Sailed on the Carnival Pride on Feb. 6 to Mexican Rivera. This was my ninth cruise and second on Carnival. Sailed on Glory in Oct. 2003. I am 53 and we like to have fun. Here is my review. I will try not to bore you with some of the same observations.
We arrived the day before and booked rooms in the Coastal Hotel Long Beach. Although we live in Atlanta, we drove up from San Diego in my sister's old car. Did the "Park and Sail" thing at Coastal and must say it worked out better than expected. We went with two other couples who flew in from Atlanta. They flew to Orange County instead of LAX. About the same cost for them from airport, $34 for the first person and $9 for each additional. Since they booked the Super Shuttle together they went as party for four. The Hotel was great. Within walking distance to the ship.
On Sat. we walked to the Queen Mary, went into the hotel lobby and you can walk around the ship a bit. You can get up on the deck and wander. It is really a classic beauty. Well worth going to see how it was so many years ago. Had friends over so I can't comment on restaurants in Long Beach. However there is a trolley that goes downtown so if you want to get around it is possible.
EMBARKATION: On Sun. we got up and had breakfast. It was included in the "Park and Sail" package. Actually I should mention that is a good deal. It is room, two buffet breakfasts; shuttle to and from ship and parking for $145. Best rate for the hotel is $105 so for thirty dollars you get the shuttle and breakfast, easily a $30 value, plus parking. Anyway, if you do this, book the shuttle early as it is a bit of a mess. It holds 10 people and 15 pieces of luggage, however it is tight since everyone has so much luggage. A cab to the ship is about $5 and may expedite things if needed. The hotel was very nice. Although only two of us booked the "Park and Sail," they allowed all 6 of us to ride the shuttle (just be discrete). We arrived at the terminal about 11:00. Gave a dock worker our luggage (always tip big). Then we needed to walk to Queen Mary for check in. If you have a lot of carry on luggage, this is a bit of a pain. The check in process was ok. Takes more time than the Florida ports, but there really isn't much to do anyway. After check in we got in line and just hung out. There are vendors around and we took turns wandering. They don't let you on until all of the disembarking passengers are gone. They didn't open the doors until 12:30. But cruise passengers are always entertaining to watch, and you can start early and get a beer or drink from a vendor. Only problem would be if it were hot or raining. Then you are stuck outside. If that's the case you may as well show up at 1:00. Don't know if that would be faster but suspect it is. Anyway, know what to expect and it isn't such a big deal. Just not as fast or well organized as Florida.
SHIP: I liked the ship. It is a good design. Better than Glory. Not as crowded, and it seemed to be less smoky. I think that may be more because it was out of the West Coast instead of Florida. Seemed a different clientele. It was a little "weird" though, even though the ship was sold out, we never encountered any long lines or crowds. The only time anything was full was for the debarkation lecture. Otherwise there were always seats and it was easy to get around. It was very nice.
Cabins were nice. We had a Cat. 8E (room 6226). It was an extended balcony. The balcony was a nice size and the room was a good location. Only slight negative, it is in the indentation part of the ship over the lifeboats. Not a big deal but you looked down on the lifeboats from the rail. But still a nice cabin and the bigger balcony was nice.
Food was good as usual. We sailed on Mariner of the Seas last May and I think Carnival is consistently better than RCI for food, especially beef. We were all generally pleased with dinner. The only negative were the pasta dishes. My wife had a couple and was totally unimpressed. Otherwise we were pleased, and again, the beef was always excellent. Actually exceeded our expectations a number of times. Buffet was, well a buffet. Lots of food. Lunch was pretty good. Good selection, good salad bar, great deli and there is always pizza. Did burgers one day and they were also quite good. Room service is strictly continental. Cereal, breads, pastries and coffee. No hot breakfasts. Also give yourself some time, as they tended to be a little late delivering, but not too bad.
Service was ok. Definitely a courteous and eager to please crew, however we often had to ask. On the first day we asked our room steward for ice since we brought champagne. After that we had lots of ice each day. In the "old days" the ice would have been automatic. Dinner service was also slow. They did a great job giving us anything we wanted, but it seemed slow. A big part of the problem is no wine steward. If you order a bottle of wine the waiter has to get it. We ordered a bottle per couple nearly every night. This certainly slowed things down. Also one of our waiter's tables had a "Travel Planner" who is quite well known by the staff. She books a lot of cruises and brings on big groups. Her table did get better attention. But overall they tried hard. I will say we didn't "up the tip." Simply "average." However we experienced the same thing on Mariner in May, so I think it is simply a matter of cruise lines cutting back for cost savings.
