Our first cruise and what a cruise it was!! That was the most beautiful ship, the food was fantastic and the services out of this world we were very happy to have chosen Carnival Pride,
we loved it so much that we are booking for Nov 2003 on the Glory. We would recommend the Pride it is great!!!!!
This review is on the Carnival Pride. My husband and I sailed Sept. 28th, and came home Oct. 5th. Our ports of call were scheduled as follows: Key West, Belize City, Belize, Costa Maya, Mexico, and Cozumel, Mexico. We were scheduled to go to Progresso/Merida, Mexico. However, due to pier damage from a recent hurricane, we instead went to Costa Maya. There is alot of nudity in the the Italian art theme of the ship, so be prepared if you are easily offended. Let me say first of all, the Pride is a beautiful ship. It looks as if Carnival spared no expense building it. We booked on a guarantee, and as we went to our cabin once onboard, we were delighted to find out we had gotten an upgrade to an ocean-view room. However, later, we also sadly discovered we were at the very back of the ship; right over the engines. So if you are a light sleeper, you may not want to book on a guarantee.
The main noise was early a.m. it seemed. We did have a lot of movement, I think the boat in generaldid. This couldalent show is a must see. As for the ports: Key West is fun. We just walked around shopping/exploring. The Key West Aquarium is a must see. Be sure and go to one of the guided tours/feedings. There is a cruise ship discount. It is educational, and it is fascinating. Check out their website for details. Belize: I took Cave Tubing tour there and loved it. The rainforest/jungle you walk thru is exhilarating, the Sibun River gorgeous with wonderful caves. Be prepared for a modest -paced trek of about 45 min. though. My husband took the SharkRay Alley tour. He loved it. One word of caution though if you go on that tour, DO NOT go into San Pedro shopping by yourself after the tour. My husband was hustled there. Costa Maya: Great atmosphere here, a "beach" awaits you right off the pier were you can bask in the sun, swing in a hammock, and enjoy Mexican song and dance. We took the Chaccoben Ruins tour..........enjoyed it as it was our first ruins tour.
Arrived at the Radisson 9/13 around 1:00 in the afternoon and easily settled in to the "vacation mode". I was happy to hear our room was ready and that we can "move-in". Within the next several hours, met a few of my fellow cruisers with whom I have been conversing with on CruiseCritic. A special treat was meeting Rick (quite_man) who made a trip to the Radisson to say hi. Rick, we were looking for you Saturday morning!!!! Thought you would have changed your mind and join us!! LOL
Everything went well getting to the port and having assistance with my added "special needs" luggage. Did have a hold up at the counter when the Carnival rep. could not find me listed on the Pride. When my husband and myself were "located", it was on the Fantasy! Gee, I had to ask, " Did we win a free cruise"!! LOL She found us on the Pride, once she asked for assistance.
Here is a quick "one liner" (or two) of our cruise: Went straight to David's to book for Wednesday night. Shared the evening with Lorrie (cmez) and her husband, Kevin.Yes, this was a very special evening! The flourless cake was to die for!!! I wanted to get my finger and scrape the tiny cup it came in. But, I had to reserve myself.(for the time being).
Next, we checked our table seating (late) in the dining room. I had requested a table for 4-6 and was surprised to get a table for 2. Table 131 was the second table to your left as soon as you entered the dining room. We liked the location and thought it better to share this time together and not be held up with late arrivals. Our servers were Sammy and Nock. Both are from Thailand with this being Nock's first week on the job. She was very attentive and just a sweet young girl.
Balcony cabin was great..Plenty of cabin storage..Great shower with room to move around in. Toilet hesitates when you flush; don't be alarmed by the loud and unexpected flush..LOL
As soon as we got in our cabin, we met Mark our room steward. Said he forgot to put the liner in the trash can...good excuse to "meet the guest". It worked in his favor!! Always ready to help and made sure there was always ice in our insulated case. Was told they could not take out items from the fridge, but I could if I wanted.
Won the first night in the casino!! First $360.00 then $720.00!! Lost some of my "envelope" money, but still came home ahead.
Comedian Michael Macy was hysterical!!! Both in his early show and the "adult" show!
All food stations on the Lido deck served a great variety and delicious food. Anyone who says there was nothing they liked did not take a cruise on the Pride. Yes, I had pizza at 2:30 in the morning!!
Plenty of photo opportunities from the Carnival staff. Glenn (fan3car) and his wife Donna must have hit every camera!! While looking for my photos, I kept finding all theses photos of them!! LOL
There were a few disappointments...
Could not use the pool because of the ladder getting in and out. I thought they would have taken into consideration those that have a problem climbing and designed steps with a railing.
I would have liked to hear music playing all the time around the pool, even if it meant, "piping" it in.
Disappointed that the person who found my gold bracelet did not turn it in. This was quite expensive and I had it for 30 years.
Would have expected a better system for those with special needs (oxygen/oxygen concentrator) during debarkment. Better communication between Carnival staff is needed.
Alta Ha/River Wallace was way to expensive ($130.00 for 2) for what we got. Nothing like the Carnival web write up.
I must have been the only one disappointed that we did not go to Merida! LOL
If you have any questions or need elaborations on my comments, please ask.
Oh...the ocean water was very relaxing!!! Felt movement (duh) but nothing to get sick about!!! Did take Bonine on a couple of days.That may explain why I was so tired! Guess I shouldn't have been drinking while taking it! LOL My body must have become one with the movement of the ship. I slept like a baby!!
OH....My packed flashlight came in handy when the power went out Saturday morning at the Radisson. Gee, and we question why we pack some of the things we pack..lol
I recently returned from a 7 day Caribbean cruise on Carnivals new ship the Pride with a single's group called Discount Travel. I consider myself a "Seasoned Cruiser" with a total of 45 cruises with most cruise lines.
Carnival is the Fun Ship and their meals are considered by experience cruises, as the McDonald's of the cruise industry. Although I had a great time on the cruise and will probably travel again with Discount Travel, I hope they try Royal Caribbean Lines (RCL).
I been on seven RCL cruises and NEVER had a bad meal. The Waiters are always cordial and attentive, and really care about serving your meal exactly as you want.
I have also travel on eight Carnival cruises and still the food has not improved. I feel the reason is because you wait so long for your meal, you will eat anything and not complain.
On the first night, I was having a discussion with my Waiter concerning my meal. My meal was not cooked the way I indicated when ordered and he insisted I should eat the meal as is.
The ships are new and clean, and the cabinattendants work very hard to please you. On the Pride, there is a restaurant called David's which is $25 per person and men are required to wear jackets. There is also a piano player with a singer which is excellent.
I had dinner in David's on the two formal nights and the meal was fabulous. You can compare the meal at David's to any fine restaurant.
I decided if I'm going to gain weight while on a cruise, I should be completely satisfied, so my next cruise will be with Royal Caribbean.
Our cruise on the Pride was in a word "Fantastic"! This was our third Carnival cruise. We are a family of three, DH, 16 year old son, and myself. We are not an extremely picky bunch, but do appreciate getting what we pay for, and feeling well taken care of. This was what we got and more, on our 8/24 Pride sailing.
We had an 8:30 a.m. flight out of Kansas City on Friday, the day before the cruise, putting us in Orlando around 1:45 p.m.. Flying to the port city the day prior to your cruise is a very smart move. We picked up our rental at Avis, and headed to meet new friends we met on the Cruise Critic web site, they were staying at the Radisson. The pool area there is definitely beautiful, and a nice way to start your cruise vacation. We had stayed at the Hilton, Cocoa Beach, just down the road. It was a nice place, with a pretty beach area.
Dinner on Friday evening was at Grills, on the water front. The food was good, service was friendly, (right boys!) and the atmosphere isa good prelude to a cruise! Following dinner we had time to go to the grocery and get some beverages to take on board, while our son went swimming with his new friends at the Radisson pool.
After falling into bed, morning seemed to come quickly! We had a continental breakfast at the hotel and drove to the port around 9:45 a.m. DH dropped us off and went to return the car. It was fun to sit there and watch all the sad faces still leaving the ship. DH rode back on the shuttle, and upstairs we went for a quick check in. Be sure to fill out those immigration forms before you get into the line for check in. There are tables to stand and fill them out on. Getting to the port early is our preference. We would rather wait in a line to board after checking in, than having to wait in a LONG line waiting to check in. If you are early enough you get to sit in a chair, otherwise you have to stand. We meet up with other Cruise Critic members while waiting to board. As most of you have already read, they start boarding at 11:30, but you can't go to your cabin until 12:30 or so.
