Just arrived back from a wonderful cruise on the Pride! Visiting Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay (or Key depending on who you talk to), and Freeport.
We had an absolutely awesome trip, once again on the Pride! Having booked ES rates back in January, I got to walk aboard with $150 OBC. Booked cabin 6232 -- which has the bowling alley balcony! Can not say enough how much we enjoyed having this large balcony.
Arrived in the Port of Baltimore around 11:45am Sunday morning, there was a bit of a line at this time, but I'd say we were probably aboard the ship by 12:30 and enjoyed a quick lunch on the Serenity Deck, until the rooms were ready at 1:30. This was our first cruise on the Pride since the addition of the Serenity Deck. I had previously seen Serenity aboard the Glory. All I can say is having the aft Serenity Deck was brilliant! It was much bigger than on Glory and the layout smarter. We enjoyed our sail-away on the Serenity Deck. Later in the week we did notice that as people discovered its existence, it did tend to fill up quickly, and didn't seem to have many openings throughout the day. I know Carnival instituted the anti-chair hog measures, but I didn't take notice to them being enforced. (To be honest I didn't sit and spy on anyone to see if the policy was abused either, so you may have to find out from someone else.) I'm not the type to need a lounge chair anyway. My fiance used the lounge the first day for a few hours, but between the ports of call and our own balcony she never really cared to investigate the availability on Serenity again. We DID however take quite a few Lido meals out on the Serenity Deck tables, and had more than a few drinks there too! (;O) Just a very comfortable and enjoyable place to hang out on the ship.
We found out that they were offering a free bottle of wine at the David's Steakhouse for the first night, so we went ahead and booked ourselves dinner up there the first night. All I can say is WOW what a difference from our experiences in the MDR. Now I don't have any previous steakhouse experience to compare to, but all I can say is WOW. From the food, to the quiet atmosphere (there were maybe 3-4 other guests dining at that time) and the personal attention paid to us. This was by far our favorite dining experience ever. Not to mention the views offered out the window seats. Got to watch a beautiful sunset as we ate. This was just a great experience, and I highly recommend everyone try the steakhouse on their ships at least once! I had the filet mignon and lobster tail, a wonderful Caesar Salad, more than my share of Brioche rolls, and a desert of Puff pastry with caramelized apples. (OK I'll be honest, the desert didn't WOW me, but it was still good nonetheless).
The next two days were sea days, I know some don't particularly care for these days, but I actually do enjoy them. It's a great time to explore the ship and just enjoy a slow pace of life for a change! (Isn't the reason to cruise to relax from work and hectic life!? Lol) You can frequently find me in any random seating area just people watching with a chocolate milkshake or a book with me. I will have to let you all down now- I don't really participate in a lot of the ship-board activities as I like to just do my own thing. Sunday evening we caught the Ravens/Patriots game. I like both teams, but lean more towards the Patriots. We watched most of this game in the Perfect Game bar. It was a lively group, being that Pride sails out of Baltimore there were a LOT of Ravens fans aboard. Went back for Monday night football as well.
Ok so Monday night we had our first dinner in the MDR. For the first time in 3 cruises we were assigned a table with other guests, which was something I had been looking forward to. Having read other posts about some of the crazy tablemates people have had, I was excited to see what sort of people we would meet. Turns out we had great tablemates. Two other couples, both with more travel experience than us. It provided for lively conversation the rest of the week, and I'm happy to say we finally made our first "cruise-friends" haha.
Ok, now this was our first cruise since the much debated "Comfort Selections", and highly debated downgraded quality menu. On our prior cruise aboard the Pride in 2010 our waiters learned our names by the second night, and whether we preferred water, lemonade, or tea. Having been our very first cruise we found all the food to be absolutely great! Now this time around- our waiter never learned our names. To be honest I felt like he seemed over-worked and seemed to spend every evening rushing. I don't know if they are assigned more tables than they used to, but he really seemed like he had too much to do. This was in contrast to our first experience where our waiters George and Joel spent time talking to us and asking us about our days. (In point of fact I still talk to George on Facebook in his home country of Macedonia). I'm a more than patient person so my feeling of the rushing and lack of personal contact didn't bother me, just something to note. Many have begun to complain that their MDR food comes out cold or luke-warm. This never seemed to be the case; all my meals were warm and tasty. The only complaint I sort of had was EVERY single time the menu called out Jumbo Tiger Shrimp, what came out was normal cocktail shrimp. Again I didn't find this to be something worthy of complaining about, just a curiosity. Overall I'm still of the opinion that people need to enjoy their MDR experience. These guys work VERY hard and feeding everyone that they do in a timely manner is a very tough job. I have nothing but respect for the jobs they do. This was also our first time doing Early Dining. Previously our cruises were Late Dining. I sort of wonder if that makes the difference. Do they have more time during Late Dining to chat up their guests? Are they rushing during Early Dining because they know they have another seating coming up? Things to consider.
