Our First Cruise
Carnival Pride July 3-10
Our family of 21 booked this cruise as a first time adventure for all of our families to vacation together. A primary focus for us was having 8 kids together so they could enjoy themselves and free up the adults to have grown up time!
Saturday - we took advantage of the extra day and did a day trip to Annapolis, MD to see the Naval Academy and then overnight at a hotel. The Hyatt Place was lovely but a bit further from the port than I had thought but it didn't end up mattering much.
Day 1—We arrived at the Cruise Port at 10:30am being dropped off by the Hyatt shuttle. It was an easy commute and the drop off of luggage was a piece of cake. The cost of parking was about the same as the hotel and from the departure perspective it was great. When you return to Port it's not as convenient waiting for the shuttle and then having to get back to your car. But it did give you a chance for a potty break at the hotel before getting on the road.
Getting on the ship was easy. We were having lunch in the Mermaid's Grille by 12:30pm and then by the pool for the kids to swim. The atmosphere was exciting and everyone had a great first day waiting for rooms to be ready. First impression of the ship - overly decorated as some other reviews had stated but still neat. There was a lot of nude art which threw off the kids but we figured it would be similar to if we were in Europe. The pools were A LOT smaller than I expected and the water slide for the kids was a bit anticlimactic but the kids didn't seem to mind. Since we had the kids we didn't spend any time at the adult only pool and bar but that seemed very nice!!
The shipped seemed overcrowded especially the pool and bar area. Getting lounge chairs and tables together was a bit of an Olympic event and once you got an area you had streams of people walking past you. The floors were extremely wet and we watched many kids slide on their butts walking in the area.
Lines in Mermaid Grille were unacceptable to me however most of the people I spoke to in line didn't seem to mind much. I thought waiting 15 minutes for a Panini in the deli line was terrible; about the same for the homemade Omelet station. The outside grille for hamburgers and hot dogs moved much quicker and they were always fresh which was nice. The bar servers were all nice and speedy. My family was a big fan of the beer buckets and the staff had no problem keeping them coming!
The cabins were what we expected and the storage areas were great. The kids loved the towel animals and went to the kids club class on how to make them. They got a kick out of that. We ordered room service many times and everything was great. They forgot a couple things every now again but always brought the items when we called. Some members of my party thought it cost extra for room service but it does not...so order away! The kids think it's great!! The complimentary movies on 3 different channels was a nice touch. We watched several movies that we hadn't seen and there was always a kids movie which was nice.
The Kids Club was a bust. We went to orientation and got them registered...took a long time. Next day waited in line to sign them in which took to long in my opinion. Picked the kids up for lunch and they all said it was a bust and did not want to go back again. They were stuck in this small room at the front of the ship on the 5th floor. The rocking of the ship was rough and the kids were extremely bored by their activities. There age group 6-8 didn't allow for swimming or outdoor activities so they were stuck in a room. Not exactly what you think of when it comes to a cruise kids club. I was REALLY disappointed in this. It would have been great for the kids/cousins to hang together in a cool camp but that was far from happening. The kids ended up taking over the hot tub on the Lido Deck, swimming, using the one water slide, mini golf and running to the two small stores that had candy. They ended up having a great time with each other and entertained each other well but it's not what any of us expected.
We had the early seating for dinner which was nice. The Normandie Dining Room was fine but more of an old country club feel than a glamorous cruise dining room I was expecting. The food was decent but not great. Our waiter Peter was a "rock star". He was so great with the 8 kids and we even caught him cutting steak and pizza several nights for the kids before the grownups could make their way over to the kids table. He went above and beyond.
Day 2 - 3 —Sea Day and Formal Night
Everyone told us you won't feel sea sick on a cruise ship, they are so big you won't feel but a gentle rocking. So wrong for us!! Of the 21 of us there were at least 5 or 6 of us that felt sick. We brought prescription strength dis-solvable Zofran (highly advise asking your doctor about it) which really helped with the sea sickness. The boat was seriously rocking and we couldn't wait to hit land. This was probably the biggest disappointment of the cruise...2 1/2 days at sea before you even hit land. We tired of the overcrowded Lido Deck and the food and couldn't wait for a Port.
