I was a little apprehensive about this Carnival cruise due to : 1) previous reviews, 2) Baltimore news, 3) Carnival itself, & 4) parking our cars for 8 days.
Well, I will say "no worries". This cruise was pretty darn nice. I was impressed with/by everything that had me nervous at the beginning. (and the ships "art" was not offensive -- it was fine)
We drove in from Kentucky and parked at the port ($15 per cruise day). Only about a 7 hour total drive -- not bad at all. We arrived 1 day early and stayed in Frederick for the night. It was less than 1 hour to get to the port from our hotel (Hampton Inn Frederick -- worth it! It was about $200 less per night, per room than Inner Harbor Baltimore hotels with "no minimum stay").
Parking at the port was a breeze with signage & "parking assistants" helping. Boarding was quick & easy. We checked some Luggage & carried on others. We were on deck within 1 hour of parking even though it was crazy crowded in the waiting area.
I personally found the previous "negative" reviews to be inaccurate: pretty much in every way.
1st -- the city of Baltimore was terrific. We drove in from our hotel the day before and hung out at the Inner Harbor. My entire family (6 of us -- wife, me, 18, 20, 20, and 21 year olds) loved this place. Loads of restaurants, bars, tourist attractions, and a very family-friendly environment. This should be a model for all cities looking to bring in tourism. We found nothing but friendly people downtown -- visitors & employees.
2nd -- Carnival. Our last experience on a CCL ship was nothing but horrible; from the ship itself to the service & passengers. It was so bad that my wife & I swore off any future CCL vacation. So much for that... Good thing we don't hold to firm to the things we say. This ship -- Pride -- was much larger than I was expecting. Everything was spotless plus they had hand-sanitizers everywhere (the Ruby Princess did too on our last cruise). The employees everywhere were extremely friendly. The bar servers on deck, the casino servers & the dealers all remembered our names. As did the cabin service people & the dining room staff. I can compare the service & employees to the other cruises we've taken -- recently; Princes & Oceania: the service was perfect.
There is plenty to do : we participated in most of the activities around the pool, plus bean-bag-toss in the lobby, ping pong tourneys, and trivia at the piano bar. We also visited the theater, piano bar shows, the comedian club, casino, and the karaoke place. As a family we won 7 Gold medals (was Olympics week) & 1 Solid Gold Plastic trophy. We all loved the on-ship activities.
The food and dining were very, very good. I did have our 18 year old complain 1 or 2 times, but she always complains about something. We are not usually ship-dining-room people; If I am hungry I'm happy to just grab a little something form the buffet or a burger at the grill. This time, because of the kids, we did the evening dining room (early seating) .... And I am so glad that we did. During the day the buffets were perfect each time with plenty to choose from and the items were always warm with different choices daily. The grill was awesome too with burgers, dogs, fries, potato salad, cold slaw, etc.... There was also a sushi cart/bar setup on the 3rd floor that 2 of the kids really loved. Then in the evening we'd head down to the dining room. The service was exceptional, and the menu choices were wide & the food was excellent. It gave our kids a great opportunity to try different foods ... things that they have not ever experienced -- chilled cucumber soup, escargot, oysters Rockefeller, etc.... Plus it gave us that 1 time of the day where we were all together, sitting and talking. What else can I say? I am very happy that we made the decision to visit the dining room.
The 1st 2 days were at sea, 2 Â½ if you count Sunday. Even with plenty to do on board, we were very happy to finally stop somewhere. And Grand Turks' Margaritaville was perfect. It had a very nice pool with good drinks, great food, and a little shopping for us when we needed a little walk. The beach was fine too, but Margaritaville was a whole lot of fun. Our ship was the only ship to dock this day so the place was not too crowded.
The 2nd stop was Half Moon Cay. This is a very nice beach with plenty of chairs and the water is ok for snorkeling -- we saw lots of fish & even a large star-fish that we were able to pick-up and move him to deeper water. Here's some advice..... the DJ guy on the ship runs a kind of "pirate game" on the beach. ....DON'T do it. It was a waste of time. The DJ (DJ Charles I think) is a dork (sorry). During the entire cruise he is just annoying (a word my 18 year old uses once every 5 minutes). He's a short, older, pudgy guy wearing sun glasses all day & night -- attempting to be hip & cool. He's not, and the games he attempted to organize were an extreme waste of 2 hours of time. I'll warn you -- don't participate, just enjoy the beach, water, volleyball, & .... Well the buffet was not the best here either but the staff tried very hard. Not much shopping which was ok with me. And it was a tender to the ship. We went back to the ship about 2 hours earlier than needed.
Our last stop was Freeport. Actually, we all agreed that we would have liked more time here. The ship parks in a not-so-touristy place however there are a few shops & bars with live music right off this pier which was fairly enjoyable(nice Caribbean style music & some nice, cold rum drinks to start my day). We did a snorkel trip which was pretty good but took the entire morning. Advice would be to just take a shuttle or cab to the downtown area and walk, drink, shop & watch the very cool street shows in the local square -- the limbo guy was freaky good. I only say this because there is so little time here -- we almost missed the ship as it leaves at 1:30 sharp. Seriously at 1:30 it pulls up and moves out (the captain told us, yup - we met him that night at the sports bar, that he would like to extend time here but can't because of the long trip back to Baltimore). We were actually pulling up to the Baltimore dock at 8:30am. I think on most cruises we start leaving the ship at around 7am.
All-in-all, a very enjoyable cruise -- very glad that we did this. Again, the ship was large, clean, with friendly staff. The pools get crowded so get there by 8am to grab a couple seats -- no problem. The shows we saw were ok, the comedians were very good but a bit too dirty at times. The pool games are enjoyable. The food was always good, with plenty of choices. The ports of call were all nice, but more time at each would be wonderful but I understand that this is not possible unless they take the Captains suggestion and turn it into an 8 night cruise. Oh -- the Serenity pool was very nice, it reminded me of the pool area at the Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas -- very classy. The ship also has a slide at the rear which was ok, but it is a bit out-of-the-way. The night-time parties at the pool where always fun & energetic. The casino was nice & the dealers were friendly, with 3-card, black jack, let-it-ride, craps, roulette, and slots. The gym was fine for Cardio, but has no lose wieghts nor many wieght lifting machines.
This is a trip I would take again. ...actually we might do it again next year.