Once we stepped foot in the atrium lobby our vacation had officially begun. The ship is beautifully done, very tasteful, and at times elegant. This made for some lovely formal night photos! We first went to the dining room to check our table assignment. This was our only true disappointment on this cruise. We had late seating as per our request, but we were stuck at a table for 4. We always love to sit at a large table, this for us is a huge part of the whole cruising experience. We did try to get assigned to a larger table, but due to there being a large group on the ship, we were not able to be moved.
We then went to David's to select the table we wanted to dine at. We chose to make a reservation for Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. David's opens at 6:00 p.m. I will give details on David's later in the review.
Next on my agenda was to go to the salon and make appointments to have my hair done for the formal nights. I suggest that you do this early if you want a specific time. I was very pleased with how my hair turned out on both occasions, and felt the price was very reasonable, $27 for an up-do, plus gratuity of course.
Had lunch at Mermaids, all the different food stations provided a vast variety of delights. Each day was a selected "nation" to choose from. I was glad to see Indian food one day as I have never tried it, and found I have to add a new type of cuisine to my list of foods I like, it is a very long list!!! There is not as much of a selection in the evening for dinner at Mermaids. We did dine there on the last night so we could spend more time with friends, they had the early seating. There is always Pizza, and it was delicious!
Our cabin steward Heru was pleasant, and efficient. I called him to request that he make our bed into a true king with king sheets and remove the stuff from the fridge. He arrived immediately to take care of the fridge, and remade the bed while we were at dinner. He left us towel animals each night, kept the ice full, and our cabin was clean. There was one incident that happened that was a down fall to our week on this beautiful ship. We had purchased Belgian chocolates as gifts for those at home, and for ourselves also. The shop at St. Maarten will deliver them to the ship for you, and we chose to take advantage of this service. When Heru was cleaning our cabin and delivering the chocolate to us some kids had been running up and down the halls, basically getting in the way. When Heru entered our cabin to clean it those SKANKY BRATS stole our chocolate! He was so upset, he notified security, and the Purser. Heru was unable to catch them. When he saw us , he looked like he was going to cry. He kept apologizing, and asking us to forgive him! We told him it wasn't his fault, nothing to forgive, and at the end of the cruise we gave him a phone card and extra tip. We never got our chocolates back, I hope whoever took them choked on them! LOL! I do think that they should rethink how they deliver chocolates to you, maybe have you pick them up yourself from the Purser.
Our sail away was even more fun due to it being our first meet and greet with our fellow Cruise Critics! Not everyone who posted showed up, but those who did come were fun to be with! It was nice to start the cruise with new friends! The Poseidon Bar is a good place to have this type of party. We all wore beads or leis and had drinks in hand to wave good bye to those poor souls who were not cruising!
We had smooth seas the entire trip, and the first few days were like glass!! We loved looking out from our balcony and seeing a large pod of Dolphins! They were playing right next to the ship, and since the water was so clear you could still see them underwater! We became so spoiled having a balcony, and don't think we could go back to a window! Morning coffee, balcony, what a combination!
Our luggage arrived before dinner, and I promptly moved us in. There is more than enough storage space for three adults. We really liked the bathroom, and the shower was great. This was not the case for everyone though. On deck one they had problems with regulating the water temperature, I was told. Even with the upper bunk in use we were still able to use the couch, just watch your head when you stand up! I did make use of our trusty over the door organizer, just convenient to be able to see what you need. I also made use of my snap hooks to dry wet clothing on the balcony window. Another good reason to have a balcony is to set your camcorder on the table on the balcony when you plan to use it outdoors, this helps regulate the temperature of the camera, and keeps it from fogging up when you go out from a cool cabin. We put it into a zip baggy, and wrap it in a towel to go to port.
Our dining room waiter Roy was a bust the first night! He barely broke a grin and was very slow, not to mention that he forgot my cappachino. Our assistant waiter Clyde was attentive and friendly. He really enjoyed the performing they did in the dining room, I think he was in the wrong job, he would make a good dancer! We didn't make it to lunch in the dining room, ate at Mermaids instead. We usually took a light breakfast on our balcony from room service, AAHHH! We only made it to one late night buffet, and that was the grand buffet on Thursday. I highly recommend you go to at least have the desserts, they must save all the really great ones for this buffet! The food in the dining room was very good and we didn't hesitate to order as much as we wanted, often sharing different dishes. We had a wonderful bar waitress named Carmen, she is very good to wait on kids with drink cards, often bringing more than one at a time.
We just loved Half Moon Cay! Where else can you snorkel and dance at the same time!? The live band plays on the beach. If you like to snorkel you will need to swim to the left along the rocks and keep going out toward the buoys. There is where you will see all the fish that hang out along the jetty. There also is a shallow space in the corner that you can sit in the soft white sand and dance while you rest! The lunch they provide is quite good, especially the Jerk Chicken, could be a bit spicier, but good. Our son participated in Survivor, and was the next to the last one left on his "Island". One side note here, if you want to be on the first tenders to Half Moon, be at the Starry Night early! I arrived there around 8 a.m. and there already was a line.
David's is an experience all it's own! The soft pink glow that comes off the red glass overhead adds a nice touch, and everyone looks good! The wait staff is top notch, and the couple that entertain around 7:00 p.m. were perfect for the space! In addition to the wonderful selections you order they bring around a few little treats that the chef has prepared for the evening. My son was so taken by the whole experience that he said "I could live like this"! The staff was so efficient that you barely notice them when they would clear between courses, it all flowed smoothly.
At sea days are always so much fun, there is so much to do, I am always worried I am going to miss something fun, but it was nice to sit, relax, and visit! Monday also was the second "meet and greet" for our Cruise Critic group. This is when we had our gift exchange (great idea Norman!). Norman also handed out our Scavenger hunt lists, and we set up our other party times. Since this was formal night we didn't have a lot of time to party.
Everyone looked so great for formal night, and we had lots of photos taken! On the last day of the cruise we all sat down and tried to weed through what seemed like hundreds of photos! This was a large part of our budget, but it is not too often that we all look so nice, and the photos came out so good! We made it to the end of the Captains Cocktail party, as we were taking photos with friends. The party is spread out along the Promenade deck forward to the Taj Mahal lounge. The big performance shows were very good! The costumes seem more elaborate than previous years. The lead singers did a nice job, we had seen Lorena Peril last year on the Paradise, and I think she has improved since then. Her voice seemed much stronger. For dancing and GREAT music try the Starry Night Lounge! There is a band called Life Line that plays there. They start early in the evening and take only one short break, playing until 1:30 a.m. They were fantastic! They played a variety of music, so there is bound to be something you like.
Our son spent most of his evenings in Beauties Dance Club. He enjoyed the club, but didn't like the way it was designed, it is on two levels. He still managed to have a good time!
Tuesday at St. Thomas was beautiful! This was our first time to the Eastern side, and we will be going back! My DH went golfing at Mahagony Run through the Carnival golf program. He had high remarks for the course, and the golf pro Chip. His main advice to anyone golfing there is not to go into the bushes to retrieve a wayward ball, just take the penalty!! He ventured into a bush of some kind, and came back with a mean rash around his ankles! It did cause him discomfort for the rest of the cruise, and getting a sunburn on top of it didn't help!
My son and I went to Coki Beach for the Beginning Scuba Dive with the Coki Dive Club. I arranged this on my own, and it was $55 p.p. and they pick you up at the ship. There is not enough good things I can say about Pete and his staff! He was very attentive, really taught you something, made you feel very at ease. Pete really knows his stuff, and makes sure everything is perfect! They have large tubs that you put your things in, and they are watched while you are in the water. The restroom and changing area is adequate, and much nicer than those we have encountered on other islands. If you are going to snorkel than I would recommend that you venture out to St. John to Trunk Bay. We had to go a little way out and deep to really see lots of fish and coral at Coki, but it is a beautiful spot! You can check out the Coki Beach Dive Club at www.cokidive.com, e-mail Pete at Pete@cokidive.com.
We did some shopping at the pier, and it was nice to have it right at the ship. We then took a cab ride to Cuzzins downtown for lunch. If you have the time you should give them a try! It was good, and prices were low! All the people we encountered at both St. Thomas and St. Maarten were very friendly and helpful. After lunch we went to the Paradise Tram and went to the top. My DH tried the chicken soup at the snack bar there and it was spicy and good. We also had bushwhackers, like a milkshake, only they could get you into trouble! The view is wonderful. Once we went back down to the ship we noticed there was something going on with the RCL ship docked behind us. They made all the passengers get off the ship. Lots of police boats swarming the ship, and come to find out there was a bomb scare. It turned out to be nothing, and we left before them.
