Review by: Anthony López – Miami, Florida, USA Posted: July 2002
Cruise Ship: De/Az Paradise
Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Lines
Port of Embarkation and Debarkation: Port of Miami
Itinerary: 7-Night Eastern Caribbean – Nassau, Bahamas; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands
Sailing Date: July 7th, 2002
We are a family of 4, in our early 40’s, and have two sons, ages 12 and 15. We live in Miami (really lucky huh?), so had no need to do a pre-cruise stay, or fly in. We’ve taken 5 cruises, and they’ve all been on Carnival. We went on the Carnival Destiny (the ship that began our addiction) 7 day Western Caribbean to Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Ocho Rios, in June of 1997; the Ecstasy 3 day Bahamas to Nassau, in October of 1998; Imagination 4 days Bahamas to Nassau and Freeport (originally to Key West and Cozumel, but we were re-routed due to a hurricane), in October of 1999, and the Paradise 7 day Western Caribbean to Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Ocho Rios (originally the Eastern Caribbean to San Juan, St. Thomas, and Tortola, but we were re-routed due to a hurricane) in August of 2000. We planned our vacation after arriving from our other vacation to France and Spain, in April.
Originally, we were to be on the Carnival Victory’s Eastern Caribbean cruise departing a week before, going to San Juan (late though), St. Thomas, and St. Croix (was changed to St. Maarten). We’d already booked the cruise, and they informed my wife that it was impossible for her to get those days off. So, we planned on just going on the Paradise’s Eastern Caribbean route. We thought Carnival would change it, no problem. Wrong! Initially Carnival said we would have to give our deposits ($250 per person x 4 = $1,000) to change our sailing or cancel it! Our travel agent argued with them for over an hour, and they finally agreed that they wouldn’t charge us that fee, but we would have to pay the price for the Carnival Victory, instead of the Paradise price. This was because it was 68 days prior to our cruise, and you had to change, or cancel a cruise within 70 days of the cruise. We thought since we’ve cruised on Carnival before they’d let us slide. Wrong! It was about $150 cheaper, per person, to go on the Paradise. We were reluctant at first, since we’d already been on it, but felt what the heck, it’s a vacation.
We booked through All Aboard Cruises here in Miami, I think they have a website. Initially I had posted on a website (CruiseMates.com or Cruise-Addicts.com), this thing where you tell them when you want to sail, how many people, and on what ship, and various agencies sent you their quotes. This agency sent us the cheapest quote, and we’d shopped around as well, and it was the cheapest quote we found, so we booked through them. We’ve traveled also to all-inclusive resorts, and find both to be a good vacation value. By the way, we’ve taken our children on ALL of our vacations. We feel they truly deserve it!
Day 1 – Embarkation at Miami, Florida, United States of America
We awoke at about 8am, eagerly ready to board the Paradise. We ate breakfast at our home, and did some minor last minute packing. Soon, at about 9am, my brother-in-law arrived at our home (he was going to take us to the port). We talked for a while, and finally decided it was time to leave, and suddenly a torrential downpour began to fall, so we decided to wait and see if it would let up. At about 10:30am, it did, we said bye to our relatives, and left on our way to the port.
It was about a 20-30 minute drive from our home to the Port of Miami. Upon going over the initial bridge into the port of Miami, there is what seems to be a toll booth, where they check your documents, to make sure you’re supposed to be there. Once we passed the toll booth, there was a huge line of cars waiting to get into Carnival’s terminal. It was a total gridlock. We figured it was because we always tried to get to the port at about 10am, but did not want to wait there sitting down a long time, this time around, so we left for the port later. Eventually, we just went in the emergency lane, and went straight into the terminal area.
It began to rain once again (it’s been raining every single day in Miami since the very first day in June). Due to the rain, they weren’t collecting the luggage outside, but rather inside, where you collect your luggage once you leave the ship. There, you must show your documents and identification to the Carnival representative, and they will stamp your luggage tags, with a stamp stating “Security Passed” and then your sailing date.
After that, we proceeded inside the terminal. Here we passed through a metal detector, and placed our carry-ons through the x-ray machine. The alarm sounded on me, due to the metal on my shoe, and my belt buckle, so I was taken aside and they passed an individual metal detector around my body. Then we checked in (they checked our cruise documents, our passports, which were our forms of identification, and opened our onboard Sail and Sign account) went upstairs, got our Sail and Sign Cards, and sat down until about 12:30pm, when they began boarding. Here they checked your cruise documents again, and then you must put your Sail and Sign Card in this machine, and look at this little hole, which takes your picture. They use this as a form of photo identification when getting on and off the ship.
The line seemed very long to board at this point, so we asked an agent if we could use the elevator to go up as we had lots of carry-on luggage, and she agreed. We by-passed the traditional Welcome Aboard photo, and boarded the ship.
