This was our 7th cruise, 1st with Carnival. We were a little concerned about the "party atmosphere" we had heard about. But the price was right, and sailing from Baltimore is a breeze, 1 hour from our home, and we had sailed on 2 others from Baltimore, Celebrity to Bermuda and the Caribbean.
Embarkation: indeed a breeze, arrived at Cruise Maryland Port around 1pm, got on board about 2pm. We thought there might be lots of extra security because of 9/11, but just the usual bag search lines at the entrance to the port. Always a pleasure to sail from Baltimore.
The Ship: I had heard complaints about the ship's decor (Renaissance art), but it was completely inoffensive. If you consider these types of artworks have been around for 500+ years, it's hard to find fault with it. The lobby area is magnificent, my DH described it as "steam-punk" style, glass elevators rising to the ceiling 8 floors above. Everything was clean and ship-shape.
Cabin: This was the largest cabin we have ever had. We had an extended balcony, so it was deeper than any others we have had on RCI or Celebrity. Two chairs and a table fit with room to spare. Totally worth the money. The cabin itself seemed very roomy, too, and the bathroom was bigger than most. You can even turn around in the shower! We met our Steward, Newman (not the correct spelling, but that's how he pronounced it, so we were happy to call him that, with appropriate exclamation a la Seinfeld). He left cute towel animals and chocolates every night, and even though we followed the towel directive and left our towels on the racks every day, he still gave us fresh ones, which was nice.
Dining: We had a table for four with a very nice couple from PA, we had lots to talk about and lots in common. Our waiter, Putu, and asst. waiter, Rennie, were great, great service and great personalities. The Maitre D', was, as always, MIA. He came around just once, the night we went to the Steakhouse, so he never got a tip from us. The food was not quite as good as on a Celebrity or RCI ship, but it was good nonetheless. A disturbing trend seems to be to add "Comfort Food" to the menu, like fried chicken and meatloaf. Really? On a cruise? Not why I cruise, to be sure. My only complaint was that there were no conch fritters offered, not even on our day in Nassau. Love the local cuisine!
We had lobster on lobster night and it was delicious. The waiters did production numbers on a few nights, and that was amusing. Our best dining experience was our night at David's Steakhouse. Very quiet, relaxing atmosphere; we had a window seat enjoying the sunset with our martinis, then DH had a filet mignon, perfectly cooked, and I had lobster tail (1-1/2!). This meal was definitely worth the price. The desserts were luscious, too: a chocolate sampler and a tropical fruit/sorbet combo served in a martini glass. They were a little slow keeping the water glasses filled, our only complaint, and a minor one.
Entertainment: We went to one and a half of the "shows" in the Taj Mahal showroom. Outdated songs and choreography sink the obvious talents and enthusiasm of the singers and dancers. They need a better musical director and some updated material. Nothing they performed was newer than the 1980's. However, the comedians on board were fantastic. Eric and Percy Crews II were hysterically funny and we went to all of their shows, family-friendly and adult (very adult). I got pulled onstage to be thoroughly embarrassed the second night, but it was all in good fun. If you don't want to get pulled on stage, wave your arms and scream when they ask for volunteers. Our favorite place to be in the evenings was the Ivory Piano Bar, with James and Oliver. This pianist/bartender duo have a real shtick going, and it makes for a fun evening of sing-along, trivia games, and general silliness. The "Do-Re-Mi" remake was especially memorable. Don't miss a visit to the Ivory Piano Bar at least once during your cruise. We didn't go to karaoke or any of the "Legends" shows (sort of like "American Idol" for cruisers), but our tablemates told us they were very good. We didn't patronize the casino at all. There didn't seem to be as many pool games and entertainment as on previous cruises. The reggae band on the pool deck only had a limited repertoire, and the only other entertainers outside were guitarists. I enjoy a party band on a pool deck, at least on sunny days.
The cruise director, Brent, might have been at some activities we didn't go to, like the Legends amateur shows, but otherwise we didn't see much of him. He mostly annoyed us by making overhead announcements. It was a pleasure to hear Captain Vito Giacalone's voice overhead, as he was updating us on the weather (possible Tropical Storm Maria ) and our position.
Excursions/Ports: We stopped at Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos, where there is a port shopping area immediately after disembarkation. Also a Margaritaville, for those passengers who enjoy that. They also have a fabulous fresh-water pool and swim-up bar and grill, which is so nice after the small salt-water pools on board. I did not get into Grand Turk, but heard there were some nice local restaurants, including Jack's Shack, and others serving local cuisine. Should have made the short trek in for conch fritters!
Next port was Half Moon Cay, the private island shared by Carnival and another cruise line. Sand like powder, BBQ set up for guests, many activities to choose from. I rented a clamshell shade so DH could enjoy the island without getting roasted. I went on a stingray excursion which was EXCELLENT! It's very safe, the rays swim around your legs and suck bits of squid out of your fist. Their skin feels like liquid velvet! Wish I had photos!
In Nassau, we took a Segway tour. It was great fun, and very easy once they taught you how to stand and move. Lots of fun, we saw the old fort, and even had a mini-competition and obstacle course. By the end we were zipping around like we'd done it all our lives. I'm going to do a DC Segway tour in the future. Great way to see a new city!
By the way, don't miss the Atrium Bar, a great place for a pre-dinner drink and people-watching. Sanja from Macedonia is a terrific bartender, and she made DH's dirty gin martinis just the way he likes them. Very personable and friendly staff throughout the ship.
All-in-all, a very enjoyable cruise aboard Carnival Pride to the Caribbean. We would definitely cruise with Carnival again, even to some of the same ports.