First, the good...... Embarkation in Long Beach's very nice facility went well, despite a long line that moved quickly. Registered and on board in 45 minutes. Complete your Fun Pass on the Carnival website to save time - you are put into an express lane!
The Pride is a very nice ship with all the newest bells and whistles. Very well kept and still has the "new" feeling. However, ship decor a bit on the dark, serious side, and a little too formal (an understatement), especially for the crowd the Pride attracts.
We had a category 8E, cabin 6262, balcony, aft of ship. We loved having semi-wrap around views from our position at the back of the ship. It was also much less windy than cabins on the sides of the ship. Vibrations are more noticeable when the ship is moving, though, but I did not mind given the other "perks" that came with this location.
Cabin decor very pleasing (Danish modern) with sufficient space. Nice spacious layout with seating area and adjustable height coffee table/dining table. Bathroom was surprisingly comfortable in size by ship standards. Large counter, plenty of storage shelves, decently sized shower with excellent hand held adjustable shower head. There is only 1 electrical plug in room which is inconvenient, though. Gym was the nicest I've seen on a ship. Multi-levels, very open, and state-of-the-art equipment. Casino slots pretty loose. Actually won several small jackpots and saw others winning as well. The design of the two lower public levels is good and makes traffic flow easily.
Dining room service professional and friendly (table 243 with Franky and Ahmet - thanks guys!). Cabin attendant Mayura was efficient and polite. Mayura was one of the few employees who always greeted us with a smile and pleasant small talk.
Enjoyed all the ports, each unique. Beach time (Zona Romantica - cab fare $4 per person) in Puerto Vallarta, shopping (Zona Dorada - "Gold Zone" - cab fare $10 per cab) in Mazatlan, and eating lunch in Cabo San Lucas (Margaritaville - great!).
Disembarkation was quick and painless. Off the ship and through customs by 9:30 a.m. (we were in the third group called to disembark). It also speeds you up a bit through customs if you have a passport, as they have set aside lanes for U.S. passport holders.
Now the bad......Lido deck food was truly awful and I'm not a picky eater. (I'm one of the few who enjoys airline food if that tells you anything!) The pizza everyone raves about was just OK, usually cold and tasteless. Only item I enjoyed one day was the made to order omelette. Hot dogs are bizarre tasting and gross!
Room service breakfast food order was wrong every day. Cloth napkins and silverware are scarce for some reason with room service orders. For two people we received one set 5 out of 6 days, even though it was correctly indicated on the order card each day that there were two people in the cabin. Bananas are hard to come by as well. Marsha, the phone rep for room service is snotty and rude. Be prepared for arguments in response to any correction requests. Most likely you will hear that they "are busy" as a reply. Aren't we all?
Staff is allowed to use Guest Spa facilities, including steam room and sauna, during normal hours, something I've never seen on the past eight cruises I've taken (this was my first time on Carnival). That would be OK except that several of the male staff members who were using the facilities were extremely loud, rude, and obnoxious. One of them poured some type of herbal oil on the floor of the steam room that made breathing difficult. These same staff members enjoyed stretching themselves out all over the benches in the steam and sauna rooms, and made no effort to make room for anyone else. They would also leave their uniforms and personal belongings spread out over the one bench in the changing room, instead of using lockers. How nice for them that they are able to enjoy these privileges at the expense of the paying guests!
Overall, I felt that the attitude of management in regard to staff issues is that staff is more important on the Pride than the paying guests. As I mentioned, just be prepared. Majority of staff on ship was unfriendly and even surly - smiles and "hellos" are rarely returned. I've always found the opposite to be the case on past cruises.
Now, the ugly...Taj Mahal, the show lounge, is the most hideous looking show lounge I've ever seen. An explosion of bad taste! If you have a headache or a hangover, I would suggest you avoid entering this room. If you don't have a headache, you most likely will after spending any time in this showroom! Sight lines poor, and the bench seating is stiff and uncomfortable by showroom standards.
Dining room food leaves much to be desired. Shoe leather textured ultra fatty prime rib, horrible fatty inedible leg of lamb, stale rolls, lackluster desserts. Only 2 meals out of 7 were decent, the lobster tails and the rack of lamb. (I didn't eat my meal on the final night as I will discuss below.) Jeans, T-shirts, and gym shoes are acceptable attire in the Dining room in the evening, including the two Formal nights. I honestly feel that is unacceptable and insulting to allow that type of attire on Formal Nights when most of the guests genuinely make the effort (not to mention incur costs) to dress accordingly.
I also feel that Carnival should note in their advertising that Formal Nights are optional, as I was always under the impression that in order to dine in the Dining room on Formal nights appropriate attire was required. Isn't that why they offer the alternative dining area for those folks who don't feel like dressing up on Formal Nights? The ugliest incident we experienced by far was with the Wine Steward, Vladmira. We were offered a complimentary bottle of wine in the Dining room by the Purser's Office on the last night of the cruise. We did not order the particular bottle of Merlot that was brought and served to us. (Note also that we purchased a bottle of wine the previous 6 nights in the Dining room, averaging $25 per night.)
Vladmira performed a nasty drama scene at our table about it not being the bottle we were to be given (apparently it wasn't the cheapest stuff they had) even after I offered to pay for it just to get her away from us. She ruined my appetite and ruined our last evening on ship. By the way, this particular bottle of wine retails on land for $10. On the ship they charge $24. Add to the fact that we spent over $3,000 on this cruise. Do the math and maybe you'll understand how infuriating our experience with Vladmira was that evening. Vladmira should reconsider her career working with the public. Carnival would be well advised to review her performance as well, and certainly consider additional training for Vladmira in how to work with paying guests (possibly even a mental health evaluation would be advisable as I believe Vladmira has some major control issues to work out).....
Finally, forget using the pools and spas as the kids take them over on the Pride. That includes the aft pool on the Lido deck designated Adults Only. Why doesn't Carnival enforce any of it's policies? And why not make the two main pools/spas Adults Only, and relegate the kids to the one aft pool? That way there would be more room for the Adults (who pay for the cruise) to enjoy the facilities, and the screaming kids would be out of earshot. The other suggestion to Carnival would be to please, please, please, lower the volume on the PA systems. I nearly jumped out of my skin every time an announcement was made! Same applies to the volume of the PA around the pool area during the usual dumb activities, like "Survivor" and the "Hairy Chest Contest" (yuck, yuck, yuck). My eardrums couldn't take the MC's horrendously loud screeching over the mic. The band was much to loud (not to mention boring) as well. So much for relaxing around the pool on this ship!
Still we managed to have a good time despite all of the stupid and unnecessary irritations, but never again will I sail on Carnival. I knew going into this one that Carnival is the bargain basement cruise line, but I was hoping it wouldn't be as chintzy an experience as it was, particularly the food. I'll stick with NCL, Celebrity, and Royal Caribbean for my future cruises, all lines with which we have had excellent experiences (for not that much of a price difference!) and none of these aggravations.
If you're a first time cruiser with no experience on a ship, you most likely will enjoy the Pride. Likewise, if you're bringing your kids, and want to let them go hog wild on a ship not feeling as if you need to supervise them one moment, this is your dream come true! Kids rule on the Pride, even during a school period (mid-January).
Overall, I'd say that this is a cruise for those with very low or no expectations of quality, who just want to get drunk, party hearty, and act like a slob. If that's your idea of a dream trip, you've found your ship. If that's not what you're looking for in a cruise vacation experience, be warned!