My first impression while waiting to embark, was there are soooo many children, this is going to be a total nightmare! Embarkation went fairly quickly, and we found Baltimore to be an easier port than bayonne, and new york. We were in our cabbin by 230pm. Our balcony room was spotless, and had a broken thermostat (which did not affect us)and a broken light, but was otherwise spacious and beautiful.
This ship does not have all of the glitter and jazz, of some of the bigger and newer ships. If you are looking for the rock wall, wave pool, and ice skating, or upscale cruising, this is not for you. This cruise seemed to be ideal for families with the exception of the nude decor and gigantic nude anatomically correct male statue in which my 7 year old dared me to put a bikini bottom on all week long. Despite my initial thoughts of way too many children, the decks and pools never seemed crowded, and we were always able to find chairs, which seems to be a problem on bigger ships. the families on this ship were decent, and appeared to monitor and take care of most of their children. The pools and hot tubs had ample space. However, if you would prefer not to be splashed, or share a tub with a small child, again this is not the ship for you. The shows were good, however we've seen much better. We didn't have trouble finding seating, unless we showed up late.
The service on this ship was EXCEPTIONAL, some of the best we've ever encountered in the cruising industry. Every staff member went out of his way, to assist in every way. We encountered only happy faces, and a warm greeting from all employees. They accomodated the children in every way, and were happy to open doors, or carry trays to tables for me. Many staff members, took the time to ask about the 1 and 7 year old, and memorize their names.
We went to Disney on the Carnival excursion ot Port Canaveral. It was an hour drive both ways, allowing for about 7 hours in the port. I wouldn't recommend this for small children. We were able to ride everything multiple times as there were no lines for many rides. Had we visited peak season, ths excursion would definatley be a waist of money. We rented a hotel at Comfort Suites next to atlantis to get the free Atlantis passes. The total was 423$ for two rooms for 7 of us. We LOVED Atlantis, but again it would not be worth the 175$ the cruise line charges to only enjoy a few hours. We left the children on board at Freeport, and took a rather junky cab to the Lucaya beach which was small yet quaint. We enjoyed this, however in the future, Freeport would be a ship day. It's industrialized, and not very pretty. I would not feel safe taking children off in Freeport where hotels are surrounded by barbed wire fences.
Dining on the Lido for breakfast and lunch was about par for cruise lines. The only thing I didn't like, was that the buffets were ethnic food, which left most children eating pizza and burgers everyday. It would have been nice to see some basics like ham, chicken, veggies, potatoes, etc. The main dining room food was exceptional and within comparison of Royal Caribbean. Our experiences there with the wait staff was wonderful, and they catered to everyone's needs.
The children's club was a little crowded at times, due to the volume of kids, however it appeared as though the gals had things under control. My 7 year old said that it was nice. While at Freeport our 1 year old remained in the camp with his brother. He reported back that the girls took great care of his brother. The children offered no complaints.
Disembarkation was simple, and went as in the brochure. We were through customs and to our car within about 30 minutes.
Overall i would recommend this cruise to those of you who have children, do not mind children, or are on a budget. this was a very economical way to enjoy a family vacation. If you are seeking fine dining, and a more adult atmosphere, I would recommend a different ship or cruise line. I honestly have nothing bad to say, and can only beggin to thank the hard working team on the pride for one of our most memorable vacations.
Some names that come to mind are; B & Purwato our stewards, who never hesitated to assist us in any way, and always kept our room spotless! Jay, Shrikant, and I Nyomig from the anytime dining,who kept smiles on their faces, as they catered to our small children and their many messes as if we were family. Petro (or Pedro) from the dining room who endlessly made napkin animals to keep my children happy while waiting for dinner. Daver the assistant M'aitrede who rounded the dining room and appeared to care greatly about our experience. Servana the hostess in the dining room who never left us sneak by without a big smile, and a hello "adam" to my youngest. And many many many thanks to all of the other hard working individuals who made this a wonderful vacation! Even the plumbers, electricians, dishwashers, man washing floors smiled and said hello as you passed. They all work so very hard, and gave us a great vacation!