DW and I were on the Pride 10/14-10/21 for our 20th anniversary which was actually back in August. I am in my mid-50's, she in her mid-40's and we have 5 sons (yes, we really needed this cruise by ourselves). We have sailed 3 times with NCL but this was our first 7 day cruise and first in a balcony. We stayed in cabin 4166. We drove to Baltimore from Vermont the day before and stayed in Glenn Burnie, a short 9 minutes from the pier.
10/14- We arrived in the parking lot at 11:15 am and were onboard with a drink in our hand by 12:15 pm. Check in was a breeze. When we entered the terminal we had to show our boarding documents and our ID/citizenship documents. We used driver's license, DW used her naturalization certificate and I used a copy (yes, a regular photocopy) of my birth cert. We were waived through with no questions and proceeded to the security check point. Opened the carry-ons to show our soda (24 bottles) and wine (2 bottles). Security didn't check the seals. Quick security screening was followed by check-in process, again presented our documentation and again presented the copy of my birth certificate. Because DW uses a cane we were directed to the section for physically challenged passengers. The check-in people talked DW into accepting a wheelchair assist for embarkation, which was a good thing because there were many steep ramps to navigate. The first group of passengers was sent through to the ship before it was her turn for the wheelchair. The person pushing the wheelchair went past the embarkation phot stations so we didn't get an embarkation photo (I was trailing behind and didn't say anything because I thought DW may have told him to skip it). We were greeted as we boarded the ship and quickly ordered our first drink. We sat in the Atrium and waited for our room to be ready. Everyone has mentioned the art work and the dark decor of the Pride, but seeing it in person is a pleasant surprise- we found nothing unpleasant in the decor.
We went up to the Lido to grab a quick bite after finishing our drinks. I will say right here that I am a fan of buffets (see the part about 5 sons above) as long as they are done well. The Italian food that we had was tasty and at an appropriate tempurature. At 1:20 pm we went to see if our room was ready and it was, and our luggage had already been delivered also. The BV bottle of rum that I had ordered had been delivered and DW was surprised. The room was pleasant to the eye and spacious enough for two people. Because I had difficulty finding out how big the rooms were I brought a tape measure- room was 172 square feet to include the room, entrance hall and bathroom. The balcony was 36 square feet. There were three closets (2'x2x6), two for hanging clothes and one with shelf space. There were drawers and a cabinet with shelves and two night stands with storage space. Our luggage fit nicely under the bed. Met our room steward, Wayan, and requested that he keep the mini-fridge locked, which he did.
Our dining choice was early seating and we proceeded to the dining room shortly before 6. We were at a 4 top with another couple who were from Pennsylvania. Joko was our waiter and he was helped by Joel and Marianne. I had the chicken a la grecque and DW had the sausage with linguine, both of which were tasty but DW found the sausage to be too spicey for her. We both had the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake, which we felt easily lived up to its reputation. The breads were awesome throughout the week. Went to the Welcome Aboard show and found CD Kirk Benning to be very funny and engaging. Attended the adult comedy show in Punchliners and Mike Macy was very funny. Definitely off to a good start.
10/15- I woke early as I usually do and went to the Lido for my coffee and walked around taking pictures. I found the material condition and cleanliness of the Pride to be very good, some small tears in the carpet here and there, some frayed non-skid here and there but nothing major. Breakfast in the buffet was good and there were no bacon police (although I did notice them when the buffet was busy). Found the ship easy to navigate. Ordered room service for DW (she usually sleeps in) from the interactive TV but it never came, a very small glitch that may have been my own mis-use of the interactive TV. We ended up going to the buffet to get her something to eat and we explore a little. We had salads from the buffet for lunch. First elegant night and of course the photographers were out in force. DW and I dressed (I wore a suit, she a formal dress) and proceeded out to get our pictures taken. One thing we noticed is that the photographers took the time to do multiple poses, which was different from our experience with NCL where they snapped one or two photos. Went into dinner and found our table mates absent. DW had stuffed mushrooms and carbronara. I had the gator fritters and Maine lobster. The lobster was very good and I liked the fritters but didn't notice a lot of meat in them. We both had cherries jubilee for desert. Service was a little spottier (had to ask for cream and sugar) but nothing major. Did notice that while we were ordering our desert that other tables were just receiving their entrees. We typically finished eating in an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes during the week. Went to the main show in the Taj Mahal which was entertaining and full of energy. Saw Mike perform again, then went to the Lido for a late night snack of pizza. I thought it was very good but DW doesn't care for thin crust too much (but she did like the taste).
