Our family (husband, 8-year-old boy, 13-year-old girl, and myself) all loved our very first cruise aboard the Carnival Pride. We drove to Baltimore, parked at a La Quinta in Glen Burnie (we stayed the night before and would not recommend their park and stay package as we waited much longer than promised to be picked up upon return), and set sail on a cold Sunday afternoon. As soon as we embarked into the ship's main area, I was impressed. The ship is grand, ornately decorated (although it would be better without the Renaissance nudes), and immaculate (sparkling clean everywhere on the ship, including our cabin).
Our Room: Our suite was higher-end quality than I'd expected (granite counter tops, high thread count sheets) but also smaller than expected. The four of us stayed in one room and it contained a lot of storage. The balcony was lovely. There's nothing like sitting out in the quiet of your own balcony, surrounded by the peace and deep blue beauty of the Atlantic Ocean. As for service, our friendly room steward, Luciano, oversaw that our room was clean and our concerns cared for. The few times that we needed to call him he answered the phone and responded immediately. Our cabin was cleaned twice a day.
The Food and Service: We ate most dinners in the Normandie restaurant. The breakfasts and some of the dinners were pretty good. Our server, Maria, worked hard to take excellent care of our group (we traveled with another family, making us a table of eight). Maria is really friendly and doted on us all, learned our names, and provided service that exceeded my expectations. Carnival certainly trains its staff to make its customers feel special. One night we ate at David's Steakhouse. It costs an extra $70 per couple. The improved food quality explains that cost. Service, again, was stellar and the food matched it. The Lido Deck, where the buffet food is located, provided good buffet food with a lot of variety and a pretty ocean-decor atmosphere. My children loved the 24-hour ice cream machine.
Ship and Activities: The ship itself, as mentioned, is beautiful in an ornate way.The whole ship feels luxurious. It also feels safe. There are several small pools, which are nice when the weather is warm enough to use them. A running/walking track wraps around one of the top decks (10th maybe). Walking a few miles is a great option when you're eating cruise food! The Pride has an area called Serenity, which is for the over-21 crowd. It's lovely but was really crowded with college kids on spring break. I personally think Serenity should be for the over-35 crowd -- those of us (especially with kids!) who really need a break. We found it hard to find lounge chairs to relax there. Our youngest did not go to Camp Carnival and our eldest tried the one for her age group and wasn't interested.
Entertainment: We went to several of the family-friendly comedians and really enjoyed them. We weren't interested in the adult-only shows. One night we went to a dancing/singing show. The dancers certainly worked hard. One afternoon we went to a tea and enjoyed that. My friend and I also attended a cooking demonstration, complete with samples, at David's. Yum.
Cons: Carnivals excursions are outrageously expensive. For the four of us to spend a day at Universal Studios cost almost $700 dollars. That is gouging. Also, Carnival does seem to always be trying to make more money, to sell you more -- photos, jewelry, etc. As mentioned, some of the paintings could be more modest. (My eight-year-old asked why there were so many naked pictures on the walls.) The dinner in the Normandie restaurant was like wedding food (my husband's description). Some meals were pretty good and some lackluster. It must be difficult to cook for so many all at once though.
Overall, we were pleased and would recommend the ship.
Paradise Island is stunningly beautiful. The cab ride to Atlantis was a bit of an adventure. It reminded me that we were not in America anymore. Atlantis has fun rides and rivers but is somewhat disorganized and overcrowded. They ran out of lockers and it was initially difficult to find tubes. The beach at Atlantis was the most beautiful I've ever been to. It cost our family about $500 to spend half a day at this excursion.
Universal Studios is great and I'd go there again. Having a Carnival bus take us there and back was very convenient. The only downside was the extremely high cost of this excursion.