaoke and dance contests. Not a bad place to go if you like loud dance music, but its L-shaped layout and furniture done in animal prints were a bit strange. The smaller Leonardo lounge next door was a bit more to my taste. It was more of an intimate, lower key place that often had a country music duet. It had more of the cozier club feel that I prefer. The Paris Restaurant at the aft end of the Lido Deck is one of those alternative dining place that are becoming so popular. Food is served buffet style throughout the day and there are also a bar and a pizzeria at the rear of the room. You owe it to yourself to try their great pizza at least once. Even when the buffet area is shut down for the evening, the pizzeria is open around the clock. As for the buffet, all the food we ate there was good. I once heard someone describe it as the kind of food you could expect at a really good "Perkins" restaurant. That was pretty close to the mark. It was not the best tasting food on the ship, but it was hardly offensive and this restaurant was great if you didn't want to have breakfast or lunch in the dining room. The menu was mostly middle-America; burgers were common for lunch, as were stir-fry, salads, and meat-and vegetable dishes. Just as an added footnote, be sure to take a look at the unusual columns in this restaurant. Remember those details I told you about?  Our main seating dining room was the Elation Dining Room. This class of Carnival's ships has one dining room amidships and one at the ship's aft end on the Atlantic Deck. Ours was the midship one. Both are similar in size and decoration, so don't feel that you're missing anything by being in one instead of the other. All our meals in this room were outstanding. The menu is quite varied with things like Beef Wellington, Chateaubriand, Chicken Marsala and even lobster on several nights. The entire meal was enjoyable each evening, from appetizer through dessert. I would give the food a 9 out of 10 overall. Our waiter, Klavdij (pronounced "Cloudy"), was from Slovenia and was the best we've come across anywhere. He took time to stop and chat with us and ask us about our days ashore. While I know this happens with most of the waiters in these places, he was fun and pleasant to the point that we couldn't wait to see him at dinner that evening. Needless to say, he was tipped handsomely.  Let me clarify one point about Carnival's cuisine. Over the course of my three cruises with this company, the food has gotten significantly better. Before our first cruise aboard the Fantasy in 1998, we were warned about the food being mediocre. Sure enough, on that cruise it was somewhat bland and tasted like cafeteria food. "Institutionalized" would be a good term. Then, on our cruise aboard the Carnival Triumph in January of 2000, it was hard to believe the improvement. Very few of the items tasted or looked as though they had come from a box in the freezer. This time around, the food was better still. Even things like the spinach ravioli were outstanding. And now for some importand miscellaneous points. This is the world's first non smoking ship. I do not smoke, but being around it doesn't particularly bother me. I found it amazing how clean and fresh everything on this ship smelled. No smoke-filled lounges, dirty ashtrays or cigarette butts anywhere aboard. I'm sure that this contributed to the taste of the food as well. I certainly hope that this is not the last ship to adopt this policy.  I mentioned in the beginning of this review that this was our best Carnival cruise to date. This is for several reasons. The main one is the ship itself. First, the Paradise has a happy, attentive crew. This is a COMPLETE contrast to the crew that we experienced on the Carnival Triumph in January. A happy crew runs a happy ship. Another important point is that the Paradise is a smooth-sailing, stable ship (as are most of the Fantasy-class). There is very little motion and virtually no vibration in any of the rooms, even at the aft end of the ship. Despite being much larger, the Triumph shuddered badly in the rear dining room and, on several nights, bobbed like a cork despite calm seas. In all fairness, I've been told that the problem was not with the Triumph herself, but with the way she was being "driven" by whoever was at the helm. The Paradise has a new "Azipod" propulsion system that enables her to have such low levels of vibration and increased speed. I thought it was all hype when I heard about it, but it really does work. She is the last of the Fantasy-class vessels that was built in Finland, and in my opinion a great advancement over the earlier ships of the same class. Finally, as I mentioned earlier, we took the Paradise to the Eastern Caribbean. We had sailed aboard the Triumph to the Western Caribbean four months earlier, so comparisons were inevitable. I preferred the ports of call on our western route. To me, San Juan was a waste of time. Most things were closed by the time we got there and no entertainment is allowed aboard the ship while she is there, by order of the Puerto Rican government. At least we got to enjoy the ship at night while many passengers were ashore.  Virgin Gorda and Tortola were nice, but small. Virgin Gorda is an optional excursion from where the ship stops in Tortola. Anyone who has seen how passengers are dropped off for Playa del Carmen on the way to Cozumel will get the idea. Same thing here. The ship offered this excursion for about $40 per person. My wife and I walked a short distance from the Paradise to the Virgin Gorda shuttle and got tickets and taxi transfers for less than $20 per person. We got the exact same thing that the tour offered with a little over 50% savings. In fact many of the gift shop staff from our ship were on the ferry with us and told us that we were going to the exact same place as the tour. There was little to do on Virgin Gorda, but The Baths area was beautiful and made for a great day at the beach Tortola itself is pretty, but has little to do and few places for the wives to shop. St. Thomas was the best stop on this route. Shopping is the order of the day, and if you've ever wanted to buy it, chances are it's here and at a discount. It reminded me of Nassau in a lot of ways. Minus the heckling by street vendors, that is. We took a taxi that we hailed in the downtown area to Megan's Bay. I think this is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Right up there with Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica. This is a secluded beach that is surrounded on three sides by lush mountains. Kind of like a tropical fjord, if you can picture that. Definitely worth the $8 cab fare. In closing, this was a good cruise on a great ship. If I had it to do all over again, I would have taken this ship on the Western Caribbean route that Carnival offers. I think that would have been the best of both worlds. There were things that we didn't like about this cruise, but the had more to do with the destinations than the ship and her crew. Take a good look at this ship, especially if you're a non-smoker. I doubt you'll be disappointed. Happy Sailing, Chris and Debbie Rego    

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Nov 19, 2007

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Connie Embarkation: We got there around 1:00pm. They said boarding starts 1:30pm but I think quite a few people had checked in prior. I recommend getting there early as you can, get settled and start enjoying the ship. Overall Décor and Impression: When I first got into the ship, I felt like I went into an older Las Vegas casino. On Celebrity Infinity I felt more luxury

and felt like living in a resort hotel. Everything looks more flashy on Infiniti. I was a bit disappointed, but not surprised, given this ship is older but cheaper, and so what you pay is what you get. You can see signs of wear and tear everywhere. But after a day or so, I get used to the look and feel and it doesn’t look as old as when I first stepped into the ship. They really try to do a lot of fun stuff and activities on board (e.g. teaching Austin Power dances, having waiters sing and dance during dinners, giving you towel animals at night, up close magic demonstrations, hairy chest competition among the passengers etc. etc..) that get you engaged and after a while you don’t care about the décor as much as you are enjoying yourself. For the price you pay, I think it’s well worth it if you set your expectation correctly. Room: We had a group of 6 adults. I booked a penthouse suite (which isn't on the top of the ship) and two ocean view rooms. We went on Thanksgiving week, so prices were higher. The penthouse was $2018 and ocean view was $1010 each (taxes included). Normally it would be quite a bit cheaper. The penthouse suite was quite spacious, with a big king bed (two beds put together). There’s also an L shaped sofa that can seat at least 6 people, plus another two chairs in the room. Bathroom had a tub (but since this ship is older the bathroom equipment looks outdated). You need to ask them for a hair dryer. Balcony was spacious with two armless chair and a table. It’s private and no one can see you (except if your next door neighbor decide to peep through the edge of the balcony separators). There was a large window and a pivot door (not a sliding one) going to the balcony. I am glad I brought a string with me, so I can tie the door open. Overall this was an older ship so everything looked a bit outdated, but the room is nice and spacious. The sofa was quite comfy. There was an empty small fridge in the room as well. The TV also provide a jack for video and audio input so you can bring your own DVD player if you like. There was a tape player in the room already. The ocean view rooms were also quite spacious. I liked the bathroom better as they have a standing shower (which is what I prefer). Overall the bathroom was quite functional. If you like bar soap, then bring your own, as they only have liquid soap dispensers. The window in the ocean view stateroom cannot be opened. So if you don’t care about seeing what’s outside, you are fine with a inside stateroom. The inside stateroom has a fake window (i.e. a curtain hanging in a hole in the wall) so you feel like you have a window, except you don’t have any natural light.  One last note about the rooms. The door to all the rooms look like the bathroom doors on the airplanes, but don't get discouraged. Shows: I think the shows were great, and better than the ones I saw at Celebrity Infinity’s 3 night cruise. They had one featuring Hollywood (my absolute favorite) and a magic show featuring Bobby Borgio. Try and get the center aisle seats towards the front of the stage. The shows are interactive and it’s always best when you have an aisle seat esp. with the magic shows. You might have to go an hour (or maybe even more) early to get these seats, as they often have other events happening before the show time (e.g. Bingo, which cost $20 for 3 tickets and $10 for one). They have a lot of colorful and nice dresses in the show. They also have some comedy shows (some are adult only) which I didn’t go to. Food: For the price I paid, I would say it’s awesome. It’s a bit worse than Celebrity Infiniti but I had to pay more for that. It’s average restaurant food. I didn’t care about the buffet at Paris Restaurant as I only enjoy top notch buffets personally. The service was reasonable. Port: Catalina Island This is an island still within the USA, and somewhere you can take a ferry to get to from mainland US in an hour. It’s a nice little beach town. You have to take a tender boat to get to the shore. The line could be a bit long ( you might need to wait for half an hour depending on when you go ashore). Once on the shore, we rented a golf cart (it was $60 for 6 passenger cart and $40 for 4 passenger cart for 1 hour, and they let you rent for 2 hour maximum). It’s a nice way to see the island. They gave you a map with a route which you would follow to go up hill. We only had enough time covering half of the route. But they said it will take normally 50 minutes if you take the route non-stop. I recommend doing this activity, unless of course you are into water activities. They also have a glass bottom boat and a submarine tour. Port: Ensenada This is the only Mexico port. You can walk ashore. They provide a shuttle for $2 to get you to downtown. Once there, you can join a La Bufadora tour for $15 each where they would drive you for about 45 min to an hour to this place where they have one of the 3 blowholes in the world. This is supposedly the largest too, though I didn’t get to see it in full action due to time of the day/year, but I get to see some action. There’s also a flea market there. Personally I don’t care too much about what I saw, but it’s a nice and cheap activity that gets you outside of downtown. Try and buy some Churros. Overall I think it’s a pleasant and fun vacation. I think the activities on the ship, the quality of the show and the little things they do (like the towel animals) really made the difference. It’s well worth the money you are spending if you try to go on a regular week when price is not elevated. And even for this (more expensive) week I think I got my monies worth.  

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Oct 21, 2007

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Kelvin Wade My girlfriend Cathi and I had wanted to go on this cruise a long time. We’d tried to do as much of our homework as possible. We flew into LAX from Sacramento on the morning of our cruise. We were surprised to find that our names weren’t on Carnival’s transfer list. But despite the mix-up, they let us on the bus and after two trips around LAX on the bus, we

headed for the Port of Long Beach. Since Carnival’s transportation was $52 per person round trip, next time we may just take a cab since I’ve heard it’s around the same price. No hassles. No lists. No waiting for other passengers. We arrived at the huge domed cruise terminal. I’d seen so many photos of the dome, the Queen Mary and the Carnival Paradise that to see them all in person was almost surreal. The porter loaded our bags from the bus to a cart and wheeled them into the terminal. We tipped him a dollar per bag. They allow no food inside the terminal so Cathi had to dump the Coke she was drinking and I gobbled down the candy bar in my hand. Checking in would’ve been easier with a passport, but we had photo IDs and birth certificates. While the people who waved us through the metal detector and helped check us in with our sign and sail cards were efficient, they weren’t exactly friendly. We took a nice embarkation photo and went up the escalator to the gangplank and boarded the Carnival Paradise. From the arrival of the bus to boarding the ship probably took a half an hour. It was only around noon and we knew our room wouldn’t be ready until 1:30. (We had room E71 on the Empress Deck, an ocean view stateroom). We took the elevators up to the Lido Deck, walked by the pool and whirlpools and into the Paris Restaurant. We had a quiet lunch. I’d read that the food was mediocre and I’d have to concur. It was no different that first day than a typical buffet. Cathi bought me a Fountain Fun Pass that gave me unlimited soft drinks for $5.50 per day. At 1:30, we headed downstairs to our cabin. It was good-sized with two twin beds. It was also decorated for my birthday with streamers, signs and a chocolate cake. Our room was a disabled cabin. The only difference was that the doors were wider and there was no lip on the bottom of the shower. But at 185 sq. feet, it was the same amount of real estate as the rest of the ocean view cabins. There was enough closet space and storage space, a color TV, cabin phone, desk and two chairs. We breakfasted every morning in the Elation Dining room. I’d heard that the buffet food was repetitive. You have no control over who you’re seated with but we were seated next to great people for the most part. You have your choice of bagels and cream cheese, salmon, omelet's, eggs, sausage, ham or bacon, eggs benedict, pancakes, Belgian waffles, toast, baked apples etc.. You can mix and match. The baked apple is served cold. Also, if you order eggs benedict make sure you order extra hollandaise on the side. It’s no problem. The food is delicious. The Sun Deck, the top of the ship, is a good getaway spot. There’s a track up there for walking, mini golf course and deck chairs. Not many people up there and the views are breathtaking. The Verandah Deck on the aft of the ship has a pool and two whirlpools and tons of deck chairs that are also one of the best kept secrets on the ship. We were looking forward to the formal night. We were looking forward to lobster and prime rib but Cathi fell ill and we didn’t go. Bummer. We did utilize room service and it worked well. You can only order cold sandwiches and desserts and breakfast via room service but it is 24 hours and it is free. The first time we ordered something, it was delivered in 14 minutes. The second time we used it, our food, a BLT (they pile on the bacon) with potato chips, shrimp salad sandwich with potato salad and a roast beef and brie sandwich, cheesecake, brownies and cookies, was delivered in 9 minutes! Catalina: Can’t give you a review of our first port of call since we didn’t get off the ship. The beauty of it is that the ship pretty much empties out and you have the run of the ship from the pools, the whirlpools, deck chairs, bars…although a lot of places are closed. It was still great walking around an almost empty ship. It’s a great time to explore. We took pictures of Catalina from the Sun Deck and watched the tenders go back and forth while reading and listening to music on our iPods. My girlfriend went to the spa and had a 75 minute massage for $145. But the actual massage lasted even longer than that. She swears by the spa. We ate at the Paris Restaurant a couple of lunches. The food was okay. The pizza was hot and fresh. The Lido Deck Grill had hamburgers and hot dogs and French fries that were plentiful and hit the spot. I liked spending time in the Leonardo having a drink, people watching and reading. Cathi shopped in the duty free shops aboard. She bought great souvenirs and we got a great price on Crown Royal, buying two bottles. We also bought Jack Daniels and Kahlua. We saw two shows in the Normandie Lounge. Both were comedians. The first was Lowell Sanders and he was hilarious. It was a late night, R rated show, and if you’re into that kind of thing, it was funny. The other show was supposed to be a magic show but the magician couldn’t make it to the ship due to the fires in Southern California. So, he was replaced with another comedian, Jerome, who did a family act that was also very funny. We had the late seating in the Destiny Dining room. Our waiter Manuel was excellent. He took care of us in every way. His service was impeccable. We had delicious appetizers like smoked duck, French onion soup served over homemade bread and cheese, and tiger prawns. We dined on main courses like salmon, Tenderloin of Beef Wellington (melt in your mouth), NY Strip Steak and Chateaubriand in a béarnaise sauce. The food was excellently prepared and presented and delicious. The chocolate melting cake and vanilla ice cream is a must. One night I had the assorted cheese plate for dessert and that’s delightful as well. The waiters danced for us and it was hilarious. The music was pounding and tacky and lights pulsated and flashed. It was over the top but definitely memorable. About the Baked Alaska…order two. Mmmm… Ensenada: Upon getting off the ship and turning around, we were struck by just how massive the Paradise is. Right on the dock is  a little shopping center selling medicine, fake Coach and Louis Vuitton gear, trinkets, beverages and Cuban cigars. Through that shopping center are a line of buses that will take you downtown. It’s $3 per person roundtrip. Cathi and I took a van downtown. We were disappointed when it dropped us off near a park (with a homeless guy sleep in it) and no direction about what to do. But here’s what we advise anyone to do. Across the boulevard from the place they drop you off is a taxi stand. Be careful crossing the street. The cabbies were so nice. They’ll take you anywhere and it’s really cheap. They may offer to take you to the traditional places like La Budafora (the blowhole) but just tell them no, if you don’t want to go. We went shopping and bought lots of souvenirs. Instead of waiting for the buses to take you back to the ship (you have to wait until they’re full before they take you back), we just grabbed a cab driver and they took us back for $4. Now, it would’ve cost us two dollars to take the bus back but we would’ve had to wait. Two extra dollars? No biggie. It was great. The Internet Café gives you 60 minutes of internet time for $24. Be advised that it’s not the fastest connection because it is satellite. Since our room was so close to the internet café, I was able to access the ship’s wifi from our cabin. But you can use it in any public area or at the row after row of computers in the Internet Café. AOL is already loaded on the computers if you use that. We spent a little time and very little money in the casino. The casino is one of the few areas on the ship that allows smoking, if that’s your thing. We don’t smoke so it was kind of hard to sit there and inhale that smoke while gambling but that’s what you have to do in Vegas or Reno, so. The Café Il France Coffee shop serves coffees and delicious pastries for a small fee. While it’s not Starbucks, it’s good quality. The sea day was a lot of fun. Lots of pool activity and hot tub. The Calypso band on the stage on the Lido Deck was good. They played a variety of hits with a calypso beat. We asked them if they had a CD but couldn’t hear what the bassist said. Bummer. We liked the music even though it was a bit too loud. The last night was Mardi Gras. There was a Dixieland band at the Paradise Bar playing familiar tunes while Carnival employees danced on the bar tossing beads to people gathered around clapping and dancing. I’ve read many reviews saying the Paradise is showing her age and I don’t think that’s fair. If you consider that this ship was built in 1998 and has seen thousands upon thousands of passengers in near constant use, she looks very nice. Crew members are constantly cleaning. While we were onboard, a crew member was adding a new coat of varnish to the railings. The debarkation process was quick. The lines are long but they move quickly. We were off the ship in thirty minutes. Customs didn’t care about the amount of alcohol we bought or anything. Great. It was a great first cruise. We regretted that we couldn’t do everything we wanted to do. There are so many things to do and see. We also didn’t like the fact that twice we were solicited by people selling products. These weren’t Carnival people, but no one is going on vacation to be hit on as a customer. We would go again. We’re hooked. We’re cruisers. Take this cruise!  

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Aug 5, 2007

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Bill K. OK, if you have kids, here's the deal. The entire Carnival Paradise staff gets an A+ for effort, they are enthusiastic, friendly and helpful to most everyone aboard. But the onboard experience is going to differ depending on your age, and we have two kids (5,6) cruising with us.  We found Camp Carnival was certainly available, but our kids described it as BORING. 

When you send your kid to a "snow cone party", and 10 minutes later observe them with a water glass, a Slurpee straw, and staring at a TV set with 4 other kids doing the same, I have to side with my kids on this one.  Also, staff was unable to bend the rules and allow my 5 yr old to play in the same group with our 6 yr old, and insisted on splitting them up, we decided it was better to supervise our kids. That said, there's miniature golf on the upper deck, a small salt water swimming pool, and nice water slide but you better be 48" inches tall or forget about the slide (tell your kids ahead of time about this or face a serious disappointment.) Check in was easy. It's worth it to get VIP check in, as the line is shorter.  Debarkation is easy, don't believe it if people say you must wait in long lines in the hallway. Just get up by 7am and carry your own bags, and it's a snap. You're off the ship in 10 minutes. The muster station drill was as expected.  Wear your lifejacket which is stowed in your stateroom's closet, go to your designated area, bar, deck, etc. and wait for instructions.  Kids 6 and under wear wristbands with their muster station letter for the entire duration of the cruise, a good safety practice. We had an ocean view / suite stateroom with a balcony on the "upper" deck.  It's actually deck 6 out of 12, so don't be misled by the words given to the deck names. There are a few main stairwell areas dividing the ship roughly in thirds, it took us a day and half to recognize where we were at any given moment.  The elevator / stairwell areas could be more clearly marked but you won't get lost, staff people were everywhere. Stateroom was cleaned twice a day it seems.  Stewards know when you are scheduled for dinner, and that's when they clean, plus whenever you hang your door sign they will clean, put in fresh towels.  Bathroom is roomy enough, it's not the Ritz Carlton, but they're decent, and the hot water was instant thanks to a good heat pump I imagine.  You do hear people walking down the hall, OK you hear them running more so, but hey this is an ocean liner and a bargain priced vacation at that. The Cruise Director addresses the ship by P.A. system continually, and our director (Karl with a K) was very enthusiastic, and tried to keep everyone focused on having fun. Also gave a great 45 minute meeting about debarkation procedures and getting through customs. Buffet food was not that great, but you can also eat at the dining room (s) which is slightly better. Our waiters were great, and they will change your order in a minute if you're not content. Pizza is available 24/7 on the Lido deck 10, and please know that's where the ice cream soft serve machines are located which you will want to remember if you have kids.  You will not be able to forget this either, if you have kids. Healthy stuff is available if you look for it, veggie dishes, it's not all about being fat, gorging, American tourists trying to eat 8 meals a day. And there's the gym on deck 12, and the jogging track above that. The shows in the evening are fun, not spectacular but worth seeing.  The comedian the first night (Seth Buchwald) was one of the funniest I've ever heard.  It must be very hard to find the middle ground in entertainment, and Carnival did well enough. On Catalina, I suggest booking your activity on the dock, and not with the ship. Do the snorkeling at Lover's Cove, if visibility is good, or at least take the glass bottom boat tour. Ensenada is seedy and the rule here is caveat emptor.  Buy something if you like it, but there's few real bargains. We did not go to the bars, and casino time was very limited for us.  But it's not a casino where you will win big bucks.  If you want to gamble, go to Vegas. I would not want to do this cruise again, but I might try another with some better ports to visit.  I still give Carnival an A+ for effort, because a cruise experience is not an easy thing to make happen for 2600 people simultaneously, but they do it pretty well.  

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Jul 1, 2007

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Kirby Alexander As a first time cruiser, I read up on a few reviews of the Carnival Paradise to see what to expect. Most of the appraisals were correct and there were no big surprises. Here are some impressions that remain: 1.      The elevators are slow, so use your level hallway to get from one side to the other and then go up. The décor is somewhat

dated but maintained well. 2.      Cabins: Reminded me of a college dorm. The bathroom was small but well equipped. 3.      Food: The buffets are no better than your average Las Vegas all-you-can-eat. The dining rooms are much better and if you like something, you can have all you want of it. Pizza was good and the poolside grill was okay. 4.      Entertainment: Not bad. My favorite was the Blood Power band in the Leonardo venue. Those fellas have fun and talent. The shows were mostly good and the karaoke room was always fun. Kudos to Entertainment Director Karl (with a K) who probably gets 2 hours of sleep a night. 5.      Misc. ship amenities: Thumbs up – Camp Carnival, Spa, Coffee Bar. Thumbs down – Casino, shops, pool.  I don’t think I heard any (winning) whooping in the casino and the shops were limited. The pools are very small. 6.      Service: The staff works extremely hard and almost all of them are happy to be there. I imagined how hard it was for them to stay upbeat with some of the more demanding customers who thought they were staying on the QE2. 7.      Ports: Catalina was interesting. Rented a high-priced golf cart and drove to higher ground and got some great views of the bay and town. Avalon has some good restaurants and a Von's to get anything you forgot. Ensenada was interesting but a little scary. You get the feeling everything is fake and you’re getting hustled to buy junk. La Bufadora can be skipped. Plenty of food and drink in town. You get what you pay for. It’s a good primer on cruising and a good value for families and those on a limited budget. The food and civility in the dining room is a welcome relief from the rude feeding frenzy downstairs. We enjoyed ourselves as did most of the other passengers. Next time, we’ll pay more on another cruise line and see what the difference is.  

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Apr 15, 2007

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Rob & Char My wife and I took a 4 night Carnival cruise on the Carnival Paradise out of Long Beach, California. We had the best trip of our lives. It was so romantic and although the ship is full of people, it does not feel that way. There are all kinds of places to get away on the ship. The schedule of events and their times are delivered to your room every night. This

makes it easy to make it to the Vegas style shows and top notch comedy shows that are running at multiple times, for everyone. We talked with the kids on board to see how they liked the cruise and they said it was the best time they had ever had. The food was plentiful and lots of it. The formal dinner restaurant was top notch and the room service usually pretty quick. We enjoyed Catalina Island and recommend that you rent a golf cart for your party since you can see all of Avalon and some great views of the ship for picture taking. We had a blast. The people were very friendly and laid back. There are a lot of things to do there including a submarine. Snorkeling in the clearest water in the United States, parasailing, glass bottom boat and many other tours. There is some great shopping, and if you look around you can always find a good deal on something. A good tip is to stop at Von's market and pick up some sodas and waters for back on the ship. They will let you bring it to your room if its not too much (like a case of each). Ensanada Mexico was fun and there are a lot of great shopping deals to be had. Ensanada is very dirty and I would not recommend that women go out on their own as it can be dangerous. Stick to American tourist areas to be safe. Papas and bears is a blast and prices are reasonable for good drinks and food. The water and ice are safe there, due to an in-house filtration system. My wife and I used Sea Bands for motion sickness and had no problems although we met others who where not so lucky (remember to make sure Sea bands are placed correctly and you will have no problems) I take medications and was glad to have this non-drug alternative. Boarding was fast and very smooth. Disembarking took a while but if you relax and enjoy some food on the Lido deck it will go smoothly. I would definitely recommend this cruise to anyone looking for a fun enjoyable vacation for a good price. also just wanted to let you know that the ocean view rooms are spacious and would recommend you have it decorated if you are having a special occasion. My wife was so surprised at how nice the room was decorated. Hope this helps you and Bon Voyage!  

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Apr 12, 2007

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico D & T Rampersad I wanted to write this review, because it really helped me when I was choosing between Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines. I ended up choosing Carnival because of price difference, and am really happy that I did (it was cheaper). I paid about $1500 for an 11th floor suite with a balcony, which was more than we needed. So let me start at the beginning.

We got to Long Beach port at 1pm, dropped our bags off with the porter after receiving a luggage tag (KEEP THIS TAG ON, as it is needed for debarkation), and went through a regular type of airline check in procedure to board the ship. Everyone was quite pleasant and helpful and we boarded within 30 minutes. Even though we chose to board really early, which I definitely recommend, our room was ready with all the decorations I had requested for my wife's birthday celebration! (Good job Carnival!) We dropped our bags off and went to the Paris restaurant for lunch... why not, we paid for it! :) Food selections included: pizza, sandwiches, and real food like prime rib, potatoes, seafood, etc. LOTS of choices, and then dessert! Everything was great! In fact, so that I don't have to say it every time, ALL and I mean ALL, of our food was fantastic!!!! The choices and quality were top notch (and I am a particular diner who eats out about 3 times a week at new restaurants). Back to the story... so after the restaurant, we took a nap before sailing, and did the regular drill as we left port. No hassle, especially as we paid so much money.. we didn't really have to do much compared to other folks on lower floors. After the drill, there was a great Dominican reggae and calypso band playing, and the relaxation began. We walked around to familiarize ourselves with the ship, and got ready for dinner at 8:30pm (late seating, which I recommend) in the Elation dining room. We sat at a table for 6 people, and we all got along well. We had dinner with them for the 3 nights. Lunch and dinner were usually eaten in the dining room (although you could find food elsewhere on the ship), and we sat with different people for those meals. I wished we would have had some down time to eat alone, but we were constantly dining with others. On the bright side, it was our only entree to interact with others by force. On each night, there was a ton to do. You could go to the comedy shows at midnight, visit the dance club, casino, or variety of bars. The program organization left you ample choices so that you weren't bored. That being said, I think that it would have been nice to make an additional stop (maybe at Catalina), or get back on Sunday evening as the seas and wind (about 40 knot winds) were pretty unforgiving for this particular weekend. Even the land breezes were strong. On Saturday, we arrived in Ensenada, which was not as picturesque as I had in my mind. It was NOT a beach town, or if there was a beach, it was not in sight from the top level of the ship. We utilized the safe throughout the cruise, which was no different as we went into the town of Ensenada. I think it is a safe practice to change your wallet over to your simple cruise cards, driver's license, and maybe some cash, and a credit card. We had no trouble with crime, but I was always alert to the possibility. We chose not to do any tours, and were really happy we chose this option, as the downtown area had enough walking around to keep us happy. We were not on this cruise to fill our time or get drunk like some of the other younger people. Downtown Ensenada was fun. There are two distinct areas to downtown. One is slightly market like with panhandlers, and beggars, and the other is more serene and upscale- with art, and a thrifty ice cream shop! We had a great lunch at a restaurant called Casa de Mar, which was recommended by locals for more authentic food. It was great, and the waiter was quite accommodating by American standards (changing menus, and exchanging drinks with no charge- do not get the margarita, but everything else was great). We then got back on board around 4:30 pm, and left port at 6pm. Everything was hassle free. The rest of the cruise was fun - going to shows, and losing in the casino. All the rest of the meals were amazing, and the cabin staff made little towel animals for us daily. They all made my wife's birthday weekend spectacular through their thoughtfulness. Saturday and Sunday, the winds and water continued to be aggressive, so there was a lot of rocking. I think we were just victims of poor timing. Monday morning we got back into port, and chose to keep our luggage with us so that we could leave early. We left the ship around 7am, and this was done by the color on your luggage tag. Getting though immigration was seamless, and very quick! We were back to our car in the garage by 7:15am. I think it cost us about $36 to park there for the weekend. And so that was it! We had a fantastic time aboard the Paradise, and would cruise again with them.  As a post script, the gym on board the 12th floor through the spa was amazing! Use it if you can... I think it's free. Also, the comedians change nightly, so don't judge the quality by only one of them (as one of them was not good)  

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Mar 15, 2007

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Liz Not having booked our own flight into LA, we arrived at the Long Beach Cruise Terminal at around 8 am. Luckily there were porters waiting at the drop off point and one of them told us we could check our luggage and possibly get an early boarding time to get on the ship early. He directed us to the early check-in desk at the Queen Mary and told us we might be able to get

on as early as 11:30 am. Otherwise if we missed that check-in we’d have a LONG wait as there would be about 2000 other people trying to get on. He also told us we could kill time by taking the shuttles to downtown Long Beach. We headed over to the Queen Mary and were told by the concierge that the early check-in desks would not open for another 30 minutes or so and he suggested that we have breakfast aboard the QM. We decided to go look for the check-in desk anyway since we wanted to get it over with as soon as possible and take the shuttles to Long Beach. Since we got there early, the gate at the tail-end of the QM was not open yet so we had a hard time finding the desk from where we entered. I would suggest waiting until they open the gate at the tail end of the ship (the opposite end from the ship’s Main Entrance, where we talked to the concierge). Once you get past that gate you have to walk through a little museum looking area and then there are signs. Check-in was really fast as there was no line when we were there. We had to present our credit cards to set up our Sail & Sign accounts & were issued our room keys, which also served as our Sail & Sign cards. We got ourselves checked-in and were told to be at the entrance to the big dome @ the terminal at 12:30. We decided to take the shuttle to downtown Long Beach since we had time and since only a few of the shops at the Cruise Terminal were actually open. Even if we did stay it would have probably only killed about 15 minutes of our wait. The shuttle ride took about 10 minutes. We didn’t know where we were going so we just got off when everyone else did (I think it was the shuttle’s main stop, across the street from the Convention Center). We walked a few blocks in the opposite direction of the Convention Center and found a great open market. The open market apparently is only there on Fridays. There were some other shops like Nordstrom Rack, Wal-Mart, Ross, and some other stores like that. We caught the shuttle back to the terminal and got there a few minutes after 12:30. We were scared that we missed our chance to get on-board but luckily we didn’t. Getting through the “dome” was fast. We had to go through a security area then they took our photo and we were on the ship! Once on the ship we found out that the rooms would not be available until 1:30 so we went to go find someplace to eat. Warning…when you first hit the pool deck, they’ll try to hand you a drink. We thought it was a complimentary “welcome aboard” drink but it turned out to be their drink of the day which I think cost around $6 or $7. We ate at the buffet then went to go look for the track & gym. The track on the ship is REALLY small. Maybe 100 laps = 1 mile????? Haha…idk. We weren’t able to check out the gym just yet because it wasn’t open yet. When we got to our room I was surprised at how small and cramped it seemed. I think it was because we didn’t have any windows maybe? I was also disappointed that the bathroom didn’t have a bathtub, only a shower. It seemed very institutional and designed for function over form. The floor actually had a drain built directly into it for easy cleaning. It reminded me of a locker room. We were provided a few amenities that I didn’t expect including a sample pack of toothpastes (4 different flavors of Crest), 2 disposable razors, a trial size Dove deodorant, sample sizes of hair gel & leave-in conditioner. There were also the usual things like soap and shampoo. Overall I think our room reminded me of my college dorm room. I think we got our luggage at around 3 and we relaxed & unpacked until 4:30 when there was a mandatory emergency drill. Everyone needed to put on their life vests and head out to assigned waiting areas. Kind of funny to see a room full of people with life vests on. After the drill we went to the deck to wait to set sail at around 5:45. My boyfriend felt slightly seasick the first night so we ate dinner at the buffet, rather than in the dining room. After taking some meds he felt better so we headed to the casino. The next morning we woke up already in Ensenada. We didn’t book any shore excursions through the ship so we just got off. We were told that that horseback riding, ATV rides and Mini Jeep excursions are the ones to sell out so if you’re interested I would book it in advance or head to the excursion desk as soon as you get on the ship. Once we got off the ship we took a shuttle for $3 to downtown. ($2 to go, $1 to come back, paid in advance.) During the ride a guy with the shuttle company told us about a tour they have to La Bufadora for $15 per person ($5 cheaper than the one offered by the ship). We figured since the trip to La Bufadora would only take about 3 – 4 hours we would have more than enough time to explore downtown after we got back. The ride was about 30 minutes to La Bufadora and the guide was really entertaining and informative. When we got there the guide told us to meet back at the bus in an hour & a half. He then took us down to the actual “blowhole” and then we were free to walk around the open market shops. We spent like 30 seconds @ the blowhole since we have one back home but I must say what I did see was pretty impressive. The open market is basically a bunch of shops along the road down to the blowhole so we just browsed as we walked back up the road towards the shuttle. It was really fun but we didn’t have enough time. In fact, everyone on the tour agreed that an hour and a half was not enough time. We contemplated eating at one of the eateries but were glad we didn’t because it would have taken up too much of our time. We almost missed the shuttle and we actually ended up leaving 2 people behind because they were late! My boyfriend and I bought blankets, Mexican candy, a “Gucci” bag, some artwork, some things from the “pharmacy”, and a bunch of miscellaneous souvenirs. The tour bus dropped us off back in downtown Ensenada. Since we had so much stuff we decided to go back to the ship to drop it off then come back. The ride from downtown to the ship only takes about 5 minutes so it was no big deal. Getting back on the ship was quick too. You only have to go through a security check point and you’re back on. Downtown Ensenada was filled with the usual touristy-shops you would expect to see. There are a few unique shops here and there but for the most part it seems like the shops are pretty similar to what we saw in La Bufadora and the prices were about the same. I was definitely glad we went to La Bufadora because I think spending all day in downtown would have been too long. I wanted to send postcards to some people and had no trouble finding many pretty ones. But it was nearly impossible to find a place that sold stamps. And then to find a mailbox to mail them was another headache. I think it took us almost 2 hours total??? And after all that trouble my friends & family still have not received them and it’s been almost 2 weeks. Oh well. After we returned to the ship at around 5:30, my boyfriend and I realized we had not eaten all day and regretted not trying anything in Mexico. There were LOTS of places selling food in downtown so we could have easily gotten something to eat. I guess we just forgot. That night was formal night on the ship I think but we didn’t get dressed up because we were tired. We did walk around though and took lots of pictures at the photo stations. I would definitely recommend this because you only have to pay if you decide to purchase the photos. The photos are expensive though if you decide to buy. $23 for an 8 x 10! But they had a special that if you bought the 8 x 10 you would get free wallets so we had stuff to give to our families when we got back. Despite the prices, they were a nice memento of our trip and I don’t know when my boyfriend will be willing to take pictures again so I was happy! We went to Rex’s disco that night which was okay. The next day at sea was alright. We spent some time on the deck just relaxing and reading. I would have swam but it was still pretty chilly and the hot tub was being hogged by the same group the whole day. That evening we played Bingo and watched a show called “Shout”. It was a little cheesy compared to Vegas shows I’ve seen but it was still entertaining. When we got back to Long Beach on Monday we waited until they called our color tags to debark. We had them take our luggage off the ship for us so we had to put our bags outside our cabin by 11:30 or so the night before. I think they called our tag color (green) at around 8:30 or so. We left our cabin only to find a MASSIVE line to get off the ship. It would move every 10 minutes or so but when it moved it was pretty fast. In the dome we had to go through the immigration part then go and find our bags. That part was REALLY fast and a lot easier than I imagined. I think we were out by 9:15. It would have been a lot faster had the dummies in front of us read the debarkation procedures and followed the instructions given by the ship. Overall I had a fun time. I would have enjoyed spending more time in Mexico as I’m not much of a gambler and show-watcher. Other things to note: Food – During the whole cruise we only ate at the buffet, the pizzeria & room service. We didn’t dine in the dining room which I wished we had at least once. The food @ the buffet was what you’d expect from a buffet. Some things were good while others weren’t. My boyfriend bought a drink card for unlimited soft drinks over the entire cruise. I think it was $5.50 per day. I was happy with the juice and water they had at the buffet although it was kind of sweet. We did order room service every night which was REALLY good. It took a while though and the drink card didn’t work for room service beverages. Noise – I don’t know if it was just our cabin but I noticed a lot of noise throughout the whole day and night. You could hear people yelling, people running down the halls (both in our hallway and above us), things being dropped, mechanical noises, anything and everything. I was really tired so I was able to fall asleep pretty quickly but for light sleepers I think it would be kind of annoying. Workout Facilities -- The gym seemed to have limited hours. My boyfriend works out religiously and is used to 24-Hour Fitness so he was kind of disappointed. He also commented that the machines had only like 50 pounds of weights so he couldn’t really get a good workout in. Also, the track was so small that he didn’t want to run it because he said he’d feel like a mouse in a wheel. Stores -- I expected more stores to be on board like convenience stores or something. I think there were only three stores and they were only open from like 6 pm – 11 pm each day. I think it might have been because they could only be open while we were in international waters since they were duty free shops but I would have gladly paid the tax/duty in exchange for a shop that had more regular hours. Motion sickness – To all the people who said that cruise ships are so big that you can’t feel it moving, I’m sorry to say but you’re wrong! As I mentioned before, my boyfriend felt ill the first day and I later felt funny the next two. It wasn’t really bad and neither of us threw up but it did make us feel slightly uncomfortable. It was like that feeling you get when you’re in an elevator and it stops really fast. Only all the time. While we were watching the shows you could see the curtains swaying back and forth. It was tolerable for us but for people who are susceptible to motion sickness it might not be too fun. We took motion sickness pills and they seemed to help. But the pills can’t stop the rocking feeling when you’re walking around. Weather – I guess I was in my own dream world when I was thinking about what this cruise would be like since I did read the weather reports and I did see that the temps ranged from the low 50s – mid 70s. Nevertheless I imagined warm, sunny weather and packed warm-weather clothes. 90% of the trip was cold and kind of gloomy. Ensenada was chilly but I was able to get away with a sundress and a jacket. If the sun was out I think it would have been better. I was told that part of it was due to something called a marine layer. The Crowd – I was surprised that there weren’t more young “spring breakers” on the cruise since we were going around Spring Break time. There were a few but they weren’t out of control or anything. Just annoying in that they took up the entire hot tub and didn’t seem to care that other people might want to use it. There seemed to be a good mix of all kinds of people on the ship. Aside from a few really obnoxious older couples in Bingo I think everyone seemed pretty well-behaved. Not what I expected on a Carnival cruise. Phone reception – I have T-Mobile and my phone was able to catch for most of the trip. Whether or not I was being charged ridiculous rates I have yet to find out. I think T-Mobile said it would $1.50 a minute while I was in Mexico? We’ll see… My boyfriend also has T-Mobile but his phone didn’t have reception in our cabin. Actually it might not have had reception at all for the entire cruise but since I didn’t need to call him since we were together the whole time I don’t know. I did have to call T-Mobile to activate international calling before I left for my trip and I’m sure he didn’t do that so it could have been that his phone was not able to make any calls while we were out of the US.  

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Feb 12, 2007

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Joanne F. This was my Hubby's and mine first cruise so we really had no idea what to expect. We got to Long Beach the day before and stayed at the International Guesthouse. They provided us with a shuttle from Long Beach airport to the hotel, and from the hotel to the port where our ship was. We went with some friends of ours, and we got up and arrived early the day we

set sail. It was a good thing that we did because when you arrive early, you can register early, and get VIP check in. We registered on the Queen Mary, and good thing we did, because we walked right pass the line ups, got on the ship quite early! Our baggage handler, Bobby, was very helpful, and appreciated his help in guiding us in the right direction. Once on the ship we went to Paris restaurant for lunch and drinks. The food was pretty good. I wasn't expecting allot after reading some reviews on here, but it far exceeded my expectations. After a good meal, hubby and I explored the ship, and found our cabin. Again, I wasn't expecting a lot with the cabins, because of some reviews on here, but they were spacious, very clean, and the bed was really nice and comfy! Our steward was super friendly, and always had a smile on his face. We were scheduled for the late dinner in the elation dining room. And we were fairly impressed with what they had to offer. They had a different menu every evening, and a good selection. My only complaint with the food on the ship was steak... those guys really don't know how to make a steak. It was bland and it lacked flavor, which in part may the beefs fault and not so much the chef's. Our first day we were supposed arrive in Catalina, but it was very windy out, and the water was choppy, so our day at sea was bumped up to Tuesday, and Catalina was on Wednesday instead, and Ensenada was on Thursday. Catalina we just did a lot of shopping, and saw the glass bottom boat tour. Generally had a good time. When we got to Ensenada, we went on the blow hole and winery tour. I read a lot of negative things about Ensenada, and for the most part, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. When we got to the blow hole it was beautiful. The flea market was an experience and a half though. I got allot souvenirs there though, and got in a lot of haggling!! I went to habbana banana's and got lots of cool cloth for my kids and myself. The winery tour was nice, and had fun doing the wine tasting.. We ended up buying two bottles of wine, which for the tour the ship will waive the corkage fees for. All in all, I had a GREAT time on the Paradise... and we are planning a cruise in near future, on the same boat, with our kids. PLEASE ignore all negative reviews, as I can't see what they didn't like about it, *maybe it was the steak*.  

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Nov 10, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Bob Lausten We (husband, wife and 3 teenagers) went on the cruise November 10-13 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my wife’s aunt and uncle. There were 45 relatives on the cruise so we looked forward to a good time. The cruise was organized in April. The Carnival representative was easy to work with and handled all the arrangements with flying colors. We arrived at

the ship at 2 pm. Getting on board was rather painless. The wait was approximately ½ hour. Once on board we found our group enjoying cocktails on the Lido deck. Our luggage arrived at our two rooms shortly after getting on board. The rooms, on the Riviera deck, were small, however, served their purpose. I wasn’t expecting the 4 star hotel, and was happy that the ventilation and TV worked in the room. The food was pretty good. We had the early dinner time, 5:45, which was the only time to get everyone in our party (45 people) to the table. The wait staff (Dennis and Aneishia) were excellent. Food on the Lido deck (breakfast, lunch, late night) was also good. There’s always a selection to suit your taste. If you’re looking for gourmet food then go to a fancy restaurant and get off the boat. The entertainment on board was also decent. It’s not a Broadway show, but entertaining enough to keep you interested. On Saturday, the boat arrived in Ensenada. If you’ve never been there you aren’t missing much. It’s not Cancun. Back to the TV. As a diehard Nebraska Cornhusker fan, I was on a mission to find a way to watch the ABC telecast of the Nebraska-Texas A&M game either on board on in Ensenada. Sure enough, the TV stations on board (ABC-NBC-CBS) originate out of Denver which carried the game. The foreigners on board learned how certain foul words can be used as nouns, verbs and adjectives after listening to me! The boat got rocky on Sunday and numerous people fell victim to a little sea sickness. From reading previous reviews we thought getting off the ship in Long Beach would be a problem. We had a 1 pm flight out of LAX and decided to self carry our bags off the ship. We were told that early disembarkation would begin between 7 and 7:15 am. We got to the off-ramp at 7:15 and there was no line. It was really smooth, actually too smooth as we now had a couple hours to kill. Some remaining members of our party (the local Angelinos) stayed on board until around 10 am in the dining room and also made it off the boat without any problem. All and all, a great trip for the weekend. Nothing negative to say about Carnival. I’d cruise with them again if I ever decided to cruise again!.  

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Oct 26, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Warren Grier this was our 5th cruise including 3 on carnival 1 on the Norwegian Dawn and one on the RCL's flagship the Empress of the Seas. We flew in to LAX and met the rest of our 7 person party for this Halloween cruise. 4 people took a cab and it would have been cheaper to take the 16 dollar shuttle for our 3 person cab because it was $55 for the taxi. Embarkation was a

breeze, they made me take my MP3 player off for some esoteric reason, more on the unfortunate case of the MP3 player later. We spent the first hour getting adjusted to the ship and laughing at a member of our party who had taken this ship last year but couldn't remember where anything was related to the copious amounts of alcohol he imbibed. The aforementioned intoxicated member did remember enough from the last cruise to tell us we should do the 3 day weekend cruise as opposed to the 4 day weekday cruise because the weekend cruise was a way bigger party. We have cruised on this class of ship before on the Elation so we were familiar with the layout of the ship. All of the lounges are together and close to the casino so it's just a huge party near the back of the ship. When we returned to our room our bags were there and we proceed to unpack. A co-worker of mine was sharing our stateroom so she had a fold down bed. Our stateroom had plenty of room as Carnival usually does, and this is why like to cruise Carnival with our 3 year old daughter. That evening we enjoyed our dinner, however, now that we have been on other cruises the food didn't seem as good as our first cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Elation. Norwegian Dawn's additional cost restaurants are  better but their regular restaurants fare is not as good. Carnival's desserts are definitely the best. After dinner we got ready to party and headed over to the nightclub, the rex. The do was good but unfortunately had to play music from all time periods so would clear the dance floor with some old lame song every once in awhile. The price of beer seems to have increased and so I paid like 20 bucks for 4 beers the first night. This ship this date was definitely down to party we had mostly 20-30 year old people on the ship with some groups of single ladies in their mid thirty to forties and a few honeymooning couples, I only counted about 20 teens and less smaller children than that. Our hallway had a party most evenings with people drinking alcohol and fraternizing. All but one of our party went to bed about midnight that night but we stayed up till 2 am and enjoyed the comedy show. The next morning we arrived in Ensenada and got off the ship about 12:30, having read earlier that the trip to the blowhole " La Bufadora" was about an hour long and not that exciting.  We didn't book it through Carnival. On our 3 dollar taxicab ride to town one of the local tour guides talked us in to going to La Bufadora for 15 bucks, after being questioned reputedly he assured us it was only a 20 minute ride! However 4 members of our party just wanted to sit @ Papas and Beers and drink anyway, and seeing that the open container laws seem to be much more lax in Mexico we bought 4 buckets of Coronas and partied on the way to the blowhole. Holy shambles Ensenada is the most expensive town we have ever shopped in with most sale items being twice as expensive as you can find in your local swap meet. Other Mexican towns offer a much better value. We didn't take this cruise to shop. The blowhole was kind of interesting. It was time to get back to the ship for our formal night. On the way back we stopped at Ensenada proper for some more expensive shopping and some tacos down the streets from Papas and Beers. I like the fact that the ports have good security and check all passengers coming back with a metal detector twice and check their id's. This reminds me of our last cruise in Cabo where a Mexican soldier trained his gun on me for stepping off the dock to try to get a picture of a crab on a rock!. We dressed up for formal night and had our picture taken. Then prepared for another fun night -  this time the rest of our party napped after Ensenada and were able to go to the club with us. The music was good, and we stayed out until about 2 am. We also enjoyed some time in the hot tub before lunch, personally I would like to soak in a hot tub after midnight, but they always close them too early. The last day at sea was the best! We always enjoy days at sea.  I was up early @ 6:00 in the morning and went for some palates yoga, a 2 mile run and then abs work before 8am. We had breakfast in the formal dining room again and the omelets were good. The eggs benedict was a little dry the 2nd morning. My wife and co-worker spent the morning getting mini spa treatments and their teeth whitened, while I relaxed in the poolside hot tub. We were exited to do the survivor and amazing race events that afternoon but they were scheduled for the same time. Why? So we asked and were told amazing race would be better because the pool was out of commission related to a kid's previous accident. We took first place in the amazing race which was a combination scavenger hunt and boat trivia competition. The best thing about winning was the 12 day trip to Australia. We won for our victory" in that leg of the race" -  actually it was being able to carry the trophy around for the rest of the night and announce ''attention passengers amazing race champions are now entering the pool area". So then we had lunch and prepared to put on our costumes for the Halloween bash. A crazy couple were already running around @ 1700 with a sexy cop and fat "security guard" so we figured we'd change as well. My wife had a sexy geisha girl costume and I was a kung fu warrior. Our friend was a Bier Garten girl. The dance party in the open bar between the casino and lounge and dance club was crazy, so we danced there and took pictures for about an hour. The sit down dinner was next and that kind of put a downer on the night. Next time we might skip it and just dance and party all night. Debarkation was also easy as we had an early flight boarding @ 1150 we went to the Normandy lounge and got off in about 45 minutes. After an uneventful taxi to the airport and flight home, I am preparing to go the store to get another MP3 player because one of the stewards or stewards assistants must have taken it. We will try calling Carnival and see if it has been turned into lost and found. Perhaps by now they realize they can't change the songs without the software. We will definitely do this same cruise next year for Halloween!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

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Sep 24, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Steve and Liz We were very skeptical about this cruise after reading some of the reviews and being spoiled after cruising on the Carnival Pride to the Mexican Riviera. We’re not sure what everyone else’s lifestyle may be, but comparing the price paid over other cruises, we had a great time. Check-in; We got to Long Beach an hour after embarkment started, had all of our

paperwork in order ahead of time, and we boarded right away. They even noticed my birthday and wished me a good time. The ship; It does show some use but they keep it clean. The biggest negative was the condition of the pools and pool furniture. A serious cleaning is in order. The crew; Everyone was great. We were always greeted with a smile no matter what or where we were. Dining room waiters were fun and actually sang Happy Birthday to me twice. My daughters bought me a second cake. Our cabin steward must have watched when we left our room. It was made up every time after we went out. Cabin; We just had an inside cabin. It was adequate but may need some attention soon with some of the furniture being “dinged”. We didn’t notice it on the Pride, but we heard A LOT of noise in rooms next to us. We did have some rude people that wanted to party in their room all night instead of at the various clubs. You would hear people walking the hallways and the cabin doors would close hard and literally shake the walls. As you can tell, I like my rest, but can party with the best. Entertainment; The shows were actually pretty good. Not Las Vegas, but good. Karaoke seemed to draw the biggest crowd. Food; Everything was great. Some of it wasn’t 5 star, but we looked back at the price paid. The pool deck always cooked the burgers fresh. Once in awhile we didn’t like some of the buffet food, so we just tried something else. We never tried the pizza, but it looked good. Most of the time we were too full. The sushi bar was good and you do have to get there early. Dinner was excellent. They even gave me lobster and prime rib on my birthday. Both were excellent. The dining room food was very good at all seatings and maybe a little better than the buffet lines. The portions weren’t huge but more than adequate. Just ask for more. Ports; We found it better to get off the ship and do your own thing. Most of the reviews can guide you to the right stuff. Some of the very popular excursions may be better to book with the cruise due to limited availability. Catalina, Rent the golf cart. There are plenty in town and the same price. You can see most of the attractions in an hour. The semi submersible subs looked like fun. We heard the eco-trip was good. Ensenada, Like someone else said, ”It’s Ensenada”. Take it or leave it. The bargain hunting wasn’t there and we found better shopping on the ship. Maybe we didn’t give it a fair chance but the begging drove us nuts. There seemed to be some nice restaurants. We tried Papas and Beer, no big deal. Most places had beers for almost the same price as the ship, so we would rather be on the ship.   We didn’t want to make this such a long review but we wanted to be fair for someone wanting to go on this cruise. We would definitely do it again. We met many good people. I don’t know why they say “Baja Mexican cruise” when they just go to one port. I would like for Carnival to switch the long day at port to Catalina instead of Ensenada.  

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Jul 30, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Marilyn Ralf After reading many reviews about this 4 day Baja cruise, we were prepared for the worst - but had enjoyable surprises and a good cruise. Our embarkation was quick and smooth. We arrived at the port at 11:30 and by 12:30 we were eating lunch on the Lido deck. One change though - you cannot carry on your luggage unless it is 19" or less in size. This was different

than what the published materials said. Our room was much larger than our Princess Sapphire cruise taken last year. The bathroom was larger and the shower a decent size. New bedding was on the bed which was luxurious - 500 thread count sheets and wonderful duvet with 4 nice pillows - and we were NOT in a suite! I read in other reviews that smoking was bad on the ship. We did not find that. Smoking was only found in a couple of lounges and the casino. It was announced numerous times that smoking was in designated areas only. We found the food to be quite good - portions were smaller but more than adequate. The Beef Wellington, Prime Rib, Lobster Tails, and Salmon were all very good. The desserts were not as elaborate but still nice. No Creme Brulee but we did have a nice Baked Alaska. Children were plentiful especially in the pools and spas. Downside - while the stage shows were quite good, there were no lounge acts and the DJ in the disco was poor. Most of the time the disco was empty until 11:30 PM and the one club act was a lone country guitarist. The piano bar was good but the smoking drove us out. We felt Carnival could definitely improve on their nighttime activities. The only thing to do was play in the casino. There were very few shore excursions on this cruise. In Catalina, we rented a golf cart for our own tour of the island for $40/hour and saw the entire island in an hour. In Ensenada, we took the shuttle into downtown and went to Papa's and Beer which was a huge waste of time. The margaritas were terrible, the bartenders ignored the customers and talked amongst themselves and there was nothing going on in the bar. This was our second Carnival cruise and we did enjoy it and look forward to sailing with Carnival again.  

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Jul 16, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Todd A group or 13 of us cruised on the Carnival Paradise on July 17th, 2006. 10 of the cruisers were first-timers, so a 4 night cruise out of LA was the plan. * Day Before: We drove down from Northern California to Long Beach and stayed at the Holiday Inn Downtown. It was one of the lowest priced hotels ($129) that allowed us to keep our cars in their garage for the week and

provided free transportation to and from the pier to go along with a one night stay. * Embarkation: Our group gathered in the lobby of the hotel around 10:45 and loaded up the shuttle. The shuttle was only for 9 people, so we had to split our group, no big deal. The shuttle dropped us off at the pier, we passed our baggage to Carnival Porters and then jumped in line. It was just after 11:00 am and we were in the first 25-30 people in line (besides those with VIP check-in, and those who checked in even earlier then we did on the Queen Mary). We waited in line for about 20-25 minutes, then they moved us into show our passports, get our sign and sail card, etc. This was a very easy and organized procedure. Took our welcome aboard photo, and got on the ship. We found our ocean view cabin, U154, very easy and then started to check out the ship. * Room notes: With only one electrical outlet in the room, the surge protector that had been suggested all over the boards was ideal to have. We were able to plug in our camera batteries, our cell phone (which we used as an alarm clock), my wife’s hair dryer, etc, without having to pull cords in and out. This is a must pack. The room was very spacious, bigger then I remember, with plenty of room to move around. We were able to put our luggage under the bed and out of the way of everything, which saved some more room. There are a limited number of hangers and only small drawers so be sure to bring some hangers. That way you can hang a lot of your clothes. The closets are plenty big enough. TV mounted in the corner. It picked up Denver stations (we were just off the coast of LA, not sure why we got Denver, oh well), and had CNN International, a couple stations that played music, and 2 movie stations. The only think it was lacking was ESPN, or some type of sports station. I would have enjoyed knowing the latest sports news as I got ready in the morning, but I survived without it for a week. Over all, the cabin was very clean. In the bathroom there are mounted soap and shampoo dispensers in the shower, so if you don’t care what kind of soap you use, you can leave that stuff at home. Also, they provide you a basket of toiletries (toothpaste, mouthwash, lotion, etc). One of our cabins didn’t have the basket when we first got on, but it was there about an hour or so later. * Buffet/Dining: We toured the ship quickly, which is to say we found the nearest bar to our rooms, and the quickest way to the Paris dining area on the Lido Deck. About half our group purchased the Fountain Card (unlimited soda) for $22 and got plenty of use out of it. The hot sandwiches at the grill, most notably the pastrami, were outstanding. The pizza bar was also good, but got pretty busy most of the time. The pizza did come in handy late at night on the way back to the room. We had the late seating for dinner, which I would strongly suggest. Although it’s a bit late, you can snack throughout the day, plus it allows you to stay on shore a bit longer, and there is no one after you so you don’t get rushed out. I’m not sure if the early seating people felt rushed, but I know at about 8:25 as we were waiting to get into the dining room, people were still filing out. The late seating had none of that, very relaxed and you stayed as long as you wanted to or needed to. I was very worried about the food in the dining room. I had been reading reviews for months that mentioned everything from horrible to great, and considering I had talked up the food as a big selling point to many of the first time cruisers in our group I was a little nervous about what was going to be served. However, there was nothing to worry about. The food was outstanding!!! Like I said we had 13 people in our group, so we had a table of 8 near the window (very nice) and a table of 6 right next to us. So we were always able to talk about what we were going to get, or how many of each we were going to get. Our wait staff, Alexander from Macedonia and Paulo from Peru were great. They enhanced our dining experience with their jokes, tricks, food suggestions and up-beat attitude. Back to the food. I can only attest to what I had, but nearly everything was prepared and served just the way I liked it. I prefer my beef to be cooked on the rare side of medium-rare and that is how it always came. I did hear one complaint, from some one not in our group, and that was the beef was never cooked well enough. So, if you like your meet cooked really well done, ask them that upfront, otherwise enjoy. Some entrée highlights included the lamb, filet mignon, prime rib, lobster, beef Wellington, sweet & sour shrimp, & veal. Some said the lobster was tough. Of the 5 lobster tails that I had I didn’t have anything to complain about. The starters are fairly small, so if you see something you like, or think you may like, order two. Many in our group ordered a couple orders of escargot, shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, egg roll, etc. I really enjoyed the hot soups (wild mushroom, beef & barley, minestrone, lobster bisque). I didn’t have any of the cold soups, but heard that the pumpkin soup and mango were flavorful. The Caesar salad was very good, the other salads were ordinary but fine. The disappointing part of dining was the dessert, nothing too exciting. Standard deserts, key lime pie, ice cream, cheesecake, chocolate cake, etc. Most nights we made our way up to the Lido Deck and got ice cream cones from the Paris dining area. Outside of the dining area, things were fine. The grill was standard, burgers, hot dogs, fries. We got room service every morning, smoked salmon with bagel and cream cheese. Great start to the morning. * Entertainment: The entertainment was fairly cheesy, but I’m not one for shows. The magic and comedy were good, and the adult comedy show on Tuesday night was very funny. My only thought on that, was the cruisers need to just sit back and enjoy the show instead of trying to heckle and be a part of it. But the comedian rolled with it, and was very funny. We played Bingo on our day at Sea and wouldn’t you know it came up one number short on a few games. They also do a version of Deal or No Deal, which is very entertaining, but would be even more entertaining if they did more then just pick one person. If they picked two or three I’m sure they would still do fine. The pool as I’m sure you know by now is salt water, so don’t think it’s like your pool in the backyard. Although we are 30 years old we went down the waterslide a couple times, always fun. We also spent a lot of time, particularly the last night, at the piano bar with Trevor the piano player. Trevor was outstanding, he knew and played everything from Billie Joel and Elton John, to Broadway Shows, to TV theme songs, even AC/DC. It was a huge sing-a-long what was very enjoyable. * Service: Service was great, we never felt like those selling drinks were pushy, if anything they didn’t come around frequent enough. Our cabin steward was good. Cleaned the room twice a day, had a new towel animal each night, he even noticed that we had a bottle of champagne and brought an ice bucket and kept it full. Like I said earlier, our wait staff was great! They always remembered our names and made the dining experience enjoyable. * Ports: Catalina and Ensenada. Catalina was good, we had to take a tender to the island, but got on one quickly. We rented a 6 person golf cart ($45 hour) and toured around the island. It let us get some good photos, and we were able to find a good little Mexican restaurant off the main strip that we stopped at for lunch. After the golf cart we sat on the beach and went swimming in the water. 4 of the people from our group went parasailing, which they said was pretty fun. Ensenada was below average. We got off the ship and took a shuttle ($2 per person) into downtown, a block from Papas & Beer. We had a lot a margaritas, and a few appetizers. Although a typical tourist bar we had a lot of fun. We then started to walk the 10-12 blocks toward the ship and do some shopping. We hit a few bars on the way back and had some dollar beers, and put our dollar on the wall at one bar (if you go or see it you’ll know what I’m talking about). We ended up buying some jewelry, sunglasses, t-shirts, etc. We then stopped at Viva Wings, not recommended. They market themselves at a sports bar, but a couple pictures on the wall and ESPN International doesn’t make you a sports bar. The food wasn’t very good either. AND it may have made some of the people in our party sick. They warn you forever not to drink the water, but sometimes you forget that the ice in the margarita is made from the water, so stick with beer in places you aren’t sure of. * Other notes: We brought three different bottle of alcohol on board in our checked luggage, which worked out well with the fountain cards that many people got. Even without soda, we used the free punch or lemonade from the Lido Deck to have free drinks…A couple people in our group bought the photos. I wasn’t thrilled with them, but they got them more as souvenirs more than anything…The sushi bar that opens at 5:30 was a nice midday snack if you had the late seating, but try and get there early because the line starts getting long…I know I didn’t see everyone on the ship, but I’d say that 75% of the people were under 40, and there were a lot of kids, which is another reason to take the late seating over the early one. The kids never really got in the way, but they did tend to monopolize the pool and spas. Not to mention they were out late. It would be 2:00 am and we’d be getting some pizza and there were groups of kids all around. Overall a great cruise. This was my fourth and I have no intention of stopping now. I know some of the first time cruisers really enjoyed it as well, in fact they were already trying to plan the next one. This was the perfect cruise for our group. It was a younger crowd, the food was great, plenty of things to keep us busy, enough variety that we weren’t doing the same things over and over again, and perfect for the money. If anyone has any other questions that I didn’t cover, feel free to drop me an e-mail – tkleinheinz@sbcglobal.net.  

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Jul 9, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Tom Canty Just got back from the 4 day short cruise from LA to Catalina and Ensenada on the Paradise. We cruised on the Paradise 7 years ago on our honeymoon, when the ship was only a year old and it was a non-smoking ship. While there is now smoking allowed, I found it to be much, much less than any other ship, and was not bothered by it. In fact, I noticed the times when people

did smoke, mainly in the Rotterdam (where cigars are allowed) and the casino, because it was unusual. This ship had kids on it (summertime), with a fairly even distribution of little ones to teens, but I never felt bothered by them. They fill up the pools, of course, which is probably the only bad thing. But otherwise they were fairly well behaved, and were clearly kept busy. This length of a cruise is probably ideal for the 4-8 year olds. The ship essentially hasn't changed in 7 years, except for the new "O2" club for teens and the miniature golf topside. Decor is exactly the same, and it's looking a bit gaudy now. But still, a very nice ship, nicely maintained. The most significant difference was the food. As others have reported, the quality, variety, and portion size has changed substantially. It isn't all bad, it's just a crapshoot. For example, the won-ton soup one night was outstanding, but the veal was like shoe leather. One person at our table had 3 lobster tails on formal night, and said that each one that came out was better than the previous one - all I can think is that the first ones were prepared long before dinner, and had time to get a little chewy. We had "issues" with our table (namely that nobody spoke English!), so we went to the Maitre 'D. The Assistant Maitre'D was useless and frankly not very nice, but the head Maitre'D was wonderful, and moved us to a table where we really enjoyed the other couple. On every cruise the first thing I do is race to the dining room to check on and change our table/seating time, if needed, but this time I didn't and I should have. Our cabin was literally on the back of the ship, which concerned us at first. When we got to the cabin there was a horrible banging sound, but it turned out to just be the mooring ropes, and the sound disappeared as soon as we left the port. Oddly the sound did not return in Ensenada, where we also moored, but did when we got back to LA. In any case, the engine sounds and such were very, very light, as most of the cruise the ship doesn't go very fast (because it doesn't go very far!). Catalina was wonderful - we had never been - but it is small. The best thing to do is rent a golf cart, although they're expensive. We used one for 1.5 hours and had a ball. Be sure to head immediately out of town and go on the sky road - the view is spectacular. Remember that it's one-way though - look at your map to see how to get there. We drove up to the Wrigley memorial (and botanical gardens, which is really just a collection of some interesting cacti), and I feel sorry for anyone that tries to walk (or even bike) up to it from town - it's uphill the whole way. We then drove through town, over to the former casino (now basically a movie theatre), and a little past it to a beautiful beach and beach club. We didn't stop there, but it looks far less crowded than the "beach" by the dock, and much nicer. After that we returned the cart and wandered around. The obvious place to go is Luau Larry's, where you get a straw hat for drinking some special drink. It looked like fun. Getting back on the boat took a long time - the line stretches the length of the dock, because you have to take tenders (small boats) to and from the cruise ship. Ensenada is, well, Ensenada. I will say it's improved some since we were there about 8 years ago, but it had room to do so. There is a new dock for the ship, and the main area near Papa's and Beer Hussong's has improved a lot, with a new bar/restaurant called Mango Mango and very nice stores. Finding an internet cafe was a challenge, but if you go about 3 doors up from Papas and Beer, there is a small clothing store with an i-cafe in the back - it cost a buck for about 30-40 minutes (much better than the ship). There is also a brewpub on the main drag, which is a branch of the Tijuana Brewing Company. Pretty decent beers considering the source, but street vendors come in and bug you constantly - they don't keep them out. But a nice place. The blow-hole (La Bufadora) was supposed to be spectacular that day, really shooting high in the air, but we didn't go as we'd been before. Take the advice of others and do NOT use the shore excursions; just go into town and make your own arrangements - it's very easy. Also, as we were leaving, my wife saw a necklace she liked that an old woman was selling, and she bought it. Big mistake. All of the little street urchins immediately converged on us and pestered us relentlessly (literally pushing us and stopping us dead) until I had to scream at them so we could get past. Luckily we were only a half-block from the return shuttle, so we raced onboard once we broke free. Don't buy anything from the street vendors! Back on the ship, I spent most of my time at night playing limit hold-'em on the two poker tables, which were usually full all 4 nights. I ended up paying for about half the cruise this way. Unfortunately they don't play no-limit, only limit (3/6 and 4/8, when the second table is going). Still, plenty of drunken home players to take money from. Shows were good, usual stuff. The female singers were outstanding, as were the comedians, but the male singer and dancers were pretty lame. The sushi bar: it is still as good as it was when we last sailed, and free too, which is one of the best little unadvertised features of the cruise. The problem is the line, because there is only one guy working it. The best time to go to it is right after the second of the early seatings (6:15), because most people are either eating or else getting ready for the late seatings, so very few people are around. If you try to go before dinner, expect a long line. Getting off the ship was SLOW, but once off, customs was very smooth. There are two lines that form on the ship, one fore and one aft. The aft one is much, much longer. Also, stay to the right once you get off the ship - the line on the left is for non-US citizens, and is much slower. One last thing - I expected this to be a major booze cruise with a lot of obnoxious drunks. I was pleasantly surprised that people were having a great time (and there was plenty of drinking) but it was much, much less obnoxious than the 3-day weekend cruises, which we've done once before. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of fun (this is Carnival, after all), but on the 3 day one we did before, 12 men were kicked off in Ensenada for trying to rip clothes off of women at the pool. There was nothing like that on this cruise, it was much more families and young to middle-age couples. People were very friendly and everyone was having a great time. Note, avoid the "drink of the day" - that's just Carnival's way to push low-alcohol drinks (and therefore low cost) in a cheapo plastic glass you probably won't keep anyway. Stick to beer (Fosters is the best "deal") or cocktails that can't be watered down, otherwise you'll be paying more for mixers than alcohol. Enjoy!

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Jun 8, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Norm Just got back from the 3-day weekend cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada. First, I will say that the Paradise is a beautiful ship. The detail and decor are superb. Unfortunately for us the "reputation" of Carnival being a party cruise with a lot of drunks was more than accurate. Drinking without reason and care is rampant. I know this is where Carnival brings in

huge profits, so I doubt this will change. From the moment we got on board the cruise director was saying "party, party, party, drink, drink, ..." We saw cruisers barely able to walk in the Paris dining room every day, needless to say many of those intoxicated were also are vulgar and loud. Okay my values obviously don't match with Carnival's so my mistake for picking the wrong cruise line. Please if you have kids don't take this cruise. Also, having taken another cruise on another cruise line, I know that not all "ship environments" are this bad. It was interesting that the cruise director said that the Paradise was ranked #2 out of the Carnival ships - if this is true I'll never cruise Carnival again. He then begged us to turn in our comment cards to him... no thanks I'll send mine directly to the corporate office. Enough of that. ELATION Dining: Overall the food was gross. The last evening was the best. Our waiters were super and the company at our table was awesome. PARIS buffet dining: Breakfast was not good. Have the guy make you a fresh omelet. Also for lunch the grilled sandwiches near the back were great... the pizza was pretty good as well. PHOTOGRAPHY: Pretty good, you'll be happy with the pictures. On the cruise I met someone who said he has gone on both the Carnival Paradise and the RC Monarch of the Seas many, many times. He said the RC-Monarch is much better. Well, that's it, if you like excess drinking, vulgarity, and sticky floors this cruise is for you.

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Jun 4, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Rick General: We are a married couple traveling with our 8 and 11 year old children. I have cruised 3x before when I was younger but it was the first time for my wife and kids. We had an outside cabin with a window. This cruise was M-F with stops in Catalina and Ensenada. Embarkation: We drove from Arizona and parking was very easy and the porters checked our bags at the

curb like at the airport. The rest of the process was very orderly and the staff (both carnival and homeland security) was friendly. We got to the terminal about 2pm and we were on board and eating lunch within a 1/2 hour. Cabin: Getting to our cabin was very easy. Elevators are always slow and one was out of order, so plan on using the stairs. I thought the cabin was a pretty good size. We had the kids so they had to use the fold down bunks. Each bed came with 2 pillows and the bed was surprisingly comfortable. There seemed to be plenty of storage space for a 4 day cruise and there were 20 hangers in the closets. We unpacked and the suitcases fit under the bunk nicely. The cabin was very cold and you can't change the temperature. like it was from the late 70's or early 80's. I don't know what style the decorator was going for but it looked almost retro 80's to me. Maybe this is expected on cruise ships but the colors and styles were sort of dated for a newer ship. I read that this was an entire non-smoking ship but this must have been old information since there was smoking going on. Expect to have a pretty good sign and sail account bill when the cruise is over. The tips of $10 per person per day plus drinks and shopping really adds up. One note about the ship pictures. They sell pictures taken during various parts of the trip and they are pretty well done. The prices seem a little odd though, For 5x7 was affordable at $7, but the 8x10 jumped all the way up to $20! I thought that was a little out of proportion. Food: Early dinner at Elation dining room. The staff was great and friendly. You will be hard pressed to find any staff from the US but this was fun. Most speak pretty good English and are really friendly and eager to talk to you. The food was not the best but this is Carnival. Remember the song. "not much money, of but honey ain't we got fun.." So for not much money, you get a pretty decent trip. Our waiter was always ready to bring a second entree or appetizer if you didn't get enough or like the first. Try everything. They have kids meals of typical fast food style junk food. The staff puts on some entertainment a couple of the nights and that livens up the nights. Entertainment: The shows at the main lounge, the Normandy were all pretty decent. Not the quality that you would go out and pay for but for cruise ships, they were above average. The dancers did a wonderful job. The cruise director, Danny, was typical cheesy cruise director with stale jokes that he must have been using for the last 20 years. They had some fun middle of the day events too like the hairy chest contest, the newlywed game, and Austin powers dance lessons. They had bingo before the main nightly shows but these really seem like a disparate attempt to raise some money. I am used to bingo at our local Native American Casinos where you pay about $30 and play at least 10-15 games for a payout of at least $500 each game. The carnival bingo games were 1 card for $10 or 3 for $20 and it was usually only good for one game that paid only $100-$300. There were so many people playing bingo that they easily took in a couple of thousand dollars for a $100-300 payout, Bad odds. They also played a Deal / No Deal session where you had to pay $10 to enter into the drawing and one person was picked out of the hundreds of tickets sold. The most he would have won was $1,000 but if you watch the show you know that no one ever wins the top prize. So this guy ended up with $150. Again, I thought the odds VS. payout were really bad. One more game was horse racing. They had 6 horses and they rolled the dice to move them forward. You bet $3 Minimum on a horse and if he won, you win $6. So you had a 1 in 6 chance to double you money! Anyone with a basic understanding of odds, knows this is a very bad bet! As far as casinos go, the casino was pretty nice with low limit tables and a variety of slots from 1 penny to $5. I like to gamble so I enjoyed the casino. Another note, I was disappointed that drinks were not free in the casino, like every other casino in the world. Shore Excursions: Our ports of call included Catalina and Ensenada. In order to get to Catalina you needed to catch a tender and the wait was at least 45 minutes when we left the ship. Catalina was nice and pretty, Also cold. I felt sorry for those folks who took the snorkel excursion. Even with wet suits, they looked really cold. We took a bus tour of Avalon. We saw the sights and walked around the town and got back on the ship. The weather was very cold the entire cruise. It was too cold for any of us to swim or even lay out on the decks. Some people (mostly kids) were swimming but they must have been from back east where 70 degrees feels warm. Ensenada: What can I say! Its Mexico. Makes you really appreciate the US! We took a horse drawn carriage ride around town and saw the dumpy city. Shopping was what you expect from Mexico and the same junk they have sold for the last 50 years. There was a little market set up near the debarkation area of the dock and those shops had just about everything that you could find in the city for about the same price. We were only there for a few hours and then went back aboard the ship.   Debarkation: They suggest you self - carry all your bags for the fastest unloading. We had too much to carry so we put our outside the cabin the night before and they took them at night. In the morning we went up to the cafe and had breakfast and relaxed until they called for general unloading. They didn't go by colors as some other cruises had. The wait for us was about 30 minutes to get off the ship and about 20 minutes getting through customs and homeland security.   Conclusion: I enjoyed the cruise but it just wasn't for my wife and kids. The kids went to camp carnival once and were not too pleased with the activities. I think kids 10 and under would probably like camp Carnival most. All and all, I think it was an okay cruise and a pretty good value. You have to remember that like most everything in life, attitude is 99% how you perceive things!

