The night before the sailing we stayed at the Sheraton Biscayne
Bay. (an excellent choice) They allowed us to check in at 10AM.
(since that is when we had arrived) This hotel is convenient to Bay
Front. (where all the shops and restaurants are) The room was a
good size and the staff was very friendly.
The next morning, it was a short drive to the ship. We had our
car, so we dropped the luggage and hubby took the car to the
garage. I thought I had read they took credit card, but it was cash
only on that morning to park. ( $70.00 ) So just be prepared for
either way. It is a nice parking garage, so your car is out of the
elements during the week.
We arrived at 11:00AM. They had just started letting the line
move. It went quickly for us, since we had the Fun Pass and all our
documents properly filled out and signed. We picked up our keys and
went to the holding room. This port is a little more disorganized
than others we have been to where the hold room
is concerned. The lady seating the guests was not making sure all
the chairs were filled. And when it came time for boarding, she had
no control over the situation. Everyone just got up and headed for
the pictures. The rest of the embarkation went smoothly. We were
having our picture taken by noon and headed for our cabins to drop
off the carry on luggage. They were ready. I pulled out the can of
Lysol and disinfected both rooms thoroughly, while the guys went up
to get in the pizza line.
Our rooms (for the 4 of us) were R 87 and 91. We always book the
cheapest inside we can get; while maintaining the location we like.
Whether 4 to a room or 2 to a room, we have always had plenty of
space. (and our 16 year old is 6' 2") Our cabin steward was quiet,
but very efficient. He never introduced himself, but always got the
job done and when we finally realized which one was ours..we would
speak and he would always return our greetings with a smile. By the
end of the cruise, he was more talkative. He is probably just very
shy. But he got an A+ from us for the job he did and that is all
that matters. The safe was big. Cruising suggestion..use a credit
card to open and lock your safe. The magnetic strip on the back of
your room key is not a good enough quality to handle this kind of
use for a week.
Room service was always prompt with my bagels arriving still
warm every morning at the requested time. This is one of the
reasons I cruise..to be awaken every morning with my coffee and
bagels. Cruising suggestion..always pack about 50 $1's for
The ships décor was beautiful. It was colorful without
being overwhelming. Yes, there are some areas of carpet in the
hallways on our floor that need replacing, but that kind of stuff
never bothers me.
The food is one thing I have always liked about Carnival. It is
consistent. The Lido deck was always clean and tables cleared
promptly. And if you did not like the buffet that day, there is
always the pizza, burgers and hot dogs. We eat at the formal
sitting for dinner every night and most lunches. (never for
breakfast) We were in the Elation restaurant at the 6:15 seating.
Our waiters were excellent. The food in the formal dining room
again was consistent with Carnival's other ships. I only eat beef,
so I can tell you the sirloin will always be dry and a little
tough. (mainly because I tell them to "burn it") The rest of the
beef dishes are fine. This time, the sirloin was a little better
than usual. While I have dined at many 5 star restaurants..I am not
picky. Basically, as long as I don't have to cook it..I am happy.
My family enjoys the soups and the desserts. We have always been
able to order as much of whatever we wanted without question. By
the second night, Chedenjive (our waiter) automatically brought me
an extra chocolate dessert. Our bar waitress Jana automatically
brought my son is Coke after the first night. Chedenjive took the
time to write down our names and every night called us by name when
asking for our order or talking with us. Very impressive. And after
the second night, when I ordered by beef entrée.he would say
" I know, burn it!"
The entertainment on board was fine. Hubby likes the shows and
Shout is his favorite. He doesn't care how many times he has seen
it. The comedian the first night promised his midnight show would
be saucy.but that there would not be one 4 letter word.and guess
what ...he kept his word. We don't go to the midnight comedy shows
because, personally, I find the language ignorant and insulting.
Anyone can say 4 letter words. But when he said his show would be
different, we took a chance and he really delivered. He provided a
hilarious, intelligent midnight show. I am so sorry that I don't
remember his name, but he is completely bald and about 55 years
old.so if you get the chance to hear him.don't miss it. The rest of
the entertainment was the usual you would expect from Carnival. The
karaoke was fun, but there were a lot of kids (5 - 11) this time
that did not have parents. And their constant running on stage when
someone was singing and screaming was more than I could handle.
