First, let me start out by saying that I read hundreds of reviews on Carnival Pride prior to booking the reservation in November 2012. A recurring theme in many of the reviews was the ship's decor which is described as relatively dark with potentially child-inappropriate Victorian paintings throughout the ship. Let me counter this by saying I found the ship to be absolutely beautiful. All of the paintings, statues, wallpaper, etc. are tasteful and not at all inappropriate. Probably the most visually attractive cruise ship of the four I've been on.
Staff was extremely friendly and accommodating.
Room steward and his assistant worked hard and kept our room clean, bed/bunks made and turned down on time, towel animals, chocolates, refrigerator stocked, etc.
Rather than accept late seating, we opted for Dine When You Want (starts at 5:45pm). Quality of dining staff was mixed. Maitre' d was clueless. Two computers were available to queue guests into dining room but only one was used most days. Head waiter was fantastic. Second waiter was slow to refill drinks. Third waiter passed out bread and then acted as runner to the kitchen. There was also a floating bartender who was hit or miss.
RECOMMENDATION: Take as many meals as you can in the Normandy Dining Room (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Mermaids Grill is up on Lido Deck 9 which is an enormous buffet with about 12 stations. Huge variety. However, the quality of the food ingredients served in Normandy, especially for breakfast, was superior. Fresh squeezed orange juice instead of the concentrated corn syrup crap. Real eggs in your omelet as opposed to the mixture they used at the omelet station in Mermaids. Better coffee. --I advise against room service. We ordered breakfast in our room twice and both times the food was awful. No hot foods offered (other than toast and bagel which arrived cold). Cereals, fruit (bananas), essentially very limited continental style. Get out and enjoy the best of what you paid for.
Gratuities are $11.50/pppd automatically billed to your Sign & Sail account. You can adjust this up or down based on service received. Total charged was $322 for our family of four. Be sure to tip for room service.
Most drinks on the ship are between $5-$10 plus 15% gratuity added on. I drank mostly beer at $6/can. Wife drank mostly wine/mimosas at $7/glass. This all goes on your Sign & Sail account so you really aren't paying much attention to how much you are spending. 1 liter bottles of water are stocked in your room and are $3.75 plus 15%.
Mini golf with the kids was fun. They had the water slide to themselves the afternoon in Nassau which they seemed to enjoy.
Pools - there are three on board (one is in the Serenity adults-only area). What's cool is that one pool and adjacent hot tub are under the retractable roof making it tolerable to be in the water while sailing down/up the Atlantic. Keep in mind, the ship is moving at 21+ knots on top of any wind speed. This can create 50 mph gusts on exposed decks. This was a superior design over the other ships I've been on.
From Port Canaveral, I paid $50 for the Cocoa Beach excursion for the four of us. Well worth it. Beautiful beach with chair/umbrella rentals, public restrooms, outdoor showers, and restaurants. We had beer and delicious fish tacos for lunch at the Sandbar Restaurant - highly recommend.
In Nassau, we skipped the expensive excursions and instead walked around town, got ice cream, and did some shopping in the Straw Market. Kids had fun.
It had rained and temp was about 70F when we arrived in Freeport so we never left the ship. Carnival should consider dropping this port from their itinerary and instead take the guests to a private island.
We drove 90 minutes from Harrisburg to Baltimore which eliminated the airfare. This is probably the single reason why this cruise was such a good value and near-zero hassle. Also, we booked a Category 8A Obstructed View Balcony but were upgraded without request to an Extended Balcony cabin (8139) which was ample room for four (though not as large as the Disney Magic balcony room). For reference, we paid the equivalent of $399 x 4 plus taxes and port charges which came out to $2,003. With Sign & Sail, gratuities, drinks, excursion, giftshop purchases, etc. our total bill was a little over $2,800. Parking at the port was $115 for the week. Take cash to pay for parking as the line is much faster than the credit card line.
Overall, I would recommend this cruise to others as long as you are not flying. If you have to fly to get to Baltimore, you might as well fly to Ft. Lauderdale or Miami so you avoid three days of sailing in cold temperatures and can hit more ports since you're already in the Caribbean.