Number of Cruises: 9
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Pride
Sailing Date: November 18th, 2007
Itinerary: Mexican Riviera
Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Pride Cruise Review
This was my ninth cruise, having
previously sailed on Carnival (twice), Princess (3 times), Norwegian (twice),
Holland America (once) and the now defunct American Hawaii Cruise Line. My wife
has previously sailed on Carnival twice and Norwegian. Cruise ships attract us
because we can experience outstanding service and gourmet meals while
traveling. We enjoy being “spoiled”.
We spent Saturday night prior to embarkation at a Long Beach hotel and took advantage of their “Park and Cruise” package, using their shuttle to drive us to the port. We arrived at the port at 10:30 AM and found the site to be chaotic. We picked our way through the maze of teamsters carting disembarking passengers’ luggage to their transportation. Upon clearing the congestion, we were approached by a Carnival employee and informed that we needed to check our baggage with the teamsters behind us. We made our way back into the crowd, obtained the attention of a baggage handler and left our luggage in his possession. We arrived at the Queen Mary for early check-in and were pleased to discover, as previous reviewers indicated, there was no waiting. We approached the counter and checked in quickly and efficiently with a pleasant, smiling Carnival employee. We then took our time exploring the Queen Mary’s museum and made our way to the dome to board the Pride.
Shortly after noon, the VIP cruisers were escorted in. Physically disabled and those needing special assistance followed. Since I’m a paraplegic, in a wheelchair, my wife and I made our way to the elevator toward customs check-in. We discovered that we had passed the VIP group who were stopped for the customary embarkation photographs, and found ourselves first in line to board the Pride. We were delayed for a short period by the security guard when we exited the elevator, and experienced a longer delay before we were allowed to go through customs.
Unlike all previous cruises, we boarded the Pride without being greeted by a line of staff anxious to escort us. We had learned from reading cruise reviews that we should head to the Lido Deck and have lunch in the Mermaid’s Grill until an announcement was made that staterooms are available. However, we had to stop an employee and ask directions to the elevators. Information should have been offered as we boarded the ship. We ate lunch and people watched. It was interesting watching fellow cruisers as they discovered that there were multiple food stations and a wide variety of choices. A short time later the band began playing near the Apollo and Venus pools and the area quickly became packed with people. We took advantage of the time to experience a quiet tour of the ship and peeked into our cabin while it was still being prepared. The required lifeboat drill took place on time and we sailed immediately after.
Overview: We had read numerous reviews about the Renaissance décor on the ship and, although we’re not fond of this style, we did not find it overbearing. The statues and artwork were generally tasteful. The wallpaper in the hallways along the cabins depicted sketches of nude females. This could have been a bit less obtrusive. Unlike the atriums on other ships, the one on the Pride is dark and walled. The glass elevators seem out of place in that environment. The public areas had lots of seating – comfortable chairs and sofas throughout that are conducive to reading, playing games or napping.
Since our cruise took place over Thanksgiving week there was an abundance of youth of all ages onboard. The Pride offers programs for youth and the teen program included a scavenger hunt. During the three days at sea teenagers were constantly running through the inside public decks in unsupervised groups, yelling, as they searched for the items on their list. We observed that the Carnival staff made no attempt to control these youth. One evening we were seated in the lower level of the Taj Majal Lounge awaiting a show when we noticed a shoe come sailing down from the lower balcony. Two girls, age 10 or 11, raced down the front stairway, across the stage and up the aisle to retrieve the shoe. Again the Carnival staff remained at a distance. On another night, again waiting for a show to start in the Taj Mahal, we observed a passenger across the aisle from us saving seats and ignoring the public announcements that seats may not be saved. An older lady approached and sat on the aisle next to this woman. The woman proceeded to slide over and push the older lady off of the seat where she landed on the floor. Nearby passengers, concerned that she might be injured, came to the lady’s aid and helped her stand up. A Carnival staff member who witnessed the incident approached and assisted the lady in finding another seat without confronting the seat saver. Later that evening my wife shared these incidents with one of the ship’s officers. She was informed that it is Carnival’s policy that staff members cannot confront passengers. He stated “Carnival’s policy is that the employee is at fault in any confrontation”.
Dining: The Mermaid’s Grill buffet offers a good selection for lunch (we ate dinner in the Normandie Restaurant every evening). There’s a deli with made-to-order sandwiches, and additional stations offering Chinese food, hamburgers/hot dogs/steak sandwiches, pizza, hot meat carving, a salad bar and a dessert station. Most food is standard cafeteria fare and the quality is not up to the standards we have experienced on other cruise ships. Desserts and salads were all pre-made, right out of the container. We really missed the talents of a pastry chef.
