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mathgal

Extremely Long Paradise Cruise Journal

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It has taken me a couple of months to finish my "cruise journal" following our week long cruise on the Paradise in June. This journal was written to record my memories as I have done following other special trips...it was not meant to be a "review" like so many others write. I'm sure most people will take one look at the length and close this post, but there might be a few who enjoy reading about a week on the Paradise!! Hopefully posting such a long trip report isn't a "no-no" on these boards!!

 

Unfortunately much of this information may not be useful to future cruisers since the Paradise will be repositioned to California in just a couple of weeks. At that time the Paradise will take on new routes and no longer be a "non-smoking" ship. I know I am not alone in saying I hate to see this happen. The non-smoking aspect of the Paradise was what enticed us to try cruising in the first place.

 

Besides the lengthy report, I have many pictures posted on Webshots from our cruise. You can access the pictures by clicking on the following link: http://community.webshots.com/user/mathgal55

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Pre-Trip Details

 

Two years ago we (husband, Bob, and I) cruised on the Paradise to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. It was our first cruise and I wasn’t quite sure if I would enjoy cruising or not, but I wanted to do something “special” for the anniversary milestone. Let’s face it…camping in a pup tent just wasn’t going to cut it for this special occasion. Once I read about the smoke-free Paradise I knew that was the ship I wanted to cruise on…I detest cigarette smoke and the thought of being able to spend a whole week free of the nasty stuff would be wonderful!

 

 

I planned and researched every aspect of the cruise and the week turned out to be even more wonderful than I had imagined. Bob felt the same way and we talked about taking another cruise “someday”. Unfortunately the reality was that we were paying college tuition for two kids plus tons of car insurance and a cruise just wasn’t fitting into our budget.

 

 

Last year it was with sadness that I read that the Paradise would no longer be smoke-free as of September. That meant that when we did cruise again we would probably miss out on things like the casino, clubs, etc. because we would avoid them in order to avoid the smoke.

 

 

January came around and we got a call from old friends from Illinois. Kent had been Bob’s college roommate and ended up marrying my college roommate, Laurel. Although we don’t see each other frequently, we have kept in touch over the years. They called saying that this summer they would be celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary and they were considering a cruise. They thought that a cruise would be more fun going with friends and they were really hoping we would go with them!

 

 

It’s amazing how all of a sudden we started trying to justify how we could afford a cruise! The oldest son was graduating…that meant only one tuition bill next year! Bob had become an EMT since our last cruise and his pay as a “volunteer” on the ambulance squad is meager but still would help cover the costs! If things got really tight we would just eat beans for every meal….no, it actually didn’t get that bad! Let’s just say it didn’t take us too long to make up our minds to accompany our Kent and Laurel on a cruise.

 

 

Since our friends had never cruised, I offered my services as “travel planner & researcher”. Right away I started lobbying for a cruise on the Paradise. Laurel deals with allergy triggered asthma so it was not hard to convince her that a smoke-free ship would be a great choice. Bob is a certified scuba diver and a cruise would offer him the chance to dive at some of the world’s greatest dive locations…at least on the western Caribbean route. Kent revealed that scuba diving was one of his life-long dreams so right away he enrolled in a scuba class at their local community college.

 

 

The Paradise alternates weekly between the western and eastern Caribbean so we were limited to about six weeks in the summer that we could cruise the western route. Oh yeah…I forgot to mention that Kent, Laurel and myself are all teachers so we “must” cruise in the summer time. We had cruised the western route two years ago, but since then the Paradise had dropped Ochos Rios from its itinerary and added Belize and Roatan…two new ports for us to visit!

 

 

After comparing summer schedules, the week of June 13th was the only week that was really going to work out for both families. Our oldest son was to be married on June 5th and we knew it would be a hectic time but we figured a cruise would be a great way to relax and unwind the following week!

 

 

I began spending hours and hours and hours checking cruise prices, researching tour ideas, and just reading about the Paradise in general. Initially we booked the cruise through CruCon, but when I noticed other on-line agencies dropping their prices for our cruise, CruCon wouldn’t agree to lower our price to match. Since we had not made the final payment yet, we cancelled and re-booked with Buycruises.com. Our first cruise had been booked through Buycruises and we were happy with their service...this time was the same. Since money was an issue, I convinced our friends that we should just book inside guarantee cabins.

 

 

Flying out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota is most convenient for us…it is a small airport and only an hour away. Unfortunately flying out of Sioux Falls is usually outrageous in price!! The last time we had some free airline vouchers to use…this time we would be footing the whole bill and I did not want to pay as much for airfare as we did for a week long cruise!! Instead we decided to fly out of Minneapolis/St. Paul…a three and a half hour drive but worth it to save around $400 total!

 

 

We definitely wanted to fly down a day early and I was able to find a direct flight on Northwest with very convenient times. I suppose we could have gotten up really early to drive to “the cities” for our flight, but with all we were saving on the flights we just decided to drive up the night before and not have to rush. The Wyndham Hotel offered a “park ‘n fly” option where for the price of a one night stay we could leave our car for a week while we cruised.

 

 

While we were at my son’s wedding reception the week before the cruise it occurred to me that we would be at the hotel near the airport on Friday night when the “newlyweds” would be flying in from their honeymoon. They had previously made arrangements for a friend to pick them up, but hey…we were going to be there and we could get them!

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Friday, June 11th – Minneapolis

 

Bob took the day off on Friday and we left home around 10 a.m to head to “the Cities”. Our son, Zach, had left his car at a friend’s house north of Minneapolis so we swung by there to pick it up before heading to the Wyndham Hotel. Their flight was due around 6 p.m. so the plan was to pick them up, go out to eat and then send them on their way home. At precisely 6 p.m. a huge thunderstorm struck the Twin Cities. We waited and waited and finally around 7 p.m. we got a call…”Mom, we are in Duluth!” Their flight had been diverted. Not knowing when they would finally arrive Bob and I drove over to the Mall of America grabbed a bite to eat and enjoyed shopping in one of the world’s largest malls!

 

 

 

The call finally came around 10:15 p.m. that they had landed. The mall is right by the airport so we buzzed over and picked them up. By then they were exhausted and just wanted to get back to their apartment in St. Cloud…an hour away. They came back to our hotel briefly and then took their car and left. I was disappointed we didn’t get to spend more time together but glad we did get a brief visit before we left on the cruise.

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Saturday, June 12th – Traveling to Miami

I had brought along some muffins and along with coffee from the in-room coffee maker we had a decent breakfast before leaving for the airport. The hotel shuttle left on the hour so shortly before 8 a.m. we hauled all of our luggage down to the front door…and a sizeable amount it was!! Bob brought all of his scuba gear and that comprised two large bags just on it’s own.

 

 

Sharing the shuttle with us were quite a few folks who had missed connections the previous night due to the storms and had spent the night at the hotel. The airport was rather busy when we got there with people trying to re-book flights, but it really didn’t take us long to get our bags checked. Our flight didn’t leave until 10:30 so we had a couple of hours to read and “people watch”.

 

 

The flight was uneventful and we landed on time at 3 p.m. in Miami. As soon as we had our luggage we grabbed a taxi and were on our way to the Radisson in downtown Miami where I had booked two rooms for $35 each using Priceline. I think the cab fare was around $25 before tip…I do remember we hit some traffic snags which upped the price just a bit. The “motor lobby” is on the street level of the Radisson, but you must then take the elevator up to the 4th floor to find the main lobby. I had called several days prior to request a room on an upper floor with a view of the port. Half of my request was granted…we were on the 18th floor with a city view. I was surprised to see that we were in our room by 4 p.m….only an hour since we had landed at the airport!

 

 

Bob decided a nap was in order, but I was too keyed up to sleep. To pass the time till our friends arrived, I set out to explore the hotel. I had read where the pool was on the first floor so I jumped in the elevator and headed down. When the elevator doors opened I was looking at a major construction zone! All of the rooms on this floor were being totally remodeled…obviously this wasn’t where I was supposed to be!

 

 

Turned out the pool is located right off the main lobby on the 4th floor. Although rather small, the pool area itself was landscaped nicely. Knowing that there would be some ships in port I asked if there was some place I could go that had a view in that direction. I was sent to the top (21st) floor. Just outside the elevators there was a small sitting area with windows overlooking the port. My timing was great because the Triumph was just coming towards the “turning basin” to get ready to head out to sea. The ship moved ever so slowly and then stopped and just pivoted 180 degrees…truly amazing to watch!

 

 

By the time I got back to the room, Bob had gotten up from his nap so I convinced him to come see the view from the 21st floor. The Triumph had sailed out of site, but now the Imagination was repeating the process of turning around getting ready to sail away!

 

 

Back in the room the cell phone rang…Kent & Laurel were in a cab on the way to the hotel. We piddled around for a few minutes and then decided we would go down to the “motor lobby” to greet them when they arrived. Once down on the street level we waited and waited. Finally the cell phone rang again…Kent & Laurel were already checked into their room and wondering where we were! Their trip from the airport had obviously gone much quicker than ours!

 

 

The plan was to head to Bayside Marketplace to spend the evening and grab a bite to eat. I had read that the Metromover was nearby and offered free transportation. We inquired about directions from the bellhop in the motor lobby and he suggested we use the hotel shuttle instead. Normally the shuttle only makes the trip on the hour, but he summoned the driver and he agreed to make a special trip for us. The cost was $1 per person.

 

 

There is a variety of restaurants at Bayside but we just opted to eat at the food court on the upper level. We spent a considerable amount of time contemplating the many various options of ethnic food all the while yacking and catching up on each other’s lives! Bob and Kent decided on Japanese food, I chose Greek, and Laurel (not being very adventurous when it comes to food) ordered spaghetti! We found a table outdoors and that was when I truly felt like I was on vacation!

 

 

Following dinner we had fun browsing through the many shops at Bayside. A band was playing but they weren’t really that good so we didn’t linger long. By 10:00 the day’s travel was starting to catch up with all of us. Rather than wait on the hotel shuttle, we just grabbed a cab and headed back to the hotel. Cab fare was around $5.