Our cabin was an interior E29, and we boarded the ship on Empress deck, so we went straight to our room, which was on the right hand side, in the front part of the ship. Our room was an interior room. It had two twin beds, which we pushed together to make a king-sized bed (by the way the room steward made the bed with king-sized sheets without us even asking him!), and two bunk beds, which could only be lowered from the wall, by the cabin steward. The cabin was the typical Carnival cabin, a desk, chair, safe (operated by a credit card or Sail and Sign Card), hangers, and shelves. The bathroom had a sink, medicine cabinet, toilet (loud noise! Don’t get sucked in!), and a shower. The cabin was small (as usual), but we were hardly there. The bathroom was done in pleasant pastel colors.
We noticed our dining time was 8:30pm, but that was too late, and we wanted the 8:00pm one, so we went to the Card Room to change it. We were told it was filled, and we were put on a waiting list, and told that if anything was available, they would leave us a note tonight.
We left our stuff, put our money and passports in the safe, and headed to the Lido Deck to the Paris Restaurant (the buffet). There were hamburgers and hot dogs by the pool, and other things inside, including the 24-hour pizzeria, and ice cream. After this, we signed up for the Blue Lagoon Tour (No Snorkel Gear Included) for $27 per adult, and $15 per child (What the heck they’re both children right?). We booked this tour as one of my relatives just got off the Paradise two weeks ago, and she went there, and said it was beautiful. She said it reminded her of Isla Mujeres in Cancun. What we did to book the tour was to get a form from the Shore Excursion Desk, fill it out, and drop it in a box that they have there. When we finished, we went back to our room to change into our bathing suits, as to our surprise the pools and whirlpools were already filled with water! We got out of the water at about 3:45pm, to get ready for the 4pm Life Boat Drill.
During this, we went to our muster station which was on the deck above us, in the Normandie Lounge. Here we had to put our life vests on, and listen to what would be done in the case of an emergency. This was only done in English, and not in Spanish as I read in one review. They said that we needed to wait, and see if we were going to go to the life boats, but needless to say, we didn’t need to. Our luggage arrived before the ship deaprted, and at 5pm sharp, the boat left Miami. There was music playing by the pool by Kooshall.
We explored the ship, and at about 6pm, we began showering. At 7:15pm we rushed to the Normandie Lounge for the ballroom dance class. It had begun at 7pm, thus we were late. But we caught on quickly. They taught us the Cha-Cha-Cha. Not many people knew what they were doing, but you could still tell they were having fun, as we were. We went up to the Carnival Boulevard at about 8pm to people watch, and then at 8:30pm went to the Elation Dining Room. We were seated in a table of 9. Our tablemates were very nice. By the way it is typical that if you are in the front of the boat (as we were) you will eat in the Elation Dining Room (6:15pm, or 8:30pm), yet if you are in the back, you will eat in the Destiny Dining Room (5:45pm, or 8:00pm). The only exceptions are if you are in a group, and they will accommodate you. We ate Chicken with Pasta, which was excellent!
Later, we walked around for a while, and went to the Welcome Aboard Show in the Normadie Lounge. The kids found it boring, so they set out on their own. During this show, the cruise director, Josh (excellent) introduced himself, as well as had a fun contest with some passengers (I won’t ruin it for you!), and then there was a comedian whom told jokes.
After the show, we met up with the kids, and walked around, went to see the disco, but my younger son was not allowed in, and then went to the Midnight Buffet in the Paris Restaurant. When we arrived at our room, our tickets for Blue Lagoon, and the beach towels for tomorrow had already arrived. At about 12:30am, we went to sleep.
Day 2 – Nassau, Bahamas
We all awoke at 6:30am (we were awoken by a wakeup call; just mark 37 on your telephone, then the time you want to be waken up at in military time, such as 37 then 1300 for 1pm). We went up on deck to see if the ship had arrived yet, but it hadn’t. We watched the ship sail through Nassau Harbour and into the port. The ship arrived very, very close to 7am.
We awoke at 6am due to a horrible vibration of the ship (it occurred every time, on every ship we’d been to Nassau on). At about 7am, when the ship had docked, we went to eat breakfast at the Paris Restaurant. Don’t miss the omelets that are made to order! Other than that they have breads, yogurt, pastries, eggs, French Toast, sausage, and bacon (I think I got it all!).
At 8am we went to the Normandie Louge where all the tours to Blue Lagoon had met (No Snorkel, Snorkeling, and Snorkeling with the Stingrays), as well as the Athol Island Snorkel Tour. They soon informed us that it was raining (again?). At about 8:30am or 8:45am, we proceeded to get off the ship, and go on our tour.
