This was my 6th cruise and my 3rd cruise to the Caribbean. I read all of the reviews about this cruise and heeded the warnings I heard. I just wasn't ready for fighting crowds at every turn on the boat. We sailed on July 31st from Baltimore.
I have to say that, overall, I loved the experience of sailing out of Baltimore as it is our closest port and we live on the Chesapeake Bay. Sailing down the bay and seeing it from another perspective was fabulous. I highly recommend sailing from here. We stayed at the Sleep Inn and Suites BWI that has a shuttle to the port. The hotel is inexpensive and certainly adequate. They offer a pretty good continental breakfast and the parking is the BEST! It cost us $25 for the week, saving us lots off the cost of the port parking charges. In addition, the Light Rail (like an above ground subway) runs right in front of the hotel making it easy and cheap to get to the Inner Harbor.
Please note that this was my first cruise on Carnival and most of my comments will be a comparison of the previous lines I have traveled, Princess being the most frequently traveled. I agree with the comments about the dEcor of this boat. It is dark and I think that this contributes to the feeling of a lack of space. The previous reviews also noted that the LIDO deck on embarkation was crowded with not enough seating. Well, the VAST majority of the times that I was in the Mermaid Grille, I had to stand in line after line and elbow my way through crowds. I have never felt crowded or had to stand in constant lines in the buffet on any other cruise line I have ever sailed! At peak times, things get a little crowded but not ALL the time! This over crowding in the Mermaid Grille (buffet LIDO deck) forced us to eat in the dining room and from room service far more than we ever had before.
Food: I would say that the food was comparable to RC, Disney, and Princess. No better, no worse. However, I will give Carnival koodoos for the pizza. Wow! Best cruise ship pizza I have ever had! Fresh and made to order!
Your Time Dining: I checked previous reviews too late on this topic. DO NOT choose Your Time Dining unless you always want to be the first person in the dining room each evening at 5:45pm. If you always eat early, then this is a fine option. Otherwise, you will have to wait in line for an available table. One couple we talked to arrived at 7:30 and was given a pager. They were finally seated 45 minutes later. I don't know about you but, I don't generally, willingly, wait 45 minutes for dinner. In addition, two of the 5 nights we ate in the restaurant, we had to wait a very long time to get our main course and were told by the waiter that the kitchen was backed up. Again, did they overbook?
Service: Well, except for a few standouts, the majority of the staff simply did their jobs with as little interaction with the passengers as possible. They all seemed busy and not overly concerned with making a connection with the passengers. Could this also be a result of the fact that there seemed to be too many people for the ship to handle?
Activities: We do not tend to see shows so I have no comments about this. I can say that the variety of activities was close to or equal to the variety offered by Disney. However, while the variety was good, the prizes were ridiculously scant. Most games offered a cheap plastic replica of the ship. On Princess, they always have something of interest and value as a prize for a game. We are big Bingo players so I have to give Carnival a "Dabber Up" for the variety, prizes and cost of the Bingo. Far less expensive than RC, and much more interesting, fun, and inexpensive than Princess. My only concern is that they sell the cards at the start of the game rather than selling them early like Princess does. This results in a lot of standing in lines and waiting. Casino was really good. Lots of variety and lots of little ways to earn extra chances at the games. Good Job, Carnival.
Pools/Decks: My first complaint is relatively minor. All of the ships I have sailed before have had chairs on the main deck around the Promenade. The Pride does not. It is a shame as this is one of my favorite places to sit in the evening, watching the sea and having a cocktail.
Okay, now for my main concern. This was a warm weather cruise and I was looking forward to lounging around the pool. Hummm. Well, I knew that this cruise, due to the date, would be filled with kids so I was looking forward to the Serenity Pool. The Adults Only section of the ship with lounge chairs, pool, and bar. Here was the problem, it was so small in comparison to the number of people on the cruise that lounge chairs mostly could not be secured after about 7am on a sunny day and the pool was so packed that the only thing you could do was stand shoulder to shoulder with other adults. We had to go up to a higher deck, no pool, before we could find lounge chairs. Drinks service was scant on this higher deck causing us to have to walk up and down stairs with filled glasses on a rocking ship. Darn. The areas around the main two pools were just as crowded and unpleasant. As I said, I wonder if they overbooked this cruise?
Stateroom: I have reviewed the room that we had in a separate section but I will comment in general. We were very pleased with the cabin. The room was as adequate as the other cabins we have had on RC and Princess. The bathroom was the BEST! It was no larger but the shower was configured in a way that made you feel like you had more room. The shower also has dispensers for shampoo and bodywash. VERY NICE! In addition, there is also a shaving/make up mirror! NICE TOUCH! The balcony was smaller and more crowded that the balconies I have had on Princess.
LGBT Comments: My partner and I have been on 5 cruises together and traveled extensively in both the US and abroad. Princess always offers LGBT Get Togethers throughout their cruises. Carnival offered none. There was one LGBT private party. We requested the beds be configured as a double but this was not done. I called the Steward immediately and was told that he saw the request but did not honor it because there were two women in the room. I had to be rather firm with my request to have the beds configured as one. A day later, he had a lengthy conversation with my partner over the fact that he had not set the beds up as directed. She tried to end the conversation a couple of times only to have him obsess over our request more. We have never encountered this type of resistance from hotel staff or stewards before. Other than this, we were treated as other passengers. Just something to keep in mind. I do not know what Carnival's or Princesses' corporate policies are related to LGBT but I definitely feel less singled out and more welcomed by Princess.
Final Comments: Great itinerary. See my port comments in the separate section. Perhaps the crowding was due to the time of the cruise that we chose. I loved sailing out of Baltimore!