Carnival PARADISE (November 19, 1998)

Yesterday we had the chance to visit Carnival's newest ‘muscle' ship, the politically correct PARADISE. As most of you know, this is a smoke-free ship, and Carnival promotes this widely; however, I believe there has been at least one other such cruise ship with this policy. So much for novelty, since this policy, if it was meant to set this ship apart from the other seven in the series that have come before, does not.

Upon our approach down the West Side Highway Wednesday afternoon, the PARADISE could be seen as just another basic 70,000 ton generic ship from Carnival. Same shape, same colors, same stack. Dejavu all over again, as some ball player said. Inside, the ship is decorated with themes of ships of the past, supposedly "honoring" such vessels as the Rex and the Normandie with somewhat garish bars and show lounges. The Rex is resplendent in faux animal skin patterns and flashing lights. I would bet that the walls in this room would cause attacks in the seizure-prone.

The Normandie show lounge is a vast expanse of copper, actually not bad in a neuvelle/ deco kind of way, but the single upholstered chairs look like airline seats, as someone was heard to comment. There are curved sofa-style sitting areas which seem much more appealing. The accent tables in the Normandie show lounge were strangely reminiscent of the inlaid tables in the Ritz Carlton on the Rotterdam V, but I hardly think either owner or designer knew that.

One of the dining room areas continue with this bronze/copper color idea, but it's subdued enough to be nice. There are booths tasteful done and I wouldn't mind being seated at one for dinner; however, they are intermittently placed all over the room and are not overwhelming or too enclosing. The ship's equivalent of a Lido area is smaller than I expected it to be on this ship, but again, it was actually quite nice.

Now, I'm a virgin Carnival person, this being the first Carnival ship I've seen on the inside (Hans already had that privilege with the DESTINY last year). That means I'm also relatively new to these large cavernous atria that abound nowadays. I must admit that when we came out from the elevator area and into the ground floor of the atrium on this ship, I was taken aback and in a bit of awe. It IS big and open, what with the glass ceiling above us, but it was draped in so much flash that it became too "busy" for lack of a better word. Here, as in many other places onboard the ship, were dark shiny plastic panels with pansies(!) brush stroked on them. They were all over the interior of the ship, something I saw by stairwells and elevators and public room entries. An invasion of spring flowers on a ship promoting it's call to the past via classic ocean liners. I didn't get the connection. Something else: I now have a yen for jade earrings after seeing green foot-long semi-jewel studded orbs/eggs all over the atrium, at the elevator doors, on top of any pillar or post, truly anywhere else they could be fit in. Another decorating accent that lost it's viability after only several repeats.

After the initial speeches and presentations in the Queen Mary lounge, we got a chance to tour the ship, first with a guide and then, on our own. The spa and gym area is naturally bigger than on many other ships, carrying forward the idea that non-smokers are health conscious in every other aspect of their lives. I was particularly impressed by the steam room and sauna, as I seek out these facilities myself on any cruise ship. There are also two super-large Jacuzzis done in red and set apart from the spa area, but under a large skylight. Very nice!

The cabins were a big disappointment. I saw several in different categories and was not impressed by any that I saw. They all looked like dormitory rooms, some a bit bigger than others and with or without verandahs, but none could be called luxurious, hardly even comfortable-looking, actually. The colors were very bright...and very cheap looking. Motel 6 hits the high seas. I see now why some vacationers new to the idea of cruising don't care if they're in an inside or outside cabin. They're probably all equally anxious to get out of these drab little closets. BTW I am not the only one of the visitors to the ship last night to comment about this.

Next, USMMA Cadet Ben Lyons made some of his magic and got us all into the dining room for a wonderful dinner, complete with cocktails, wine and after-dinner drinks. For the most part, we had the whole dining room to ourselves. And the food was good! We all marveled on HOW good it was, as we didn't really expect very much. Silly us :) Such offerings as a quail appetizer with a sweet sauce, "home"made ravioli and entrees of beef or a nicely seasoned shrimp, plus light berry and cream desserts were very much appreciated and wolfed down by a bunch of hungry cadets and three grateful "associates". Lots of gabbing and laughter and photo-taking made for a memorable evening. Now, if only the ship had been moving...Nirvana!

Now, here's the question I ask myself after I do a walk-through ANY ship:

"Would I sail on the Carnival's new PARADISE? The answer this time is no, barring someone offering me a free cruise, I would not.

Okay. On to the next ship.