BACKGROUND: I live in Maryland and cruised out of Baltimore for the first time. It was my son's spring break week and I cruised with my 19 year old son, his buddy and a buddy of mine. My buddy got his own balcony cabin. The rest of us had a quad balcony room. We got a good deal and this was my first balcony cabin.
EMBARKATION : The Port of Baltimore was great, when compared to NY and Miami. No delays and adequate staffing. It was great not to pay airfare to Florida.
You are allowed to carry on one regular sized bottle of wine or champagne per drinking age occupant of the room. I was the only drinking age occupant and took on a bottle of wine. You are also allowed to carry on or take in checked baggage 12 non-alcoholic beverages per room occupant. I took a half case of bottled water and two 12 packs of soda. I was glad that I sneaked on a half gallon of rum and a half gallon of Smirnoff Ice in my checked luggage. I used half gallon Dole juice paper carton containers with resealable caps. These aren't picked up like glass or plastic containers by the luggage scanning equipment. Pack the containers tightly in your suitcase and rap with soft items, to minimize movement and the possibility of rupture. This all worked out well and we saved a lot of money on alcohol, soda and bottled water.
CABIN : We had a balcony stateroom on the Verandah deck, deck#7. Nice sized room with 2 double beds joined and bunk beds. The bed was very comfortable and my son and his buddy liked the bunk beds. My first cruise with a balcony and it was great. The bathroom was adequate size with a surprisingly convenient sized shower. A little more closet space would have been nice. It was tough to maneuver at times with three men in the room. The cabin had a stocked fridge which my steward had to open initially. I had him take out the provided beverages and put my beverages in there.
SHIP AND PUBLIC ROOMS : The ship was beautiful. She appeared to be very well maintained. It is a mid-sized ship with a 2100 passenger capacity. My cruise was fully booked. I waited in line no longer than 5 minutes for anything the entire cruise. The paintings, etc. on the ship were interesting but not offensive. The casino was very spacious. The main event theater/Taj Mahal and various bars were spacious and very nice. Real nice sport's bar with a great Russian bartender.
The Lido deck has 3 separate pool areas with whirlpools. The mid ship area has one domed pool and one uncovered pool. It was nice to have this option, depending on the weather. In the very rear/aft of the Lido deck is a an adults only pool area called Poseidons with umbrellas, hammocks and over-sized chairs. This was great!!
The gym was a medium sized area with modern amenities. Nice sauna and spa areas.
FOOD : All and all the food was very good on this cruise. The Normandie restaurant had great food for dinner and breakfast. I recommend this venue for all dinners and breakfasts. I saw lunch offered here only one day, but I may be wrong. Our waiter was efficient, if not very personable. We had a our same table for 4 each night with late seating. Two formal nights, which we didn't get dressed up for :) We loved just about all the food and desserts. This included entrees of lobster tail, prime rib, veal parmigiana, ribs, petite fillet mignon, huge pork cops, beef stroganoff, southern fried chicken, pasta and shrimp/chicken, lamb, etc. All the chicken dishes were great. The prime rib and ribs had a little fat but were very tasty. Appetizers included New England crab cakes, escargot, chilled soups, shrimp, salads, lobster bisque, etc. The lobster bisque and shrimp cocktail were so so. Desserts included the yummy warm chocolate cake( my son got this every night), cherries jubilee, apple pie, lemon cake, etc. The baked Alaska and cherries jubilee were so so.
We all had multiple appetizers, entrees and desserts each night, with no questions asked. Seconds and even thirds were never a problem. I love this about Carnival !! You can try whatever you want and if you don't care for it you just get something else. My buddy loved it because they have an expansive gluten free menu, many more options than other cruise lines. The late risers breakfast at the outside grill areas wasn't that great. The scrambled eggs were very tasty but cold. I didn't realize that you could have a made to order omelet here til the last day. It's almost like they hide the fact :) The french toast looked good but I didn't try it. Good fruits available here, too. My first choice for breakfast is by far at the Normandie main dining room. The only problem is they shut down by 9 or 10 AM.