There was a guy standing outside the ship with a sign that said Blue Lagoon on it. He waited for a while, and then led us to the boat in which we were to get there on. It was quite a walk. You have to pass that really long pink building right in front of the port (you’ll know what I mean, when you get there), and then there’s the boat. It was the Calypso, and it had three floors. There were not many seats, and the boat was PACKED! Some people just stood around, while others just sat on the floor.
Onboard there was a band playing, and they were serving complimentary punch. The ship sailed east through the Nassau Harbour (uhh ohh, it began raining again!), and then ath the end of Paradise Island, went northward to Blue Lagoon Island. The water on the boat ride was truly spectacular; different shades of crystalline blue and turquoise water of every shade you can imagine!
Once at Blue Lagoon Island (our boat was the only ones there!), we got a hammock, and dropped off our stuff there. We went in the lagoon beach, which had powdery white sand, and shallow crystal clear blue water. By the way, there are lifeguards everywhere there. It was truly refreshing!
Soon after we went towards the west of the island, were there was a bridge, and using our snorkeling gear, you could see some fish. You cannot swim beyond the bridge. We toured the island for a little while, and discovered a building that said Olde Nassau Customs House, and beyond it was some beautiful little cove, but no one was swimming there, and it said “Swim at Your Own Risk.” It was too rocky so we left. We went back to the hammock, and saw people snorkeling on the ocean side, so we went to see if we could too. To our surprise, it said you had to wear a life jacket, and there was a lifeguard supervising the area, so alas we could not snorkel, as we had no life jacket.
We went in the lagoon beach again, and then set out to walk again. Passing the beach area across the bridge, we saw a little beach where there were people. We went to see what was so special about it. There were tons of fish, as well as coral! We snorkeled here, and truly enjoyed it.
About an hour, or an hour and a half after our boat arrived at Blue Lagoon, a boat with passengers from the Disney Wonder arrived. It was crowded, but not too crowded, and you could always find a hammock. Never saw the famous limbo dancer that they advertise so much!
At about 12:15pm, we boarded the Calypso again, and at 12:30 we set sail. We arrived at about 1:15pm, but didn’t make it off the boat ‘til about 1:25pm, and we had to be back onboard the ship by 1:30pm! But, we were on a ship tour, so they were not to leave us. But we had wanted to do some shopping! We rushed to what was the Straw Market, and bought some postcards (only thing we were able to buy), and raced towards the ship (people were still getting off the Calypso). Before entering the port area, you must show your Sail and Sign Card (good security!).
The Disney Wonder, Imperial Majesty (small ship, 2-day cruises from Florida), and some other, even smaller ship was there, and a cargo boat. Upon boarding the vessel, they check you with a metal detector, individually, and then you must insert your card in the machine in which they can see the picture you took upon boarding the vessel (You must also do this when getting off the ship). They passed our bags through an x-ray machine, and we set out to drop our stuff off at the room, and then to eat at the Paris Restaurant.
By the way, they were taking alcohol, and cigars and cigarettes (it’s a non-smoking ship!) away, and were told that they were to get them back at the end of the cruise).
After, we went in the pool, and jacuzzi; heard Kooshall play music. At 2pm sharp the ship left (now that’s punctuality!). At 3pm we went to the Leonardo Lounge (on Promenade Deck) to see the karaoke that they were having. We didn’t sing, but lots of others did. It was a riot! At about 5pm, you could see the island of Eleuthera, but not much. We soon left to shower, as tonight was formal night.
At 7pm we went to the Captain’s Cocktail party, and then to take some formal portraits (loved the one that looked like an ancient Roman ruin). We set out to our new table at the Destiny Dining Room, at which dinner was at 8pm. Ate Prime Rid (had too much fat in it!). It was a booth for four, so we had no tablemates; good in a way, but also bad.
After, we went to get some seats in the Normandie Louge for tonights Vegas style show, Dream Voyage. To our surprise, it was the same show they had given two years ago, when we were onboard! The wait ‘til the show began at 10:30pm seemed forever.
The kids said it was boring, and headed for the teen disco at the Rex, which is from 9:30pm ‘til 10:45pm. There were tons of kids and teens there. All ages, all ethnic groups (Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, etc.). We went to the Gala Midnight Buffet in the Paris Restaurant and ate something, and soon went to bed at about 1am or 1:30am.
By the way, at the fast speed that I guess the ship was going at (getting to San Juan in 1 day isn’t easy), the boat was shaking a bit. You could see people walking side to side. It didn’t bother me, as I was already used to it. You could see the water in your glass at dinner trembling. I didn’t hear anyone say it was just too much shaking, or see anyone vomit.
Day 3 – “Fun Day” at Sea
It said in the Carnival Capers you could see San Salvador Island, in the Bahamas, at 12:30am, but I couldn’t see anything at all, not even the faintest light, oh well!