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Apr 30, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Line Paradise Cruise Review Mexican Riviera Bob This was the first cruise for my wife and me. We selected the 4 day cruise with stops at Catalina and Ensenada. We sailed the Carnival Paradise out of Long Beach, CA. The luggage was dropped off at the parking garage where porters took them directly to the ship. The garage had plenty of room for parking. Check in began at noon and we were on the ship in 15 minutes. A

buffet was served on the Lido deck. There was a wide selection of food. The desert bar was great. All drinks and sodas are billed to your onboard credit card. I have listed our thoughts on the overall cruise. ROOM We selected the largest room available. It was called the penthouse suite. It had a kingsize bed, a walk in closet, a living room with 2 sofas and 2 chairs and an outside deck. It was comfortable and roomy compared to the other rooms we saw. The cabin stewart was good. The room was cleaned twice a day. A plus rating MEALS We had our meals in the Destiny Dining Room at the first seating. The quality of the food and/or the preparation was poor. The meat was tough and inedible and could not be cut by a knife. This was true for the 4 nights of the cruise. The service was good and the seating nice. A buffet, for all meals, was available on the Lido Deck. The quality of the food there was better. F rating ENTERTAINMENT There was entertainment every night in the Normandy theater. It had Las Vegas style reviews and comedians. They were excellent performances. There were also a number of lounges that had live music. Bingo was played on a daily basis. A plus rating PHOTOGRAPHY Professional photographers took pictures at different locations on the ship. The pictures were available within hours and at a reasonable charge. B plus rating HIGH TEA There was a high tea served on the last day of the trip. It was very well done. There were pasteries and finger sandwiches. A plus rating PUBLIC RESTROOMS The public restrooms were not clean and had a bad oder. F rating SHIP The ship was very impressive. It had a center atrium that went up 7 decks. There were numerous lounges, stores,coffee bars and a library. A rating EXCURSIONS We only went on the Catalina excursion. We waited 30 minutes for the teder to take to shore. We went on the "CITY PASSPORT" tour. A bus took us to the top of Catalina to get harbor views. Because the road was so narrow, we had to stay on the bus. If I had it to do over, I would rent a golf cart and do the tour. B rating. OVERALL RATING. The cruise was enjoyable. We would take another cruise but not on Carnival.

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Mar 31, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Lines Paradise Cruise Review Baja Mexico Larry C. Brown My girlfriend and I did the 3 day cruise on the March 31-April 3 weekend aboard the Paradise. We went specifically for the KKJZ-FM (88.1FM) annual Blues Cruise. This was our second cruise. The first was a similar 3 day Ensenada cruise aboard the RCCL Monarch of the Seas. So this gave us a good opportunity to compare the two ships. Entertainment: I have to qualify

my review of the entertainment because the Blues Cruise was a private affair for only about 200-300 guests who booked the cruise through a travel agent who does this annually. So the majority of the entertainment we participated in was related to that, and not open to all of the guests. That being said, the general activities we participated in were great and the rest of the guests appeared to be having a great time. Of the two ships I definitely like the Paradise better. It was recently overhauled and the décor is very nice. It was much newer and more appealing than on the Monarch. The Promenade deck contains 2 theaters, the casino, a disco, a nightclub and a couple of other bars. It is well laid out with access to all of those places via the Carnival Blvd. Dining: This is the only area where I had a problem with Paradise, and it was a big issue. The food, for the most part, was just awful! Not one meal could be classified as good. The only thing that was consistently decent was the midnight pizza. And that’s something I really shouldn’t eat very often. Unfortunately, given the poor quality of the other meals I looked forward to the midnight snacks. On our previous cruise the casual dining choices were very good. If like us, you preferred the buffet to the formal dining room you could be assured of a decent meal. Not so aboard the Paradise. Breakfast fare was bland at best. The only lunch I had that was edible was a grilled turkey sandwich on Friday before we got underway. On Saturday we went ashore in Ensenada briefly just to look for some leather goods. I was looking forward to getting back in time for lunch, expecting it to be quiet, since most people would be ashore. Bad idea. I should have had some fish tacos out in town. After seeing what the buffet had to offer and coming up empty, we opted for the grill outside. I had a burger with the limpest lettuce and onions I’d ever seen. The burger itself was tasteless, and no combination of condiments could change that fact. Dinners in the dining room were inconsistent as well, but better than the buffet by a long shot. On Friday night we had a seafood dish with shrimp and scallops. Not terrible but also not very satisfying. On Saturday night I opted for the prime rib. That was the only dinner I actually enjoyed. However, my lady had the lobster and did not like it, and at least one of our table mates who ordered it echoed her sentiment. Saturday night’s late night buffet featured Mexican food and it was probably the best spread of the entire cruise. We went up to get a slice of pizza and found the place packed! If the rest of the buffet meals had been as good as what they had on Saturday night I would rate the food very good. Instead it took me about a week to get back to normal after 3 straight days of bad food. That being said, I am planning to go again next year, but only because of the Blues Cruise. If it was up to me I would request that they move it to RCCL’s Monarch of the Seas, where I know I can expect decent food. However, if Carnival can improve the quality of the food I would prefer Paradise because I really like the ship.

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Feb 3, 2006

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Carnival Cruise Line Carnival Paradise Cruise Review 3 Day Baja, Mexico Matt Hasselbach Unfortunately, I've just returned from the worst cruise of my life (And I've been on 7) on Carnival. We took the 3 day Ensenada from Long beach on the Paradise departing 2/3/06. The service was sub par in the dining room, the comedian was horrific (so bad they cancelled his second midnight act), security stared at us every second we were in

the hot tub to prevent us from drinking them after the wait staff ensured they kept our glasses full. Additionally, the whole luggage tag, color coded disembarkation procedure was abandoned since about 1/2 the boat decided to form line at the gangway and leave prematurely. Good things don't come to those who wait. Three other notes: I invited by best friend of 27 years and his wife to join my wife and I after telling them how great my previous 6 other cruises had been: 3 Carnival, 2 Princess, and 1 Renaissance. I felt like a complete liar after our cruise was marginal at best. Our wives also got 1 hour massages on Saturday morning in the spa. My friend's wife loved her massage but my wife was karate chopped for the whole hour and then coerced into buying $100 of bath amenties to help her skin. Total bill $229 for 1 massage that did not relax her and some bubble bath we'll never use. A dealer in the Casino would not deal my cards in 'Let it Ride' since I wanted to stand up at the table. He was also very rude to two ladies who were watching their friend play at the same table because they were sitting and not betting. He was a real jerk to all three of us when he could have politly stated the rules and summoned the pit boss to reiterate rather than act like a schoolyard bully. Lastly, I personally dove in to save an 8 year old girl, Jamese, on Sunday morning who had gone down the giant slide and could not swim. All while security was worrying about busting us for sipping our drinks in the hot tub and the wait staff was trying to earn commission on selling us four more. The fellow patrons gave a round of applause as I exited the pool and not a single Carnival employee said a word. So the four of us dropped $2400 for three days of sub par service and poor entertainment. I do not intend to take another Carnival cruise.  

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By _CR

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Oct 31, 2005

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Let me start by saying this ship has the most friendly crew I have ever had on a ship! Let's start with the ship. The ship was very nice, not the best but defiantly not the worst. Embarkation very easy if you get there early (by 10:30 a.m.) and check in at early check in you will be on the ship by noon having lunch by the pool. Lets talk about food. I would get a grade of a b- They need to have better variety, but I will say what they

do have is very good. Dining room staff was very very good. Best part of the dining experience. I cruised with my two children ages (7&5) and the staff was wonderful with my kids which by the way is my main reason for choosing carnival. Speaking of children, camp Carnival is the best children's program on the seven seas!!!!! My kids begged me as soon as they got out of bed to go to camp carnival. Entertainment on board was a b+. Vegas quality shows, but not Broadway. When going ashore in Catalina by all means rent a golf cart and take a tour of the island, this is the best way to see everything and a lot of fun also. Going ashore in Mexico take the tour to La Bufadora well worth the 1/2 trip, but don't buy the ship tour, buy them from local companies in town (MUCH CHEAPER)! Your day at sea gives you a chance to a lot of activities on board that you may miss on other days while ashore. Disembarking the ship is a little rough, but go with the flow and fun. P.S. for anyone that enjoys Cuban cigars you can get them in Mexico and they will switch labels for you so you can bring them back to the U.S. I'm puffing on one right now as I right this and it is pure satisfaction! I could go on forever, but the end result is this is a very nice cruise, especially for family's and a very good value for your money. All in all your cruise is what you make of it so relax, have a good time and go with the flow!!!!!!!! Any questions you have I would be happy to answer, just e-mail me! Have a great vacation   

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Sep 4, 2005

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Carnival Paradise Baja, Mexico Mathew Mattox OVERALL RATING: Service was top notch, food not so much. Grade of B-. WHY CHOOSE THIS CRUISE? This was our first cruise and my wife and I wanted to go somewhere tropical for our honeymoon. Carnival was recommended by both my parents and my best friend. GETTING THERE. (Grade A) We flew in on united to LAX and arranged for Carnival to pick us up at the baggage claim. This was hassle free

and really worth the money. I think it’s cheaper than taking a cab. We met a nice couple here so I’d recommend the shuttle service. EMBARKATION (Grade: A) We checked in with Carnival early, probably around 10:30 or 11am. We were the first to board the ship at roughly 12:30-1pm. Our luggage arrived at our door at roughly 3:30pm. If you treat security the same as airport security ie remove all metal and take off your shoes it’s painless to board. We had our passports too which I think helps. DEBARKATION (Grade A) We signed up for the tour of LA, unfortunately it was cancelled but we were the first to get off the ship. Note: Tie a bow or bright cloth to your luggage so it’s easy to identify. Take advantage of the breakfast before you get off the ship. The waiters are really fast and it’s nice to get one last meal. We declared everything we brought, customs was very friendly. They didn’t worry about the $3 in alcohol taxes we owed. I imagine you don’t want to upset these guys so don’t sneak anything. We declared everything and they were really friendly and easy to deal with. ROOM (Grade: A). Outside w/Window. The room was great! Our room steward cleaned our room 2-3 times each day. He did such a great job we more than doubled his tip. These guys really work hard and it shows. We ordered room service one night and it arrived in less than 10 minutes. Honestly, room service was the best meal we had on the ship. THE SHIP (Grade A). We took the 4-day cruise so we didn’t see too many drunken party animals which was nice. Most of the people onboard were honeymooners and celebrating an anniversary and most of the people on the ship are friendly and talkative. Never once did we think the ship was crowded. We had no problems finding a deck chair or a spot in the hot tub. We found plenty of places to just stand on the deck and watch the ocean, sunset, port, etc. On deck behind the buffet is the best place to eat and look at the ocean and its very seldom used. The smoking on the ship seems excessive the bars, casino and some places on deck just reeked of smoke. For a formerly non-smoking ship they sure have regressed on that policy. The ship was always clean. FOOD (Grade: F-). In my end of ship review I mentioned the food tasted like below average dorm food and that about sums it up. The buffet food was the same as the food served in the fancy dining rooms with the exception of steaks. The fish was awful and there are very few non-meat options. I tried lobster which was ok. I never once finished a meal at the formal dining room. Most of the food reminded me of cheap greasy bar food. The 24 hour pizzeria is just ok. Deserts sucked, however they did have very nice looking deserts in the coffee shop, unfortunately you have to pay extra for them. If you take this cruise be prepared to spend a long time in your cabin bathroom so stock up on the Costco sized box of immodium. The breakfast in the formal dining rooms wasn’t bad and the room service was our best meal. However, when tuna salad on an English muffin and peanut butter and jelly was the best meal on board a cruise ship known for top notch food then you know something is wrong. I suspect Carnival is cutting corners with the food quality to pay for absurd fuel costs. The service in the dining hall is some of the best I’ve ever had. Unfortunately you can only drink water or tea with your meal in the formal dining room unless you want to pay extra. At least at the buffet you can have juice or lemonade with your meal for no extra charge. SHORE EXCURSIONS/THINGS TO DO ON SHORE (Grade: A+). I’m passing on the advice that worked for me. Spend the money on the excursions. Catalina Island: We booked the eco-rafting tour at Catalina Island and it was great. The tour guide was really smart, the boat is really fun to ride in and it’s really neat to see all the wildlife. My suggestion for this tour is to bring a sweatshirt and some binoculars and enjoy the ride. We saw a bald eagle, sea lion, seal, flying fish, lots of large birds and we got to take in a lot of the island history from our tour guide. This was by far the highlight of our cruise. Later we took the botanical garden tour. I didn’t care for it that much but my wife really liked it. We were the youngest people on the tour by about 30 years so the tour is geared towards the elderly. The botanical gardens are neat once you get there and they give you time to walk around. My advice is to bring a bottle of water with you. The heat really takes it out of you. Ensenada: In Ensenada we booked the wine country tour. The drive to the wine country is about 40 minutes but it didn’t feel like it took that long. Our tour guide was very informative and did a great job. She even learned everyone’s name on the bus by the time we made it to the winery, no exaggeration! La Cetto winery tour was very nice. The wine was ok and the atmosphere was nice. Santo Tomas winery had great wines, much more selection of wines to sample, and an outstanding atmosphere. I think the wines at Santo Tomas were better but I think the bus was split 50/50 over which winery had better wines. ENTERTAINMENT (Grade: B). The comedians were good although we didn’t catch any of the R-rated shows, we were just too tired by then. The newlywed show was hilarious. I’m not much into Las Vegas style shows but they had a couple of them. The casino sucked, it was always smoky and crowded. Pictures were nice although the photographers seemed pushy at times. The magic show was ok. My advice is to get to the theater early to find the unobstructed views. SUMMARY. The service was excellent all around, waiters, room stewards, bartenders, etc. The food was disgusting, poor quality, much worse than cafeteria food and not fit for human consumption. The excursions were great and well worth the money. I’d probably give Carnival another shot just I’d read up on the reviews to see if the food quality improved before I book the next cruise.

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By _CR

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Jul 14, 2005

Baja, Mexico

BEWARE! The best part of this cruise was the company we were with. If we had not made it a good time for ourselves it would have been miserable. ROOMS: One of three rooms had horribly yellow stained sheets and towels. It looked as if a previous passenger suffered serious incontinence. They would not change them until we were seated at dinner. DINING: We had late dining in the Destiny dining room and it was horrible! We were

expecting grand, fabulous meals and got second rate fare. The service was equally terrible. Our server, John, never smiled at us, was rarely available, and really rude. He would literally throw plates down in front of us. The bartender, Velidin (sp? - something like that), took our order (I still can't believe you had to pay for soda) and disappeared for the next 45 minutes. We had to repeatedly ask for water refills. When we tried to catch the Maitre'D, Gabriel, to get some help, he walked right by. He never stopped by the table to say hello as we had experienced on the Royal Caribbean cruise we took. We were disappointed the first night and were not looking forward to the formal night but went anyway. We ended up having to seat ourselves. We skipped the third night entirely as the buffet food was preferable anyway. How sad is that? The bright spot was our bread server, Asta. She was very friendly and fun. Too bad she wasn't the main server! BAR: The selection of alcohol at the bars were very limited and we had to explain most of our drink orders as they were not familiar with the drinks. ENSENADA: I would recommend the Rosarito/FOX studio tour. That was a very good time. Ensenada itself is not very appealing. OVERALL: I would never take a Carnival cruise again. The feeling I received from the staff was, "You are all here to get wasted anyway, so why should I bother." So we will be taking our money to another cruise line next time. It's too much money to spend on horrible customer service and food.   

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Jun 16, 2005

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Carnival Paradise Baja, Mexico Shannon Deveny This was my first cruise, and took advantage of a short weekend cruise to surprise my best friend for her thirtieth birthday. (This was her first cruise, too.) We drove into Long Beach from a couple of hours north and parked in the parking garage at the Port. The charge was around 12 dollars a day. We arrived around 2:00pm. I recommend leaving your big luggage with the porters in the

lot, this was a quick cheap way of lightening our load, and by the time we boarded, our luggage was at our cabin. Check in and security took about 45 minutes. It seemed the security is similar to airports, including xray machines, and metal detectors. I recommend having all of your paperwork in order, including your photo ID, it makes the check in much more efficient. We had an outside cabin n the Empress deck with a window. I paid extra to have them decorate it for my frien's birthday, which it was with streamers, sign, etc, but not really worth the thirty dollars it cost. She liked it though. The room was clean, stocked with drinks (for a fee), and bathroom amenities, but the window was filthy on the outside. That made for a blurry view, which we paid extra for. Our cabin steward, Albert, was excellent and friendly, always smiling. Our room was always cleaned, I think at least twice a day. In the evening we would find towel animals complete with sunglasses on the beds. The room size seemed plenty for me, besides we didn't plan on speding much time in there, only to sleep, change, and shower. The public areas of the ship were clean, except for the bathrooms, of which we never used, we always went back to our cabin. I think this had to do more with the passengers than the lack of cleaning staff. There seemed to be plenty of service staff available, especially the ones selling drinks. We usually took the stairs because the elevators were very slow, especially in the atrium. If you have never cruised, I recommend attending the various talks scheduled in the show room, arrive early as they usually held a bingo game prior to the talk or show. Most prizes were cash, (I won the first Bingo, which was a few hundred dollars!) and they even gave away a cruise. We tried our luck in the Casino, mainly focusing on the slots. They did hold classes on the card game, but we missed them. We also participated in the slot tournament, which wasn't as exciting as Bingo. The casino allows smoking; everytime we went in there it was like walking into a cloud of cancer. Better ventilation would help. The food was all right, but I am easy to impress. I would say it wasn't exceptional, but they tried. We only ate in the main dining room on the first night, mostly because we were always doing something somewhere else on the ship, and didn't want to have to get all fancied up for dinner. We didn't want to miss out on the goings on. This is the only thing I regret. next time we will take advantage of the main dining. We usually ate in the Paris, which is buffet style. The food was always hot and fresh, but was just standard. I took advantage of the pizza counter often, and loved the pastries in the morning. We say the midnight comedy show each night, which was funny but not for the easily offended. Get there early, as the seats fill quickly. On Saturday and Sunday evening, they set up various picture backgrounds which you can have a picture taken for future purchase. You can take as many as you want, there is no fee, but if you want to purchase the picture, it is a bit costly, some around twenty dollars a piece.We took many but only bought a few. The pool entertainment was fun and called for audience participation many times, whether it was dancing or the hairy chest contest, but I wished they played more live music. Our only Port was Ensenada, Mexico. We did not buy a shore excursion with Carnival, but chose to buy a day tour to the blow hole and downtown with a tour guide at a bus at the port. Instead of paying over 40 dollars through carnival, we paid thirteen dollars for a guided trip to the blowhole, with about an hour to shop the market there, then went back to downtown Ensenada for free appetizer buffet at Papas and Beer. The bus brought us back to the pier around 3:30pm. What a deal! The last morning, we lingered over our final breakfast in the Paris Restaurant, and waited there for our color to be called for debarkation, though we were in no hurry. Debarkation was easy, though customs took a while, thats okay with me. Rules are rules, just have some patience. Overall, it was a great long weekend, well worth the money. I would definitely recommend this cruise, and, after our experience, we have gathered seven of us who plan on going again in October!

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By _CR

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Jun 2, 2005

Baja, Mexico

Overview This cruise is a perfect weekend getaway for anyone whose work schedule is hectic, yet wants a mini vacation. Anyone reasonably close to Long Beach, CA can drive to the terminal. It is a good cruise for the “rookies” wanting a feel of what a cruise vacation is all about. If you have NEVER taken a cruise before, the weekend cruises are just long enough to leave you wanting more, or, conversely, short enough that you won’t

get stir-crazy with cabin fever or bored with the environment. I have sailed on three Carnival Fun Ships (the Sensation, the Elation, and the Paradise) and on the Royal Caribbean ship Monarch of the Seas. Yes, I have been on many cruises! More on that topic later. Boarding If you have any control of when you check in (meaning you didn’t take an airplane, bus, train, etc and drove yourself to the terminal) you should get there as soon as possible. They begin boarding as soon as the previous passengers are off, around 11:30 am or so. Very few people are there and the check in will be very brief. This gives you a chance to tour the ship, find your room and eat lunch at the lunch buffet. Also, your luggage will arrive sooner, if you checked it. The ship The ship is very spacious and nice. Please refer to other web sites for descriptions of the ship’s layout. But although it is large, getting to a specific location is not difficult or time consuming. The elevators are always in use, so it is sometimes faster to take the stairs. The Rooms Although small, they are enough for your stay. Keep in mind that the rooms are for sleeping, showering and dressing. The standard rooms have single beds, but they can be pushed together for more intimate sleeping arrangements. There is a desk with drawers to put stuff away and a closet with hangars and shelves. I recommend taking your clothes out of your suitcase and putting them away. Living out of your suitcase will create clutter and make an already small room appear smaller. Your suitcases can be stored in the closet, in the corner, with the life preservers – wherever you can stuff them. It takes time away from the vacation, but it is time well spent. The TV provides limited east coast programming and some movie channels. Although you will not want to stay in the room and watch TV, it is nice to have on when you are in the room. Dining Breakfast is served in one of the dining rooms (early morning), the Paris restaurant (a little later morning), or the Lido Deck grill (almost lunch time). Lunch is served in the same fashion. Refer to the Caper (the daily ‘newspaper’ of the ship) for times and locations. Dinner is served in the two restaurants at four different times (5:00, 5:30, 8:00, and 8:30). The choice of time is strictly personal. Dinner is also served in the Paris restaurant as well. Pizza is offered 24 hours a day. Room service is also offered. Some people skip the dining room, but it should be taken advantage of. I have cruised many times and over the years I have seen the dress code diminish on each cruise. Pants and either a polo or button shirt for men, for women, pants or shirt with some top, or a dress. Even on formal night, jacket and ties are optional. Activities What can I say? When on the ship you can lounge by the pool, go to the day spa, and hang inside in the lounges, whatever you want to do. You can be as active or as sloth like as you desire. There is a casino with many slots and tables. In the port, you can take an excursion or just walk into the downtown. Again, you get what you put into it. There is also many ship sponsored activities (bingo, dancing, etc) you can take part in or just observe. Summary I have cruised several times and I love it. Cruises offer so many activities for one inclusive price. You can nice hotel-like accommodations, Broadway and Vegas style entertainment, gambling, swimming, dancing, comedy shows, all you can eat dining, and then add in travel to different ports of call. You get your money’s worth for sure. But cruising isn’t for everybody. For whatever reason they feel cooped up on the ship, get bored with the same environment, and don’t like the short day trips to exotic ports. But cruises offer so much for one price, and you get your money’s worth. TIPS • Get a passport before the cruise if time permits. Birth certificates and ID work fine, but passports make getting through customs faster and smother. Plus, passports are good for 8 years. • Arrive early if possible • If you can manage to carry your luggage on yourself, you will not have to wait for luggage to arrive, Plus, you can just walk off the ship without having to wait for colors of tags to be called. • Bring extra hangars if you are planning on hanging your clothes up. • Unless you drink gallons of soda all day long, the soda cards are worth it. There are assorted juices and drinks available, and most adults will be partaking in alcohol anyway. • Obviously, sun screen toiletries, and medication should be brought on to avoid paying extra for it. • Go to the talks the cruise director offers or catch it later on the playbacks on TV. It provides good info and are relatively short.     

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By _CR

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Apr 17, 2005

Baja, Mexico

My wife and I took our first cruise aboard the Paradise. The ship is impressive, the crew professional and courteous. While I found most ship activities to border on the wrong side of hokey the enthusiasm of the presenters and performers cannot be challenged. Food was well presented and excellently prepared but did not rise above ordinary in flavor. Our cabin was well serviced each day but the exterior window surface was grimy preventing

us from enjoying the ocean view we had hoped for during the night. Catalina island is a worthwhile day trip from the ship but for my money Ensenada offers little in the way of value. I can’t fault the cruise line or the crew, perhaps there is nothing wrong at all, but having taken the cruise we are left with a feeling of disappointment. Take away the sailing and it compares to a stay at any three or four star hotel.       

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By _CR

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Mar 4, 2005

Baja, Mexico

The room was lacking. The bedspread was covered in yellow stains as were the pillowcases. No soap in the dispenser. The kleenex holder had three sheets of tissue. Two of the plastic soda bottles in the room had broken seals and were not filled to the top. Very questionable. Food was absolutely horrible. Processed microwaved prison cafeteria food. I did what Martha Stewart did in prison and did not eat the food. I fasted and lost weight.

We had to check our drinking cups carefully as most of the "clean" ones had crud in the crevices. Is this how mass illness happens aboard these ships? The crew was totally aloof and rude. Not once was there a pleasant greeting from one of them. Although I must give credit to our waitress at dinner on the first night. She was very sweet and attentive. The last day I had my "do not disturb" sign up on the door. This did not stop the crew from knocking on my door 4 times. Once to check my smoke detector, another time to ask why I was not going to dinner and the other times I ignored the knocks hoping I could get some peace. The dining times are limited except for room service. A lot of drunk people on this cruise. If you are an alchoholic this is a great cruise because of the many bars. I get the feeling they want you to buy expensive drinks so you get so drunk you don't notice the unacceptable quality of the food. I wondered why they pay to have an Executive Chef on board when all the food is obviously processed, canned and micro waved. Hmmm. Save your money and stay away from Carnival.       

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By _CR

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Feb 7, 2005

Baja, Mexico

When we decided to sail on the M/V Paradise it started out for one reason, to celebrate my 50th birthday, but a couple of reasons also popped up along the way. One was to try out noise canceling headphones (worked like a charm) and to see if my wife can handle an inside cabin. My wife gets a touch claustrophobic when she can’t see outside. So with this in mind, off we went on a 4 day cruise. Arriving at Long Beach airport from a short

flight from Seattle was like stepping back in time. I can’t explain it, you have to experience it for yourself to really enjoy the atmosphere. Cabs were plentiful and we were off. We were going to use Primetime Shuttle but they had called and said they would not be running on Monday, but that was not too bad since the cab ride was $5 cheaper! Now at the drop off and pickup stations this was where the confusion started. Let’s just say the stevedores did not really seem to know what was going on, but we were able to get our luggage on, I think we were the last ones to drop off for a bit until their act got together. Off to check in we go. Got to the terminal at approx 11:30am and we were sent to early check-in on the Queen Mary. Wow was it slow, but everyone was happy, lots of talk and banter going on. It was fun listening in on folks talking about smuggling in alcohol. From what I gathered no one got caught! After check in, we were off to the next line and every line was moving. At this time one of the Carnival personal saw my wife with her surgery boot and cane, and allowed us ahead of the line processing and we were on the ship with in 10 minutes. So check-in took about 1 hour and 10 minutes. So off to the Lido Deck for some food and a bucket of beer. Getting to our cabin was pretty easy and off we went to drop off our carry on. We had an inside cabin located aft on the upper deck, and we found it to be of pretty good size for a cruise ship. Plenty of storage space for a 4 day cruise and the suitcases fit under the bunk nicely. The Head (bathroom) was also, we thought, a pretty good size, not too big and not too small, and the shower we thought was perfect. One problem with the shower we found out later was it liked to change the temperature of the water. Really hot then super cold, made it interesting to shower! But like everything, we learned to deal with it and it became a laughing matter and a chance to chat with other cruisers. On our first tour around the ship we checked out the places we might want to go and found the ship to be in pretty good shape. With crew members constantly cleaning all parts of the ship day and night. The inside of the ship we thought was done very nice, not too glitzy, and not too bright. The use of mostly brown tones with a touch of blue, green and yellow seemed tone it all down. Lots of wood trim around and I noticed none of it damaged. Back for a couple of buckets of beer and off to sail away. Very uneventful and off to dinner we go. Early dinner at Destiny table 296 turned out to be the assignment, what a great group of tablemates we had! We were team red and, well, we had to carry the colors! We all took red names. Mine was Red Wine and Sue was Red Lobster. First night is lobster night. Did not hear a complaint. I don’t like lobster so I did not partake of the shell fish, I had dead cow! Our wait staff was wonderful, they were always there to help and/or take our orders, we did not want for anything. Our tablemates found out the second day that they could have asked for more lobster if they wanted it, but after the first day they tried it all! The Maitre’d was wonderful, he even seemed to enjoy the antics at our table. Day 2 brought out the Billy Bob teeth. The look on everyone’s face was wonderful, that made it funnier! Day 3 one of our tablemates DH was lost, and she was concerned, the Maitre’d called to see if he had checked in and was going to do it again when the husband finally showed up. Day 4 brought out the WWF masks. Again the looks on everyone’s face was worth it. At this time we had gotten everyone around us to get a touch rowdy. So the dinning room was fun, and classy! The wait staff did the conga line and the parade stuff and most of them seem to enjoy the hoots and hollers and of course the applause. The food was pretty good, not perfect but I don’t ask for that. The Beef Wellington did seem a touch off and was mentioned by several of us. But the gravy was able to cover it up. All other meals I did not have a problem with and was plenty in size for me and my wife. The shows that we went to, most I would not write home about. The R-Rated comedian was okay but not what I thought it would be. Oh well, a few buckets of beer took care of that. The magic show we tried to see but Bingo players had the good seats. We found out most of the seats in the upper sections of the Normandy Lounge are poor, so we left and a couple buckets of beer later we did not care. We did get to see “Shout” and found it to be pretty good. The dancers did a wonderful job. The crew members of the ship were very friendly and they were always ready to greet you and seemed to be genuine. The bar wait staff were able to take a no with no problem and were always friendly. But we did not have to say no to many times. Those buckets of beer just did not seem to stop, also those Fun Ship drinks seem to find their way into our hands! Also those with soda cards did not get fountain soda, they got canned soda. At the many bars we stopped at not one bartender refused or treated them any different from the booze drinkers The other meals that we ate came from the other places. We did eat at the Destiny Room once for breakfast and it was pretty nice, got to meet other folks, including a couple from England. Talk included tea and politics, the English couple were great and fun. All other breakfast meals were eaten at the Paris buffet. Loved the omelets, and the cook would add other stuff from the buffet. The buffet line was the standard fare of eggs, pancakes, etc. The wife did not complain at what she ate, so it must have been okay. Lunch was had at the pizza bar and pool grill. The pepperoni was good and goes well with a bucket of beer. The hamburgers and the pool grill were okay, but I had the hot dogs and enjoyed them. They too went well with a bucket of beer. The Calypso band at the pool was pretty good, but had a limited song list. Yes, we heard the same songs again, but we did not care, again the bucket of beer can help out anything. Our ports of call included Catalina and Ensenada. Catalina was nice, pretty and calm. We rented a golf cart and did the tour and got so lost! We ended going down roads we were not suppose to be on, but no one cared. Toured the Catalina museum it’s small but I like neat stuff like that, and it looks like they are going to expand it. All in all, Catalina is nice little place to stop. Getting on and off was pretty easy, they had plenty of tenders running at all times. Ensenada. What can I say! It’s Mexico. We did the wine country tour and we found it enjoyable. Enjoyed hearing about Mexican history. I really like hearing folks talk about there country with pride. Oh, the wine tour, well it goes to 2 wineries, one larger and the other a small one. Nothing was going on (wrong time of year for grapes), but we were able to see the ageing barrels. Each winery had a wine tasting and they had some good wine. The last one gave out a free bottle to every one, and I enjoyed the red wine that evening at dinner. That afternoon we spend time shopping downtown. Papa&Beer was hopping and we did not really like the music we heard, so we skipped it. After dinner we went up on deck and watched sail way. We got to watch the last three folks come back. One left something in a car and had to run and go get it. You had to be there to, trust me it was funny. Much applause was heard on deck and she did not care. Our cabin steward did a wonderful job, we only met him once, but we knew he was around. Those towel critters were cute and we enjoyed them. Night 3 we got the elephant and we had him pose in the fake window ledge for a few pictures, and steward must have thought that was a good idea as he left it there. Made the cabin a little more homey. As with most cruises, they come to an end. So now you have to go through disembarkation. They go by colors, and we were purple and our color was called about 9:15am. Getting off the ship was easy and we were on our way to customs and immigration at 9:35. Immigration took about a half hour and this was the most grumbling I heard. Once through it was a hop and skip to pick up luggage and out to pick up our shuttle. Our porter was wonderful, he was not pushy, he just offered to help. We told him when our flight was and he told us places to go while waiting for our 5pm flight. We were free and clear by 10:30 and waiting to go to the Long Beach airport. Well, was this cruise perfect? I would say no, but it was very good and we enjoyed ourselves a lot. Would we go on this same cruise again? I would say yes. Would I sail with Carnival again? I would say yes. Would that cruise be better? Maybe. Worst? Most likely not. Any questions feel free to contact use and ask questions Hope you all enjoyed this   

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By _CR

  • New

Jan 28, 2005

3 day to Ensenada

This was my first cruise so I had no idea what to expect. We filled out the fun pass on-line and we got there early so the wait was not long at all. Everyone was extremely friendly and it was a happy time for everyone. Our luggage arrived around an hour after we were on the ship. I didn’t matter because we took the time go explore the ship. Our rooms at first appeared to be very small. Just two twin beds, restroom, vanity, and

closet, etc. As the trip progressed there was not one thing that we lacked. It was the perfect size for my cousin and me and very cozy. Someone told me to bring extra hangers for the closets and so that was helpful. For dining we had the late dinner in the Destiny dining room. Our dinners were okay. Our waiter was not talkative and would barely smile until the last day. The last day he was all smiles. Complete personality change. His two assistants could not be nicer though and made up for his sore disposition. The shows were cute and the songs they played were great. My complaint was that none of us once saw the Maitre D once until the final night when he wanted his tips. Then he stood right at the front and never left. The assistant Matre D was there every night and remembered our names and was so kind to us. He many times offered us suggestions that were very good. His name was Vivvac, he was from India and everyone was very friendly with him and called him “V.” There was a midnight buffet on Saturday night that was just amazing! Many beautiful ice sculptures and all the food was arranged in beautiful creations from… animals, to trees, etc. They had watermelons around that were amazingly sculpted to look like flowers and scenery. Very beautiful. All the desserts looked absolutely gorgeous but everything we all had was dry or not that great. Not bad, just not as good as it looked. Other people at out table who were not with us said the same thing. Overall the food and dessert was a 6 on a 1 to 10 scale. The pizza bar was the best part. For Ensenada, it was nice. We rode a bus over and the bus driver tried to sell us on different tours but we hired a taxi for a few hours that was the same price yet he would take us where we wanted to go, not the typical tourist spots. We did go the blowhole, which is full of tourists and you have to walk down this street that is full of people trying to sell you things. Then if you stopped at one to look, the next vendor over would try to get you to come look at his area and so it would continue. Hard to get through. The blow hole was awesome. Glad I got to see that. We asked out driver to take us shopping where there weren’t so many tourist and we got to walk around and shop there without bring bothered. We also went up in the mountains a little to see the way people lived, etc. Very interesting. The entertainment was okay. The shows were good. On Friday we unpacked and completely walked the whole ship twice. Not all everything was open because there were still people coming on the ship. So for a few hours until we left, there was a drag. A lot of people took naps. Once we left Long Beach things started opening, and starting up. Saturday I was gone in Ensenada all day so I don’t know what they had then. Sunday was the best. They always had something going on somewhere. From a hairy man contest by the pool, to ice sculpting, to Austin Powers dance lessons, etc. The Rex room is where you want to go if you want to just party and dance. The Queen Mary Lounge had lots of Karaoke and things like that. Normandy Room is where the big shows are at. Good rooms to remember. Our last night, Sunday, at around midnight we had around 25 dolphins swimming along side of the ship and playing. They were there for about 45 minutes and truly awesome. Leaving we had no problem at all. We had green luggage tags so we were the 4th color called. We had a little line to customs, but then a longer line at customs. Then we got our luggage and were on out way. From the time we got in line to the time we picked up our luggage was maybe 30 minutes. I was expecting a lot worse so I was happy with that. Suggestions: Bring Hangers. They do not supply enough and our steward could not get us any more. Bring an extension cord. There was one outlet in the main room next to the vanity and then one in the bathroom that said it was only for shavers. So the extension cord worked wonderfully. Take as many pictures as you want. There are many different spots to take them. You are under no obligation to buy. So take a bunch and then you can pick out the ones you want. There were only 2 people who worked for Carnival from the US, so you have to be patient with the accents. I would definitely take this cruise again. Hope this helped!!!     

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By _CR

  • New

Jan 24, 2005

Baja Mexico

I have done this itinerary before, on the Carnival Ecstasy, about 3 years ago. It's a four day cruise, with a stop in Avalon, Catalina, California, and Ensenada, Mexico. What was good... the ship was standard for Carnival. You board, you visit Lido deck for the first lunch, you visit your cabin, and you go to the lifeboat drill. No big deal. I also can't deny that the shows, except for the first night, were fantastic. The first

night is the typical yak-yak from the cruise director, followed by a short comedy perosn. In this case, it was by the assistant cruise director (the cruise director was appparently ill). Make no mistake, the assistant cruise directed did a great job, but it doesn't detract from the waste of time the first night of "entertainment" is. The other shows were first rate. Here's Hollywood did lag a bit at the beginning, but the Pink Panther sequence and beyond were great. The second "Las Vegas" style show was also good. The other act I liked a great deal; comedy, and a stage hypnotist. I've seen both before, but they were great. A stage hypnotist was different, and something very worthwhile. Perhaps it was my short duration between Carnival cruise ships (my last was in October on the Carnival Triumph), but the menu seemed repetitive. Oh, it was all good, but I'd had it before. What was wrong? I have to wonder... why were the late night (midnight) r-rated comics put on the nights before the main stop (Ensenada and Long Beach, California?) Why did the cooks take cheeseburgers off the grill and dump them onto hamburger buns (only to get them soggy due to the grease?) Plus, I had the very latest seating for dinner. I hated it. 8:30 isn't really too late - but when it conflicts with some great evening entertainment, I get mad. I won the tournament of champions in game show mania on the Carnival Triumph last October. My dinner time conflicted with me becoming the fleet champion.     

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By _CR

  • New

Jan 17, 2005

4 day Baja

Arriving: I was very impressed with the speed and ease of getting on the ship. If you fill out the online fun pass before getting to the ship you will have to wait in a smaller, much quicker line. Luggage: Our luggage was at our room maybe 30 minutes after we reached our rooms. It was very quick. The curb side porters were very friendly and helpful. Rooms: Our room was a good size however we were on the Empress deck right under

the kitchen or something. There was some weird noises at all hours of the night. We never found out what exactly it was. The anchors were also very loud in our cabin. Our room steward was very attentive to our needs. We had to have him bring in more pillows because the two they had per bed were not enough. The television programming was horrible and the movies that were played were old and they were rerun throughout the entire cruise. Dining: We loved our waiter and assistant waiter. They had great personalities and had the greatest smiles. They were very entertaining during the little show the wait staff put on during dinner. The only complaint is with the Maitre D was that we did not see him the whole cruise until the last night when he wanted his tips. Excursions: Catalina one person in our group scheduled the snorkel tour and was very disappointed. The water was very cold and the water was very murky. If you are looking for tropical fish this is not the tour for you. In Ensenada we took the Blow hole/winery tour. The bus ride is about 45 minutes long to the blow hole. Our tour guide was very funny and broke up the boringness by cracking jokes and telling us what we were seeing. When at the blow hole you have to walk down this path that is lined with vendors who are very pushy and are in your face trying to get you in their shops. The blow hole is really neat. The winery was a brief tour of the bottling factory. Not real interesting but we did get to taste the wines they have there. Next we got dropped off in Downtown to go shopping. The same thing happens there with people getting in your face trying to get you in their shops. We saw some very sad things like the chick let boys and a young mother breastfeeding her child on the cold cement asking for money. If you plan on buying anything in Ensenada make sure you barter with them. You can usually get them down quite a few dollars. If you want to buy alcohol buy it in town and not at the little shopping plaza they have set up when you get off the ship. It is much cheaper in town. Entertainment: The Comedian show for adults only was hilarious. Meryle Hobbs is great. If you are easily offended I suggest you do not attend his shows. The Carnival legends show was also very good. Bingo is quite expensive and quick. The Normandy lounge is large and it is hard to find a good seat so get there early and try to sit on the lower level up front. Disembarkment: We had to get off early because one person in our group had an early flight. This did not matter though. My luggage that was tagged orange to be taken off first was actually in the very last bunch of luggage taken off the ship. We sat there for 2 hours waiting for my luggage. The custom officials would not let them retrieve any luggage for anyone. It was very frustrating. If you can take the luggage off yourself I suggest doing that.     

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By _CR

  • New

Jan 10, 2005

Baja

This was our first cruise. we decided to take a short cruise to see if it fit our families needs. My son is autistic so we were not sure how this would work. We selected the four day cruise with stops in Catalina and Ensenada. Embarkation Getting on the ship is fairly painless. The lines move quickly and with the exception of one security guard at the x-ray machine, everyone was friendly. Cabins Our cabin (E162) was good size

with 4 single beds, 2 upper and 2 lower. We had our steward put the 2 lower beds together to make a queen. The carpet in the cabin needed cleaning but otherwise everything was in good order. There was alot of noise around 2 am that always woke us up but we never found out what it was. The bathroom is all tiled and could have used the grout cleaned, some mold in shower. Dining We were seated in the Destiny restaurant for dinner, and this was the highlight of the cruise. The staff and the food were great. They were accommodating in every way, we looked forward to dinner every night. The Paris restaurant/buffet is available almost any time of day or night for casual dining and the food is comparable to most buffets. During lunch they offer deli sandwiches which were great. There is also pizza and hamburgers/hot dogs available 24 hrs. Entertainment There is more to do on the ship than there is time to do. The shows were great. There always seems to be something going on no matter what part of the ship you are on. Ping-pong tables are popular and there are not enough for everyone, also ping-pong balls are difficult to come by. In room movies are poor, old and re-run for days. Camp Carnival This is the part of the cruise where we had our worse experience. As I mentioned before out son is autistic and after checking the activities at camp carnival we requested ou son be included with a younger age group as the older group was loosely supervised and traveling all over the ship. Unlike the rest of the employees, the director of the children's activities was very un-accommodating. Although we had what seemed like a simple request, we ran into a big hassle and had to involve the Posers office to get it resolved. Camp Carnival does not seem to want to be bothered by any children with special needs. We were very upset by this attitude. Disembarkment This is an area where Carnival needs to look at. It took 2.5 hours to get off the ship during which time you are just sitting in a common area on the ship with nothing to do. The wait is the fault of Customs, and not of Carnival, but you would think Carnival could provide some type of entertainment or refreshments to make the wait more tolerable. Except for the experience with Camp Carnival and getting off the ship the Cruise was lots of fun and overall a good value. If you are the parent of a special needs child be aware that they may not be willing to accommodate you no matter how simple your needs are.     

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By _CR

  • New

Jan 3, 2005

4 day Baja

We left for our 4 day cruise to the Baja on Jan 3rd, 2005. CHILDREN: We had heard that Carnival offered the best Kids program around. Well maybe for the Under 7 year olds but my 11 year old daughter was very dissapointed. Kids 9+ can sign themselves in and out of camp so if the parents are off doing something else and the kids get bored they are then wondering the ship by themselves. The under 11's have to wear muster station bracelets

so that they and the kids club operators know where to go in an emergency. However if the 9-11 year old's can sign them selves out and aren't back with their parents then what happens in the case of an emergency. They need better supervison and activities designed to get the kids away from video games and tv and doing art projects, more sports. Anything but watching the tube. Also they are closed from 12-2 & 2-4 and as most of the adult activities take place after the kids program closes you haven't much choice but to put your kids in the daycare and pay $6/hour for them to watch more TV and play video games. The activities were very limited with mostly Video games available for them. The two Party nights included kids from age 4-11 but all the activities were aimed at the under 7 crowd so not very many of the 10-11year old were there unless they liked doing the chicken dance. FOOD: Destiny dining room was very nice. Not exceptional if you are expecting or wanting first class food. Portions are small but if you have teh salad and an appetizer and then dessert you will be stuffed unless you are a VERY big eater. The table staff we had were excellent and very efficient. We had one youg boy who was a very picky eater and they were great at trying to keep him occupied and bringing him things he would like. The only downfall of the dining experience was the silly dances and singing that they made the poor wait staff do. They didn't enjoy it and most people want to eat and then leave to do other things, not get up and dance with the waiters. ROOMS:  We were on the Empress deck which is pretty much the main entrance with the phot display area and main atrium. This was very convenient to all activities if only the elevators were a little faster. The room was much larger than we expected. We had basically two twin beds pushed together giving my husband and I lot's of room and our daughter had an upper bunk which she said was quite comfy. Our bed was also comfy but unfortunately what ever was above us - i think a restaurant- was very noisy with lot's of clanking around especially at 5:00 am. Bathroom was small but efficient although the water pressure was terrible. The room staff was very good although one night they forgot to put my daughters bed down or leave behind her pillow mint that she loved. As we sailed during the rain storm Catalina was a major dissapointment and the only sunny day was in Ensenada. Basically this was mostly a shopping trip for those who chose. With the weather being bad we chose not to bother with any sightseeing trips and spent most of our time on the ship. If you want a basic shopping cruise this is fine but any extras are expensive. We wanted temp tattoo's and they were $10-$17.50 and only lasted 3-4 days. Bingo was $10/00 per card or 3 for $20.00. Show's were good but the Normandie dining room was packed so unless you are willing to sit there with all the bingo player right after dinner be prepared to have a poor view of the stage and show. Apparently the Sushi bar was very good but we had a 5:45 dining time and as the Sushi bar was only open from 5:30 - 8:00. They need to open it more frequently or away fromt eh times when the first sitting is served. Next time I would pick a later dining time and a different cruise line/itinerary. I would rate this cruise at about a C.     

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By _CR

  • New

Dec 27, 2004

Baja, Mexico

Personal Info We have cruised on Royal Caribbean 5 times, twice on Radiance of the Seas, twice on Monarch of the Seas, and once on Vision of the Seas. We have cruised to the Western Caribbean, Canada, Alaska and Baja Mexico with Royal Caribbean. We thought we should try another cruise line, so we picked Carnival, the FUN cruise-ship line. Our kids have cruised with us twice before, so this was our 6th cruise and the kids 3rd. So we

took this cruise ready to try something new, but with our previous experiences in mind. In this review, I tend to compare this cruise with our previous ones. Pre Cruise We flew out of Seattle on Sunday December 26. We arrived at the El Segundo Embassy Suites Hotel about 7:00 PM PST. The Hotel is very nice. We had dinner at the hotel and watched Ty Pennington and crew on Extreme Home Makeover. On Monday, we had a complimentary buffet breakfast at the hotel and were driven via Taxi to the Cruise ship in Long Beach. Arriving one day early and staying at a hotel is our way to make sure we don’t have travel problems and a nice relaxing way to start our vacations and shake off any travel stress. Embarkation (Boarding) We arrived at the port around 11:30, tipped the shuttle driver, and breezed through the check-in process. Since we arrived early, we pre-checked in on the Queen Mary and were able to get on board faster. By 12:30 we were in our rooms. The Ship We had two inside cabins next to each other on the Rivera deck (deck 4). One cabin for my son and I, one cabin for my wife and daughters. Our cabins were MUCH bigger than the Inside cabins we have had on Royal Caribbean. There is plenty of drawer and closet space and the bathroom is also much bigger. The afternoon consisted of exploring the ship, having lunch in the Paris Cafe, purchasing Soda cards and enjoying the Ship. The Paradise is a very nice ship, and was decked out with holiday decorations. Very nice. The Cruise We were assigned first seating (6:15pm) in the Destiny dining room. The Destiny was nice and is comparable to the dining rooms on Royal Caribbean‘s Monarch of the Seas but no where, not even close, to being as nice as the dining rooms on the Vision of the Seas or Radiance of the Seas. The food was very good and Lobster was available on the first night. Royal Caribbean did not offer us Lobster on the 4 day Baja cruise that we previously went on. The entertainment was good (on the 2nd and 3rd nights), but, the seating is terrible. Lots and lots of obstructed view seating, and the backrests are too low.. Also, we didn‘t have a big show every night. Only on the 2nd and 3rd nights, but not on the 1st or 4th nights. The shows on the 1st or 4th nights were HORRIBLE. They each consisted of a very lackluster monologue from the cruise director and audience participation. Many of the fun late night games that we have enjoyed on other cruise ships were not to be found. The “Newlywed“ game on the ship was awful. I would have to say that Carnival Paradise did the minimum when it came to evening entertainment. The only positives were the two Broadway style shows on the 2nd and 3rd nights. Camp Carnival Dreadful. Camp Carnival treats it more like a babysitting/daycare than trying to be fun and creating a cruise experience for the kids. All the activities were very babyish and boring. My children, ages 9, 11, and 14 hated Camp Carnival and didn’t want anything to do with it. There's nothing to do, was the complaint. Because of this, there were kids everywhere on the boat, playing chase and tag (mine included I guess) because they didn’t want to be at Camp Carnival and there was nothing else to do. Elevator rides were difficult at best, as children rode them all day. I do not recall getting on any elevator once without kids running in and out on every floor. Carnival needs to look at Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean. The kids loved Adventure Ocean. If you have kids and are considering a cruise, Carnival Paradise is the wrong choice! Ports of Call Ensenada- We did not book an excursion on board but got one in town. We bought tickets for a trip to La Bufadora in town. For $16 each, we went to La Bufadora, went shopping, and had Lunch at Poppas & Beer. All for $16 each. It was great. Catalina Island- This port stop was cancelled due to high waves & wind. We didn't dock. Just spent the day at Sea. We were credited $25 per person since the port was cancelled. I would have rather docked. Post-Cruise Disembarking was a pain in the neck. They are very slow and it took forever. Royal Caribbean is much, much faster. Also, on Radiance of the Seas, we all went to the major show room and they put on a show to watch while waiting to disembark. We spent two days at Universal Studios Hollywood. Had a great time. Stayed at the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn. This hotel is not so great, and I would not stay there again. Conclusion We love cruising. We tried Carnival and found that we didn’t like it as much as Royal Caribbean. But, we still liked our cruise and I am glad we went. I can’t wait for our next cruise, but it probably won’t be on Carnival. They need to try harder.     

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By _CR

  • New

Dec 24, 2004

3-night Baja Mexico

The Christmas cruise was fully booked. There seemed to be an incredible number of (usually crying) babies and toddlers, and quite a few grade-school age kids, but very few teenagers. Since this was a holiday cruise, big families were the order of the day. I didn’t see any of the rowdy partying that Carnival has a reputation for. Carnival calls themselves “fun ships” rather than “elegant ships” for a reason. The cruise had

a Saturday-at-the-mall feeling. With some 2,000 passengers on board, the ship was *crowded*. Everywhere you went there was a line, especially if food was involved. The photo gallery was a zoo, particularly after the “formal night” pictures were posted. The elevators were frequently packed, especially at peak times such as after dinner. Embarkation Getting on the ship was a breeze, even with heightened security procedures. We stayed on the Queen Mary the night before, something I highly recommend. There is a special early boarding for Queen Mary passengers, and it was very worth it. Our luggage appeared at our stateroom door very quickly, within a couple of hours. Not bad at all. Dining There are two seatings in each of the two dining rooms. We were assigned to the early seating (6:15 p.m.) in the Elation dining room. Although this allowed us to finish dinner and have plenty of time in the evening for activities and shows, the early seating was something of a zoo. It seemed like every large table had at least one child under the age of 5, screaming and crying incessantly. The waiters did an admirable job of threading their way through all the (cruise-line provided) high chairs! Our three-night cruise had one formal night dinner and two casual dinners. Attire on the formal night varied from dress shirts to tuxedos for the men; from casual slacks to formal gowns for the women. Most people were somewhere in the middle, wearing what I’d call “going out to a nice dinner” clothing. The menu choices were varied each night. Each dinner had several choices for an appetizer, a salad course with a couple of choices, several different entrees, and desserts. Generally, the food was good but not great. You won’t hear any “foodies” raving about Carnival food, in my opinion. On the other hand, there weren’t any real complaints, either. I had fish the first night, which was merely okay, so I went with beef the other two nights, which was quite good. The prime rib was especially tasty. The table service was very efficient but not all that friendly. The waiters work their behinds off, carrying *huge* fully-loaded trays, so I can’t fault them. They simply didn’t have time to socialize. The bakery aboard ship did a great job. Each night warmed rolls were served before dinner. The sun-dried tomato bread was especially yummy and had us asking for seconds. One thing to remember is that the portions are fairly small. If you are a big eater don’t hesitate to ask the waiter for a second entrée (or any other item, for that matter). Some of the men in our group did this regularly and found that the second potion came very quickly. The lobster tails, though tasty, were especially small, and even the women ordered a second one. Each night the waiting staff put on a brief “show,” consisting of singing along and dancing to a recorded song. It was silly but cute. The formal night menu didn’t list any dessert, so some of us were hoping for flaming baked Alaska. Unfortunately, the Alaska wasn’t flaming and wasn’t really baked – it had a gooey meringue more like whipped cream. I guess they get points for trying, but I would have loved the traditional show of dimmed lights and waiters parading with flaming desserts! The Paris Cafe on the Lido deck is an alternative for those who prefer not to eat in the dining room. The food there is ordinary cafeteria-type fare. The pizza counter there is open 24-hours a day, and serves about six or seven different types of pizza. The only thing on the ship I thought was inedible was the Caesar salad, served all the time at the pizza café and occasionally in the main dining room. It had the gooiest, most tasteless dressing I’ve ever had on a Caesar. However, the pizza was quite good. I especially like the Gorgonzola and wild mushroom pizza. If they don’t have the one you want on display, be sure to ask for it. Fresh pizza takes only 7 minutes, and is worth the wait. There is a midnight buffet also but we never bothered. Eating at midnight just isn’t my thing! However, I did notice that the line formed early for the buffet, so if you want it, be sure to get there early. There is a sushi stand, but it is open very limited hours, from 5:30 pm to 8 pm, right when we were in the dining room, which is very inconvenient. Even though I love sushi, I never made it because of the inconvenient time. The Ile de France Cafe, location on Carnival Boulevard, is Carnival’s answer to Starbuck’s, with Starbuck’s-like prices. They also have goodies like chocolate dipped strawberries for an extra charge. Room service is good, with continental breakfasts and cold items for the rest of the day. If you want breakfast room service, be sure to put out the door hanger before you retire. Note that a cash tip for the room service waiter is pretty much expected. Public Rooms The public rooms are named after famous ships of the past (or present, in the case of the Elation and Destiny dining rooms). I was surprised that there wasn’t more of a retro look, consistent with the theme. The ambience of the ship is strictly glitz and glitter, with blinking light bulbs and LED marquees over the doors. I’d have preferred a “quieter” look. The six-deck high atrium is pretty, with Italian floral blown-glass panels. There were Christmas garlands everywhere, which were pretty but didn’t really go with the existing décor. There are large, lighted replicas of enameled Faberge eggs on pillars. I thought they were kind of strange, and the turquoise eggs didn’t seem to go with anything else. One of the most under-utilized spots on board is the Blue Riband Library, filled with memorabilia from ocean liners of the past. The book selection is minimal and the glass cases remained locked throughout our cruise. There were seldom more than a couple of people in the library at a time. Our favorite location was the Paradise Bar, located in the atrium. A classical trio plays in the evenings, and it’s a good spot to people watch. The ship's Internet center is located in the atrium, adjacent to the Paradise Bar. We seldom saw more than a couple of people using the computers. I thought that the prices were rather high. Cabins We had nine people in four cabins in our group. We chose the lowest deck, the Riviera, because all the cabins are essentially the same. The only real disadvantage to being so low in the ship is the elevators. They’re very quick if you’re lucky enough to get a “nonstop” (going from deck 4 to deck 10 takes only a couple of seconds if there are no other stops). It could be impossible to get an elevator at a peak time, however, so we ended up hiking down 6 or 7 flights more than once. The colors in the cabins are hideous: pink, orange, and coral. However, the cabins are spacious, with plenty of storage. The outside cabins have a nice picture window. My only real complaint about the cabins is the BEDS ARE AWFUL. Really, really awful. Each mattress resembles a hammock – the sides are a good inch higher than the middle. I don’t know if they were thin mattresses to begin with or if they’re simply worn from night after night of use, but the mattresses seemed to be about one inch thick. I found myself scooting down to the bottom of the mattress and letting my feet hang out over the footboard, trying to find a thicker spot. Each room has a TV, but the programming is minimal and pretty much a waste of time. One corner of the cabin has a built-in box that is used for extra blankets and the life jackets. When the beds are configured as a queen, the person on the inside has no access except to climb over the outer bed. The bathroom is roomy, with a nice shower. The sink has no counter space but a nice cabinet above with lots of storage space. The toilet sounds like a jet airplane taking off. There was a bowl of “goodies” on the sink (toothpaste, dental floss, razors, shampoo). The towels have seen their share of wear but were plentiful and frequently replaced. Cabin lighting is terrible. Basically you have your choice of harsh overhead lighting, inconveniently placed reading lights, or a corner light consisting of a fluorescent bulb behind a plastic panel. Not exactly great ambience. Entertainment The production shows in the main theater, Normandie Lounge, were great fun and professionally presented. The Normandie is two levels. Many seats have restricted visibility because of support pillars. Be sure to get there very early to get the best seats. Remember that there is a bingo game before the show, so that means you need to get there right after dinner. After-hours one can find music of one sort or another in each of the 10 lounges and bars on Paradise. There's a full casino with slots and 12 tables, all of which were going strong during the day at sea and in the evenings. The comedy show is presented twice: The earlier one is G-rated for families; the midnight show is definitely adults-only fare. Fitness & Recreation There is a fully equipped gym on board which no one in my group used. Hey, we were on vacation! The spa and beauty salon appear to be big business on the ship. Before the ship even sailed we were accosted by lovely ladies asking us if we wanted spa treatments. The prices were fairly high. For example, $40 for a “spa manicure,” when I’m used to paying $20 at home. There are a couple of pools, which were only being used by kids despite the “no kids in the hot tubs” rule. The December weather was too cold for most adults! There's a jogging track on Deck 12, basketball hoop, golf cage, shuffleboard and Ping-Pong tables. Several classes and group workouts are offered during the day in the gym; Pilates and yoga are offered for a small extra fee. Family Our kids are aged 15 to 17 to I can’t speak to Camp Carnival. There didn’t seem to be much of anything going on for our kids’ age group. Ensenada Carnival tried very hard to sell shore excursions but we didn’t buy any. There is a shuttle to town for $2 per person (only $1 for the return trip). The town of Ensenada is a real dump, in my opinion, and I won’t be going back. The stores all have pretty much the same stuff, and there isn’t much else to do besides shopping. There isn’t as much street begging (“Chiclets? Chiclets, lady?”) as in the past, but there are tons of street vendors. Smoking Now that Paradise is the only Carnival ship plying the waters off Baja, they have relaxed the formerly strict “No Smoking” policy. Smoking is allowed in designated areas only. One of our group is a frequent smoker and a couple of others smoked occasionally. I never noticed anyone smoking in inappropriate areas. In my opinion, the changeover from “non-smoking” to “restricted smoking” is a non-issue. Debarkation Keep your Carnival-supplied luggage tags on your bags. Debarkation is by luggage-tag color. We were unfortunately in the very last group to be called, so we didn’t get off the ship until 11 a.m. It’s a shame there isn’t something to do while waiting to debark. Customs went smoothly, although slowly. Be sure to have your customs form completely filled out before you get off the ship. Summary I have mixed feelings. The cruise was a good value. However, for my next cruise I think I’ll choose something more upscale. Overall Grade C   

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By _CR

  • New

Dec 17, 2004

Baja, Mexico

This was my second cruise with Carnival and my 10th cruise overall. I have never been on a cruise this short before but was eager to go since I had heard that there would be younger people on this weekend cruise as opposed to the longer cruises with older people. My party and I arrived at LAX at approx. 11 am and took a stretch limo to Long Beach to board the Carnival Paradise. We arrived at the pier at 12:15pm and found two LOOOONG

lineups and mass confusion. Nobody knew what was going on or which line was for whom. I asked a woman with a clipboard where the "funpass" ticket holders should go and she mumbled something I didn't understand. I was too impressed. They need to work on the embarkation process and let people know what is happening instead of herding everyone around like chattel. This cruise critic gives embarkation a well deserved D! After we boarded the ship we went directly to our room which was R198 toward the rear of the ship. It was on outside cabin near the aft elevators. It was tacky and looked like your typical Carnival layout. The nasty orange paint was beyond sickening. We had a great room steward who was friendly and attentive and greeted us upon arrival. The room was standard, I guess. Last time I sailed on Carnival (Spirit 2002) I was in a suite, so this was a real step down for me. Layout and design of outside cabin deserves a C. We had a blast trying to navigate the ship. As soon as we got on we began exploring and checking out the various venues. The ship (although gaudy and distastefully decorated) was easy to navigate and pretty straightforward. Layout of the ship gets an A! The food on the Lido deck was surprisingly good. I liked it! The dining room selections were somewhat good but the desserts left something to be desired. The majority of the desserts taste like they have no sugar, which really annoyed my group. Overall the food was good so I will award it with an A as well. Our Waiter Albert was great (and cute, but married) and so was his assistant Seksit. They remembered our names and were very attentive to our needs. They also showed us how to do the little "Carnival" dance and gave us a congo demonstration. FANTASTIC! The service in the dining (early seating) was superb and was at par with the service I have had on Celebrity and HAL. Dining room service? An A+ all the way! We made good use of the pools and hot tubs aboard the ship although they were very crowded during the day. I was annoyed because there is a hot tub that is designated for 18 and over only yet several children were in it splashing around. Bad, bad, bad! Since many parents choose to neglect their disrespectful spawn, I think Carnival should instruct their staff to enforce these rules. There is also a deck above the Hot tub and pool area by the aft smokestack that permits topless sunbathing and is designated ADULTS ONLY and prohibits loitering. My friends and I ascended to this area to bask in peace. No sooner do we get up there and some gross old guy comes up there to gawk. I threatened to inform security if he didn't move along. There isn't too much going on in Ensenada so if you are looking for excitement and thrills head to Acapulco or (even better) Mexico City. To be honest, it is a real dump and I will not be going back anytime soon. It smells like dishwater and it is very run-down. A REAL disappointment! Fake watches and nasty knockoffs. Save your money, the crap is waaay overpriced! The only good thing about this place is that you can get some good Cuban Cohibas to smoke on the ship. The town itself is a sleepy little fishing town with vendors selling junk and plenty of vagrant children. Some children will approach you with a sign asking for money so that they can eat. Don't fall for it! It is an organized scam as I noticed the parents were usually in the vicinity to egg the children on and tell them who to approach. If you give a dollar to one of them you will be swamped as they all flock toward you to beg. Although they are only children, the Mexican government and the US Embassy has warned tourists in Mexico not to give handouts to beggars and vagrants. Do so at your own peril! Another quick word of caution for women cruisers in Ensenada: I would advise against leaving the ship by yourself to explore the city. Many Mexican men regard young American women as "on the make" or "easy" and will not hesitate to stare, hiss, holler or even grope you as you pass. My girlfriend and I were simply walking along the street when a couple of perverts in their 20's started to harass us. The best thing to do is ignore them or (even better) walk with a male companion. You never know what these perverts will try to pull, so beware and consider wearing a frock on your outing! As soon as you get off the ship you will be herded through a little market full of vendors selling more garbage and rude shuttle drivers trying to line everyone up to take the bus into town for "only $2"! DON'T DO IT! You can walk, it's not that far. Only takes 10 minutes. Besides these Mexican shuttle drivers are real con artists who try to make everyone think they have to line up and take the shuttle or they will be hopelessly stuck in Ghetto Mexico. I kept my 2 dollars and got the exercise! All in all this is an okay cruise. Nothing to write home about but it was a change. I will travel on Carnival again but not on another 3 day cruise. It is too short for my liking. Although the people are younger, I would prefer not to cruise with groups of raunchy Las Vegas strippers and frat boys who were rather raucous and rowdy (especially after the stop in Ensenada). This cruise is great if you want to cruise but you can not afford a longer vacation on a premium line. That being said, I will give this cruise 3 out of 5 stars. Camille C     

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By _CR

  • New

Nov 22, 2004

4 Day Baja Cruise

Overall a good experience, the Paradise is a step up from the ships that Carnival has had making the Baja run for the past few years. EMBARKATION Carnival cruises now leave Long Beach from the dome that formerly housed the Spruce Goose, adjacent to the Queen Mary. Early arrivals (prior to 1 p.m.) are directed to a check-in center in the rear of the Queen Mary, then asked to line up outside the dome. The main point of this new system

seems to be to get you to buy discount tour tickets for the Queen Mary. Be aware that they are also available to you on the day you return from your cruise. If you have fewer than 3-4 hours to kill, you probably won't want to the tours before you board the Paradise. Just wander back and get in line. Once embarkation actually starts it moves fairly quickly. Searches are a little more thorough than pre 9-11, but still move fast. The slowest part of the process is the obligatory photo as you board the ship. Once you get past that, you sail right through. SHIP The Paradise is a beautiful ship. Our past Baja cruises had been on the Holiday and the Ecstasy. Not only are they worn, but both look like cheap Nevada casinos. The Paradise has excellent use of wood inside, a dark color scheme and classic decor. Very nice. The Paradise has only been on this end of the country for a couple months, and was a non-smoking ship on the Caribbean run so it doesn't stink like cigarettes. Further, smoking is significantly limited on this ship, making it nice for the non-smokers. Our cabins were inside on the Verandah Deck. We always choose these for convenience -- we don't need a window, and being up that high is so much more convenient to lounges, deck and restaurants. Additionally, you have the same advantages as the Verandah suite guests -- the best stewards, with fewer rooms to care for, first dismissal when disembarking, and location, location, location! Just a word on Verandah suites, should you go that direction: The balconies do not open off the side of the ship, but look down onto the side of the Lido Deck, about 15 feet in from the sides. If you have children, as we do, it is far less worrisome to leave them in the cabin knowing if they were to fall over the railing it would only be to a deck below. Call me a worrier, but it's a concern. Speaking of children, our experience with Camp Carnival was mixed. We were traveling with our three daughters, ages 7, 12, and 15. Carnival lists activities for up to 15 year olds, but they are not actually available on the ship. The oldest group with organized activities was 12-14, and their activities were limited and boring. The only provision for 15-17 was use of the dance club for an hour each night. There is a teen room on the ship - the Spirals Dance Club - but the opinion of our daughters and the other teenagers at our table was that it was a drag. In contrast to the adult clubs, there is no decoration, no DJ, an empty bar with no sodas or snacks available, and a few TVs with video games. It was used constantly by a few 12ish boys deeply involved in playing Tony Hawke. Converting it to a true night club for teens, complete with a DJ, dance floor and "coketail bar" would make evenings much easier. Camp Carnival for my 7 year old was much more fun, but the hours are more limited than you are led to believe. The playroom closes from noon to 2 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Babysitting is reasonable ($6, after 10 p.m. only) and the staff is great. There were a number of good shows. The dancers were great, the singers good, and the musicians excellent. There was a comedian on board for our ship who did two good shows. If you are interested in the shows, make sure you have the early seating for dinner. Go to the show room right after dinner, and sit throught Bingo, game shows, etc. If you don't, you won't get a good seat. Also, because of the pillars that support the show room, know that ANY seat on the lower level is better than the balcony. The curved banquettes in the back are quite elegant looking, but provide a very poor view. The numerous lounges provide different music, and the piano bar is always good. FOOD AND DRINK This area is both better and worse than Carnival has been in the past. The food is plentiful, imaginative, and good. Service has been abbreviated. Formal dining service no longer includes a busboy for your table. This means you may have to wait longer for drinks, water refills, and any special needs. We were on the ship for Thanksgiving, and thought there would be a nice meal for the day. I guess it depends on what you like. The turkey dinner consisted of several slices of turkey mounded over parsnip dressing, all doused in orange sauce. Had we known, we would have eaten at the Lido buffet. Speaking of the buffet, the unlimited pizza was the hit of the trip for my family. My kids were there constantly, and my husband and I found the goat cheese and garlic pizza delicious. Remember that you have to order the special pizzas ahead of time, but it only takes 7 minutes. The room service menu has been expanded and is now quite good. They offer a continental breakfast option. We asked for bagels and lox the first morning, and were quite pleased with what we received. SIGN AND SAIL CARD Always check your S&S card receipt! We found many errors in ours, including a $71.50 charge for two drink specials on the first day. You can always correct problems on the final day, but it's easier to do it when you sign than stand in that long line at the Purser's Desk. Also, if you prefer to make your tips in person, in cash, just go to the Purser's Desk immediately upon boarding and tell them to take the tips off your card. They did it easily for us, and we found our servers to be quite please to be tipped in cash. One room steward told us that Carnival takes a service charge out when they pass them along from your S&S card. Finally, there are drink menus located in most of the lounges. Find one and figure out what you want to drink. There are eight drinks that cost only 3.95 each, but some run as high as 9.50. PORTS Catalina is fun, but a very typical California beach town. If you are from the midwest, it's a treat. If you are from California, it's old hat. Don't book tours on the ship. You can book them all in town for less, from the same people. We took the glass bottom boat ride, fun for the kids, and rented a golf cart to get around. The boat ride is fun, but see if you can get on the older boats. The whole bottom is glass, as opposed to just several windows. The golf cart is bit pricey, but you get some wonderful views of the island. The drive up to the Wrigley Memorial is also nice. You can walk there if you like, but the cart makes it faster. If you are a golfer, there is a great course on Catalina, and just enough time for a round. Ensenada is a Mexican tourist town, enough said. You can buy knockoff watches, purses, blankets, etc, drink and party, eat lunch, take a horse carriage ride. Despite what you might think it's incredibly safe there. They depend on tourism for a great deal of money. The police presence in the tourist area is to make sure all goes well. Prices were not as low there as we remember, but still a bargain. Never pay the first price, always bargain. DEBARKATION The new relaxed debarkation has it's pluses and minuses. On the plus side, you can now relax on deck by the pool or in any of the Lido Deck lounges rather than be herded into an area by deck. On the minus side, it actually started 2 hours early. This may not seem like a minus, but we were told we could be in the cabin until 9:30 a.m., then we would be off at 10:30 a.m. We packed up and headed for breakfast at 8 a.m., figuring on coming back for our bags by 9 a.m. They called our tag color at 8:30 a.m., while we were in line for breakfast. We had to scramble back for bags, gulp down breakfast, and run for our line. Overall it was a good experience, and I would certainly take the cruise again. It's a good value and a nice short vacation. Nice service, nice ship.   

