I'll start with a little cruise history on us. We have sailed on Holland America (which we absolutely love), Princess (which after each time we've asked ourselves why) and one prior on Carnival (which we really liked).
We arrived at the Baltimore cruise terminal around 11:00 to find a line of many cars waiting for the parking area. Fortunately we were being dropped off so we were directed right up to the curb where our luggage was taken and we were directed right into the terminal. We were among the first several people to be registered as the agents were all having what seemed to be a meeting behind the counters. I will say that this process was seamless and went very quickly.
We were then directed to the seating area, which we discovered would be our home for the next few hours. The area filled up rather quickly as we sat...and sat...and sat. There was apparently a wedding onboard that we saw the wedding party and guests going into a special holding area. I commented that I didn't think we would be going on until at least 1:00...and I was right. They made a few announcements and eventually I could see the wedding group lining up in the holding area, so I knew we would be next. Around 1:15 we were finally called to board.
I do not intend to bore with all of the details of our activities of each day but rather explain what we thought of the experience overall...
We were met with loud bells when we took our photos at the boarding kiosk and told to go onboard. When we placed our cards in the kiosk to get on the ship it rang again where we were told to wait for a guest services representative. We waited for about 10 minutes and told the security officer that we would go to guest services ourselves. At guest services we were told that we rang because we were on the special accommodations list due to our CPAP machines and they wanted to be sure that we had them and everything was okay. We have never experienced this before on any sailing, but this was fine...an extra step to ensure that everything was in order for us. One would have thought that this would be the end of dealing with the CPAP...but more to come. When our luggage arrived in our stateroom we were greeted by a note that forbidden items had been removed and would be delivered to our stateroom on the last morning of the sailing. These forbidden items were our power strip and extension cord that we were directed by Carnival Guest Relations to bring for our CPAP machines. I even had the email with us that had been sent by Carnival. I went to guest relations and was told that we would be provided with extension cords from our steward. I explained that we needed accommodations for two CPAP machines and the representative assured me that it would be fine. After I returned to the stateroom our steward brought an extension cord with one outlet. I explained to him that this wouldn't work because we had two machines and he shrugged and left. I called guest services and was assured once again that this would be resolved soon and that accommodations would be in our stateroom soon. We went to dinner and went about on the ship for the evening a bit and returned to our stateroom around 9:00 still to no accommodations. I called again and was told that this would be taken care of immediately. Finally by 9:30 someone from the engineering department arrived with a three way plug that we plugged into the end of the extension cord. This was not the way that we wanted to start our cruise...but definitely not a good note to begin with...especially since we were only doing as instructed by Carnival. Why do they instruct guests to do something when once onboard it is not acceptable? This is not a very guest-friendly policy.
We were in an extended-balcony aft. The stateroom itself was fine. To me, the best part about being in the back of the ship is never getting lost going to the room. I am one that never gets lost on land, but get me on a ship and I never seem to go the right way when we're going to our room. At least when we're in the back of the ship I know which way to go every time. We were not overly impressed with the aft balcony. We had the opportunity to move elsewhere on the ship, but I had always wanted an aft balcony, so we kept it. It was nice to be over the wake, but that was basically it. To us, it was great for sailaway to be able to be out there while sailing out of Baltimore, under the Key Bridge and under the Bay Bridge...but other than that we pretty much got tired of seeing where we've been rather than where we're going. I know I am in the minority here, but it is just how we felt...we'll go for mid-ship rooms again in the future. The room itself was a nice size and the bathroom was as well. We did notice that the shower seemed to be larger than the shower on the Freedom...there was at least room to turn around without getting the entire bathroom soaked. The bed was mostly rather uncomfortable. We asked our steward for an egg-crate, but he didn't seem to know what that was but said he was going to do something to make it more comfortable. We really didn't find this to help but we told him it was fine. Our steward did a very good job of keeping the room clean and providing towel animals every night. We had ample storage room and really didn't notice any wear-and-tear in the room.