St. Maarten was very beautiful and interesting. We went to Orient Beach with friends, and rented chairs and umbrellas. The surf was a bit rough, and we played in the waves. There was hair braiding and temporary Henna tattoos offered. You could parasail at prices ranging from $45 for a single to $80 for a double. There were water trampolines, and jet skis too. After a hike back to the taxi drop area we all went to town to go shopping. While there we found the most fantastic spot to spend the day and wished we had found out about it before going to Orient Beach! Close to the end of Front street (close to the Last Mango in Paradise shop) there is an alley going toward the water. There you will find a neat clean little beach bar called Get Wet. The food was very good, great fries, and I am not a big lover of French fries! The highest price on the menu was $6. There is a nice new shady deck area, volley ball net, and you step off the deck onto a clean white sand beach with chairs and umbrellas. This spot is so great because you have everything right there! The owners Phil and Lynn Parsons are adding to the deck area, and building showers and restrooms for beach users. They are friendly people, and have been open a short time, but have made big improvements to the place. You are steps from beautiful calm bay water, impressive view of the cruise ship pier, and shopping at Front Street. Like I said everything you need in one place! It takes minutes to get there by cab, at $3 p.p., or within walking distance if you prefer. We found the shopping at St. Maarten very good, and left a little U.S. currency behind. As a side note there is a shop called Banannas on Front street across from the Guavaberry Emporium, they have can beer for $.75. The Belgian Chocolate shop is a must! Just don't let any little Brats steal them! LOL! The Guavaberry Liquor is delicious made into a colada type frozen drink, they give samples there, try it!
Wednesday was also the evening of the guest Talent show, and our Cruise Critic Pajama Party. There was some mix up about the time for the party, so it didn't get started until after the Talent show. This made it kind of late, and there were not very many of us there. It was held in the Starry Night Lounge, and those of us who made it had a blast! I even wound up winning the Best Dressed award for the Pajama Party. We were glad we stuck it out and stayed up for the party. It is fun dancing in your nightie and comfy slippers, oh and don't forget my tiara, as I had been dubbed "#1 Dancin Queen" by Storm'n Norman! Quiet_Man (Rick) was also present, and was so kind to follow the CC's all week taking photos for us! Really nice guys those two are!
Thursday was another fun day at sea, plenty to do, and nothing at all! Our friends Kathy and Grover were selected to be in the Not So Newlywed Game. They have been married 25+ years! Their son Josh sat with us to watch. I don't know who was funnier, Kathy and Grover, or watching Josh while they gave their answers to some of the questions! LOL! The Win, Lose or Draw games looked like a lot of fun, and were well attended. This was the last formal night, and the Grand Gala Buffet. Another visit to the salon for a transformation, and we were all ready for more photos. Dinner was delicious, and service was much improved from the first part of the cruise. Josh joined us for dinner, so it was nice to have a guest for dinner. Following the show we all went to see Vroom in the Taj Mahal. Another great production. After a clothing change we went to the Gala Buffet. This is where you will find all the wonderful desserts!! We have attended these before, but it was even better than we had experienced before.
Friday was bitter sweet for us. This is the last full day, and the day you have to pack up and leave luggage to be picked up. All day it is hard for me not to get depressed knowing the end is near! This is the big "Win a cruise" bingo day. We didn't win of course! We also used this day to collect all our photos and make our selections. This is so hard! Spent the day enjoying our new friends and had our final get together for our CC's group. We had to make a mad scramble to complete our scavenger hunt, and it was funny to see my DH make a mad dash in the last 30 minutes to get 5 different kinds of drinks from 5 different bars for the "Hunt". We had had plenty drinks during the week, just not from enough different bars!
Saturday morning after a light breakfast on our balcony , we went to walk the ship one final time, and try to see as many of our new pals as possible to do our "Good byes"! So sad! We used AJ Tours for our transportation back to the Orlando airport. They had over booked and had to pass us off to another taxi service, Arts Taxi. He was right there waiting for us, and he did a good job of getting us right where we needed to be. Our sons wallet had fallen out of his pocket in the van, and Arts found it for us. I would not hesitate to use Arts Taxi again.
This was a most enjoyable cruise, and as soon as we are sure what ship will be sailing this itinerary next year, we may decide to repeat it! If you have any questions I will be glad to try to help out. You can e-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy sailing!
This was by far the best of our eight cruises, having previously sailed Royal Caribbean (twice). Disney (twice) and Carnival (three times). Wonderful weather, a great crew and food that was excellent at every meal all combined for a wonderful week.
We had sailed on the Pride's sister ship, the Carnival Spirit last year on the 12 day Hawaii cruise and loved the ship. We chose this sailing as it visited some new ports. We had two cabins, a 8G extended balcony and a 4D inside across the hall for our two kids (age 12 & 14) across the hall. Consider the two cabin option if the price for third/fourth person in a cabin is close to the cost of separate inside cabin.
Port Canaveral is our favorite departure point due to its being closer to home (Virginia) and the opportunity to add a few days at Disney. Flights for us are also less expensive. We flew into Orlando the night before, rented one way from Avis and dropped the car at the Radisson. One way car rental was about $50 and we booked a two room suite at the Radissonusing the $99 "Fall" special. The suite rooms were fairly new, had a kitchen/living room (with sofa bed) and a separate bedroom with a jacuzzi. We reserved one of the free Radisson shuttles for 10:20 am the nest day. Avis was also running shuttles on a first come basis. Both services will also pick you up after the cruise (not as organized).
Our reserved Radisson shuttle loaded right on time and dropped off the Disney passengers first. For some reason, Disney makes the shuttles unload in their parking lot, Carnival let us drop off right at the pier where porters take your luggage. Be sure to bring a $5 bill for the porters because they were "unable" to change a $20 bill for the folks next to us. There was no wait to check-in and we sat in some chairs and boarded promptly at 11:30 am. We sail earlier than most, leaving at 4:00 pm.
We made our reservation for David's Supper Club being careful not to book on formal nights (meals in the dining room on formal nights tend to be excellent). Lunch was served on the Lido deck on what I'll call the "food court". Six separate serving lines each offering something different - deli, Chinese, pizza, carving station, salad etc. Something there for everyone and never much of a line except if you eat a late breakfast on sea days.
Ports and Tours
We have been to Key West before and enjoyed the day shopping. No tours this time, just some fun watching the locals and sampling the bars. A free shuttle takes you into town from the ship.
Belize - Jungle Horseback Adventure $85 (adult/child)
This is the Pride's only tender port on the Western route. Based upon some bad tendering experiences on our Hawaii cruise, we decided to book an excursion as ship's tours automatically get the first tenders. Belize is not very developed and an excursion is highly recommended versus the very limited shopping. We anchored quite a distance from Belize as the water is shallow close to shore. Nice high speed tenders did the trip in about 20 minutes.
The bus ride to the Banana Bank Lodge www.bananabank.com takes about an hour and a tour guide gives a nice talk about Belize along the way. The owner of the ranch, John Carr from Montana, was also on the bus and quizzed everyone one on their riding ability so he could match each person with the appropriate horse. You will need to sign a release to participate. We unloaded at a park for a brief guided walk and then onto the Belize River for the balance of our journey. The entire busload of passengers was loaded into three boats tied together (side by side). It's a good thing we were going downstream as only the center boat has a motor! Bottled water was provided free as well as lifejackets for the faint of heart.
The Banana Bank Lodge was a very pleasant surprise. Expecting to see only some stables, the Lodge is quite nice with a dining hut, thatched roof cabanas and lodge rooms for overnight rental. We were divided into smaller groups for our horseback ride a three guides accompanied each group.
As the owner said on the bus "this isn't a Disney ride". How true. Our ride lasted nearly two hours and included crossing a few streams and steep embankments. The trip through the jungle was great and offered a lot of shade. Long pants are highly recommended and you will get dirty. My horse seemed to have a good time seeing how close he could come to trees and banging my kneecaps on same. My 12 year old son (minimum age to ride) had never been on a horse before and had a great time. The guides stayed very close and were great to talk to.
After the ride we were fed lunch (included) and given some time to tour the Lodge. There are some neat animals to view and John's wife is an artist and viewed her works.
