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Sheila Cox

Age: 40

Occupation:Budget Analyst/Accountant

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Pride

Sailing Date: May 24th, 2003

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

This was my Carnival cruise, but my 4th cruise overall (2 on Premier Cruises, 1 Disney Cruise). We had a group of 15 cabins from Panama City, Florida. We drove from Panama City the day before the cruise (7 hours) and spent Friday night at my mother-in-law’s in Melbourne. We booked the cruise in April 2001 – so had lots of time to anticipate! My husband, son (8 years old), and I shared a cabin. We chose this cruise for the fairly new ship, good itinerary, and school was out May 21 in Panama City.

I learned so much from the Cruise Critic message board that made the cruise so much more enjoyable! I decorated my door and my room – the door decoration looked great and made it SO easy to find our room! I remembered to bring most things – even a portable CD player/alarm clock to play Jimmy Buffet, and post-it notes! I learned what to do and where to go from the board. I brought gift bags for our cabin steward/wait staff. I even met some other cruise critics at our “meet and greet” – some that I had been chatting with for months! I knew about the over-the door shoe hangar, etc.

EMBARKATION

We didn’t arrive at the port until about 11:45 (I wanted to arrive about 11:00 – but it was hard to get everyone going at my mother-in-laws!). We were upgraded to suites (woo-hoo!) so we got to use the Skippers Club. We waited about 5 minutes and then were processed quickly. There was no line for photos, so we boarded quickly. It was about 12:15, so we went ahead and dropped our carry-ons in the room. I did not look around the room – I wanted to wait and take my time when we were “legally” there (weren’t supposed to be in the rooms until 12:30). We went straight to the Mermaids grill for lunch, had time to eat, unpack, and explore a little before the lifeboat drill.

OUR ROOM
We were in room 6189. You could easily find our room with the door sign I made – scrap booking papers and supplies, surrounded by tropical fish bathroom cling-ons from Wal-Mart – they worked and looked great! Our suite was terrific – hardwood floor in the entry, dressing area, double sinks in the bath, full tub with Jacuzzi jets (which I had every intention of using but never did), TV/VCR, bar area, desk and chair, sofa and small table, king bed (actually 2 twins put together, but I did not notice the split), big balcony. The balcony had a full lounge chair, a small chair and table, and an adirondack style chair that I fell in love with (I really want one for my patio at home!). Plenty of room on the balcony for my husband, son, and I, or for my husband and I and another couple. It will be hard to go back to a regular room. Our room steward, Louis, did a great job and was always pleasant. The rooms were very soundproof- if I was in the dressing area I could sometimes hear things from the hall, but that was it. The balcony’s were totally soundproof to the room – you could not hear someone knocking on your door if you were sitting on the balcony, or even your phone. That was a minor problem, if you wanted to talk with friends who were out on their balcony – you couldn’t reach them (also could be a great benefit :) !).

THE SHIP

I loved the ship!! It took me about 3 days to get the layout down pat, but once I did it was easy to get around (it was easy before that, I just had to look at my map). It was kind of a dark wood decor , but I really liked it. The Sunset Garden was beautiful, but my favorite quiet place was the promenade deck – it was usually totally deserted, and you could walk around the entire ship outside except the very front (had to walk inside to get back to the promenade).

I loved the pastel colored art in the stairwells, along with the glass/crystal vases. Most floors of every stairwell had 2 vases (behind safety glass) and art that looked more Monet then Renaissance (but I am NO art expert).

The Taj Mahal show room had some seats with support poles in the way – if you were there 15 minutes early you could easily avoid those seats.

I spent very little time in the casino – about 5 minutes (lost $2). Usually I really enjoy the video poker slots – I just didn’t make time on this cruise – too busy with the entertainment, watching my son, ports, and sitting on my balcony! The casino was large and plenty of people were taking my place contributing.

I really enjoyed having the band at the main pool. They were loud, but if you wanted to hear them quietly you could go to the deck above the main pool, or to the forward pool (which was usually not crowded at all). We often sat at tables in the forward part of the main pool area. It was a little quieter, bar service was efficient (two reasons we always sat in the same area – so my son could find us after playing in the pool, and the bartender in that area was great). They did patrol the adults only pool. I had no problem with deck chairs – since I did not want to be right next to the main pool. My favorite place was on deck 11, near the wading pool area. It was quiet, not crowded, nice breeze, I could see the water AND be near my son on the slide. He enjoyed the slide, although it is a rough ride (some kids told him how to go faster, which he did, and really bumped his head – we thought he might have a concussion – all he wanted to do for an hour was sleep even though he’d gotten 11 ½ hours of sleep that night, so we took him to the infirmary for observation). The infirmary staff was excellent. Another child in our party slipped on the water slide stairs and they glued his chin (versus stitches) in the infirmary. I did not try the slide – most of the adults getting off mentioned the rough ride and I didn’t want to risk a headache for a day. I kind of regret not trying it though, since I love water slides.

