We sailed the Carnival Pride on Sept 22nd, headed to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Freeport. This was our sixteenth cruise, and our fifth on Carnival.
Embarkation: Baltimore is a DREAM embarkation point. Helpful, friendly people directing you where you need to go; handoff of checked luggage to smiling folks who don’t shake you down for a tip to carry your stuff from your car to the waiting luggage trolley two feet away; parking that is easy to find and access; an embarkation terminal that is not confusing . . . well, you get the idea. We arrived at the parking lot at 10:30 am and were on the ship by 12:30 pm . . . this despite a very delayed disembarkation, if what we saw was any indication.
(Op/Ed: it’s a crying shame that Carnival chose to pull out of Baltimore in 2015 rather than reckon with the new EPA fees. The Future Cruise Consultant’ on our cruise lamented that they just COULDN’T make it work in Baltimore in 2015, despite all reports of the ship consistently being full. I’m not buying it: I bet they could have passed those onto their cruisers and STILL would have had the huge capacity/on board revenue they swear they’ve been seeing at this port. Something doesn’t add up. Just MHO.)
Ship: Pride is in far better shape, on the whole, than its sister ship, the Legend, which we took out of Tampa last year. And while we heard random reports of vandalism in the elevators (which we never witnessed because we don’t usually take the elevators!), overall the ship seemed to be much more well-preserved. As for the décor: if you have an issue with physical (rather than social) boobs, sail another ship.
One small complaint: signage around elevators was inconsistent . . . sometimes there were signs facing the stairwells, sometimes there wasn’t. Those of us who frequent the stairs often had to walk to the elevator banks to see what deck we were on. I’m sure this will be fixed in the 2014 drydock.
I must admit, I’m fond of the Spirit Class on Carnival " not too old, not too big, easy to navigate after a day or two " and am somewhat hesitant to take on the larger ships with all the bells and whistles. It will be interesting to see where we vacation once they depart Baltimore; we clearly saw why there were so many repeat passengers on this ship.
We had cabin 7211 " square interior cabin (rather than a rectangular interior cabin). Can’t say if it’s more or less overall square footage, but we liked the longer desk/vanity/drawers area, and didn’t miss the second side chair. We’d book this cabin in a heartbeat due to its convenient layout and proximity to all things above and below.
We note that we had a ghost in the shower. Seriously: at 12:45 am, there would be this constant (and LOUD) gurgling from the shower drain that lasted for a couple of minutes . . . which stopped, and then restarted seven minutes afterward. The last couple of mornings, it had a third round at 6:15 am. We think it has something to do with them draining the system . . . the guest services staff were very sympathetic, but no one seemed to know what was going on. This is the first time we’ve ever experienced such random weirdness. It won’t deter us from booking this kind of cabin again, but caveat emptor.
Oh, and speaking of caveat emptor: if you buy the internet package, you must use your minutes before debarkation morning " they disabled our account on Sunday morning with a significant number of minutes still left. Not cool, Carnival.
On a very positive note: our cabin steward, D’Cruz Joe from India, was SPECTACULAR. We have an odd schedule due to my husband’s sleep patterns, and he was always able to turn around our cabin in moments. He definitely went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure we had a neat cabin and a friendly towel animal awaiting our return after dinner!
This was also the first time our cabin steward made sure to touch base with us prior to the Mandatory Safety Briefing (previously known as Muster Drill) to ask us what dining time we had and whether we had any sharps’ of which to properly dispose. I don’t know if that helped D’C J keep track of our erratic schedule or not, but if it did: keep it up!
Oh, and to those obnoxious people behind us on said MSB who couldn’t seem to keep a straight line nor keep their mouths shut once said MSB started: no, I don’t feel the least bit ashamed that I had to loudly shush you. You’re lucky I didn’t just smack you speechless.
