This was our first cruise for me (34), my DH (42), and DS (4). We did the 7-day Mexican Riviera which was scheduled to go to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas but because of Hurricane Norbit the Captain switched Ensenada for Mazatlan. We spent a week at Disneyland and Seaworld first and then took this cruise to relax. I must say this was the best vacation we've ever had.
Embarkation: We planned on arriving for early check-in but got there a little late at 1130. The lines were already very long. It took about an hour and 20 minutes to get onboard, but it didn't seem that long since the lines kept moving. We were in our rooms by 1pm and our luggage was there by 3pm.
Ship: The Pride is a beautiful ship decorated with Renaissance art which made it very elegant and classy. The lobby and Taj Mahal theater were especially beautiful. Though there were nude pictures everywhere, my son never noticed. Overall, it was pretty easy to navigate with most of the public rooms on decks 2/3/9-11. The boat rocks a lot on the first and last days on the way to/from Long Beach and it's also very cold. I had to take seasick pills on those days just to take the edge off.
Cabin: We had a balcony cabin on deck 4 port side, mid-ship. We found this to be an excellent location since it was close to the midship and aft elevators. The room itself had lots of storage....3 closets (1 with adjustable shelves) and lots of hangers, 5 drawers in the vanity area, 2 storage drawers under the couch, and open shelving. The bathroom also had lots of storage with glass shelves on each side of the mirror which held all our stuff. We also brought an over-the-door shoe organizer and power outlet which came in very handy. Our 2 big suitcases fit perfectly under the bed. The balcony was the best part for us and worth the extra money. We got to see a pod of dolphins and whales, great sunrises and sunsets, and in Cabo we had a perfect view of Los Arcos and Lovers beach. I also loved drinking my coffee in the mornings out there. It was beautiful and relaxing.
For parents out there that are worried about toddlers and having a balcony, I too had the same concerns but it wasn't an issue at all. Since our son is 4 and can understand "rules", we told him not to go out there by himself or he might fall in the water and he totally listened. But every parent knows there child the best and would have to make that call.
Food: Overall, we found the food in the buffet and dining room to be very good to excellent. I can't imagine why people complain about it. Breakfast had a great selection of hot and cold items: eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, hash potatoes, french toast or pancakes, oatmeal, grits, cereals and fruits. For lunch and dinner there was a pizza station, sandwich station, burger station, and 2 other stations which different themes everyday: Chinese, Caribbean, southern, etc. The free beverages were iced tea, orange juice, apple juice, fruit punch, hot cocoa, and coffee. There were lots of fish dishes which I thought were excellent. On some days there were prime rib, rack of lamb, or sirloin steak. One improvement we would have liked would be for the buffets to open earlier for dinner. We'd come back from the port and would have to wait until 6pm for the full buffet to open. Only the pizza and sandwich stations were open, and of course there was room service.
We ate twice in the Normandie dining room for formal nights. On lobster night, we had 2 lobsters each which were great. The other night we had tiger shrimp which was also very good and we had the delice of the ocean appetizer which had the best smoked salmon I've ever had. Of course we tried the chocolate melting cake which was excellent and reminds me of the molten lava cake at Chilis. We also ended each meal with a cappuccino which to our surprise was included. At the end of dinner the waiters would do a song and dance which we truly enjoyed. Our waiters were very good and prompt, just not as friendly as I was expecting after reading other reviews but nonetheless the service was great.
Entertainment: Sadly, we only went to 2 shows: the Around the World show and the Mariachi dance troupe from Puerto Vallarta. We enjoyed both, but we really liked the Around the World. We don't get a chance to see shows very often so we were impressed with the Pride dancers.
We spent a lot of time at the casino, since we don't have casinos where we live. There was a great selection of slot machines (penny slots, nickels, quarters, dollars, poker) and table games (blackjack, 3-card poker, roulette, craps, let it ride, Caribbean stud). They even had 1 face-up blackjack table on the last night. It got crowded during the evenings but you could still find open machines. We won a few times and lost a few times, and overall we lost. But I found that our money lasted a lot longer than it does when we go to Vegas. For what I lost on the entire cruise, I usually lose in one day in Vegas!
Camp Carnival: Our son totally loved Camp Carnival and his counselors. Some of his counselors were friendly than others and sometimes they seemed to nitpick at the kids behaviors. They are just kids!! Anyways, our son loved it and he wanted to go every night. Then every time we went to pick him up he would ask to stay longer so we'd let him stay for another hour or so. They had great activities for the 2-5 year old group. They had games, movies, a mariachi party, lots of face painting, pirate night with a treasure hunt, bug night, puppet making, build-a-bear, etc. When we ask him now which was his favorite "Disneyland" or the "cruise ship", he says "BOTH". He keeps asking to go another cruise.
Ports: Puerto Vallarta. We went to Sea Life Park for most of the day. It was around $50 total for 2 adults and 1 child (not bad). The park wasn't very crowded so it felt like we had the place to ourselves. There's quite a few big waterslides, a lazy river, and kids area with lots of slides for the youngsters. There is a dolphin and sea lion show. This was our most relaxing port especially since we didn't feel rushed to get back on the ship.
Cabo: Because of the hurricane, we went to Cabo on the second port day instead of Mazatlan. The scheduled time was from 12pm-6pm, with the last tender leaving at 530. Since we didn't get an excursion, we had to wait for our tender number to be called before we could get off the ship. It took us 2 hours to get off the ship!!!! So we really only had 3.5 hours in port. This was the biggest complaint I had and others were complaining too. If Carnival knows that it takes this long to tender folks to port, then they should extend the time in port to accommodate this. Anyways, we were on vacation and we quickly got over it. This was by far the prettiest port with all the beautiful rock formations. We took a land taxi to Medano beach and ate at The Office. Cabo is very expensive, $40 for 1 nachos and 3 margaritas. The souvenirs are also very, very expensive, more expensive than where we live in Hawaii!!! So if you'd like to go shopping, I would suggest you do it in the other ports.
Ensenada: Since we weren't planning on stopping here, I wasn't sure what to do. We ended up booking the Blowhole tour which wasn't until the afternoon, so we had time to enjoy the ship in the morning (we had the Jacuzzi all to ourselves). It didn't look like there was much to do near the port, so you may want to get an excursion. The Blowhole was very cool to see. There are shops on the walk down to the blowhole area so you have a little bit of time to shop. They had the best deals out of all the ports for souvenirs and shopping.
Disembark: Disembarking was horrible. Unless you have early flights or do self-disembark, prepare to wait!! You have to be out of your room by 830 and wait for your number to be called. Your number is based on your room location. We had #19 and it wasn't called to 1130. But once it was called, it only took about 15 minutes to go through customs and get our bags.
Hopefully this review will help someone...sorry it was so long. We had a great time on the Pride. We fell in love with cruising and are now addicted.