RADISSON AT THE PORT
We checked in at 12:15 and after a bit of confusion finding the elevators headed off to our room. We also booked the 10:20 am shuttle to the port at this time. Nice room, not so nice location-second floor right at the top of the stairs. Rooms face out to a common walkway, which meant we couldn't keep our curtains open unless we wanted to provide a free show for the other guests. Called down to the front desk and with no hesitation they said they would move us but it might be an hour or so before another room was ready. This was fine, as we knew we had checked in early. Also they had the 40th Space Congress going on in the convention center adjacent to the hotel and the hotel was full of NASA people. On Friday when the NASA folks left they had a Youth Group having a convention. This hotel is very busy and probably full most of the time. Asked if they had somewhere we could put our luggage while they got our new room ready. Staff told us to leave them in the room and they would move them for us when the new room was ready. So with that resolved we decided to get something to eat. There is a McDonalds right across the street from the hotel and 2 other restaurants on either side of the hotel. There is also a Subway. Our shuttle driver had told us that Kelsey's had very good Italian food and that Zachary's had good breakfasts. So since we had been up since 3am we decided to have breakfast. Food was good, portions quite big. Other than the restaurants there really isn't anything else within walking distance of the hotel, something to consider if you are not using a vehicle, which we weren't. It was 2:30 before we received our new room so after unpacking a few essentials we decided to just chill out by the pool. For supper we went to Kelsey's, food very good here. Both mornings we had the hotel buffet $7.99 per person. It was your standard breakfast buffet but they did have a chef to prepare eggs anyway you wanted them or omelets. Friday morning we decided to take a cab to Merrit Square Mall $15 each way. We wandered around the mall and they walked over to Walgreens and then headed back to the hotel for a swim. The pool was great, the sun was shining and the beer was cold. It doesn't get much better than that. Friday night we went to Subway for supper. Spending the 2 days at the Radisson was a great way to start our vacation, gave us time to unwind and relax. Although the Radisson was great next time we might stay in Cocoa Beach just because there seemed to be more things to do within walking distance.
GETTING TO THE PORT
Saturday morning we gathered our suitcases and waited outside the hotel for the shuttle. The shuttle was going back and forth bringing people back from the previous weeks cruise but the first shuttle to the port was at 10:20. Don't know if this is common practice but our driver didn't have the list of people who had booked the shuttle and took a family of 4 who were waiting outside the hotel for a taxi. So if you book the shuttle it is a good idea to be outside. There were 2 shuttle vans that could probably hold 12 people plus luggage. Off to the port we went...
BOARDING THE PRIDE
Arriving at the Port we could first see the Disney Magic and then the beautiful Carnival Pride the other folks in the shuttle with us were going on the Magic so they were dropped off first. We dropped our luggage off and after generously tipping the handler (remember these people are responsible for getting your luggage on the ship, very important not to upset them!!!). We proceeded inside. Not too many people waiting in line, but it still amazes me the number of people who wait until they reach the port to fill out their documents???? As hubby and I are not US citizens we headed to the non citizen line. Not too many people in this line either. by 11:15 we were sitting in the second row of chairs waiting to board. They did check picture ID's several times so make sure to have them handy. We then watched as several brides made their way on board for pre cruise wedding services. We heard at one of the shows we had 27 honeymooning couples, not sure how many were married on board. But do know one couple got married in St. Thomas. We were allowed to board by 12-12:15, that was great. They ask that guests not go to their cabins until as least 12:30 to give the Stewards time to clean up from the previous guests. We went up to 7218 on the Verendah deck just to look and then headed down to the lido deck for lunch. We had hamburgers and fries. The hamburgers were just as good as we remembered from last year on the Triumph. We then decided to check out our table in the Normandie Dining Room. We had early seating, which was what we had requested. Last year we sat at a table for 10 and had great tablemates, one couple we exchanged Christmas cards with this past Christmas. This year we had been assigned a booth for 4. We would have preferred a bigger table or a table for two. Our reasoning behind this is what if you have nothing in common or just don't get along with these 2 other people; it could make for a long uncomfortable week of dining. We decided to request a table for 2. Mr. Husine Mersine the assistant Maitre'd was taking care of the changes. He is a delightful gentleman who we saw many times during the week in the dining room. He was able to accommodate us with a table for 2 during early seating. We then headed off to our cabin to unload our carry on baggage.
LIFEBOAT DRILL AND SAILING AWAY
Lifeboat drill was at 4pm, the usual hot and sweaty procedure. The ship pulled away from shore around 4:30. The only reason we knew this is because I happened to look outside and realized we were moving. On the Triumph a big deal was made of the sail away, but no such thing on the Pride. This was somewhat disappointing, but we made the best of it by going up to one of the top decks. We had lots of people waving from smaller boats and lots of people on land also waving. It is such a thrill to know that vacation had officially started. by the time we got back to our cabin our luggage had arrived, which was great I unpacked everything before dinner.
