Setting out on a FunShip Voyage to Cuba!
August 14, 2017
Today, I embarked Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Paradise in her homeport of Tampa, Florida to set sail on one of Carnival’s newest and most unique itineraries: a five-night voyage to Havana, Cuba.
Carnival Paradise arrived in Havana for the first time on June 30 of this year, becoming the first Carnival ship in the company’s 45-year history to ever visit Cuba. All of this was made possible by the easing of travel restrictions against the island nation by the U.S. Government – though how long this will all last is anyone’s guess.
This isn’t my first visit to Cuba. As a Canadian, I’ve traveled here in the past as part of Celestyal Cruises’ Cuba Cruise product that has historically been aimed at the Canadian market. During seven days, we circumnavigated Cuba, and I fell in love with the country and its people.
Carnival’s entry into Cuba is a very big deal. Not only does it give American and international guests the opportunity to visit Cuba aboard a FunShip, it also has the potential to reinvigorate the Caribbean cruise market with new – and much-needed – destination possibilities.
To kickstart this, Carnival has deployed Carnival Paradise on a handful of four-and-five-night itineraries to Cuba this year. They are:
- Four Night Cuba from Tampa: Departs August 24; September 7, 21; October 5, 19, 2017; May 3, 2018. Tampa, At Sea, Havana (Overnight), At Sea, Tampa.
- Five Night Cuba from Tampa with Cozumel: August 28; Oct 9, 2017 Tampa, At Sea, Cozumel, Havana (Overnight), At Sea, Tampa.
- Five Night Cuba from Tampa with Key West: Departs August 14; September 25, 2017. Tampa, At Sea, Key West, Havana (Overnight), At Sea, Tampa.
As you can see, the five-night voyages are rarer than the four-night, Cuba-only cruises. I’m on the Five Night Cuba with Key West itinerary, which I love: Key West is one of my favourite places to visit, and I’m really enjoying the whole Ernest Hemingway connection between Key West and Havana (the famous author lived – and drank – in both cities). In fact, you may be surprised to know that Key West is only 106 miles (170.5 kilometres) north of Havana; closer to Cuba than Miami.
Additionally, Carnival has just announced more sailings to Cuba for the 2018 season, along with a month-long drydock for Carnival Paradise this coming February. More on that later in the Voyage Report.
Our full itinerary onboard Carnival Paradise:
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|
Embarkation in Tampa
Boarding Carnival Paradise in Tampa was a breeze. With my Faster to the Fun Pass (which is well worth the money), I was able to go from curbside to ship in less than 19 minutes. But even standard embarkation didn’t look as bad as in some terminals (I’m looking at you, Long Beach!). It also doesn’t hurt that Tampa’s cruise staff are exceedingly friendly, from the porters to security to check-in. Sailing from Tampa seems far more civilised than Florida’s other juggernaut ports, Port Everglades and Miami.
Carnival Paradise: Ahead of Her Time
It may sound strange, but I was over the moon to board the 19-year old Carnival Paradise for the first time today. Embarkation never gets old, and I was all smiles as I stepped off the gangway and into the ship’s six-storey atrium.
The last of Carnival’s trendsetting Fantasy Class ships, Carnival Paradise debuted in 1998 and has two interesting claims to fame.
Firstly, she was the world’s first purpose-built non-smoking ship. When she first entered service, huge “no smoking” symbols were affixed to her sides. So serious was Carnival about Paradise’s non-smoking status that even the contractors building the ship in Finland weren’t allowed to light up. As a guest, the penalty for doing so was steep: a $250 fine and immediate disembarkation.
Carnival Paradise was way ahead of her time. Unfortunately, the no-smoking rule was put to bed in 2004 due to lower-than-expected revenues; guests have been able to smoke in designated areas of the ship ever since.
The ship’s other claim to fame is more technical in nature. Along with Carnival Elation, Carnival Paradise was built with Azipod propulsion: giant outboard motors that eliminate the need for traditional rudders and shaft-driven propellers. This was a major departure from the rest of the Fantasy Class, the remainder of which all features traditional propulsion systems.
So why should you care? Azipod propulsion was in its infancy back in 1998. Today, many new cruise ships feature azimuthing podded propulsion, which aid