This was my third carnival cruise. Most of my cruises have been taken with Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and I've always been very pleased with that experience. What made this cruise a no-brainer to go on was that I received a ... Read More
This was my third carnival cruise. Most of my cruises have been taken with Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and I've always been very pleased with that experience. What made this cruise a no-brainer to go on was that I received a free-cruise casino offer where me and a guest could get a free interior cabin (just paying $118 in port taxes/fees) and it was right out of Baltimore, which is only an hour drive from my home. That definitely beats taking a 3 hour train ride to NY or flying to Miami. In any event, I chose to upgrade to an oceanview for a nominal fee.
EMBARKATION: I really enjoyed the embarkation process at this port. Parking was $105 for the 7 days ,and so it would be really easy for a group who drove together to split that fee. I chose to pay the $60 "Faster to the Fun" fee, so me and my guest were able to move to the very front of the line to check in. However, I may not get the Faster to the Fun going forward (out of this port), because the lines didn't seem that long anyway an dI didn't really get to use the benefit for the remainder of the ship....Our bags weren't delivered to our room by the time we got there, but they were good. I REALLY liked how you could drive up to the luggage trucks on your way to park and there were men standing there who actually lifted your luggage out of your car to put into the ship. That beat dragging our luggage around outside finding someone to check our bags.
PORTS AND EXCURSIONS:
Half Moon Cay (their private island), Bahamas was beautiful and the water is perfect but I had the worst customer service experience there. We had to tender (didn't get to use priority tender service since I was on an excursion), and the process was absolutely dreadful. The tenders were late, which I found out later (after I called customer service to complain), was because there was rough waters and they didn't feel like it was safe at the time to get everyone out. Needless to say, I was late to my 10am bike and hike excursion, despite meeting on the ship at 9am, and when I got over to the shore, I was told our excursion was postponed until 11:30 AM. They couldn't tell us that BEFORE we left?
It was HOT HOT HOT outside and so I had no choice but to sit there and wait until my excursion started in the heat, or could choose to go back through the dreadful tender process and head back to the ship. So the excursion was finally ready at 12pm (during the peak hot point of the day), and while it was a fun excursion, the heat made it a bit dreadful. The tender ride back sucked and nearly everyone vomited from being packed in a tender boat like sardines on the bottom of a slave ship and the water rocking the boat soooo much on our way back to the ship. That was the most exhausting "excursion" day I've ever had. Later I called customer service (who said they couldn't help me and tha tI had to deal with the shore excursion department - what is the point - don't you deal with all customers???) to complain (ended up with an ear infection as well from all of the weird weather), and they did not give me my money back because I should have chosen to cancel my excursion if I didn't want to do it once I got there. She was rude and was willing to lose a customer who dropped mad dough to a $37.99 excursion.
Freeport, Bahamas: Despite Freeport being kind of a boring location, I did a biking tour which was awesome! I hadn't been biking in years. It did rain on us halfway through, but that was not the fault of the tour guide. He was extremely knowledgeable and polite to us despite some of the bikes not working throughout the tour for some of my counterparts. I met some cool people on that excursion.
Grand Turk: AMAZING excursion at a private house - "Home Sweet Home" where we were served unlimited rum and ate AMAZING Caribbean food for lunch. There was free wifi and air conditioning in the house and we could go in as needed. They also gave us free snorkeling gear and umbrellas to cover our chairs in the sun. That was an amazing excursion.
CLEANLINESS: Carnival is not as clean as Norwegian. While most bathrooms and facilities appear pretty clean, some of their practices could use work. While they have hand sanitizer available in the dining halls, they don't have people standing around encouraging you to use it. In addition, the buffet is a normal Golden Corral type buffet where no one is really standing there to serve you, and so you have a bunch of randoms serving themselves, including random children, and you just feel a sense of germs everywhere. In addition, there were often weird smells in the halls that made me go hmmm....where is that coming from?
ENTERTAINMENT: Was kind of blah. Norwegian beats Carnival leaps and bounds with the quality of entertainment and the vast options available - especially on the bigger ships. I do enjoy the casino and I LOVE the cashless system you can use in the slot machines, and to pay your account, check your account, withdraw money from your account, etc. I don't appreciate that Carnival makes even their casino players (invited due to their play in the casino) re-earn points to pay for drinks once they get on the ship. Norwegian offers their casino invites plus a guest, free drinks while they are playing for the whole cruise.
FOOD AND DINING: I love the Pizza Pirate and the Guy's Burger Joint. Those Fast food places are leaps and bounds more tasty than the pizza and burgers on Norwegian. Carnival could use improvement on its speciality dining. They have one steakhouse, and to me, the steakhouse is good, but not always 100% quality. For example, on a previous ship, the ribeye steak my mother ordered was tough. They do have a sushi place which I didn't try on this ship, and I value that Carnival tries to have ethnic stations on the buffet...like Indian, Caribbean, Asian, etc. The buffet kind of sucks in general though. I did like the sit down dining where you are served...those chocolate melting cakes are delicious. Also enjoy the seaday brunch that goes until 1pm on sea days. Norwegian doesn't have those.
NIGHTLIFE: They have a club and the casino (as previously mentioned). The club was hit or miss and typically played the same music every night. i did like the hip hop, but would have liked to hear more reggae.
CRUISE DIRECTOR: I didn't even know who he was until like day 5 of the cruise. My last Carnival Cruise had a super dynamic cruise director that was involved in EVERYTHING and made entertainment pretty fun. I think he needs to be more involved/energetic and make himself known on the ship to get people excited. There was no welcome music when we came back from port...I'm used to NCL's cruise ships jumping with excitement to have us back on board.
Overall: The Pride wasn't my favorite ship as it was older and smelled funny, and the itinerary was "ok", but I really enjoyed the convenience of leaving so close to home. Despite those things, we had a fun time. I hope they expand their itinerary to both Bermuda, and some of the Canada/New England cruises. Read Less