Parking and arrival - Smooth. We arrived at 12:45 PM. We live about 35 minutes from Baltimore so the drive was a breeze! $105 to park for the entire week.
Embarkation - Super easy and smooth. We were on the ship within 45 minutes after parking.
Arrival /Sail Away- I have to be honest. Our first impression of the Pride was that it was dark, dreary, with 1970's night club "ish" look and feel. Parts of the ship actually looked like a haunted house. I'm not sure how this is conducive for creating a festive, happy, "on vacation" feeling, especially for first time cruisers. I was a little confused by this, but after we started walking around we came across some brighter, more cheerful parts of the ship, but the dEcor is to be appreciated. It features reproductions and reinterpretations of works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and Raphael, so yes, there are lots of naked people are on the walls, elevators, etc. It's art! Nothing more. After about 15 minutes of walking around we made our way to the Lido deck and found lots of people who were starting their vacation immediately - lots of eating, drinking and celebrating. The pools were packed and it was hot. No place to sit. We were thinking...oh crap - is this how it's going to be the entire week? There was a mad rush for the elevators and stairs when the rooms became available, but crowd control was fine after that.
We got in our room about 3:00 PM. After checking things out, we went back up to the Lido Deck and watched as we sailed under the Chesapeake Bay. Everyone cheered. It was fun! We then went back to the room to wait for our luggage. It arrived about 6PM. We got dressed and had dinner in the main dining room and went to the Taj Mahal for some entertainment. We also attended the orientation for the club Carnival. Afterwards, we went back to our room and enjoyed our balcony. We loved the scenery while sailing down the Chesapeake Bay.
First Two Days at Sea - These days were a little long for me. I started to feel a little like Christopher Columbus in search of the new land, but we found things we enjoyed to stay busy. The ship went off course a little (think it was because of Tropical Storm Bret) and the second day the ride was a little rocky. No major sea sickness but we definitely had to get used to our bed moving at night and eating while the dining room swung left to right. The sea was much calmer the third day and we got used to the movement.
Ports (the weather was gorgeous at all three locations)
Grand Turk - Wonderful! We stayed close to the ship near the beach and rented a clam shell and floatie. The beach was rocky on the bottom but the water was lovely. The folks from the restaurant next door (Margaritaville) came over and took our orders for drinks. No need to walk there. Loved it! We also got some very good calamari my daughter had been craving. Lots of fun stuff was going on at Margaritaville. Music, contest, etc. The pool looked great and it was packed with people buying drinks at the swim up bar. Beautiful day!
Half Moon Cay - This place is unbelievable. Heaven on Earth!! Pictures do not do this place justice. You have to see it yourself. We rented a cabana (#11) and loved it. We were given priority for tendering but the line went pretty fast so I'm not so sure it mattered. Our cabana was stocked with our snorkeling gear, plates of fruit, veggies and tortillas chips with sour cream, salsa and guacamole. Our refrigerator was stocked with water and drinks. Carnival served lunch on the beach. It was pretty good - hamburgers, hot dogs, etc. Waiters/waitresses made their way up and down the beach to take orders for drinks. God bless these wonderful people! There was a bit of a line to tender back to the ship, but we waited until around 3:30 PM to head back and expected this. It was a fantastic day, definitely the highlight of the cruise. We didn't want to leave!
Nassau - Loved it and it was sooo beautiful! We did a sail and snorkel excursion which was great. We got to see some wonderful marine life. We also got to walk around a little downtown. Nassau is a little run down, but it's the islands, mahn!! :) We found Nassau to be very quaint, authentic and unpretentious. We appreciated the down-to-earth, laid back style of this small island town. I wonder why I live where I do when I visit places like this. We would have loved to stay longer. We were only there from 7:00 AM until 1:00 PM.
Last 1.5 days at sea - Relaxing! We spent a good amount of time in the fitness center, on our balcony, doing a little shopping on board and sleeping.
