Pre-cruise: We flew into LAX on Saturday before the cruise. Took Primetime Shuttle service to our hotel in Long Beach for $30, we had made reservations on the internet. We had made reservations at the Holiday Inn Downtown Long Beach but when we arrived we found that they had overbooked the hotel badly and we were sent to the Holiday Inn San Pedro hotel for the night, complimentary. I would not suggest pre-paying if you plan to stay at the Holiday Inn Downtown, we had booked an Orbitz supersaver rate which requires payment at time of booking for the low fare. We have not yet received our refund and with the attitude of the manager on duty I highly doubt we will see that money ever refunded. We had dinner at a local brewery type restaurant in Long Beach that was very nice, I wish I remembered the name but it was right by the pier (not the ship dock there is a fishing type pier in Long Beach). The area around both hotels looks very iffy, but go a mile in the right direction and it becomes very affluentand nice. In the morning we took the hotel's free shuttle service to the cruise ship pier. Make sure to ask when you check in because the shuttle is just a minivan and does fill up fast, it is free but reservations are required if you want to go at a popular time.
Check-in and embarkation: We arrived at the pier area around 10:30am. People were still getting off the ship from the previous sailing. But we found a porter and handed over our luggage and then walked to the Queen Mary to check in. The check-in took about 3 minutes, they have quite a few agents there and they move quickly. After checking in we opted to take the self guided tour of the Queen Mary for $6.00 each, normal fare is $25+. It was very interesting and kept us occupied until we were allowed to board the Pride at noon. When you line up to board the Pride make sure you are in the correct line, there are two different ones. One line is for those who have checked in at the Queen Mary and the other is for those who have not checked in yet. Both seemed to move pretty fast. We were on the Pride by 12:30pm and headed up to the Lido deck for lunch. We checked out our room and it wasn't ready yet, not supposed to be until 1pm but we wanted to check and see what type of room we had got (guarantee status until checking our luggage). Very, very painless embarkation compared to other experiences.
We were very impressed with the Pride. The interior was very elegant; yes there are lots of nude paintings on the ship but nothing overly obscene. We had a 5A room, on the main deck and it was comfortable for the week. The crew seemed to be very friendly; there was a smile everywhere we turned. I'm sure you can find loads of interior pictures on various websites so I won't go into deep detail.
Food: Formal nights are Monday (at sea) and Friday (Cabo). The food on this ship was superior to any of the other ships we have been on, and we thoroughly enjoyed that food too. The Normandie Restaurant is two level and has 2 seatings, 5:45 and 8:15pm. The Lido deck buffet is set up differently then the other ships we have been on. It is set up with a station concept. There are eight separate stations each with a different type of food. This station design really helps keep the lines minimal. They have serving trays to carry your plate(s) from station to station and to your table. They had the grill, the pizzeria, salad and fruit bar, dessert station, deli, asian cuisine, a taste of nations which changed daily and a rotisserie station. We had dinner at David's restaurant for our anniversary and found it to be a wonderful dining experience that was well worth the $25 surcharge. Jackets are required for the men and that is strictly enforced, we saw them turn a couple away when they showed up without a jacket. The menu is available for preview before you make a reservation and they will inform you if anything is not available that week, for example the veal wasn't available on our sailing because the quality of the shipment they got for our cruise was not up to their standards and they had king crab instead of snow crab because of the time of year.
Spa: We decided to splurge and treat each other to a spa treatment as anniversary gifts. I had the spa sampler and my husband had a massage and facial. Both treatments were excellent and the products were not pushed on us at all as some others report. We were given a list of the products they used and told they were available for purchase in the spa if we wanted any of them. We had our treatments on the first night of the cruise and saved 20% off the list price, they also have specials for port days.
Entertainment: This ship had three different Vegas style shows, on both of the formal nights and again on Tuesday. We didn't go to the first show as my husband had to watch the Packer game on Monday Night Football. We did go to the other two shows and enjoyed them. Seating was not a problem in the Taj Majhal show room. It is three levels with much more seating then any of the other ships. It is all row type seating on the first floor, no more of those semi-circle table/couches that take up so much room and don't seat many. We arrived only 10 minutes prior to the show on formal night and had no trouble getting an excellent seat for the show. There is a Mexican folklore show the night you are in Puerto Vallerta which is very nice. There are several young dancers, maybe about 14-16 yrs old, and they are very talented that dance to a mariachi band
Weather: The weather in Long Beach was overcast and cool, low 70's maybe. The first day at sea was also overcast and cool until late in the afternoon. Second day at sea was sunny and warm. All the days in Mexico were sunny and HOT. The temps seemed to be in the 90's with very high humidity. This is still the hot time of year for that part of Mexico so be warned if you plan on doing something strenuous bring lots of safe water along or you will get dehydrated quickly. Our last day at sea returning to CA was very windy. The very top open decks were closed due to the windy conditions.
Pools and Open Deck Spaces: There are several pools and hot-tubs on this ship, the open outdoor spaces were planned very well. We had no trouble finding a lounge chair close to the pools on the days at sea and in port. Chair saving didn't seem to be a problem. I did some sun worshiping our second day at sea and had no trouble finding a quite space and open chair even though I didn't go out until after lunch. The rear pool on the Lido deck is adults only but there were some kids in it occasionally. Yes there were kids in the hot-tubs but they were just sitting in them for the most part. The children on our sailing seemed to be very well behaved as a group.
Puerto Vallarta: We took Carnival's Tequila Factory Tour. It took us to two different tequila factories, one that was a small family-run operation and one that was a modern operation. Both explained their processes and gave out samples. We had time at both locations to shop in their souvenir shops which had decent prices. The bus driver gave a guided tour of the area and lots of info on the ride to and from the factories. After the tour is over you have the option to be dropped off at the ship or to take the bus down to the downtown shopping area. We got off at the ship and never made it downtown. There is a bit of shopping right off the pier in a smaller flea market type setup. We went to the small Del Sol shop there and got a shirt for a friend's child and got back on the ship. I would recommend this tour to others.
Mazatlan: We took Carnival's Sierra Madre tour. This is an all day tour, 7+ hours. You are taken to several different locations and get to see Mexico outside of the main tourist areas. At each stop we made there were people trying to sell us stuff but that is pretty much expected in Mexico. We went to an adobe brick making location, a hand made furniture factory, an old town with a big church and bakery and then to another old town with a very old church. There was more walking on this tour then we expected on uneven surfaces. It was very hot and humid and the a/c on the bus was marginal. If you do this make sure to bring at least one bottle of water for each person. Lunch is provided at the last stop on this tour. It is supposed to be a "safe" restaurant but my husband and I both traced our Montezuma's revenge back to eating there so beware. After lunch it is about an hour ride back to Mazatlan where you are dropped in the Golden Zone for an hour of shopping and then taken back to the ship. We got some vanilla in the Golden Zone and browsed. If you go into the various jewelry stores and browse actively you can get a cold beverage for free which really hit the spot at that point, bottled water or soda. I wouldn't recommend this tour to anyone with children or to people who are unstable on their feet. We had both on our tour and they had a hard time. I wouldn't do this tour again personally, but I just don't really want to go on vacation to look at old churches.
Cabo San Lucas: We took Carnival's Santa Maria Snorkeling trip. Since Cabo is a tender port our tour met on the ship at 7am and then we were taken off on one of the first tenders to the marina. There was a catamaran type boat waiting for us just steps from the tender landing area. Before you start snorkeling you are taken on a quick tour of the Cabo bay area which is pretty. We saw several seals, Los Archos and Lover's beach before moving on to the snorkeling area. Snorkel equipment is provided but we had our own. You have about an hour to snorkel in a small cove off the main bay area. The snorkeling is okay but nothing like the Caribbean. The coral was mostly dead and the water was very stirred up. We did see quite a few large fish while snorkeling but not much else. We ended up getting back on the boat before our snorkeling time was up because the current and waves were strong and tiring, I am pregnant and get tired easily. Once back on the ship there is an open bar with both tequila drinks and non alcoholic drinks. Hubby said the tequila drinks were good and the soda and bottled water was fine for me. They also had fresh made salsa, guacamole, and chips which were excellent. After returning to the marina we walked to the short distance to the downtown area and visited Cabo Wabo. My husband was a Sammy Haggar fan and wanted to see the place. It was completely packed that day because Sammy was in town and giving a birthday show that night (along with the fact there were 3 ships in port that day). We sat at the bar area and hubby had a drink, the waborita, and then bought a t-shirt. We window shopped as we walked back to the tender area. There is a small crafts type market right off the tender stop where we got our small souvenir. We were back on the ship and had a late lunch there. With the Pride sailing this route now you are in Cabo until 4pm, when the Elation was doing the route she had to leave at 11:30am since she is a slower ship.
Debarkation: This was the easiest debarkation we have ever experienced while cruising. The first tag color was called about 8:30am. We were in the fifth or so color called and just walked right off the ship. People actually listened and didn't crowd the staircases or hallways. No line what so ever getting off the ship. Upon entering the terminal building you are directed to a customs line, there are 2 lines for those who have passports and then several lines for those without passports. We were in the passport line and had 2 people in front of us; the birth certificate lines were much longer. The customs guy stamped our form and passports and sent us on to the luggage area. Our luggage actually was sitting all together in a group, all three pieces right next to each other so we grabbed them and left that area. After getting your luggage you walk towards the exit and hand the stamped customs form to the person at the door and head out. We had bought Carnival's transfers to the airport, $19/each, after seeing the craziness when we arrived at the port. The buses were ready and waiting and we were directed to a bus based on our airline. The bus took off about 5 minutes after we boarded it for the ride to LAX. We were unloading at LAX by 10:00am which must be a record.
