June 28, 2003
Embarkation was very smooth. We live 30 minutes from Pt Canaveral so my husband, my son (18), daughter (15) and mother piled our luggage into the van and set out on our wonderful adventure! The Carnival Pride looked beautiful and huge as we approached the port. Within minutes we were checked in and headed to our cabins where we left our carry on luggage before going up to the Lido deck and the Mermaid's Grill for our first meal on board. The ship is magnificent. The public rooms are elegant and comfortable.. The cabins are spacious and well designed. This is our second cruise on Carnival (the best cruise line!) and we had a balcony! This is the best way to travel.
The first evening we had a casually elegant dinner in the beautiful Normandie Restaurant. Our waiters were Dominic and Nataljia. They took care of us as if we were royalty. Dominic made recommendations for dinner every evening and boy was he correct! Every meal we had on board was a gourmet's delight. Nataljia was the "fisher woman" as Dominic called her. She selected all the seafood for us and is the best at selecting the juiciest, and plump lobsters! I can honestly tell you every meal that we had in the Normandie was delicious and beautiful. We had all our dinners in this restaurant and as the week passed we decided to have breakfast and lunch there also. I liked being waited on. I can recommend the grouper, tilapia, filet mignon, lobster, and beef Wellington. I loved the chilled gazpacho and vichyssoise. For dessert, try the chocolate decadence, crème brulee, and tiramisu. I was on Carnival last year and was disappointed with their desserts - believe me when I tell you the desserts on this trip were very well prepared. I had a hot lentil soup in the dining room one day at lunch that was divine and the American navy bean soup on the 4th of July was to die for. Order the eggs benedict with grits for breakfast - you will not be disappointed. I now regret not having tried more meals at the Mermaid's grill - my children assure me they were delicious. This is where they ate most of their lunches (we required them to sit with us at the evening meal). My 15 year old daughter tells me the Asian line was delicious. We had cheeseburgers from the grill poolside one day and thoroughly loved them.
After dinner (late seating) we usually headed to the Taj Mahal for after dinner bingo and the show. The entertainment was truly exceptional. The pride dancers are wonderful, the singers were very professional, and the comedians were really hysterical. I can't remember when I laughed so hard. After the show we went to the casino and then to the Beauties night club for dancing. Then it was up to the Lido deck for a slice of pizza (available 24 hrs) and ice cream or frozen yogurt with toppings.
The ship has activities for everyone to enjoy. The Carnival Spa, activities and games on deck, and classes offered were interesting and informative as well as fun. High Tea while listening to classical music was served in the Florentine lounge on the last two days at sea - don't miss this activity - you will feel like royalty.
Half Moon Cay was a fun day at the beach. We rented snorkeling equipment and spent the day swimming and sunning on this beautiful island. We visited and thoroughly enjoyed our visit to St Thomas. We took a taxi at the port and met Conrad, our driver. He took us all around the island answering our questions and showing us many interesting places. He left us (after 2 hours) in the center of town where we went to do some serious shopping. We had lunch at an open air café in town - Café Amici. You will love this place - check it out. We are very independent and adventurous so we did not book tours - we like to do our own - and you save a lot of money this way. In fact, when comparing notes with passengers who took the organized tours, we found we had seen more and learned more than they had for a better price. In St Maarten/St Martin we took the water taxi ($5 per person round trip) from the port into Phillipsburg. We went for Guavaberry coladas - don't miss this place - and buy a hand painted bottle of the liquor to display on your bar at home. The hot sauces and BBQ sauce are delicious too. After walking around for a while and buying a few souvenirs, my husband and children decided to take a cab to Orient Beach while my mother and I took a taxi to Marigot (French side). In Marigot we shopped for perfume and makeup and went to lunch at the marina at the most delicious open air French café La Belle Epoque. I loved speaking French with the employees and other restaurant patrons. This outing was fun and educational for me. Upon our return to the ship (we took the water taxi back as the $5 includes the return trip) my husband and children reported that their beach trip had been just as successful as our trip to Marigot - everyone was still happy and we now had two days left to enjoy our Carnival Pride at Sea.
My teenagers had a fabulous time. They met lots of kids their age and enjoyed doing what kids their age like to do - stay up late and hang out with their friends. Carnival provides a late night teen disco for kids to "hook up". We would often run into our teens late at night having pizza and ice cream on the Lido deck after dancing. The younger kids with Camp Carnival seemed to be having a great time also.
My advice to you - go with an open mind and positive attitude. Our family agreed before the trip that we would be tolerant and patient with each other and others. I think it worked! We had no major problems or complaints. Yes, the islands are poor, their customs are different, but if you want perfection and an artificial vacation - visit Disney World (which, by the way, is a great vacation spot also). Don't complain about little things like the food - if you don't like the way a dish is prepared, ask for something else, and there is always the grill where you can get burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and philly steak with all the trimmings if you do not like the more sophisticated fare in the restaurant. And don't forget the 24 hr pizza and calzones!! You won't go hungry on this ship.
Enjoy the elegance of the ship. Admire the décor (the chandeliers and wall sconces are breathtaking) and the art work on ship. Check out the lace window treatments in the Florentine Lounge on deck 2. Look at the wall decorations in the Taj Mahal show lounge - small geometric shapes of different colored mirrors and crystals that catch the lights. Explore the chapel and internet café - every detail is perfect! This ship is opulent.
I must also tell you that our cruise director Michael, and his wife, Jenny are a terrific and entertaining couple. You will laugh so hard at their antics and will feel they are your friends by the time you get of the ship. Jessica (the bingo girl) is intelligent, has a great personality, and is adorable. Get involved, participate in activities, keep an open mind, and go out of your way to meet people and socialize. You will have a terrific time on Carnival. I have not cruised with another cruise line and I don't think I want to. Carnival is so fun I don't think it can get any better than this!!!!