We returned home yesterday from our first Carnival cruise, the Pride, Baltimore to Bahamas, 7-night itinerary. This was our 10th cruise, so we are experienced cruisers. Since this was our first time on Carnival, we went in to it with an open mind, and actually excited to see what another cruise line had to offer. We traveled with my sister and brother-in-law, also experienced cruisers.
We booked this cruise a couple of months ago because I wanted to slip in another vacation this year, and this sailing met our requirements. We wanted to stay on budget, and sail close to home (we live in suburban Baltimore.) This cruise succeeded on both points. Our friend dropped us off at the terminal at 1 p.m. and the check in process was smooth and efficient. However, due to problems with the previous week's sailing (I was told on the ship that it was late departing from Freeport, therefore delaying their arrival in Baltimore the day of our sailing.) We sat in the terminal until 3:30, which is when we were allowed to board. Because of the delay in boarding, everyone on board was given $15 OBC, which I though was very nice.
Initial impressions upon boarding the ship. OK, here's what my first impression was: WHAT WERE THEY THINKING??? I know the theme of the ship is Renaissance art, but come on!! We walked onto the ship into the Atrium and it is so dark, and not open feeling at all. I think the designer had to have been clinically depressed to design such a dark and closed in feeling atrium. I had a hard time getting past that all week. I'm accustomed to atriums being light and airy--which is what you want on a vacation. While I have an intellectual appreciation for the Renaissance art period, it is not my favorite, and I had a hard time appreciating the design aesthetic of this ship. That said, there were other areas of the ship where the design was much more attractive, boarding on whimsical, such as Beauties (the disco), Starry Nights lounge, Ivories Piano bar, Butterflies lounge, and the Sports Lounge. Those were terrific spaces. The main show lounge, the Taj Mahal Theater, in my opinion, looked very tacky and unattractive.
Our ports of call were Port Canaveral, Nassau and Freeport. We've been to Pt. Canaveral and Nassau before, so we just hit the beaches there. We planned to go to Our Lucaya beach in Freeport, but our time there was so short (leaving at 1:30) that we decided to stay on the ship and enjoy the pool area and just relax.
This ship has a very good layout, and is easy to navigate your way around. The Pride gets very high marks for several things: I love how there are several pool/whirlpool areas around the ship, so none of the pool areas feel crowded, especially on sea days. That was terrific! I loved how there were spa bathrobes in our cabin, and a basket of toiletries and disposable razors (for him and her) in the bathroom. I loved that the shower was large enough to actually move around in and shave my legs--that's a big deal! I loved how there was both shampoo and shower gel in the shower wall dispensers. I love that Carnival allows each couple to bring on board two bottles of wine. My sister and BIL don't drink, so they carried on wine for us too.
FOOD & DINING. This is where Carnival Pride missed the mark completely. We did have one dinner at David's Steakhouse, which was excellent. The food and presentation were exceptional. My only complaint was that they charged us a $14 corkage fee to open our wine. We were never charged a corkage fee in the main dining room, and while I know that they have the right to charge a corkage fee, we were already paying a $30 upcharge per person to dine at the steakhouse, and I felt the corkage fee on top of that was ridiculous. We had the anytime dining option in the dining room, and unless you get there very early, or very late, we had to wait--anywhere from 15 to 35 minutes. We were not allowed to make a reservation. The dining room staff was pleasant, but the service was inconsistant all week. Of the six nights we ate in the dining room, most meals were only fair, at best, and a few were very good. Not once, the entire week, did a meal come out of the kitchen hot. Not once. And we shouldn't have had to ask for water, or wine glasses, or bread.
The buffet restaurant, Mermaid's Grill, was only fair. And it's very spread out, so you have to walk around a lot to get from station to station. The coffee was terrific though. What we really liked was there were both soft frozen yogurt and ice cream machines in several locations throughout the ship.
ENTERTAINMENT. We saw a few of the main showroom shows, and they were typical cruise ship fare. The different singers in the lounges were fair to good. What we really liked was that Carnival had live stand-up comedians several nights in the Butterflies lounge. They did both family shows (PG rated), and later in the evening, they offered more adult-themed comedy shows. We saw three shows (three different comedians) and all were terrific.
All in all, we had a very good vacation, but it's still questionable if we'd sail Carnival again. My husband was really turned off by the entire dining experience. Given the right circumstances, I might consider cruising Carnival again.