Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Pride
Sailing Date: March 5th, 2006
Itinerary: Mexican Riviera
Carnival Cruise Lines
7 day Mexican Riviera
This was our 4th cruise with Carnival. We previously have
sailed on the Ecstasy and the Fascination, which are the older (but well
maintained) “Fantasy-class” ships. I will make comparisons to them throughout
this review. We were sailing with my wife’s parents this trip, which added to
some doubt we already had about taking this week-long cruise, vs. a shorter
cruise. Since my wife’s parents both qualify for senior citizen rates, we split
the men and women into separate cabins when making the reservation, which saved
us a bundle. We also reserved category 11 cabins, which come with “Skipper’s
club” privileges, allowing us to bypass the long lines when boarding the ship.
The ship – Compared to the Fantasy-class ships, the Pride was a step up, although the basic layout is very similar. Overall the ship seemed taller and faster but that may just be perception. There appears to be far more balcony cabins on the Pride vs. the Fantasy-class ships, which may be one of the biggest differences. As usual for Carnival ships, everything is well maintained and clean. Many of the reviews mentioned the nude art all around. It is very tastefully implemented, however, if you’re concerned about giving your children a complex then maybe Disney Cruise Lines is for you instead. On the subject of children, the “Camp Carnival” staff did a stellar job at making the kids virtually invisible. They also have a modern, roomy video game room, unlike the cramped, outdated ones on the Fantasy-class ships. The rear deck pool/hot-tub and topless decks are reserved for adults, and there was a security guard present most of the time to enforce the policy. BRAVO! The casino seemed larger than on the Fantasy-class ships but didn’t appear to be any looser. They have a late night disco that really came alive on one of the first few nights. Many of the ships crew showed up, and some were wearing the “zoot suits” from one of the shows, which was fun to see. On our cruise the water slide was closed for some reason, which probably disappointed many kids.
The cabins – As I mentioned, we reserved category 11 cabins. The cabins were slightly smaller than the cat. 11 cabins on the Fantasy-class ships, but more modern, especially the bathrooms, which were far better, with a larger Jacuzzi-type tub/shower, and 2 sinks. The bathroom also had storage under the sinks, unlike on the Fantasy-class vessels. Our cabins were located beside each other at the rear corner of deck 5. There was a privacy divider between the balconies, which can be opened by making a request at the purser’s desk. The balcony on our side cabin was of average size, however the one at the rear of the ship was huge. The cabin next to ours, was occupied by smokers, who left their balcony door propped open with a chair for the entire cruise. I believe they did this because they were smoking pot as well as cigarettes. Unfortunately, keeping the door wedged open was venting the smoke back into the hallway rather than out to sea. It wasn’t getting into our cabin thankfully. Be aware that there is only one 120 volt outlet in the entire cabin, and bring a multi-outlet extension cord along if needed. Be sure to seek out the channel on the television which shows the continually updating position of the ship. It is also useful for telling the time, which changes twice during the cruise due to crossing time zones. They do not provide a clock in the cabins. The ship uses advanced submerged electric motors for propulsion. The technology seems to have a ways to go as cabins at the rear of the ship suffer considerable vibration. The towel animals were dancing to the vibration most nights.
Dining – Unlike the Fantasy-class ships, the Pride has only one main dining room. As a caveat, they had “David’s”, located under the red windows at the front of the funnel. This restaurant costs extra, and requires reservations. On our cruise they warned about reservations filling up but it didn’t seem to be an issue from what we could tell. We had dinner there on one of the Mexico in-port nights and were nearly the only people in there. The big porterhouse (24 ounces?) was my choice, and was good enough that I almost finished it. Later I heard that the cruise director would give you a “ship on a stick” (trophy) if you could finish it (not sure if that was true). Be sure to check out the glass stairs! The main dining room (Normandie) is nice enough. The dinners are exactly the same as on the Fantasy-class ships, although by my experience the wait staff is younger, less experienced, and perhaps spread a bit thinner. I would say that our dining experience was better on the Fantasy-class vessels, however it was still good on the Pride. For breakfast and lunch we ate at the buffet. This was pretty much identical to the Fantasy-class ships, although the deli was a bit improved on the Pride. We ate lunch in the main dining room one day, and like with the Fantasy-class ships, it was no better than the buffet. Note: there are two formal nights on this seven-day cruise.