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By _CR

  • New

Oct 21, 2004

Baja California

WE LOVED OUR FIRST CRUISING EXPERIENCE!!! THIS WILL BE LONG, BUT VERY INFORMATIVE! EMBARKATION WAS A BREEZE, A LOT OF WORRYING FOR NOTHING!! WAS ABLE TO CARRY-ON ALL OUR LUGGAGE, PARKED AT 1:30 WAS ON THE SHIP BY 1:45! ALMOST NO WAITING! PRINT YOUR FUNPASS ON-LINE AND FILL OUT YOUR SAIL & SIGN APPLICATION AHEAD OF TIME, AS LONG AS YOU HAVE THE REQUIRED DOCUMENTS READY, IT MOVES FAST AND SMOOTH! OUR CABIN ONCE WE FOUND

THE ELEVATORS WE MADE IT TO OUR CABIN PRETTY QUICKLY, BUT THE SIGNS ON THE WALLS AND ARCHWAYS CAN BE MISLEADING, THEY REALLY NEED TO GIVE YOU A SHIP MAP AT EMBARKATION! (THEY DON'T PUT ONE IN YOUR CABIN EITHER!) YOU MUST GET IT AT THE INFORMATION DESK, WHICH IS RIGHT NEXT TO WHERE YOU BOARD THE SHIP (DECK 7)-YOU CAN/SHOULD GRAB ONE BEFORE GOING TO YOUR CABIN. CONTRARY TO REVIEWS I HAVE READ, THE ELEVATORS WERE NOT SLOW & THERE ARE 4 ELEVATORS AT EACH AREA. WE HAD AN INSIDE CABIN ON THE MAIN DECK (DECK 5) AND OUR FRIENDS HAD AN OCEAN VIEW ACROSS THE HALL. WHEN I WALKED INTO OUR CABIN I DID THINK IT SEEMED SMALL, BUT AT THE END OF THE CRUISE, I REALIZED IT WAS ACTUALLY ROOMY, W/LOTS OF ROOM FOR LUGGAGE, 2 CLOSETS W/LOTS OF SHELVES AND 5 DRAWERS! WE COULD HAVE EASILY HAD 2 KIDS WITH US AND PLENTY OF ROOM! THE BATHROOM WAS BIGGER THAN I EXPECTED WITH A LARGE SHOWER (PORTABLE SHOWER HEAD AND SHAMPOO AND BODY WASH DISPENSERS) BUT NO WASH CLOTHS!!! I HAVE NEVER SEEN A HOTEL ROOM WITHOUT A WASH CLOTH!!! I THINK MOST PEOPLE DO USE THEM! ANYWAY TAKE ONE WITH YOU! I HAD TO USE A HEAVY WET HAND TOWEL IN THE SHOWER! LARGE MIRRORED MEDICINE CHEST W/SEVERAL SHELVES. THEY DO GIVE YOU A BIG GOOD QUALITY BAR SOAP-LEVER 2000. THE VANITY AREA HAS A COMFY STOOL TO DO YOUR GROOMING/MAKE-UP, BUT ONLY 1 POWER PLUG!!! AND THEY DO NOT PROVIDE A HAIR DRYER...I BROUGHT 2 EXTENSION CORDS AND HAD JUST ENOUGH PLUGS FOR ALL THE BATTERY CHARGERS AND HAIR DRYER-THIS WAS A VERY IMPORTANT TIP AND I AM GLAD I KNEW ABOUT IT AHEAD OF TIME! THE BED WAS VERY FIRM, BUT WE LIKE A FIRM BED, AND HAD NO BACK PAIN OR DISCOMFORT! YOU CAN GET JUST ABOUT ANYTHING FROM YOUR IN CABIN PHONE, WAKE-UP CALLS, ROOM SERVICE, INFORMATION, RESERVATIONS, PHONE CALLS, ETC. I WOULD DEFINITELY RECOMMEND BRINGING AN ALARM CLOCK, BECAUSE IF YOU DON'T HAVE A WINDOW, YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TIME IT IS-EVER! I WOKE UP THINKING IT WAS STILL 3AM, AND IT WAS 7AM, I ENDED UP WAY OVERSLEEPING! YOU MAY THINK, WELL I WILL JUST CHECK MY WATCH, BUT YOU WON'T THINK ABOUT THAT WHEN YOU'RE HALF ASLEEP! I REALLY WISH I'D BROUGHT AN ALARM CLOCK (W/DIGITAL DISPLAY)! OUR FRIENDS CABIN WAS AN OCEAN VIEW, WHICH DID HAVE A GOOD VIEW, BUT I FOUND IT TO BE TOO HOT DURING THE DAY WHEN THE SUN WAS SHINING THRU, AND THE A/C DOES NOT WORK REAL WELL (ITS MORE LIKE A STRONG FAN, THAN COOLING A/C) AND THE WINDOWS DO NOT OPEN! I THINK I WILL ALWAYS GET THE INSIDE CABIN WHENEVER WE CRUISE! YOU HAVE PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITY TO GO OUT ON DECK, EVEN EAT OUT THERE, TO ENJOY THE OCEAN VIEWS! (JUST MY OPINION) THE SHIP IT WAS A LITTLE CONFUSING AT FIRST, BUT USING THE MAP MADE IT WAY EASIER. IT LOOKS/SEEMS A LOT LIKE A FLOATING LAKE TAHOE RESORT, A LOT OF LIGHTS, THE TYPICAL CASINO-TYPE CARPETS AND WALL COVERINGS, BUT TASTEFUL. SEVERAL DIFFERENT BARS AND LOUNGES WITH A VERY GOOD VARIETY OF DIFFERENT MUSIC AND DANCING, IF YOU LIKE MUSIC, YOU WILL ALMOST DEFINITELY FIND A BAR/LOUNGE YOU WILL WANT TO SPEND SOME TIME IN. THE GALLERY/GIFT SHOPS WERE SOMEWHAT EXPENSIVE, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE CIGARETTES AND ALCOHOL-ABSOLUTELY THE LOWEST PRICES I HAVE EVER SEEN! $75 FOR 5 CARTONS OF CIGARETTES! 2 QUARTS OF CROWN ROYAL FOR $32, I LEFT WITH A LOT OF LIQUID SOUVENIRS (FOR MY PARENTS/BROTHER). ONE THING THEY DON'T TELL YOU: CUSTOMS ONLY ALLOWS YOU TO BRING 1 CARTON OF CIGARETTES AND 1 LITER OF ALCOHOL INTO THE COUNTRY WITHOUT PAYING A TAX ON IT! I DECLARED IT ALL AND THEY LET ME GO WITHOUT PAYING THE TAX THIS TIME, I COULD HAVE JUST NOT DECLARED IT & THEY WOULD HAVE NEVER KNOWN! THE DIDN'T SEARCH ANYBODY'S LUGGAGE (THAT WE SAW). THE SHOWS IN THE NORMANDIE LOUNGE ARE WONDERFUL!!! THE 2 FEMALE SINGERS AND THE DANCERS ARE OUTSTANDING! AND BOTH COMEDIANS WERE VERY FUNNY! THE NORMANDIE LOUNGE ALSO HAD LOTS OF FUN ACTIVITIES LIKE BINGO, NEWLYWED GAME, WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE, GAME SHOW MANIA, AND LOTS OF OTHER FUN ACTIVITIES...I WON $300 AT BINGO ON THE FIRST NIGHT OF THE CRUISE!!! BUT IT IS NOT LIKE REGULAR BINGO, THEY ONLY PLAY ONE GAME, USUALLY ONLY NEED 4 NUMBERS TO BINGO AND IT IS $10-$20 FOR A 3-ON, $5-$10 FOR A SINGLE, THEY PLAY 5 DIFFERENT GAMES THROUGHOUT THE CRUISE FOR PRIZES RANGING FROM $300 TO $3000. THE BAR SERVICE IS VERY ATTENTIVE AND YOU DON'T HAVE TO MESS WITH THE TIP BECAUSE THEY ADD 15% GRATUITY TO EACH DRINK, I MAINLY HAD BLENDED FRUIT DRINKS, WHICH WERE AVERAGE TASTING (HAD BETTER/HAD WORSE) PRICING VERY COMPARABLE TO TAHOE CASINOS (MAYBE A LITTLE CHEAPER). THE POOLS: VERY, VERY, VERY FRIGID' COLD!!! I HAVE NEVER SWAM IN COLDER WATER AND I AM A TOTAL FISH, I WILL USUALLY SWIM IN ANYTHING! THE WATER SLIDE WAS A LOT OF FUN, BUT ONCE YOU'RE IN THE WATER, YOU CAN'T GET OUT FAST ENOUGH! PLUS, ALL THE POOLS ARE SALT WATER AND THE SMELL/TASTE (COUPLED W/WATER TEMP.) IS VERY UNCOMFORTABLE. (WHY CAN'T THEY HEAT IT AT LEAST 5-10 DEGREES?) ALL THE HOT TUBS WERE FRESH WATER AND NICE AND WARM! (THEY DO PROVIDE ON DECK SHOWERS TO GET THAT SALTWATER OFF!) ALL THE OUTSIDE DECKS WERE WELL SET UP, HAD NON-SLIP WOODEN FLOORS AND OFFERED GREAT VIEWS AND LOTS OF SEATING AND TABLES TO EAT AT EVERYWHERE! AGAIN BAR SERVICE WAS VERY ATTENTIVE! THE TOP DECK HAD A NICE SOFT JOGGING/WALKING TRACK, 11 TIMES AROUND IS 1 MILE! DIDN'T REALLY CHECK OUT THE GYM OR SPA, BUT PRICES WERE KIND OF OUTRAGEOUS (MASSAGES, MANICURE, PEDICURE, FACIALS, THEY EVEN DO TEETH WHITENING FOR $199), FROM WHAT I DID SEE, THEY HAVE LOTS OF EXERCISE BIKES AND TREADMILLS (I ASSUME THOSE WERE FREE TO USE) BUT THE CLASSES THEY OFFERED (AEROBICS, PILATES, ETC.) DID CHARGE A FEE. CAMP CARNIVAL (THE KIDS DAYCARE CENTER) WAS NICE, 16 TVS, SEVERAL PLAYSTATIONS & COMPUTERS, LOTS OF TOYS, BOOKS, BOARD GAMES, ETC. SEEMED LIKE LOTS TO DO FOR ANY AGE GROUP. WE WERE TRAVELING WITH OUR 11 YEAR OLD AND 2 YEAR OLD NEPHEWS, WHO DID ENJOY IT THE 1 DAY THEY USED IT, ONE THING THAT'S NICE-THEY GIVE YOU A BEEPER (FREE OF CHARGE, BUT $50 IF YOU LOSE IT) SO THEY CAN BEEP YOU IF THEY NEED YOU TO COME BACK ASAP! (MY SISTER-IN-LAW HAD TO GO BACK FOR THE 2 YEAR OLD BECAUSE HE'S IN THAT SEPARATION ANXIETY STAGE). THERE IS A SPORTS DECK WITH SEVERAL PING-PONG TABLES (DIDN'T SEE ANY POOL TABLES OR OTHER TABLE GAMES) THERE IS AN ARCADE AND THE KIDS CAN USE THEIR SAIL AND SIGN CARDS TO PLAY! THERE IS AN AREA W/A LOT OF COMPUTERS AND INTERNET ACCESS, BUT ITS PRETTY EXPENSIVE-WE DIDN'T USE THAT. THE CASINO WAS GOOD SIZED, LOTS OF TABLES AND SLOTS/VIDEO POKER/KENO MACHINES...TO MY SURPRISE THE ODDS WERE ALMOST THE SAME AS TAHOE, NOT LIKE THOSE RIP-OFF INDIAN CASINOS. HAD BLACKJACK, ROULETTE, CRAPS, LET IT RIDE AND I THINK CARIBBEAN STUD POKER. THERE IS ALSO A CARD ROOM ON BOARD, DIDN'T GO IN THERE BUT ITS EITHER FO R POKER OR FRIENDLY GAMES LIKE SPADES/BRIDGE OR MAYBE BOTH. THERE ARE 2 DINING ROOMS, DESTINY DINING ROOM IS DIFFICULT TO GET TO, SO I WOULD RECOMMEND THE ELATION DINING ROOM, (DESTINY SEATS AT 5:45 AND 8PM) (ELATION SEATS AT 6:15 AND 8:45PM) BOTH ARE IDENTICAL. THE PHOTO GALLERY IS A LONG HALLWAY WHERE THEY PUT UP THE PREVIOUS DAYS PICTURES FOR YOU TO BUY, THEY ARE EXPENSIVE, BUT GOOD QUALITY, THEY TAKE YOUR PICTURE ABOUT 3-5 TIMES A DAY. THE FOOD VERY, VERY GOOD! IF YOU ARE PICKY, LIKE ME, THIS IS THE PLACE TO LET GO OF YOUR INHIBITIONS AND TRY NEW THINGS! THE FOOD SOUNDS VERY FANCY AND GOURMET AND WEIRD, BUT YOU WILL LOVE IT! I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE SOUPS, I LOVED THE STRAWBERRY BISQUE, PUMPKIN SOUP AND MANGO BISQUE! THE SALADS ARE VERY FRESH, RANCH DRESSING WAS VERY GOOD. MAIN COURSE CHOICES CONSISTED OF BEEF, PORK, FOWL, SEAFOOD AND VEGETARIAN. I HAD THE BEEF EVERY NIGHT AND LOVED IT, PRIME RIB, BEEF WELLINGTON, WITH THE EXOTIC SAUCES AND SIDE DISHES WERE WONDERFUL. MY HUSBAND HATES BEEF AND HAD GAME HEN, PORK TENDERLOIN AND CHICKEN AND WAS VERY IMPRESSED WITH THE LARGE SERVING SIZES AND SAID ALL THE SAUCES TASTED GREAT! THE DESSERTS WERE MOSTLY GOOD, I ALWAYS GOT 2 DIFFERENT THINGS EVERY NIGHT. I AM A BIG SWEETS EATER BUT FOUND THE DESSERTS TO BE THE ONLY THING ON THE MENU THAT I DIDN'T ABSOLUTELY LOVE, ALTHOUGH THEY WERE GOOD. THE ORANGE CAKE WAS THE BEST & I WISHED I HAD ORDERED 3 PIECES OF IT, IT WAS SO GOOD! YOUR WAITERS ARE VERY ATTENTIVE AND FRIENDLY! THEY PAMPER YOU TO DEATH, MAKE YOU FEEL WELCOME AND NEVER RUSHED OR LIKE YOU'RE BEING A PAIN W/ALL THE SPECIAL REQUESTS. ORDER AS MUCH AS YOU WANT OF ANYTHING, ORDER 2 OR 3 DIFFERENT SELECTIONS, IF YOU DON'T LIKE SOMETHING, THEY WILL BE HAPPY TO TAKE IT AWAY AND BRING YOU SOMETHING ELSE! (I AM A CHINTZY TIPPER AND I ACTUALLY WENT DOWN TO THE INFORMATION BOOTH AND ASKED THEM TO GIVE OUR WAITER TEAM AN EXTRA $20 EACH, I WAS VERY IMPRESSED) THEY PULL OUT YOUR CHAIR, PUT YOUR NAPKIN IN YOUR LAP, WATCH YOU INDIVIDUALLY AND WAIT TILL YOU'RE DONE BEFORE THEY BRING THE NEXT COURSE, AND THEY WERE SOOOOOOO SWEET TO THE BABY! THERE NAMES WERE ESUMITRA (MAN) AND NIELO (WOMAN) (DESTINY DINING ROOM). THE 24 HOUR ROOM SERVICE WAS ALWAYS GOOD AND PRETTY FAST, CONSIDERING THE 2300 PEOPLE ABOARD. WE ORDERED IT 6 TIMES, AND EVERY NIGHT AT MIDNIGHT. WE NEVER RAN INTO A PROBLEM WITH THEM NOT HAVING A PARTICULAR FOOD AVAILABLE AT CERTAIN HOURS, BUT WE ONLY ORDERED COLD SANDWICHES, BAGELS, DESERTS AND BEVERAGES. ALWAYS FREE E, ALWAYS WITHIN 20 MINUTES! YOU SHOULD TIP THESE GUYS, THEY AREN'T INCLUDED IN YOUR PREPAID GRATUITIES...I USUALLY GAVE THEM $2-$5 DEPENDING ON HOW MUCH THEY HAD TO BRING. THEY WILL EVEN BRING YOU ALCOHOL, BUT YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR THAT ON YOUR SAIL AND SIGN CARD. THE BUFFET WAS PRETTY GOOD, ESPECIALLY BREAKFAST. THEY HAVE AN OMELET STATION, LOTS OF JUICE CHOICES. ASIDE FROM THE NORMAL EGGS/BREAKFAST MEATS/HASH BROWNS AND PANCAKES/FRENCH TOAST THEY HAVE A LOT OF OTHER GOOD STUFF: TOASTED BAGELS/TOAST/CROISSANTS/DOUGHNUTS, PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY, 10 DIFFERENT KINDS OF COLD CEREAL, OATMEAL/CREAM OF WHEAT/GRITS, YOGURT/COTTAGE CHEESE, LOTS OF FRUIT, ALMOST EVERYTHING YOU COULD WANT, (I WAS HOPING FOR BELGIAN WAFFLES W/FRUIT, BUT NO DICE). THE BUFFET LUNCH WAS NOT AS GOOD, BUT THE PIZZA WAS GREAT. THE ICE CREAM WAS GOOD BUT NO SUNDAE TOPPINGS! WE DIDN'T HAVE LUNCH OR BREAKFAST IN THE DINING ROOMS, BUT I SAW ONE BREAKFAST MENU AND IT LOOKED LIKE THE SAME STUFF, THEY JUST BRING IT TO YOU INSTEAD. THE MIDNIGHT GALA BUFFET-STAY UP AND GO DOWN (I MEAN UP) AND TAKE PICTURES OF THIS EVEN IF YOU DON'T WANT TO EAT! IT IS AMAZING! THERE ARE ALL THESE "SCULPTURES" CARVED OUT OF FOOD! JUST BEAUTIFUL, AND LOTS OF ICE SCULPTURES! I REALLY WANTED TO TRY SOME OF THE VERY IMPRESSIVE AND TASTY LOOKING DESSERTS, BUT AFTER THE PICTURE TAKING, THEY CLOSED THE BUFFET FOR 15 MINUTES AND WHEN I CAME BACK TO EAT, THERE WAS A LINE 20 MINUTES LONG AT LEAST, SO I WENT TO BED, BUT GOT SOME GREAT PICTURES! MISCELLANEOUS WE ONLY GOT 1 TOWEL ANIMAL, BUT IT WAS A CUTE ELEPHANT, 1 TIP-LEAVE YOUR SUNGLASSES ON THE TABLE IN YOUR ROOM, THE CABIN STEWARD USED THEM TO ENHANCE THE TOWEL ANIMAL! SO CUTE! THEY WILL MAKE UP YOUR ROOM TWICE A DAY, AND LEAVE CHOCOLATE ON YOUR PILLOWS AND TURN DOWN THE BED, IT'S SO INVITING TO COME BACK TO YOUR CLEAN CABIN AND FIND THESE LITTLE EXTRAS! THERE IS A CHANNEL ON THE TV FOR "TALKS" THAT TAKE PLACE DURING THE CRUISE, SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE AT THE NORMANDIE LOUNGE WHEN THEY ARE GIVING THE DEBARKATION TALK (FOR EXAMPLE), THEY REPLAY IT ON YOUR TV ALL DAY/NIGHT LONG. THE CRUISE DIRECTOR, THINK HIS NAME WAS JEFF, WAS VERY FUNNY!!! HE DOES GIVE AWAY SOME FREEBEES AT THE DIFFERENT "TALKS" ALSO. NONE OF US GOT SEASICK, BUT IT IS NOTICEABLE WHEN THE SHIP IS MOVING, YOU JUST GOTTA GET USED TO IT FOR 30 MIN. OR SO, THEN IT DOESN'T BOTHER YOU, ALSO, ABOUT HALF THE TIME THE SHIP ISN'T MOVING ANYWAY! WE DID SEE A BUNCH OF DOLPHINS, IN THE MORNING AND EARLY AFTERNOON, BUT THEY ARE QUICK! FORGET TRYING TO GET A PICTURE, JUST ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE! LOTS OF DIFFERENT NATIONALITIES REPRESENTED BY THE CREW, BE PATIENT WITH THE ACCENTS, YOU MAY HAVE TO ASK THEM TO REPEAT. EVERYONE IS VERY NICE! THE CREW ARE CONTRACTED TO STAY ON THE BOAT 6-8 MONTHS AT A TIME, THEY NEVER GET OFF THE BOAT! AND THEY DO SEVERAL DIFFERENT JOBS THROUGHOUT THE DAY/NIGHT! BE EXTRA NICE, AND USE YOUR PLEASE AND THANK YOUs GENEROUSLY! OUR CELL PHONES ONLY WORKED WHILE THE SHIP WAS PARKED AT THE LONG BEACH PIER, THEY NEVER WORKED IN ENSENADA OR EVEN JUST OFFSHORE OF L.A., ALL THE PHONES USED ON THE SHIP ARE SATELLITE PHONES, AND THEY CHARGE $6.99 PER MINUTE TO MAKE A CALL-WE DIDN'T USE THIS, BUT IF YOU HAVE LITTLE ONES TO CALL BACK HOME, THIS IS IMPORTANT TO BE PREPARED FOR. WE DIDN'T CHECK LUGGAGE (I WAS AFRAID IT WOULD NOT BE DELIVERED IN TIME FOR OUR EARLY DINNER SEATING) BUT I DID NOTICE LUGGAGE OUTSIDE THE CABINS AS EARLY AS 2:30PM, NEXT TIME WE WILL DEFINITELY BE CHECKING OUR LUGGAGE, AND REMEMBER, IF YOU DO CARRY-ON USE THE 11" X 17" GUIDE, ALTHOUGH (AFTER MUCH REPACKING) MY 2 BIG BAGS WERE RIGHT AT 11" AND THEY COULD HAVE BEEN AND INCH BIGGER WITH NO PROBLEM! SO, DON'T STRESS OVER THIS, LIKE I DID! OVERALL THERE WAS A GOOD MIX OF PASSENGERS, NOT MANY ELDERS, NOT A WHOLE LOT OF KIDS, PRIMARILY PEOPLE 30-50, AND THERE WAS A WIDE RANGE OF SKINNY TO VERY HEAVY SET PEOPLE ABOARD, MY HUSBAND AND I ARE EACH ABOUT 100 LBS. OVERWEIGHT AND WE WERE VERY COMFORTABLE, ITS NOT ALL SPEEDO AND BIKINI CLAD BEAUTIFUL BODIES, OR BIG SCANTLY DRESSED MEN/WOMEN, SORRY NO OFFENSE TO ANYONE, JUST A GOOD MIX OF TASTEFULLY/RESPECTFULLY DRESSED PEOPLE, ALSO, CARNIVAL HAS NOTICEABLY GONE EXTRA LENGTHS TO MAKE SURE THE SEATING IS COMFORTABLE FOR ALL SIZES, THE CHAIRS ARE WIDE AND VERY STRONG, IN A LOT OF CASES ONLY HAVE A SIDE BAR/ARMREST ON ONE SIDE, LEAVING THE OTHER SIDE OPEN, FOR BEST COMFORT AND FIT. I WAS A LITTLE WORRIED ABOUT BEING COMFORTABLE IN THE CHAIRS AND THE LOUNGES, BUT THERE IS VERY ADEQUATE SEATING FOR ALL SHAPES, HEIGHTS AND SIZES! DON'T BE WORRIED ABOUT THAT! ALSO, I SELDOM SAW ANY LOUD PARTY-TYPES, OR KIDS RUNNING WILD OR ANYONE ANNOYING AT ALL! ALL THE GUESTS WERE FRIENDLY, TACTFUL, AND RESPECTFUL, BTW-I NEVER SAW ANYBODY SMOKING, NOT EVEN IN THE CASINO! THE SMOKING AREAS ARE VERY LIMITED AND A BIG SMOKER, LIKE MY DAD, WOULD PROBABLY BE ANNOYED BY THIS OR ALWAYS BE BREAKING THE RULES (SMOKING WHERE HE'S ISN'T SUPPOSED TO), I DON'T RECOMMEND THIS CRUISE FOR SMOKERS, I HAVE HEARD ROYAL CARIBBEAN IS MORE LAX ON THIS SUBJECT (AND THEY DO THE SAME 3 NIGHT AND 4 NIGHT CRUISES AS THE PARADISE) ENSENADA UNFORTUNATELY WE ONLY HAD ONE PORT OF CALL, IT WAS GREAT FUN, AND I CANT WAIT TO GO ON A LONGER CRUISE WITH MORE DESTINATIONS! THE SHORE EXCURSIONS SOLD ON THE BOAT ARE OVERPRICED! WE MISTAKENLY PURCHASED THE BLOWHOLE EXCURSION ON THE BOAT, AND GOT OFF EARLY TO SHOP THEN PLANNED ON COMING BACK TO THE PIER FOR OUR EXCURSION, BUT WHEN WE GOT ON THE SHUTTLE (THERE ARE TONS OF SHUTTLES WAITING TO TAKE YOU FROM THE PIER-ONLY $3 PER PERSON) THE TOUR GUIDE ON THE SHUTTLE OFFERED US 3 OF THE CARNIVAL EXCURSIONS WRAPPED INTO 1 FOR $12 PER PERSON INCLUDING LUNCH AT PAPPAS AND BEER! (KIDS 5 AND UNDER FREE) WE BLEW OFF THE CARNIVAL EXCURSION AND BOUGHT THIS TOUR. AND TO MY DELIGHT, CARNIVAL REFUNDED OUR MONEY FOR THE UNUSED TICKETS, MINUS A SMALL PENALTY FEE. THE BLOW HOLE TOUR "LA BUFADORA" WAS NICE, ITS A 30 MIN. DRIVE TO THE ATTRACTION, BUT THE TOUR GUIDE SPEAKS THE ENTIRE TIME, POINTING OUT AREAS OF ATTRACTION AND LITTLE KNOWN MEXICAN FACTS THAT IS ALL VERY INTERESTING, SHE WAS FUNNY, SWEET, PATIENT, ANSWERED LOTS OF QUESTIONS, VERY INFORMATIVE, (WE TIPPED HER $10 AT THE END OF THE DAY). THE BLOW HOLE ITSELF WAS COOL, NOT BREATHTAKING BUT, WORTH A LOOK AND SOME PICTURES, THE VIEW IS VERY NICE! BUT SAVE LOTS OF TIME TO SHOP AT THE FLEA MARKET, THIS IS LIKE AN OUTDOOR MALL, EVERYTHING IS NEW AND THIS IS THE BEST SOUVENIR SHOPPING YOU CAN FIND! BARGAIN, BARGAIN, BARGAIN! THEY JACK THE PRICE UP WAY HIGH, AND YOU OFFER THEM ONE THIRD OF THAT PRICE, THEY WILL GO DOWN A LITTLE, YOU GO UP A LITTLE, EVENTUALLY YOU SHOULD PAY NO MORE THAN HALF THE ASKING PRICE! I GOT A LOT OF DEALS FOR 1 THIRD THE ASKING PRICE! IF THEY WHINE THAT THEY AREN'T MAKING ANY MONEY, JUST START WALKING AWAY AND THEY WILL USUALLY COME AFTER YOU AND ACCEPT YOUR PRICE! DON'T ACT ALL THAT INTERESTED, EVEN IF YOU REALLY WANT IT! AND REMEMBER THEY SELL THE SAME THING AT LEAST 2 DIFFERENT VENDORS SO, TRY AGAIN SOMEWHERE ELSE FOR THE PRICE YOU WANT! OR IF THEY WONT BUDGE ON THE PRICE GET THEM TO THROW IN SOMETHING ELSE YOU LIKE, A MAGNET OR SOMETHING FOR THE SAME PRICE! I LOVED SHOPPING THIS WAY! IT IS SURPRISINGLY VERY UNCONFRONTATIONAL! THE ONLY GRIPE I HAD IS THAT THEY DON'T GIVE YOU ENOUGH TIME TO SHOP! GET BACK ON THE BUS FOR 30 MIN. TO THE PAPPAS AND BEER BUFFET! NOW, I DO NOT LIKE AUTHENTIC MEXICAN FOOD, I AM A TACO BELL GIRL, HAVING SAID THAT, I LOVED THIS BUFFET!!! CRUNCHY FRESH TOSTADAS, GREAT GUACAMOLE AND CHIPS, WONDERFUL REFRIED BEANS AND SPANISH RICE! EVEN THE FLAN WAS QUITE GOOD! WE ORDERED CANNED SODAS (DON'T DRINK THE WATER) BUT THEY WERE WARM AND WE HAD TO POUR THEM OVER ICE! (DIDN'T I JUST SAY DON'T DRINK THE WATER???) OH WELL, DIDN'T HAVE ANY STOMACH PROBLEMS DUE TO THIS OR THE FOOD! OUR FRIENDS DID SHOTS AND DRANK BEER AND SAID IT WAS ALL VERY GOOD! ALSO, THEY PLAYED LOUD, VERY WELL KNOWN AMERICAN RAP MUSIC WHILE WE ATE...COULDN'T REALLY HOLD A CONVERSATION, BUT THIS WAS A LOT OF FUN!!! EVERYBODY WAS DANCING IN THEIR SEATS AND SINGING ALONG! I LOVED IT! TO GET AWAY FROM THE MUSIC YOU CAN EAT OUTSIDE ON THE COVERED PATIO, MUCH MORE RELAXED. AFTER THIS, YOU GO SHOPPING UNTIL ITS TIME TO MEET THE BUS, AGAIN, NOT NEARLY ENOUGH TIME TO SHOP, BUT YOU CAN STAY LATER, AND TAKE A TAXI CAB BACK TO THE SHIP! ITS NOT VERY FAR AWAY! I DIDN'T REALLY CARE FOR THE SHOPS WE SAW, BUT WE ONLY WENT DOWN THE STREET FROM THE RESTRAINT, SO WE DIDN'T SEE THAT MANY SHOPS, NOT A LOT OF SOUVENIR TYPE STUFF, A LOT OF CLOTHING, SHOES, JEWELRY AND LIQUOR STORES. HOWEVER, IF YOU FORGOT TO BUY SOMETHING, THEY WILL HAVE IT BACK AT THE PIER, BUT NO NEGOTIATING THERE! BE PREPARED FOR A LITTLE HIGHER PRICING! WHEN/IF WE EVER GO BACK, WE WILL DEFINITELY RENT A GOLF CART AND/OR SCOOTERS TO GET AROUND THE CITY AND DO WHAT WE WANT WHEN WE WANT. ENSENADA WAS A LOT OF FUN, AND MUCH LESS POPULATED THAN TIJUANA, FELT SAFE THE ENTIRE TIME. BOOKING TIPS WE RESERVED THE GUARANTEED ROOM RATHER THAN PICKING A SPECIFIC ROOM AND WE WERE UPGRADED TO A HIGHER FLOOR (WOULD HAVE COST AN ADDITIONAL $20 PER PERSON), HOWEVER I WOULD NEVER PAY EXTRA FOR THIS, I DON'T THINK IT SAVES ANY TIME OR IS ANY BETTER TO BE ON A HIGHER FLOOR, WE EXPERIENCED NO NOISE, OR SLOW ELEVATORS, OR ANY INCONVENIENCES WHAT-SO-EVER! SO, SAVE THAT EXTRA MONEY FOR SPENDING ON YOUR CRUISE, ALL YOU NEED IS A CABIN AND THE CHEAPEST ONE IS MORE THAN ADEQUATE AND VERY COMFORTABLE! (AGAIN, JUST MY OPINION!) DEBARKATION MY EXPERIENCE MAY BE VERY DIFFERENT FROM OTHERS, BUT WE COULD HAVE GOTTEN OFF AS EARLY OR LATE AS WE WANTED. THIS MAY BE BAD ADVICE, BUT DON'T BOTHER WAITING FOR YOUR COLOR TO BE CALLED, JUST GO UP WHEN YOU ARE READY (AFTER BREAKFAST, OR FIRST THING IN THE MORNING IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE SHIP CLEARS CUSTOMS-APPROX. 7:30AM) I NEVER SAW ANY LUGGAGE TAG BEING CHECKED FOR THE COLOR!!! THEY LINE YOU UP IN INCREDIBLY LONG LINES THAT WRAP AROUND THE SHIPS NARROW HALLWAYS AND YOU WAIT, HOWEVER THE LINE DID MOVE SURPRISINGLY FAST! IT IS THE CUSTOMS LINE THAT SEEMS TO TAKE FOREVER! BUT THEY DON'T EVEN CHECK YOUR LUGGAGE! JUST FILL OUT THE SIMPLE DECLARATION FORM AND HAVE IT READY WITH YOUR IMMIGRATION PAPERWORK/PASSPORT AND SAIL AND SIGN CARD, THIS MAKES IT FASTER! FOR U.S. CITIZENS, THIS PROCESS IS VERY FAST, ONCE YOU GET UP TO THE COUNTER...THERE WERE A LOT OF NON-U.S. CITIZENS AND ALIENS WITH GREEN CARDS ON OUR CRUISE, WHICH ALWAYS TOOK LONGER. YOU ARE MORE THAN WELCOME TO EMAIL ME WITH QUESTIONS, AND WITHIN A WEEK OR SO, I WILL HAVE MY PICTURES ON THE OFOTO WEBSITE, JUST EMAIL ME IF YOU WANT TO VIEW THEM, THERE ARE SEVERAL DETAILED PICS OF DIFFERENT AREAS OF THE SHIP AND THE GALA BUFFET, ETC. THE PROS ARE WAY TOO LONG TO LIST, SO I WILL ONLY LIST THE CONS (NOT MANY) CONS: 1 - NO WASHCLOTHS??? ARE THEY SERIOUS?, OH WELL JUST BRING ONE! 2 - THE HOURS OF THE GIFT SHOPS, CASINO, PHOTO GALLERY AND SERVICE DESKS ARE PRETTY RIDICULOUS, LIKE 6PM TO 7PM, THAT'S IT! WAS AT DINNER THE WHOLE TIME! ANYWAYS, ON THE FUN DAY AT SEA MOST THINGS ARE OPEN ALL DAY, BUT THEY DON'T OPEN AS EARLY AS I HOPED...IF THERE IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO DO, CHECK YOUR CARNIVAL CAPERS (THE SHIP'S DAILY NEWSLETTER-VERY HELPFUL AND INFORMATIVE!!!) 3 - POOL WATER IS WAY TOO COLD!!! AND IT IS SEAWATER, YUCK! IF YOU HAVE NEVER CRUISED BEFORE, TRY IT! YOU WILL ENJOY IT! EVERYONE SHOULD EXPERIENCE THIS AT LEAST ONCE!   

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By _CR

  • New

Oct 10, 2004

Mexico

First Cruise for my wife and I and it was everything we expected. The service, food, entertainment, etc. was all terrific. We don't think there is a better value for your money! The Four day cruise was just long enough to relax and get awayt from everyday life for awhile. The ship was clean and while we where in our cabin we were very comfortable. I highly recommend an ocean view cabin however because the view was breathtaking.

    

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By _CR

  • New

Oct 7, 2004

Mexico

This was one of the first cruises of the previously smoke-free Paradise since its move to California from Miami. Smoking is now allowed, but only in a very few limited areas, the casino, one bar and on the pool deck. Smoking in staterooms is still prohibited. Nobody seemed to mind. The stateroom steward said she'd "turn her head" if we wished to smoke in our cabin.   Embarkation and debarkation procedures were efficient

and the shore personnel were friendly and courteous. Staterooms were spacious, although mine, all the way forward on the "Main" deck, was extremely noisy when the ship was maneuvering in port in the early AM hours due to the forward thrusters operating. I'm sure it would have been equally noisy had the anchor been deployed. Stateroom service was exemplary and usually invisible, as it should be. The staterooms themselves, even our cheap "inside" cabin, were spacious and comfortable. There was a complimentary basket of shampoo, razors, etc in each bath. These three-day cruises are usually populated by a younger and sadly, often more drunken crowd, and the first day there were several loud and obnoxious groups whooping it up on deck, making it difficult to hear yourself talk to the person next to you on the pool deck. The deck waiters seemed to encourage the sale of more and more "buckets" of beer and there was no effort made to control the groups often foul language, despite the p[resence of many children in the immediate area. Dining room food on the Paradise was up to Carnival standards, but certainly nothing to rave about. I found most of the beef dishes were a bit tough but the fish and chicken were excellent. The lobster was average. Not much imagination in the food overall, and they seemed to stick to the old standards. The Lido's informal dining was uninspired, although they did have some excellent and imaginative salads, especially the seafood salads. There was a "lo-cal" dessert selection on the Lido, as well as a pretty good pizza bar thatv was always open. Our dining room waiter was a Turkish fellow, a little aloof, but efficient. His assistant made up for him in the personality department. The wine service was good. One of our table mates brought a bottle "Two-Buck Chuck" wine and they did the whole wine ceremony for it as if it was '78 Chateau Neuf. Overall though, Carnival seems to have let the staff get a little bland- they used to be much more friendly and outgoing, but maybe it was a function of the short duration of the cruise. There was not so much in the way of deck entertainment, and the Caribbean band was rarely on stage around the pool. When they were, they played the Bob Marley songbook...also not very imaginative or personable- just journeyman music makers. I think the raised stage area makes them interact less directly with the passewngers. The Carnival "background music" on deck used to be pleasant oldies or something of that ilk- maybe a little country, but this time it was non-stop hip-hop, noisy and annoying. Yeah, I know- "What does this old man know about music?" Well- I'd prefer something with more general appeal. The only port on this cruise, Ensenada, Mexico, offers little in the way of sightseeing. Most of the tours were solely for the purpose of directing you to the favored shoppng places- so what's new? Some friends and I spent a few hours walking around town, and had a couple of beers at a nice sidewalk cafe called La Tortuga on the main drag. Shopping was for the same stuff they've been selling in Mexico for thirty years- have they no sense of innovation at all? The $3 shuttle from the pier takes you to town the long way so the "guide" has time to finish her spiel about why you should take their shuttle from town down to the "Blow Hole" (LaBufadora) for another $12 a head. It's an interesting trip if you've never been to Ensenada before. The bars and shows aboard were all standard Carnival fare, glitzy and loud. The stage shows were "Vegas style" and some of the singers and dancers were quite good, especially one young woman who did a very convincing Tina Turner routine. The casino was pretty loose and was generally well attended. All in all, a successful cruise for a short weekend break with a sometimes rowdy young crowd. Perfect for you "party animals".     

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By _CR

  • New

Aug 21, 2004

Western Caribbean

Embarkation: Soooo smooth. My husband and I were completely shocked by how organized this process was. Although there was a line, Carnival had a lot of staff to move us through. Try to have your paperwork completed ahead of time, this speeds things up. After you sign-in you go to another area to pick up your "Sign and Sail" card. This is your ship credit card and room key. Then you're off to get a photo taken (you will have

your picture taken 100 times during the week) and finally you can board. We were on by 12:15. imaculate! Someone is always cleaning or painting. They do a fabulous job maintaining the cleanliness. Let's see what the reviews are like once guests are permitted to smoke on board. Having the ship be non-smoking was just wonderful. Hopefully Carnival will designante another ship as smokefree. The pools were disappointing. They are small and since my ship was filled to capacity, it was nearly impossible to get to the pool. I prefer a more quiet atmosphere for reading and sunbathing and although our ship was sold-out and there were tons of kids, I always managed to find a quiter spot. There is always the topless sunbathing deck. No matter where you are on the ship, Carnival staff are always trying to sell you something and this became annoying. On the decks they want to sell you drinks and inside they want to take your picture. The good thing about the photography is that you can have your picture taken as many times as you would like and you are not obligated to buy them. Accommodations: We were pleasantly surprised by our cabin. It was larger than we anticipated. We had a queen bed and a room with a window. Next time we will get a room with a balcony since it's annoying to have to stroll down several hallways to get fresh air outside. The housekeeping was terrific and we loved the turn down service and towel animals. I slept the BEST I have ever slept in my life while I was on the ship. If you are sensitive to noise as I am, bring earlplugs and/or a sound machine with you. The walls are thin and you will hear a lot of doors slamming shut. Since our ship was full, there were often lots of people to walk around. This could be annoying, especially when people don't move out of your way (you know who you are). Food: For my husband and me, two health conscious people, we were disappointed by the food and the dining options. The brochure makes it sound as though all of the restaurants and buffets are open all the time. They are not. The Paris Grill is outside near the pool. That was open the most but in our opinion it was like eating college dorm food. If you like mass-produced hamburgers, hotdogs and other fast food, you will like this. The good thing about this grill is they have water, lemonade, orange juice, ice tea, and fruit punch dispensers that you can use anytime for free. Sodas are $3.00. Inside at the Paris Restaraunt there is a hot food buffet and a salad bar. The hot food buffet was also like dorm food and the salad bar was mediocre. This restaraunt does not open after lunch until 6pm which stinks when you get back from an excursion at 3:30 and are starving. The 24-7 ice cream and frozen yogurt machines and pizza are here too. I thought the pizza was pretty bad. There were always lines for any of the buffets. The dinners served in the dining room were the best food on the ship. There's a variety to choose from and if you don't want anything on the menu, they try to accomodate you. If you don't like what you ordered, they'll bring you something else. The desserts at the beginning of the week were incredible. Several of us at the table ordered one of each so we could taste everything. An interesting thing happened, by the fourth night, our waiter no longer brough us a dessert menu. We don't know if the ship ran out of certain desserts or if this was normal procedure. He brought us an awful looking, smelling, and tasting soufle the last night and we all asked for chocolate cake which he managed to provide. On mornings when we docked early and had an excursion to get to we had room service bring breakfast. The servings are small so be prepared to order two fresh fruit dishes for one person. Even the dinners were small. The sushi bar opens at 5:30, if it opens on time. There is one sushi Chef and tons of customers. There was always a line. Either get there early or closer to the time it closes (8:30). The really need more help at the sushi bar. Consider bringing a case of bottled water in a suitcase. They charge a fortune for bottled water and then you will have an extra suitcase for souvinears. Entertainment: the shows were surprisingly good. The Paradise dancers and singers are really talented. The comedians were good too. The juggler was talented but his delivery was awful and I felt embarassed for him at times! Bingo is okay. I think it was $7 per card or 3 cards for $20. There is only one winner per game so it's not that exciting and goes quickly. The Newly Wed Not-So-Newly-Wed game was hilarious. The games on the deck by the pool are pretty lame. It's hard to hear the announcer and there are no prizes. Fitness Center: they have a decent selection of equipment but it was so hot in there that working out was not fun. The group fitness classes are not scheduled at the greatest times and they have the nerve to charge for classes such as yoga and pilates. I found the fitness center director to be rude. They misprinted in the daily newsletter called the Carnival Caper, the yoga schedule for one day. It said 5:15 but was not until 6 and she didn't even apologize. Spa: I didn't use the ships spa, it was really, really overpriced. Even though the costs of treatments decrease over the week, it's still expensive. Ports / Shore Excursions: To save money and have smaller tours, BOOK YOUR TOURS YOURSELF ON LINE BEFORE YOUR CRUISE. Carnival might tell you not to, they might use a scare tactic such as "we don't wait for people to return from their excursions if they book them privatley." You are always back in plenty of time and when the Carnival Caper says they are leaving a port a 5pm, they don't leave until 6 or 6:30pm. We liked the ports of call but wish we had more time at each of them. We often felt incredibly rushed. The only day we didn't feel rushed was our last port of Grand Caymen. Most days you have to board the ship by 5, but in Grand Caymen it wasn't until 10:30. Be prepared Belize City: we booked our cave tubing through Reggies. Our tour had 10 people on it and two tour guides. The ships cave tubing had a busload of people and one tour guide. Email Reggie at: regtour@btl.net. The actual cave tubing was okay. Some parts were more exciting than others. I wouldn't do it on another visit to Belize but think you should do it at least once. It was slightly too long, but still worth it. On the return trip to the boat, our toar guides brought us to a local restaraunt for some native food. It was awesome. Rhoutan Honduras: we had such a special day here. My husband and I wanted a spa day. We went to the Santa Wellness Center and Spa ( http://www.santewellnesscenter.com/). The owner Angela, picked us up at port and then drove us through gorgeous scenery and rolling hills. After a 30 minute drive we parked the car and took a 5 minute boat ride to her amazing house. The downstairs is the spa and she and her husband live upstairs. They are from San Franscisco and retired in Honduras. My husband and I were the only guests that day and had the place to ourselves. We hung out in the pool, looked at their parrots and at song birds, pet their dogs, napped in hammocks, and of course, had fabulous spa treatments. I had a one hour facial and one hour massage for a grand total of $75! She is extremly reasonable with her prices. For an extra $5 we had a lovely continental breakfast with fresh muffins, bagels, and fruit. The property is on the water and they have snorkel equipment and a kayak for guests to use. The snorkeling was GORGEOUS although a bit shallow. I ran up against some coral and had a bit of a skin reaction, while my husband was stung by a jelly fish. Angela, her husband, and their staff were so warm, friendly, and welcoming. I highly recommend spending the day with them. Honduras was beautiful and I would like to spend more time there. Grand Caymen: We spent the morning at a local free beach. Some beaches charge an admittance fee while others do not. Then we went to stingray city and snorkeling through Captain Bryans (http://caymanislandsdiscounts.com/CaptainBryan.htm). My husband loved stingray city, I thought the creatures were creepy. The water is magnificant, clear, and a lovely color blue. The snorkeling was just okay. I've done better snorkeling. We were pleasantly surprised by what great pictures our disposable underwater cameras took. Buy this ahead of time as the ship charges a fortune for them. Unlike other snorkel trips I've been on, this trip didn't play any caribbean music or serve rum punch. Cozumel: this was a great port! We began with horseback riding which was okay. The tour company who I will not refer you to said we would first ride through a jungle, then along the beach. Their jungle is the equivalent to a dirt path in the woods. It was nothing to get excited about and the only interesting wildlife I saw were a variety of butterflies. The trail was actually very polluted with garbage. Once we got back to town we had lunch at Pancho's Backyard. It was delicious and the atmoshphere was fabulous. The building is stucco and open in its design. There is beautiful tiled floors and a meriache band played. Oh, and the bathrooms were immaculate. I went twice and both times someone was there cleaning them. After lunch we walked around a lot. It was very hot. Make sure to wear a hat, wear sunblock and bring bottled water. At the last minute we decided to sign up for a sunset snorkel trip. We signed up with the dive shop located on the second floor of the mall near the port. This was the type of snorkel trip I was looking for. We went out on a glass bottom boat and the crew fed us drinks (bottled water, soda, and Corona). They blasted really fun music and got us excited to snorkel. The two spots they took us to were great. Full of tons and tons of different fish and live coral. The equipment they loaned us was good (I brough alcohol swabs with me to clean the mouthpieces before we used them). It was a great time. So overall it was a great trip. This was the most relazing vacation I have ever had. After a few days I felt as though I had been away for two weeks. My biggest complaing or disappointment were: the lines for buffets and the quality and variety of food available at the buffets. I hardly noticed the boat rocking and don't know anyone who got sea sick. consider renting a car   

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By _CR

  • New

May 29, 2004

Western Caribbean

My husband and teenage children 17, & 15 along with their (2) friends accompanied us on the Western Carribean cruise to: Belize, Roatan Honduras, Grand Cayman & Cozumel. Our family did these destinations 2 years ago, however, we were on the NCL Sun. This was our first time cruising with Carnival. Let me first start with the ship itself. It was smaller than previous ships we have been on, however, it was less crowded due to

it being a non-smoking ship. I was ecstatic that there was no-smoking on the ship! The crew was extremely friendly, and the rooms were very spacious compared to the NCL. You had 2 closets and plenty of space for storage! My husband and I had M50, which was an outside cabin with an ocean view(towards the front of the ship). My kids and their friends had M44, which was an inside cabin. If you don’t like a lot of motion and noise (you could hear anchor going down) I would suggest being in the middle of the ship. We felt a lot of motion and everyone in our party, with the exception of myself got sea-sick even on dramamine! Food and Dining: We had the late seating 8:30pm in the Elation room and Ingrid our head waitress was extremely friendly. We purchased soda cards for the teens ($28.00 pp) and we found that the bar waitress was less than efficient bringing the kids their drinks (we had them delivered to them one night after their meal!). Having the late seating was the worst as we often missed shows. The food was good only once, and that was during the formal night. We had lobster and it was wonderful. However, we all agreed that the food in the buffet area was good and we didn’t have to wait until 8:30pm to eat. Out of 7 nights on the cruise, we ate at the dining area only 4- we skipped the other formal night as the kids were not keen on dressing up again. After cruising with NCL where you can dine at 7 different restaurants at anytime, we were in agreement that we would never cruise again on a ship that had assigned seating. Some people might enjoy it, however, for our family it didn’t work. Excursions: Belize: Our first stop was Belize which was so beautiful! We did the ship’s tour to Goffs Caye which was an island in the middle of the ocean! Our family enjoys snorkeling, so we snorkeled and the coral was just breath taking! We went then to Goffs Caye Island and had lunch and enjoyed the sun and water. However, in order to sit on a chair, you have to rent one for $2.00 per chair. The food was reasonable -approx $6.00 for a chicken dinner. We then went to town for some shopping. If you go outside the gates, you can barter and get some great deals! Roatan, Honduras: We hired a guide from reading several cruise reviews named Victor Bodden. His email address is: victorbodden@yahoo.com. Victor was there when we docked and had a sign with my name on it waiting for our family. He only charged $20 pp since we had 6 people. He normally only charges $25 pp which is extremely reasonable! He took us on a tour first of the East side of the Island. We saw sunken ships, breathtaking views atop of a mountain, a fishing village, and took us to an Iguana Farm that was something the kids enjoyed! The cost to get in there is only $5 pp. The iguanas are very tame and you can feed them, pet them or in my case, just take pictures of them! Victor told us a lot about the culture there, and gave us a history lesson on the country. He has never left the country and is very proud of it as well. We then went to the West end of the island , which by far is the prettiest! The guys wanted to snorkel, so he took them to an area that was great for snorkeling. The girls and I went shopping in the village and got some fantastic deals as the people will barter with you. We ate at the Cannibal Café and the food was great!! The last thing we did was do a Canopy Tour that I highly recommend and feel this was the highlight of the entire tour. It opened up only a few months ago and you are attached to a pulley/harness and zipcord thru the rainforest. It takes approximately 30 minutes and it ends on the Beach. This is definitely a must do if you come to Roatan! Just note..,The cost is $35 pp Victor will tailor-make your excursion to what you want to do. I had told him we wanted a tour of the island, snorkel and shop - we got more than we asked for and couldn’t have been happier with Victor! He is very honest, proud of his country and enjoyed seeing our faces light up when we saw the beauty around us! Roatan was our favorite destination of the whole trip! Victor was the reason why. If I ever come back, I will use Victor again! Please email to reserve your tour. Grand Cayman: We booked our tour with: Captain Marvin’s which is approx 2 blocks from the dock going to your left when you leave the docks. We have used them before and they took us to (3) different snorkel areas ending up in Stingray Alley. Captain Marvins costs $34pp for a 3 hour tour. Well worth it since you get (3) stops in all! A secret when tendering. The Carnival asks that you get tender tickets - don’t bother, when they call for #1, immediately go as they don’t check your stickers! Otherwise, you can wait up to 2 hours just to get off the boat! Just an fyi.... Cozumel: We did the ship’s excursion to: xcaret, which is a 40 minute ferry from Cozumel to Playa Del Carmen then a 15 minute bus trip to xcaret. Xcaret is a park which is a combination of a zoo, mayan ruins. Dolphin encounter and resort all in one. I wish we had more time there as it is a 7 hour excursion and that included your travel. I would definitely like to go back and visit there as it was the prettiest park I have ever gone to in my life! My kids went snorkeling, while I laid out and had cabana men bring me drinks! I only wish we had more time to shop as the excursion was so long, we had about an hour to shop once we were back in Cozumel. Summary: All in all, it was a wonderful time, I won’t sail with Carnival again, however, we had a great time! Getting off the ship was hassle free and I hope this review helped!!  

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By _CR

  • New

May 15, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was my fourth cruise but my first on Carnival and I absolutely loved it. The smoke free environment was wonderful and I am disapointed that Carnival is eliminating this option. I wanted to address some of the comments about this ship that I have read on this site and others: I found the food to be excellent and plentiful.Anyone who thinks that they are going to get gourmet food on a ship with 2000+ passengers is crazy...They

should book a Crystal cruise at five times the price. Embarkation and debarkation was a breeze...From the time we left the ship,gathered our luggage, cleared customs and were on the bus heading to the airport a sum total of 10-15 minutes had passed. I have read that this is a boring ship and there is no nightlife - I don't know what cruise these people took but on my cruise the bars were hopping at night - there were people everywhere having a good time. I really think for the price that this cruise is a very good value.If people would lighten up a little and not get upset about small problems I think they would enjoy their vacations more.    

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By _CR

  • New

May 8, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

I LOVED this ship!! My mother has cruised many times and recommended I take one with my friends. We had a blast!! I cannot stress how great the non-smoking atmosphere was, it's a shame the policy is changing in September :( The ship is still very clean and new-looking, considering she is 6 years old. We enjoyed exploring the ship and will look forward to exploring the larger ships carnival has to offer on our next cruise. The staff

were amazing! From our Maitre'D, waiters, drink-bringers, to the captain and cruise director, everyone we met was unforgettable! And the entertainment was awesome! This cruise will certainly be a benchmark to live up to, but we're looking forward to it!!    

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By _CR

  • New

Apr 24, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

Embarkation – Went very smoothly – we arrived at approximately 12:15 and after completing paper work were able to board immediately (we were told the ship opened for boarding at approximately 11:00). It is very helpful to have as much paperwork completed prior to arrival. Our room was ready so we were able to drop off our carry-on items. We went to the Paris Restaurant for lunch. They present a nice selection of hot buffet items,

a salad bar and a salad special of the day. The 24-hour pizza and ice cream are also located in the Paris restaurant. The pizza selection and quality were excellent. Ship – We found the ship to be very well laid out. It is not overly big where you cannot find your way around. The non-smoking feature is a real benefit of the ship. It is a shame that they are doing away with this. The pool is relatively small but was never very crowded. The winding slide is a big hit on the ship as everyone tries to out do the others with their yells and splashes. There also was never a shortage of lounge chairs, although sometimes you had to search a bit. I recommend taking a chair outside the main area and sit next to the rail. It is very calming to watch the ocean go by. There is a moderate size casino, situated in the middle of the ship so as to guarantee you will pass it numerous times throughout the day. There was never difficulty getting to play at a table. Accommodations – We were situated in an outside cabin on the Main deck (Level 4). We had hoped for an upgrade to a higher deck since we had booked early and saw advertised specials offering 4 level upgrades after we had booked. We were pleasantly surprised with the size of the room, especially for 4 people. Two bunk beds come out of the wall. Each night the steward would put them down and put up the ladders. Each morning he would replace them. We saw very little of our room steward (in fact did not know who he was until the 4th day). New towels were provided multiple times during the day, chocolates were placed on the pillows each night and different towel animals were made each night, which the kids loved. Food – We ate in the Elation dining room during the early seating (6:15). The time worked out fairly well since it wasn’t too late for the kids however at times we felt a bit rushed coming back from port or sitting by the pool since four of us had to shower and change. The food was much better than we expected. There are many selections of appetizers, entrees and desserts to choose from each night. I thought the quality and taste were excellent. The wait staff is very accommodating. Our waiter, Baris was terrific. He would bring multiple dishes if we wished to try more than one thing. In fact one night I liked one of the appetizers so much he brought me three of them (they were small portions). He was also extremely accommodating to our children. My younger daughter has a very limited selection of things she will eat. Most nights she ate off of the children’s menu (standard fare – chicken nuggets, hamburgers, mac and cheese, etc.). We had mentioned to our waiter that she like 3 kinds of fruit – strawberries, pears and grapes. Every night there was a beautiful fruit platter made up just for her. For my older daughter Baris would cut her steak for her. Entertainment – There are two major productions during the cruise. We liked the second show much better than the first. It is very important to get to the theatre as early as possible and try to sit on the first level. There are a large number of obstructed review seats. There are bingo games and other activities that we did not really partake in. Fitness Center – I went to the fitness center twice during the cruise. There is a good selection of equipment. I rode the treadmill – the view is of the ocean – this tends to get very monotonous after a while. In addition, it gets hot in the workout room – they have fans blowing but they do not help a lot. There is also a track on the top deck (11 laps to a mile). It is comfortable to run on but gets very hot, quickly. Spa – My wife enjoyed the spa. She had read an article prior to cruising that she should sign up for a massage as soon as she boarded the boat. She did this only to find that prices continue to drop during the week for Spa services. She was able to get a free foot massage by complaining. I recommend waiting for the specials to be announced during the week Ports / Shore Excursions – We enjoyed the 3 ports very much. The only negative comment we had was that we felt that a bit more time should be allowed in port. Nassau – We chose to go out on our own and it was very easy. We grabbed a taxi right outside from where the ship docked to the Atlantis Hotel. It is not to be missed. For a family of 4 it would have cost $100 to go on the aquarium tour. For no cost you can view the aquarium from the inside of one of the restaurants. Just walk through the casino and then down the stairs of the restaurant. From there we walked a short distance to a public beach that is free. We were still able to use bathrooms at the next-door hotel. La Romana, Domincan Republic – Since we did not have a good plan to strike out on our own we chose to take a shore excursion. We went on the Sugarcane Plantation Tour. We drove about 30 minutes in an open-air jeep to a sugar plantation. The tour guides cut off pieces of sugar cane that we all were able to eat. Alcoholic drinks were also served. We also visited a “typical” plantation home to see how locals live. We then stopped in a craft / souvenir center to do some shopping – the prices appeared to be high and geared especially to the tour buses that pass by on the road. Our last stop was a restaurant by the Chaco River to sample local fruits. We were led to believe by the brochure that we would be going to an actual fruit plantation so we were somewhat disappointed. After returning to the ship for lunch we tried to strike our on our own for town. The walk appeared dangerous (crossing a baseball field and through streets). We chose to turn around and enjoy some more pool time instead. St. Thomas – Again we chose to go out on our own and had a great time. We took a taxi to the Red Hook Ferry Terminal. Ferries run every hour to St. John. The boat ride is about 30 minutes and is very beautiful. When we arrived in St. John we took another taxi to Trunk Bay. This is rated one of the nicest beaches in the world and I can definitely see why. The beach had white sand, calm, turquoise water and excellent facilities. They will rent snorkeling equipment. There is an underwater trail explaining much of what you see. After returning to our ship we went shopping at the duty free shopping mall right next to the dock. I believe almost all of the shops that are located in downtown have an outlet in this mall so it makes it very easy to shop. I think the duty free prices in St. Thomas are amongst the best anywhere. Liquor prices are between 30 – 50% less than in the US. Camp Carnival – Camp Carnival is great. The kids loved it. My older daughter was in the 9-11 group. She met some very nice kids who she spent much of the cruise with. In addition since she was old enough she was able to sign herself in and out of camp when she wanted. She loved this freedom. In fact toward the end of the cruise she did not want to eat meals with us for fear of missing an activity. It is important to set the ground rules for the kids before they start camp. My younger daughter had mixed impressions about camp. She fell a few months shy of being in the older group (6-8) therefore she was in a group with 2-5 year olds. My daughter found many of the activities the group did to be boring or babyish. I would have preferred an older age group, which she could participate with. In addition, this age group does not go outside for activities although I took her out often to go swimming. I was extremely impressed with the security process. You are given a beeper at the beginning of the cruise and must sign your child in/out each time. The counselors are wonderful and you can see how much they enjoy being with kids. I am glad we went on an off week since there were only 150 children on our cruise. We heard that the week before for Spring Break there were over 700 children. Disembarkation – There are basically three different options to disembark from the boat. If you are in a real hurry you can opt for express departure for which you need to carry all of your own luggage. Next is early departure, which we chose. You can still have your luggage taken the night before but you get to depart first if you should have an early flight. Remaining passengers leave according to when their floor is called. The process goes very smoothly – you leave the ship, all luggage is color coded and waiting for you to pick up. We got through so fast we did not actually need the early departure (we arrived at the airport over 3 hours before our flight).    

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By _CR

  • New

Apr 24, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

This was our second cruise in six years and was far better than our first. First, sailing on a non-smoking ship is wonderful!! It was great not having to launder all my clothes, including the unused ones, at the end of the trip. The first cruise had started out well but soon went from bad to worse for me. Stablizers my eye! I spent the last two days of my short cruise seasick in bed. The last night of the cruise, so many were sick the

the ship virtually shut down at 8 o'clock (even the casino). To be fair, it was January and we were in the Pacific Ocean. I had seasickness for over a week following the trip. So you can imagine when my husband suggested a second trip for our 25th anniversary. He wooed me with the Carribean, which is calmer. Our honeymoon had been to St. Thomas and WDW. So, off to the doctor I went and got the "patch". It worked well (except for a dry mouth)until I removed it at the end of the trip. That's when I found out, that, in rare cases, some people (me) have withdrawal 24-48 hrs after removing the patch. So I had dizziness for the next 9 days of our trip, AFTER the cruise. As I said, the trip was great. We were seated this trip with enjoyable couples celebrating long term marriages. Our waiter and his assistant were wonderful and it was great to have meals in reasonable portions that allowed us to desire and enjoy dessert. I enjoyed most all of my choices and was glad I went against one particular fish entree that wasn't a "hit". All in all, the food was a highlight of the trip. We had an outside cabin on the Empress deck toward the center of the ship. It was very close to the elevators and only a flight down from our dining room. Our cabin stewart was like a ghost and our cabin kept immaculate. Our experiences by the pool did not go well as it was too hot to lay out and shade was short. Probably went too late in the season. We went on shore tours at each stop. In the Bahamas, we chose the Pearl Island Snorkeling tour. The woman running the tour treated the large group like five year olds and kept yelling into the mike. She was a real "character". We had a nice time but getting into and out of the ocean for snorkeling was difficult. I was a bit worried about even getting off the ship in the Dominican Republic as there are State Dept. travel warnings in effect there. We docked in La Romana, which is somewhat away from things. We decided to take the Catalina Island Beach Break and had a great time. There was a small, so-so snorkeling area, but the water was perfect and the swim was well worth the trip. There were plenty of beach lounges and palm trees for shade. Best shore tour of our trip (warning: the beach had topless bathers). Our final shore tour was to St John, Trunk Bay Beach and Snorkel. The snorkeling was great but, unfortunately, the the wind was up and the sand was blowing so sitting on the beach was uncomfortable. Again, the water was great. I was glad that we had gotten a burger at the park stand there before going out to the beach as the sand got into everything. The stand has a nice eating area back off the beach in the trees. It was a good choice for a tour but would be better with slightly less wind. We were disappointed to hear that we had to go through customs in St. Thomas instead of back in Miami. It really cut into our time. Then, to top it off, it was Carnival in St. Thomas and it took over an hour to get back to the ship (3 miles)for our tour as practically the whole island popualation was in Charlotte Amalie. I was especially disappointed as we had spent a week in St. Thomas while our honeymoon 25 yrs. ago. Also, because so many cars were parked on the small streets, many businesses had to wait until the cars were towed to be able to get their doors open (most businesses have large storm doors that open toward the street.) As a result, we didn't have enough time to do all we would have liked. I am disappointed that Carnival Cruises is most likely changing this to a smoking ship next fall. I can't say enough about the non-smoking atmosphere. It has no effect on how much I drink. I would drink the same amount on a smoking ship because I DON'T SMOKE! So their loss of revenue due to selling fewer drinks theory does not hold water. I'd just be on a smoking ship not enjoying myself as much. As a last note, take my advice, if you take a cruise in conjuction with a trip to Walt Disney World, take the cruise at the END of your vacation. You'll need the rest and won't be dizzy when you go to the amusement parks.    

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By _CR

  • New

Apr 24, 2004

Western Caribbean

2nd Cruise for myself and husband. 1st Cruise for three daughters (teens) Good time was had by all. A different experience for us, since last time we went by ourselves. Bringing the kids had advantages and disadvantages, but was a great experience for our family. Embarkation (Sunday): We stayed the night before in a Best Western hotel and arrived by Taxi around 11:30 am. We had NO problems getting on board and it seemed very

fast - maybe half an hour. The ship looked great. It is not as big as some of the others, but had everything that was needed and more. It is an impressive looking ship. Very clean and has been well maintained. The Atrium is awesome. Rooms: We had two inside rooms booked and that is what we got. They were both the same and had ample room. We put three girls into one room and they had two lower and two upper beds. (used only one upper). They thought it was great. The bathroom is basic has shower, sink and toilet. Shower has shampoo and body wash only - no conditioner, so bring some. It did not have a blow dryer or robes. There is a small basket of 'goodies' for you - containing sample sized shampoo/conditoner/gel, Tylenol PM, mens and ladies razors, Rolaids, cream, and a couple of other things. We had our two beds made into one and there was a 'hump' in the middle. Bed was okay, not best or worst I have slept in. We were on Riviera Deck (4) which is LOW, so we did hear a few clunks and bumps during night from below but nothing that was too disturbing to us. We had put two bottles of liquor into our checked bags and received them with no problems. Dining: I had originally booked the late seating, which turns out was 8:00 pm in the Destiny Dining room. I figured it would give us plenty of time to do our 'daytime' stuff and then have a lots of time to get ready for dinner. Everyone in my family objected to the late time, so we changed it and got the 5:45 in Destiny. We usually eat around 6:30 or 7:00 pm so I thought we might not like it. As it turns out it was fine. We usually arrived around 6:00 and that was okay. Our servers, Enny and Lady were wonderful. We loved them. They learned our names right away and figured out our preferences. They treated us royally. All of the meals we had were great. Plenty of choices and if you wanted more than one choice - go for it! On a couple of occasions the girls ordered something they had not tried before. If they did not like it, it was no problem to have another choice brought to them. Most nights there was usually a choice of: Pasta dish, Poultry dish, Beef dish, Seafood or Fish and a Vegetarian. All were very nicely presented and it is a good opportunity to try something different. Good dessert selection too. Port days: We had five people so going on an Excursion through the ship was very expensive. We decided to do all our port days on our own. All were planned ahead and organized via Internet, etc. You must always ensure you plan to be back to the ship with PLENTY of time if you are on your own because they will not wait for you. With a little pre-planning this is not a problem. Nassau (Monday): There was not a whole lot that we found of interest to do here on our own. We decided to take a water taxi over to Paradise Island ($3 pp one way). It was easy to find right near where the ship docks. We wanted to see Atlantis so we walked from where taxi docked to the hotel. About 15 minutes. Paradise Island is very built up and wealthy. Atlantis is awesome. We walked in and around the hotel to see what would could for free. There is a walkway around most of the outside of the building and the upper part of the aquarium on the far side. Inside by the diningroom area we found the 'free' part of the inside aquarium. Very interesting. We had no idea where we were going and just kept walking to see different things. Lots of shops inside but they looked expensive. We had considered going to Cabbage Beach after Atlantis, but we were all getting too hot and tired, so decided to head back over for some shopping in Nassau and back to ship. Departure is at 2:30 pm so you do not really have a whole lot of time. This is also the first formal night so we wanted time to have a quick light lunch and relax before dinner. We all 'dressed' for dinner. You can wear whatever you want because the 'formal' part is optional. My husband just wore dress pants, shirt and tie (no jacket). The girls wore dress or skirts. (we did not go for the "ball gowns and tuxedo's" - but you can if you like and plenty did) At Sea (Tuesday, Friday, Saturday): All of the Sea Days were much the same. There were inside activities planned (Bingo, Talks, Auctions, Spa) and outside activities by the pool on Lido deck. In my mind not a 'whole lot' of things to do outside. But if you read your Carnival Capers you can usually find something to do, or not, if you would rather relax on deck. Chairs are a bit hard to get. Good ones go early, but we always found somewhere if we needed to. La Romana, D.R. (Wednesday): We had arranged to have a private tour with Rafael Silva Taxi service. This was done over the internet prior to arriving. We do not speak Spanish and their driver's do not speak English so we were a bit concerned. I arranged with the Taxi company to have an itinerary with times on it so we would know what to expect. We visited: the town of La Romana (not really a whole lot that was of interest). A lot of locals hanging around and stores did not seem very nice. Might have been different if we spoke the language. Our Driver took us to one touristy type store. They were very nice and we bought a couple of things. Second stop (after about ½ hour drive) was Cuevas de la Maraveillas or the Caves of Wonder. This is a government run Cave site. Very nice and it has been fixed up very professionally. It is a guided tour and takes about 45 minutes. Next we drove back across La Romana to the other side to Alto de Chavon. Lots has been written about this. We found it interesting and beautiful but it was very hot and we wanted to get to our next stop - Bayahibe Beach. The beach is beautiful (and topless) and we spent about an hour. We returned to ship with plenty of time to spare and all agreed the day went very well. St. Thomas, USVI (Thursday): This was a beautiful Port. We had arranged to tour with Godfrey Tours (lots of info on Cruise Critic) Unfortunately it took us a long time to get through Immigration (as non US) and then the line up to get off the ship was huge. We were supposed to meet him at 9:00 and by the time we got off it was 9:10, and he had left. We eventually made contact via his cell phone, and he arranged for someone else to come get us at 10:00. Our guide (sorry forget her name) was great. We were able to Tour and see the whole island (Beautiful) and then spent a couple of hours at Coki Beach snorkelling (Beautiful). We also were able to shop downtown and got some very good deals on jewellery and a watch. Debarkation (Sunday): We had a very early flight so we did the Express debarkation. You have to keep you bags and be able to carry them with you. This went very smoothly and we were in taxi on the way to the airport by 8:00 am. Other Stuff: Pool was salt water (yuk) and it was very cold. I know they are all salt water on ships but I do not like it. It was cold though, and nice to cool off in when hot. The Slide was a big hit for all the "kids" (both young and old). Buffet - was good. We used it mainly for breakfast and quick snacks. It had a good selection and is pretty typical of any buffet you may have vistited. Nothing spectcular but certainly sufficient for what you may need. I thought the Pizza was very good. As for drinks you can usually at any time get Apple Juice, Lemonade, Fruit Punch and cold Tea (unsweetened). The soda card is rather expensive ($28 USD) so if your kids like any of the above it is probably not worth the card. You can buy a glass of soda for $1 or can for $1.50 so you need to drink almost 3 or 4 per day to get your money's worth. Staff: Most staff we met were great. Room steward and dining staff outstanding. Others we met around the ship friendly and helpful. The Concierge desk was a bit impatient, but they do bear the brunt of any unhappy passengers so maybe their day gets a bit long?? This is a problem we had seen before - so perhaps they all need better training in their "people and conflict resolution skills". Shows: We enjoyed almost all the shows. The comedians/magicians, etc were all quite funny. Some were a bit rude and offensive so may not be to everyone's taste. And, if you sit in the front row you may be subject to ridecule. The "Dream" Weaver show was a huge singing/dancing production and although they put a lot of work into it we thought it was so/so. They were all worth having a look at though. We did not really go to any of the Disco's. The Kareoke Bar was fun and some of the people quite talented. We attended the Animation/Sport Art Action but did not buy anything. All in all we had a great time. The kids are all ready to go back any time. It was well worth the money we spent and I can not imagine a better value for you money.    

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By _CR

  • New

Apr 10, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

To start - I was once a travel agent for many years so I am picky about my travel. Past cruises were on Regency Rainbow (elegant and sophisticated, but line went belly up years ago), Regal Empress (budget but service oriented and exceptional food), and just last year RCCL Sovereign of the Seas (brass, glass, sophistication of RCCL). I had always viewed Carnival as the "party hardy" line and did not think I would care for it

myself. This was a "default" cruise and not my first option for spring break. With that said, this was by far my favorite cruise to date! Thought I would like it least, but loved it best! The positives far, far outweighed the negatives. Positives: 1. Extremely service oriented - approximately 1 service staff for each passenger. 2. Smoke-free environment a fabulous asset to a former smoker who gets tempted on occasion. 3. Show stage and show qualities above par. 4. All staff motivate you to smile and have a great time on board. 5. Itinerary offered Dominican Republic - very nice and interesting place not often frequented by American travelers. Negatives: 1. Food was sub-par in the formal Elation dining room to what I have had on all other cruises. The wait staff was attentive, and dining in the Paris restaurant (on the Lido deck) was very good. 2. That's it! No other negatives! I Traveled with two 15 year old girls in my cabin (daughter and cousin). Had a demi-suite V38 - partially obstructed but this was an upgrade from an outside guarantee so we were thrilled to have a balcony. We cruise Easter week and there were easily twice as many children and teens as there were adults. I'm not little toddler or small child friendly. Been there, done that. HOWEVER, the kids on board had a blast!!! And there were plenty of activities to keep them out of my way! Throughout the cruise you could hear down the halls the Camp Carnival kids chanting, playing, anything having fun. There were so many small kids the pools and hot tubs were overrun, but the pool water was freezing so let 'em have it. I liked this cruise so much I hope to take the Western Itinerary before the ship is moved west and turned into SMOKING!!! Word is that smokers drink more and gamble more and highest profit margin is gawd almighty to corporations. Shame. This ship is almost always sold out - I am certain it doesn't run in the red. I'm a skeptic and enjoyed this cruise. Now, if you are a Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton demanding type of person, stick to Radisson or Crystal. Don't cruise Carnival and complain. Find something your tastes. If you are a Marriott or Holiday Inn type of person, enjoy!!!!    