They swarmed Jenny (the karaoke social host) like a beehive the
entire time, where adults could not even get to her to ask a
question or hand in a request. There was plenty of karaoke,
(afternoon and night) but the night session should be for folks 16
and older. By 10 or 11 pm, there are a lot of drunk folks in there
and that is no place for a 6 year old little girl by herself.much
less the 8 and 9 year olds that were on stage doing pelvic thrusts
like Madonna. Cruising suggestion, if you do karaoke a lot and have
your own custom cd's.take them. The selection varies greatly from
ship to ship. The karaoke hosts have always been very careful with
my cds. They don't mind a bit.
I can't speak to the Casino or Spa, since I don't do either.
Everyone in the casino seemed to be having a good time. I can see
why Carnival is making her a smoking ship, though. The casino was
only about half full most of the time. This is a money maker for
Carnival. And after all, this is still a business.
Pat (the soloist on the Promenade) was wonderful. We have sailed
with him before and he actually remembered me. (I haven't figured
out if that is a good thing.) His voice and instrumental talent are
the best I have heard on a Carnival ship. He is usually on the
Spirit and will be returning to her this September. He was just
filling in for the usual guy that has held this spot since the
Paradise sailed in '98. The guy in the piano bar was willing to let
anyone sing (and even had the books with the lyrics) but he could
only play the songs in the keys he had learned them in. Being a
pianist myself, I know that any good musician can transpose. While
he seemed nice enough, he did not seem to enjoy what he was doing.
It was just a job and it showed. He spent more time telling us
Americans (he was from Scotland) what we were doing wrong in our
country and criticizing our religion.than entertaining us. This
wasn't part of his "act". (I know the difference) So, I just didn't
go in there any more. The Asian band in the back lounge was
consistently good as well. The talent they have in the back lounge
always surprises me. There usually isn't anyone in there and the
bands are some of the best I have heard. Unfortunately, I can't be
in two places at once. Karaoke and listening to Pat won out over
listening to the Asian band. Pat does mainly country, so if you
like a mixture of dance music..the back lounge is the place to be.
I only set foot in the disco (Rex) one time.just to say I had been
there. Lots of folks were having a great time, but it just wasn't
We sailed the Paradise so that we could experience the
non-smoking ship at least one time before she changes over. We
usually go out of New Orleans, Port Canaveral or Tampa and don't
get all the way down to Miami..because I don't like to fly. We
sailed the Eastern route, since we have done the Western so many
times. The ports were fine.
Nassau: We had been there before. We love aquariums, so we
headed to The Dig. We arrived by 7:30am which means we got to walk
around it for free. (the kiosk to pay the admission does not open
until 8am) Since we have been there before (and paid the $100.00
for our family to view it). we did not feel badly viewing it this
time for free. We had a wonderful visit. We returned to the ship
for lunch. We then walked down to the straw market to shop and grab
a frozen marq. at Senor Frogs. It was very safe and lots of fun.
And now they have the little shops right at the ship.
La Romana: This was the only port we had never been to before.
Since we have a special needs child, we don't do ship excursions.
He can't last 3 or 4 hours that the excursions entail. Since we
don't speak Spanish at all, we were at a disadvantage. However, we
just grabbed at taxi at the green taxi building. There is a sign
with all the taxi charges plainly listed. There is young man who
speaks fluent English to help you get a taxi to where ever you want
to go. True, our taxi driver did not speak English. However, we
have found that a good attitude and a smile will pretty much get
you where ever you want to go. I must admit that we are spoiled
with ports like Cozumel (where you can pick up and drop a taxi all
day long where ever you go). That is not the way it is done here.
You hire a taxi driver for the entire trip and you do not pay him
until you arrive back at the ship. We wanted to go to Altos De
Chavon for an hour. For a family of 4, it was $20. The sign at the
taxi stand spells out completely how much each additional hour is.
