My wife and I sailed on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore from July 3, thru July 10, 2011. We drove up the day before and stayed in Baltimore to enjoy the inner harbor. Both of us are 44 years old and have sailed on other cruise lines multiple times. Last cruise was ten years ago. This was our first Carnival Cruise. We chose this cruise as it fit our time schedule, had a couple of relaxing days at sea, and was within driving distance.
Parking at the Dock
The cruise Maryland terminal is located just off on Interstate 95. The terminal is only open when a ship is in port. Otherwise it is locked up tight as a drum - no way in or out - we tried to check it out the day before we sailed and all of the gates were locked. When we arrived on Sunday, July 3, at 11AM the gates were open and people were directing us to where to drop off our luggage and where to pay to park ($105 for the week, $15 a day). The cruise terminal exit is well marked on I-95, exit 55 leads you right onto the road that takes you straight to the lot. The lot itself is well lit and protected by barb-wire topped fences and gates. Felt very comfortable leaving the car.
Once you park, you are directed into the cruise terminal where your cruise documents are checked and you go through security. Your carry-on luggage is x-rayed and you pass through a metal detector. Once through security, you enter a fast moving but long line to get your "sail and sign card," which is also you cabin key. After getting your card, you sit until they call your row for boarding. We sat for about 30 minutes total. When your row is called to board, the TSA agents review your passports and one of their friendly dogs sniffs your luggage before you head to the gangway. There were two dogs, a German Shepard and a beagle that patrolled the line sniffing luggage. Both dogs seemed to stop every little kid and give them a good sniffing, as if they had bacon in their pockets. Most kids though it was cool, one kid stated screaming and crying so I would warn your children what to expect. We also saw the same dogs when we got off the ship. Once through TSA, you head up the gangway to the ship. The gangway is rather steep so wear shoes that are easy to climb moderate grades. From the time we entered the parking lot to setting foot on the ship was about an hour. You are not allowed to get in your cabin until 2:30 or later, so be prepared to keep your carry-on luggage with you for a while. We only kept our back packs, but they were rather heavy and we both wished we had packed lighter by 1PM as it was a pain in the butt to lug around.
We had an outside cabin with an extended balcony on the 7th deck on the starboard side of the ship - more forward than aft. Our cabin was very roomy for two adults with a bathroom large enough for us with a rather roomy shower. My only complaint about the shower was the water pressure - or lack of. Most of the time the water pressure was OK, but twice while we were in port, the shower head only put out a trickle of water wholly inadequate to shower with. Once we were underway, the pressure returned to normal. Our cabin was spotlessly clean when we entered. No dust to be found on any of the furniture on in the closets. There were three closets that provide more than enough storage for our clothes. The balcony had two chairs and a small side table. The cabin also had a small couch large enough for two adults to sit on comfortably with a small high table in front of it - suitable for eating off of. The only real issue I had with the cabin is that there was no clock anywhere to be seen. We had to rely on my wrist watch.
Other reviewers had said that the Pride was showing some wear and tear, I did not find this to be true. The entire ship was being constantly cleaned and repaired throughout our cruise. The dEcor's art work and nudes were a distraction at first, but everyone seemed to get over it quickly - even the teenagers. I did see one young child get upset at the anatomically correct statue of David. I would warn young children in advance about what they might see on the ship. The public spaces were large and inviting. The Mermaid Grill on the lito deck had plenty of seating if you knew where to look. We managed to find seats away from the center Grill area. The bars and lounges had plenty of comfortable chairs and very friendly bartenders.
Food was one area of the cruise I was rather disappointed with. Many items seemed ill prepared. Our first meal in the Normandie Dining Room was very disappointing as both my wife's and my steaks was way over cooked and tough. Subsequent meals were better, but sometimes not by much. Hamburgers from the Mermaid Grill and in the Dining room were pre-formed, previously frozen patties that were tasteless and often burnt to a crisp. The scrambled eggs on the buffet tasted funny and were definitely NOT real eggs. The cooks making omelets used way too much oil and burnt every omelet I ordered. Room service never got our morning coffee order correct - we wanted three creamers and 10 sugar packs and we either got the correct number of creamers or sugars, but never both. We ordered two grilled cheese sandwiches because we thought that it would be simple for the cooks to make - and yet they managed screwed up a simple grilled cheese sandwich by not cooking it enough. The cheese was not melted at all and the bread was barely toasted. There were a couple of good meals/foods. The pizza on the lito deck was very good, as were all of the breads I had on the ship. The salmon served on the last night of the cruise was excellent. Our waiter, Richard, was superb - very friendly, outgoing and remembered everyone's name after the first night.