Today we woke up at about 9:30am or 9:45am, and headed out to the Paris Restaurant at about 10am or 10:15am. There was the same stuff at the buffet, but we had to eat, so we did. Breakfast ended at 11am or 11:30am I presume, as there was a sign that said that breakfast was not being served inside at that time, but was being served out on the Lido Deck. We got there early enough to eat inside though.
This was a typical day at sea. We sun tanned, got in the pool, whirlpool, and went down the slide a couple of times. The very first whirlpool that you see upon going outside from the Atrium on the Lido Deck, is reserved for adults (18 year or older) only, and I saw the security guard ask children to leave on various occasions. The whirlpool just in back of the main pool was usually jam-packed with children in it, not to say that the adults-only one wasn’t packed at times, as well. Kooshall played Caribbean music on the stage. They had an Austin Powers dance class on the Lido Deck stage at 2:15pm, but we didn’t participate in it.
We also went to the gym and did some exercise on the stair master, and on the treadmill. All the while, the kids were on their own; exploring, going in the pools, whirlpools, down the slide, and socializing with other kids their ages. The pool at the back of the ship was circular in shape, and a little shallower that the main pool. This pool was much less crowded than the main one, and the two whirlpools adjacent to it, were as well. There was also a kiddie pool, and a little play-thing on the Promenade Deck.
By the way, you must check out the towels you are to use on the Lido Deck, and then return them once you’re done using them. This kiosk is open from 9am ‘til 6pm. From about 12pm ‘til 1pm, on sea days, there was always a sign that said that they had no more towels; to check back later. The lounges by the main pool were always taken up by 9am, on sea days. You could easily get a lounge chair overlooking the main pool, or in the pool at the back of the ship. If you lost a towel, the charge was $22 per towel.
Later we washed up, and went to the Carnival Boulevard, on the Promenade Deck, to people watch, and soon after went to dinner. The food really isn’t anything to write home about, possibly as we are not used to that type of food, as we usually eat Latin cuisine. We were always the last ones to be served! Yet we still paid the automatic gratuity of $9.75 per person, per day, that came out to $68.25. That night we skipped the show, it was a magician and a comedian, by the way. We just walked around, while the kids went to the teen disco and later just hung out with their new friends. Upon entering our cabin at night to go to sleep, they’d slipped a copy of our balance of our Sail and Sign accounts under our beds. It was already $500, wow!!! They’d already included the gratuities in that price, and that was a whopping$273 for the 4 of us, in total! The boast was still rocking. At night, I guess since we were at the front of the boat, you could feel the boat ramming into the waves! By the way, I didn’t hear any noise outside our cabin, except for one time when a group of teens I presume, ran past our cabin screaming. We heard nothing from the cabins next to us, or on the deck above or below us.
Day 4 – San Juan, Puerto Rico
We woke up at about 6:30am today. Ate at the Paris, and watched the ship sail into the San Juan Harbor. It was beautiful seeing the El Morro Fortress upon entering the harbor. This was an excellent photo opportunity. A great place to view this is by going out on the Lido Deck by the doors immediately to your right, or left, upon exiting the atrium on that floor, and walking towards the front of the ship, and then up some stairs, to an observation deck.
We arrived at the terminal at about 7:30am. We were docked at Pier 4, and were the only cruise ship there. The Carnival Capers said for only persons on ship excursions, to report to immigration at 8am. This was in the Normandie Lounge if you are a non-US citizen, or in the Queen Mary Lounge if you’re a US citizen. They kept giving announcements for people on shore excursions, and only those, to report to immigration. Non-US citizens (regardless of whether they’re on a shore excursion or not) are asked to report to immigration at 7:45am at the Normandie Lounge.
We went to get in line at 8am. We are US citizens, so we needed to go to the Queen Mary Lounge. The line was immense! It took us about 30 to 45 minutes to get through it. Upon getting closer to the lounge, they break up the lines into 2; one for cabins on Verandah, Empress, and Upper Decks, and one for cabins on Riviera and Main Decks. Upon getting to the entrance they hand you a small piece of white paper with your name on it, cabin number, and Carnival Paradise on it. Upon entering the Queen Mary Lounge, the US immigration officials look at your identification, and then stamp your little piece of paper, and you’re on your way, or so we thought. By the way, the line for non-US citizens at the Normandie Lounge, was much, much, much shorter! They had about 4 immigration officials inside the Queen Mary Lounge. You must clear immigration here, as you are entering the US after coming back from a foreign port, Nassau, in the Bahamas. Any chance they could change the itinerary and go 2 sea days, St. Thomas, San Juan, sea day, and then Nassau last? This was this immigration thing could be avoided. This is all part of the post-911 security by the way. This never had to be done prior to that.
