Carnival Reviews - Cruise Ship reviews by Cruisemates Readers
Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Pride

by Gene
Eastern Caribbean
June 29, 2002

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 group would 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.