Alright, here you go...
The following is my families account, and solely my families account, regarding our cruise on the Carnival Pride on 10/1/06. This was our eighth cruise, sixth aboard Carnival. We are a family of three, consisting of George, Anne, and our little princess (as she became known by fellow big Cats) Arrielle. We are just three of a large group known as the Big Cats. Regrettably, for reasons beyond anyone's control, many of our group were unable to make the cruise this year, leaving only six of us to represent the Big Cats this year. We are undoubtedly looking forward to seeing the entire group on the Carnival Liberty next year. With the exception of two cruises to the Mexican Riviera, all of our cruises have been to the Caribbean. We Hail from the "Valley of the Sun", otherwise known as Phoenix, AZ.
So, with all the formalities out of the way, here is our review...
As I wrote above, we hail from Phoenix, so we decided to make the drive over to the port a day early and spend a night at the Hilton Long Beach WTC. With the exception of hearing are we there yet approximately 200 times from our little princess during our six hour commute, the ride was pretty much uneventful with little to see across the Sonoran desert. With that stated, I did receive a call from Jim (one of the Big Cats), informing me that his son Bubba had left his wallet back at the house and they had experienced a few bumps in getting him on their Delta flight from Tampa to Long Beach. Needless to say this created some restless moments for all of us with not knowing how this would affect his getting on the cruise ship.
The Hilton Long Beach is a beautiful hotel inside and out, but not worthy of its 4 star rating. We have never ran into such an unfriendly staff, from desk personnel to bell hops, such as those found at this hotel. I could go into specifics, but I don't want to bore you. In short, good luck in getting help with your luggage (Unless you consider finding a cart to unload your luggage and maneuvering into the elevator/lobby to find an uninterested bell hop for assistance, getting help.) The front desk staff seem to have two levels of service. One for those who book through Hilton and the other for those who book through sites such as Priceline. Solely based on customer service, I would not recommend this hotel to anyone. On a positive note the rooms are spotless (smell somewhat from cigarette smoke, but bearable) and the beds are very comfortable.
For dinner we all decided to go over to Bubba Gumps by the Long Beach Aquarium. I could not get over the revitalization of the downtown Long Beach area, especially the water front areas. I grew up in the area and my mom worked many years in a nearby department store. Much has changed over the years and there is something to be found for everyone in this area. If you plan to eat at one of the restaurants in this area, words to the wise&arrive early! The food is great at Bubba Gumps and the atmosphere/entertainment are even better. This is a great place; reasonably priced and at no time did we feel pressured to hurry up.
Port of Long Beach: Embarkation
We have sailed out of Miami, Port Canaveral and Tampa. Based on information we got off of these boards, we arrived early at the port at about 10:00 for the early check-in on the Queen Mary. Needless to say, from our vantage point, we didn't see the advantage of adding one more line to the process. After standing in the Queen Mary line for an hour we were redirected to stand in another line to wait for our sail and sign cards. As I recall, Carnival started this process around 1:00 pm. We then proceeded to stand in two more long lines for security screening and picture taking. We finally got on the ship around 2:30 pm and we were part of the early check-ins! After reading many reviews on these boards about this cruise, we had seriously down graded our expectations and the embarkation process was right in line with those expectations. Fortunately, that was the last time we were disappointed during the entire sailing.
On a side note, we had no problems with Bubba getting on the ship and the representative from Carnival couldn't have been more understanding than she was. With the difficulties in travel caused by 9/11, we were quite surprised by the level of cooperation and the manner in which this representative eased our concerns.
First Impression of Ship:
Upon entering the ship, I was actually really pleased with the look/dEcor colors of the atrium area, in comparison to its sister ship the Miracle.. As far as the art work, I could take it or leave it, not really a big deal in contrary to what I had read on these boards. I will say though, my daughter did inquire about the statue of David in the supper club and the many scantily clothed paintings throughout the ship; but as I stated it wasn't a big deal for us. Funny how kids pick up on all that stuff and yet as adults we barely notice it. For a ship that's about five years old, you wouldn't know it, The ship is very well maintained and is showing few signs of its age
We were in stateroom #4160, which is a category 8A with a balcony and an upper bunk. The great thing about this cabin is it is centrally located for everything on the ship, great location. Plenty of space and lots of area for luggage storage.
