My 20-something daughter and I decided to try the Mexican Riviera for our annual 'girls cruise'. We've both been on several cruises...sailing on Carnival, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean in the past. We chose the Carnival Pride because of the reviews we had read on Cruise Critic and because we have enjoyed sailing on Carnival in the past.
The Flight: We flew into Long Beach Airport (LGB) from Phoenix. When we landed we realized just how small this airport was. It reminded me of the airport in the t.v. show 'Wings'. We landed and walked down a ramp onto the tarmac and then walked into a building that appeared to be a portable. We continued back outside to the luggage claim area, which consists of one belt. It had been raining that day so our luggage got pretty dirty, but it arrived in one piece so we were happy. There were no fancy shops or restaurants at the airport, but it did the job. We had to walk just a little ways to get a taxi, but they were lined up and we were on our way to our hotel in no time. It took us about 20 minutes to get there on a Saturday around noon. Taxi from the Long Beach Airport to the Hyatt was a set rate of $21 (plus tip).
The Hotel: We stayed at the Hyatt in Long Beach for one night prior to sailing. The hotel is very close to the port and there are restaurants and shopping across the street. A short walk in the opposite direction took us to more shopping and dining options. The hotel is very nice and the staff was friendly. We had a room on the 12th floor, overlooking the harbor and port. We watched the Pride arrive Sunday morning around 6:30 a.m. and got some nice photos. Checkout was a breeze and there were taxis available outside whenever we needed them.
The Cruise: We got up Sunday morning and headed over to the port around 10:00 am for early check in at the Queen Mary. This went smoothly and the man checking us in was very professional, but fun. After checking in we headed over to the dome to stand in line. It started to sprinkle, so we moved under the awnings. We were allowed into the building around noon and had a short wait inside before we had our embarkation photos taken and then we were on the ship!
Muster drill was quick and we met some very nice people there that we ended up talking to throughout the entire cruise. There were some complainers but when nobody agreed with them or paid them any attention, they stopped fairly quickly and just stood there. We started sailing out of Long Beach as we were finishing up Muster Drill and were on our way.
We had all three pieces of our luggage delivered by about 7 p.m. We had the late seating for dinner so we were able to freshen up and change before dinner. There was an extremely long line to get into the dining room so we went to the atrium bar, got a drink and waited for the line to go down. We were shown to our table quickly but we were a little disappointed to see that we had been assigned a table for 4. We were sailing with friends, so it was nice to eat with them each night, but we really enjoy meeting people on cruises and all of us had hoped for a larger table. On the flip side, we never had to wait for anyone and we got more personalized service, so it worked out well in the end.
Note: We had new carpet in our cabin. It was very nice and had a little cushion to it when we walked on it. There was a slight new carpet smell and there were little pieces of carpet lint scattered here and there throughout the cabin. Our friends had an 8I cabin and they had old carpet, so not all cabins received new carpet in dry dock.
Our first day at sea was chilly, but it wasn't too bad. We were able to lay out and get some color. An occasional cold wind would hit us but then the sun warmed us right up. The second sea day was much better and it was more difficult to find an open chair. Chair savers were there, but not as bad as I've experienced in the past. Drink service was available, but not as often as I would have liked. It wasn't a big deal though, as I just got up and went over to the bar for my drinks. As we passed by Cabo on our way to Puerto Vallarta, a lot of people were able to get pictures of whales and dolphins swimming alongside the ship. One whale was very close to the ship. That was pretty neat to see.
David's Supper Club was very nice. We had dinner here on Tuesday night. I ordered the surf & turf and my daughter ordered the filet mignon. We both felt that the filet mignon tasted burnt and tough. We missed the tenderness that's most commonly associated with filet mignon. The lobster was good, but I prefer Australian lobster so I didn't finish mine. The presentation during our dining experience was elaborate and the staff was there to do anything we asked (and sometimes didn't ask). The pianist and the singer were both excellent, adding to the already impressive atmosphere. We were given a few 'compliments of the chef' plates during our time at David's as well. Some were excellent and some were just ok. We chose not to order dessert but were given a small sampling of chocolates anyway, which were delicious! I'm not a fan of white chocolate, but I thoroughly enjoyed the white chocolate that we were given. It just melted on my tongue. At the end of our meal, the chef stopped by our table to see how we had enjoyed our meal. A nice touch...and a very nice man.
