My husband, 3 boys (ages 11, 11 and 10), and myself sailed on the Pride during spring break week- Mar. 24-31, 2013. This is our third cruise, completing the trifecta of major cruise lines (Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and now Carnival).
EMBARKATION: First, this was absolutely the easiest embarkation we have experienced. Our cruise documentation listed our boarding time as 1:30-3:30, however my husband's sister dropped us off at the port at 12:00 because she had somewhere to go in the afternoon. We figured we would get to the port, check-in and settle in for a long wait. So we were very pleasantly surprised that we barely had a chance to breathe and we were on the ship. There was a short security line and no line for our sail and sign card. After getting our cards, we were directed to the waiting area and within 5 minutes or so we were boarding. As I said, we were dropped off at the front door at exactly 12:00 and we were in the Mermaid Grill eating lunch by 12:40- doesn't get any better than that!
SHIP'S DECOR: After lunch, we had to wait until about 2pm for our staterooms so we walked around and checked out the ship. Yes, as other reviewers have stated, the artwork is everywhere. I really liked looking at it and thought it added a nice touch, however I don't think they made the best choices for artwork placement. For example, on one wall there is a huge, wall-sized Renaissance painting of a nude woman reclining in the grass. This made my children laugh for half the trip. There are also several scratched out nipples on the nude paintings in every elevator. As long as you are prepared for the extensive artwork, you should be ok. Walking around the ship, it is obvious that it is an older ship and getting to be in need of refurbishing (apparently scheduled for Jan. 2014). While the ship was extremely clean, there are spots of wear and tear on the carpets, seats, walls, etc.
STATEROOMS: After a short time, the announcement was made that staterooms were ready. We had two ocean view rooms on the first deck. We don't spend much time in the rooms, so we don't need much. The rooms are small, but it's a ship, rooms are expected to be small. While the rooms were small, they didn't have a claustrophobic feel and had a nice sitting area with a couch. The bathroom had the best counter and storage space of any ship bathroom I've ever seen. There were six shelves for toiletries over the sink so I didn't have to live out of my travel bag for the week. There are no shelves in the shower though, and that's a bit annoying. I like to bring my own shampoo and soap but there is nowhere to keep them in the shower. Our stateroom attendant was wonderful and always went out of his way to add the extra touches. He made extra towel animals for my kids and brought ice to my room in the morning for my iced coffee ( a little extra tipping goes a long way!) Even though there were signs of wear in the room, it was always clean and well stocked with towels, etc.
DINING: This ship had the best food of the cruises we have been on in the past (NCL- Jewel and RCL- Oasis). My one son and myself ordered room service for breakfast while my husband and other two sons went to the buffet. Our room service was always delivered promptly and the food was good. I was told that the breakfast buffet was very good. For lunch, we ate at the buffet, which was a decent lunch buffet. We tried the sea day brunch on the last day and it was excellent and the 3:00 tea time was a nice touch. The highlight of the day was dinner! ). The food in the Normandie restaurant was absolutely wonderful. These were the best dinners we have ever had on a cruise ship. The food was all very tasty and didn't taste like cafeteria food like the other ships we have been on. The service wasn't that great (it wasn't bad, just not wonderful). It took the wait staff team a few days to gel. Maybe they were new or new as a team, but by the end of the cruise they seemed to have it together. On the first night, we weren't even asked if we wanted drinks other than water, but by the last night they were bringing over our drinks as we were sitting down.