Entertainment – We checked out all 3 of the production shows. The first show “Wonderful World”, was very entertaining. The second show “Swing Time”, failed to deliver the promised “swing” music, or anything else worth our time, and we walked out half way through and went to the casino. We noticed other people were bailing from the show as well, so I don’t believe it was just us. The last show “Vroom” was again very entertaining. BTW, don’t expect a Las Vegas level of sophistication from the shows and you won’t be disappointed. This is a cruise ship, not Luxor. As with our previous cruises, they had the “newlywed – not so newlywed” game, always a hoot. Many people enjoy the on-deck participation games, such as the “hairy chest contest”, etc. We haven’t ever checked them out, however by the replays on the cabin television they all look fun. The bingo seemed unusually popular on this cruise, perhaps due to all the days at sea. I caught some of the comedian, and he seemed pretty amusing during his late night adult show but less-so in his G-rated afternoon appearance.
Puerto Vallarta – We booked a snorkel excursion to Yelapa. The boat was crewed by several macho young men who entertained the guests, almost too enthusiastically, with prepared dance routines, to overly loud music. This was OK once we figured out what their plan was. A light breakfast was served. The snorkeling was decent with plenty of colorful fish but little or no coral in sight. They served us a light lunch. Almost everyone ate it but I stuck with the packaged crackers rather than risk intestinal issues. We proceeded to Yelapa, where several options were available. The one we chose was to take a “short” walk to a waterfall. The walk was mostly uphill through the town past many vendors. Happily the vendors were not pushy. The waterfall was underwhelming (dry season according to the guide), however the walk afforded an interesting view into a remote pre-automobile fishing community. Before departing we spent some time at one of the beach-side destinations. Food and beverages were available for purchase. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the exchange rate between Dollars and Pesos. We saw a couple purchase the seafood-platter-for-two, which looked and smelled spectacular. Stray cats were begging for samples (no joke). We saw a variety of interesting sea-life during the excursion, including a whale, a giant ray, numerous smaller rays, sea urchins, crabs, and many interesting fish. The return trip featured more entertainment, along with a choice of intoxicating beverages.
Mazatlan – We chose a bus tour of Mazatlan at this destination. The tour included several stops for either shopping or photo-ops. The tour guide was hard to understand, and by the half way mark, It was no longer worth the investment of concentration to try to decipher her English. There are many interesting statues along the waterfront but the bus goes by too fast to get pictures. One stop featured cliff-divers, whose daring exploits prompted requests for tips. Be prepared with small bills. We noticed that many people ended out their day at the bars next to the dock. Probably not a bad idea considering the price of the weak drinks on the ship.
Cabo San Lucas – The ship does not dock here but rather anchors offshore, and tenders (small boats) carry passengers to-and-from the ship. Passengers with early excursions are allowed off much earlier than those without. We chose to simply go ashore late in the morning, walk through the town, and do some shopping. Cabo seemed very “American” for a town in Mexico. It appeared that for tequila fans, Cabo is Mecca. One store had more than a hundred different tequila brands. I’m sure if we had done some research beforehand, we could have made more of our visit.
Days at sea – We thought that boredom would be a problem on the sea days but it wasn’t. There is actually much available to do on the ship. It seems that many people like to just lie out in the sun, which is certainly a great way to spend a few hours. The ship “newspaper”, “Carnival Capers”, appears in your cabin every evening, and is a good place to check out what is coming up the next day. Apparently March is whale migration season for the Baja coast, and whales could be seen breaching on most days while at sea. For a closer view, there are whale watching excursions available. The seas started getting rough on the final leg of the cruise between Cabo and Los Angeles. The morning of the last day was cooler, however with the sun still out things were acceptable, so long as you kept out of the wind. By afternoon things clouded up and got even rougher and windier. The crew roped off all the forward exterior areas due to danger from the high winds. Things seemed to get worse through the day but they maintained 22 knots (top cruising speed for the Pride), presumably necessary to make it back to Los Angeles by morning. We went to dinner but nobody ate much, and we left before the waiters danced. Over night the ship seemed to be porpoising heavily, making me wonder if they had increased speed even more.
Final notes – After the last day at sea, we were glad to be back to Los Angeles. People with flights before 2:00 PM are given special color tags for their luggage. This is intended to allow them off the ship first. Unfortunately many people ignore the instructions and get off early, causing delays for the people with early flights. Those people that attempt to leave early can proceed through customs, but wind up waiting a long time standing in a corral at the cruise terminal, as their luggage has not been brought out yet. The early-flight people then get to walk past them and laugh. This exact same thing happened 2 years ago when we cruised out of the Long Beach terminal. Perhaps something Carnival needs to work on.