Post Cruise: Since our flight didn't leave until midnight we had made reservations via Priceline at the Hilton LAX for $33. So we took our luggage and went down to the arrivals level of the airport and caught the free shuttle from the airport to the hotel. We were able to check in at the hotel when we arrived, about 10:45am, without a problem even though official check in doesn't start until 3pm. The hotel was beautiful. We had a king room on the sixth level. We spent the rest of the day at the hotel relaxing and watching football. Final thoughts: We had a wonderful time on this cruise. The Pride is definitely my favorite ship. It is well laid out and beautiful. The Mexican Riviera is not my favorite set of ports, I much prefer the Caribbean but we had wanted to try something new. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions but make sure to put something in the subject line about the cruise I delete e-mails without subjects from those I don't know (don't want to risk a virus).
BACKGROUND: My wife and I were celebrating our 5th year wedding anniversary. This was our second cruise on Carnival. We cruised on the Carnival Elation 5 years ago to the Mexican Rivera. First, let me acknowledge that my wife and I are very customer service-oriented since we are both managers in our profession. This was the Carnival Pride's first cruise on the Mexican Rivera since moving from the east coast. My review is somewhat long but I want to make sure I cover all areas. I also want to provide a point of view from a couple that enjoy nice vacations and don't let the small things ruin our vacation. EMBARKATION: We arrived at Long Beach around 11:30 am and checked in at the Queen Mary. We had to walk a little bit from the new Carnival terminal (The spruce goose) to the Queen Mary, but it wasn't a long walk. We waited in line for about 20 minutes. Once we checked in we walked back to the Carnival terminal and walked inside without waiting in line. Once inside we had to go through security, take our welcome aboard picture,and stand in line just a bit on the gangway while they took our security picture before boarding the ship. I really enjoyed the early check in at the Queen Mary because the process was smooth and quick. I believe we boarded the ship and were in our room by 12:30pm. They do close the early check in around 12:00 pm. I noticed the main check-in line at the terminal was getting pretty long. I would suggest arriving early and taking advantage of the early check-in. The new Carnival Long Beach Terminal is a big improvement over the old San Pedro terminal. Let me add that 2,400 passengers board the ship, so please remember to be patient. Carnival can only speed up the process so much.
THE SHIP AND CABIN. The Carnival Pride is a beautiful ship. The first things that caught my eye were all the balconies on the ship. The ship is very impressive in size and the décor inside. The décor is from the Renaissance period and covered in art inside the ship. The atrium of the ship is impressive all the way up to the top where the David's Restaurant is located. The ship layout took time to adjust to since the last cruise ship was on the fantasy class. Our cabin (5209) was clean and the balcony was GREAT!! I have always read in cruise reviews once you have a balcony in your cabin, you will never cruise without one. Everyone is right!! Having a balcony was just awesome. Waking up in the mornings and walking outside to the see the ocean and smell the ocean breeze was wonderful. We both enjoyed ordering room service and having breakfast on the balcony. I also enjoyed all the drawers and closet space in the room and the bathrobes were a nice bonus. Our room steward did an excellent job every night and was very friendly the times we ran into him in the hallway.
FOOD: Let me just begin by saying when rating the food I took in consideration each seating in the dinning room, the kitchen staff has to prepare around 1,000 meals. If one chef prepared my food then I would have higher standards for the food. The food in the Mermaid Grill overall was very good. Some dishes weren't my favorite but there was plenty of food to choose from. I really enjoyed the variety of stations to choose from and how it was designed. Each station was at each corner and never felt too crowded. The pool grill is always nice to have a hamburger and hot dogs. The food in the main dinning room was excellent. The presentation and the quantity were perfect. I always read in reviews about how the food is either really good or really terrible. Let me just add some of us like our food salty and others like our food spicy. I think Carnival or any restaurant will never figure out everyone's individual taste buds. If the food is not salty enough for you, each table is equipped with a salt and peppershaker. If you think the food is not spicy enough for you, ask for some Tabasco. My wife and I have eaten at 5-star restaurants and place some of our main dishes on the same level or even higher at times. I have read reviews where people complain about the portions of the food being too small. If you are a bigger eater like me and like to stuff yourself, order a couple of main courses. Remember, you have all day to eat on the ship. I don't think a small portion at dinner (minus the appetizer, salad, desert) is not a good reason for you to be disappointed with your cruise.
FORMAL NIGHTS: I noticed on formal nights and in the main dinning room, everyone made an effort to dress up and avoid wearing shorts in the main dinning room. Most men wore suits and I saw a few tuxedos. Women wore formal dress down to nice dinner dresses. My wife and I enjoy dressing up for dinner. If you are not into dressing up and like to relax in shorts, you can have dinner in the causal Mermaid lounge. SERVICE: The service overall was excellent. I noticed a huge improvement from our last cruise in the friendly service from the crew. The room stewards were especially friendly all seven days. Every time I would walk by, they always smiled and said hi. Our room steward Rodwyn was very friendly and polite all 7 days. Our waiter Feland was also very friendly, funny, and polite. The first couple of nights the service at the main dinning room was running a bit slow. However, each night the service improved and our waiter and bus boy were superb at the end. I would like to add our waiter Feland stole the show each night when the crew would dance. We did run into a couple of bar tenders who seemed tired and not so friendly. My wife didn't get upset and ruin our cruise for us. I have read so many reviews how someone did not smile and their overall experience was shattered because of one person. I understand that the crew works 7 days a week and they are going to slip just a bit. Overall, I was very happy with the service since customer service is my expertise.
ENTERTAINMENT: Entertainment overall was great. The Vroom and Wonderful World shows were great along with the Pride Orchestra. My wife and I always arrived 15 to 20 minutes early and always found the perfect seats for the show. The bar service in the Taj Mahal was also great. All the bar waiters were very friendly and attentive. The comedian Jerome was very funny. We had a special treat at the end of the audience talent show. An original member from the TEMPTATIONS was on the cruise ship vacationing. Ali Woodson appeared on the stage and performed MY GIRL. It was a very nice treat for us. You have a variety of shows to choose from. I personally enjoyed listening to the group MUSIC UNLIMITED in the Starry Night Lounge which play 60s-80s hit songs. They were on the Elation when we cruised and I was lucky to find the same group on the Pride.
DRINKS: The drinks overall were good. Some drinks would be weak sometimes or a bit strong. The prices were somewhat pricey but we found the prices to be the same price at our local bars. PORT OF CALLS: I am not going to go into detail since we have visited the ports of calls in our last review. The only tour we took was the sunset tour in Puerto Vallarta. My wife and I really enjoyed the sunset ride tour. We really enjoyed seeing P.V. from the ocean in the nice ocean water. I will mention it's on a 60-foot sailboat so you might get seasick if you are not used to the ocean waves. I would like to add the new Pride ship stays until 4pm in Los Cabos. In our last cruise the Elation only stayed until 11:30am. The added change to the itinerary in Cabo is great because you don't feel rushed anymore. The reason the Pride stays longer in Cabo is because it's a faster ship. If you have never visited Mexico before, please understand Mexico is not the United States. You are going to see poverty much more visible than in the U.S. Just enjoy the scenery and appreciate what we have in the U.S.
DEBARKATION: Once again remember there is only one gangway and somehow 2,400 passengers need to make their way off the ship. Please be patient and understand why the process can take a while. On the Elation, you had to wait at your muster station. Now you can hang out anywhere on the ship and just wait until they call your luggage tag color and section. We were off the ship and on the freeway by 9:45am. The new Carnival Long Beach terminal makes the process simple and relaxing.
IN SUMMARY: My wife and I had a wonderful time on the cruise. We really like to enjoy our vacations and have a good time. We always notice areas where service can improve or how our way would be much better. It's our human nature because we are in management positions but we don't let minute things ruin our vacations trips. I highly recommend the Pride because she is a beautiful ship and has a great itinerary. We hear people complain and dwell on how the desserts were disappointing or how the sauces all tasted the same. When you go on vacation relax and have a good time. Don't walk on board rating everything and letting it get to you. I read so many reviews and see people complain about the stupidest things. Sometimes I wonder why people spend so much money on a cruise and do their best to ruin their vacation complaining how they only had 3 types of toast options for breakfast. Remember, nobody decides for you how your vacation will turn out. You are the only person who decides whether you want to have a fun vacation or not. If you have any questions please let me know.
Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Pride by gg Bermuda August 22, 2003
Let me list the good thing about this cruise before I mention some of the other things that I think were not up to par and need some attention. First, there was a great three piece jazz band that played in one of the lobby areas, terrific.
Now, I'm not a nit-pickin' kind of person, but after having vacationed on several other cruise lines (Princess, RCCL, Holland America) I guess I'm spoiled. I must be. But, for someone who has never cruised before - The Carnival Pride might be a terrific event. That I concede. But to those having experienced holiday on other cruise lines, Carnival is a huge step backwards, and yes, I will explain.
The Pride is now leaving out of NY City. When we went, the terminal was in complete disarray, chaotic, and a mess. They are trying to fix this so others cruising later should have a nicer experience. Good for them, but I should have had a discount for having to go through this kind of mess.
Onboard: the ship was way overdone in cheap rennaissance wallpaper -looked like newspaper pictures. Because fo that, it looked real tacky. The food was uninspiring but decent. If you wanted something special, you had to pay $25 a person, per meal, extra for dining at Davids. We tried it. It was very good service - we were treated like royalty until we were half done with our meal, then we were forgotten about for some reason. We actually had to stand up and wave to get a cup of coffee after waiting for 20 minutes. On to the regular dining room: It was so noisy you couldn't hold a conversation. I ordered a bottle of wine from the wine list and guess what.. they didn't have that kind. So I ordered a second wine, guess what... they didn't have that either. I was rather miffed that on the first night out, they didn't have a large number of wines they had listed on their wine list. I spoke with the Head Waiter who offered no apologies about that either. That's what I call crap service.
The PA system kept coming on throughout the cruise blaring (and it was incredibly loud) this special sale or that - booze or gold chains or jewelry... I thought I was in KMART. It never stopped except late in the evening.