Formal night was uneventful unless you count the overcrowded lobby for picture taking.
Day 4-Grand Turk
Thank goodness, we were on land. Of course the day ended at 2pm so we had to get up early to hit the beach. The beach was lovely but we were a bit disappointed the cruise ship was parked in front of where you swam. There was no view except of the cruise ship. But the beach was a hit and the lounge area was big enough not to feel too crowded. Margaritaville was AWESOME. The DJ was so wonderful!! He kept the crowd playing games and kept it relatively clean considering all the kids that were there. The kids thought the "spring break" type of atmosphere was one of the best parts of the trip. I have to agree! It was fun being in a big pool, surrounded by people having a good time, and an entertaining DJ. And a bit of shade when you stood in the bar area to watch. The atmosphere and DJ were what I expected on the Lido Deck on the ship but that was not the case except the last day by the pool when the DJ finally got people up and dancing around 4pm in the afternoon although we were heading back to the room to get showered up for the early seating for dinner. Anyway, Grand Turk was great!!
Day 5-Half Moon Cay
If Grand Turk was GREAT, Half Moon Cay was INCREDIBLE!!! We scored a cabana on the beach...absolutely recommend it if you are not partaking in any of the island excursions. The cabana had snorkel equipment, floats for the water, a shower (kids loved this), hammock, fridge, air conditioning, table & chairs to sit in the shade, 2 lounge chairs with cushions, salsa, guac, chips & sour cream, fruit, sodas & bottled water. Perfect for about 6-8 people but we had 21 in our party and everyone was grateful for a bit of time out of the sun and a place to put your bag out of the sand.
This was by far the best day of the entire cruise. And many of us who didn't love the cruise mentioned that we would have loved to fly to this island and stayed there for the entire week. It would have been nice to dock there overnight so we could have had 2 days there. I would have loved some of the excursions but skipped them b/c I also love the beach and wanted to enjoy the beach and crystal clear water.
This stop over was a total bust! I cannot believe that Carnival makes this a stop on the cruise. The shops were a bunch of junk. And the only way to get to the public beach was by cab for a 15 minute ride. We didn't want to pay $70 a person to go to the Renaissance Beach & Lunch so we opted for the public beach. What no one mentions is the public beach is behind the police station, next to an abandoned motel. Walking there was like walking through the slums. Once you get there it's a very small beach with one little beach bar. To say I was extremely disappointed is an understatement. And compared to Half Moon Cay we shouldn't have bothered getting off the ship. And the shops by the beach were just as bad as the ones by the port. In my opinion, book an excursion or stay on the ship.
Evening shows were ok and the kids enjoyed them. The "family friendly" comedy shows were far from "family friendly" and was about ready to find Brent the cruise director and tell him to fire the comedian. I won't go into the details.
I was disappointed they didn't have a "movie theater" showing movies during the cruise. I noticed they showed 2 movies in the Taj Mahal on two different days while we were visiting a port but no other times.
Not sure what night this was but was very disappointed that "the" party to be at on the ship was advertised at different times in the morning paper. It said music would start at 8pm in one area and 9pm in another and activities would start at 10pm. Nothing started until 10pm and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. The lights on the Lido Stage were off and there were a bunch of people just sitting around waiting for "the" party. We have little kids so we were hoping for a bit of dancing and then get them to bed at a decent hour. After much complaining, someone finally turned on music and the lights. At about 5 minutes to 10 Brent the cruise director and his entourage finally showed up to get the party started. They kicked the party into high gear but by that time the kids were exhausted and wanted to go to bed. We got about 20 minutes of "the" party.
We went to David's Restaurant the last night. The food was much better than Normandie. We took all the kids with us (not sure what else you would do with them since they wouldn't go back to kids club). It was too long for them (about 3 hours by the time we sat and finished). We all agreed it was good but we could have skipped it unless we were having a grown up dinner alone.
It was a bit frustrating waiting to get off the ship. We had had enough of the Lido Deck and the Mermaid Grille which is where everyone waited to be called to get off. The process of getting off was organized and didn't take long once your number was finally called. The luggage was waiting for us and so was the shuttle back to the Hyatt Place.