The demographics first: Family of 4 with 2 boys, 10 and 11 Multiple time cruisers on Celebrity, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and now Carnival We stayed in an Ocean Suite, #6156 Late dining (8:15)
The Carnival Pride is a boat that is showing it's age more than a bit. This may have been in more stark relief for us than for most as our last cruise was on the Allure of the Seas (Royal Caribbean's newest and biggest ship) which is an astonishing vessel. The Carnival Pride, not so much.
I had read a lot of commentary on cruise critic about the Pride and it's decoration and have to side with the naysayers on this one. It's Italianate decor is dark and stuffy feeling...it makes the boat feel smaller than it is and just doesn't provide the 'fun' vibe that Carnival likes to promote. My boys thought it was weird to have half naked women paintings all over the boat as well (the faux frescoes were omnipresent).
Because it is an older and somewhat smaller (by today's standards anyway) ship, there just isn't as much to do on the Pride as there is on many of the newer ships. Outside activities are limited to pools and hot tubs, putt putt golf, basketball and ping pong. Inside activities pretty much casino and bar related...with the shows in the Taj Majal theatre and comedy club at night. There is a library, but it isn't useful for much other than checking your email. There was a video game arcade as well.
This was a winter-time cruise out of a northern port (baltimore)...which means less good weather on the sea days (we had snow on the first afternoon/evening on the cruise, cool weather on day 2 and brutal weather on day 6 on the way back). Obviously, Carnival can't control the weather. However, knowing sea day 1 and sea day 3 (on the way back) are going to be in cool climate (i.e. no pool/outside activities) , they really should make a much bigger effort at providing stuff to do on the ship. Sea day 1 and sea day 3 were both really boring and Carnival doesn't do much to help. Sorry, but I don't consider casino time and more Parc West art auctions and 'buy 4 crappy pieces of fake jewelry and get your 5th free!' sales to be activites. I mean, show a movie or 2 in the Taj Majal theatre! Host a bridge tournament in the card room. Do something.
We've always liked sea days as much or more than port days on all previous cruises...not so on this one. "Get me off this boat" was a common refrain.
We had a Ocean Suite and it was pretty darn nice. It had 2 large closets, a make-up space outside of the bathroom that was super useful for my wife, 2 sinks in the bathroom and a jetted tub/shower combo. The 2 twin beds pulled together made up a 'king' (more likely a queen) for my wife and I and a convertible sofa and ceiling drop down bed with ladder for the boys. The main bed was reasonably comfortable and the kids beds were somewhat less so (both boys complaining by the end of the cruise...which is pretty unusual for them). The balcony was quite large and nice to have.
The added 100 sq. ft. or so (over a standard balcony) was well worth the added $ in my opinion to have adequate storage and move around space for a family of 4 in one room.
The suite came with priority boarding, which was a life saver as we were whisked into the heated building in Baltimore and boarded in 15 minutes while the bulk of the passengers had to stand outside for as much as an hour in line in the snow...not exactly the way you would want to start your cruise. No priority for disembarkation, however.
First time booking a suite of any nature for us and I would do it again.
Overall, I would give the dining a 3 star (out of 6) on the Carnival Pride. The Good: The main dining room experience was good. The food was pretty good (some not so good, some very good...as you might expect) and the service was good. Neither (food nor service) was great but it was worth going and the staff tried hard and was entertaining in the singing/dancing and such that make cruise dining rooms fun.
Unfortunately, on the Pride you are either eating in the dining room or you are eating in the Mermaid cafe on the pool deck. That's it. Nothing else. The food in the mermaid is not very good. Typical big deep bins full of cruddy buffet food (burgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers, fries, etc for lunch/dinner and eggs, bacon, pancakes, etc for breakfast). Each day there was a 'chefs special' at one of the stations (i.e. caribbean food, asian food) but otherwise the food was the exact same every single day. There is a salad bar and also a pizza station in the mermaid. The mermaid was also closed a remarkable amount of the time for a cruise. We didn't really care much and didn't eat there much except for breakfast but I've never been on a cruise before where you couldn't pop into a buffet a 3o'clock in the afternoon or 10:30pm and get a nice variety of things to nibble on...you pretty much get pizza on the pride.
Room service: There is room service 24/7. Unfortunately, you have your choice of a dozen hot or cold sandwiches served with potato chips, a salad or two and that's it. You can't get a burger, a hot dog, a pizza or even french fries in your room. Hope you like lays potato chips. Weird. There is continental breakfast only that you must order the night before with the little door hanging menu that you check off...like a hotel, consisting of dry cereal in little boxes, some muffins/pastries (that are dry and not good), yogurt and coffee/tea/milk. Again, that's it. No eggs, no toast, no bacon or sausage, nothing else. Weird.
We've been on a number of cruises and this is the only time I intentionally ate while off the boat so we didn't have to eat while on.