The rooms: We caught glimpses of our room steward - she never introduced herself to us. Our rooms were dusty and dirty behind the chairs, fingerprints all over the mirrors, and our bathroom was never really clean. Not once. The stuff in the corners... Ugh!!! (Bring Lysol). If you wanted water in the room, to drink, you were charged over $3 for the bottled water - what a ripoff. You couldn't use your own fridge - you had to have the steward unlock it and then there was no room to put anything in to it. It was prefilled with wine, beer, and booze - at enormous prices.
We ordered our breakfast in every morning - and never once did they get the SIMPLE order right - I had to call twice on two mornings and then finally gave up.
Most drinks were watered down and very very expensive. $5 a drink.
Entertainment: The entertainment was so-so... mostly lip-synched. On occasion, the volume was SO loud we actually had to leave two of the events (yes, and I used to go to see The Who in concert).
On deck: On two seperate occasions, I watched ship security following individuals that looked and acted like they had come off the sidewalks of NY City. Yelling into the air, waving wildly, walking erratically... Kudos to the security guards but geez... it was creepy. And to think, I was paying money for this. Then the final mess: the children. Unattended, running free, up and down the halls all night, pounding on doors, playing elevator tag, throwing food, playing slot machines in the casino. We watched a dozen kids squirting ketchup and mustard all over the floors and walls in the cafeteria one evening - no parents in sight, crew members walking by not looking. What a mess.
So, let me just put it this way: the best part of the cruise was leaving the boat and going home. I have never ever had an experience like that and I have done quite a bit of cruising. I don't know why this cruise was so bad... but it was. What really is ironic, for the same price I can take a much classier, more relaxing cruise on RCCL and Princes. And, that I plan to do.
Embarkation was very smooth. We live 30 minutes from Pt Canaveral so my husband, my son (18), daughter (15) and mother piled our luggage into the van and set out on our wonderful adventure! The Carnival Pride looked beautiful and huge as we approached the port. Within minutes we were checked in and headed to our cabins where we left our carry on luggage before going up to the Lido deck and the Mermaid's Grill for our first meal on board. The ship is magnificent. The public rooms are elegant and comfortable.. The cabins are spacious and well designed. This is our second cruise on Carnival (the best cruise line!) and we had a balcony! This is the best way to travel.
The first evening we had a casually elegant dinner in the beautiful Normandie Restaurant. Our waiters were Dominic and Nataljia. They took care of us as if we were royalty. Dominic made recommendations for dinner every evening and boy was he correct! Every meal we had on board was a gourmet's delight. Nataljia was the "fisher woman" as Dominic called her. She selected all the seafood for us and isthe best at selecting the juiciest, and plump lobsters! I can honestly tell you every meal that we had in the Normandie was delicious and beautiful. We had all our dinners in this restaurant and as the week passed we decided to have breakfast and lunch there also. I liked being waited on. I can recommend the grouper, tilapia, filet mignon, lobster, and beef Wellington. I loved the chilled gazpacho and vichyssoise. For dessert, try the chocolate decadence, crème brulee, and tiramisu. I was on Carnival last year and was disappointed with their desserts - believe me when I tell you the desserts on this trip were very well prepared. I had a hot lentil soup in the dining room one day at lunch that was divine and the American navy bean soup on the 4th of July was to die for. Order the eggs benedict with grits for breakfast - you will not be disappointed. I now regret not having tried more meals at the Mermaid's grill - my children assure me they were delicious. This is where they ate most of their lunches (we required them to sit with us at the evening meal). My 15 year old daughter tells me the Asian line was delicious. We had cheeseburgers from the grill poolside one day and thoroughly loved them.
After dinner (late seating) we usually headed to the Taj Mahal for after dinner bingo and the show. The entertainment was truly exceptional. The pride dancers are wonderful, the singers were very professional, and the comedians were really hysterical. I can't remember when I laughed so hard. After the show we went to the casino and then to the Beauties night club for dancing. Then it was up to the Lido deck for a slice of pizza (available 24 hrs) and ice cream or frozen yogurt with toppings.
The ship has activities for everyone to enjoy. The Carnival Spa, activities and games on deck, and classes offered were interesting and informative as well as fun. High Tea while listening to classical music was served in the Florentine lounge on the last two days at sea - don't miss this activity - you will feel like royalty.
Half Moon Cay was a fun day at the beach. We rented snorkeling equipment and spent the day swimming and sunning on this beautiful island. We visited and thoroughly enjoyed our visit to St Thomas. We took a taxi at the port and met Conrad, our driver. He took us all around the island answering our questions and showing us many interesting places. He left us (after 2 hours) in the center of town where we went to do some serious shopping. We had lunch at an open air café in town - Café Amici. You will love this place - check it out. We are very independent and adventurous so we did not book tours - we like to do our own - and you save a lot of money this way. In fact, when comparing notes with passengers who took the organized tours, we found we had seen more and learned more than they had for a better price. In St Maarten/St Martin we took the water taxi ($5 per person round trip) from the port into Phillipsburg. We went for Guavaberry coladas - don't miss this place - and buy a hand painted bottle of the liquor to display on your bar at home. The hot sauces and BBQ sauce are delicious too. After walking around for a while and buying a few souvenirs, my husband and children decided to take a cab to Orient Beach while my mother and I took a taxi to Marigot (French side). In Marigot we shopped for perfume and makeup and went to lunch at the marina at the most delicious open air French café La Belle Epoque. I loved speaking French with the employees and other restaurant patrons. This outing was fun and educational for me. Upon our return to the ship (we took the water taxi back as the $5 includes the return trip) my husband and children reported that their beach trip had been just as successful as our trip to Marigot - everyone was still happy and we now had two days left to enjoy our Carnival Pride at Sea.
My teenagers had a fabulous time. They met lots of kids their age and enjoyed doing what kids their age like to do - stay up late and hang out with their friends. Carnival provides a late night teen disco for kids to "hook up". We would often run into our teens late at night having pizza and ice cream on the Lido deck after dancing. The younger kids with Camp Carnival seemed to be having a great time also.
My advice to you - go with an open mind and positive attitude. Our family agreed before the trip that we would be tolerant and patient with each other and others. I think it worked! We had no major problems or complaints. Yes, the islands are poor, their customs are different, but if you want perfection and an artificial vacation - visit Disney World (which, by the way, is a great vacation spot also). Don't complain about little things like the food - if you don't like the way a dish is prepared, ask for something else, and there is always the grill where you can get burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and philly steak with all the trimmings if you do not like the more sophisticated fare in the restaurant. And don't forget the 24 hr pizza and calzones!! You won't go hungry on this ship.
Enjoy the elegance of the ship. Admire the décor (the chandeliers and wall sconces are breathtaking) and the art work on ship. Check out the lace window treatments in the Florentine Lounge on deck 2. Look at the wall decorations in the Taj Mahal show lounge - small geometric shapes of different colored mirrors and crystals that catch the lights. Explore the chapel and internet café - every detail is perfect! This ship is opulent.
I must also tell you that our cruise director Michael, and his wife, Jenny are a terrific and entertaining couple. You will laugh so hard at their antics and will feel they are your friends by the time you get of the ship. Jessica (the bingo girl) is intelligent, has a great personality, and is adorable. Get involved, participate in activities, keep an open mind, and go out of your way to meet people and socialize. You will have a terrific time on Carnival. I have not cruised with another cruise line and I don't think I want to. Carnival is so fun I don't think it can get any better than this!!!!
This was my 8th cruise -- my first on Carnival and my last. I've always believed you get what you pay for and I'm sorry I didn't spend just a little more for a better quality cruise line.
The ship was very beautiful, albeit dark, done in an Italian Renaissance decor. Lots of art on the walls, dim lights, carved staircases. The pink glow from the glass 'tail' of the red smoke stack created an interesting view in the main atrium.
Our cabin was spacious with more storage space and a much larger bathroom than we've had on previous cruises. I would have much preferred a cabin with a balcony, but they were sold out because I booked within 10 days of sailing. So much for last minute deals...
The food was ok, nothing spectacular. I couldn't get ground pepper for my salad. Seems they don't have pepper mills on the ship except in David's, the alternative restaurant. Also, I was not able to get an English muffin for breakfast. They don't have those either. Room service was a disaster. I used it once each day and never was the order corrector on time.
Chairs around the pool were at a premium. Although you were asked not to 'save' chairs, people did and sometimes you never saw them. There was also a problem with people moving other peoples personal items to the floor so they could use the chair. I also witnessed not less than a dozen people take a serious fall around the pool area. They were walking, not running and would slip on water that had been splashed or dripped from drinks. The pool attendant made no attempt to ask people with glass bottles to remove them from the area. Another hazard left ignored.
If you are allergic to smoke, this is not the cruise line for you. We could find only one non-smoking area in all of the lounges on the ship! When we asked the pursor about it, he said we were welcome to go on the Carnival Paradise, the Smoke Free ship! I asked him to enforce the No Smoking policy in the lounges and he said it wasn't his job and I was left to believe that I should just deal with it. I even got into a confrontation with a passenger who insisted on smoking in the small area in the atrium reserved for non-smokers (4 tables). She thanked me for ruining her cruise. Excuse me, but she ruined mine.
My view is you get what you pay for. This line seems to draw lots of folks who are of the Las Vegas type -- love to smoke and drink in excess. Frankly, it's not for me. For a few hundred dollars more, Princess cruises is a far better experience. They treat their clients with respect, have great food, and have designated areas for smokers that they enforce.
It's hard to know where to begin, but we'll start with embarkation. Since we live in Daytona Beach, there's no problem getting to Canaveral. Once there, you drop off your luggage, park the car and proceed to the terminals. This was our 15th cruise (3rd on Carnival) and you would be hard pressed to find friendlier people. Boarding started at 11:30, if you were in a wheel chair or a stroller. So be prepared (bring your own cast or rent a child). When we dropped off our luggage, we found we had been upgraded. That was an unexpected surprise. We were still on Riviera Deck, but with an outside room. As we found out later, Rivera Deck is the place to be since one deck up is the casino, dining room and some lounges. Butterflies was only a short way from our room, but if you went to bed early, you didn't hear a sound. Two decks up were the shops and more lounges.
