To start off, some background. My fiancE and I are in our mid twenties and went on this cruise as a much needed vacation and anniversary celebration. We chose the Carnival Pride because; it was close to home, a good price, and had interesting ports of call. We have both been on several cruises in the past on; Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean, so we have a little background, but are definitely not serious cruisers.
To begin with, Embarkation. We drove to the port and arrived at about 2:30 (we were told to arrive between 2-4). First thing was a huge line of cars that wrapped almost all the way around the parking lot. This line was slow going, and the cause of the line was the luggage drop-off. It seemed like some people took FOREVER to get their bags out of their cars. Word of advice, make sure your luggage is good to go and easily accessible, it will definitely speed up the process. After that you pay for parking in advance (cash or credit) and find a spot. Overall, from entering the parking area till finding a spot was close to an hour. Then we entered the terminal. The first long slow-moving line was to get through the metal detector and baggage scan. After that line, another equally long and slow-moving line was to get to the counter to check in. I thought that since I had done all the on-line registration, check-in, and had printed my "fun pass" it would be quick. Apparently everyone else did the same thing too but once we got to the counter, we got our keys and things moved quickly.
The ship was....interesting. As many said, lots of nude artwork (none of it was offensive - I just don't understand why they would put naked pictures all over a boat that's supposed to be filled with kids). The ship seemed a little run-down. Lots of rusty or chipped paint, dirty windows, it looked like it needed a good detail job. The general areas were clean, but definitely not as thoroughly as it could be. I'm not a clean freak either, but compared to some of the other boats that have armies of crew cleaning everyday, this one didn't come close. We found our stateroom on deck 4 with a balcony (had to pay extra for an un-obstructed view), and the room was great. Plenty of room and our cabin steward was awesome.
After doing some exploring we went to eat at the Mermaid grill (the buffet on the Lido deck). The food was just OK (the theme of the food throughout the cruise). I like to eat, so I ate a lot, but the food was repetitive and bland. Then we set sail from Baltimore. It was great to see the city going out of the harbor, and I also figured there would be a bid deck party going on. The band on the upper deck was two musicians (a singer and piano player) playing all the island music. I was surprised there was no steel drums or better sounding music; these two were not the best. We obviously got some drinks for the send off. The drinks were reasonably priced ($5 for a Bud light 16oz bottle, $6-7 for frozen drinks) and there was a 15% gratuity automatically added to that. They had the option to get a bucket of 4 beers and save $2 (the problem I found was that it's so hot the ice melts really quick, then you are stuck with warm beer). I did learn something new for those who like Fosters, the Oil Can is about $6 and that equals out to be 2 beers, so that is definitely the best value. We also got Martinis a few times, some were made better than the others, and they ran about $9. Some of the bar servers were a little ridiculous. Every 2 minutes another one was haggling you to get a drink, it wasn't burdensome, but it got a little ridiculous after a while. The first evening was open seating for everyone in the dining room. We had to argue to get a table for two, but we quickly got one, and had some grub. After that we hit the show. It seemed like everything on the boat was lacking an attention to detail. I'm not a big show-tunes guy, but I could tell the dancers were almost always out of sync with each other, but the singers sounded pretty good. Then there was a special comic who was not fun ny. We met the cruise director Danny, from what I can tell he is relatively new to the boat, and it seemed that way. He wasn't that funny but his assistant cruise director Matt was pretty good.
We had the "your choice dining" for our regular dinner seating time. That meant we could eat anytime between 5:45 and 9:30. It was good in theory...not so much in practice. We only had to wait to get a table on the last night, and that wait was only about 10 minutes, so that aspect was really good. They give you a little pager (like a restaurant) so you can go wander around while you wait for dinner. We quickly learned that there is a separate section in the main dining room for the anytime dining, and the waiters in these sections were responsible for about 9 tables (versus the 3 tables the waiters had for the set dinner times). This led to ridiculously slow service. The wait staff was trying their best, but you could tell they were very overworked and couldn't keep up. Carnival needs to work on this aspect, I was told it has only been going on for about a month, but it seems like that is a month too long. I would never do this option again, and would opt for the set eating time next time.
