We just returned home from our second cruise on the Carnival Pride from Baltimore, MD and had a fantastic time. We went on this exact cruise at the same time one year ago. This time, travelling with me was my family (2 adults, 3 kids ages 7,5 and 3) and my mother-in-law.
The drive to Baltimore from Toronto, Canada was long and difficult because we left the morning of a snow storm. It took us over 10 hours. This year we made sure we booked a park and cruise hotel with secure parking for the week - Hampton Inn, which was really nice, included breakfast and had a great pool. Shuttle service to and from the cruise terminal was also provided. Last year we stayed at a lower quality hotel and returned from our cruise only to find our car window smashed. We are already thinking about booking the same cruise next year and if we do, we will likely stay outside of Baltimore and park at the cruise terminal for $15 a day.
Checking in was super fast and easy. We learned from last year and arrived early, even though the cruise documents said to arrive at around 1pm. We were on the boat eating lunch on the lido deck by 12:30 and in the pool and hot tub as guests were still boarding! Our staterooms were ready before we finished lunch and the luggage arrived later in the afternoon. We stayed on Riviera Deck (Deck 1) in two oceanview cabins. Our stateroom stewards Tu Minh from Myanmar and Nicola (in the evening) from Serbia were the best we have ever had. By the end of the cruise they felt like family. Nicola had an instant connection with my 3 year old Emma. :)
As mentioned already, this was our second time on the Pride. We were surprised to find that there were absolutely no staff that were the same from last year. Now we understand that they all work for 7 months and then move on to a new ship. Too bad, because we would have loved to see everyone again next year. We are an extremely easy going family and we like to participate in different events. On the first night we met DJ PJ (Peter) from Zimbabwe from Camp Carnival and he was outstanding! He mentioned he aspired to be a Cruise Director one day and if Carnival is reading this, he has our families highest recommendation! :)
The Negatives: In past reviews, you may have read about the dark decor - if you take the time to watch the channel while you are on the cruise about the design of the ship, you will have a much greater appreciation. Our kids didn't mind the decor at all, if anything it gave them a good chuckle. Some past reviews mentioned a sewage smell - yes, on the odd occassion I smelled it down on deck one - but it was not really strong, almost like a maintenance room smell. My kids are sensitive to this kind of stuff and they didn't even mention it once. Past reviews also mention vibration - yes, I agree at times the boat does vibrate a lot. Once again, it didn't bother our family - a cruise ship is a large machine that has powerful engines, no different than driving in a car and feeling bumps etc. Someone mentioned the beds being hard. We LOVED the beds on The Pride, we always slept so well. Unlike other cruises we have been on, the walls on this ship are not paper thin - we didn't hear our neighbour beside us or above us once. I can go on and on, but as you can see - there is NOTHING in past reviews that people have mentioned that we felt was a big deal. For the price we paid for this cruise and saving money by driving to Baltimore, what can we complain about?
The food on The Pride is excellent. We have been on Disney and Norwegian and honestly, we think the food Carnival has to offer is just great (and for this price!!). We enjoyed our time dining every night in the Normandie at 5:45pm and breakfast and lunches always on deck 9 the lido deck. In the evening, our family took advantage of the 24 hr pizza and the 11:30 late night good eats (fries, etc.) and who can forget the 24 hr soft serve ice cream. One thing I love about The Pride is how easy going it is to get something to eat or drink at all times, much more relaxed than other cruises and a great layout for people to just go up to the lido deck and eat, sit and relax at any time.
The entertainment was exactly the same as last year, Vroom, Jazzin, Carnival Legends - my favourite was the Around the World show. Great costumes, set changes, choreography etc. Every night, despite seeing the shows already - I looked forward to the Taj Mahal for our nightly entertainment. My husband enjoyed the comedy shows (I liked the karaoke) and he was a nightly visitor to the tables at the casino. The Cruise Director Kirk and the Assistant Gumbie were excellent - I couldn't even tell you the names of the cruise directors last year. My kids also loved the aracade and a shout out to the casino maintenance worker who took really good care of my kida at the arcade!
Last year our kids didn't like Camp Carnival, but fast forward one year later we definitely made much better use of it this time around. They offer a very detailed schedule which allows you to pick and choose thr activities to participate in. On port days, our 3 kids could be together which they enjoyed too. We found the on board cell phone they provided for the week very useful. It gave us a sense of security when we dropped off the kids, but it was also a great way for my mother in law to reach us when she needed us too. Hint: If you have kids in the ages 2-5 group, register your kids early on the first day to get a phone otherwise they only have pagers left. We didn't get off the boat once at any of the ports, we just enjoyed the hot weather by the pool and the empty boat!
New Years on the The Pride was so much fun. There were different choices on the boat to bring in the new year, we chose the warmer option - inside on deck 2 in the atrium. We stood in middle of the dance floor while a hundred balloons fell from the ceiling - very cool! We had lobster for dinner and everyone partied hard on The Pride well into the wee hours of the morning. Lots of energy and lots of fun!!
I could go on and on, but my review is already getting much too long. Ultimately you can pay triple the price to go on a higher end cruise, but problems will still exist. If anything, I think I would be more annoyed at every little thing that goes wrong because of the price I paid. But with the Carnival Pride, you get great food, entertainment, a clean ship, lot of activities and entertaiment - all for an incredible, unbeatable price, which is why we booked this cruise for a second year in a row and likely a third next year. So happy cruising on the Carnival Pride, you won't be disappointed! The staff are amazing and they will take good care of you!! :)