For anyone reading this who thinks that Carnival cruises are full of kids, you're half right. However, we are married without children and thank God for CampCarnival. This must be one heck of a place, because there is a minimum of loose children. Parents are able to enjoy their cruise while the excellent staff of Camp Carnival entertains the children.
The Pool Deck is on 9. There are three pools on this deck, one of which is for adults only. There are more than enough lounge chairs, but you will always find that lone bottle of lotion, or a hat that someone put on a chair at 6:00 a.m., thereby "reserving their chair." You know who you are!!!! There are plenty of bars on this deck for liquid refreshment and attendants to get them for you.
Neither my wife nor I took advantage of the Spa, but Pat tells me they had some great deals doing.
The casino staff was great. They took, they gave, they took, and they gave. If you've ever been on a cruise, you know what we're saying. Nelson put together some great tournaments throughout the week.
Our room steward, Richard, went above and beyond!
The cruise director, Josh, was outstanding. This guy must have been awake for 24/7 because he was always there. Carnival's entertainment is great. The food is very, very good. The Mermaid's Grille is excellent. We were there for breakfast (omellette's and eggs made to order) and lunch (four different dining stations to choose from). Then there was the outside grille, pizza 24 hours a day, a deli bar.
Unfortunately we can't tell you anything about the gym, except that it was big and had a lot of machines in it.
Our first stop was in the Bahamas, then on to St. Thomas where we had to go through immigration. Let's just say it was a slow process, but necessary. However, it saved us having to do it in Canaveral.
We heard nothing but good about shore excursions from other people. However, our excursion to Trunk Bay was wonderful until our trip back. We missed our early seating and the past cruiser's party.
On to our favorite island of St. Maarten. Be sure to stop at Get Wet Beach Bar & Grille located off Front Street between the historic Passagrahan Guest House and Barclays Bank. Lynne and Phil Parsons and their sons will give you a great drink (or coffee) and a good sandwich for a good price. Lynne and Phil are from Washago, Ontario and purchased this lovely spot. Pat says Lynn makes a mean Mango Margarita!
We are now ready for two glorious days at sea. Life just does not get any better.
Okay, on to the sad part. Debarkation just flowed so smoothly. We were the last color to be called and didn't care. Yet, we were in our car by 10:20 and, sadly, home before we knew it.
Our cruise on the Carnival Pride was excellent. We are so glad we weren't on the same Carnival Pride as Anita. Our food was great. We don't smoke, but were not overcome with smoke. Oh and we didn't realize that we were the Las Vegas type who drink and smoke excessively. Thanks to Anita we learned so much about ourselves.
Our cruise on the Carnival Pride was our 15th cruise (NCL, Carnival, Premier, Celebrity, RCCL) and we are sailing again soon on the Glory. I bet the cruiseline was glad Anita was there to let them know everything they were doing wrong.
Thank God we won't be seeing Anita on the Glory!
See you on the Glory!!
GETTING THERE Hubby and I flew from Detroit to Orlando on Thursday May 1st 2 days before the cruise. I had booked the Radisson at the Port for $79 and had arranged for Cocoa Beach Shuttle to pick us up in Orlando at 11am ($21 each, one way). Bad weather in Detroit delayed our flight by 30 minutes so by the time we got to the luggage carousel it was already 10:45. A quick call to the shuttle company to let them know of the delay and to ask if the driver could please wait and we were all set. After getting our bags we had quite a hike to the Cocoa Beach Shuttle pick-up location and the driver told us if we had called back and told him how far we had to walk he would have driven and picked us up!!! Anyway on to the Radisson.
RADISSON AT THE PORT We checked in at 12:15 and after a bit of confusion finding the elevators headed off to our room. We also booked the 10:20 am shuttle to the port at this time. Nice room, not so nice location-secondfloor right at the top of the stairs. Rooms face out to a common walkway, which meant we couldn't keep our curtains open unless we wanted to provide a free show for the other guests. Called down to the front desk and with no hesitation they said they would move us but it might be an hour or so before another room was ready. This was fine, as we knew we had checked in early. Also they had the 40th Space Congress going on in the convention center adjacent to the hotel and the hotel was full of NASA people. On Friday when the NASA folks left they had a Youth Group having a convention. This hotel is very busy and probably full most of the time. Asked if they had somewhere we could put our luggage while they got our new room ready. Staff told us to leave them in the room and they would move them for us when the new room was ready. So with that resolved we decided to get something to eat. There is a McDonalds right across the street from the hotel and 2 other restaurants on either side of the hotel. There is also a Subway. Our shuttle driver had told us that Kelsey's had very good Italian food and that Zachary's had good breakfasts. So since we had been up since 3am we decided to have breakfast. Food was good, portions quite big. Other than the restaurants there really isn't anything else within walking distance of the hotel, something to consider if you are not using a vehicle, which we weren't. It was 2:30 before we received our new room so after unpacking a few essentials we decided to just chill out by the pool. For supper we went to Kelsey's, food very good here. Both mornings we had the hotel buffet $7.99 per person. It was your standard breakfast buffet but they did have a chef to prepare eggs anyway you wanted them or omelets. Friday morning we decided to take a cab to Merrit Square Mall $15 each way. We wandered around the mall and they walked over to Walgreens and then headed back to the hotel for a swim. The pool was great, the sun was shining and the beer was cold. It doesn't get much better than that. Friday night we went to Subway for supper. Spending the 2 days at the Radisson was a great way to start our vacation, gave us time to unwind and relax. Although the Radisson was great next time we might stay in Cocoa Beach just because there seemed to be more things to do within walking distance.
GETTING TO THE PORT Saturday morning we gathered our suitcases and waited outside the hotel for the shuttle. The shuttle was going back and forth bringing people back from the previous weeks cruise but the first shuttle to the port was at 10:20. Don't know if this is common practice but our driver didn't have the list of people who had booked the shuttle and took a family of 4 who were waiting outside the hotel for a taxi. So if you book the shuttle it is a good idea to be outside. There were 2 shuttle vans that could probably hold 12 people plus luggage. Off to the port we went...
BOARDING THE PRIDE Arriving at the Port we could first see the Disney Magic and then the beautiful Carnival Pride the other folks in the shuttle with us were going on the Magic so they were dropped off first. We dropped our luggage off and after generously tipping the handler (remember these people are responsible for getting your luggage on the ship, very important not to upset them!!!). We proceeded inside. Not too many people waiting in line, but it still amazes me the number of people who wait until they reach the port to fill out their documents???? As hubby and I are not US citizens we headed to the non citizen line. Not too many people in this line either. by 11:15 we were sitting in the second row of chairs waiting to board. They did check picture ID's several times so make sure to have them handy. We then watched as several brides made their way on board for pre cruise wedding services. We heard at one of the shows we had 27 honeymooning couples, not sure how many were married on board. But do know one couple got married in St. Thomas. We were allowed to board by 12-12:15, that was great. They ask that guests not go to their cabins until as least 12:30 to give the Stewards time to clean up from the previous guests. We went up to 7218 on the Verendah deck just to look and then headed down to the lido deck for lunch. We had hamburgers and fries. The hamburgers were just as good as we remembered from last year on the Triumph. We then decided to check out our table in the Normandie Dining Room. We had early seating, which was what we had requested. Last year we sat at a table for 10 and had great tablemates, one couple we exchanged Christmas cards with this past Christmas. This year we had been assigned a booth for 4. We would have preferred a bigger table or a table for two. Our reasoning behind this is what if you have nothing in common or just don't get along with these 2 other people; it could make for a long uncomfortable week of dining. We decided to request a table for 2. Mr. Husine Mersine the assistant Maitre'd was taking care of the changes. He is a delightful gentleman who we saw many times during the week in the dining room. He was able to accommodate us with a table for 2 during early seating. We then headed off to our cabin to unload our carry on baggage.
LIFEBOAT DRILL AND SAILING AWAY Lifeboat drill was at 4pm, the usual hot and sweaty procedure. The ship pulled away from shore around 4:30. The only reason we knew this is because I happened to look outside and realized we were moving. On the Triumph a big deal was made of the sail away, but no such thing on the Pride. This was somewhat disappointing, but we made the best of it by going up to one of the top decks. We had lots of people waving from smaller boats and lots of people on land also waving. It is such a thrill to know that vacation had officially started. by the time we got back to our cabin our luggage had arrived, which was great I unpacked everything before dinner.
NORMANDIE DINING ROOM We ate in the dining room every night except the day we were in St. Maarten. That day we had a later excursion and didn't feel like rushing to get ready for dinner. The food was very good each night. Hubby and I had a variety of different dishes and had no complaints. The chocolate soufflé and the Grand Marnier soufflé were my favorite desserts. The lobster was very good also the Salmon and the Filet Mignon was very tender. Our wait staff were Chris from South Africa (look for him soon on the Glory) and Maia from Thailand his assistant. She was a petite thing and we gave Chris a hard time for letting her carry up the tray with the meals. A couple of times he was a gentleman and helped her. We took the galley tour later in the week and it is 2 decks below the dining room so the staff uses an escalator to transport the meals. This escalator is very narrow and very fast. Couldn't imagine jumping on it carrying a tray of 10 or more dinners. Each night the waiters performed for us, very entertaining. We would often see Maia in the Mermaids Grille at lunchtime and also during the midnight buffet. Gives you a real understanding of how hard these folks work. They definitely deserve their tips. We ate breakfast once in the dining room. Hubby wanted to try the Eggs Benedict. Not bad but the rest of the time we ate at the buffet. They held the Gala Midnight Buffet in the dining room. Everything was spectacular, looked too good to eat. They let everyone in to take pictures and then back in again later to eat.
