We sailed from Baltimore on Easter Sunday on the Carnival Pride headed to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Freeport. It's only a 40 minute drive from our home to the pier, so we were able to enjoy a relaxing morning at home and were on ... Read More
We sailed from Baltimore on Easter Sunday on the Carnival Pride headed to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Freeport. It's only a 40 minute drive from our home to the pier, so we were able to enjoy a relaxing morning at home and were on board early in the afternoon. There were 8 of us in our group: myself, DW, (2) DDs, one DD BF and three granddaughters, who were on Spring Break from school.
Embarkation was a chore. The ship was sold out, and had much greater than the standard double occupancy due to all the children as 3rd and 4th passengers in many cabins. We sailed the Pride two years before, where we were upgraded to a Grand Suite - and had private check in. No such luck this time around - we had three Category 8C veranda staterooms, portside aft, and therefore had to wait in very long lines both for security screening and then for check-in, after the wait we had coming into the parking lot for luggage drop and payment. But we made it through and were on-board about 1.5 hours after arriving at the pier.
The FunShip 2.0 upgrades have made the Pride a new ship, and we loved them. The pool areas on the Lido deck surrounding the pool with the retractable roof is all new with the Blue Iguana Tequila Bar, Red Frog Rum Bar, Guy's Burger Joint, Blue Iguana Cantina and a new big screen that would show "Dive-In" movies in the evenings (as well as music videos and backgrounds during the day). There is a stage in front of the screen where the DJ would set up, as well as a 2-man band (pretty good) and other daytime activities. Other upgrades were made on the Promenade and Atlantic Decks to several bars/nightspots. Be sure to have your "prescription" filled at the Alchemy Bar. And of course the new waterpark at the stern was a granddaughter favorite, especially the Green Thunder water slide. The adults-only Serenity area is quiet and comfortable.
Overall, the food quality was very good. Guy's Burger Joint is positively addictive, especially those seasoned fries. Don't be worried if you see a line - it moves fast because they've got things well organized. The tacos at the Blue Iguana were also very good, and don't forget they are open for breakfast - I had their breakfast burritos twice and believe me, you will not need to hit the buffet afterward (unless you need that bacon fix). The main dining room was generally quite good - especially their soups. For entrees I always advise asking the server for a recommendation - I did regret at times selecting something not recommended. My main issue with the dining room was the service when having Your Time dining. We chose this so we could have flexibility, but we ended up regretting not keeping our Early (6PM) slot we had when we booked. Some dinners went without a hitch, but others saw delays in serving, and mistakes when courses were served. We tried the Sea Day Brunch one morning (quite good - try the Steak and Eggs), and the little ones and parents did the Cat in the Hat Green Eggs & Ham breakfast on the last sea day (and yes, the eggs are quite green). The Lido buffet (Mermaid's Grille) was consistently good (love those pastrami reubens from the Deli - that where the hot dogs are now BTW), and the pizza at Pizza Pirate is very good.
We didn't buy the beverage package - although I would probably break even with it, the requirement that all persons in a cabin over 21 must buy it if one person does makes it not worth it since my wife would end up losing money. Plus, as past Celebrity cruisers - where they throw in the beverage package as a perk - we find Carnival's lack of inclusion of specialty coffees and bottled water in their package disappointing. We did, however, buy the 5-bottle wine package as we both enjoy a nice glass of wine (or two) with our dinner, and feel this package was a fair value.
Besides the main dining room service issues mentioned earlier (and they were working very hard) the service and staff of the ship were very good - always cleaning, working hard and most would greet you with a smile.
The only evening entertainment we watched were a couple of the "family friendly" shows in the Punchliner Comedy Club (located in the Butterflies Lounge, Deck 1 forward). Both comedians were very good and has us laughing, a lot. They also had the "R" rated shows - the younger adults in our party saw one of these - again hilarious but containing much profanity. Can't comment on any other entertainment, other than the generous donations my wife made in the casino (if you can call that entertainment).
Our DDs and grandkids both enjoyed Camp Carnival. It remains one of the best kids programs at sea, in my opinion. Lots of fun activities, and the GKs made plenty of "cruise buddies" during the week.
We're hoping the next renovations will occur in the staterooms. I know there won't be a full overhaul, but some general updates to the bathrooms and swapping out the old-style TVs with flat screens would be nice. Don't get me wrong - the staterooms were just fine and are larger than many lines' standard verandas. There was plenty of storage, plenty of hot water and a comfy bed. And our steward Imam was the best.
The weather this time around was great, especially compared with two years ago when we sailed out in a snowstorm on the Chesapeake Bay and there were record lows in Central Florida and the Bahamas. Easter Sunday this year was sunny and in the low 60s, and you could use outdoor pool/waterpark facilities by the second sea day. The last sea day heading back to Baltimore was the only one that was gray and cool. All the ports had sunny and warm temperatures.
As far as the ports:
Grand Turk - just hit the beach located right off the pier, since we've been there before and did the snorkeling thing then. The sun loungers are free to use and the water is beautiful. There is a large duty free shop, other merchants, a large pool and, of course, Margaritaville.
Half Moon Cay - rented the last two-story Beach Villa online just after we booked. Pricey, but well worth it since we had the max 8 people in our group (you can add additional people but each one costs an additional amount). HMC is one of my favorite ports anywhere - absolutely perfect white sand beach, and calm turquoise water. We had an outstanding beach day, and of course they do the big barbecue for lunch. You can read my full review of the Beach Villa on Carnival's website in the Shore Tours section.
Freeport - been there, done that. You really only have a few options here as the pier is in an industrial port - take a tour, just do a little shopping/drinking at the small retail/bar area right at the pier or just stay on the ship. We chose the latter and relaxed poolside and watched the grandkids while soaking up a VERY strong sun and sipping cold umbrella drinks.
A couple of tips/info - the deck around the pool gets VERY hot in the sun. Unless you have you flip flops on, or have just come out of the pool and have only a short walk to a shady spot, your bare feet will burn. Also, since it was still cool when we sailed, they had the retractable roof closed over the main pool. On the second full sea day, when the temps began to warm, I asked if they planned to retract the roof. I was told they cannot open or close the roof while at sea due to safety concerns. Once we docked at Grand Turk they opened up the roof, and it stayed that way until we were back to Baltimore (which prevented a lot of swimming the last sea day as it was cool and gray).
Overall, a great cruise with a lot of fun and sun. Would do it again, no doubt (and we may just do that in two years' time). Please let me know if you have any questions. Read Less