The Day Before - We spent the evening before in Long Beach at the Coast Long Beach Hotel. We absolutely LOVED it! Perfect location (right on the marina) with wonderful views and lots of palm trees. It has a wonderful restaurant (dining outside highly recommended), very friendly staff, a heated pool, and a free shuttle service that runs to the downtown area of Long Beach. We took advantage of the Park and Sail Package which includes a one night stay (in a bay view room - well worth the extra charge), free parking for the length of the cruise (if you drive), two breakfast buffets, and free transportation to and from the pier. Total cost including tax was $209. Our flight after our cruise didn't leave LAX until 5 p.m. so they even stored our luggage for the day while we used the transportation system to catch a movie and lunch in Long Beach before our flight! The hotel stay was one of the high points of our trip! Downtown Long Beach has a lot to do for couples and families alike. There is a Boardwalk area with many restaurants, arcades, street vendors, dinner cruises, bars, etc... Ferris wheel and carousel rides, a movie theater, and more restaurants and bars are in the Pike District. We went to Sergeant Peppers Dueling Piano Cafe which was lots of fun for adult entertainment. They are also opening a Laugh Factory in this area as well! You can access all of these areas using the free local transportation system. It is very easy to get around town.
Embarkation - After reading the nightmare reviews about this process, we decided to wait until 2 p.m. to check in as I am not a big fan of standing in long lines. No luck, still lots of lines. It was an organized, but still very long process. Wait in one line to even be able to stand in another, not fun. I was prepared though so it wasn't that bad. Got on board at about 3:30. Went up to the Lido deck to have lunch. It was kind of a confusing process at first, but we were able to find food and a table without a problem. Lots of choices...and the food was pretty good.Cabin and Steward - We got a category 8B cabin and it was a decent size. The thing about this cruise that did not impress me was the lack of attentiveness in service from just about ANYONE. It was adequate but nothing special. When we first entered our cabin, I found two hairs (not mine or my husbands) on the vanity and another in the bathroom. Yuck! That has never happened before on a cruise so I was a little disappointed. There was also some wear and tear visible in the cabin from a cigarette stain on a lampshade (not sure how this happens when people are not supposed to be smoking in the staterooms hmmm....), paint chipping off the balcony, and a cracked light on the vanity panel. One light bulb was also out for the ENTIRE week. These are the little things that really aren't a HUGE problem, but just stuff I noticed that never seemed to happen on other cruises I have been on. Our cabin steward never came to introduce himself by name but was friendly when we did happen to see him.
Entertainment - There was a wide variety of entertainment on the ship. The two production shows "Vrooom" and "A Wonderful World" were excellent! The stage design, effects, and dancers were amazing. Singers were not great, but still entertaining. There were four comedians, two were hilarious, one was okay, and the last was terrible and crude (lots of old material - Michael Jackson jokes are not funny anymore) and, even for the adult show, too many "f bombs" and sex jokes. Trust me, I am not a prude. I enjoyed the first comedian's adult show, but the last one was just vulgar. Our cruise director Butch was funny, but this was his last week on the Pride. He is moving to the Conquest and I don't know who is taking his place. Days at sea were relaxing. There was stuff to do, but I just wanted to relax and sit in the sun (which can still burn you horribly bad, even when the temperature is 60 degrees). Be careful! Our table mates said that the Art Auctions were a lot of fun and the Adult Guitar Hero and Karaoke was pretty funny! The last night of the cruise, they do a Carnival Legends show featuring the winners of the karaoke contests throughout the week. It was pretty entertaining if you like that kind of thing! We are not dancers or huge drinkers, so we stayed out of the bars and lounges, but the casino was great! This is the only area of the cruise that exceeded my expectations! The staff was friendly (remembered your name if you frequented a table), the slots paid (did see one person hit a $2.500 jackpot), and the casino bar made good, strong drinks for the few that we did have! Don't waste your money on Bingo. It's fun, but they don't pay very well for the profit they make ($20 for three cards!) $100 jackpots most of the time, COME ON!!!