 

 

Although I had booked both rooms together, we were on the 18th floor near the elevator and Kent and Laurel were on the 17th floor a loooooong way from the elevator. Our room had two double beds, theirs had one king sized bed. Both rooms had floor to ceiling windows overlooking the city. The window sort of gave me the creeps because it felt like that if I got too close I would go right over the edge! We ended up in Kent & Laurel’s room sharing pictures we had each brought…it had been a long time since we had last seen each other and there was lots of catching up to do!

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Sunday, June 13th – Embarkation Day

Bob, Kent & Laurel walked across the street to a Burger King to get breakfast. Knowing how much food I would be consuming in the following week, I opted for a granola bar and cup of coffee in the room. The three came back talking about some guy who had “appeared out of no where” wanting money from them. Laurel was sure they were close to being mugged, but nothing came of it, thank goodness!

 

 

 

I was anxious to see my “Paradise” so as soon as the rest of the crew got back from breakfast we all headed up to the 21st floor once again for a view of the port. Besides the Paradise there was also a RCCL ship in port, but that was it. I was surprised the Victory wasn’t parked behind the Paradise as she was two years ago when we cruised.

 

 

 

At 11:00 a.m. we gathered our stuff and went downstairs to get a cab to the port. Once again the bellhop suggested we use the hotel shuttle. I don’t think we really saved any money since it was $4/per person but it did enable the four of us to travel together. There was no way we would have fit into a regular cab with all of our luggage!

 

 

 

The trip to the port was a breeze, especially when compared to our last cruise when the traffic was horrendous!! As we were getting the luggage unloaded from the shuttle I was shocked to see that no one else was around! It sort of gave me a weird feeling like maybe I had gotten my days mixed up or something! But no…there was the Paradise sitting there in all of her glory just waiting on us to board. The porter looked up our cabin numbers on the manifest but it was no surprise when he said we had cabins R6 and R8. On the back of the Sail & Sign page of our documents was a long code number. The first few digits was our booking number and it was followed by the cabin number. Thanks to the advice of fellow Cruise Critic members, I was able to “break” the code! The porter gave us brown “Forward Riviera” luggage tags to replace the gray TBA tags that we were using.

 

 

 

Heading into the terminal, we sent our carry-on luggage through the x-ray machine and then walked right up to the desk where agents were waiting to check our documents. This took all of maybe 3 minutes and then we were sent upstairs where again we walked right up to the desk and were given our Sail and Sign cards. Immediately I checked to see what dinner time we had been assigned to. Yeah!! We would be eating at 6:15 p.m. in the Elation Dining Room…just what I had requested. A quick check of Kent and Laurel’s cards showed that they would be sharing our table so all was well.

 

 

 

One large room was already filled with waiting cruisers so we were directed to a second room of chairs. We settled in expecting a long wait but not long after a staff member came and started dismissing us by rows. First we had a picture taken for the Sail and Sign card and then onto the obligatory “welcome aboard” picture. I looked at my watch and we were walking onboard the ship at 11:50…not bad considering we had left our hotel less than an hour ago!

 

 

 

It was fun to see Kent and Laurel’s reaction as they entered the impressive atrium of the Paradise…they seemed to be in awe of it all! The information we had been handed requested that we wait until after 1:30 to go to our cabins, but we hoped that maybe we could just drop off our carry-ons before heading to lunch. Having been in the forward part of the ship on our last cruise, it was easy to find the cabins although I was a bit surprised to find out how far forward we really were! It was quite a hike from the elevators through the zig-zagging hallway at the front of the ship! Our cabins were the third and fourth from the very front.

 

 

 

Our cabin steward, Yusef, was just finishing up the cabins when we arrived and said it would be fine to drop off our stuff. This was my first glimpse of a porthole cabin and I was surprised at the large “ledge” that was under the two portholes. This area was probably 3’ by 4’ and was easily large enough to sit in. Kent and Laurel had an even bigger surprise in their cabin…a flying fish had landed in their porthole and died! He remained with them for the entire cruise. We joked that some night he might end up being the “catch of the day” for dinner!

 

 

 

We wandered around the ship a bit and eventually ended up in the Paris dining room for lunch. Kent made it through the buffet line but the rest of us headed to the back of the dining room for pizza. It was still as good as I remembered and I enjoyed every bite! Besides the pizza, I also got some Caesar salad from the “pizza man”…he prepared it while I waited so it was fresh and tasted wonderful!

 

 

 

The rest of the afternoon we gave Kent and Laurel a tour of the ship and Bob and Kent managed to get in a quick game of shuffleboard while we were on the sports deck. I was curious where our table was in the dining room but when we arrived we were told that they were still in the process of putting numbers on the table. The gal we talked to assured us that we would be sharing a table for 8 by the window and that was good enough for me. We had requested seating at a larger table, but I didn’t want to be at one of the round center tables…I wanted to be by the window! I was looking forward to an ocean view while we ate!

 

 

 

Before we knew it, it was time to don our life jackets and take part in the muster drill. I could feel the sweat dripping down my back as they pushed us closer and closer together on deck, but at least the process didn’t last too long. Knowing the ship would be pulling out shortly, Laurel and I conned Bob and Kent into taking the life jackets back to the cabin while we found a good spot for “sail away”.

 

 

 

By the time the guys got back, Laurel and I were at the extreme front of the ship on the sports deck. What a wonderful feeling to be headed out to sea knowing that the week-long cruise stretched out before us. Laurel even spotted two dolphins swimming alongside the ship as we cruised towards the open water.

 

 

 

As Miami slipped away into the horizon, we headed down to our cabins. The stewards were in the process of delivering the luggage and it wasn’t long until all of our bags were safely in our possession. The great thing about a cruise is that you unpack once for the whole week. The cabins on the Paradise have plenty of storage so it’s easy to find a spot to put everything. There are two closets…one is open with a shelf at the top. The other closet has double doors…one side is designed for hanging clothes and the other side has shelves. This is also where the safe is located. The safe is not very large, but we had no trouble fitting our travel documents, my purse and the digital camera inside. Any card with a magnetic strip can be used to lock the safe…I brought along an old Wal-Mart gift card and it worked fine.

 

 

 

I knew “outside cabins” were supplied with bathrobes on the Paradise, but I wasn’t totally sure if the porthole cabins were considered “outside”. They must be since there were two terry cloth robes hanging in the closet. I guess getting the robes wasn’t as big a deal as I thought…Bob never had his on once and I rarely wore mine. The robes were very heavy and were just too hot to wear, especially when I was running my hairdryer.

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Embarkation Day - Continued

 

I had brought along a small hanging shoe holder that I bought at the Dollar Tree (for a $1!) and hung this by the desk. It had a coat hanger type thing at the top and I just slipped this through the grate on the light above. The individual pockets were great for storing stuff like hair products, suntan lotion, sunglasses, etc. The desk itself had several drawers for additional storage.

 

 

 

 

The Paradise does not have hairdryers like I’ve read some ships do. There is only one outlet in the cabin (by the desk) so we brought along a power strip. There was one other outlet in the bathroom but it had a sticker next to it that said “for razors only”.

 

 

 

A bowl of sample sized products was sitting on the sink in the bathroom. It contained things like hair conditioner, disposable razors, Rolaids, Listerine breath strips, toothpaste, etc. Since our last cruise on the Paradise, soap dispensers had been installed in the shower…one was for body wash and the other for shampoo. Small bars of Levor 2000 soap were also provided by the sink. The shower was actually just one end of the bathroom…there was a shower curtain and a small metal strip on the floor to keep the water from overflowing. Toilets on a cruise ship are unlike anything I have ever seen before. It is not a chemical toilet like on an airplane. The toilet flushes with such force that you definitely don’t want to be sitting on it when you push the button! I overheard one lady talking in a public restroom on the ship and she said the toilets work better if you close the lid before flushing because of the vacuum it causes. Not sure if this is true or not…

 

 

 

Once unpacked, it was time to head up to the Elation dining room for dinner. Our table was located on the port (left) side of the ship and was near the back of the dining room. Our tablemates were a couple from Kentucky and their 16 year old son and also the wife’s sister who was from Minneapolis. As we talked we discovered that the sister had been on the same flight as us from Minneapolis to Miami. Throughout the week we constantly made an effort to engage the others in conversation but all that ever developed was small talk about the day’s activities. Usually they just talked among themselves…I was glad that we were traveling with Kent and Laurel…we had a great time at dinner each night!

 

 

 

Our headwaiter was Chiranjeev from India and the assistant waiter, Roberto, was from the Philippines. They made sure to learn our first names that night and called us by name from then on.

 

 

 

Following dinner we explored a bit more and then went to karaoke which was held in the Leonardo Lounge. They were just getting started and Jenny, the girl running the show, was having trouble getting people to sign up to perform. Eventually things got underway and we stuck around to hear several of the singers (who were actually pretty good!) The Welcome Aboard show was scheduled for 10:30 so our next stop was the Normandie Lounge. Cruise director, Jeff Bronson, chose several participants from the audience and did humorous interviews with them. Not great entertainment, but not bad. Kent and Laurel learned quickly what we had learned from our previous cruise on the Paradise…there are very few good seats in the Normandie Lounge. We decided to make sure we got there early the next night to get good seats for the first Las Vegas style show…none of us wanted to watch around a pole or other obstruction.

 

 

 

Afterwards we checked out the midnight buffet in the Paris Restaurant on the Lido deck but ended up just grabbing a slice of pizza instead. The day ended on the outdoor eating area at the rear of the ship with us enjoying the good food, good friends and a beautiful night at sea! Before going to bed we followed the instructions in the Carnival Caper and set our watches back one hour…we were now on Central Daylight Time just like at home!

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Monday, June 14th – Day at Sea

 

 

I love sea days! Our last Paradise cruise was the “old western route” with only three ports…that meant a mid-week sea day to break up the hectic pace. This cruise had us visiting four ports so our only sea days were at the beginning and end of the week

 

 

I woke up before Bob and knew I would end up waking him if I started puttering around the cabin. I threw on some clothes and left a sticky note on the mirror saying I was going to breakfast. There weren’t many people up and about yet and it was fun walking through the quiet ship. I made my way to the Paris Restaurant on the Lido deck and grabbed a cup of coffee and had the omelet man make me a couple of eggs over-easy. I didn’t realize they would make “regular eggs” on the last cruise until the last day when I saw someone else ordering them so I made it a point to order them a couple of times on this cruise. The scrambled eggs on the buffet are kinda nasty so it was nice to have the option of a hot omelet or fried eggs. During the week, Bob got in the habit of going through the same buffet line each day and would tell the girl making omelets to “surprise him”. The first day she wasn’t quite sure what to think, but after that she seemed to look forward to creating different omelets for him each day! In fact, the one day he didn’t order an omelet she seemed really disappointed.

 

 

Another thing that Bob and Kent both did was take time to talk to each worker that came by in the Paris Restaurant. They made it a point to ask where they were from and find out a little bit about life in their native country. Each time the person appeared to really enjoy the chance to share about their background.

 

 

Anyway…I enjoyed my breakfast and then started wandering around the ship. I had brought my son’s digital camera…a Canon Elph which is no bigger than a pack of cards. I have been researching digital cameras and after using his I am sold on the small size. There are other cameras for about the same price that probably take better pictures or have fancier features, but this camera fit into my pocket so I carried it everywhere! If the camera had been larger, I’m sure it would have sat in the safe most of the cruise.

 

 

I used the quiet morning to take pictures of some of the public areas on the Paradise…the casino, the lounges, the atrium, etc. Bob was gone to breakfast by the time I got back to the cabin, but it wasn’t long before he returned along with Kent and Laurel. When we booked the guarantee cabins, I knew we were taking a chance that our cabins wouldn’t be together so we were really glad that we ended up with adjacent cabins. It just made things so much simpler when we could run back and forth when planning our activities. It wasn’t until half way through the week that I learned how to use the phone to call cabin to cabin. You must dial a four digit number…the first digit is the deck number and the last three digits are the cabin number. Since we were on the Riviera deck (deck 4) and Kent and Laurel were in cabin number 6, I would dial 4006 to get their cabin.

 

 

Laurel was anxious to get some sun and wanted to lay out by the pool. I am a fair-skinned redhead so am cautious about how much time I spend in the sun. On our last cruise Bob and I spent a lot of time on lounge chairs on the outer portion of the Lido deck. It was great being able to watch the sea but yet we were in the shade of the lifeboats. What a shock to head out there and see no lounge chairs whatsoever!! There were empty chairs around the pool so I asked one of the Carnival employees if it would be OK to haul a couple of chairs to the outer deck and he said “yes”.

 

 

It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, especially when I was carrying my beach bag with my towel, book, sunglasses, etc. but we managed. Later on in the day I noticed several more chairs had shown up here so other people were following our lead. That night we met Jeff Bronson, the cruise director, as we were going into the Captains party and I asked him about the lack of lounge chairs. He said the Coast Guard (or someone important) had made them quit putting the chairs in that area because it would be a hazard if they ever had to use the lifeboats. I didn’t tell him that I had gotten permission to put the chairs there that morning! As far as I could tell, that was really the only shaded outer deck on the ship and we pulled chairs out again later in the week too!

 

 

Knowing how much we would be eating, we all agreed that during the week we would only use the stairs…not the elevator. Being on the lowest cabin deck, this would surely help stave off those unwanted pounds. We were pretty faithful for the first few days…even walking “up” to the Lido deck or higher (6 or 7 decks!) By the end of the week we were pretty much just doing the “down” stairs!

 

 

Besides the stairs, Laurel made up her mind that she was going to keep up her walking habit and do two miles on the jogging track on the Sports deck. She convinced Bob and Kent to go with her that morning, but I was content to lie on my lounge chair and read my book and doze occasionally. I did walk into the atrium once and could see them going round and round up above through the glass dome. I think Bob said it took 11 laps to make a mile.

 

 

I had a list of several things I really wanted to do during the week that I hadn’t done on the last cruise. One was to go in the swimming pool. When the walkers returned they were so hot it didn’t take much convincing to get them to go with me! The pool was much deeper than what I had imagined so Laurel and I just kind of hung onto the sides. Despite being deep (around 4 to 5 feet) it was still a very small pool so there wasn’t much to do and we didn’t stay long.

 

 

Prior to the cruise I had been corresponding with several other cruisers whom I had met online through Cruise Critic. We had arranged to meet at 11 a.m. on Monday near the pool at the back of the ship. Bob wasn’t too keen on meeting “strangers” but finally consented to go with me. Right away I recognized Debbie since I had seen her picture. A few minutes later Joel and his family showed up and we spent some time yacking and getting to know each other a bit. Eventually Glenn and his two girls came but that was it…there were a few others who had been taking part in the “roll call” posts, but they never made it to the get-together. It was funny because after that we would see Debbie and Glenn almost every day, but I never did see Joel anymore! I’m sure part of the reason was due to the opposite dining times that we had.

 

 

We had made plans to meet Kent and Laurel for lunch in the dining room so we hustled to get cleaned up and changed. Between the humidity, salt water, wind, etc. I felt like I spent half of the week just trying to tame my wild hair!! Much of this was wasted effort because one step out onto an open deck and it looked like I didn’t even own a comb! Laurel complained about her hair going limp, but I swear my hair would swell to twice its normal thickness and turn to pure fuzz!

 

 

Lunch was at our regular table in the Elation dining room, minus our tablemates. I really wanted to have a chance to eat lunch in the dining room at least once during the week and knew with the heavy port schedule that it probably would have to be that first day. Bob ordered an oriental steak salad and I had veggie fajitas which were delicious.

 

 

After lunch, Laurel decided she had had enough sun so she joined me on our “private” deck where we had dragged the lounge chairs that morning. Kent and Bob headed back up to the sports deck to try their hand at shuffleboard. As we lay there looking out to ocean, it was obvious…the swells were definitely getting much larger!

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Monday - Day at Sea (Continued)

 

Monday night was the first formal night as well as the Captain’s “Welcome Aboard Party”. After showering and doing my hair AGAIN (the third time that day!) the four of us headed to the Normandie Lounge for the Captain’s party. Captain Antonio Marchetti and cruise director, Jeff Bronson, were at the door greeting cruisers and posing for pictures as we entered. Waiters were circulating offering drinks and hors d’oeuvres. I rarely have anything to drink, but I took advantage of the complimentary drinks and had a lime daiquiri. After all…I didn’t want to offend the captain by not accepting his hospitality!! J Bob, Kent and Laurel each had a glass of non-alcoholic punch. I assumed it was probably the same stuff that was in the Paris Restaurant dispensers, but Bob claimed it was much better.

 

 

During the party all of the Paradise officers were introduced and then the orchestra played for any who wanted to come on stage to dance. The four of us made our way down the stairs (we were on the upper level of the Normandie) and onto the stage. The orchestra was playing a slow tune, but it might as well have been rock and roll because that’s what the ship was doing!! I can just imagine what a hard time the performers have when the sea is rough because it was a challenge just to do one slow dance. I clung to Bob…if I went down I was bringing him with me!!

 

 

Formal night meant “lobster night” on the Paradise. Laurel isn’t a seafood lover so she had the prime rib, but Kent, Bob and I all ordered the lobster tail which was served with “porcini mushroom risotto and broccoli florets”…in fact, Bob and Kent each ordered TWO lobster dinners! Besides the yummy lobster, that night’s menu had several different appetizers that sounded great. Bob and I each ordered the Mississippi Delta Prawns plus I got the wild mushroom rougout and Bob had the roasted pumpkin soup…all were delicious. The salad selection each night consisted of two choices…each night had a mixed garden salad plus one other choice. Tonight we chose the Caesar salad and it was very good. With all of the excellent menu choices, Carnival should make more of an effort to serve interesting salads.

 

 

The evening entertainment was a Las Vegas style show entitled “Dream Voyage.” Not wanting to look through a pole, we hustled to get to the Normandie Lounge as quickly as possible. The late dinner folks were still in the lounge enjoying their Captain’s party so we waited by the doors. Once they left, the doors were closed again so all of the debris from the party could be cleaned up. The Paradise gift shop was right next to the door where we were waiting so we shopped a bit to help pass the time. We were told it would take them 30 minutes to do the cleaning, but it couldn’t have been any longer than 10 minutes before the doors opened and people started grabbing the good seats.

 

 

The show featured the Paradise dancers and was a montage of songs throughout the years. Neither of the production type shows had changed since our cruise two years ago…only the lead male and female singers were different. I wondered if their costumes had been passed down to them from the former leads…I remember the gal before was very slim and this girl was just a little more “round”…the dresses she wore definitely fit snuggly!! This time the two shows were presented in reverse order. It actually made more sense this way since the music in the two shows were arranged chronologically beginning with the ones in Dream Voyage.

 

 

Although it was fun getting dressed up for dinner, all four of us were ready to change once the show was over. The seas were very rough by now and it was fun to try and walk a straight line down the center of the cabin hallway…none of us succeeded! When we got to our cabins, Kent opened his door and exclaimed…”we have animals!!” Sure enough…the first of our nightly towel animals had appeared. From then on there would be one waiting each night along with chocolates on our pillow and a copy of the next day’s Carnival Capers laying on the turned down bed.

 

 

We changed into our swimsuits and headed up to the hot tub on the Lido deck. Several teenagers were in the tub too and it was funny to see all of the hormones at work! They were about 15 years old and being a junior high/senior high teacher I am well acquainted with this age! They weren’t rude or rowdy however so I won’t complain…but I will say there was a lot of flirting going on!

 

 

Tomorrow would be our first stop so we headed back to the cabin to get a good night’s sleep. Being in the front of the ship, we felt a lot of movement that night. You could hear the big splash when the ship hit a wave and then a split second later a big “thud” as the ship came back down. This “splash…..thud” went on all night and although I was aware of it, it was also soothing…almost like being rocked to sleep.

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Tuesday, June 15th – Belize

 

 

Bob and I went to breakfast together in the Paris Restaurant and while we ate we could see land off in the distance. As we were starting back to the cabin, the ship passed a small island that had a couple of buildings and some sort of tower. The Carnival Capers had warned that the ship would be making several sharp turns that morning and it did! I thought it was odd that Bob had only eaten fruit for breakfast but found out why…he was meeting Kent for breakfast a little later and then they were going to get in line to get tender tickets…he ate breakfast twice that day!!