It is about a 10 minute drive. We walked around for about an hour
and then had the driver take us back to the ship. We were gone
about 1 ½ hours, but he did not charge us any additional
fee. Just $20 bucks. (of course, we tipped him $10) He was Cuban
(he had a green shirt on). Although he did not speak English, I was
able to understand that he has 2 granddaughters and 1 grandson in
Miami. He was so nice. If you want to do a beach, the charge for 2
hours to Bayhibe was $45.00 round trip. (for 4 people) Again, your
driver waits for you. Our driver sat in the shade and talked, while
we walked about Altos. It was so clean and so nice. We saw the
amphitheater and church. No one hassled us. The view was beautiful.
We felt very safe. The taxis were new, air conditioned 9 passenger
buses. Not paying the driver until the end and having him wait
around was different for us, but we got use to it quickly. We had
planned to take the shuttle to the Marina before grabbing a taxi to
Altos.but our little one wasn't up to that much that morning.
St Thomas: We have been to this port several times before.
Usually hubby and older son snorkels, while younger son and I bum
around at a beach. This time, they all just wanted to go sit on a
beach. Personally, I would recommend grabbing a taxi to the ferry
($ 7 per person one way) and then taking the ferry to St John ($6
round trip) The ferry ride is about 30 minutes from downtown. Our
table mates did this and it was about $20 per person for
transportation. They said the beach was beautiful. We did not do
this, again because the water was a little choppy and our youngest
son would not do well. We just grabbed a taxi to Coki Beach. Again,
$7 per person one way. Be prepared, this beach is not what we
usually would describe as a beach. It was clean, but very, very
small. We are use to huge long beaches. This is not the case. But
it does have what we enjoy. The boys play in the waves, while Dad
and I sit in the shade at Uncle Buddy's enjoying the beans and rice
(which are the best) and a drink..while watching them. Uncle
Buddy's is at the far end of the beach (away from the snorkeling
and scuba activity). We were back at the ship by lunch. Afterward,
we went shopping at the stores right at the ship. They had many
stores without having to go back into town. Our taxi driver told us
that the deals are just as good at the ship as in town, without
having to hire a taxi. The days at sea were fun and relaxing. Jeff
Bronson (our CD) was wonderful. He made as few announcements as
possible. He was always upbeat and you can tell he loves what he
does. Sara (a social host) was adorable. And they had the usual
fare of fun activities. The Talent Show was so much fun. Be aware
that they use the "first come, first serve" method for the talent
show. You must be one of the first 8 people signed up that morning.
Cruising suggestion: if you are not in the top 8, go to rehearsal
anyway. We had one lady that signed up to tap dance and discovered
she could not use tap dance shoes on the stage floor. So sadly, she
could not perform. Another person who had come to rehearsal was put
in her slot. I can not praise Chris (the sound guy) enough. He was
so kind and willing to do whatever we needed to help us. Eric and
his orchestra were fabulous. They learned a song from India (the
lady sang it in her native language of Hindi) in 5 minutes and did
an great job. All the folks that run the shows made us feel like
celebrities. Everything they did was with a wonderful attitude.
After dealing with professionals every day, I know they get tired
of us amateurs . but they never let it show. We never felt like an
inconvenience. It was so much fun. Cruising suggestion: If you plan
to do the talent show and have your own accompaniment tapes or cd,
bring them. You can even use karaoke cds, as long as you realize
the words will not come up anywhere. The band knows a ton of songs
and are willing to do whatever it takes to help you, but they may
not know your song.
Debarkation: We got off the ship at 10am. The luggage was easy
to find. Be aware if you use the parking garage, it is quite a
distance from the building, if you choose to haul your own luggage
to the car. We always do this..but it was much further this
A great cruise, as usual. Thanks Carnival!! Plus non-smoking as
a bonus. I am disappointed that they are changing this in September
to a smoking ship. Hopefully, Carnival will make some concessions
and have some smoking only outside (or in the casino) on some of
their cruises, for those of us that don't smoke.