by Judy Best
October 22, 2006
Here's our review of the Carnival Pride, sailing 7-nights roundtrip from Long Beach with a rerouted itinerary (due to the brief Hurricane Paul) to Ensenada, San Diego, and Catalina Island.
We flew into Los Angeles a day early on an uneventful flight on American Airlines. Thanks to one of our online friends, JR, who gave us a ride from LAX to Long Beach. We checked into the beautiful Coastal Hotel in Long Beach. This was a nice hotel in close proximity to the bay and the Passport shuttle, as well as a view of the Queen Mary. Another of our online friends, Stacey, had a larger room in Building 1 with high ceilings and a great view of the bay.
We all caught the Passport shuttle to the Yardhouse, where we had reserved the party room for our group of 34! The Passport shuttle picked us up right in the Coastal parking lot. The bus driver explained where we needed to change to another shuttle to reach our destination. We walked off one shuttle and right on the next one. This shuttle service was free and easy! Unfortunately, the Yardhouse wasn't prepared to handle a group our size. Service was a disaster, and most of our group left this meal very unhappy. This would probably be an okay place to eat for individuals, but not a large group.
Several in our group were also staying at the Marriott, which they reported had excellent accommodations and also easy access to the Passport shuttle. Some of the group stayed on the Queen Mary, where there were reports of no air conditioning and dirty rooms.
Since our body clocks were still on Central time, we awoke early on Sunday morning and decided to go to the Coastal Hotel restaurant to watch the Carnival Pride arrive in port. The restaurant didn't officially open until 6 a.m., but the coffee was ready while they finished preparing for the breakfast crowd. We sipped coffee, checking our email on our wireless laptop, while watching for the ship to come in. We were so excited to see the Carnival Pride slipping into view in the fog from around the back of the Queen Mary about 6:15 a.m.
We all got ready and headed over to the Queen Mary for the early check-in. The porters were still helping the previous guests disembark when we arrived at 8:30 a.m., so they asked us to wait for about 15 minutes. They took our piles of luggage, and we all walked briefly over to the Queen Mary for the early check-in. We had a nice breakfast on the Queen Mary, where they had a nice breakfast buffet for about $10 per person. We stayed there visiting with our smaller group of about 12 until about 11 a.m., when we went to the ship terminal to prepare to board the ship.
One sign indicated the line for the VIP guests, and another sign indicated the line for the Group 1 folks who had done the early check-in at the Queen Mary. The wheelchair folks also entered with the VIP guests. There was very little shade, so remember your sunscreen, hat, and shades! But, we love waiting to board the ship, and we started meeting our fellow guests as we waited to board. A third line was also formed for the guests arriving who had not done early check-in. At about Noon, the VIP guests were escorted onboard, and then the wheelchairs folks were next. Our line of early check-in folks was next, and we were suddenly aboard the beautiful Carnival Pride.
After the muster drill, our group met up on the Lido aft Poseidon bar for sailaway. Along the way, a few others joined us as well. Several of the men in our group have shaved heads, and one of our new friends, Doug (& Stacy), chose to go immediately to the salon to shave his head as well!
We had booked an Inside 4A guarantee stateroom, and we were upgraded to a Inside 4D stateroom on the Verandah deck. We had plenty of room and storage space for the two of us, and we had brought a clock/radio to provide us with a little light at night as well as the time. Our cabin steward, Henri, kept our cabin in great shape!
We were booked for second seating dining, with a nice table in the center of the lower level. We had linked a group with several individual reservations for dining, but Carnival failed to get the individual reservations together for dining. Our maitre d', Yusef, arranged for these individuals to sit together at a nearby table.
The dining menus had changed since our last Carnival cruise. The Chocolate Melting cake was on the menu almost every night, and our group loved it! The Grand Marnier was wonderful! Our servers were Alex and Alvin from the Philippines, and they provided us with marvelous service with great personalities. The chef, Leonard, and Yusef stopped by our table almost every night.
Formal nights were Monday and Friday. Roger and I ate in David's Supper Club on Monday night. Roger had the Porterhouse, and I had the Surf ‘n Turf. The food and service was marvelous. The musicians playing in the Supper Club were pitiful!
Thursday night was the night designated for the Halloween celebration for our cruise, so our group decided to dress for dinner that night in togas (bedsheets from our stewards) and/or Carnival robes. It was great fun! Lots of folks had brought costumes from home, and others also dressed in togas. The photogs were set-up to take pictures, so we all posed for several Toga pictures!
We had a letter on our beds as we arrived in our staterooms, informing us that they were tracking Tropical Depression Paul and would advise us further if changes were necessary. So, Paul was hanging over us, and when Paul was upgraded to a hurricane and slowed down right in our path, the captain and officers made the decision to revise our itinerary from Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas to Ensenada, San Diego, and Catalina Island. While we understood the need to revise our itinerary for our safety, the revised itinerary was not exciting. Lots of folks took advantage of Carnival's Vacation Guarantee, disembarking in Ensenada.
Everyone in our group stayed, and we made the best of it, enjoying the ship and visiting these ports. In Ensenada, we took a bus roundtrip from the ship to the town for $3 per person. We shopped and then enjoyed drinks and lunch at a local restaurant. In San Diego, we took free shuttle buses to the Seaport Village, then back to the ship, where we grabbed a great meal at Anthony's right next to the ship. In Catalina Island, we visited the stores, then had a nice Mexican lunch at Coyote Joe's.
Lots of folks used the Internet café this week, sending messages about the itinerary change and weather back home. The slide was a popular attraction. We enjoyed sunning on the aft Lido deck, but one day we had black soot falling on us from the funnels … that was a first!
We personally didn't enjoy the musicians or the comedians on this trip. The magician was humorous. We didn't make the Broadway shows. The karaoke was entertaining. The pianist and classical musicians were good, but we were looking for good dance music.
We enjoyed sushi every evening, but we had to go into the nearby Sports bar or the Casino bar for drink service, so we ended up taking our sushi to the casino bar each evening. We saw the set-up for high tea most days at 3 p.m., but we never joined it. We ate pizza in the buffet when we first boarded the ship, but never ate in the buffet the rest of the trip. We ate breakfast in the dining room every morning, with wonderful service, and interesting conversation with a variety of guests.
We were disappointed with the hors d'oeurves at both the Captain's Party on Monday evening and the past guest party. They were only serving a couple of items this time. However, friends who are members of the Carnival Vacation Club invited us to join them at a Vacation Club cocktail party where we had wonderful drinks and hors d'oeurves. This was also a much smaller group in a smaller venue, so many of the ship's officers joined us, and we had some wonderful visits.
Wee Jimmy is the cruise director of this ship until November 5th, then he's off to his next assignment. He's really an assistant cruise director, filling in for cruise directors in transit, until he gets the promotion. While I didn't love his style in the shows, we enjoyed a couple of wonderful visits with him in smaller groups, where we thoroughly enjoyed him. We hope he does well with Carnival!
Since we went through customs the morning we were in San Diego, we had a very easy disembarkation. An interesting change on this cruise was a comedy show from 8 to 10 a.m. on disembarkation morning in the Taj Mahal lounge. We had to get off early, so we didn't experience it. Many of our group had VIP disembarkation, and the rest of us got gray tags for early disembarkation. Unfortunately, many of the bags were put in with the colors of the deck where they were picked up, even though they had gray or VIP tags on them, so our group nervously waited as their bags were finally located almost an hour later!
We had reserved PrimeTime shuttles for our group to get back to LAX, where we were on standby, but ended up getting home at the time we had originally scheduled.
You can check out our pictures at this link shortly: http://community.webshots.com/user/judyjbest .