ACTIVITIES/ENTERTAINMENT: This is one area I was very disappointed in. Daily activities are listed in the Fun Times magazine. The other ships we were on had three full columns of daily activities listed while the Pride only had one column for the entire day. There were times when we weren't interested in any activities for hours on end. There is a LOT of trivia on this ship... 80's trivia, movie trivia, song trivia, etc. I went to the music trivia once- basically the entertainment person asks a bunch of questions and you write down your answers. At the end, they go over the answers and the person with the most points wins. If you like trivia, this will be good for you. If you don't like trivia, be prepared to entertain yourself a lot. There is also bingo ( for a huge fee), shopping seminars, workout activities and some pool games, but not many. The nightly entertainment in the main showroom was just ok. One night is music through the years, one night is dance and music around the world and one night is jazz through the years, basically the same concept with a different theme and the same two singers and maybe 10 or so dancers. There was a pretty good juggling comedian one night. Oddly, there wasn't a last night farewell show. The last night had an adults only game show at the early show time and a 10:30 show starring guests that have tried out for this show throughout the week. We didn't see either show, but I found it odd that there wasn't a traditional last night show where they thank the crew, servers, stateroom attendants, etc. There aren't really any shows during the day either. On past cruises, they had some small shows or workshops during the day (ie, a workshop on some magic tricks or comedy improve). During the day, the Pride had a towel folding workshop and a Q and A with the crew. Otherwise, it was mostly trivia. They could use some of their lounges for small shows during the day. One note- the comedy club is not to be missed! There are four different comedians throughout the cruise and they do family friendly shows as well as adult only performances. The shows (we went to family friendly) were probably the best part of the entire cruise!
CHILDREN'S ACTIVITIES: There seemed to be a decent kids club program, but my children never wanted to go. This is not reflective of the ship at all- they never go to the kids club on vacation. The kids club is located at the end of the staterooms on deck 4, a very dark place for the kids to hang. They did have some scavenger hunt games which looked fun. Honestly, without the kids club events, this ship gets pretty boring for kids. Aside from an expensive arcade, there is very little for them to do. Our children were actually bored for a large part of the vacation. It was too chilly to be in the pool too much, my kids said the water made their skin burn, so they didn't really want to go in the pools anyway. (I spoke to another mom who said her kids said the same thing- not really sure how they treat the water, but it seems to be irritating to skin).
PORT AND SHORE EXCURSIONS: If you are booking a cruise based on the ports, I wouldn't take this cruise. Port Canaveral and Freeport, Bahamas are basically just ports with nothing to do if you don't book an excursion. Freeport does have a small shopping market set up at the port and there is also a Senor Frogs and another restaurant. But they are all within the confines of the port. You have to book an excursion or take a taxi to do anything. Freeport would be a good day to go to a beach, but it's a very short day. The ship docks around 7am and leaves at 1:30. Not much good beach time. Port Canaveral is the same way- nothing to do if you don't leave the compound. We did the alligator airboat tour in Florida- it was a lot of fun, but too cold to see alligators. The actual airboat ride is fairly short. In Nassau, we got day passes to the Hilton which was great. This was our favorite day out of the week. For the five of us, we spent $210 on the day passes, but we were given $140 back in food/drink vouchers for their pool grill and bar. We had use of the pool, beach, towels, chairs, etc. and it is a five minute walk from the ship. This was a very relaxing day and the kids had a blast on the beach and in the pool. If you've never been to Nassau, it's worth walking around and checking out the town. We've been there a few times, so we took advantage of a beach day. I think Carnival would do better to replace either Port Canaveral or Freeport. Instead of Port Canaveral they could do Key West or even Ft. Lauderdale or instead of Freeport they could do their private island. I think replacing one of these would greatly improve their ports of call stops.
DISEMBARKATION: Again, as with boarding, this was the easiest time we have ever had. We chose to carry our luggage off ourselves so we could get off the ship early. At 9:15, they made the announcement that we could head to the gangway to disembark. By 9:30 we were off the ship, through security and in the parking lot waiting for our ride. Doesn't get any better!!
OVERALL: Overall, we liked the Carnival experience. The food was excellent and the service was generally good. I would sail Carnival again, but probably not the Pride. I just don't think there was enough to do on this ship and the ports were not very exciting. If you are just looking for a relaxing vacation from a close home port, the Pride may be great for you. However, for an active family, I wouldn't recommend this ship simply because there isn't really a whole lot to do.