Puerto Vallarta was a nice long stop. I woke up and went up on deck to take some photos and saw the Holland Oosterdam docked right next to us. She's a beautiful ship! We got off the ship at about 8:45 and met up with our Dolphin Swim group by the large parrot cage. We had a short drive (about 20 minutes) to Vallarta Adventures and swam with the dolphins. That was a GREAT experience…one I think everyone should do at some point in their life. After we finished with that we went back to the ship to change and clean up a bit then we got off and walked out of the pier area to catch a yellow taxi. We wanted to go over to the flea market and then to the boardwalk. We found the nicest taxi driver who took us over there for $6 (total). Along the way he pointed out sites and told us some history of the city. He had us laughing the entire way and definitely earned himself a hefty tip. The flea market was very small and had a lot of the same things in each shop. We couldn't help but laugh at the different lines each shop owner would say to us to try to get our business. Our favorite was "You like this? It's almost free". We found a few things to buy and had a lot of fun bargaining with them. We learned quickly that they'll drop the price way down if you act uninterested and walk out of their store. We had a few shop owners follow us offering lower prices than we were even willing to pay. That was funny…and nice!
After leaving the flea market we CAREFULLY crossed the road and went over to the boardwalk. It was beautiful and we could see both ships off to our right in the distance. We were able to capture a lot of great photos and talked to a lot of locals. We found that the people here, as well as in each of our three stops, were SO friendly! We started walking down the boardwalk and found Senor Frogs. We couldn't help ourselves…we had to go in for a drink and some appetizers. In typical Senor Frogs fashion…it was a blast inside! We were met with a crazy (in a fun way) man that made us balloon hats and everyone inside was having fun. We met up with a large group of friends that we had met onboard and stayed until about 6 or 6:30. We were able to get a van taxi back for $3 a head. Since there were 12 of us, we were happy to all be together so we tipped accordingly. Our driver was fun and taught us a few Spanish words and phrases. When we got back to the ship, it was through security again and up to our cabins to get ready for dinner.
Just a note, security was very tight in Puerto Vallarta. They searched every bag both getting off the ship and getting back on. We were also wanded. They're very friendly about it, but they take it seriously so it's advisable that you take it seriously as well. Don't take food off the ship…they will confiscate it and they won't be too happy. We saw some people getting caught removing food and they were pulled aside. We didn't stick around to see what happened, but we were glad we weren't them.
Our next stop was Mazatlan. It was quite foggy as we pulled into port, which was great for photographs! The Pride arrived majestically, blowing her horn every 45 seconds or so to announce our arrival (and to warn other watercraft to get out of our way!). After taking some photos we were ready to go. We were going horseback riding with Randi's Happy Horses. We got off the ship as soon as possible and met up with Randi immediately. Randi took care of us from the moment we were with her until the moment she dropped us off back at the ship. This was probably one of our most favorite days! We saw so many things that we wouldn't have seen otherwise….as well as experienced things that we couldn't have imagined. We were paired up with horses that met our horseback riding ability and had a nice long ride through coconut groves and along the beach. It was nice and sunny for most of the ride but then the fog started rolling in. It was almost eerie…like a horror movie. The fog lifted fairly quickly though and by the time our ride was over and we were sitting at Victor's restaurant on the beach, it was nice and sunny again. The food at Victor's is amazing! We ordered the breaded shrimp, which was the freshest shrimp we've ever had…as well as some quesadillas and chips and salsa. As we were sitting there enjoying everyone's company and eating, a man walked up from the shore with a box. Inside was fish that he had caught for Victor's. It was pretty awesome to see the locals doing their thing so nonchalantly while we sat there wishing we could experience the same treatment (and fresh seafood) back in the states. After our meal Randi escorted us back to the ship where we were able to enjoy her company for awhile longer with a drink and some music.
Our final port was Cabo San Lucas. This is a tender port. We got up and grabbed a little breakfast before heading down to catch a tender at about 9. There was a short line, but it wasn't too bad. The tender ride over was smooth and we had a great view of the yachts docked in Cabo. When we got off the tender we headed over to our meeting spot for our Carnival excursion, only to find that they had left without us. After discussing our different options for a little while we decided to do our own thing and Carnival reluctantly gave us a refund on the portion of the excursion that we had missed. We ended up going to Mango Deck for the day and we were SO glad we did. We had an absolute blast! The employees at Mango Deck were extremely friendly and waited on us as if it were a 5 star resort. There was music and games and everyone seemed to be having fun. Mango Deck is right next door to The Office, and I noticed that throughout the day people were leaving that establishment to join us at Mango Deck. Probably because of the lively fun everyone was having. I wouldn't recommend taking children here, as it did get racy a few times. There are water sports right there (jet skis, parasailing, banana boat, etc) for nominal fees. My daughter and our friend took advantage of the parasailing. It was $35 each and they were out there for quite awhile. They were treated wonderfully and were able to get some amazing photographs. Our friend also rented a jet ski for an hour, I believe he paid $50. They only accepted cash for the parasailing but he was able to use a credit card for the jet ski rental. Sadly, our time was short in Cabo. The day was by far the most beautiful, weather wise. We gathered up our belongings and caught a water taxi back to the pier for $3 per person. We could have gotten a car for $30, but the water taxi was much more fun and a lot faster!
