Carnival Pride March 17 to March 24, 2013
Baltimore, Port Canaveral, Nassau and Freeport
This cruise was booked at the last minute, within 21 days of sailing. The rates were good for Resident, Past Guest and Military, with IS cabins starting around $500pp. We booked an IS/4K, which is a cabin with French Doors. Using tips from cruise critic, and photos from other online sites, we managed to snag a cabin which gave us a partial view between the lifeboats, which was a great location for getting sunlight and some air. Our location was deck four, aft, close to the stairs and elevators, but in the center of the other cabins in this category on this floor. Our room stewards were always on the job ensuring our cabin was in top shape or any request granted. The restaurant staff was also always ready to please, and offered their recommendation for nightly selections.
We arrived in Baltimore around 11:00am, and were let right into the parking lot after the porters took our luggage, and after paying the $105 fee. We were processed through security, and issued our sail and sign card by 11:20am. We were then seating in the waiting room until around 12:30-12:45, at which point we boarded the ship. Weddings board first, followed by VIP cruisers, and then general cruisers. If you don't mind sitting, I'd get there early, as the lines were non-existent for the most part.
Although rooms weren't ready until 1:30, we went to check out our room, and the previous cabin occupant we assume were at least four people, and we got to view the layout of the room with twin beds, the Pullman/bunk from the ceiling, and sofa made up as a bed. This setup would be idea for a family with small children, but I wouldn't recommend it for a family with teens. We headed up to the Lido for lunch, which had a selection for everyone, and we were soon enjoying our first DOD.
The center pool was covered when we boarded, and stayed that way for most of the cruise southbound, or was at least partially opened when heading to Nassau, as it was cool and drizzling when we arrived in Port Canaveral. We stayed on the boat in Port Canaveral, after visiting Disney to many times to count, and we didn't want to do airboat or gator tours. We thought about doing Kennedy Space Center but decided to stay on board, and watched the crew train in emergency procedures, watching the staff clean/maintain the ship, reading, and relaxing around the boat.
As this was a last minute cruise to mostly relax, we didn't attend most of the onboard events, bingo, shopping/port talks or other activities. We did attend several of the shows, including the adult comedy show in Punchliners. The most memorable one was "Vroom," which shows Carnivals improvement in addressing the entertainment, or at least the costumes and backgrounds. They paid homage to Madonna, Prince, Elton John, and the Beatles with full costumes, puppets or props, which I enjoyed
Normally we bypass the dining room, but this cruise we at there more than normal, and the food was good, and I have no complaints there. I won't address the dress code not being adhered to on cruise casual nights. I didn't eat in the MDR on elegant night, but from traversing the vessel during the evening, it wasn't adhered to on this night either, but to each his own. It doesn't bother me either way, and I don't judge people based on their appearance.
While I'm on eating/food, I'll discuss Carnival's Pizza. They seemed to have changed the recipe since I last cruised in the summer. Handmade, hand tossed with selections such as Quattro Formaggi (garlic sauce, fresh buffalo mozzarella, and Parmesan (three cheeses total, cant remember the other one), Prosciutto (available with pomodoro/red or garlic sauce, rucalo and buffalo mozzarella), Mushroom, Pepperoni, and Classic Margherita/Cheese. These pizzas can compete with any land-based pizzeria with a thin crust that had and authentic brick over taste/crust. The lines were the longest at lunch, and after midnight when the shows were ending or nightclub was closing, but whether you order a slice or two, or the whole pie (4 slices), it was worth the wait.
After dinner, and if we decided to see the show, our next stop was Starry Nights Lounge with cover band, "Music Society." The next two or so hours would be spent kicking back enjoying cigars (or cigarettes for some), along with a few drinks in the company of other cruisers. Starry Nights has a limited selection of natural and infused cigars, ranging in price from $3.75 to $18.00. I purchased a Gurkha Ancient Warrior one night, which was $10.00 or so with gratuity (bartender automatic 15% gratuity), and was presented on a silver tray with cigar scissors/cutter and matches, which I didn't use because I had brought mine own cutter and lighter. This was my first Gurkha, which was slightly medium in body and flavor, but didn't wow me. This was my favorite place onboard, and Music Society covered a wide range of musical selections and genres for anyone. As a note cigar smokers can only smoke in Starry Nights, or on their balcony. After Starry Nights, or between 11:00 and midnight, our next stop was Beauties Nightclub. DJ's Smokke and Henderson played all the latest hits, along with some old tunes, and kept the club rocking. I forgot to mention that this cruise was during Spring Break, and it was definitely noticeable in the club. No one seemed to get out of hand, although some clearly had too much to drink, but all enjoyed themselves, and made the cruise memorable.