We ate at David's on the second of our at sea days. The meal was worth every penny we paid. It was by far the best meal we had on the ship and one of our best meals ever. Be both had the porterhouse steak and neither of us could finish entire steak because it was huge!! The appetizers (escargot & lobster bisque) were excellent as were our salads and desserts. Make your reservations as soon as you book your cruise as the restaurant fills up fast. I tried every day of the cruise to get a second reservation - but they remained booked up with no cancelations.
We did the bike ride and snorkel tour on Grand Turk, and the glass bottom boat tour in Freeport. On Halfmoon Cay we just laid on the beach and swan in the ocean.
Grand Turk: The bike ride was not physically difficult. The island has wild free-roaming donkeys, horses and cattle that leave piles of manure everywhere, and the entire town smells like a well-used barn. On a hot humid day the smell was intense!! There was still a lot of hurricane damage from a 2008 hurricane. The beach that we were taken to for snorkeling was just a mile up the beach from where the ship was docked. The beach was pretty, but had no reefs or fish to see in the water - very disappointing. We should have stayed at the beach near the ship or stayed at the Margaretville pool. There are plenty of interesting shops at the dock area to keep anyone entertained for several hours.
Halfmoon Cay: This is a beautiful island with soft white powdery sand and clear blue water. The beach area is very large with lots of beach lounge chairs and a good number of covered cabana couches. I wish we could have stayed longer and look forward to coming back some day. The beach slopes very gently into the water with no drop offs in the water. Visibility in the water was great; you could see the bottom even at six foot depths.
Freeport: The glass bottom boat ride was a joke. The boat did not have a glass bottom, but 2x3 foot glass windows on a V-hulled boat that were 8 feet below where you sat. It was difficult to see out of the bottom of the boat even while docked. The tour was canceled once we got on the boat after it started raining heavily. Many of us on the boat were talking about getting off even before the rain started as we were not happy with the boat's set-up. There were seats for only about 20 people around the glass windows. We did get a refund from carnival.
We had the late seating at 8:15PM, which meant we missed a lot of the shows due to being too tired after dinner to go to the shows. We did attend two of the comedians' shows and they were quite good. The one dance and musical show we attended was good as well. If you go to a comedy show, go early as the seats fill up fast (30 minutes early if you want a good seat).
Brent, the cruise director, was everywhere, and always had a smile on his face. He was the only senior crew member I saw on a regular basis. The only reason we saw the Captain was he took his wife and son to the musical show we went to. The photographers were very nice and did a great job of trying to get good pictures for everyone. Our waiter, and bar waiter in the Normandie Dining room were excellent - we gave them both an extra cash tip the last night of the cruise. The bar waiter acted as if I was the first person to give him a tip, so please reward good service if you receive it. We did not tip the Maitre D'.
The fastest way off the ship is to carry your own luggage off. Self-Assist passengers get of first, followed by those who have their luggage carried off by the porters. We carried our luggage and were off the ship by 9:00AM. We met the same two dogs again in the terminal; and again, they sniffed every little kid who came through the line. They also sniffed EVERY piece of luggage. Once we were past the TSA check point, we went to our car and were out of the lot 5 minutes later.
Endless Bubbles Soda Card
The endless bubbles card allows you to get as many cokes and sodas as you want over the course of the cruise. It cost over $48 per person (this price include the 15% gratuity they tack onto all bar orders). A single coke cost $2.36 (including tip). To break even you have to consume at least 20 sodas in seven days - which is nearly 3 per day or one per meal. I had no problem doing this, my wife not so much - she averaged about two per day. There is no difference in the quality of soda someone using the bubbles cards receives as opposed to someone paying for each individual soda. All sodas on the ship come from cans - I never saw a soda fountain on the ship. People who pay for each soda get the can, card users do not - they have to ask for refills.