This was my 6th cruise, all pretty spread out over a lot of time. But I did cruise on the Princess line Grand Princess ship to the Caribbean just this past Christmas. With me on that trip were my immediate family, plus my parents and extended family. It is easiest to compare that cruise to this one with Carnival as they were just 6 months apart.
My parents love to travel by cruise ship, and this was their 20th cruise (although first with Carnival... it was my first trip with Carnival as well.) We took Carnival largely on a travel agent's advice, an agent that my folks have used for years.
I wish I could say this was a great trip (to celebrate two sets of wedding anniversaries) but it fell short of our expectations in too many areas.
Embarkation at Long Beach went very well. No complaints here!
The first disappointment was our stateroom. After reading over and over that Carnival is known for their spacious cabins ours was obviously smaller than a similar cabin we had on the Grand Princess. That one was a mini-suite with balcony, and Princess lists the size as approximately 323 square feet. It had two twin beds that made up into a queen, a sofa that makes into a bed for a child, two televisions, a bath with a tub, and a walk-in closet. The Pride cabin had two twin beds that make into a queen, a sofa that makes a child's bed, but only a much smaller bathroom with shower and a "closet area." Both balconies were about the same size, but the actual square footage of the Pride cabin was clearly much smaller than the Princess cabin. After spending 7 days trying to maneuver around two others in your room the increased size of the Princess cabin is really appreciated. Those traveling Carnival should be aware the cabins might be bigger on other cruise ships.
Service from most crew members was good to outstanding on the Carnival cruise, with a few rude attitudes during the week. Our waiters at our evening meal in the Normandie Dining Room were simply outstanding! Food was average but enjoyable. Our room steward also did a great job all week long, but was difficult to understand.
The accents of the largely Indonesian crew of the Pride was a source of difficulty all week long. They were usually very helpful, but communication was almost always difficult to impossible.
My seven year old daughter participated in the Camp Carnival events all week, but did not enjoy them nearly as much as those provided on the Grand Princess. On that ship she made several good girl friends to play with and often did not want to leave when we came to pick her up. That was not the case this last week on the Pride (not Carnival's fault that she didn't bond with any children on this trip) and she was usually happy to see us when we came around. She reported that some children were pretty unruly and that the "teachers" (her word) were often too hard to understand with their accents.
Ports were fine, and as nice or interesting as any of the Caribbean ports I have visited. I am one who is more interested in the ship I am on than the places we are visiting.
One thing Princess did was to provide hand pumps of antiseptic lotion around all of the dining areas, and I feel that was very helpful in preventing germs from being passed around. We missed those on the Pride this past week, although we did not get sick. I guess it is a "peace of mind" thing with me.
The Mermaid Grill was pretty good all week, although it was often difficult to maneuver around by the way the Pride has organized the stations. Princess had a simpler "follow the line" set up that made things easier.
My wife and I ate in the David's Supper Club one evening and it was very good, and I recommend it.
Guests were interesting on this cruise. It was not what I call a rowdy cruise, and that pleased me. There were lots of families, and we were told there were 900 children on board. For the time of year that made sense. There were not nearly so many older cruisers the same age as my parents. I'd say the average age was in the late 30's or early 40's. A few "family reunion" groups were on board. Many international guests were on board, I'd say the majority from the Middle East. I've never seen so many tattoos in my life (except at the fair) but I'd say that many U.S. guests were from California and, perhaps, there is a greater concentration of tattooed folks in California? I don't know.
Leaving the ship was hands-down the best organized experience of any cruise I have taken! From meeting in the Taj Mahal theater with other early flight folks to sitting on our bus, ready to travel to LAX took less than 30 minutes! Outstanding!!!
I've learned many good tips from this website, among them taking a power strip for the room (to recharge multiple items), using a hanging dopp kit (the doors on the Pride bathrooms had knobby coat hooks, so you need a hanging dopp kit with a hook and not a small ring) and using bungee cords to strap down swimsuits to dry on the balcony furniture.
I had cell phone service (with Sprint) on board the Pride, with roaming fees applied. I left it turned off for that reason, except to check for messages once a day.
At this time, I'd say we would not be repeat cruisers with Carnival. There are just so many great choices in cruise lines, and my experiences with Princess, Royal Caribbean and Disney all exceeded this past week spent with Carnival.