FOOD We ate lunch in the Mermaid Grille. Lots to choose from, something to please all tastes. Now having said that we did find the setup somewhat confusing. There are many stations set up with different foods. You have to walk around quite a bit to find everything. It's probably not right to compare as each ship is unique but we found the setup on the Triumph easier. You started with salad worked your way through rolls and bread then main courses and then fruit and dessert at the end. Here the regular salad and the Caesar salad had it's own station as did the fruit. They had potato salad, bean salad coleslaw etc at the end of each of the other stations. There is the deli (excellent turkey and corned beef sandwiches), 24 hr pizzeria (it's amazing how good pizza tastes at midnight!!!), they also had a station with a different nation's food each day, Indian, Mexican (I loved this one), Caribbean etc. Then another station with Asian food and then the regular buffet. So much food so little time LOL!!!
ENTERTAINMENT CD was Josh Riffe, he was funny but after having Corey on the Triumph Josh had a lot to live up to. I am sure as time goes on he will become better and better. One good thing about him was not so many announcements made during the day. I found the Taj Mahal Lounge cold and after the first night wore a sweatshirt to keep warm. We always sat in the balcony so can't comment on the temperature downstairs. We went to the Welcome Aboard show on the first night. It was fun; they brought passengers up on stage and made them part of the show, I won't give away what they did with the passengers but it was very funny. The comic Michael Macy that came on after the Welcome Aboard show was very funny he also had an adults only show on Sunday that we would have liked to attend but didn't. The show on Sunday was an Illusionist followed by the comic Kenny Miller. Justin Illusion was very entertaining and Kenny Miller was hilarious. Again we didn't make it to the adult only show but I am sure this one would have been great. Monday was the Wonderful World show. We saw this on the Triumph and enjoyed it again on the Pride. Tuesday and Wednesday the shows were a juggler and a comic and a balancing act (Josh likened it to Cirque du Soleil, quite a stretch IMHO) and another comic. We stayed for the juggler and some of the comic on Tuesday. The comic was different to say the least; he apparently arrived in St. Thomas took a nap and was then late for the first show. Hard to tell if his behavior was part of his act or not, anyways as I said different. We just couldn't sit through the balancing act. Now I am sure many people enjoyed both of these shows but they weren't for us. Thursday was VROOM, this was a great show, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Friday of course was passenger talent night. What a great bunch of talented people we had sailing with us. Hats off to them. The Starry Night Lounge was the piano bar and there always seemed to be people in there. Didn't make it to Beauties but heard many others did. Karaoke was also very popular.
THE ISLANDS Half Moon Cay was our first stop-. Paradise in the middle of the Ocean. We went to the Starry night lounge to get tender tickets; we were lucky to receive tickets for the first tender. Hint, we and most of the other passengers waited inside the lounge when in fact they had the passengers make two lines outside of the lounge. So if you get there early enough just sit right outside the doors to the Starry Night Lounge. We then waited for our tender to be announced on the PA. It was nice being one of the first on the island as there are a limited number of shaded areas on the beach. It was a very hot day and being able to sit in the shade was a relief. Great opportunity here to take photos of the Pride anchored out at sea. Sail and sign cards used on the island but they don't have the buckets of beer like they do on the ship. Beer was $4.50 per. Lunch was provided, hamburgers, hot dogs, salads etc. We were about half way down the beach and it was a bit of a hike to find the food. Follow your nose. I went to get our food early (they announce when it is ready) as I had heard about trouble with mosquitoes and they love me. I did take insect repellent actually Avon's Skin so soft as it is the only thing that works for me but didn't need it. They had stations set up for massage $1 a minute. They also have a gift shop and a few stalls selling native stuff. Tendering back to the ship was no problem.
St. Thomas Here we booked a private tour with Godfrey. After reading many rave reviews for Godfrey I emailed him and arranged to meet him on the pier at 10am. As St. Thomas is a US Virgin Island all passengers must clear customs. Being non-US citizens hubby and I had to go to the Starry Night Lounge at 8am. US citizens were called by deck to the Taj Mahal Lounge. After clearing customs passengers are free to leave the ship. Customs went quicker than we thought and we left the ship at 9am. Since we had some time until we had to meet Godfrey we took the opportunity to take some great pictures of the Pride the Celebrity ship and also the HAL ship Rotterdam that was also in port with us. It was taxicab heaven at the port, very busy, lots of people. We were asked a few times if we needed a taxi and we explained that we had booked with Godfrey (everyone knows Godfrey). At around 9:30 a very well dressed gentleman introduced himself as Godfrey's brother and explained that even though we were early he would call Godfrey. I spoke to Godfrey and he explained that as it was mass confusion at the port he would pay for us to take a taxi into town where he would meet us that way it wouldn't cut into our shopping time. So into a taxi we went and met up with Godfrey in town. The taxi driver tried to collect money from us even though Godfrey's brother had told him not to. Anyway we had 2 hours of shopping, 1 hour 45 min tour of the island and then 2 hours at Coki beach (Coral World is right next door). I would not hesitate to recommend Godfrey to anyone visiting St. Thomas. He will take you to a different beach if you want, depending on what you want to do. We also had people on the same bus that didn't want to go to the beach and he took them back to the ship instead.
St. Maarten we booked the Carnival See and Sea Island tour $49 each. Which includes a narrated tour around the island, opportunity for picture taking, shopping in Marigot and then a voyage on a semi-submarine. The tour didn't leave until 12 so we had plenty of time to take the water taxi into town to shop. We found the booze and cigarettes to be much cheaper here than in St. Thomas. Crew from the ship also told up that if you can wait to shop until the afternoon you can get some good deals on big ticket items i.e. cameras, camcorders etc. The ship doesn't leave until 7pm so there is plenty of time to shop and do excursions here. After shopping we went back to the ship and grabbed lunch before making our way to the pier for our excursion. You have to walk a little ways past the pier and then board an air-conditioned coach. Our very knowledgeable and friendly driver Danny was from the Dutch side of St. Maarten and he provided a narrative as he drove us around the island. There was lots of traffic and we arrived in Marigot later than usual, about 30 minutes so we only had 45 minutes to shop. We went to the new West Indies Mall which is across the street from where the bus parks. Very nice mall but very pricey. We have dollar stores they had a $10 dollar store!!! I did see a beautiful tablecloth from Provence but the $285 was too steep for me. Also all the prices were in Euros. 1.1 Euros = 1 US$ approx. Back on the bus we headed for Grand Case and it was there we took the Seaworld Explorer out to Creole Rock. This a unique vessel about half way there you go down below and you are now submerged able to view the coral and sea life. They have a diver who feeds the fish, which gives a good opportunity to take pictures. The guide also points out the different kinds of coral, turtles and other sea creatures. Now I am very claustrophobic and my hubby was concerned I would freak out in the confined space but I was fine. You sit 2 on a sit facing forward. It is climate controlled so it is comfortable down there. They served fruit punch or rum punch for the ride back to the bus. A very enjoyable trip, a great way to see below the surface without getting wet.
OUR CABIN Our cabin was 7218 on the Verandah a balcony cabin with plenty of room for all our things. Had no problems with the shower curtain but did find the shower gel and shampoo provided in the shower to be watered down??? Glad I brought my own. Ladies don't forget conditioner, the sun and salt water makes your hair like straw. There was a nice assortment of shampoos, lotions, toothpaste, tums, ladies and mens razors etc in the room. Our steward was Robert a very friendly person. Our only complaint with him was the one morning we returned to pickup our beach towels to go on deck and our cabin door was open. Thankfully nothing was missing from the cabin. My hubby went up and down the hall to look for Robert with no luck. We had been in the approx 4-5 minutes when Robert knocked on the door. My hubby let him know nicely that we didn't appreciate having our door left open at any time and especially as we were very close to the elevators. He tried to tell us that he had gone for ice and that they often leave the doors open, as they are back and forth very fast. Hubby pointed out that he had looked for Robert and was unable to find him and that 4-5 minutes was plenty of time for someone to come in and take something. Robert apologized and that was the end of the matter until later on Robert knocked and this time I opened the door. I really think he was worried that we would report the incident, which we didn't, and he again apologized for leaving the door open. Other than that incident Robert was fine, always quick with a good morning and a smile. We received a complimentary bottle of wine from Carnival (I had written an email after our first cruise), which we enjoyed during dinner. The Pride has little cubbies outside the doors of each cabins or the mailbox, as we liked to call it. It was always a thrill to come back to the cabin and find we had mail.
Miscellaneous As mentioned many times before the ship is beautiful. Yes there are many pictures of naked ladies scattered about some more risqué than others. After being on the Triumph last year we found the Pride easier to go from stern to bow. It was nice that you can walk straight through. The Triumph has a dining room in the middle of the ship that blocks that movement. Never felt crowded even on deck during sea days. There was some saving of chairs but there are definitely enough for everyone. One thing we did miss was a quite deck to sit on after dinner. On the Triumph we would often sit on the deck where the atrium is, they had nice padded lounge chairs out there. We could find no such place on the Pride. I did use the Internet and wished I had signed up for the $55 100 minutes package. The connection is very slow so just checking email takes a long time. If you plan on checking email etc every day or even every other day you might want to consider one of the packages. The photo gallery was chaotic at times. They move the pictures daily so even if you find them one day the next they will be somewhere else. It's actually quite comically to watch everyone try to find him or herself. Everyone looks the same after a while. We didn't have too many children on this trip but the CD did say the previous one had 700!!!! They had a laundry special on Thursday. Your Steward leaves a Carnival plastic bag in your room anything you can fit in there is $12. I did this on our last trip and also again this time. It's amazing what you can fit in that small bag.