After this, we proceeded to go to deck 3 to get off the ship, but were turned back. We were told that we were not allowed off the ship until everyone cleared immigration. We were not allowed to stay of the Riviera Deck forward elevator lobby, or the Main Deck forward elevator lobby, so we stayed sitting down on the Upper Deck forward elevator lobby. At about 9:30am, they had started letting people off, but did not announce it over the speakers. At this time, was when they were telling people to proceed to immigration. By the way, regardless of whether you get off the ship or not in this port, you MUST clear immigration by 10am. I guess they didn’t let the passengers get off the ship until all the non-US citizens cleared immigration, as there was no real way to know if all the US citizens had cleared immigration. They do check if you have the immigration card stamped though, to get off the ship, but not thoroughly.
We walked through the terminal, and out onto the street. There we got an air-conditioned taxi to the Hertz Condado Main Office (we’d pre-reserved a car there). It was about a 10-15 minute drive, and cost us $10 or $12 in total. Condado reminded me of Miami Beach, but more run down. It didn’t impress me. There they gave us a new Toyota Corolla. It cost us $80 for the day, with insurance.
After that we were off! We went on highway 26 eastbound, and then it turned into highway 3 eastbound, and we continued on it. Once near El Yunque, there is a sign on the right that says El Yunque. Hint: once you pass a place called Río Grande, you’re really close. It was about a 45 minute drive to this point. Where the sign was, we turned right. We soon found ourselves lost, so we asked some one how to get there, and we went. We took some pictures at the place next to the road of the El Yunque Welcome Center, and kept on going up, and up, through the windy roads.
We stopped at La Coca Falls to throw some pictures, and driving up until we reached a place that said Baño Grande on the right, and La Mina Falls on the right. We parked right there, and went into this little shop there. We bought some postcards, and water there. It was about a 15 minute drive from the Welcome Center to the entrance to La Mina Falls. After that, we went through the trail that said La Mina Falls (ask inside the shop, they’ll tell you everything you need to know; they speak good English as well as Spanish, as in all of Puerto Rico, there). It was about a half an hour walk, done steps, walking, etc ‘til the bottom. We stopped to refresh ourselves, and got into the waterfall at a point where others were in. It was very cold, as well as slippery. If you can, bring water shoes. We wish we had! There were no mosquitoes, but if I were you I would spray bug spray, you are in a rain forest. We continued and finally reached the bottom. It was a grand cascade!! We got in, though cold, for some pictures. We then set out on the half an hour trek back up. This was much more tiring!
After this, we proceeded out of El Yunque National Rain Forest, and went to eat at a place called El Dajao (our relative who’d been here 2 weeks ago, recommended it to us). The food was great (English, as well as Spanish spoken here as well! Well, actually it was spoken everywhere on the island. We speak Spanish though, so if in trouble, we can make it). It was a bit expensive though, about $70 for the 4 of us.
We then set out on highway 3 eastbound, for about 15 minutes, ‘til we reached Fajardo. We were to go to the Balneario (Public Beach) Seven Seas. We couldn’t find our way, and asked someone, and they actually took us all the way there. Now that’s an example of how friendly Puerto Ricans are! We paid $3 to park, and went in. The sand was dark, much darker than Miami Beach’s sand, and we’re used to white sandy beaches like Cancún. The water was very warm though. You had to enter through certain parts as there were rocks in most parts. After about 15 minutes, it began to rain, so we set out on our way.
We found our way to the highway, by trying to remember by where the guy that had shown us had taken us, and we made it. We went about 15 minutes on highway 3 westbound, ‘til we reached Luquillo Beach, regarded as the best beach in Puerto Rico. We asked someone how to get there, and they told us. We parked in this place where there were little shops (no charge). But the beach smelled bad. It smelled like urine and sewage upon walking through the parking area. We went a little bit to the left, and it was okay. The sand was darker here, but the water was a crystal clear green, and warm, once again. We stayed there for about 45 minutes, and then went back on our way to San Juan, the way we’d gotten here, highway 3 westbound, which turns into highway 26 westbound, and then we got off at Condado.
It was about 6pm, and we were informed that if we arrived after 5pm (closing time of the Main Hertz Condado Office), we could leave the car at the Marriott San Juan, in the Condado area. We asked where to park the car, and were escorted there. Then we went inside to turn in the keys. A lady we asked was lost, and said that turning in the keys here was not possible. We asked another guy and he took us to this box that said Hertz, and we put the keys in there. We looked at the beach area (dark sand, dark water), and it had lots of waves, as well as the pool. The beaches in Puerto Rico are not for me. I’ll keep the Miami beaches any day! Here we called our relatives in a public phone, by an 800 number we had. By the way, on the ship, you can use your cellular phones while in San Juan and St. Thomas, as they get reception there, though you will most likely be roaming. We also called home from our cellular phone, as you can possibly tell.