NORMANDIE DINING ROOM
We ate in the dining room every night except the day we were in St. Maarten. That day we had a later excursion and didn't feel like rushing to get ready for dinner. The food was very good each night. Hubby and I had a variety of different dishes and had no complaints. The chocolate soufflé and the Grand Marnier soufflé were my favorite desserts. The lobster was very good also the Salmon and the Filet Mignon was very tender. Our wait staff were Chris from South Africa (look for him soon on the Glory) and Maia from Thailand his assistant. She was a petite thing and we gave Chris a hard time for letting her carry up the tray with the meals. A couple of times he was a gentleman and helped her. We took the galley tour later in the week and it is 2 decks below the dining room so the staff uses an escalator to transport the meals. This escalator is very narrow and very fast. Couldn't imagine jumping on it carrying a tray of 10 or more dinners. Each night the waiters performed for us, very entertaining. We would often see Maia in the Mermaids Grille at lunchtime and also during the midnight buffet. Gives you a real understanding of how hard these folks work. They definitely deserve their tips. We ate breakfast once in the dining room. Hubby wanted to try the Eggs Benedict. Not bad but the rest of the time we ate at the buffet. They held the Gala Midnight Buffet in the dining room. Everything was spectacular, looked too good to eat. They let everyone in to take pictures and then back in again later to eat.
We ate lunch in the Mermaid Grille. Lots to choose from, something to please all tastes. Now having said that we did find the setup somewhat confusing. There are many stations set up with different foods. You have to walk around quite a bit to find everything. It's probably not right to compare as each ship is unique but we found the setup on the Triumph easier. You started with salad worked your way through rolls and bread then main courses and then fruit and dessert at the end. Here the regular salad and the Caesar salad had it's own station as did the fruit. They had potato salad, bean salad coleslaw etc at the end of each of the other stations. There is the deli (excellent turkey and corned beef sandwiches), 24 hr pizzeria (it's amazing how good pizza tastes at midnight!!!), they also had a station with a different nation's food each day, Indian, Mexican (I loved this one), Caribbean etc. Then another station with Asian food and then the regular buffet. So much food so little time LOL!!!
CD was Josh Riffe, he was funny but after having Corey on the Triumph Josh had a lot to live up to. I am sure as time goes on he will become better and better. One good thing about him was not so many announcements made during the day. I found the Taj Mahal Lounge cold and after the first night wore a sweatshirt to keep warm. We always sat in the balcony so can't comment on the temperature downstairs.
We went to the Welcome Aboard show on the first night. It was fun; they brought passengers up on stage and made them part of the show, I won't give away what they did with the passengers but it was very funny. The comic Michael Macy that came on after the Welcome Aboard show was very funny he also had an adults only show on Sunday that we would have liked to attend but didn't. The show on Sunday was an Illusionist followed by the comic Kenny Miller. Justin Illusion was very entertaining and Kenny Miller was hilarious. Again we didn't make it to the adult only show but I am sure this one would have been great. Monday was the Wonderful World show. We saw this on the Triumph and enjoyed it again on the Pride. Tuesday and Wednesday the shows were a juggler and a comic and a balancing act (Josh likened it to Cirque du Soleil, quite a stretch IMHO) and another comic. We stayed for the juggler and some of the comic on Tuesday. The comic was different to say the least; he apparently arrived in St. Thomas took a nap and was then late for the first show. Hard to tell if his behavior was part of his act or not, anyways as I said different. We just couldn't sit through the balancing act. Now I am sure many people enjoyed both of these shows but they weren't for us. Thursday was VROOM, this was a great show, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Friday of course was passenger talent night. What a great bunch of talented people we had sailing with us. Hats off to them.
The Starry Night Lounge was the piano bar and there always seemed to be people in there. Didn't make it to Beauties but heard many others did. Karaoke was also very popular.
Half Moon Cay was our first stop-. Paradise in the middle of the Ocean. We went to the Starry night lounge to get tender tickets; we were lucky to receive tickets for the first tender. Hint, we and most of the other passengers waited inside the lounge when in fact they had the passengers make two lines outside of the lounge. So if you get there early enough just sit right outside the doors to the Starry Night Lounge. We then waited for our tender to be announced on the PA. It was nice being one of the first on the island as there are a limited number of shaded areas on the beach. It was a very hot day and being able to sit in the shade was a relief. Great opportunity here to take photos of the Pride anchored out at sea. Sail and sign cards used on the island but they don't have the buckets of beer like they do on the ship. Beer was $4.50 per. Lunch was provided, hamburgers, hot dogs, salads etc. We were about half way down the beach and it was a bit of a hike to find the food. Follow your nose. I went to get our food early (they announce when it is ready) as I had heard about trouble with mosquitoes and they love me. I did take insect repellent actually Avon's Skin so soft as it is the only thing that works for me but didn't need it. They had stations set up for massage $1 a minute. They also have a gift shop and a few stalls selling native stuff. Tendering back to the ship was no problem.