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By _CR

  • New

Feb 29, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

We sailed the Paradise on February 29th on its Eastern Caribbean Cruise. Same as last year, we took our 2 children (13 & 10) along with us. Everything was perfect!!! We flew Jetblue from Syracuse to Fort Lauderdale - only 2 hours drive from our home in Ottawa / Canada and got a great rate for a car rental with Dollar through Travelocity - $29.00 for a full-size car. We stayed the night before at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay in downtown

Miami and returned the car the following day at the Miami airport - Dollar provides a complimentary shuttle to the port. We were at the port around 11:30am on Sunday and 55 minutes later we were standing in the lobby of the Paradise - no long lines or wait anywhere, which was totally different from last year's experience in Tampa. We had booked 2 inside cabins on the Riviera Deck and both were ready with our luggage standing by the door after we had lunch in the Paris Buffet restaurant on Lido deck...Amazing! This was our third cruise and we always booked insides because you don't spend much time in them. Save that money for good shore excursions!!!! The ship was very clean, no smoking anywhere (only until October 2004) and the staff was outgoing and very friendly. We had dinner every night in the Elation Dining Room and both food and service were outstanding - thanks Luna (waiter) and Arriz (assistant). We enjoyed our daily breakfast and lunch at the Paris restaurant and found the food there to be better than last year on the Sensation. The Pizzeria was a big hit with our kids and I have to admit that it was very good with a wide selection. Sushi bar was great although it was only available between 05:30pm to 08:30pm. Our dinner seating was at 05:45pm so it doesn't really provide you with sufficient time to enjoy sushis. The Vegas Style shows in the Normandie Show Lounge were all nice and professionally made but make it early if you want good seats. They had daily and evening activities for everyone's taste - karaoke, stand up comedian, big production shows, bingos, Survivor game, etc. All ports were nice especially St-Thomas. We booked a tour with Godfrey http://www.godfreytoursvi.com/  and it was only $20 per person, which is so much cheaper than buying on the ship. We booked through his web site and he phoned us back in Canada to confirm the time we would like to be picked up. He gives you 2 or 3 hours of shopping, a 2 hour/tour of the island + a 2-hour stop at a beach of your choice - Magen Bay or Coki Beach. He makes a stop at Mountain Top, which is the highest point of the island - no need to buy tickets for the Paradise Point Gondola that takes you only 500' above the port location. We choose Coki and the snorkeling there was really amazing. You can rent your gear right on the beach for $10, which includes the vest if you need one. Our kids truly enjoyed the experience!! In La Romana / Dominican Republic, we bought the Riverboat and Altos de Chavron tour with Carnival and it is worth the money ($236.00 for a family of four). We didn't buy any excursion for Nassau. We took a horse carriage tour of downtown for $30.00 and took a cab to Paradise Island to use the public beach beside the Sheraton. Don't buy the on-board tour for the Atlantis Hotel because you can tour the lobby aquarium and outside one for free. Cab is about $10 from Pier to Paradise Island. Tip for parents: bring walkie-talkies with you to keep in touch with your kids everywhere on-board. Disembarkation was fast and efficient and we were in our hotel in Fort Lauderdale by noon. Carnival provides you with great value for the money. We have sailed Premier and RCCL but Carnival is still our best choice for family travel! Happy Cruising!    

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By _CR

  • New

Feb 15, 2004

Eastern Caribbean

I just wanted to voice my opinion about this beautiful ship. After reading many negative reviews about the Paradise, I was truly second-guessing my choice. However, I must inform you that this ship was awesome. The staff was extremely polite; they went out of their way to accommodate you. There was always plenty to do on the ship so you never felt obligated to get off while in Port. The food was good;

not great, but good. I look at it this way.... I didn't have to cook it, serve it, or even clean the table after eating it. That alone makes it palatable. I also want to stress that if you get the opportunity to splurge; then I highly recommend booking a suite on deck 6 of this boat. I traveled with two other friends and we had a category 11 room. Let me tell you, it was SPECTACULAR!!!!!! Not only did the room have a king size bed, it had an L-shaped couch that opened up into a full sized bed, a mini-bar, balcony, walk-in closet that we referred to as our dressing room and the bathroom was fit for a king. It even had a "Jacuzzi". Every time you walk into a room like this you smile; I guarantee it. The only thing I would not recommend is the "Express Checkout" if you have an early flight. The entire process took us close to an hour; waiting in a long line with everyone and their luggage. What a nightmare. If we had only waited in our room an extra 1/2 hour we would have avoided this chaos. Other than that, the embarkation was easy and the rest of the debarkation process was a breeze. Enjoy!   

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By _CR

  • New

Jan 11, 2004

Western Caribbean

My husband and I were first time cruisers on the “Paradise” and this trip was the honeymoon that we never had and also our anniversary. We were told by our travel agent that because of this, there would be a special dinner or party etc. for all those celebrating special occasions, if there was such an event, we were never informed or made aware of it. Even though we had a good time, we were somewhat disappointed in some aspects of

the trip. We began by flying from Dallas, Texas to Miami International. Even though our tickets included a shuttle to the port, we chose to take a taxi, which turned out to be a good choice since we took the shuttle at the end of the cruise back to the airport and it was a mad house. Take my advice, pay the $11.00 or so for the taxi. Once at the port the wait in line to go through security and check in went quickly and the staff was smiling and friendly. Then we were sent upstairs to be treated like a herd of cattle and have commands barked at us by more than one abrasive and rude Carnival Representative. We were so relieved when we were finally aboard so that we could start enjoying our trip. My husband, who was famished from all the early morning travel, went to the 24 hour pizza bar and was ignored by the staff behind the counter as he placed a “closed” sign where we were standing. Not a great start for a vacation we worked hard and saved several months for. We encountered several rude staff members throughout the week in the same Paris Restaurant where the buffet is served. After the safety drill at 4:00 and we at sea, all the buffet counters were reopened and a sweet, smiling young man named Ephsian in the Paris Restaurant said, “Welcome aboard the Paradise!” He was the first sincerely warm and polite staff member since 11:00 AM that morning and genuinely made me feel welcome. We were very happy with our dinner waiter George and the food was okay but not as fabulous as I had anticipated. We also met two great couples seated at our table from Michigan and New Jersey who we hope to maintain a friendship with. Our cabin steward also did a great job and we were very entertained by the wonderful towel animals left on our bed each night while we were at dinner. The shore excursions were very over priced and Carnival discourages tours not booked through them. Our first day we went on the Mayan tour in Belize which was beautiful in spite of the rain during the “Dry Season” and our guides were wonderful at taking us to another culture’s world and time. Our short stay in our second port of Isla Roatan was again rainy but enjoyable. However, we did pre book a private tour in our third port in the Grand Caymans for the stingray sand bar through Captain Bryan’s (http://grandcaymancruiseexcursions.com) and this was by far the best excursion (our first day of sunshine) and well worth the approx. $70.00 for two adults. We met one couple from the ship who ordered room service before they left and brought it with them to the island (a tip for those on a budget). Our last port was Cozumel where we snorkeled with the dolphins and shopped afterwards and had dinner on the pier. We spent almost $1000 on the three excursions booked through Carnival and we will definitely pre-book all of our excursions in the future with private tour operators. The days at sea were a little boring since there weren’t many activities geared towards active thirty something couples. Lounging in the sun and the pleasing live music can last only so long. Also, while lounging and sipping tropical drinks from any of the bars, top shelf drinks are only an extra dollar and well worth it. But, pay close attention and know the ingredients of your drinks since we only came across one bartender who knew that tequila wasn’t the only liquor in a strawberry margarita. Carnival has had a hard time selling the non-smoking cruise and will discontinue it later this year which is unfortunate. The loss in their profit margin from this ship could account for the lack of everything that should have been spectacular on this cruise. Overall, the ship itself is nice and we had a good time but I don’t feel that we got our money’s worth. We plan on trying another cruise line which our new friends from Michigan suggested and we may try another Carnival ship in the future since we hear that Carnival will upgrade you for free if you have sailed with them in the past. Maybe their other ships will live up to my grand expectations.    

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By _CR

  • New

Jan 11, 2004

Western Caribbean

My boyfriend Aaron and I just got back yesterday from our cruise through the Caribbean. This was my second cruise and it was Aaron’s first. My first cruise was two years ago to Alaska on Holland America…Which I still recommend by the way. Anyway, we flew from San Francisco to Miami a day early on a Saturday, which gave us plenty of time to check out South Beach’s nightlife and make it to the ship on time the next day, (slightly

hung-over). Getting on the ship was fairly easy, and didn’t take long to get on board and into our room. We were both somewhat impressed by the casino-like décor of the ship, and spent the afternoon exploring the many levels of the boat. We had the late seating for dinner in the elation restaurant and were assigned to table 169, which was a large round table that sat 10 people. I was sort of disappointed that we were not near a window, but instead, in the middle of the restaurant. However, the people at our table were very nice, all young couples in their early thirties. Food: The food was I would say…all right. I can’t help but to compare what I had on Carnival to Holland America, because Holland’s food was out of this world. You do get what you pay for I guess. I found that some dishes on the Paradise weren’t all that great. The quality just wasn’t there. Especially in the Paris restaurant. The food in the buffet looked un-appetizing to me and the 24-hour pizza looked like it had been sitting under the hot lamps for about 24 hours. So for lunch Aaron and I hit up the out-door grill by the pool and had hamburgers and French fries. Free drinks consisted of lemonade, apple juice, or iced tea. Or you can pay a couple bucks and buy a soda. Alcohol was about $5 and up. Staff: All the staff were nice except for a cocktail waitress who couldn’t tell us if it was ‘Happy Hour’ or not and when we asked if she could find out, she just disappeared for about 20 minutes and then came back and ignored us. Some other staff didn’t understand English very well, a lot of hunching shoulders and looking around nervously for a translator…maybe that was the waitress’s excuse. Who knows! Our cabin Steward was very nice; he did a pretty good job, and also turned down the beds at night. Although we did have trouble with getting him to replace dirty beach towels for new ones. They would simply just disappear, and we would have to call him to get new ones. Entertainment: The dance shows on board were pretty bad, we walked out and went to the casino. The R-rated comedy shows were very funny and the talent show was good. One man put on a magic show and asked his girlfriend to come up on stage to be his assistant, but his magic act consisted of him making an engagement ring appear. Which was touching, and she accepted. Excursions: Aaron and I, being that we are two college students on a budget went in thinking that we should find our own excursions on land at the ports. But the first day on board, we were presented a booklet of possible excursions given by the ship and found it hard to pass up. So we booked two excursions through the ship for Belize and Roatan. Ports: Belize was our first stop and when we looked out our window in the morning, it was heavily overcast. We had booked the cave tubing tour through the ship (for about $75 I think) and got into our bathing suits and grabbed the sun block, incase of any sun popping through. The tender picked us up and it was pouring cats and dogs outside. We were dropped off at the port and instantly attacked by taxi drivers, hair-braiders, Rx sellers, cashew sellers, tour operators holding hand-made maps, jewelry sellers…it was chaos. We were put on a bus that was air-conditioned, which was nice because the bus would have totally fogged up with all the warm, wet bodies inside. The ride took maybe an hour and our guide was very funny, he wanted all of us to call him ‘Star’ and we liked poking fun of his friend Francis who was the driver. He mentioned that we could leave all of our things on the bus, because it would be locked up, and if you tried to get back on…you would have to deal with Francis. When we got out of the bus, it was still raining, I stepped off the bus and my sandal sunk right into the rich red colored mud. We were in the middle of a jungle. It was so lush and green, just like what I’ve always seen in the movies. I being the dumb one that morning did not bring an extra change of clothes or a towel …I decided that I wanted something dry to wear when we got back in the bus, so I was the only girl walking the path in a string bikini. Everyone else wore board shorts and/or a t-shirt. I wish I had something to wear too, because there are some locals that hang out there and you do feel like you are being watched. The path was VERY slick…take that into note if you are going tubing in the rain. I almost fell on my ass like 10 times! They say that the path has gravel on it, but the path has been walked on for a while and the gravel is often on the sides and you find yourself walking with your hands out for balance. AGAIN…this was only because it had been raining, if the path was dry, it would be a very EASY walk/hike. Once we got to the opening of the cave, everyone was just in aw. It was beautiful, and a great Kodak moment. The water was cool, I’m sure on a hot and humid day, it would be fantastic. This day it was barely 70 F degrees. The cave was really fun, completely dark without a light with a few places where the sun comes through. One note…I have low body fat, and if you are the kind of person that gets cold easily…like me, I found myself sitting in a tube chattering my teeth and shivering. So remember that too. Once we got out of the cave, we went right out into the rain again and sailed for a little distance longer. I never saw any wild animals during this trip, although some people were talking about large spiders. I would definitely bring a waterproof camera along, because there are some good shots to take in the jungle…and your friends will think they are cool too. After we all got back on the bus, they took us to a restaurant called Cheers, where we were served cooked chicken with coleslaw and rice with beans with lemonade. Aaron and I were starving and went back for seconds. Be sure to eat a large breakfast before you go out on your excursions, because you get hungry after hiking through remote jungles. We picked at ours that morning and ended up paying for it later with low blood sugar. We were then dropped off at port and did a little shopping. The people along the road don’t like to negotiate prices. Aaron, likes to collect shot glasses, and he was trying to get 2 for $5, a dollar less than what they were asking. They basically told him have a nice day. Another guy wanted to save money on some jewelry and was telling the person that he could get a better price in New York…the vendor told him to go back to New York and pay that amount. Needless to say, I only walked out with two post cards. And Aaron finally found a place that sold 2 shot glasses for $5. Roatan: The next day we woke up in Roatan (pronounced Row-A-Tan) not ‘Row-Ton’ like I had been pronouncing. We were docked at the pier. The weather was partly cloudy…wet outside, but the sun was shining. Aaron and I had signed up to the ‘Parrot Tree Beach Party’ which we paid $29 each for. We were bused through town, which looked very third world, definitely not a place I would want to go walking alone in, even during the day. As we got out of town, the island became more and more beautiful…not ‘Americanized’ at all. As we kept driving, the clouds built up more and more. And before we knew it, it was raining again. A beach party in the rain…sigh…I was so disappointed. They brought us to a resort where there was finely groomed sand, palm trees and palapas. We were given a welcome drink of tropical fruit punch that was actually VERY good. All the palapas were around a man-made lagoon that had two areas that allowed fresh sea-water to come through. It would have been a lot more fun if the rain wasn’t keeping people under the shelter of their palapas. There were a few daring people who said ‘screw it, I’m kayaking in this lagoon whether it rains or shines’ It was more entertaining to the rest of us to watch them kayak in the rain. After an hour of sitting around, Aaron and I started to feel like we were wasting our short time in Roatan at some blown out beach party. So we noticed some people packing up…we grabbed our stuff, leaving our half-eaten hamburger and ran for a bus. We could only leave the place if they had ten people to fill a bus…so this was our chance. Aaron and I made it just in time and were numbers 9 and 10 to get out of there. After getting back into town, we made our way through the vendors along the street and found some more shot-glasses…I found two more postcards. A lot of neat stuff to look at…but it would become clutter at home, so I did not buy that much. And then we went to a restaurant and I had a Coke and Aaron ordered a beer. I can’t remember the name of the beer but it was made in Honduras, and wasn’t all that bad. Grand Cayman: The next stop was Grand Cayman. It was also the first real sunny day of the trip. Aaron and I woke up late that morning (since we didn’t have any scheduled tour that day. ) We made it into port at about 11:45am. We thought that we would have been out of luck with being able to go to Sting Ray City (which everyone had been talking about) But there was a lady holding a sign up for a tour that would leave the port at noon and we would be back in time by 3pm. So we paid $35 each and went out to Sting Ray City. It is a large sand bar way out in the ocean, the water was around 79 F degrees and about waste deep, there were a lot of sting rays…and maybe twice as many tourists….The prime example of a tourist trap. I was torn if I really liked it…because it was neat actually getting to touch the sting rays…but the screaming women and children got a old very fast. There were so many boats, that they were almost knocking into each other. After about 30-45 minutes with the sting rays, we got back in the boat and headed off to snorkel around a reef….but we were dropped off on an area where there was a few rocks…but no real coral. The fish were few and far between. I dove down a found an empty conch shell and then headed back to the boat. We got back to port at about 3:45pm, way past the time that we were supposed to be back. We had to be on the ship by 4:15. So we only made it into one gift shop. I bought a bag and some short the say ‘Cayman Islands’ on the butt. Aaron got his shot glasses. And then we got back to the ship. Cozumel: Our last stop was Cozumel Mexico. We had no planned excursion, but hooked up with two of our dinner table buddies who were newlyweds. The four of us ate lunch at Poncho’s Backyard, it’s right by the pier and the food is very good. After that we took a taxi to Chankanaab Park where we rented snorkel gear and swam around some dead looking reef. Beautiful area but watch out for the little jelly fish, they sting and don’t feel all that great. That night we ate dinner at Carlos and Charley’s. Very wild place and where for 125 pesos, you can get one of those yard-stick margaritas. We had to be back on the ship by 11:30pm. So before you knew it, we were heading back towards the ship. All in all, I would give this cruise a 7 out of 10    

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Dec 28, 2003

Western Caribbean

We really enjoyed our first cruise! Our family of 4 went which includes me, my husband and our two daughters 16 & 13 years old. We all had a great time! We stayed in a quad interior room and have no complaints about that. There was sufficient room. There was only one electrical outlet for the 4 of us. I would bring along an extension cord as getting ready with 2 teenager girls and a mom who all use blow dryers and straight irons proved

lengthy. The aspect that made the trip the most enjoyable was taking advantage of all the ports and seeing what they had to offer. We had done quite a bit of research online on these ports before we went so we felt like we had a good handle on what each had to offer. After reading other reviews online we had decided to arrange our own excursions when we arrived at the port as to save money and to get a more intimate experience of the areas. Having said that, we lost our confidence the night before arriving at our first port, Belize, so at the last minute we booked the cave tubing excursion offered through the ship. The cave tubing itself was amazing but we felt like we wasted so much time waiting for 50 people to load on the bus, 50 people to use the bathroom and change into swim suits at a stop on the way to the site, 50 people to get their tubes and rent water shoes (if needed) at the cave tubing site, 50 people plus 2 other bus loads to change into dry clothes at the site after tubing (women’s restroom only had 2 stalls) and 50 people to wait in line and get lunch at a primitive restaurant that the bus stopped at on the way back to the ship. When you walk off the ship there are many vendors that offer the same excursion and I think you could see a lot more of Belize and not waste so much time waiting if you did it that way. The second port was Roatan, our favorite! Very primitive! Get up early and do as much as you can in this port. The ship docks first thing in the morning but leaves in mid afternoon so don’t sleep in on this port day, you will regret it. You pull right up to shore here – nice! You will see dozens and dozens of cabs lining the street waiting for your business. After the “bus load mentality” of Belize we decided to go on our own in Roatan. We are so glad that we did! We had read another review from a family that did the same thing and got a taxi driver that they loved. They posted his name and cab number on their review. When we saw ALL the cabs we thought that we would never find this guy but as soon as you set foot on the ground all these taxi guys bombard you for your business. We told them that we were looking for Victor Bodden and amazingly other taxi drivers started yelling his name and there he was. He was very nice! A young soft spoken guy who spoke English well. We felt very comfortable with him right away. He took us on a tour of the island, showed us his house, told us about growing up on the island, about his family etc. It truly gave a good feel for what life is like on Roatan. Then he took us to a beach on the West End. His cousin manages this beach and for $3.00 a chair we basically had a private beach for most of the morning. This beach was right next to Tabyana Beach where ALL the cruise ships excursions go. That beach was SO crowded with row after row of white plastic sit up chairs. Our beach was not crowded and we had nice reclining chairs and shade under the palm trees if we wanted. Victor took us to a snorkeling shop and helped us get our gear and helped carry it to the beach for us. The snorkeling was good, the water very clear. He came back and picked us up in time to hit the vendors in town before getting back on the boat. If you want to do Roatan the way we did it PLEASE look up our cab driver. His name is Victor Bodden. He drives cab #081. You can even email him at victorbodden@yahoo.com and set it up before hand. He will meet you outside the boat with a paper that has your name on it. I recommend him highly!! The next stop was Grand Cayman, our least favorite for a couple of reasons. First it is so commercial and “American” you feel like you could be on the Gulf Shores of Alabama or Miami Beach. BUSY! EXPENSIVE! Secondly, we were going to go to Sting Ray City and snorkel the coral reefs but unfortunately the water on that side on the island was so rough that day that all the excursions to those spots were cancelled. That meant that most of the people on the 6 cruise ships that docked there that day ended up on 7 mile beach. That was really the only thing to do unless you wanted to shop the expensive stores. We were told the turtle farm was nothing more than a tourist trap so we did not venture there. The water was beautiful but the beach CROWDED! We did hear at dinner that night that the people who went on the Snuba excursion REALLY liked it. We would do that next time if we had the chance. Our last port was Cozumul. We really enjoyed the day there. We took a taxi to the nature park, Chankabee Park. The park was beautiful ($10 per person to get in)! Well maintained, the water was beautiful and the snorkeling pretty good. It was rather busy but the place was big enough so it was ok. We stayed there until late afternoon, went back to the ship, cleaned up and headed back out for an evening of shopping (you are in this port until 10:30 pm). You hear a lot about waiting in lines on cruises. We felt like that the first day on board (there is probably no way around it with getting that many people on board in a short time) and on our excursion in Belize. Other than that we did not feel like we were being “herded”. Our kids loved it and we would do it again in a heart beat! I hope this review helps to make your cruise more enjoyable!    

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By _CR

  • New

Dec 14, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was my eighth cruise. I cruise on Carnival once before on a five day-Western Carribbean. This time I decided to book a 7 day. The price was cheap. But in all honesty, I would have to categorize Carnival as a floating Holiday Inn. Embarkation was quick and very well organized. However, unlike other ships, we had had to find our own room. There was very few staff members to direct us. The dining rooms are nice and the food in

the dining rooms was hit or miss. Great some nights, not-so-great on others. The lunch buffets were as good as hospital cafeteria food. The midnight buffets (if that's what you want to call them) were pretty much cold cuts, cheese and rolls. There was only one gala buffet. The entertainment was poor. Strobe lights and annoyingly loud music do not make up for poor choreqography and low energy. Carnival ships are inapporpriately called Fun Ships. Days at sea were boring, with very few activities planned. Which was only made worse by the fact that Grand Cayman closed its port which gave us three days at sea instead of two. The rooms were pretty spacious and well kept by the room steward who we never actually met. The weather was not cooperative for the most part. It rained 5 out of seven days. The ports were ok. Cave tubing in Belize was really fun. Not much to do in Honduras and Cozumel was pretty nice. Oh, last but not least, is fact that the boat is overrun with obnoxious, badly behaved children who almost never seem to have a bedtime. I didn't appreciate having to compete with ten year0olds for the hot tubs. The children lacked supervision which made this trip unenjoyable. Overall, I would not cruise on Carnival again.    

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By _CR

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Dec 7, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

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 and 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 but 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 ... 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 trust and a family 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 falter? It seems impossible. 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 ship atmosphere viable. As an enthusiast and supporter of this single world-wide ship policy example. I was taken quite off-guard ... for 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. 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 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 perhaps sounds 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 he ships of today are well ventilated. It is not a huge issue. Additionally, smokers today (at least 75 percent) 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 I 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 lines, river lines, to the mega monsters that prowl the seas - cruising is a perfect all-in-one-vacation. 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 3 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 - the concept should be kept alive! As for a ship review? Paradise is a very slick and well-maintained youthful 6 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. 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. I feel, except for the new policy, that she lived up to our Feb. 7th 2001 review in the Sunnyside Weekly. I suggest - always fly into your embarkation city the day before your cruise. Our December cruise had bad weather in the Mid-west and East coast. You may imagine that this is irrelevant to your plans ... but it is not. Your plane is likely arriving from one of those city areas, so you will be late and things get bogged down. With a city like Miami ... why wouldn’t you want to savor her magnificence for at least one day and evening? Ask your travel agent about on-going specials for your cruise vacationing. Happy sailing! IF YOU SAIL Miami Visitors Center www.gmcvb.com (888) 76-Miami    

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Nov 16, 2003

Western Caribbean

Embarkation: We had arrived in Miami at 6am the day before the cruise. Our hotel was the Riande Continental Plaza at the Port of Miami. However two days prior to leaving from Vancouver, Canada, we received (by regular mail) notification that Carnival had changed our departure port to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. This was to say the least mis-handled badly by Carnival , who I have sailed with 5 times. They did not offer any help in

getting us to Port Everglades and the short notice left us no choice but to keep our original flight and hotel. This added an extra $55.00 US taxi fare to the start of our holiday. We arrived at the Port by 11am on Sunday, the ship was still unloading, so we had to wait with our luggage for about 45 minutes before a porter yelled at the line that we could bring our luggage over to a bin, he didn’t offer to carry any, just follow me. Of course there are no tipping required signs everywhere, but this rude porter was quite adamant about everyone tipping him. Because the ship doesn’t usually use this port I will skip the rest of the embarkation process, as it was really handled badly, the worst I have ever had the displeasure of experiencing. This was our second cruise on the Paradise, the first was a year and a half ago 11 day trip. We like this ship mainly for the smoke-free environment. As I have had lung problems over the last 2 years it is not easy for us to cruise on other ships which allow smoking everywhere. We do find this ship doesn’t have much nightlife, so if you’re looking for a party until 5am, this probably will be boring for you. The karaoke was really good, there were probably 12 singers who were as good or better than the entertainers on the ship. They had karaoke about 6 times. Only complaint is they should have used the much larger Queen Mary lounge, which seemed to be empty most of the cruise. We found the ship a little bit worn, carpet stains, etc. since our last time on board. Our cabin was U106 on the Upper Deck , this was a good location in the middle of the ship, and easy access to all other decks. The cabin steward was excellent . Our shower had zero water pressure and she had it fixed by the second day. We are always impressed with the towel animals and cleanliness of the cabin. The 2 level show lounge has some seats which get blocked by posts, so if there’s something you really want to see, get there early, you may have to skip dessert. Casino staff are friendly, they smile and joke while taking your money. Best bar service was at the United States bar located on the Promenade Deck. On the pool deck I was pleased to run in to a waiter from my first Carnival cruise. Elvis is on the Paradise. Hands down the hardest working, friendliest, waiter in the business. The fitness center is large and has a good selection of equipment, my only negative here was they need a sign up sheet for the elliptical trainers as they only have two. Each locker room has a sauna, steam room, showers, and a coed hot tub area. As there seems to be an older crowd on this ship, there was never a problem getting a lounge chair on the pool deck, most people liked the tables in the shade. Entertainment: Piano bar was good, lots of laughs. Calypso band on the pool deck played the usual reggae hits and had some good moments. The shows with the dancers and singers, we have seen before on other cruises, and were disappointing to say the least. Bobby who plays acoustic guitar at the United States Bar, he was actually there a year and a half a go when we were on board, (must be growing roots), plays very mellow and slow songs which seem to lull everyone to bed early. The duo playing in the Rembrandt Lounge were good. The band in the Queen Mary Lounge never seemed to play, I am assuming there were no guests to play for? Overall, this was probably the poorest entertainment selection we have witnessed, as musicians we were quite surprised at how seldom these musicians, actors, and dancers had to perform. Dining: We had late seating in the Elation dining room. Our table was a booth for six. There was only the four of us at dinner all week. We found the food has improved on the Paradise, although still not as good as the Pride which we were on in May. The portions are much larger too. Most nights I had two entrees, and once I had three. It’s sometimes impossible to decide between prime rib and salmon, or filet mignon and tiger prawns. The service was not up to standards. Our assistant wait person was invisible most of the week. She also worked up in the buffet for breakfast and lunch, so she was probably new to the main dining room. Dinner usually lasted for 2 full hours, which made it hard to find a seat at the show. We were going to adjust the tips for the poor dining room service, but I feel everyone can have a bad week, and these people are not treated very well and are really overworked. The buffet is where we ate breakfast and lunch, had the usual fare, nothing stood out. The grill on the pool deck always beckoned with the aroma of grilled onions and burgers cooking. Pizza is available 24 hours in the buffet area. It was pretty good, but the staff there aren’t very happy people. Ports: Belize City we found the people very friendly there. The shopping is not too bad right at the pier where the tenders drop you off. If you walk further into town there really isn’t much too see, poverty, dirt, dogs, lots of traffic. Wish now we would have gone to a beach or snorkeling. We thought it might be the best shopping port, so that’s what we did. The cold Belikan beer for $2 was a nice change from what you pay on the ship. Roatan we have been to before and really like. However, we did notice it has changed quite a lot in 3 years. There are at least 5 times as many taxis when you walk off the ship and quite a bit of hustling to get you in one. This is done by the English speaking residents who haggle the price with you and then take you to a car with someone who can’t speak English. The price to the beach has also doubled in 3 years. We kept walking and found the price can come down. The most popular beach here is West Bay. We go to one called Halfmoon Bay which isn’t quite as far. They wanted $40 round trip but we got it down to $30 for the four of us. This beach has good snorkeling as a reef protects the bay. The corner store sells Honduran beer for $1 a can. There are also a growing number of shops, and cafes here now. But the beach is the best part and the water is very warm and calm. Check it out, you won’t be sorry. Grand Cayman: we arrived here late due to spotting a flare the night before and spending 2 hours looking for the source. Also it was too windy to tender in at the main dock, so they tried to unload 3 cruise ships at one small pier. We wish we wouldn’t have got off the ship, it was pure bedlam, longest lines I have ever seen to return to the ship. So we only had two and a half hours on land, so more shopping. This is probably the most expensive port for shopping. I have been here before and if you have time check out the snorkeling and the beaches, the turtle farm, or stingray city, before spending your time in the shops. Also watch the prices, as some stores have them in Cayman dollars which will add another 25% to the price if you pay in US dollars. Cozumel: This being my 3rd time to this island we did my usual. Taxi to the beach for a few hours of sun, snorkel and beers, return to the ship, shower and pizza, return to town for shopping and dinner. The new Carlos and Charlie’s with Senor Frog’s upstairs is where all the crew and passengers seemed to be going. What a rip-off!! The watered down drinks start at $7 and the special glass you can keep is $12. The food was so-so and also over priced. Come on people this is Mexico! With 9 cruise ships in town that day, I guess they’ll always have business, but not from us, ever again. Once again this is a good island for beach and snorkeling. Rent a jeep or moped and explore on your own is also good here. The taxis all have posted flat rates to beaches and attractions. Last time here we had a good meal and drinks at the Hard Rock Café and also say a very good band, so too bad we didn’t make it there this time. At Sea: The two days at sea were the usual pool games, trivia, hairy chest competition, and the like. If you haven’t seen them I guess there still fun, but after 9 cruises it’s way boring. Elvis kept the buckets of beer flowing to us and the sun was baking and the band was playing, now this is a holiday. Next time maybe not so many ports and more days at sea. Debarkation: As we had early flights from Miami (Noon), we picked up luggage tags at the Purser’s desk to enable us to debark with the first group off. The luggage was easy to find and we were in a cab and at the airport in 20 minutes. Overall: If you too are disgusted with the smoking on board other cruise ships this is worth a try. However, if you are in your 20’s or 30’s, travel with a group of friends because most people are in bed by 11pm. There was always a group up late in the disco, but not many. I always say a cruise is what you make it, so keep an open mind and be very friendly to the staff and they will treat you well. On a scale of 1-10 I would rate this cruise a 7.    

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Nov 2, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was the first cruise my husband and I had taken on the Paradise. We are not big fans of cruising in general but this trip proved quite satisfactory. We chose this cruise because of the ports of call. We really wanted to see a little of Belize and Honduras and were looking for ports that were not visited on a daily basis by many cruise ships. We also liked the nonsmoking aspect and found a much more relaxed group of people on board.

This was our second cruise with Carnival. About 10 years ago we went to the Mexican Riviera on a Carnival ship. Embarkation: We arrived around 12:30 by taxi. Our bags were taken from the trunk and whisked away before we even got out of the taxi. I was quite distressed as we planned on carrying two of the smaller bags onto the ship and they didn’t have any luggage tags on them. After tracking the bags to a large pile of luggage about thirty feet away, a baggage handler rudely inquired as to who was going to tip him for handling our two remaining bags. We had read the reviews and had our tip in hand but felt his surly and demanding attitude inappropriate. We knew that he was not an employee of the ship and therefore not representative of future service. We encountered a wait of about 40 minutes of standing in lines at this time before we were able to board the ship. Excursions: Plan your own. If you have enough sense to read the reviews and message boards, you know that you can find a better deal just by stepping off the ship. We both love the water and snorkeled on every island. Details below in Ports of Call. Ports of Call: Belize: After a 15-20 min. tender ride to Belize City, you arrive at a very nice docking area with about 50 modern shops and restaurants that has been built recently for the cruise ships. There are many people in this area offering excursions for snorkeling to Goeff Caye, the Shark/stingray tour, cave tubbing, etc. These are good deals. About half to three quarters of what the ship is charging for the same things. We took a snorkeling tour to Goeff Caye for $30 per person. Saw the most beautiful coral of the trip. We have both been diving for 30+ years and are saddened by the devastation we have seen on reefs around the world. It was great to see many varieties of living coral. I just read a review in which the writer had referred to Belize City as ‘beautiful’ and I’m wondering what Belize City he was in. Most of the tours leave either directly from the ship or the docking area by boat or bus and my guess is that most people never see the real Belize City. If you leave the small, gated docking area and walk a few blocks into the city, you will encounter an extremely impoverished place. There are no handicrafts to buy there as most of the stores deal only with items of necessity. I was reminded of walking in Haiti 20 years ago while on another cruise. The difference was that there were a lot of interesting stores with arts and handicrafts in Haiti back then. The view from the bay the tender brings you into is deceptive. Only go into the city if you are looking for a true third world experience, otherwise arrange your tour at the docking area or with the ship if you must. Roatan: What a gorgeous docking area! The ship pulls up directly to the dock and as you look down you see coral reefs surrounded by crystal clear water. The island is green with gently rolling hills. From the deck of the ship you will see long lines of taxis lined up eagerly waiting for the passengers from the ship. When you leave the boat you will find many people showing you pictures of places on the island and offering to take you there in a taxi. We made two mistakes at this point. The first was agreeing to ride with the first man showing us pictures. It turned out he was just the salesman who then directed us to the actual taxi cab driver who didn’t have a clue as to what we had negotiated with the salesman. We had doubled up with another couple we had met and had negotiated an island tour ending in a snorkeling trip to West Bay for $20 per person. Our driver wasn’t exactly personable although I think he tried and it did help that two of our party spoke spanish. Our first mistake was not talking to more drivers and negotiating directly with the driver. Then we could have avoided our second mistake which was not thoroughly discussing exactly what we wanted to see. We were given a cursory tour of the area to the east of the dock, (don’t bother, it’s mainly industrial) and then driven to the West End to a place called Half Moon Cabins. Although there is fair snorkeling, (lots of fish) free showers and chairs at this restaurant/cabin area, it is located on a rocky ledge overlooking the bay. There is a small beach within snorkeling distance but nothing spectacular. After snorkeling, we told our driver we wanted to see West Bay Beach about 5 mi. south. Supposedly one of the most spectacular in the Caribbean. Our driver informed us that the road was flooded and he was unable to take us there. We were all very suspicious of this as we knew several of the ships tours were taking place there and we also knew a second cruise ship was docking about this time. We ended up returning to the ship without seeing the West Bay Beaches but it didn’t turn out to be such a terrible thing either. We had about an hour to shop the bay front where you will find the only true local handicrafts on the entire cruise. Most spectacular are the hand carved boxes, chests and small tables. Also, embroidered T-shirts, knit hats, beaded purses and much more. I only bought a few things thinking I would find deals in other ports, especially Cozumel. Wrong. Those ports have so many cruise ships coming in - 6to8 a day - there are few bargains left. I can find much of what they offer cheaper in the states. Yes, these are not stores but little stalls where native people are selling the handicrafts that they, in some cases, have made themselves. Yes, there are kids asking you for money. Hire one of them and tell him you will pay him if he can find you a good deal on what you are looking for. We watched a fellow passenger do this and were amazed at the deals he found by paying one of the kids $1 each time he saved him money. Don’t be afraid to bargain. This is not the mall but it is a great way to interact with the local people and bring home some unique souvenirs. Georgetown, Grand Cayman: You will love this island if you have lots of money to burn and insist on shopping only in very clean, modern English speaking shops. Otherwise, go for the only true bargain on the island. The stingray city/coral gardens snorkel trip which you can purchase at the dock for $30. per person which includes snorkeling equipment, an air-conditioned round trip bus ride to a nice powerboat and water/juice on the boat. There is no bargaining here. Get the first tender tickets off the ship (be there early) as everyone wants to go ashore here. One couple who didn’t get there right on time didn’t get to shore until 12:30 pm. We had one of the first tenders and arrived at 10:20. We signed up with the first agent we saw and were told our tour was headed out at 10:30. We saw the ship’s tour there - a very large boat with 100+ people and they didn’t even get to go to Coral Gardens and snorkel later. Stingray City is crowded but unique. When are you going to be able to say you had a stingray on your shoulders and then you fed him? Cozumel: Unless you are a first time or very inexperienced snorkeler, do not do what we did. We grabbed the first taxi to Chankanab Park. Taxi ride $10, Entrance fee $10, snorkeling - dismal. Dead and dying coral with a bunch of fish only at the entrance areas. They must feed them to stay there for the tourists. We should have taken one of the boats out to the reefs being offered for $25 per person when we walked off the pier. We returned to the ship for dinner then went shopping in the evening. I just had difficulty finding anything I was really interested in. I wasn’t looking for diamonds or tanzanite which seem to be offered by every third store and then there were the T-shirt stores. This is one place where it is advisable to go to the ship’s shopper talk. We did find a few unique places by following the advice of the ship’s experienced shopper. The many reviews about how beautiful the ship was, perhaps I was expecting too much. Personally, I found the ship garish and dark. Although cleaning was continuous, the rugs appeared stained in many places. Our stateroom was large and the bath exceptionally so. The beds, however, have seen better days. I could actually feel the springs in my mattress and both beds appeared to have a large depression in the center. The bedspreads also appeared fairly worn. We had an outside stateroom on the main deck toward the bow of the ship. It was quiet for the most part. Dining: This was really a wonderful experience. We had chosen the early seating and ended up in the Elation dining room at 6:15 pm. I can’t say enough about our waiter, Nitin, and his assistant, Bea. Great service, lots of fun and good food. We were seated in a booth with two other wonderful couples. It seemed as if we all had so much to share after the days’ activities that there was rarely a lull in the conversation. We only dined formally for dinner, taking our breakfast and lunch at the Paris buffet style restaurant on the Lido deck. We are very active and the one time we did try to have breakfast in the dining room, it took 45 min. for the food to arrive. We preferred running up to the Lido for a quick omelet in the mornings before heading to port. The lunches were adequate but the lunch desserts were usually exceptional. Hats off to the pastry chef. A word about dress: There are two formal nights. I was a little worried about these after reading some posts about how people thought everyone should wear tuxedos to dinner on the formal nights. My husband brought a three piece suit and fit in perfectly. There were some tuxedoes but there were also a few guys in sport shirts. The majority of the men wore suits. On the rest of the nights, resort casual seemed to be guys in aloha type shirts and many of the women dressed in pants and tops. This was a much more relaxed atmosphere than we experienced on the Mexican Riviera Cruise where the majority of people seemed to have stepped off the set of the old TV show ‘Dynasty’. In other words, tuxes and very flashy evening dresses. Food: We both felt the food was very good overall. Don’t miss the chateabriand if you like red meat, it was exceptional. If you ordered something that you didn’t particularly like, you could always try a second or third entree, appetizer, soup or dessert! Although beautiful, we didn’t find the midnight buffets particularly appetizing. Carnival Staff: Overall, excellent. I mentioned our wonderful dining room staff. Our cabin stewardess was responsive to all problems and did a superior job as did maintenance when we had a slight problem with the air-conditioning and the bathroom facet. All staff throughout the ship were courteous and well trained. Casino/Bars: Not casino or bar people ourselves but we did run into several people who had won quite a bit of money at the casino. Enjoyed a couple of the shows but we are not really night people. Cruise Director: It was Jeff Bronson’s last week and although I’ve read lots of uncomplimentary comments about him, I had only one complaint. That was the constant sell, sell, sell I felt I was bombarded with throughout the cruise. I was constantly being told about sales in the gift shops, at the spa, excursions, specials, etc. I felt like every time I went to a talk, a show or even dinner, I was living in an infomercial. I sort of rationalized it by reminding myself that nonsmokers tend not to be big drinkers or gamblers so I guess the ship feels it has to make money in other ways. OVERALL: Great value for the price. Most of the people I met on the cruise had not researched the ship or ports. I seem to have attracted a lot of people simply because I knew a little about where we were going and what there was to do there. We made some mistakes in planning and I hope what I’ve written here can help others reading this - Good Luck!    

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By Katy_CR

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Nov 2, 2003

Western Caribbean

This is my review of our cruise on the smoke-free Paradise that we took on November 2, 2003. It will probably end up being pretty long, but I really appreciated all the comments made by other people that helped me prepare to make the most of our cruise. So I want to include all the suggestions I think would be helpful. I would love emails if anyone had any questions or comments. I have also been to Ocho Rios on the Triumph. I will start

with some quick recommendations, in case the whole piece is too long to read: First- I definitely recommend eating in the dining room any chance that you get over eating in the buffet. The food and the experience is so much nicer. And don’t feel shy about ordering several entrees, if you like. At our table there were more than one person that ordered THREE of the lobster entrees. Also we ordered up one of the quails for the table just to see what it was like. Next- Ziploc baggies are very helpful for packing snacks or lunches for port days, etc., especially when traveling with kids. We learned on our first cruise that there is nothing on the ship to wrap up leftovers or snackies for the baby (except maybe the dining room napkins). Also- our table mates discovered that if you normally have a glass of wine each night, it is much cheaper to buy a whole bottle, and they will put it in the wine cellar each night and bring it up each day. As for all the pricey “extras” (like bingo, the casino, the shore excursions, etc) I always keep in mind what another reviewer said “It is people that buy that stuff that keep my ticket low-priced”! Don’t be annoyed by the sales pitches- be grateful to the people that are buying. Oh, and let them take your picture- it is free to look at them, and if they come out really nice, wouldn’t you like to have the chance to buy it. A really good picture lasts forever and is always worth whatever the price. And finally- consider a cruise for all your vacations! I can’t believe I have gone so many years without ever trying it. For the price of round trip airfare you can have the transportation, along with the room and the food included, in a format that is so much more fun and comfortable! I think we will continue to cruise a couple times a year. Our particular date had to suffer a little catastrophe because in preparation for a Free Trade conference in Miami later in the month, our cruise left from Miami and returned to Fort Lauderdale. In order to get back to our car afterwards we had to stand around like cattle in the Florida sun until the busses came back to bring us down to Miami. We should have parked in Fort Lauderdale and taken a taxi to Miami before the cruise, and thereby could have arrived home about 2 hours earlier, but we would have had to pay for the taxi ourselves. I was really surprised at the wholly unapologetic way Carnival handled this. The information they handed us notifying us of the change did not even say “we are sorry for the inconvenience”. Needless to say they didn’t give us free drink tickets or anything in recognition for our inconvenience. The only concession I recall was that when a passenger was feeling sick while waiting in the sun, a representative brought out six bottles of warm water, and gave her one. Otherwise the experience was wonderful. Our cruise director was Jeff Bronson, who happened to have been working on the other cruise we took, the Triumph back in March. He had been promoted to his own ship. However, our cruise was his last week on the Paradise and he was about to switch to the Glory. The first night show was very funny, but it didn’t make the audience participants as memorable as the show on the Triumph. John (of the Triumph) really knew how to bring out personalities in each participant, and you would spend the rest of the cruise feeling like you knew those people. One time in Jamaica my husband said to me “The Yabba-Dabba Doo guy is in there”. It is like they became celebrities for a week. On the first or second night (the first formal night) we had the traditional captains cocktail party with free drinks and snackies for an hour in the theater along with a chance to meet all the bridge officers, the captain, and the top managers. In addition we were invited to another reception later in the week because we had cruised on Carnival before. That night had even more free drinks and even more sophisticated snackies. There was a Carnival propaganda movie and an appearance by the Captain and Cruise Director. On another review I saw that someone won rum cake because he had a hundred dollar bill, so I prepared for the trip by bringing a hundred dollar bill. Rockin Robin did give out prizes during her shopping talk, but this time she asked for someone with a bill with the white house on it. I was the first to show her a bill, but unfortunately I was showing her the Lincoln Memorial instead of the White House. Most of the prizes go to people in the front row, and none go to the people in the balcony. Other times she offered free samples of the rum cake- which is super yummy. IN Grand Cayman there are Tortuga Rum shops all over and they all give free samples in what seems like dozens of flavors. Definitely try some! I can’t say enough about how much I loved Camp Carnival. When I learned that they have free day care until 10pm for all kids older than two, I knew I wanted to take a cruise as soon as our daughter turned two. The first night they have a party in the dance club with lots of fun games, and then an ice cream decorating contest. After that they will watch the kids from 9 in the morning until 10pm with no extra charge. It was our first opportunity to spend some time alone together in two years. They also have babysitting until 3am. All of the counselors are just wonderful, and Baby Terry had a wonderful time. When a little playmate would see her in the halls, he would say “she is in school with me!” They played games, and did lots of cool art projects, and watched movies on a wall with dozens of TV sets all over it. They also gave out neat presents. She got a little beanie, and a T-shirt and a growth chart. We especially liked the scavenger hunt. We almost had everything, but we were missing the blue eye shadow. Well, in addition my husband accidently cheated because in order to get the blue nail polish he went to the Spa, which was against the rules but he didn’t know it because I had the paper with me. Of course I wonder where the other three families found blue polish if not the Spa… Speaking of the Spa our table mates told us that in the spa they have a stream room, a sauna, and a shower with powerful jets all around. These are things that are not really advertised. They also have big discounts on massages and other stuff during port days, but I would rather be in the ports myself. The Ports Belize- Our first stop was Belize City. They have not been receiving cruises very long, and I think they still don’t get that many. We were most interested in really exploring the local people and territory, so I had gotten the bus schedules and we made our own plans. We had decided to first take a local bus from Belize City toward Belmopan, and to get off at the Zoo on the way. Afterwards we had plans to go to the Blue Hole National Park, but we went back early instead. We got off the boat and immediately left the cruise ship area. Of course we were inundated with people asking us to rent them for the day, but we just kept going. After getting outside of the area, we asked the security guard about how much a taxi should be to the bus station, and he said about $5. (Which is $10 local money). So we went around the bend to where the taxis are and the started in on their sales deals, we said we were going to the bus station, and the driver said he would take us for $10., so I walked away, and then he said, OK $7., and I said I would pay $7., but no tip. We got in the car and he was telling us about how it was going to take about a ½ hour to get to the station, and wouldn’t we want to rent him to go all the way to the zoo, but we told him we like the bus because we get to meet people. Also because we planned to go to the park afterwards instead of returning right to Belize City. It took about 5 minutes to get to the station. Belize City is very small. It only has 70,000 people (according to the sign outside of town). It is riddled with canals that the driver said have been there for centuries. You have to drive around the canals to get from one place to another. Since it is not really a city (but a town), there is not really much to see there. It is a typical Latin American town. The bus station was filthy, but it was still neat to be there. Our ticket cost $1. per person all the way to Belmopan (40 miles away), with no charge for the baby. Our bus departed about 10 minutes after we arrived, bu t we didn’t get on it. I didn’t realize it was our bus because the sign said something different than “Belmopan”, so we had to wait another 45 minutes. FYI- the time in Belize is one hour earlier than “ship’s time” By the way, apparently Novelos is the only remaining bus company, so if you get the schedule off the Internet, the times are correct (I think), but all the bus companies are now “Novelos”. While we were waiting we discovered that I had lost my card to get back on the cruise. We were worried about how much of a problem that would be, and that is why we ultimately didn’t go to the National Park. Although I was trying to think through all the stuff they said in the legal language on the cruise ticket, and I couldn’t remember a part that said they would leave me in Belize if I lost my card. All in all, I was glad I didn’t lose it on the ship, where somebody could have charged it up, but we weren’t sure what would happen. As it turned out it was fine. They just looked up my name on a list and asked me my birthday and let me on. Later I went to the Purser, and they made a new card in exactly 5 seconds. But back to Belize: We finally got on our bus. It was a thirty year old American School bus blasting Mexican music. There was still a sign that said “Caring for your children is Our Business”. We opened the windows and we were on our way to our Belizean adventure. My daughter shared some cereal (Cruncheroos) with two little girls sitting behind us. They all had a great time. We talked with a bunch of the people on the bus. I think everybody in Belize can speak Spanish, but the ones born there speak English first, but there is a lot of immigration from the other countries that speak Spanish. Belize is a little more stable economically, and there is still quite a bit of British presence. There are British soldiers there training the Belizean army, and the money is still printed by the British. It even still has the Queen on it. The houses are a mix of standard Latin American concrete and cute wood cottages in pastel colors. We go to the zoo and got off along with a guy from Australia who was on his second day in Belize. The zoo was really neat, especially because they let you get so much closer to the dangerous animals than you can iin the United States. The Black Leopard was close enough to touch, if we were to put our hands through the electric fence. He kept walking back and forth in front of us. Of course there were the Black Howler Monkeys ( the ones that you would see in the “Baboon” sanctuary), and they were neat to watch. Also all of the incredible colorful birds and huge Eagles. When we left we had enough time that we could have gone on to the Blue Hole National Park. To do that we would have taken another bus to continue to Belmopan, and then another one out to the park. The park has bright blue water pools that you can swim in that come from underwater streams. You can also explore the caves and the rainforest. In a choice today, I would recommend the park over the zoo because it is more of an experience in the local land. But we decided to go back early and have some local food, and go back to the ship and rest. We took another bus back, and found a small family restaurant. The food seemed very Caribbean to me- pork or chicken with rice and beans, maduros (sweet plantains) and potato salad. Afterwards the taxi charged us $4. to go back to the cruise ship, and I gave him the $7. that the other guy charged. I will discuss the other things to do in Belize that I heard about. If one wants to go to the beach, they can take a water taxi from just outside the terminal down the coast to a nice beach. The cave tubing is supposed to be very interesting and fun, but you have to lug your tube for 45 minutes through the rain forest, and you can’t bring any small kids. The Baboon Sanctuary was interesting to a lot of people, but the monkeys won’t come down and play with you, they will just take food form your hand if you hold it up. Apparently you also are traipsing through peoples yards to see the monkeys (with their permission). It is also possible to go to the sanctuary by bus without taking an organized tour. Honduras I really loved Honduras, it was so beautiful and undeveloped. Whenever I think of a tropical paradise, what I imagine is like Roatan, not the over-developed built up locations that Hawaii, Cancun, Miami, etc. have become. The whole island has about 35,000 people, and I never saw a single big building. More importantly the cheap wooden houses are not all cramped together into a depressing ghetto. They are separated by large amounts of lush greenery. One thing I don’t like about many parts of Mexico (and Belize, too I suppose) is all the dirt and dust all over everything. Roatan did not have much exposed dirt, so everything was not covered in a layer if dust. Upon arrival we made a bee-line to get out of the fenced in area and all the tour guide coyotes. It was 6:30 in the morning local time, which was great for me, because the water would still be warm, but I didn’t need to slather my pale skin with sun block. We were swarmed by drivers as soon as we exited. Our waitress on the ship told us that we should expect to pay $10-$20 per PERSON! We couldn’t afford that, so we were going to walk into town and take a mini-bus. The taxi drivers wouldn’t even quote up the price to West End, because they wanted us to rent them for the day. So we kept walking. After about 100 yards I called to an empty taxi that was leaving and asked him how much he said $6. for all of us. (By the way Honduras money is $17. to $1US—they also print $1. bills which is the least valuable bill I know of. Even Mexico doesn’t print bills worth less than $2.) He took us over the mountain to the beach in West End which is completely un-built-up, and it was early enough that no one else was there. We had a great time. The water was so clear and warm. There is also good snorkeling off the shore, but I didn’t go out there. I did look around with my mask near the beach, though. We played in the nice sand. There was a boy trying to do circles in the water with his boat and he tipped the boat over, and my husband (who used to work driving launches in Mexico)went over to help him. He was so scared he didn’t even help bring the boat back to shore. He knew his boss would be furious with him. My husband got the boat’s rope and pulled it back to the beach. The boy was a small skinny boy about 13 years old. His boss was yelling about how angry the owner was going to be when he came in. They thanked my husband a lot and said they would let us use the snorkel equipment if we wanted. But we left to go to the Institute of Marine Sciences. There is a museum there, but we didn’t go in. We enjoyed lounging around in the chairs there watching the trainers practice with the dolphins. It was before the hoards of tourists arrived, so it was very peaceful, and shady too. They have dolphin encounters too, and I imagine it is possible to watch that as well. But we left to go back to town. In town my husband went to get a $3. haircut just the way he liked it. The dirt road was under construction, so it was kind of dusty there in town. But the whole town center is just a main drag about three blocks long. After the main center as one gets closer to the cruise ships the tourist gift stands start. We did some regular shopping for provisions (toothpaste, Honduran coffee, cold soda) as well as some souvenirs (T-shirt for the baby and a magnet), and went back to the ship. The taxi back to the ship from town cost $1. Other people told us about West Bay which is the tourist center. Apparently it is starting to get built up there and there are condominiums and the beginnings of beach resorts. The Iguana Wall is also supposed to be really neat, and some of our table-mates went there. I would have liked to gone there too if I had known. Grand Cayman Without a doubt the must-do thing in Grand Cayman is the Stingray City or Stingray Sandbar. Although is is shallow water there, it is necessary to take a boat to get there because it is miles from the shore. Also the boat leaves from the other side of the peninsula from where the cruise ship arrives. However, we did that the last time we were there in March. For those interested in doing that, we arranged a tour privately before going on the cruise through an outfit we found on the Internet. I had wanted the superfast boat that zips out to Stingray City and back in like an hour and a half for $19., but that was booked up by the time I called, but they offered me the 3 stop tour for the same price. I am glad we did that because we got to do some really beautiful snorkeling at the coral reef and then at the “living aquarium” before seeing the stingrays. On our cruise this time I met some people that had not booked anything and were waiting until they arrived. I am not so sure how easy that is, because Grand Cayman has a lot going on besides tourism, and tourism isn’t really their big priority, but there definitely were some signs advertising bookings. I would recommend grabbing something before leaving on the cruise, though. If you don’t want to make a foreign phone call, you can make arrangements by email. The experience is incredible. They feel all soft and squishy. The boat captain lifted one on top of my baby’s head. The suck the food from your hand. But anyway, we didn’t do any of that this time. I first went to the courthouse to watch how they conduct court. Since they are a British Colony, the Superior Court proceedings still require the lawyers to dress in gowns and powdered wigs. Even the black attorneys have wigs. The summary Court proceedings were interesting too. The Defendants never go in front of the bar, and the lawyers all sit in a row in front and don’t move when they are arguing their case. The cases that day were being prosecuted by a police officer and not an attorney. Afterwards we spent the day at the beach. We weren’t sure whether to go to a beach with facilities or to go to the public access beach. We decided to try the public access first. It was wonderful. Even though there were FOUR cruise ships that day, the beach was empty by the public access. Everybody was packed into where the cruise ships sell tickets. There was a big ramada with benches and tables that we stayed under to avoid getting burned, and the beach was beautiful, clean, and the water was warm. Pretty much everything you could ask for in a beach. A note about the transportation in Grand Cayman. There are two ways to go. There are the “taxis” which are minivans aand they will pick up other people while you ride, and there are “buses” which are minivans and that will pick up other people while you ride. The “taxis” charge about $4. (Cayman) per person to go to the beach, and start from the cruise ship, and the “buses” charge $2.(Cayman) per person and start from a block away from the cruise ship. ($2.Cayman= $2.50US). You can tell “taxis” from “buses” because the “buses” have a number in a circle. If you are going further there will be a bigger difference in price. If you are with a bunch of people, the difference could add up. Some people were confused and felt deceived by their driver because the difference wasn’t clear. The buses are absolutely fine for getting to the beach, turtle farm, hell, etc. They also go East out to Bodden Town. Cozumel Because we visited family in Cozumel, I don’t really have much to say here that would be of interest to others. We went straight to the ferry to the mainland, which costs $9.per person each way, no matter which of the ferry companies you use. Both companies keep the same schedule, and Cozumel is one hour behind ship’s time. On the mainland one can go to the ruins in Tulum, or to one of many beautiful cenotes, which are natural spring ponds that you can swim in, normally found in shady woods and next to caves. Often the caves can be explores. Cancun is about 40 minutes north of the ferry dock. If you are prone to sea sickness, watch out because the ferry is really wavy. Sit toward the center (looking forward to back) to minimize the sway. On Cozumel if you want a one stop shop for activities, consider Chankanaab Park. I think it is about $20.-$25. for foreigners, but it has nice beaches with neat snorkeling, including a sunken ship. There are also dolphins to watch, a botanical garden path, a little museum, a small collection of ruins, and all the beach facilities and palapas. The sea lion show is a small extra charge, and they have dolphin swims too. If you don’t pay to swim with the dolphins, you can still watch for free (unlike some places). I have heard about some interesting activities around the island, but I don’t remember them. I hope some of what I have included here has been interesting or useful to you. I cannot say enough about what a wonderful vacation a cruise can be!    

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By John_CR

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Oct 18, 2003

Western Caribbean

WOW!!! My first cruise ever and I have to say I am very impressed. We left from Colorado on a plane to Miami, FL. When we arrived we were quickly shown to the shuttle bus and the boarding process went very smoothly. When we arrived on the ship to our rooms, our bags were all there and there was no difficulty. The drill went just fine and then it was off to explore for a little, before an overwhelming cruise director named Jeff was giving

his talk and treating us like royalty. The port excursions were excellent with the exception of Roatan which was a little messy, but if you liked culture that was it. The onboard staff were friendly and very accommodating including our waiter and cabin steward. Our kids enjoyed camp carnival and there helper whose name I believe was Angie... The magician earlier in the week had a bit to work on, but it was not all too bad. This was greatly made up for by a stellar FIRE act on Saturday night. The cruise director said it was the entertainers first time on the ship. His name was Phil DePalo and his show was listed as Zany Antics. He had an incredible fire opening followed by juggling and sword swallowing comedy! He ended his part with breathing fire while producing a card he had comically lost earlier in the show. He was only balanced off by yet another excellent entertainer. Jim Brick was a stand up with a wonderful routine which worked itself around the ship. These two together formed an incredible one, two punch that left my family in amazement. "Jeff, you can bring the new guy back anytime!"Finally we had to pack all of our things and make our way to the atrium for disembarkation. Our bags, had already been taken care of and we were in the middle of the color groups. The bus returned us to the airport where we made a safe flight home. I would recommend carnival and their smoke-free paradise ship to anyone. Truly the "Most Popular Cruise Line in the World!"    

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Sep 27, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

Carnival Paradise, departing Miami on 9/28/03, for a 7-day Exotic Eastern Caribbean itinerary stopping at ports in Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; and La Romana/Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic We are a couple, married 24 years, and both over 40 years old. He’s a Business and Technology Consultant, and I am an HR Manager. This is our fifth cruise, fourth on Carnival and the other on Royal Caribbean. This is our third

sailing on Carnival Paradise. The first was the Eastern itinerary, the second was on the Exotic Western itinerary, and this cruise was the Exotic Eastern itinerary. We flew to Miami via American Airlines on Saturday, September 27. Our flights were uneventful, we located our luggage easily at the Miami airport, and we quickly caught a cab to our hotel. We had purchased the Hyatt Regency on HotWire several weeks earlier. We breezed through the check-in process at the Hyatt, carrying our own luggage up to our room. We had the most beautiful corner room at the Hyatt, with a king-size bed, a wall of windows, large TV, and a separate seating area. Although this was much more than we needed for our one-night pre-cruise stay, we were thrilled with the luxury of our room! We have previously stayed at the Sheraton Inn Biscayne Bay, which we enjoyed a lot, but this was even a notch up from that! We freshened up, then slipped downstairs to their lounge, where I had my first Miami Vice for the trip, and we ordered Conch Fritters. The Nascar race was in town that weekend, so many of the streets were blocked off for the race. The front desk recommended that we take the People Mover, which is free, instead of attempting to walk over the Bayside Marketplace, because it had just started showering. So, we took a brief indoor walk to catch the People Mover. Unfortunately, the People Mover still dropped us off where we had to walk all the way around the Nascar race to get to Bayside Marketplace. The rain had stopped, so all we had to contend with in that walk was the crowd and the roar from the racecars. They were so loud, that it was almost intolerable to be outside anywhere in the Bayside Marketplace (unless you simply like that sound). We strolled through the shops until it was time to meet our new friends we found on the online cruise BBs. We met up with our group of 12 at Bubba Gump’s for a lovely meal with drinks. It was fun meeting all those people we communicated with online! We had a great time. Then a few of us moved on to the Wet Willie’s in Coconut Grove, where we continued getting to know one another over very strong drinks! We enjoyed our night’s stay at the Hyatt, getting up very leisurely the next morning. We had a nice breakfast in their casual restaurant just downstairs. Roger enjoyed a nice buffet, while I dined on Lox and Bagels. Then we headed over to the Carnival terminal in a taxi, arriving about 10:30. We were very surprised that the traffic jam we usually experience was non-existent – our taxi driver drove us right up to the terminal with no honking and no delay. The explanation for this phenomenon appears at the end of my review, so stay tuned! The luggage handlers immediately assisted us in discovering our cabin number, since we had booked a 6A guarantee. We were pleased to find we had been upgraded to U59, a 6C Oceanview room, near elevators – we like being close to elevators rather than walking and walking down rows of cabins! A quick tip to the luggage handlers assured that all of our bags would arrive at our cabin that evening. Again, we noticed that no one was leaving the ship, grabbing taxis or buses – strange! We entered the terminal at 11 a.m., immediately made our way through the check-in process, and upstairs to get our Sail ‘n Sign card, just to wait for a while. We were pleased to note that we had been given the 8:00 late seating, but we were surprised, because we were assigned to the aft Dining room but had a forward cabin. Unusual in our experience! As we waited to board the ship, the Carnival employees were selling raffle tickets, hot dogs, and drinks to raise money for the United Way. A really good idea, the basket won from the raffle tickets included among other treats a bottle of Vodka. They allowed us to board the ship about 12 Noon, but they actually excused the passengers by rows of seats. This was the first time this process had been used, but there was no pushing or shoving. It was very organized, and everyone was quickly aboard the ship within only a few minutes! We quickly found our cabin, dropped off our stuff, and headed to the Paris restaurant for our first drink and pizza. A new thing there was that the Paris bar now has those Playmaker machines where you can play trivia games, like you see in land bars! We enjoy those on land, but didn’t see any reason to sit at a bar to play that game while at sea – we feel the same way about the casino, too, though, so thought someone might be interested in that information. We toured the ship for a while to see what else was new and reacquaint ourselves with our favorite haunts, and then headed to the Lido Deck to lie out in the sun. We stayed there for about an hour, until they announced the muster drill. We gathered our life vests then headed to our muster station in the Normandie Lounge. Lots of people were in this large area where all the shows were, and they made us put our life vests fully on before we were seated in the theatre-style seats, which proved more uncomfortable that I remembered. We then were all moved to various lifeboat stations where we stood for a reasonable amount of time. Unfortunately, just as the end of the muster drill was announced, the captain headed out of port. We had to fight the crowds to get back to our cabins, discard our life vests, and head to the outside deck for Sailaway. As this is one of our favorite moments on the cruise, we were very disappointed – surely the Captain could have waited those extra fifteen minutes to let us all get settled after the muster drill. We met up with our online cruise BB friends again at the aft Verandah deck. Pictures were taken, drinks were purchased, and we were officially headed to sea! At 5:30, the sushi bar opened, so we headed downstairs to allow Roger to enjoy Paradise sushi again. We stayed there until time to dress for dinner, and then headed to the Destiny dining room for our late 8:00 dinner. We were pleased to find that we had a table for 8 by a window. Our waiter from our last Paradise cruise, Aquino, noticed us and stopped by to greet us. We had two other couples with us at our table: Steve and Jane, and Willie and Christy, and the other two seats were vacant. We couldn’t have asked for four more pleasant people if we had tried! Steve and Jane told us that they were changing to early seating the next day, but we all hit it off so well that first night that we pleasantly crossed paths together all week. Willie had a birthday later in the week, and Steve and Jane joined us that evening again to celebrate his birthday! So, for the remainder of the week, our table for eight was only filled with four! Clifford was our headwaiter with his assistant, Manuel. We had many problems in getting the right food placed in front of each of us in a timely manner, as well as not always getting everything we needed to eat our food in a timely manner, such as steak knives or jelly. We found that Manuel would help us as quickly as we caught his eye, so he became our favorite! We purchased a bottle of wine a couple of nights at dinner, which they kept for us until the next night each time, but other nights I purchased an individual glass of wine from the bar waiter, Augus, who we thoroughly enjoyed! I’ve covered what we’ve eaten on the Paradise in previous reviews, so I’m not going to review that again here, except the things that have changed. Steaks – previously we could only order medium rare or medium well. This was a problem for both of us, because I prefer my steak medium and Roger prefers his rare. Now they prefer them at all five temperatures – a wonderful improvement. The lobster was still bad! Try a variety of the soups; they are all so great! We had both a dessert and cheese after our meals most nights, and this turned out to be the most pleasant times in our meals, where we call visited leisurely after the rush of the meals. Sea days we ate every meal in the dining room, and port days we ate breakfast and lunch in the Paris Restaurant, and only the evening meal in the dining room. We loved the 8:00 dinner seating, because it allowed us to arrive at the Normandie Lounge in enough time to still get good seats. However, the shows hadn’t changed at all since our last cruise, so we only went to four of the shows, skipping the Broadway shows and the Tia Thompson show that we had seen before twice. We went to the Welcome Aboard show, both Comedy shows, and the Guest Talent Show. All were fun, except the last comedian, J.R. McCullough, was heckled at the late show by an 11-year old boy on the front row of the theatre who had been at the early show, too. He kept calling out the punch lines before the comedian could say them. Security should have removed this young man! Apparently an older sibling went to get his mother, after J.R. made the boy sit on the stool in the middle of the stool, while J.R. sat in the boy’s theatre seat and heckled the boy on stage. Unfortunately, once the mother arrived, she joined the boy in heckling the comedian. We didn’t get to see the comedian’s show at all – disappointing for both the audience and the performer! Adam Ace was wonderful as always, and we again enjoyed the ventriloquist. The cruise director was Jeff Brrronsonnnnn! He was fun and full of energy, and he wrapped up with the guest talent show with a great song of his own! His assistant, Brent, was helpful wherever he was found, with a friendly, open personality. Karl with a K was the social host. This guy was a little over the top for me, but I’m sure he was popular with the younger set. We never met our room steward, but everything was perfect, and towel animals appeared every night. We couldn’t ask for anything more! Monday was our first port day in Nassau, Bahamas. This was our third visit to Nassau. On our first trip, we enjoyed snorkeling with the Stingrays and had our hair braided, and on our second trip, we visited Atlantis. This time we slept in and ate breakfast leisurely in the Paris Restaurant, while others rushed off the ship for their early ship excursions. (Did I mention how wonderful the omelets are in the Paris Restaurant?) We then walked leisurely through the shopping area. Taxi drivers and horse and carriage drivers were all asking us to ride with them. We finally agreed to a horse and carriage ride, when the driver agreed to take us to the Queen’s Staircase, which we wanted to visit this time. It was a wonderful ride. The Queen’s Staircase was amazing! And, we were glad to return to the ship, because it was a hot day in Nassau! We enjoyed a nice lunch aboard the ship, and then lay out in the sun for a while, sushi, dinner, and our first formal night. The Captain’s Cocktail party was nice, as always, and we enjoyed dancing on the Normandie stage to the music of the live Paradise band. We bought some great photos from the first formal night. Usually we enjoy dancing after dinner in one of the many lounges. Unfortunately, this time we did not enjoy the music in either of the lounges, and we’re simply don’t like piano bars! Some folks seemed to really enjoy one band, the Highlights, because there were always people dancing there, just not our cup of tea. There was a great singer at the US Bar on the Promenade deck, so we enjoyed listening to him some evenings, but the Promenade is just not conducive to dancing! Tuesday was our first sea day. We love sea days, sleeping late, and then a leisurely breakfast at our late 9:30 a.m. seating in the dining room. Some days, Willie and Christy joined us for breakfast, and some days not! Then we headed outdoors to enjoy the sun and deck activities for a while. We came inside in time to join the first art auction preview at 1:00 p.m. with Park West auctioneer, Geoffrey. We collect Thomas Kinkaide paintings, and at this auction, anyone who purchased one Thomas Kinkaide, could purchase every additional Thomas Kinkaide at $100 off the gavel price. We picked up three of those, plus one “mystery” piece that turned out to be a nice Ballet, and then got a free Del Signore painting. A great auction day for us, and we can’t wait to see our paintings in our home. We enjoyed martinis at the Rotterdam bar, while waiting to complete payment and shipping for our art purchases – the martinis made the process painless! Wednesday was our second port in La Romana (Casa de Campo), Dominican Republic. Nothing exists at the port here, except a parking lot and information center for the cruise passengers. To see or do anything, you have to take a ship excursion or a taxi on your own into the area! When we were researching this port online prior to departure, several people had said how great the Saona Beach excursion was. Just before we left, another person did a review of this excursion, describing a swarm of mosquitoes that left guests running for the water and some with as many as 50 bug bites on their body. I am a mosquito-magnet, so we quickly decided not to risk that, but then we had no idea what to do. On our flight into Miami, we sat by a woman named Mary who had spent two weeks at the Casa de Campo resort. She said the Altos de Chavon artist village was a must-see with great art and restaurants. She also recommended the golf courses. Based on Mary’s recommendations, we booked the Altos de Chavon Village and Riverboat tour, and we did not regret that decision! We rode a bus from the pier for a tour of Casa de Campo resort (including Sammy Sosa's home) to the river, and boarded the riverboat. As soon as we pulled away from the bank of the river, three johnboats sped up beside us, selling us local "souvenirs" -- caps, necklaces, etc. -- funny experience. The lower deck of the boat had merinque music and dancing, while the upper deck was quieter and more scenic. We "paddled" (actually motored) up the river and back down, with many beautiful photo shots along the way. Oh, yeah, and did I mention they were pouring the Dominican rum and Pepsi freely! We then reboarded our motorbus and traveled up the bluff to the Altos de Chavon artist village. This was built by a prince for his lover in 1980, but in the style of a Mediterranean artist village from the 1700's. Beautiful! Overlooked the rain forest, river, and a beautiful golf course on Casa de Campo. We browsed through many lovely shops -- lots of art -- and the local Mamajuana (liquid Viagra for women and men -- tasted like cherry root beer!), neat restaurants (no time to eat with the ship excursion), and great photo ops. Then back on the tour bus to the ship! We really enjoyed this port! Other friends were brave enough to take the Saona Beach excursion, had no problem with the mosquitos, and said it was the best excursion they’d ever taken. Other friends took taxis into the city and shopped at Casa de Campo. Those friends suggest that someone in the group know some Spanish! Thursday was our final port day in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. We love the Virgin Islands. This was our second visit to St. Thomas. On our first visit, we shopped, then took a tour with the best tour guide on St. Thomas, Roy, who gave us a great tour of the island, a visit at Mountaintop View and a banana daiquiri, and two hours at Coki Beach, before returning us to the ship. This time, we took a ship’s excursion to St. John’s Trunk Bay to snorkel. The snorkeling trail there was amazing, with underwater signs describing what was around the sign – how did they keep that stuff by the signs? After that excursion, we took the tram up to Paradise Point, which was not nearly as cool, in our opinion as Mountaintop View. Then we ran into town to pick up the necessary souvenirs. Friday and Saturday were two consecutive sea days. Did I mention that sea days are our favorites. We slept in, sunned, napped, ate, drank, danced. We made our one and only visit to the casino on one of these days, putting $10 in the nickel slot machines, and walked away with $16.30. Big spenders! This was a Carnival Past Guest Reunion cruise. We got free stuff and a coupon book – worthless! But the price was right! The Repeaters party on Friday night was spread out across the entire Promenade deck, including every lounge, because 80% of the passengers were past guests. What a great party! We strolled from lounge to lounge, finding our new friends, had a few drinks and appetizers, before dinner! This was also our second and last formal night, and everyone looked great! And, actually, everyone on the ship participated in the Repeater’s party, and in my opinion, this party was even better than the Captain’s Cocktail Party. We found a DJ spinning Latin music in the Rex lounge, with many passengers dancing … how fun. A new twist to disembarkation occurred on this cruise. Our cruise director, Jeff, announced that customs has just started allowing passengers who can carry all their luggage off the ship with no assistance and who had no business with customs, to disembark from 7:30 to 8:30 on Sunday morning. Almost 600 passengers did this. To do this, you keep your luggage in your room, and when the Express Disembarkation is announced, you carry all your luggage off, handing customs your duty slip as you walk off the ship without delay. Taxis and buses are available to take passengers to their next destination. If we had known, we could have flown out earlier in the day at a much lower price. Once 600 people are off with their luggage, however, it was much easier for us to find our luggage in the terminal. And, because of this new express disembarkation, everyone is off the ship by 10:00 a.m. This is why no passengers were leaving the ship when we arrived at 11:00 at the cruise terminal at the beginning of the cruise. One last kudos goes to our Lido deck waiter, Regino. Regino took care of us on our second cruise and found us again on this cruise. He calls us by name, memorizes our Sail ‘n Sign foil number, so we never have to pull it out again, brings us our favorite drinks, and generally treats us like important people. Find Regino on the Lido deck, let him take care of you, and tip him generously. He’s first class! As always, if you have any questions, feel free to send me an email. My photos from past cruises and this one can be found at http://community.webshots.com/user/judyjbest. If you enjoy our photos, please take the time to sign the online guest book, telling us who you are and where you’re from! Notes like that make sharing more fun!    