Back to the bus parked on the other side of the river, very interesting on how we crossed but I'll let that be a surprise. We arrived back just in time for the last tender to the ship (you will be 30 minutes late if you have early dinner seating). I would recommend this tour highly if you have ridden previously or are an outdoor type person, as the owner said, this isn't a Disney ride.
Cozumel - Beginning Scuba Diving $78 (adult/child)
My 14 year old son wanted to try scuba diving and this was a good way without going the full certification route. I have dived previously at Club Med but lack full certification. Be advised that this a very basic course with very minimal land instruction time. Oh yes - you sign another release. The good news is that there is one instructor per four people and we went to a maximum depth of 24'.
We were met at the dock and took taxi's (provided) to a local snorkel/dive shop on the beach. No boat was involved as you simply walk into the ocean. It drops off quickly and the visibility was great. After the instructor feels your ready, you venture from the shallow area past where all the snorkel tours stop. Total in water time was about 35 minutes and your instructor was never more than a few feet away.
The equipment provided was in excellent shape and consisted of buoyancy vest, mask, two regulators and depth & air pressure remaining dials. I did notice our air tanks were half sized compared to the instructor and one guy in our group weighed well over 200 lbs and sucked up his air quickly which limited our dive (hint - team up with smaller folks for a longer dive).
Try this tour if your a good swimmer and want to go beyond snorkeling. It's safe, well run and enjoyable.
Cozumel - Carlos & Charlies
After lunch the wife & I decided to head downtown for some shopping. The Pride docks a couple of miles from the main shopping area but there are hundreds of taxi's running around town. There were six ships in port that day and traffic and needless to say traffic is brisk.
We shared a taxi with another couple, $8 total with tip. Carlos & Charlies is a restaurant/bar which has quite a reputation for a "spirited" crowd. I guess I'm getting old but a conga line of dancing folks getting tequila poured down their throats was not our style. We watch the antics having 2 beers each and we never figured out how much they cost. These guys were not getting my credit card.
Oh well - we can say we were there.
Progresso - Kayak Adventure $69 (adult/child)
We docked at Progresso but the pier is miles long so a bus (free) is needed to go into town. My son an I heard good things about the Kayak tour and didn't want to take the Chichen-Itza Mayan Ruins tour as it last 7 hours with a lot of driving..
The bus ride to the Kayak dock is very short and you drops you off very close to town. The Kayaks are 2 persons per and lifejackets are required only when starting in the deeper water. Your tour takes you into the mangrove swamp with some very narrow and low areas to paddle around. Total time in the Kayak is 2 hours and you paddle the whole time (don't expect to drift down a river and be driven back). The view doesn't change much but it was fun and a good way to work off some dinner calories. This tour is not for the weak hearted - one middle age lady was nearly to tears when we finished.
As I stated before, the food was excellent at each and every meal. We have found on previous cruises that the waiters know what's good and to go by their recommendations. Three lobster tails (sorry I could resist) at formal night were no problem. Other excellent items were the prime rib and filet. Wine was reasonably priced with many selections in the $24 range (plus 15% tip). The filet at David's was better that the lobster tail and was worth the $25 charge for the food and personnel service. Service was also first rate by both the dining room wait staff and cabin steward. I enjoyed both big production shows. There was no problem with pool chair saving and we sat by the pools even on sea days. I can honestly say that there was not one thing to complain about on this entire cruise! Hitting a Royal Flush on the video poker for $750 on the last night made for a perfect conclusion to the cruise.
It took about 45 minutes for our color to be called and we were quickly off the ship with our luggage at about 9:30 am. You exit the terminal through a tunnel to the parking lot to meet the hotel/rental car shuttles. This hotel/rental shuttle operation at the pier has no organization whatsoever! Rather than rush the arriving shuttles we grabbed a taxi in the same area and paid $10 to avoid the mess. This also helped minimize the line at the Avis counter as the Disney Magic was unloading passengers at the same time.
Obviously Carnival's decision to place the Pride on seven day cruises must be working out well. Next year they plan to replace the Pride with a new and bigger ship. With Disney also running 7 day cruises from Port Canaveral, I don't understand why Royal Caribbean doesn't get into the fray and place one of their newer ships on 7 day routes in addition to the 3 / 4 day Sovereign of the Seas.
Feel free to e-mail any questions.
Wife & I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary last week aboard Carnival Pride. This was our ninth cruise, but first on Carnival. Prior cruises were NCL (2) and HAL (6). We love cruising, and have never had a "bad" cruise. But we specifically avoided cruising on CCL because of much negative feedback regarding this cruise line. So let me say up front that we were surprised and truly elated that this turned out to be one of the most enjoyable cruises we have ever taken.
PRE CRUISE EXPERIENCE: We drove to Port Canaveral from our home in N.Carolina, & spent two days at the Hilton in Cocoa Beach. This beachfront hotel was first rate; good beach, good pool, good bar areas, and a great view of the ocean from our room. Weather was great and we spent each day on the beach. We ate some terrific seafood at several local area restaurants.
EMBARKATION: Port Canaveral is an easy 15 minute drive from the hotel. ( Make sure you go to the North Pier, as we had a lovely tour of the south pier but unforuntately that's not where we needed to be!)Wedropped off our luggage at the pier around 10:20 AM, parked our car in the adjacent parking lot, were driven from the parking lot to the ship by a courtesy shuttle (a golf cart), and arrived at the terminal around 10:40 AM. We found minimal lines at the security post, were fully checked in and seated near the front of the boarding line by 11:00 AM. We noted that the majority of fellow passengers were travelling with their families, with ages ranging from young children, to grandparents. While waiting we chatted & shared past cruise experiences, and came away with a feeling that this cruise would be family oriented. And in fact that was the case. The boarding process began about 11:35 AM, and we were on the Pride within 15 minutes.
THE SHIP: It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in our opinion both the exterior and interior of the ship are absolutely stunning. The interior decor is themed to the Renaissance period, and interior walls are covered in art work. Some may think the decor "too busy;" we found it to be impressive. We first made our way to David's Restaurant at the very top of the atrium, and made dinner reservations for Monday and Wednesday evenings. We did a quick tour of the public areas, and then headed to our stateroom, cabin 6323 Category 8D, Empress deck aft. We met room steward Paul, and found the room ready for occupancy. Awaiting my wife were a dozen long stem red roses I had ordered from Carnival. Ice buckets (2) were full, and Paul kept them full of ice so we could enjoy chilled wine every afternoon from our verandah. The cabin was spotless when we arrived, and remained spotless for the entire cruise. It was certainly large enough for two and enough closet space. My wife used the hairdryer which is attached to the drawer on the left of vanity table/desk and it was powerful enough and we really did not need to bring another. No tub but a good shower and enough room to do whatever you need to do in the bathroom. The deck was also fine. We did not have the extended balcony but thought what we had was just enough for two. The room was pretty sound-proof also.. Slept like a baby.
FOOD: We were pleased with the layout of the serving stations in the Mermaid Grill. The variety and quality of the food was quite good, with some selections such as the Asian food,bar-b-que ribs and rotisserie as well as the pizza were great. Judging by the number of people and the heaping plates, I think most everyone felt the same! Plenty of seating and the seating is arranged so there are many areas with ocean views. The pool grill had great hamburgs and hot dogs and also excellent fries! We split breakfasts between the Mermaid and the main restaurant and enjoyed both. Dinner was excellent in both the Normandie Restaurant and David's. How about Rack of Lamb, Lobster tails, Chateaubriand, Beef Wellington and Shrimp for dinner? Really excellent presentations and taste in the Normandie. David's was outstanding! The Lobster Bisque is not to be missed. My wife enjoyed the Veal chop and I had the Lobster. We both had the 14 oz NY Strip the second night. Service was better than excellent and the atmosphere was very romantic. Worth every penny!
SERVICE: Service was excellent in all areas despite the fact that gratuity had already been added to our tab. The wait staff in the Normandie ( I Ketut and Juste) could not have been more gracious and attentive. We received anything and everything we asked for and the food was always hot. Our room steward, Paul, was the perfect room steward.. never seen but always there. Kept our wines on ice for us and always had the room cleaned when we were out and about. We did feel that these great guys deserved extra $$ so we did leave an extra tip for them and they were so appreciative.
