Background Information Six of us booked this cruise around December 2008 and thanks to the Early Saver rate we ended up saving about $200 a person and were upgraded from an ocean view to a balcony cabin. This was my fourth cruise (all on Carnival) and I am 23 years old. Everyone else sailed at least one other cruise and ranged in age from 19 to 80.
Pre-Cruise Hotel We drove into Baltimore a day early and stayed at the Residence Inn Baltimore Downtown/Inner Harbor. The hotel was perfect for us since it had large suites. Our room was on the 16th floor and consisted of a living and kitchen area large enough for the six of us to comfortably sit. One bedroom had a queen bed and a full bathroom and the other bedroom had two double beds and another full bathroom. The sofa in the living room had a pull-out bed. The service at the hotel was in line with Marriot's hotels. The staff was incredibly friendly and greeted us by name. A full breakfast is included that consisted of many hot and cold options. We used valet parking that was $29 a night. We walked about 3 blocks to Inner Harbor and spent the day exploring the area and touring the National Aquarium. The only downside to the hotel is that we could hear sirens at night, but nothing unusual for any hotel in a city.
Embarkation My first three cruises sailed from New York and Baltimore's Cruise Terminal is larger which allowed it to run very smoothly. We drove and parked at the port, so they had a special section were we could pull right up to a baggage cart where porters unloaded the car. Then we parked ($15 a day) and walked right into the building. Once inside the building, you immediately go through security then check in. They had many rows of seats and each row was a separate boarding zone. We were zone 4 and VIP embarkation were both zones 1 and 2. Boarding began around 1:10 with travel agent tours, then 2 wedding parties, followed by everyone else according to zones. We arrived at the terminal at 10:30 and had no waits, but those arriving later had to wait outside to get through security or wait in their car to drop off luggage. The wait for us (seated in our row) went very quickly as we chatted with others and the embarkation staff began tossing beach balls around. The only thing that would help this process would be 3 or 4 more staff members to help direct people where to go. For example, after passing through security it would have been nice if a person directed us into the correct line.
Ship Information The Carnival Pride is in my favorite class of Carnival ships. The size seems just right for the number of passengers so that it is always easy to find seats on the lido for relaxing or to eat at the buffet. The dEcor was modest for a Carnival ship but mostly well done. The ship was kept very clean, but it seemed like the Pride could use a dry dock to fix some broken decorations caused by passengers. My favorite part of this ship was the adults only aft area. It is a great place to relax with its own pool and hot tub. Captain Alessandro Galotto was the friendliest and most personable we have had. He and he officers were frequently around the ship interacting with passengers.
Cabin I stayed in cabin 4210 and we also had cabin 4208, two balcony cabins on deck 4 aft. This was my first balcony and I never thought I would use it as much as I did. It was great to start and end each day out there and enjoy the peace and quiet during the day. In our location we could not hear any noise from the lido deck and the exterior promenade a deck below us was usually empty. Being in the back of the ship we could feel vibrations at night, but they were not noticeable during the day. We opened the balcony divider and it was nice having a large area, but the divider blocked a little of the view from cabin 4208. In cabin 4210, our steward was Nurcholas from Indonesia. It was the first time we rarely saw our cabin steward, but we realized it was because we were his first cabin and by the time we returned he was usually around the corner servicing the aft cabins. The service he provided was excellent. Cabin 4208 was the last cabin serviced by another steward (I forget his name) so it was not always complete before we returned from dinner, but it was still done to the same expectations.
Dining Most days we ate breakfast and lunch on the lido deck, but we occasionally ordered room service breakfast that was always served at the time requested. On the lido deck I always found the shortest line since I am not picky and I never had to wait long. For breakfast, long lines always formed for omelets, but the other food was pretty standard from station to station. For lunch the buffet stations all served something different and if you had a particular item in mind it may be difficult to find where it is.
We ate in the main dining room every night. The first night it is come at your assigned time, but you are not seated at your assigned table. It is nice that they offered this as most people with the 6:00 time (including us) showed up around 6:15 since the ship sailed at 6:00. On my previous cruise I always had excellent service in the main dining room, but this team far surpassed anything I experienced before. We were assigned table 161 in the lower level. Our head waitress was Duangjai (or Lady D.) from Thailand and our assistant waitress was Martina from Slovakia. Duangjai has been with Carnival for 7 years and Martina for 8. They were the most attentive wait staff we have had on a cruise. They would always begin service with a quick hello while we got seated and Lady D went over the menu. All of their tables were consistently done with the service a good 10 to 15 minutes before other tables, but it wasn't rushed, they were just very efficient. After our desserts and the entertainment, both Lady D and Martina chatted with us and entertained us with tricks or napkin folding. We (and their other tables) would typically stay 20 minutes after finishing our meal because they took that much time with us.