I loved the Florentine Lounge – right outside the first floor of the Normandie Restaurant. Beautiful chairs and coffee tables sitting next to picture windows looking out to sea. What I great place to just sit and relax before or after dinner!

I fully intended to use the fitness center, and would have if I had not been cruising with my son. Instead I walked on the jogging track while he played shuffleboard or around the promenade while he was in the arcade (you could walk circles either in the sunset garden or outside on the promenade, and walk up the stairs to the arcade once every circle to check on kids). I peeked in the fitness center – it looked fully equipped and the whirlpool spa looked so relaxing! I guess it will wait for my next cruise! I did gain just 3 pounds – I ate like a horse, but walked several miles around the ship each day, plus I always took the stairs.

The ship did not seem crowded (although it was sold out) – you could always find a quiet place (and of course, there was our balcony)! There really weren’t many lines, the buffet lines were reasonable – the biggest line was for the grill.

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE ABOUT THE SHIP

The toilets – they were made so that if the men/boys in your room left the seat up, you had to touch the inside of the toilet in the center, to pull the seat down. Yuk, Yuk, Yuk!! There was no other place to grip it, the seat fit so tightly in the lid (you’d probably have to see it to understand what I mean). Every time I did it I cringed (at home my 8 year old has his own toilet, so I’ll admit I haven’t been very good about teaching him to leave the seat down).

ENTERTAINMENT

I got a coke card (since I am addicted to Diet Coke!), and at least sat and got a Diet Coke (or a Miami Vice!) in each lounge except Beauties Dance Club. They all had a different character, and I enjoyed them all. My favorite was the Ivory Piano Bar – it had a really nice setup, with several intimate spots.

The shows were really good – I liked them both (but my preference was VROOM). The costumes and production were terrific, as were the orchestra and singers. The only comedian I saw was Kenny Miller – he was hilarious. We saw the Illusionist and the man that came after him (Lobo?). I had my doubts about both – but heard they were good. They were fabulous!! I was so glad I went!

The Cruise Director Josh was very good. He had us laughing many times! I saw him quite a few times around the ship too.

DINING ROOM/FOOD

The food was good to wonderful. I had the best steak I’ve had in years – the peppercorn steak. The seafood dishes were all good – although I didn’t care for the scallop dish (the scallops were excellent, there was something in the sauce I didn’t like). Desserts were good. I loved the blue cheese dressing and looked forward to my salad every night! The sun dried tomato bread was my favorite. Our waiter “K” from Indonesia was superb, and great with our son. He spent so much time with our son, teaching him to fold napkins (my son knew 5 different types by the time we got off). Gerry, the maitre’d, stopped by our table one night and spent some time with our son – he showed Gerry his napkin folding skills. Gerry told him he could show up early the next morning and have a job folding 3,000 napkins. The only problem was, my son was ready to do it! “K” has a wife and son at home, I felt bad that he doesn’t get to see them often. We are so blessed in the U.S. to have so many good jobs, nice homes, etc. Our assistant waiter was from South Africa. She was really good – but I don’t remember her name.

We all enjoyed the nightly dancing and singing. I thought it might get boring/hokey, but it was great fun! “K” had my son get up with him and dance every night. The waiter who dances on the port side of the first floor of the dining room is terrific! Every woman’s eyes went right to his dancing pedestal when the music started!! I got up for the conga line – it was a long conga!

The buffets were fine, but I usually preferred the pizza. I ordered room service the morning we went to Belize, to be delivered between 7:15 and 7:30. It did not show up by the time we left our room at 7:40.

The line at the hamburger/hot dog/fry grill on the Lido deck was REALLY long and moved very slowly during lunch/early afternoon on days at sea. The grill food was great though.

SERVICE

Did not see or hear of a single rude/discourteous worker. Everything was clean, and we felt pampered.

CAMP CARNIVAL

My son enjoyed Camp Carnival in the evenings. He’s not much of a “group” person, so he liked the free time and the after 10 pm movies. He did enjoy the cocktail party the first formal night (the only night that he did not eat with us in the dining room). I think he would have enjoyed it more if he had not been on the upper end of the age group (he’s 8 ½, so I think he would have enjoyed the 9 – 11 age group more).

PORTS/KEY WEST

My son and I wanted to snorkel in Key West – the ship’s tour sold out before the ship left! Book that tour right away! I wasn’t worried – I knew you could book snorkel trips after you got off the ship. I didn’t factor in the fact that it was Memorial Day though – so all snorkel trips were sold out (and I was kicking myself, I had looked at web sites but decided not to book ahead of time – thought I wouldn’t have any problem getting the ship’s tour – thought everyone would wait until Cozumel or Belize to snorkel). We ended up meeting my husband and friends, shopping at Kinos, then taking the trolley tour, which was nice, but not what we planned. After the tour, we ran into some of our group from Panama City who had been doing the “Duval Crawl.” We joined them and had a great finish to our day in Key West (it helped that there was another 8 year old boy for my son to pal with, made up for not snorkeling).

