Carnival Paradise Cruise Review by MG Lourenco
- Sail Date: December 2003
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Once we arrived on the ship, we used the ship's layout map to find our deck and room. We had booked an inside cabin and were pleasantly surprised to find that we were upgraded to an ocean view cabin -- not bad! Once we had found our cabin, we dropped off our carry-on bags and went exploring. We walked from one end of the ship to the other and finally settled in the Lido Deck's open area near the Paris Cafe where we got a hamburger, French fries, and soft drink for lunch. During this time the waiters and waitresses were walking around offering complimentary champagne to all guests and there was live music being played by a Caribbean band. Since we don't drink, I was beginning to get annoyed at all the requests for me to consume champagne or other alcoholic beverage. However, I brushed it off and went about exploring the ship.
Before the ship set sail we were told to get out life jackets (traditional bulky orange type) and meet by our designated lifeboat. With all the scrambling and confusion this exercise took about one hour. The ship finally set sail around 5PM and we were on the rear deck watching as we left Miami harbor. As the light of day became less and less and Miami was beginning to recede in the distance, we walked to our cabin to drop off our life jackets and decide what to do for the evening.
Since we didn't feel like dressing up for anything formal, we decided to eat dinner in the Paris Cafe near the rear of the ship. This is a restaurant where you can serve yourself (like a buffet) and the staff picks up your plates, cups, etc. when you are done. After dinner, we continued to explore the ship and engaged in some time-passing activities (i.e., played ping pong). The wind was pretty strong (about 30 knots) and the ship was rocking quite a bit. I noticed from time to time that several passengers were craning over the edge feeding the fish. Thus, if you might be subject to motion sickness, please take something or wear a patch behind your ear with motion sickness medicine. Anyway, we decided to turn in relatively early so that we would be fresh for the next day -- a port stop at Nassau, Bahamas. My wife found the cabins to be a bit small and was a little claustrophobic -- be warned!
The night at sea was uneventful, just a little bit rocky (I'm surprised that a ship this size moves so much). We arrived in Nassau in the morning, got ready, ate breakfast in the Paris Cafe, and went ashore. Make sure you carry all your documentation with you -- you will probably be checked. We decided to get our passports and it came in very handy. Once in Nassau, we walked around the town, took a ride on a horse drawn buggy, and shopped in the straw market. We had an enjoyable time in Nassau and don't recommend any tours provided by the cruise line (you dock in the middle of town and everything is nearby for you to walk to). While shopping in the straw market, feel free to haggle price -- never pay what they initially ask for the item. Also, there are plenty of people who will want to braid you hair (be careful -- each braid will cost quite a bit).
After exploring Nassau for a good portion of the day, we decided to return to the ship, store our purchased souvenirs, and get ready for the ship to sail. On our way back to the ship we were asked by Bahamian immigration personnel for our passports and then were allowed to proceed to the dock. At the gangplank we were asked for our sail and sign cards to be allowed back on the ship. Again we decided to eat in the Paris Restaurant and watched the ship leave Nassau for the Dominican Republic. The next day we spent at sea and it was uneventful.
We arrived in the Dominican Republic in the morning and I looked out our cabin window to be surprised by an old working port -- nothing fancy! After breakfast, we went up on deck and checked out our new location and noted that it was very underdeveloped. We were the only cruise ship docked in port and there were no easily accessible areas (i.e., on foot like in Nassau). In fact, people who got off the ship to go to the nearby town of La Romana were taken by locals on the back of their mopeds from the dock area to the main road. Other than the tours offered by the cruise line, there didn't seem to be anything going on in this port. I was disappointed with the port and its lack of amenities. In my opinion, stopping at La Romana, Dominican Republic was a total waste of time. My family and I decided to stay on the ship, watch what was going on, listen to the stories of those who spent a load of money to go on cruise line sponsored tours (not worth it), and just relax.
The next night we spent at sea and arrived in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands in the morning. After breakfast we got off the ship and met with our tour guide -- Godfrey Renal. We had booked the tour on-line with him as a result of many recommendations from other individuals who had been to St. Thomas. Godfrey was superb and his tour was great!! We were picked up at the dock and taken to the downtown shopping area for several hours of shopping. At the designated time and location, we met Godfrey and he took us on a tour of the beautiful Island of St. Thomas. We went from one end to the other and from the base to the top of the mountain.