 

 

Tender tickets were to be handed out at 8 a.m. in the Normandie Lounge and by being one of the first ones in line; the guys got “tender #1” for all of us. By the time they got back, Laurel and I had our bags packed for the day and were ready to leave. Being on the Riviera Deck may have some disadvantages since it is the lowest level of cabins, but it certainly is convenient when it comes time to get off the ship at a port…being in the forward part of the ship made it even easier. A few people were milling about, but the tenders were not being loaded yet and we were instructed to just wait on the stairway going down to deck 3 (where you debark.) We never did hear them announce our tender number, but as soon as they started loading the first tender we were right there ready to board…there was only one other couple ahead of us so we were among the very first ones to leave the ship. I was worried that we wouldn’t get off early enough to make our cave tubing tour, but there was no problem whatsoever.

 

 

Although the tenders are very fast (I mean REALLY fast) it still took over 20 minutes to go from the ship to the shore. The tenders dock at the “Tourism Village” that was specifically built to cater to cruise ships, and has bathroom facilities, restaurants, snack bars, and a variety of local souvenirs shops. We weren’t quite sure where to go when we first docked but we asked around and were pointed to where Richard, the Xstream Cave Tubing representative, was waiting. Belize was an hour behind “ship time” so we actually were an hour early for our Xstream Cave tubing tour that was to meet at 9:50 local time. Xstream will only take 14 people in a group for their tours so they started registering the first few people that had arrived. As I signed my name to the list I realized that the other two families going on our tour were Barb (“momofteens” on Cruise Critic) and their friends. Barb and I had emailed several times so I was glad to get to meet her.

 

 

Charles Perry was to be our guide and he showed us to where his van was waiting. There were 12 of us in the van going together plus Charles and another girl who was training to be a guide. Just before we left, Charles loaded a cooler into the van and right away the van was filled with the delicious smell of fruit! (It was to be our “treat” when we were done tubing.)

 

 

Our trip first took us through Belize City, the country’s largest city with a population of 70,000. Before leaving the city, Charles pulled into a gas station to fill up the van. Gas was $8/gallon Belize dollars which translated into about $4/gallon US dollars…and to think we complain our gas prices are high!! As we waited for the tank to be filled, a man approached us and wanted us to buy cashews that he was selling. No one bought any (although I wish I had now) so I don’t know the price.

 

 

Leaving the city we were on a paved road that gave us a good look at how poor the people in Belize are…most homes we saw were just shacks. We rode for a long time (45 minutes or so?) and then saw the sign pointing the direction for the cave tubing. Charles turned onto a dirt road that looked to me would only be passable with an SUV or some type of off-road vehicle. The road was filled with huge rocks that made for a very bumpy ride…Charles joked that we were getting a free massage! At one point one of the large tour busses was passing the van on the left. Charles was talking to the girl (in training) and didn’t notice the bus coming around. He started to veer over to the left a bit and if Laurel had not let out a yell I’m sure we would have collided! It was pretty scary at the time…later we joked that the van ride was more “Xstream” than the cave tubing!!

 

 

The area where the cave tubing begins has a small rustic, open air restaurant…the food is being cooked on open fires in the back. There is also a restroom which was pretty pathetic…only two stalls (on the women’s side at least) and they were “yucky” and wet. Laurel and I ran to use the restroom while Bob and Kent were nice enough to go get our inner tubes. We were required to each take a life jacket also which we tied around the tubes.

 

 

Laurel and I each wore our swimsuit with a pair of shorts on top. The four of us all wore water shoes and they seemed to work out well. I had also brought along a nylon fanny pack that I used to carry very small bottles of bug spray and sunblock (neither of which I needed), my water camera and a waterproof container that I put some cash and my Sail and Sign card in. I also had a water bottle carrier that I clipped to my fanny pack. No one else took water, but I was glad to have it when I got hot and sweaty on the hike.

 

 

To begin the tour, we walked through the rain forest carrying our tubes for probably 45 minutes or so. The walk was not terribly strenuous…the worst part was just the high humidity. Charles would stop periodically to point out various trees and bushes and explain a little about them. At one point, Charles cut a piece of sugar cane and let Bob have a taste. At the beginning of the trail we crossed the river at the point we would be returning to once we were through the caves. The river was very shallow and not very swift so this wasn’t any big deal. There was a rope strung across to hold onto if you wanted.

 

 

Along the way we went into a couple of dry caves…but just barely. I thought we would walk into the caves and do some exploring, but we just stood at the opening of the caves and looked at some bats. This was no big deal to me, but Bob and Kent had done a lot of “caving” in college and they thought it was cool.

 

 

When we reached the starting point of the float trip we had to wait on another group getting into the water. While we were waiting another Xstream group caught up to us and the two groups stayed together the rest of the time. The bad part was that meant our small group of 12 now had doubled. The good part was that one guide stayed at the front of the group and the other watched the rear which worked out well in certain places.

 

 

The group ahead of us was tossing their tubes into the river and then jumping off of a rock about 10 feet above the water. I suppose we could have done that too, but Charles had us hold onto a rope and lower ourselves slowly down into the water. The water was cool (not cold) but felt so good after being hot and sweaty. The place we got in the water was right at the start of the first cave so as soon as we were all in the water we entered the cave.

 

 

Each person was given a headlamp to wear while in the caves. We were fortunate that Charles had carried all of the lamps for our group in his backpack and didn’t hand them out till we got there. People that we saw in other groups were all carrying their own headlamps. The inner tube was enough to carry…I didn’t want anything extra! The guides each had headlamps with red lights so they were easy to spot in the caves. They also carried big spotlights that they would use to point out things in the cave as we went.

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Tuesday, June 15th - Belize (Continued)

The caves were large and the ceiling was very high so unless the darkness bothers you, I wouldn’t worry about claustrophobia. I was a bit surprised that we had to paddle almost all of the time we were on the river. I had envisioned just being carried along by the current while I relaxed…not so. Laurel and I both realized later in the day that the inner parts of our upper arms were all bruised from all of our paddling. There were some spots where the current was swift, but these places were so shallow that the guides would yell “butts up”. Not heeding their warnings would result in some nasty bumps on your backside! One spot along the river was so shallow we had to get out and carry our tubes a short distance.

 

I had no idea that the caves would be so long. There were two different caves and I’m a bad judge of distance but I would guess maybe combined they were a mile long! At one point there was an opening in the cave ceiling where you could look up and see all of the lush vegetation growing above…just beautiful with the sun streaming down into the dark cave!

 

 

After exiting the caves, we came to a place where people were using a vine to swing out into the river. Of course Bob and Kent had to give it a try! Eventually we reached the spot where we had crossed the river earlier and this is where we got out. It was only a short walk back to where the van was parked.

 

 

Charles had ordered our lunch before we started our hike and it was waiting for us when we got back. The meal was $5 and consisted of grilled chicken, rice, beans, slaw, fried plantain, a delicious sweet muffin and a glass of fruit punch. Since we had started our tour earlier than scheduled I figured we would have plenty of time to eat afterwards. I didn’t realize at the time that Barb and her crew hadn’t ordered any food so then I felt like we needed to rush a bit so they didn’t have to wait on us so long.

 

 

My plan was to change out of my wet swimsuit before the trip back to the ship…however the bathrooms were even more nasty and wet than they were before so I opted to forget the change. As we were getting into the van I happened to remember the cooler full of fruit that Charles had loaded earlier. Barb and friends said they all had been eating fruit while we were eating our lunch! Rats!! Charles knew I was disappointed so he said “hurry up…go get some!” He had left the cooler with another Xstream guide and we hustled over and grabbed thick juicy slices of pineapple and mango. I have never eaten anything that tasted so good!!

 

 

Coming in, Charles had driven about 30 mph on the bumpy road but going back it was more like 45 or 50! Yikes…I thought the whole van was going to fall apart! Also the van was air-conditioned…depending on where you sat! The first two rows (where we sat) were freezing cold. Laurel and I resorted to wrapping up in our beach towels to stay warm. The guys in the back two rows got none of the cool air and were covered with sweat!

 

 

At least the fast driving got us back to the tender dock with about an hour to spare! I had read about the National Handicraft Center that sold crafts made by locals and I wanted to check it out. Kent and Laurel decided to just do a little shopping there at the dock. I knew we had to leave the “tourism village” to get to the Handicraft Center, but that was easier said than done! The whole area was behind a locked fence being protected by guards…the only way out was to go through one of the long shopping buildings. Once outside this area we discovered that there were lots of small booths set up where people were selling all sorts of stuff. We by-passed them on our quest to find the National Handicraft Center.

 

 

We found the building, but it was locked and appeared to be closed. I knocked on the door and a man came and let us in. It was a little awkward shopping while he watched us, but he was friendly and visited with us a bit. I was looking for a basket with a lid (which I didn’t find). All we bought was a bottle of Marie Sharps hot sauce for $2 (US). They had many different varieties and in hindsight I wish I would have bought more because my sons love the stuff!

 

 

The line for the tenders had grown quite long by the time we returned but didn’t take too long. It was very hot standing there so it was encouraging to see several tenders show up at once to load passengers.

 

 

It was interesting to compare our day’s activities with our dinner companions each night. They had also gone cave tubing, but with the Carnival tour. They had a very large group that traveled in a bus. Their tour didn’t include any food nor did they go through the dry caves. On the way back to the port, their bus had a flat tire so they had to sit by the side of the road until another bus (that wasn’t air conditioned) showed up to get them. All of this they got for $89 compared to the $60 that we paid for our tour with Xstream!

 

 

I’m sure Kent and Laurel thought my obsession with planning was a bit crazy at first, but by the end of the week they were bragging to others about how great it was to have every detail taken care of and how much money they had saved with the tours that I had lined up on the internet (instead of booking through Carnival.)

 

 

After dinner we went back to our cabin briefly, and Laurel couldn’t get her Sail and Sign card to unlock the cabin. (The card acts as an ID card, key card, and charge card for all purchases made on the ship.) It had worked fine before dinner, but after repeated tries, the card would not open the door! A trip to the purser’s desk and the mystery was solved. The purse Laurel had carried to dinner had a magnetic clasp and it had de-magnetized the card! They were able to fix it but said to keep it away from any type of magnets!

 

 

The evening entertainment was a comedian who was “ok” and a magician. I fell asleep during some of the magician’s show, but what I saw wasn’t all that great. This guy (John Duffy) had performed on our last Paradise cruise and I wasn’t impressed with him then either.

