One Last Day At Sea, Recapping Our Voyage to Cuba with Carnival

The time to cruise to Cuba is now, which is why Carnival has just announced five additional departures aboard Carnival Paradise for 2018. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

August 18, 2017
Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Paradise is at sea today, slowly winding her way back to Tampa, Florida, where our journey to Cuba began on Monday.
This has been one of the most pleasantly surprising voyages I’ve taken in a long time. I didn’t know what to expect from Carnival in Cuba, a place I’ve cruised to unfettered before on an international cruise line not subjected to People-to-People restrictions imposed on US citizens and companies.
I’d also never sailed aboard a Fantasy Class ship before. Having just sailed aboard Carnival Vista this spring, I wondered if Carnival Paradise would seem dated and frumpy.
I ended up being sincerely impressed by the entire experience.

Sailing back towards Tampa aboard Carnival Paradise. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

In Carnival Paradise, I found a humanly-sized ship, cozy and comfortable in its décor and amenities. A throwback to the way cruising used to be. Built in 1998, she carries just 2,052 guests. She’s easy to navigate, with public areas clustered on a handful of decks, all of which feature huge oversized picture windows that showcase the bright blue Caribbean sea.
Cuba, however, stole the show. I’d love to see Carnival extend its port stay here (we left just after six this morning) to include another morning and afternoon in port. Doing so would really allow guests to see more of what Havana – and Cuba – have to offer visitors.
Still, as these itineraries exist, they’re winners. These long, overnight calls on Havana allow guests to explore the city by day and night, taking in the city’s sights, markets, and local neighbourhoods while still enjoying an evening out on the town at a jazz club or cabaret performance.

Carnival Paradise at Havana’s Sierra Maestra cruise terminal. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our full Voyage Report:

Carnival Paradise – To Cuba from Tampa

Monday, August 14, 2017 Tampa, Florida Embark 4:00pm
Tuesday, August 15 At Sea
Wednesday, August 16 Key West, Florida 8:00am 5:00pm
Thursday, August 17 Havana, Cuba 8:00am Overnight
Friday, August 18 Havana, Cuba / At Sea 6:00am
Saturday, August 19 Tampa, Florida 8:00am Disembark

Yesterday, I’d written that my tour in Havana went over by three hours, causing me to miss my second shore excursion. Today, I went and saw the Shore Excursion department, and my tour ticket was quickly refunded.
What cruisers need to remember about visiting Cuba is that things here will move and work on their own time. Disembarkation in Havana took well over 45 minutes from start to finish, and we waited a further 40 minutes on the coach before finally departing. None of this is a problem, but you need to know about it ahead of time, and be patient.

Tantalizingly Close: Pack your patience upon arrival in Havana, as customs formalities do take some time. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Carnival did a great job of informing guests about the process of disembarkation in Havana. The line explained the situation the day before, in Key West, and again during the morning before guests disembarked in Havana. Our cruise director, Jaime, reminded guests to bring their Passports, completed Cuban Tourist Visas, shore excursion tickets, and cash ashore. She explained the Cuban immigration procedure, and what would be involved with getting on and off the ship.
Because of that, everyone seemed to take the process in good stride. The key to success is always managing expectations, and Carnival did just that.

More Cuba, More Carnival

The REX Nightclub aboard Carnival Paradise, named after the 1931 Italian ocean liner of the same name. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

At a press conference aboard Carnival Paradise earlier this week, Carni

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