by Kurt Ernstsen
May 30, 2004
I wanted to post a link to the pictures of our latest cruise on Carnival Pride, as well as a quick review of our cruise vacation.
The pictures are located at http://www.ernstech.com/gallery/cruise04 and contain pictures of both our stay in Puerto Vallarta and the cruise ship. Why both you ask? Read on.
To start off, I want to stress the following two points that all cruisers need to seriously consider:
That being said, I'm sure you see where this review is heading. I had not purchased any sort of travel insurance, and I was flying the day the cruise was supposed to leave port. Our cruise on Carnival Pride left Long Beach at 4:00pm Sunday May 30th. Our airplane was scheduled to depart Tulsa at 7:48am Sunday morning and go through Dallas and onto Orange County. The flight out of Tulsa was delayed due to a mechanical problem, brakes didn't work. American airlines began the process of re-routing passengers on other flights and some on other airlines. When I got to the front of the line they put my family (wife, 3 year old daughter, and I) on a flight through Chicago which would arrive in Orange County at about 1:30pm, no problem there. The flight took off at 8:30am, Tulsa time.
The captain announced several times during the flight that we were probably going to be in a holding patter due to weather in Chicago, we started to get concerned. At about 1:00pm the captain of the plane announced that we were going to land in Des Moines Iowa to refuel. At this point I was very concerned. Upon landing I called Carnival, they were no help. I called our travel agent, BuyCruises.Com, and he immediately got American Airlines on the phone and started explaining the situation to them. Our only saving grace to all this was that the first leg of the flight was delayed due to a "mechanical", which is under the control of the airlines, weather is not. I had to part from this gripping "discussion" since we were getting ready to take off again. I told the travel agent I'd call him back as soon as we landed in Chicago to see what the verdict was.
After sitting on the runway another hour in Iowa, and after the short 45 minute to an hour flight to Chiago, we were finally there sometime around 3:30pm Central time. We had not eaten all day, the plane had no food (American doesn't even server peanuts to coach passengers), but luckily we had packed a few snacks for the 3 year old that the 3 of us shared. I call Todd our agent at BuyCruises.com and he had some good news and bad news. Bad news was we were going to miss the ship (we pretty much figured that already). Good new was that American agreed to pay for us to fly to Puerto Vallarta and meet the ship at its first port. The flight left early the next morning. The rep also made all arrangements with Carnival for us to board the ship in Puerto Vallarta.
To keep this story short, we then found out our luggage was lost and American gave us an 800 number to call. We got a room for the night in Chicago and went to eat, we were VERY hungry at that point. We later found out our luggage was in Orange County waiting on us. The baggage rep had the bags re-routed to Puerto Vallarta the next day and they arrived an hour after we did. The next morning we got up early, wearing the same clothes we had on the day before, hopped a plane to Puerto Vallarta. American was nice enough, after more heated discussion, to fly us first class from Dallas (our connecting city) to Puerto Vallarta because they had seats available.
We arrived in Puerto Vallarta and were greeted by a rep from the Marriott CasaMagna (booked the night before via expedia.com from the hotel in Chicago). We explained our situation with the baggage and the rep allowed us to sit in her office there at the airport and wait, avoiding the constant badgering from time-share salesmen the other travelers were enduring. When the bags arrived an hour later the rep handled all the details of getting them for us, getting the through customs and all that. Then put us on a transfer to the hotel.
We spent two nights at the hotel right on the beach in Puerto Vallarta. It was a wonderful hotel, and we all (especially my 3 year old daughter) enjoyed the pool and playing on the beach. We never left the hotel, as they had everything we needed right there. The swim up bar in the pool was my favorite.
Wednesday morning we got up, packed, and got a taxi to the ship. It was already there as I didn't account for the time differences. Port security hand searched our luggage, not a big deal as we understood the complications with getting on the boat in a foreign port. We got on the ship right in the middle of the crew life boat drill so it was a bit crazy at first. We were asked to leave our luggage there at the security station on the ship and it would be delivered. We went up to the Pursers desk to get our sail and sign cards. Everything went fine and we were up to our room in no time. We went and ate on board, and when we were done our bags were in our room.
The rest of the cruise went off without a hitch and we had a great time. After telling our story many times we came to the realization that we ended up having a better vacation than most people on the ship. Weather the first two days of the cruise wasn't that great, and swimming on the ship was out of the question most of the time. We were able to bask in the sun and swim for two days straight in a huge pool and on the beach.
