We had a great time on our 9/11-9/18 Pride cruise out of Baltimore. We are a youthful-feeling couple in our early 60s who traveled with another couple in our age group. This was my 16th cruise (5th on Carnival), DH's 12th cruise, and our friends' 4th.
Embarkation: This was the smoothest, easiest embarkation ever! Driving to the port (we live about 2 hours away), we were rather surprised by the apparent lack of security when we entered the parking lot (we've been asked for some sort of ID at other ports upon entering, and this happened to be the 10th anniversary of 9/11). But it certainly was an easy process to park and enter the port building. We arrived around 11:45 and were on the ship in no time flat.
The Ship: I've read many reviews that called this ship "beautiful," but we all disagreed with this adjective! We found the dEcor dark and, to be blunt, quite ugly! The Renaissance-style artwork that was everywhere was not to our liking at all, although we chuckled over the number of bare-breasted women represented (were there really that many women baring their breasts during the Renaissance? LOL). The theater was perhaps the worst offender as far as overdone dEcor goes—just hideous! However, we certainly didn't allow any of this to affect our total cruise enjoyment.
Our cabin was beautiful! We were upgraded from an inside to a Deluxe Balcony about a week before sailing, and it was just wonderful! This cabin would probably be considered a mini-suite on other cruise lines. It was large enough to actually be L-shaped, and although the balcony was quite shallow, it was longer than most (we compared it to our friends' "extended balcony," which was deeper but shorter in width). The cabin was laden with granite-topped furniture, affording a great deal of storage space, both within and atop of the furniture, and had two closets.
All dEcor aside, we did find the ship easy to get around, although signage indicating fore an aft would have been appreciated for those of us who are geographically impaired. Our cabin, the dining room, the buffet, and our favorite outdoor area—the Serenity deck—were all aft, while most entertainment venues, such as the theater, were fore. At the center were the Information Desk, stores, and photo area. It didn't take long to get the hang of it all.
The Food: I've read so many negative comments lately concerning the food going downhill. While this was my first Carnival cruise in 10 years, I have to disagree—the food was great! We always found lots of offerings to choose from (although I'm not crazy about the "new" menus because I'm not fond of the whole "didja" attitude, which seems to permeate everything, bringing cruising—in my opinion—to a lower level).
We had "Your Time Dining," which worked out well for us, and we never had to wait. We always requested our waiter from the first night, because we liked her immediately and she did a good job; we got a table in her section all but two nights.
As far as the quality of the food goes, I had two lobster tails (upon request) on the first formal night: one was a little mushy, but the other one was perfect. I didn't care for the red snapper I ordered another evening, but our waiter gladly brought me a filet mignon (excellent!) in its place. All the "must haves" of warm chocolate melting cake, bitter & blanc, and even the chocolate sampler in David's were as wonderful as I had anticipated.
Speaking of David's, we went there mainly because our friends wanted to go, and we enjoyed the atmosphere, service, and food (all, by the way, reminiscent of the way standard dining on cruise ships used to be!). My strip steak was great, but my husband's wasn't quite up to par. Although on the whole we enjoyed dinner there, we didn't really think it was worth an additional $30 pp, and we wouldn't bother doing it again.
I wasn't crazy about the Lido's buffet desgn, or much of the food there, either. But I always managed to find plenty to eat... and I even liked most of it. :)
I should mention the drinking water here as well. I'm the first one to tell newcomers to the boards that the drinking water offered aboard is perfectly fine and they shouldn't lug more than a bottle or two of their own water. I take it back! This was the 2nd instance of funky-tasting water I've experienced on a ship—the other time also happened to be on Carnival. I really found the water undrinkable (I'm ordinarily a big water drinker) unless about half a dozen lemon wedges were added. Fortunately for me, there are other drinking options. ;)
The Entertainment: This is another area where I'd read reports of a severe downturn in quality, and I both agree and disagree. The cuts in live music—and the musicians performing it—were quite apparent. The show band, for example, now only comprises five musicians, including the female singer, but the sound is augmented by tracks. Most other musical acts were solos. The piano bar musician, James, while highly entertaining because of his personality, wasn't a great pianist or singer. The Lido calypso band comprises two players who use recorded tracks to make them sound like a larger group. Even on the private island, Half Moon Cay, the only entertainer was the same solo guitar player we'd seen at various locations on the ship—other times we'd gone to a ship's private island, we'd always been greeted by a Calypso-type band.
The two large production shows were excellent! Carnival seems to employ more dancers (14 on our ship) than other lines we've sailed, and that definitely adds to the shows' pizzazz. We've always enjoyed Carnival's production shows, and that hasn't changed. I recall the sound at these shows being overly loud in the past on Carnival, and that hasn't changed either... but this time I had the foresight to bring earplugs, which made a world of difference.
We only went to one comedy show (they are performed nightly), but we weren't impressed. We didn't avoid the shows; there were just always other things we wanted to do. And it wasn't as though we didn't like the comedian—we just didn't find him particularly funny. Each to his own!
The last night was the Legends show—and it was great! All the passengers-turned-entertainers were terrific, and the singers and dancers who backed them up were also good. It was a very enjoyable show, and I give them all extra kudos because the ship was really rocking, and nobody lost their balance.
Ports: Ours was the least common itinerary for the Pride, consisting of Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Nassau. But any discussion of ports stems from a discussion of the weather, doesn't it?
Tropical Storm Maria made her presence known to us late on embarkation day, Sunday, and hung around until early on Wednesday. The second night was quite rough, to the point where I was a little fearful, in spite of knowing better. But it was rough enough for the ever-popular seasick bags to appear in front of the elevators. I had a short bout of nausea myself, but meclizine and Sea Bands helped.
We were a tad worried when we awoke on Wednesday morning to gray, drizzly skies. Luckily for us, it soon cleared and turned out to be a warm, sunshiny day! We did a little shopping and went to Margaritaville, where we enjoyed the pool, drinks, and some lunch overlooking the beach. Lovely day!
The next day was Grand Turk, and once again, the weather was perfect—hot, even. Although I've read the boards religiously, I was surprised that we needed to wait in the theater after being assigned a number for a tender. After half an hour or so, our number was called.
Even though it was still relatively early, all the chairs in shade were taken, and it was just too hot to sit in the sun. We walked much farther down the beach and finally discovered a shady area created by the bar disguised as a faux shipwreck. We found a couple of vacant chairs to pull over to that area, and voila, we had our paradise. Lunch there was not so great, but we managed to eat it anyway.
Friday was a short visit to Nassau. We've been there many times in the past—and were never particularly impressed—so we opted to stay on the ship. We had a lovely day, but one oddity was that although the ship departed in the very early afternoon, there were barely any activities scheduled for the afternoon at sea! I was disappointed, but I did enjoy reading the book I brought.
Sailing Home: Saturday was another sea day, but as the day wore on, the weather got worse and the seas got higher. By our last evening, the ship was rockin' and rollin' all over the place, but then as the night progressed, it got much calmer.
Debarkation: We elected to take off our own luggage, and it was a good choice. We were pleasantly surprised that we could still get room service for breakfast and didn't have to be out of our cabins till 8:30 or so. And wonder of wonders, we got an empty elevator down to the departure level, so we had no trouble shlepping our bags. But it was all a little too good to be true, and once we got down there, the waiting began. As it turned out, we didn't get off the ship till about 10:00, but from there on, it went smoothly and we were in our car and on the road by 10:15.
All in all, it was a good cruise... not our favorite, perhaps, but still good.