This was our seventh cruise, but first on the west coast ... all others have been in the Caribbean. I read a lot of reviews prior to our cruise in an attempt to get a feel for what to expect, since we had never sailed out of Los Angeles (Port of Long Beach).
EMBARKATION We arrived in LA the day before our cruise and we stayed on the Queen Mary. This was SO convenient ... right next to the Carnival cruise terminal. We registered for the early check-in at 9:30 a.m. and then hung around for an hour or so. We got into our zone for pre-boarding around 10:30, and by 11:30 we were on Lido deck having lunch. It was by far the fastest embarkation of our seven cruises.
After reading alot of message boards I was concerned about the "Art" onboard the Pride. My preference would be that Carnival would not expose children to that kind of "Art", but all in all, it wasn't as bad as some people made it sound on these message boards. However it's not like it went unnoticed. There were plenty of people talking about it, including the comedian. My wife and I would prefer a different decor.
PORTS OF CALL It was unseasonably cool in the Los Angeles area, and cool & windy all the way to Puerto Vallarta, however, this is no fault of Carnival ... just Mother Nature. Once we arrived in PV the weather was beautiful. We walked a few blocks to the Krystal Resort. To our surprise they let us in for free (we had planned to purchase day passes, but the gentleman that met us outside said the resort was free for cruise guests). They offered parasailing, jet ski rentals, and other water sports on the beach. My son and I tried parasailing when we visited St Thomas last year and we loved it, so we thought we'd give it another try. Great time, and much less expensive than in St Thomas (very favorable exchange rate right now between the US dollar and the Mexican peso ... approx 13:1).
By the way I did learn a lesson on this cruise. I suggest you pack cold medicines even if you don't think you'll need them. My son came down with a bad cold the weekend of our cruise. We ran out of cold medicine so I went to the gift shop onboard the Pride. A small (4 ounce) bottle of DayQuil normally sells for around $4 on land cost $14 onboard. But what can you do ... I had to buy it, but I learned my lesson and re-stocked our meds once we got to Puerto Vallarta.
Mazatlan was nice, but be prepared for extreme pressure from the timeshare people. Just say no and keep walking. I really enjoyed practicing my Spanish. I had a pretty good conversation (and a few laughs) with our taxi driver on the way to the Golden Zone.
Cabo was by far the prettiest port to sail into. We tendered right next to Los Arcos, which was beautiful. We booked the Lands End boat tour through Carnival, which was nice (big catamaran) but we wished we could have gotten closer, and perhaps even gone onto the beach (as some other excursions were doing). But it was a really nice, relaxing excursion ... great photo ops.
DINING Our waiters (Michael and Avito) were fantastic, especially given the fact that we had a very high maintenance table right next to ours. My family is pretty low key, but the family next to us was so demanding ... the husband was the biggest complainer we've ever seen, and it didn't have to be anything major; he would complain about ANYTHING! Considering the attention that our neighbors required, Michael and Avito did a tremendous job keeping the rest of us happy.
ENTERTAINMENT The dancers and singers are very good! On the 2nd night they performed a show called "Wonderful World", which is supposed to be an award winner. I thought it was a yawner ... too many slow songs, and many people were visibly tired. "Vroom" was by far the best show of the week, but it was late in the week (6th night). The comedian was great. His name is JeRome, and he will make sure you won't forget it. ? Barry Van Wie also performed on the same night as JeRome; he was great ... incredibly talented musician and singer.
Days at sea were much cooler than we are used to. In the Caribbean there was always a warm breeze on the sea days, but on this cruise, especially after leaving Cabo, it was really cold and windy ... so windy that they closed the upper deck, which meant no more mini-golf.
Which reminds me, after seven cruises I finally won my first Ship-On-A-Stick by winning one of the mini-golf competitions! It was great because my son won his first Ship-On-A-Stick last year, also by winning a mini-golf tournament.
It was another fantastic cruise by Carnival. The other 2600 passengers did much less partying on this cruise than my previous six cruises, which was nice. There were plenty of people having a good time, just not totally loaded.
Looking forward to number eight, which will most likely be back in the Caribbean ... or the Mediterranean.