ENTERTAINMENT: Entertainment was also excellent. The Pride Dancers presented two big performances and both were wonderful. Vroom was a great show but we enjoyed the first show ( Wonderful World) just as much. Never had a problem finding seating. Drink service was always available. There were several other shows with a juggler and magician ( Justin Illusion) and we really enjoyed their performances. We did not see the rated X late night comedian shows but heard that they were pretty raunchy and some people did not stay. We frequented the casino and had a few great machines.. Did some roulette and blackjack and the dealers and all the staff in the casino were very friendly and helpful. There are so many incredible lounges and entertainment areas that there is literally something for everyone.
Spent most days at the pool and relaxing reading a book. At sea days can be pretty crowded but you can always find a chair if you look. Recommend if you are going to want to sit out for the day to get an early start! Met lots of nice people in the pool from all over the country.
DRINKS: Well we packed a bunch of our own wine and spirits and checked them in our luggage with the porters.. plenty bubble wrap! Although we had heard that you should bring extra rum etc for the pool drinks, we found most of the drinks served at the pool had a goodly portion of rum in them.. The Pina Colada could use an extra boost though. The drink of the day was really reasonable at $2.95 (with the souvenir glass..$6.25 ) Every night at the end of our evening we poured a glass of Drambui and sit on our veranda and watch the stars go by and just relax. That is the special end to every day.
KIDS: Oh yes, there were plenty of children of all ages. Very well behaved for the most part but the teens were somewhat unattended, particulary later in the evening. I think it is wise to say, parents watch your children, particularly preteen and teen girls. That is all I am going to say on that subject but be advised..
FELLOW PASSENGERS: We enjoyed meeting people of all ages on this cruise. Everyone we met was so friendly and just happy to be there. We met people from all over the country including a young man who graduated from the same small town college as I did only a "few years" later! A small world!
PORTS: who cares..
Debarkation: A breeze. We were off by 9:00am.
IN SUMMARY: We had a great time. Weather was just perfect this trip. Have never seen such calm sea's and the ship was so stable. A wonderful ship. We are ready to go again and again and again.... We have been converted to Carnival Fans!
Before I jump into this long review, please note that the views expressed should all be taken for what they are, which are opinions and observations that are mine and might not be the same someone else who took the same cruise. Bottom line? We had a great time but will probably not cruise on Carnival again. This review might be called "It's the Little Things That Count." We have cruised three times previously on Princess ships and this was our first with Carnival. It is impossible to write this review without making comparisons between the lines but I promise not to be one of those no-cruise-can-be-as-good-as-our-last-cruise people! We booked on the advice of our agent who said that the Pride was Carnival's attempt to offer a more upscale cruising experience while still maintaining the "Fun Ship" atmosphere and because we were cruising with a group of 11 that included extended family and good friends ranging in age from 16 to mid-70's, we thought the Pride would be the best choice. I'm pretty sure we made the best choice in that regard - I doubt the younger members of our groupwould have enjoyed themselves as much on a more laid-back ship. The first-time cruisers (the majority of the group) had the best time, for sure. We wanted to go down a day early and after lots of research ended up booking rooms at the AmeriSuites hotel, about a 10-minute drive from the Orlando Airport. It was terrific - the staff was very friendly and efficient, the rooms were spacious and clean, and restaurants were only a 5-minute walk away. I would definitely recommend this place - for the four of us (my wife and myself, plus our 16-y.o. daughter and 20-y.o. son) the room cost about $65 with tax, including a good continental breakfast the next morning. The hotel has a shuttle that goes to and from the airport on request. The next morning we took the shuttle back to the airport and picked up the Carnival (Mears) bus at about 10 A.M. for the 45-minute drive to the cruise terminal. Now here is the first of those "little things" that make a difference. Because the Pride sails at 4 P.M. and boarding doesn't start until about noon, basically everyone arrives at the same time and it was a crazy scene, to say the least. We had filled out what we thought were all our forms but an immigration form for the Bahamas also had to be filled out at the terminal. It appeared that most of the people were filling out those forms (which were somewhat confusing) and pens and counter space was at a premium. Then it was into line with hundreds and hundreds of others. Although there appeared to be about 8 - 10 stations processing passengers, it took us well over two hours from the time we left the bus to the time we boarded. There is a simple solution to this, really - instead of sailing at 4 P.M., sail a few hours later. The passengers could arrive throughout the afternoon and the congestion and delay would be minimized. This is what Princess does, and it works. After the obligatory photos, we were finally able to board. I had seen many photos online of the interior of the ship but there is no way to capture in a photographic image just how ornate this ship is. The atrium area is relatively small horizontally but soars up vertically to the clear stairs into David's restaurant and up to the red opaque roof. Every square inch of the walls, doors, elevators, etc., are covered with reproductions of Renaissance art, gilding or mosaics. It's almost as if someone looked around and said, "Oh look! There's a wall panel that is just plain wood! Let's cover it with SOMETHING..!" Now, as they say, there's no accounting for taste, and I appreciate fine art, but enough is enough. To make matters worse, as has been noted in other reviews, everything is very dark and heavy looking. Maybe this would be a mood setter for a European cruise, but in the Caribbean it seemed out of place. Again, this is my opinion only and many individual pieces were very nice. It was just too much. There has been much discussion about the nudes which are everywhere on the ship. Believe me, after about an hour you don't even realize they're there (with the possible exception of David!). I can't imagine how anyone would be offended unless they had absolutely no exposure (excuse the pun!) to art before. Our stateroom was on deck 7 with a balcony, port side about mid-ship. We found our room easily and locating it later in the cruise was easy because we were near the glass elevators. Hint - all the rooms on the port (left) side of the ship have even numbers, all the rooms on the starboard side have odd numbers - I think it took some people a few days to figure this out. Our room was slightly larger than what we've had on the Ocean and Grand Princess, with a couch (which we liked) and plenty of storage. The bathroom was definitely bigger than the Princess ships and the shower was much better -easier to adjust and always plenty of hot water and water pressure. All our bags were accounted for by 6 P.M. The Pride definitely wins in the room category vs. Princess for the same type of room. Our cabin steward (Renaldo) provided good, unobtrusive, friendly service (complete with towel animals every night but the first) but here's another of those "little things". The showers have shampoo (I liked it, my wife didn't) and body gel, but only one small bar of soap was provided for the shower and one for the sink that was obviously supposed to last all week. Finally on Wednesday I tracked down Renaldo to ask for another, which he gladly gave me, but that was it - no more was seen for the rest of the week. A little thing for sure, but no way should anyone EVER have to ask for soap on a cruise. We all checked our sign and sail cards shortly after boarding to find that 8 of our group had been assigned to one table but the other three were somewhere else. We went to see the maitre'd Gerry (and found that there were many others needing to be re-assigned) and he assured us that he would do his best to get us together. This was very important to us because we were traveling with three generations and dinner would most likely be the only time we would be together. We then went up to David's to put in our reservation for a table for 6, the adults in our party, for Tuesday night. This was done and I noted that only one other table had been reserved for Tuesday at a later time, for 4 people, so we figured we'd made a good choice there. My wife and I then set out to explore the ship before sail away and lifeboat drill. Maps are provided in the stateroom and are available at the purser's desk all week. We thought the ship was easy figure out and there are lots of nook and crannies to find private space if that's what you want, besides the various lounges and large public areas. My son and his friend and my niece (all age 20) thought the spa/gym area was great, with plenty of machines and my sister-in-law is another of those recommending the multi-spray showers in the spa. Lifeboat drill was long, hot and tedious, much more so than on Princess. Passengers were crammed into places on deck by crew members, some of whom were downright rude. I witnessed one older man obviously on the verge of passing out being told to stay in line rather than get some fresh air at the rail while the (long) explanation of evacuation procedures was read over the loudspeakers. I totally understand the reason for this drill (I've been on boats on the ocean all my life) but I seriously doubt anyone would have been able to follow those directions in a real emergency after that long, droning, repetitive recitation. There is a better way, I've seen it on Princess - another "little thing." We ate every night (except for Tuesday at David's) in the Normandie restaurant. This large two-story area has some serious problems in my opinion. First and foremost, the lighting. This place is bright to the point of being glaring. About an hour into the meal, the lights are dimmed somewhat but it is still too bright in my opinion. Why does this matter? Because being so bright discourages a leisurely, fine dining experience and encourages certain people to talk loudly. I realize that I will probably offend some people