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

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