Out to Sea: What You Need to Know about Carnival Paradise and Cuba

Out to Sea aboard Carnival Paradise! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Today is a day at sea aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Paradise as we sail for Key West, Florida and our ultimate destination of Havana, Cuba. It’s an amazing voyage, and a real first for Carnival: in the line’s 45-year history, this is the first time that Carnival has been able to offer cruises to Cuba.

These cruises, however, come with restrictions, nearly all of which are out of Carnival’s control. Unlike other short FunShip voyages, you can’t just book this one and drive to the pier.

Here’s what you need to be aware of before you book:

  • Passports are required for all guests, regardless of nationality. These need to be valid for six months beyond the date the cruise returns to port.
  • Travel Affidavits (available to download at online check-in) have to be signed by all guests, including children. These legally-worded documents need to be completed prior to boarding Carnival Paradise, and are four-pages long, typed out in eight-point font. Guest have to identify themselves under one of thirteen possible criteria for admission into Cuba by the U.S. Government. Please have these filled out before you arrive at the port; the check-in lady that helped me yesterday in Tampa was losing her mind with other guests that had failed to complete them beforehand.
  • Tourist Visa Cards are required for entry into Cuba. These will be provided on the ship at a cost of $75 USD per person, which will be charged to your onboard account.
  • Mandatory Participation is required in Havana. The United States specifies that all guests must spend “at least seven to eight hours” engaging in “People-to-People” activities in order to meet U.S. eligibility requirements for travel to Cuba. This can be either through Carnival’s own shore excursion offerings, or your own self-directed activities (see the two bullet points below).
  • Evening Shore Excursions Don’t Comply with People-to-People requirements. That means these don’t count towards your eight-hour quota. Which is a shame; the night tours are so good that you’re going to want to do one. You can also head out on your own: Carnival Paradise stays docked overnight until six the next morning.
  • You Can “Self-Certify” and Skip the Excursions, but you’ll have to keep records of what you do and, presumably, who you meet, for the next five years. And no, beach visits and rounds of Daquiris won’t count. What happens if you flaunt these regulations is hazy at best; you’ll have to estimate your own comfort level.

Having said that, these are unique, one-of-a-kind cruises to Cuba, marking the first resurgence in American ocean tourism to Cuba since the heydays of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Carnival Paradise is just the ship for the job, too. Her interiors pay homage to the grand ocean liners of the past, with a healthy dose of nautical whimsy courtesy of longtime interior designer Joe Farcus. Armed with a 1998 copy of CruiseTravel magazine on the debut of the Paradise, let’s take a walk around Carnival’s last Fantasy Class ship.

Longtime interior designer Joe Farcus designed Carnival Paradise to pay tribute to the classic ocean liners of yesteryear. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The Queen Mary Lounge, aft on Deck 9, showcases this nautical trend nicely. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Note the wall reliefs intended to look like ventilation intakes and funnels. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The Blue Riband Library on Deck 8 forward is one of the nicest libraries on any Carnival ship. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

It boasts plenty of nautical memorabilia…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…along with models of classic ocean liners. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Now, Carnival Paradise is one of the last Fantasy Class ships that is still basically as-built. Other Fantasy Class ships have been refitted with more recent Carnival innovations like the Alchemy Bar, Guy’s Burger Joint, The RedFrog Rum Bar, and BlueIguana Cantina. You won’t find these aboard Carnival Paradise right now– but you will soon. A month-long drydock in February of 2018 will add numerous FunShip 2.0 enhancements, along with 98 balcony staterooms and a complete refresh of the ship’s cabin corridors, staterooms and suites.

An upcoming refit in February of 2018 will see changes made to the corridors and staterooms of Carnival Paradise. Each cabin corridor has its own unique color. Main Deck 5 is shown here. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Each corridor has line art relief panels of famous ocean liners – including the RMS Titanic. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Cabin corridor, Riviera Deck 4. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Aft Elevator Lobby, Upper Deck 6. The staircases are positioned adjacent. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Kids have their own dedicated kids’ clubs onboard…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…while adults can enjoy the adult-only Serenity area, all the way aft on Deck 9. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

While things can get crowded in the main pools during peak times…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…Carnival Paradise has a decent amount of deck space with real (!) teak decking. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Stay fit with a few laps around the jogging track…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…or enjoy a game of mini-golf by the ship’s radar mast. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

What you will find is a really great ship that’s filled with cool public rooms. I love the interior design of Carnival Paradise so much that she’s quickly climbing up the ranks of “Favourite Carnival Ships” in my mind. It’s not Carnival Vista, but Carnival Paradise is a design that has aged very well. Humanly sized and comfortable, she’s the perfect antidote to larger ships that carry thousands upon thousands of guests; a wonderful throwback to Carnival’s past. She may not have all the bells and whistles of the line’s larger, newer ships, but if Carnival offered multi-week voyages on Carnival Paradise, I’d be first in line to book.

As you’d expect, there’s no shortage of things to do on our first Fun Day at Sea. Carnival’s trademark Seuss-A-Palooza Parade & Storytime for the kids (always the most adorable thing you’ll see on a FunShip) was held this afternoon. There are also five separate comedy performances tonight by two comedians in the Queen Mary Lounge on Deck 9 aft as part of Carnival’s superb Punchliner Comedy Club. Two of these shows are PG-rated; the other three are 18+.

Evening shows…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and afternoon Bingo…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…are held in the attractive Normandie Lounge. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Spanning two levels, the lounge offers plenty of different seating options. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

In the gorgeous Normandie Lounge on Decks 8 and 9, Playlist Productions was performing 80’s Pop to the Max (always a good time), while this afternoon, I was really happy to see that a lecture on Cuban History was offered at 12:45pm. I like the increased emphasis on lectures on an itinerary like this – but don’t worry, everything is still presented in Carnival’s trademark fun style.

Tonight, I relaxed by listening to some tunes in the America Piano Bar on Deck 8 forward, just off the ship’s Atrium. Piano bars are one of Carnival’s strengths; the line employs some pretty fantastic musicians that take an almost-always packed house of guests through the songbook of the ages.

Whether you prefer karaoke in the Leonardo Lounge on Deck 9 midship…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…or piano music in the S.S. America Bar, there’s live entertainment for everyone aboard Carnival Paradise. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

You might not expect Carnival to offer plenty of live, nightly music, but that’s exactly what you get. In fact, live music was offered in five different public venues tonight, encompassing five completely different styles.

There’s something about feeling the gentle sway of a ship in the evening over a glass of something strong while listening to live music. It’s fun, civilized, and soothing, and brings together people of all backgrounds and cultures.

Maybe it’s something the world could do with more of right now.

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report from onboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Paradise in Cuba continues tomorrow as we arrive in Key West, Florida. Follow along with our latest cruise adventures on Twitter: @deckchairblog.

Carnival Paradise - To Cuba from Tampa

Monday, August 14, 2017Tampa, FloridaEmbark4:00pm
Tuesday, August 15At Sea
Wednesday, August 16Key West, Florida8:00am5:00pm
Thursday, August 17Havana, Cuba8:00amOvernight
Friday, August 18Havana, Cuba / At Sea6:00am
Saturday, August 19Tampa, Florida8:00amDisembark

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