We flew into LAX early Sunday Morning. I had arranged a car service to get us to Long Beach. Several Carnival meet-and-greet staff stopped us when they saw are Carnival luggage tags and asked if they could help, although we did not need their services.
We arrived at the Long Beach Cruise Terminal around 9:30am, and a porter took our luggage as soon as it hit the sidewalk. We followed directions and signs to the Early Check-in office on board the Queen Mary. No lines to check in, but we did get a trainee who was obviously very green and nervous. After swiping our credit card and passports about a dozen times, a supervisor finally came over and helped him. Sign and Sail cards in hand, we were directed to 'Zone 2'. This was the only point at which there was a little confusion. We were actually so early that nobody else was in Zone 2, so we weren't sure if we were in the right area. A Carnival employee arrived very shortly thereafter and assured us that we would be boarding the ship some time around 11:30.
NOTE: If you arrive early, there are very few benches to sit on. You might end up standing for almost two hours, outside, in a non-covered area. This wasn't a problem for us, as we secured a bench and enjoyed a beautiful Southern California morning.
When it was time for those of us in 'Zone 2' to board the ship, we were herded into the cruise terminal, through security, and into holding lines. After those passengers needing assistance and VIP cruisers were boarded, we made it on board.
By 11:45a, we were having lunch on the Lido deck, drink in hand, ready to relax!
We had been told repeatedly that rooms would not be accessible until 1:30p, and they were not kidding. The fire doors to our hallway were not opened until almost exactly 1:30.
The Pride is a beautiful, clean, easy-to-navigate ship. It seems we could always find a 'hidden' little place to hang out. (Don't miss the Sunset Garden. Most of the people we talked to on board never even knew it was there.)
If artistic nudity offends you, you are going to HATE cruising on this ship. Paintings and statues of naked cherubs, women, and men are all over the place. You can't escape them. If this is going to bother you, seriously consider a different ship.
The gym/spa area is great (and free).
The buffet is the craziest, most inefficient layout I can ever remember on any ship. By the time I got what I wanted and got back to the table, the food was cold. I didn't dine there unless scheduling dictated.
This was our first Balcony cabin (we usually opt for an Ocean View). The balcony, while small, was fantastic, and I don't know if we'll ever be able to cruise again without one. The room itself had tons of storage and counter space (remember, this is all relative to other cabins we have had, not 'the real world'). The shower was actually big enough that the shower curtain didn't stick to me during the entire showering process.
There is only one electrical outlet in the room, so bring a power strip if you are going to need to power more than one thing at a time. Also, our wakeup calls were a little spotty, so you might want to consider an alarm clock of some type.
Our cabin steward was fantastic, as was our dining room team. I can honestly say that every crew/staff member I encountered was friendly, professional, and polite.
Mark Price, the cruise director, and his staff did a great job.
I rated the dining room food as slightly better than most cruises I've been on, and quite a bit better than any Carnival cruise I have been on. The buffet food was on par with what I expect (but see my comment above about the buffet layout).
Dinner at David's Steakhouse was fantastic, and very well worth the $30. Don't skip the cheese course!
We had a pre-2:00pm flight from LAX, so the purser's desk provided us with 'Group 2' tags. We did not self-assist off (Mom can't carry all her luggage down stairs), but we were in the second group off, breezed through customs, and walked straight to a waiting taxi.
Carnival REALLY did it up right with this cruise, and I will no longer hesitate to sail with them in the future. Thanks!