We cruised out of Baltimore on the Pride last year and did the Grand Turk/Half Moon Cay/Freeport itinerary. This year we again cruised out of Baltimore on the Pride and did the Port Canaveral/Nassau/Freeport itinerary. I think I liked last year's itinerary a bit better, but I still came back from the cruise feeling very refreshed and relaxed! So here's the scoop:
Embarkation: A breeze for us, since we're only an hour's drive from Baltimore and my fiance's family are Platinum members (10 or more Carnival cruises). We just hopped into the VIP line and were on the ship in maybe fifteen minutes or so. The only problem is that it was difficult to find handicapped parking and my grandmother-in-law-to-be is in a wheelchair. We'll have to make sure to allow time for that next year!
Cabins: Lovely. Future-husband and I had a balcony stateroom on the Empress deck and it was kept in wonderful order by our room steward Bosco. We enjoyed lounging outside while at sea and we liked being able to keep the door open and let some fresh air in, as the rooms do get somewhat dry.
Food: Very good. FH and I are both vegetarians, so there is usually only one menu option for us, but it was always delicious, so no issues there. Our tables ordered wine on the formal nights and it was always excellent. We're not huge drinkers, but we ordered a couple daiquiris and mojitos from the different bars around the ship and they were always excellent, though pricey. We ate breakfast and lunch on the Normandie dining room this year - something we haven't done in the past - and we found that to be really enjoyable. Would definitely recommend it! Oh, and I know I'm a scrooge, but singing/dancing waiters leave me completely cold (especially on formal nights). It feels like, "Wow, I'm at an elegant restaurant having a gourmet dinner - oh, wait, snap, I'm at Chi-Chi's Family Restaurant!"
Entertainment: I didn't go to any shows since I'd been on the Pride a year ago and they haven't changed since then, but the cruise director Kirk seemed very good; friendly, funny, outgoing, etc. I did a fair amount of activities on our days at sea: bingo, champagne art auction, the Pridelander (kind of like Jeopardy), the Match Game, and of course Trivia. My father-in-law-to-be and I LOVE trivia games of any sort, so we always make it a point to go. He won the quotable classics trivia and the big screen movie trivia and I won one of the general trivias. They definitely have to get better questions though! By the end of the cruise they were recycling questions from the beginning of the cruise and some of these questions were the same as last years. Oh, well - only a big trivia fan like me would care about something so, well, trivial. :)
Ports: I left port reviews, but we did the Pontoon Lagoon Wildlife Tour in Port Canaveral and the Blue Lagoon Resort Day in Nassau. We didn't even leave the ship when we were in Freeport. We'd been there last year and other than eating at Zorba's in Port Lucaya (which is the shiznit), it wasn't all that exciting.
Some thoughts: I had a nice time all in all, but there are always a few things that bother me. From what I understand, cruise ships have a pretty negative impact on the enviromnent, especially the larger ships, and I am a person who tries to be fairly low-impact. I also get the feeling that many of the cruise staff (waiters and cabin stewards especially) do not have a very easy time of it and are treated rather poorly. I also wish there were more enrichment opportunities; I do want to relax on vacation, but I also like learning new things and I don't know that I usually come back from these vacations with many new insights or information. Maybe that's the opposite of what cruises are supposed to be, though - maybe the whole point is to give your brain a break.
I definitely came back feeling more relaxed, though - the sleep alone was worth it and those beds are sooo comfortable!
Thanks for reading :)