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Smoke-Free Cruising Amid the Ghosts of a By-Gone Era

Carnival Cruise Lines’ MS Paradise, a sleek white-hulled liner built at the Kvaermer Masa-Yards in Helsinki, Finland, has a normal cruise capacity of 2,040 passengers and is navigated by an Italian crew. Registered in Panama, the $330 million vessel represents the culmination of 10 years of technological evolution in cruising. It is the last one to be built in the Fantasy class (eight 70,000-ton ships) and considered the most successful series of cruise ships built in the industry. "The Fantasy class was our $2.5 billion investment in the future of cruising, said Carnival president Bob Dickinson at the time of her inaugural cruise. "These ships provided the services, amenities and activities that millions of our guests want most in their vacations." The Paradise, he added. "is a fabulous ship".
And in another industry first, Carnival announced that the Paradise would be totally smoking free.

The MS Paradise pays homage to the era of the grand ocean liners that once traversed the North Atlantic. Throughout the ship, the interiors reflect a bygone era. As passengers enter the ship, a seven-deck high atrium comes into view with its decorous glass-enclosed elevators and grand mahogany columns mounted with foot-high illuminated Fabergé-like eggs enameled in a cloisonné-type finish. These decorative furnishings recall the great ocean liners’ impact on the world of style. Graceful lounges, salons and restaurants, recalling the rich décor of the romantic and celebrated passenger ships of this century, fan out from this center point. As ship interior architect Joe Farcus pointed out: "We made an effort to recreate the feeling and flavor of the world’s great ships, which relied heavily on beautiful woodwork with skilled carving and luxurious furnishings to create the distinctive perception of a vessel styled in the grand tradition of yesterday’s transoceanic titans.’’

This is evident in every public room on board the Paradise. The Library; a colorful, absorbing area that looks out upon the sea, is named after the coveted Blue Riband, that prestigious international prize awarded to the fastest ship crossing the Atlantic. Along with a replica of the Hales Trophy, there are the hand-painted ceiling murals depicting the shipping lanes and great ports of the Atlantic as well as replicas and photos of the former great ocean liners of the past. Another reflection of the past is found at the Rex Dance Club, a contemporary-style disco that uses a sophisticated African jungle motif. The room’s modernist décor is akin to what a "disco" might have looked like on board the original SS Rex in 1931 but with a modern twist. Along with high tech lighting and music, ceiling-high columns surrounding the lounge are stepped, similar to the stones of ancient temples, and they are covered with imitation wild-animal hides to create a mosaic of zebra, tiger and leopard skin patterns.

In the ship’s two-deck-high theater lounge named after the Normandie, a striking art-deco design reminiscent of the era of this French liner is recreated. Here Broadway-style entertainment is presented under large stained glass chandeliers, warm cherry wood and Brazilian rosewood furnishings and Louis Comfort Tiffany details that were evident throughout the interior of that famous liner.

The Cunard Line’s famous ladies are recalled as one enters the commodious Queen Mary Lounge that doubles as a conference/entertainment/social-function center. Here scaled-down replicas of the Queen’s and other Cunard ships’ famous funnels grace the walls, the bar front and serve as table pedestals. Atop the wall-mounted funnels are three dozen brass-ringed, porthole-style insets which house 10-inch video monitors that continuously show vintage ship films.

In watering holes such as the America Piano bar, red, white and blue floor-to-ceiling replicas of the famed SS America’s smokestacks grace the bar’s entrance on Atlantic deck. "I used the SS America as a source of inspiration for the design of this room because to me, the sing-along piano bar is such an American tradition,’’ explained architect Farcus. "This bar is a kind of ode to the America.’’ Other bar areas are named after the USS United States, the Leonardo da Vinci (Italian Line) and the Ile de France Café (French Line). The Majestic Casino, dedicated to the memory of the RMS Majestic--that was originally built as the Bismarck by the Hamburg-Amerika Line in 1914 and later turned over to the White Star Line by the Allies after World War I and renamed the RMS Majestic--offers a Las Vegas-style gambling atmosphere with slot machines and the requisite gaming tables.

Families are very important passengers. With this in mind, the ship’s designers have incorporated a number of family-friendly amenities on board including a large high-tech play area for youngsters. A 2,500-square-foot play area was built that overlooks the main pool area. Divided into three sections, Children’s World features spin and sand-art machines, a computer lab and a multi-tiered indoor climbing maze including an "activity wall’’ filled with toys and games for all ages. A 16-monitor video wall projects G-rated movies and cartoons. In the adjoining outdoor area, jungle gyms and mini-basketball hoops are situated along with a schooner-shaped playhouse for toddlers. There are three outside swimming pools on board—the Lido pool has a 114-foot S-shaped slide that will appeal to both children and adults—and six whirlpools.

To complement the vessel’s healthful environment, the Paradise’s 12,000 square-foot Nautica Spa comes equipped with the latest workout machines, and a full-size gym where passengers can attend weight-training and yoga classes. The Spa also provides a selection of massages, loofah rubs and several European treatments designed to restore passengers’ psyche. Water aerobics are held in the outdoor pools and on Upper Deck, there is a jogging track (eight times around equals a mile).

A variety of dining options awaits passengers. There are two elegant dining rooms, the Destiny and the Elation, which specialize in fine cuisine with a seafood emphasis. Special Nautica Spa menus are also offered at both lunch and dinner for those health-conscious passengers who wish food low in fat and cholesterol content. The Paris Restaurant located in the Lido area serves a more informal fare and there is a 24-hour Pizzeria.

Shipboard accommodations range from 28 deluxe spacious suites with balcony to the more modestly decorated interior and exterior cabins complete with TV and private baths. Twenty-four hour room service is provided.

Wondering if the no-smoking ban would have an effect on future bookings for the Paradise, I posed the question to Carnival’s president Bob Dickinson. Not at all, he replied. "Bookings are very strong. It is a different pattern of booking because we are not doing as much group business booking on the ship. In group bookings, there are always people who want to smoke. But as far as individual business is concerned, we are doing very well. And people like the (smoke-free atmosphere) of the ship." And to show they were not kidding, Carnival recently announced that passengers lighting up on board may find that it is the most expensive cigarette ever smoked. Not only will being caught smoking abruptly end their vacations, but also a fine of $250 in "liquidated damages" will be imposed for each infraction.

The Paradise, which will be based in Miami year round, cruises weekly, alternating between the east and the west Caribbean. For more information, go to