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Wednesday, June 16th – Roatan

 

 

The ship docked at 7 a.m. which was actually 6 a.m. local time in Roatan. Kent, Bob and I went to breakfast, while Laurel opted to order room service. Bob and Kent were excited because they had a day of scuba diving planned at Bay Island Beach Resort. Bob had done his own research when looking for a place to dive and after contacting several resorts on the island, he chose BIBR. I think one thing that swayed him to make this choice was the dive site called “Spooky Channel” that was located near the resort. Bob had been certified for several years, but Kent had just finished a scuba class and got his certification just a couple of weeks before the cruise…the Roatan dive was his first!

 

 

After breakfast, the guys grabbed their gear and got off the ship. It was so much more convenient to get off here because we were docked. Before going back to the cabin to see if Laurel was ready, I went to one of the upper decks and took some pictures of the coastline and the dock area. It was funny because when I had the pictures printed you can see Bob and Kent all alone on the end of the dock (if you look VERY closely) waiting on their ride! Bob said they were the very first two people off of the ship that day!

 

 

Back at the cabin, Laurel had finished her breakfast and was ready to go. She was upset with Kent because room service had delivered her food while she was in the shower and Kent had stuck it on the table in the corner and not told her it had arrived. He left before she got out and she didn’t see the tray. She had gotten impatient thinking the food was very late and had called to check on it. About that time she spotted the food!

 

 

I had arranged to have Victor Bodden, a local cab driver, meet Laurel and me at the dock. When you first leave the ship, you must walk through an area filled with busses waiting on tours. Once you leave this area, there was a very long line of white taxis just waiting for passengers. Some of the cab drivers were yelling to us wanting our business but as soon as we said we were looking for Victor they pointed us in the right direction. Victor was in the process of lining up another cab for a group of people and once he had that taken care of, he turned his attention to us. His cab was parked quite a ways down the line so he grabbed our bags and told us to wait while he went to get it.

 

 

Victor told us that it was up to us what we wanted to do for the day. We told him we wanted to see “real life” in Roatan and not just the tourist areas so he started off by taking us to the eastern end of the island. Roatan is one of the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras and is 30 miles long and about 4 miles wide. Right away, we passed by two different ship wrecks just off shore. As we drove along we saw several very large and expensive mansions, but mostly we passed shanty-type houses. Victor explained that the tourist areas were on the western end of the island but the people that lived on the eastern end were very poor.

 

 

Laurel and I (and Kent too) are teachers and we were interested in seeing what a public school in Roatan would be like. Since it was still very early in Roatan, we saw lots of kids walking to school…all wearing uniforms. When Victor pulled over in one small town, we didn’t realize it at first, but he had stopped at a school. From the street it wasn’t obvious that it even was a school, but once we got out and walked through a narrow walkway, we were inside of a courtyard that was flanked by classrooms.

 

 

The courtyard was filled with children all lined up in single file rows listening as a man spoke to them. Right away another man noticed us and came to see what we were up to. After we explained who we were and that we just wanted to see the school, he spent 30 minutes or more visiting with us. The man was a social studies and English teacher at the school. He was very self conscious about his English, but it was actually very good. He told us that the man speaking to the children was the principal and that he was telling the kids that all of the public school teachers in Honduras were getting ready to go out on strike! Since the parents don’t listen to news on TV or read newspapers the kids were supposed to relay the information to their parents at home.

 

 

After the principal finished speaking he came over to meet us. The teacher said he wanted the principal to show us around because he (the principal) needed to practice his English!! I teach at a small rural school and we have major financial concerns, but compared to this school, we are in very good shape. The classrooms were very sparsely decorated and overcrowded. One third grade class that we observed had over 40 students with one teacher. Each classroom was almost like a separate building and each one opened up into the central courtyard. None of the classrooms had doors and no screens on the windows.

 

 

The principal showed us a two story “classroom” that had just been built from concrete blocks…each story consisted of one room. The classroom was just a shell…no doors or windows and only contained a few desks. He said the school couldn’t afford to build the classroom on their own so they had parent volunteers helping. As we walked back towards the street, we looked briefly into the principal’s office, but couldn’t see much…the electricity was out! Laurel and I both agreed that visiting the school was one of the highlights of the week!

 

 

Another request we made was to see a local grocery store. I guess I had in mind stopping at one of the small local stores that had the fruit and vegetables on display outside, but the store we went to was “one of the nicest on the island” according to Victor. I wonder if he wasn’t trying to show us the “nicer” side of Roatan instead of the poor areas. The strange part was that the small town where I live in Minnesota has a very large Hispanic and Asian population so we have much more “ethnic” type foods than what were in this store. Most of the items we saw were well known American brands! The power was also off in this part of town so we didn’t spend much time in the dark store.

 

 

Victor said he usually takes his tours up to a lookout tower because the view is so outstanding. When we got to the road, it was barricaded and locked so unfortunately we didn’t get to do that. Our next stop was an “iguana farm”. The farm was run by a single man who has been feeding the iguanas for years. They are not fenced in or anything…they just stick around for the free food! The iguanas were just coming down from the trees for their daily meal and they were everywhere! The farm was right on the ocean and down at the shore the man had a fenced in area in the water where he had lobster and sea turtles. Back up the hill was a monkey and several tropical birds. The admission was $5 to get into the farm.

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Wednesday, June 16th - Roatan (Continued)

 

As we made our way to the western part of the island, Victor offered to show us Bay Island Beach Resort where Bob and Kent were diving. Pulling into the resort, the first two people we saw were Bob and Kent! They had just come on shore between their two boat dives. We only stayed long enough to chat for a minute and take a few pictures, but I was glad we got to see where the guys spent their day! (Even though the guys were only on the beach for a short time, they came back covered with sand flea bites!! They said they weren’t aware they were getting bit at the time and the bites never really did itch, but the red spots all over their body made it look like they had some disease!)

 

 

In all fairness, the resort was very beautiful and if it weren’t for the bugs, I think I would enjoy going back to spend more time. The guys couldn’t stop talking about what great dives they had. Bob was particularly impressed with one dive spot called “Spooky Channel”…it was the one that had attracted him to the resort in the first place and apparently it lived up to his expectations!! Besides the two boat dives, the cost of the dives also included lunch at the resort.

 

 

 

After seeing Bay Island Beach Resort, Victor kept telling us how much nicer Anthony’s Key Resort was in comparison. He also pulled into that resort so we could take a look. His younger brother works at Anthony’s Key driving a water taxi so I’m sure Victor might be just a little biased. The resort was nice, but you can’t really see much of it without taking a boat because part of the resort is on a separate island.

 

 

 

As we drove towards the west end of the island, Victor showed us where he lived. He has lived on the island all of his life and now lives on a section of land once owned by his father. The large piece of land was divided between Victor and several siblings all of who live on the adjacent lots. I asked Victor if he realized how popular he was becoming on the Cruise Critic boards and he said he couldn’t figure out what was going on at first. He said people just started asking for him by name and he didn’t know why!! Victor has no computer and has to pay to get computer access elsewhere so he doesn’t always answer email immediately. Ships are only in Roatan one or two days per week which limits his “cruise tours”. On the other days Victor said he often “hangs out” at Anthony’s Key Resort and is available if resort guests need a cab or want to take a tour.

 

 

 

The time was going by fast…we had to be back on the Paradise by 2:30 p.m. Our last request for Victor was lunch and snorkeling. He took us to Half Moon Bay where there was an outdoor restaurant and a place to snorkel right off the shore. The snorkeling wasn’t great…or maybe we just didn’t get far enough out to see the good stuff. Laurel had never been snorkeling before so I just wanted to give her a chance to try before her snorkeling tour in Grand Cayman the next day. I have a nice mask and snorkel that I bought when I “thought” I was going to get scuba certified…but Laurel was using a cheap Wal-Mart set that belonged to one of my kids. The mask kept leaking so it wasn’t much fun for her and we didn’t spend much time in the water.

 

 

 

Our lunch consisted of shrimp and conch fritter appetizers…just to get a taste of some local food. Victor ate with us (we insisted on buying his lunch). The food was OK, but the best part was sitting there next to that fabulous blue ocean on a beautiful day.

 

 

 

Following lunch, Victor drove around the West End a bit…this area was definitely a tourist spot. It was interesting because the roads are just sand! Victor dropped us off at the ship and we paid him the $25 each (plus a tip) for our wonderful day. I was so glad we had arranged to spend the day with Victor…having our own personal guide for the day was great!

 

 

 

There were lots of locals who had set up booths selling all types of crafts, jewelry, etc. by the dock but Laurel and I wanted to drop off our beach bags before shopping. Having the ship docked was so much more convenient than tendering and it would have only taken us a short time to drop off our stuff “if” Laurel hadn’t locked her Sail and Sign card in her cabin as we started to leave! In order to get off or on the ship, you have to insert your card into a machine that brings up your picture and other information…without the card, there was no way Laurel could leave the ship. Laurel called the purser’s desk and eventually someone showed up to let her into the cabin. We both thought it was strange that they didn’t try to verify if that was really her cabin or not. After the episode the previous night where Laurel had de-magnetized her card, she got a lot of kidding from the rest of us about the second mishap!

 

 

 

The street leading up to the dock was lined on both sides with booths…many of which sold the same type of things. There were lots of carved wooden items, “Mayan” pottery, jewelry, hammocks, etc. Laurel had a young boy latch onto her and he became her personal guide! No matter what she wanted, he said he knew where to get the best prices and took us from shop to shop. His mother worked in one of the booths and the boy even took Laurel to meet her. We each bought several items and then walked back to the ship. The boy followed us as long as he could and it was almost like he wished he could get on the ship with us. We gave him a tip for his services but were discouraged when we were scolded by a man standing near by. He said if we pay him he will grow up begging and not learn to work.

 

 

 

The line to get back on the ship had grown quite long when we returned, but we were entertained by a group of locals singing and dancing on the dock. Since we had to be back on board by 2:30, it was almost like having half port day and half sea day! I wished we could have stayed in Roatan longer, but I also enjoy the ship time too.

