This was the first time I sailed with Carnival, having always used Royal Caribbean. Carnival offered a great deal so we jumped on it, despite their recent run of bad luck. Our agent took care of everything and answered all our questions before we even asked them. We left from the Port of Baltimore which was a first. Only an hour drive from where we live, it was very convenient not having to deal with airlines. The process of getting through the terminal was very easy and very fast. We checked our luggage into the terminal so we didn't have to lug it around. We all had carry ons but didn't want to deal with the big stuff. Everything was to be delivered to our cabins. Because we boarded the Pride a little early, we were immediately ushered up to the 9th deck for a buffet lunch. It was a little congested because so many were up there to eat but most people had all their luggage with them, those items not checked. Seating was sparse because no one wanted to go to other areas to eat and carry their food trays AND their luggage.
Once that was over, we went to our rooms and awaited the arrival of our luggage. It all came fairly quickly. We spent most of the first few hours exploring. In my group, it was my husband and myself. Also my 15 year old daughter, 18 year old daughter and 20 year old daughter's boyfriend. We spent several hours checking things out. There's a lot to check out. The ship was nice but the decor seemed a little outdated. Very clean. While in the dining areas on deck 9, the wait staff are quick to remove your unwanted items. The rooms were nice. Both were rooms with balconies. One extended. One not. We originally had two obstructed view balcony rooms but when we added our fifth person later, we had to move cabins. Only a few apart though. The extended balcony was nice. One bad thing about having a balcony. If you are a smoker - it is ideal. If you are a non-smoker, it was NOT ideal. As much as I loved my balcony, I only got to use it for about 15 minutes during the entire trip. Because you cannot smoke in the cabin itself, you may smoke out on your balcony. It seemed like everyone around me did just that. Every time I went out to enjoy the view and some fresh air, someone always went out to smoke so it was right back inside. A nice perk for smokers. A big let down for me. The cabins were very clean. The room steward was great at keeping it that way. In the mornings when we would leave for breakfast, he managed to slip in, make the bed, clean the bathroom and get out unnoticed. He always returned later in the day as well to turn down the bed. Always made sure we had clean anything if we needed it. It was always fun to return at night to find out what kind of animal he made using various towels. He certainly respected privacy as well.
The activities on board were endless. However, not every activity is for everyone. Having a varied age group, we managed to always find something to keep us occupied. Often times, we split up so we could all do what we wanted to do. The bad thing was getting back in touch with those in your group. Either make sure you decide to meet at a specific place at a specific time (make sure everyone has a watch) or invest in a set of walkie-talkies. We chose to turn off our cell phones to avoid international roaming charges. We occasionally did lose each other but always managed to meet up. There are activities stemming from various forms of trivia to Bingo to karaoke to ice sculpture demonstration. There was a hairy chest contest out by one of the pool decks which was a little bizarre. These were men whose wives clearly prodded them into participating and when it came time for them to "perform" in front of everyone and show off their hairy beastness, most were shy and had no idea how to work the crowd. One man had to be reminded that it was a family cruise and pulling down his swim trunks was ill advised. Also, there were guys up there with no hair on their chests who made it to the second round so I had a hard time figuring out the selection process. I quickly moved on.
Our group participated in Super Trivia let by Chris. He was British I believe. He was cute and much fun. It was a progressive game. We met for four rounds throughout the course of the week. Each round would result in new teams of people who didn't know that we had already been playing but they joined in anyway which was fine because each round had original teams not show up. On the last round, we had several teams show up and took up the names of the teams of those who failed to show for the last round. Those people not only took on the name of the team but the points that team had acquired thus far. It was much fun. We didn't win but we came in around 15th in a group of nearly 20 teams. There were other forms of trivia games that had you guessing the song from a quickly played song clip or movie trivia where you had to guess the movie from a brief quote. Having such a wide range of ages, we did pretty well. We played Win, Lose or Draw. We attended a Cha Cha dance lesson which we didn't participate but had great fun watching others do it.