As we were traveling about, Godfrey narrated and told us what we saw, stopped for photographs, etc. At the end of the island tour we were asked if we wanted to go swimming and, if so, he gave us an option of several beaches. We chose Coki Beach by Coral World but didn't stay because it was very crowded. We decided to return to the ship and were taken there by Godfrey. Those who decided to swim were later picked up by Godfrey and returned to the ship in plenty of time for sailing. The tour we took with Godfrey was practically all day (10AM to about 4PM) and it only cost $20 per person -- a great deal! Further, if anyone who is reading this review is going to St. Thomas, book with Godfrey -- you will not be disappointed!! To get the same thing from the cruise line you'll end up paying twice as much or more!
The next two days were at sea and we watched shows, stayed busy, and waited to reach Miami. Two days and three nights at sea are just a little too much for me! I wish that the ship had made at least one more stop at another port, a place where we could get out and about and enjoy ourselves -- no such luck!!
ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN: We traveled with my 10 year old son and found that activities for him were lacking. I saw plenty of stuff for the little tikes and the older teenagers, but very little for the kids in my son's age group. I was disappointed with this scenario and feel that this is a big problem that should be corrected by Carnival!
FOOD: I was not impressed with the quality of food that was served on the ship. The food served in the Paris Restaurant where we ate most of our meals was average. We were led to believe that there would be grand feasts and this was not the case. You can dine better in most typical restaurants in the United States (i.e., Golden Corral, Ryan's, Western Sizzlin, etc.). For example, we were informed in the Carnival Capers (local activities publication) that one evening we were going to have a Mexican buffet at midnight. Well, we decided to eat light and save our appetite for the Mexican cuisine. We were expecting tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, etc. but to our surprise we found none of the above.
We found a buffet with about a half dozen items and none of them looked Mexican in origin or preparation technique. We were very disappointed by this! On another occasion, we decided to eat in the formal dining room and dressed accordingly (male: suit and tie; female: evening gown). Well, to our surprise they allowed guests wearing shorts to eat in the dining room. Further, after we ordered our food (i.e., appetizer, main course, and dessert); it took a very long time to be served each component of our meal -- almost two hours from start to finish. Further, our dining partners never showed up for a meal at the formal dining restaurant. As a final note about the food, I was pretty disappointed!!!
PORTS OF CALL: Nassau and St. Thomas were enjoyable experiences. However, La Romana, Dominican Republic should be eliminated from their itinerary. There is nothing to walk to nearby where the ship docks (unless you want to ride in the back of a local's moped and risk your safety). The only game in town is a series of shore tours offered by the cruise line -- designed to overcharge you and not give you a good value for what you've paid (see other comments by fellow cruisers on this topic and La Romana).
IRRITANTS: Neither I nor my wife drink alcoholic beverages and it is an irritant for you to be asked to buy an alcoholic beverage 40 or 50 times each and every day. Further, if you do drink, be aware of the prices for your drinks -- significantly higher that you would pay stateside! In addition, it seems that any little thing you may want beyond normal food and beverages costs something extra. For example, if you want a chocolate chip cookie or a milk shake from the La France serving area, you have to pay for it. If you want to drink a soda pop, you have to pay for it ($2.50 for a plastic 20 oz bottle). If you want to play bingo, you have to pay extra money to do so...and on, and on, and on. This was rampant throughout the ship and I was extremely irritated and disappointed!! Come on people, we've already paid a hefty sum to be on the ship, the least you could do is provide free of charge soda pop, chocolate chip cookies, milk shakes, and other little things!
POSITIVES: I enjoyed the "smoke free" atmosphere on the ship and some of the shows. It is really nice to be able to walk about and not have to smell stale smoke which embeds itself into everything. Unfortunately, in one session of the "meet/get to know your crew" we were told that Carnival was going to discontinue the smoke free ship because it did not make as much profit as the smoking vessels. This is terrible!! Carnival needs to look beyond the just the bottom line. Yes, the ship is profitable, but smoking ships are more profitable. Where did customer satisfaction go? Where is the concept of give the customer what he/she wants? I'm saddened by this turn of events!!
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