This was our second time on the Pride out of Baltimore, having done the same itinerary in January 2010. The ship has been in dry dock since the last cruise and several things were improved, most notably the aft Serenity Deck area. If you are in the mid-Atlantic area and want a cruise getaway without having to worry about booking a flight, this is hard to beat, especially in the winter months with the rates are much lower. We have also sailed on the RCCL Enchantment OTS on the 9 day similar itinerary plus Key West. Each ship and line has their pros and cons - personally I like the Pride better.
Highlights and things of note:
- Embarkation was a breeze - it always is in Baltimore
- As soon as I set foot on the ship, I went straight to the excursion desk and booked the "Behind the Fun" tour. It is a 3.5 hour tour on the last sea day and is limited to about 25 guests. You can only book once you are on the ship. I've tried to book this tour a few times but always missed out, so made it a point to book as soon as I was on the ship and turned out to be #1 on the list! The tour is $90 and well worth it. Highlights of the tour include the main galley, food storage, beer storage, recycling and trash handling area, loading area, theater back stage, laundry, crew cabins, crew lounge, crew training room, and most interesting for me: engine control room and navigational bridge. If you care about what goes on behind the scenes, don't miss this tour!
- While everyone was scrambling elbow to elbow and fighting for seating up at the Lido Buffet, my wife grabbed a table in the sports bar and I went to the Pizzeria and grabbed a pepperoni pizza and brought it back down so we had an easy lunch of pizza and some beers while watching the playoff game on TV. That worked great for us and no stress. Met a number of cruise critic folks.
- Biggest highlight for us was Roger in the piano bar. We would visit him every night to cap off the evening. Roger was also on the Pride on our previous cruise and it was a pleasant surprise to see him again. He remembered us after 2 years. Roger is extremely talented and a load of fun. If you think the piano bar sounds stuffy, it is totally the opposite and you should give it a try.
- Karaoke was hit or miss, but that is typical and part of the experience. I sang a few songs and had fun. I found the Karaoke host was not very friendly and was short with me and others most of the time even though I made an effort to be pleasant when speaking with her. There was a guy that was totally out of the norm and did "mash ups" where he would sing two or three songs at once. Very different and entertaining.
- Two out of the three comedians were excellent. The ship swaps out comedians in Port Canaveral to provide variety which is a great idea.
- Internet was excellent for me. I was able to check and respond to e-mails, IM, Facebook, etc with no trouble. It is best to use it at non peak hours such as early morning when less are on it. In my experience, the last day of the cruise is not a good one because everyone is online and trying to reconnect with reality the day before getting home. I used my iPad and iPhone. Note you can use more than one device under a single Internet "plan", but you just can't use them at the same time. WiFi was available throughout the ship including our cabin with no problems at all. BTW, iPads fit just fine in the safe.
- One major gripe - the A/C in our cabin was very weak. Once we got into the warmer southern climate, we ended up having to prop open the balcony door at night to get a breeze to cool off the room.
- Want to get onto observation platform area above the bridge? This is hard to find. Go to deck 9 outside, all the way forward, there are two glass doors. One is locked (goes to the bridge itself), one is unlocked which is the one you want. Great views from here. This is a public area and is allowed.
- We opted for my time dining and were always seated promptly. However, as compared to standard seating, you will likely have a different wait staff each evening and there is no personal interaction. It is more like a restaurant - take your order, here it is - anything else? We did have one waiter that made an extra effort and took the time to speak with us about our day. For me, the convenience of any time was good, but I missed the personal touch you get with standard assigned seating and the same wait staff each evening.
- Port Canaveral - we went to Magic Kingdom. It is an hour bus ride. No surprises or problems here.
- Nassau - we went to Atlantis, our third time here so we opted to relax by the pool and take a trip on the fantastic "lazy" river. We came back to the ship to change and went to Senor Frogs for dinner and drinks before departing. Watching the folks stumbling back from Senor Frogs is a free "excursion" in itself! Don't miss that show! Pick any outside deck with a view of the gangway starting around 9:15PM!
- Freeport - everyone seems to hate this port, but it is what you make of it. We took the guided "you drive" Jeep Wrangler Eco-tour. Very enjoyable with some fantastic sight seeing, offroading through one of a kind pine forests and mangroves, history lessons about the island and Bahamas, lunch, and visits to the Garden of the Groves nature preserve and an hour stop at beautiful Taino Beach. Plus you get to drive on the "wrong" side of the road for us Americans! What a thrill!
Overall, a very enjoyable cruise!