TIME TO LEAVE Disembarkation was a breeze. Passengers were allowed to stay in their cabins until their deck was called for disembarkation, much nicer than milling around the halls. We booked a post cruise excursion to Kennedy Space Center, as our flight wasn't until 7:40pm. This meant we could leave the ship first along with anyone with an early flight (before 1pm). Breakfast was served extra early this morning and after our last meal on the Pride we went to the Starry Night Lounge at 6:45am to pickup our passports. Make sure you have your customs forms with you and filled out. From there we returned to our cabin and around 8:15 we made our way to the Taj Mahal Lounge. Anyone taking the excursion was given a sticker to wear. Approx 8:45 Matt one of the Social Hosts led us from the lounge off the ship. We quickly retrieved our luggage and made our way past customs dropping off the forms in a big basket!!! Outside the terminal was a representative from the excursion group who led us to the Mears bus.. It was now 9:15am!!!! Our luggage was put in the bus luggage compartment and we didn't worry about it again until Orlando Airport.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER This excursion was $75 per person but did include transportation to Orlando Airport. We had a guide with us who narrated on the way to the Space Center. Once there we had to go through a security screening where they asked you to put on your cell phones and camcorders to prove they were real. They also looked through all purses, backpack etc. Then it was off to look at the exact replica model of the Shuttle Explorer. You are able to go inside and see the cramped quarters the astronauts live in space. Being from Canada it was a thrill to see the Canada Arm. We then walked over to the Astronaut memorial, commemorating all those who have lost their lives in the name of Space exploration. They do not have a memorial for the last Shuttle disaster yet. Then we boarded a Kennedy Space Center bus for a tour around the launch pads, Vehicle Assembly Pad etc. Very interesting. Our next stop was the Firing Room where they re-create an actual Apollo launch. This was amazing right down to the sound of the rocket taking off. You then go into a hanger where they have the Saturn V rocket; this thing is bigger than big. Here they have a gift shop and the Moon Rock Café. It was then on to our final destination the IMAX theatre where we saw a 3D movie about the International Space Station. This was very cool. We then returned to our Mears bus an arrived at Orlando Airport for around 2 -2:15.
We had a wonderful time and hated to leave. The staff and crew of the Pride where always smiling and helpful. They always seemed to be cleaning even painting the outside of the ship in St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Next year we are planning an all inclusive in Mexico instead of a cruise (I know how could we even think of not cruising). I was looking forward to this but the cruising bug has bitten again and I don't know if we will make it to Mexico. I didn't expect this review to be so long and I have probably forgotten to mention many things. Any questions please ask and I will do my best to answer them.
Be sure to check out the Capers, shore excursion list, shopping maps and pictures at: http://community.webshots.com/user/minnie64
My wife Sherry and I drove in to Port Canaveral on Friday, June 13th. I had reserved the "Cruise Package" at the Cocoa Beach Hampton Inn. For $85 total, we received a balcony room, free parking for the duration of the cruise, and transfers to and from the pier (plus $3 each tip both ways). Considering parking at the pier would have been $70 for the week, this was a GREAT deal! We walked the beach on Friday and then drove to Rusty's, which is on the port across from the Carnival pier. Had a great "early bird" special as well as Happy hour specials (3-6pm). Went back to the hotel and rested up for our cruise.
We woke up early on Saturday and enjoyed the free continental breakfast downstairs in the hotel. The shuttle was scheduled to leave at 1215, but I decided that we'd get down there early. They called us a Taxi at 1045 and we went to the Carnival terminal. It only cost about $14 with the tip. We were a cat 8a guarantee, so we had to change luggage tags at the pier. I foundout that we had been upgraded to 8h, cabin 8210, which was on the Panorama deck, mid-ship! Needless to say, I was VERY happy with the upgrade to the highest cabin deck! I hadn't told my wife Sherry, about getting a balcony. so I was getting excited about her seeing the room!
We flew through the security check and the check-in procedure, then had to wait until 1200 to board the ship. Once they opened up the gates and started the procedure, it was very fast and fluent. Walking into the atrium, we were in awe.. It was magnificent! We went up to the 8th floor to put our carry-ons in our room. Needless to say, when I pulled the curtains and Sherry saw the balcony, she was VERY happy! The regular cabins on the Pride are all 185 Sq. feet, very roomy for cruise ships. I'd been on the Inspiration and the Enchantment of the Seas, and the room is much larger than on RCCL. We then went up to David's, the upscale restaurant to make reservations for Sunday night. Once again, it was really easy. more on David's later. We then went to the Mermaids grill for the lunch buffet. I liked the layout of it. different lines for different cuisines. After lunch, we then bought a frozen thingie for Sherry and explored the ship. My wife is an Art teacher; so needless to say, she was engulfed by the ship's artwork. So many different lounges with different themes, but most of the common areas of the ship were decorated from the renaissance period. We went up to our room to enjoy the balcony and relax before muster and sail away. Muster went smoothly, but as the case during the summer, it was quite hot on the deck. The usual grumbling from people who didn't know better was prevalent, but I thought it went as quick as was possible. A quick trip to the cabin to deposit the life preservers, then it was up to the Lido Deck for Sail Away! The weather was beautiful as we parted the hundreds of small boats heading out of the canal.
We met our Cabin Steward, Reshma from South Africa, that first afternoon. We asked her to clean out the mini-frig, so that we'd have room for our sodas, etc. She was very efficient and friendly, always with a smile no matter what time of day. Our luggage arrived about 1½ hours after we set sail. Using tips I'd learned from the message board, I "un-bubble wrapped" our libations from our checked baggage. no breakage at all! I attached the bungee cord to the balcony door (another tip I'd read), and it worked like a charm! We slept every night with the balcony door open.. the sound of the wind and waves singing us to sleep (ok, that was corny!).
Our Dining room team was Head Waiter Virgil from the Philippines and asst waiter Vanessa from Peru. They were absolutely wonderful. Vanessa always made sure that I had my small glass of milk with dessert!!! The "shows" that the dining room staff presented every evening were wonderful. There was lots of singing, dancing, costumes and asking the cruisers to join, too. It was a blast! The food was exceptional. there was always a tough choice to make every night (except on lobster night). We were at a table for six (table 223), smack in the middle of the Normandy dining room. We only had one other "regular" couple at our table, Craig and his wife from Cleveland, Ohio. They were a very pleasant couple and we had great conversation every night. The other couple only showed up on the third night. I guess they had other plans the rest of the cruise!
Now for David's.. what an experience! We decided to make reservations for Sunday night at 730 after a day at Half-Moon Cay. It is located on the 10th deck of the Pride. There is a reproduction of "David" at the very top of the Atrium inside the restaurant. Needless to say, it was "anatomically" correct! There was a pianist and a vocalist throughout dinner, and they were wonderful. We danced in between courses.as we were there for about 2 ¾ hours. The staff was very attentive, we saw about 5 different people during our time there. We brought a bottle of Moet White Star on the cruise and they kept it at David's until we showed up for our dinner. They didn't charge us a "corkage" fee; they didn't even ask if we acquired the bottle on the ship. The surcharge for David's is $25 per person, and this was the best $$$ that we spent on the cruise. The presentation of all the courses is 2nd to none. I've eaten at a few 5 star restaurants, and I'd classify David's as 6 stars, without reservation. For my main course, I ordered the South African Lobster.. it was HUGE!!! My wife had the Porterhouse, and it filled up the whole plate. She enjoys her steaks rare to medium-rare and it was done to perfection. To bad, she couldn't eat it all. I had to help her. Oh, well. the sacrifices that I make for Sherry. The rest of the meal was just as luscious.. And the flourless chocolate cake made for a magnificent dessert! They even gave us a "Happy Anniversary" cake for later and sang to us.. It was truly a memorable evening. We were so pampered that I felt guilty. I almost had Sherry go in to the kitchen and help wash a few dishes. I'm just that kind of "caring" guy.
Earlier Sunday, we tendered off of the ship to Half-Moon Cay, the private island in the Bahamas. The weather was perfect, as it would be for all the ports. Our cruise director, Michael, made an announcement that we needed to shower off completely if we went into the water at the beach there. He said that there were a great deal of small jellyfish, and that jellyfish "lice" came with them! That didn't stop a lot of people from getting into the water there. it was so clear and the beach was a pristine white powder sand. We set up our lounge chairs at the edge of the water and enjoyed the sun. Carnival sets up a "barbeque" just off of the beach at Half-Moon Cay. it was great too! They provided hamburgers, Hotdogs, Salads, desserts with all the trimmings. There are numerous covered shelters with picnic tables around the bbq area, so everyone that wanted a seat, got one. There is a small gift shop on the island, and you use your Sail and Sign card in it. There were a few "native craft" booths set up too. They had a wonderful band on the island, which played the whole time we were there. Just as on the ship, Lemonade and tea were free. Soft drinks and alcohol were the same price as on the ship, again you just used your S & S card. Since we were going to David's that evening, we left at 2pm and tendered back the ship to get cleaned and rested up.
Monday was the 1st "fun day" at sea. I used it to explore the casino a little bit further! I just missed getting in the finals of the slot tournament, placing 13th (top 12 advanced). I was a little bummed until I hit a jackpot on the slots that night! That paid for our shopping the next 2 days. My wife used the day at sea to finish the novel she was reading. She alternated between the Lido deck and our balcony. I went searching for her and somehow wound up on the topless deck! I was so shocked and appalled!!! It took me at least 20 minutes to get over the shock and make my way down from there. I'm a little slow sometimes, as I found myself mistakenly up there later on in the week, too. At the Captain's cocktail party Monday night, we asked a couple if we could sit with them. We started talking and before you knew it, we had made friends for life with Rick and Susan from Kentucky. We spent the rest of the week cementing our friendship. Susan even told us of Rick's fear of kittens, that's all I'll say about that (with a grin on my face). We had reservations with Godfrey for a tour of St. Thomas the next day.. They had no plans yet. We ended up deciding if Godfrey had room that they would join us. This was also our first formal night; we had a blast in the Ivory Lounge (Piano bar) after dinner.