To put the icing on the cake, on the flight home, American Airlines lost our stroller somewhere between Dallas and Tulsa. We gate checked it, but I don't think it ever made it on the plane. The next day we got a call and they delivered it to me at work. At that point I just had to laugh.
Now the review of the ship. This was our second cruise, the last was three years ago on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas. We went into this knowing the ship was smaller, but that there were many things that Carnival did better than Royal (food, kids program, etc.). I went with the expectation that this would not be as nice of a ship as the Explorer, but I was there to have fun no matter what, and we all did. Carnival Pride is a very nice ship. Very modern, clean, and with all the amenities that most modern ships have. The décor was, as they say, very Vegas-like. Nothing wrong with that, it looked nice but was a bit over the top for me. We had a category 11 suite and it was very nice, but not as big as I had expected. I do not think that Carnival rooms are any bigger than similar class rooms on other lines, in fact I thin our suite (Cat C at the time) on the Explorer was bigger. But that's been 3 years, so I'm not positive.
My daughter loved the kids camp, they have wonderful people working there and lots of activities for the kids. She has already asked when our next cruise will be, so I think she's hooked already. Carnival does an excellent job with the kids in this respect.
My biggest complaints about Carnival are the availability of food and port days. We found it hard to find anywhere on the ship that served food outside the normal dining times. There were 2 or 3 hour blocks for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight buffet, but out side that your only option was pizza. Don't get me wrong, the pizza is excellent, but you get real tired of pizza for snacks in between meals or at night. I remember on Royal that there was always part of the buffet open at all hours of the day. The other gripe was that when the ship was in port, everything on the ship shuts down. The buffet times were less, only one pool was open, slide was closed, etc. I even had a hard time finding an open bar one day. I understand that shops and casino would be closed, but everything else is was got me. We are not one to sail for the ports, as we don't enjoy the constant "no thank you , no thanks, no gracias" we have to spout while walking through town. This time we took our daughter, and I was very apprehensive about taking her ashore in these towns as well. We did shop a bit in Cabo, but only for about an hour.
One other thing I want to mention is the rocking motion on this ship. We had cabin 8266, furthest aft on the port side of the ship, top deck. There was a constant "cavitation" in the room, more so when we were at sea. The worst was on the last night at sea, this was the only night it actually kept me up for any amount of time. We got used to it, but it was a bit annoying at times. Also, the rocking of the ship was pretty bad. Good thing none of us are prone to sea-sickness. I don't remember the Explorer rocking except one evening while on the eastern side of the Caribbean island, where the ocean is typically rougher. On the Pride, anytime we were at sea, it was rocking, to the point you thought you were going to fall out of bed at night. One day at lunch the ketchup bottle was sliding back and forth on the table about an inch or two each way. It was funny to watch. The point I'm trying to make is that we NEVER felt this on the Explorer, so I'm not sure if it has to do with the size of the ship or what, but we definitely felt it. Needless to say, the two days after we got off the ship were quite amusing with the typical "why is my living room rocking" effect.
To compare the two ships (Explorer vs. Pride) is like comparing apples to oranges, it just wouldn't be fair. Both my wife and I agree though, that our time aboard the Explorer was a better vacation than on the Pride. Again, I want to stress that we hade a GREAT vacation this time, and I have no reservations about the trip at all, even with the problems to start the trip off with. It ended up making it a better trip anyway. I just think that for the same money, we got a bit more service and pampering from Royal Caribbean three years ago on that vacation. We also noted that when we disembarked the Explorer, the only thing that allowed us to get off that ship was that we missed our baby at home (9 months at the time), if we had her with us I would have probably paid to say on the ship another week. This time, with our "baby" with us, we were ready to come home at the end of the trip. I guess it just wasn't as "over the top" in excellence as the Explorer was. This is not to say we will never sail Carnival again, it all depends on what we are looking for at the time. Again, we had a great time on this ship, and 100% enjoyed our vacation.
One other thing I'd like to add, and kudos to Carnival for this one, Carnival gave us a voucher while onboard that was 50% of the unused portion of our cruise, good toward a future carnival cruise within the next 18 months. I thought that was very nice of them. Not sure if we'll use it or not, but the gesture was a nice one anyway.
Well, so much for "quick" wasn't it. I just wanted to tell you all of our excitement on this trip, and give a little info about the ship. Again, there's a link at the beginning of this for some pictures from the trip. I hope you all enjoy the pictures. Feel free to email me any questions about the trip, I will do my best to answer anything you send my way.