Let me first say that the new husband and I learned a ton about cruising before we even left the port thanks to all the awesome advice we got from fellow Cruise Critic users.
We sailed on the Carnival Pride on Sept. 25th for our honeymoon. We picked a cruise because neither of us had gone before and I hate flying (Baltimore was within a 2 hours drive). Let me divide my review up by category to make it easier to find the "must read" info.
The Ship: The Pride itself was very nice. I agree with previous reviewers that the decor is a little outdated but the entire ship was immaculately clean which is always more important to us than decor anyhow. We had an easy time finding our way around the ship. We had a stateroom with a balcony. A lot of reviewers mentioned saving money with an interior room but the balcony was better for us for a lot of reasons. Firstly, we were coming down from the excitement and exhaustion of a wedding so we spent a lot of time just sleeping in the first day or two so we spent a lot of time in there and it was nice to have the balcony access to relax without the sun deck crowds. Secondly, we can both get a little motion sick and I found that I felt much better when I could step outside quickly and get my eye on the horizon.
The People: The staff was WONDERFUL. I have to say though that we only saw our room steward once the entire week. I was sure to leave him a large tip on the night we did see him. Hubby has called to ask for a laundry bag and he brought us a flyer for discounted laundry prices which was very considerate and thoughtful. The room was always attended to and very clean throughout the whole trip. Everyone we encountered in the hallways and elsewhere on the ship were also very friendly and easy to talk to.
The Dining Room: The first night we went to the Normandie was a disaster. We did the Your Time Dining option and ended up waiting for 45 minutes to get a table the first night we went. We weren't actually too bothered by that since we just got a drink at the bar and hung out taking pictures. What really bothered us was the terrible service we received. I think we sat at our table for a full 15 minutes before DH stopped a waiter to let them know we were there. The food also took a while and wasn't that good. I figured it was because they had so many people to feed and I had not had high expectations of the food anyhow. The next day we received a very nice plate of goodies from the dining hostess apologizing for the wait. We had ZERO problems being seated the entire rest of the week. While the food wasn't always top of the line, it was generally pretty appetizing and we always left with full stomachs. Everything ran much more smoothly the rest of the week we were there so I can only think that the first night was abnormal for them.
Excursions: I had read a lot on the boards here that you save more money by booking excursions outside of the ship and with local companies. Honestly, I was planning a wedding and just didn't have the time to do that kind of research so we booked through the ship. We did snorkeling and a short hike at Grand Turk and it was fabulous. The name of the excursion was Captain Explorer Out Island and Snorkeling I think. There was a group of about 10-15 of us. The guides were excellent and the snorkeling was fantastic. Our glass bottom boat tour in Half Moon Cay ended up being canceled but we got a refund very easily and just went to the beach. We also booked a dolphin encounter in Freeport and that was really great as well. That was probably the highlight of our trip. I am sure we could have saved some money booking on our own but booking with the ship was more convenient for us this time and is something we would likely do again since our excursion experiences were very good.
Ports: Grand Turk was beautiful. Half Moon Cay had the bluest water I had ever seen. Freeport was questionable but the Lucaya area was lovely and worth visiting.
Things we learned: The packing advice they give on here is great and I brought things with us that we used that I would have never thought to bring. And the stuff I didn't use were definitely things that I would have wanted to have if the situation had arisen. There are definitely a few things I learned in general about cruising that I am happy to share in case someone finds them useful:
1. Watch your water intake. Stay as hydrated as you can even on sea days when you aren't out in the hot sun as much.
2. If you have never cruised before, definitely bring pepto bismol and sea bands. I brought both these things not thinking I would need them much and ended up needing them a lot of the time especially with the choppy water coming out of Baltimore.
3. If you are generally a healthy eater, bring laxatives as well as pepto. I know this sounds gross and might be TMI but I am generally a very healthy eater (no fast food, fried food, soda, etc.) and the food on the ship really rocked my digestive system. It is definitely possible to make healthy eating choices on a cruise (but why would you want to? haha) but unless you make the food yourself or watch it prepared in front of you, you really don't know what kind of preservatives and added things are in it. Definitely err on the side of caution and come prepared to give your digestive system a jolt if needed. Watching your water intake will also help.
Would we cruise again? Definitely, though we would be up for trying some different cruise lines to find our favorites. Our experience with Carnival was generally good with no shortage of food or activities to take part in. I can also highly recommend the spa. I visited twice!