Once again, quite quick and painless when compared to the cruises that we have taken out of Miami. I don't think we were outside in our life jackets longer than ten minutes. I will say that I was quite surprised at the lack of professionalism by the muster staff in our area. They didn't go over any of the specifics in case of emergency and seemed to treat the process as nothing other than a social event with other staff. For the sake of 1st time cruisers, they really need to shore this area up.
Yes, they still are saving chairs with just about everything that you can imagine. It wasn't really an issue for us, we just accept it as part of the cruise process. It's not worth getting worked up about, you will still be able to find a chair, just don't expect poolside everytime. We really didn't spend much time by the pool, with the exception of the 4 - 5 times I was in the Jacuzzi. I was surprised to find the cover plates at the bottom of the main Jacuzzi broken off and quite sharp. Unfortunately, staff didn't seem to concerned and did nothing to fix the problem. Also, make sure you watch your towels, or they could grow legs.
The service aboard the Pride was truly the highlight of the cruise and without a doubt the best we had received on any previous cruise. Our cabin steward was Mayora from the Philippines. She was nothing short of incredible. We met her as soon as we got on the ship and seemed to run into her every time we accessed our cabin. She was always seeking input from us about our cruise experience throughout the week and anything we might need. She was always very pleasant, always had a smile on her face, kept our cabin very tidy, kept ice in our cooler and took great care of us for the week.
The dining room is a considerable upgrade from the grapes on steroids look on the Miracle. We really liked the use of ivory/oak colors, they made the dining room seem much brighter and open than what we found on the Miracle.
Dining Room Team:
We sat at table #140 which is tucked away in a corner on the first floor away from everything. At first we were quite concerned about the location and our view of a partition wall. Fortunately we stayed put and were on the receiving end of the best service we have ever gotten in a dining room on any past cruise. Our waiter Reynaldo and his assistant Phillip both hailed from the Philippines. It was quite obvious they both enjoyed working together. They really complimented each other quite well, and made our whole week of dining memorable. Glasses of iced tea were always kept full, bread was plentiful and they were more than happy to bring us something different if we didn't care for our original choice. On one night, I was brought a nice filet mignon because I didn't really care for anything on the menu that night&what a terrible life I live. On our final night of dining we were surprised to learn that our shy assistant waiter of the past week had an alter ego. Seems that Phillip is an aspiring Chippendale's dancer and was quite happy to treat the ladies in the nearby audience to a table dance&quite hilarious and really exposed us to the sense of humor they all have. Phillip is also a proud new father with his wife giving birth to their second daughter the day we got off the ship. On a side note, all the tables Reynaldo and Phillip were supposed to be servicing sat empty the entire week. The service was so good, we ate in the dining room the entire week&a first for us. Certainly our dining experience was greatly enhanced by the fact we were the only table they had to service. Unfortunately they both probably lost substantial money as a direct result of the vacancies. About mid-way through the cruise we learned the empty tables were assigned to folks belonging to a large group of about 900 strong from Narcotics Anonymous. I doubt membership to this group had any bearing on the vacancies, but our wait team seemed quite accustomed to this from other sailings this group sailed on. Needless to say their loss was our gain!
Lido deck Pretty much the same quality and selection as the Miracle, nothing special. Carnival really needs to mix things up a bit for breakfast, same stuff day after day. The grill is still great for burgers and hot dogs, and the Pizzeria is good as ever. The deli sandwiches are great and a can't miss. The hours for both the grill and deli were considerably longer than the Miracle, making it impossible to go hungry at any hour; as my expanded waist line can attest for.
Platinum Dining room - Quite pleased with the food in the dining room. I can only think of a few items that I did not care for the whole week.
David's Supper Club :
We had planned on setting reservations to eat at David's, just never got around to it. I think the great service and fun atmosphere in the main dining room unknowingly played a large role in this decision. After the service level and the 3 plus hours in Nick & Nora's last year, we were probably a little hesitant this time around. Besides, our daughter Arrielle was adamant about not having to look at the endowed statue of David while she was trying to eat - that's our kid! I never did hear any feedback on David's throughout the week, so I can only relay the rave reviews of our friends from Orlando who experienced David's Supper club many years ago.
This was the first year we allowed our daughter to sign herself out of Camp Carnival and explore the ship on a very short leash from my wife and I. Much to my surprise, she checked in routinely with us and she was on her best behavior while exploring. Little does she know that dear old dad followed her on many occasions to watch her behavior throughout the cruise. She made a friend that she hung out with throughout the cruise and the two of them came and went from Camp Carnival as they pleased. Needless to say, this provided my wife and I much needed quality time throughout the cruise.
