After a year of detailed planning, our family embarked on a 50th wedding anniversary cruise aboard the Carnival Pride. The cruise departed from the Port of Baltimore on July 18, 2010, with scheduled stops at Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Freeport, Bahamas.
The cruise was a wonderful family bonding experience and a great opportunity for family members to reconnect with others living some distance away. This alone was well worth the expense of the voyage. The convenience and efficiency of the Port of Baltimore operations was also an unexpected pleasure.
I only wish the same could be said of the Carnival Pride and much of her crew. In the opinion of this nine time cruiser, the Pride is clearly showing her age and this elderly ship is in great need of updating and renovation. Her crew is in dire need of rejuvenation or replacement. One major area in need of prompt attention, the Security Department, and numerous other relatively minor inconveniences, seriously detracted from the potential of a fun experience. I had heard unconfirmed rumors that Carnival ships did not live up to the standards of other lines but I relented, upon perhaps mistaken advice of my travel consultant, and booked the family celebration on the Pride. The most compelling reasons for booking the Pride was the convenience of the Baltimore departure and a seven day cruise length that went somewhere other than Bermuda. Unfortunately, this trip on the Carnival Pride was clearly the worst experience of all my other eight cruises, including wonderful voyages aboard two other ships that are "World's Leading Cruise Lines" affiliates of Carnival. A more appropriate name for the Carnival Pride would be the Carnival Embarrassment.
The fact that this voyage basically became the cruise to nowhere reportedly because of the threat posed by Tropical Storm Bonnie did not increase my dissatisfactions. I have experienced itinerary changes due to weather problems on prior cruises without complaint. Additionally, I've always found on previous cruises, that the ship amenities are the focus of the voyage, not the destination ports. Sadly the Pride and her crew did not live up to previous cruise experiences.
I have compiled a list of 21 areas of irritation which I experienced aboard the Pride which I shared separately with Carnival. The following is a summary of some of the dissatisfactions:
1. Cleanliness and operations of the Lido/Mermaid Grill food areas were unsatisfactory and the table bussing operation there was completely inefficient. During the busiest meal times, dirty tables went uncleaned for extended periods of time while diners searched for an open table. The busing staff was basically absent. Equipment at the Lido Grill was also a problem as at least one juice/water station was out of operation during each meal and the ice machines were usually out of ice. Additionally, on all my other cruises, at restaurants similar to the Lido Grill, wait staff delivered water, juice and coffee to diners at their table. The Pride does not do this though such service would have eliminated one of the problems discussed in the next item below. Also, Ice cream is available 24 hours a day but after about 11 PM, there were usually no cones nor clean dishes and utensils to use at the ice cream dispensers.
2. The food stations layouts in the Lido Grill buffet area are inefficient requiring passengers to visit a minimum of three stations to obtain a complete meal. Then passengers with trays of food were forced to cross thru lines of other passengers awaiting service leading to confusion and frequent accidents. Though more time consuming, taking breakfast and lunch in the main dining room is a far better experience that the Lido/Mermaid Grill.
3. The food in the Lido Grill, and to a lesser extent the Normandie Restaurant, looked tired and aged, far below the appetizing presentation standards of other cruise lines.
4. Many of the bar and wait staff crew members' proficiency in English was sadly lacking. This apparently contributed to the generally inhospitable demeanor of the bar staff.
5. Special requests were often not fulfilled. As an example, three of the suites assigned to my family were adjoining. As soon as we boarded ship, a request was made to open the balcony separators so the family could gather on an elongated balcony. One divider was opened but when asked why the second one wasn't the maintenance crew reported that they were out of clips to secure the open divider. Perhaps innovation such as tying it open with a rope could have taken care of this issue. But not by the Carnival Pride crew.
6. David's restaurant featured exquisite food and impeccable service and is well worth the extra fee. But don't do so with a group of more than 6 people as they can't guarantee that your group will sit together and the maitre d' wouldn't lift a finger to accommodate us. In fact, I was called a liar, without justification, by the head person. I didn't know I was supposed to pay extra to be insulted. Another dissatisfier is that the red glass dome covering the restaurant and the blinding early evening sun make the restaurant too hot and uncomfortable for an enjoyable meal. Then, to sit in front of a totally nude statue of David with young family members present is not my idea of a wholesome family experience. David's Steak House is a good idea poorly executed.
7. Everywhere you looked, Carnival nickel and dimed the passengers. For example, at the Lido Grill breakfast buffet lines you can take anything you want on your own except bacon and sausages which were served by crew to insure only two pieces of each were allowed. Additionally, two family members participated as "Carnival Legends" in the last night's show. As a gift for their performance they were promised a "free drink" by the Cruise Director. Turns out that the certificate was limited to $5.25 each and the minimum price for any drink other than beer was about $7.95. So the free drink cost them about $1.70 each.
