Background: We chose this cruise because we live in Northern Virginia and the Baltimore departure didn't require the additional expense of airfare. Our two daughters and their friends joined my wife and me on the cruise. We chose three obstructed view (lifeboats in your face) rooms so that all six of us would have adequate bathroom access. We were not disappointed.
Boarding: Embarkation was tedious; it seemed as though the Baltimore Port Authority was learning how to load a cruise ship for the first time. Directions for passengers were non-existent and a working process was not apparent. Once the gauntlet was passed, all was smooth sailing (so to speak).
Ship: Overall, the ship is well maintained and meets the expectation s of most experienced cruisers. I'm not sure how the haunted house dEcor supports the "fun ship" theme Carnival advertises; the interior of the Pride is dark and encrusted with "embellishments." By the end of the cruise I finally stopped trying to see if my fellow passengers had reflections in the mirrors on the ship.
Food: The Normandy Dining Room was excellent for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; the food was varied, well-prepared, and professionally served. The Lido Grille was crowded, confusing, and crowded with aggressive feeders. We took all our meals in the dining room and were perfectly satisfied. Breakfast was the same each day, but lunch and dinner offered enough choices to keep any palette satisfied. Our evening wait staff were both friendly and professional (we were greeted with our names the first night), and the staff at other meals were uniformly courteous and efficient.
Entertainment: We enjoyed the production shows; dancing and singing were memorable. Comics, magicians, and jugglers are not "our cup of tea." New Year's Eve was great. Carnival provided several venues tailored to different tastes; we baby-boomers were treated to the sounds of the 70's to usher 2011; so we "danced the night away."
Sea Days: This itinerary is divided evenly between sea and port days (3 each). Sea days offer the opportunity to relax and enjoy the freedom of "doing nothing." Since most of the on-board activities are inane, we chose to "do nothing" and enjoy the relaxation. Unlike typical Caribbean cruises, the Baltimore departure positions the first and last day in the "not so temperate" weather of the mid-Atlantic. Our first day at sea was quite cold with high winds; passengers were restricted to indoor areas. As a result, the public areas were very crowded and our fellow passengers were not at their best.
Port Days: We booked itineraries through Carnival because we were on vacation and had no desire to worry about anything. At Port Canaveral we chose the Air Boat Excursion (with Coco Shopping) - the Air Boat was absolutely great; shopping kept the distaff members satisfied. Nassau brought Atlantis - the over-the-top water park and resort experience (Disney World for adults); everyone should try this at least once. In Freeport, we chose the kayak and nature hike - very enjoyable day with a small group paddling through mangroves, enjoying a beautiful, completely deserted beach, and seeing bizarre caves used by the ancients.
Experience: Great cruise for families and groups. Don't expect to meet interesting people; the typical Carnival cruiser is as interesting as white bread. The staff is cordial, friendly, and efficient; accommodations are well-suited for a week's vacation, and everything is geared to an effort-free holiday.