Tuesday was our day in St. Thomas. I had picked up a tip on the message boards about Godfrey Renal and his tours. I would HIGHLY recommend him to everyone! You can find him on the web at www.godfreytoursvi.com/. I wouldn't put his web address on here without the highest assurance of everyone's satisfaction. I emailed him, telling him what Ship I'd be on and the day that I'd be in St. Thomas. He emailed me a very nice reply telling me all the info that I'd need to spot him on our arrival. Godfrey had my name on a placard when we departed the ship at 9am. I asked him if there was room for our new friends, and he said "of course". Godfrey's tour bus (open seating in the back like a jeep) was brand new and was quite comfortable. There were a total of ten of us on the tour. Looking at all of the crowded busses, we felt pampered. Godfrey gave us a quick synopsis of the island tour and then took us to the downtown shopping area. He told us that he'd be back at 1145 for our tour of St. Thomas. 2 ½ hours of free time shopping, my wife was on cloud nine. I had mistakenly forgotten to leave my wallet on the ship (just kidding, dear), so I was ready for the "shopping bag haul". We did the normal for the people back home. T-shirts first. I learned from my 21 years in the Air Force how to bargain, my wife would probably rather I didn't. After 1½ hours of trinket shopping, we went to Diamonds International; Rick wanted to look for a ring. He found a beautiful Solid gold Panther ring. After about 10 minutes of dickering on the price, he bought it and a watch for his wife. Luckily my wife's tastes weren't so expensive this cruise! We mailed off some Post Cards from the Post Office, which was on the way to Godfrey's pick-up point. Godfrey met us at the prescribed time, and away we went. Winding up the mountain, as Godfrey narrated the trip from the truck cab over a speaker, we were able to see some spectacular scenery. We stopped a few times so that Godfrey could explain in detail about the many hurricanes that have hit St. Thomas, as well as the history of the island. He was VERY thorough and attentive to our questions and us all. We finally made it to the highest point on the island and took about a twenty-minute break to experience their world famous banana daiquiris. Well, my wife did. I'm not much of a daiquiri drinker. My idea of an exotic drink is Red Stripe Beer, which I was able to get on St. Thomas, too! At the top of the mountain, there is a medium-sized, air-conditioned shopping center. very nice! The prices are a little higher than down in the city, but a lot cleaner and no pressure at all. After our break, we continued our tour down the other side of the mountain. Godfrey gave us our choice of beaches, and we all decided on one, Sapphire beach. Godfrey said this beach had the best snorkeling, so I was happy that everyone decided on it. He would have dropped us off at separate beaches, in case you were wondering. We arrived at Sapphire beach at about 2pm which gave us 2 hours of relaxing. We ate at their outdoor restaurant; they had a wonderful spicy chicken breast sandwich. We all got changed after that, and stepped onto the beach.. Once again the weather was perfect. I went snorkeling and Godfrey was once again right. the reef was beautiful! I brought my underwater camera and got some excellent pictures. I will put them on the boards when I get them back. One thing that I did forget was my reef shoes. On my way back from snorkeling, I got in some shallow water. I carefully stood up and yelled for my wife to throw me my sandals so I could walk out without cutting up my feet on the coral. Now for the story of the cruise.Remember Rick's new Panther ring? Well, he wore it on the beach without getting it sized down. To make a long story short, he went out swimming and lost it! He had been searching for it for over 15 minutes and had given up. I had just gotten back from snorkeling and decided I would find his ring. I went out to about 6-7 feet of water, looked around for about 2 minutes. The sun came out from behind the clouds, I looked down and something was glimmering in the sand! It was Rick's new panther ring (like you didn't already figure that out). I picked it up, showed my wife and sarcastically said, "Does it look like this?" If anyone has been to Sapphire beach, you know that the sand is very fine, and the odds of the ring not disappearing into the sand before 20 minutes would be very high. Needless to say, I drank for free courtesy of Rick for the next two days! Godfrey picked us up at 4pm and took us back to the ship. Now for the unbelievable part, Godfrey only charges $20 per person for this daylong tour. We, of course, tipped him accordingly, in addition to the Oklahoma Sooner's T-shirt I brought him from home. If you do book with him (online is the easiest), take him a T-shirt from your home state; he'll enjoy it. I emailed him a Thank you when we got home, and he's already replied telling me how much he enjoyed showing us "his" St. Thomas. You won't go wrong with Godfrey. I've been on three cruises, and this was the best time I've had on a tour. If you do book Godfrey, tell him that Dean from Oklahoma sent you!
Wednesday was St. Maarten. We had learned from our previous cruise, that sometimes you don't need to book an excursion (some are tiring!) at every port. We decided to take a water-taxi from the ship's pier to the edge of downtown Philipsburg. It costs $5 per person for an all-day pass and for those of you with kids, under 12 is free. We did some shopping and bought my wife a gold cross pendant among other things. Gold is definitely cheaper on St. Maarten. While my wife was doing some more shopping with Rick and Susan, I used the $10 match play coupon from the ship for one of the casinos downtown (across from MacDonald's, the Casino D'Nour, I believe). I was dealt a 20 and beat the blackjack dealer for my $20 profit from the coupon. You also get a coupon for a token on the free pull machine. We just kept the token as a souvenir. I played their slot machines while I waited on the rest of the gang and actually won another $30 in quarters. They also give you free drinks if you're playing. After they came and retrieved me from the casino, we headed for the beach. The beach in the heart of Philipsburg is wonderful. Once again, the weather was outstanding. The clouds would come and go, allowing you to cool off in between bright sunshine. The only problem on that beach is the constant vendors coming by to sell you their goods. You just have to say NO thank you firmly and they finally get the idea. You might want to consider wearing your bathing suit under your clothes in St. Maarten as my wife and Susan had to walk all the back to the tourist center to change. You can find cans of beer for as little as a buck a piece or 2 Hinies for 3 bucks on the beach. My wife wasn't a bargain finder on this afternoon. she found bottled beer for $3 at the Everything Cool bar. <Grin> We left the beach in the mid-afternoon and took the water taxi from the mid point of the beach back to the ship. We went to the Mermaid Grille and had lunch, then got back off the ship to check out the little strip shops just off of the ship's pier. Don't bother. twice as much for their souvenirs as opposed to downtown Philipsburg. The only thing cheap at that shop was Cigarettes. For those who smoke, they were only $11 per carton there. You can only buy 1 carton per person in St Maarten, but you can buy up to 4 in St. Thomas. The same ratio goes for alcohol too.. The prices are great at both places! Next time we go to St. Maarten, we'll check out the French side of the island. Orient Beach <eg> will just have to wait until then! Wednesday night, there was a late night party on the Lido deck. lots of dancing and fun into the wee hours with a live band.
Thursday and Friday were "Fun" Sea Days. I returned some of my profit back to the casino, but had lots of fun doing it. We spent after dinner (again) in the Ivory lounge, singing along with the "Piano Man". what a blast. Thursday was our final Formal night. Since our regular dining partners were eating at David's that night, we asked if Rick and Susan could join us at our table. Virgil said it would be no problem. We had a great dinner. it's just wonderful to see everyone dressed to the "nines". At Friday's farewell dinner, Virgil presented us with a watercolor litho of the Pride. Virgil and Vanessa personalized it for us, which made it very special. It was quite the perfect memento of the cruise.
Saturday, sadly, it was time to leave the Pride. Debarkation went smoothly. After they called our color baggage tag, we were off the ship and in our shuttle in 10 minutes. I was very surprised at the quickness of the process. Unlike our previous cruise on the Inspiration, our baggage was together in the same "color" section. That made it a snap to find. We flew through customs, no questions asked, then out the door to the pick-up point. Art's transportation took us back to the Hampton Inn. We tipped the driver, put our baggage in our car and off we went. back to Oklahoma. This was our best vacation ever, made some wonderful life-long friends. Who could want anything more from a cruise?
They take A LOT of pictures, be prepared. We only went to a few of the shows, but what we saw we enjoyed. We spent most of the time after dinner in the Ivory Lounge. There were 500 kids on board, but you couldn't tell. There were a few rowdy ones, but for the most part, the teens were well behaved. The Butterflies and Beauties lounges were usual hangouts for the teens. I did not see any blatant underage drinking. One question for this certain 14 year old girl's parents, "Where were you when your little girl was out at 3am looking for boys?" I'll leave it at that. The terminal at Port Canaveral is very well organized. For those of you who'll park at the terminal, parking is right across from the Carnival pier. The personnel were very polite, too. I brought crisp two-dollar bills for tips. The baggage handlers and room service seemed to enjoy receiving those. There was a slight vibration in the dining room the first night. I never really noticed any movement of the ship after that. It was "smooth sailing". I enjoyed the "separate stations" in the Mermaid Grille. They had different sections for Oriental food, rotisserie, Pizza, Deli, Salad, desserts, etc. Very well organized and thought out. The Balcony cabins on the Panorama deck are definitely the best! The overhang extended about 5 feet above our balcony due to us being directly under the Lido deck, so no one could look down into our balcony. (It's a good thing too!!!) We could look down and see people leaning over their railing, but for the most part; all of the balconies are private. There was plenty of closet space, and the bathrooms were better designed than the ones on the inspiration. If you bring your own mixers, etc, have your room steward empty out your mini-frig. That way you won't be tempted to buy the $4 water and $8 peanuts! When you empty out your safe, be sure to remove the little carpet and feel around the edges of the safe, even the corners. One pair of my wife's gold earrings had found their way into the front corner of the safe. I also found a previous cruiser's earring there, luckily for them it was just costume. I found the pre-tipping convenient, never having to "put back" money or get change on the last evening of the cruise. I never experienced a lack of service because of the pre-tipping. Bring plenty of film for your camera, you'll need it! I took just as many pictures on the ship as I did in the ports. If you snorkel, bring a waterproof camera, too.