Food - Very adequate and just not impressive! We found enough to eat, but we did not indulge on anything special (except the chocolate melting cake). I think they limit your choices so you will pay extra to do the Supper Club. I didn't do this, but kind of wish that I had. We always ate on the Lido Deck for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast was the same EVERYDAY alternating between pancakes and french toast. Lunch was good and they served a lot of selections between 12:30 and 2:30. After 2:30, your choices are pizza, sandwiches, or hot dogs and hamburgers until dinner. I REALLY wished they would have kept all of their stations opened until dinner was served. If you eat a late breakfast, you are just not hungry again by 2:30. I was a little disappointed in that.Dining Room - Again, very adequate. In the past, (yes, even with Carnival), our waiters remembered what we like to eat, would make recommendations, never saw an empty glass etc... Not so on this cruise. We had to ask several times for refills, and once, our waiter forgot to take our order. Someone at our table had to get up and go find him. He was friendly, but mediocre at best. We had our original table assignment changed from a table for 4 to 6 without a problem and really enjoyed our table guests. The maitre'd did a good job of pairing people of the same age and lifestyle together it seemed (or perhaps we just got lucky).
Overall Ship Perception - Carnival has a bad reputation for being a "Las Vegas At Sea" but I kind of like that and when I book Carnival that is what I expect to get. This ship was very subdued, not much neon or excitement. Lots of reproduced art and nudity. It would be okay if people respected it, however, in the elevators, passengers had vandalized some of the art and written some pretty vulgar language on the anatomy of some of the art subjects. Again, did the crew attempt to repair this? Of course not! Pretty tacky if you ask me! I also did not enjoy the layout of this ship. Other ships that I have been on have most of the main common areas on the higher floors, but all of the activity on this ship occurs on the first, second, and third deck. You can feel a lot of movement and vibration in the common areas. I think we sat above a motor or something in the dining room, because we felt a constant vibration throughout dinner. Again, something that I have not experienced on other cruises.
Ports of Call - I was very excited to go to the Mexican Riviera and had a great time, but I do prefer the Caribbean for its beauty and the weather. In Puerto Vallarta, we did the Los Veranos Canopy tour which was AMAZING! I highly recommend doing this! We booked through Tours by Johann and Sandra and saved almost $70 per person! You do have to arrange for your own transportation from the ship, but it is a $10 cab ride to the office. The staff was very professional and hilarious. They made you feel at ease. After the zip-lining, there is a bar, restaurant, and petting zoo. If you like guacamole, you must eat some at this restaurant! It is the best I have ever had! The other food was okay, but not great! You can also swim in the waterfalls, and pet some amazing creatures like monkeys, boa constrictors, tarantulas, and lizards. We got some great pictures! In Mazatlan, we took a water taxi to Stone Island and spent the day at Victors. Again, amazing service, and wonderful coconut shrimp and juice drinks. My hubby had several Pacifico beers for $1.50 each. It was a nice beach. Not very clear water, but still very nice! Stone Island made for a very enjoyable, relaxing, and in-expensive beach day. I highly recommend it. If you are more adventurous, you can also do Banana Boat rides, horse-back riding, or rent ATVs and drive around the island! In Cabo, we took a catamaran tour and went snorkeling in Santa Maria Cove which was nice. Cabo is the only port with clear, blue water. We then walked around the town and shopped. It was a nice day. The ports of call were a very nice part of the cruise.
Overall, we had a great time! It is hard not to on a cruise if that is what you love to do! However, this ship met, but did not exceed my expectations in any way. Carnival tells you that they have not done their job if they did not exceed your expectations. I guess, unfortunately, they left something to be desired. The friends we made on this cruise felt the same way. For one couple, they said this was their first and last time sailing with Carnival. I tried to explain that you can't judge a cruise line based on one cruise, but they did not enjoy the lack of service or the layout of the ship. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression!