September 2014 - Carnival Paradise to Caribbean - Western
Our last cruise was more than 20 years ago, and my husband and I took this cruise for our 25th wedding anniversary. Even though the Paradise is one of the older, smaller ships we enjoyed the cruise very much.Our main purpose was to get away and go snorkeling. The dining room was very nice and the food varied from good to excellent. Loved the lobster dinner and Elegant Dining night. We did the Anytime dining and it let us meet many wonderful people and Anytime diners had tables near the windows for a great view. The dining room staff, for the most part, was friendly, served us quickly and made sure we were pleased with our meal. We did the 3 bottle wine package which worked well for us along with the two bottles of champagne we were allowed to bring aboard. You have to call the Fun Shops to arrange it. The buffet in the Paradise Cafe was also very good as an option. There was a great brunch for both days at sea that goes until 1:30. The pizza at the Pizza cafe needs a lot of improvement, however. The lobby and library were beautifully appointed, and the clubs looked nice, but we did not spend time in them. We had a room with a window on the Upper Deck about the middle of the ship. I highly recommend getting a room with a window; it was wonderful. The beds and pillows were very comfortable, but the furnishings need to be updated a bit as do the hallways going to the rooms.The pools were small, but the slide was a lot of fun...it's not just for kids! The smaller pool was a great place to meet and talk with people, while the main pool was the party pool. We spent a lot of time relaxing on the Serenity Deck also.
We did two shore excursions. Stingray Sandbar & Coral Gardens snorkeling in Grand Cayman, which we booked through Carnival, was outstanding. Since we snorkel a lot I was concerned that it might not meet our expectations, but it was great. We spent about 45 minutes at each site. We had more than enough time to hold and pet the stingrays. Coral Gardens had a variety of coral, including elkhorn and soft corals and lots of it. We saw lobster, urchins & other invertebrates, tons of fish, a stingray, and more. The dive site was about 10 feet deep or less,so it was an easy dive. The masks and fins on the boat looked good, although we brought our own. The second shore excursion was in Cozumel. We booked through Shore Excursions Group, and we were greatly disappointed. It was a sail/snorkel trip on a catamaran that was promoted as being smaller and more friendly than the bigger excursions. The equipment they provided was not very good. They did not take us to a reef, even though they said they did. When they dropped us off the boat I could see coral reef to the left of us, but they had us swim to the right, over sandy and rocky bottom. I asked the staff person where the reef was, and he said "this is it." The current was very strong and we had to drift with it. One of the crew mentioned that each dive operation had a more or less appointed section of the reef and I'm guessing that the larger operations that the cruise ships book with have the better locations. We saw the larger catamaran that Carnival books for their excursion, and later spoke to some people who had been on it, and they said they saw a lot of coral and fish and had a great time. Needless to say, next time we will book all of our excursions through the cruise ship.
Other than that, we attended a couple of shows on-board which we enjoyed. The session I attended on shopping in Cozumel was very helpful. We got discount coupons and learned which shops were reputable and which ones to avoid, and how to get free gifts. I did not attend the session that discussed disembarkation at Grand Cayman, but it would have helpful if I had. I would have known that we would be tendered off the boat and that the process would take 45 minutes.
One suggestion for Cruises Only would be to include a reminder to register with the cruise line to receive your onboard cash. It had to be done 30 days prior to the trip. It was in the 4 page document I printed but I did not see that until too late, so I lost the $25 onboard credit I would have received.
Overall, my husband and I had a great time and everyone we talked with also enjoyed this cruise. We would do it again.