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SarahMascara

First cruise - carnival paradise 2/22/14-2/27/14 with pics!

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Hi everyone! I'm sarah and my bf Todd and I just returned from our first cruise on board the carnival paradise. It will definitely be our first of many, we had a complete blast! I wanted to write something about our experience as cc was such an amazing help to me I wanted to pay it forward. Also it's nice to re-live the trip. :) I tried to take a lot of pictures but at the same time I wanted to really experience things so sometimes (often) I forgot to snap a photo. So there will be pictures, just not a ton. As I'm writing this it is becoming very long, but I don't mind reading long reviews so I'm not going to edit it down too much as I feel like I want to tell other first time cruisers what I wish I would have known.

 

Pre-cruise: We live in Minneapolis, Minnesota but my dad lives just outside of Tampa so we wanted to find a cruise out of there. Didn't really leave us with a lot of options so we booked a five night cruise stopping in grand cayman and cozumel. Let me tell you, this has been the most awful winter I can remember. We booked the cruise 86 days out and to keep from going crazy with cold and snow I went into complete obsessive cruise researching mode!

The day we were to fly to tampa was a snow storm. Figures. There were a lot of flights cancelled but thankfully ours was not.

 

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We were delayed about 2 hours and finally we were off! Leaving behind a fresh ten inches of snow. We flew in on a Thursday but our cruise didn't leave until Saturday so we had a little time to hang around with my dad. Cloudy and raining in Tampa but still warm for us!

 

Embarkation day: Wahoo! Cruise day!

We got up, packed, and drank our coffee. We were planning to leave at about 9:30 so we could get there good and early. But, alas, the dreaded email came and Tampa was experiencing fog so we would be delayed, again. At 10:00 am they said the port was open but not to come until later. Well, I had read on these boards that sometimes you just ignore that email so we went anyway. I tend to be rediculously early for everything so I didn't care if I had to wait.

We got there around 11:00 and had no trouble checking in or anything. We just sat and waited.

 

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First view of the paradise!

 

Around two they announced we wouldn't start the boarding process until 4:00. Ugh!

 

Carnival provided a temporary luggage check for our carryons so we could leave the terminal hands free. We were getting very hungry and very cranky so we left our carry-ons and went to Hooters for a cocktail and snack. Oh my, there was the longest line outside of the terminal. Apparently inside was full so people were lined up waiting outside. I was thankful at that moment that we had arrived early, and were at least able to wait in the terminal. After that we walked down to a little area that was playing music and we sat down and could watch them loading all the luggage and supplies on to the paradise.

 

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At about 3:30 we decided to head back. The line had reduced substantially so we assumed they were boarding. We showed our sign and sails cards and skipped the line. We grabbed our carry-ons and sure enough, we were able to walk right onto the ship! Finally! I had purchased FTTF about five days before we left but since we got to the terminal so early it didn't really matter at this point.

 

Right away we went to find our room. We brought pop, water, and wine on and didn't want to lug it around (P.S. They didn't even glance at my loose water bottles or wine. We could have had them filled with vodka but didn't. They did look at Todd's Mountain Dew a bit. P.P.S. It was a waste of space to bring water. The tap water on the ship is completely fine.).

 

I had it stuck in my head that we were only going to take the stairs for the whole trip to get some sort of exercise. The problem with that is the stairs are not labled at all to tell you which floor you are on. We kept seeing signs for D, E, F with arrows but had no idea what that meant! Hah turns out D, E, and F are muster stations. Can you say newbie?

 

Well we wound up lost in the stairways and accidentally went to the crew staterooms, which was awkward but they were nice about directing us back to where we should be.

 

We had a guarantee ocean view room.

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They gave us our room assignment about a week prior, and I was a little nervous that we would be stuck with the worst cabin but it wound up being just fine. I was disappointed that the Paradise doesn't have regular balcony rooms, but it was ok. Our room was M205. This was located right by the elevators and stairways which made it very convenient, and we didn't experience any extra noise at all.

 

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Sorry it's so dark!

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We met our room steward Imade and he explained that because of the delay he had already done turn down service and wouldn't be back that night. He did a great job the entire cruise and knew our names right away. He always refilled our ice and always had a smile.

 

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Our luggage showed up about ten minutes later and we went up to lido to grab some food. It had been a stressful day but after eating we felt better.