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Wednesday, June 16th - Roatan (Continued)

The guys were back on the ship when we returned. Bob’s beloved “Summer Trio” was playing classical music at 3:00 so he rushed off right away to hear them on the Promenade Deck. Being a violin player himself, Bob has always loved classical music. The Summer Trio consisted of three girls from Poland and Bob made it a point to hear them as much as possible during the week. I took some time to shower and just relax in the cabin. At 4:00, Bob and I went to “Afternoon Tea” in the Piano Bar lounge. As soon as we were seated, a girl came around with a wooden box filled with many different kinds of tea bags. The small tables were set with tea cups and small plates and another server came with small pots full of hot water to make our tea. “George” was playing quiet piano music as we sat and enjoyed our tea. (Bob found out later that he is married to one of the girls in the Summer Trio.) After a few minutes the server came around again with trays of bite-sized sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres. Kent and Laurel had gone to the “food and beverage demonstrations” and after it was finished, Kent joined us for tea while Laurel went to sit by the pool to get some sun.

 

Attending the afternoon tea was another thing on my “must do” list for this cruise and I was so glad we found the time to go. There were hardly any other people there that day but I thought it was a wonderful experience…sipping tea, listening to beautiful music and watching the ocean through the windows of the lounge.

 

 

The dinner menus had not changed since our last cruise two years ago. There are half dozen or so main courses on the menu each night so I had really intended to try new things this time but often would end up ordering the same exact meals that I did before! Tonight was one of those nights…I had shrimp in puff pastry that I thought was very good (both times!) Bob’s dessert that night was interesting…chocolate cake soaked in chocolate milk. He thought it was pretty good, but to me it looked like something a little kid did while playing in their food! I kinda thought it tasted that way too!

 

 

Since Laurel and I had done our own thing while the guys were diving, dinner time was filled with stories of what we all did that day. Our tablemates listened with interest. They had gotten off the ship and gone into town but said there wasn’t much to see so they just went back to the ship.

 

 

Tia Thompsen was the featured entertainer that night. She was billed as a comedian/singer and did a super job on both! Tia had a great time with the audience…especially some of the male members! Following the show I convinced everyone that we should go to the piano bar…it was a fun place to spend the evening on our last cruise and I thought Kent and Laurel would enjoy it. When we got there the place was virtually empty. Only a few people were sitting around the bar trying to sing along, but the piano player didn’t have a good voice and basically no personality. After a couple of songs we all agreed to go find something else to do!

 

 

We wandered the ship a bit and ended up in the casino. None of us are gamblers…but that didn’t stop us from having fun watching those who were playing. Laurel managed to stand next to some guy at the craps table who was winning and as he played he gave her lessons! We did run into Laurie and Sherry (our tablemates) and Sherry had won a lot of money at one of the slot machines. It was her first try ever!

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Thursday, June 17th – Grand Cayman

 

 

Once again we did the tender routine instead of docking. Bob was nice enough to go to the Normandie Lounge to gather tender tickets for the four of us and ended up waiting in line for 45 minutes. The “tickets” are just self-stick labels with a number printed on them…nothing else. No one ever asked to look at our tickets so I’m sure we could have just skipped this step, but I am a conformist…I always play by the rules!!

 

 

The tender ride in Grand Cayman is MUCH shorter than in Belize and only takes a few minutes. Once on shore, we split up with Kent and Laurel…they were headed for a tour with Nativeway to see the stingrays. Bob and I were going to Abanks Dive Center located fairly close to the tender docks. We had done the stingray tour on our last cruise so decided that we would both dive in Grand Cayman. I am not certified so had booked a “discover scuba” dive with Abanks. The dive was scheduled for noon and it was only 10 a.m. but we started walking towards the dive center in hopes that we could dive sooner. Bob had all of his scuba gear (plus my snorkel stuff) in a large bag that could either be rolled or worn as a backpack. Rolling it wasn’t working too well with the crowds and bumpy sidewalks so he resorted to carrying it…definitely a heavy load.

 

 

By the time we reached Abanks, I was getting pretty hot. We checked in and were told they had no record of us scheduling a dive or paying the 20% down payment (which I had done online.) Like an idiot, I had left the email confirmation back on the ship so I had no proof that we had paid. John, whom we were dealing with, said we could either pay the full $75 and lose the $15 deposit I had already made or go back to the ship to get the confirmation. Now I was really hot…and not just from the heat! There was no way we were going to lug all of that gear back to the dock and take a tender back to the ship just to get the confirmation. But on the other hand…I didn’t want to have to pay the full amount when I had already made a deposit. I had booked the dive through a group called Island Marketing so Bob suggested that John give them a call (duh…why didn’t I think of that?!) The phone call cleared up the mistake so all worked out, but it put a damper on the day having to deal with the mess.

 

 

After being so upset with John, now I had to switch gears because he was going to be the one who dove with me! I explained to him that I had gone through the classroom portion and confined water dives with PADI…I just didn’t follow through with the open water dives that it takes to get certified. Instead of spending lots of time on the scuba instruction, John just did a quicky “refresher” course on the basics. As we were doing that, Bob was getting suited up in his gear. I actually got through my “training” before Bob was even ready…that’s how quick it went.

 

 

I had bought two underwater disposable cameras for our cruise…a Kodak that was supposedly good down to 50 feet and a Fuji which was rated to 35 feet. We had used the Fuji when we were cave tubing in Belize but I wanted to make sure to take the Kodak on the dive (since I wasn’t sure just how deep we would go.) As Bob was getting ready to get into the water I noticed he had both cameras. I told him to only bring the Kodak and to go put the other one back into the locker we were using.

 

 

Our dive was to Eden Rock, a well known dive site located just offshore from Abanks dive center. Getting into the water was a bit of a trick…it was very rocky and the waves splashing up onto the shore were hard to deal with. While Bob was taking care of the camera issue (or so I thought) John had me doing a few drills…flooding and clearing my mask, dropping my regulator, etc. I appreciated the fact that he didn’t rush me and let me take time to get used to breathing through the regulator. If he had pushed me to go faster I would have probably panicked and not gone through with the dive.

 

 

Immediately as we went under the water, we began seeing fish…BIG fish! I have no idea what kind they were; I was just impressed with their size (two to three foot long!) I was busy taking in all of the sites when I realized that Bob and John were both grabbing at something in the water. I then realized that John had brought a container of bait along and somehow it had spilled. The three of us were snatching the little pieces trying to capture them and put them back in the modified bleach bottle that he was using as a bait carrier. A large brown fish showed up trying to get a snack and ended up following us on the entire dive! It sort of reminded me of a little puppy…he stayed right with us and several times we would have to push him aside as we were swimming!

 

 

As we dove, I started to become aware of salt water in my mouth. I’m not positive, but I think my regulator must have been letting in small droplets of water. Not having much experience as a diver, I can’t be for sure, but I don’t think that was supposed to happen. I was very much aware of my throat starting to burn, but I was determined I wasn’t going to give up and ruin the dive for Bob. I tried to take my mind off the discomfort by concentrating on the beautiful surroundings. There were huge mounds of coral and before I knew it, John was motioning for me to swim through a small passage. Being a novice I do not have a lot of control over my buoyancy so I was pretty nervous about going through the small opening…but I made it!!

 

 

At one point in the dive, John motioned for Bob and I to come down on the sea floor and lay on the sand. There was a small opening under some coral and he had his hand out holding a piece of bait. After a second or two a VERY LARGE (5 foot maybe??) fish darted out and took the bait from his hand. (Later John confirmed that this was a nurse shark!!) This happened several times! Right next to this spot was another opening and here John just opened the flap he had cut on the bottle and held the container out in front of him. A huge green moray eel came out and stuck his head in the opening and helped himself to some food! As this was happening, I motioned for Bob to get a picture. He shrugged and indicated he didn’t have the camera. UGGHHH!!!

 

 

Just when I thought I couldn’t stand the burning salt water in my throat for another minute, the dive was done. Back on shore I questioned Bob about the camera. He wasn’t sure what had happened to it and just assumed he had lost it in the water. John said if he had, then it was hopelessly gone by now. I was not very happy at that point. Upon opening the locker, Bob discovered that the Kodak camera was in the locker so it was the Fuji that was missing. Now I was really upset. Not only did he not get the pictures of our dive, but he had lost the camera with all of our cave tubing pictures!!!

 

 

It took Bob an incredibly long time to get his gear off and rinsed or maybe it seemed that way because I was in such a bad mood. In retrospect, this turned out to be a plus because while I was waiting John found the missing camera. Turns out Bob left it sitting on top of the locker when he was putting away the second camera and someone had turned it in!! At least I still had my Belize pictures!! The only picture we ended up getting in Grand Cayman was Bob next to a statue of a pirate named Big Black Dick advertising rum! Hopefully people will believe me when I tell the story of the shark and moray eel because I don’t have pictures to prove it!!

 

 

Eden Rock is not just for divers and if we ever go back to Grand Cayman again, I would be tempted to just spend part of the day snorkeling there. Since we have our own equipment it would be a fun, free activity. Abanks did have snorkel equipment to rent and several people were there snorkeling. There is no beach, but there are a few picnic tables near by. There is a restaurant on the property so I assume they would prefer that you purchase something to eat if you planned to sit at their tables.

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Thursday, June 17th - Grand Cayman (Continued)

Since we had been able to dive right away, we were packed up and ready to leave Abanks by noon (the time we had originally scheduled to dive.) Bob’s “scuba luggage” was now heavier than ever because it was all wet. Slowly we trudged down the sidewalks towards the tender dock. On the way I stopped at some pay phones to attempt to call home and check on the kids, but I never could figure out how to use my AT&T phone card to make a call so I gave up.

 

There was no line for the tender in the middle of the day so it really didn’t take too long to get back to the ship. While Bob was unloading all of his gear to dry, I hopped in the shower. He spread towels out and then laid out all of his stuff on the ledge below the portholes. I’m not sure where all of the stuff would have gone (probably the shower I guess) if we hadn’t had that ledge.

 

 

We were both starved so headed to the Paris Restaurant to grab something to eat and then took another tender back to shore. We wandered around going in and out of shops but neither one of us were really enjoying ourselves. We weren’t in the market for any of the jewelry or high-priced items for sale nor did we want any souvenirs. After an hour of this we were hot and decided to head back to the ship.

