I'll admit it. I have a huge chip on my shoulder when it comes to Carnival as a cruise line and I think it goes back to Kathy Lee Gifford singing "if your friends could see you now." I always go cruising so my friends CAN'T see me and have nothing to prove about income, status or the way I choose to enjoy a vacation. Carnival had always fostered an ad campaign of "the Fun Ships" and I had always avoided them because I wasn't going to be forced to have fun. I also felt that Carnival was a notch below other mass market cruise lines and perhaps too glitzy and conspicuous for my tastes.
But you know what? For a guy who wanted to have his suspicions confirmed and find fault with Carnival I was impressed. I have a five-year-old and this wound up being our third cruise on Carnival. He loved the kid's activities, there was a great blend of family and adult entertainment and plenty of wonderful menu choices for kids. The dining options were good, I had no complaints about the availability or quality of food. The sandwich bar, sushi and non-stop pizza were nice additions. Carnival offers a great product, impeccable ships and service and it's impossible for me to criticize anything about their cruise experience given their extremely reasonable prices.
If you're traveling with kids you'll be hard-pressed to find equally-modern ships that offer as many kid-friendly amenities across the fleet specifically things like waterslides and on the Carnival Pride, mini-golf.
Another huge plus on this ship was very short lines at the Purser's Desk. If you'll check out my December 2007 review of the Costa Mediterranea you'll see I was critical of the constant long lines at the Purser's desk on that ship, something not experienced on the Carnival Pride.
The Pride is a carbon copy of the Costa Atlantica, Costa Mediterranea, the Carnival Liberty and probably a bunch of other cruise ships. The only difference is the interior decoration. These are extremely well-designed cruise ships. You can get from the back of the ship to the front of the ship on every deck without having to go up or down. That's a huge plus!
My single biggest complaint about this cruise experience was the lengthy check-in lines at Long Beach. It seemed ridiculous that it took 1 hour and 45 minutes from the time we got out of the cab until the time we made it into our cabins. That just seems absurd. We had also filled out all of our documentation online, including the "FunPass," hoping to speed through check-in, but it didn't matter. Still had to wait in the long line.
On embarkation day here's a tip. At Long Beach passengers will arrive right at mid-ship which means everyone is waiting for the first elevators they see, and a few of them were out of commission for transporting baggage. Figure out where your cabin is on the ship. If it's at the back or the front, walk to the back or front, and use the elevators in that part of the ship.
Overall, for a guy who admittedly has a chip on his shoulder against Carnival (which Carnival doesn't deserve!) I really enjoyed the experience and all the incredibly hard-working staff on board ended up giving us a great vacation. And on that note please, please, please tip your waitstaff and roomstaff with ADDITIONAL cash. I'm not convinced they see all that you allow to be charged to your room in tips. I'm just worried that others are getting a cut before what you've authorized actually makes it to the people you intended. These men and women work incredibly hard for months at a time, away from their homes and families, and I fear that part of the reason we're enjoying such great fares is because of appallingly low wages (and I'm talking about the industry in general, not Carnival in specific.)
Your experience with Carnival may differ. This Brooklyn family (who've now taken 17 cruises) had a great time on Carnival Pride to the Mexican Riviera despite the extremely cool February weather and I won't hesitate to cruise on the Carnival Pride again.