Embarkation was smooth and efficient. Departure was on time. We boarded the ship around 1:45-2pm, and much to our surprise, all staterooms were already available. We dropped off our bags and headed up to the Mermaid Buffet on the Lido Deck. Tables were hard to come by, but after a few minutes we found a couple open seats and went to town on the buffet. Salad, bread, potato salad, pizza, and a desert. I was quickly reminded how much I love cruising. Sail away party was fun. It became clear we had some real personalities onboard for the week.
Due to late booking, we were waitlisted for early seating. Our sign & sail card showed late seating, so we went to the Normandie restaurant and met with the Maitre D, Manuel. He let us know he'd try to accomodate us with early seating and would let us know shortly. 30 minutes later, we had a note in our little mailbox at our stateroom- 6pm dinner! As it turns out, we were seated at a great table in the open area of the dining room. We quickly hit it off with our table mates, and are already facebook friends. Our waiter was poised, knowledgeable, and extremely professional. The food on this cruise was just about perfect. A couple dishes I didn't care for, but that was my palette's issue, not a problem due to preparation or presentation. Like most cruises, the servers sang, danced, and generally livened up after dinner.
Navigating The Ship
If I have one complaint, it's minor. For a cruise in December, we were looking forward to seeing the ship decked out in holiday decorations. We'd sailed on RC previously in December and that ship was beautiful. There was not a single decoration, although Santa Claus made an appearance on Friday night, and it "snowed" in the atrium lobby bar on Saturday night. This ship is very easy to navigate. All decks go straight through from the front to back. Elevator wait times seemed much less than other ships. We loved the "Punchliner" comedy room located below the showroom Taj Mahal. On the Pride, you are never more than 3-4 minutes from anywhere.
Everyone, from our room steward to Kirk the cruise director, was seemingly happy and engaging. We rarely saw anyone without a smile on their face, They really all seem to enjoy their jobs. Cruise Director Kirk was entertaining. We've seen funnier guys (although he is funny), but I'm not sure we've seen a Cruise Director out and about as much as Kirk. I really wonder how much sleep this guy gets. He was EVERYWHERE. And, he seemed to genuinely care about people's experience on the ship.
The Activities and Shows
We were happy to win more Ships on a Stick. Aside from the usual trivia, we enjoyed a few of the shows. We've seen better and seen worse. Love and Marriage show is almost always funny. Singing and dancing shows were decent. Can't remember his name, but the comedian on the last night was very good. (Part of his act he donned a Batman mask while doing Don Knotts impression) Physical comedian was only so-so, but his feats had to be incredibly difficult as the ship was really rocking and rolling that night.
The Spa and Gym
We both had spa treatments. My girlfriend had the exfoliating treatment, I had the top to toe massage. Both were excellent and a decent price. The gym can get crowded. The best time to go is very early, or afternoon. Mornings around 7-8...forget it! You won't find anything open. Everything was kept immaculate in both the spa and the gym. The staff was eager to sell us additional products, but let up after the 2nd NO.
For the 1st time ever, we bought a piece at the art auction on Tuesday, and we won one of the raffle drawings! We really had a lot of fun and went to all 3 auctions. I've seen bad reviews for the Park West people, but in our experience they were straight up with us about everything. They made sure everyone's glass of champagne was full, and they kept things interesting. We actually learned a few things as well. Even if you don't plan on buying anything, it's fun and informative.
It's always brutal! You've got 2,100 plus a few crew trying to get off the ship, and the same number coming on only a couple hours later. Plus, everyone is kind of cranky because their vacation is coming to an end and the real world awaits. Since we'd bought artwork, we decided on the traditional zone disembarkation instead of self assist. At about 8am, we had a relaxing breakfast in the Normandie restaurant. Then, we hung out in the Taj Mahal until zone 7 was called. It wound up being about 11am. They slid our sign and sail cards, and we each heard one final boink sound as we left the ship in a depressed state. A few minutes after clearing customs, we ran into a couple who was getting ready to board. They could hardly contain their excitement! Talking to them rid us of our blues!