We traveled on the Carnival Pride over New Year's Eve. We are experienced cruisers, mostly with Royal Caribbean, Windstar and Radisson Seven Seas (now Regent). We booked the Carnival Pride last minute and out of not many options with two weeks prior to embarkation. To say the least, we had low expectations since we had heard bad reviews about the Carnival being the low end of cruise lines. We were going to have a good time with our family regardless.
Well, embarkation was a breeze (about 10 minutes for us). At first the ship decor was a bit much for me. The Italianite style is a bit over the top but in paying closer attention, the finest materials and finishes have been used. This ship was impeccable - you would think that this was its maiden voyage. After a few hours, the decor style grew on me. Our balcony cabin was much more spacious than Royal Caribbean and the beds, linens and pillows were much more comfortable. The balcony was tiny and not all that and we could have very well gone with just the regular ocean view room.
The food was excellent overall, probably better than most other ships we've sailed before (with the exception of the Paul Gauguin (Radisson Seven Seas). We are big on good, quality gourmet food and I have to say that the dinners at the Normandie - main dining room - never let us down. Lobster, Beef Wellington, Duck, excellent fish, everything was absolutely fabulous. The Melted Chocolate Cake was out of this world and we had some almost every night. The lunch was very diversified and almost every item was fantastic - they served everything from scrumptious pizza, burgers, hotdogs to elaborate ethnic foods. One day was Caribbean, other Indian, other French, oh la la! Breakfast buffet at the Mermaid Grill was marginal, it was pretty much the same thing every morning - eggs, bacon, sausage, oatmeal. I think they would benefit form having a more diversified breakfast menu. The Normandie on the other hand served breakfast as well and it was much better. We also subscribed to the 24 hour Room Service and although the menu is limited, it was always fast, fresh and good quality.
The ports were ok, although Cabo San Lucas is fantastic. It was raining in Puerto Vallarta when we got there so we really did not get around. Mazatlan was not to our liking and we wouldn't care to go back.
We brought our very experienced little cruiser and now at 9 years old she is on her sixth cruise. She loved the Kids Club. It was as good or better than Royal Caribbean. Lots of activities and her favorite one was Build-a-Teddy and the all-nighter party were the Kids Club crew brings them back to their cabin by 3:30am!!! If she liked the Kids Club, they are a-ok by us!
Service was outstanding. The crew through the entire ship was helpful, cheerful and kind, particularly our cabin stewards and main dining servers from Turkey. It is amazing to us the long hours the crew puts in and they always have a good disposition and ready to assist you.
The only things that we did not care much for was the entertainment and drinks. Entertainment was marginal. The comedy show was pretty good, but other than that was so-so. Now, the drinks were expensive and awful. All sugary mixes of the lowest quality. If you stick to beer, wine and basic mixed drinks, you should be fine.
Since we were local and no flight to catch, disembarkation was very long about three hours. We were actually the last ones to get off the ship! If you are not on a rush, just sit down, have a leisurely breakfast, talk to some of the friends that you met, liked and might never see again and chill. It is not like you are waiting on a line or anything like that. They even provided entertainment (a comedy show in the main theater) to kill some time.
Overall, to our surprise and delight, the Carnival Spirit was a great experience and particularly for the price. For families, this one is as good or better than Royal Caribbean. Enjoy, have fun and don't forget to write a review upon your return!