Well, that's it! I hope you enjoyed your three cups of coffee while reading this! If you have any questions about the Pride or the itinerary, please email me at SoonerG@aol.com. One final tip I'll give you: Don't be afraid to ask someone if you can join them, you'll make some great friends that way! If Sherry wouldn't have been late getting ready for the Captain's party, we would have probably found a table to sit at by ourselves in the Starry Night lounge. As it was, I asked some perfect strangers if we could join them. Well, after about 10 minutes, Rick and Susan were no longer perfect strangers, and now we have friends for life! We're already talking about taking a cruise next year, hopefully with them.
My husband Bryan (he is 31 and is a newspaper sportswriter) and I (34, I do publications for Medicaid) sailed on Carnival Pride May 10-17, 2003. This was our second cruise - our first was on RCCL's Voyager of the Seas for our honeymoon in 2000.
We flew out of Raleigh, N.C., on Friday night. All the flights on Saturday were either too early or too late. We rented a car from Avis for $32 and a room at the Days Inn on McCoy Road (near Orlando airport) for $37. With the car we were able to go out to eat and pick up some bottled water and diet Dr. Pepper.
We had breakfast at the hotel and then headed for Port Canaveral around 10:00 a.m. The signs were very easy to follow. We dropped off our luggage at the port before returning the car. I had placed my bottled water in a trash bag and put a luggage tag on it - I also had used a magic marker to write our cabin number on the actual package just in case the bag was ripped. Returning the car waseasy and so was catching the shuttle to the ship - no waiting at all.
We rode up the escalator in the terminal and Bryan said, "The lines aren't too bad." I said, "Well, we don't have to wait in any lines at all - we get to go to the Skippers Club!" We had received a free upgrade from an 8G to an 11 suite (midship) and I had kept it a secret from Bryan. We walked in and a nice lady greeted us, we sat down in comfy chairs and before we knew it we were waiting in line to board. From the time we got to the terminal til the time we boarded (11:20) was about 15 minutes. I had heard that you're not supposed to go to your cabin until 12:30 but no one had told us that - I don't know if it's because we had a suite or that the lady just forgot. So we decided to stop by and see if we could drop off our carry-on bag. The cabin was ready so we dropped our stuff and quickly checked it out. It was wonderful! Plenty of room, lots of storage, beautifully decorated, huge deck and even a VCR. We left to go grab some lunch from Mermaids - we enjoyed most of our lunches there throughout the week.
After lunch we explored the ship and took a tour of the spa. Then we stopped by the dining room to check out our table assignment. We had been assigned to a table for four so we asked if we could be switched. Someone told us to wait and we could meet with the maitre d. I have major TMJ (jaw) problems and I was worried that with a table of four I would feel like I had to talk, which would cause a lot of pain for me. We asked for a table for 2 but were also willing to have a table for 8 or more. We got our table for 2 and were very happy with it all week.
Then it was time to head back to the cabin - the Romance package that I had ordered was waiting on us. This was another surprise for my husband. It had champagne, glasses, visors, T-shirts, drink coupons, a photo coupon and a camera. It was well worth the $75. We put the champagne on ice, started unpacking and then it was time for the lifeboat drill. After the drill we sat on our balcony drinking our champagne as we sailed away. It was the perfect start to our vacation.
Our luggage arrived pretty early - but the water wasn't with it. I was afraid they had confiscated it. But an hour later we heard a thump and when I opened the door there was my water.
That night we had a meeting of the Cruise Critics. It was nice to finally be able to put a face with the names.
Key West: We were excited to visit Key West since neither of us had ever been. As soon as we stepped off the ship we realized that it was incredibly hot. The heat and humidity were so high that we only lasted a couple of hours - long enough to call our Mothers since it was Mother's Day, get a piece of Key Lime pie and a couple frosty drinks and check out Duval Street. Then we headed back to the ship. Most of the people we talked to said they couldn't stand it for long, either.
Belize: We booked cave tubing with Reggie's. It was only $65 a person, which is a big savings over Carnivals price ($85). There were a few large groups that had also booked with Reggie so he took us on the old school bus that he uses. We really enjoyed hearing about the history and culture of Belize - since our guides were natives they knew everything. The cave tubing was a lot of fun - but it was work, too. We had to paddle ourselves most of the way down the river. We saw a few bats and no spiders. Since we were right behind the Carnival groups the Carnival photographer and video guy got us on tape, too. The lunch afterwards at JB's was very good - stewed chicken, rice and beans, and fried plantains for $5. We got back to the ship about 30 minutes before the deadline. It was a long day but a good one.
Cozumel: We had several ideas of what we might do in Cozumel but we were still pretty tired from Belize. We had talked about Playa Sol but we just didn't feel like dealing with it. We got off the ship and looked around at the shops then got back on the ship and enjoyed the adult pool which was deserted. We left the ship again for a late lunch at Fat Tuesday's. They have an open-air bar with swings you can sit in with a view of the ship. We had fajitas and frozen drinks and had a great time.
Progresso: We didn't even get off the ship. We had heard there wasn't much to see and since we had our couples massage at 11:45 there just wasn't time.
Some people pick a cruise for the ship; others pick a cruise for the ports. We lean more towards picking it for the ship. We would probably love a cruise to nowhere.
We took a yoga class on Monday morning for $10 a person. I had always been curious about yoga so we thought it was a good opportunity. We felt a little awkward but overall enjoyed it.
We booked a couples massage for the day we were in Progresso - since Bryan had never had a massage I thought he would be more comfortable with me in the room. The treatments are cheaper on port days. They told us the rate was $99 a person but on port days it was 15% off. Then we got a "coupon" offering $30 off since we had taken a tour. The massage was great - we each had our own masseuse. Afterwards there was some confusion with the bill. The bill showed a price of $110 each and then they had taken the $30 off. This was still higher than we had estimated. Apparently they charged more, and took the $30 but not the port discount. They didn't really have a good explanation why the price was different but Bryan finally got them to adjust it.
We ate most of our breakfasts in Mermaids. There were plenty of tables with great ocean views. The food was basically the same every day except they would alternate oatmeal/pancakes with grits/french toast. The eggs seemed to be the instant fake kind. The omelets were great and pretty fast. You could ask for just eggs to be cooked by the omelet guy, too. They were much better. One morning we had a continental breakfast from room service and ate it on our balcony. The last morning we ate in the Normandie and wished we had done that more often.
Lunch was always good. We always ate in Mermaids. They had pizza (yummy), a deli, an Asian corner and a rotisserie every day. Then they had a station that changed each day (Mexican, Indian, American, etc.). Outside by the pool they cooked hotdogs, chicken and hamburgers to order.
Dinners were overall very good. We loved our waiter, Arnosh and our assistant, Maria. We ordered three entrees every night - when we didn't love our main entrée it was nice to have another option. I pigged out on rolls and butter. After the first two nights they started bringing us two dishes of butter. The last few nights (especially Thursday) the menu was not as good - we just didn't like the options as much as we did earlier. Although the things we ordered turned out to be good. We didn't go to David's but if we were interested then Thursday would be the night. My favorite desserts were the crème brulee and the soufflé - and I enjoyed the free cappuccino every night. Bryan really liked something he had called Decadence of Chocolate. On the last night there was somewhat of an awkward moment. All of our tips were on our sail and sign - we had chosen not to change them because we felt they deserved them, although the amounts were higher than we normally leave. On the last night we noticed that all the tables around us were giving the waiters "a little something extra". We felt like we needed to do that too so we gave them about $7 each. We probably shouldn't have felt pressured - it just really caught us off guard.
Room Service was incredibly fast. We ordered cookies, brownies and milk one night and they were knocking on our door three minutes later! We ordered some sandwiches one afternoon and they were there in five minutes.
The cookies that they always had in Mermaids and from room service were great - especially the shortbread with walnuts kind.
We spent most of our pool time at the adults-only pool. It was much quieter since there wasn't a band playing and it was nice to not be splashed by the kids. The main pool was so loud - the band just seemed to be blasting. Of course some days the adult pool had noise - there was some repair work being done on the floorboards and the equipment they were using was loud.
Chair saving was bad on sea days as others have said. The first sea day I couldn't find two chairs together. I finally found two pretty close together and then someone left so it worked out. Some of those chairs never had anyone in them. We took our own cheapo towels - we didn't want to have to worry about Carnival's towels and it was easier to find our chairs since our towels were different.
The topless deck was apparently pretty popular. I didn't go up there until the last day - there were just too many steps for me (I have a bad knee). Bryan went up there a few times and reported lots of interesting stories.
The casino was a favorite spot of ours. We were in there every day - usually several times. We both like blackjack and Bryan likes Let it Ride. The first night I won $110 but after that the luck was not as good. We are used to playing in Vegas and the majority of the people on the ship probably hadn't played much before - it was painful to watch someone split a pair of 10s or not hit a 12 against a dealers 9. All the books say that it really doesn't matter what the other players do but that's not always easy to remember.
This was much easier than we expected. They had a talk with the cruise director on the last day but we didn't stay the whole time - it was boring. We watched it on TV later that day while we were packing. They give you all the info in writing anyway. Our color was blue - and since it was also the color given to those taking post-cruise tours I thought we'd be off early. Sure enough while we were eating breakfast they called our color first. We took our time eating since our flight didn't leave until 1 p.m. We walked off at 9 a.m. and since we were the last in our group we didn't have to search for our luggage. We caught the Mears shuttle back to the airport with no problems.
We really enjoyed this cruise. We'd cruise Carnival again. There are some things Carnival does better and some things that Royal Caribbean does better. The food was better on Royal, the staff was better on Carnival. The types of people are pretty different too - but that makes it fun. Carnival is definitely cheaper. I was all ready to book another cruise for next year - until we added up all the costs. It really can add up. Our sail-and-sign bill was very small. But when you add in the airfare, sail and sign, gambling, souvenirs, excursions, etc. it's kind of scary! Maybe the year after next we'll get to go again.
Any questions - just ask!