 

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Ham and cheese sandwich from the deli and a salad

 

We got our first DOD and explored the ship while we waited for the muster drill which was easy and painless and seemed to go pretty fast.

 

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We went back to our room, filled our coffee mugs with wine, and went up to relax on the deck while we pulled out of the bay around 6:00 pm.

 

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We caught the last of some trivia show in the normandie lounge, checked out the shops, and changed and went to dinner around 8 ish. We had anytime dining and there was no wait at all.

 

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Shrimp appetizer

 

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Fish with veggies and mac and cheese I believe. I had already started eating this before I remembered the pic! No other photos of dinner tonight!

 

This was the only night we had pictures taken. I thought they would just snap a quick one of you and let you go, but this particular photographer made as do all these different poses and made me do a bunch by myself and It was not my cup of tea at all. He was nice and friendly and just doing his job but I didn't want to have to do a mini photo sesh every night! (This could be because Todd is a professional photographer and I get enough camera time at home haha! I could see how this would be fun for some people.)

 

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Then it was time for the welcome aboard show and I was pleasantly surprised. It was a variety show of sorts hosted by our cruise director Marcelo (btw we LOVED him! It seems he was recently promoted to the postition and although we had nothing to compare him to we thought he did an excellent job the entire cruise). All of the singers and dancers did a fabulous job in all their performances (the female lead "oversang" a little for my taste but she did have a beautiful voice). The band was also great the entire cruise and really made the experience special.

 

Todd was still hungry so we grabbed some late night pizza and called it a night.

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Day 2 - fun day at sea! Ahhh finally feeling like we were on vacation! Embarkation day was just so crazy we were really looking forward to a mellow sailing day.

 

Now, I must tell you - remember how I was insisting on taking the stairs everywhere we went? Yeah, I was FEELING it! Oh man, my calf muscles hurt so bad! And they hurt the rest of the trip. I looked like a cripple every time I tried to walk up or down a set of stairs. Todd was a little embarrassed to be seen by me! Next time I won't go so heavy the first day!

 

We decided to go to the MDR for breakfast.

 

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Todd loves his eggs benedict so he got that and I got fruit, sausage and grits. (Side note: every time I ate fruit on this cruise I thought of that hilarious review by that guy and his lady who ate fruit at every meal!) I had seen on past reviews that most people prefer the hollandaise sauce on the side and never understood why. Now I think it is because the sauce is kind of baked on the eggs. Todd still liked it but would next time order it on the side.

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It was now about ten am and I had signed us up for a slot pull with our roll call at 11 so we went up to lido to lay by the pool for a bit. We stopped by the bar to sign up for the cheers program and got some delicious pool side drinks.

 

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Strawberry daquari for T and Miami vice for me!

 

Most of the chairs were full but we were still able to get 2 chairs by the main pool.

 

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We met our group at the casino bar. There were seven of us I believe. We all chipped in 15 bucks and took turns placing bets. After a lot of nothing we were just beginning to think that we had picked the wrong machine when all the sudden the machine started going nuts! We wound up each leaving with 74 big ones! Not too shabby at all... Everyone kind of went their own way after that but we stuck around to chat with Karen from the role call at the bar for a bit.

 

We were pretty chill the rest of the day. We got lunch at the grill which was my favorite.

 

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Fries and a chicken sandwich for me, and a cheeseburger and fries for T. Yum! We ate as we watched the hairy chest contest. It just so happened we were sharing a table with women who were friends with the winner.

 

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There were no chairs at the main pool so we hung out at the aft pool where it was super windy.

 

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When we had had enough sun for the day we went back to our room to change and get ready for formal night.

 

This is when we received a note that because of our delay in Tampa we would be an hour late to grand cayman and cozumel but would stay an hour late to make up for it. I was a little concerned because I had booked an excursion with Aquarius sea tours in grand cayman at 8:30 and now we weren't due to arrive until 9am. I was just crossing my fingers that the tour was aware of the change and could still take us. I knew we would be the only ship in port that day so I was hopeful.

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There was a short wait for dinner, nothing that we couldn't handle. We wandered around (skipping the photographers) while we waited about 5-10 minutes. We already had a plan for dinner. We each ordered the lobster for a starter, and prime rib for the main course. Of course I didn't catch any photos of this! Ugh I'm terrible! Very tasty but small servings. I never can eat a lot and I was able to eat both plus my WCMC! (which is just as good as everyone says it is. We ordered this every night.)

