First let me say that this was only my second cruise so I can only relate to a cruise I took several years back on the Celebrity Mercury. We left on July 25th out of Long Beach. Our 4 teenage children ages 20,19, and two 18 year olds, along with my wife's sister, her husband, and their two kids, and my wife's 2 brothers and of course mom and dad. Fourteen of us all together.
Embarkation was relatively smooth with the online easy check in procedures. I would recommend that if you are close to L.A. then use the parking garage and just pay the fee. Ten dollars a day. We flew and had some difficulty trying to get our van back to the airport. We should have just driven the 6 hours from where we live. Oh well, live and learn. Having said that I think the Pride is an absolutely beautiful ship and very large. It was laid out nicely as far as deck plans and floor plans. The renaissance art throughout the ship was for me, nice to look at however, I can see how some people could find it too ostentatious and even offensive but I liked it.
It was comfortable and plenty of quiet places to sit, relax, and listen to music. There was a 3 person jazz band that was great in one sitting area, a piano man in the main atrium area, and a country singer in the casino who was my personal favorite. His rendition of friends in low places was outstanding. The casino was booming most of the time and it was a quite enjoyable place to be. All four kids quickly learned of the joys of blackjack...and the sorrows. We had a very sweet waitress from Romania named Mioyaura who was very pleasant and always there when we needed a refill. A+ for the casino services. On Celebrity they had a casino but that casino excitement just wasn't there.
We also enjoyed the overall dining experience. While Celebrity is known for the high quality food and dining experience we found that Carnival was not quite up to Celebrity's standards but it was good nonetheless. We started eating at Mermaid's grill in the morning and it was good however, we discovered eating breakfast in the main dining room on the second to the last day and it was much better. Mermaid's was very good for casual eating and there was a great variety of food to choose from. The dinner menu in the main dining room was not as wide as Celebrities but it was good. What was offered was very tasty and with a nice presentation. The portions were not very big but if you wanted more then all you had to do was ask and it was there. Our head waiters name was Alongaut from Thailand and his assistant was "Sarge". Both did there best to accommodate us and what they lacked as far as skills they made up for with enthusiasm and eagerness to please. They were lots of fun and they made the dinner portion of our trip the highlight of each day. Kudos to both of them.
Our cabin steward was Nilo, from the Philippines and unfortunately he was not very good. I tipped him 20 bucks the first day just to let him know that if he took care of us there might be more where that came from. What a waste of a twenty. Didn't see him. Rooms weren't always made up when I returned and had to call for Ice in the ice bucket upon our return from a hot day out on excursions. you would think that most people would like ice upon their return. Not Nilo. Anyway, he wasn't bad. He just wasn't very good compared to my Celebrity experience.
When we went to Puerto Vallarta we chose to go to Las Calitas, a private beach where you can snorkel, kayak, eat a hearty meal, and drink like a fish and then get a massage if you choose as it was a combination beach day/booze cruise event. I went on a resort dive there and it was a great experience although the water was somewhat murky from rains the day before. Mazatlan was for me the least favorite port. We went downtown and there was pretty much a senor Frog's on every corner. We walked around downtown but found nothing we hadn't already seen in Puerto so we walked to the beach. It is an extremely large and long beach that stretches on for miles. We found a nice little beach bar under a palapa and sat and drank coronas the rest of the day until it was time to return. Oh and we did have a nice lunch in downtown. It was the hottest of the ports and we were miserable up until we found that nice little beach bar. It appeared to me that Mazatlan is the place where Mexicans go to enjoy their vacations as we didn't see many Americans compared to Puerto and Cabo. Cabo was the last stop and we had a relatively short stay there (until 4pm) but we made the most of it. The only bad part of Cabo is when we actually got off the ship. We were all but assaulted by the deluge of people trying to get us to go fishing, parasailing, jetskiing etc...Don't haggle with these folks. Get out quick. They were like flies on ....Well, you get the picture. Cabo is beautiful though, and clean compared to the other ports. We all met at the beach in front of a nice beach bar with a view of the ship. We drank buckets of Tecate, danced, swam, rode jetskis, and had a simply wonderful time. The hawkers on the beach were out in droves though and they really got annoying.
Once back aboard, we departed for home. The last day was cold and windy outside and it was not pleasant to be outside. Throughout the week all the kids were up on deck splashing around and having fun in the sun taking up all of the pool space and hot tub space. When it was cold on the last day all hell broke loose. There were kids everywhere totally out of control with no supervision either by the parentals or by Carnival. I saw one kid run into an older man using a cane who almost fell. They would go up and down in the elevators endless, stopping at every floor, causing the elevators to run slow. A poor job on somebody's part there and Carnival needs to take a look at what to do about that type of thing. We also had some trouble with the attitudes of some of the security staff primarily in beauties dance club. They harassed 3 out of the 4 kids. They were carded several times and taken out of the club to review their licenses and one actually accused my niece (who is 19) of having a fake license. One was accused of drinking a beer that was not hers and escorted out. She was allowed back in after the intermediary of her uncle who had just bought the beer. It wasn't so much the questioning of the kids it was how it was said and the manner in which it came across. I felt they had been given a little bit of power and were determined to use it. Anyway, that is pretty much the good the bad and the ugly of the cruise.
In conclusion, I would have to say that we all had a good time and no the trip wasn't perfect but it was good and most of my issues are mostly trivial. I would go again on Carnival but only after thoroughly checking out what else is available.