8. I paid $35 in advance to celebrate one family member's birthday. Don't waste your money doing this. The "celebration" consisted of one small door streamer with generic "happy birthday" card hanging off it (not personalized as on other ships which provide free decorations) and two glittery streamers strung across the suite. Next time I'll go into any party store, spend $5 and get a lot more celebrating.
9. Information provided to passengers was not up to the standards I've experienced on all other cruises. For example, the ship's deck layout pocket guide was not found in the stateroom upon arrival as has been my prior experiences. After spending a couple of days learning the floor plan on my own, I discovered pocket guides lying on a bar counter. The weather forecast broadcast on stateroom television is a one line text narrative and only updated at 9 A.M. and 4 P.M. daily. The daily "Fun Times" seems to be mostly canned information about activities aboard ship which appear to be repeated daily. Fun Times doesn't provide much new news such as ship's current location, speed, distance traveled since origination, overnight course, weather at expected next port, world news headlines, and tender operations at ports of call. And almost anytime you heard the beep of the ship's public address system you could expect to hear only one of two things; either bad news/apologies from the Captain about an itinerary change or a promotional announcement of the start of yet another bingo game.
10. Shipboard entertainment, except for the Pride professional singers and dancers, was sub-standard unless you loved endless bingo promotions and games, casino gambling, and karaoke. In fairness, the shows featuring the Pride professional singers and dancers were excellent and their "Wonderful World" show was especially terrific. The remainder of the prime show time entertainment was very ordinary, with overemphasis on comedians. In addition to the extraordinarily high cost of the "on-demand" pay per view movies in staterooms, the limited selections were generally outdated. Most have long since left on-demand pay per view schedules of stateside TV outlets and are often now shown on free TV. And speaking of TV, in the absence of any other prominent news outlets on the ship, it was hoped that the stateroom TV channels could provide meaningful updates. However, the network TV shown on this Baltimore based ship emanated from Denver and featured relatively meaningless news and weather reports. Broadcasts of east coast stations would have been more appropriate.
But my most serious dissatisfaction was caused by the incompetence and lack of effort on the part of the Pride's Security Department. The non-professionalism and refusal to investigate illegal activity on the part of the Pride's Security Department should be an embarrassment to the entire cruise line. Heads should roll! My 15 year old granddaughter had two terrible experiences in dealing with the Security Department which is obviously only interested in protecting Carnival Pride property but not really interested in passenger safety and security. Both involved activities related to the teen Club 02. First, at Half Moon Cay a group of Club 02 girl friends had huddled near the beach. A teen aged male threw a rock at the group of girls and hit my granddaughter on the forehead, just above the right eye. This is my granddaughter who has undergone extensive high technology tests (e.g. MRI, CAT scan) during the last six months to help resolve a yet not fully diagnosed brain disorder. The Security Department at Half Moon Cay was notified and merely treated her open head wound with alcohol (not a logical treatment for an open wound) but refused to pursue the rock thrower though many of the girls in the group knew his first name and indicated that he had attended several sanctioned Club 02 activities. A mere review of the security photos taken at boarding of teen aged boys and/or Club 02 registrants would have easily identified the rock thrower. Security refused to take any follow up action.
The second incident was equally outrageous. On the last night of the cruise (Saturday) a late night event was held at Club 02. About 1 A.M., my granddaughter put her purse on a table for a moment to sign the back of a Club 02 tee shirt of one of her new friends. In an instance her purse was picked up by two young males who ran from Club 02 with the purse, containing an expensive camera and my granddaughter's ship's ID card. Several Club 02 youths chased after the thieves but eventually lost them. They felt certain they could recognize the thieves from ships photos. My granddaughter immediately reported this incident to the Club 02 counselor who promptly called Pride Security. The Security personnel took her to the security office where she was questioned for almost 2 hours and eventually only offered a new ship's ID card. Security indicated that there was no investigating that they could do as they had to prepare the ship for docking in Baltimore the following morning. Her parents visited the Security Department early the following morning and were again told that there was no investigation possible. Again all that would have been required was a photo data base search which any legitimate security department would have done. But not on the Carnival Pride. The purse and camera, with irreplaceable photo memories, were not recovered. It is obvious to me that passenger safety and security is not a function recognized by the Carnival Pride Security Department.
These major security issues and the numerous other dissatisfiers detracted for a wonderful family bonding experience. I shall not quickly forget these matters nor forgive Carnival Cruise Lines for detracting from this wonderful family gathering through their incompetence, even if they did not knowingly do so. Despite the forwarding of this critique to Carnival, all I and my travel agency, Travel HQ, received was a meaningless, innocuous apology from a Carnival Cruise Lines "Guest Care" representative which didn't address the issues. I was also disappointed in the obvious ineffectiveness of Travel HQ officials in their reported attempts to redress my complaints. I would suggest any potential clients consider using agencies that have greater influence with cruise lines than Travel HQ.