May 10, 2003
My husband Bryan (he is 31 and is a newspaper sportswriter) and I (34, I do publications for Medicaid) sailed on Carnival Pride May 10-17, 2003. This was our second cruise - our first was on RCCL's Voyager of the Seas for our honeymoon in 2000.
We flew out of Raleigh, N.C., on Friday night. All the flights on Saturday were either too early or too late. We rented a car from Avis for $32 and a room at the Days Inn on McCoy Road (near Orlando airport) for $37. With the car we were able to go out to eat and pick up some bottled water and diet Dr. Pepper.
We had breakfast at the hotel and then headed for Port Canaveral around 10:00 a.m. The signs were very easy to follow. We dropped off our luggage at the port before returning the car. I had placed my bottled water in a trash bag and put a luggage tag on it - I also had used a magic marker to write our cabin number on the actual package just in case the bag was ripped. Returning the car was easy and so was catching the shuttle to the ship - no waiting at all.
We rode up the escalator in the terminal and Bryan said, "The lines aren't too bad." I said, "Well, we don't have to wait in any lines at all - we get to go to the Skippers Club!" We had received a free upgrade from an 8G to an 11 suite (midship) and I had kept it a secret from Bryan. We walked in and a nice lady greeted us, we sat down in comfy chairs and before we knew it we were waiting in line to board. From the time we got to the terminal til the time we boarded (11:20) was about 15 minutes. I had heard that you're not supposed to go to your cabin until 12:30 but no one had told us that - I don't know if it's because we had a suite or that the lady just forgot. So we decided to stop by and see if we could drop off our carry-on bag. The cabin was ready so we dropped our stuff and quickly checked it out. It was wonderful! Plenty of room, lots of storage, beautifully decorated, huge deck and even a VCR. We left to go grab some lunch from Mermaids - we enjoyed most of our lunches there throughout the week.
After lunch we explored the ship and took a tour of the spa. Then we stopped by the dining room to check out our table assignment. We had been assigned to a table for four so we asked if we could be switched. Someone told us to wait and we could meet with the maitre d. I have major TMJ (jaw) problems and I was worried that with a table of four I would feel like I had to talk, which would cause a lot of pain for me. We asked for a table for 2 but were also willing to have a table for 8 or more. We got our table for 2 and were very happy with it all week.
Then it was time to head back to the cabin - the Romance package that I had ordered was waiting on us. This was another surprise for my husband. It had champagne, glasses, visors, T-shirts, drink coupons, a photo coupon and a camera. It was well worth the $75. We put the champagne on ice, started unpacking and then it was time for the lifeboat drill. After the drill we sat on our balcony drinking our champagne as we sailed away. It was the perfect start to our vacation.
Our luggage arrived pretty early - but the water wasn't with it. I was afraid they had confiscated it. But an hour later we heard a thump and when I opened the door there was my water.
That night we had a meeting of the Cruise Critics. It was nice to finally be able to put a face with the names.
Key West: We were excited to visit Key West since neither of us had ever been. As soon as we stepped off the ship we realized that it was incredibly hot. The heat and humidity were so high that we only lasted a couple of hours - long enough to call our Mothers since it was Mother's Day, get a piece of Key Lime pie and a couple frosty drinks and check out Duval Street. Then we headed back to the ship. Most of the people we talked to said they couldn't stand it for long, either.
Belize: We booked cave tubing with Reggie's. It was only $65 a person, which is a big savings over Carnivals price ($85). There were a few large groups that had also booked with Reggie so he took us on the old school bus that he uses. We really enjoyed hearing about the history and culture of Belize - since our guides were natives they knew everything. The cave tubing was a lot of fun - but it was work, too. We had to paddle ourselves most of the way down the river. We saw a few bats and no spiders. Since we were right behind the Carnival groups the Carnival photographer and video guy got us on tape, too. The lunch afterwards at JB's was very good - stewed chicken, rice and beans, and fried plantains for $5. We got back to the ship about 30 minutes before the deadline. It was a long day but a good one.
Cozumel: We had several ideas of what we might do in Cozumel but we were still pretty tired from Belize. We had talked about Playa Sol but we just didn't feel like dealing with it. We got off the ship and looked around at the shops then got back on the ship and enjoyed the adult pool which was deserted. We left the ship again for a late lunch at Fat Tuesday's. They have an open-air bar with swings you can sit in with a view of the ship. We had fajitas and frozen drinks and had a great time.
Progresso: We didn't even get off the ship. We had heard there wasn't much to see and since we had our couples massage at 11:45 there just wasn't time.
Some people pick a cruise for the ship; others pick a cruise for the ports. We lean more towards picking it for the ship. We would probably love a cruise to nowhere.
We took a yoga class on Monday morning for $10 a person. I had always been curious about yoga so we thought it was a good opportunity. We felt a little awkward but overall enjoyed it.