Then, we took a taxi back to the Old San Juan, where the ship is docked, for about $10-$12 in total. We walked through the Old San Juan for a while. Beautiful architecture, cobblestone streets, and flowers. It looked as if we were in Spain. We sipped some coffee in this courtyard that we walked to (no Cuban coffee here, only American; we tried and tried, but alas could not find any Cuban coffee here). We did some last minute shopping in the stores that we could find open. They were mostly closed. We walked back to the ship (they didn‘t ask to see the immigration card that they‘d stamped), and showered, to go to eat at the dining room.
After, we went to the show in the Normandie Lounge, where there was a comedian, Tia Thompson, who was a riot, and she also sang. We saw here two years ago on the same ship. Her show was funny, but had not changed in two years. After we walked around, and went to the deck party. Meanwhile, the kids were in the teen disco which was until 12:30am tonight.
The deck party had lots of food, as well as people, and music. Not many people danced though, as is the usual on other cruises we’ve been on. The deck party began at 11pm , and the entertainment at the deck party at 12am. To our surprise they had a Mexican buffet. Hello, we’re in Puerto Rico! The ship didn’t even stop at Mexico on this cruise! I definitely feel that this should be a Puerto Rican buffet, or a Caribbean one, but NOT a Mexican buffet. Whatever, what can I do? Soon after, we retired for the night.
Day 5 – St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands
We were dead tired after yesterday’s long day in Puerto Rico. So we woke up a bit later today, at about 7am. We went to the buffet breakfast on Lido Deck, and ate. We watched the beautiful scenery outside, and some seagulls who were very close to our ship. We were parked right next to some Royal Caribbean cruise ship (the Explorer of the Seas, I believe), and the Norway (a Norwegian Cruise Line’s ship) was out in the harbor, as it cannot dock in any Caribbean port as it is too deep, and those must go into port by tender. The ship does not dock at Charlotte Amalie, the capital, but rather near some shops called the Heavensight Mall.
We got off the ship at about 7:45am-8am, and quickly caught a taxi to Magen’s Bay Beach. A couple of other people went along with us. The ride there was about 15-20 minutes, and was like a roller coaster ride; up and down, and up, and crazily tight turns. For some reason they drive on the left hand side here. The taxi trip cost us $6 per person, and $3 per adult, and $0.25 per child to enter Magen’s Bay Beach. The beach was beautiful!!! Soft-powdery white sand, and crystal clear blue water. When we got there, there was hardly anyone there. We got to see it at its pristine time. We plopped our stuff on a picnic table under a tree and headed in for the water. It was a bit chilly at first (not too chilly), but you soon got used to it.
The water got deep about 20 or 20 feet into the beach. We brought some snorkeling gear, but alas there was no snorkeling here. We saw a couple of fish though, but nothing snorkel worth. There are some rocks to the right, which we walked by ‘til what seemed forever, and the water was still shallow, and we were sure the water in the beach was real deep where we were. There was no snorkeling by these rocks either.
At the beach there are lounge chairs, kayaks, floating mats, etc. for rent. There is also a bar and grill there, though VERY expensive. Soon, at 11:45am, we showered ourselves, to get ready for the taxi driver whom was to pick us up at 12 noon. To our surprise the water in the showers was salt water, and not fresh water!
The taxi driver took us back, but as promised he stopped us at this place to throw some beautiful pictures. You could see the harbor, cruise ships, mountains, and the sea. It was truly marvelous! After, instead of dropping us off back at the cruise ship, we told him to drop us off at Charlotte Amalie, where all the shops are. There we ate some snacks and did some shopping (it was the last port where we could shop). There are tons of stores here, but like 80% of them seemed to be jewelry stores. They all had a sign that said to come on in, and check your lucky cabin number. That didn’t fool me! We also went to a place where they had some huts set up, and were selling arts and crafts, t-shirts, and braiding hair.
At about 2pm, we got another taxi to take us back to the ship. It is a looong walk back, don’t try it! The taxi cost us $3 per person, and the ride took about 10 minutes, as there was major traffic in Charlotte Amalie. Watch out, the taxi drivers here are constantly yelling at you out their windows, “Ready to go back to the ship, hop on in! ¿Están listos para regresar al barco, montense!” Just ignore them altogether. By the way, they’re also always offering to give you a tour of the island. To my surprise, many people speak Spanish there.
Once onboard the Paradise, we ate lunch at the Paris Restaurant, and hit the pool, and jacuzzi once again. By the way, the waterslide is open from 10am to 5pm on sea days, and from 3pm to 5pm on port days (excluding Miami days).
We showered, and as usual, went to eat dinner at the Destiny Dining Room. After that, we went to the show, it was another comedy one, and as usual the kids headed off to the teen disco. After that, we were pooped, and called it a night.
