Paradise November 1998 Pre-Inaugural Cruise
My wife and I were fortunate enough to get an overnight invitation to see and experience Carnival's newest ship, Paradise.
To review the ship and tell you that this was this color, and that deck so-and-so contained the dining room and/or a public lounge would just be a waste of time. You can look at Carnival's brochure and see for yourself where everything is. This is the eighth and last of the Fantasy class of ships. It is a sister ship to the Elation and laid out exactly the same. This review will be more as to what is different and unique, and maybe contradict some of the other comments and reviews.
Let me first qualify myself my telling you that we are not Carnival fans. Second I am an ex-smoker and appreciate how enjoyable smoking can sometimes be for a smoker, but yet how annoying it can be for a non-smoker. I tried very hard to be as objective as possible on both of these matters. I will not compare this ship or cruise line to any other ship or cruise line as this would be unfair: each cruise line and/or ship appeals to a particular passenger and must stand on its own merits.
Boarding and First Impressions
We boarded the Paradise on Friday at about 2:45pm. Having been on many other overnight ship inspections, I expected to see a mob of people with long lines taking a long time to check in. This was the first surprise; there were no lines, no mobs, and no waiting. Carnival had more check-in counters then most others and they apparently allowed checking-in to start a little early.
Although I found the ship still somewhat gaudy, it was not glitzy like many of the older Carnival ships. Carnival has toned down the glitz on this ship. The ship is not elegant, but then it is not supposed to be; Carnival markets the "Fun Ships," not the "Elegant Ships." They leave elegance to their sister cruise lines, Holland America, Cunard, etc. Although it may not be to my liking, it definitely has that "Fun ship" decor and atmosphere, which is exactly what Carnival is marketing.
The ship's theme is supposed to be a tribute to legendary liners of yesteryear. The Queen Mary Lounge has replicas of the Queen Mary's smoke stacks to support chairs and tables. The Blue Riband library has models of ships that broke speed records. The ceiling contains a map of the route taken. The theme is not carried throughout the ship, as the Rex Dance Club is decorated around a jungle-like setting which has nothing to do with a vintage liner.
The standard cabins on the ship appear to be smaller then the other Carnival ships, but I am told that they are the same size of 185 square feet. There is sufficient closet space, but the cabins do lack drawer space. Furnishing is standard and very basic. The corner table has a backlit picture of a vintage ship, which neither adds nor detracts from the cabin. The table itself is hollow and stores the life jackets and bedspread at night. This keeps both of these items out of the way without taking any closet space. The boarding pass, which looks like a plastic credit card, also works the safe as well as being a door key.
Bathrooms are large, especially the showers. One of the major complaints we do get from some "large" clients is the size of the shower; Carnival seems to have addressed this problem. The other complaint that we get is the lack of amenities (shampoo, shower cap, etc.) in the bathroom. There still aren't any, but this is almost a trademark with Carnival.
Food and Entertainment
During the presentation, Mr. Dickinson [president of Carnival Cruise Lines] said that for dinner we would be selecting from a regular menu, the same as passengers will get. Just for the record, lobster tail was on the menu.
Speaking about food . . . several years ago Carnival had the reputation of having the worst food of any cruise line. Carnival said that over the years they have improved their food -- and they have. It is not the best food of any cruise line, but it is lots better then some of the other cruise lines, and a heck of lot better then it used to be.
In the morning we had the buffet breakfast in the Paris restaurant where they had a fresh orange juice machine. Passengers take fresh oranges and drop them into the machine, which automatically squeezes them into orange juice. What a difference from that canned stuff everyone else uses.
The entertainment in the main Normandie showroom was very good. There was one act where they made excellent use of the laser technology. The laser enhanced the act, instead of the act enhancing the laser technology. The two-story room itself was small and in fact many could not find seats.
The (No) Smoking Issue
There is a large international non-smoking symbol painted on the bow of the ship. I personally thought it was very tacky and took away from the looks of the ship, but its message was loud and clear: this is a non-smoking vessel. As everyone knows or should know by this time, the Paradise is a non-smoking ship. The crew and passengers are not permitted to smoke aboard the ship. The crew was selected from non-smoking applicants. Passengers are warned by the international non-smoking symbol on their documents, and a waiver that must be signed with every set of documents. Anyone caught smoking, (if you dare try to get away with it) will be escorted off the ship at the next port of call. There will be no refund or financial assistance in getting back home. As Bob Dickinson, President of Carnival Cruise Lines, said, Carnival has taken this non-smoking policy very seriously. Even when the ship was being built, the workers were not permitted to smoke on or near the ship.
During my stay on the ship, I stopped at the bar in the atrium to get a drink and talk to a few people. After spending some time talking we all realized how enjoyable it was not to have smoke blown in our face. The drinks and conversation were much more enjoyable. I know this sounds anti-smoking, but I don't mean it to be; it's just that for the non-smoking cruiser, this ship is a dream come true.
I know that on other ships they designate the port (left) side smoking and the starboard (right) side non-smoking, but this does not really work. Smokers tend to not pay attention and carry their ash trays along with their lit cigarettes over to the starboard side. Smoke from the port side usually drifts over to the starboard side. I for one never enjoyed standing around a bar with a drink because of this, until now. Most of the travel industry people on the ship all had the same experience, everything seems to feel and taste better. I should warn you that if you have a piece of paper and you are looking for an ashtray to throw it in, forgot it, there aren't any. This happened to me and I had a heck of a time trying to find a receptacle to throw it in.
In summary, the decor, appearance, food, service, etc. all pale in comparison to the ship's major difference: no smoking. Ever since Carnival announced that this ship was to be the first non-smoking ship, it became the major item of discussion in the papers, at functions and in the office. Although I personally liked the idea, I was skeptical about its success. It was my opinion that almost any significant size group would have a few members that smoke, preventing the group from selecting this ship.
Well, I may have misjudged the public. In talking to group leaders, I am amazed at the number of groups that are 100% non-smokers (not by design). I was also amazed as to the appeal a non-smoking ship has on these groups, as well as individual non-smokers. I don't know how well the non-smoking concept will work, but from my perch it looks like Carnival may have hit on something. This is an item that will have to be revisited in a year or so.
Like I stated at the beginning, my wife and I were never great fans of Carnival ships, but I think that Carnival has gone a long way in improving its reputation. Like Bob Dickinson said, Carnival used to be a "bottom feeder looking up, now they own what they were looking up at." This ship is clearly a step up for Carnival.
Read all the details and view dozens of photos at:
New Ship Paradise Part 2
Joe Goodman is the owner of International Tours & Cruises and can be reached for questions or comment at: email@example.com.
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