Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line
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Queen Mary Lounge
Queen Mary Lounge / Carnival Cruise Line / Andy Newman
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Carnival Paradise
Carnival Paradise / Carnival Cruise Line / Andy Newman
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Rex Dance Club
Rex Dance Club / Carnival Cruise Line / Andy Newman
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Carnival Paradise
Carnival Paradise / Carnival Cruise Line / Andy Newman
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Carnival Paradise

Our Ship Review
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

Carnival’s eighth and final Fantasy-class ship, 2,124-guest Carnival Paradise, was built in 1998. Its public areas pay homage to vessels of years past, including the Blue Riband Library, in honor of the world’s fastest transatlantic ocean liner, and the Queen Mary Lounge, for the flagship of the British Cunard Line. There’s also the Rex nightclub, named after the elegant Italian ship, and the Normandie main show lounge, in recognition of the first ship longer than 1,000 feet.

These details may be surprising since Carnival's ships are known more for the party on board than for classic elegance. This goes to show how much the line has changed in the more than two decades since Carnival Paradise debuted. The ship has gone through several renovations, including an extensive refit in 2012 that added the Serenity adults-only area and the Punchliner comedy club. A refurbishment in 2018 added a WaterWorks aqua park with three waterslides and popular poolside casual eateries Guy's Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina as well as the BlueIguana Tequila Bar and the RedFrog Pub. In late 2023, the Serenity retreat area was again enhanced, as was the casino and the piano bar.

The low prices on sailings from its homeport in Tampa reflect that this is one of the oldest and smallest ships in the Carnival fleet, and while there’s still a party vibe, overall, it is a low-key ship in terms of the actual activities on board.

What We Love

Punchliner Comedy Club: Stand-up acts include both family-friendly acts early in the evening and (sometimes raunchy) adults-only performances late at night.

Seuss at Sea: Kids are entertained with Dr. Seuss stories and characters, including a parade, photo ops, and an optional (for-a-fee) Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast. Parents are also welcome, of course, to partake in stacks of red and white pancakes or French toast coated in colorful cereal.

Best Known For

Serenity Area: Situated on Deck 9 aft, this complimentary adults-only space has two hot tubs, lounge chairs, and (best of all) plenty of quiet.

Flexible Dining: You can opt for an assigned early or late dinner seating, or anytime dining, which lets you choose your eating time based on your activities for the day. If a meal in the formal dining room isn’t your thing, the Paris Bar & Grill buffet on the Lido Deck offers plenty of selections, including 24-hour pizza and ice cream. When you do try the main dining room, be sure to order Carnival’s signature warm chocolate melting cake for dessert.

Who It's Best For

Budget Cruisers Not Interested in Megaship Thrills: Yes, the onboard ambiance is lively, and there are waterslides for the young and adventurous, but this older, mid-sized ship can seem outdated in places and isn’t jam-packed with the bells and whistles of Carnival’s newest mega-ships.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Balcony Cabins are Limited: Carnival’s Fantasy-class ships weren’t constructed with many balcony cabins — in fact, most cabins are located on the lower decks beneath the major social spaces — but the 2018 refurbishment added balconies to 98 existing staterooms and created 24 suites on the ship’s upper decks. Still, compared to newer ships, the percentage of balcony cabins is quite low, so book early if you want one.

Getting to Your Dining Room Can Be Tricky: Finding your way around the ship can feel needlessly complicated. For example, if you’re assigned to eat dinner each night in the Destiny dining room on Deck 8, you’ll have to navigate to the back of the ship on Deck 7 or 9 to get beyond the galley and the Elation dining room in the middle of Deck 8.