St. Thomas Here we booked a private tour with Godfrey. After reading many rave reviews for Godfrey I emailed him and arranged to meet him on the pier at 10am. As St. Thomas is a US Virgin Island all passengers must clear customs. Being non-US citizens hubby and I had to go to the Starry Night Lounge at 8am. US citizens were called by deck to the Taj Mahal Lounge. After clearing customs passengers are free to leave the ship. Customs went quicker than we thought and we left the ship at 9am. Since we had some time until we had to meet Godfrey we took the opportunity to take some great pictures of the Pride the Celebrity ship and also the HAL ship Rotterdam that was also in port with us. It was taxicab heaven at the port, very busy, lots of people. We were asked a few times if we needed a taxi and we explained that we had booked with Godfrey (everyone knows Godfrey). At around 9:30 a very well dressed gentleman introduced himself as Godfrey's brother and explained that even though we were early he would call Godfrey. I spoke to Godfrey and he explained that as it was mass confusion at the port he would pay for us to take a taxi into town where he would meet us that way it wouldn't cut into our shopping time. So into a taxi we went and met up with Godfrey in town. The taxi driver tried to collect money from us even though Godfrey's brother had told him not to. Anyway we had 2 hours of shopping, 1 hour 45 min tour of the island and then 2 hours at Coki beach (Coral World is right next door). I would not hesitate to recommend Godfrey to anyone visiting St. Thomas. He will take you to a different beach if you want, depending on what you want to do. We also had people on the same bus that didn't want to go to the beach and he took them back to the ship instead.
St. Maarten we booked the Carnival See and Sea Island tour $49 each. Which includes a narrated tour around the island, opportunity for picture taking, shopping in Marigot and then a voyage on a semi-submarine. The tour didn't leave until 12 so we had plenty of time to take the water taxi into town to shop. We found the booze and cigarettes to be much cheaper here than in St. Thomas. Crew from the ship also told up that if you can wait to shop until the afternoon you can get some good deals on big ticket items i.e. cameras, camcorders etc. The ship doesn't leave until 7pm so there is plenty of time to shop and do excursions here. After shopping we went back to the ship and grabbed lunch before making our way to the pier for our excursion. You have to walk a little ways past the pier and then board an air-conditioned coach. Our very knowledgeable and friendly driver Danny was from the Dutch side of St. Maarten and he provided a narrative as he drove us around the island. There was lots of traffic and we arrived in Marigot later than usual, about 30 minutes so we only had 45 minutes to shop. We went to the new West Indies Mall which is across the street from where the bus parks. Very nice mall but very pricey. We have dollar stores they had a $10 dollar store!!! I did see a beautiful tablecloth from Provence but the $285 was too steep for me. Also all the prices were in Euros. 1.1 Euros = 1 US$ approx. Back on the bus we headed for Grand Case and it was there we took the Seaworld Explorer out to Creole Rock. This a unique vessel about half way there you go down below and you are now submerged able to view the coral and sea life. They have a diver who feeds the fish, which gives a good opportunity to take pictures. The guide also points out the different kinds of coral, turtles and other sea creatures. Now I am very claustrophobic and my hubby was concerned I would freak out in the confined space but I was fine. You sit 2 on a sit facing forward. It is climate controlled so it is comfortable down there. They served fruit punch or rum punch for the ride back to the bus. A very enjoyable trip, a great way to see below the surface without getting wet.
Our cabin was 7218 on the Verandah a balcony cabin with plenty of room for all our things. Had no problems with the shower curtain but did find the shower gel and shampoo provided in the shower to be watered down??? Glad I brought my own. Ladies don't forget conditioner, the sun and salt water makes your hair like straw. There was a nice assortment of shampoos, lotions, toothpaste, tums, ladies and mens razors etc in the room. Our steward was Robert a very friendly person. Our only complaint with him was the one morning we returned to pickup our beach towels to go on deck and our cabin door was open. Thankfully nothing was missing from the cabin. My hubby went up and down the hall to look for Robert with no luck. We had been in the approx 4-5 minutes when Robert knocked on the door. My hubby let him know nicely that we didn't appreciate having our door left open at any time and especially as we were very close to the elevators. He tried to tell us that he had gone for ice and that they often leave the doors open, as they are back and forth very fast. Hubby pointed out that he had looked for Robert and was unable to find him and that 4-5 minutes was plenty of time for someone to come in and take something. Robert apologized and that was the end of the matter until later on Robert knocked and this time I opened the door. I really think he was worried that we would report the incident, which we didn't, and he again apologized for leaving the door open. Other than that incident Robert was fine, always quick with a good morning and a smile. We received a complimentary bottle of wine from Carnival (I had written an email after our first cruise), which we enjoyed during dinner. The Pride has little cubbies outside the doors of each cabins or the mailbox, as we liked to call it. It was always a thrill to come back to the cabin and find we had mail.
