We sailed out of Baltimore in late December 2011 on the Pride. It was too cold for the first 2 and last days [all at sea] to spend more then a few minutes outside. This was especially unfortunate because we had the LARGEST BALCONY ON THE SHIP!
Let me tell you, this thing is huge, 3 times as large as a regular extended balcony. There are 3 reserved as accessible cabins [6234, 7260, 8234], and 3 regular [6232, 7258, 8232] that have this balcony at a regular 'extended balcony' price. There are other accessible cabins that have double extended balconies as well [6281, 7303, 8239]. Other accessible rooms on the ship, which I believe are held reserved, so you need to call them to arrange it: 4202, 4203, 4205, 4207, 5238, 5245. As is typical, we got a call last minute seeing if we wanted to upgrade to the Ocean Suite, 6182, which apparently is also an accessible room, but does not show up on the ADA Spirit Class map as one [google search it if you have accessibility needs]. That makes me wonder if other rooms are wheelchair/scooter accessible and not listed as such.
Anyway, ours was 8234, just below the Lido Deck with the Cafe and adult only Serenity area. **I am the able bodied partner writing this** It was great being able to run up the stairs or elevator right by the room to get food or drink or just relax in the adult only area, where we spent most our time on board. Our two 'thrifty' friends got an interior room adjacent to us to make spending time together easy. We also had FRS radios which worked over the entire ship.
Accessible room- this room was a little bigger then its class suggests so it can accommodate a larger cabin door, bathroom door, balcony door, and scooter/wheelchair. I think we lost out on a larger sitting area, but over all had plenty of room. The bathroom was very large, though often wet. See, there is no lip to the shower area to accommodate a wheelchair bound person, just a large roll over drain by the door, so the entire floor gets wet with every shower. I am the kind of person who usually uses the same towel for the whole week, but instead used it to dry up the floor after each shower. The housekeeping always removed the used ones and provided new ones, so it was never an issue. There is a 4-5" lip to the balcony for those who can't get out of their mobility aid. However, once out there, there is plenty of room to maneuver. It came with 2 chairs, a side table, and 2 lounge chairs. Our friends were often over hanging out while my partner finished getting ready for meals [the only girl in our party]. We could have entertained 20 standing people out there. Its also rather private since the Lido deck over hangs by 6 feet above. My only gripe is that the room layout puts the balcony glass door as far away from the bed as possible. No romantic sunrises. Although its triple long, you only get the standard door and small window, which is off at an angle. Meaning the only place to get a view was on the balcony it's self. Most of the exterior wall was covered with the TV, vanity, etc. But you can't complain too much, its larger inside, larger bathroom, and triple balcony for the price of just an extended balcony. It was also pretty quiet, below the dinning area of Lido desk, so a couple tables being scrapped across the floor, but never late at night. No noise from the service area adjacent to the room either.
Military rate: I never would have known there was a military rate if I hadn't called for the accessible room in the first place. So, if you are current or former military, call them for the best rate. It should be lower than anything else you can find.
Even on this cold weather cruise, the $100 more for a balcony [even a regular sized one] was well worth it to us. We didn't spend a lot of time in the room, but we felt we had that option with a balcony.
Food: Amazing! What can I say, the value in the food alone was worth the time and money. I was surprised that the quantities of food in the restaurant were about half of what you typically get in a restaurant, but it made sense after a while. You don't want left overs, and you can order as many as you want. Steak and Lobster tail night our entire party particularly indulged. I think I ordered 3 main dishes myself. Its easy to over eat on the cruise, I did the best of my party, limiting my self to one dish per course all but 4-5 times. One friend ordered 2-3 appetizers and main dishes each night, plus a medium meal between each regular meal- he was in heaven- figuratively of course.
Spending Money: is very easy on this [and probably all] cruises. They never miss an opportunity to charge you for an extra service. The spa, casino, photographs, and excursions are all examples of how you can double the cost of the trip. However, if you are just a little mindful, even creating a budget, you can leave fully satisfied of your experience and keeping the extra costs under $150 [tips, drinks, excursions, etc.]. It gets a little annoying at times, them always hocking extra services or 'deals.' But I took on the mindset that this is how Carnival makes their money, which lowers the ticket prices for people like me.
Entertainment: The comedians were OK, my conservative friends didn't like them much, but I thought they were worth the time. The Vegas style shows were mildly entertaining. Great performers, but little content beyond singing and dancing. I think I have high standards for live entertainment. For the most part we like to relax and slow down, so there were plenty of places and times to do that. The lack of lots of entertainment options was not a problem for us. My two friends were single though, and on the prowl the entire time. Not many singles on this cruise, though the boat had a singles event almost every night. The night-club was fun for me, but intimidating for my two guys who have never been to a real one before. And what ever you do, DO NOT TAKE YOUR DRINK ON THE DANCE FLOOR. This is no uncommon in real clubs, but its a no no here. They will stop the music until the perpetrators get off the floor- real mood killer. This was one of the areas most inaccessible on the boat for those with mobility limitations. Parking the scooter in the dinning room was also a hassle, but no one complained. In room entertainment on old CRT monitors was a joke. They even try to put text information on screen which you can't read because the resolution is too small. That is the first thing I would upgrade on this ship.
Ports of call:
Port Canaveral: beach is close by, make sure you get a van taxi, or group rate, by your self its $20. Make sure you have photo ID before you leave. Our friend forgot his, despite the 10 warnings they give you on your way out the door. He had his Sign & Sail card with his, which they used to confirm his ID, but took 20 minutes longer to get back on board. We didn't do any of the other excursions.
Nassau, Bahamas: I travel internationally at least once a year. If you like the tourist experience, then no worries. Otherwise check out the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism for their People to People program. It pairs you up with real people from the island to have a real experience beyond jewelry and trinket shopping. You have to do it several weeks in advance though, I found out too late to take advantage of it, and you know the cruise line will not tell you about it if they can't make money off of it.
Freeport, Bahamas: we were only there a short time, so we took a snorkeling excursion. It was good. Over cast most of the day [c'mon, its the freaking Caribbean, I didn't think it ever got over-cast...]. Even with the over-cast skies there was plenty to see in the reefs. Not as many pretty colors, but a wide variety of fish and plant life. Keep in mind, this is a strenuous experience. Most folks were back on the boat with in a half hour, I stayed in the water for the full hour and am still sore from over exerting myself. Bring a water proof camera, you will be glad you did.
Debarkation and Embarkation are stressful. My partner's physical disability gets exacerbated by her anxiety disorder. While the staff were almost always pleasant and wanting to make the experience better, getting on and off the boat were another matter. I think the staff take on all the anxiety of the passengers, which makes the experiences very difficult for a person with an anxiety disorder. All I can suggest is to be patient, and either be first, or last. That goes for the larger on-board entertainment too. A scooter needs extra space on an elevator, and with lots of people getting out at the same time, you will never find room unless you are pushy and demand it from the other passengers. Anxiety disorders usually don't go with pushy, so we would always go to a different bank of elevators after an event. This worked out fine too since our room was at the back of the boat, and all the large entertainment is at the front.
Artwork: I enjoyed it at the start, and then really appreciated it as the week went on. Its a little over the top, but when you slow down, read captions, etc, you can be entertained in unpacking its many meanings. Yes, many of the paintings are renaissance era, where bare breasted women were prominent. So, get comfortable with it.
Time of year: December is great for a vacation, but I never got HOT, except in the hot tub. Even the Bahamian beaches and waters were mild, but not what I think of when I think 'Beach.' I think October or November will be better when I do this again.