Carnival Cruise Lines
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
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
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
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
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