All negatives aside, we'd rate this cruise as an 8 or 9 out of 10. However, the negatives were significant. Think long and hard about cruising on Carnival if you are disabled. Their website specifically says that therapy dogs are NOT allowed. So what do we see when we first board the ship? A woman with a tiny chihuahua on her lap that helps with her anxiety attacks, same as my son, who was not allowed to bring his dog because it was not a seeing eye dog. They would, however, allow him to use a wheelchair....for a fee of $150.00 for the week, no matter if he used it one day or all seven. When we said that we felt that Carnival was taking advantage of handicapped passengers, the clerk at Guest Services shrugged her shoulders. We informed the legal representative from Carnival that we would be filing a grievance with the Americans with Disabilities Act because of their ambiguous wording on their web site regarding Service Dogs.
The embarkation process was quick and efficient, and there was someone to push my son up the gangway onto the ship (an all-uphill process). Our room steward, Herry, was top notch and was ready and willing to supply all our needs as soon as he was asked. He made a towel chimpanzee one evening and hung it from the ceiling. Very cute. We left it there until the end of the cruise. The beds were comfortable, and the pillows very "cushy."
Suggestion: Take the time to get to know your cabin steward at the very beginning of the cruise. Be friendly, ask about their hometown and share some information about you and your hometown. And then give a $20.00 tip right off the bat. This is extra from the automatic tip the cruise line adds to your account. You'll be astounded at the way your steward will go out of their way to make sure that you have everything you need, and then some. These folks sign on for a six month stay, with no days off and VERY little pay. Most of their income comes from the tips they receive. Treat them right and you won't regret it.
The outdoor portion of the Lido deck, where the pools are, is VERY slippery. I mean extremely slippery. We saw one lady go down hard and this was before the ship left the dock on Sunday. Even at night when the pools are closed, the ocean mists coat the deck with a layer of moisture. My son's cane slipped out from under him on more than one occasion. It can be treacherous. Make sure you either wear shoes with good treads on the soles, or go out of your way to avoid walking outside on the Lido deck if you are at all unsteady on your feet or if the ship is rocking.
The food, for the most part, was good with a few caveats. When we sailed on the Victory in 2005, food was available almost all day and night, 23 hours of the day. This trip, the buffet lines were open set hours and if you didn't eat during those hours, you either ate pizza, which wasn't very good, or you waited until the next meal. For late night, until 1 AM, they had one buffet line open, which only served burgers or hot dogs and fries. The only drinks available 24/7 at no charge were lemonade, hot chocolate, coffee and tea. The only free water was fountain, not bottled. Ice cream and frozen yogurt was also available 24/7, but was tucked away in a corner of the Lido deck. Can't find it? Ask a kid.
When we booked our cruise, we were assigned early dining at 6 PM. I later edited our dining time and changed it to anytime dining, which would allow us to have dinner in the main dining room any time between 5:45 and 9:45. Carnival didn't get the memo. Our time was not changed on our Sail and Sign card. We only had dinner in the main dining room twice, but each time I had to explain that I had changed the time, but it was not changed on our card. It caused a problem the second time, because the girl who was manning the desk informed us that we had missed our assigned dining time, and we couldn't eat. We had to speak directly with the Maitre d, who was very gracious and seated us immediately.
Believe it when other cruisers say that the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake is to die for, because it is! They serve it every evening, with the other dessert selections changing on a daily basis. The cold strawberry bisque soup was equally luscious. They had one cold soup every evening. Don't be afraid to ask for seconds. They will gladly give it to you!
As far as the entertainment goes, we frequented the Punchliner Comedy Club every night. They have five shows each night, the first two of which are family friendly. The other three are very adult oriented. Three of the four comedians we saw were very good. Get there early because it's a rather small lounge and the seats fill up quickly.
There were several trivia contests every day, including Beatles, 70s, 80s, 90s, sports, rock music, country music and others. And if you enjoy karaoke, you won't be disappointed.
The casino was very smoky, as it was one of the very few places on the ship where smoking was allowed. We did not gamble, even though they have a smoke-free section. I had planned on playing Bingo, but paying $20.00 for ONE bingo game did not sit well with me, and so there was no Bingo on this trip.
There were several prize drawings in the Fun Shop, which is the ship jewelry store. I found the proprietor of the shop, who did the drawings, to be, to say the least, obnoxious. His attempts to be "fun" were juvenile and, in my opinion, demeaning, even though he was trying to make the experience enjoyable. And the prizes? Nothing to write home about. One drawing was won by a six-year-old girl. There were multiple people grumbling about the fairness of that drawing.
I was disappointed that there were only two shops on the Pride; the Fun Shop, which was the jewelry shop and a general goods store that sold liquor, souvenirs and incidentals. Before you spend your cash, make sure that you're really getting a bargain that's better than what you can find at home. That being said, some of the jewelry was stunning, I will admit. The impulse to buy is great.
Tremendous emphasis was placed on photos, MUCH more so than when we sailed on the Victory in 2005. There were photographers everywhere wanting to take pictures of everything and nothing all week long. Any excuse, and someone was there to take a picture. Do you really need your photo taken on the winding staircase?
Even though a Sushi bar was advertised, there was none that we found. There was also no cigar/pipe lounge. There was a TINY place on the Lido deck where you could buy cigars, though.
One activity was the Free Foot Analysis, taking place in the ship gym on more than one occasion. Don't be fooled. This is a sales presentation for shoe inserts from The Good Feet Store. And they are expensive, even on the ship.
There was one big, huge, sad negative that occurred on the trip. I won't go into details, but suffice it to say Ladies, please, please, PLEASE be aware of your surroundings and with whom you are "partying." I feel I owe it to this unfortunate young woman, who we saw crying in the elevator, to at least mention this, because the cruise line will bury it, and so may this web site. If so, then this entire review was for naught.
In the final analysis, our feeling was that Carnival has shifted their emphasis from the fun, happy, enjoyable aspects of cruising to getting as much as possible FROM their guests. They now charge for everything. I can understand that they are in business to make a profit, and I don't begrudge them that. But it seemed to me that the charges placed on things that used to be free were excessive. I refused to pay $20 for one game of BINGO. I bought a Punchliner drink at the comedy club one evening, and the charge was upwards of $10...not including an automatic tip. And there was space for a tip on the Sign and Sail slip, too, so if you're not careful, you'll end up double tipping. They will charge you $22.00 for a Carnival beach towel. Really? Evidently, they had one super loyal cruiser on board, though, because he sported a button stating that he has taken over 100 cruises, all on Carnival, and he personally told us that he already has his next 19 cruises booked and paid for. I wonder how much Carnival is comping him. Cruising is still a good value for your vacation dollar, but be aware of how much is being posted to your Sign and Sail card. You could be in for a nasty surprise.