This first time cruiser and her husband had an amazing time, albeit with very minor criticisms. All in all, it was an enjoyable cruise involving a perfect mix of fun and relaxation.
EMBARKATION took about an hour. Security was friendly and professional, and luggage arrived at our cabin prior to setting sail. DEBARKATION was delayed without an announcement, causing disorganization when those carrying luggage off the ship formed a line rather than wait for the deck numbers to be called (at least it was a line instead of a mob).
CABIN was originally booked for deck 5, with a view just over the lifeboats. Carnival emailed us an upgrade offer to deck 7, making the view even more spectacular. We loved the firm bed, room service, towel animals, and overall cleanliness, with plenty of space in the closets, drawers, and bathroom. No noise issues with neighboring cabins.
THE SPA service we scheduled ahead of time was a couple's massage (his first). I've had better massages, but I've also had worse. We didn't use the rest of the spa or exercise facilities though they seemed sufficient and popular.
SERENITY, the quiet adult-only area, was heaven for us, considering the other pools were filled with screaming children rough housing and doing dangerous flips, even with parents looking on. When our fishing trip in Freeport was cancelled due to rough waters, we spent much of the day in Serenity, taking a dip in the pool/hot tub and relaxing in one of the area hammocks.
SERVICE cannot be commended enough, including wait staff, security making the rounds, and room stewards. Everyone was friendly, informative, helpful, and organized. I am amazed at all they accomplish week after week and, now that I'm home, I really miss the pampering. Past reviews make it seem like it's not enough but, as another passenger said: "this is a cruise the working man can appreciate." There may be invisible house elves in Hogwarts (a fun excursion at Universal Studios) but the staff's hard work should not go unnoticed, both by passengers and Carnival.
INTERIOR decor some have complained is "ugly" though I don't think it's that bad, at least not to where it would make or break the vacation. Or criticism about "dirty" public areas could stem from the smokiness of the starry night cafe and casino. I couldn't look around without noticing a staff member cleaning.
ENTERTAINMENT listed in the daily Fun Times itinerary was a mixed bag. Carnival certainly wants you to spend money during those days at sea by drinking, participating in fee-related activities, and visiting the casino. The Love and Marriage game show, comedians, Jazzy stage production, and other free activities, like watching the playoffs on this particular cruise, were fun. Otherwise the days at sea are better served as relaxation time.
FOOD was edible and varying but mostly pre-made. Again the service was excellent. The only mistake we made was eating breakfast at Mermaids the first morning...it's a madhouse. You have your choice among 6 different food stations, then heading to the beverage counters, and then good luck finding a place to sit. People hold tables while others in their party make multiple food trips, or they use it to lounge around after eating. Some leave a mess on the table instead of taking it to the "soiled trays" area. Go to Mermaids for lunch, dinner or snacks but choose Normandie's for a more civilized breakfast experience.
PASSENGER-related criticisms include: 1) a woman loudly complained when I, balancing my food tray, got to a table in Mermaids before she did although her group was still waiting in a long line for food (my husband and I finished eating just as they received their meal), 2) having to tell a teenager, who was sitting next to her mother in the Taj Mahal, to stop pushing her feet on the back of my seat and 3) watching a woman, who didn't even stay for the comedy show, hold an entire bench of seats for her adult daughter and rowdy friends in the Butterflies lounge, shooing away the crowds of others standing in the isles; while it is first-come first-served seating, that was just ridiculous. Understandably Carnival cannot be held liable for its passengers' rude conduct.
EXCURSIONS were great, if only the line to get off the ship wasn't held up by photographers taking everyone's picture in case they want to purchase a photo (really Carnival, it's more than a bit pushy). The bus to Orlando took just under an hour, and the day at Universal Studios was a blast. The private Blue Lagoon Island in Nassau, while gorgeous, was almost not worth the price given the short amount of time you get there. It took 20 minutes once off the Pride to get to the boat which then takes 35 minutes to get to the island. Two and a half hours later and you're already on the way back to the mainland, to either spend some time at the shops or re-board, hence why Carnival should really allow for more time here. I noticed the Pride was the last ship to arrive in Nassau and Freeport yet the first to leave which is disappointing. Thought our Freeport fishing excursion was cancelled, the amount was refunded immediately, and since the shops there were unimpressive we took the day to continue relaxing at Serenity.
We would certainly consider booking again with Carnival for a fun vacation, perhaps more toward the spring time for warmer weather throughout the cruise.