What we liked about the sailing:
•The Chef's Table should not be missed. While it is rather costly, we considered this an "onboard excursion" and thoroughly enjoyed it. •We never really have any problems with the food in the MDR. It was always very good. Our servers Ni and Allan were very good. We were in the early assigned seating for dinner, but we always requested to be seated in Ni's section at breakfast as well. Apparently she was rather popular as her section was always full and usually there was a wait to sit there. •The spa pool is a nice place to relax. It was basically the only quiet water place on the ship. •The wrap-around deck on the top of the ship is very nice for walking. •The cruise staff seemed to be very outgoing and genuinely concerned that everyone was enjoying themselves. •The shows in the show lounge were mostly good (for shipboard entertainment).
What we didn't like about the sailing:
•The around-the-ship entertainment was generally a joke. There were these things called pianos throughout the lounges on the ship, but most of them were covered for the entire sailing. Mostly all of the singers were singing to Karaoke-type tracks rather than to live music. Why not uncover those pianos and play for the singers. There was a recording artist named Robbin that played the different lounges throughout the ship. The only reason that I remember his name is because he so annoyingly announced his name and affiliation with his record label after each song, before each song and basically during every breath that he took. There was a "Jason Mraz" type singer who did a nice job, however he was often in the casino bar (and we would not sit there to hear him because of the smoking). The pianist that played was not good. She could not even look up from her music while she was playing and when she was playing she looked so incredibly nervous. This is supposed to be her forte, not something that she's frightened about. The piano bar was an interesting place to us. Every time that we walked past the musician was playing the guitar and not the piano. One of the best singers that we found onboard was the singer who ran the All-Star Karaoke (where you sing live with the band). She should have been singing in the lounges around the ship rather than being stuck singing Karaoke. •We were surprised to see that the various bars around the ship and outside by the pools, etc were not always open during the day. You cannot sell drinks if you are not open, but often we had to walk to the other pool to be able to get something to drink...or inside to another lounge. •When you looked at the tiling around the pools it was very obvious that the ship was soon going into dry-dock. Half of the tiles were missing. •David's Steakhouse was rather a let-down. David's cost more than the Pinnacle Grill on Holland America, however the service and food were not nearly as good. While the food was okay, it was not anything worth paying an additional $30. The service left much to be desired. Everyone seemed to be knowledgeable, however in the beginning it was almost to the point of intrusive and in the end almost to the point of non-existent. Also...they misplaced a bottle of our wine. We were assured that the wine that we didn't drink would be sent to the MDR for us to finish the next night. The next night when Ni tried to find our wine she could not. It ended up that David's put the incorrect table number on it. •Many of the clientele on the ship seemed to believe that they were the only people on the ship and no one else mattered. While I agree that everyone is on vacation and can do whatever they want, there should also be a degree of respect for everyone else onboard. I'll only mention a few, such as the woman who seemed to think it was fine to scream every time that she walked into the pool area or show lounge, the couple from Karaoke who were always VIPs (and I don't mean that in a good way...Visibly Intoxicated Persons) and basically ran people out of the lounge, the people who believe it is fine to allow their children to jump and swim in the whirlpools and the people who think it is fine to bring their children into the pool in diapers.
We do not like the way that disembarkation is handled on this ship. To elaborate a bit, on Holland America you can stay in your stateroom until your number is called to exit the ship however when you got on a week ago the staterooms are not available immediately. On Princess you must leave your staterooms and wait in your assigned areas on the ship, however by doing this your stateroom was ready to go to as soon as you arrived on the ship a week earlier. On this sailing we had to exit our stateroom by 9:00...and our staterooms were not ready for us when we boarded a week earlier...so there was no bonus to us at all. Disembarkation was the worse that we have encountered on any ship. We left our room by 9:00 as instructed and went to the Ivory piano bar to wait. We docked back in Baltimore at about 10:15. I'm not really sure what happened, but we did not leave the ship until around 1:15. This is a very long time to be sitting in a lounge without food or drinks available. Not a very good way to end a sailing.
All in all, we boarded this sailing with the intent of booking our next sailing while onboard. We were going to try the Carnival Dream next April for our 10th anniversary. After about 3 days on the ship we decided that we need to go back to Holland America because we know we will be much happier there. We loved our sailing on Carnival Freedom last year and thought this would be the same type of sailing, but we left the Pride wondering if it was even the same cruise line.