 

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So serious!

 

A magician came over and did a very impressive mind reading trick on me and I cannot figure out how it was done for the life of me! Ordering wine for dinner with the cheers program was a little different for us. We couldn't order directly through our waiter, we had to wait for someone from the bar to take our orders. No big deal, most of the wine selection was the same from what we could tell.

 

After dinner we went to the show of the evening, which was a country music themed song and dance show. Here's a note about the Normandie theater. It is a beautiful venue with two levels and comfortable seats, but there are a lot of blind spots to be aware of. I would definitely recommend going at least 20 minutes early to get a good seat. You may have to sit through a round of bingo while you wait but it is worth it if you want a good view.

Next we headed to the Queen Mary Lounge to catch one of the two comedians. I wasn't thrilled with the comedy, it was a lot of lewd jokes and not for me. Todd enjoyed it though, so I think it depends on your sense of humor. We were pretty much beat at this point and after a failed attempt to get our dance on at Rex we headed back to the room for some zzzzs.

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Day 3 - grand cayman! We had set out our room service order the night before so we could have a quick breakfast before going down to catch the first tender. I set the alarm on my phone for 7:30 but wound up not needing it for our room service showed up early!

 

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Side note: I have seen lots of different info on cell phones on the ship, namely people say don't trust it as a clock. When I got on the ship I set my phone to airplane mode and disabled the auto time change option. I brought a watch along to every excursion with me just in case but my phone stayed on ship time the whole time and I was able to use it for a camera, clock and anything else that didn't need data or wifi. T had his on airplane mode but kept clock settings the same and his clock was fine every time we checked. I have an iphone 5 and he has a mytouch 4g.

 

Early seemed to be the name of the game today. We pulled into grand cayman around 8:30. The other reason I had purchased faster to the fun was to have priority on the tender this morning since we had an early non-ship sponsored excursion.

 

They kept making announcements not to hurry down to the tenders because there would be a wait but we ignored that. We were still waiting for the ship to clear so I went and asked guest services where we should be. They immediately walked us right to the tender and we were on our way! There was no line for us to pass so FTTF was not worth it at this moment although it being our first time it was worth the peace of mind. Also I think it helped that we were the only ship in port.

 

We followed the map we had gotten from our tour. It appeared that we were dropped off at a different spot than normal - the north terminal as opposed to the south - but we had no problem finding it as it was only a block away. We were there by about 8:45, 15 minutes past our original meeting time. Nothing was open but there were chairs to sit and wait.

 

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We met three others that were booked on our same excursion. Carol, Elizabeth, and Thelma/Velma (When we got home Todd and I realized we each heard her name differently! Sorry if you are reading this!). As we chatted with them we learned they had booked the same resort the next day in cozumel so we agreed to share a cab. (We must have done research in the same places! Thank you tripadvisor!)

 

We were all wondering if our tour was still on. Thelma/Velma had had the good sense the previous day and had the ship's guest services call Aquarius sea tours to let them know we would be late. She was told we would most likely be able to take the tour still. Whew, what a relief.

 

Well we sat and waited until 9:40, and one of the other tour workers tried calling Aquarius for us but no answer. So we walked back to the terminal where everyone was peddling their tours and no one had seen them. One of the port officials tried calling again for us and there was never any answer so we scrambled and the five of us went with a random group to do a comparable tour. The tour was called Best Value Watersports Ltd, stingray and reef excursions.

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I had read really excellent things on trip advisor about Aquarious sea tours and was really bummed to not be with them. I do not fault them as our ship did come in late. When I finally had email access back home I saw they emailed me twice, the first email said our tour was cancelled due to being late. The next email said we have been informed that your ship arrived in to port at 6:30 this morning. We will be at the scheduled meeting place at 8:30. That wasn't true, someone was giving wrong info! Either way I didn't recieve the emails and cannot help but wonder if we had also called from the ship maybe they would have kept the tour. The only thing I will say is that they should have answered their phone. We called both numbers they gave us several times and wasted valuable port time waiting around.