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Sep 6, 2003

Western Caribbean

My wife and I sailed the Paradise for our second time on September 7th. Our anniversary is the sixth of September and since we so enjoyed our first cruise with Carnival the previous year on the Paradise, we decided to sail her again for 'once more around the Western Caribbean.' We are both non-smokers, so the Paradise was a big draw for us. We have never sailed a 'smoking' ship prior, so my review may be a bit skewed, but know that going

in. We arrived via Miami International airport on US Air at 12:50 and gathered our luggage. As part of the 'worry-free' AAA planning in 2002, we had used the shuttle service from the airport to the pier. This year, Debbi and I (along with my brother and sister-in-law who were on their first cruise) had opted to decide what was cheapest when we got to the airport. Upon gathering the luggage, we were going to go to the Gray Lines (Carnival's) shuttle service to the pier, but a kindly Carnival employee in the staging area let us know a cab would be radically cheaper. It would've been $11/pp each way from airport to pier and back or $44/couple roundtrip, but with the employee's info we hired a cab-van for the standard fare of only $18 each way total for up to four passengers. A tidy savings. Embarkation: This was a breeze, much the same as before. The agents at check-in were extremely efficient and friendly. Remember to have your paperwork (Birth cert. etc) handy to speed the process up, and the four of us were on the boat in short order. Well I should say stopped for one of the many, many photo ops and then were on the ship. We immediately went to the Excursions information area in the Atrium and began signing up for what we hoped would be some exciting Caribbean fun. We weren't off in our hopes. The life boat drill was also, much quicker than last year. We speculated that we got an abbreviated version as it was lightly raining prior to departure and they probably wanted to save themselves a load of grouchy soggy passengers. The previous year had us standing out in the blistering heat (well it felt sweltering if you're stupid enough to wear dockers and a knit polo like I did...live and learn, it was cold when we left Ohio) for approximately half an hour with the life jackets adding to the heat while people milled about refusing to line up and adding to the drill time. This time, in and out of the muster area in minutes. We were underway! The design of the ship. Both couples had problems in the bath room with mystery odors from day one, but I believe it was the plumbing that was the culprit. Keeping the door closed to the bathroom, solved the smell problem. I was comfortable with the ship generally, and our room specifically, cleanliness wise and I'm quite the germ-phobe. Dining: The four of us had chosen late seating as we had left our kids at home and planned for later evenings. We were in the Destiny dining room (table 244), and had Domingo and Milo as waiter and assistant waiter respectively. The table was a six-seater and the four of us had the luxury of two great dinner companions who became fast friends (Hey Kurt and Angie!) We had a bit of confusion up front as Milo's nametag said "Milo" but when we called for Domingo on occasion, he'd answer. Apparently, his first name was also Domingo and went by Milo (his surname) to avoid confusion...given the situation described, I don't know how much confusion it avoided or added to, but Milo was great. Domingo was an efficient, but not overly social waiter. Debbi watched him berate some female waitstaff person for dropping something, but when he was 'on stage' at the tableside he was very pleasant. Milo on the other hand was what we had come to expect from the dining room staff and was always 'on' - entertaining, laughing, chastising us for trying to watch what we ate, etc. He was a riot and really made dining in the Destiny a treat each night. Food: In this area, I felt Carnival shined. We had been spoiled rotten by the chefs on the Paradise the year prior, and this year did nothing to bring us back down to earth. As my wife will attest, I could eat chicken for 3 meals a day, and would be perfectly happy if I never saw a steak as a consequence. If it's any kind of barometer for the chef's skill level during the cruise, I ate Filet Mignon (two actually), Prime Rib, Chateau Briand, and so much other red meat that I probably should go see a cardiologist. The food outside of the Destiny was quite good too. I visited the 24/7 pizzeria a few times that week and had my first Carnival calzone this time around. From what I could tell, the calzones were made upon request and when I returned 10 minutes later (per instruction from the attendant) I received a piping hot fresh calzone that was delicious. I do have to remark that the other all-day/every-day available item most people discuss is the soft-serve ice cream and yogurt. Debbi enjoyed it, but it's pumped out of the dispenser full of ice crystals, and though I realize that the volume of ice cream needed by guests, it's probably a valid side effect of the fast freezing process, I prefer the smooth and creamy soft-serve from a local mom-and-pop shop. Not a big complaint, as I never went hungry all week. The hamburgers served daily at the poolside Lido service area are the best hamburgers you can find, so if you're a fan of a great cheeseburger, do yourself a favor and skip lunch in the Paris (casual dining) or one of the formal dining rooms and make your way to the grill at least once during the week. Trust me, you'll thank me later. Excursions: Seemed to have gone up somewhat from what we remember last year. We chose the Western itinerary a second time, since last time there simply wasn't enough time to get all the fun stuff done in each port. Some of the excursions (namely anything with "Dolphin" in the title) is radically overpriced, but I suppose that value is relative. My wife and I are divers, but I choked at $199/pp to scuba dive for 2 hours in an area that had a chance to see dolphins, no matter how badly I would've loved the interaction with marine wildlife. Never had a bad value from a Carnival excursion though, and this time was no different. I'll touch on the actual excursion in the port description. One thing of note, that I wish Carnival would change. Early on in planning, Carnival reps faxed me a complete list of official excursions available at each port, just like they had the previous year. I was very disappointed to find out that Carnival had opted to remove the prices from each entry, as my wife and I were trying to estimate expenses. I was told that I could look through the catalog and pick the things that interested me and if I wanted to, I could call and get the individual prices of those excursions. This was a complete hassle to accomplish for four people (as I helped with my brother and his wife's research too), all to alleviate 'price shopping for alternate excursion options' which is - I assume - what Carnival was trying to prevent. Some of the prices DID cause sticker shock, but the inconvenience of having to call back every time was annoying. Ports of Call: Belize: One word: Beautiful. Belize City was gorgeous. We opted for the Cave Tubing excursion and rocked (literally) down the road to a remote location where we were given innertubes and the option to rent watershoes (take them or rent them, trust me). We then took off for approximately 2 miles into the rainforest with an informative guide from the local host company who filled us in on the flora and fauna as we trekked. We entered the cave, jumped in the water and began a very fascinating adventure down-river. I tipped over once getting oriented, but no real drama there. Each couple shares a miner style head-light to see the sites. Occasionally the cave wall would open to large holes in its side and reveal the lush rainforest and bright sunlight. It was gorgeous. After the tubing was over, we went to a small cantina called Cheers ("with a Tropical Twist" the sign proclaimed) for some complimentary stewed chicken and beans and rice. Staples of the Belize diet, and quite good. We were asked twice if we'd like to purchase local clocks/pictures, etc. but were left alone when we declined. Isla Roatan: In all fairness, all we saw was from the Lido deck. Debbi and I opted to stay aboard the ship that day and as a surprise I scheduled a daily special "Stressbuster" massage and facial for her in the Spa. We just relaxed and enjoyed the quiet of having the ship (sort of) to ourselves. My brother and his wife went ashore, and commented on the poverty level and that the people did come up quite often trying to sell them things or beg them to come into shops. Didn't see any of it first-hand, but I had read similar online, so it was good enough for me. Brother and sister-in-law had gotten discounted massages that morning prior to going ashore and they were so relaxed they nearly had to be wheeled into port. If you're interested in getting a spa treatment, by all means schedule during a port day. The prices on things are substantially lower and you can use the savings towards something else or just put it in your pocket. Georgetown, Grand Cayman: Debbi and I fell in love with the Cayman Islands in 2002 during our Paradise cruise, and are giving serious thought to flying there for a full week in the future. Of all the stops, this one is by far the most aesthetic. The people who live on the island are friendly (it's more than just the vendors trying to peddle stuff to you), and it's just an all-around good time. For an excursion here, we did the Reef and Wreck Snorkel. It wasn't that expensive ($39/pp) and involved going just offshore a short distance to a small coral area and then a slight hop (almost literally) to a sunken tanker. Both areas teemed with marine life and the guides were great fun. One of guides swam over and asked to if we'd like some pictures of Debbi and I with the Paradise quite close in the background taken with our underwater camera. It's a stunning picture that we'll treasure. It did rain quite intensely for all of 10 minutes when we were just getting back on land, but that was it. We were done early enough to do some serious shopping - something that we didn't have time to do last time after the Stingray City/Hell/Turtle Farm tour. We left a chunk of our money with the Caymans, but got a lot of nice souvenirs and met quite a few nice folks that lived there. Cozumel: The pier area had been upgraded since last time we visited and we were pleased. We did a bit of shopping in the duty-free shops (namely a nice Chess set for my oldest son), and then waited for our Horseback riding excursion to begin at 2:30. As with most Carnival excursions, the guides were quite nice, but the catalog talked about riding through some ruins along the way. Nearly everyone in our group (the four of us and several people we met on the bus) seemed to believe the ruins looked pretty 'staged' and made from modern tech and placed there. Regardless, the horseback riding and the jungle scenery, mixed with the history lesson (faux ruins or not) was quite good. Afterwards, we were taken to a cantina for all the Coronas or sodas we could drink and then it was back to the ship. Carnival Staff: Again, Carnival really seems to shine when it comes to staff. We ran into several 'off-duty' staff onshore during the week (including both Domingo and Milo) and even during their time-off they all were as friendly as ever. I never saw anyone the whole week who wasn't busy all the time, cleaning, polishing, scrubbing - even during port days I saw them sanding and varnishing the less-busy parts of the decks. Our cabin steward was phenomenal and I bumped his tip accordingly. Carnival gave out the old Inaugural albums from the launch of the Paradise, during our week at sea. Our room didn't have one, but the steward managed to find us a shiny new copy and lay it on the bed during turn-down one evening. Again, nobody less than Average in my eyes and most Far Above. Milo made our dining experience, but I sorely missed Shiva (from India) and Enrique (from the Philippines), our waiter and asst. respectively from 2002. Casino/Bars: Didn't get to hit the casino as planned. I've become quite addicted to the Travel Channel's World Poker Tournament and thought to go and lose some money trying my hand (no pun intended) at Texas Hold'em some evening, but the two times I had plans to go, the other three had alternative plans, so no idea how they played out this year. One note, the smoke-free environment of the Paradise makes spending any length of time in the casino bearable for someone with poor lungs like me, but it also means that often times it seems like you're the only one in the place. Same for the USA Lounge and other 'bars' on board. I was quite disappointed in that all the karaoke was scheduled for midday on this cruise. One of the highlights last year was late-night karaoke and all the inebriated guests imitating Sinatras and the actual talented folk too....quite entertaining for teetotalers. Shows: "Shout" was the same show as last year. The comedians of the week were quite good as well. I went to my first midnight comedy show (uncensored) and had a great time. Cruise Director: The CD Jeff Bronson was probably the weak spot of the trip. He and his staff were not nearly as good as the cruise entertainment staff we had last year. Last year, Josh (last name escapes me) was our CD and he was gut-busting funny all week long and such a natural at his job. This year, Jeff was often struggling at every hosting gig he had and often looked somewhat uncomfortable. His jokes were all grade-school level and groaners. The events I attended (Trivia, Newlywed/Not-so-newlywed Game, etc.) were fun, but only because the games themselves were fun and not due to Jeff, Karl "with a K" or the other lackluster entertainment staff. Suggestions: I do wish Carnival would consider having someone police the funnel deck occasionally - move a drink stand by each entrance, towel rental, some kind of employee to discourage problems. The funnel is top optional/Adults only and my wife and I spent much of our sun time up there since it's quiet and we could read without pool traffic or chatter. It is 'optional' and she didn't always exercise her option, but the problem remains. During the week we had to literally deal with 10+ people who were brazenly waving cameras about and probably just as many young children. Both are clearly prohibited on the signage, but for both cruises it's been me that had to chase the people off, not Carnival. Another thing that stood out from last year is the doubling of photo ops. Carnival must have a lot of people buy those pictures, as I was ambushed much more often than the previous outing by pirates and other scenarios to have my picture taken. I do wish that situation was isolated to a section that could be circumvented and not hold others (like me) up that don't want pictures taken. Lastly, put the prices back on the excursion guide. You may lose a few people to sticker-shock but it makes planning/budgeting a whole lot easier for your guests. Synopsis: All in all, you have to say a vacation is good when you don't even realize it's over until halfway on the drive to work on the following Monday. Carnival gets a bad rap by some of the other 'snobs' that cruise some of the other lines, but I think the line itself and Paradise in particular goes out of their way to make it the most fun money value I've ever spent. Carnival and Captain Vito Gerrucio run a tight ship and you'll have a load of fun. What are you waiting for, call and get on board!    

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Aug 30, 2003

Western Caribbean

This cruise was a great value, I really enjoyed it, but there were a few things that I had a problem with that I hope will be of help to fellow travelors. Overall, I enjoyed the cruise and would do it again. First I will list the things that were good. The no Smoking! This is the first of its kind as a non-smoking ship. My lungs enjoyed every breath, and they are very serious about enforcing this rule! The sushi bar - a nice afternoon

snack, good sushi, and its free! A nice touch. The food in general, and the wait staff. All were excellent, the meals were for the most part very good, although the deserts in the main dining were a little lacking. Go to the Paris Restaurant if you like pastries. St. Thomas: Beautiful, sage island, full of friendly, honest people. It's a jewell and you will have fun. Bad: Casa de Campo: This should not be a port that anyone should visit. It is the Dominican Republic, every bit a third world country, dirty and dangerous. If you want to take one of the Carnival excursions that is ok, although even the people we spoke with did not enjoy those there. If you do not take an excursion, do not get off the ship, they have armed guards at the gates, and you will be accosted by con-men. Carnival even acknowledges it is not safe. Do yourself a favor and stay on the ship. Nassau: Touristy, and you are accosted by con-men and two bit peddlers. Twenty four hour pizza bar: The chef was surly and uncooperative, and it wasn't very good, the sauce just wasn't there and the Thai chef didn't realize that cheese is not the only part of making pizza, although it was hot and fresh. The pools: They are a joke, if you've never been on a ship, realize they are crowded and only 1 foot deep. All in all though, it was a nice vacation, escaping from the world, and being pampered. I would highly recommend it, although as I said, DO NOT get off at Casa de Campo, it is a godforsaken place. The nice Dominicans we met on the ship were glad they were headed back to America.    

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Aug 30, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

My husband and I just returned from our second cruise, our first on the Paradise. We chose the Eastern Caribbean itinerary as we had explored the Western route on our first cruise, on the Sensation in May of 2001. I'll do my best to rate the Paradise on its own merits, and also report on some of the changes in Carnival we noticed from 2001 to 2003. This review is pretty long, but I did my best to include all the things I wish I could have

read about in my research, and included the topics I found most helpful in other reviews. First a little bit about us – we are both 25, married 3 years. My husband Shawn is a systems analyst for a utility company, I am an academic adviser at a public university. We aren't into the party scene, we like to take our vacations to relax and explore or see new places, and to spend some quality, romantic time alone together. We enjoy reading, hiking, music, and eating out. Our one real problem with the Sensation was the terrible amounts of cigarette smoke. We found it unbearable to be in the atrium, and could not enjoy any of the sing-alongs in the bars and lounges due to it, it made even using the elevators unpleasant. So we were very excited to hear that Carnival offered an entirely smoke-free ship! BOOKING THE TRIP: We started researching our options back in February, and found that the lowest price was available on-line at a travel agency called Cruises Only. So while we never actually met our TA, she was very good at responding to e-mails, and when we found the price had dropped (on two occasions) and gave her a call, she re-figured our bill for us. We ended up paying $499 plus tax for a category 6A, a much better price than we had paid in 2001. Five days before our sail date (8/31/03), we called Carnival for one last price-check and found they were offering our category for $495 including tax, and after a little bit of the run-around (Carnival told us to call the TA, the TA told us to call Carnival, etc.), we received $100 ship board credit! The moral of the story – be persistant! The squeaky wheel gets the grease! PORT OF MIAMI: I have always enjoyed road-trips, my family always took at least one every summer during my childhood, so I talked Shawn into driving to Miami from Akron, Ohio. People seem to think we are loony for this, but the drive was very pleasant! We left right after work on Friday, drove all night in shifts, and arrived in Miami around 11 on Saturday, which gave us plenty of time to relax and enjoy our first visit to the city. We had bid $35 on Priceline about three weeks before for a hotel in the downtown Miami area, and the bid was accepted by the Radisson on Biscayne Blvd. What a deal! The only complaint we had about the hotel was the parking fee – it was $2 for the first hour and $1 for every additional hour, for a maximum of $10. Still, with the price of the room we didn't pay all that much! The hotel is just a few blocks north of I-195, very easy to find. Upon checking in, I asked the clerk if any of the rooms faced the port – I was not asking to be in one of those rooms, but I think English was his second language and due to a very fortunate misunderstanding, he said he would change us to a king room (instead of 2 queens) that faced the port at no additional charge! What a way to begin our vacation. We enjoyed a dip in their beautiful roof-top pool, and took a nap to catch up on our sleep. Around dinner time we got up and drove over to Miami beach to see what all the fuss was about. Since we're really not into clubbing, we soon determined it really wasn't our style, and drove north up to The Crab House, and had a very nice dinner of snow crab and coconut shrimp. The next morning we woke up and excitedly went to the window – off in the distance, you could see the Paradise had arrived! We checked out around 11 and headed to the IHOP we had seen last night, just a few blocks north, then headed down Biscayne the other way to Port Blvd. The Miami Port is very well designed. We had no idea what to expect, but upon crossing the causeway we simply followed the signs towards the Paradise in Terminal 8, went through a security checkpoint, and then continued following the signs to the baggage drop-off. From there it's just around the corner to the long-term parking. We were very happy to see it was in a garage so our car wouldn't get too hot. Keep in mind, Terminal 8 is on a cash-only basis, $10 a day all in advance. EMBARKATION: We estimated that arriving around 12:30 would be “early,” since our tickets said boarding began at 1:30. I should have paid more attention to other reviewers! Apparently 12:30 is around peak-time, so there was quite a line in the terminal, but it really did go quickly. As we approached the line a Carnival employee gave us a letter telling us they were closely monitoring the progress of Hurrican Fabian and would keep us informed of the situation. We first had to go through security with our carry-on, which consisted of two bookbags, our digital camera, and a beach bag. We had 4 bottles of water and 3 bottles of juice as well as various snacks (which I'm sure you could see through the X-ray scanner) and apparently Carnival considers that to be within their “reasonable amount” since no one batted an eye at it. After that we got into the check-in line, which was about 45 minutes long. They really keep it moving, the clerks at the desk are very efficient without being pushy or rushing you when it's your turn, but they don't dawdle. At the desk we asked the Carnival representative about the possibility of early disembarkation since we had quite a drive to get home. She said to go to the Information Desk on the ship and tell them we had an early flight and didn't have the tickets on us to receive an early disembarkation tag. She also told us that when people get off the ship has a lot to do with customs, and that this particular morning customs hadn't cleared the Paradise until nearly 10:00 so even the early people didn't get off until 10:30 or so, preparing us for that possibility. We were grateful for her frankness on this matter. THE SHIP: As other reviewers have mentioned, we were struck by the much classier tone of the Paradise compared to the Sensation (and, I assume, other Carnival Fantasy-class ships). So I won't go into too much detail here, but the wood-tones and Faberge egg motif was very attractive. It still has the twinkly, glitzy Carnival look, but toned down a bit. The carpeting was identical to what we remembered on the Sensation, and the pinkish-orange hallways in the cabin-areas were the same also. Our room was midship on the Riviera (we prefer the lower deck as we feel the motion is not as noticeable, and walking the stairs helps you work off those midnight buffets!), and pretty much identical to our room on the Sensation, although opposite in lay-out. The one difference that we appreciated immediately was that Carnival had installed soap and shampoo dispensers in the shower, which was very convenient. Our room steward Ted refilled them every time they got low. We went around exploring the ship and found that it is of course very similar to the Sensation as they are both Fantasy-class, so it wasn't hard remembering how to get from place to place. The biggest difference of course – no smoke or smoky smell! We appreciated that right away. DINING: Dinners: We had requested the early seating, as on our previous TA's advice we had done the late seating on our first cruise. Her point was that early diners had to rush back to the ship and didn't get to enjoy the ports. We found that we didn't spend that much time in port anyway, and when you have dinner at 8:30, you miss so many of the evening activities and have no appetite at all for the midnight buffets, so we were excited to try our new dinner time. An unintended benefit of the early seating seemed to be that dinner moved a little more quickly (or maybe that is just because there were less people than our first cruise), and the meat was always cooked as we ordered it. Shawn is a steak-man, and he was a little disappointed on the Sensation that his steak was always too well done. He orders it medium-rare, and this time around, it actually arrived medium-rare. The food just seemed a little hotter, a little fresher. Last time we had been seated at a large round table right next to the dining room entrance right in the middle of the room, so we didn't have a real ocean-view. This time we had a booth which is just one row away from the window, so we had a great view even if we weren't at a window-table. The booths seat 6, but we had only one other couple at our table, honeymooners from Virginia named Mike and Antoinette. Either the other couple never showed up, or only the four of us were assigned to that table – I think it might be the latter because it didn't appear to be a full ship. There were always plenty of open seats in lounges and around the pool, even during peak times. We found that the dynamic is definitely different when you have just one other couple at your table instead of four – but luckily we had a lot in common and got along very well. Antoinette was originally from St. Vincent and had gone to college in St. Thomas, so we were able to get a local point of view during the week! Our head waiter was Rommel from the Phillipines, and Bart from Poland was his assistant. We also had a waiter-in-training named Olga from Lithuania. Please remember if you have a waiter-in-training that they are not included in your automatic tip, so it might be nice to give them a little something. Olga worked very hard for us, and we appreciated her efforts. We soon met Svitlana, our bar waitress who was diligent in bringing me my soft-drink every night after I showed her my fountain card that first Sunday. The menu was identical to what we remembered on the Sensation – literally. I know because they had the strawberry bisque and roasted pumpkin soup on the same night – and again I couldn't choose between them, so I had both! I did my best to remember what I had ordered before and try something new each night. As a result, I tried a little bit of everything – the seafood (perch, lobster tail, red-skinned snapper), beef, lamb, and pork. I'm especially fond of Carnival's soups and had two on some nights! The only course I didn't care for was the salad. There wasn't a lot of variety and many of them had “mixed greens,” which I can't stand, they're too bitter for me. So instead of salad I usually ordered a soup and some other appetizer. On the night that the dining staff sang “Happy Birthday, Anniversary, Honeymoon, etc” Rommel found out that we had celebrated our anniversary 3 weeks before and two days later gave us a cake as well, which was really sweet. One thing we did notice about dining that had changed was that instead of leaving a basket of bread at the table, they came around with the basket and served a piece of bread to each guest (more than one if you asked). I’m sure this is a cost-cutting measure, and it didn’t bother me a bit – since if bread is in front of me, I tend to keep eating it, and have less room for dinner! And any time you wanted more bread you just let the staff know and they brought the basket around again. There also seemed to be more of the staff performances – I remembered the Italian song, the Macarena, Mambo #5, and God Bless America on the final night...this time around there was some song or dance every single night except the first one, and God Bless America was replaced by the Carnival rendition of “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” called “Leaving Our Fun Ship.” I’m pretty neutral on this aspect of the dining experience. It does make for a fun, party atmosphere on one hand, but on the other hand I feel bad for the staff, that’s already knocking themselves out to wait on us hand and foot, and then must entertain us as well. Breakfasts - Breakfast had changed as well – on the Sensation, there was always an assigned breakfast time in your normal dining room for a full-menu breakfast only. This time around, on sea days breakfast was at your assigned time in your dining room; on port days, only the Elation dining room was open and it was open-seating. There was also a buffet available in the dining room. It was pretty similar to the buffet on the Lido, with a little more selection in fruit, better-looking eggs, and French toast. We never ordered from the menu, and went to a buffet each day – in the Elation on port days, and on the Lido deck on sea days. Unlike lunch and dinner, we found the food pretty comparable in quality in the formal dining room and the Lido deck. Buffets – the buffet opened at either 11:30 or midnight each night, in the Paris Restaurant most nights, but one night there was a Mexican buffet on the Lido deck. Most of the time it was fruit, leftover desserts from the formal dining room (which was nice if you couldn’t decide between two desserts – there is a chance you could try your second choice later that night!), and cold cuts. One night they had a make-your-own-crepe buffet. I had never tried crepes, and thoroughly enjoyed loading one up with chocolate, almonds, and whipped cream. Friday night they had the gala buffet; first picture taking in the Elation, and then you could go right upstairs to the Paris to eat it! Honestly, I think this buffet is more eye-candy than anything, creative and amazing in presentation but not so striking flavor-wise. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t much different than the food I’d had all week. Since we’d eaten at 6, we managed to fit the buffet in almost every night, and it was very enjoyable, sitting at one of our favorite spots on the deck (the back of the Lido deck behind the Paris), enjoying a midnight snack. Room Service – the menu was very similar to what I remembered from 2001, there may have been a few additions. We used it three times - once for an early lunch when we slept in, once for a late-night snack (just because we could), and on Friday night we put out our order card for breakfast-in-bed on Saturday. The fruit salad is good, as is the roast-beef and brie sandwich, and the chocolate cake! The service was always very prompt. THE PORTS: Nassau, The Bahamas: We had decided very early on to take only one excursion to keep costs down, and I hadn’t heard a lot of good things about Nassau so we decided to make it just a low-key day and hang out on our own, return to the ship early and get a discounted couple’s massage while the ship was in port. When we first arrived at the pier on Monday there was a light rain. We ate breakfast on the Lido deck and by the time we finished the weather was clearing up. We exited the ship from Deck 3 and took the walk down the wharf to the actual city. The wharf is maybe a quarter-mile walk. There were a few people waiting at the end of it offering us tours, but were not persistent when we declined. We walked into the “welcome-building,” which can be a little bit tricky. We assumed the official-looking people behind the counters were there to give us information, but apparently these are just tour operators with enough status to get an official-looking spot behind the counter! One woman offered to braid my hair when I asked her about local beaches, and the man next to her told us the only public beach was on Paradise Island and offered to ferry us there. I knew from reading reviews that this was not true, so we just decided to walk. Coming out of the welcome center, we went right down Bay Street, and walked until it dead-ended at the British colonial hotel private beach behind Senor Frog’s. We made a left and then another right on Marlborough to go around the hotel, and lo and behold on the other side of this huge hotel is a little public beach! I think it is called Lighthouse Beach, as it is right across a little bay from a lighthouse. We could see the Paradise about a half-mile away. There was a vendor there who offered to rent us chairs, umbrellas, etc., and to braid my hair, but again stopped bothering us after we declined. We laid towels down on the sand and went for a quick dip in the calm, warm, crystal-clear water. It is really a tribute to this beach that I got in at all – I used to love the ocean, but after five encounters with jelly-fish in South Carolina, Alabama, and Florida, I have developed a phobia of being in water that I can’t see into. This was like being in a pool it was so clear, I had no fears at all! After our swim, we laid out to dry off, reading our books. Around 11:30 we headed back the way we had come, and stopped at Conch Fritters across from the hotel to try this local delicacy. We had read on the web and in several guidebooks that this restaurant prepared it well. We split a Coke and ordered the fritters, which were delicious! Warning, for those of you who haven’t tried them – don’t ask what they are until you’re done! : ) We walked back through all the pier-side vendors and were back on the ship by 12:30, enough time to shower and get ready for our 1:45 massage. La Romana, Dominican Republic: This was the most confusing port to research, in my opinion, since the Paradise is one of the first ships to visit it. At first the Carnival website said the port itself was Casa del Campo, so I wondered if that meant we would be able to just hang out at the resort. I called the resort and Carnival on 3 separate occasions and no one knew. After receiving the excursion costs from Carnival, I decided to do a little research and see if I could see the same sights for a lesser cost (which you can usually do). I found several agencies that offered the same tours, but got one confusing message from one of them that Carnival forbids its guests from taking any non-Carnival excursions. This sounded fishy to me, but rather than fight it, we just decided to use our on-board credit for an excursion. The best one seemed like the Saona Beach Catamaran, which actually combined 2 other excursions – the trip to Saona and the speedboats to La Piscina Natural (“natural pool”), for $85/person. The Paradise appeared to actually dock on Casa del Campo property, but I never saw the resort, just a locked gate leading to it; my guess is to use anything on the resort you would have to take one of the excursions that used their facilities. The big difference between this port and all the others I’ve been to is that it doesn’t dock anywhere near a city; it’s pretty isolated and there aren’t people crowded around waiting for you to sell you something. You get off the ship basically in a parking lot area from which the tour buses depart. Despite all the discouragement of Carnival in the pre-port talks, it is very possible to explore the island on your own. We later found out our tablemates got a cab from the parking lot to take them in to Santo Domingo. They said it was pretty easy; the one thing to look out for is that there is very little English spoken on the island (although sometimes I got the impression our tour guides understood more than they let on). We boarded a bus in the parking lot at the pier, and met our guide Jose, who has run several tours to Saona for the local resorts. He took us to a beach where vendors were waiting to sell us hats and Jose warned us we would need them to be protected from the sun. We decided to take our chances. There was a group of guides waiting for us that divided us up into canoe-like motorboats to take us out to the waiting catamaran for the sail to Saona. We started at around 9:30, and it was close to a 2-hour trip. That’s when they start with the open bar. Now, we have no problem with drinking, we just rarely do it (especially at 9:30 in the morning). But rather than the nice relaxing sail we had hoped for (since this was not marketed as a ‘party boat’ as some others were), we got loud music blasted in our ears and some very, very drunk obnoxious people. I didn’t mind the music at first, but for those of us trying to relax on the shady part at the back of the boat, it actually began to become painfully loud, and some of the songs had very explicit lyrics that I don’t think I was old enough to hear, not to mention the two kids on the tour. Then, once everyone (except a few of us) had plenty to drink, the guides came around and plopped a do-rag on everyone’s head. I was actually trying to doze and the guide sat me up and tied it on, even when Shawn and I protested (in English and Spanish) that we did not want one. We gave up, not wanting to offend their “hospitality,” and then five minutes later the female guide came around collecting $5 per do-rag. We gave ours back to her but wondered how many other people had worn them and returned them. It was a pretty good little trick, since some people were pretty out of it by then and just forked over the cash. The other thing that turned us off was that the guides kept pouring drinks down the throats of two attractive college girls on the trip – now mind you, no one made them drink that much, but as they got drunker and drunker the guides at first tried dancing with them very suggestively, and eventually got them to the point where they were looking down their bikini tops and grabbing their breasts, which got offensive in my opinion. If this had been guests doing this to each other, that’s their own business, but it was very unprofessional for guides to be doing this to guests. When we arrived at Saona, I cheered up a little – we were boated in to a totally isolated beach where a buffet was being prepared, and a line of lounge chairs lay under a row of beautiful palms. The water was kind of murky at the beach, but for people who wanted to play in the clear water further out, the guides took them out in a boat. At first I tried to return to my nap in the shade. It was nice for about 20 minutes, and then I heard people around me yelping about mosquitoes. I figured they were farther inland since generally mosquitoes don’t go near the ocean. But then I began to feel little stings and pricks, and was slapping them off of me left and right. I don’t know why they suddenly showed up, I suspect they were drawn by the buffet – but then the guests became the buffet! After making a small dent in the mosquito population, I gave up and headed for the water. Amazingly, they followed! These were hard-core mosquitoes! I had to go in all the way up to my neck, and still wave them off of my face. After about ten minutes, Jose called us up to lunch, and now that was an adventure! No one had thought to bring bug spray (since this was a beach trip, not a rainforest or river or something) and they ate us alive as we got our food. I dropped my plate three times trying to get them off of me. They were also all over our food. I hurriedly got myself some rice, fresh fruit, and a piece of grilled chicken and ran back out to the ocean. There were picnic tables but it was impossible to eat there. One girl wrapped herself up in clothing from head to toe and they still hovered around her bare hands and face, so most people ended up joining me in the water. Even then you had to look out for them. And if you’ve never tried it, it’s pretty hard to hold your plate and manage to eat while neck-deep in water, so I really didn’t eat all that much. Poor Shawn had at least 25 bites on his back and neck, and as we all began to compare bites, we found the winner from our group – this guy had close to 50 his torso! Be warned!! While this is a beautiful island, you will be eaten alive unless you bring spray, and I’m not even sure that will slow them down. We were supposed to stay at the island until 1, but there was a lot of grumbling and whining at this point, so as soon as lunch was over they let us board the speedboats for the trip to Piscina Natural. If you’ve never been, this is about halfway between the beach where we started and Saona. It’s an area of the ocean about 200 yards off the shore that is only 3-4 feet deep and very clear! So it’s very similar to a pool. I really enjoyed the speedboat trip out there, the guides would zigzag back and forth and we’d bounce in each other’s wake. They really did go pretty fast, it was a lot of fun as the three boats would race. Once at the pool, we all jumped out and had some fun playing with one of the guest’s Frisbees. Jose found a starfish and brought it over to let us touch. It was much spinier than I thought it would be, and the weirdest thing was, he had us touch a crack on its bottom while he held it under water. Little suction things came out to suck on your finger, which you could see when he turned it back over. That was a new experience! After about 30 minutes, several of us got back onto the speedboats. There really wasn’t a lot to do there other than swim, drink, and throw Frisbee, and if you hadn’t had a lot to drink, that wasn’t fun for a super-long time. We had to sit in the boats until 3 since we’d left Saona early while they kept playing and drinking. Finally everyone else boarded (one guy with quite a bit of difficulty – he fell off the ladder twice he was so wasted; I was afraid he would throw up when the boats started racing again, but instead he just passed ou t, while his wife hung onto his life jacket to keep him from falling out). We were back on the beach we’d started at around 3:20 where vendors waited with ice cream. Warning – the price of this ice cream varies depending on how much they see you have in your hand! We bought a cone for a buck and got back on the bus to be taken back to the Paradise. While I can’t say I didn’t have fun on this trip, the day was a little over-long for me, and I’m not sure it was worth $85 based on the fact that I drank only water and had a pitifully small lunch, and the mosquitoes made Saona more painful than pleasant. One of my suggestions to Carnival at the end of the week was that they should offer two prices for the excursions that include an open bar, and not assume that everyone is going to drink – why should I, who had 2 waters, be charged the same price as someone who has a dozen alcoholic beverages? Maybe they could put a hand-stamp or something on people who haven’t paid for the bar, and then they can pay for any drinks they do want out-of-pocket. From this excursion I would say the best part is the speedboats and Natural Pool, which you can get for almost half the cost on the Speedboat excursion. St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands: This was by far the best port on this cruise, and of our Western itinerary as well! I knew it was going to be a great day when I woke up and looked out of my window to see a beautiful hillside spotted with villas. The weather was perfect. We had a quick buffet breakfast in the Elation dining room and were off the ship by 8. I had decided way back in March to do St. Thomas on our own since this was a very reputable, safe island. We wanted to see St. John based on the stories of friends of ours who had visited it and fallen in love; but we didn’t want to pay Carnival prices and go with a huge crowd. As it turned out, it’s a good thing we booked with a private company, as all Carnival snorkeling excursions were cancelled due to Hurricane Fabian (hundreds of miles away) stirring up the ocean floor, making conditions murky. Several of the companies I had e-mailed turned out to be closed during that week, as this is their downtime. Two wrote me back, and based on what they offered I decided to go with Jester Sailing Adventures. We only wanted a half-day sail to make sure we’d have plenty of time to make it back to the ship, and while there was a 4-person minimum for a half-day, Captain Jim assured us that he could find the other two, so we tentatively reserved a spot. About a month before we sailed, we wrote him with our credit card and reserved the day from 9-1. He still had not found 2 others but told us if it was just the two of us it was OK. We had one little problem when he wrote us about 3 days before we left and told us he had another request for a group of 4 for a full day, and since he hadn’t heard from us he reserved with them. We were pretty confused by this as he had heard from us, but it was cleared up very easily with a phone call – it turns out an e-mail virus had caused him to lose our reservation, but when we forwarded our copy of it to him he was very apologetic and eager to honor his prior agreement with us – he said if the group of four still wanted to go, we could do the full-day with them for the half-day price. As it turned out, they backed out anyway, and so we got a half-day with just the two of us! The day was everything I had hoped for with the Saona beach excursion! Upon getting off the ship, we caught a taxi to the Renaissance Resort where the boat was waiting for us. The taxis all line up right alongside the ship, and many are open-air trucks with several rows. The driver was very informative along the trip. Once we arrived at the resort, Captain Jim brought his dinghy over to the beach to take us out to the Jester, and then he invited us to kick off our shoes and relax. He served us his very own beverage called Jester Juice – a combination of island juices (such as guava, passion, pineapple), vanilla rum, topped off with coconut cream and fresh nutmeg. I could have had these all day! It was the most refreshing drink I’ve ever had. Literally. The two of us relaxed on a cushion on the bow of the boat for the 1-hour sail over to St. John. Captain Jim played some relaxing, tropical tunes for us, and made the trip very pleasant and romantic for us. He put the anchor down at Honeymoon Beach and gave us snorkel equipment and encouraged us to swim one beach over to see some beautiful coral (assuring me they rarely see jellyfish in the Virgin Islands). We had a great time snorkeling, sure the conditions weren’t crystal-clear but we saw a lot of neat fish and sea urchins in the 7-foot deep water. When we swam back to the boat, he had brought out floating Styrofoam mats to relax on. After a little more relaxation we climbed back aboard the Jester where we were supplied with more juice, fresh fruit and cheese, and nachos with a fabulous homemade salsa. He also had a cooler of pops and beer available, but we didn’t even touch it since he kept us supplied with his special drink. The sail back to St. Thomas took a little longer, which was fine with us. The sky, water, and surrounding scenery was so beautiful we could have stayed on the boat for ever. We arrived back at the Renaissance around 2, took care of payment, and the hotel got a cab to take us back to the pier. I highly recommend Jester Sailing; we hope to take a full-day trip with him the next time we are in the area. Captain Jim is very knowledgeable, accommodating, hospitable and easy-going. He promised us the best day of our trip and he really delivered! The Spa: We did not use the Spa on the Sensation, so this was a new experience for us. One of the first things we did was take a tour of the spa (hoping to win some free treatments, but no such luck!). At first I was astounded at the cost of the official “Couples Massage” ($220), but then I asked if any of the treatments we were being told about were available to couples and assured that most of them were – this is just something they don’t mention since it is significantly cheaper. After our tour we booked the Spa Teaser/Reflexology as a couple for the next day to get de-stressed for our vacation. The in-port price was $79/person. When we arrived at the spa we turned in our Sign and Sail cards to get locker keys, changed into the supplied robes and filled out lengthy medical forms, and then were re-united in the couple’s massage room. The Spa-Teaser was a 25-minute Swedish massage concentrating on whichever muscles you preferred, and the Reflexology was an additional 25 minutes on your feet. The massage itself was wonderful; we had two girls from the Philippines as our therapists. I’ve only had five other massages and technique-wise, this one was up-to-par. It was Shawn’s first massage, and despite his concerns that he would feel “girlie,” he stated after the massage that we should get this done once a month! Yippee! : ) It was after the massage that our troubles with the spa began. After leaving us alone to relax in the darkened room, the girls returned and began pitching their various oils and other products to us. I had been expecting this from other reviews, and knew this was the main difference between a Carnival spa experience and a regular one. We politely declined and they brought us our bill. The bill stated that we had received the full Couple’s Massage, which we had not. We took it to the front desk and the manager graciously adjusted the amount. But things went downhill from there. We both turned in our locker keys; the manager who had taken our Sign and Sail cards was on the phone, so the therapists looked for them. They gave Shawn his but couldn’t find mine. When the manager finally got off the phone she got very impatient with them, wondering what they were doing. They explained that my card was missing, and she said to them very condescendingly, “Well, what are you girls going to do about this?” They became very apologetic, explaining that they had never even seen my card or taken it from her – they had charged it to Shawn’s card, not mine. Disgusted, she waved them off to their next client, and assured me that I should “be calm, there is no problem.” I was perfectly calm, I just wanted my card back. She told us it would be taken care of, and then she proceeded to help every single person who came to the counter while we stood there, waiting. We were there a good ten minutes and would have stood there longer as more and more people arrived had not the phone rang just then – it was another client who had been given my card by the manager by mistake when she turned in her key. Now, mistakes happen, and I don’t get angry when they do; I get upset if the mistake is not handled correctly. Instead of asking for the woman’s name, or sending one of her staff to the woman to get the card (since I can see why she shouldn’t have to stop what she was doing to come turn it in as it was the spa’s mistake), she told her to bring it to the Information desk where I could pick it up. She didn’t say when to do so, and then sent us down there. Of course, after we waited in the 15-minute line down there, it had not been turned in, so they ended up issuing me a new card. This was much more complicated than it had to be in my opinion, and I didn’t appreciate her reprimanding her employees publicly for what turned out to be her mistake. But the saga continues. We checked our Sign and Sail the following day to make sure the other guest had not accidentally charged anything to our account while she had my card. We found 2 charges (from the spa), both of which had been cancelled. There was a third charge from the spa on my NEW card, for $100 the day after our massage! We went back to the spa and spoke to the same condescending manager, who told us the spa employee who had put the charge on my card was not there, and we’d have to come back and deal with it later. She kept telling us to calm down in a very fake-friendly way, when again we were perfectly calm. This time my husband would not be put off, and suggested she do what she could about it right then. After some huffing on her part (and questioning me as to whether or not I was sure I hadn’t had my hair cut and colored the day before, like I would forget!) she finally found the erroneous receipt, with my name and account but another woman’s signature. The spa employee had entered the account number by hand, entered one digit wrong, and it happened to be charged to me. Again, an easy mistake to make – but getting it corrected while being talked down to was very unpleasant. Despite the fact that we enjoyed our massages, I think we’ll avoid the spa in the future, at least while that manager is there! ON-BOARD ACTIVITIES/ENTERTAINMENT: One of my favorite perks of cruising is the ability to do as much or as little as you like on the ship! You can be a couch potato and hang out in your cabin all day or a party animal. We are somewhere in between, but due to the fact that I had a severe back injury during our last cruise, we spent a lot of time in the cabin as I was in too much pain to do much. So I was looking forward to exploring ship life! We attended a dance class, the Game Show, the Great Carnival Quest, the Love, Sex, and Romance Game, and our favorite from the last cruise, the Newlywed and not so Newlywed Game! All of these were a lot of fun – one complaint about the Love, Sex and Romance Game was the entire audience was strong-armed into coming up on stage to participate, when some people just wanted to observe. The pressure was really put on by the cruise director, Jeff Bronson. He was a little fake and cheesy for my taste, only got a couple of really good laughs from me during the week. I thought our director on the Sensation was genuinely funny. However, I came to appreciate Jeff a bit more when I attended the second Game Show, which was run by the assistant director Brent and the social director Karl with a K, who pretty much destroyed any organization the Game was intended to have, by playing the wrong sound clips for the question deliberately, screwing with the score, running around the stage, etc. It was much better handled by Jeff, corny as he may be. But overall, we really enjoyed all these activities. We went to several of the evening shows as well – I really enjoyed the musical production, “Dream Voyage.” The performers were really talented – I especially enjoyed their tribute to the men and women of World War II, sentimental that I am! We didn’t make it to Shout, maybe next cruise. The magician on Tuesday night was decent as well, he had some really good illusions and musical accompaniment. The “zany” comedian that followed him, Adam Ace, wasn’t nearly as entertaining. From what we saw he was pretty much a pro-comic, and enjoyed toilet-papering people. At that point we decided our time would be better spent in the hot tub on Lido deck! I didn’t remember them being open so late, but the main ones by the pool out there were open till 11:30, and this became a favorite spot to hang out before the midnight buffet for us. The third show we saw was on the last night, a ventriloquist comedian that we are still getting mileage out of – his ostrich Hanky-Panky was hilarious, and he was followed by the sarcastic comedy of Jim Brick, who got many laughs out of us at our own expense, making fun of cruisers. They were both very funny. As far as the in-room movies goes, there was MUCH more variety than we’d had in 2001. Instead of the same 4 movies running back-to-back, they had 3 different movies each day, each on its own station playing over and over. They got around to the same movies by the fourth day, but in a different mix. There was probably a total of 8-10, and some were pretty new releases, like The Two Towers and Chicago. Definitely an improvement in this department. We really enjoyed all the live music on-board, the jazz band in the Normandie lounge, the reggae band at the pool, and the orchestra in the atrium. We also spent a little time at the sing-alongs with Roberta in the American Bar which was a lot of fun. There was a lot more karaoke than I remembered as well, at least 4 or 5 nights. CUSTOMER SERVICE: Two thumbs down. I’m not referring to the cabin steward, or dining room staff, but in general the dealing with any problems we had. We were aware of the bad reputation of Carnival in this area, but had no problems to be fixed on our last cruise. I wish I could say that was the case this time around. Around noon on Friday we started to notice an annoying, high-pitched squeal in our room. It got louder until it was bang-your-head-on-the-wall piercing. It even drowned out the TV. We called Information and they sent down a security guard to verify the noise. Shawn went to Information while she investigated the noise and I stayed in the room. Shawn called me about ten minutes later to see what was going on, and it was still loud. Then, while we were on the phone it suddenly stopped. At that moment Information got a call from the security guard saying she had “asked someone to stop doing something,” and that seemed to correct the problem. Satisfied, we let it go, until it woke us from a sound sleep at 4 in the morning. We went to Information again (at least they were open) who told us we were mistaken, the security guard had done nothing earlier to get it to stop, so the only thing they would do is offer us a new cabin. Well, the prospect of moving all our stuff to another cabin at 4 in the morning where we didn’t even have a double bed was not a happy one. So we stuffed cotton in our ears and dealt with it. It was still going on at 11 the next day, so we went to Information again. The most frustrating thing was that they wouldn’t even investigate it at all, and it sounded electrical which could have been dangerous. They seemed baffled that giving us a new room didn’t satisfy us. I explained we didn’t want to move all our stuff, tip another steward to put the beds together, etc., if there was a simple way to make it stop. They wouldn’t send engineering, but told us another security guard would be down in 10 minutes. In 35, no one had showed up, so we gave up for awhile and went to the pool. On the Lido deck we saw the security guard who had helped us the night before. She said at the time we heard the noise she found several rooms being vacuumed, and once all the vacuums were off, it went away – so it was an electrical problem. Grateful to finally have an answer we went back to Information to get it fixed since, after all, it had not been happening all week and people had been vacuuming all week! They told us an engineer had investigated it, and it was an engine vibration that had somehow worked its way from the back of the ship and popped out in our room, perhaps due to the increased speed of the ship (due to a medical emergency), and that they were “working on it.” I think this was a bunch of crap to shut us up, as it only got worse throughout the day, forcing us out of the cabin. We finally gave up and had the steward make up the bed in our other cabin since we had to pack up the last night anyway, and slept in the other cabin which was in the very front of the ship and right where the waves crashed into the hull, so it had its own problems. Luckily we docked early in Miami (by midnight) and things calmed down enough that we could sleep, but it was still frustrating feeling like no one would listen to you when a simple investigation could have solved the issue. Again, I just want to stress that we weren’t bothered that there was a problem – they happen and there is nothing that can be done about it. However, it isn’t too much to expect to be taken seriously when trying to have a problem remedied. DISEMBARKATION: Overall, this went pretty smoothly and we did get off the ship in time to start our road-trip, although it was by accident! Following the Carnival representative’s advice at embarkation, we went to Information to request an early departure due to having an early flight; they said to come back with the tickets. So that foiled that approach; we went back and talked to a different employee this time, telling the truth – that we had hotel reservations in Tennessee Sunday evening that we would like to get to by 10:30, and we were driving. We were told this did not qualify for early disembarkment; this seemed unfair that people who fly are given preferential treatment. The lady told us this was Custom’s policy, not Carnival’s, and that Customs would be checking for flight tickets as the early people got off. However, she assured us that after the early people got off the ship, we could get off next no matter which color was called, since they wouldn’t be checking luggage tag color (although she was somewhat skeptical that we could make it to Tennessee by 10:30 pm). This was somewhat encouraging, and things worked out even better than that! After breakfast on Sunday we dragged our carry-on to the Atlantic deck and noticed other non-early people waiting on the Empress deck right next to the exit. When there were gaps in the early disembarkers, the impatient customs people waved whoever was standing nearby over to get off the ship. After seeing entire groups of people with regular tags get off, we decided to give it a try. Sure enough, we were waved over to go through security, no one asked for flight information or anything, so we were off at 9:15. The one fly in the ointment here is that when we got to the luggage warehouse, I realized I had left our video camera in the Atrium on the ship! Luckily, it was less complicated getting back on the ship than I would have thought. A warehouse employee had to accompany me, but we were able to walk right on, and thank goodness it was still laying where I had left it on the floor – close shave there. At any rate, we were on the road by 10, and to all the skeptics out there – we were at our hotel by 10:15 that night! : ) SUMMARY: Overall, this was a fantastic vacation. The ports were great, the ship activities/entertainment was great, the massage was wonderful, and wow do I miss my dining staff and cabin steward after doing housework the last two nights! We were a little concerned about Hurrican Fabian, but Carnival did a good job keeping us up-to-date, posting location charts around the ship every six hours. There were two nights that the motion on the ship got pretty bad due to the “swells” the storm caused, but that was the worst of it. We fell in love with the idea of a smoke-free ship, and I don’t see myself going on another cruise where smoking is allowed, this gave me so much more comfort and freedom to go where I pleased and do what I wanted. We would sail the Paradise again, but it would be nice if other cruiselines followed suit to offer a smoke-free environment, or if Carnival would create more of these. We would sail Carnival again; the few bad experiences we had were not enough to spoil a lovely, relaxing, romantic week – but I think we’ll be a little bit wiser about what we can expect from Carnival in the future.    

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By Paul_CR

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Aug 30, 2003

East and West Caribbean

Background information: So you can better understand my comments about our time spent on the Paradise I will give you some information about myself. Yes I do sell cruises and part of the reason for going on the Paradise was to learn information about the ship and its destinations. I also went on the Paradise because I love to cruise and that is why I

sell cruising. I am a pretty easygoing person and I am not one that likes to spend my time looking for the little things about a cruise or ship that could bother me. I prefer to find the things I enjoy and focus on them while on a cruise. I will spend more time discussing the ship than the ports in this review due to the fact that I really don’t care for the Caribbean so I feel my thoughts about the ports may be a little to one sided and not a fair representation of what is available in these ports. The ship. I have gone past the Paradise on several other trips and never really thought much about the looks of the Paradise from the outside. I also purchased the video of the Paradise to get some feel for the interior. One thing Carnival needs to do better is find people who can video tape their ships in better lighting. The video looked very tacky compared to what the actual ship looked like. I found the same problem with the video of the Victory. Boarding went very smoothly and I was amazed at how beautiful the atrium of the Paradise was once we entered the ship. The atrium is much smaller than on other ships I have been on that are comparable in size but it is one of the more beautiful atriums I have seen. The colors are dark wood grains or dark wood looking in some cases, mixed with floral looking panels of whites and blues. We went to our cabin that was U173 on the upper deck, deck 6. This is an inside room with an upper and lower bed. Yes we did pick this room so we were aware of what we were getting. The room was actually quite roomy and had more than enough storage. We did get to see other rooms aboard the ship between sailings and our room was close to the same size as an outside room on this ship. None of the rooms we saw, including suites, were very large on this ship but they all were nice rooms. Next thing on our list was to find food. We went to the Paris restaurant on Deck 10. This is the buffet on the ship. You will also find a pizza area and a small bar in here. The buffet has 4 food stations in it as well as 2 beverage stations. You will find 2 identical stations for the warm foods and 2 identical stations for the salads and cold foods. The room is rather large and there is a lot of seating but it can get crowded during rush dining times. The buffet does have set hours for dining. The pizza is available 24 hours a day. There are very limited choices of food in the buffet. Our next goal was to check out the rest of the ship and find our favorite places to go while onboard. The majority of the lounges as well as the casino are on deck 9, the Promenade deck. The casino was quite a bit smaller than we expected and did not have a wide variety of slot machines, but it did have a good number of gaming tables. The Leonardo lounge on deck 9 was used off and on for various group functions. They had several weddings and a couple of church groups held meetings in this lounge. At night there would be a pianist and a singer performing so that people could dance. The dance floor was extremely small. The Rex was another lounge just down from the Leonardo. Off and on Camp Carnival would use this lounge for the kids and their various activities. Karaoke and a DJ would be in here on different evenings. The music varied in here from Jazz to Disco. The United States Bar is also along the boulevard on deck 9. This is a very long bar and the entrance to the Casino is on either side of this bar. In the evening an entertainer would sit here and sing and play guitar. On our trip it was Dennis O’Rourke from Boston. He played easy going folk songs along with Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash songs. He told me he is more known in the Boston and Florida area for playing Irish pubs. He made many an evening very enjoyable with his music. You could also find the desert bar along the boulevard. Of course everything in there cost you some money. They had some very tasty looking deserts and a variety of specialty coffee. Never tried any myself due to having diabetes. The Sushi Bar is along this boulevard as well. I never really saw a lot of people using the Sushi bar. At the aft end of the ship on this floor were the Queen Mary Lounge and the Rotterdam Bar. You must go through the Rotterdam Bar to get to the Queen Mary Lounge. The Rotterdam Bar was usually very quiet with the exception of just before dinner. Many people would have a drink just before heading to dinner. The Queen Mary Lounge was used as one of the Muster stations and also used for the art auctions. In the evening they would have live music and dancing here. The late night comedy act was always performed in the Queen Mary Lounge. It is probably the biggest lounge on the ship. The bow end of this floor was the entrance to the balcony of the main showroom, the Normandie. The seating in the balcony of the showroom was far more comfortable than the main floor. The views from the balcony and the main floor had many obstacles such as pillars or railings that could obstruct your view. Deck 8 is the Atlantic deck. This deck has the entrance to the Normandie showroom and also has the majority of the gift shops. The gift shops are very small and crowded. The clerks were a little slow compared to other cruises I have been on. This deck also has the America Bar on it. This bar is the piano bar and is all done up in Red, White and Blue. I was told this bar fills up late at night but I was usually at a different bar so I never noticed if it got busy or not. It is a small bar and does not have a lot of seating for people. The Library is on this deck. This is an extremely beautiful room and is a nice quiet place to get away. It does have a small selection of books and games to choose from for your use. There are some mementos and replicas of mementos of some of the old great ocean liners in this room. You can find a card room on this deck also. I did see card games going on at different times in here. There is nothing special about this room. There are just a few chairs and card tables. This deck has the main dining rooms on it. The Elation is amidships and the Destiny is aft. We did get to use both dining rooms because we did do a back-to-back cruise. The Destiny is a little larger and they do have a stairway that comes down from the Rotterdam Bar to enter the dining room if you wish. If it were not for the staircase the rooms are really identical. They do have low ceilings and the center section of the room is raised a couple of stairs higher than the rest of the dining room. The service we received in the dining rooms was very good. I will admit the service we had in the Elation was a little slower but that was due to the fact it was the first time for the waiter and assistant waiter working together. It took them a few days to get their routine of working together to run smoothly. All the waiters and assistant waiters we had worked very hard and did their best to make our time at dinner enjoyable. Deck 7 is the Empress deck. This deck is where you embark and disembark the Paradise for the beginning and end of your cruise. You enter into the atrium, which starts on this floor and rises to deck 12. The glass elevators in the atrium are beautiful but extremely slow. We only used them a couple times because it was so frustrating waiting for them. There are regular elevators just off the atrium that we mainly used. My wife is handicapped so when together we use elevators otherwise I use the stairs to save time and get a little exercise. The atrium has a small bar, excursion desk, and information desk in it. On the outer edges of the atrium you will find a small area to sit and the Internet café. The sitting area is quite comfortable. The information desk always seemed to have a long line at it and the few hours the excursion desk is open there was always a line there. Going aft from the atrium you walk into the photo gallery. This is a long narrow hallway and when open gets very crowded with people trying to find their pictures, by the way they do not always have the pictures under the correct room or time heading. Carnival goes a little overboard on taking pictures if you ask me. It is hard to go anywhere without having a camera pointed at you. They also do film developing in the photo shop and the price was $8.88 for a roll of 24 with double prints. You would turn in your film and get the pictures back the next day. They did not put pictures on a CD or on a Floppy disk. Deck 10 the Lido deck had the buffet as I mentioned. The main pool and access to the water slide was also on this deck. At the very aft end of the ship they did have a kids play area and kids wading pool. We had no use for this area but could see it through the windows. The water slide was open for limited times on the Paradise. There was a bandstand where music would be played during the sea days also. The hamburger and hotdog grill was near the pool as well. Deck 11 and Deck 12 were small decks. These held the spa, gym, track and area for ping-pong and a giant chess set. The spa and gym area are connected and there is a sauna and Jacuzzi available to the passengers for free in this area. You must go through the locker rooms to access all of these things. One other thing to mention about the ship is that when in ports you always leave the ship on deck 3 whether you are tendering or getting off on a pier. You do check in and out and also go through a metal detector and have your things x-rayed like at the airport when you come back on the ship. Excursion comments. As I mentioned I am not a person who really cares for the Caribbean so I will not go into a lot of comment here because it would be to one sided. What I will say is we took a few excursions from the cruise line and the reason we did is so that when a customer asks us what the cruise line tours are like we have some actual knowledge of how the tours are. The truth is we found the tours taken through Carnival were extremely overpriced for what they gave you. We did talk with people and check with people who took private tours that were much better for less than half the price of what Carnival was charging. I could not in good conscience recommend taking a tour directly through Carnival unless you are worried about getting back to the ship before it sets sail. In a couple cases the ship did have to wait for the return of a couple of their tours that were running late. Some of the things I did enjoy seeing while on tours were the artist colony out of Laromona in the Dominican Republic and a tour around St Thomas. Also in Roatan we did see some very beautiful woodcarvings in some of the small shops. Final comments. This cruise was a back-to-back cruise and Carnival or customs keeps changing the process for switching from one week of the cruise to the next. On this cruise we had to go all the way off the ship through the baggage area, through customs, outside to walk to the terminal building and back in line with all new passengers. We did leave our things onboard seeing we were keeping the same room. In the past on back-to-backs we were always able to get our new sail and sign card at the information desk and not have to wait in long lines to get back on the ship. The crew on the Paradise did an excellent job. We were greeted with smiling faces and very courteous service. I am sure with as many employees as they have onboard that if I searched I could find some unhappy employee’s but I did not go looking for them. The entertainment was of a high quality. It is true that I did not like every show but the reason for that is it was not my type of show. I go to some shows because my wife enjoys them so I must sit through some shows I do not care for. The quality of those shows was still very high. Were there things I would like to see changed? Yes there are. I would like to see them ease up on the entire picture taking and blocking off so many walkways for pictures. I would also like to see a wider variety of food in both the buffet and the main dining rooms. One big change would be the quality and price of Carnival tours. I can understand them wanting to make a few bucks on a tour; however having the price twice as high or more than what you pay for an independent tour that is a better tour is ridiculous. The cruise director on this cruise was Jeff Bronson and one of his assistants was Karl with a K as they always said. I understand Karl did a good show one night doing impersonations however Karl and Jeff were the most irritating directors I have ever run into on a cruise. They were not humorous, like they thought they were, and the thought of throwing them overboard did cross my mind as well as a few other passengers I talked with. I even talked with several crewmembers that were a little sick of their patter they used. I guess my final comments would be that overall Carnival has a great product in the Paradise. You can always find something you do not like on a cruise but there was nothing on the Paradise that was so bad it would upset me or make me say I did not have a good time. One of my favorite things on a cruise is meeting people, passengers and crew, and this cruise did accomplish that. The cruise was relaxing and the service was great. I would have no problem with cruising on Paradise or with Carnival on another ship. Yes I will look for a different location to cruise next time but that is my personal preference it is not because I found anything drastically wrong with the Caribbean. We each like different things and the Caribbean just does not match what I prefer.  

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Aug 9, 2003

Western Caribbean

Our Carnival Paradise Cruise to the Western Caribbean My Husband Chris and I took our first cruise aboard the Carnival Paradise departing from Miami on August 10th 2003. We chose this cruise because our friends were getting married onboard on embarkation day. We traveled with 3 other couples not including the bride and groom and their families. About getting married on the Paradise: The fact that we were part of a wedding proved exceptionally

beneficial to us upon embarkation. We were whisked past all lines and brought to a private waiting area where we were briefed by the wedding coordinator and given all the information we needed about the wedding. We were given access to our rooms right away to freshen up which was great because other guests didn’t start boarding for another 2 hours. We had about an hour before the wedding so we made our way to the Paris Restaurant to enjoy an absolutely fabulous roast turkey dinner with all the “fix’ins”. Be sure to get there right away because the lines started quickly. If I had one major complaint about this cruise it would be the way they handled the wedding. I would tell anyone planning to get married on this cruise to change plans. We were told they had a “special wedding room” which one would expect was a beautifully appointed location, just perfect for the most important day in a couple’s life – not so. The room was so dark that almost no pictures turned out. The wallpaper was peeling, there were paper napkins stuffed into the chandelier which I realized later were to keep it from breaking when it began vibrating when the engine started. They had tacky bright white silk floral displays on pillars as the “alter”. The room was dark pink which could clash with many wedding color schemes. There were extra tables along one wall and if you can believe it, there was a huge (5’ by 4’) bright red medical emergency evacuation cart right behind the alter. Our friends were the 3rd wedding in the room that day and I had to ask someone to move the cart into the corner of the room so it wouldn’t be the backdrop to the wedding pictures. I felt really sorry for the first two couples who will undoubtedly have visions of that in their photo memories for the rest of their lives. I was so disappointed in this wedding because after spending a week on the ship I can confirm with all certainty that this “wedding room” was the most unattractive room on the entire ship. Absolutely anywhere else would have been an improvement – even the Lido Deck would have been better. The reception afterward was held in the United States Bar. This was a nice, well-organized event. The food was great, the cake was sweet and I think the bride and the groom had a wonderful time there. The Good, The Bad and The Great Bad -The Muster drill was unpleasant as we had never been on a cruise before this was new to us but safety is important so we sweated through it in our wedding attire (lifejackets and formal wear do not mix well). It seemed to be very lengthy but we survived. Good - Our stateroom – seemed bigger than I thought it would be. It was well laid-out and there was a place for everything. We really liked them. Our room steward Sara was very sweet and helpful. Good - The Food in the Destiny Dining Room – some things were fabulous (The Steaks, Salmon fillet, soups, Appetizers – especially the Coconut Shrimp,). Most of the food was great. Bad – The desserts, the cheesecake (gelatinous), the pumpkin pie (just trust me) the salads, and the lobster. Great - Breakfast in the Paris Restaurant – Alfredo the omelets guy was so terrific! He started every morning off with a smile and the best omelet’s I have ever tasted in my life. I have heard other complaints about the repetitiveness of the breakfasts but I can’t really think of anything else they could have had on the menu. Anything we wanted for breakfast was available. Great - Lunch - The lunch menu was fine considering that you could always have gourmet pizza or terrific room service – we took advantage of these two things a lot. Great - Formal Nights – we had a terrific time on these formal nights but were a little miffed when we went all-out glamorous while the dress code was broken by other inconsiderate guests who wore shorts to dinner. You’re going on a cruise…plan to dress up! Our table as well as the tables immediately around us actually dressed formally for dinner every night but went especially fancy for the two official formal nights. Men should plan to wear golf shirts and dress pants on the “resort casual wear” nights and suits for the formal nights. Women can wear from sundresses to evening dresses on the “resort casual wear” nights but bring on the glam for the formal nights or you may find yourself feeling underdressed. Shorts, T-shirts and jeans are not appropriate for the formal dining rooms at any time. If you don’t want to dress up then you can eat buffet style in the Paris Restaurant. Excursions: Things we did, Recommendations and Shopping Tips Belize – this was our first destination. We booked all of our excursions ahead of time as we were warned that the best often sell out. We booked Cave Tubing with Reggie’s. This tour was absolutely fantastic. This is a physically challenging event as you need to hike through the jungle for about 45 minutes carrying an inner tube. The hike was not difficult but should not be undertaken by anyone in fragile health. The caves were so beautiful you have to see it to believe it. The pictures do not do them justice. Reggie’s tour was less expensive than the ship’s tour and we experienced excellent personal attention. Be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to eat an authentic Belizean meal of stewed chicken, beans and rice and pineapple soda for an additional $6US. By the time you’re finished the tour you’ll be starving and the food is terrific. Belize Shopping Tip: There’s not much to buy here but you have to try the Pineapple Soda, it’s the only place they sell it in the whole world and it’s great!! We stocked up and brought it back on the ship with us and put it in our ice bucket. It was way cheaper than the $2.50 bottles of coke in our room. Roatan – I was very, very glad we booked this excursion ahead of time as I am certain that we had a better day than anyone else. We made arrangements with Sante Wellness Center for a fantastic private day of pampering. Angela treated me to a facial and I had a massage with David. My husband and our friends both had a one-hour mud wrap and massage treatment and we were all left refreshed and revived. Angela’s husband Leon is a snorkeling instructor and as their beautiful Bed and Breakfast and Spa is situated on a private island right on the reef there is ample opportunity for snorkeling between treatments. Chris and Nathan reported that the snorkeling there was the best of the entire cruise. This stop is not to be missed although you’ll need to book early. Due to the short amount of time we were in Roatan (7am until 2pm) the spa was only able to accommodate 4 of us for treatments and snorkeling so our other friends had to make alternate arrangements. Roatan Shopping Tip: If you’re looking for something specific you can hire one of the kids that will follow you around the market to do your shopping for you. Tell them to find a shop that sells what you’re looking for and then pay them a couple of bucks. This was the best place to find beaded jewelry of all of the other places. I picked up a terrific Lorimar necklace for $8.00 and it was more than $15.00 everywhere else. Grand Cayman – We chose to visit the famous Stingray City attraction without the crowd of 2000 other cruise guests. Instead of Stingray City Sandbar, we chose to go with a diving company called “Diver’s Down” that takes no more than 20 people at a time on a private boat out to the “Original Stingray City”. This area is approximately 12 feet deep and the company accommodates groups with both snorkelers and scuba divers. The instructors were informative and the Stingrays were friendly and plentiful. This would not be the best excursion for children as the water is deep and you’re swimming the whole time but they provided lots of Squid for us to feed the stingrays and we had a great time. We saw approximately 20 stingrays ranging in size from 2 feet across to 8 feet across, no one was stung and we got a lot of great pictures with our disposable underwater cameras. Grand Cayman Shopping Tip: In Grand Cayman, things like T-shirts and hats are a lot more expensive than in all of the other ports but we got an Unbelievable bargain on Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee and the best chocolate Truffles you’ll ever have. 1 kg of Chocolate Truffles (approximately 2lbs) for $6.00 US. The truffles and coffee can be found in many of the shops on the main street where you exit the tender boats. Cozumel – We had a fabulous time in Cozumel. We decided to go all-out and have an eco-adventure day with Wild Tours. We took the ATV Eco-tour and were amazed at the speed those little things would go! All of our friends decided on the double ATV’s rather than the singles and I’m glad we did. These things were a little tricky and I wouldn’t have been as brave if I had been at the wheel. Riding double was fairly comfortable and it allowed me to snap shots with our digital camera as we flew down the trail. We blazed through the jungle along the coast, bumped over lava rock, slid through sand and splashed through mud puddles. After about 45 minutes of our hot, sweaty but exhilarating ride we arrived at a private beach where our guides quickly fed us lunch and provided soft drinks and water. As soon as we had finished eating we were put in Sea Kayaks and paddled out to the reef where our kayaks were tied to an anchored rope and we put on our snorkeling gear and hit the reef. This was very beautiful reef, very colorful and I could have stayed there all day. Unfortunately, there was another group waiting to use our Kayaks so we only had about 20 minutes for snorkeling before we had to paddle back to shore. We rested a little while longer and then hopped back onto the ATVs for a fast ride back. Along the way we stopped at “La Palma” a Mayan Ruin originally built to honor a fertility goddess. Eventually we arrived back at the Wild Tours hut where we had a few minutes to shop at the next-door market and then hop into our cab for the 30 minute ride back into Cozumel. Cozumel Shopping Tip: This is the place to buy t-shirts; we scored 3 for $10 at most places. You can barter like crazy with the street vendors here, basically name your price and there’s a good chance you’ll get it. Final Cruise Impressions: Our Carnival Cruise was just terrific. We loved the atmosphere (FUN!), the on-board entertainment was great (“The Highlights” a band on board was really great), the food was delicious overall, the boat was SPOTLESS, and the staff was friendly and helpful. The fact that this ship was non-smoking was the main reason we chose the Paradise and it’s a big enough factor for us to ensure we will probably choose it again rather than trying anything else. We were delighted with the cruise as a whole and would recommend it highly.    

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Jul 26, 2003

Western Caribbean

My husband and I (in our 30’s, sailed with another couple.) Now keep in mind that our first cruise was Celebrity, and there is a big difference in the quality and service. But overall Carnival did a good job, but I personally prefer Celebrity. Also, Carnival seems to give great prices, but after the costly excursions, drinks, extras, our cruise cost more than the Carnival cruise! The negatives: Tons of unattended adolescents!! Running

relay races in the hallways, shouting rude comments during the shows, etc... Don’t people watch their kids while they are on vacation? It was very annoying for us, as much as I hate smoke; at times it seemed more preferable to these obnoxious teenagers running positively wild on this ship. (The carnival staff seemed oblivious of them. But in fairness to them, it’s the parent’s job to monitor their kids.) Inedible desserts. With the exception of the key lime pie and the cappuccino cake, and the baked Alaska, the desserts were horrible. The cheesecake tasted like rubber, we sent it back. Even the ice cream was so-so. Much improvement is needed in this department. Roatan: Such a poor, poor country. We took the Tabanya beach day excursion. The bus ride through the town was so terribly depressing, this place looks like the setting for the “save the children” commercials. Kids walking abound with no shoes, starving dogs hunting for food, shacks that had no electricity or curtains that were homes. As other people mentioned, there is a giant fence that people line up. There is a marketplace beyond the fence, but I did not want to go (That’s how sad this town was.) The other couple we traveled with went, they were barraged with little kids begging for money. The cruise ship lines seriously need to invest money in this port, from what we saw these poor people are not benefiting in any way from cruise ship business. We did not feel safe enough to venture beyond “the fence.” The positives: The dining: We though the food was very good, although could not compare to the food on Celebrity. Service/Servers: The staff was not as friendly, nor served with the finesse of Celebrity, but overall they were very good. We loved our dining room servers. We always tip 3X the recommended amount since these people are terribly underpaid by the cruise ship companies. They make 50.00 a month and work incredibly long hours (they get about 4-5 hours of sleep a night!) Also, many people don’t even tip the recommended amount, and people from Europe don’t tip (how cheap!!) so we try to make up for those people.    

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Jul 12, 2003

Western Caribbean

We just returned from a seven day cruise on the non-smoking ship, Paradise. Since we cruised with Royal Caribbean (Explorer of the Seas) last year and enjoyed it tremendously, it was very hard not to compare ships at every turn. It will also be hard not to do this comparison in this review, but here goes: The embarkation process was very smooth. There

was virtually no waiting. Our room was ready upon arrival. The room was larger that the Explorer, a nice touch. The room steward always stayed out of sight, but, the moment we left in the morning and evening, he was busy straightening up the room, turning down the beds, replacing towels, etc. Our main criticism of the room was the poor technology available on the TV. There were few stations, mostly devoted to the voyage. The only weather report was on the “local” Nashville station. We would have liked to have at least CNN and maybe the weather channel. We also liked the capability of booking excursions and checking our bill on the TV on the Explorer. No such technology was available on the Paradise. I had read quite a bit about the poor quality of the food on the Paradise. We found the food in the main dining room to be very acceptable, and had few complaints. The service was exceptional, the assistant waiter was very patient in helping our daughters practice their Spanish. The food in the Paris restaurant (buffet breakfast and lunch) was acceptable, the only negative being long lines at popular times. There are no tables for large groups. We always had to grab an extra chair for our family of five. The shows were very entertaining, the ventroloquist on the last night was absolutely hilarious. The Mexican folkore show in Cozumel, presented by a local group, was also exceptional. The Paradise singers and dancers also put on two good revues. The Normandie lounge is not very well set up, however, with bench seating on the main floor, not very comfortable. There are also many poles to block your view. You had to get there early for a good seat, and often sit through a bingo game while you waited. The pool area, and all public areas, were kept very clean. There are plenty of deck chairs to go around, but finding a shady spot presented a challenge. We chose this cruise because of the variety of ports. The first stop was Belize, a very poor country. Belize City is very third world, with not much of interest. We chose to book our own cave tubing tour ($65) with Reggie (www.regtour.com ). We had read a lot about him. He met us at the dock and took us 44 miles to the river site, only to find out that the morning thundershower had caused flooding on the river, and tubing was out of the question. We did get to see the river, however, and Reggie offered us alternative tours at reduced prices. There were only 16 of us on the tour, we got out early before the ship’s tour which cost $80. I understand that there were 9 busses from the ship, so Reggie’s tour is much more personal and cheaper. The next stop was Roatan, Honduras. Roatan is a very underdeveloped island with a very typical Central American flavor. We loved it!!!!! If you don’t book a ship’s tour, you are hounded by locals offering you cab rides at very inflated prices. We finally booked a taxi for the day for $50. Our cab driver, Javier, spoke only Spanish, but since I do too, it was not a problem. We went to Half Moon Bay for snorkeling in front of Half Moon Bay cabins. The owners let cruise passengers use the chairs there for not cost. We then went to West Bay which has one of the most beautiful beaches in a tropical setting we have ever seen. The snorkeling there was out of this world. We bought some souvenirs there, but found out later that the local market near the pier had the same things for cheaper. A walk thorough the port town of Coxen Hole gave us an interesting look at a typical Central American city. Other than the hustling at the pier in the am, the people were very friendly, and did not bother you. Grand Cayman was our third stop. Since we had been there before, and done Sting Ray City, we just took a cab to Seven Mile Beach for a relaxing day. (Tours are available at the dock for much less than the ship’s tours.) In Cozumel, we took a taxi (regulated prices) to Chankanaab Nature Park. There is a $10 entrance fee, but you get free beach chairs, good snorkeling, there is a botanical garden, and a walk through a (reconstructed) Maya jungle. Shopping in Cozumel is good. Get off the main street if you want to see the real Mexico, and, for goodness sake, stay out of Carlos and Charlies. You might as well stay home and go to a local bar. All in all, we enjoyed our voyage on the Paradise. Our family, however, liked the Explorer better, but there were pluses and minuses to both ships. If you need a climbing wall, miniature golf course, ice rink, inline skating rink, etc. you should book with Royal Caribbean. But for exciting ports, a smoke free environment, and larger cabins, the Paradise will suit you fine.    

