A group of 23 friends selected to cruise on the Carnival Pride from Baltimore. The premise of this cruise was to be somewhere other than home for when the World ended according to the Mayans , it was out of Baltimore, so no airline hassle and inexpensive. This was my first cruise at Christmas time.
Embarkation at the Port of Baltimore was slowed because the Pride was late returning from the prior cruise. The port is dull but the Carnival folks were all dressed in Santa hats or Reindeer Antlers. We had a port worker who kept walking around telling people they couldn't use their smart phones, even though they were doing nothing different then the folks sitting there playing Angry Birds on their ipads. Needless to say, that became a running joke with our group.
We finally boarded and went right to the sports bar only to be disappointed that they didn't have the Redskins game. Some in our group sat and watched the Ravens game, enjoyed drinks, food from the grill, others explored the ship. Many areas were blocked off for the 6 weddings happening on the ship.
I had read several reviews on the Pride and I must say this is the ugliest ship I have ever sailed on. I have nothing against Renaissance art but it is too dark and brown based for a cruise ship. They even had the elevator doors painted which at first made it hard to tell where the elevator doors were located and the ding indicating the elevator had arrived wasn't working most of the time. The ship was decorated for Christmas with garland, Christmas trees, a Gingerbread village and it snowed in the atrium on the last sea day (3 times).
I entered the drawing in the Spa after the muster drill (no life jackets needed) and won a $100 voucher towards a spa treatment. (woohoo). We had dinner in the dining room, a few drinks and enjoyed the Casino to get our vacation started.
Because, we sailed from Baltimore to Florida/Bahamas, most of the trip it was really windy on deck. Most of the cruise Deck 11 and part of Deck 10 were closed because of high winds. This made it very difficult to walk the deck for exercise. The water slide was only open when we were in port. The slide on the Pride is short and slow. The pools and slide are salt water.
I had two excellent hot stone massages on the Pride. Tess was my masseur. She did an excellent job both times. The spa also offers acupuncture too. The gym is small but it has all the machines you need plus weights and an aerobic room at the top of the steps in the right corner of the gym. Loved the showers in the spa ladies room with the multi-head shower and the hot tub was nice too.
We were scheduled for 3 sea days which turned into 4 because the weather (High Winds) prevented the Pride from docking in Freeport (no big loss).
Port Canaveral-We did the ship run Airboats and Alligators tour. Sadly, we saw no gators but it was a beautiful Sunny and 80 degree day. The perfect day for an airboat ride. We saw tons of birds and cows and bulls and we met some folks who ran an animal rescue. We got to hold an alligator, snake and monkey. I went to lunch at Fish lips near the port and spent the rest of the day on the Serenity Deck. Some in our group did the tour of NASA at Cape Canaveral. You can take a cab from the Port for $6 to Coco Beach.
Nassau, Bahamas-the plan was to do the Standup Paddleboard excursion but it got cancelled due to high winds and rough waters. I walked out to the shops and straw market and basically went back on the ship for the rest of the day. Enjoyed the Sunny day on the Serenity Deck. A few people did the Catamaran Snorkeling tour but because of the winds the snorkeling wasn't that great due to poor visibility. Our group tried to meet at Senor Frogs but they had a private party and closed the bar, so most of our group didn't make it. There were 5 ships in port that day, so Nassau was busy. The best excursion in Nassau is the Segeway tour. If you get the chance do it.
Freeport-didn't dock there. I understand in the winter docking in Freeport is hit or miss.
We had a rough sailing home because of weather. We were buffeted by winds 34-45mph with gusts up to 60mph. It made doing anything above deck difficult and it was chilly.
This is the first cruise, I've been on where I could feel the vibration of the ship no matter where I was on the ship. A couple of times in the dining room it felt like i was sitting on a washing machine on the spin cycle. We kept joking that we were on one of those vibrating beds where you put the quarters in the box to turn it on.
It's been a while since I've cruised on Carnival. But it seemed to me that they did not offer as many activities on sea days as on past cruises. It seemed to be primarily trivia and then one activity on the Lido deck. They had a mix logy contest (The RG III drink won), Hairy Chest contest, The Groove for St. Jude event, and bean bag toss. The only prizes were ships on a stick( I won 6 of them) and medals, maybe a bottle of Cheap champagne.
My other observation was that the bar service was slow. They seemed to have only one or two bartenders at most of the bars. It took 15 minutes to get a drink if you ordered from the server in the bar. Which seemed odd on a "Fun Ship." I do recommend the Thristy Frog mirco beer that Carnival serves.
The service in the Main dining room was good. The food was ok. Nothing exciting, the food was warm and filling. We were treated to a show every night by the wait staff. One night we had a magician come to the table and entertain us. I think our group entertained him more than he did us. We get approached by ship photographers every night at dinner, which we politely declined. 8 of us in our group had dinner in David's Restaurant one night. It was by far the best meal of the cruise. The presentation, appetizers, salads and steaks were excellent plus the desert was awesome. (Worth the money to me.) 11 people in our group did the Chef's table on Friday night, it was held in Beauties Nightclub. They raved about the experience, the food and the chef. That experience gives you a new appreciation about what it takes to run a kitchen on a cruise ship and to serve 2000 passengers daily. Our group enjoyed the offerings at the Grill, the Ice Cream bar and the 24-hour Pizza.
Entertainment and Bars
The first show was a Rock-n-Roll show which several folks in our group liked very much. The second show was an "Around The World" show which I could not sit through. The dancing and singing were so-so. Because of the weather and the rough seas the final show was cancelled and they had a spontaneous show put together by the Entertainment crew that was fun and had memorable moments. They had a comedian/juggler who was excellent. He rode a unicycle and juggled numerous items. The two comedians, we had on the ship from Baltimore were pretty funny. They did the "Superstars" show which was the same show, I saw 5 years ago on Carnival. The passengers who were James Brown, Ricky Martin and Frank Sinatra were pretty good. Kudos to Cruise Director Kirk and his sidekick Gumbie. Their 9am morning show was a hoot and his staff did a good job.
The Pride does have a sports bar. So, we were able to watch all the College Bowl games and some NFL games plus basketball. The Casino was always busy and several members of our group had good nights in the Casino. You can smoke in the casino but I never had a problem with it being too smoky to gamble. We enjoyed the Piano Bar with Derek on piano. He had quite a following on our sailing. They had karaoke every night either in Florentine's or Butterflies.
While I had fun on my trip, I'm not sure I will be quick to book another Carnival cruise anytime soon from Baltimore because the ports hold no interest for me. The ship seemed under staffed, the food quality was ok and the ship needs a dry docking/redecorating. It just seems that the quality of the experience on Carnival has gone down since my last sailing. Not sure if we were in the middle of a crew swap out prior to the Christmas sailing or if we are seeing the affects of the Costa disaster on Carnival Corp and her ships.