This was our third Spring Break Cruise sailing out of Baltimore, and our first with Carnival. We enjoyed the Enchantment of the Seas the past two years, but this year the Carnival Pride's sailing dates worked out better, so we booked.
Embarkation: We arrived around 12:30 or so, it took only about 20 minutes in line to drop off the bags and park. Several of the adults walk with a cane, so we had a handicapped tag for the car. There are lots of spots at the ends of the rows for handicap parking, so we easily made our way to the terminal. They saw us coming with our canes and thoughtfully put us into shorter lines and we were quickly checking in at the desk. We were able to board right away. The Enchantment has a secondary handicapped boarding ramp that enters onto deck 1 so you don't have to limp up the 3 story ramp. The Pride can't enter from a lower deck, so they have wheelchair pushers lined up to take up those who have trouble with the ramp. I prefer the lower deck entry - so advantage RCL.
Cabin: The cabins were just opening up as we arrived on the ship so we made our way there first. We had two side by side Ocean suites on Deck 6 near the Atrium elevators. The Ocean suites are big, with a dressing area, large bathroom with a tub and two sinks. There is a fairly loud fan in the dressing area, but after a while it just becomes white noise. The balcony area is huge with 1 lounger, 4 chairs and two small tables. It's one chair too many in my opinion. We went to Customer service to have the balconies opened and it was nice to be able to go back and forth between cabins without having to wait for someone to let you into the door. Our cabin steward was outstanding. The room was always impeccable, and we had a towel animal every night. We had minisuites on the Enchantment, and while the rooms are nice, the sofa beds are hard to sleep on, and the balconies small. Advantage: Carnival.
Ship: I like the Spirit Class ships. But honestly - Carnival could use some better lighting. The weather was fairly cold the whole trip, so many folks hung out in the lounges during the day. But unless you got a window seat, you were often in the dark. The decor is pretty, but it would look less oppressive if they'd turn the lights on. The dining room is pretty and we enjoyed the covered pool. It's nice that it's not adults only like on the Enchantment. The kids liked being able to go swimming even during the cold weather. Advantage: I think it's a draw.
Lido restaurant: It's a nice big area, with lots of stations, but it's a long way from the pool area where they grill the hot dogs and hamburgers to the back where they cook the pizza. My mother walking with a cane had a difficult time managing her tray and cane, and only once did a Carnival staff member offer to carry her tray for her. Breakfast in the lido is fine, as long as you stay away from the scrambled eggs. I'm not sure what they are made from, but I don't think it comes from a chicken. The Enchantment has a tiny, crowded lido restaurant, and it's chaos. We avoided it at all costs. Advantage: Carnival
Dining room: We were given a window table at the back of the room looking over the ship's wake. While beautiful - the tables all shook a bit from the props. When we went for breakfast, we always requested a table up front to get away from the vibration. Our servers were adequate. But nothing more. We were slightly disapointed, as we've had some great waiters in the past, but not this time. They never described the options, recommended anything and were always pressed for time. I think they were serving too many tables. Food was fairly good. Breakfast was excellent. But for the first time, Carnival didn't win the food war, mainly due to service. Advantage: RCL
Camp Carnival: Our three kids love cruise ship kids clubs. They are all very social and love crafts, games and sports. Sign up was held right after the muster drill, but there was nothing scheduled for the younger kids the first night. I'm not sure why - it was spring break. 1000 kids were onboard. The next morning, there was a long line to drop off the younger kids. The reason why? The entry to the camp is at the end of a narrow passenger hallway at the bow of deck 5. The opening to the camp is a 4 x 4 foot doorway. Some parents had not signed up their kids the day before and stood in the doorway filling out paperwork for the camp and held up the line. We waited on line for an hour the first morning, and Carnival did not move the line hoggers out of the way while they did paperwork. It was insane. Afterward the first day, things sorted out and drop off and pick up were fast and easy. Still the kids complained about the types of activities. They all three voted Advantage: RCL
Adult pool area: It was too cold to take advantage of Serenity for most of the cruise, but I headed out there while the ship was docked in Freeport. Even docked the wind was fierce out there. I wish they had some form of wind breaker there, it was nicer by the other pools. I nabbed a lounger in the sun and read while the area slowly filled up. But some chairs were unusable. People had eaten out there and spilled food on the lounger and clamshells. Dishes were everywhere, but no Carnival staff member was out cleaning up. By midday the Serenity area was gross. On a warmer itinery and with better staff, Serenity would handily beat RCL's solarium, but not this time. Advantage: RCL.
Entertainment: We saw a couple of shows. We really enjoyed the comedians, but the main shows were a little hit and miss. The music in the lounges were fairly good and we enjoyed playing trivia and playing games. We even won a stick on a ship. The CD staff were pleasant, but they could use a better variety of activities during the day, especially on cold weather trips. Still, I think the comedy shows alone make it Advantage: Carnival.
Salon/Spa: I purchase a Mommy and Me manicure during our trip and was severely disapointed. First we were left to find the waiting room - we were tossed a clipboard and waved off. We wandered and eventually found ourselves outside the spa pool where a small seating area was located. Not that you could sit there. The folks using the spa pool were using it for their belongings and every seat was covered with towels, robes, clothing and flip flops. We were eventually collected by a couple of grim women who led us back to the salon and gave us our manicure. It was obvious that neither woman wanted to talk. We were handled roughly, our nails were abused and finally offered a choice of about 10 colors, (mainly red and blue) for our manicure. My nails were "buffed" with a harsh file and were "buffed" so thin that they all broke to the quick within hours. My remaining nails have deep score marks that will take months to grow out. It's hard to conceive of a worse salon experience. Never Again Carnival. Advantage: overwhelmingly RCL.
Overall - we enjoyed the cruise quite a bit. We had fun and Carnival offers a nice product for the money. We were a little let down by mainly service related issues. If the Pride fixes a few things, it would compare much more favorable with RCL out of Baltimore.