Carnival Pride 5/30-6/6/2010 (Port Canaveral, Nassau, Freeport)
So I want to start by saying just like the Legend, we loved the Pride and had so much fun during our weeklong trip! We could not have asked for better weather or calmer seas! Our group consisted of two families of 4. We are in our 30-40's and our kid ages were 3 and 6 and 4 and 7. The kids thoroughly enjoyed Camp Carnival and that gave us the opportunity for many date nights - almost every single night of the trip.
This will not be your typical review since I can never compete with Falkcor's awesome review (http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1068189) (thanks Mark!!!) nor am I into food porn (the only food porn pic I took is one of the choco melting cake - yum!) but it is mostly a compilation of tips especially for families with small children travelling on the Pride. I also offer other general observations and tips toward the end of this review.
Cabin: We had adjoining balconies More
on deck 6 (6225 and 6227). Great central location by the main elevators. Not noisy at all (more noisy would've been the hallways leading up to camp carnival with all the running and over-excited kids!). I highly recommend getting a balcony if you are travelling with kids. Many times we came back to the room to give them a 'rest' while the grownups sat in the balcony enjoying music (bring your ipod and speakers), adult conversation, and drinks (rum runners, mixers and/ or box o' wine a must!). We brought in rum runners, a box of wine, waters and sodas and mixed our own drinks in the room throughout the day and mostly purchased them at dinner and from bars at night. We tipped our cabin steward $20 on the first day and asked him to empty the mini fridge and keep our ice buckets and cooler full of ice for the duration of the trip.
Camp Carnival: We pre-registered online and missed first night's orientation due to the early seating (6pm). Camp orientation was at 7:15pm on Sunday and we were still having our dinner. We handed our paperwork and got our pagers on Monday morning.
First day (Sunday) is like an open house. You can go in to visit and tour the camp but no drop off or planned activities until Monday morning.
Be sure to ask for the capers at camp. I thought they delivered them to our room along with the 'Fun Times' and we went without them for 2 days and by then they had run out of the 2-5 age group schedules.
Upon first drop off, for the 2-5 age group they gave you a phone (ages 2-3) or a beeper (ages 4-5). Nothing for ages 6-8.
Our 6 and 7yr olds quickly made friends and begged to go to camp every day, all day!!! My 6 yr old loved camp more than our day at Disney (Port Canaveral).
The 4yr old liked camp but my 3 yr old was not so crazy about it and was the one hardest to drop off. The camp staff however assured me that she was fine after I left and that they would've called me if she cried for more than 10 minutes.
I felt it was much easier to drop the kids off at 6pm to have 'dinner with friends' in the Mermaid Grill rather than at the actual camp. After 'dinner with friends', the camp staff will walk the kids back to the camp.
6-8 yr olds had activities outside of camp, or Fun Club, as they called it. Sometimes they would take them to the sports deck or to the disco (last night).
2-5 yr olds never ventured out of the club, it is far less structured, therefore a little more boring for some of them. I feel my 3 yr old would've benefitted of more structure as she is used to circle time and similar activities at school and gym but at camp, they have to cater to the 2yr olds too who are simply not ready for the structure.
I have several tips mostly for the 2-5 age group below-
Avoid attending camp during registration Monday morning. Way too chaotic, many kids crying, tense atmosphere. Had I known better, I would've taken my girls to the pool in the am, then registered them for the afternoon session instead once things were more settled in there.
On most days, we loved dropping off the older ones at camp in the afternoons and then head back to the room with the younger ones to give them a much needed a nap/rest after a morning at the pool or in port. Much easier to nap when big sis was not around... J
I found that treats worked magic as a drop off bribe for my 3 yr old. They have these glow push pops at the gift shop that she loved but at $3.99 each I should have stocked up at Target with treats/gifts before the trip instead!
We only used the after 10pm babysitting on the last 2 nights. It rolls over automatically and they just charge to your S&S card. It prorates for every 15 minute increment.
Port Canaveral - We rented a car to go to The Magic Kingdom. All 8 of us piled in a minivan. We had all been to WDW before but neither family had taken the little ones ages 3 and 4. Because we had been before and because most of us earned free tickets after volunteering via the 'Give a Day Get a Day' program, we felt it was worth the hassle and expense. It only cost us the rate of a minivan rental and 2 child admission tix plus incidentals (strollers, meals, souvenirs). Well worth the price for a day at Disney. Well, actually make it a half day. We got off the ship shortly before 8pm. I want to say we arrived at Disney by 9:30ish and after getting parking, tix, strollers, we were inside the park around 10am. We got to ride It's a Small World, Phillarmagic (Fast Pass), Peter Pan (Fast Pass), Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear (Fast Pass), and the Teacups as well as meet Mickey and Minnie at the Judges Tent. We also took a break for lunch and left the park around 3:15 because we wanted to return to the car rental (Thrifty)(would recommend them) before it closed at 5pm. We could've pushed it and returned later and taken a cab to the boat from Thrifty but we didn't want to, plus we got back to the boat in time for our early dining seating. It was a fun day worth the price we paid but I am not sure I would recommend it to those paying for full price admission tickets or for first time visitors. A first time visit to WDW deserves more time than a few hours. And FASTPASS is a must as some waits neared 60 minutes!