Dinner is served in two seating's at the Normandie Restaurant. The restaurant is open, spacious and well-lit, with additional seating in the balcony. Some booth seating is offered (not found on other ships we’ve cruised on) and tables are spaced to allow easy movement throughout the room. Service from our waiter, busboy and wine steward met our high expectations, however the meals did not. On two nights the menu selections were disappointing and we resorted to ordering a steak from the alternative selections. Baked potatoes were served undercooked on both occasions I ordered one. The restaurant featured a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. All four people at our table ordered the turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Miniscule portions of potatoes and stuffing were served buried under two large slices of “turkey”, with a liquid cranberry sauce drizzled over the top. This disappointing meal lacked flavor and quality. All four of us returned our dinners. Apparently this occurred throughout the restaurant. Service slowed substantially as meals were returned and replacements ordered. We observed the Maitre’ d carrying trays of dinners from the galley to help speed up the service. Sadly, the dress code was not enforced in the dining room and we frequently saw diners wearing shorts. Appropriate dress was not required on the two formal nights.
We participated in only one midnight buffet, but heard that standard fare was hot dogs and hamburgers. One night they offered a Mexican food buffet. The Normandie Restaurant’s Grand Buffet, offered on the final night of our cruise, did not meet cruise ship standards either. It featured one ice carving and minimal fruit carvings. Food selections were breads, cheeses, four hot hors d oeuvres and the pre-made desserts. Waiter service at this buffet was almost non-existent. At this time the ship was cruising at 28 knots into an equal headwind. Apparently the engines, below the restaurant, were working hard and the room was shaking in a manner that reminded several of us of an earthquake.
Breakfasts were served in both food venues. The Normandie Restaurant offers waiter service and a menu selection. Our one breakfast meal there was satisfactory and made enjoyable by the service. The Mermaid’s Grill offers cook-to-order omelets, and typical cafeteria selections. The buffet was always crowded at mealtimes when we were at sea, but we never had a problem finding seating.
Drinks onboard are pricey. An all-you-can-drink soda card can be purchased for $5.50 per day. Individual sodas are $1.75 per can so you must drink four a day to benefit from the card. Our dining room wine steward kept my soda glass full, as well as some of the servers in the lounges because I purchased the soda card.
Stateroom: We reserved an outside stateroom with an extended balcony. The room was spacious by cruise ship standards. Closet and drawer space was adequate. The cabin had abundant lighting. Our room steward was friendly, helpful and kept our cabin tidy. We enjoyed returning to our room each night to discover a new towel animal designed by our cabin steward. The extended balcony was long. We enjoyed watching the sea when cruising and also viewed our arrival and departure from each port from our private space. We slept with the balcony door open and enjoyed listening to the sea. Our only complaint – our neighbors were smokers. When we were in port their cigarette smoke drifted into our balcony and drove us inside.
Entertainment: The Pride offers an abundance of nighttime entertainment. Choose from a piano bar, country/western singers, karaoke, a 70’s and 80’s music group, a sports bar etc. Most of the evening entertainment overlaps and lounge performers, “by contract”, quit at 11:30 PM. It would have been nice of there were more karaoke opportunities during the day. The sports bar was not well ventilated so the smoke was overwhelming. The ship brings a local mariachi band onboard one night to provide a show. Two comedians and magicians onboard were talented and enjoyable, but they are not regulars. The three production shows were dull by cruise ship standards. If you’re expecting a Las Vegas style show on the Pride you’ll be disappointed. The two lead singers/dancers were talented and the backup performers did a good job. The shows just lacked in pizzazz and extravagance. The cruise staff offered activities such as game shows, bingo, contests, etc. but not as many as we previously experienced on Carnival cruises. Bingo was offered in the Taj Majal Lounge each night just before the big show and most bingo players remain for the show. Because of this scheduling, passengers are required to arrive early and sit through bingo in order to obtain good seating for the show. This game could be held in the Butterflies Lounge directly below the Taj Majal.
The three pools on Lido Deck are quite small and because of their size received minimal use. The mid ship location has two of the pools and serves at the site for numerous games and activities. The Poseidon pool is located aft and is designated as an adults-only location. However the ice cream stations are located here, serving as an encouragement for youth to visit and hang out. Families seemed to enjoy sunning themselves in the deck chairs in this area. In the evenings the “adults only” Poseidon pool area was taken over by the teenage population on the ship. The fourth swimming pool, designated for kids, is located on an upper Deck. Since it cannot be accessed by elevator we did not visit it. The Pride also offers a gymnasium, a salon and a golf cage.
Overall, we had an enjoyable cruise vacation. The staff was always friendly and helpful. Cruise Director Jeff Bronson demonstrated that he genuinely cares about his passengers. The ship is easy to navigate and has abundant seating in all public areas. There are an adequate number of elevators and they were only full during morning disembarkation in each port. As covered earlier, the food quality and show entertainment were poor compared to previous cruises.
The Pride is currently undergoing a two-week overhaul in Canada. Hopefully it will return to service with culinary and entertainment improvements along with the physical overhaul.
We look forward to enjoying our next cruise in two years. Because of our recent experience we will avoid Carnival Cruise Line.