by saying this, but I am convinced that a certain percentage of the passengers at our seating have never been to a nice restaurant and don't know anything about basic dining manners. Gerry did manage to get us all together at a table near the stairs on the first level, but we were surrounded by three tables of very loud, obnoxious people who arrived drunk many of the nights, drank through dinner and yelled at each other from table to table every night. Finally toward the end of the week we spoke with Gerry and they were quieted down a bit, but this is another of those little things that one should never have to mention - the staff should have dealt with this without being asked. I like to get rowdy with the best of 'em, but there is a time and a place. One of these yahoos started spraying one of the waiters with "silly string," for god's sake! The food was...good. Not great, not bad. Some of the cold soup appetizers were very good, but all the portions were quite small - don't be afraid to ask for more than one appetizer. Main courses varied from quite good (filet minion) to poor (Beef Wellington) to totally disappointing (rubbery, tasteless lobster tails). The desserts were good except the crème brulee (my favorite) which was more like a watery pudding, and the cherries jubilee which was served without fanfare as a small bowl with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a few cherries on the side. The funny part was that the descriptions in the menu sounded wonderful for everything - I think the guy that writes the menus should get together with the chef! Our waiter Arnel and his assistant Anca went from efficient but hurried to being very friendly and still hurried. They did a fine job but it is my guess that they have too many tables to cover so there was none of the wonderful interaction and personal attention (table tricks, etc.) that we love on the Princess ships. I really don't think it was their fault - they were just overworked. Another little thing. The night we ate in David's started out as a bit of a disaster. We arrived to find that out table for 6 had mysteriously turned into 3 tables for 2, next to each other. The restaurant only has two tables for six, and in spite of the fact that we had booked one of those within the first hour of being on board, neither was available. A not so little thing! After a fair amount of negotiating, we ended up with a four and a two nest to each other, which was barely OK. The meal itself gets high marks for presentation and the relaxed atmosphere but the food was not particularly special. I had the crab's legs - avoid these if you don't want to work for your food or if you mind getting messy. Someone somewhere really didn't think this one through - why offer messy finger food at a restaurant where people are supposed to get dressed up? Plus, they didn't really taste that great! A little thing. I won't talk about our adventures on St. Thomas/St. John, St. Martin or in San Juan (substituted for Half Moon because of rough seas) but suffice to say we had a terrific time. Other general observations: Carnival wins in the entertainment column, for sure. The reggae band on deck was great and had the place absolutely rocking the night of the deck party. The Vegas-style shows were terrific, the best we've seen on a ship. The pit band was absolutely first rate. One of the comedians (Michael Macy?) was very funny at the adult show, not so much at the all ages show. Now here's another little thing - we love jazz and the trio that is on the ship is almost too good (I think some of the older folks were expecting "In The Mood" and they got Miles and Bird!) but who the heck decided that it would be cool to have the jazz in the cigar room??? Yeah, that's it! Jazz is cool! Cigars are cool! Lets' put 'em together! (GAG!) Better to put the goofy guitar player playing along with karaoke tapes in the cigar room. Sorry. The casino "gaming" fans in our group did well there and said that it was pretty good. I won a big $32 but this is not an area that I'm qualified to comment on. Other entertainment ranged from mediocre (dance bands, karaoke) to quite good (piano players). The cruise director Devin was OK but I really don't think that a cruise director can make or break a cruise experience. It was his last one on the Pride. The food on the lido deck was very good for lunch with much variety but the breakfasts were pretty lame - omelets were the only choice for freshly prepared food, the fresh fruit consisted of melon slices, grapefruit, cantaloupe, and canned sliced orange sections (yuck) and a few over-ripe bananas here and there, plus McDonalds-quality hash browns, French toast, pancakes, sausages swimming in a pool of liquid grease and limp bacon. We ate breakfast in the Normandie the last day. Should have all week. Little things. The staff on the Lido deck was as friendly as could be at breakfast and wouldn't acknowledge your existence at any other time. It was almost humorous. Everyone liked the make-your-own sundae station though. Dress on formal nights was quite variable. Maybe 10% of the men wore tuxes, 50% wore suits (of various colors), the rest sports jackets. Women's dresses ranged from formal, sequined gowns to basic, nice dresses. The welcome aboard (free drink) party was well attended and the free booze was consumed at a record rate. The 20-y.o.s in our group felt that their age group was very poorly provided for on the Pride. They were too young to drink but were made to leave the disco when people in their twenties came in at midnight. There are absolutely no planned activities for young adults 18 - 20 years old. Carnival loses big time on a couple of points -pools (saltwater, only open during the day) and night time entertainment on deck. Every night except the deck party night, the decks were virtually deserted after 9 P.M. One of the real pleasures of Caribbean cruising is sitting out under the stars listening to music, something we could always do on Princess. This gets me to the last thing, which is where I'm sure I'll get some heat. Every cruise line has a demographic, if most of what you read can be believed. That demographic may vary with time of year, length of cruise, ports of call, etc. but on the Carnival Pride it seemed to be solidly middle class, mostly southern, folks out for a good time. There was plenty of drinking and carousing, some of it in appropriate places like the bars and casino, some of it in inappropriate places like the Normandie and the Taj Mahal theater. I won't deny that there are obnoxious drunks on every cruise ship but I felt that a small percentage of passengers on this particular Carnival cruise were there to get drunk and stay drunk for the entire time. This is something I have not seen on Princess. I'm not sure if it is indicative of cruises on Carnival. So there it is. If it sounds like we had a bad time, please believe me, we didn't! We had a wonderful time with our family and friends. The Pride is definitely a "fun ship" and fit our needs in many ways. But would we ever go back? No. Its those little things that count.
Since I had experienced some problems with Carnival earlier this year, I was a bit apprehensive as my recent eastern Caribbean sailing on the new Carnival Pride drew near. But I must report that my cruise on the Pride put Carnival back in my good graces; this review should explain why.
I fully expected that embarkation would be miserable for me. I had always qualified for the Skipper's Club, but since I was traveling alone this time and couldn't afford a suite, I would have to check in with the masses. I had always seen those long lines for general boarding, and was thankful that I wasn't in them; but now my time had come.
And then it went. This was the smoothest, quickest, least painful embarkation anyone could have. I arrived at the pier around 10 a.m., turned over my luggage, made it smoothly through security, and headed up to the line, which was still rather short. By now it was maybe 10:15. I stood in line only about 15 minutes; then it was my turn, and it only took about five minutes to check in. I headed over to theboarding line, expecting to be there at least an hour and a half, but the wait turned out to be only 35-40 minutes. At 11:20, they began boarding. We weren't allowed in staterooms until 12:30, but at least it gives waiting passengers a chance to get up to the buffet for some lunch. At 12:30, I headed down to my stateroom - 1178 - my first time in an inside cabin. It was larger than I expected, but smaller than my spoiled self is used to. I convinced myself that everything was going to be A-OK, and within one hour I had my luggage and was unpacking.
The cabin has adequate storage and closets (three of them, two with shelves). I also found plenty of shelves in my bathroom (three small ones on each side of the sink) and plenty of lighting in the cabin. The mini-bar was hidden in a small cabinet and I was counting the hours until they could unlock it for me. I then took in the Carnival channel on TV to catch up on the afternoon's events; as I was changing channels, I found two that showed outside views from the ship. This was nice to have with an inside cabin -- I wouldn't have to go outside to find out what the weather was like.
I decided to leave the confines of my cabin, and went exploring. I can only imagine the looks I got as I walked around with my mouth hanging open and my eyes bulging. I couldn't believe the incredible décor and design of the ship. The artwork in public areas gave it have a more elegant feel than any other Carnival ship I have been on. It was easier to find my way around than on the Destiny class ships, and much more comfortable than the Fantasy class ships. Everywhere I went, I found myself looking at the artwork, feeling like I was taking a tour of world museums. I did hear some comments from the parents of small children who thought it was offensive, but I heard just as many from those who appreciated it; I even overheard some teenagers talking about how they had studied some of the artwork in school. There were plenty of places to have quiet conversations, or just to sit and read a book. I took many pictures, which can be found in the three photo galleries I posted.
When I arrived back at my cabin for the lifeboat drill, I found a bottle of champagne from the Purser (for reasons unknown); and my travel agent had sent me a bottle of wine to be served at dinner. My cabin steward, Xavier, had honored my request to have my mini-bar stocked with Diet Coke, and had made my bed into a queen. He took note of the wine and spirits I had brought with me and left extra wine glasses and rocks glasses. My hat's off to Xavier for being the best I have encountered yet.