Day 6 – “Fun Day” at Sea
We awoke at about 9am, as there was no port of call to wake up early for. We, as usual, ate breakfast at the Paris Restaurant. Later we checked out our towels, plopped them on our chairs, and hit the pool, jacuzzi, and waterslide. Meanwhile, our younger son was anxious to participate in the ping-pong tournament, at 10am, but to his dismay, it was only for persons 16 and older. He was told that there was a tournament for the kids, the next day. We ate lunch at the Paris Restaurant as well.
On Lido Deck today, they had an onboard version of Survivor (Part II today), and horseracing. In addition, at 3pm, they had the galley tour, but alas we did not go on it as we were lounging on the Lido Deck. But, there were many who did go to it. By the way, some smart person decided to steal one of my towels from my lounge chair. Probably because they had run out of them! In addition, there was another lady plopped on the chair were it had been, and my sandals were still under the chair!! I kindly asked her if she knew anything about a towel on that chair, and she said no, and I even showed her the sandals (which were mine) under her chair, but she still said no.
After this, we went to complain at the pool stand to see what they could do, but the guy said he could do nothing, that we would be charged $22 for the towel. He offered to call his supervisor, but we told him not to bother. We just got someone else’s towel, and turned it in as ours. It’s a tough world out there!
We spent the day by the pool for the whole day. Later on, at about 6pm or 6:30pm, we went down to our room, to get ready for formal night. Once done, we walked around, and as usual people-watched on the Carnival Boulevard. There was no cocktail party today (though we could’ve sworn there was on prior cruises! Oh well!). Everyone in the dining rooms wore formal attire. This night they gave out the traditional posters of the ship. The kids went to the teen disco after dinner.
After dinner, we went to see the last Vegas-style show, “Shout!” We liked this one more than “Dream Voyage,” as it was more of a Caribbean-type show. We also went to the adult show at the Queen Mary Lounge that night. By the way, the ship was not rocking at all, the entire day! Duh, we’re going super slow! You could also see the island of Hispaniola (composed of the Dominican Republic and Haiti) from the ship from 10am -4pm.
Day 7 – “Fun Day” at Sea
We awoke at about 8am. We were sad, it was our last day aboard the cruise. We ate breakfast at, you guessed it, the Paris Restaurant. Then, once again, hit the pool scene. No towels stolen today! They had the Men’s Hairy Chest Contest as well as a live ice carving on the stage of the Lido Deck today. There was also a trivia game (I think they had it every sea day), as well as music by the main pool (the usual).
We ate lunch at the Paris Restaurant. Similar to the previous day, we spent the day lounging by the pool. We also did some last-minute shopping onboard the ship, such as 5 bottles of Cruzan Rum for $30, plus you got another one free! In addition, we also went down to the Information Desk to tell them to take off a charge for the Evian water in our cabin, as we’d told the room attendant to change it the first day, as it was open. He must’ve not understood us, and charged us for it. It was rapidly taken off our balance. We also began packing, to put our luggage outside our cabin.
Later on, we showered, and went to eat at the Paris Restaurant. Upon leaving we were sad to not have the waiter’s service anymore. The one person whom stood out was our waiter’s assistant, Gilbert, from the Philippines. Our waiter was just okay; nothing out of the ordinary. We went to the last show, it was a talent show. It was the highlight of the trip! The kids went to the teen disco, and then up on the Lido Deck. They said bye to new friends, and exchanged email addresses. It was a sad day! We stayed up ‘til about 2am that night. It was our last night onboard the ship! They delivered the liquor I had purchased that night as well. Passengers were to put their luggage out in the halls, from 6pm to 12am Midnight.
Day 8 – Disembarkation at Miami, Florida, United States of America
Today we woke up at 7:30am, and went to eat breakfast at the Paris Restaurant. Our kids saw some of their friends, whom they said good bye to, again. We then went to our room to wait ‘til they called our luggage tag color. You are now allowed to remain in your cabin ‘til they call your luggage tag color. They began calling those with early flights at 9am, and our luggage tag color was called at 9:15am.
With our carry-ons in our hands, we set off to leave the ship (you must punch your card in the identification machine one last time upon disembarking the vessel). Upon entering the terminal, the luggage is separated by luggage tag colors. We quickly rounded up all our luggage, and were off. Upon leaving the terminal you must turn in your US Customs form (one per family; real easy to fill out).
We waited for about 30 minutes for my brother-in-law to pick us up. It was nice and sunny, not raining as on embarkation day. We went under the roof of what seemed to be a loading dock, to wait for him. By the way, upon exiting the terminal I found my nephew whom was waiting for his mother, whom was just arriving as well, but from the Carnival Victory. We made it home in about 30 minutes. We were home by 10:45am. This was super early, as we usually are off the ship by 10:30am.
Later we found that we’d left a luggage at the port! It was a beach duffel bag, so that’s probably why we overlooked it. As we lived nearby, we set off to go retrieve it. Upon entering the Carnival terminal, we were directed inside, behind the check-in counters, to an office. Yes, I had to go through the metal detector (I felt like I was going to go on the ship again!). They had this long list of luggage that had been left. They found ours, and soon retrieved it. They made me sign, as well as wrote down my passport number.