We booked a couples massage for the day we were in Progresso - since Bryan had never had a massage I thought he would be more comfortable with me in the room. The treatments are cheaper on port days. They told us the rate was $99 a person but on port days it was 15% off. Then we got a "coupon" offering $30 off since we had taken a tour. The massage was great - we each had our own masseuse. Afterwards there was some confusion with the bill. The bill showed a price of $110 each and then they had taken the $30 off. This was still higher than we had estimated. Apparently they charged more, and took the $30 but not the port discount. They didn't really have a good explanation why the price was different but Bryan finally got them to adjust it.
We ate most of our breakfasts in Mermaids. There were plenty of tables with great ocean views. The food was basically the same every day except they would alternate oatmeal/pancakes with grits/french toast. The eggs seemed to be the instant fake kind. The omelets were great and pretty fast. You could ask for just eggs to be cooked by the omelet guy, too. They were much better. One morning we had a continental breakfast from room service and ate it on our balcony. The last morning we ate in the Normandie and wished we had done that more often.
Lunch was always good. We always ate in Mermaids. They had pizza (yummy), a deli, an Asian corner and a rotisserie every day. Then they had a station that changed each day (Mexican, Indian, American, etc.). Outside by the pool they cooked hotdogs, chicken and hamburgers to order.
Dinners were overall very good. We loved our waiter, Arnosh and our assistant, Maria. We ordered three entrees every night - when we didn't love our main entrée it was nice to have another option. I pigged out on rolls and butter. After the first two nights they started bringing us two dishes of butter. The last few nights (especially Thursday) the menu was not as good - we just didn't like the options as much as we did earlier. Although the things we ordered turned out to be good. We didn't go to David's but if we were interested then Thursday would be the night. My favorite desserts were the crème brulee and the soufflé - and I enjoyed the free cappuccino every night. Bryan really liked something he had called Decadence of Chocolate. On the last night there was somewhat of an awkward moment. All of our tips were on our sail and sign - we had chosen not to change them because we felt they deserved them, although the amounts were higher than we normally leave. On the last night we noticed that all the tables around us were giving the waiters "a little something extra". We felt like we needed to do that too so we gave them about $7 each. We probably shouldn't have felt pressured - it just really caught us off guard.
Room Service was incredibly fast. We ordered cookies, brownies and milk one night and they were knocking on our door three minutes later! We ordered some sandwiches one afternoon and they were there in five minutes.
The cookies that they always had in Mermaids and from room service were great - especially the shortbread with walnuts kind.
We spent most of our pool time at the adults-only pool. It was much quieter since there wasn't a band playing and it was nice to not be splashed by the kids. The main pool was so loud - the band just seemed to be blasting. Of course some days the adult pool had noise - there was some repair work being done on the floorboards and the equipment they were using was loud.
Chair saving was bad on sea days as others have said. The first sea day I couldn't find two chairs together. I finally found two pretty close together and then someone left so it worked out. Some of those chairs never had anyone in them. We took our own cheapo towels - we didn't want to have to worry about Carnival's towels and it was easier to find our chairs since our towels were different.
The topless deck was apparently pretty popular. I didn't go up there until the last day - there were just too many steps for me (I have a bad knee). Bryan went up there a few times and reported lots of interesting stories.
The casino was a favorite spot of ours. We were in there every day - usually several times. We both like blackjack and Bryan likes Let it Ride. The first night I won $110 but after that the luck was not as good. We are used to playing in Vegas and the majority of the people on the ship probably hadn't played much before - it was painful to watch someone split a pair of 10s or not hit a 12 against a dealers 9. All the books say that it really doesn't matter what the other players do but that's not always easy to remember.
This was much easier than we expected. They had a talk with the cruise director on the last day but we didn't stay the whole time - it was boring. We watched it on TV later that day while we were packing. They give you all the info in writing anyway. Our color was blue - and since it was also the color given to those taking post-cruise tours I thought we'd be off early. Sure enough while we were eating breakfast they called our color first. We took our time eating since our flight didn't leave until 1 p.m. We walked off at 9 a.m. and since we were the last in our group we didn't have to search for our luggage. We caught the Mears shuttle back to the airport with no problems.
We really enjoyed this cruise. We'd cruise Carnival again. There are some things Carnival does better and some things that Royal Caribbean does better. The food was better on Royal, the staff was better on Carnival. The types of people are pretty different too - but that makes it fun. Carnival is definitely cheaper. I was all ready to book another cruise for next year - until we added up all the costs. It really can add up. Our sail-and-sign bill was very small. But when you add in the airfare, sail and sign, gambling, souvenirs, excursions, etc. it's kind of scary! Maybe the year after next we'll get to go again.
Any questions - just ask!