Miscellaneous As mentioned many times before the ship is beautiful. Yes there are many pictures of naked ladies scattered about some more risqué than others. After being on the Triumph last year we found the Pride easier to go from stern to bow. It was nice that you can walk straight through. The Triumph has a dining room in the middle of the ship that blocks that movement. Never felt crowded even on deck during sea days. There was some saving of chairs but there are definitely enough for everyone. One thing we did miss was a quite deck to sit on after dinner. On the Triumph we would often sit on the deck where the atrium is, they had nice padded lounge chairs out there. We could find no such place on the Pride. I did use the Internet and wished I had signed up for the $55 100 minutes package. The connection is very slow so just checking email takes a long time. If you plan on checking email etc every day or even every other day you might want to consider one of the packages. The photo gallery was chaotic at times. They move the pictures daily so even if you find them one day the next they will be somewhere else. It's actually quite comically to watch everyone try to find him or herself. Everyone looks the same after a while. We didn't have too many children on this trip but the CD did say the previous one had 700!!!! They had a laundry special on Thursday. Your Steward leaves a Carnival plastic bag in your room anything you can fit in there is $12. I did this on our last trip and also again this time. It's amazing what you can fit in that small bag.
TIME TO LEAVE Disembarkation was a breeze. Passengers were allowed to stay in their cabins until their deck was called for disembarkation, much nicer than milling around the halls. We booked a post cruise excursion to Kennedy Space Center, as our flight wasn't until 7:40pm. This meant we could leave the ship first along with anyone with an early flight (before 1pm). Breakfast was served extra early this morning and after our last meal on the Pride we went to the Starry Night Lounge at 6:45am to pickup our passports. Make sure you have your customs forms with you and filled out. From there we returned to our cabin and around 8:15 we made our way to the Taj Mahal Lounge. Anyone taking the excursion was given a sticker to wear. Approx 8:45 Matt one of the Social Hosts led us from the lounge off the ship. We quickly retrieved our luggage and made our way past customs dropping off the forms in a big basket!!! Outside the terminal was a representative from the excursion group who led us to the Mears bus.. It was now 9:15am!!!! Our luggage was put in the bus luggage compartment and we didn't worry about it again until Orlando Airport.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER This excursion was $75 per person but did include transportation to Orlando Airport. We had a guide with us who narrated on the way to the Space Center. Once there we had to go through a security screening where they asked you to put on your cell phones and camcorders to prove they were real. They also looked through all purses, backpack etc. Then it was off to look at the exact replica model of the Shuttle Explorer. You are able to go inside and see the cramped quarters the astronauts live in space. Being from Canada it was a thrill to see the Canada Arm. We then walked over to the Astronaut memorial, commemorating all those who have lost their lives in the name of Space exploration. They do not have a memorial for the last Shuttle disaster yet. Then we boarded a Kennedy Space Center bus for a tour around the launch pads, Vehicle Assembly Pad etc. Very interesting. Our next stop was the Firing Room where they re-create an actual Apollo launch. This was amazing right down to the sound of the rocket taking off. You then go into a hanger where they have the Saturn V rocket; this thing is bigger than big. Here they have a gift shop and the Moon Rock Café. It was then on to our final destination the IMAX theatre where we saw a 3D movie about the International Space Station. This was very cool. We then returned to our Mears bus an arrived at Orlando Airport for around 2 -2:15.
We had a wonderful time and hated to leave. The staff and crew of the Pride where always smiling and helpful. They always seemed to be cleaning even painting the outside of the ship in St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Next year we are planning an all inclusive in Mexico instead of a cruise (I know how could we even think of not cruising). I was looking forward to this but the cruising bug has bitten again and I don't know if we will make it to Mexico.
I didn't expect this review to be so long and I have probably forgotten to mention many things. Any questions please ask and I will do my best to answer them.
Be sure to check out the Capers, shore excursion list, shopping maps and pictures at: http://community.webshots.com/user/minnie64