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By Joan_CR

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Jun 28, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was our 7th cruise and we've been on all different lines Holland, RC, and Princess but never attempted Carnival before. We had always heard that they were a party ship with to many kids, teens and college age party types. However this time we had to rebook because like so many we were suppose to go on the Norway before they had the explosion. When we were

booked on the Paradise I was very concerned about the ages, the partying, drinking, and all that goes with that type of behaviors. I had also heard that the food wasn't great on Carnival. However we did like the idea of the nonsmoking ship. My son told me that maybe the party atmosphere would not be as bad with nonsmoking since they both seem to go hand in hand. So we went for it! Embarkation: was a breeze. We arrived at about 11:30 and were in our cabins within about 45 minutes. We've never gotten on a ship so easily or quickly but we also got there early. I really think that is the key with any ship, get there early! Disembarking went well too since this time we waited in our cabin, laid down and napped until we were called. It only took an hour and getting our luggage was easy too. CABIN: My husband and I had inside cabin and it was wonderful. We couldn't get over how large the cabin was. Even the bathroom was huge and the shower larger then we've ever seen before. We were on deck that is the same as the entrance lobby. I think it was E deck. It was a cabin right under the dining room so it was only one deck up from us. There was plenty of storage space, hangers and space to put everything. It was a nice change and surprise. The TV in the cabin only picks up the basic networks and a couple of movie channels. There is a continuous, round-the-clock news channel you can use to keep up with the “real world” but it updates only a couple of time a day. PORTS: The Paradise alternates weeks, one Eastern Caribbean, one Western. The ports of call in the Western Caribbean are now Belize, Roatan, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel in that order. Belize and Roatan (an island that is part of the nation of Honduras) are both relatively poor but, unlike some third world countries, the poverty is not oppressive. We were not faced with beggars, only with people who wanted to provide us with goods and services. During the off-season (i.e. the summer), Roatan is visited by no other cruise ships so the once-every-two-weeks visit of the Paradise is a really big deal. English is the first language of most residents of Belize (it was formerly called British Honduras) and is spoken by a large percentage of the people on Roatan (it was also British until about 100 years ago.) Grand Cayman and Cozumel are very upscale and have been receiving cruisers for years. You won’t see any evidence of poverty on either island unless you really look hard. The native language in Cozumel is, of course, Spanish while the lingua franca in Grand Cayman is money ENTERTAINMENT: We went to every evenings show and found them wonderful. The Vegas style production shows were so much fun especially with all the music from the past. The dancing and costume were very good too. There was a stiff but competent magician, a pretty good juggler, the comedians every night were good not great but if you like adult humor don't miss the midnight adult shows, they were the best. We went to them all and each had us in tears. The Ballet Folkloric, staged by an on-shore troupe in Cozumel, was very good and the talent show on the last night was remarkable. We skipped almost all of the on-deck activities like hairy chest contests, survivor challenges, but saw the hairy chest contest from a distance and it looked like fun at least to watch. The not-so-newlywed games are always a riot and ours was one of the funniest we've seen. We did not go to the art auctions that are a big feature on all ships but we've gotten stuck with paintings in the heat of the moment that were expensive and are still not hung. I will say that the on-deck activities seem to be a little less rowdy than I was sure they would be on from all the stories I had heard about Carnival ships. AIR QUALITY: Outstanding. The Paradise forbids smoking and makes it very clear that they take the prohibition very, very seriously. They threaten to put anyone off the ship at the next port if the person is caught with smoking materials in his or her possession. It doesn’t matter whether the stuff is burning or not. I hope they don’t give up on this particular policy as it was really nice to breathe clean air throughout the boat. We have never smoked and have always asked for nonsmoking cabins and restaurants which were always fine with us. But you have no idea how nice it is to have a drink in a bar or sit on a deck without the awful smoke blowing in your face. The ship also seemed very clean nothing smelled smoky. SHORE EXCURSIONS: In Belize we did the tour of the Mayan village and it was wonderful. We've seen many sites on other trips and like them all they are really worth every penny if you're into that kind of thing. After the tour we went for a nice lunch. It was a long bus ride nearly 2 hours one way but relaxing, cool and comfortable. We stopped for a break which was nice but not enough time really to shop in the wonderful gift shop. Roatan was very poor but never felt threatened at all nor were people pushy like on other islands. We took a taxi to the main beach for several hours and he came back to pick us up. It was not done through the ship so it only cost us $20 rt pp. The ship was charging $60 for the same trip pp. The beach was beautiful but be careful with any valuables. We didn't bring much with us just bag, towel, camera, and my watch. I took my watch off and laid it on the towel under my bag and clothes. We went for a walk and when we returned the watch was gone. Not that it was an expensive watch but still made me mad. I'm glad I took my camera. It was a very busy beach with snack bar, bar and lots of people around but there were locals hanging around and they must have seen me take my watch off. Grand Cayman was wonderful so very beautiful and our second time there. First time we did a glass bottom boat ride this time we did the ever popular island tour with the town of Hell, the sea turtles and Stingray City. I've always heard how great this excursion was so we also did it. It was a wonderful full day. Hell was unique but they didn't give us enough time there to shop. The turtles were great especially for children. The shopping was also short lived but the free rum cake was great. Then we were taken to Stingray City where they take you 1/2 hr. out into the ocean to a sandbar where you get out of the boat, chest deep in the perfectly blue waters and wait for the stingrays to come. Your tour guide will tell you all about them and let you touch, pick up or even feed them. It was wonderful if not just a bit freaky if you're nervous about such things. But most people were underwater with them, taking pictures and enjoying it all. I loved it but wasn't as adventureous as to touch them. Cozumel was also our second time there first time we went to Tulum which was wonderful and don't miss it if you enjoy such things. This time we went Kyacking for the first time. It was great. They took us out in the lagoon, showed us how to row, and about 12 of us had boats, 2 to a boat. We went for an hour through the mangros complete with lots of wild life, birds etc. Then to a beautiful beach for a great buffet lunch for several hours. We asked to be dropped in town to shop but again there wasn't much time to do it. THE SHIP: In general this is a very nice boat. It is only about 6 or 7 years old and, in part because of the no smoking policy, it seems very clean and new. There were always enough deck chairs, so long as you stayed away from the popular pool area. Because of the deadly fire and explosion that took the Norway out of commission just a couple of weeks before we sailed, the ship, we were told was more crowded than usual yet we never felt it. Many people rebooked at the last minute. We never felt over crowded at all. The only thing that bothered me were so many kids and by the end of the week they were running wild. I don't know where the parents were but most just let them go without any regard to other passengers rights. They were running in the halls all hours of night. Even kids 10 and 11 were let loose which I think is wrong and dangerous. If a kid falls down the stairs or off the ship who would know. I think Carnival should have some security and make the kids stay in their areas especially at 3 am. It got a little crazy at the deck party the Cozmel night too since most of the young people had been drinking in the bars all day long and by 10 pm many could hardly walk. However, when you go on a cruise in July you will always have more kids of all ages then in March when everyone is in school. We will make sure our future trips are not in the summers. FOOD: Because of what we've heard about Carnival cruise food, we were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the food. (The quantity goes without saying!) Carnival is not renowned for its cuisine but our dinners were always good and the choices quite sufficient. Soups seem to be something of a Carnival specialty and they had at least three, one of them a cold soup my favorite,which I had every night with dinner. The buffets were plenty good although the choice of main dishes in the lunch buffet was not a broad as you would wish and the breakfast buffet was always the same. For that matter, the sit-down breakfast menu does not vary from day to day either. 24/7 hour pizza availability is something you can certainly come to appreciate after a while. There are 8 or 10 varieties available and they are always hot and waiting for you. What we enjoyed the most was the free sushi bar which was every night at 5:30 during happy hour and drinks were cheaper too. It was a nice snack since we ate at the late seating. The grand buffet was wonderful as always on all ships and not to be missed. The other midnight buffets were also nice but we seldom ate much. OVERALL: For the price we paid, I cannot imagine a much better vacation. Carnival is not pretentious about their product. They cater to the average traveler and do not attempt to compete with more expensive lines. My husband and I would probably have preferred a more sedate cruise as in the past but Carnival is plainly for families and Paradise is for non-smoking families. Although we were expecting the worse it turned out to be an overall wonderful trip. The only thing I can say that was the least bit negitive was our waiter wasn't much fun. He was very stiff and usually your waiter can make or break the fun of a cruise. Also Carnival has a prepaid tipping thing that we don't like. I don't like it because the staff doesn't have to work very hard. They know they are getting their tip no matter what they do good or bad. I like the idea of having the control to tip well for great service or average if not great. However, I would say overall the staff was top notch in every area. I never felt that they were rude, short, disrespectful and they were always willing to help in any way. Our cabin stewart was amazing as it was always clean and we never saw him. We have cruised a lot and that is usually the way it is on all ships. We've never had a bad experience with our cabin stewarts. I would recommend this cruise highly to anyone that has either never taken a cruise or others who have. It was an A+ trip on every level. Feel free to email me with any questions on this cruise or others that we've gone on. Good luck, have fun, relax and don't be to picky it can and will spoil your trip every time!    

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By Ted_CR

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Jun 14, 2003

Western Caribbean

Our family of four (two middle aged adults and two boys, aged 20 and 17) spent a very nice week on the Carnival Paradise, cruising the Western Caribbean. The itinerary is somewhat new and Carnival is to be commended very highly for the fresh choices. PORTS: The Paradise alternates weeks, one Eastern Caribbean, one Western. The ports of call in the Western Caribbean are now Belize, Roatan, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel in that order. Belize

and Roatan (an island that is part of the nation of Honduras) are both relatively poor but, unlike some third world countries, the poverty is not oppressive. We were not faced with beggars, only with people who wanted to provide us with goods and services. During the off-season (i.e. the summer), Roatan is visited by no other cruise ships so the once-every-two-weeks visit of the Paradise is a really big deal. English is the first language of most residents of Belize (it was formerly called British Honduras) and is spoken by a large percentage of the people on Roatan (it was also British until about 100 years ago.) Grand Cayman and Cozumel are very upscale and have been receiving cruisers for years. You won’t see any evidence of poverty on either island unless you really look hard. The native language in Cozumel is, of course, Spanish while the lingua franca in Grand Cayman is money. FOOD: As on our previous Carnival cruise, we were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the food. (The quantity goes without saying!) Carnival is not renowned for its cuisine but our dinners were always good and the choices quite sufficient. Soups seem to be something of a Carnival specialty and they had at least three, one of them a cold soup (my wife’s favorites, as a rule), with every dinner. The buffets were plenty good although the choice of main dishes in the lunch buffet was not a broad as you would wish and the breakfast buffet was always the same. For that matter, the sit-down breakfast menu does not vary from day to day either. 24/7 hour pizza availability is something you can certainly come to appreciate after a while. There are 8 or 10 varieties available and they are always hot and waiting for you. CABIN: My wife and I had an outside cabin, way down on the Riviera Deck, and the kids shared a cabin across the hall. (The boys certainly had no need of a window, considering how little time they spent in the cabin.) Other than having to climb some extra stairs-- not a bad idea considering the amount of food we consumed--to go to dinner or the lounge, I see no reason to pay extra for a berth on a higher deck. In fact, if the seas get choppy, the lower down you are, the smoother the ride. Our cabin was plenty big and had ample storage space (though they are skimpy with hangers.) We were provided terrycloth robes for the week and had all the towels, both bath and beach, one could desire. The TV in the cabin only picks up the basic networks and a couple of movie channels. There is a continuous, round-the-clock news channel you can use to keep up with the “real world” but it updates only a couple of time a day. ENTERTAINMENT: I went to every evening’s show and found them mixed in quality. The Vegas style production shows were okay, better performed than written in my opinion. There was a stiff but competent magician, a pretty good juggler, two comedians—one funny, one not, and a few other performances that you would not pay much to see but would be worth a visit if you already had tickets. The Ballet Folkloric, staged by an on-shore troupe in Cozumel, was very good and the talent show on the last night was remarkable. The classical music trio (Sweet Dreams) was excellent and the Paradise had the good taste to feature them in the Atrium just before dinner each night. The kids liked the late night dance club and the two or three lounge acts I saw were pretty good. I skipped almost all of the on-deck activities like hairy chest contests, survivor challenges, not-so-newlywed games, and so forth and did not go to the art auctions that are a big feature on the boat. I will say that the on-deck activities seem to be a little less rowdy that on some other boats. AIR QUALITY: Outstanding. The Paradise forbids smoking and makes it very clear that they take the prohibition very, very seriously. They threaten to put anyone off the ship at the next port if the person is caught with smoking materials in his or her possession. It doesn’t matter whether the stuff is burning or not. I don’t know how far they would carry it, but the announcements are very dramatic. I understand Carnival is not making as much money on the Paradise as on other boats. Apparently, there is a strong correlation between smoking and both drinking and gambling, two major sources of on-board revenue. I hope they don’t give up on this particular policy as it was really nice to breathe clean air throughout the boat. SHORE EXCURSIONS: I do not buy my excursions on board the ship. I do my internet stuff beforehand and take my chances that weather or mechanical breakdown won’t keep us from making port on schedule. There is some small risk but the excursions I found on line were orders of magnitude better than anything the ship had to offer. Belize: We went cave tubing with Reggie. Go to www.regtour.com  and check him out. Reggie met 11 of us at the dock and took us in his van to a place where you float through a cave (with stalactites and bats and everything) on your back in an inner tube. You walk about a mile on a very easy path through the jungle, then float for about 90 minutes through the cave. Reggie gives you a headlamp to wear and leads the group down the river. We could have booked cave tubing through the ship but the difference between that and going with Reggie became apparent when we got off the river. When we started down the trail carrying our tubes, Reggie’s small van was the only vehicle in the parking lot. When we got back to the van two hours later, there were 15 full-sized buses parked there and a long line of people waiting for their inner tubes! After drying off, we got back in Reggie’s van and he took us to a small country cafe where we had a wonderful Belizean lunch for $5 each. Roatan: There is a lot of good snorkeling on Roatan, either off the beach or from a boat. We opted to take a taxi to a resort at the west end of the island, lie on the beach in our lounge chairs, and swim and snorkel from a gorgeous beach. We had a delightful young driver named Orville who spoke perfect English and wants to study air conditioning. Smart choice in the tropics. He took us to the resort, waited 3 ½ hours for us to get our fill of sand and sun, then drove us back to the ship. $20 each seemed a fair price but larger groups could probably bargain the figure down a little. Grand Cayman: Riding horseback on the beach is one of life’s rare pleasures. We went with a small outfit called Pampered Ponies. (See www.ponies.ky ) The woman who picked us up at the dock owns about 9 or 10 horses so you know the ride will not be crowded. Seven of us rode about 2 or 3 miles along a deserted beach, trotting, cantering, and even galloping on occasion. One horse was a little bit feisty but the rest were totally manageable, even for a novice rider. Cozumel: From the ship you can book a snorkel trip that takes you, along with 50 or so other people, to some very nice reefs. We went with Eagle Ray Divers ( www.eagleraydivers.com ) and got a captain and a guide for just the four of us. Raul led us along three reefs, showed us dozens of fantastic fish we might have missed, and even led a couple of us through some small underwater passageways. After hitting the snorkel sites, we headed down the coast to a day resort with a freshwater pool, Jacuzzi, and restaurant where we got a nice lunch...included in the price of the trip. In addition to having far smaller groups on these shore trips, they are generally about 20% cheaper than the equivalent trips sold on the ship. For a party of four, that would generally amount to nearly $100 for many of these trips. Unless you are facing a real time crunch (ships will wait if one of their own tours is late), I see no reason not to use your mouse to find the best trips in each port. THE SHIP: In general this is a very nice boat. It is only about 6 or 7 years old and, in part because of the no smoking policy, it seems very clean and new. There were always enough deck chairs, so long as you stayed away from the popular pool area. Because of the deadly fire and explosion that took the Norway out of commission just a couple of weeks before we sailed, the ship was more crowded than usual. Many people rebooked at the last minute, taking the Paradise above its “full occupancy” level. The only times this was noticeable were at dinner, where every table was fitted with an extra chair or two, and during the evening shows, where late arrivals had to stand in the back. Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at about 11:30 and were in our cabins within about 45 minutes. Getting off the boat took a lot longer. Carnival disembarks its passengers in order of how much they paid for their cabins so those of us from the lower Riviera deck waited about 1 ½ hours in the lounge. Not the worst thing that ever happened but still somewhat annoying. OVERALL: For the price we paid, I cannot imagine a much better vacation. Carnival is not pretentious about their product. They cater to the average traveler and do not attempt to compete with Crystal or Canard. My wife and I would probably have preferred a more sedate cruise but the kids loved it. Carnival is plainly for families and Paradise is for non-smoking families.    

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May 24, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

Just a little background before I dive into this lengthy review. Joe and I are 32 years old, have two kids (aged 4 and 2) and live in Southern New Jersey. Joe is a college math professor, and I’m currently a stay-at-home mom. We cruised once before on the Carnival Ecstasy for our honeymoon, and Joe cruised once before that on a four-day Disney cruise with his family. We took this cruise to celebrate our 10th anniversary and we booked

it in June 2002 through www.icruise.com . We made regular payments, took advantage of three price drops, opted for the insurance and paid in full 70 days before sailing. After final payment, there was a price drop, for which we were granted $75 shipboard credit. We had an inside cabin on the Upper deck (U150), which we found to be very convenient and quiet. You can see a ton of pictures from the cruise on our homepage: http://alleghator.tripod.com. Our vacation started when we left home on Saturday, May 24. We stayed overnight at the Philadelphia Airport Hilton (great rate of $45 on Priceline.com). We did this for a couple of reasons … to avoid an even earlier wake-up on Sunday, and to avoid paying airport parking for our car all week. Sunday, May 25 we woke up early (about 5am) and took the shuttle to the airport. Security was no big deal. We used plastic cable ties to “lock” our checked luggage. We did have to remove our shoes at the security checkpoint. The flight was uneventful and included a snack. We landed on time in Miami. We proceeded to the baggage area where most of the people standing around had cruise line tags of some sort on their luggage. There were a lot of announcements in this area soliciting the cruise line transfers. We opted to take a cab. The flat rate fare of $18 isn’t supposed to have any additional charges, but when our driver asked for the $.75 toll to cross the bridge, we didn’t feel like arguing. It came out of his tip. The drive was no big deal, but our taxi had to wait in a long line of cars after we got through the port security (have your cruise tickets and photo ID handy on the taxi ride to show at security). We checked our bags, tipped the porters and entered the embarkation building. We were handed a SARS form and went through the X-ray security checkpoint with our carryon bags. After waiting in a quick-moving line, we showed our birth certificates and driver’s licenses, handed over our tickets and Bahamas immigration forms and were sent on our way up an escalator. We stood in another very short line for our Sign and Sail cards, a slightly longer line for our Sign and Sail card photos, and then sent to wait at the foot of another escalator. We were then sent up in a group with some other people. One embarkation photo later, and we were onboard. Some crewmembers (in room steward uniforms, I think) handed us deck plans as we boarded. We entered the ship in the corner of the atrium right next to the Internet Café. We went to the Purser’s desk to activate our S&S cards with our traveler’s checks (which was no hassle at all), and had the cards punched for the lanyards we’d brought. After this, we found our cabin and proceeded to wander the ship. We’d been given the late dinner seating, after requesting early, so we went to the Elation Dining Room as instructed to request the change. We were told to go ahead to the late seating that first night and that we’d be informed of things the next day (we were moved to early, and it was not really a hassle). We listened to the classical trio in the atrium for a few minutes, then returned to the cabin to put on our plastic leis (used for all us CC members to identify each other onboard for sail away). We ran into Marci and Jason from CC while sitting on the Lido Deck avoiding an afternoon rain shower. Muster drill was no big deal and we had time to return the lifejackets to the cabin in plenty of time to get a good spot right in front on the Verandah deck for sail away. We ran into Brendan and Donna (from CC) on our way there and hung out with them until we cleared the channel out of Miami. We took note of the Coast Guard boat that escorted the ship out of the harbor. And, we met ZaxsPa and his group (who we met via CC) right before we sailed. We wandered around a bit again until dinner, had plenty of time to unpack all our luggage into the more than ample storage space, left a goody bag for our cabin Stewardess (Jana, who was wonderful and supernatural about getting our cabin turned around so quickly each day after we’d left it) then went to eat. Our first-night tablemates were also trying to switch to the early seating, so no hard feelings there. We attended the Welcome Aboard show and then crashed for the night. The next day was in Nassau. We’d pre-booked the Barefoot Sailing Cruise ( http://www.barefootsailingcruises.com/ ) half-day snorkel. It was $49 per person minus a 10% discount for printing out their webpage. We breakfasted in the Paris Restaurant, the disembarked onto the pier. Nassau was like a ghost town this early. Even the hair braiders were just getting set up. We took a couple of pictures, then met our group, called for the shuttle bus and were off to the marina. I should mention here that my camera fogged up a LOT when we got off the ship. It was probably a solid 10 minutes before it was clear enough for good pictures. We boarded our sailboat along with the three other couples (Marci and Jason, her parents, and Brendan and Donna) sailing with us. It was a 40-ish foot single-mast sailboat. I completely forget the name of our captain, but he was great. His “First Mate” Jason was quieter, but helped us with whatever we needed or wanted. It turns out after-the-fact that we were on the wrong sailboat (same company, two boats), but it didn’t seem to really be a problem. The weather was threatening rain, so we motored out to a reef spot near Atholl Island. After a brief snorkeling lesson, we were in the water. It was warm and much saltier than we expected. The fish were everywhere. The crew dropped crackers into the water to keep the fish close. We saw many different kinds everywhere we could look. We even saw a sting ray at one point. After about 45 minutes or so, we’d generally had enough and came back onboard. We had plenty of water and rum punch to drink, and lots of cheese and crackers to eat. Just before we got out, a giant cruise-sponsored snorkeling excursion boat showed up and dumped dozens of snorkelers all on top of each other. The fish pretty much vanished. SO glad we didn’t have that kind of tour. They hoisted the sails and we whisked away around the islands. The wind picked up and it did start to rain, so they brought the sails back in so we could motor through the narrow channel back to Nassau. We sailed very close to many large mansions, and the Atlantis resort. They dropped us right next to Senor Frog’s and the Straw Market (apparently pre-September 11, they could drop people right by their ship on the pier). Joe returned to the ship for a nap (He hadn’t taken any precautionary Bonine, as I had. He started taking it late Monday night and was fine by dinner time on Tuesday.), and Brendan, Donna and I shopped in the Straw Market and in a couple of shops downtown. One word for the Straw Market – Haggle! I paid $33 for stuff that they asked $50 for. I returned to the cabin in time to shower and primp for our first formal night. We attended the Captain’s cocktail party and saw the first of the large group on the cruise with us swing-dancing onstage. ( http://www.frankiecruise.com/index.htm ) We enjoyed our free drinks, saw all the officers onstage and then headed to the dining room. We met our tablemates (Sarah and Eric on their honeymoon, and Eric’s brother Wally and his wife Stacy celebrating their 10th anniversary), and our waiters (Carmelo and Alex from the Philippines). The food all week was great. There were highs and lows, naturally, but I think it was all prepared and presented very well, particularly considering the quantities and quick turn-around they’re dealing with. We all had celebratory cakes that first formal night. I wished they’d spaced them out during the week, but they were yummy anyway. We opted for lots of portraits that night, but didn’t end up liking the way any of them turned out when we saw them in the morning. It was still fun to pose, though. We went to the “Dream Voyage” show but had really crummy seats because we hadn’t gotten there early enough. Joe had been really looking forward to karaoke on the ship, as he’s a great singer. But, it was often held during the end of the early dinner seating. We listened to Bobby Calabrese in the US Bar for awhile and enjoyed him, but wandered on until we got to the America Bar (piano bar). Pianist Mark Guttenplan was filling in for the usual piano bar player, Brie, as she was hospitalized for pneumonia. We had so much fun with Mark and all the piano bar gang (Russ, Andy, William, Charles, Vicki, Daniel … and others whose names I forgot to write down while we were still onboard), that we wound up back there for several hours each night for the rest of the cruise. The cocktail waitresses (Katerina and Danica) knew ours drinks by the second night and were really great, fun people. We didn’t go dancing, we didn’t go to the Gala buffet, we didn’t go to “Shout,” because when it was time for each of those events, we’d look at each other and ask “Do you want to leave?” And the answer was always that we were having too much fun to leave. The next day was our first “Fun Day at Sea.” Even without any environmental cues (interior cabin), I was up at about 7:30am. Joe was still a zombie, so I went to breakfast in the dining room on my own. We’d highlighted the Capers together the night before, so I knew he’d know where to find me once he got up and moving around. After breakfast, I took a bunch of pictures of a little frog all around the ship. We brought one of kids’ toys with us and took pictures as though “Froggie” was taking a vacation. I haven’t printed them out, yet, but I intend to make a little book to help explain to my kids all about the cruise. Then I went to a trivia quiz on the Lido deck, met Erin the social host and talked to her a bit (she and my husband grew up in neighboring towns in Southeast Pennsylvania), read a book for awhile, ate lunch in the dining room with Joe, watched the first part of Survivor (I wasn’t picked.), then went to a new trivia quiz, where I met and talked to Karl (with a K) for awhile. This brings me to a point I cannot emphasize enough … talk to people, and not just passengers. Talk to your steward(ess), waiter(s), cocktail waitresses, social hosts, entertainers. They are all people with great stories, families, etc. And, they will remember you the next time they see you. It’s like sailing with a bunch of your friends. Anyway, we lounged around the ship awhile, got some sun then went back to the cabin to get dressed for dinner. After dinner we went to the Show. It was magician John Duffy (I like magic shows, but his was kind of lame/corny), and comedian Adam Ace (who was indeed as zany as advertised in the Capers). We enjoyed the show, and then took our usual stools in the America Bar for the rest of the night. The next morning (Wednesday), we docked in the Dominican Republic. We’d set an alarm and gone up to the Elation dining room buffet for breakfast. We’d booked (through Carnival) the Santo Domingo City Tour. When we got to the dining room, we were surprised to see we hadn’t docked yet (we’d thought we still felt motion when we were getting dressed, but thought it was imaginary). We docked about an hour late (9am), but then everything proceeded smoothly. We walked up the pier to our waiting tour bus. There were rows of buses waiting to take all the various excursion groups away, and plenty of Carnival and independent tour staff around to assist everyone. Our tour guide, Franklin, made the tour a real pleasure. He narrated regularly throughout the hour and a half ride to Santo Domingo, pointing out local sights such as sugar cane fields, sugar can factories, important rivers, towns along the way, etc. He gave some history of the island and of Santo Domingo in preparation of our upcoming walking tour. This is a poor country, and we saw trash along the sides of the road and other signs that this isn’t a touristy area, yet. We arrived in Santo Doming, drove to the Colonial section of town, and got off the bus. It was no problem carrying water with us, and we left other stuff on the bus. The tour included such significant sights as the Alcazar de Colon (the home where 4 generations of Columbus’ family lived, still housing original furniture and paintings), the Calle das Damas (Street of the Ladies, one of the oldest streets in the New World), a building housing the remains of many of the Dominican’s significant patriots and heroes, a couple of impressive Plazas, and the Cathedral of Santo Domingo. We heard the story of the disputes over where Columbus is, in fact, buried. ( http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20030603/ap_on_re_eu/spain_columbus__bones_3 ) After the Cathedral, they took us to a gift shop, gave us some freebie drinks and we had time to shop. There was a later shopping opportunity with better prices later. But, this first store had fancier stuff, if that’s what you’re shopping for. We walked back to the bus and drove to a coastal hotel for a complimentary lunch buffet. After lunch, we re-boarded the bus and drove through the newer part of town. Photo opportunity at the President’s house, the US embassy, then off to the Columbus Lighthouse. There wasn’t time to tour through the Lighthouse, but we could get out for a few minutes for some pictures. We all pretty much crashed on the bus on the way home. Near La Romana, we stopped for more shopping. From the outside, the place looks like it only sells pottery, but they also have jewelry, T-shirts, mahogany carvings, salad sets, paintings, liquor, tobacco, food stuffs, local handicrafts and other souvenirs. It’s much bigger than it looks, and there are some bargains to be had! We got back to the pier at about 5:05pm. The ship was to have sailed at 5:00pm. The other Santo Domingo tour bus was even later than we were. We changed and made it to dinner (5:45pm) on time. We skipped the show, I crashed for the night around 9pm, and Joe went to the piano bar until late. On Thursday, we docked in St. Thomas. We had breakfast in the Paris Restaurant and headed for immigration. The line was long, but moved quickly. We got into line around 8:30am. We had to show our birth certificates again, and everything was simple. They gave us name stickers for our shirts that we had to keep on to disembark. I got off the ship for some quick shopping in the mere steps away Havensight Mall, while Joe took a nap (remember I mentioned a late night in the piano bar). I stashed my purchases in the cabin, and we headed ashore for our tour. We’d booked a 10am tour with Godfrey, an independent tour operator ( http://www.godfreytoursvi.com/ ). He charges only $20 per person for what turned out to be a fantastic day. We met Mary Ann (from CC) and her friend Danyette. Although, we’d already met in the piano bar, we hadn’t made the CC connection, yet. There were about 11 of us on the tour, altogether. Godfrey dropped us downtown for two hours of shopping time. Joe and I wandered the downtown shopping area, picked up a couple souvenirs and then went to the nearby old Fort. The fort is free to enter and tour, but they do appreciate donations. We looked around, took some nice pictures from the vantage point of the walls and then it was time to rejoin our tour group. Godfrey headed through town, pointing out sights and giving us a lot of background on St. Thomas and the US Virgin Islands, in general. We started up toward Mountaintop on St. Peter Mountain. It’s the highest point on St. Thomas. We stopped a few places on the way up for nice views of the harbor. Godfrey also pointed out places where the bad hurricane season of 1995-1996 damaged homes. Many of the homeowners were uninsured, and so there are a lot of places that just haven’t been rebuilt. They’re expecting a bad hurricane season this year and are bracing themselves for it. Apparently, it can take a year or more of work after a hurricane before cruise ships really return to the port. The weather was sunny, but hazy so we didn’t have crisp clear views. Apparently this is pretty typical this time of year, coming into hurricane season. Up on Mountaintop ( http://www.greathouse-mountaintop.com/mtp/index4.htm ), there was time for pictures (great views of Magen’s Bay), a little shopping, a famous banana daiquiri. There’s an ATM machine there, too, which is nice. We reboarded the bus and headed down the mountain. The ride down was fun on the twisty-turny roads. A little like a roller coaster. We stopped at Francis Drake’s Seat for a couple of more pictures, then we had our choice of Magen’s Beach, Coki Point, or Sapphire Beach. Coincidentally, everyone in our group choice Coki (for its “crystal clear waters”). The beach area had snorkeling, SCUBA, parasailing, jet skis, a gift shop, a fast food snack bar, a Caribbean snack bar, chair and umbrella rentals, and roaming drink waiters. We rented an umbrella ($10), and relaxed on our beach towels, reading. Mary Ann and Danyette apparently had a bad experience with the dive shop there, so beware. Coki Beach also hosts the Coral World underwater observatory ( http://www.coralworldvi.com/ ). At about quarter to 4pm, we got back on the bus and were dropped at the pier at about 4:05pm. Plenty of time to shower and dress for dinner. We went to the comedy show that night featuring a ventriloquist/comedian (can’t find my Capers for his name) and Jim Brick, a comedian. We liked his act, as did some of our onboard friends. So, we had fun in the piano bar and then all went together to Jim’s midnight “adult” show. It was pretty funny, but we weren’t rolling on the floor or anything. Be forewarned, the adult shows are definitely adult shows. If you’re easily offended or traveling with kids, skip these. Then we had two more days at sea before returning to Miami. We jumped right into things, participating in a lot of events, such as Sea Feud (like Family Feud, I won a medallion!), Carnival Quest (you just have to see it to understand), hanging out watching our favorite pianist Mark play in the atrium, eating, eating, eating. We went on the galley tour, which was interesting, particularly the demonstrations afterward (ice sculpting, towel animal folding, napkin folding, cooking). We played win-a-cruise BINGO (our only BINGO of the week), and lost. We didn’t vist the gym, the spa/salon or the casino. Well, we walked through the casino with friends, but didn’t gamble anything. We didn’t attend any art auctions, but two of our tablemates did and they said it was very interesting. They bought some Thomas Kinkades. We chose not to alter our tips, and didn’t tip extra to the maitre’d. We did tip Mark, the pianist, as well as our America Bar cocktail waitresses Danica and Katerina. They were great to us all week. (in fact, Katerina was on Coki beach with us and came over to chat for awhile) Other miscellaneous notes … make sure you have your camera situation well in hand in advance. We had planned to download our digital pics onto my husband’s laptop. But, when we tried to do so onboard, we were missing a driver. So, we wound up buying an extra memory card. And, I packed extra batteries for the camera, but forgot to take them along in St. Thomas, and had to buy new batteries mid-day. We took advantage of the $12 per bag laundry special and it really was a bargain considering what we crammed into the bag. Take Bonine even if you don’t think you’ll need it. You never know how the movement of the ship might affect you. Joe and I were fine with it, and drank several drinks per night with no adverse effects. And, there is meclazine (the generic name for Bonine) available FREE at the infirmary on deck 3. Use sun block! I didn’t on St. Thomas and got burned even in the shade of the umbrella. Not horribly, but badly enough. The ship’s gift shops really can have good bargains. For example, the rum cakes were cheaper there than any I priced in port. There was no trouble getting a deck chair even right by the pool at pretty much any time of day. Get and use lanyards for your S&S cards, and use an over-the-door-shoe-holder thingy in your cabin. Invaluable! The kids were quiet and unobtrusive until the very last day at sea. I don’t know if Camp Carnival cuts back on their scheduled activities by then, or what. But, after about 4pm on Saturday, we suddenly noticed kids running around when we hadn’t at any other point in the week.    

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May 17, 2003

Western Caribbean

First off, my husband and I swore we would never go on another Carnival Cruise after our first experience with them 7 years ago. But, because this itinerary was what we wanted and we talked to a wonderful cruise planner with Carnival whose name is Joe. We changed our minds. Joe promised that we would not have problems like we experienced the first time, like excessive drinking by young people 24 hours a day. And everything that goes with

that. We are so happy we trusted Joe. We had a wonderful time on the Paradise. To top it off it is nonsmoking. And they mean it. signs everywhere to make sure everyone is aware and without excuse. My husband and I don't smoke and it was nice. Not a necessity though. When we have gone on other ships that had smoking we just avoided those areas if it was too smoky. Anyway, this itinerary was Belize, Roatan Honduras, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel Mexico. We have wanted to see Belize for some time and we love Roatan. Grand Cayman was the least of our favorites and Cozumel runs a close forth. We went cave tubing in Belize. That was a great experience. Our tour was through the ship. We enjoyed everything about the tour. The guides were very informative regarding his country. Floating down a river in a tube in the rain forest is an experience not to be forgotten. And going into the caves was unreal. It was a very nice time. Walking down the trail the guides explained plants, trees and any creatures that may be near by. We even received lunch at a place called Cheers. Food was very good. Not the fanciest of places, but remember this is not the USA. This is a very poor country. So, if you pray over your food you will be fine.....just kidding! But, then again maybe! We were onto Roatan, Honduras. One of my most favorite places. It too is very poor, but rich in beauty and friendly people. We went horseback riding through the forest and on down to a beach. The ride to the horses was an experience in itself. Our driver only spoke English just a little, as he put it. Which meant, not really. The horses were well behaved. My husband appreciated that since this was his first time on. He really enjoyed himself. May ever do it again on another trip, who knows. Anyway, the views were beautiful, the forest was beautiful as well. When we got to the beach there was music, cold drinks at no cost. They had a bar for a price. Also, a shop. The water was nice and a good cooling off time. So, be sure to bring a suit or ware it under your jeans. You can burn very easy there and in Belize. I normally don't burn but our last trip to Roatan I got such a bad burn on my back when we went snorkeling on a sail and snorkel tour. That is a great thing to do there as well. Please do not think this is the type on place you can just get off the ship and hang out right there. There is nothing right there. You can get a cab that will take you around at a reasonable price I hear. To us shopping was so much better here for they things we like to pick up. Beautiful had carved wood things, jewelry hand made. Great prices as well. My husband got a hand carved Mahogany cane for $20 at the beach we went to. It wasn't in the shop there, it was from a vendor down the beach. We bought allot of things there. Okay onto Grand Cayman. We went there once before. We don't care for the place. The only positive thing I can say about the place is the snorkeling with stingrays. Which we did the last time we were there. This time we caught a bus on our own and went to the west side. We did some site seeing. Walked around a bit and came back to Georgetown. I think what made the place fun for us was that when we came to shore on the tender it started raining and kept on until the street were running with water. Everyone running every which way. We just went with it and hunted until we found the bus depot. Got on the bus and just down the road it stopped raining. By the time we headed back into town we were dry. But, not for long. Because it was still raining. So, we just walked around in the rain, or should I say down poor. And big drops they were!!! No shopping there. Very expensive. Very rich area. Then onto Cozumel. This was our third time there. It is an okay place to go. And there is a variety of things to do. The Ruins of Tulem are nice to see, snorkeling is good usually. This time we went on a snorkeling tour. The snorkeling was not very good at all, but just being our there on the water is an enjoyment. We were both disappointed that there was very little fish, no coral to speak of either. And we didn't know that it was a open bar party tour. It didn't say that in the information. We got back to the ship about 5:30 changed and went to a wonderful French restaurant called French Quarter. We found it in Fedors book prior to our trip. The food and owners were wonderful. My husband loves frog legs and he said they fix them great. I had shrimp stuffed with crap. The owner and son are from the US. The shopping is okay here but not as good as one might think it is going to be. Oh, by the way, in case you didn't know our dollar is worth less in Grand Cayman. Now about the Paradise. Very nice ship. Those people are always cleaning. Our service was excellent. Our waiters were Ramon and Cameala. He was from Honduras and she was from Romania. Very good at what they do. They made sure we got what every we wanted. The food was some of the best I have had. The prime rib was soooo tender. My husband had two lobsters one night. Seemed like food was being served somewhere all the time. I know there was allot of people on the ship, but it didn't really seem that way. We found our spot on the back of the ship out side of the Paris dinning room. Nice place to start the day. We are early risers. Everyone was very nice and helpful. Even in the Paris dinning room. I went to pick up my own dirty plate to get rid of it and was stopped by an employee and told oh no we will do that. They don't want you to do anything at all. In closing, the Carnival Paradise, the crew, the itinerary and Joe the planner was great. I would go on another cruise with them. Just not during spring break or right after graduation. They did raise the drinking age to 21 yrs. which is good. We don't drink or smoke and still had a wonderful time. We met great people too. This is an experience everyone should experience at least once.    

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May 10, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

Well I just got back from my first cruise and I think its safe to say that it was the best vacation I have ever taken. My girlfriend Missy and I had chosen the Carnival Paradise only because we quit smoking 3 months ago. We decided that we would be drinking a lot and the temptation of seeing others smoking around us would be overwhelming (nothing against my fellow smokers out there). Embarkation When we arrived in Fort Lauderdale

things got a bit crazy. A bottle of wine, which I had packed away in my suitcase, had broken during the loading process. Wine had saturated every article of clothing I brought. I realized this when I saw one of the suitcases coming around the corner of the baggage claim atop a puddle of liquid. I knew right then that my first day was going to be spent in the laundry room. But this was my fault since I packed the bottle against the medal bars at the bottom of the suitcase. At the baggage claim we met up with a Carnival rep. that escorted us to the buses, which take you to the ship. Our bus driver seemed fairly friendly but I was humored by his so-called “typical” tipping amount. He stated that $1 for each bag is customary. I find this hard to believe since I counted 40 people on the bus. With two bags each, this would add up to $80 for a 20 minute trip. This bus driver must be making a fortune! Once we arrived at the dock it was bit hectic but we figured out quickly what was going on. I found it a bit disturbing that the people that load your luggage onto the ship do not work for the ship. But I guess that’s just the way it is. Our Cabin We had booked a guaranteed 4A stateroom and were upgraded to a 4R ocean view. Luckily we got upgraded to a room with a window, since now I really can’t see not having a window. The rooms were much more spacious than I expected and the beds were fairly comfortable. It came with many toiletries including antacid, sleep aid, razors and toothpaste which I thought was a nice touch. There is not much more to say except that it was a comfortable place to sleep. The Ship The ship was absolutely beautiful. It was very clean with beautiful décor. Getting around was sometimes a hassle due to the elevators being so damn slow. This was one of my biggest complaints about the ship. It would sometimes take 5 minutes to go up just a few floors. I know I could have taken the stairs but shoot I’m on vacation! The casino (where I spent much of my time) was almost always empty. I heard this would be the case on the Paradise since it is a non-smoking ship. I guess non-smokers just don’t gamble. As I made my way to the top of the ship, I was a little disappointed about how small the swimming pools were. I’m sure all cruise lines probably have the same size pools but I was just hoping for bigger I guess. No big deal. My other complaint I have about the ship are the harassing waiters that come around the pool area and keep asking you over and over if you want to buy one of those $6.50 drinks. I believe they are pinacolada’s. When you tell one “No” the next one comes up to you 30 seconds later. By the 10th waiter I decided to just ignore them. I guess Carnival is known for doing these types of sales tactics and it could be a bit annoying. Another example is on the first day of the cruise, they announced that there was an important seminar in the Normandie Room on “important information” that we all must need to know. This seminar ended up being basically a brainwash session telling us how to spend all of our money on Carnival. I stayed for only a few minutes until I couldn’t take it anymore and walked out. After the first couple of days, the ship seems to simmer down on these types of tactics. But the way I see it, is that the people who taking this bait are the people that are making my trip much cheaper. Ok enough complaining let me move on. The gym was pretty good size and even though I promised myself that I would work out every day, I only ended up working out once. Hey there’s just so much to do that you just don’t have time. My girlfriend wanted to try out the spa but I warned her about th e spa reviews that I read on this site so she decided not too. Ok enough about the ship. Lets get to the food! Dining The food on this ship is absolutely amazing. If you love to eat then you will love this ship. Unfortunately I can’t compare the food to other cruise lines since this was my first cruise. But I do not believe it could get much better. We usually ordered breakfast through room service. During the day we mostly ate the buffet on the deck at the Paris restaurant. This food was decent but not out of this world. Pretty good cheeseburgers and chicken sandwiches. For dinnertime we chose the late seating in the Elation restaurant. Our waiter was Mr. Lee who was absolutely wonderful. Mr. Lee made our entire table laugh to the point of tears just about every night. He really made dinner be a fun occasion. Every night at dinnertime I usually ordered two entrees. One was usually a food that I know I would like and the other was usually something that I never tried. I think the first night my table was a little disturbed by seeing me ordering two entrees but after a couple of nights they were all doing it as well. Our table ended up being a pretty tight knit group of six. Adrian, Marisela, Dwayne, Renee- I miss you guys already! Ports of Call Nassau Well I have been at Nassau before and pretty much knew what it was about. We went shopping for a little while in the shops that are walking distance from the ship. These shops ended up being carbon copies of one another. We decided to head over to Paradise Island. The beaches on Paradise Island are beautiful. We relaxed on the beach for a couple of hours then decided to walk the ground of the Atlantis resort. When I got to the Atlantis, they told us there was a $25 fee to walk the grounds. We decided to just head back to the ship since we didn’t have much time anyway. I wish we went to the Blue Lagoon. Our tablemates had all gone there and said it was great. Casa Del Campo One thing everyone should know about this island is that nobody speaks a damn word of English. On this island, we decided to do our thing and not go on one of the ships excursions. We hooked up with our friends who we met on the ship the previous day who happen to be Mexican and speak Spanish fluently. We waited in the taxi line right off the port. When it was our turn for a taxi, we worked out a deal for $70 that included a van that would take us anywhere we wanted to go for 5 hours. Our driver ended up being this guy Antonio who didn’t speak a word of English but was like a chauffer-bodyguard. There was even a time that we were crossing the street and Antonio jumped in front of an oncoming scooter that was about to hit us! Well he brought us to a couple of shops in the middle of the city, which sold some very interesting products. He then brought us to a beach, which was very nice. While on the beach, we were approached by Julio who offered us a boat ride and snorkeling excursion for $25 for all four of us. We took him up on his offer and told him to come back in 1 hour. He came back and we went on an incredible boat ride throughout the bay. He then stopped in the middle of the bay where we went snorkeling in crystal clear water. It was my first time snorkeling and it was unbelievable. I don’t think that we would have had nearly as much fun if not for our friends Adrian and Marisela. They translated everything that needed to be translated and plus they were great fun. St. Thomas St. Thomas is over-commercialized and over-priced. I expected to like this island the most but ended up liking it the least. It is a beautiful island but the people are rude and the tours just try to take you shopping all day since they get a kickback for bringing you to certain shopping areas. You have a choice of Koki beach or Megan’s Bay. We chose Koki beach only because Megan’s bay does not have anything there except a beach. No facilities are allowed around the beach. When we got to Koki beach, a guy named Michael met us at the tour bus and told us that he is there to take care of us. Well he does take care of you but for a hefty price. Umbrella $10, chair $5, etc. It just goes on and on from there. Like i said, St. Thomas is a beautiful island but that’s as far as ill go. I heard that the booze cruise was a lot of fun though. Final Thoughts Overall this was the best vacation ever. It was pretty much everything I imagined and much more. Before going I was very skeptical about cruising. I wasn’t sure if I would like being on a ship with over 2000 other people. But I found that you really couldn’t tell that there are that many people on the ship. There are always quiet spots around if you just need to sit and relax. I heard that the Paradise was a more laid back ship since non-smokers just don’t have as much fun as smokers (that comment was for all my fellow smokers out there). I did notice that everyone on this ship was in bed by 12 o’clock. Even though I don’t smoke anymore, I will choose a smoking ship next time I cruise since I prefer more of a party atmosphere.    

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Apr 26, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

My first time sailing on a cruise ship was on our honeymoon in October of 1997. My husband and I had sailed on Carnival Destiny (eastern Caribbean) and simply loved it. After having three children, we decided that a cruise would be more relaxing for a family vacation than what we tried in the past (We went to Disney World in Florida in 2002 with our two girls, ages 2 and 3 at the time, and found that it was very exhausting and inconvenient

for the family). Now with three children (ages 4, 3, and 4 months), what we discovered from our Carnival cruise experience was that there was no better way to vacation with a family than to board a cruise ship for a week. Two reasons why I say this is because: 1-CAMP CARNIVAL!!! This was my favorite thing to the whole trip. My 4 and 3 year old daughters actually had someone (other than my husband or I) to entertain them for most of their vacation. This program is really great for parents who have young kids. What surprised me the most was that the program takes children as young as two years old (something you don't find on other cruise lines). The youth staff is very friendly and does a great job keeping the kids entertained on the ship. They have different activities everyday for them from morning until night. Best of all, it's free. It is all up to the parents how long they prefer to keep their kids in the program. Our daughters simply loved it and preferred to go there over anything else, even swimming! Another nice thing about this program is that parents are given pagers when their children are with the youth staff. Therefore, if a child cries or has an emergency, the parents are paged and notified right away. Aside from Camp Carnival, the ship also offers late night babysitting from 10:00 pm to 3:00 am for $6.00 per hour. We never used the late night baby sitting but talked to other parents who did and were very impressed with the service. The ship also has stroller rentals for $6 a day. 2-CONVENIENCE- It is very convenient to have everything on one ship without having to worry about where we will eat, sleep, or swim. If we were on deck swimming and my children wanted to nap, I would just take them back to our room and let them nap for as long as necessary (They were never cranky on our trip for this reason). Or if they got hungry in the middle of our swimming time, we would just grab a bite to eat a few footsteps away. The Paradise ship (the only smoke-free ship in the world) has a lot of things to offer. This includes: Nice size staterooms: For a family of five, we found that the stateroom was comfortable for us without any problems. The room came with two twin beds, two upper bunk beds, and one rollaway. If parents with young children prefer to have a crib, the room steward will bring one upon request. The nice thing about the room is that it has a safe where you can place all valuables without worrying if they will get lost or stolen. No one has access to the safe other than the main passenger of the stateroom. The bathroom was equipped with everything from soap, shampoo, toothpaste, body wash, to even a few razors. The rooms are cleaned twice a day (once in the morning, and once while your away at dinner). The room stewards do a great job keeping the room clean and organized. The only thing missing in the room is a blowdryer and an iron. So if you depend on these a lot, don't forget to pack them. FOOD Dining-Every night you are assigned to the same dining room table at the same time, same place, and same waiters. We had the late seating (8:00 pm) and found this more convenient because we didn't have to rush back from the ports to make it for dinner. Everyday there was a different menu. The children's menu is the same all week long. The food was simply marvelous and the waiters were the nicest guys. They would go out of their way to do anything for you. The dinners are five course meals and have a variety of great foods to choose from. There was nothing I tried that I did not like. Passengers can also use the dining rooms to be served breakfast and lunch (instead of using the self service buffets in the Paris Restaurant). With children, we found it more convenient to just use the self service restaurant. 24 hour pizzeria-pizza is offered anytime, all the time on this ship. Along with Caesar salads and breadsticks, you can eat pizza anytime you like. Paris Restaurant-this is the place where all the self serviced breakfasts, lunch, and dinners are served. There is even a midnight buffet everyday along with 24 hour frozen yogurt. The food was good here too. Breakfasts were the same everyday, but the lunch and dinners were different and very delicious too. Entertainment-every night after dinner there was a different show running. The shows were quite entertaining, however good seats are taken fast. So it's best to go early to find good seats. Our children enjoyed the shows as much as we did. Casino-Although my husband and I are not gamblers, we did visit the casino to observe people playing. I was shocked how much money people lose!! The casino is not really that big but it is very nice walking through a casino that is all smoke free. Night Clubs/Bars-The night entertainment was very fun and upbeat. Because my parents along with my younger brother and sister were on board with us, my sister would watch my kids at night while my husband and I felt like honeymooners again. The Rex Club is more for the younger single crowd, while the Queen Mary Lounge is suitable for light jazz and a place to relax while enjoying a drink. We visited both clubs and enjoyed the music and crowd very much. Shops/Photographers-I did find that the prices in the shops on the ship were much better than the ports of call. They carry many expensive items for less, sometimes much less. These items include, alcohol, jewelry, perfumes, and clothing. If there was anything you forgot to pack, chances are, the galleria shop carries it. They have a whole bunch of items from candy to medicine. One thing I did notice though is that they didn't sell any baby items like formula or diapers. So if you have an infant or a toddler still in diapers, pack a lot of extras. the photographers on the ship are all over and take pictures of families aboard the ship. We took many pictures and enjoyed seeing them in the display at the photo gallery, however, they are quite expensive (19.95 for an 8 x 10, 7.95 for a 5x7). Best advice here is to wait until the last night of sailing, pick up all the pictures you took during the cruise (they leave them all sitting in the display for the week), choose your favorites, and pay for them. Otherwise, you will end up spending a fortune on pictures because most of them come out really nice. Ports of Call-Although the cruise offered shore excursions to the ports, we decided to do things on our own. The shore excursions are good for people who don't mind to have their schedule run for them. They can also be a bit expensive, but we didn't bump into anyone on the ship who was not satisfied with their shore excursion. The first port was Nassau-from reading the other reviews, we took the advice to visit the Atlantis Resort and spent some time there. What no one wrote in the other reviews, however, was that you can not do anything other than gamble at the hotel. When we asked to see the aquarium, we were told that we had to pay to see them!! So we didn't end up visiting the aquarium. We then went over to the beach for the resort and had security ask us to use the public beach next to the Sheraton resort. We had to walk about 1/4 mile but we were not disappointed once we saw how nice it was. The public beach was very clean and beautiful. The Sheraton resort allows you to use their restrooms and order food & drinks from their restaurant. You can even rent one of their beach chairs. We spent the rest of the afternoon there relaxing in the sun and swimming in the crystal clear blue water. The only thing I was bothered by in Nassau were the locals trying to sell us things, whether it was to have my hair braided, to buy a basket, to rent a jet ski, etc. You tell them no but they keep insisting. Advice I would give here: If you have young children or an infant, bring along a sun umbrella or a sun tent because there are no spots with shade and the sun rays can be very strong. Bring a lot of sunscreen, water, and slippers (the sand is very hot). Overall we enjoyed Nassau and had a great time. Casa De Campo- this port of call was my least favorite. I don't even know why the ship would chose this area as a port of call. After visiting it, I realized that staying on the ship was probably better for us. The beaches are the most beautiful beaches but the people and the area around there are really frightening. Our taxi driver first took us to Bayhibe beach (30 minutes away) only to find a bunch of nude women laying out. Although there were families there, a few from our ship, I asked the taxi driver to take us to a different beach. He then took us to a cleaner beach (Dominicana Beach) located on a resort. We were not allowed to use any resort facilities here, not even the bathrooms. We saw more passengers from our ship here. However, there were also topless women (I believe they are French tourists because they did not look like locals) but we felt more safe here because there were more US tourists. Although we enjoyed the beach here, there was nothing more to offer-no bathrooms, no bars, no restaurants. There were a few souvenir shops on the beach but be careful because they really try to rip you off. Bargain big. If you feel you are paying too much for something, don't buy. Be aware too that almost everyone speaks little or no English. One thing I wanted to note here is that the taxi is very expensive. Try to bargain with the driver before he takes you anywhere. Another thing to note about the taxi driver is that he takes you to your destination, waits for you, and then drives you back to the port. Therefore, don't pay him until he takes you back to the port, otherwise he will take off with your money and you won't have a taxi to take you back. All in all, I didn't like this port much and would have preferred to stay on the ship. If you are visiting this port, it is probably best and safest to do a shore excursion. St Thomas- this was my favorite of the ports visited. The scenery is beautiful, the beaches are clean, and the people are friendly. Here we went to Meagan's Bay. We have been to St. Thomas before on our honeymoon but we never saw Meagan's Bay. It was true paradise here. The beach was so calm and so safe to swim in. There are no waves. The water is very clean and clear. There are changing facilities, a restaurant, snorkel and water sport rentals, and a lot of palm trees. We truly enjoyed every minute of our time here. The nicest thing to the beach is that there are friendly schools of fish swimming near the shore. Our daughters were thrilled and excited to see them swimming past them. It is perfect for snorkeling as well. One thing to note here is that there is a $3 fee for each person to enter Meagan's Bay. After the beach, we visited the shops near the port and got some good deals on jewelry but everything else can be expensive. Other things to comment on: Tips and gratuities-On this ship, you are automatically charged for tips and gratuities. You are charged per passenger, even the kids (comes out to around $69.00 per person). This money is given to your dining room wait staff, room steward, and Paris restaurant staff. You can however ask the Information desk to remove the charges and allow you to tip at your own discretion. We decided to tip the staff ourselves and did this by putting cash in each envelope for each person who went out of their way to make our trip an enjoyable one. They really rely on tips, therefore, be fair at how much you give them. The staff exceeded our expectations, therefore, we gave them a nice tip. It is not mandatory but we even tipped the Camp Carnival youth staff because of how well they took care of our girls. The ship rocking: Being a smaller size ship in comparison to others, the ship will rock on occasion, especially during docking. It never bothered any of us, but if you get dizzy easily, you might want to bring medication for it. In summary, we loved our vacation and would definitely go on another cruise in the future. No matter how old or young you are, there is something for everyone. If there is something I missed, please feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions about this cruise.    

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Apr 26, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

Paradise lost…and FOUND! Last July in the summer of 2002 I had my first voyage with the M/S Paradise to the Western Caribbean and the experience was one of the worst vacations I have ever known. A review of that nightmarish cruise can be found here if you wish for additional information. And at the time I swore I would never take another Carnival cruise again. Someone else wrote the question on this site asking how can two reports

on the same cruise ship be so different (one being good and one being bad). Well I now know the answer to that question. About three months ago, I was made aware of a really inexpensive offer to take a 7 day cruise aboard the M/S Paradise to the Eastern Caribbean. And we decided to take them up on their offer. Due to my previous experience (on the same ship no less) I was very hesitant to do it. But we got such a “bargain” price I figured even if the service was bad again, it still would be worth it for the price. Besides, it was a chance to see the other side of the Caribbean including the Virgin Islands that I have heard about since I was a boy. Upon arrival at the port in Miami, we had problems with the Carnival staff inside the terminal. We found the staff there to be very rude, obnoxious, and ill tempered. They were also very hard to understand as well. I expected this and wondered if even with the good price this wasn’t a mistake. Once clear of the initial boarding staff, we surprisingly found the wait to get on the ship to be very short and quick. From the moment that we stepped aboard the Paradise it was a COMPLETELY different world than before. Our luggage arrived almost immediately to our cabin and without any incidents. We had no problems with our key either, like I had experienced before. Once inside the cabin, we found the remote control did not work. (The previous guests had stolen the batteries) but with one call, it was immediately taken care of completely along with other small requests we had. With the exception of the Captain, his First Mate, the Magician, and one of the featured comedians, the entire crew of Paradise had changed. It had a new Cruise Director (Jeff Bronson) and a new Assistant Cruise Director (Karl “with a K”) who were both absolutely wonderful. Unlike the Cruise Director last July (Josh), this Cruise Director was very down to earth with passengers and extremely professional and friendly. I found much of the dialog in the shows to be a carbon copy of the previous voyage but performed much better. I found the bridge officers to be far more polite and friendly and the same of the cooks, grill staff, and waiters and waitresses. It may have physically been the same ship but it was an entirely different experience all around. The shows and productions were much better organized and performed than before as well. (Well… Except for the magician’s show… His was exactly the same as before and well… kind of boring) Even Talent night went well with fellow passengers singing very well and ending with one of the most heart felt and extraordinary performances of the Irish folk song “O Danny Boy” I have ever known. But it wasn’t just the staff who had improved 1000% over last time, it was the quality of passengers too. Unlike before where there had been children running out of control everywhere and teenagers causing trouble and having sex on the patios and deck tops, this was all together different. Children were rarely seen and when they were seen, they were well behaved and under the proper control from their parents. And the teenagers also seemed to be far more mature and respectful than before. It is worth noting that I noticed that the Security staff on board the ship was also much better and far more on top of things than they had been before. It really was a different ship experience. One final thing I would like to mention about the staff is our cabin steward Daniel. This is a guy who was there to introduce himself to us almost immediately upon our arrival and who worked very hard to take exceptional care of us. In my opinion, he went above and beyond the duty of a normal cabin steward. Friendly and efficient, he responded to our requests and our pages within minutes every time! He took the extra time to make our cabin “extra special” by providing unique towel animals that he knew would really be appreciated, cleaning up our rooms during abnormal times when we were delayed in getting out during normal hours, providing a constant supply of extra pillows, towels, and ice without us even having to ask for it, and much more. If you are lucky to get Daniel as a cabin steward, trust me- you have the best! The ship also seemed cleaner and performing better than I had remembered. Even the elevators near our cabin seemed to be faster than before. I was completely surprised and very satisfied by the crew and staff of Paradise and they created a wonderful cruise experience for us. There were some things that are beyond the control of the cruise ship and it’s staff and falls directly in the hands of Carnival Cruise Lines themselves. One thing that remained a constant was the non-stop advertising and push to buy, buy, buy this and that from Carnival. That did become irritating after a while. The other disappointing factor was that we always spent too little time at Port. There was a constant noticeable push to keep us at sea as much as possible and later I found out that this is done purposely to encourage more gambling and drinking from the guests. I feel that is in poor taste on the part of Carnival. I realize a cruise company needs to make as much money as possible but it shouldn’t be at the expense of its guests ability to enjoy the various ports that are visited. I also felt that there was less variety choice of food available this time than before. While the cooks did an excellent job cooking it and the waiters did a great job serving it, there should have been a better variety of food available. One last note I thought was kind of presumptuous on the part of Carnival was the idea of adding gratuities and tips in advance on our credit cards and not respecting the guests’ right to decide for themselves what the appropriate amount should be. Yes, I know that they can be “adjusted”, but that is not the point. To me, Carnival the Company still ranks as a lower end cruise experience and one should not expect more than that level from them. They have a full bag of tricks and sales pitches to attack their customers with no matter what happens and anyone considering a Carnival Cruise should keep that in mind. They recently announced the purchase of the Princess Lines and I hope that will not affect the quality that has always been tradition of a Princess Line Cruise. There were three ports visited: Nassau, Casa De Campo (The Dominican Republic), and St. Thomas. Nassau was a beautiful port with much to do. From SCUBA to laying in a hammock on Gilligan’s Island, the choices are wide and varied. And of course, there is also the shopping. For me, I took advantage of the SCUBA 2-tank dive offered by the Cruise ship. The bad news is that I paid too much for it- $89.00 and found out that I could have done the same thing for $25.00. The good news is that the experience was absolutely outstanding! If you are SCUBA certified, THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT! It was the best diving experience I have ever had and made getting certified 7 years earlier well worth it. The crew aboard the diving boat was friendly, helpful, and very nice. The other trip we did was the Blue Lagoon trip which is where they take you to the Blue Lagoon Island where the movie of the same name was filmed as well as Gilligan’s Island TV show. The place was nice and very beautiful but you didn’t get to stay long before it was time to return to the ship. And once again, a cheaper price can be found on the shore. The next stop was in the Dominican Republic. If you are a history buff, you will like this stop. Take the tour to the city of Santa Domingo! The city is actually an hour and half away from the port but well worth the trip. It is rich with history and walks through the very places where Columbus and his crew began the conquest of the Americas. The city walking tour also included a nice lunch at a beautiful downtown resort. Prepare yourself for a different driving experience however! I am not sure if I should say they are bad drivers for what they do or whether they are very skilled drivers for being able to pull it off without anyone getting killed. If you don’t like history, you may be hard pressed to find much to do that you’ll enjoy. There were not many nearby beaches available to the ship. Although a taxi cab driver may be able to offer more and for a better price. Finally, they definitely saved the greatest port for last- St. Thomas. The shear beauty of the island and its neighbors such as St. John are just breathtaking. As usual, cruise tours will cost more and everything is available on shore for a cheaper price. We enjoyed a trip to Paradise Point and then took a private sail aboard a 30 foot sailing yacht to the waters of St. John and Buck Island where we went snorkeling. The experience was just out of this world and VERY romantic! Good tour guides, good food, and a wonderful experience. One last place to go to if you still have enough time left over is to Megan’s Bay and the Beach. Well worth the trip! It is recently listed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Of the entire trip, St. Thomas was definitely my favorite. I really hated to leave. If you’re trying to decide which trip is better- the East or the west Caribbean- the answer is easy! The Eastern route offers much more! Overall my entire cruise experience was a good one. A complete turnaround from my experience last July. The ship, the crew, the staff, and the ports visited were all very nice and provided a wonderful experience. I would definitely recommend the Paradise again to anyone PROVIDING it has THIS crew. Don’t let the port staff give you a bad impression. (By the way, the Miami-Dade deputy traffic officer who controls traffic in and out of the parking lot for the Paradise is a jerk- just ignore him.) Once on the ship, it will be a pleasant experience. At least it was for us. So to answer the other person’s question on how can one ship be so different between cruises? Easy- It all depends on the staff and the other passengers that go with you. Unlike last time, this time they did a great job!    

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Apr 16, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was our second trip on a Carnival cruise. The first was on Carnival’s Fascination which seemed to have more of a party crowd. The Paradise was great, however, because it is a smoke free. After a very early flight and one stop over, we finally made it. Boarding the ship was fairly easy – we were on by 1 p.m. Once on, we immediately went to the Paris Lounge for lunch. We got there just before the crowd so it was perfect timing.

Our luggage arrived at our room by 4:30pm, right after the life saving drill. Our room was on the Riviera deck (R100 cabin) which had a window. Our first cruise was an inner cabin without a window and it made a big difference. Get the window – it is worth it! Our steward did a decent job. He did everything we asked and stayed pretty much in the background. Entertainment: Adult comedy of Adam Ace was great. There was another guy who was so funny I was rolling on the floor – I can’t remember his name though. Most shows took place in the Normandie Lounge which is a two story theatre. Get there early if you want a good seat because there are many poles that can block your view and many people save rows of seats – the pickings are slim late in the evening. The magician was nothing special but was followed by that great comedian guy again so definitely worth putting up with. The production shows were Dream Voyage and Shout. Not quite Broadway/Vegas style like Troy, the cruise director implied, but a few of the dancers were outstanding. Drinks: Beers where $3.50US for a domestic beer and mixed drinks were about $5.00US a drink. The best thing to do is bring your own alcohol on board. Soda is also very expensive about $1.50US each or $30 for a drink card for the week. The juices they have for free 24 hours a day (lemonade, fruit punch, ice tea, and apple juice) sufficed.. At several of the bars, I found the drinks rather small and watered down for the extreme price you had to pay for them. Food: There was a sushi bar on the Promenade deck, which we really enjoyed, even though it was not true sushi (it was cooked fish with rice). The sushi bar opened at 5:30 pm which was the perfect time for a pre-meal snack. We had the 8:45 seating. The food was well presented but the taste was not extraordinary. We ordered a bottle of wine with dinner on several nights and our waiter would save the unused portion for us for the next night. It was always waiting on our table when we arrived. I do recommend going to at least one midnight buffet but “been to one been to all.” Belize: Tendering: In Belize we were docked out quite a ways due to the coral reef, we had to take a 20 minute tender ride in. The Belize excursion we decided on was cave tubing. We did our research on the web before we went and decided to book a tour through Reggie’s Cave Tubing (regtour@btl.net ). Reggie, whom I had read many good reviews about, charged $65 whereas the ship charges about $80-85US. Reggie was very organized and met you right as you got off the ship. He has his own fleet of air-conditioned vans and was an excellent guide. He gave us a light to wear on our heads to see in the dark. It was great! Reggie drove us about an hour from the pier then took us through a network of caves on individual tubes that lasted about 1 1/2 hours. I was a bit nervous about the possibility of leeches but I didn’t meet up with a single one. On our way back we saw a bad jeep accident where the vehicle was in a ditch and the windshield was broken. A few days later we found out the art auction guy and Gerrit “the shopper” from the ship were involved. Gerrit broke the windshield with his head! Roatan, Honduras: Citizens of Roatan were waiting to molest us as we got off the ship. Cabbies galore bidding for your business and children begging - it was sad. I ended up giving some kids a few boxes of cereal I got from the ship. That satisfied them for a moment until they wanted my shirt, hat and towels! We didn't get a trip booked in time so we got together with two of our dinner mates and bargained a deal for a cab, about $10US per person round trip (you do not pay until you get back to the ship). We went to West End Beach. It was beautiful and has great snorkeling only about 60 feet off the beach. We rented gear for about $4 per person! We had set our clocks ahead one hour on the ship and Roatan was another hour behind that so it was a bit confusing. We had to make sure to remember the ship leaves on ship time and not Roatan time. Grand Cayman: Tendering again: In Grand Cayman we had to tender in again, this ride was only about 2 minutes. Grand Cayman is great and the beach is so gorgeous. Water is unbelievable. Taxi drivers are nice and so are the towns people. But be prepared to spend some money, this is a rich port. STINGRAY EXCURSION: There were many people on the pier offering tours to Stingray City, they were all being offered for $30US per person (this price is not really negotiable). The ships’ excursion was much more expensive, doubled at $60US per person. A bunch of us crammed into a van, took a leisurely boat ride to the sandbar and got in the water with these giant stingrays! Make sure you learn how to feed them properly – no one told me how to hold the squid bait so I held it out flat in my hand and one of the rays chomped my hand! Didn’t hurt and gave me an interesting wound to talk about. After, we spent about ½ hour or so snorkeling at a nearby coral reef. This was by far the most interesting and exciting thing I did on the whole cruise. Unfortunately, our time at Grand Cayman was limited to about seven hours. We squeezed in a quick lunch and then waited in the long line to tender back to the ship. That process took up a good 45 minutes.    

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By Rob_CR

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Apr 6, 2003

Caribbean

Our 7 day western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Paradise boarded in Miami on April 6, 2003. This was the third cruise, my wife and I have taken since we were hooked on cruising 3 years ago. My name is Rob and my wife is Nancy. We are both 42 years old and live just outside Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. Our previous cruises were both taken on NCL’s Sky: the first a 6 night re-positioning cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver

and the second a 15 night Panama Canal cruise from Miami to San Diego. The Carnival cruise was chosen over other offerings, primarily due to recommendations from others that have enjoyed the Carnival experience, and the choice of ship, the Paradise, for the non-smoking policy. We purchased our cruise through SkyAuction.com and had a bit of a scare as FedEx delivered the tickets when we were away. The tickets were not on the doorstep as FedEx had indicated and likely became a meal for the neighbors free-range Rottweiller pup. SkyAuction were very good in getting a new set of documents sent out within 24 hours. We arrived in Miami the night before our cruise departed on Saturday (actually it was 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning due to weather issues affecting Air Canada flights). We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express near the airport, using priority club points for the stay. The next morning around 11:00 a.m. we called a cab and headed for the port. In the cab, I noticed the rates were posted, showing a flat rate of $18 from the airport to the cruise port. The carfare from the hotel to the port turned out to be $32 on the meter (should have taken the 5 minute hotel shuttle to the airport and caught a cab from there – but I’m on vacation right). Upon arrival at the port, the check-in process was pretty painless and we were on the ship within 45 minutes of arrival. The personnel at check-in were excellent – we asked about upgrading to an outside cabin, but were informed the cruise was oversold and had standby’s – must be the non-smoking feature. Obviously, having taken 2 previous cruises on another line with a very new ship (the Sky was commissioned in 1999), I cannot help making some comparisons. Please note that the Sky is a much larger vessel and just as NCL has produced their mega ships, Carnival has larger ships as well, so a direct comparison of space and lavishness would be unfair. The Paradise has an art-deco appearance and theme in most public areas. While I generally like this look, it may be a bit overdone, though not a big problem. The inside public areas were fairly spacious as was our cabin at 185 square feet, but I found the outside decks to be overcrowded, particularly during events or days at sea. Views from the ship were difficult with the lack of glass (my only reference here is NCL’s Sky). The Normandie Lounge which hosts the entertainment productions was a problem – if you were a late arrival to the show, and had to sit in the upper viewing deck, it was tough to find adequate seating without a lot of obstructions. We only saw 2 shows during the week, which were generally pretty good. The casino staff were very friendly and the selection of games was quite extensive. The blackjack tournaments were a lot of fun, although at $20 per entry compared to $10 on NCL, were not such a bargain, particularly with a prize of $500 on the Paradise compared to a free cruise for 2 on NCL (doesn’t matter since I never won anyway). The Casino manager – Joe, kept things lively and was very friendly. The casino was fairly well attended throughout the cruise which surprised me as previous reviews indicated that the casino was not well utilized (something about addictive personalities, smoker = gambler). There are numerous bars with reasonable prices - domestic beer at $3.50 ($2.50 at happy hour). The Captain’s introduction party was great, with ample complimentary drinks including beer, wine and spirits. My wife and I have become hooked on the art auctions and spent as much purchasing art as we had on the cruise tickets. Park West Gallery was the auction house and their representatives, Charlie and his 2 assistants did a great job. If you’ve never attended an art auction before, you should attend just one as the auctioneers make it a very educational experience – you’re not obligated and there is no pressure to purchase, but deals can be had as we have checked on some of our purchases and found the gallery prices to be considerably higher. Our review of the food on board the Paradise is mixed. Our biggest complaint was limited choices for meals – either scheduled seating in the main dining room or the Lido deck Paris restaurant. The food in the main dining room was quite good with numerous choices and seconds if requested. The lobster was excellent with myself and 5 of my tablemates ordering a second tail. Remember this – if there is a cake that has the word Napolean in it, try it – it is the best dessert I’ve ever had. The food on the Lido deck was the problem. I don’t take cruises specifically to eat, but expect a certain level of quality and variety. The Paris restaurant served breakfast, lunch and dinner, buffet style. The choices in the hot buffet for lunch would generally include 5 items plus a carving station with a roast or turkey etc… An example of the 5 items could include rice, potatoes, corn, chicken and pasta. As a comparison, the NCL Sky had at least twice the number of hot items. Additionally, these hot items on the Paradise were not even particularly tasty and the carving station on numerous occasions had run out of food. The salad bar was good and had a manned sandwich station that offered numerous meats and cheeses on a variety of breads. I’ve read other reviews about the 24 hour pizza station and their excellent pizza. The quality is okay, not excellent with a good selection of different toppings. Our seating for dinner was the late seating, so a midnight buffet (which is scheduled every night) is not so appealing since you finish dinner at around 10:00 p.m. On my previous cruises, I liked the free-style cruising offered by NCL – it offered numerous choices for meals including deck barbecues, a dining room, several buffets and 2 pay as you go restaurants ($10 per person is not a problem for high-end gourmet fixings). While the variety and quality of food was better on the Sky, there was something to be said about the friendships you make in a dining room. NCL’s concept is good – variety is important, but the friendships we forged going to the same table with the same table-mates night after night far outweighed any issues we had with food quality. We were very fortunate that an error was made and we were initially seated at a table of ten mostly consisting of singles in their 30s and 40s. We had a lot of fun with these people and socialized with them on several occasions on board and at ports. On the fourth day, we found out that we were seated at the wrong table and would have to move (at first this was irritating as we had relationships established and would now have to start over with people who had been together for 4 days). During the first art auction we had met a couple from California and enjoyed their company – they were seated at the very next table to ours in the dining room and had 4 extra seats at their table for 10, so that’s where we ended up (we never actually made it to the table to which we had been scheduled, but they looked too reserved anyway). The 3 couples at our new table were great and we quickly established a rapport with all of them. We ended up with friends at both tables and expect to stay in contact with many of them into the future. In summary, I would give the ship and its layout a B, the staff for politeness and friendliness an A, food quality in the main dining room a B, food quality on the Lido deck a C-. Overall, because of the non-smoking feature and the people we met, this cruise was far more memorable than our previous cruises and we wouldn’t hesitate to cruise Carnival in the future, although a bigger and newer ship would be nice.    