I only ate at the Mermaid buffet once or twice for lunch or dinner and it was good. Walk around the entire Mermaid buffet area before selecting your meal. The deli had good sandwiches and the outside grills had great burgers, chili, sauerkraut, hot dogs and potato salad. The chicken tenders and fries also looked good but I didn't partake. I had the pizza a couple times and found it real good but a bit too spicy/salty. It may be me because everyone else raved about the pizza. A nice variety of pizzas and calzone is available. The free ice cream and frozen yogurt was great. I am not a sushi eater but everyone raved about it. There are 2 sushi stations on the ship. I didn't go to the specialty restaurant, it seemed pointless with all the great food available for free.
The room service is open 24 hours and consists of the normal fare. They are very skimpy on the meat, etc. on the sandwiches. The response time varied from great to horrible. I recommend the BLT and cheesecake. The tuna is OK. I got a little ill when I got the steak and brie sandwich.
BEVERAGES : Beer and other alcohol was from 7 to $9 per drink, including a 15% automatic gratuity. When compared to daily drink specials and Smirnoff Ice, beer was the most expensive. I didn't check on the discounted multiple beers in a bucket price.
A soda plan was in the $40 range. Iced and hot tea, lemonade, breakfast juices, hot chocolate and coffee were free. The coffee on this ship and all Carnival ships is horrible !! The iced tea, lemonade and juices were good. I wish the provided cups were larger :)
ENTERTAINMENT : There was no lack of good entertainment on this ship. Basketball and volleyball courts, putt putt golf, jogging track, ping pong tables, etc. Tournaments/contests held for ping pong, bean bag toss/corn hole, free throws, putt putt, various trivia, hairiest chest, bingo, slots, blackjack, card games, etc. A couple of deck parties were held with corresponding buffets. Sing a long piano bar was nice and the best karaoke I have ever experienced on a ship. I didn't go to many shows but I heard the late night shows were the best. Plenty of daily activities, including casino game lessons, ice carving, tea parties, wine tasting, etc. Or you could just chill out and relax in many different ship areas. This was not a crowded ship with a lot of hustle and bustle.
PASSENGERS : A varied passenger makeup with everything from spring breakers to elderly couples. A lot of people from Maryland, PA, Delaware, West Virginia and the Midwest. A very nice, engaging and polite group of people. This cruise had a nice, warm and fuzzy feel to it. Even though full to capacity, it didn't feel too crowded at all. My friend said it was the best cruise that he has ever been on.
STAFF AND CREW : Generally speaking, the ship crew and staff were friendly and efficient. Our room steward was OK. Our wait staff was OK. The service desk personnel were always helpful. I always felt like I could approach anyone working on the ship and they would be helpful and friendly.
SHIP SHOPS : You and get wine and liquor at about half price in the ship shops. Also, cigarettes are about half price. However, generally, if you don't find sale items, these shops are very overpriced. Two for $20 tee shirts were the best sale items I found in the ship shops. I would recommend buying souvenirs and maybe even liquor and cigarettes at non-USA ports of call.
EXCURSIONS : I didn't book any excursions through the ship. I don't understand why anyone does, because you can do your own excursions at a fraction of the price. Port Canaveral was the first stop. We took the free Ron & Jon surf shop shuttle to Cocoa Beach. Great beach and town. Took same shuttle back to the ship. Nassau was stop #2. We went to Atlantis via collective van, which by their laws, can't exceed $4 per passenger. We walked around the area but refused to pay $100 plus per to get into the complex. We heard the Blue Lagoon was a nice island but we missed the last boat at $40+ per person. $4 van ride back to the port and dropped the boys off at Senior Frogs, where they had way too good a time. This is a beautiful city. Freeport was the final stop. I had been here about 10 years but it was nicer than I remembered. Took a $5 scenic van ride, max they can charge here, to Lucaya which is about 11 miles from the port. Great shopping district with the beach about a 5 minute walk away. The boys rented jet skis at a hefty $60 per half hour and had a blast. You could parasail, rent a banana boat or anything else you like at this beach. A nice little bar/restaurant at the beach rental area. $5 van ride back to the port.
DISEMBARKATION : We did the self assist disembark and everything went smoothly. We had someone drop us off and pick us up at the Port of Baltimore. My friend paid $15 per day to park at the port. I believe some hotels close to the port offer discounted parking and shuttle service.
SUMMARY : Great cruise and great ports of call. Port of Baltimore was very efficient, with no hassles. This ship doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the later model ships but it has more than enough features with a spacious and friendly feel to it. The Pride was just the right size.