 

Ok all that being said, we had an excellent time in grand cayman! It was $40 for 2.5 hours. We were to go swim with the stingrays and then snorkel. We were nervous at first, there were about 20 of us crammed into a shuttle that took us to the boat. The boat was full but didn't feel crowded.

 

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They had water and juice for us to drink, and the ride was pleasant out to the sandbar. The captain Shaun and his photographer Leon were very friendly and funny. There were lots of other tours there but it was ok, there were plenty of rays and water to support everyone.

 

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I was nervous but they made me feel comfortable and I loved learning about the stingrays! They let us take our own pictures and my waterproof phone case came in handy!

 

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It seemed like a perfect amount of time we were there, then back on the boat to snorkel in coral gardens. Todd had snorkelled before so he jumped right in with the mask they gave us but I was a first timer and had no clue what to do! They kind of let us go right away and didn't really explain a whole lot so I felt very unsure. I am sure if I had just asked them for help they would have been more than willing but I felt more comfortable having T show me. It was a very cool feeling, I didn't realize how easy it would be to float!

 

We never felt rushed to get back to the boat which was nice. Eventually we all did get back on and boated back to be in an even more crowded bus (a couple had to wait for another one because they couldn't fit). The tour started at 10 and we were bussing back at 1:15 so we definitely went over 2.5 hours which was nice, but something to be aware of with a big group. My biggest fear was missing the boat but we had plenty of time.

 

By this point we were STARVING! We were supposed to be fed on the original tour we booked so I didn't bring any snacks. We went to Margaritaville for some loaded nachos and a drink. Ahh it was like 70 dollars! Grand cayman is EXPENSIVE! We should have just tendered back to the boat to eat but oh well.

 

We walked around a bit and the headed back to the terminal. Tendering was painless and there was no line at all.

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Random snap of me reading a very battered funtimes

 

Tonight's show was the game of love hosted by Marcello. It was hilarious! We got to the normandie early and got front row seats to this. I would say this was definitely my favorite show of the cruise. After this we headed to check out the piano bar. The musician was great, and we had a great time singing along to "Piano man". After that unfortunately I didn't know any of the songs he was playing so we left and went to bed.

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Day 4 - Cozumel!

After a busy tourist day in Grand Cayman we were looking forward to a relaxing day at the beach.

 

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I'm ready to go!

 

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The celebrity silhouette was beautiful

 

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We pulled right up next to the legend. You can see her water slides peeking out

 

The line to get off the ship was insane but it moved very quickly. The authorities were checking random bags for food items as you can't bring certain things off the ship.

 

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We headed to the end of the pier and met up with our group from yesterday to share a cab to Nachi Cocom. We asked the driver how much it would be for five of us and he said $21. We had read it would be $15 for two of us so we hopped in. After about a ten minute drive he let us out and we headed in to the resort.

 

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Ah it was so beautiful! We split up and agreed to find each other before we left. I thought the service was excellent. Our waiter was Carlos and he was wonderful. We never had an empty drink, and he kept the food coming!

 

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The chairs weren't the most comfortable but I rented a floatie for $7 and laid that on my chair and it made it perfect. Todd didn't have a floatie but he said he was completely comfortable so there ya go.

 

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There was hardly anyone there but we did meet some people from our ship so that was fun.

 

We decided we had to pamper ourselves and indulged in a 30 minute beach massage for $40 each (plus a tip). This was wonderful! If you get the opportunity to do this, do it! We felt so relaxed afterwards we were like jello walking down the beach!

 

When we were ready to leave we swam down the beach to see if our friends wanted to cab it back with us. They agreed and we met by the main bar. One of the people we met - Dave - told us we had to try one of the bartenders inventions: sex in the pool.

 

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Ugh Elizabeth's eyes are closed! Boo!

 

So we all took a shot and it was deeeee-licious. Ask for it when you go! We tipped the bartender and Carlos and they had a cab waiting for us. This cabbie told us it would be $28 for us. We told him the ride there had been $21 but he was firm on his price. We didn't want to have to wait for another one so we agreed and he took us back to the pier.

 

We shopped around a bit, I picked up a small bottle of vanilla, and we headed back.