The first 2 days were "Sea Days" and we got really sunburned and learned pretty quickly that there is a very few number of lounge chairs=2 0in shady spots, and the ones that are there are usually taken very early. The pools were in an interesting set-up. There were 2 main pools but the deck was split completely in half by a bar and glass wall. So the band was stationed by one pool and the food, but if you were at the other pool, you couldn't hear the music or see anything going on...a little strange. As we expected, tons of kids in the pools, and the pools weren't that large. The "adults only" pool was in the back of the boat, completely separate from everything else. We got the room service breakfast most days, and ate in the Mermaid grill on the other days (never got breakfast or lunch in the dining room). The breakfast room service was good, always on time and had a wide variety of basic breakfast items. The problem I had with the buffet was that everything is located in different sections of the deck (burgers/dogs out by the pool, and everything else was split between a large eating area). That meant if you wanted items from multiple stations, by the time you walked there and waited in line, all your food was cold. Also, with the slew of bar servers everywhere else, they were almost non-existent in there, that way your food was even colder by the time you waited in line at the bar outside fore a drink. We got a Couples Message in the Spa for our anniversary. The spa area, like everything else, seemed a little rundown. The message room was bright and had weird Trojan music playing, it didn't seem like the most relaxing environment. The tables were covered but you could tell nothing looked clean and it looked like it hadn't been cleaned in quite some time. The message was good (I wouldn't know if it was bad) but afterwards they come in and try to sell you over $100 in lotions and oils, kind of tacky I thought.
Also for our anniversary we went to David's, the supper club. It was $30 per person and worth every penny. This was one of the best experiences on the boat, and I would recommend it to everyone. The service was awesome, the food was great and plentiful, and it was all around just a great time.
The first port was Grand Turk. Apparently the island is only about 7 miles long and the boat docks at the far end of the island. The island was hard hit by a couple hurricanes in the past few years, but the port looks like it's new. The port was very touristy and commercialized; you had to walk through a huge store just to exit the pier. There was a free beach and Margaritaville within 10 ft of the end of the pier. We did the Aqua Boat and Snorkel excursion. This was awesome; they put you on little 2 seater boats (a little bigger than Jet Skis) and then went to a snorkeling spot. Saw lots of fish and some reefs and had fun driving the boats. We tried to make it back to the boat a little early and were stuck in line trying to board for a long time. It seemed that lots of people waited till the very end to board...and the line ran the entire length of the pier, it didn't look like fun. The next stop was Half Moon Cay. They used a tender system to get to the island, so you had to wait in line for a number, then when they called your number you could board the tender to go to the island. It was a little hectic but seemed to move pretty smooth. The island was awesome, very beautiful. A few things with the island....as with the pool, shade is very hard to come by. There were a few shady spots or you could pay for a set of covered chairs (I think it was under $20). Also, the food was located a decent walk from the entrance to the beach...it was a little confusing (same burgers and dogs...all included). There was a nice Tiki Hut bar and music but same with the pool...unless you got right in front - you were out of the loop. The final stop was Freeport. The port itself is very commercial, but the beach/shops are a 15 min $5 taxi ride away (with taxis available right off the boat). We checked out the shops and found some cool island bars (2 Coronas for $5), which we had a blast at. We then checked=2 0out the beach (behind the hotels - across the street from the shopping). The beach looked really nice, you could rent jet skis or ride the banana boat, or you could use the multiple hotel pools that all looked really nice and were not crowded at all. There was a lot to do without having to book a shore excursion. After that we were back on our way to Baltimore. The second comedian was much better than the first (Frank Del Pizzo (sp)). We also checked out the club a few times, only the last 2 nights really had any people in there. We spent a bunch of time at the Blackjack table (the first night $3 min - after that it was $5 all week), and had a great time. They have a computerized poker (Texas Hold'em) table that was packed every night. It got a little irritating that you could never get a seat but I guess people are pretty serious about their cards.
And finally Debarkation. This was very smooth. We did the self-assist and thought it was great. They call out your floor and you are the first ones off the boat. There was no line for customs, and five minutes after we walked off the boat we were at our car. Definitely fast and easy, it's the way to go.
Overall, with all the minor complaints aside, I had an excellent time. I think the boat, food, and some of the staff was just mediocre. For the next cruise we will try Royal Caribbean and see if it's any better. On a side note, I hear that RCCL will be sailing out of Baltimore early next year. I think it was overall a great trip with some definite room for improvement.