 

 

Three straight days of ports and the pace had caught up to us! Once in our room we crashed and slept for a couple of hours…it felt wonderful! Thursday was the second formal night and while I putzed around the cabin and got ready, Bob headed up to the Paradise Bar in the atrium. He took along his dive log book to fill out while he listened to the Summer Trio play classical music.

 

 

At dinner time we caught up with Kent and Laurel. They loved their sting ray city tour and Laurel said she was getting the hang of snorkeling! She had given up using the cheap Wal-Mart set I loaned her and used some offered by Nativeway.

 

 

Each night the waiters and waitresses would entertain the diners with singing and dancing. They attempted to get passengers up to sing and dance also and Bob and Laurel were always some of the first to jump up and join them! This would have been more fun had it not been for some issues they were having with the sound system…that thing needed some major work!!

 

 

After dinner we took turns taking pictures of each other in our fancy clothes and went to the evening show…Shout. Although it would have been more fun to see new shows (we had seen Shout on our last Paradise cruise) it was still enjoyable. Following the show we roamed around the ship and ended up at Karaoke in the Leonardo Lounge. The place was packed and after standing for some time some chairs finally opened up. We sat listening to the performers until I realized it was almost time for the Gala Buffet!

 

 

The Gala Buffet is actually set up in both dining rooms. The Elation was open first just for picture taking and was a little more elaborate than the buffet in the Destiny dining room. We stood in line with many others to get a chance to snap a few photographs of the food displays. Can you imagine people actually line up at midnight to take pictures of food!! But where else can you find a “jazz band” made of roasted chickens playing vegetable instruments!!

 

 

Rather than wait until the Elation dining room was ready for “eating” we went directly to the Destiny to sample some of the yummy stuff they had. This also gave Kent and Laurel a chance to see what the other dining room looked like. None of us were really very hungry so we didn’t take much. There were waiters waiting to seat people as they arrived…we were seated in a booth with another couple we didn’t know. Although Bob and I were feeling pretty good due to our long afternoon naps, Kent and Laurel were beat so as soon as we were done eating we called it a night.

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Friday, June 18th – Cozumel

 

 

 

The Paradise wasn’t scheduled to dock in Cozumel until 1:00 so we could sleep late!! Bob and I went for breakfast in the Paris dining room and Kent showed up a little later and joined us. The guys decided to spend the morning working out in the weight room. Laurel and I looked through the shops and then went to a talk on diamonds and gemstones in the Normandie Lounge. Laurel was interested in getting a tanzanite ring and just wanted to find out more information before she shopped in Cozumel.

 

 

 

Lunch for us was a buffet in the Elation Dining Room. Since we were scheduled to dock around 1:00 I guess it works out better to do a buffet rather than have menu orders. The food on the buffet was nothing special…I think we would have done just as well to go to the buffet in the Paris instead. There was open seating and once again we found ourselves at a table with others we didn’t know. I like the idea of having assigned seating most of the time, but it was fun to meet and talk to others in situations like this. While we were eating we realized the ship wasn’t moving anymore. It was only around noon so we just assumed that we had stopped for some reason before heading to the dock in Cozumel. We were in the middle of the dining room and not by a window so didn’t realize until we heard the announcement from the cruise director that WE WERE DOCKED!! None of us could believe it so we all had to jump up and run to the window just to make sure!! Also at the dock was the Carnival Conquest which towered over the Paradise!

 

 

 

While Bob and Kent were gathering their scuba gear, I ran up to the Sports Deck to get a picture of the two ships side by side…it sort of gives you the feeling of being in a city with tall skyscrapers around you!

 

 

 

The Paradise was docked at the Puerta Maya pier and wow…has it changed since we were there in 2002. The duty free shops were still about the same right on the dock, but just past the dock was a large shopping area with lots of brand new stores!! The stores were built around beautiful open air courtyards with cobblestone walkways. We meandered through this shopping area till we found an exit to where there were taxis waiting.

 

 

 

The four of us climbed in a cab and headed to Chankanaab Park. Cab fare was $10 for the trip for all of us…not individually. The entry fee at Chankanaab had just been raised shortly before our cruise and is now $12 per person. The guys wanted to do a shore dive at the park so we headed directly to the beach and set up camp right in front of the dive shops (there were three.) As the guys were getting their dives arranged, Laurel rented some snorkel gear and we went into the water. Although there is a sandy area with lots of chairs and palapas at Chankanaab, the entry into the water is by rocky steps with a very rustic wooden handrail.

 

 

 

Laurel was trying to get her mask adjusted so I put my head in the water and floated off enjoying watching the fish underwater. After a few minutes I went back to see how she was doing, but she was no where around. I just assumed she had gotten frustrated trying to get used to the snorkel equipment and had gone back to the beach chairs. I got out of the water to check on her but didn’t see her on the beach. I did see Kent and Bob all suited up getting ready to start their dive. I grabbed my water camera and followed them into the water taking pictures of them diving below as I snorkeled on the surface above.

 

 

 

I had heard some people on the beach talking about a statue of Christ that was submerged in the water. I started snorkeling in the direction they indicated but never did find the statue. The water at Chankanaab is strange in that there are fresh water streams flowing into the salt water. The fresh water is much colder and it was very obvious when you swam through it. Besides being cold, the water was “blurry”…not cloudy or dirty, just blurry. It made me feel like I had Vaseline smeared on my mask when I would hit a patch of the fresh water!

 

 

 

After 15 or 20 minutes I started to get worried about Laurel. I still hadn’t seen her and I was beginning to wonder what was going on. I got out of the water and started walking up the beach. As I was walking I saw a group of people quite a ways out from the shore and there was Laurel right in the middle waving frantically at me! I stood and watched for awhile as the group would swim together stopping off and on to talk.

 

 

 

I assumed she must be OK so I retreated to my beach chair. The chairs at Chankanaab are hard plastic “recliners” that sit right on the sand…they are a curved shape and have no legs. Getting into and out of the chairs is not something that can be done gracefully…at least not by me! Once in the chair I just sat enjoying the view…trying to imbed the scene into my memory so that I could recall it in January when it is below zero and Minnesota is knee deep in snow!

 

 

 

I dozed a bit and when I woke up Laurel still wasn’t back! I rolled out of the chair and started walking down the beach toward the restaurant. On the way I met Laurel running towards me! She was so excited she could hardly talk! Somehow she had gotten right in the middle of a guided snorkeling group and they invited her to join them. As fast as she could talk, she was telling me about all of the fish that she had seen! She had also found the statue that I had looked for! She had actually been snorkeling for over an hour and was ready for her beach break!

 

 

 

While we were by the restaurant I checked out the list of drinks. I had considered getting one of the drinks served in a fresh pineapple, but settled for a piña colada instead which tasted wonderful! Back at the chairs, I sipped my drink while Laurel gave me the full report on her snorkeling adventure. Hearing Laurel talk about what a great time she had snorkeling was sort of funny. When I was making plans for our day at Cozumel, I had considered booking a tour with Eagle Ray Divers. The guys would have been able to do a boat dive while Laurel and I snorkeled. When I asked Laurel about this, she insisted that she didn’t want to do any snorkeling…so going to Chankanaab became “Plan B”. Laurel and I could have beach time while the guys did a shore dive. Now Laurel was the one enjoying the snorkeling the most!!

 

 

 

Unfortunately the guys weren’t thrilled with the shore dive at Chankanaab. Compared to Roatan, there just wasn’t much to see. A boat dive would have been much better for them, but maybe next time… Laurel was still anxious to show us what all she had discovered on her snorkeling tour so Kent and I joined her in the water. Being a Midwesterner, it still amazes me how buoyant I am in salt water. We were snorkeling in 20’ waters and never once did I feel the need to wear a life jacket!

 

 

 

The three of us made it out to see the statue of Christ and on the way came across the guide that had been showing Laurel around before. He was carrying bait and had a huge bunch of fish swarming him. He had us group together and he used our cameras to get pictures of us with the fish. In fact, there are so many fish, you have to look closely just to see Kent, Laurel and I!!

 

 

 

I wished we could have spent a whole day at Chankanaab…there was so much more that we never had a chance to see or do. The park has a botanical garden and Mayan ruins (reproductions); a place to swim with the dolphins or sea lions, etc. We pretty much just stuck to one area of the beach and didn’t venture out to other areas of the park. The Conquest passengers had long since left the beach since they were sailing much earlier so by the time we left around 5 p.m. we had most of the park to ourselves.

 

 

 

On the way out of the park we saw an iguana running across the path…the guys were pretty excited since they hadn’t seen the iguana farm like Laurel and I had in Roatan. There were plenty of cabs waiting when we reached the exit and it was about a 5 to 10 minute ride back to the dock. I would have liked to walk leisurely through some of the shops on the way back to the ship, but once again Bob was carrying a load of wet scuba gear so he didn’t want to lollygag around.

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Friday, June 18th - Cozumel (Continued)

We were back on the ship early enough that we could have made it to our 6:15 dinner seating, but instead we chose to eat at the Paris buffet instead. We knew it would be quicker that way and we wanted to save time for shopping on the dock. Later I saw the menu for the dining room and it looked like some great choices that we missed that night!! Kent, Laurel and Bob all decided they would make an ice cream cone “to go” and eat it as we walked around the shops. Oops…bad idea! They were not allowed to get off the ship with the cones so we waited while they quickly stuffed the last few bites into their mouths!

 

Laurel was in search of a tanzanite ring so when we got to the shops, we (Bob and I) just went our separate way. There wasn’t anything in particular that I wanted to buy so we just strolled in and out of the shops. All of a sudden right at sunset, mosquitoes came out in full force! The people in the shopping area could hardly walk as they tried to slap and swing at the mosquitoes! Since Bob and I weren’t really looking for anything special we decided to head back to the ship. Kent and Laurel said they bought the last of the insect repellent that was for sale in a drug store and by using it were able to stick around and do some more shopping.

 

 

Bob and I left a sticky-note on Kent and Laurel’s door telling them that we would be on the Lido deck. We had brought along large insulated mugs that we filled with ice tea and sat at a table outside the Paris restaurant watching the lights on the shore at Cozumel. Luckily we weren’t bothered by the mosquitoes there!! Barb and friends (from our tour in Belize) wandered by and stopped to talk for a bit. It was fun cruising with people that I had “met” online…although we didn’t do anything together we seemed to run into each other fairly often on the ship.

