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Roger & Judy Best
judyjbest@hotmail.com

Age: 40+
Occupation: Technology Consultant/HR Manager
Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Carnival
Name of Ship: Paradise
Sailing Date: February 23rd, 2003
Itinerary: 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