We had the late dining seating (8:15) which was tough because none of us are used to eating so late but because there's food EVERYWHERE, there was really no chance of going hungry until you could eat. There was never a time when you couldn't eat. The dining room staff were so awesome. Friendly. Courteous. Prompt. Very accommodating. The menu always had something different for each meal but for those picky eaters (that would be me) who might not like anything on the menu, there was a menu of every day items so there was always something to choose from. No one walked away hungry because they didn't like what was on the menu. If you are a big eater, like some in my group, you could get two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts if you so desire. Many people did that. If you wanted a second plate of lobster, just ask. They'll bring it right away. No one was ever told no. The dining room entertainment was especially enjoyable. Toward the end of the main course and before dessert, the wait staff would gather. Sometimes it was a song they all sang (That's Amore) or some nights it was dance night. Flo Rida's Low was one night and they pulled people up to join in and help them in dancing. Our waiter was great. The 16 year old kid at our next table would often get up and our waiter, Jimmie, would teach him what to do. He was a great kid who loved to get into the fun. One night it was a conga line and many diners would jump up and join in. My kids loved that. The last night consisted of the entire wait staff singing to us their own words to Leaving On a Jet Plane.
Speaking of singing, if you like the classic songs and like to sing along, you must hit the Ivory Bar. Its a small piano bar. Roger is the singer. He was amazing. He sang so many great songs from so many different genres. You would get Barry Manilow, Billy Joel, Elton John, Jimmy Buffet, Bruce Springsteen, Queen, Frank Sinatra, and Neil Diamond. Once in a while he would start a rendition of Summer Lovin' from Grease and sing both girl and boy parts which was quite funny. There were a few who would join him with a separate microphone and sing as well. He did have limits. As many songs as he did sing, there were some he just wouldn't or didn't know. There was no One Direction or Justin Bieber. However there was an interesting version of Call me Maybe. He keeps a jar on his piano and sometimes during his session, he would rotate his piano to spin around so people could tip if they so chose. We always tipped him. He was amazing. Great voice and very funny. I hit the piano bar just about every night. The one bartender there, whose name I do not know, was my best friend. I ordered a drink one night and from that time on, every time I went in there, I never had to tell him what I wanted. Not only did he know my drink but he memorized our card key number so I never had to give him my card after the first night. The more I tipped, the better my drinks got. One night it was particularly busy in there. I sat at the bar nearest the piano and after a short time, I looked over at the bartender and he was holding my drink up. I hadn't even asked for it yet. He just had it ready.
Speaking of the key card - such a convenient thing. We set up a credit card which was linked to our room keys. You can designate whether people in your party have the right to charge things to the room. I gave all three kids access but with limits. If you wanted to buy something in one of the shops on board, all you had to do was use your room key. It went right onto our credit card. Drinks the same way. Sodas were not a free item on the ship like lemonade and tea were so if you wanted soda, you had to pay. Each soda ran $2.24 each time. We brought a small cooler with water and soda (only the allowed amount) so sometimes we brought our own.
The on board casino was nice. Small but there was something for everyone. 18 was the legal age to gamble. My daughter and her boyfriend, although legal, didn't do much. My 15 year old wasn't really allowed to hang out in the casino even though she was with us. Especially at the tables.
This was definitely a family cruise. You could tell from all the 5-13 year olds that ran around the ship totally unsupervised. They would run from location to location, not really caring how obnoxious they were or caring to look who they were running into. They had activities for kids depending on how old they were. Often times you saw groups of kids running around doing scavenger hunts.
The pools were often crowded with lots of families. People would get out to the decks early and hold lounge chairs until they could get back to them. Many times there were no chairs to be found. There was a 21+ area with a small pool, lounge chairs, sofas and hammocks. My husband and I got there around 9:00 one morning and all but two lounge chairs were taken. Most were empty of people except for a towel saving the chair until its owner decided to finish breakfast or whatever they were doing. Saving is discouraged by the cruise line. Also, there is a 40 minute rule. If you save a chair and do not return within 40 minutes, you lose that seat. That rule was never enforced. So, as much as I wanted to use that area, I really never got there because its amazing how adults can be such hogs. Some would save 5 and 6 chairs with towels for people who weren't even going to be there for quite some time.
