My DH and I cruised with our 8 year old son on the Pride to the Bahamas out of Baltimore last week. Overall, we had a fantastic vacation. There was room for some improvement, but nothing that could ruin our trip.I sailed on Carnival with a bunch of girlfriends years ago when I was in my 20s and DH and I sailed on Disney in 2001.
Embarkation out of Baltimore was kind of slow. The ship arrived in port late that morning, thus pushing embarkation back. At one point, things were so backed up, they stopped letting people through customs for awhile. We arrived around 2:30 p.m. and waited in line for about 90 minutes.
First impressions of the Atrium upon walking onto the ship--beautiful! The Renaissance style paintings floor to ceiling are very impressive. Yes, there are some that are nude,but our 8 y/o didn't comment. We were greeted immediately with a waiter carrying drinks. We had one and just kind of took it all in.
We had a balcony stateroom, which I would highly recommend. It allowed for a little extra privacy as we were getting in and out of the shower, or just needed a little "space". I loved sitting out and watching the sunrises and sunsets from the balcony. I don't think I would ever cruise without one again!
The room had a king bed and an upper and lower bunk. We asked to have the upper bunk pulled down for our son so we'd have an extra seating area. The railing of the upper bunk was very loose. The room showed some signs of wear and tear. The balcony curtain had two pretty large rips, the furniture was a bit nicked up and there were random stains on the carpet. There was plenty of closet space, but a few more drawers would have been nice. The bathroom was small, naturally, but clean. One thing I liked on Disney that they don't have on Carnival is that the sink area is separate from the shower/toilet. Our room steward and staff was very good. They came twice a day to clean up, refill ice and replenish towels. Our son loved the towel animals! They were very nice and courteous.
Our son was enrolled in Camp Canaveral. I was a little skeptical of the staff at first, as they did not seem as outgoing as you would expect for a kids' program. But, as the week went on, I came to realize that it was more a language barrier thing. My son LOVED Camp Carnival. Even though it wasn't "family cruise" season, there were still plenty of kids his age. We usually sent him for a few hours in the morning and a few hours after dinner in the evening. We did not use the babysitting service. They did some neat activities and took the kids to the shows in the evening. A word of advice--pay attention to the kids club activity guide. They move the kids around the ship a good bit and there were several times we showed up for pick up or drop off at the Camp, but the kids were at another part of the ship and we'd have to hike over to get him.
Food--DH and I are "foodies", so we were really looking forward to the meals. We usually did breakfast and lunch at the buffet at Mermaids. It was "OK". Typical cruise fare, something for everyone, nothing was either outstanding or awful. We opted for the "your time dining" in the main dining room. It was very nice to not be tied to a dining room schedule and we never had to wait in line. We ended up requesting Corina the last few nights of the cruise. She was awesome! Remembered each night what we liked to drink and even that my son liked to have his PBJ as an appetizer before his chicken nuggets (my son is NOT a foodie! :)) Food in the dining room was good, but overall not exceptional. I did have a nice flatiron steak one night and the seafood newburg was very good. I also really enjoyed the Asian beef noodle bowl appetizer, too.
DH and I went to David's Steakhouse one night. It was OK, but the food in the dining room was really just as good. There wasn't anything really special about it and I wouldn't spend the extra $30 apiece. When we were on Disney, we tried their upscale dining room and I have to say, it blew David's away. The night we went, the steakhouse was virtually empty. Seriously, there were only about 6 other tables seated. If they want this program to continue, Carnival better step it up a bit.
We spent our ship days at the quieter pool on the Lido Deck. The pool where all the activities were was pretty crazy and loud. And of course since we had our son, we didn't do the adults only pool. Many of the families chose the semi-quiet pool. You could still hear the music and entertainment from the main pool, but it wasn't in your face all the time.
Since we were traveling with our son, we weren't really into the night life scene too much--usually just a couple of drinks after dinner. We really liked the piano bar! Every place we went, service was friendly and relatively fast. Some nights, we just enjoyed some drinks on our balcony. So for us, it was a pretty low key time.
General notes: Probably because of the time of year, we had a large number of seniors on our cruise. If you are looking for a mob of young families, this is probably not the time to go. Groups of younger passengers looked like they were having a good time and there certainly seemed to be a lot of activities to choose from.
Another thing we noticed was that Pride was, what I would consider, VERY laid back about the dress code. Yes, there were two "cruise elegant" nights and people cleaned up a bit more for those. For the other nights, I saw people out for dinner in the main dining room in outfits I wouldn't wear out for dinner at McDonalds. At breakfast, there were even people who showed up at Mermaids in bathrobes, pajamas and slippers! Not that you have to get all dolled up to go to breakfast, but come on people--at least get dressed!