The entertainment on the ship was better than most. The shows were quite enjoyable, and the comedian, Michael Macy, was the funniest I have heard at sea. The musicians were excellent; my favorite was Johnny in the Ivory Lounge piano bar; every night he would play "In Heaven There Is No Beer," which seemed to be the crowd's and my favorite. Doug, the musician in the casino bar, was very good, but seemed to have a bit of an ego problem. We also had live music in David's, which was very nice.
My favorite restaurant on the ship was David's -- so good that I dined in it twice, on each of the formal nights. The atmosphere was that of an exclusive restaurant, the service was impeccable, and the food was outstanding. The food presentation was a show in itself, and the filet was one of the best I have had. The staff is well-versed in wine and food. I highly recommend that everyone try David's; the $25 surcharge was the best investment I made on the entire cruise.
However, my investment in the casino crashed and burned. I should have just written them a check and walked out. One thing I did like was the availability of chairs instead of stools at the slot machines -- although since I was sitting there more comfortably, I played longer than I should have. One downside to the casino was its new three percent processing fee to get chips from the window on my "Sail and Sign" card. This also eliminates the ability to use your "Sail and Sign" at the tables. My advice: Take cash to the tables for chips, and to change into quarters and tokens.
The only negative experience I have to mention is that we were unable to visit Half Moon Cay as planned; the ocean swells were too high to be safe for tendering in, so the Captain decided to head to San Juan instead. I was so looking forward to a lazy beach day and had no desire to visit San Juan since I had just been there in May. I understood the decision, but I didn't like it. Needless to say, I did not get off the ship in San Juan, but thoroughly enjoyed my time on the relatively empty ship.
In St. Thomas, I went shopping as I always do. I went to my favorite store and bought some jewelry, as I always do, then went to Bobby's Island Bar, as I always do -- a wonderful day on a beautiful island that had always been my favorite until I got to St. Maarten. I found the island beautiful, full of history, very friendly, and I found my jewelry store from St. Thomas - same store, same family. In fact, one of the guys that waited on me in St. Thomas in May was in the store in St. Maarten when I got there. Needless to say, I shopped some more. I did an island tour that afternoon with my table mates and had the best time. The tour driver, a native, was very knowledgeable. The three-and-a-half hour tour took us from the Dutch side to the French side to shop in Marigot, then back to the pier; it was the best way to see the island highlights.
There was more poolside chair-saving on the Pride than on any other ship I've been on, but when I went to the Poseidon pool, it was relatively easy to find a chair there. The poolside entertainment was a lot of fun. The social staff was very good and did a great job of getting everyone involved. At the Lido deck party one night, we had a conga line about 250 people long.
Now for my least favorite part: Debarkation. This time, however, it was a breeze. I was off the ship by 8:40 a.m., easily found my luggage (it helped that it still had the VIP tags from an earlier cruise), and in my car on the way home to Orlando by 8:50 a.m. I am sure I arrived home before some were off the ship. I think the Port of Miami could take a few notes from Port Canaveral in order to make the process more efficient.
I would recommend the Pride to anyone who asks, and have even chosen it to be the ship my family and I will sail on for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Bravo, Carnival, for making this my best cruise to date.
We are two couples, no kids, all between 30 and 40 years of age. THE FLIGHT Our trip started out early Friday morning, 6/28. We flew USAirways from Philadelphia to Orlando, departing and arriving on time with no issues. Just a reminder if you haven't flown since 9/11, eat before you go. This was a short flight and we didn't even get a bag of snack mix on board. We were very comfortable with security and my boyfriend who was carrying nothing on board, was asked to step aside for a pat-down search. They were random wand-searching at the gate. It is now necessary to show your photo identification at the entrance to the jet way with your boarding pass. Having it available speeds up boarding. AVIS, UNIVERSAL STUDIOS & THE RADISSON Our friends arrived an hour earlier in Orlando and went to pick up our Avis rental car (a mini-van we got for $49 through the Avis website). They were waiting for us in baggage claim and we were off J From the airport we headed to Universal Studios to spend the day. Any and all Entertainment books have adiscount coupon for Universal Studios, if you plan on going, take your coupon. We played all day and headed out around 6 to the Radisson at Port Canaveral. We arrived shortly after 7 p.m. and had reserved two rooms at the FALL special rate of $59 per night. The resort is beautiful but disastrously managed. Had it not been for the location and the great rate, I would be writing a complaint letter today. We were able to drop off our Avis rental car here and spend the night and that was all we really needed. The front desk staff seemed to be all under the age of 25 and didn't know what they were doing. The young man couldn't find my reservation and it turned out he was spelling my name incorrectly (he had my credit card in his hand). Three times during check-in I asked about the shuttle to the pier before he actually acknowledged it. He then asked me what time we would like to go. We wanted to be there early and asked for a 10:30ish shuttle. He told us there was no space available until 1:30 p.m. We did end up getting on a shuttle at 10:20 a.m. thanks to our fellow Cruise Critic Cruisers (thanks, Lew, Mel and Ron). Ron ended up leaving the Radisson because of some service issues and we got his place on the shuttle. Several people in our group had service issues there, but I'll let them post their own versions. EMBARKATION I am not ashamed to say that I squealed with delight as the ship came into view from the shuttle. We arrived at the pier around 10:55 a.m. and were checked in with our sign and sail cards by 11:15. They gave us a letter that we would be able to board at 11:30 but were not to go to our rooms until 12:30 p.m. The port is relatively new looking and air conditioned. There was not enough seating but we didn't wait very long before we began moving. We got our pictures taken and then headed onto the ship. Since our dining time and table assignment were correct, we headed directly to the Lido deck for a drink. Here is my first pointer - at some point during the cruise, ride the atrium glass elevators from top to bottom with no interruptions. You may have to do this super early or super late, but it will be worth it. The atrium was beautiful and we had no trouble getting to the Lido pool area. We had our first drink, and then our second drink and set off on a tour of the ship. We went back down to level 2 and zigzagged up and down the decks checking out everything. Don't miss a peek into the Sunset Garden, Butterfly Lounge or any of the other nooks and crannies. Use the little map they give you and see it all. We did pop in to the dining room to see where our table was and were very happy with the location. THE CABIN At 12:30, we headed up to check out our cabin and drop off our carry-ons. We had originally booked and 8A guarantee. Sometime in the spring, they were offering an upgrade to an 8C if you booked and 8A. I called my travel agent to inquire about an upgrade to an 8C guarantee. Carnival offered us an 8I cabin, 8170 with an extended balcony on the Panorama deck. Our friends were next door. We had ordered drink coupons, wine and to my surprise, roses, all of which were waiting in our cabin at 12:30. Our only warning with this cabin is that it is directly below the Lido deck pool area. Like clock work every morning we could hear the staff setting up the chairs for the day. I am a very light sleeper but would fall back to sleep as soon as it was done. We were still happy with the cabin and had no regrets. Don't forget your bungee! We slept with the door open every night and loved it. Our cabin steward was Chiron and he was very friendly. He emptied out our refrigerator and left it that way all week. We never asked for ice, but our bucket was filled twice a day. We had towel animals every night except the first. Other than the noise in the am, we had no issues with the cabin or our cabin steward. We left the recommended tip for him on our Sign and Sail and left him extra in cash with a thank-you note. THE DINING ROOM What a treat! We had a booth for 4 (table number 174) during the late seating. Our waiter was Isuigartha from Indonesia and Rolin was his assistant. We nicknamed our waiter "Sugar" and he was a joy. Let me say that on different nights, our meal arrived at different speeds due to the amount of people who did or didn't show up for dinner. Sugar was always around and let us know what was going on. Almost every night he showed up with extra entrees or appetizers or desserts for us to try, without us asking. On lobster night he arrived at our table with 2 more tails, just because. Rolin was quiet the first and second night, but Sugar's enthusiasm was contagious. By the middle of the week, he was delivering our espresso, regular and decafs to the right people without even being asked. Again, we left the recommended tip amounts on our Sign and Sail accounts and gave them both extra in cash with thank you notes on the last night. I will say here that I am very disappointed at how many people didn't show up to dinner on the last night. Even with tips already on your Sign and Sail, there were 7 tables adjacent to us where NO ONE showed up. As someone who works with the public all day every day, please say THANK YOU. It can change the whole tone of your day because it is so rare to hear it. THE MAITRE'D The fabulous Ken wasn't there L We had someone named Gerry who was pleasant enough. Here is my number one issue with this cruise (and I have very few). Since the maitre'd is not