Activities Danny, from Florida, was a substitute cruise director and liked to talk a lot. Other than that he was fine. The assistant cruise director Matt and the other social hosts did a great job hosting many activities and could easily be seen around the ship along with Danny. There was a nice variety of activities planned throughout the day including multiple bingo and trivia contests. I would say that the activities were on par with what I expect from Carnival after four cruises. The casino is an area where I spend a lot of time. Carnival usually has some great dealers, but this trip they were average. They were good at what they did, but they did not interact much with the passengers. The casino host was Adina from Romania. She just joined the Carnival Pride on this cruise and she was the casino host on one of my previous cruises. She is still my favorite because she is very friendly and makes the tournaments a lot of fun.
Entertainment The evening entertainment on Carnival's ships (along with the price) is why I keep returning. The Carnival Pride hosts three production shows, and all were very good. Wonderful World highlighted music from around the world, Jazzin' focused on jazz music, and Vroom surveyed classic rock music. More than on other cruises I noticed some little things going wrong like a dancer out of sync or a lighting cue not correct. Even during other shows or activities in the main theater there were sometimes issues with the lighting. It was never a big problem, but occasionally a small distraction. Other evening shows in the main theater included the standard Welcome Aboard Show, Pete Mamos, an entertaining hypnotist, Frank Dell Pizzo, the first comedian I've seen on board that had a great family show and an even better adults-only show, and finally the Carnival Legends show that is always entertaining.
The Breeze performed variety and dancing music nightly in Butterflies and during the deck party. They were great! I went to karaoke once but it was not a great crowd so I didn't stay long. The calypso band on the lido and the other musicians around the ship were excellent. I didn't make it into the piano bar, but what I heard passing by sounded great.
Grand Turk We reserved golf carts ahead of time from Nathan Smith after reading many reviews on the Cruise Critic forums. It took us about 3 hours to explore the island. We first drove all the way across the island to see the lighthouse and the cliffs, and then worked our way back to the ship via the downtown area where we stopped at a shop and a museum. The locals are very friendly and nice to chat with. The island is still recovering from the hurricane last year but the people of the island were cheerful. Once we got back, we returned to the ship for lunch and went back out to spend the afternoon on the beach. The water was a nice aqua color but there were rocks on the bottom. We were delayed about 2 hours from leaving because of a medical debarkation.
Half Moon Cay Due to the delay leaving Grand Turk, the cruise director announced that we would arrive at Half Moon Cay an hour late, but we would also stay an hour later. We ended up arriving on time, but still stayed an hour later. Tendering was well done since they use large ferries. Everything I read about Half Moon Cay was true. The island was beautiful! The water was a clear blue with a smooth bottom, and the sand was powdery white. It was easy to find a lounger and let the day pass by while relaxing on the beach or in the water. Lunch on the island is buffet style with barbecue chicken, burgers, and many other items such as fruit and sides. There are also nice pavilions scattered in the area with picnic tables. In the afternoon, my sister and I went para-sailing. Due to wind a lot of the excursions in the middle of the day were canceled, but we were lucky enough to go. It provided a great view of the island and was worth the cost since it is one of the things I've always wanted to do. Getting back to the ship was easy as they crammed as many people as possible on the ferries. The line was long, but it went fast.
Freeport We used this as a lazy day and woke up around 10:00. We wandered around the shops near the ship and then enjoyed the rest of the day on board relaxing. For an industrial port, it was still beautiful. We just didn't want to deal with getting in to town and worrying about making it back on time. I think this would be the perfect itinerary if Freeport was replaced with Nassau.
Disembarkation The ship gets back in port around 10:00am, so debarkation starts later than usual. It is nice waking up and watching the ship sail under the bridges again and slowly getting ready to leave. We don't like dealing with craziness of self-assist, so we were in zone 21 of general debarkation. Self-assist started around 10:15, and once that was completed general debarkation went very quickly. We were called around noon and it took less than 10 minutes to get to the car.
Summary This was one of the most relaxing vacations I have ever taken, and the ports of call allowed for some easy beach days. The Carnival Pride is a great new option for cruising from the Northeast and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice vacation. I am looking into the Carnival Miracle from NYC for a future trip for two reasons. First it is a day longer, and who can argue with that? Second, it stops at Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Nassau, almost the same itinerary, but Nassau instead of Freeport. Still, I would not hesitate to take this cruise again.