Nassau - It was raining in Nassau and I am so glad that we had not pre-booked an expensive tour. We took a cab to the Atlantis ($4pp) and toured the grounds and visited The Dig area. The kids LOVED the underground The Dig aquarium and we bought the tickets directly at the desk located in the bottom level area of the Atlantis casino. For the Discover Atlantis Tour, adults were around $35 each, children $25 and kids 3 and under were free. After extensive walking around the property and seeing the aquarium, we came back to the boat and relaxed. I believe the guys also went back out and refilled one of our rum runners somewhere in town..... no problem getting it back on the ship! LOL!!! I am ducking for cover now! The smuggler-haters are probably hating my review right about now. In our defense, we also gave Carnival a lot of $$$$ for wine packages and many many many drinks purchased aboard J.
Freeport- After pouring over many reviews here, we booked a tour through Paradise Cove / Deadman's Reef directly via www.deadmansreef.com. It was an amazing (albeit short) day! Well run tour, beautiful beach, great snorkeling and fun for kids. Not the best snorkeling we've seen but we did see some sea life that we had not seen before such as starfish, large parrot fish, and a sting ray all in their natural habitat. You have to be a good swimmer and comfortable in the water as you have to swim out to the reef to see anything at all.
Other general observations/misc tips from our trip:
Arrival day - Baltimore is a very well run port but do not rush to get to port too early especially if travelling with kids or a big group. We arrived at port around 11:30am along with everyone else. Between parking and checking in, we boarded about 1pm. Mermaids was very crowded and we had a very hard time to get a table. Rooms were not ready until about 3pm or so. Our luggage did not arrive until after we had left for our 6pm dinner seating. Boat left port late after 7pm. I think it would be best to arrive later around 2pm or so..... not worth fighting the crowds.
Aft Pool - I noticed that they were resurfacing half of the aft pool deck. It may be an issue for those of you that like to lounge in this part of the ship. We didn't since we had the kids but it looked like only half the deck area was available for use/chairs.
Meals - Food was mostly good, a few items here and there we didn't care for. Did a night at David's and it was well worth it.
Shows - Can't comment on shows as we did not attend any, we mostly hung out at the bars, lounges or disco in order to enjoy more of each other's company, drinks and good adult conversation! Never saw CD Kirk other than on the TV! I thought that was funny after reading so much about him here!
Karaoke was fun. The Piano Bar with Roger was even better!
Coffee - Room service and dining room coffee was much better than at Mermaids. We always finished our meals with espresso or a cappuccino. They have milk or cream (half&half) and all of the sugar and sugar substitute varieties that you can dream of are available.
Milk - They have skim, whole and choc milk for the kiddos however mine didn't drink it because they are used to warm milk at home and there is no way to warm it up on the ship unless you are very patient and want to dunk it in hot water.
Snacks - My kids made out like bandits with the boxed cereal. We often took extra to have as room/afternoon snacks.
Laundry - Did laundry on board but at $3 per washer and dryer load, I thought it was a bit too expensive.... you can get quarters at guest services.
Cleanliness - For those of you 'clean' fanatics (i.e. germophobes like me) I learned that each steward picks 3 cabins every week to steam clean the carpets. It thought that was pretty good but I don't know how many cabins one steward is responsible for.... I also saw that some rooms were getting their carpets replaced while on board on port days. All the luggage and furniture piled into the balcony - they do ask for permission before doing it and room carpets get replaced about 1x year.
Balcony dividers - Signed up on Sunday afternoon with guest services to get the balcony partitions opened. They came by Monday morning to do it. It was awesome having that portioned removed!
Wine - we brought 4 bottles on board (1 per adult guest) and also bought the wine package at dinner (we bought the medium priced package at $110 for 5 bottles). We spent a lot on liquor and yet, like I said, the rum runners saved us a ton more (as I duck for cover now). ;-)
Lanyards - I searched hi and lo for the darn things and there they were at the gift shop for $3.95. Save the hassle if you are looking for one.
Shoe door organizer was really helpful and again after searching hi and lo for one, found the cheapest one at Big Lots for $5.
Power strips are a must! We had the kids dvd players, Nintendo ds, phone (on Port Canaveral day), blow dryers, flat iron hooked up to it all the time. Can't imagine having had to battle over 1 measly outlet!!!!