Nassau was the only port we planned on getting off the ship, and we made a stop at the Graycliff Hotel, Restaurant and Cigar Factory and Store on West Hill Street to pick up some cigars. It's a short 10-15 minute walk from the pier to the hotel/cigar factory. As an identifying note, if you walk towards Senor Frogs continuing to walk around the bend towards Dunkin Donuts, the hotel is up the hill just past DD. Getting from the main gate/entrance to the store and factory takes some exploring through the grounds and gardens, but its worth the trip, as photo ops are plentiful If you're a cigar smoker, this is a must to see if Nassau. In a room of the cigar store is a cigar-rolling factory where you can see cigars being made. Cigars in the store ranged from $7.00 and up, and they also carry a wide range of accessories. Since I hadn't had a Graycliff cigar before, I picked up a dozen, several which shared onboard; the others will go into the humidor for resting, and the others for the BIL's.
After leaving Graycliffs, we headed down the hill to the shopping district. The jewelry here is priced higher than the U.S., and most of the shops catered to those seeking souvenirs. There are luxury/premium brands such as Gucci, Cartier, Breitling, etc., but it seems some of the other luxury or premium brands have departed the main shopping area. A quick return to the pier, and we boarded a water taxi for Atlantis on Paradise Island. Our first trip to the Atlantis, you were able to access the main lobby, and get a view of the front of the aquarium, along with viewing other public areas. This time around, security or hotel staff seemed to only allow access to the shopping areas, and public balconies/walkways viewing the beaches and marina. We were going there for the casino, and shops only, but it clearly disappointed other tourist who previously had viewed the aquarium from the lobby. The casino was OK, and the slots just let you hit enough to keep playing without winning any major money, but we did play for several hours off our initial deposit, so we were happy. We also stopped by Havana Humidor to pick up some smokes for the day, and way back. The selection is good, and the prices are inline with the premium cigar brands such as Padron 1964 Anniversary, Opus X, etc. The staff is very helpful, and filled my butane lighter upon request, after bleeding out excess gases/propellant, and adjusted the flame. After taking pictures in the marina, and viewing "Aquaman" propel himself out of the water using a jetpack, we returned to the ship to watch sail-away, and get ready for dinner.
Our next port was Freeport, and we decided to go to the Lucaya Marketplace. Our first impression was that we should have stayed on the ship, as this area had stores similar to Nassau, along with a straw market. We made a purchase at an apparel store in the Marketplace, and happened upon the hostess for the Pisces Restaurant who located a store merchant for us, along with giving us some insight into Nassau and Freeport. Before leaving the Marketplace we decided to stop for lunch at the Pisces Restaurant, and it was one of the best choices we made on this cruise. We ordered chilled stone crab claws and cracked lobster, which came with fries and a salad. The food was good and above average. The prices here are also inline with U.S. prices for a similar meal. I highly recommend this place for those seeking seafood or conch fritters. I just wish we had more time in this port if no other reason to check out other menu items, and to sit and talk with the hostess and other restaurant staff.
After leaving Freeport we had a day at sea before arriving back in Baltimore. This day was spent in the same manner as the previous two sea days, just relaxing, and enjoying some peace and quiet.
We arrived in Baltimore for debarkation at 9:00am on Sunday, the process started at 10:00 with self-assist. We were in group 21 (one of the last groups to be called), and I think we were off the ship at around 11:30. This was a great trip, and bringing my own stash to enjoy, the factory tour, along with the purchases were the highlight of my trip. Now I'm looking forward to sailing again in the summer, and enjoying more smokes onboard.
Endnote: I was trying to find some cons to the cruise, and for me there really weren't any. Life's too short to complain or nitpick on minor issues, we're on vacation, and the small stuff doesn't bother us. Of note is that on the first or second sea day, the plumbing system malfunctioned due to someone placing an object in the toilet, which clogged the system. Upon discovering the toilet wouldn't flush, and exiting my stateroom, my steward informed me of the issue immediately, which was followed by a call to guest services who confirmed plumbing was already working on the system. Upon returning from breakfast, all was fixed. The Spring Break and Teen crowd were not out of control, and were onboard to enjoy themselves just like everyone else. Heck, I think they made the cruise livelier!!!!