We returned last night from the March 12 sailing of the Carnival Pride, and had a very enjoyable, relaxing cruise. We transferred from LAX to Long Beach on SuperShuttle, which worked very well. We picked up our bags, walked out the door and a shuttle screeched to a stop to pick us up. I don't know how he knew we wanted his service, but he accepted our prepaid reservation, and got us there quickly, with a stop at Long Beach airport to drop off another passenger.
We were in Long Beach before 10:30, and did early check in on the Queen Mary. Then we waited outside in the cool sunshine for about 1 1/2 hours until they began boarding. There were three somewhat disorganized 'lines', one that formed behind a sign marked "VIP", another for "Disabled" and the third for "Zone 1", the passengers who did the early check in. Everyone else was in a loosely organized line that took them into the main terminal for check in. When the time came to board, the VIP and Disabled folks went first, then the Zone 1 line, and then, I guess, everyone else. Our line moved pretty quickly once we began to board, since we only had to go through the security checkpoint and have our carry on bags X-rayed. Although we, of course, would never violate Carnival's policy on bringing alcohol, I did notice someone close by who had a 12 pack of Heineken beer in his carry on. When it went through x-ray, they saw the beer and pulled the bag out for a hand search. The guard removed the clothing packed inside until he saw the beer, then simply replaced everything and handed it back to the passenger, who was recovering from near cardiac arrest! (His wife was doing CPR!) Another passenger had a bottle of Bacardi Coconut rum in her carry on, and simply sent it through the x-ray and was never searched further. A third passenger in this same party had a bottle of Watermelon Smirnoff vodka in his large suitcase, and it arrived with no problem. My sense was that the folks at the x-ray machine are only searching for weapons and do nothing about alcohol. (There were no confiscated bottles in sight, etc.)
We got onboard shortly after 12:30, and were very impressed with the ship. It's decorated in dark, baroque style and is very different from other Carnival ships we've been on. The art reproductions, which included many nudes, were no problem, and I wouldn't have been bothered even if my kids were much younger. The nude statue of David in the atrium near the supper club was, um, impressive. I think most of the men felt they suffered by comparison.
Although the ship is beautifully laid out and imaginatively decorated, there is a problem with maintenance. Some of the rope trim in the elevators, for example, was falling off. There were holes in some of the plastic molding. Either they need to get on these details or they need to decorate with more durable materials. This, however, did not detract from our enjoyment of the cruise.
We found our room easily (5205 midship on Upper deck), and were very pleased both with the room and its location. It is just around the corner and literally a few steps away from the atrium elevators. It was two decks up from the Normandie Dining Room, and several decks below the Lido deck. It was quiet yet very convenient. The cabin had a very nice balcony, as well as plenty of closet space. The new bedding is great. The mattress was comfortable yet firm, and the white duvet cover was soft, and almost too warm. I can't imagine how they keep these clean. The sheets were the same old white hotel flat sheets that keep coming off the bed. I don't know why hotels use them. The cabin had a couch with two bolsters that could have been used for a third occupant. Our two sons had an inside cabin (5267) at the back of the same floor. They liked the quiet and darkness and slept very well.
We all connected and went up to the Lido deck for lunch. We all had the Welcome Aboard Drinks (which gave me a bad headache!), and lunch. The food at Mermaid's Grille was really outstanding, considering the quantities they're cooking. As has been described before, there are a number of different lines, each serving a different type of food. There was a line for Asian/Chinese food, one for deli sandwiches, another for roast meats, the pizza counter, the salad bar, and a dessert bar. I'm sure I'm missing some. You didn't have to stand in line very long, but you did have to do a fair amount of running around looking for the various possibilities. Another thing we liked about Mermaid's was that they have lemonade, fruit punch, iced tea available, not just the iced tea that was available on Princess. The people who had the Coconut rum and the Watermelon Vodka reported that they mixed well with the lemonade and the fruit punch.)
We spent the afternoon unpacking and exploring the ship, then went to the Lido Deck for sailaway at 4:30. It was very exciting to see the beautiful ship pick up speed and to watch Long Beach slip beneath the horizon. This itinerary was also very restful.
We started with two complete days at sea. All of us were very tired, and it was wonderful to have two days with nothing that we had to do. My husband and I napped, read books, sat on the balcony and watched the ocean, explored the ship -- all enjoyable and restful forms of entertainment. The weather for the first two days on this itinerary was quite cool and the seas were a bit rough. It only warmed up on the third day when we passed Cabo. On the return, we experienced the same thing. In the three ports, the temperature inland was above 90 F and very sunny.
The food, particularly in the Normandie dining room, was simply wonderful. Our waiters, Katarina from Slovakia and Mario from Peru, were great -- they remembered us and our preferences, and were just exactly the best servers we could have hoped for. (We did enhance their tips, but not 'til the end of the cruise.) Our boys particularly enjoyed the ability to order extra portions, and my husband and I enjoyed the relaxed pace and wonderful food. We had breakfast in the dining room every day, as we felt the food was better there. The coffee was certainly better! I don't know what the problem is with cruise ship coffee, but the dining room did a better job with the coffee than did the Mermaids grille. Even that coffee was a whole lot better than Princess'.
We enjoyed the entertainment, particularly the shows in the Taj Majal. Although they may fall short of perfection, I look at the creativity, the hard work, the long hours of rehearsal that go into each of these productions and enjoy them very much.
On Wednesday, we docked at Puerto Vallarta. We had booked excursions thorough Carnival. My DH and DS's did the Expert Hiking tour, while I took the Countryside Adventure. This included a bus trip through several small Mexican Villages, and a guide who explained it all. Then we stopped for the obligatory shopping opportunity. The tour was running quite late, so I bailed at that point and took a cab back to the ship. At Mazatlan, DH and I did the 7 hour Sierra Madre tour, and in Cabo we did the Beach Club and Boat tour. DH and I thought Cabo was the most attractive of the ports, while my sons liked Mazatlan, feeling it was more authentically Mexican.
In PV, the boys visited a friend who was staying at a land based all inclusive resort, and they had dinner with him there. They reported the food was 'garbage', compared to the Pride's food. I think the tours are the weak part of the cruise experience. I HATE HATE HATE the incessant grubbing for tips that seems to be an inescapable part of the tours. I think in the future we'll try to find another way of spending the port time.
After Cabo, the tone of the cruise changed. We all were a bit saddened by the knowledge that our vacation was ending. So Friday and Saturday were kind of down days, and Saturday was pretty much occupied by packing and going to the disembarkation talk.
On Sunday, we had to be in the Taj Mahal by 8:15 for early disembarkation, though our flight wasn't until 2:54 PM. We got off the ship about 9:30, found our bags easily, and were at the airport by 10:30. I have to comment on the staff of this ship. These people simply do a wonderful job. Our cabin steward, our dining room servers and all the others could not have done a better job. They're mostly young people, away from home and family, and they just do a great job.
I'm puzzled about the many negative reviews of Pride that I've read. I think anyone who had a really bad time on this ship must have had unrealistic expectations. We greatly enjoyed this cruise, and will probably cruise again on one of the other Sprit class ships.