This was my 3rd cruise, 2nd with Carnival. My first cruise was with RCI's VOS. Caution...this will be a long review!
My husband and I decided to go on vacation without our 2 little boys. Our cruise was off to a great start when I learned that our cabin had been upgraded from 5A guarantee to 8F! I was thrilled! I found this out before getting to the port by using the "fun pass method".
We drove up to Long Beach from San Diego the morning of the cruise. We arrived around 10am and parked in the parking garage. (Cost is $12per day and we ended up paying $92 for the week) It was a bit confusing at first trying to figure out who was supposed to take our bags at the bottom of the parking garage. It was a madhouse. We saw someone in a grey uniform and asked them where to put our bags. Amazingly they told us they would not be open until 1pm!!! I knew this was incorrect due to research on these boards. He told us to check in at the QM first and to bring our bags with us! He also said no one from Carnival would be available to check our room assignment until noon! There was no way I was going to lug our bags with us to the QM. Luckily, we saw someone in a blue vest that took our luggage from us. Also, we double checked our room assignment with a Carnival employee (with clipboard) to ensure our room assignment had not been changed. We then got the correct colored baggage tags and slapped our home address labels on them. We tipped the porter $5 for 3 bags.
We were then directed to early check-in at the QM. There were a lot of Carnival personnel directing folks where to go. There was no line at the QM! I was shocked. We walked right up to the person at the counter. We provided our passports and cruise documents (with fun pass already completed online) and we received our gold sail&sign cards. We were told we were in group 1 that will start boarding at 1pm. We headed back towards the dome. I was prepared to stand in line, but was surprised to find no line had started yet. Everyone was just sitting around waiting. Luckily we brought reading material. Then around 11am, someone started organizing where the lines should be formed. We quickly made our way towards group 1. Group 2 is for people that came later and did not utilize the early check-in at QM. Just pass 12 noon they started letting us board the ship. Embarkation seemed really easy and fast. Of course, Skippers Club and wedding parties were let onboard first. Oddly, special assistance folks were still waiting to board as our group started boarding.
I've been on 2 other cruises before. I noticed that there was no party atmosphere while boarding the Pride. It was actually really quiet and no one was greeting us as we boarded. Maybe we were boarding too early??? I don't know. So we boarded the ship and was unsure where to go at first. We received handouts while checking in asking us not to go to our cabins until after 1pm. We decided to check out our cabin location first anyway. We arrived at 7294 and were very happy with the size of the room. We met our cabin steward and he was very friendly and didn't mind at all that we had come to our cabin early. We asked if we could leave our carry-ons in the room, which he said was okay. We then headed to Mermaids Grill for some lunch.
I was not impressed with Mermaids Grill (MG). I liked the concept of different food stations, but the layout seemed a bit crowded. I was not impressed with the food at all. It was okay for buffet food, however, I thought the deli was pretty good. During the cruise, there always seemed to be enough tables and chairs, except the last morning of the cruise. Staff was always exceptional, greeting us with smiles and asking if we needed anything. Breakfast in MG was boring, seemed like the same things everyday. I recommend the omelettes. Do not eat the scrambled eggs in the buffet. They did not have biscuits and gravy, which is surprising. Also, my husband was disappointed they didn't have smoked salmon. They had it on the Fantasy ship.
We were lucky our table mates were great! At first, I was a bit disappointed we were not seated at a bigger table. We were at a table for 6 on the main dining room during late seating. However, the other 2 couples were great and we enjoyed our dinners very much in the Normandie dining room. In fact, we canceled our dinner reservations at David's the last night of the cruise because we wanted to spend more time with our new friends. Also, the food in the dining room was pretty good. Our servers didn't mind that we wanted to order 2 entrees or 2 desserts each at almost every sitting! I was able to order prime rib and lobster and he didn't even flinch. For dessert, we usually ordered one of the deserts with ice cream. Then I would end the dining experience with a cappuccino. It was heaven! We dined in the Normandie room every night except when we were in Puerto Vallarta. I will comment on the visual aspects of the dining room. It was less grand than the other 2 cruise ships I've been on, especially the Voyager of the Seas. I was shocked to see that some of the tables were booths that seated only 2 couples. It reminded me of a regular cafe restaurant. Imagine if you get stuck with a couple that you cannot stand.
I thought the pools were extremely small. Also, I thought the deck space by the pool was very limited. Watch out for the slippery floors on the Lido deck by the pool. I slipped getting out of the pool. I also saw 2 other people slip by the drink machines outside, and they were wearing shoes! I did not try the slide, but it was operational. I was surprised to see that the slide does not end in the pool? Was it always this way?
Entertainment onboard was great. There was a Karaoke bar, piano bar, live band with dance floor, disco, sports bar, arcade for the kids, along with all the numerous activities onboard. We enjoyed listening to others sing in the karaoke bar. I thought the band Best Sellers was pretty good in the Butterfly Lounge. We didn't get a chance to hang out in the piano bar, but we were told it was fun. We only made it to one of the shows...Vroom. We thought it was great. It was a show that ranged the time span from 70's to current hits. The cruise director, Chris, was soooo funny. We really enjoyed his antics. We remember him, but we don't even remember the cruise director from our previous 2 cruises. We give him 2 thumbs up!!! We enjoyed the Welcome Aboard show, newlywed game show, and pride idol. I don't think I needed to see Gary's #*%, but it made an enjoyable show.
