This was my third cruise and 2nd time sailing with Carnival. The Pride is a glorious ship, majestic, fast, sleek and smoooooooooth! We left from Baltimore, embarkment was a little crowded, as expected, but the lines moved quickly and within half an hour we were on board.
Your first impression is of the 2nd floor atrium which soars 8 stories high, shiny glass elevators move up and down one wall, beautiful renaissance artwork adorns the walls. (some people find this "tacky", showing "boobies" and nudity on every floor, but get a grip people, it's not porn, just beautiful artwork).
We had an extended balcony room which was spacious, clean, and bright. Originally we booked 4 people for this room but decided to move the kiddos into their own cabin and I'm very happy that we did, 4 people would have been a little too crowded, especially when getting ready for dinners and using the bathroom and shower.Our cabin steward, Bernie, was awesome, he always greeted us by our first names (how on earth does he remember all the names??) and he always had a smile on his face. Our room was always clean and had fresh linens and towels every day. He even tucked our toilet paper under, making a "V". It's those little details. We had a new towel animal on our bed everynight, the bed was turned down, the lights dimmed and the curtains were drawn for us by the time we returned from dinner every single night. These guys work hard all day long, 7 days a week, make sure you leave a great tip for him when you leave!
The food was excellent, we never complained about any of it, and believe me, we tried it all. The Chocolate Melting cake is Carnival's signature dessert, so be sure to try that at least once. Their corn bread muffins were the best thing I had ever eaten! I know, weird, right? They are corn muffins with a warm, creamy, cheesy, corny center, topped with more of that creamy cheese stuff and a garnish of thinly sliced fried onion. Heavenly!
The ship was easy to get around. We never felt like we were among 2300 other people, it was spacious, roomy, and not crowded at all. We never had to wait in line for anything (except once, at the NY Deli for a corned beef and pastrami sandwich, totally worth the 5 minute wait!) I had been on the Carnival Glory 2 years ago and it was like walking through a maze. It would lead to a dead end, you'd have to go up 2 floors and then back down one just to find the main theater. But the Pride was well designed to get around without getting lost. It was easy to find the casino, shops, restaurants, bars, etc. We never felt crowded, not once. The entire 10th floor has a walk around deck for those who like your morning walks or jogs. I took advantage every morning at sunrise to walk a few laps so that I could burn some extra calories that I knew I would be eating that night! I actually lost 3 lbs. on this cruise!
ok, the ports of call. Grand Turk is beautiful, after 3 days at sea (a smidge too long for me) we were all looking forward to getting our feet in the sand. Carnival has a private beach area with plenty of lounge chairs, plenty of shaded palm trees, crystal clear blue water to swim in and right behind the beach was the Flow Rider water attraction, lazy river and pool area, again with plenty of loungers and seating for everyone. Margaritaville was also right there for food, drinks, and music.
Half Moon Cay was stunningly beautiful! By far the best beach I had ever been to. We did the horseback by land and sea excursion and it was the highlight of our trip. The horses are well trained, gentle, healthy and happy. The ranch hands were experts at what they do, they hand picked horses based on our size, gender, experience and fear factor. The horses sensed our apprehension, but after 5 minutes, we got to know each other and from then on, we were BFFs! The tour was supposed to last just an hour and a half, but we were out there for just about 2 hours. The trail ride was great, they line you up, show you how to use the reins, walk around the corral a few times then we were led by 4 guides through the sand trails and up to the highest point of the island where we saw our ship anchored out. Then back down the hill and onto the beach, where at this point, they switch out the horses who are the "swimmers", you put on a life preserver belt and mount a fresh horse and are led back to the beach and into the water and with one signal, the guide set the horses into a full gallop through the water, which was so refreshing after the hot walk. My favorite part of the cruise by far, book this excursion!
And then there was Freeport, Bahamas. Why they brought us to this place is beyond me. l know Carnival has an agreement with this place, but seriously, it's just an industrial port, full of salt mining silos, oil refineries, cargo shipping docks with constant loud construction noises. It smelled like burnt oil. You dock right next to the shopping "district", which is just touristy overpriced cheap trinkets. I did buy a pretty sundress from a guy who offered me a discount with me even asking. But some of the other vendors were downright rude. I asked one woman if she could bundle 3 items with a teeny discounted price and you would have thought I asked her to hand over her first born child! She looked at me with contempt and hate and I just put her crap down and said "well, alrighty then" and gave my business to somebody else. Most of these vendors are willing to negotiate, most of them are friendly and courteous and are out there in the hot sun trying to make a living. But $12 for a shot glass when the guy next to you is selling them for $3? Don't get mad at me!