With the exception of the Captain's party, we skipped all the shows. All the shows we had seen on previous sailings and we preferred to take our time in the dining room talking to Jim, Bobbie (she says she's 19 -don't believe her) Bubba and our dining team.
Before I get into the islands, I have a question&.when was the last time you heard of someone missing the boat? In all my previous cruises I don't recall this happening. Can you believe we had folks miss the ship on all three stops!
We traveled from Long Beach to Puerto Vallarta by ship and what was the first thing that we did&we went to Wal Mart. You read that right, Wal Mart. Fortunately we did have a backup plan. I am a certified scuba diver and opted for a two tank dive through Chico's Dive Shop with Jim, Bubba and Bobbie Sue. The great thing about Chico's, beside the price, is they only take out small groups which greatly enhances your overall dive experience. The boat ride is about ½ an hour, but well worth it. Unfortunately, I was having problems equalizing under water, which created serious problems when I resurfaced. What I didn't know until today, was that I experienced vertigo as a direct result, which made me violently sick to my stomach. Needless to say food was plentiful for all nearby fish on both dives. On the bright side I now know what to do prior to dives to prevent further problems in the future and can't wait to get out on my next dive. Later we were supposed to go shopping in the port area, but I found myself still sick and seeking out the comforts of the bed in my cabin instead.
After reading so much over the years about Randy's Happy horses on these boards, we couldn't wait for this excursion and the opportunity to meet Randy. We met Randy at the port and then proceeded on a short cab and boat ride to the island. Arrielle found a small horse that fit her needs, not to fast and yet just enough pep to trot when prompted to do so. Anne on the other hand found herself perched on top of the worlds only amphibious horse. This horse absolutely refused to stay on dry land, opting for the waters of the Pacific instead. I myself appropriately ended up on a horse that was pissed off because he was a last minute scratch for the Kentucky Derby and he chose to take it out on me! Otherwise the ride along the beach was absolutely picturesque and certainly worth the price of admission. After we returned from the ride, we all sat around Victors, a small beach cafe close by. After drinking many Pacificos, we were treated to cake in celebration of Randy's 58th or 59th birthday.
Cabo San Lucas:
As many know, my wife and Jim have been spouting for an entire year about how much they were looking forward to Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo Cantina and living it up a little. As luck would have it, the day we were in port happened to be Sammy's birthday bash. Unfortunately, it wasn't until after we left and we didn't get to see Sammy. With that stated, Jim and my wife filled in the vacant hours drinking many a shots of Cabo Wabo as future forthcoming photos will illustrate. As for myself, being the responsible adult in the party and the only one who knew the way back to the port, I drank apple juice. Unfortunately there are many photos showing myself holding Anne and Jim's shots of Cabo Wabo because they were to polluted to hold them for themselves. Yes, I was the designated drink holder as the forthcoming photos will further illustrate.
PS Please don't misconstrue the strange look on my face as inebriation, it was solely a look of discontent for the drunken stupor my wife and friend found themselves in&truly shameful!
Also, should you require Jim's professional bartering services, he can be reached under the screen name baby love. A little advice, should you be having a yard sale and Jim should pull up, close up shop quickly!
Fortunately we were anticipating a long debarkation process after everything we read from these boards and we decided to spend an extra night in our beloved Long Beach Hilton prior to our cruise. With this in place, we decided to forgo the craziness that is the debarkation process and casually waited for all lines to subside in the quiet confines of the lido deck grill. We spent two hours eating, drinking and watching the masses trying to exit the ship all at one time. We finally went to exit the ship around 11:30. Take my advice, don't schedule an early flight out of this port, you'll never make it. Should you be able to spare the time, I highly recommend an extra day seeing the sights of the downtown Long Beach area and just relaxing by the hotel pool.
In closing, we truly enjoyed this cruise. While the ship is quite beautiful, our friends and the incredible level of service we received truly made our cruise experience an unforgettable one. I hope that my review was helpful in some way to you. Like I stated earlier, this was our experience, and I am sure there are others who have also sailed the Pride, who will have had an entirely different experience than we did.
Wow, I need a shot of Cabo Wabo, umm I mean a glass of apple juice ;)