Number of Cruises: 9
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Pride
Sailing Date: October 3rd, 2006
Itinerary: Mexican Riviera
Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Pride Cruise Review
This cruise was our 9th, and was our first
one that left from the West Coast (Long Beach, California) to the Mexican
Riviera with stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. This was
our big 20th anniversary cruise, and we renewed our vows on-board the ship’s
Since we flew from New York, we left a day early and arrived at LAX on Saturday, December 2nd where we took the blue shuttle ($17 per person and a 30 minute ride) to our overnight hotel the famous Queen Mary. The Queen Mary is now a hotel/restaurant that is docked right next door to Carnival’s Long Beach Cruise terminal. This famous “Grey Ghost” had a nice overnight hotel package for $198 per room which included breakfast for two the next morning. That night, we took the famous Haunted Ghost tour, which took you to the bowels of the ship on a guided walking tour which included stories of the ghosts that continue to haunt the ship today. The ship is an historic museum in itself, and a nice place to bunk down to get you ready for your 7 day cruise that left the next day.
Overall Experience – The reason we booked this cruise and itinerary was because it had only 3 stops in 7 days, and the first 2.5 days were sea days. These sea days gave us the opportunity to fall in love with our ship, get the flow of activities and feel of the ship’s staff, and it really put us in the vacation mode. The last cruise day was also a sea day, and it gave us an opportunity to relax and wind down from 3 port days that were filled with bumper to bumper excursions. Formal nights were Monday and Friday evening, and I have to say this West Coast crowd was out to impress. Most men were in black tie both formal nights, and evening gowns were the choice of most of the ladies.
We felt really special, since we renewed our wedding vows in the ship’s wedding chapel on the evening of our first formal night. Carnival assigned us a “wedding planner” who took care of all details the first evening we sailed. The Ship’s Captain led the ceremony that included a wedding cake, champagne toast, and the use of a professional shipboard photographer to document the 15 minute long event. You could purchase as many of these pictures as you wanted, with no real pressure to over spend. Carnival offers a number of wedding vow renewal packages, and ours cost $395 which we had to pay in advance of the cruise, and we felt it was worth it. Wedding vow renewals are becoming a popular activity, and our wedding planner told us she plans 2-3 wedding vow renewals for each 7 day cruise.
Embarkation – Early check in started at 9:30 AM in the aft stern of the Queen Mary. As long as you had all your paperwork filled out in advance, and you completed the online Carnival fun ship application (which includes posting your itinerary and passport information), this check in lasted less than 15 minutes. Since we were staying on the Queen Mary, we went back there for breakfast and a noon check out. The Queen Mary staff took all our baggage from there to the porters at the Carnival terminal. Be prepared to have dollar bills to tip these porters at least $1 per bag, more if your person is friendly. Knowing this tipping game in advance lowers your stress before the boarding the ship. Now the wait begins as you stand on this long check in line (out in the hot sun) which security finally opened at 12:30 PM. VIP’s check in first through their own line with 2 x-rays scanners. The regular folks like us took over an hour to weed our way through the line to filter through 1 x-ray scanner. Our stress was finally relieved as we finished going through security, took our embarkation picture and walked on-board at approximately 1:30 PM. Overall Rating 4 out of 10.
Cabin – We had cabin 8193, outside balcony, mid-ship, starboard side, the highest level of balcony rooms. We were traveling with 2 other couples and they had cabins 8195, and 8197. We decided to call the purser’s desk to have our balcony privacy doors opened so we could stroll among the 3 balcony areas which made partying together very convenient. The cabin itself had a plenty of room including a queen size bed, sofa, table and plenty of closet space for all our clothes. We were able to store our entire luggage below our bed. The bathroom was tiny, but big enough for full stand up shower, toilet, sink and vanity. The room had a TV with satellite channels, plus a few movie channels. The room location was the best part, as it was just one deck below the Lido Deck where all the buffets, pool, spa and gym were. Rating, 9 out 10.
Ship Décor – If you like gaudy and bold, then the Carnival Pride is the ship for you. The décor can be described as Italian chic, with bold colors, nude statues, marble tile, twinkle lights, and more. We personally loved it, but I am sure others found it obnoxious. The ship has some beautiful lounges that you have to find on your own. Our only complaint was that there were not enough smoke free lounges. The main lounge, the Taj Mahal was smoke free, but most of the others were not, including the piano bar, sports bar, etc. Rating, 5 out of 10 (due to the lack of more smoke free lounges).
Dining – Everyday we ate breakfast and lunch at the Lido Deck buffets. There were 6 different buffet stations there including Chinese, NY Deli, salad bar, dessert bar, 24 hour pizzeria, carving station, seafood station, and a hamburger/hot dog/steak station. You can also get coffee, tea, hot chocolate, iced tea, orange/apple/guava juice, and soft ice cream 24 hours a day. On main deck, you can get sushi every night from 5-8 PM, and we loved it!