Cabin - Very clean and nice, but tight quarters for three people. We LOVED our balcony and used it a lot! We had our morning coffee and breakfast on the balcony, read books there, fell asleep a few times in the chairs, watched the sun set and rise, saw a shooting star under the moonlight. It was delightful!
Meals - I agree with a lot of the reviews - if you are looking for gourmet meals or if you want dining to be the highlight of your cruise, this is not the cruise for you. The good news - we did not go hungry and enjoyed most of our meals. We are very casual dinners and took most of our meals on the Lido deck, many times taking food back to our room to eat on the balcony. The main dining room didn't impress us (food was so-so and sometimes cold), although the service was great. We did eat at David's one night and LOVED it! The 24/7 pizza was also very good and some room service sandwiches weren't too bad. The salad and sandwich bars weren't bad either. To all you coffee drinkers - we survived! The coffee isn't Starbucks but it will hold you over for a week.
Entertainment - Cheesy? Perhaps, but I have total respect for all the dancers and singers. They put their hearts and souls into every show. The performance VROOM was great. The comedians were great as well.
Smoking - Yep. Casinos, sports bar, but it wasn't unbearable.
Staff - Our room steward and his assistant were incredible. They took very good care of us, kept our rooms neat and clean and learned our names. The towel animals they made for us each night were adorable! I read reviews about the room stewards not being so friendly. Just a word about the staff - they bust their butts trying to make everyone's vacation a great experience. And as soon as you're off the ship, they've got new guests to accommodate and please week after week after week. My hat goes off to these incredible people and everything they do. They were amazing.
Children and activities - My daughter wasn't excited about Circle C. She did not participate in any of the activities. She thought it was boring, but she had a good time spending my money at the spa. :)
People - You're going to find a mixed bag of people on the ship. We saw a lot of families with older adults along with the grand kids. We thought that was really sweet. We did not experience kids running around like wild animals as some reviewers mentioned. There was a good amount of security on the ship, so Carnival might be trying to keep this under control. It was great to see so many kids enjoying their vacation! The only rowdiness we experienced came from some of the drunk adults, even on the all-adult Serenity deck which was annoying, but for the most part, everyone respected each others space.
Extras ($$$) - We were very aware that Carnival was going to try to rack up charges with drinks, pictures, etc. That is their prerogative. Complaints about this are just silly. We choose to set a budget and we stuck to it.
Debarkation - You have to be out of your cabin by 8:30 AM. If you decide to get help with your luggage, you might have to wait a while to get off the ship. We had to wait for two hours to leave the ship and many of the tables and waiting areas were taken. We will definitely do self-assist next time which will allow us to take our bags off the ship ourselves and leave sooner.
- Go to the popular areas (pool, fitness center, Serenity deck) during off hours. My daughter practically had one of the pools to herself at night, and the swimming is great during that time.
- You can now book cabanas for Half Moon Cay online. You do not have to wait until you board the ship. Note: Many families will book more than one cabana thinking the fee for the cabana is per person, so it's very likely that a family of four will erroneously book four cabanas. If you see that they are sold out online, check with Carnival and have them verify the actual amount of cabanas each party needs.
What we loved: The spa, fitness center, Serenity deck, our balcony, David's restaurant, quiet spaces on the 10th deck, the staff
What we wish for the Pride:
1. Better technology. Checking your sign and travel balance, booking excursions and renting movies via the television was a pain. Just a few technical upgrades would have made this a little less of a hassle. You can also track the course of the ship via the television, but the technology used to do this is outdated. Suggestion - Google Earth. Also, we are huge techies and brought our iPads, etc. We got the Internet package but the coverage was spotty. With all the technological advances, Carnival could do a better job here.
2. A map of the ship in the daily newsletters.
3. More options for casual diners (maybe an upgraded room service menu or more alternative dining options.)
4. During debarkation, the tables in the Mermaid Grille should only be open for those eating breakfast. We noticed many tables being used as waiting stations leaving little room for those who needed a table to eat.
5. More places to hang things in your cabin.
Overall, we had a wonderful time. We'll definitely do it again!!