10/16- second day at sea, woke early again. Wayan greeted me by name when I passed him in the hallway as he continued to do throughout the week. I went to the Lido for breakfast and had an omelet, which quickly became my start of every day. One benefit of waking early is there are no lines in the buffet, which did tend to develop as the day went on (but we never found the wait times to be too bad). Noticed that the crew would go out of their way to say good morning with a smile, no matter what they were doing- if they saw me they greeted me. Woke DW up around 10:30 and went up to the Lido at 11 so she could have breakfast and when we came back 20 minutes later our room had been cleaned. She started calling our steward our "Ninja steward". I did the slot tourney and lost. Attended the hairy chest contest. Got some sun on Serenity and ran into our table mates. They had been waitlisted for Anytime Dining and a spot opened up so they had switched to that. Sat on the balcony in the afternoon and saw some wild dolphins riding the ship's wake. For dinner DW had French onion soup, meat loaf and wcmc. I had the shrimp cocktail (medium sized shrimp), penne moscoso (I know I spelled that wrong) and strawberry cheesecake for me. Joko said the waiters would be dancing tonight but we finished dinner and didn't want to wait to see it. Left the Motown show early to watch the comedy show and Jim Brick was very funny.
10/17- Port Canaveral. Did the breakfast hanger the night before and it was delivered right on time. We did the Airboat tour through CCL. I have wanted to ride an airboat since I watched Gentle Ben as a kid. Our boat left last and we didn't see any gators but there were a lot of birds. They did a wildlife show after the airboat ride and DW got to hold a live gator, the grin on her face made the price we paid worth it. I tried Alligator nuggets and they weren't bad at all. Lazed around Serenity after we got back to the ship. At dinner DW had spinach salad and chicken breast. I had duck and shrimp for starters and Seafood Newburg. We both had tiramasu. DW has struck up a friendship with the ladies at the table behind us. Went to big screen trivia, name that song and gender wars followed by the main show, which was again entertaining with a lot of energy.
10/18- Nassau. We both decided to eat breakfast in the MDR as we had never done that on any cruise. DW had French Toast and I had Eggs Benedict which I found to be tasty. We sat at a 6 top with two other couples and had a great conversation with them. The Carnival Magic was docked next to us and the NCL Jewel was on the other side. We walked up to the terminal building and just walked around the shops in there to give DW a break. We tried Kalik beer and liked it. Spent time in the hot tub and sunning ourselves. At dinner DW had wild mushroom soup, lasagna and pumpkin pie and I had oysters Rockefeller, filet mignon and cream cake. Trivia and games in the Taj Mahal and called it an early night for our big day tomorrow.
10/19- Freeport. Woke up to rain and lightning and were worried that out Dolphin Encounter would be cancelled. Ate breakfast on Lido and then went down to the meeting area. On the way stopped at the Shore Excursion desk and were told it was still a go because it was on the other side of the island and away from the storms. 30 minute bus ride which terminated right outside UNEXSO then a 20 minute boat ride to the lagoon where the dolphins reside. We saw two wild dolphins on the way there. The encounter was awesome and DW was in heaven (I may have failed to mention her great love for dolphins). Our dolphin was Cocoon, who was one of the dolphins that was in the movie "Cocoon". On the way back to the marina we saw a shark. We were running a little late and were supposed to be back on the ship at 1:00 pm. We made it back to the dock at 10 after 1, very glad we were on a sponsored excursion. Lazed around until dinner time. Second elegant night, many people still dressed up in suits, etc. (I didn't see many tuxes on both nights). Did see some people dressed way down this night and others, but it didn't impact our meal at all. DW had brocolli soup, roasted chicken and cheese cake. I had the brocolli soup, chatieubriand and baked Alaska which was all tasty as usual. Stayed for dancing waiters and it was actually fun to watch. Went to the main show, Jazzin', which was entertaining. Went right down to Butterflies but it was SRO already for the comedian Dean.