About 2 days after the cruise, I received my credit card bill. On it, Carnival had refunded me $632!!!! What a surprise!!! I guess it was the difference from the Paradise to the Carnival Victory. Our travel agent must’ve really talked them into doing this. Or maybe Carnival noticed that we cruise very frequently with them, and didn’t want to lose our business, so they were nice about it. That just made my day! Thanks Carnival!! There are nice cruise lines out there, and they do still care about the passengers!!!
Suggestions for Carnival Cruise Lines
We truly enjoyed our cruise aboard the Paradise. Without a doubt, we would cruise Carnival again. They offer a great product, at a reasonable price. Well if I didn’t feel this way, this wouldn’t be my fifth cruise with them! And many more planned! Here are just a few things that we feel would make Carnival much better, and hope to see these changes made on our future cruises. For all these suggestions, there are tons of things that we just can’t complain about, ad they were superb.
1- On the Lido Deck party, there should be a Puerto Rican (or Caribbean) buffet, but definitely not a Mexican buffet (on the Eastern Caribbean cruise), as we didn’t even go to Mexico!
2- In addition to the reggae and calypso music played poolside, Latin music (salsa, merengue, bachata, etc.) should also be played. We are on our way to Puerto Rico (or Cozumel on the Western Caribbean cruise).
3- Every night that we were just in a port, or still are, there should be at least one plate from that place. Such as serving Bahamian Conch, when in the Bahamas, and Arroz con Gandules and Alcapurrias, when in Puerto Rico. I’m not telling you to make the entire menu of that place, but to offer at least one plate in each section (appetizer, main course, and dessert) from that place. This would truly enhance the feeling of being there.
4- There needs to be some sort of matting on the stairs that lead to the pool, as they get very hot!
5- A ping-pong tournament should be offered for the kids! On our cruise, 2 were offered for adults, but not 1 for kids; and on other Carnival cruises I’ve seen the kids ping-pong tournament
6- Consider making a teen club, as I’ve heard about the one on the Fascination.
7- During the evening shows in the Normandie Lounge (main show lounge), when in a port, or just leaving one, a typical show of that place should be done. This could be only 15 minutes, but still be there. After this, you could put the thing you were originally to have that night, such as a comedian, or magician. For example, the night that we left Nassau, have a 15 minute Junkanoo show, and then immediately after, have the comedian. This also adds to the feeling of the islands.
8- There needs to be more variety of food (lunch). For example, in the Paris Restaurant (buffet), there should be some make-shift tables that have different foods each day. One day Italian, another Oriental, another deli-type things. This could help give more variety, as I’m aware that there isn’t that much space here as on the Destiny-class ships.
Also more variety of food in the dining room for dinner. The food is not appetizing for Hispanics. I say you go back to the theme nights (Italian, French, International, etc.). Also, offer different food on different ships, or change the food frequently! We had the same exact food on this cruise as when we were on it, 2 years ago!
9- Change the shows more often. We saw Shout! and Dream Voyage on our cruise 2 years ago!!! This discourages cruisers to cruise on a ship more than once. Also, I distinctly remember one of the comedians on my cruise 2 years ago, and she was here again!!! Plus, here routine was exactly the same as it was 2 years ago!!!
10- There should be more time in Nassau, ‘til about 4pm. Right after our excursion to Blue Lagoon Island, we had to head back to the ship, and had no time to shop, or walk around. Also, consider varying your itineraries more. Change the Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios one. Maybe add Costa Maya, Grand Cayman, Montego Bay. Also, consider a new Eastern Caribbean route to Tortola (what happened to this port?), Santo Domingo (I think lots of people would love to go here) or Puerto Plata (not sure if you can go there), and possibly Antigua, or St. Kitts (they’re near St. Maarten and you sail there). If I saw some new itineraries (such as the Key West, Progreso/Merida, Cozumel, Belize City, which we plan on going on next), we’d definitely cruise again. Look into Roatan, Honduras; San Tomas del Castillo, Guatemala; and Eleuthera, Bahamas, as well.
11- There should be more activities in Spanish (or done in both English and Spanish). All announcements onboard, life boat drills, the port talks, and debarkation talks, without a doubt, should be done in both languages. There were many Latinos on this cruise. We met people from Costa Rica, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, and many Latinos whom speak Spanish (better than English), that live in the United States. Maybe this isn’t on all ships, or cruises. But if there is a large amount, as on this cruise, this should definitely be offered. By offering this, more Latinos would cruise with Carnival. By Carnival recognizing them, by doing things in their language, they would recognize Carnival, and would love to cruise with you, for treating them as if they were at home!