Breakfast was very consistent with eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes and or French toast, grits, oatmeal, cold cereals, toast, bagels, omelets station, etc. The lunch buffets were very good, with daily changing choices that we found interesting, and there were always vegetarian choices available if you are on that diet plan.
The Carnival Pride had only 1 main dining room with 2 dinner sittings, 6 PM and 8:15 PM. We had late sitting with a private table for the 6 of us. The food was consistently good, with the soup course as being the highlight of our dinner menu. They were bold and rich, with 2-3 different hot or cold choices each night, highlighted by roasted pumpkin soup, navy bean, wild mushrooms, etc. The entrees included my favorite Beef Wellington, veal parmesan, roasted duck, filet mignon, surf and turf, etc. A diet sugar free dessert course was also offered every night with the other desserts, and you could get coffee, tea, and even cappuccino or espresso with your dessert each night.
Dave’s Supper Club was the premium dinner club offered on this ship that cost $30 extra per person to dine there. This dining experience was well worth it, as it brought gourmet dining to the highest level. This up-scale chop house served you a 5 course meal, where in between courses you could dance to your private 2-person band that played there every evening. It was much more quiet and reserved compared to the main dining room. The service was better than any restaurant we had ever been too, and the choices included rib eye, filet mignon, veal chop, porterhouse, NY strip steak, etc. Every course had its own ambience, with beautiful china and crystal. The Chef came over to each table to introduce himself which made the dining experience even better. Many people dined there a second evening after going there the first time. Overall dining rating, 9 out of 10.
Excursions – We decided after 8 cruises that we were done with the usual snorkeling, booze cruise, glass bottom boat type of excursions. We wanted to live an episode of the Amazing Race, and that we did both in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo. Note: These are active excursions and guests must be physically fit in order to participate.
In Puerto Vallarta, we booked the “Canopy Excursion”, which after an hour bus ride you put on mountain/rappelling gear to glide through the treetops observing life below as you swung from tree to tree. Journey across 14 platforms situated between 10 and 90 feet above the ground. Our last thrill was to rappel back down to the forest floor. To say this excursion was exhilarating is an understatement. Everyone in the group loved this trip, and it was worth the $129 per person cost.
In Cabo San Lucas, we took the “Mini Jeep Rhino” excursion. After a 30 minute van ride, 2 people were assigned to the latest rage in all terrain vehicles – the Yamaha Rhino. This 4 X 4 golf cart on steroids could climb up and down steep hilltops, sand dunes, and blast through river crossings while speeding at over 30 MPH on flat ground. You can change drivers halfway through this 2.5 hour escorted drive, and the scenery is right out of the famous scene from Planet of the Apes. My wife and I put on helmets, goggles and bandanas to cover our faces from the dust, and we were kids again speeding along the isolated beaches in Cabo.
We did not go on a formal excursion in Mazatlan, we just did some local shopping off the ship, and we took a quick ride into town to see the local cliff divers. Overall rating, 9 out of 10.
Gym & Spa – Both were located on the Lido Deck all the way forward overlooking the bow. The gym had fitness club quality treadmills, stationary bikes, steppers, weight machines, etc. Aerobic and spin classes were offered (some with a fee), and health/nutrition classes were held. My wife and I used the gym everyday to try to fight off the usual weight gain, and it was a great way to start each day. We lounged in the gym’s hot tub on a number of occasions as it had a great view overlooking the bow. The steam, sauna and locker room showers were excellent also, but my wife and I did not use any spa services on this trip. Overall rating, 9 out of 10.
Entertainment – As repeat Carnival cruises, we were expecting the usual entertainment choices. This cruise had 2 very good major production shows, 2 comedians, 1 who was just average and 1 who was very good (Jerome). Our cruise director, Jeff Bronson and his assistant Karl with a “K” were very entertaining and helpful. The multiple lounges would have been better if more of them were smoke free. The casino yielded the usual fare of fun and excitement when you were winning, and good people watching when you were losing. Daily bingo, trivia games, art auctions, passenger game shows, wine and champagne tasting was also offered. Overall rating 7 out of 10.
Debarkation – We had VIP passes, so we were the first group off the ship at 8:15 AM as we had an early flight leaving LAX at noon. We booked the Carnival transfer back to the airport in advance which made leaving easy and stress free. We even had a nice breakfast buffet on the Lido deck at 6:30 AM before leaving the ship. As expected, this process was easy and well organized. Rating 10 out of 10.
Tips of the trade – We loved or 3 cabin shared balcony area, where we routinely hung out while leaving and coming into port, to see the dolphins swimming along side the ship, and to relax after dinner under the stars. Save your on-board cruise shopping to the last day as that is when all the stores offer their special discounts. If you are really into the dining experience like I am, take a walk down to the dining room early afternoon to preview what is being offered that evening so you can make a better choice later. If you don’t like something order something else. The dining room staff was more than helpful and informative.
For us, the cruise experience is still the best vacation bang for your buck as your fee includes all your entertainment and food on-board, and you can do a lot, or do a little. The Carnival Pride provided all of that and more. Overall rating 8 out of 10!!! We would go on this route again.