included in the automatically billed tips, they remind you all week that if you "enjoyed your dining room experience, Gerry, your maitre'd, is ultimately responsible for everything that goes on in the dining room". The Gala Buffet was held in the dining room - what a frickin' disaster! Gerry, my man, you failed miserably here. The Gala Buffet was available for eating from 11:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. We were in line from 11:30 until 12:20 when we finally reached the devastation. There was virtually no food left unless you wanted deviled eggs with caviar, apples or some scary looking cake with yellow jello on top. This was the only time all week when we were unhappy with our vacation and felt like Carnival dropped the ball. Since Gerry, our maitre'd, was ultimately responsible for everything that goes on in the dining room, we tipped him accordingly. POOLS, DECK CHAIRS and KIDS FROM HELL People, sleep in. There are plenty of deck chairs. We saw unused deck chairs still stacked up all week. If you absolutely MUST have a chair by the pool, please keep the following things in mind- I was out at 7 a.m. one day and chairs immediately surrounding the pool were already being spoken for. The pool staff laughs at you. To the guy who put one flip flop about 10 chairs, no sooner did you walk away then did they dump them in a big pile on the deck. On the same note, bring your own beach towels. We had four chairs, 2 with beach towels and 2 with Carnival towels. We also had books, suntan lotion, a newspaper and a beach bag as well as a pair of flip flops for every chair. Someone stole one of our Carnival towels and we were about as far from the pool as you could get(NOT EVEN ON THE SAME DECK!). Luckily, I managed to get another towel that was blowing across the Sun Deck like a tumbleweed. No one came after it, so I kept it and we were not charged. Some time ago I read the post about kids in the pool in diapers. Some very astute person used the phrase "Fecal tea-bags" and I have chuckled about it ever since. Not anymore. What the heck is the matter with you people? On the last full day on board the aft pool had to be drained and scrubbed down with a chemical rinse because somebody who obviously had no concern for anyone else's safety or enjoyment let their little rugrat in the pool in a diaper. You would have thought that the ship was going down as people screamed and scrambled out of the pool as the little rugrat blew out his Pampers and sent a gift floating to the pool's surface. What a way to spend your last day at sea - the staff had to drain the pool, bring out the chemicals, and take down reports and witness statements! If you thought it was funny or you have even considered letting your little angel into the pool in a diaper, please don't. There is a kiddie pool is they are still in diapers and you won't risk ruining a deck full of people's day at sea or your own filling out incident reports. ROCKIN' & ROLLIN' The weather was beautiful. The water was rough. Folks, this ship moves. Don't panic, it's not enough to worry about. When we were on the Victory last year, we felt the ship move exactly one time during the whole cruise. No one was sick that we saw or heard about, and we stopped taking our meclizine and ginger half way through the week and we were fine. We actually enjoyed the motion, it reminded us we were on a ship. THE PORTS Half Moon Cay - what a tease. These boards told me that they would hand out tender tickets earlier than listed. The time listed in the Capers was 9:30 am in the Starry Night Lounge. I was there at 8:45 a.m. and two of the ship's dancers came in with numbered mailing labels around 9:15ish. Now, I thought they were tender tickets, but apparently they were the last gold ticket needed to tour Willy Wonka's factory because they mob rushed them and trampled everyone in the process. Though there were only about 25 other people in the lounge when I got there, I ended up with four mailing labels, I mean tender tickets for life boat # 3. Here's the tease. I was pretty proud of myself for not trampling anyone, not stealing a sheet of mailing labels from the pile and still getting a fairly early tender. As I sat down in my cabin to admire my mailing labels, the announcement came over that Half Moon Cay wasn't going to happen for us on this cruise. Instead, we would be going to San Juan the next night from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. San Juan - I was not happy about this port. I had heard not so good things about San Juan but was trying to remain positive. I'm glad I did. It's a beautiful port and we were happy we went. We got off the ship and took a 2 hour city tour for $15 a person from a man standing at the end of the pier. There were maybe 10 of us in his shuttle van and he was very knowledgeable. He took us to the Old Fort where we were able to get out and walk around for a half-hour, and also we toured both the new and old parts of the city. He left us off a few blocks from the ship (or he would take you back) and we ate at a little restaurant called La Bombanero. It was good food, though the service was a little off. From there we walked to Hard Rock and made our way back to the ship. They gave us a deck party that night as we pulled out of port and it was very cool seeing the city all lit up and the Old Fort illuminated as we headed back out to sea. This was one of the nicest parts of our trip, so we didn't miss Half Moon Cay too much. St. Thomas - since we didn't go to the Bahamas, it was not necessary to go thru immigration before we got off the ship. I think it's fair to say we hated St Thomas. You couldn't move 2 inches in town without someone hawking something. We did buy some rum and then headed back to the ship to get ready for the Kontiki Party Boat. Our friends took a snorkel excursion through the ship and were back before us. They actually heard the Kontiki returning to port and would see us (and we them) on the balcony. We enjoyed the Kontiki and would probably do it again. If we were to visit St Thomas again, we would avoid downtown at all costs. FYI, the ride downtown is a set rate of $3 per person each way. St Maarten - we took a cab to Orient Beach. The ride is a set rate of $5 per person each way and we had no trouble getting a cab in either direction. It is a beautiful beach once you get past the people hawking us to rent chairs and umbrellas. Whether you go left or right, you will see naked people here. We were on the left side and there were people in various stages of dress strolling the beach. We did walk down on the right side and almost everyone was naked or topless. There are bars, chairs and facilities on both sides. We enjoyed it there and would definitely go back. THE ENTERTAINMENT We went to the shows in the Taj Mahal every night except the last night. They were entertaining and served their purpose. We felt the comedians were a disappointment except for Michael Macy's adult show. It was hysterical and my face hurt from laughing for the rest of the night. The lounges had various types of music playing nightly. Check your capers and go hear what you like. The variety was wide and had something for everyone. Beauties, the disco was loud and security stood at the door keeping the kids out. It was nice to have a safe place from them, but the disco was VERY loud. The Starry Night Café was very cool and we went there several times to hear the band that played there. We didn't get to do anything in the Butterfly Lounge because this became the Under 21 club nightly when they got kicked out of the disco. I was disappointed about that as it was a really cool space and I would have liked to spent some time there. The Ivory Bar was something we didn't discover until the last night. This was the only place we saw loud and rowdy drunk people, but it was appropriate and sucked us in. Stop by one night and see if it is for you - we wish we had found it sooner. The talent show was something we almost skipped and I am glad we didn't. At the end, the crew did the skit "If I were not upon the sea." and it was great. I had heard about this vaguely but wasn't sure what it was. It was one of my favorite things on this cruise. OUR FELLOW SOULS ON BOARD Kids. During the day most of them were ok, although it was amazing to me how many people don't watch their kids on board and in the pool area. We could have (and were tempted) to throw some of them overboard and the parents would not have noticed. The only other time kids were a HUGE issue was at night coming out of the disco. At 10:30, the revolving door to the disco was like a fire drill gone wrong. We had the unfortunate experience of being at the bar just outside when they broke loose. I thought the bartender was going to cry as at least 50 kids knocked us out of their way brandishing soda cards as their ticket to the front of the line. My friend barely got to taste her $6 glass of wine as she was jostled about. The age group of other passengers was a good mix and we didn't see anyone obnoxiously drunk or rowdy. OTHER MISCELLANEOUS RIGAMAROLE No bridge tour on this cruise. Thanks a lot, Osama L Security was tight getting on the ship and they were on the ball. In St Thomas, some under age kids filled water bottles with rum or tequila. Because the seals were broken, the guards checked them and confiscated them. One of the kids was very loud and confrontational until the security guard threatened to release the "water" to his parents, then he quieted down, although not without calling the guard a name before moving on. Everything was scanned getting back on to the ship and the lines moved quickly. There was a table at the end of the scanner to deposit alcohol. Devin Fleming was our cruise director but was apparently leaving. Anyone know where? Also, does anyone know where Peter Gibbs is? He was our cruise director on the Victory and we really missed him. The guy at the deli counter told me the staff is switching ships next week, if anyone is interested. DEBARKATION - A breeze. Nowhere near as painful as we thought. We got a shuttle back to the Radisson for our rental car and headed off to Disney. Except for the Gala Buffet debacle, we loved this cruise and this ship. We are already thinking about another cruise and would recommend the Pride to anyone. Our one word of advice would be to remember that nothing in life is perfect, and at least you're not at work!