I sailed the Pride on July 1, from Baltimore to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Freeport. This was my second cruise. Last year I sailed on the Jewel from NYC to the Bahamas.
We had a great experience on the Pride. I have read through some of the more recent reviews, and I don't know what these people were expecting. A cruise ship is going to have smaller pools, they will have long lines, the entertainment won't appeal to everyone all the time, and things can get expensive. But anytime you get a few thousand people in one place for a week this will be the case. If you don't like it, choose something else other than a cruise!
As mentioned, we did NCL last year in NYC. While it was run well, boarding was hectic. Not in Baltimore. We arrived at 10. Our luggage was taken right from our car, there was virtually no lines, and despite having now power the Carnival staff at the terminal were amazing. By 1030 we were onboad and at the buffet.
There was no shortage of food. We ate at the buffet on the first night, because we thought the main dining room (the Normandie) would be too crowded to bring our three year old. The buffet is good for supper. It wasn't busy, and there was lots to choose from (Asian, meat, pasta, etc...). On night 2 we went to the Normandie. We had anytime dining. We loved it there, and ended up there 5-7 nights. Since we had a three year old they moved things a long fast. But that was a choice, and they made sure we were comfortable and ok with that and were happy. We had a server named Elder, and he was incredible! Ask for him. The food was amazing. My wife doesn't eat meat, so she had seafood each night and loved it! She had seafood pasta, with muscles and scallops. I had the meat choices, and in particular the prime rib and roast beef were amazing! We also had lobster tail, and again, amazing.
I don't understand how anyone can complain about the food. There was tons of it, and it was good quality. Sure, mistakes can happen and it might not be the best for one or two meals, but overall it was excellent.
For breakfast and lunch we ate at the LIDO buffet. We found no problems with lines, etc... but it does get crowded at prime times (930am or so, and 1230pm). But that is to be expected, and we just planned around that. We always got a seat, even when crowded.
Someone wrote a review and said there are only two pools. There are actually three, as there is a 21+ pool at the back of the ship. The pools are small, but it was the same thing on the Jewel. There is a finite amount of space, so if you want to have deck chairs then the pool will be smaller. Despite being small, I found Carnival used the space well, and it felt less crowded than the Jewel. Another complaint people make is that it is hard to get loungers. Well this is the case at any resort, or on any ship. We got up early (7am or so) and always got three places with no problems. By 830 or so they are filled up. So if you want to be the pool, get there early and enjoy your day instead of sleeping!
There were three main shows at the big theater. I felt this was one area that could use improvement. The shows were ok, and I didn't really have an issue with quality. But on a 7 night cruise, there could be more. And on the last night there was also a Karaoke show in the main theater, but it was only at 1030pm. I think this could have been earlier to accommodate a larger audience and people with kids.
The poolside entertainment was fun, and there was enough to enjoy but not be disturbed by.
Ports of Call:
At Grand Turk we did the bus tour. It was all right, not more than that. There is a beautiful pool and beach right in the Port, and the pool is free. If you go, use this pool as it is a great way to spend your time there and it won't cost you anything! The island is ok, but very small and there isn't much worth while to see. The island is only 7 miles long. Save your money for drinks instead!
Half Moon Cay was incredible! We tried to book a Cabana (private cabin with shower, air conditioner, fan, loungers, snacks and drinks) ahead of time but they were sold out. As soon as I got on the ship we put ourselves on the waiting list (we were first on) and got one! It was $229 but so worth it! The island is incredible. Yes, Carnival owns it. So drinks, etc.. are expensive. But the upside is that the ocean there is like a pool. It is sparkling with no rocks or seaweed, clear white sand, and it is paradise! I have been to Cuba, Mexico, and Nassau, and nothing compares to this place. Great Stirrup Cay (NCL's island) is nice too, but Carnivals was more developed.
The tender process can be slow if you are not prepared. We lined up at 730, and were on the first boat at 830. So line up early and educate yourself so you know where to go, etc.. in advance.
Freeport is ok. It is not as nice as Nassau. There is nothing in the Port. We booked the Island Boat tour and loved it. There was unlimited drinks, which was great! The tour was interesting, and flowed well!
The Cruise Director Jaime is amazing! She is everywhere and is so enthusiastic that it really spreads through the staff and passengers. Carnival should hold onto her! Her Assistant Director James Pepper looks bored, tired and grumpy most of the time. So I hope he is never in charge!!
When we first boarded, we took a walk on one of the top decks (near the kids pool, which I don't think is in use anymore) and saw multiple cockroaches (some alive, some dead). This wasn't a great first impression. We didn't see anymore on the trip.
The ship does vibrate a lot. Our room was right in the back, and it was more noticeable there. But you could feel it everywhere on board. It wasn't unpleasant, but annoying.
Room service was slow. We ordered breakfast on the Grand Turk day, and it was late. We also ordered wine one night, and that took over 1 hr.
But overall things were great and we would go again!