Our last sea day was very cold and pretty rough. We took advantage of inside activities and we did a lot of socializing our last day.
One of our favorite activities each night was the karaoke (Starry Night - Promenade). Sean and Melodie kept the crowd positive and there was always a wait to sing. Both hosts joined in and their rapport was entertaining to watch. There is bar service inside the lounge. They have the Legends tryouts in there during the week and my daughter was chosen to be Madonna. She was treated like a star by the karaoke hosts and by the Pride singers/dancers. If you've ever wanted to be in a Legends show, I highly recommend trying out. It was a great experience and a lot of fun.
If you're looking for a quiet place to relax, read a book or just watch the ocean go by...go to Sunset Garden (Atlantic - Forward). This was the most peaceful place on the ship and it's so pretty. Be sure to go at night as well, when they have it lit up.
Overall I'd say the quality of the food was a 4 out of 5. Most everything was cooked perfectly and if something wasn't right, it was corrected quickly. My daughter had no problem with her special requests in both the dining room and in the pizza bar. She asked for pepperoni pizza with no cheese and they were happy to make it. We only had to wait about 5-8 minutes. We both felt that there were a few times that dinner seemed to borderline more on 'fancy' than 'tasty' but there is an alternative menu that offered chicken and steak each night, among other things.
I let Ocean's Player's Club know that we were going to be onboard prior to sailing. Chocolate covered strawberries were waiting in our cabin for us & a photo coupon was delivered to us at our dinner table on the first night. That was a nice little surprise that we appreciated. We spent a good amount of time on the slots and at the craps table & roulette. We won a little and lost a little more, but we had fun so we didn't mind. The craps table (there is only one on this ship) was a lot of fun! On the last night there were 4 people playing that walked away with large sums of money. The roulette table was generous the last night as well.
We didn't take in any shows, except the Legends show the last night. That was a lot of fun, but since my daughter was Madonna in the show I probably enjoyed it a little more than others. Everyone did a great job and a lot of people commented on how much they enjoyed the show.
Although the majority of our cruise was a positive experience, there were a couple of things we wish had been better. We were not too impressed with our cabin steward. We went searching for him a few times to introduce ourselves but we could only find his assistant. We asked him to have our cabin steward stop by but he never did. We were given dirty towels twice, on a couple of days our cabin wasn't made up until around 3 in the afternoon and we only got fresh ice three times during the cruise. We weren't always left a Capers so we had to call room service to get a copy, as they weren't out by the purser's desk yet.
We felt, along with others that we spoke to, that the crew on the Pride didn't seem as friendly as we're used to on Carnival. It almost seemed like they went out of their way to avoid eye contact so they didn't have to talk to us. That didn't stop us from talking to them though, we still said hi….and they were quick to say hi back to us so maybe they were just tired and worn out.
On the last formal night my daughter was walking by the elevators near the atrium and she saw a 'wet floor' sign. She slowed down and walked very carefully, but proceeded to slip and fall anyway hitting the back of her head extremely hard on the marble tile. As she lay there on her back she saw two crew members point at the wet floor sign and then turn and walk away. A passenger that had been walking behind her picked her up and carried her over to a chair so she could gather her senses. While I didn't expect anyone from Carnival to do anything about it, I felt that it would have been nice if the crew members had helped her up and asked her if she was ok. Just another example of the disappointing customer service found onboard by some crew members.
Both my daughter and I had issues weeklong with our sail & sign card. We would keep them in our pockets, with nothing else in the same pocket, and they would randomly quit opening our cabin door. We'd have to go down to the purser's desk and get new ones. We got tired of being scolded for keeping them near a cell phone or a credit card. Even when we told them they weren't near anything they continued to scold us like small children, so we just kept quiet and let them ramble on. We still said thank you, with a smile, when they handed us another card as we knew we'd be back to get another one soon.
Overall our experience on the Pride was a very positive one. With the exception of a few small things, mentioned above, we had a great time. We will be sailing on Carnival again and we look forward to it! If you're booked on the Pride in the future, or if you're considering booking the Pride, feel comfortable in knowing it will be a positive experience. She's a beautiful ship! Happy sailing!