The service staff was incredible! Our head waiter, Sonny, was funny, charming, accomodating and he, like Bernie our room steward, remembered all 4 of our names and greeted us by name every time we saw him, even in other areas of the ship. He was amazing. My husband couldn't decide between 2 entrees so Sonny brought him one of each! From then on, my son and my husband both ordered 2 entrees every night, just so they could try everything. if you wanted 2 or 3 or even 5 lobster tails, you just have to ask!
Overall, this was an excellent vacation, the best, by far! The waters were smooth the entire way there and the entire way back. No rocking or rolling, no rough seas, no swaying. Just slight rumbling in the Normandie restaurant which is located in the back of the ship over the engines and a little vibration at night when laying still, but other than that, a perfectly smooth ride the entire time!
I highly recommend getting a balcony room, it makes all the difference and adds extra living space to your room. We spent our mornings and evenings out there and will never go back to a regular cabin. A balcony is the way to go!
Freeport. Meh. Not sure why Carnival still brings us to this dump port when there are so many other places in the Bahamas to see and a few other ports to choose from.
It's industrialized, loud, dirty, smelly and unattractive. Unless you get a cab and drive 45 minutes to the other side of the island for shopping (and I think there might be a casino?), it's not worth your time, you're only there for 6 hours. It takes just 1 hour to see all the little overpriced shops set up right outside the port docking aread but then you should just get back on the ship and enjoy the pool. This is, however, your last chance to buy last minute souvenirs and trinkets. These shops know this and their prices are outrageous, especially the shops located in the buildings. The outside vendors were a little more willing to negotiate and in fact, offered to discount the prices if they saw you start to walk away. I bought a lovely sundress from a very friendly man for $18, marked down from $30. And it was all his idea. I tried to negotiate with 2 other vendors but they wouldn't budge.
Yes, there's a burger joint/bar, but you can save your money and get it on the ship. Some of the local vendors were just downright rude. Most were friendly and were eager to sell you their trinkets, even at a discounted price, but not all were that way. I asked one vendor to discount a shot glass I had seen a few shops down for less than half her price, but she snarled at me and told me no, so I put it down and went back to the other place and let her watch me buy it from the other vendor. She gave me the evil eye as I walked back past her to get back to the ship. So much for friendly native islanders!
This was the highlight of our trip, the ranch staff was friendly, courteous and helpful. They hand picked the horses for you based on your size, gender, experience and fear-factor. The horses were well cared for and very gentle. The trail ride was fun (but expect to wear a helmet) and we were in the sun the whole time (wear a t-shirt and/or lots of sunscreen!)
The best part was swapping out our trail horses for the "swimmers" and then being led by our guide to the beach and into the water until the horses were shoulder deep in water, then he signaled the horses into a gallop through the refreshingly cool water, we were splashing and running and laughing and hanging on for dear life, but it was the MOST fun ever! DO THIS EXCURSION!
The semi-sub expedition was way cool! We were lucky enough to see stingrays, sea turtles, barracuda and other beautiful tropical fish. Our captain, (Marky? Mikey?) was funny and entertaining and he even surprised us by coming up from the bottom of the boat in his scuba gear so we could watch him feed a school of fish from our port hole windows!
Most beautiful beach! Crystal clear water, cool, yet warmed up really fast once you were in it. The sand was white, clean, and super soft. This island is owned by Carnival Cruise Lines and is as well maintained and as clean as the ship. The service was amazing, same as what you have on the ship. The afternoon bbq on the beach was amazing! Fresh fruits and vegetables, burgers, hot dogs, jerk chicken, salads, and all the iced tea or lemonade you could drink. Did I mention they had awesome desserts as well?
Beautiful walking trails, beautiful outbuildings, bars, restaurants, and a nice little water park for the little ones. The Pirates Cove bar was lively and entertaining and they held contests all afternoon. The beach was spread out enough where you didn't feel like you were sitting on top of each other. Further down the beach was the horseback riding excursion (which I highly recommend, it was the highlight of our trip!) so you could see the horses from where we sat on the beach. Oh, and get one of the clam shell sun umbrellas for just $20, it's really the only thing that protects you from the sun unless you are lucky enough to snag one of the few shady tree areas. I've been on 3 cruises and Half Moon Cay is my favorite port of call of all time!