For my 23rd Cruise we took the Carnival Pride out of Long Beach to the Mexican Riviera with my wife (20th cruise) and granddaughter Marissa 11 (first cruise). I had cruised on the Carnival Festivale back in 1981 when they were just getting started.
We have cruised all over the world (Mediterranean, Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean, South Pacific, Southeast Asia) but usually in smaller ships. This was our first large ship. I have been cruising on and off for 30 years and at 64 I no longer hit the late night buffet and disco like I once did.
We were pleasantly surprised by the Pride as it is a great ship: fast, surprisingly not crowded, interesting decor, if a little garish in the artwork, and plenty of places to hide from the 2500+ passengers that were aboard.
We booked a basic balcony cabin and there was plenty of room for the three of us. There were storage areas in the room that we did not use. The beds were comfortable and the room was very quiet although we were right next to the elevator we never heard it.
For us embarkation was a breeze as we made sure we did not arrive until 3:00 and between check in and boarding it took 15 minutes. Since we carry on all our clothes (never pack more than you can carry) we had everything put away in another 15 minutes & caught a late lunch in the Lido.
We used the pool in the late afternoon and no one was in the adult pool, the one at the far aft of the ship, and we had it mostly to ourselves as most who tried it thought the water was too cold. As we moved south the water warmed up considerably and was too warm in Puerta Vallarta and Mazatlan. The other two pools were dominated by the more than 500 kids on the cruise and my wife and I kept the kids from using the adult pool that first day and the word got out and they usually stayed away for the rest of the cruise. We got some dirty looks from some of their parents but stuck to our guns. This adult pool is the smallest of the three pools and has the smallest jacuzzi but is kid free.
Marissa enrolled in Camp Carnival and was excited about it. She went to a mixer and later T-shirt decorating that first full day at sea but quickly abandoned it when she met two other girls 12 & 13 whom she palled around with the rest of the cruise. The problem with Camp Carnival is that it puts 9-11 boys and girls together and there is no way an 11 year old girl is on par developmentally with an 11 year old boy let alone 9 year olds. As she has a 10 year old brother this was the kind of thing she was trying to escape. With her new pals they spent much of their time in the Starry Night nighclub doing Karaoke. She even cancelled the late night sleepover which we had signed her up for.
As for the ship we felt the food was generally quite good. The four stations in the Lido (Carnival ha s a different name for it) were Asian, Deli, usually an international, & American which had the roast pork, lamb, turkey, beef, ham etc. and was the best lunch food. Dinner in the dining room was usually quite good and we were not disappointed in the entrees. The starters could have been more imaginative and the cream soups were just so-so but the other dishes were fine.
The shows after dinner were hit and miss. The world show by the singers and dancers the captain's cocktail night (1st formal night) was terrific. Great energy and song selection. The comedians were OK but nothing special except the ventriloquist with his dummy Hanky-Panky who was terrific. We had seen him before but still enjoyed the show. We were looking forward to the second show by the singers and dancers but it was so bad we were driven out half way through—too loud, poor choice of songs, and just a weak performance. The last night Legends show of passengers doing Karaoke was also bad with only two of eight performers being any good.
As for service it was friendly and adequate. Since cruise ships adopted the automatic tipping policy service has suffered on all of them, not just Carnival. When you used to do your own tipping there was nothing more pleasurable than giving the staff those brown envelopes. I always tipped more than the $10 a day minimum but now I do not because the service on all the lines is not what it used to be.
As for the ports we were not really excited about them so we booked excursions on line in all of them. Los Veranos canopy tours in Puerta Vallarta, Randi's Happy Horses in Mazatlan, and swim with the dolphins in Cabo San Lucas. All three excursions were terrific and we highly recommend that anyone going on the Pride book the same three. Thanks to Cruise Critic for the recommendations
Debarkation was not quite as smooth as embarkation as there was a line although we carried off are bags and it all took about 20 minutes. As we live in San Clemente an hour from Long Beach we were home by 10:00 after leaving the ship at 8:20. We will cruise the Pride again.