First and foremost I have been on many cruises with Royal Caribbean (including the newer Oasis fleet) so as I might be biased, I will explain at the bottom some of the differences I found. My mom, dad, brother and sisters have never been on a cruise so I decided to take a look at the Carnival Pride since we live in Northern VA and it is easy to get to B-More. Three months ago I went on the Enchantment of the Seas (5 night) with RC and my GF went on a 9 night cruise with Norwegian with her family a month ago, both out of Baltimore, so I choose the Pride to give ourselves some variety. Boy was that a mistake, so being a natural cruiser I hyped cruising in general to my family, saying it would be the best vacation our family has ever taken. So lets begin......
Coming onto the boat:
Nothing, nada, no splash, no grand entrance....no welcoming party and no one there to get you excited about your next 7 days. You walk into the boat and you are on your own, go to your room or explore. As I walked down the halls it was odd, the hallways for rooms were narrow as expected but every time we passed a section for steps and elevator you would never know because that area was so small as well. The decor made it feel like I was in the hotel where Stephen Kings book turned movie "the shining" was filmed. Dark, musky weird decor which continued throughout the boat. The navigation of the boat at first is tough too since everything is so enclosed, every hall way looks identical and so does every deck. Finding my entire party was quite the adventure but eventually we ended up at Mermaid's grill (buffet area).
Now maybe some people like the fact that there are different stations but myself I prefer all the food in one big area and not so spread out. Everyday I had to go to 4 different corners just to make sure I wasn't missing out on something special, which I didn't. Pizza bar was decent, salad was average, sandwich corner was cool but only liked one sandwich (tried them all). Italian food was bland, rotisserie was bland and the Asian spot, well I am of Asian decent and the food they were serving is like that one Chinese spot in your area you went to and vowed never to go back. The breakfast was horrible, I was telling my family they have every breakfast meat, sausage, turkey sausage, CORNBEEF HASH, bacon, hash browns, potatoes, on and on and on. First morning come to find out you have 6 things to choose from, grits, oatmeal, bread, scrabbled eggs, some sort of weird meat combo (one day sausage and corn, sausage and mushrooms) and bacon. They did have an egg station but line was always stupid long. Also had pastries and cereal. This never changed for breakfast, maybe I was spoiled by Royal Caribbean which puts everything out there everyday. On this boat I often skipped breakfast. Lunch was uninspiring, it was like I ate just to eat. The burgers for some reason were good but to avoid gaining 20 pounds I tried to limit myself. I would go up and get plate after plate to try the different foods and realized I would be wasting plate after plate full of food, its horrible to say but I was determined to find that one the thing I would like, never really did and I never went there for dinner so I don't know how that was.
Activities and Entertainment:
Something Carnival could not control was the horrible weather, it was cold everywhere, Orlando and Bahamas. One thing that I hated was the fact there were only 4 small hot tubs located on the boat, 2 outside on deck 9, 1 outside in "adults only" area and one in the middle of the gym. Each hot tub could maybe fit 8 people comfortably. Now you do the math, cold weather over 2500 people, yeah I did not get in any form of water as much as I tried the entire cruise. The music my god was interesting, I am a musician myself and love music, you could go on deck 9, the main area or outside the dining hall to hear:
1. An older gentleman playing Jimmy Buffet and type songs
2. A middle age man playing acoustic guitar bits with horrible voice that often cracked
3. A black man that was actually really good.
Now all three of them played behind a mac computer that would provide drums, bass and back up singers. The problem behind this is they would rotate around the boat and each musician would play their own play list which must of consisted of 30 songs each... I must of heard Sweet Caroline 20 times throughout the cruise. It was like your friend having a guitar and he learned 3 songs but he loved to play them over and over and over again.
Comedy shows were decent, dancers and singers performed like a high school group often not in sync and other "headlining" shows were average and was something to do to fill in the time.