10/20- last day at sea. As I was eating breakfast a lady came up and said "excuse me, are you Sparks?" I said that I was and she introduced herself as SailorGirl from our roll call. She had evidently recognized me from my avatar (good eyes). The steward brought by a bottle of champagne and signed ship's picture from the CD for my participation in the morning show which took place every sea day at 9 am. I cracked him and the assistant CD up with my impression of a dyslexic cow (oom). In the afternoon it was announced that we had to do a medevac for a passenger and the Coast Guard helo was on approach. The course change would delay our arrival. Never found out what was wrong but kept the family in our prayers. Started packing and couldn't find the t-shirts we had bought the previous day for the grandkids, retraced our steps mentally and realized we must have set the bag down in one of the lounge areas when we had stopped to rest. Went to guest services and sure enough, the bag had been turned in. Attended a couple of trivia contests in Raphael's and then went back to the room to pack some more. Around 5:30 pm DW was lazing on the balcony and wanted me to take a picture of her lying across the two chairs. I went into the cabin to get the camera and couldn't find it, my spirits sank when I realized that I had taken it off in Raphael's and left in on the couch next to me. I called guest services because lines were forming due to impending departure and they said they did have a camera that had been turned in. We dressed for dinner and on the way to the dining rooms stopped at the desk and sure enough our camera had been turned in. I showed them a picture on the camera of DW to prove it was ours.
DW had portobella mushrooms, mac and cheese and wcmc. I had the crab cake, frog legs, prime rib and cappuchino pie. The frog legs were okay, but nothing that I need to eat again. The waiters sang a parody of "Leaving on a Jet Plane" that was funny. Missed trivia in the Taj Mahal and stuck around for Family Face Off. I volunteered to be on one of the teams. Watched Liars Club and then went to Punchliners and watched Steve. Went back to the room and finished packing so we could put the luggage out in the hallway. When we got to the room we heard a banging from the balcony. It turns out that when they did maintenance on the balcony they had forgotten to lock one of the dividers and it was opening and closing in the wind. I called guest services and within ten minutes someone showed up and locked the divider.
10/21- Up early to get final preps done. I ate at the Lido and then brought DW a tray when I woke her up (yes, the Lido had trays). Even though we are running two hours late they still want us out of the room by 8:30. We go to the Taj Mahal to wait, then decide to go up to Lido so we can have some coffee. On the way we meet the couple who had been out table mates the first night. We get a table together and chat to pass the time. Self assist passengers are called at 10:15 and at 11:15 they start calling the zones. We are zone 21 and wait until 12:45 to be called. It doesn't take long to get off the ship and that final ding is indeed sad. We went through Customs first and then got our bags. The Customs officer didn't even look twice at copy of my birth certificate (he did comment about the age of DW's naturalization certificate which had been issued when she was 18). A porter quickly got our luggage loaded in the car and we were on the way home.
I have to say that we greatly enjoyed our first cruise with CCL. There are some differences between CCL and NCL but they are minor ones. I would rate CCL's food to be a little better overall than NCL's but keep in mind that I just finished with CCL and it's fresh in my memory. I realize that CCL has made a lot of cut backs lately which have not sat well with their frequent guests, but you can't miss what you've never had. I do know that the crew was very friendly, the food was very good to excellent and the ship was well maintained. It wasn't perfect, I did notice that sometimes the food temp could have been hotter but it was not so bad that I had to send it back. We finished our dinner in an hour or so every night, but did notice that it took other passengers longer to get their food. I did notice a few shorts, t-shirts and baseball caps in the MDR but this had no impact on my enjoyment. I also noticed a few people in pajamas or robes at breakfast but they were not the norm. I never did see a problem with chair hogs.
We felt that we received a good value for our vacation dollar and wouldn't hesitate to take the kids on the Pride for a family vacation. I think it is safe to say that we like both CCL and NCL and what will make the decision for us for future cruises will be itinerary and price.