 

Once aboard we grabbed a drink and headed to our cabin for a nap. Well.... We napped until 8:30! We rallied and caught the end of the gender showdown going on in the normandie and then watched the talent show. Then it was time for the Mexican fiesta going on lido. All the familiar line dances were going on (side note: I was bummed I didn't know any of the dances, before our next cruise I am youtubing the steps!), and we loaded our plates with Mexican food from the buffet. The food was decent, and we hung out there for awhile but apparently hadn't slept enough and went back to bed.

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Day 5 - fun day at sea! (But sad day too because it was our last day) We got up early and headed up to the pool to soak in every ounce of sun we possibly could.

 

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8 am chair hogging

 

Here's a tip for smokers and non smokers alike that we figured out too late in the trip: starboard side of open decks are smoking areas. Port side is non smoking. At least on the Paradise.

 

It was another gorgeous day (every day of the cruise was perfect weather wise by the way) and we sun bathed for hours. The pool was full but never too crowded to jump in and cool off.

 

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Random pic of T inside the Paris restaurant

 

This is when the commotion started. I started seeing crew and staff running to the area near the bar, apparently someone was having a medical emergency (we presumed a heart attack) and a fellow cruiser was giving an older gentleman CPR. It was very scary, but finally the medical staff came up and they took him away on a stretcher.

 

We got lunch at the grill and laid out for a few more hours before going in to wander around the ship. The captain came on the loudspeakers and announced the aft deck areas would be closing in a bit and we would be stopping so a helicopter could airlift the passenger to a hospital. The crew stacked and tied down all the aft chairs as they prepared for the helicopter. We went to the top deck to watch.

 

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We weren't the only ones, it seemed like half of the ship was up there watching for the helicopter, and the other half down on lido watching. We finally saw the coast guard and it hovered over the deck. It dropped someone down, and a stretcher and pulled the sick passenger up. Everyone applauded and then it was over. I feel for the family and I hope everything turned out ok.

 

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We had missed dinner in the MDR the last two nights so we decided we better take advantage of our last night. Great minds think alike and there was quite a line for anytime dining at about 7:30. We got our pager and walked around while we waited. It wasn't a bad wait, and soon we were seated. The service tonight was a little slower but not bad. We did get antsy waiting on our WCMCs because we wanted to catch the farewell show and still had to pack but it finally came and we dashed outta there!

 

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The show was good, another singing dancing one, then down to pack. Packing = no fun. It was hard to know what I wanted to keep out for the next morning but we did it. We put our bags out at 10:40 and breathed a sigh of relief. I don't remember what we did after this so we must have just grabbed a nightcap and gone to bed.

 

Day 6 - debarkation day, boo! We were NOT ready to leave. We won't do another five day cruise again. It was not enough for us! Seven day cruises only from here on in! We got up and went to breakfast in the MDR. We were seated with a group of people this time, and it was fun to chat with them. I had pancakes, sausage and hashbrowns and Todd had hashbrowns and eggs Benedict (sauce on the side :)).

 

Then we went to lido to wait until it was time to go to our meeting place. It was chilly! I was glad I had saved a sweater out. Group one was called and it was time to say goodbye to our home. Getting off the ship was so fast, customs was a breeze, and that was it!

 

Final thoughts: we had a fantastic time and we think carnival did a great job. We will cruise with them again! Thank you so much for reading this novel, I hope it was entertaining and a help to some of you!

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Nice review! I feel like I was reading it in realtime as after each segment, I'd refresh the page and a new, just-posted segment came up!

 

Glad you had a good time. We've been on the Paradise several times and feel the crew is terrific and the ship well-maintained. In fact, we were just on the first week in Feb and am surprised to hear you had a different CD. Steve Cassell was our CD and he plays a mean fiddle. Really adds a lot to the main shows, particularly the 8 More Seconds country show. Perhaps he if off to the annual CD meeting.

 

Thanks for posting!

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1f93c6bdcfaa6fd8529861f54e4f10a2_zps012abe22.jpg

 

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We had missed dinner in the MDR the last two nights so we decided we better take advantage of our last night. Great minds think alike and there was quite a line for anytime dining at about 7:30. We got our pager and walked around while we waited. It wasn't a bad wait, and soon we were seated. The service tonight was a little slower but not bad. We did get antsy waiting on our WCMCs because we wanted to catch the farewell show and still had to pack but it finally came and we dashed outta there!