Mostly weak. We saw 4 comedians, 2 were good 2 were not. Both of the 'family' shows were weak (hard to do comedy without cussing and talking about sexual content I guess). We saw "Delisco" in the Taj Majal and his singing/dancing act was pretty darn good. We saw part of the singing/dancing variety show and it was not.
The 2 gentlemen who sang in the main level 2 lobby bar/lounge during the day/evening were both not very good (to the point of wanting to leave to get away from them).
The poolside entertainment consists entirely of a couple of DJ's. First time I've even been on a cruise where the cruise director wasn't leading activities at the pool on the one sea day we had where you could actually be out by the pool when the weather was good. No live band, no steel drums, no caribbean vibe, just canned dance music mixed with some country by a DJ who didn't even talk or mix the music...just turned on his iMac and let it run.
Here is where I'm going to get really grumpy. I almost didn't book this cruise because of the lack of positive vibes from the cruise critic site around the kids club. In the end, it was worse than I'd feared.
My kids LOVED the kids club on every single boat we've ever been on...except this one. And guess what Carnival? The main reason we choose to go on cruise vacations is because kids club provides a whole bunch of quality fun that the kids love...and quality time together for Mom and Dad while the kids are at kids club...which Dad loves :-)
Kids club in the Pride? I would laugh except that I still want to cry. The facilities are a pitiful afterthought in the front of the ship on deck 5. The entire room for kids 6-11 might be 400 square feet, it is tired and old and has absolutely nothing in it that would entertain my kids...who are pretty easy to entertain. A bunch of toys for little kids (blocks, stacking cups, finger paints and drawing area) and a play station 3. Seriously?
Worse yet, the kids club staff were disinterested teenage girls who 'told us to go play and then spent all their time on their computers' according to my kids after day 1.
The only day they would go to kids club.
Hey carnival, let me fill you in on a simple formula that all of the other cruise companies seem to know. Provide a couple of young (english speaking please) girls and guys who actually LIKE KIDS and give them some age appropriate things to do with the kids. Have your 'camp counselors' actually lead activities adn interact with the kids. Don't expect 11 year old boys to do finger painting with 6 year old girls. Don't expect any kid to sit around for 3 hours in a room doing next to nothing.
I get that carnival is the 'Fun Ship' that caters to younger folks, singles, whatever. However, I didn't see a whole lot of 'Fun Ship' singles on this cruise but I did see quite a lot of bored kids hanging out in the stairwells at night. Pitiful.
You don't have to be Disney, Carnival, but could you at least be Royal Caribbean or Norwegian when it comes to offering kids activities?
Here is where the Carnival really falls down compared to all other cruises we've been on. The service on the Pride was not good. In fact, it was shockingly bad. The staff was generally more surly than friendly. It was notable to both my wife and I the few times we got good service or service with a smile. Even people that we were buying things from (i.e. jewelry) were generally pissed off. Also, the language barrier was the worst on any ship I've been on before. The staff were a mix of, mostly, indonesian, phillipino and eastern european and many of them had really poor english skills. In some positions on the ship that is no problem, but in areas where customer interaction and conversation are necessary it would be nice if the staff could communicate more effectively.
Our cabin steward was good enough, but not great and didn't speak english almost at all. In a suite, where you expect to be able to ask a favor or two of your steward, it is pretty frustrating when you can't.
Port Canaveral: We rented a car and shot over to Universal Studios islands of adventure to see the Harry Potter exhibit thing. It was very cool (we are all harry potter fans) and the theme park was almost deserted and really fun. I guess a tuesday in february is a good day to visit orlando theme parks.
Nassau: We went to Atlantis and spent the day on the water slides and at the lovely beach. Atlantis is awesome! I wish we had longer to spend there. FYI, we booked the cheapest room they had and it was cheaper than a day excursion from Carnival by $300 and cheaper even than just booking 4 day passes directly from the atlantis resort. Plus, we were able to hit the room and shower/clean up before heading back to the ship which was a huge bonus. I hate having to get in a cab with a bunch of beach crap and sand in my shorts to travel back to the boat. No such problem this way. Saw that tip on trip advisor and would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone considering going to atlantis for the day.
Freeport: We did the Segway excursion with Carnival and it was really fun. Riding (driving?) segways is super fun and we all had a blast. It's a short shore day (only 5 hours) so the segway excursion was just what the doctor ordered.
My concerns (and to some extent pre-conceived notions) about Carnival were mostly borne out on this cruise. I would suggest that it is the right place for college kids and people who are mostly interested in getting something cheap. But be careful, while the up front cost of the cruise was cheap, Carnival charges for a lot of things that other cruise lines do not and I suspect that it probably isn't much cheaper in the long run to choose Carnival.
The food was not good, the service was not good, the entertainment/activities were not great and the kids club was a joke.
Last time for us on Carnival.