During the cruise, we did listen to the pitch for the Carnival Vacation Club. After asking numerous questions and finding out how many points would be required for potential future cruises we are thinking of booking, I don't think it is such a good deal. I think it might be a good deal for couples, but not for families. We want to bring our boys with us our next cruise, and I don't think the Vacation Club would be a good deal for us. The Bronze deal was for $3495, Silver for $4995, Gold for $7495 and Platinum for $9999. For each level you get a predetermined amount of points and some resort certificates good at various locations globally. You have 3 years to use the points, then you have the option of extending to 5yrs for add'l $199. We didn't purchase into it. They didn't do a hard sales pitch. The club also includes extra perks like early boarding and early debarkation, concierge service, etc.
Our first port was Cabo San Lucas. It was beautiful coming into the port. We could see the arches from our balcony room. We didn't book any excursions for this port. Instead, we wanted to do our own thing on shore. We first checked out the flea market by the pier. Then we took a taxi-bike(?) to Cabo Wabo. We ordered 2 beers for $8. I thought it was really overpriced. I wasn't impressed with Cabo Wabo. We then walked to Hard Rock Cafe. I purchased some souvenirs, then we took a water taxi to The Office. The Office is an awesome restaurant right on the beach! I really recommend this place. It was a little tricky getting out of the water taxi since there is no pier. They let you out on the beach and you have to jump into the water to get out of the taxi. We were seated at a table closest to the water, and I thought this is great! We have a fabulous view of the beach. But be warned...you are seated in vendor lane! There were so many people coming by with various items to sell to you...while you are trying to enjoy your meal. I didn't let it bother me though. A smile and a polite no is all that is needed, and the vendor will pass you by. I actually thought it was a little convenient for us to shop while we just sat there enjoying the atmosphere. I wanted to try the banana boat so I convinced my husband to ride with me for $11 each. I WILL NEVER RIDE A BANANA BOAT AGAIN! The first 10-15 minutes was fun, but as we approached the arches, the waves were getting dangerously rough. The boat didn't slow down, but would speed up! The first big wave we hit, I nearly flew off the boat. I think I almost flew off the boat about 5 times, but I was so scared I was holding on for dear life. The girl sitting next to my husband flew off the boat and we had to go back to get her. After the ride, I realized my knee was hurt. I could barely walk. I was afraid our excursions at the next 2 ports would need to be cancelled. Luckily we brought ibuprofen with us and I iced my knee that night. The next morning, the pain in my knee was minimal. I was glad because I really wanted to go horseback riding.
Our next port was Mazatlan. It is such a different city compared to Cabo. Very industrialized. I did my research online and booked our excursion with Randy's Happy Horses. Highly recommended!!! Worth the $45. The ship's horseback riding excursion was charging $79. Randi picked us up at the pier. We then took 2 trucks to the marina. We then took a boat across the bay. From there we rode a tractor to get the horses. Just getting there was half the fun! We rode the horses through a grove of trees and finally hit the beach. The beach is untouched and quite beautiful. The horses were well behaved. I had such a good time and the staff (Tony) was exceptional. We ended the day at a restaurant on the beach. The food was really good and Randi pays for your first beer/soda. I also had an opportunity to get into the water at the beach. It was fantastic.
Our final port was Puerto Vallarta. I was really excited about our excursion here. I also did research online and had pre-booked our excursion with Los Veranos Canopy tours. We paid only $66 each and Carnival was charging $109 for this canopy tour (but with another tour operator). It was awesome, breathtaking, unbelievable. I loved it. Zipping along the wires high above the trees and river was exhilarating. The longest zip line was quarter of a mile long. There were 15 zip lines. Los Veranos has the longest and highest zip lines in PV. The next morning we met a couple who did the canopy tour with Carnival. They said they had a good time with it, but they didn't have as many zip lines as Los Veranos. We also didn't have to rappel down at the end of our tour. We ended up at a restaurant by the river. The scenery was fantastic. My husband took advantage of the water slides into the river at the restaurant. I would love to do this tour again. This was my favorite excursion. My husband liked both, but he preferred the horseback riding excursion. They were both fantastic!
Debarkation was uneventful. We arrived in port early, around 8:30am. They started debarking around 9am. We didn't get off until 10:30ish. We didn't' have a flight to catch, so we didn't mind.
In summary, we had a great time. I'm not so impressed with the ship, but the people we met were great, staff was exceptional, and the ship was in great shape. Everything was clean. I did notice there were no toilet seat covers in the bathrooms, but that's okay. I am still more impressed with the Voyager class ships by RCI, because there are so many more things to do on those type ships (i.e. rock climbing wall, ice skating rink, inline skating, golf putting). But the Pride provides a great itinerary, great cruise director, exceptional staff, and great Renaissance decor.
I didn't want to get off the ship! I already looking forward to booking my next cruise.