Finally Wednesday- Grand Turk! This was a first time for us. We elected an early excursion doing the Ultimate Snorkeling. Having never snorkeled before all I can say is WOW this was fun. I've never seen water so clear, and the fish- they swam right up to you! I got some great pictures with my underwater camera! They took us to two separate dive sights. At the second it was a bit shallower, but even more clear than the first spot. At this one they fed some small sharks and we had the opportunity to swim down and pet them! I actually pet a shark! (Which the captain assured us was a vegetarian! HAHA
After snorkeling we had nothing planned, but having spent the last six months researching elected to stroll up the beach to Jack's Shack. Here we tried some of the local brew Turks Head beer, and some fried calamari. Sitting on the deck we watched Jack's dog, Topher, dig in the sand and greet newcomers. Beer and food was good, and priced very reasonably. On our way back to the ship we decided you can't visit Grand Turk without stopping at Margaritaville. Here we stopped and had two Margaritas. OK... again no complaints, but $42 for two margaritas seemed a bit high, we DID get the souvenier mugs, so that was probably our fault! Had to be back around 1, as the ship was to sail at 2:00. This is when the day struck tragedy a bit. As we were walking back to the ship we spotted an ambulance pulled up to the gangway. No information was given straight away. As it turns out one of our fellow shipmates passed away on the beach. According to the rumor mill a woman was found face up in the water and a heart attack was suspected. How true this information is, I may never know. As such the ship was delayed as Customs and Carnival arranged for the body to be taken back to the Island and the family made arrangements from there. An announcement was made when we did get underway, and Kirk (Our CD) asked that we keep the family and the deceased in our prayers. I can only imagine the shock and sorrow of the family involved. I have no idea how I would react in a similar situation, and I'd like to take this opportunity to express my thoughts and condolences are with them.
Next morning we awoke in Half Moon Cay. Now I believed the water in Grand Turk was the bluest and clearest that I'd ever seen, but HMC corrected me! This has to be THE MOST beautiful beach and water I've ever seen. No excursions booked, just a day at the beach. We took the tender after the mass exodus in the morning. And walked around, found some chairs and splashed in the water for a bit. My fiance got a picture with one of the waiters in his vest, bow tie, shorts and not much else! Haha. She had a good time! I just laughed at her. Sadly beginning to burn, I brought us back to the ship to get out of the sun. I truly hope to return!
The next morning was Freeport. This was our third time to this port. Sadly I'm not much of fan. I often refer to this port as the "Gas Station" of the Caribbean. It seems a lot of ships stop here to load and unload cargo. We did elect to get off the ship and head to Lucaya. With no real plans. I'm sure some of the excursions offer better looks at the island, but from my previous visits and this one, I have yet to be impressed. As the taxi drives from the port into Lucaya as you look around you will begin to notice that "Curb Appeal" is a term lost on these islanders. I don't mean to be unkind. And whether or not this port is on future cruises, it will not make or break the deal. I simply see myself staying onboard in the future. The one part of this stop I did enjoy was watching the infamous "Pier Runners" as the ship sounded its horn. We watched from the Upper decks as people made their mad dashes back.
Also the Carnival Ecstasy was also in port with us, I thought an interesting (But probably logistical nightmare) option would be to give the option to tour the other ship in port (provided there was time.) I've never seen a Fantasy class ship before, so my curiosity gets the better of me. I'm sure this would be more of a headache to arrange and probably why they don't, but still I thought it would be cool.
Saturday, the last day at sea, was mostly cloudy, so we didn't spend much time outside. In fact having not slept much the night before, I spent most of the day in my cabin resting and watching the college football games. (I know I sound like a huge football fan, but the truth is my fiance likes to watch it more, she often has to explain what is happening! Much to my shame!) For me this is what cruising is all about, doing whatever you want and actually getting some relaxation in! Too many people come back from trips saying they need a vacation from their vacation! I made a point this trip to not make plans and just go with the flow and do what we wanted. As a result I feel very relaxed and ready to start a new job and move into our new house this week! How's that for timing? Buying a house a week after a cruise!
Overall I have to say I absolutely loved this trip, I adore the Pride, and think I get my money's worth. I know Carnival is getting a reputation for being the cheap line, but I don't mind, I'm an average Joe and I don't have high expectations. I enjoy cruising with Carnival and don't find much fault with their ships. The crew is always nice, and my bed is always made, the drinks are cold, and there is always something to eat! It's a great time for the money, and I can't imagine enjoying a land vacation nearly as much. (Though some of that could be because I don't like to fly!)