As for the complaints about the ship "moving" a lot, we didn't experience that. This may have been the smoothest cruise we have ever been on. We did have smooth seas until the last night, but even then the movement wasn't that pronounced compared to other ships.
PORTS: I'll be shorter on this.
Puerto Vallarta was very pretty, but I like the Caribbean side of Mexico better. Less "begging" on the Caribbean side. We did the Tequila Factory tour. Had a lot of fun (but after tasting tequila, how could you not have fun). After the tour we went downtown. Went to a restaurant recommended by the cab driver up on the hill. Its name was Ay Caramba (I think). Were a little skeptical of going but it turned out to be very nice (except the jackhammer next door). Absolutely a stunning view of the town and harbor. Food was very good (had nachos and fajitas), and about the same price as downtown (around 150 pesos for fajitas at an 11 to 1 exchange). Not cheap but comparable. Oh, always use charge cards if possible to get the bank's exchange rate. After lunch, took a cab down the hill (about $5 per cab) and wandered the stores. Typical stuff, but the waterfront was beautiful. Then back to the ship.
Mazatlan: Hired a van for $25 per person (there were 6 of us). We thought it was a good deal but you may be able to bargain a little cheaper. Anyway, he agreed to four hours and took us to all the sights. Beautiful place, driver was great. Even stopped at a small market so we could get a beer ($1 each, not bad). Stopped and let us tour Old Town. When we were ready he took us through the Gold Zone to a restaurant on the water. We liked this place too. CHEAP Margaritas, and good! Then we shopped in the Gold Zone. These guys do get a "kickback" from some of the stores but it isn't much and you don't have to shop in them. Then back to the ship. Driver actually stayed with us for 5 hours instead of the agreed upon 4. Very nice young man.
Cabo San Lucas: Colder and gray and rainy. Did the whale watching tour. Did see whales but it was so cold that our wives didn't enjoy it as much. The boat is large and comfortable, with free beer, margaritas, punch and water. The coastal scenery is beautiful. After we went downtown. Easy walk. Crowded and was raining. Tried to go to Cabo Wabo but over an hour wait. Four of us went back to the ship, just in time to miss the torrential downpour. Would like to go back on a clear day.
DAYS AT SEA: Days at sea are always great however it was really too cold to lie around the pool much. No problem always lots to do on the ship.
DISEMBARKATION: Not too bad. We got off early (trying to catch early flights, we fly standby and needed to get to San Diego for an early afternoon flight). To get off early you need to provide your flight itinerary. Typical "getting off the ship" experience. My wife and I dragged our luggage down toward the hotel and I went and got the car (walked) instead of waiting for the shuttle, then came to pick her up. This actually worked out good and we were on the freeway by 9:00. No problem getting to San Diego for our flight. Also had plenty of time to drop off the car for my sister. One couple took a cab to Orange County Airport, $54 flat rate. The other took a private car through a shuttle service. Cost $84 with tip, and the driver went to San Pedro Cruise Terminal by mistake. Be sure to tell drivers that it is at the Queen Mary and they will know where to go. Cab was best deal.
COMMENTS: Overall a good cruise. We like the Caribbean better. One BIG warning about the ship, LOTS OF ART. If you are like John Ashcroft and don't like nude paintings by the masters, then stay off the ship. If you have kids who you may be concerned about, stay off the ship. The dEcor is "bold." Be forewarned. And, although David's is a beautiful supper club, be aware that the statue of David is, well ... bigger than life. Having said that I thought the ship was very nice. Good crew, clean, not particularly smokey and I liked it. It is a good class of ship size wise. I will definitely sail on Spirit Class again.
RECOMMENDATIONS: If you are going to the Mexican Rivera, then I certainly recommend the Pride. I had a good time and was pleased with the ship. Just be aware of what to expect and you will enjoy it. This time of year is certainly cool on the west coast so not much pool time. But it was a nice change from the Caribbean and is always fun to experience something new. I love cruises and, although not our favorite, still great and I loved this one too. Can't wait until my next cruise. Already looking on line.
POST SCRIPT: Just for info, we took alcohol onboard in our luggage. No problem. Took Champagne on carry on, no problem. You can get tomato and orange juice and make Bloody Mary's or Screwdrivers. We took Cranberry juice for Seabreezes but couldn't get grapefruit juice on board. No problem, bought it in Puerto Vallarta. Bottom line, if you want to bring your own, stick it in your luggage and send it aboard.
Have a great cruise and PARTY ON!