Oh and one thing that ticked me off, 1 poker tournament with 10 players the entire cruise, only one which was the first day. When I asked the lady looked at me like I was crazy, like I was the only one that would enter a poker tournament.
Normandie Dining Hall:
Our head waiter was actually awesome, Camillo, I saw another review for him that said he was decent but he really made it a point to be a good waiter for us. The food was so uninspiring, when I go on RC cruises the biggest dilemma I have usually is what to eat at dinner, so I usually order 2 entrees, on the Carnival Pride I had problems finding 1 thing, I mean you had your normal steak, chicken pork and seafood dishes but its like nothing would pop at you that said man I want that, so maybe not the food itself but the descriptions were uninspiring. The food was decent and as others have said, we didn't meet our Maitre D at all but for some reason they gave us an envelope to tip him, no thanks. The bar server was non existent so we just got wine every night from Cam. So dining room food decent but not what you would expect.
SMOKE SMOKE SMOKE:
If you don't smoke, it sucks. The casino and sports bar are areas that are actually fun, to watch the nfl playoffs and the BCS national championship. Unfortunately you have to look at the TV's through a cloud of smoke. The crazy thing is walking through these places to get to other side of the boat, you would get back to your cabin and reek of smoke, not fun. Unlike other boats also, they don't give you ESPN in your room, so if you are a sports freak like me, you have to sit in the smoker to get your sports fix.
I love specialty restaurants on cruise ships, its the one place where you can have a private dinner with excellent food. We came to our 8:15 reservation and no hostess in site, waiters looked at us and walked by not saying anything. It was awkward, it was like can someone please just say something, it was like we didn't exist. Finally we get seated, menu was pretty diverse but food was very mediocre, filet was like any other filet and sides were not good, salads were exactly the same as the dining hall. Dessert selection was good but I do not need a cheesecake the size of my head. Def not worth $30...also they don't specify if tip is included..on RC it says price includes tip, so we ended up tipping on top of $30 to avoid looking like cheepos.
Was a good size, balcony was always dirty and it looked like the chairs had paint on it. The shower was a good size, but our toilet broke a few times which is fine as long as they fix it. Our stateroom attendant was good at cleaning our rooms but too bad I never met the guy once I also couldn't get his schedule down of when he did things, just would randomly come back to room and it would be clean or not cleaned.
Some differences from RC and Carnival:
- Stateroom attendant with RC not only knew my name before I met him/her but I would see them all the time, always in hallways, always checking up on me when I walk by, would clean once in morning, once in afternoon, once in evening, so I knew when to be out of my room. RC has a full laundry and ironing service, 2 formal nights = 2 dress shirts I need ironed, RC keeps a bag with price labels for everything you need done. Carnival does not have that but the 3rd night sends you a flier saying they do laundry service. So I had to spray my shirts with water and hoping the wrinkles would come out.
- RC boats in general seem more open, big atrium when you walk in, hallways are same but elevator areas seem bigger.
- RC host smoke free casino nights, although this might not seem like a big thing it is to people like myself that hate smoke.
- Food selection is better on RC, from the buffet to dining hall and if the food isn't better in taste, it is in the descriptions and presentation.
- Chopps Grille ($25) compared to Davids Restaurant ($30) is night and day, I have ate steak houses from Pappas Brothas in Dallas to Peter Luger in NY to all your normal Ruth Chris and Mortons and I can tell you Chopps can hold its own against these places, whereas Davids is more like Outback.
- Activities are basically the same, it all depends on the boat and the entertainers
- The main difference I saw were the other cruisers. If you are young, looking to party and get fresh Carnival is probably the boat to go on, if you are a work man out of college looking to relax and enjoy family time, Carnival is not the way to go.
I mean there are more and more things that can be added on but in general I would avoid if anything the Carnival Pride, maybe other Carnival boats are better. Personally myself I will just stick with what I know works FOR ME which is Royal Caribbean.