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Mar 23, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was my first cruise and an awesome one at that. I had a wonderful time. The best part? It is smoke free. Great for people who cannot be around smoke or just can't stand it. I traveled with my mother and father and we booked our cruise through our travel agent at AAA. We got the entire package including airfare and ground transportation. A very good deal. Boarding the ship was fairly easy you just show your tickets and i.d. and got

right on the ship. Once on it is time to explore and let me tell you there is a lot to look at. This ship is smaller than others but they pack a lot into it. Our luggage arrived at our room at 5:00. Right after our life saving drill which wasn't a big deal at all. We got rooms on the lowest level. Riviera deck a category 4A cabin it included two uppers. It was a fairly nice room. It was actually bigger than what I thought it was going to be and when we where in there we where never crowded. Our steward was excellent. He did everything we asked and then some. The shows on board where fabulous too. Great job dancers. Our cruise director Troy was great he wasn't overbearing and he was actually funny. Comedians where good too. All in all the entertainment was great. Lots of music and they all played well. Food was awesome. I don't know what some of these people who write reviews where feed but we had Great food. Our server Ramone and his assistant Geovany where awesome. They totally aimed to please and that is what we got. Food and service was great in the Paris restaurant. All the ice cream and pizza you could want all the time. Basically you could eat all the time and lots of fresh fruits and veggies and breads pastas meats and exotic dishes. Great great food and awesome service. Speaking of service the crew on board is sooo nice. They are soo awesome at their jobs and really work hard so please appreciate them. We never had to handle money cause we had sail and sign accounts which makes it so easy to buy things on board. Tipping is also included in your account but I think the servers should be tipped more and the room stewards as well. We cruised to the western Caribbean and it was very nice. Best stops where Grand Cayman and Cozumel the worst was Isla Roatan, Honduras. Belize was somewhere in the middle. Lots to see and do but you have to book those excursions early or else you are stuck doing your own thing. Trust me BOOK EARLY!!! Like the day you first get on the ship. I am not kidding. People gobble these trips up and once they are gone they are gone. Belize had gorgeous water and very nice people but it was of course hot and humid and the tourist place only has so many shops and then that is it. Roatan was horrible. We didn't get a trip booked in time so we where stuck doing our own thing. Big mistake in this port. The people there are so pushy and they are rude as well. It is definitely 3rd world. The water looks great from the ship until you get down there and see the trash laying in it. The people trying to get you into their taxis are relentless. Very pushy also the women trying to get you to let the braid your hair. Not a good idea cause they use the same comb on everyone. I know I watched them do it. There is no where to shop except for some huts selling baked goods. There is no town or anything. It is in my opinion a waste of a good day that could be spent somewhere else. Grand Cayman is great and the beach is so gorgeous. Water is unbelievable. Taxi drivers are nice and so are the towns people. But be prepared to spend some money, this is a rich port. Cozumel is great too. People very nice and water is so clear and warm. Lots of things to do and see and shop. Especially for jewelry. Cab drivers a little crazy. Don't get on a moped you will get run over. We had two days at sea and they where great. Good chance to relax and spend out in the sun or in the casino or eating. I had a great time and if someone didn't it is because they didn't want to. This cruise went way beyond my expectations and I can't wait to go on my next one. Take this cruise if you want great food and service and to have a great time. Lots of fun but also lots of relaxing. Good luck on you're cruise.    

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Mar 23, 2003

Western Caribbean

We decided to take this cruise as our honeymoon. It was suggested by our travel agent. We got to Miami by 2:00 p.m., our check in was nice and easy. No waiting in line. Got to our cabin and they called the fire drill. That took about 25 mins and by the time we got back to our cabin our bags were all there! At the time of check in they provide you with a map of the ship. The first day we just made our way around the ship. It was very

easy to get around. I'll start with telling you about the food!! You could never want for anything. Fresh fruit, cakes, salad, cheese, ect ect. Your choice of several different meats if you eat at the Bristo or Buffets. Ice Cream and Pizza 24 hours a day. You can get ice tea, oj, coffee, tea, apple juice, fruit punch and water for free 24 hours a day. They have several locations to get the free drinks and they are self serve. You can also buy malts ($2.00) big cookies ($1.00) or coffee lattes at one area of the ship for a small fee. We did have a drink every night after dinner. They have drink specials everyday that you can get for $3.00 or so and the beers are about $2.50, which isn't to bad. Shores Tours. Wow. All I can say is decide what you want to do before you cruise and right when you get on the ship make sure you go to the tour area and book your tours. We went on the Caving tour which was ok. You need to be in good shape to do this because of all the walking. Then in Grand Cayman we went on the Altanis Sub. Well worth the money!! Then in Cozumel we went to the dolphin encounter which was amazing. We got in the water with dolphins and they take pictures of you that you are able to buy for $14.00 each. Book them early!!! The staff on the Paradise were great. Everyone is so friendly and helpful. The cruise director, Troy Linton, is so funny. Then his assist, Karl with a "K" is fun also. There is something for everyone to do. They play bingo games every night. $10.00 per card or three for $20.00. The prize is up to $600 or a free cruise. They also play a lot of trivia and give away medals. If you go to the shows I would say get there early and sit up front. That way if they had out gifts or bottles of drink you might get one. The only thing that made me mad was that people allow their kids to run the halls. It seemed it was always the same kids running the halls. They do have washers and dryers on the boat, so dont feel you have to take your entire closet. Also, they take a lot of pictures of you. These range in prices from $20.00 to $7.00. We had a great time and already are planning our next vacation. If you have any questions please feel free to email me. Thanks!    

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By Mark_CR

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Mar 2, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

This trip on Carnival's Paradise was my fifth cruise (my third on Carnival). I went with my friend John who only cruised once before. Last year at around this time, we sailed on the Sensation out of Tampa. The two are the same class ship, but are very different in style, (more later). On Saturday Feb. 22 I got a "junk" email from icruise.com (sorry iCruise). Although we had already  decided that cruise wouldn't be happening this year,

I read the ad, did some investigating and discovered that the following week we could get a 7-day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean for $758 total for the two of us, ($189 each + $80 total for outside cabin + port charges + tax). Apparently last-minute deals are available!! We booked the cruise, packed our bags and drove to Miami all within 6 days! We arrived at the Port of Miami at about 9:30am (after staying overnight in Miami). After crawling along in pier traffic for about 10-15 minutes, the person directing traffic pointed me toward the porters. A bit disorganized, but so what, the bags were taken. We charged the cost to park ($10 per day = $70) and headed into the terminal. Because we booked less than 3 weeks before sailing (6 days actually), our tickets had to be picked up at the pier. No problem! We filled out some forms, got our tickets, checked in, got our sail & sign cards and had a seat to wait all by about 10:45ish. Around 12:15, they started boarding. It was like the running of the bulls! The stampede of people nearly trampled the employees as we, (yes, including us), tried to get on that ship first. We had our pictures taken and were on board the ship by about 12:30. Although we weren't supposed to go to our cabin until 1:00, we did. We dropped off our bags and headed up to the Paris Restaurant for our first meal on The Paradise. Because our plans were so spur-of-the-moment, I didn't have time to get excited. That changed once we walked on the ship. Last year we were somewhat disappointed with the decor on the Sensation (Las Vegas gaudy is how I described it - most of the ship was metallic purple). This ship was elegant but still fun - lots of wood and subtle accents. Instead of the ugly sculpture at the bottom of the Sensation's atrium, the Paradise has a half-moon bar with a white baby grand piano behind it - beautiful! Now I was excited! I shouldn't give my secret away about cabin choice, but I will...just for you! I intentionally chose the very last cabin in the back of the ship. Last year we had the 4th from the back and both proved to be a great choice! These were the quietest cabins I've had yet. There's almost no foot traffic (like running/pounding kids) in the back of the ship! The engines may have been louder in the back, but it didn't affect sleeping in the least. Anyway, the ship itself was wonderful! The non-smoking atmosphere was amazing. The ship's scent was very different from any other I've been on - it smelled clean!! There was always someone somewhere cleaning, polishing, vacuuming or wiping to keep the ship spotless! The crew were incredibly friendly and helpful! Any inconveniences that we may have had were so minor that they're not worth mentioning!! So then on to the ports. As I said, we did the Eastern Caribbean, stopping in Nassau, Dominican Republic & St. Thomas. NASSAU: Last year we went to Grand Cayman. John regretted not having swam with the sting rays (which I had done prior to that trip). When we found out that we could swim with sting rays in Nassau, we jumped at the chance. A smaller ship took us from the pier to Blue Lagoon Island. The sting ray area was very different from Grand Cayman. Here, the water was from 8 to 15 feet deep. When we finally did see some sting rays, it was more like swimming above the sting rays than swimming WITH them. It was very disappointing and tiring! The saving grace of this tour was Blue Lagoon Island itself!!! What a beautiful place! A lagoon to swim in, hammocks to lay in, beaches to lay on and beautiful scenery wherever you looked! Bring film!!  My suggestion would be to save some money by skipping the sting rays and spending  the time on the island instead! DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: From what I understood, we were one of the first ships (if not the very first) to use this new port at Casa De Campo. The tours were all new and still had some bugs to be worked out. We went on the Amphibious tour. We boarded a air conditioned bus which took us around the island, including Altos de Cheval - a beautiful recreated stone village with lots of shops and an amazing view high above a river. Absolutely beautiful!! Again, bring lots of film!! Back on the bus, we drove to our "amphibious vehicle". This elevated bus/boat drove us to the river where it proceeded to drive into the water. We went for a ride up and then back down the river. Here's the problems: We only got 20 minutes in Altos De Cheval. WAY too short!! We needed 30 minutes minimum, maybe up to an hour to see all the scenery & shops. The river part of the tour was nothing exciting - plants, trees, shrubs...big deal! As we made our U-turn on the river, a speedboat came screaming up beside us and its occupants grabbed on to our "boat". We thought for a second that we were being hijacked...(boatjacked?). They turned out to be locals trying to sell hats, whistles & noisemakers. The other drawback to this port is tour prices! The cheapest tour was about $70 per person...and there's nothing within walking distance of the port! So take a tour or stay on the ship I guess! My suggestion: Don't take the amphibious tour, it's not worth it. DO take a tour that includes Altos De Cheval! Oh, other people at our dinner table hated (with a passion) the Jeep tour. They were supposed to be in Hummers which turned out to be Ford trucks with the backs replaced with seats. Plus they literally showered 3 times to get all the dirt off of them! Skip this tour too! ST. THOMAS: What a beautiful island this is! (Lots of film!). We took the Best Of St. Thomas Island Tour at 12 noon and were very happy with it. An open, 20-person "bus" took us around to see the sights on St. Thomas. We stopped at all the "photo spots" including the highest point on the island and the "Great House". Just beautiful!! No  complaints about the tour at all! We had plenty of time to take in the scenery & shop. And then there was still plenty of time before & after a tour to walk around the island - lots of shopping on the island!!! FOOD: The menu on the ship was actually the same menu as last year on the Sensation. For some reason though, the food tasted better on the Paradise. Last year we were disappointed with the quality, but not this time! The pizza in the 24 hour pizza shop was terrific! We only ate from the Paris Restaurant's buffet for breakfast, which was always good (how bad can you mess up bacon, eggs & bagels?). We had hamburgers & fries  several times from the Pool buffet, which were always great!!...followed by dessert in the Paris Restaurant. As a fan of bread pudding, it was great to see a different bread pudding every day in the Paris Restaurant at lunchtime! Oh, and by the way, they DO serve hot dogs at the Pool buffet, you just have to ask for them! We didn't order room service, so I can't comment on that. CABIN SERVICE: Our cabin steward was not the friendliest of people and kind of laid down the "rules" for us on day 1 (which we were surprised at - "here's when I work, don't expect the room to be made up if you wake up late." - not that bad, but that's the impression he left). He did a VERY good job of keeping the cabin neat and clean, beds made, towel animals, etc. We didn't let the poor first impression interfere with his overall "rating". SHIP: - As I said, the ship was always neat and clean! - The casino had more than enough slot machines & a wide variety of all kinds of games. The slots tournament was fun and other tournaments were available also. - The sushi bar (more like a sushi counter), was open nightly from about 5pm-9pm and had 4 varieties nightly, 1 of which was always vegetarian. I enjoyed all I had! - The shows were very good, some a bit hokey in theme, but all were performed incredibly well. The comedians (3 or 4 in all) ranged from hysterical to just funny. - The Formalities Shop sells a white cake (the same one you get with the "Bon Voyage" package, that is absolutely wonderful (the best cake I've ever had). It's a white cake with apple & buttercream filling with white chocolate icing. It costs $15.00 and is well worth it. We placed the cake & plate it came on on top of the ice bucket (in place of the bucket's cover) to keep it chilled, which worked well! - There's a dessert & coffee shop on the promenade where you pay extra for these items. They seemed to be of a better quality than dining room desserts, but I just couldn't bring myself to pay for dessert on the ship. John was in the mood for a cookie and bought one. A large cookie was $1.00 and he said it was VERY good, (not too bad for a buck). - If you see a Fossil watch that you'd like from the Fossil Watch shop, buy it ASAP! That shop is rarely open (6 hours TOTAL over 7 days). The prices are the same as Fossil's website which are cheaper than the Fossil stores on land. - The gift shops have a special each day, so if you can wait to see if what you want goes on sale, do that, you might save up to 50%! - Photos are pricy, but some are worth it! Take a picture at EVERY backdrop they have set up, but then wait until the end of the week to decide what you want. With all those pictures, you're bound to find some you like. By waiting, you won't buy one that you found out later you liked less than another later one...all sales are FINAL!! DEBARCATION: Okay, so THIS was the worst part of the trip. Passengers started debarking at about 9:15-9:30. Each section of the ship has a color & that color's tag goes on your luggage. Naturally WE were in the last group called at about 10:30. We left the ship : ( and entered the warehouse where our luggage was. With not many bags left, we found ours quickly. But THEN came the line! I stood in line while John waited with our luggage near the "front" of the line. The line wrapped around the warehouse's walls, crossing in front of the exit from the ship, (meaning that people still coming into the warehouse had to push through the line). About half way around I grabbed a porter and asked him to help us, which he did. We passed through several rooms & customs & outside to the car. We left the parking lot at  11:45. Be careful! The floor in the warehouse is FILTHY!!! If you touch the bottom of your luggage, or lay it on your car seat, you WILL get it dirty!! Overall, this was the best vacation either of us ever had. It'll take a while to pay myself back for what it cost in the end, but it was worth every penny of it! I would recommend this ship to everyone (except smokers that is). Feel free to email me with any questions you may have at jem815@tampabay.rr.com Do me a favor...if you DO email me, put PARADISE in the subject line so that my "junk mail" filter won't think it's trash! Thanks!    

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Feb 23, 2003

Western Caribbean

EMBARKATION Our flight was supposed to leave about 6:30am from Toronto, Canada. However due to a bad snow storm our flight did not leave until around 9:30am. I suggest that you take an early flight to Miami just incase an unexpected event like this happens. Even with our delay we had more than enough time to make it to the ship. Once we picked up our luggage we went to catch a cab to the pier. There were all kinds of cabs waiting at

the airport ready to take you wherever you needed to go. Cabs are a set rate of $18US to the Miami pier. Once we arrived at the pier there were porters grabbing your luggage and telling you that you needed to give them your luggage in order for them to load it on the ship. They make you think that if you do not tip them that you will not get your luggage, you will probably get your luggage if you do not tip them, however we tipped them a $1US a bag any ways. Embarkation was relatively painless, taking around about an hour. This is where you get all checked in and get your picture taken for your Sail & Sign Card. This card is your life on the ship, it is your key to your room, it is how you pay for everything on the ship (no cash is used on the ship), and it is also what you need to get on and off the ship at each port. THE SHIP The SMOKE FREE PARADISE was great! It was awesome to go to bars and restaurants and not be bothered by all the smoke. We were on the bottom deck, Riviera Deck (Room R223). Even though we were all the way at the bottom our rooms were very nice and roomy. However we were at the back of the ship and our room was a little noisy when docking because we were at the back of the ship by the engines. If you can request a room in the middle of the ship this would probably be the best because it would probably be less noisy and would be more convenient and centrally located to all the bars and restaurants. We did not find it a problem at all to get a lounge chair on the deck, even on the days at sea. The ship overall was extremely clean, everywhere you looked there was a staff member cleaning something. The rooms are nice with just about everything you need, however there was not a hair dryer for my girlfriend. The rooms have a safe in them, which you operate with a credit card (they are free to use). The elevators were really slow so we took the stairs most of the time. If you are at the bottom of the ship get used to walking up a lot of stairs because you will do a lot of climbing stairs (which is good because it helps you not to gain a lot of weight). FOOD/BEVERAGES The food was great. There were always a lot of selections whether you ate in the dinning room or on the lido deck in the Paris Restaurant. We had the early seating in the Elation Dinning Room at 5:45. There were two dinning rooms and each of them at an early and late seating (5:45pm, 6:15pm, 8:00pm, and 8:30pm). We had to rush a few times to get back from the ports of call in order to get ready for dinner on time. You do not have to eat in the dinning room, however we really enjoyed eating there and really enjoyed our servers (Socorro and Rufino). Our servers were excellent and really friendly, they made our dinning experience memorable. Don’t be afraid to order more than one appetizer or entrée at dinner, they will bring you anything and everything you want. We ate most of our breakfasts and lunches in the Paris Restaurant, the food was good and there was a huge selection. The 24 hour pizzeria was great, you can get a slice of pizza when every you want one. Alcoholic drinks were a little pricey, but this is where they make their money. Beers where $3.50US for a domestic beer and mixed drinks were about $5.00US a drink. The best thing to do is bring your own alcohol on board. It is so easy to get alcohol on board, all you have to do it pack it in your suitcase. They do not check your suitcase for alcohol, however they do check any backs you carry on board during check in. Bring a few empty water bottles to pour the alcohol into once you are on the ship (vodka or something clear like water). The staff never question you if you are carrying a water bottle around because everyone does. Pop is also very expensive about $1.50US. Your best bet is to mix your alcohol with the juices they have for free 24 hours a day (lemonade, fruit punch, ice tea, and apple juice. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment on the ship was pretty good. They had a show every night after your dinner in the Normandie Lounge. The Normandie Lounge is a two story theatre, you should get there early if you want a good seat because people save seats and it is hard to get a good seat if you come late (there are many poles that can block your view, if you sit on the first level you will have the best view of the entire stage). A few shows had comedians who were absolutely hilarious so I suggest that you go to see every comedian. If you do not want to go see the shows there are still a lot of things to do after dinner. There is the casino, the piano bar, the rex disco and lots more. PORTS OF CALL BELIZE- In Belize we were docked out quite a ways due to the coral reef, we had to take a 20 minute tender ride in. In Belize we decided to go cave tubing, we were docked in Belize 9:00am to 6:00pm. We did our research on the web before we went and decided to book before we arrived with Reggie’s Cave Tubing (regtour@btl.net). We decided not to book through the ship because we had read many good reviews about Reggie and also wanted to save some money. Reggie was very organized and met you right as you got off the ship; he has his own fleet of air-conditioned vans. Reggie was an excellent guide and was much cheaper than the ships tour, Reggie charges $65US per person where the ship charges about $80-85US. Make sure you are in decent physical shape to do this excursion because you have to walk a bit to get to the caves. Reggie gives you a light to where on your head (make sure your light is bright and not dull so you get the full effect of the caves). Reggie drives you for about an hour from the pier then takes you through a network of caves that lasts about 2 hours, it is a lot of fun. ROATAN- In Roatan we were docked right at the pier and was able to walk right off the ship onto the dock. We were not sure about getting off in Roatan because we heard it is really poor and not much to do there (we were only docked in Roatan from 9:00am to 2:00pm). However Roatan was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. We went to a beautiful beach called West End Beach, the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. They have a sign on the pier with set taxi rates to all the beaches. The set rate for West End Beach is $15US per person round trip; we bartered with them and got it down to $10US per person round trip (you do not pay until you get back to the ship). This beach is beautiful and has great snorkeling only about 60 feet off the beach. Make sure that you remember the ship leaves on ship time and not Roatan time. So when you tell the taxi driver what time you want him to pick you up at the beach make sure you check and see what time it is in Roatan and what time you have on your watch (always leave your watch on ships time). GRAND CAYMAN- In Grand Cayman we had to tender in again, this ride was only about 2 minutes (we were docked in Grand Cayman from 9:00am to 5:00pm). Grand Cayman is quite different than Belize and Roatan; it is really built up and quite rich. They are not as concerned about our tourist dollars as the first two ports where. We read many reviews on the web about swimming with the stingrays at Stingray City. We were going to pre-book an excursion on the web before we arrived but choose not to. There were many people on the pier offering tours to Stingray City, they were all being offered for $30US per person (this price is not really negotiable). The ships excursion to Stingray City was much more expensive at about $60US per person. Because Grand Cayman is not that concerned with tourism dollars, I felt they did not really service their customers that well and the excursion was extremely disorganized. They over booked the excursion and I thought they were going to tell a few people they were unable to go; however they made room for them on the bus. I found the tour to be a little short; we did not get to spend enough time in the water with the stingrays. Even though the tour was disorganized, it was by far the most interesting and exciting thing I did on the whole cruise. Don’t be afraid of the stingrays they are gentle and friendly. Make sure you feed them, it is a chance of a lifetime. COZUMEL- In Cozumel we were docked right at the pier so no tender was needed (we were in Cozumel from 4:00pm to 1:00am). Cozumel is probably your best place to go shopping and get some good deals (you can barter with all the shop vendors). From the pier the best shopping is in downtown Cozumel which is a $6US taxi ride each way for up to 4 people. After we did some shopping in Cozumel, we decided to get some food and drinks. We decided to eat off the ship because we did not want to take a taxi back to the ship and then another taxi back downtown. You can find great deals on beer if you search a little bit (we found Corona’s for $1US at a little T-shirt stand). We just kept walking back to this T-shirt stand for a few beers then we would take them into other bars where they were charging a lot more for Corona’s. They do not care if you bring in outside beers from other bars. One thing you have to do in Cozumel is go to the bar Carlos N’ Charlies, it is a blast. The only word of advice while in this bar is that they try to make you do shots and they make you think that they are free until you are finished drinking them and charge you $3US a shot. Other than that it was one of the best times I have ever had at a bar. Don’t worry about cabs back to the ship, there are plenty of them waiting outside Carlos N’ Charlies to drive you. DISEMBARKATION If you do not want to rush to the airport make sure you do not book a flight that leaves before noon. The night before you leave you have to put your luggage outside your room by midnight, so make sure you leave out everything you will need in the morning. If you are not in a rush to get off the ship you can have a nice breakfast and then wait till your cabin color is called. Once you get off the ship your luggage is lined up according to your cabin color, it is relatively easy to find your luggage. There are many cabs waiting outside to take you to the airport. SUMMARY I loved the Smoke Free environment, and would love to go on the ship again for this feature. Overall the cruise was excellent and I would most definitely book another cruise with Carnival.    

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Feb 23, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was our second trip on the Carnival Paradise. We took the Eastern Route on her in September, 2002. My husband and I left our home in Jacksonville, AR on Saturday morning, 2/22/03, in order to arrive in Miami the day before our cruise departs. We experienced our first airplane ride since security has started checking all bags. American Airlines treated us well on our entire trip with on time arrivals and departures and all bags

accounted for at each destination. We used a free night we had earned to stay at the Fairfield Bay Airport, which is attached to a full service Marriott. We arrived at the hotel at dinner time, so we slipped over to the Marriott restaurant for a nice meal before going to bed for the night. The next morning, we had the complimentary breakfast outside by the pool under a large tent. Light rain was falling and lower temperatures were forecast for the day. Many cruisers were with us under that tent, and everyone was excited and unworried about the weather. We left the hotel about 10:15 a.m. in a taxi to the pier. We showed our cruise documents and passports to security at the pier, and then waited in traffic for about ten minutes before arriving at our Carnival terminal. The porters were assisting the departing passengers, so we had to wait a few minutes for one to assist us with our luggage. We tipped the porter, watched him put the bags in the correct bin, and then headed into the terminal. Even though it was only 11:00 a.m., the ticketing gates were already open with no waiting. We zipped through both security and ticketing, then headed upstairs to pick up our Sail ‘n Sign card. One couple was ahead of us, so the Carnival agent started talking to both of us. We suddenly realized that the other couple was “Maplesugar”, someone we had communicated with on the cruise BBs prior to the cruise. So, we all sat down together in the lounge to wait to board the ship. The agents kept coming by to say later and later times to board the ship, but shortly after 12:00 Noon, they allowed us to board the ship without delay. We went directly to the card room on the Atlantic deck to request a change in our dinner time. (We’ve always had late seating and had decided to check out early seating this time, but our cards indicated we had been given the late seating.) We asked the maitre d’ for a table in early seating with no children. He said there were very few tables in early seating without children, but he would put us on a waiting list and try to accommodate us. He instructed us to go on to the table we were assigned to that night, and if he could change our table, we’d receive a note in our cabin the next day. We then went to our cabin to drop off our carry-on bag. We had booked a 6A guarantee room, and we received a 6E room, Oceanview on the Empress Deck aft. The room was fine. I think I felt the vibrations and noise from the engine more since we were near the very back of the ship, but slept like a baby anyway. Our room steward was Ernest. We didn’t see him very often, but our room was kept impeccable, and he delivered the few things we requested without delay. And, of course, we had neat towel animals almost every day! We visited the Paris Restaurant Pizzeria for a pizza lunch that was delicious. The 24-hour pizzeria on Paradise kept us happy throughout the cruise. After pizza, we wondered the ship to check out some of our favorite hideaways and see what had changed. The ship had not changed, just most of the staff. The Captain was the same, the maitre d’ Ricardo (you look MAHvelous, Chow for now!), the piano bar singer Roberta, and one of our waiters, Som, from our last cruise was there. Roger headed out to soak up the sun by the Lido pool, while I took a nap in the cabin. When I woke up, the bags were there, so I unpacked them and settled us into our week-long cruise home. I then gathered Roger, who was making friends, from the pool to go to the muster drill. The muster drill seemed to take longer than others, but we survived. We met some really nice folks during the sailaway and enjoyed watching the shoreline disappear along with the Carnival drinks in our hands! As soon as the shoreline had totally disappeared, we headed to the Promenade deck with our new friends for sushi. More people were there for the first night of sushi than we had on our first Paradise cruise. Then we had to change for our 8:00 pm dinner seating in the Destiny dining room. The dining room was probably less than half full this first night. We were seated at a table for ten with only two other couples, so our table had four empty seats. Our servers were wonderful. We enjoyed our meal and our dining companions, so we told them we had requested a change to early seating earlier and not because we had not enjoyed their company. The menu had not changed since our first cruise, so I won’t be discussing what we ate much. While the meals were good, they were not up to the standards of the dining establishments we frequent on land, and if this dining room were a land restaurant, we probably would not have returned to it a second time. The service was great, but the food was just so-so most of the time. On our first formal time, the lobster I ordered was bad, dissolve in your mouth bad. I asked the server to take it away, and bring me back salmon, because I didn’t think I could consider another lobster after that taste! The chateaubriand was a little tough. Steak is an ongoing struggle on Carnival ships, because they say they only make it medium rare and medium well. I prefer my steak medium, and Roger likes his rare. No steak came to our table prepared less than well done. Very disappointing! And, it wasn’t just us, our table mates were sending food back as well. We did have some good entrees, but probably only because we finally got smart and started asking the servers what they recommend. When we would order something that others on prior weeks had sent back, they would silently shake their heads warning us. The next morning we did get reassigned to early seating, which put our dinners at 5:45 pm in the Destiny dining room. We noticed that the dining room was ¼ to ½ empty every night, except the last night when for the first time it was almost full. We asked our servers about this, and they said late seating was even emptier than early seating. That was very unusual in our experience. Our new servers at our early seating were Aquino from India and Gabriel from Hungary. We received excellent service from both of them. Since we had four ports in a roll on this cruise, we did not take breakfast and lunch with them for those four days. So, we mostly only saw them for the evening meal. We enjoyed both their service and their pleasing personalities. Our new table was six-person booth. Another couple, Ken and Janie, were also reassigned to that booth, as we were. We enjoyed getting to know one another for a couple of days, when another couple, Duane and Marilyn, were reassigned to join us as well. Ken’s brother, Harvey, sent him a bottle of champagne, which Ken shared with the table one night – thanks, Harvey. And, Duane and Marilyn, married 53 years, were in the Newlywed/Not-so-Newlywed Game, and they brought the champagne they received as participants of that game to share with us one night as well. We enjoyed one another’s company so much, laughed more than I’d laughed in ages. I hope we weren’t disruptive to others, because other tables often joined in our gaiety as well! We took our first port breakfast in the Destiny dining room. Service was poor, we couldn’t get toast and eggs and coffee refills. Later in the day we spoke to Ken and Janie who told us they had a wonderful breakfast in the Paris Restaurant on the Lido deck, with hot omelet and toast. So we took all the rest of our breakfasts there enjoying the hot omelets and toast. We came from the pool deck for most lunches to the Paris Restaurant, where we had lots of pizza and some excellent pasta … and everyone enjoyed the ice cream! Sunday, our day of departure, was wrapped up in the Normandie Lounge for a Welcome Aboard Show. Most of the shows had not changed since our September cruise, but the entertainers had. The comedian this night was Adam Ace. He’s a young twenty-something, with a tall blond flat-top. (You’ll have to see it to believe it.) And, he dresses in bright, bold colored suits. One night he had on a lemon-color suit, and another night he a red suit. His comedy was kind of goofy, and, at first, we thought we weren’t going to enjoy him, but he was very funny. Our table mate, Ken, was taken on stage for a routine with toilet paper that dubbed Ken the label of “Toilet Man” for the rest of the cruise. After the show we headed to the Queen Mary’s lounge to dance to the tunes of Doug Allen and the Chicago Mob. We did this almost every night, so we made friends with people who joined us for the same fun each night. Monday was a Sea Day. After breakfast, we went to the Travel and Shopping Talks in the Normandie Lounge. Shawn Bussey was our cruise director, and we honestly probably enjoyed her more than any other cruise director before. She sometimes gets a “Davey DJ” voice on stage during shows, but she had a delightful, helpful personality. (This was her last week on Paradise; after vacation, she’ll be on the Spirit.) Since our port days were four in a row – Belize, Roatan, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel – she covered all the information in one talk. She gave away a 6-pack box of Tortuga Rum Cakes to the first person showing her a picture of Ben Franklin. Roger ran up with his $100 bill and got the prize, which we shared with family upon returning. Shawn tossed out several other small prizes. I caught a bottle of nail polish and a ring, both which change colors in the sun. This became gifts for my 11-year old daughter, Rachel. We spent some time soaking up the sun on this sea day, then headed to the Queen Mary’s lounge for the Art Auction. We had lots of fun seeing the various pictures and artists and bought one picture for our home. We had planned to meet some other cruisers we had corresponded with online prior to the cruise at 4 p.m. at the US Bar, but there was just too much going on to slow down for that. We went up to the bar at 3:55 p.m. and waited until 4:10 p.m. Maplesugar showed up right about 4 pm, so by 4:10 we headed for karaoke which we all wanted to watch. Sorry to anyone that missed up, but there was simply too much to do! Monday night was our first Formal night and the Captain’s party. We had to get ready early since we now had early seating. It was fun seeing all the different clothes – from nice pantsuits to evening gowns for women, and polo shirts with sport coats to tuxedos for men. Everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. We had our pictures taken instead of attending the Captain’s party. The photographers were set up all along the Promenade deck every night, and we purchased some beautiful pictures. They had some new backdrops that require you to pose while seated on the floor – these were used on casual nights. Most folks didn’t want to try this, but we did it even though we were leery of it, and it turned out to be one of our best pictures. This was especially great for those with children in the group. Children can’t seem to find a nice standing pose, but they had no problem giving relaxed smiles while seated comfortably on the floor. The Monday night show was the Dream Voyage with the Paradise Dancers, and singers Sharon Johnson and Eric Dalton. Then we headed to the Queen Mary’s lounge for more dancing before the late night Adult Comedy of Adam Ace. Adam is such a goofy comedian, he had trouble making his comedy adult, which was fine with me. It was great fun though. Tuesday was our first port day of Belize. We were in Belize from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and we had to tender ashore in Belize. Here’s a word about tendering. We had to tender ashore in both Belize and Grand Cayman. Anyone booked on a ship excursion were assigned an area of the ship to meet at certain time and their excursion ticket was their tender pass. Everyone else had to go to the Normandie lounge at a certain time to get their tender ticket. A large crowd is in that lounge to get tender tickets first, many because they had independent tours booked ashore at a certain time. So, if you need to get off the ship early or at a certain time, get to that lounge early and sit right up front. Our cruise was Carnival Paradise’s first stop at Belize, which I think caused the tendering to move more slowly there. I think it will speed up with subsequent cruises. In Belize we decided to take the ship’s excursion of Goff Caye Snorkeling. We tendered from the ship directly to a small island. Anyone who did not want to snorkel off the boat got off on the island at that time. The island was very small – you could see all the way across it. It had maybe six palm trees on it, and a small open-air hut where they were selling drinks, snacks and crafts – you need cash to buy any of this – I heard the brownies there were fabulous. Lots of sand, water and sun – but not much else. There were two port-a-potties on the pier for restroom facilities, but no toilet paper! The tender then took us out by the Barrier Reef in the middle of the ocean, and we offloaded from the side of the boat. I’m not a strong swimmer or confident snorkeler, so I was afraid to jump off the side of the boat, and another passenger finally agreed to give me a shove which got me safely in the water. For those like me who lacked confidence, they had us wrap a regular orange boat vest around our waists. This worked fine, but if you want to take this wonderful snorkeling tour, I would strongly recommend you bring your own snorkeling vest, because those are so much more comfortable. We snorkeled out there for a long time. Our tour guide joined us in the water. He would swim down and point at things, then come to the surface to explain what it was – he was great! After a while, he said he was going to take us to even deeper water, so anyone who was tired or just ready could swim back to the boat, which I did. About half of us waited in the boat for the others, including Roger, to complete the deeper water snorkeling. They saw some really neat things. Then after everyone had loaded back on the boat, we returned to the island, where we all soaked up the sun and drinks, while the tour guide took those who had unloaded on the island on an hour-long snorkeling tour right off the island. Throughout this excursion, the tender boat operators were giving us cold water bottles, which helped keep us all well-hydrated – a nice service! When we returned to the port, we cleaned up to take a tender into Belize City. Belize is not really a shopping port. They have a small shopping mall right off the tender port with mostly crafts, t-shirts, etc. Nothing exceptional. It was nice visiting their little shopping area and buying postcards for friends and family. The Belize excursions most talked about back on the ship were the Shark Ray Alley snorkeling and the Cave Tubing. Mixed reports on cave tubing, younger folks seemed to have enjoyed it more than some of the older folks. We returned to the ship and it wasn’t long until dinner. After dinner, we headed to the Normandie Lounge for Bingo and the show. I always play cruise bingo, but I’ve never won. On this night, I won $600 in Bingo – helped pay for that cruise tab! The show was Eddie Capone, a comedian, and a magician, John Duffy. The magician was nothing special. I liked Eddie’s routine, but others weren’t so thrilled. He was older and talked a lot about the way things used to be – I enjoyed him. Then we headed to Leonardo Lounge for karaoke. We left there about midnight for bed, but we heard that karaoke went well into the night, with a large crowd having great fun. Wednesday was our Roatan port day, where the left the ship right onto Roatan’s port – no tenders. It was also a short day, arriving in Roatan at 7 a.m., back on board by 2 p.m. We had purchased a ship excursion to the Parrot Bay Resort Beach Party. Leaving the ship, we saw some Roatan dancers performing on the pier, and, just beyond that, was a parking lot full of vans and busses. Beyond that was an 8 or 10-foot fence that went low down below the water as well. That was kind of scary – what were they trying to protect us from? On the other side of the fence, many Roatan citizens and cabbies were pressed against the fence hoping, I think, to offer their services to passengers who were brave enough to pass through the fence. Most of the vans and busses had a sign in their front windshield where they were going. We couldn’t find ours, so we located a Carnival agent, who located an MC tour operator to get us in our van. Turned out our van driver had placed his sign on the side door which we couldn’t see from the front of the vehicle. It was a long drive to the Parrot Bay Resort Beach, which turned out to be a manmade beach with outlets to the ocean on both ends. As we drove, we asked the driver about the best beaches, and he recommended the beaches on the west end of the island, which others who went there confirmed were wonderful. Parrot Bay Resort is a work in progress. There’s a small hotel and café a short walk from the beach. The beach has bathrooms and six beach shower heads in the open air to wash the sand off. There is a small open-air hut, where they served drinks only. There were a couple of hammocks behind the hut. They had a local band playing music near the hut – pretty funny hearing songs we hear on our American radios sang with an island accent! The sandy beach wrapped all the way around the man-made beach with plenty of chairs, didn’t see any umbrellas. But, you could place your chair in the sun or in the shade which was plentiful. This beach felt safe for a family with children, and they did have a piñata, which the children got to break open. But, we didn’t have a beach party as advertised, so if you want a party, this isn’t for you. It was a very relaxing, lay in the sun on a chair and swim in the lagoon day. They had some small kayaks for two that you could rent and use. It was a great, relaxing day. The Roatan excursions most talked about back on the ship was the Roatan West Side Island Tour (that’s where the better beaches were) and the Catamaran Sail and Snorkel. Back on board we watched the ice carving demonstration and the Men’s Hairy Chest competition, and then soaked up the sun, until the Sangria sailaway – I love Sangria! Then the Repeaters Party was at 5 pm in the Queen Mary’s Lounge. Dinner, more pictures, and then showtime – tonight was the comedy and soul of Tia Thompson. Tia was a great soul singer, but a so-so comedian. Thursday was our Grand Cayman port day from 9 am to 5pm. Tendering again, same as earlier. We had bought a ship excursion to the 7-Mile Beach, but you got your transportation whenever you were ready to do it. So, we went to the Normandy Lounge to get a tender pass to get off earlier, so we could do some shopping before heading to the beach. We got one of the first passes and got off promptly. We enjoyed the shopping, then tendered back to the ship. There was almost no one on the ship, and it was lunch time, so got salad and pizza and ate it on the deck overlooking Cayman – it was very relaxing and delicious. Then we tendered back to the island and caught a taxi cab to the 7-Mile Beach. Our pass got us admission, a chair, and a drink. We paid $5 for an umbrella as well. They also had a tent set up where you could purchase lunch. The night before Roger had overheard someone say the 7-Mile Beach excursion was sold out, and we wondered how you could fill up a 7-Mile Beach. Now we had the answer. The Colony Hotel providing this excursion had roped off a small area for the cruise passengers to use, with a separate larger area for just their guests. For those who had arrived earlier in the day than we did, they were packed into this beach pretty tight. By the time we arrived, many of them were leaving, and we enjoyed relaxing on this beach. There were vendors nearby offering parasailing, kayaking, diving, and other water sports for a price. This was our second formal night. So, we had to get back to the ship early to get dressed for formal night. We went to dinner, had pictures made, then dancing, skipped the show to go to our cabin early, because the next day was supposed to be a long day in Cozumel. About 8:30 p.m. an announcement was made that a crew member had been badly injured and they were turning the ship around to return him to the hospital in Cayman, which would delay our arrival in Cozumel, but they wouldn’t know until the next morning how much. (We later learned that he had fallen down some steps, had a lot of bleeding from a head wound, and they were concerned that he had a concussion. We were even later told that he was better and would be rejoining the ship in Miami.) Even though we had fallen asleep, we felt the ship stop in Cayman and start up again. So, Friday morning, we were well rested. We hung out on the ship all day, soaking up the sun, it was so relaxing. We heard a few passengers complaining about the delay, but we were only so happy to spend the day on the ship. At Noon, they announced that we would be arriving in Cozumel at 3:30 pm, and that the Captain had agreed to stay in port until 1:00 a.m. (We were originally scheduled to be in Cozumel from 1 to 11 pm.) They then announced which ship’s excursions were still on and what time they would now be leaving. They said that all other excursions had been cancelled and sail ‘n sign cards would be credited. The excursion we had purchased was cancelled, and the credit was on our final bill. A long line immediately formed at the excursion desk with folks trying to get on the remaining excursions. We were only too happy to shop, eat, and drink in Cozumel. We took a taxi into town, walked the shopping route, buying a few things, and then went to Carlos ‘n Charlie’s for a meal and drinks. We met Ken and Janie there, and then we all took a cab back to the pier. Once we got there, we stopped in a Fat Tuesday’s at the pier for a few more drinks. We met up with Greg and Roz there, and we all had a great time. By the time we boarded the ship again, we went right to our cabin and went to sleep. The guest talent show was that night, but I didn’t hear anything about it. The sailaway party on the Lido Deck included the music of Doug Allen and the Chicago Mob and a Mexican midnight buffet. I heard that was great! Saturday was a Sea Day. Just laying around relaxing, enjoying the ship, sun, and companions. We picked up our early departure luggage tags from the Information Desk before the Debarkation Talk in order to avoid the long lines. We took the Galley tour in the afternoon. We started packing our bags before dinner, then finished packing when we changed after dinner. We tried to find somewhere to dance, but Doug Allen had disappeared, and we didn’t like the music of Just Du-et who played in the Leonardo Lounge almost every evening. Let me say, however, that Just Du-et drew a large crowd most nights, so it was obviously just not our preference in music. Sunday, we grabbed our breakfast in the Paris Restaurant, before going to the Queen Mary’s Lounge to wait with the others with early flights, handicaps, or ship excursions in Miami. We were off the ship by 9:30 a.m. Caught a cab to the airport and had an uneventful flight home. All in all, this was one more great cruise vacation. While we were disappointed in the food, we’ll make some different choices in the future. The service was great. We had two great drink servers on the Lido Deck, Reginald and Rexco, that remembered our numbers from the first day and took great care of us! As always, we made some great new friends. In my review of the Paradise in September, I commented how laid back it was. Now, I have to say that may change from week to week depending on the passengers. While this was not a loud, rowdy, partying bunch of people, we could always find a good time. The crowd did seem to settle together in one place or another from night to night, and once you found them, you could have a great time as late into the night as you wanted to stay up. Sometimes we joined the crowd, but most of the time, we did our own thing. But, I was glad to see people joining together to have fun than on our last Paradise cruise. We’re ready to book our next cruise    

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By Jill_CR

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Feb 23, 2003

Western Caribbean

Embarkation: We flew into Miami Airport. A Carnival Rep at the Baggage Claim met us. He was very nice and helpful. They had security there and they checked our bags and ID/Birth certificates. This was much better than our last cruise on Carnival where they checked your ID/Birth certificates in parking lot as you got off the bus. We didn’t have to wait in line very long to get on the ship; it was pretty smooth in exception to the line

to get your sail and sign card. That was a big mess! But luckily we got in the line that moved very fast! The ship was very nice and very clean. We had an ocean view room on the Upper deck. We had booked an interior room, and two weeks before sailing our travel agent called to check prices. The price had gone down, so they upgraded us to the ocean view. I thought that was very nice. Our stateroom was very nice. Lots of storage and closet space. They have good size bathrooms. Only one set of plugs in stateroom though, so if you need more bring a power strip. We really enjoyed the smoke free atmosphere; it was great being able to breathe in the Casino. Dinner: Dinner was great, the food was wonderful. We had a problem with seating times, but the situation was fixed with a little complaining. We had Alina as our head waitress. She was wonderful!! She was the only woman head waitress on the whole ship. They did dances just about every night and sang for us on our last night. Make sure you go to the dinning room at night, its great. Belize: We did the cave tubing in Belize. We booked our tour through Reggie’s Cave Tubing. He has a website if interested. It was wonderful. We got to go tubing through the caves. The water was beautiful. We got to wear little cave lights on our foreheads. It was a lot of fun, something that is probably once in a lifetime for most. Roatan We took the West End Isle Tour. It went to the Butterfly Farm, Botanicals Gardens and shopping. It was a very nice tour. The butterfly farm is very neat; it is in someone’s back yard. The Botanical Gardens were beautiful; they took you on a guided tour and told you about all the plants and trees. At the end, you got to try fresh fruits. The shopping is mostly souvenirs and hand made items. Make sure you don’t pay the first price!! Grand Caymen: We only went shopping here. The island is very nice, very different from our first two stops. Cozumel: We arrived late here because of a crewmember having a life threatening accident, so we only shopped. A lot of the tours got cancelled. They have a new shopping area at the pier that is very nice. Our last cruise was in August of 2002 and it wasn’t there before!! Shows: The shows were very good. One of the shows we seen on our last cruise, but it was named something different. They had two big shows, and the rest were comedy shows. Debarkation: They call you by your luggage tag colors in order to get off the ship. We were the last to get off. They really sucked on getting on a bus to get to the airport. NO SIGNS! We were told to go to two different buses and they were the wrong ones. By the time we got on the bus and got to the airport we only had an hour and fifteen minutes till our flight left. We had to rush a lot. I think next time we will not do the bus, and take a taxi. Conclusion: We really enjoyed our cruise and would recommend it! Make sure you go to some art auctions if you enjoy that. We got some nice art at great prices. Hope this helps deciding on your next cruise!    

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Dec 29, 2002

Western Caribbean

EMBARKATION We flew into Ft. Lauderdale at 10:00 a.m. A Carnival rep. had us wait for the bus shuttle to Miami beginning at 11:30 a.m. About a 1/2 hr. ride to Miami. Boarding the ship went quickly and easily. No keys were available for my daughters room but they fixed that quickly. Once on the ship a buffet lunch was available. Luggage arrived at our rooms sooner than we expected. THE SHIP The ship is the smoke free Paradise. We

had interior rooms on the upper deck near the rear of the ship. We liked the jogging/walking track to exercise. The gym was nice also. We liked all areas of the ship, although the Normandie Lounge where the shows are is smaller than needed with many restricted views. Mid ship had a pool with a slide and an entertainment stage with a live band playing most of the time. FOOD/BEVERAGES We thought the food was very good, as were the drinks although somewhat pricey. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment was good but not great by any means. Get to the shows one hour early if you want a good seat. Many are saved for others. PORTS OF CALL COZUMEL - We took a taxi to Chaankaab Park. Ten dollar taxi ride and ten dollars each to get in. They have a great snorkeling right next to shore, as well as a nice beach area to sun and relax. You can rent snorkel gear right there for six dollars each. They also have an outdoor restraint/bar to enjoy with music. There is a dolphin area there also but was overpriced for the experience. If you want a dolphin experience go to Orlando to Dolphin Cove next to Sea World and you won't regret it. We left the beach area around 3-4 p.m. and went back to the boat to clean up. Then a taxi to town to Pancho's Backyard for drinks and late lunch/early dinner. Last stop Carlos and Charlies for some drinks and fun people watching before heading back to the ship. Taxi fare six dollars each way. Lots of opportunities to shop in town or by the ship. A couple nice bars right where the ship is docked to relax before boarding. GRAND CAYMAN We booked Capt. Bryan for the Stingray City snorkel tour to avoid the crowds. He has a tri-miran and takes about 25 people out to swim with the sting rays and then to snorkel at a nearby reef. 30 dollars per person for a 3 hour trip. Would recommend this to anyone who has never done it. Not as scary as you might think. We were planning on spending some time on 7 mile beach also but by the time we got back and had lunch overlooking the ocean it was time to get back. We had plenty of beach time in Cozumel so no problem. OCHO-RIOS JAMAICA We prebooked this also with Ionie McBean ionie@ocho-rios.com For 20 dollars per person she (or her husband) will pick you up and give you a tour that meets your desires. We went directly to Dunns River Falls and were the first to climb it without the congestion and it was great. It was like you were the only ones there. Later the groups going hand in hand didn't look nearly as fun as carving your own way up. My girls went twice. They wait for you in the parking lot and watch your stuff. Next he took up the little island road thru Fern Gully with stops to see Jack in the Woods, wood carvers, native plants, and scenic vistas - beautiful. Our next stop was a quick shopping stop before heading to a restraint overlooking the ocean on a cliff for some Red Stripe beer and jerked chicken. Mmmm! Then back to Island Village and a stop at Jimmy Buffetts Margaritaville before leaving beautiful Jamaica. Be sure to book your tour with Ionie, you won't regret it. Then you can relax and have a great day with your family and avoid the rush and congestion with a large group. DISEMBARKATION We had an early flight out of FLL so I stopped at the pursers desk to get early disembarkation tags. This worked perfectly as we were off and on to the transfer to FLL. in plenty of time to catch a 1:20 flight. SUMMARY I studied many other cruise reviews and would like to thank those who made suggestions. It helps to learn from others. We went on the New Years Cruise and there weren't a ton of kids which we enjoyed. The ones there seemed to have fun and had plenty of friends. I was happy to be able to get to see most of the Football games on TV which wasn't possible on another cruise I took last New Years. Carnival has a pre set tipping policy. I thought the service was very good and didn't notice anyone slacking due to assured tips. This ship, at this time of year, with these ports of call is a sure winner in our book. Of course poor weather can hamper any cruise but that the chance you take. No one I know got the flu which has been a problem on some ships lately. Also one other point of interest was the price of our cruise went down considerably since I booked it. I contacted my Carnival rep and she reduced my fees accordingly.

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Dec 29, 2002

Western Caribbean

I just came back from my first cruise. I read many reviews before I left and decided it was my turn. To start at the very beginning, I would never make reservations directly with Carnival again. My travel planner was horrible. She made many mistakes and was very difficult to contact. I stayed at the Howard Johnsons near the port. It was convenient but very noisy. The cruise was fabulous. I had a wonderful time and have no complaints

at all. The staff was great and everything was well organized. The ship was spotless and of course the no smoking was greatly appreciated. The food was delicious and there was a wide variety available for all tastes. You will not be hungry. Whoever, thought of the 24 hour pizza and ice cream was a genius. The formal nights are FORMAL. My biggest dilemma before we left was what to bring for formal night. My advice is have fun and go all out. Men don’t really need a tux but definitely a suit. Take advantage of the pictures offered around the ship. I spent a fortune on pictures they turned out so nice. We took the shore tours offered by Carnival in Cozumel and Cayman. The ship tours are convenient and not terribly overpriced. In Jamaica, we hired a private guide. His name is Dennis Mullings at denmill@cwjamaica.com. He’s great and I strongly recommend him. He knows his stuff and it was a very interesting off the beaten track tour. If I had found a person like him in the other ports I would have hired them too. We had no problems with kids running around. Carnival has areas set up for the younger kids with stuff to keep them busy and the teenagers hang out at the Rex so everybody has there own space. That’s great organization. We had no problem taking wine on board. Your bar bill can get out of control if you aren’t careful. Trying to find a taxi after you get off the ship is a horrible experience. There are no lines and it’s survival of the obnoxious. People step over people to get a taxi. Make arrangements ahead of time. My biggest advice is take a thermos. You can fill it with tea or lemonade and carry it around with you and to your room. We also filled them and took them on shore trips. They were very convenient and we never had to buy bottled water. Also, don’t spend your whole vacation complaining. So many people moaned and whined about trivial things the whole time. I don’t want to hear it and you are ruining your vacation all by yourself. Get over it. I had a wonderful vacation and would take a cruise again. I hope you have the wonderful experience I had. Bon Voyage.    

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Dec 12, 2002

Western Caribbean

My husband and I recently returned from the Western Itinerary on the Paradise. We thoroughly enjoyed the entire trip and found everything about the ship and crew to be outstanding. One major highlight of our cruise was our stop in Ocho Rios. If you’re looking for a personalized excursion in Jamaica, please contact Dennis Mullings at denmill@cwjamaica.com. I read about Dennis in a review before we left, emailed him and booked his

services for our time in Ocho Rios. He took very good care of us, picking us up promptly at the port. The day was spent visiting all the different sites of Jamaica, including Fern Gully, Enchanted Gardens and of course, Dunn’s River Falls, all in his comfortable, air-conditioned van. Dennis was very knowledgeable about the flora of Jamaica, which made my husband’s trip very enjoyable. We highly recommend Dennis if you want an enjoyable, leisurely outing, away from the crowded ship excursions.    

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  • New

Dec 2, 2002

Western Caribbean

Embarkation: My wife and I booked our cruise through Costco as a package deal, flight included. I am glad we did this as the process was very smooth. We flew out of Portland, OR on Saturday morning and arrived in Miami about 7:30 pm where there was a Carnival representative waiting for us. They send you a coupon book that has all the vouchers and tickets you need for transportation and lodging, and so they simply collected the right coupon

for the bus transfer to the hotel and 45 minutes after collecting our bags we were checking in at the hotel. You have the option of keeping your luggage with you, but we only held on to our carry-ons - the rest the hotel secured for the night. At 9:00 the next morning we began the embarkation process in the lobby. There were 2 Carnival ships in port that day and so both groups were there. It took us about 30 minutes to go through the line and have them check our papers and give them the appropriate coupons from the booklet. This was definitely worth the time because it allowed us to skip this part at the pier and proceed directly to the second floor, saving us a LONG line. We left the hotel at noon and had an enjoyable bus ride where the driver pointed out some historical spots in Miami. We arrived at the pier where they unloaded all our luggage (we again kept our carry-ons) onto a large cart that was later loaded onto the ship. The porters handle everything and for a small tip it was worth it. From there we went into the Carnival building, went through the metal detector, upstairs where they give you your Sail & Sign card (already made out with your name on it) and straight on board the ship. Once on board we had freedom to go anywhere and found the Paris Restaurant open. In all we found the embarkation process fairly painless and about as smooth as could be. The Paradise was very clean and the no smoking policy was a huge factor. We noticed this when we got off at the ports, where people would light up. (By the way, they do enforce the no smoking policy as we heard of at least one couple that got booted off.) It seemed like the crew was always cleaning, wiping down, scrubbing, or tidying up the ship. They guests represented every age group, appeared to be mostly middle class. There were some kids but not lots and probably 50% of the guest were between the ages of 20 and 50. There were even two Amish couples on board!  Navigation on board was easy. We had the layout figured out and knew our way around in about one day. The bottom 3 decks are basically cabins only and the top decks hold the shops, dining rooms, lounged, library, Grand Atrium, pools, etc. Our cabin was on the Main deck (actually level 5 even though it was the second from the bottom) and toward the Aft. We had an outside room which meant a window and we were glad we booked it that way. The price difference wasn’t very much and it was nice to wake up to a view. I wouldn’t recommend paying lots more for a cabin on the higher decks because it didn’t really seem to matter; you still have to take the stairs or elevator to get somewhere anyway. A tip I picked up is to book your cabin on the port side because you sail in a counter clockwise path so the ports will be on your side as you arrive. We found there to be plenty of room on board even though the ship was full. There were enough deck chairs, although the pools were fewer and smaller than I had expected. Also, in case you don’t know, the pools and hot tubs are filled with salt water. The only times it seemed crowded is when an event was taking place and everyone wanted to be there at the same time (such as shows). Dinners were scheduled according to either early or late seating (6:00 & 6:30 for early, 8:00 & 8:30 for late) in the Destiny and Elation dining rooms. We were late seating and sat at a table of 6. We found the atmosphere formal and yet casual. The head waiter did a great job serving, telling jokes, and even had a magic trick for us. The food was good and the servings were just the right size. We had dinner in the dining room every night except our stay in Cozumel because we spent our time off the ship. For breakfast and lunch we almost always ate in the Paris Restaurant which was casual and buffet style. Everything is free except for alcohol, soda, and some desserts at the snack bar. You can purchase a soda card for $20 (good for fountain drinks only, not bottled pop) but we were content with the free ice tea, punch, lemonade, and water. Crew/Services: It seemed like there were crew members everywhere, and all were friendly. Everyone we talked to spoke English, although with over 57 countries represented there were many different accents. We were well taken care of. Our cabin was made up 3 times a day and we were able to get any requested items by leaving a note or talking to our cabin steward. We looked forward each night to coming back to the room and finding out which animal they had formed out of our towels.  I was impressed with the photo department on board. They took thousands of pictures, they were good quality, and they had the prints up within hours sometimes. You had the opportunity to have portraits taken in front of backgrounds they set up or casual shots around the ship, and they also went ashore to capture some of the excursions. You could purchase any or none of the photos. The drawback was the price: $21.95 for an 8x10, $7.95 for 6x9, $6.95 for 5x7. The portraits were all printed in 8x10 and you HAD to buy that one before getting any other size reprints. Still, they were excellent pictures and we purchased several. They also have video of many of the shore excursions and onboard activities. We didn’t purchase any of these though. Gratuities are built in and are simply charged to you account ($9.75 per person per day). You are free to adjust this at the purser’s desk but we felt this to be fair so we had no hassle with our account. Activities/Entertainment: There was always something to do if you are the kind of person that needs to stay busy. We felt that being on vacation we wanted to relax too, so we didn’t take part in many of the activities. On board they have shopping, nightly shows, late night comedy acts, lounges with 3 or 4 different musical styles, art auctions, daily Bingo game, shuffle board, ping pong, pool with a water slide, casino, library with books and board games to check out, and more. The shows were good and since they had 2 seatings for most nights it wasn’t too difficult to find room.  One of the first things we did when we got on board was to check out the shore excursions. We considered booking some with outside tour companies before we left but never got it done so we ended up going with the Carnival tours. However, these are NOT Carnival operated; they sponsor them and often are there to video the tour but they don’t lead the tour. Each day before you arrive at a port they provide a talk that gives a little background and explains most of the shore excursions. It’s a good idea to listen to these to help you decide what to expect, but the problem is that if you wait until Day 3 for the talk you may not be able to get the tour you wanted because it‘s based on who signs up first. We read through the excursion booklet and decided from that which ones to take and booked all of ours within a few hours of boarding the ship. Cozumel, Mexico: Our first port of call was Cozumel and we had scheduled to go horseback riding through the Mayan ruins. This is NOT the same ruins as Tulum or the more grand sites that you first think of; these are on the island itself and are mostly statues and replicas. Still, if you enjoy riding horses this is a worthwhile trip. They bus you to Buena Vista Ranch and match you up with a horse of you abilities (most people in our group were beginners) and take you along a trail where they stop at some of the ruins and explain about the Mayans and their culture. The horses were well trained and even though there are signs saying “Gallop at your own risk”, the guides encourage you to trot and gallop. The entire trip lasted about 4 hours giving us time to take a taxi into town and do some shopping before heading back to the ship. It was our experience that the tour guides and bus drivers are all about making tips. Our guide Carlos was great, answering questions, telling us that for the next 3 ½ hours he would be our best friend. He was indeed telling the truth because as soon as the tour was over and he’d received his tips he would barely grunt an answer if you asked him a question.  I enjoyed the shopping in Cozumel; they had a mix of market place shops and retail shops. Bartering was the common practice in the markets and you pretty much paid the price listed in the retail shops. They are pretty aggressive about trying to sell you stuff and will stand outside and encourage you to come into their store. But basically they are friendly, not at all like Jamaica where they actually insult you if you don’t stop. Grand Cayman: Of the 3 ports I enjoyed Grand Cayman the most. However, it was a short stop as we arrived about 8:00 am and sailed again at 4:00 pm. The Cayman Islands have a strong British influence (they drive on the left) and it was the most like the U.S. of the places we visited. The shopping is not as good because there’s not as much variety and the shops are all retail types - walk in, see the price listed, pay it. It was much cleaner and a lot less intimidating though if you are uncomfortable with people pushing their wares.  The reason I liked Grand Cayman the best was because of the choice of shore excursions. We only had time to do one but there were several I’d like to have tried. As almost everyone did, we went to Stingray City and swam with the stingrays, but they also have 100 ft dive submarines, snorkeling, even an underwater walk where you wear a helmet that allows you to breathe and not get your hair wet! The stingrays were awesome, just like I’d heard. We chose to take a 60’ catamaran out to the sandbar so our trip was a little less crowded (about 30), but once on the sandbar you join at least a half dozen other boats so there’s probably 200 people out there. Still, the stingrays are abundant and gave plenty of opportunity for feeding and holding. I recommend if you want pictures to buy one of the underwater cameras; they worked pretty well. It seems like most excursions had a video person and so there’s a personalized video available for sale at the end. This was the only port where we had to tender from the ship to the pier, but this was a pretty quick process, taking about 30 minutes from ship to shore. Plan ahead though to make sure you get back to the ship before it sails. Ocho Rios, Jamaica: The big attraction in Ocho Rios is Dunn’s River Falls and almost every shore excursion incorporates this stop. We chose this in connection with the Enchanted Garden (a small tropical rain forest). The Enchanted Forest was pretty, with waterfalls, lots of flowers and vegetation, and an opportunity to hand feed some birds, but it was pretty much just walk the path while the tour guide talked. Dunn’s River Falls was worth the time and it was exciting climbing up the 900 feet of cascading waterfalls with a long chain of people holding hands. They tell you that you don’t need to get wet above the knees or waist, but if you want to have any fun expect to get wet to the top of your head! I took my camera and wallet and ended up handing it to a couple that walked the stairs because they would never have stayed dry. If you want to take a camera take an underwater one. Also, Carnival representatives where there at one spot to photograph you if you wished. There pictures always turned out good and we ended up buying this one back on board. As I mentioned, the people are really pushy. They told us on the ship to not even make eye contact unless you wanted to spend 2 hours trying to get out of buying whatever it was they were selling. As we walked from the falls back to the bus we passed through the market and just looked straight ahead and kept walking. We heard comments like, “What’s the matter, are you too good to talk to us?” and “Why are you being so rude?”. I told my wife that it’s all designed to get us to feel guilty and make us stop, but she ended up feeling guilty and didn’t want to shop in Jamaica at all. We did find some shops at the “mall” that were better but still the shop attendants follow you all around the store and encourage you to buy this and that. We never had any trouble or felt threatened but we heard from one of the couples at dinner that night that they had been asked if they wanted drugs. They refused three times before leaving that shop. Debarkation: We arrived back in Miami about 8:00 am but the ship has to clear customs before exiting the ship can begin. This took about 2 hours and they started letting people off at 10:15. They require you to be out of your cabin by 9:00 so they can begin getting things ready for the next group, and they close you Sail & Sign account during the previous night so there’s not much to do. The shops on board are closed, you can’t buy drinks, the only thing open is the beverages in the restaurant (lemonade, tea, coffee). You exit the ship according to the color code of your luggage tag (based on your cabin … deck and forward/aft). There are 9 colors and they release 2 at a time; our color was the very last. So we spent about 2 hours sitting on the Lido deck and finally got to debark about 11:30. By the way, if you have an early flight (noon or earlier) then they allow you off in the first group. We had a smooth transition to the airport and no problems all the way home. Summary: Overall it was a great trip. Having read many reviews before we left I was confused about how one couple could have such a lousy time and another on the same ship have a wonderful trip. If you go in expecting perfection you might be disappointed, but if you go expecting a good time, are friendly to people, and treat it as a vacation then I think you’ll have the time of your life. I’m very glad we chose the Paradise because of its non-smoking policy. I’d like to try another cruise line to compare, but it would be a difficult choice between that and a smoking vessel. If we ever do go on the Paradise again we would take the Eastern route as a couple of guests we talked to said they preferred those ports.    

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Nov 21, 2002

Western Caribbean

First off we booked our cruise with Cruises Only at cruisesonly.com and our agent was Sheree Moreno. She was incredible and worked continually with us getting us better rooms, holding our hand throughout the process. We arrived the evening before embarking on the ship in Miami and stayed at the Hyatt Regency. We found out when we got to the hotel that we could register for our cruise during the next morning. We stood in line for about

½ hour but this made it so that all we had to do when we got to the port was get our sail and sign card and have our picture taken. It was well worth the ½ hour wait. We had to return our rental car and they told us that we could take our luggage immediately to the dock even though we did not board until that afternoon. They take your picture as you enter the ship. We had our picture taken all of the time. They post the pictures every day and it is your choice whether you buy them or not. We found that it was very nice having some professional pictures of us. They run a little high an 8x10 which is what they mostly take is 21.95, a 6x9 is 9.95 and a 5x7 is 6.95. You can have copies made and they are pretty reasonable. To have your film developed overnight was $8.88 per roll. We then boarded the ship and they helped us find our room which was on the Riviera deck which is the lowest one you can get and still have a window. Our room was fine. It was not large but it had ample space for our clothes to be put away and our suitcases fit in the closet and under the bed. There was a small desk or dressing table with a mirror above it. You only have one plug so it is a good idea to take a small extension cord. We had our beds pushed together. There is a television in the room which plays 2 different movies that are changed every 3 days. Also you will be able to see a replay of the different events that take place on the ship. Don’t sweat the room as you won’t be in it all that much! Also, our room steward took great care of us, we felt very spoiled! We came with another couple and they were down the hall. We were in the middle of the ship and we never felt any extreme movement. We realized that they had us sitting at different tables for dinner so we immediately went and asked what we could do to change this. They were very gracious and we were changed to a table for four, which worked out very well for us. Every night you will get a newsletter on your bed. It will tell you about the events that are taking place for the next day. You can be as busy as you want to or do as little as you want to. If you go to any of the shopping lectures be sure and get there early as they throw out prizes to the front rows during the lecture. We found these informative but learned when we got to the countries that the ship gets a cut on the stores that it tells you to shop at. If you are buying trinkets it does not matter where you buy it but if you are planning on getting something expensive the ship will guarantee it for 30 days and you can return it. Also, there is entertainment on the ship each night. Two of the nights are Las Vegas type shows, maybe not as good of quality and the rest are comedians, magicians, etc. They were fun. One thing that is very important to remember especially if you are making reservations for trips at port. The time changes when you get to Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios. It is an hour earlier or behind. So if you make reservations for 9AM, and you get to port at 7AM (which we did, it is 6AM their time) you are wasting a couple of hours if you don’t know about this. You always leave on the ship time and arrive on ship time. Eat as many times as you can in the dining room. The food is very good and the waiter is wonderful and will try and get you anything you would like to eat. Eating in the dining room is an experience worth doing. Don’t miss out! Eating is not a problem on ship it is trying not to eat that is the problem! You don’t need to bring your own beach towel, they provide one. I brought an insulated cup and filled it with ice and water while I was sitting out on the deck. You can have all of the ice, water and juice for free. Every other drink will cost you extra. Cozumel – We booked a trip before we went on the net for Cozumel to go snorkeling. Papahogs@travelnotes.cc, ask for Raphael he was great, he even went into the water with us. It was very reasonable. The cost was $30.00 per person and 2 ½ to 3 hours. We had a boat for the four of us and our guide took us to several places to snorkel. It was a blast. Don’t forget to bring a waterproof camera! We were docked for the most time in Cozumel. After we snorkeled we went into town and shopped until we could not stand it anymore. It was very crowded and we were glad to get back to the ship and relax. Grand Cayman – We booked a trip from cptmvn@cardw.ky to go to Stingray City and to go snorkeling. The cost was $40.00 per person and there was about 35 on the boat. It was very crowded but we also had a great time. Stingray City was wonderful and Cpt. Marvin was very gracious, he even sprayed us off with a hose to get the salt water off. You are only on this island until 4:00 PM so we did not have much time for sight seeing when we got done. The other drawback is that you have to stand in a very long line to get back onto the ship as you have to take a boat back to the ship. Ocho Rios – We booked our day with Dennis at denmill@cwjamaica. He charged $30.00 per person. What a great time we had. He was even there early waiting for us the hour early that we did not know about. We had our own air conditioned van and he took us where ever we wanted to go. We went to the Dunn River Falls-- bring a waterproof camera. It was a blast! He then gave us a tour of the island which is beautiful, we lunched and of course shopped. He would let us know when he thought that we were paying too much for something. He knew all of the best places to take us. He was a great tour guide and we will contact him when we go again! Gratuities – These were charged automatically to our room. It was $9.75 per person, per day. It was well worth it. You do have the opportunity to reduce this amount if you want to. We had a marvelous time and can hardly wait until next year when we will go again. The disembark process went very smoothly. As we were on the bottom floor, we were last but we were prepared for this and were off the ship by 10:15 AM. I was worried about getting seasick and I did not! We had one rough time at sea but I did great. We were told by the locals not to come in October because of hurricanes and also the wet season is in Jan, May & June.    

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By Kim_CR

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Oct 19, 2002

Western Caribbean

My husband and I have been on twelve cruises and this was our seventh cruise on Carnival. We are in our mid-thirties and were traveling with our 3½ 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 to get a $500 reward voucher that may have burned a hole in our pocket if we did not use it

right away! Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves and did like that there was no smoking. The places where we especially appreciated that were the piano bar and the casino. Prior to our 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 pleasantly surprised that the ship was very clean and I constantly saw workers polishing, shining, steaming carpets, etc. We also found the crew of the Paradise to be very helpful and accommodating. Getting There: 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 for $40 via Priceline. It might not be as luxurious as some of the other hotels, but 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. We liked dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. After dinner we explored Bayside. 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 and at the waterfront there was a live band 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. If we had gotten stuck in traffic and arrived later, a line may have formed. We were going to have breakfast in the hotel, but when I saw that it was $11 for a waffle, we decided to peak outside to see if there was anything nearby. Across the street was a place called The Coffee Beanery. It was more a coffee house sort of place, but they had breakfast sandwiches on croissants or bagels, muffins, and pastries. We had breakfast and beverages for the three of us for $13. 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 the ship. Cabin: 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 Dominican Republic. We had robes in the cabin but there was not a hairdryer. I was concerned about the cabin being cold, but the vent control on the ceiling allowed us to regulate the temperature in the cabin very well. Dining: We had the main seating in the Destiny Dining Room at 5:45 pm. We were seated at table 246, a 6-person booth. Our tablemates were another family of three with a 2½ year old son. They were very pleasant tablemates, the boys seemed to like seeing 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; the Paradise is his favorite. We felt very fortunate to have gotten such wonderful cabin and dining service this week. We really enjoyed the food in the dining room. We ate all of 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 soufflés, chocolate one night and vanilla another. The formal nights were Monday and Friday. For kids old enough for Camp Carnival, there were special dinners for kids at the Paris Restaurant (informal Lido restaurant) on both formal nights. And on the first formal night there was a ‘Coke-tail’ party as well. There was a sushi bar on the Promenade deck, which we really enjoyed. Unfortunately it did not open until 5:30 pm. This made it tough with a 5:45 pm sitting in the dining, compounded by the fact that there was a good crowd of people waiting for it to open, so when it did, there was immediately a long line. I thought that it would have been helpful for it to open at 5:15 pm for people with the 5:45 pm sitting to be able to enjoy a sushi appetizer before dinner. We ate almost all of our breakfasts and lunches in the Paris Restaurant on the Lido Deck. The breakfast was okay up there; it’s 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 there was pizza, burgers, and hot dogs 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. And on the aft of Promenade deck there was kids’ pool and small jungle gym. It was usually pretty quiet back there. We needed to take to the pool our 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 was located in the spa on the forward section of deck 12. A variety of machines and free weights were available, including treadmills, steppers, and bikes. There were two hot tubs in the fitness center. Located in the locker rooms were a sauna and a 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 piano bar onboard. 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 to Shout and it 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 onboard was a nice size with a variety of machines. It never seemed to get very crowded. My husband and I learned what we could about playing craps before our trip. So we played it for the first time on the Paradise. The casino personnel we encountered were very friendly and helpful. There appeared to be good opportunities to try out new games at uncrowded 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 up to the Children’s World. One evening they had a Family Fun Fest for parents and kids at Children’s World, where they had a lot 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 appeared as though there will be a lovely shopping village right at the pier once the work has been completed. We took a cab, which cost $14 to Mr. Sanchos Beach Club. There was no cover to enter and there were small shops as you walked through to the beach area. Each shop owner was telling us why it’s best to come into his shop. 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. Although he didn’t mind the feel of it when he wanted to get his body buried in the sand like he saw one of our fellow passengers having done. We got there around 10:00 or 10:30, so it was not very crowded at all 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 5:00 pm (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. We all had a fun time and the mini-golf. And enjoyed meeting Scott (although Sally wasn’t there.) Grand Cayman – We went to Seven Mile Beach this day. There are public accesses in between many of the hotels along the beach. 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 the 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. There was a sand volleyball court, but no one was playing. Although, we were there early and I think it got busier and a little more active, later in the day. The margaritas and the mango daiquiris were delicious. Return: We booked a USAir flight direct from Miami to Pittsburgh scheduled to depart at 2:00 pm. 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 USAir to try to change it, but when I looked at the other flights, there really wasn’t a favorable alternative. Early in the week, I inquired at the Purser’s desk about debarking with the first group. He instructed me to bring my tickets to the desk. Upon doing so, he 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 am, 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, however there was a long line at security. Nevertheless, after passing through security I looked at my watch and it was 11:00 am. I think a flight earlier than 12 noon could be problematic and we were fortunate that everything went smoothly and had no problem making our flight. Overall: We had a fabulous vacation. It was a wonderful family trip for us; we got to spend time with our son and some time just the two of us as well, while our son had a ball with the other kids. I hope there is some helpful information for any of you planning to go soon!    

