After having sailed on the Tropical, Triumph, Fascination, and Conquest, we tried the Pride. Seeing how it was a close port to the state of West Virginia, we decided to give it a go for Christmas.
Port: If you are driving, this is the closest port that we've ever been to just off the interstate. It was a quick exit and one turn and you're there. Took about 20 minutes to park. While the parking was good, the embarking process was VERY, VERY slow. We decided not to arrive until 1:00ish to allow the crowd to thin out. But, that wasn't the case. With TSA agents yelling cellphones away or we'll take them... the people there were rude.
Eventually getting to the check-in was fine. The guy who issued us our boarding pass was not that friendly, but was all business.
Due to the cold weather, they let everyone go inside the ship and straight to their room. Not the norm for Carnival so that was a nice surprise. They took us outside briefly to show the muster station for emergencies and then back to the dining room for life vest demonstrations. The sound system wasn't working so we never really saw them put on a jacket. This area could have used work.
The bed was awful. We usually brag on carnival bedding, but this bed was like a brick. We asked the room steward for mattress pad or whatever, and he said he had nothing. So.. I couldn't walk the next six days very good. I actually took a pill for the back pain. This was a major disappointment.
The locations of Camp Carnival and O2 for the kids were hard to find. For some reason the pride has Camp Carnival on Floor 5 at the far end of the guest rooms. There is no quick access to it like the other ships offer. Club 02 was even more hidden. We heard multiple complaints about the location even from a couple of the staffers that agreed.
At 6am on Friday, we were awakened by the Captain over the emergency system saying that we would not be able to stop at Freeport due to winds and a cold front/warm front system that would make docking difficult and unsafe. Later that day, another announcement would come that said, high wind speeds in excess of 50-60 mphs were expected and the stage shows were being cancelled and guests were advised to not go out on the decks.
So we went to our room and watch the ship navigation channel that shows winds speeds and even took pictures to prove it... winds ranged from 50-74mph. The boat rocked, and people nearly fell. People vomited at dinner. Two sets of dishes were dropped in the dining hall.
It was scary, realizing that we were in the middle of a major windstorm. We were all pretty sick for the last two days of the cruise. Having been on 5 and never ill, this storm really made the boat rock.
Sadly, we called Carnival as gold card cruisers and requested some type of credit for a future cruise and they refused saying they have no policy for bad weather. They did remind us that they credited us $14 for taxes for not stopping at Freeport.
So then for debarking. We waited for a little over an our in a lounge. They called our floor number and we proceeded to the middle of the ship. There a quick swipe of the card, and we were off. Debarking was a seamless process and customs were nice. All of our luggage was there. We tipped the guys $1 per bag and they carried them to our van.
We called this trip "Interesting." Had carnival offered a bar credit or photo credit or something on the next cruise, then I think I would have felt like they really cared about the bad experience. Seeing how we have spent several thousand dollars booking two rooms at a clip and taking 5 cruises since 2000, you would think... they would want to make sure that I'll be back.
I'm not sure that we will do Baltimore anymore. We heard from someone on the ship that the water in winter is always choppy out of Baltimore and the best time to said out of there is the summer.
One last thought.... If you are cruising out of SC or North... I wouldn't recommend a balcony. We only got to use it two days because of the weather. It really wasn't worth the extra money in the winter.