 

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The show was good, another singing dancing one, then down to pack. Packing = no fun. It was hard to know what I wanted to keep out for the next morning but we did it. We put our bags out at 10:40 and breathed a sigh of relief. I don't remember what we did after this so we must have just grabbed a nightcap and gone to bed.

 

Day 6 - debarkation day, boo! We were NOT ready to leave. We won't do another five day cruise again. It was not enough for us! Seven day cruises only from here on in! We got up and went to breakfast in the MDR. We were seated with a group of people this time, and it was fun to chat with them. I had pancakes, sausage and hashbrowns and Todd had hashbrowns and eggs Benedict (sauce on the side :)).

 

Then we went to lido to wait until it was time to go to our meeting place. It was chilly! I was glad I had saved a sweater out. Group one was called and it was time to say goodbye to our home. Getting off the ship was so fast, customs was a breeze, and that was it!

 

Final thoughts: we had a fantastic time and we think carnival did a great job. We will cruise with them again! Thank you so much for reading this novel, I hope it was entertaining and a help to some of you!

 

You will find that even 7 days isnt enough! :eek: Great review and pictures, thanks so much for posting!

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Great review! My husband and I are going on this cruise in August for our 5 year anniversary and each review makes me more excited. It will be our fourth cruise, third with Carnival and we have loved them all! Agree with above- we did a 9 day and still could have stayed longer :)

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Thanks for the review and pics, we love the Paradise, our first 3 cruises were on the Paradise when it was smoke free and doing 7 day cruises out Miami.

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Thanks for the review. We are doing the 5 day in April with our DD, SIL and 7 year old GS. Same itinerary.

 

Did you make it to the Serenity area, Deck 9 aft?

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Thanks for the review. We are doing the 5 day in April with our DD, SIL and 7 year old GS. Same itinerary.

 

Did you make it to the Serenity area, Deck 9 aft?

 

Hi! Thanks for reading! We did spend a little time on serenity, in the evening the hot tubs were perfect! During the day I wanted to be closer to a pool because it was so hot.

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Thanks for the review and pics, we love the Paradise, our first 3 cruises were on the Paradise when it was smoke free and doing 7 day cruises out Miami.

 

I forgot to add that we are thinking about doing this cruise in September.

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Thanks for the review. We are doing the 5 day in April with our DD, SIL and 7 year old GS. Same itinerary.

 

Did you make it to the Serenity area, Deck 9 aft?

 

Me too! We sail on April 5th!

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I loved reading your review Sarah. Very nice pics as well!! I felt as if i was along with you and Todd on the cruise! :) I would also agree with what another poster said earlier, even a 7 day cruise will seem short! lol We can never get enough!

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ha I made the "stairs" mistake myself. Thought it would "better and healthier" for me. NOTTTTTTTT just had had a full hip replacement. They said, do this do that, brek it in, Don't think I saw stairs on a cruise ship listed any place as recommended exercise. never again. thanks for a great

review. We leave in 4 days

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ha I made the "stairs" mistake myself. Thought it would "better and healthier" for me. NOTTTTTTTT just had had a full hip replacement. They said, do this do that, brek it in, Don't think I saw stairs on a cruise ship listed any place as recommended exercise. never again. thanks for a great

review. We leave in 4 days

 

Have fun! I have 22 more days to go. On the dream, I was on the upper deck and it was real easy to take the stairs. This trip i'm on the riviera deck definitely a lot of elevator usage on this trip.

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Enjoyed your pic review:)

 

Nachi Cocom is a great place to have a relaxing day on the beach! I really enjoyed it and the beach was beautiful. Your review brought back fond memories.

 

Thank you for sharing.

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Where did you pack or buy your wine and drink since you took a flight?

 

Since we were staying at my dad's in tampa for two days prior we just went to the grocery store before leaving.

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Great review. Wish everyone would take your example and do them all at once. How do you do that?

Right? I like to read everything at once, so I typed everything ahead of time and copy and pasted the img tag where all my pictures were. Took a lot longer than I thought so I'm glad I did it that way. It would have taken two weeks to complete and I would have forgotten everything! Thanks for reading!

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cruise director Marcelo

 

Love Marcelo! We've had him for a few cruises now. Did he tell the story where his mom calls him Marshmellow? :D

 

We won't do another five day cruise again. It was not enough for us! Seven day cruises only from here on in!

 

I wouldn't recommend trying a B2B then, lol ;)

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