This was our 5th Carnival cruise and 9th overall and an enjoyable one. Here are the highlights, with just a few lowlights:
EMBARKATION: Parking was a breeze in Baltimore, and you can literally see your car from the ship. When we first arrived, we were able to pull right up to a luggage tram and watch the porter put it on. Parking is self parking, and a short walk to the terminal. We arrived around 1:30 knowing the Pride had been running late the past few weeks, but even that was too early. Guests from the prior week were still debarking, and that lasted until 2:15. We boarded about 3:30 as thousands of people were already ahead of us. Given that, the lines did move quickly and check in was not bad. Be warned, there is nothing to eat in the terminal. The few vending machines were sold out in no time. There was water put out by Carnival and water foundations, but that was it. We brought sandwiches with us, as we had a 3 hour drive without traffic, and noticed envious stares.
FOOD: Very good to excellent. Perhaps 2 dinners were okay and the rest were quite good to even better. Seriously, I think my favorite food in the whole world is the chocolate melting cake. DW never ordered it as it is too sweet for her, but my mouth waters just thinking of it. I also ordered the butter pecan ice cream and have it melt in the cake, and top it off with a glass of milk. The only other dessert I ever had was the bitter and blanc which was also very good. We ate breakfast in the dining room, and the only complaint is that it never changed. I have been on other lines where they will have a special everyday (blueberry pancakes one day, chocolate chip the next day, etc.). The Mermaid grill on Lido is very confusing. Even on the last day I still did not know where everything was. The Chinese food station was excellent (and this is coming from a New Yorker). Wonton soup, shrimp roll and entrees great. I do not eat sushi but my kids do and about half the evenings sushi was served on deck 2 near the casino entrance. They enjoyed it and had it a few times. The Lido also served fresh fruit at breakfast and lunch that was very fresh. My best compliment is that the food overall seemed high quality and tasty.
ACTIVITIES: This was somewhat disappointing. Especially with 2 sea days in a row going down there should have been more to do. We saw a movie in the Butterflies lounge one afternoon. Wish they had more of that. There were a few contests and games but not many. If you like water slides, this one was slow. It looked the same as the one on the Victory, but that one was much faster. The last day there was a Q & A on ship life that was the most informative talk I ever had on a cruise. Really gave us insight into shipboard life.
NIGHTLY ENTERTAIMENT: This was better. There were 2 comediennes most nights before or after the main show with a PG show early and an adult late. The shows were good. Cruise director, Jamie Deitch, was probably the most energetic we have had. At the Q & A she told us she is normally the assistant, and her boyfriend Kirk, who was on vacation, is the cruise director. We left on Halloween and there was decorations and an adult costume contest that the passengers judged after the main show. There was some trick or treating for the kids, but they only gave out 1 candy at about 6 stations, so that was pretty lame. At home, the kids will up a whole bag in half the time.
EXCURSIONS: We went to Cocoa Beach and spent a great day there. Shuttle took about 20 minutes. There was actually a free one there, on the other side of where the Carnival shuttles were. They gave us coupons to stores where they dropped us off, right by Ron Jon's, so they must have sponsored the shuttle. It ran every 30 minutes and only had Carnival passengers aboard as we were the only ship in port. We saved about $50 over the regular shuttle for the 4 of us. The beach was clean, not too crowded, and there were restrooms and outside showers, and places to eat and shop nearby. In Nassau we went to the Wyndham which had a nice pool and beach and great water slide. In Freeport we had to be back on board by 1 PM so we did our shopping that morning in the shops outside the terminal. Given the short time on land, this is a good cruise for people who enjoy ship life and sailing.
DEBARKING: We were supposed to arrive at 10AM but the day before they were calling for an 11:15 arrival. We actually arrived at 12:15. We only did self-assist because otherwise we were in zone 23 and they thought we would be on the ship till at least 3PM. They started letting people off at 12:35 by floor with about 30 minutes between floor. We were the third floor and lined up to leave about 1:30. We were in the car at 2:15 (remember this was self-assist). I cannot see everyone getting off until at least 4 but obviously we were not there to know. A major thank you to Carnival in that breakfast on the Lido was supposed to end at 10 but it stayed open and they started serving lunch at 11:30. This included pizza, sandwiches and some hot entrEe stations including chicken parmigiana (so definitely a full lunch was available). We spoke to people who said that on other cruises the food was cut off and people raided the ice cream machine until it was empty. As one crew member told me, we are not going to let you go hungry while waiting to debark.
DRYDOCK: Ship seemed in very good shape to us. There was a very noticeable vibration in the dining room and we were told drydock was moved up prior to the Baltimore winters and storms. From our perspective, the impending drydock did not affect our experience in any way.
In summary, we all enjoyed the cruise and would sail again. I wish I were on the cruise right now.