If you like to people watch, a cruise is definitely for you. I like to people watch. I think it was the most interesting part of some of my days. I observed funny people. Interesting people. Obnoxious people and most definitely rude people. Its amazing how rude adults can be. I guess you get that anywhere but when there are so many in one area, there's really nowhere to go to get away from it.
Word of advice for those of you looking to go to the pool area or even just walk through. If you wear flip flops, make sure they have some type of traction on the bottom. Mine did not. When the sign says "slippery when wet," they mean it. I went down hard. I never wore those shoes again on the trip. Make sure you have traction on your shoes or its a crap shoot.
Excursions are fun but rather expensive. We only did one excursion, though they offered them in each port. We did the Blue Lagoon Private Island Getaway with lunch. Off the ship, another boat takes you to this little private island with beach chairs and palm trees. Very picturesque. We found that not many people with little kids took this excursion. Seems many of those families opted for the Atlantis Resort excursion. Fine with me. It was peaceful at times. There were water activities that you had to pay extra for. We basically hung out in the shallow area of the water where giant rafts were tethered to the ground under the water. After your approximate three hours, a boat takes you back to the ship. On this boat, we were offered complimentary rum punch. Also a regular fruit punch for those under age. It was a nice relaxing day. No craziness. No long lines to wait in. No people hogging lounge chairs. Places to sit and lounge were plentiful. However, if you wanted a spot under a palm tree or umbrella, get to it quick.
When we arrived home, the staff on the ship ran a very "tight ship", if you will, to get everyone off in a timely and safe manner. Of course, there are those who don't follow the rules who think they can just do what they want and leave when they want. Its those people who ruin it for everyone. Everyone is assigned a zone number and given luggage tags with that number. If you decided to check your luggage, place the tag on your luggage and place outside your cabin door the night before. Then, in the morning, you take your carry ons and proceed to one of three designated waiting areas. We went to the Taj Mahal lounge which holds many people. I guess people didn't want to go all the way into the lounge and possibly get caught up in getting stuck behind slow people leaving at the same time so they, and all their stuff, sat outside the lounge on the steps, against the wall or wherever they could put themselves in the way of other people trying to get in our out. They basically blocked the entrance. They do offer a self assist debark process. Those people who do not want to check their luggage have the option of taking all their luggage and waiting in one of those three locations. These people are let off earlier than those assigned to zone numbers. When the announcement is made, they first allowed self assist, decks 1 and 8 to proceed to the gangway. Well, of course, everyone on every other deck decided that it must mean them too because everyone proceeded to the gangway to try and get off. The area became very congested with all those people trying to get off at once. So, another announcement was made for ONLY those on decks 1 and 8 are allowed to get off. Anyone else will be sent back. When the next deck was called, same thing. They had to keep announcing to people that they would be sent back if they were not on the deck that was being called. We waited patiently. We were in zone 20 (out of 26 total zones). Our designated time to debark was 10:50-11:00. We were called right at 11:00. Off the ship, through customs and at our car by 11:30. A pretty speedy process as long as other people follow the rules. Yes, it was kind of annoying to arrive in the lounge by 8:45 a.m. and have to wait until 11:00 to be called. At the end of the trip, everyone just wanted to go home but we waited just the same.
All in all, it was a great trip. The ship was huge - 3 football fields long so there was always lots of walking to get from point A to point B. By the end of the week, I had finally learned how to get to my cabin without getting lost. Only once, though, did I stop and ask for directions. I would certainly recommend the Carnival Pride. All the staff, cruise director and entertainment staff kept everyone very happy. I never met a single staff member who seemed to not enjoy their job. No one ever made you feel like you were asking too much even when you felt like you were. Friendly and helpful was the tone of the trip. I would definitely do it again.