Dining: we had the second traditional dinner slot; as we were vacationing with another couple, we were assigned a banquette for four that, sadly, shared a common partition with the waiter’s station (much clanking of plates and what not at the end of the dinner, as a result). However, our wait team, led by the stellar Lucius, ably assisted by Beneraventura (sp?) Jr. and Poliwian, was top notch; one mention of my husband’s odd allergies, and Lucius personally checked each course to make sure it would pass, and if it didn’t, rectified things immediately. He also made sure we all got shrimp cocktails each evening once he noticed the pattern we set early on, and remembered who of us liked ice tea versus water, and coffee versus decaf tea with dessert. Top.Notch.Service!
An observation: I have no quibble with Carnival’s new standard/daily’ menus in the dining room . . . while I might wish for a little more novelty, the fact is that my husband and others in our party welcomed knowing there were one or two go-to’s on the menu each evening. If you crave more variety, hit the Lido Deck or go to the alternative dining venues. If you go away hungry, it’s not the fault of the cruise line. SERIOUSLY.
Another observation: we’ve never understood the fascination with making sure a certain cruise director is part of one’s vacation . . . until now. Kirk Benning was our CD, and while we didn’t see him EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME (because that’s not how we roll), hub and I both agree that he was, hands down, one of the most tactful, funny, and entertaining CD’s we’ve ever had the pleasure of sailing with. From aptly handling the "Welcome Aboard” show with no amplification thanks to a failure in the wireless transmission system, to the genuinely hysterical "Love and Marriage” show, and the passion with which he raised money for St. Jude’s, he is a GREAT cruise director.
Quibbles: an interactive’ system that routinely displayed that you had a message . . . when you did not. Or, even worse: a message hawking shore excursions. Please: you have reams of paper and TV channels about the preferred shops (::: Gemstone-of-the-Day International :::) and shore excursions. Don’t waste the broadband length to push them some more . . . and get the interactive messaging system right. It’s just annoying.
And while we’re being picky: the TV seemed to miss every other volume level. Perhaps it’s because they’re nearing their useful time " we know there’s a Fun Ship 2.0 drydock in the next year or so " but it seemed all or nothing.
Speaking of TV: when did they drop the Weather Channel? This is the first time in many years we’ve sailed to the Bahamas versus further west/north, so we don’t know if it’s the itinerary or a new satellite TV arrangement. Please, bring that back.
Ports of Call: this is a very beach-intensive itinerary, and you're not in port for a full day; we noticed that unless one booked a shore excursion (either through the cruise line or independently), your options are somewhat limited as to what to do.
We should also note that, because we crossed the Gulf Stream headed down and ran into storms off the Atlantic seaboard on the return trip, this is NOT the smoothest of routes. Those prone to motion sickness should pack/plan/choose cabins accordingly.
Grand Turk: we hired a private taxi to give us a quick tour of the island (Cockburn Town and the Lighthouse, before returning us back to the port). If you’re into snorkeling and don’t want to spring for an excursion, opt for the beach to the right of the cruise pier . . . it’s less crowded and closer to the reef.
Half Moon Cay: a beautiful private island . . . with very little natural shade close to the beach. Unless you want to drag your beach loungers further up the beach (away from the lifeguarded area), you’ll need to spring for a villa or clamshell to get some break from the unrelenting sun. We were also there when storms off Miami were whipping up the waves . . . we heard rumors of shore excursions being cancelled due to the rough surf. The barbeque was yummy and had lots of options in terms of sides.
Freeport: any port of call that pulls in at 7 am and requests that you be back on the ship by 12:30 is, by its very nature, limited in its options. (Shame on the half-dozen folks who casually strolled to the ship at 1:30 pm!) Beached-out as we were, we chose to take a taxi to Port Lucaya to walk around what shops were open, with a short visit to the public part of Lucaya Beach. We wouldn’t make an effort to revisit.
Disembarkation: given our late start from Freeport, perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised that we were ninety minutes late to the Port of Baltimore, which meant HUGE delays during disembarkation. (Major precious style points were lost by Carnival when they cut off our remaining wireless internet service at 7:30 am " we could have used that last half hour while we were waiting to leave the ship.) However, things went relatively smoothly once they were able to disembark.
All in all, we’d probably sail out of Baltimore on Carnival again, but not this itinerary.