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Aug 31, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

2002 CARNIVAL PARADISE, sailing 9/1/02 for 7 nights to the Eastern Caribbean, visiting Nassau, San Juan, and St. Thomas. This was our third cruise, second on Carnival. Cruise Director was Josh Riffe. It was just the two of us, 40+ business professionals, cruising for our 23rd anniversary. We like good food, good service, dancing, karaoke, and cruising! AREAS WE DIDN’T USE, SO NO REPORT: We took no cruise shore excursions, did

them all on our own. We didn’t use the spa, gym, or the casino. Since we had late seating meals, we did not visit any of the late-night buffets. No kids along, so no Camp Carnival! PRE-CRUISE: We left Little Rock, AR, on Saturday morning, flying on American Airlines using Frequent Flier miles. Flight times had been changed, we had not been notified, but we made it anyway. When we arrived in Miami, the Jetway was not working, so we were delayed briefly waiting for airport maintenance to arrive to get the Jetway repaired and us off the plane. We caught a taxi at the airport, asking the driver to take us to the Sheraton Biscayne Bay. He repeated it, and we headed out. When he got to the first fork in the road, he asked us which way to go. Omen! Sure enough, he stopped six times asking total strangers for directions, including one person who said he didn’t speak English. (He finally confessed that he had been in the city for less than one week!) We drove around for almost 45 minutes. We asked him to call in to his office for directions, but he wouldn’t. We finally got out our cell phone to call the hotel for directions. When he heard us doing that, he picked up his cell phone to call his office. He got directions, we got the same directions, and we then arrived is less than 5 minutes. My husband was getting us checked into the Sheraton Biscayne Bay, while I protected the luggage. I heard someone call my name from behind – who do I know in Miami? It was Denise and JoAnn, who I had connected with via the Internet and cruise BB. We had exchanged pictures, and they had recognized us. We said quick hellos and made arrangements to meet the next morning for breakfast in the hotel. We had a lovely room on the 9th floor at the Sheraton. We had called a few weeks ago, after reading a note on a cruise BB about doing so, requesting a room overlooking the pier. They had warned me at that time that the current room reserved for us overlooked the city, but they would try. Unfortunately, they did not pull it off, but it was still a very nice room. We had a couple of drinks in the hotel bar, then grabbed a taxi to the Bayside Marketplace -- $3.00 each way. We had dinner at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company. We both had a great drink called Lava Flow and an excellent appetizer called Bubba’s Far Out Dip. My husband had Shrimper’s Net Catch, and I had Bucket of Boat Trash, both very good. We chose to dine on the patio, and a small boy slipped up from the outside asking for a few of our chips. We gave them to him, so then he hit us up for money, which we refused. It was an experience, but next time we’ll probably look for something a little more upscale. Then we went for a stroll around the Bayside Marketplace. Lots happening, good entertainment, lots of places to snap pictures, and great places to eat. Beware the kiosks. Attractive young people approach you to demonstrate and sell their wares. A young lady shined one of my fingernails to demonstrate her nail shining product, and a young man cleaned my husband’s glasses and rings. Both products were supposed to last for a couple of weeks. So while the demonstrations are impressive, everything was normal the next morning – save your money! Also watch your wallet and purses. Police were visible all over, but an adolescent made a reach for my husband’s wallet. Mistake, because he’s constantly aware of such movements, preventing a pre-vacation catastrophe. The kid was able to slip away though before we could point him out to the police. We eventually caught a taxi back to the hotel. EMBARKATION: The next morning, we headed to the lobby a little early for the Carnival Pre-Cruise check-in scheduled for 9 to 10:30 a.m. Both Carnival and Norwegian had tables set up for early check-ins, but Norwegian also had chairs for their guests – a nice touch! Denise and JoAnn were the only ones ahead of us, so the two Carnival agents checked us in simultaneously. Our agent smiled, showing us a nice upgrade. We had already discovered the upgrade several weeks early using the Kelly Method. We had booked Cat 6A Ocean view and had been upgraded to a Cat 11 with obstructed balcony. She advised us that we would be able to use the Skipper’s Club to wait in the Captain’s Lounge since we’d been upgraded to a Cat 11, and suggested we arrive at the port about 11 a.m. to avoid the rush. She said to keep the boarding pass she had given us in our hand, wave it every time we went by a Carnival employee, and keep asking for the Skipper’s Club. That completed, we all moved over to the lobby Grill for breakfast. Breakfast buffet for $12.50 per person, or order from the menu for about the same, so we all ordered the buffet. We watched the line for pre-cruise check-in grow as we ate our breakfast. We parted ways and checked out about 10:45 a.m. We caught a taxi in front of the hotel. This taxi driver was great! Their was lots of traffic at the pier that time of day, because guests were still leaving the ship while others, like us were arriving. Our taxi driver cut-in and out and honked with the best of them. While others might hate this scene, we found it part of the embarkation excitement. With tightened security, we had to show our boarding pass and our proof of citizenship before they would even allow our taxi to enter the pier boarding area. We unloaded our luggage right in front of the luggage bins marked Paradise. (There were two Carnival ships sailing this day, so it’s important to make sure your luggage is sent to the right ship!) The pier employees assisted us, and they were so busy, we had to force the tip on them. When we moved into the terminal, we found that better than a hundred guests had arrived even earlier than we had. We waved our boarding pass, just as the agent had instructed, and the gate agent said that when the line starts moving to go through the x-ray machine, then bypass the lines and go straight through to the Skipper’s Club. Although the boarding pass said boarding would start at 1:30, the line opened by 11:30 a.m. We did what the gate agent had said and ended up the second guest party in line at an escalator. We waited at the start of that growing line for about 30 minutes, and then took the escalator to a large waiting area in the terminal. We picked up our cabin keys, and it quickly struck us that we had totally missed the Skipper’s Club somewhere. No problem though, because everything was moving smoothly and quickly anyway. On the opposite end of the waiting area, we could still see departing guests exiting. A Carnival representation was trying to keep the embarking passengers out of the far part of the lounge to keep the embarking and departing guests well separated. But, people kept trying to enter that part of the lounge to wait, because that was where the action was and appeared to be the quickest way aboard the ship. In reality, the people seated in that area were the last out of the lounge, so trust the rep when they steer you away from an area! While we were waiting in this area, again we heard our names called, and again had that feeling of “who knows me here”. This time it was honeymooners, Mark and Joelle, who we had also met via the Internet on the cruise BB. It was a pleasure passing time getting to know them before boarding. We boarded by 12:00 Noon, stopping briefly to get our picture snapped with our “sail and sign” card and then again to get our first of many ship photograph taken while boarding. We quickly found our way to our Verandah suite 42. We liked the extra space and amenities in the room, including two closets, extra large desk, TV/VCR, refrigerator, and cabinet with glassware… and most important, a queen-size bed. The balcony was very small, holding only two plastic chairs and a small table, with very little room to move about. But, it didn’t appear to be obstructed, while we could see a walking platform outside our balcony. (Surprise, surprise … by the time we sailed, they had arrived with an orange 6-person boat that hung outside our room – the obstruction. We could still enjoy a nice view and enjoy the balcony even with the boat!) We had noted when getting our cabin keys that our dinner seating was early, when we had requested late. So, we immediately headed to the Card Room where these changes were being made. We were the only guests there, so they made the change immediately. We then moved on to the Paris Restaurant on the Lido Deck for a lunch of pizza. Very few guests were there when we first arrived, but many were filling the tables by the time we left about an hour later. We ordered beers at the Paris bar, but we were told that our “sign and sail” cards listed us as minors. At over 40, we were clearly not minors, so they served us, but this required a visit to the information desk to fix this very important problem. So, that was our next stop. We had time to tour the ship, join the Nassau Travel Talk at 2:30 (got a free t-shirt), and check out the dinner menu before the muster drill. The muster drill was fairly painless and required. This time, however, they not only lined us all up, but they also walked you from your muster meeting area to where you would actually board the lifeboats, which took a little longer. We dumped our life jackets back into the cabin and headed for the Sailaway Party on the Lido deck. SAILAWAY: We found our usual spot on the top deck overlooking the pier, where we start relaxing watching the terminal get smaller and the ocean get larger, with a couple of frozen drinks in hand. We met Steve and Connie there, who were on their 11th cruise and enjoy this same ritual, and they became our best friends on the cruise, meeting us often in various locations! The photographer found us again to snap our picture, followed soon after by the Video Diary videographer. We then headed for a Free Liquor Tasting in the Gift Shop Lobby. We tasted samples of the exotic flavors of Cruzan Rum – banana, orange, pineapple, coconut, and VANILLA (so wonderful the gift shop sold out!), plus other spirits. A great way to start the cruise! We dressed early, so we could make the Ballroom Dance Lesson at 7:30 in the Normandie Lounge. We learned or brushed up on the Cha-Cha for 30 minutes, then the Band played until 8:30 to allow us all the pleasure of dancing for another 30 minutes. Great fun! We were in the late seating for the Elation dining room with Maitre d’ Ricardo (his famous sayings: hellllooo, you look mahvelous, and ciao for now), head waiter Som and assistant waiter Kat, both from Thailand. Our table #176 seated six, in the center of an area with large circular tables in each corner. We were constantly bumped by waiters and passengers squeezing past our table – one of my few complaints on my end of cruise comment card. Som and Kat were attentive and friendly! Our table was three Southern couples – us from Arkansas, Johnny and Betty from Texas, and Herman and Deborah from Louisiana. It took us a few meals to relax and enjoy one another, but we became friends. Our Elation late dining times are breakfast at 9:30, lunch at 1:30, and dinner at 8:30. The 8:30 late dinner seating made it very difficult to make the late shows and find decent seats at all – another complaint on my comment card. The seats we always found were either awkwardly located or required viewing through a pole. For this reason, we attended very few shows in the Normandie lounge. First Night’s Dinner: Appetizer: Hickory smoked salmon, Grilled satay of chicken tenderloin (this was so great!) Soup: Cream of mushroom. Entrée: Rack of New Zealand Spring Lamb Dijonnaise, Catch of the day (Tilapia). We ordered a bottle of wine from the Chef’s Recommendations for five nights of the cruise, only one we didn’t love. The other two nights we brought a bottle of wine and a bottle of champagne to the dining room that we had carried aboard. Our waiter uncorked those bottles without charge on those two nights. We slipped into the Normandie Lounge at the last minute for the 10:30 Welcome Aboard Show, which was fun and entertaining. However, we didn’t enjoy the comedian, Joe DiCaprio, at all. He had a couple of funny one-liners, but the rest was simply dull in our opinion. DAY TWO, NASSAU, BAHAMAS, 7 am to 1:30 pm: Let me tell you the difference between eating breakfast in the Paris Buffet on the Lido deck and eating in your dining room on a port day – coffee refills! Both places serves buffet with the option of an omelet. In the dining room, you are seated at tables in the order you arrive. In Paris, you find a seat wherever. But coffee and juice refills are essential to those of us that require several cups to get going in the morning! We had visited Nassau previously, prior to the Straw Market fire, so we went into town at our leisure, visiting the stores we were interested in. We did not visit the new Straw Market. Then we caught the Ferry Boat to Atlantis. The cost is only $6 per person roundtrip. Beware: They say it leaves every 30 minutes, but it doesn’t leave until it’s full! We were the first ones on the boat and waiting over 40 minutes. We wished we had spent that time shopping nearby and got on closer to when it was full. There was a long walk from where they dropped us off, again manageable if you have no problem walking. Atlantis was beautiful! We visited the Casino, the shops, and the bar. Our main purpose was to pick up a Christmas present for a niece who likes Atlantis! We went back to the boat, waiting about 20 minutes before it headed back to the Nassau side. We got back to the ship in time for lunch! We sunned on deck with a bucket of beer for him and a frozen thingey (or two) for me. By the way, no problems with deck chairs at all. Chairs were always available around the pool and on every sun deck! Also, the water slide was popular with the young and the young at heart. A Carnival employee sat at the top of the slide to maintain control! Then we headed to karaoke at 3 pm in the Leonardo Lounge. I have to say, we had some very talented singers on our ship. Karaoke was fun, fun, fun! Unfortunately, they didn’t open the bar – they said they’d had problems in the past the first day with drinkers heckling singers, so they wanted to keep it nice the first day. Well, we all just wondered out to the US Bar, got our drinks, and brought them back. No hecklers found! Roger loves sushi, so we were at the Sushi Bar almost every night. The Sushi Bar is open every night from 5:30 to 8:00, and Larry is the sushi chef. It’s located just outside the Casino on the Promenade near the US Bar. Larry only gives four pieces of sushi per person. Toward the end of the week, he told Roger that he was his most regular customer, so he started giving him eight pieces each time, because Roger always went back for more. On day 3, others found this as well and formed long lines! We settled into the Promenade window seats with sushi and drinks as our pre-dinner snack! We noticed after several days that one of the ship’s captains was in the sushi area with us every night as well, so we engaged him in conversation one evening. Vito was delightful! He expects to return to the Pride shortly, then on to captain his own ship, maybe in 2003, maybe a ship called the Miracle! Tonight was the first formal night! Formal portraits were taken from 4:45 to 10:30 pm. The Captain’s Cocktail Party for Late Seating was at 7:15 in the Normandie Lounge. We enjoyed appetizers and Whiskey Sours and Rum Punch doctored with a Gin Martini on the Captain until dinner. We enjoyed the Band and dancing for the second night in a row! Dinner: Tonight we had the delicious Cream of Pumpkin Soup. I was the only one at our table who ordered it. My husband tasted mine and asked for him own. Then one by one everyone else at our table tasted it and ordered their own as well! Save your time – order it! If you don’t like it, don’t eat it – but I’ll bet money you’ll love it. This was also Lobster night. Som said everyone gets lobster, what else do you want. So everyone ordered Lobster and something. DH ordered Lobster and Prime Rib, I ordered Lobster and Pasta. (As others have stated, if you regularly get good lobster, this won’t excite you. But if you rarely get lobster, this will probably be a thrill.) Dessert: Chocolate Souffle. (Steak Note: The server offers only Medium Rare and Medium Well. That’s all! DH always asked Som to bring him the rarest piece he could find, and Som always accomplished this well!) Tonight at 10:45 was the first Broadway-style show called Dream Voyage. I didn’t think the shows were very good this week, but maybe it was just me and the struggle to find seats. Enough said! DAY THREE, SEA DAY: We slept in, grabbed coffee and a quick bite in the Paris Restaurant on the Lido deck, and went to the Normandie Lounge to attend the San Juan/St Thomas Travel Talks starting at 9:30 am. (They’re serving drinks in the lounge, but not coffee, so bring your coffee with you from the Paris!) They threw out free souvenirs and artwork, so arrive early and sit close on the lower level! It’s worth it! Played Bingo … lost! Then we sunned on the deck until our 1:30 lunch time. Lunch in the dining room …. Always fairly empty, always very good! Bingo again at 2:45 … lost! While playing bingo, our new found cruising friends, Steve and Connie, asked if we were going to the Repeat Cruisers Party next. We had not received our invitation even though we had marked Repeat Cruiser on our boarding pass and our TA had put our Past Cruiser number on our booking. So, this required yet a number trip to the Information Desk to straighten out … no problem, quickly resolved. The repeat cruisers party was at 3:30 in the Queen Mary’s Lounge – had to present your invitation to get in, but no one dressed up! More free drinks, appetizers, and small desserts! Music by the Highlights and dancing … we had a great time doing the twist all over the room! They gave away a bottle of champagne as a door prize. Sushi, of course, and then we dressed early for dinner because tonight they were taking more pictures! We posed for a few before heading to the dining room, and these turned out to be some of our best for the week, as we were dressed in clothes we were more comfortable in. Dinner: Appetizer: Freshly Grilled Portabello Mushrooms, Louisiana Tiger Prawns. Soup: Etoufee of Langoustine, Cream of Broccoli and Wisconsin Cheddar. Entrée: Grilled Black Tiger Jumbo Shrimp, Prime Rib. We met up with our cruise BB friends in the America’s Bar after dinner. We all moved to the Queen’s Mary Lounge to dance to more of the excellent music of the Highlights – the female singer was great! The comedian we didn’t care for was performing in this lounge at Midnight, so we left when he started and headed to bed! DAY FOUR, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: The ship had to clear customs before we could leave the ship. The first people allowed to leave the ship then were those who had booked morning shore excursions. The last were people like us who were taking in the city on our own. So, we enjoyed breakfast in the dining room before leaving. The cruise director had informed us that it was an easy walk for able-bodied people up to the fort. However, it was an extremely hot day, and we were very hot after just a few steps from the ship. The street was full of independent tour guides seeking willing tourists. A young man named Javier approached us, seemed trustworthy, had a nice looking 22-passenger van with at least 6 people already on it. He promised a tour of the city, a tour of the Bacardi Rum Distillery with at least 2 drinks each, and then drop-off in the shopping area. (Others were promising the Rain Forest and other such stops, so just look for one offering what you want to see. You can also work out other arrangements like a swim and ride back to the ship instead of shopping – just ask!) The cost was only $20 each. Beware though – they don’t leave until their vehicles are full! The tour was wonderful. In addition to seeing the forts and other points of interest, Javier also told us about the history, demographics, political and economic information about San Juan. We really enjoyed the visit to Bacardi, picked up some nice shirts there, and enjoyed trying a variety of mixed drinks (very small). However, we didn’t buy any liquor there, as it was less expensive and we could buy more duty-free in St. Thomas. Javier dropped us off at the Barachino Village, where the Pina Colada was invented, so, of course, we had to drop in there for a Pina Colada and some appetizers since we had missed lunch. We visited a few shops. Right across the street from Barachino was Gems and Pearls. I wasn’t interested in any of their jewelry, but they had some lovely pieces of artwork, and Roger negotiated a lovely piece of the Don Quixote collection for me. (We have a special affection for Don Quixote because of our Marriage Encounter connections!) At another store, we got postcards, t-shirts and souvenirs for home. Then we had an easy downhill stroll to the ship. We had planned to eat dinner at the Parrot Café this evening, and Javier, who had previously worked there as a bartended, had suggested we dress nicely for the evening meal there, so we were returning to the ship to change. But clouds rolled in with lightning during our return to the ship, so we decided to stay aboard for dinner! But, we still had time for sushi and drinks before dinner! Dinner: Appetizer: Duet of Gratinated Mussels and Shrimp Provencale, Grilled Baby Vegetables (everyone said, those aren’t baby vegetables, they’re just veggies cut small!) Soup: Wonton Soup, Cream of Tomato Entrée: Black Tiger Shrimp, Beef Wellington After dinner, we went to the Lido deck to watch the sailaway from San Juan. Then we went to the Leonard bar for karaoke singing in progress until midnight. No seats, standing room only, we sat on the floor, couldn’t get drinks, so we finally headed back to the Lido deck to enjoy Kooshall’s dance party – great fun and dancing! DAY FIVE, ST. THOMAS, US VIRGIN ISLANDS: We had breakfast in the dining room before heading ashore. We both had great omelets! We had made arrangement over the Internet for a tour guide to meet us on the pier for a day of activities. Unfortunately, we waited for more than 30 minutes past the times we had agreed upon and he never arrived. We gave up, taking a cab into St. Thomas for shopping, which was the first part of our plans anyway. Our first stop was Tanzanite International. Beautiful stuff, but my heart was set on some black pearl, opal, or coral jewelry, which I told the young lady that was assisting me. She said, oh, let me show you where to go, and she starts walking, and we follow. She walked out the door with us and down the street past many shops to the Bernard Passman Black Coral store. She took us in, introduced us to one of her friends, and she left! Her friend called over another person and together they assisted us in trying on several pieces. There were so many beautiful things in this store and exactly what I wanted. My husband suggested we wait to purchase later – and I’m hoping he’s surprising me with one of these pieces for Christmas! We visited Caribana to order our liquor, which they delivered directly to the ship for us – customs allows 4 liters of liquor per adult purchased in St. Thomas only. Great prices, and we got souvenirs, t-shirts, and postcards here as well. We were going to head back to the ship for lunch then catch another taxi to the beach for the afternoon. But, first we stopped at the St. Thomas post office to send our postcards. Leaving the post office we ran into Roy, who claimed that he’d been voted the #1 tour guide by the St. Thomas Chamber of Commerce for 14 years running. Roy said he would give us a 2 hour tour of the island, take us to Coki Beach for 2-3 hours, then another brief tour as he returned us to the ship, all for $20 per person. Since this was exactly what we wanted, we agreed to meet him back there at Noon. We were the last people to board a full open-air bus. Roy’s tour was great! He stopped to let us take pictures many times, and, in the most scenic areas, we lined up with our cameras, and Roy took our pictures against the scenic backdrop. Roy told us all about the island just like he was teaching school. I can probably tell you more about St. Thomas than I can for our hometown. He kept saying, is there anything else you were wanting to see. He dropped the beach lovers off at Coki Beach and took the rest on the remainder of the tour and returned them to the ship early. While my husband visited the changing rooms, I went to the beach to get chairs and an umbrella. An older man immediately began assisting me. A young man with dreadlocks came over, started yelling, knocking the chairs out of the older man’s hands. I started backing off quickly when the shouting began. Finally another man came over, removing the young man from the scene, and the older man took me and the chairs to the beach, with the younger man following us from a distant still shouting. As the older man set me up, he explained that the younger man didn’t want to greet customers, but only wanted to take them from him when it was apparent we were buying a service. A young woman approached me offering to braid my hair, but immediately backed off when I refused. Roger showed up about then asking questions about the services, and I advised him just to settle in to avoid another scene! We had missed lunch again, so we got hot dogs, french fries, and Island Girl drinks for me, beers for him! We dipped in the ocean several times, watching others snorkel and scuba dive. The beach was wonderful. A young lady sold me an ankle bracelet she had made for $5. We sunned, drank, relaxed, drank, dipped, and drank, until time for Roy to come. We washed the sand off our bodies at the changing rooms and got back to the gift shop just as Roy drove up, and we headed back to the ship. Roy was great … if you can find him, he’s a most kind, pleasant, interesting tour guide and person! We headed to the Lido deck for the Sailaway party, then to the US Bar for sushi before dinner! Dinner: Appetizer: Southwestern Style Egg Roll, Alaskan Snow Crabmeat Cocktail (there was one tiny sliver of crabmeat on top a pate of some sort!) Soup: French Onion. Entrée: Filet Mignon. Dessert: Crème Brulee. DAY SIX, SEA DAY: We slept in and still had time to make our late seating breakfast in the dining room at 9:30 a.m. Then we sunned until about 1 pm, because we had decided to take in our first cruise Art Auction at 1:30 in the Queen Mary’s Lounge. We registered at the door for the auction and got our raffle ticket. We purchased one lovely Thomas Kincaid picture to add to our collection of one at home! The line afterwards to complete the paperwork was long and painful. We had planned to go to the Galley Tour at 3:30 pm, but we were still standing in the line at that time! We got done just in time for … you guessed it, sushi and drinks! Tonight was the second formal night, so we dressed and did the picture stroll again! By the way, on this cruise, they took pictures somewhere on deck almost every night! So, take advantage of the opportunity to take the pictures, because you only buy them if you like them! Dinner: Appetizer: Escargot, Penne Mariscos. Soup: Black Bean Soup. Entrée: Tender Roasted Sirloin. Dessert: Baked Alaska. The second Broadway-style show, Shout, was in the Normandie Lounge at 10:45. It was a fun energetic show, and a great finish to our evening! DAY SEVEN, SEA DAY: We were awakened (it wasn’t early) by a knock on our door, where they were delivering the liquor we had purchased in St. Thomas. Good thing, because we had just time to get to our late seating breakfast in the dining room at 9:30. “Win a Cruise” bingo was at 10:30 … I lost! Then Josh did the debarkation talk at 11am. We went to the Lido deck at 1 pm for an Ice Carving demonstration, which just got done when a light rain started. Besides it was 1:30, time for our late seating lunch. Back to the Normandie Lounge at 2:30 for the always funny Newlywed and Not-So-Newlywed game. I stayed in the lounge for 10-game bingo, while Roger went to the deck to sun. We both enjoyed the sun and music of Kooshall, until it was time for sushi and drinks! Dinner: Appetizer: Smoked chicken fillets, Fettucine tossed in mushroom cream. Soup: Gumbo Creole, Navy Bean. Entrée: Chateaubriand. Dessert: Grand Marnier Soufflé Since we had boarded with gray TBA luggage tags, the debarkation instructions said to replace those with the correct color for your cabin which you could get from your room steward. We tracked him down and he said we had to get them from the Information Desk. Then we had to go stand in a long line at the Information desk just to get new cabin tags. (We really would have loved this correct information earlier in the day before everyone had their bills, complaining at the desk). You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned much about our room steward. He never introduced himself to us. We only got three towel animals. That was okay with us since this was our third cruise, but I felt sorry for the first-timers who were being served by him. The rooms were kept spotless all week. On Thursday, we wanted to take advantage of the laundry special, so we phoned him – that’s when we first saw him, and we had to have him name on our laundry order. His name was Peter. We were both tired and hadn’t even begun packing. Unfortunately, Roger was headed from the cruise to a business trip instead of home, so this required packing much differently than we’d packed coming in. It took a very long time, and when we finished we headed out to our balcony for one last breath of ocean air. DISEMBARKATION: Our late seating for breakfast this day was 8:15, so that was our first stop. We enjoyed many cups of coffee there with our tablemates who all showed up for this last meal, because we all had late flights. We left at 9:25 to clear our rooms by 9:30 as requested. (People with handicaps with one companion only, those with Miami shore tours, and those with early flights met in the Queen Mary lounge at 8:45 a.m. for early disembarkation.) They then called colors based on your cabin tag colors. (Those with TBA gray tags picked up new tags with the correct color for their cabin the night before at the Information desk.) Our color was called early, but we moved very slowly since we weren’t in any hurry to wait hours at the airport. By the time, we disembarked, our luggage was one of the last in the area, so it was easy to collect and leave. We dropped off our custom declaration form and caught a taxi cab in front of the terminal, providing a swift ride to the airport. OVERALL: While I’ve shared our real experience with you above – the good, the bad, the ugly – reality is that in our opinion there’s no such thing as a bad cruise. Nothing could ruin this cruise! We had a great time! We enjoyed San Juan, and we adored St. Thomas! The Paradise is decorated rather garishly, so the formal portraits taken against the actual ship décor were rather gaudy! We opted for the portraits with backdrops instead. The ship was kept clean, although there were frequently areas blocked off for cleaning or maintenance. We felt like the quality of the food had declined since our first cruise in 2000. We don’t know if it is just this ship or not. Service was good, but not exceptional! And, the shows were disappointing. The Paradise was a little too laid back for our tastes, so we probably won’t sail her again even though we enjoyed the smoke-free atmosphere! Our cabin was wonderful and well-maintained. We love our dining room servers! We made great friends, and we can’t wait to cruise again!    

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By CJ_CR

  • New

Aug 24, 2002

Western Caribbean

Embarkation- This was a very long process on a very hot day. We made sure we had everything filled out before we got in line but still it took us over an hour. Make sure you have some bottled water and some snacks with you as your there right around lunch time. We had a inside cabin with 4 of us. It was bigger than expected and our room steward was very nice. The overall impression of the Paradise was that it was clean, but the staff

was not overly friendly as in past cruises (probably because you pay up front for the gratuities) . They say you can change the gratuities at any time but the lines at the pursers desk are long and people we knew tried to change it and they were really discouraged and said to come back later in the cruise. There was a ton of kids running around the ship at all hours of the night and making it unable for adults to enjoy the pools. This is definitely not a cruise for anyone without children (save your money and go on a higher end ship). If you have never cruised before you might enjoy the ship (our kids did), but we have been on other cruise lines and we were disappointed. The ship photographers were very annoying and we finally told them to leave us alone. The cost to buy a picture or anything else on the ship for that matter is highway robbery. Cozumel- We went on our own to a beach called Par del Sol which was nice and there was a lot of things to do there for us and the kids. It was a bit crowed by the afternoon and the lack of shaded was disappointing. The water was clear and swimming was good.  We went into town in the evening to do some shopping which was a mistake.  The shop owners hassle you so much to buy from them and when you politely said “no thanks” some got really rude. We bought nothing and couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Grand Cayman- Was really nice. We pre-booked a tour with Captain Bryan over the net and eight of us went on his sail boat and had a great day. Snorkelling at a coral reef and then swimming with the stingrays. It was for 3 hrs and they were very friendly and helpful. We saw the cruise tours packed with people and it made us laugh that we had done our research before we went. Our tour was better and much cheaper! Ocho Rios- We again booked a tour before we left with Peat Taylor. It was nice and we got to the falls before the big crowds. He drove us through the rain forest which was nice. It was a private tour and he wasn’t trying to sell us anything. Shopping again in Ocho Rios is a hassle. The shop owners bug you so much that we didn’t what to buy anything from them. The Paradise food was very good and the kids got a lot of use out of the ice-cream machine and we bought one pop card and shared it. The kids could order Shirley Temple drinks on it. Alcohol drinks are very pricey and we would have the daily specials that were somewhat reasonable.  I guess Carnival makes the booking price cheaper but socks it to you once your on board. We won’t be going K-Mart cruising again!!    

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Jul 13, 2002

Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios

This is the first time I have been on a cruise in 24 years. But despite the many years, I still remember the kind of service and attention to detail that we were given on the S.S. Azure Seas in 1978. Since the Carnival Cruise Line was a bigger ship with a longer voyage, I was expecting the same. Unfortunately, I was severely disappointed. We sailed a 7-day cruise on the M.S. Paradise from 7/14/2002 to 7/21/2002. The ship left from Miami,

Florida and ported in Cozumel, Mexico, Grand Cayman, and Ocho Rios, Jamaica before returning back to Miami on Sunday. Many people aboard the ship had spent months, even years saving up the money to go on this cruise and by the end of the cruise, most I spoke with were also disappointed. The ship itself was a good ship. It was big, fairly luxurious, and offered a variety of pools and hot tubs. The M.S. Paradise currently has the distinction of being the only 100% completely non-smoking cruise ship in the world. And I think that this is one of its finest features as well as a great idea for non-smokers like myself. The ship has 13 separate decks, some of which are partially or completely restricted from passengers. These decks also include a “Funnel deck” mid-ship that allows for topless and nude sun bathing for Adults only. However there is rarely any security enforcing the “18 or older” policy. The “bow deck” at the front bow of the ship is usually a very popular deck to be occupied by the passengers aboard and I consider it to be a part of the overall cruise experience. But aboard the Paradise, the Bow deck is completely restricted and off limits and has been made to a “crew only” deck for the crew’s personal enjoyment. I was disappointed. From the moment you board the ship to the time you depart to go home, you are constantly hounded by “commercials” from the crew staff that want you to buy this and that, go to the casino, spend money at the Art show, etc. And while some of this might be normal, I thought it to be very taxing on me, especially when a cruise for the most part is supposed to be “all conclusive”. Let me assure you that with Carnival Cruise Line, it is NOT. Between gifts, drinks, and the Shore Cruises that they insist that you go on, it is easy to run up another $2,000 tab on top of what you may have already spent to go on the cruise! One good thing about Carnival was the food aboard the ship. The dining room food quality was excellent and plenty of food. The ship also sported three café’s and a 24 hour pizza shop. What they don’t tell you is that the café’s hours of operation are very limited. You must go only between certain hours to get any food. Be prepared to wait a long time in line for your food when you get there. And if they close at 4pm and you have been in line since 3:35pm and have almost made it to the food trays, guess what… You’re out of luck. They will close on you and take the food away! The Pizza shop is nice but again, be prepared to wait as long as 45 minutes to get anything. If it is one of the many hours where the dining rooms are closed and the café’s have shut down, the Pizza line can become VERY long as it is the ONLY place on the ship to get any food (besides room service). Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the cruise was in the staff and crew itself. From the first day of sailing, there was a very poor attitude from many of the staff. And even worse customer service. Bridge officers who would walk away when you asked them a question about are current location for example. Room Stewards who had a “devil may care, but I don’t” attitude about your room needs, extra towels, extra pillows, or service issues. Three separate times I had a problem with the cabin key not working to open my cabin door and although I alerted the Room steward and the Pursers Office, the problem was never fixed. At several of the bars, I found the drinks made to be small and very watered down for the extreme price you had to pay for them. And only after you had to ask twice or three times for a drink so the bartender would remember to make it. Pool Towels were another serious issue. It was delegated and assigned to each passenger as if the passenger was some sort of criminal. You were told several times that if you did not turn your towel in to the right person, you would be charged $22 for it. You literally had to submit your sign & sail card and sign a receipt for each towel obtained. And check it back in to avoid charges at the end of the day. Felt like a prison environment. Most of the crew not only had bad attitudes and unfriendly dispositions, but many of them were also hard to understand too. I realize that cruise ships often hire nationalities from all over the world, but many of them could not speak ANY English at all. And on an American based cruise, I find that to be a problem- especially in positions of customer service. Carnival Cruise lines have often been known for the vacation spot for families. And that means kids. Let me be more specific. That means a LOT of kids. Kids everywhere. Kids yelling. Kids screaming. Kids throwing temper tantrums. Kids fighting with each other. Kids screaming obscenities from the top decks down to the bottom decks. (At all hours day and night) Kids telling off their parents. Kids running up and down the halls at 3am sounding like a herd of elephants. Kids necking and being very sexually explicit on the decks and in the hallways. If you like giant daycare centers from which there is no escape… you will love Carnival Cruise lines. But it isn’t just the kids that could put a sour note in your day, Many of the other passengers and guests are well… less respectful and polite than you would expect. I can’t begin to count all the times I was knocked around, pushed over, run over (by a lady in a wheel chair no less) and even had a drink spilled on me when some of the passengers were fighting to get seats for a show, reach the dining room table, or just walking around the ship. The grand manners, respect, and elegance you saw from passengers in the movie Titanic… you will NOT find the majority to be, onboard a Carnival Cruise Ship. Trying to get a seat at a show is like trying to change lanes on a Los Angeles freeway- “Cover me honey… I am going for a chair!” Speaking of the nature of some of the guests, it might interest you to know that on this 7 day cruise, there were 7 arrests, 3 severe injuries, 9 fights, and 1 passenger placed in suicide watch. And these are just the ones I am familiar with. One of the things you will be constantly hounded to buy are the Shore Tours that are “Officially” approved by Carnival Cruise Lines. They are very expensive but ensure safe travel and a guarantee that you will not be left behind by the ship should you be late. Both of those points I later found out were complete hype. We were told at all three stops that there were some very dangerous places (especially in Jamaica) and that you would only be safe on their tours. This simply wasn’t true at all. All three tours I went on were nice but no where near worth the money we paid. Every tour also spends much of the time taking you not to the sites but to make-shift tourist centers where you are further encouraged to spend even more money. Often other stops are made in places that make you wonder why you are there. For example, an old broken down house out in the middle of nowhere? Why? In Ocho Rios, Jamaica, I would STRONGLY recommend against the Safari Jeep Tour unless you have all your insurance up to date, your last will and testament complete, and you’re ready to die in a car accident. Without going into all the details, 90% of the folks that went with me on that tour were scared to death of the extreme driving tactics and the dangerous chances taken by the tour drivers. Many of the tourists complained but it fell on deaf Carnival ears. The best way to enjoy shore leave at these various ports is the ignore Carnival and all of their hype, study up beforehand about the area and arrange your own trips. You will find it to be a lot less expensive and a lot more fun. You’ll do 5 times what the Official tours will do for one 5th the money! Finally, the one other thing that really upset me about Carnival was the fact that even though I paid for a 7-day cruise, it was pretty much over by the end of the 5th day. Once the ship was headed back to Miami, food café’s permanently shut down, food variety all went away, shows stopped running, activities reduced to one or two only. Deck chairs were taken away. Pool towels were removed permanently, and the general attitude of the crew was they could care less about you and they were done with their job for the week. It was very upsetting. During the final night, many passengers were walking around trying to find something to do. Of course, you were always encouraged to go to the Casino and make a “donation” to spend your time. Yeah right… In conclusion, the cruise did have a few good points and there were a few staff members who were every bit the quality and service you would expect. The locations we went to were nice. Grand Cayman Island was my favorite! And the food was good when you could get it. But overall, the experience was nowhere near what I would expected on a cruise ship. The attitudes and service overall was very poor. They wanted your money but didn’t care about your time. And true quality was a rare thing to find. So much different from what I remembered from the cruise in 1978. I don’t think I will sail again with Carnival and while the 100% non-smoking ship was an excellent idea, it doesn’t make up for the lack of quality and professional experience in its staff. I think I will try Royal Caribbean next time.    

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Jun 29, 2002

Western Caribbean

went on the paradise for a 7 day western caribbean cruise. left from phoenix arizona on saturday using the fly and sail option thru carnival. arrived in miami and stayed at the wyndham airport hotel. embarkation: due to tightened security the line to get on the ship took about 30 minutes.... boarded the ship and went to our cabin (u49) found it to be spacious and comfortable. we had an oceanview and recommend it to everyone. it

is nice to lookout at the ocean when you get up in the morning or just leave the curtains open at night and view the stars. left to go to the safety drill at around 4pm (20 minutes) and returned to our cabin to find all our luggage had arrived. set sail at 4pm....went to meet our dinner companions in the elation dining room (early seating 6:15)... food and dining: the food in the elation dining room was excellent. wife is a vegetarian and she had very good selections on the menu each meal...the food was very good and well prepared and the presentation was very appealing. our head waiter, alejandro, and assistant pedro were very friendly and efficient. we ate dinner in the elation room every night and had snacks at the paris restaurant during the day.... ship: the ship was very easy to get around and well laid out. the decor was very nice and festive. weather: we were a little concerned about the weather when we booked the cruise back in february since it was the beginning of hurricane season . we had great weather ..it was around 85 degrees our entire trip except in ocho rios where it was very hot and humid. we ended up swimming in the ocean to beat the heat and humidity. ports: our first port was cozumel where we went to passion island. there we went swimming in the ocean and had lunch. we had a great time and the water temp was perfect ....second was the grand caymans where we went swimming at the colony beach hotel...it rained for about 15 minutes there and that was the only rain we had during the cruise...final port was ocho rios where we went shopping at margaritaville and went swimming in the ocean there. entertainment: the shows at the normandie room were great...josh ,the cruise director was very funny and witty....the talent show on the last day was very good and entertaining....lounge shows were the best...the "just du-ets" were top notch and had a different show each night from rock & roll, country, to easy listening...also the hi-lites in the queen mary lounge played music from the 60- 70's.....there was room to dance at both lounges...there was also a lounge reserved just for teens where no adults were permitted. it was full of teens every night and they all seemed to be enjoying themselves. photos: we highly recommend that you take advantage of the many ship photographers who are ready to take your picture throughout out the ship.. it's free to have your picture taken you only pay for the ones you want to purchase... recap: this was a great cruise...the food was great, the weather was great, the non-smoking was the icing on the cake, the crew and entertainment were outstanding. we recommend this cruise to everyone....carnival does a great job for a great value....there is something for everyone on this cruise whether you are very active or just looking to relax and unwind.

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By Sara_CR

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Jun 8, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

We took this cruise with high expectations, which it failed to meet in most categories. Embarkation: We flew into Miami and had paid for the shuttle service. After we finally found our cruise representative who was less than helpful, we followed him to a line that seemed to go on forever. I thought, “those poor souls must be waiting for something really great.” It turned out to be the line that we were standing in…at the

end! After being told that the line “moves really fast” by a representative we stood there for an hour and twenty minutes. The rest of the embarkation went much smoother. The lines moved rapidly at the terminal and we were on the ship in about 30 minutes after we arrived there. When we got to the room 3 of our bags were already there! The last one arrived at about 10pm. Room steward: Oscar was fair. We asked to have our beds made into one he pushed them together and, well that was it. Separate sheets and blankets the first night of our honeymoon is not exactly what I had in mind. I never saw him again, I only saw his assistant a few times. However everything was always cleaned up when we came back from dinner which was nice. The second night (after a $5.00 bill was left for him) he made our bed with new sheets. We called the automated service a couple of times for the steward, but he never came to the room. Dining: The Paris was, well buffet food. In my personal opinion I thought that they were using dining room leftovers. Breakfast: We liked this breakfast better than the dining room, it always seemed a little fresher. I had the omelet in both places and the one in the Paris was much warmer. Another great alternative is room service. The Danish was very good. Lunch: Everyday they had rice, usually with peas in it and called it “fried rice” one day and “rice pilaf” the next. 3 days in a row for lunch there was chicken. The first day baked unseasoned, the next seasoned with a sauce, the third falling off the bone in bbq sauce. The pizza was good as long as it was hot, as it cooled off it was bland. Dinner: We tried it twice, and both times it was fair. Nothing to write home about. Loved the soft serve ice cream though! Dining room: We had requested early dining and ended up with the latest possible, which had good & bad sides (I’ll explain later). Presentation of the food was wonderful! Our waiter and his assistant were great. Always there with a smile. The food was very tasty as well. The lobster tail was great and the prime rib was the best that we had ever had. The soups I found to be okay. They seemed to puree them all; I like my soup a little chunky I guess. The desserts were my least favorite. I went to the Paris for ice cream. Our tablemates were great. One couple only lives about 3 hours from us (we are from Wisconsin). Shows: Here is where the dinner seating plays a role. We had 8:30 seating and all the late shows started at 10:30. By the time we got to the Leonardo it was FULL. Either the lighting equipment or any number of columns blocked the very few seats that were available. This was made more frustrating when we went to see a comedian (we skipped dinner to get a good seat) and found the first 3 rows occupied by unsupervised children. The comedian made the mistake of asking them where their parents were, which led to them yelling things at them through the entire show. Apparently the parents were either embarrassed or simply nowhere to be found. The midnight comedian (18 & over) was okay except there was no room for everyone. Decks: The decks were clean and as long as we were not by the pool we could usually find a chair. Again the unsupervised kids made this experience one I would like to forget. The hot tubs are marked “No children under 18 allowed”, this was not enforced, and there were kids constantly running past everyone. I actually watched them elbow past people on the staircases. The one day that we did go to the pool and hot tubs, we had just gotten out when 2 boys cannonballed into the pool disregarding the fact that it was full of people. Within 5 minutes they had the pool to themselves. I know that it was not ALL the children on the boat that behaved this way, but the parents of the ones that acted this way are to blame. I am convinced that they had the mind set that the kids couldn’t get into too much trouble, abducted, or lost so they turned them loose with a “fountain fun card” let them get all hopped up on caffeine and run around the boat. Okay that’s enough on the kid’s aspect. General ship stuff: We were disappointed that there was no place to dance, other than the disco that was not exactly our taste in music. The main atrium bar was the nicest, we liked the 3-piece string group that played. The photo gallery towards the end of the week was very messy, not to fault the staff but the other passengers. Ports: Nassau…Dirty. That was my first impression of where we were. We opted to not go on any tours in Nassau because we wanted to sleep in. We stayed on shore for about an hour then had enough. San Juan: Better. We went on the Old San Juan tour with the museum. We liked this a lot. Our tour guide was great. After the tour we went for a walk downtown and finally ended up at the Hard Rock Café for supper and drinks. The bartender was great. He bought us each a beer and talked to us a little while. St. Thomas: We will be going back! We took the Magen’s Bay tour. It was beautiful! We got our pictures back and it just does not do it justice! This, by far, was the highlight of our trip. The water was beautiful and warm. I could have stayed there all day, but we only had 2 hours. Then up to Paradise Point, it was nice but real touristy. We then went shopping. Bought nothing though, not that they don’t have good deals just nothing caught my eye. Debarkation: Well, I sprained my ankle early the day before, so we stayed in our cabin as long as we could because we were close to the elevators and only had to go up one floor. We were the last color tag to be called which was at about 10:30 am. Then off to the shuttle which went much quicker than the first time! No complaints here. Conclusion: All in all it was a decent trip. We have decided however that if we were to cruise again we would go on a different line (not “the fun ships”) and not as a romantic getaway because it was anything but that for us. It would be fun for a family reunion or a group of friends. We plan to vacation in St Thomas again, it breathtaking. Good luck and I hope this helps.    

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May 24, 2002

Nassau, Casa de Campo and St. Thomas

First, let me give you a bit of information on us, to frame the review below. I am 46 and have been on 2 Carnival cruises before – Donna is 40 and this was her first experience on a cruise ship. I’ll also add that these are our observations – colored by our experiences, likes and dislikes. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I welcome people to agree, disagree or ask questions about anything in this review – my email is posted

below. We booked the May 25th sailing of the Paradise directly with Carnival – as a past guest I got a reasonable discount, but would suggest going through a travel agent or internet service like I-cruise. We didn’t have the opportunity to get any cabin credits and the ship was supposedly full, so no upgrades were available. Our cabin was an outside stateroom on the Empress deck aft. If you are arriving in Miami the day before your cruise I highly recommend taking advantage of one of the early check in desks at several of the hotels. We stayed at the Hyatt downtown (using Hyatt points for the stay) and walked 2 blocks to the Marriott Sunday morning about 10:00 to pre-register – that saved us a ton of time when we got to the port. We took a $12 taxi to the port, gave our luggage to the porters with an appropriate tip and marched right past the check in lines and up the escalators to get our Sign and Sail cards. At approx 11:30 they started herding people through the process of taking pictures at the security station (matches your pic with your sign and sail card – these machines were used whenever you got on or off the ship) and once through that process, we were directed to the escalators. Not sure how this happened because there were 30 – 50 people in front of us, but we took a ‘short-cut’ and were the 1st ones on the ship – what a feeling! I won’t go through a description of the ship – I read one review where one person as disappointed with all the wood and brass. I’ve sailed the Inspiration and my personal feeling is that I liked the Paradise more – all the neon on the Inspiration was a bit much for my taste, but that’s just me. Since all Fantasy-class ships have the same layout, I knew where I was going pretty much all week – poor Donna never did quite get her bearings, but when she ventured out on her own she always managed to find her way so no problem. The ship was clean and well cared for, the staff friendly and helpful, although we did find the photographers a bit pushy at times. We did a tour of the spa – the staff there is rated and I assume paid, on the number of treatments they sell in a week. We found the services overpriced and while we initially made an appointment for a ‘couples massage’ we changed out mid later in the week (after seeing our interim Sign and Sal account statement) and cancelled before the 24 hour cancellation period kicked in. We used the gym facilities twice during the week and were a little disappointed by the services in the gym. For those unfamiliar with the equipment (air resistance as opposed to weight machines) the person assigned to work in the gym was more interested in selling metabolism evaluations that in helping people with the machines. The treadmills were crowded both times we were there, but the wait for machines were not bad and there were enough free weights for the hard-core lifters. We had the 8:00 late seating in the Destiny dining room – we preferred to have free time in the early evening and our head waiter and assistant waiter were good – not spectacular, but good (Louis said he was just back from a 3 month vacation and seemed to be having a bit of a hard time getting back into the swing of things). For those that like to rag on Carnival for the quality of the food, all I can say is that we did not have a bad meal in the dining room or the buffets. We’re not gourmets and when you’re preparing meals for 2,500 people each night, you can’t expect the Russian Tea Room at every meal. The food was well prepared, nicely presented and there was a lot of it – the shrimp, scallops and beef were particularly good. The entertainment was good – the 1st comic was a bust (Eddie Capone – the “Godfather of Comedy” should be whacked), but the other 2 comics they had were very good. Troy Litton did a good job as cruise director and the 2 social hosts (Erin and ‘Karl with a K’) kept things going. We hung out one evening in the Americana bar – a sing-along piano bar where even is you don’t know all the words to “American Pie” you can sign along with everyone else and have fun. The disco seemed to be deserted every night. The ‘Vegas-style’ shows in the Normandie lounge were good and the dancers and musicians give you your moneys worth in effort, if not talent (this isn’t Broadway after all). The Majestic Casino was busy most evenings, although Donna was disappointed there wasn’t more action at the craps table. All-in-all we did well, taking home a smidge more money than we came to gamble with. On this trip the Paradise stopped in Nassau on Monday, Casa de Campo on Wednesday and St. Thomas on Thursday. As far as shore excursions are concerned, we booked our own in Nassau and has a great time. We used Barefoot Sailing Cruises www.barefootsailingcruises.com  and it was well worth the money (print their add from the internet and you get 10% off the $49 ½ day sail and snorkel. We called Barefoot from the dock and met the bus there at 8:30 for a 10-minute ride to the marina. Even though they directed us to the wrong sailboat, we had a good time – motoring to Athol Island. After a short lesson for those that hadn’t snorkeled before, it was in the water for 45 minutes or so of great snorkeling. The Disney Wonder was in port the same day as us and after about 30 minutes of pretty much having the reef to ourselves, a large excursion boat pulled up 75 yards away and started to disgorge about 100 people into the water. We pulled anchor and set sail for the return trip around Athol island and back to the cruise ship dock. With the exception of a squall that blew through and caused us to lower the sails and motor the last few miles in, it was a great excursion – Eryn at Barefoot was very, very helpful and I’d highly recommend these folks in Nassau to anyone. We took a ship excursion in Casa de Campo and al other reviewers may have mentioned this is the only way to go here other than staying on the ship. Casa de Campo is a resort and there is nothing to do or see there. As took the Saona Beach Catamaran excursion and it was the best one Donna and I booked all week. After a 30 minute bus ride to Bayahibe (bi-a-he-bay), they put you on boomerang boats out to an (approx) 80 foot catamaran for a 2 hour or so sail to a their own section of beach on Saona island. Each tour company has their own spot and while the beach wasn’t the best (lots of rocks and some sea grass) the food was terrific and the water crystal clear and warm. The sail to Saona was great – they break out the rum and Pepsi or beer for those who prefer that and the music cranks up for those who want to dance. After lunch on the beach and some time to relax or swim we boarded 5 speedboats for the ride back to Bayahibe. The ride was great and as long as people are careful getting into and out of the boats, you’ll have a fantastic time. We stopped at the ‘Pricina Natural” – a sand-bar about ½ mail off shore with waist deep water to swim in - more rum was consumed here with games in the water and a good time (with or without the rum) was had by all. The 20 minute ride back to Bayahibe was great as the D.R. coastline whizzed by. I’ve heard this tour sometimes runs the opposite way – speedboats to Sanoa and the cat back to Bayahibe – either way we had an excellent time. Our last stop was in St. Thomas. Since Miami was going to be our next stop, everyone on the ship had to clear immigration in St. Thomas. This was a bit of a hassle as they tell you to line up early in the morning (7:30 AM I think) and tell you that everyone has to clear customs by 10:30. We could have gone to the Promenade deck at 8:30 and completed the process in 30 seconds – instead we went early and waited in line with everyone else. We booked the St. John Champaign Sail and Snorkel through the ship and while it as nice, we were a little disappointed. We had been told the catamaran would go to Trunk Bay on St. John and we ended up on Honeymoon Beach. I had really wanted to see Trunk Bay, after hearing so much about the beach and snorkeling there. The crew of our boat was very nice, we sailed over and back, along with Champaign, ‘pain killers’ and good snacks after snorkeling on a reasonable reef and still had time to take a taxi into the shopping area of Charlotte Amalie ($3 pp each way). There are other tours offered but it’s very easy to get around St. Thomas and if we had it to do over again we would have done St. Thomas / St. John on our own. We’ll definitely be back in the USVI. Our last 2 days were at sea and the weather cooperated nicely – hot and sunny with lots of opportunities for laying out. We never had a problem getting a deck chair the entire week and the bar staff was always available if / when we needed them. We ended up purchasing a number of the pictures and bought the duty free liquor from the ship instead of St. Thomas – if you want to bring back alcohol at great prices, St. Thomas is the place to do that. We also brought a bottle of vodka onboard in our luggage – most of our dinner-mates did the same and while Carnival frowns on the practice officially, they do nothing to stop it. Next time we’ll bring a few bottle of wine for dinner – one dinner companion did just that (they brought on 3 bottle actually) and was kind enough to share with us all – thank you Tom ! Carnival charges a $10 ‘corkage’ fee for wine brought to dinner – still less expensive than buying it off their wine list. The one bummer the whole trip was when Donna lost a very expensive Movado watch. The Carnival staff were efficient, but not much help in seeing if anyone turned it in, so if anyone finds a gold and silver ladies Movado on the Paradise, please let us know! Debarkation was relatively painless – you can wait anywhere on the ship for your luggage tag color to be called, which is different from my earlier experiences on Carnival. We made it off the ship (3rd color called), found our luggage and got out of Customs in about 40 minutes. Porters were there to help and I’d recommend using them – they save you from standing in the long customs line and it’s worth the tip. We found a shuttle van to take us to Ft. Lauderdale ($15 pp) and were on our way home with one last look over our shoulders at our home away from home for the last 7 days. All in all it was an excellent vacation and I highly recommend Carnival and the Paradise. Any cruise is what you make of it – if you go with an attitude and give people on the boat attitude, you’ll get it back. If you go, relax, participate in the actives, meet and enjoy people, smile and have fun – well that’s what life is all about isn’t it? Treat people like you want to be treated, enjoy the experience for all that it offers you and leave the world a better place than you found it. If anyone would like any additional information, my email address is doyleb@yahoo.com  and I’ll try and get some of the digital pics loaded in my yahoo briefcase later this week.    

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By Fred_CR

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May 21, 2002

Southern Caribbean

2002 Overall from the booking online to checking in was Great.. The Cruise we great too... It was a 10 day Cruise, just to let you all know, 10 Day Cruises cater to Older folks, I mean old and the Entertainment and food will be cater to them as well... I would recommend a 7 day cruise to avoid this problem, also Make SURE when you go to the Spa, you check with them at the desk and ask them what you signed up for, we went in for a basic

massage and a Facial for like 140.00 dual package deal because we took the Spa tour, well we were charged Regular price over 240.00 for services we didn't request, Carnival wouldn't help since the Spa wasn't part of their business.. we finally got a Percentage off after making a big deal about it. After 5 Cruises and 3 on Carnival.. I think we won't sail with Carnival again.. well go to NCL next time.     

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May 11, 2002

Eastern Caribbean

We took the Paradise to the Eastern Caribbean, and it was our third cruise in less than one year, so we are a bit spoiled! Due to medical reasons, we are fitting a lot of adventure into a little bit of time. We had a great time, with just a few annoyances. Embarkation- this went very smoothly, since my husband was in a wheelchair. He can't stand for long periods of time, and this is a good option for some people, when embarking.

Once we got to the ship, they were very accommodating, and we got on the ship very quickly. The man who assisted us was so friendly, and made us feel welcome. Also our luggage was delivered within an hour, which was record time! The women who "helped" us board the bus from the airport (Fort Lauderdale) to the ship were NOT so helpful though, and refused to help with either the wheelchair or the luggage, and did not make a good first impression on anyone on our bus. A man who also worked with them did apologize for them though. I would think they could take a few lessons in hospitality, since they are the first people to greet us from Carnival. Personally, I think a cab would have been a better option! Rooms- We had a suite this time, with a private balcony, and Jacuzzi. It was very nice, but more like an ocean front hotel room, than the real fancy, luxury, suite, that you might expect after looking at cruise brochures. I was actually pretty content with smaller cabins on previous cruises, since we don't spend much time in our room on a cruise anyway. In other words, I would not choose to spend the considerable extra money for an upgrade, even though we did enjoy the Jacuzzi, balcony, extra closet space, and dressing table, with mirrors. The bed, on the other hand, was uncomfortably HARD. Also we were on the Upper deck, and for some reason, we heard A LOT more noise this time than on any other ship. What we COULDN'T hear in our room was the ship's announcements. I guess some prefer it this way, but it was a pain to have to open the door, and stick our heads out in the hallway to hear what was going on. We had a plumbing problem at one point, but it was taken care of immediately, so we had no complaints about that. Life boat drill- I know this is mandatory, and I understand that, but they promise it will just take 15 minutes, when in fact, it takes 45 minutes, minimum. And they seem to be getting longer and longer, since they are now in English AND Spanish, which was new to us, and made the whole thing TWICE as long as usual. Customs- This is another necessary process, before entering another country, but the lines were unbelievable, and it seems there could be an easier way to organize this. At one point, the cruise director announced that the lines were gone, and everyone howled, because he was so obviously misinformed. The lines wrapped around the whole deck of the ship at that point. Service- The Paradise is one of the ships that automatically adds the gratuities to your charges. This is very convenient, since you don't have to set aside large amounts of cash for tipping, but I feel it reduces the incentive of the service staff to please. This was pretty obvious, especially with our cabin steward, who never even smiled at us. Also we had small items missing from our room, which were never recovered. This never happened to us before. In the past, we got much friendlier service. From speaking to some of the waiters, they preferred the old system of cash gratuities from the passengers too. So, we have mixed feelings about the new system. You are still able to ADJUST the amount you want to give, if you would like to give more or less, but it involves a trip to the purser's desk to make the adjustment. They aren't that friendly either, but at least they stay open, unlike the shore excursion desk, which is almost never open. Food Service- We found the food on the Paradise to be about average, and somewhat better than on the last cruise, but not quite as good as on our first cruise. We usually called room service for breakfast. The pastry rolls were pretty decent, and if you like Brie, the roast beef and Brie sandwiches were quite good. The room service menu is VERY limited, but easy to use, and took about 15 minutes for the food to arrive. The Paris Grill on Lido deck was our choice for lunch, and had better cuts of meat than the dining room, most of the time. Also they had wonderful rolls at the salad bar. And what a pleasure to sit outside on the deck, for lunch. The tables are at the very end of the ship, past the 24 hour pizza bar. We preferred to eat dinner in the dining room every night. It was nice to talk with our table mates, and compare notes, and get to know the waiters, who also entertained us some nights. So, we tried not to miss that. We like the early seating, and a large table, with 4 couples, for more variety. We had the best table we've ever had, with a great ocean view. Our waiters were quiet types, but very efficient, and they warmed up later in the week. The maitre d' was probably the best we ever had, and a lot less irritating than most. The entertainment was fun. They have a new policy of rationing the bread basket though, instead of setting it on the table, which is aggravating, but I guess the price of bread must have jumped? Who knows? They would give you more than one roll, if you requested it, but they refused to leave the bread basket with you. The filet mignon was quite good, but otherwise, the meat proved to be a bad choice. It was tough most of the time. I think people were happier with the pasta, and sea food dishes, and soups, salads, and desserts. My drink of choice was Miami Vice. Delicious! The bar service was good, but a little slow. The Gala buffet (towards the end of the cruise week) is worth seeing and photographing, but we didn't usually like eating at midnight. The Galley tour was interesting, but I wouldn't wait in the long lines for that again. Entertainment- We enjoyed sitting in the sun, and listening to the Band on the deck. We also enjoyed all the comedy shows- early and late night. The other shows were more of the same, if you have been on other cruises. We did enjoy the guest talent show more than others we have seen, because it featured a lot of praise music, which was a pleasant surprise for us. Ports of call- The Bahamas- This is one of our favorite places. I love the spirit of this Island. Paradise Island is worth seeing, if you have never been there, but they have a short day on this particular cruise, so you might not see it all. The hotel , and aquarium tour, and beach are a must see, for first timers, but would leave little time to see the rest of the city. I heard good things about The Blue Lagoon, but haven't been there. We chose to go off on our own this time, and it was worth it. I would skip the $20 carriage ride, since it was short, and nothing special, but we took a taxi to Ardastra Gardens for $4 each, and almost had the whole place to ourselves. Check ahead for the hours, if you want to go. It's a lovely, peaceful, small, tropical garden, and zoo. The Botanical Gardens are nearby too, but haven't yet re-opened after the hurricane, and I haven't been there. Ardastra Gardens has people friendly tropical birds, and flamingos, and you can get up close and personal with them. The flamingos put on a show twice a day too. This is a good place for kids, and the local school children come often for field trips. They were well behaved, and it wasn't ever crowded there, even when their bus showed up. I know one cruise line does take a tour there, but not the Paradise. It could be crowded in that case, but we were alone there most of the morning, and it was a wonderful find. They don't have a lot of large zoo animals, like we are used to, but a nice variety of unusual. Tropical animals. They also have restrooms, a gift shop, and small snack bar. We also had time to shop in the straw market, which is an adventure for the brave at heart. Don't go there if you are easily offended by pushy vendors. It's fun though, if you can deal with it! Same with the hair braiding. It usually looks really nice, when you get it done, but the ladies are pushy, although not as bad as in the straw market! San Juan- We had a long day in San Juan, and I expected to enjoy that the most, but I enjoyed it the least. Most the people we met went on the city tour, and the distillery tour. They thought it was okay, but they don't allow any photography in the distillery, and that disappointed some. We went on the Rain Forest Tour, which was our biggest disappointment. In hindsight, I would try to book this tour with a local tour company that offered a longer stay there. We had an adventurous, ride up the mountain (which seemed to bother a few, but I thought it was nice), and stopped at a local store for a snack, and bathroom break, although I saw a bathroom on the bus. Then we got to the Rain Forest (about a 45 minute drive, or so), and stopped at a SMALL waterfall. You CANNOT get in it to swim, but you can climb up the rocks for a photograph, if you are in reasonably good shape, with good shoes. Only a few tried it. Then back on the bus for a ride further up, and a short walk through the forest, where you will see some trees, ferns, a few flowers, and that's about it. We never saw a single animal, not even a lizard or a frog. You can buy postcards up there. Then you go back down on the bus, and stop at a tower, which you can go up for a view of the forest. That's it. The shame is that the locals know the best part is at the bottom of the Rain Forest (an hour and half hike, or so I'm told), where the BIG waterfall is that you can actually swim in. We came prepared with water shoes, and the whole bit, and were disappointed. The tour guide, who was German, and seemed very miscast as a guide in the Puerto Rican Rain Forest, was not very helpful, and we could not find a taxi to get a later ride back down to the ship. It probably would have cost quite a bit too. So, we had no choice, but to leave with the tour, even though we had SEVEN more hours until the ship left. I think Carnival should plan this tour better, and allow people more time for the real Rain Forest highlights. Instead they plan for another tour bus to come up there for a second tour, later in the day, and rush everyone through it. When we got back, we just shopped in San Juan, but it was hard to find a restaurant to eat in. We finally found a small, diner, where the locals eat, and my husband thought the food was quite good. Others said they ate at the Hard Rock Cafe there. It's VERY Americanized in San Juan, and you will find a lot of products from home. In fact, it was too Americanized for my tastes. I guess you would have to get out of the city to see more of the local culture. We were just rather bored with it, even though I had always wanted to go there. St. Thomas, Virgin Islands- This was our favorite port. I had heard that a lot of people would have rather spent more time here, and less in San Juan, and now I know why. We took a taxi to Magen's Bay ($6 each for the taxi, and $3 each to enter the beach, which they forget to tell you), early in the morning, ON OUR OWN (which I am starting to think is the way to go, but we are just getting enough confidence to do that.). The taxis here are open air taxis, and more like mini buses. They usually like to FILL them, before taking off, so be prepared for wait for more passengers. That was a REAL adventure!! Whew! Those mountain roads were something else, and be sure to ask the taxi driver to stop for photo ops!!! Great views! Our driver tried to talk us into going to another beach, but we had heard good reports about Magen's Bay, so stuck with our original plan. It was worth it. It's very peaceful there, and the sand is the softest I have ever experienced! The water is crystal clear, and you can see the little fish. You can also rent beach mats. There is no coral to beat up your feet, like in the Bahamas. It was perfect, and the view is beautiful, and is one of the top rated beaches in the world. There is a rest room, and gift shop, and snack bar, but they are more expensive than most. On the way back, we passed a dairy that advertised the best rated milkshakes by some travel magazine?, but we didn't know enough to ask our taxi driver about that. You might want to do that? We took the Kon Tiki Party boat at noon, and that was a very interesting looking boat. Most of the sun is on the top level, and most of the action is on the bottom level. If you like Rum punch (I don't), and loud music, and drunken dancing, and fun, you will enjoy this. It was okay. We have done it before on other party boats. This one looked nicer, but was more of the same, and it got kind of crowded by the time they picked up all the passengers. Some elderly, rich, couples on a private, yacht mooned, and flashed, our boat, and got some loud cheers! That was DIFFERENT! Like I said, it helps to be drunk on this boat! We got off at a beach called Honeymoon Beach, but after Magen's Bay, it did NOT compare. It was rocky at the shoreline, and there was none of that baby powder soft, white, sand. Also, BE WARNED, that if you take the Kon Tiki Party boat, that they pick up passengers from other cruise ships, that are NOT non-smoking ships, which means you are going to have to deal with a lot of smoke in your face. That just made us appreciate the non-smoking Paradise all the more. We had to smokers all around us, and they even sold cigars on the party boat. We had to move our beach towels three times to get out of the line of smoke! SO, if you are very sensitive to smoke, you might want to think twice about the Kon Tiki. On the way back, they have fun games, and dances, on the boat, so if you the party type, you would probably enjoy it. Just make sure when you get off, that you get on the right ship! They all look the same, after a dozen rum punch, or so! At Sea Days- We love the "fun days at sea", because they are so relaxing. I give the Paradise high marks for having plenty of lounge chairs. They seemed to have more than other ships we have been on, and they also have quite a few set up on the sides of the ship, in the shade, which is a great place for short. cool, naps, after the hot sun. I never saw a shortage of chairs on this ship, which was a welcome change. The pools and hot tubs weren't too crowded either. They have other activities on those days, but probably could use a few more, since not everyone wants to relax on the deck. like we do. Photo Gallery- My one complaint about the Photo Sittings is that we missed out on quite a few. They had some in odd places around the ship, and they were not always easy to find. I think they should give better directions on the locations of the sittings. For example, we never found the set up with the Palm Tree background, or the one with the Ships Wheel, etc. It would benefit Carnival more, if they numbered them, or made maps of their locations, since they are on different levels, on different nights, and some are in remote corners of the ship. However, I think most people will get more than their share of photograph opportunities, if they want them! I just happen to do scrapbooking as a hobby, so I am a fan of the photo gallery! Not everyone is! Debarkation- This was the easiest debarkation we have ever had also, and we didn't even need the wheelchair, since there was no standing in lines. The Paradise has started a new system of calling color tags from the rooms, so you are able to rest comfortably in your own room, until it's time for you to debark, rather than standing somewhere on one of the decks with everyone else, waiting forever for your color to be called, like they used to do. This is a big improvement in our books. I hope this was helpful. I had a hard time finding any information on the Rain Forest, before we went, or perhaps I would have planned that better. Not many people have written about that experience, but I know at least the few that I talked to think that excursion needs improvement. All it all, it was wonderful, and I would love to take my kids on the next cruise! Bon Voyage!!    

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Apr 7, 2002

Cozumel, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman

I wanted to celebrate our Wedding Anniversary in a special way so I did a lot of research and ended up selecting a Cruise as our anniversary gift to each other. This cruise was a celebration of our 17 years of marriage, a promotion, and my wife’s Birthday. The biggest appeal of this cruise for me was the fact it was a non-smoking vessel. I did not want to have to deal with nicotine addicts and the stench of 2nd hand smoke. Even

after the cruise was over, the non-smoking feature is what stands out in my mind as the most enjoyable feature on board. Pre-Cruise We spent a day in South Miami. We stayed at the Double Tree, Surfcomber. We booked through our travel agent at $110 a night. I could have done better by going on line. The hotel itself was satisfactory. We encountered a surly receptionist at check-in, but had no other problems. We were located right on the beach and in walking distance to the heart of South Beach. It was fun walking down the beach via the paved walkway and park area. Lots of good people watching. Embarkation The most difficult and timely portion of embarkation was getting to the pier. Traffic moved very slow as the Gaurd checked ID cards. We spent 45 minutes just in the traffic queue for the entrance into our pier. Once inside the gate things moved very fast and efficiently. The Taxi pulled to the curb, our luggage was collected and we moved inside for processing. We showed our Passports, were given our Sail & Sign Cards and cabin assignment. This all took about 5 minutes. I have never seen a smoother operation. The Ship The Ship was overall very clean and well maintained. Our cabin was on the Main Deck, far enough away from common areas to prevent us from hearing any noise or disturbances from these high traffic areas. Our Room The room was spacious and clean. We had an ocean view via a large window. The first night I pushed our beds together, thinking this would be the clue for the steward to make the bed up as a double vs. a single. I waited 2 nights, then finally left him a note asking him to make the bed up as a double. I felt this would have been obvious by my pushing them together the first night. Our room had a few problems, a broken remote control, a malfunctioning vanity drawer, and safe that we could not open. I called room service and got everything repaired in a timely manner. I thought this would have all been taken care of before my check-in. Food The food was great. Lots of choices, from formal, to casual dining. The Pizza and Sushi Bar was great for those times we did not feel like eating at our assigned seating time or at the times we just got hungry. The service in the Dining Room was OUTSTANDING! Our waiter anticipated his customers needs and was always more than eager to meet any passengers’ special requests. Entertainment The first night we really did not get much of a show. The 2nd - 6th night we were treated to Las Vegas type shows. They were good, the young performers really put their hearts into their presentations. One comedian, "Adam Ace" was extremely funny. The rest were just OK. The last night of our cruise I was expecting a nice show. The only entertainment offered on our last night was a Passenger Talent Show. It was pathetic, and a huge disappointment. Not sure why Carnival would not go ahead and have our last night go out with a bang instead of a whimper. The show consisted of a bunch of obese passengers singing Christian songs. There was one guy who did a non-singing act. If I was attending a retreat or revival this may have been fine. However, this was a huge let down. Ports of Call The tours offered on board were mostly geared to shopping. The prices were high. Suggest going on line an pre-book on your own. Cozumel, Grand Caymans, and Ocho Rios were all beautiful. Suggest you just get in a taxi and see the sights. Disembarkation This went fairly smooth. We waited over an hour for Customs to give us clearance to leave the ship. Otherwise this was a smooth process. GYM/SPA The Gym was nice, but 4 of the weight machines were not working. The Gym staff told me these have been broken for months and they have reported them to Carnival. Not sure why these machines have remained out of order for so long. The Gym opening hour was 0600, it never opened on time. Classes are offered to passengers in subjects such as fat loss, and exercise. When you attend the class, it is really just a sales pitch for the gimmicks and products sold at the Gym/Spa. I found this to very misleading and unprofessional. Final Thoughts Other Cruise lines need to follow Carnivals lead and go smoke free. Carnival needs to rethink the Talent Night as the only entertainment offered on the last night of the cruise. If kept, it should be hosted during the day as an alternative form of entertainment, not a sole source.    

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Mar 10, 2002

Western Caribbean

Embarkation Our family of four flew into Fort Lauderdale on a Sunday and was shuttled to the Port of Miami. We had a total of eight hours of flights and waiting before we boarded the ship. Another time, I would fly to Miami the night before and be prepared to board the ship early to enjoy every moment possible. Our flight connection almost didn’t happen because of flight delays. Luckily, the airlines held the plane for us as

we ran from one gate to another to make the connection, otherwise Carnival would have been flying us to the first port to board the ship. The Port of Miami and the boarding process were painless - lots of ropes to pass through, but not a long wait. After boarding, we went to our rooms and freshened up. We were smart enough from a previous cruise to know our luggage wouldn’t arrive when we did, so we carried on a change of clothes. Next we went to the Paris Restaurant for a long awaited lunch and we were on our way out to sea. The Ship We found the ship clean and neat.