 

 

Kent and Laurel met up with us a little after 10 p.m…she never did find a ring, but they had bought a few other souvenirs while shopping. The Paradise was scheduled to sail at 11 p.m. so we went around to the other side of the ship and watched as the last minute stragglers made their way back to the ship. Many were so drunk they had to have help just to walk down the dock! We watched as one guy did a “tight-rope walk” along the edge of the pier…we just knew he was going into the water, but he made it! I assume everyone made it back…we didn’t hear of anyone getting left.

 

 

As the last few passengers were getting onboard, we saw the Mexican folk band getting off. They get on the ship in Cozumel just long enough to do the evening show in the Normandie Lounge. We were amazed at how clear the water was next to the dock. Even at night from 10 decks up, we could spot large fish swimming by. Slowly the Paradise pulled away from the dock and headed out. Our first cruise two years ago had been during a full moon and I loved seeing the moonlight reflect on the ocean at night. This time there was no moon and the night was very dark.

 

 

The Mexican buffet was just getting started as we went back inside the ship. We sampled a few of the offerings and then headed down to our cabin to call it a night. Since tomorrow would be our last day, we made plans with Kent and Laurel to go to breakfast in the dining room rather than eat at the buffet. The nightly towel animal was waiting for us in the cabin when we returned along with chocolates on the turned-down beds. Bob and I were just drifting off to sleep when the phone rang in the cabin. It was Kent calling to remind us that we had to turn our clocks ahead one hour. Ugh! Losing an hour of sleep was not something I wanted to do and we debated about changing the plans for breakfast and just sleeping in. I decided we could sleep at home so we re-set our clock and decided to stick with the dining room breakfast idea.

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Saturday, June 19 – Day at Sea

 

 

Breakfast was open seating in the Elation dining room. Kent, Bob and I ordered the eggs benedict…something that wasn’t available at the buffet in the Paris restaurant. I don’t know that the food was that much better in the dining room, but it was nice to be served instead of getting the food yourself. I was also able to enjoy a cappuccino...another item not offered at the buffet.

 

 

On the last day, there is a big sale on Carnival t-shirts…two for $20. I knew from my experience the last time that to get a good selection, you must shop in the morning. We each picked out a couple of shirts and then Laurel went to take one last look at the tanzanite rings in the gift shop. I found a big display of costume jewelry rings for sale…two for $39.99. Laurel never did end up getting a ring on the cruise, but I came away with two of the rings I found that day!

 

 

The debarkation talk was taking place in the Normandie Lounge which is located right by the gift shops. We stepped inside and listened for a bit but decided we could catch the talk on TV later in the day. Laurel’s main objective was to spend some time in the sun and we headed back to the cabin to change into our swim suits.

 

 

I am a fair-skinned redhead and had been very cautious all week about not over-doing it in the sun. I did not want my cruise ruined by a bad sunburn. Before the cruise I had spent several weeks visiting a tanning booth but still was only able to get a slight tan. Being it was the last day I decided to relax a bit and enjoy the sun with everyone else.

 

 

Finding four chairs together by the pool was hopeless, but we did find some one deck higher that overlooked the pool area. Being on this deck was actually more comfortable anyway…there was a bit of a breeze…and we could still see all of the activities taking place on the Lido deck. After an hour I started to worry that maybe sitting in the sun was sort of like suicide for me so I convinced Bob to join me on the outer part of the Lido deck. Once again we drug lounge chairs out to sit in the shade of the lifeboats.

 

 

Around 1:00 hunger was starting to set in and Bob and I headed to the buffet. I’ve lost track what we ate when, but I “think” this was the day I tried one of the calzones from the Pizzeria. It takes about 10 minutes for them to make, but combined with the Caesar salad, it made a great lunch! Kent showed up while we were eating, but Laurel chose to stay and worship the sun gods!

 

 

That afternoon I knew it was time to start the dreaded job of packing. I switched on the TV and listened to the cruise director go through the debarkation talk as I worked. Bob left around 3:00 to go hear the Summer Trio perform and came back with one of their CD’s that he had purchased.

 

 

Dinner that night was enjoyable, but a little sad at the same time knowing it would be our last meal in the dining room. We made an effort to get to the Normandie Lounge early to snag good seats for the evening show. Steve Athearn, a juggler, opened the show and this guy was truly amazing!! At one point he “solved” a Rubik’s cube in a minute while balancing a ball on a long pole sitting on his forehead (meaning he couldn’t watch the cube while he was working on it!) Another astonishing feat was when he juggled a bowling ball, a softball and a doll sitting in a baby carrier!! Following the juggling, comic Jim Brick came onstage. Before he was done, Bob and Kent were both in tears from laughing so hard! What a funny guy!!

 

 

Steve, the juggler, was standing around after the show and we started talking with him. He said he and Jim Brick had flown to Grand Cayman to meet up with on another Carnival ship (the Conquest I’m sure) and then transferred to the Paradise when we were docked together in Cozumel. Laurel was particularly interested in some of his routines. Her daughter is a world champion baton twirler and has mastered twirling four and five batons at once…very similar to juggling in many ways.

 

 

Both of us still had packing to finish up before bed because the bags had to be placed in the hallway by midnight. I had forgotten about the talent show or I would have made more of an effort to get the packing finished in the afternoon. After we were done and had the bags outside the cabin, we went for one last walk through the ship. We walked by the Normandie Lounge as the last performer was finishing up and I was sorry we had missed the show.

 

 

The four of us filled our big mugs on the Lido deck and went out to the seating area at the rear of the ship. Off in the distance you could see lightening in the clouds which was awesome to see in the dark night. Overall the weather had been perfect the whole week. There was one morning where we had a brief rain, but it was over quickly and had I not been up early I wouldn’t have even realized it happened.

 

 

As we walked back through the Paris restaurant, they were just preparing for the midnight buffet. None of us were really hungry, but the buffet was all crepes and I just couldn’t resist trying one or two. One side of the buffet had meat-type fillings, but I opted for the fresh fruit and whipped cream on the other side. Yummmm!!! The couple standing in line ahead of us were wearing their Carnival bathrobes. I’m not sure if they forgot to leave out clothes when they put their luggage in the hallway or just thought that was an appropriate way to dress for the last night of the cruise!

 

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Sunday, June 20 – Back to Miami

 

 

After the confusion with the clocks on Friday night, I never did get around to turning back the one I had by the bed. When I awoke on Sunday morning I “thought” it was around 6:30 a.m. which meant I could just lay there for another hour before I had to get up and face going home. I debated about looking out the window to see if we truly were in Miami but nixed that idea. The sound of the anchor being lowered several hours earlier was enough to confirm that fact. I was just drifting back to sleep when the phone rang with our wake-up call. That was when reality hit…it was really an hour later and it “was” time to get up!

 

 

Kent and Laurel joined us for breakfast in the Paris restaurant. As we sat there talking we all agreed we had a fantastic week. A cruise is a great vacation regardless but we decided it was even more fun when you share it with friends.

 

 

We made one last stop in the cabin to grab what luggage we had left. The flying fish was still laying in the porthole window in Kent and Laurel’s room just waiting on the new passengers to board and join him for another cruise!

 

 

The four of us went to the casino to wait our turn to debark. Finally a little after 9:30 our color was the last to be called and we got off the ship. Luckily our luggage was in the correct section and it didn’t take long to find it all. Once outside the terminal we assumed we would need two cabs to get to the airport (too much luggage for all four of us to fit in one together.) A cab driver approached us and said he had a van and could take us all. It was a “very” tight fit, but he eventually crammed all of the suitcases into the vehicle and off we went.

 

 

Kent and Laurel were on a different airline for their flight back to Nashville so we said our good-byes on the sidewalk outside the airport. Our flight didn’t leave until 1:30 which gave us plenty of time…in fact it was a long boring wait. I had debated about trying to bring some room service sandwiches off the ship to eat while waiting but was scared I would get in trouble going through customs. We opted for Pizza Hut inside the airport, but it just wasn’t the same as the Paradise pizza!! I chuckled when I overheard a couple sitting next to us in the airport…they had also just gotten off the Paradise and he was already missing the ice cream machine!!

 

 

Our flight was on-time and other than waiting an extremely long time to pick up our luggage in Minneapolis, all went well. After a quick call to the hotel, the shuttle from the Wyndham was there in no time to get us and return us to our car. Driving home from Minneapolis took just about the same time as it did to fly all of the way from Miami…a long day.

 

 

Doing two cruises on the smoke-free Paradise has probably spoiled us. I think we will probably cruise again in the future, but Bob and Kent are already talking about the possibility of doing a week somewhere that they could scuba dive. I’m sure we will be looking into all-inclusive resorts. Bob and I are also Disney fans and it’s been four years since we were at Disney World…I’m thinking maybe a trip to see “the Mouse” might be a possibility too! Who knows…

 

 

Thanks to all who made it to the end of my “cruise journal”. I gained so much information by reading the Cruise Critic message boards that I would be happy to return the favor if anyone has any questions for me!!

 

 

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I think I'm going to feel foolish about asking this but - why was there a fish in the window all week? Couldn't they remove it? Didn't it stink? :)

 

Glad your camera was returned, the pics are great

 

A very nice journal, thanks for taking the time to post it all - it's almost like being there :)

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Did you see the picture of the fish in my webshots album?? The portholes were sort of "recessed" so the fish was on a ledge on the OUTSIDE of the window. The portholes do not open so there was no way to get rid of the thing. By the end of the week he was starting to get...ummm...sort of decayed! :eek: We just thought it was amazing that a flying fish could get up so high!!

 

Thanks for taking time to look at my journal. I wrote if for my own personal reasons, but since I enjoy reading about other people's cruises I thought maybe someone might like to read mine! :)

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I read every word!

 

Glad you had a good trip and that Laurel found out that she liked snorkeling.

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Did you see the picture of the fish in my webshots album??

 

Oops - I missed the second page :) Wow, that's just plain weird how he got himself in there!

 

I'd hate to have to be the person who has to go get him

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Mary,

What a great journal.......I wish I would have written something so detailed for myself. I had good intentions but it never happened. Reading this brought back many great Paradise memories. Thanks again for all your help/advice before my cruise.

 

Lisa

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