PORTS/BELIZE

28 of us from Panama City went Cave Tubing with Reggie in Belize. We were able to all get off the ship very early, so we actually beat Reggie to the pier. That was the only problem of the day – I think we would have been more relaxed all day if we had gotten an earlier start. Reggie’s bus driver and guide were informative and amusing, but the ride was a little long and bumpy (not their fault!). The walk to tubing was hot, but the tubing itself was awesome! Definitely an experience! The water was clear and cool (nice after the hot walk), and the caves were longer than I imagined. We did have some time to shop near the pier before tendering back to the ship. This was the highlight of my son's trip (besides having another 8 year old on the cruise!).

PORTS/COZUMEL

A friend and I got off the ship first thing to do some shopping, and headed back to get “our men” for mini-golf. We hurried to mini-golf to find that I had forgotten Cozumel is on a different time, and we were almost an hour early. We wandered around a little – saw more of the authentic Cozumel. Mini-golf was fun – beautiful course, cool (cheap) drinks brought while playing, and music of our own choosing. Because of the time problem, our afternoon was short after golf. We hurried to Playa Sol, but didn’t really have much time there (not to make it worth the money). I would enjoy more time at Playa Sol. Most of our group went on the catamaran/snorkel trip and had a blast! That would definitely be a top choice if I go to Cozumel again.

PORTS/PROGRESSO

I called in babysitting services from hubby at this port – he had no desire to take a city tour of Merida, which is what I wanted to do. Since I was traveling solo, I took the ship’s tour. Hubby and son spent the day at the Progresso beach (where they got sunburned). I truly enjoyed the Merida city/shopping tour. It was a good mix of both, although I could have used more shopping time. The city is beautiful – large city, very clean, great architecture (more European/Spanish). If you go, try the pok chuk at the last stop – it’s a Mayan pork dish, was really good (and I was really hungry!).

BEST PURCHASE

Definitely my Kino’s sandals in Key West!! I walked for miles in them on the ship and didn’t get one blister – they are so comfortable! My husband loves his as well. Also bought a nice hammock in Merida.

MOST USEFUL ITEMS PACKED

Post-It notes; highlight pens; sunscreen; zip lock bags; clip on badge holders from Office Depot (circle on top – over the clip - and the badge snaps on at the bottom), you must buy clear plastic cases for the badge (Sail and Sign card), sold in the same area of Office Depot. It was nice to have my card clipped to my clothes instead of hanging around my neck – several young boys from our group used them and did not lose their cards. Even though we got coke cards, I brought a few cans for our room – nice when it’s late and you don’t want to run to a lounge. I brought bottled water too – great for excursions. I almost did not bring the over the door shoe hangar. I thought “we’ve got plenty of room, we’ve got a suite!” Even with plenty of room, I loved the hangar! Everything was so easy to find. I put my husband’s medicines in it – showed him his spot for his medicine, sunglasses, etc. and he never complained about not finding anything. Gave my son a few slots and he was happy. I had one for unused film, and one for used film. Had one for water cameras, one for sunscreen, etc. I bought 2 mesh bags at Wal-Mart ($5) – they were at the end of an aisle near the shoe hangars. I used them as beach bags – they were great for damp/sandy/greasy items like swimsuits, snorkel gear, sunscreen, and towels. I won’t ever live without them in the summer again! I packed one or two (depending on what we were doing) the night before, and just grabbed them in the morning.

THINGS I FORGOT THAT I NEEDED

Aloe Vera. Actually I did not forget it – I just knew we would NOT get sunburned – we live in Florida, I’m very good with sunscreen, etc. Well, we did manage to get burned - not too bad but just enough to want the aloe. Power strip. I knew to bring one because of the cruise critic boards – but thought I wouldn’t need one! We actually brought our small coffee pot, and the outlet for that, plus needed an outlet for cell phones, and the CD player/alarm clock (we did need to get up for 2 of our ports), and I couldn’t use the nightlight I brought – didn’t have an outlet (although that was no problem, the lighting was so adjustable in the cabin). There was only ONE outlet, which does not mean one double outlet – just one outlet.

THINGS I PACKED AND DID NOT USE

Extension chord. Were going to use it to put the CD player by the balcony door. Was too much hassle – if the door was shut you could not hear the CD AT ALL, if the door was open the A/C did not work, okay for a little while, but the mirrors steamed up the one night we had the door open for an hour!

DEBARKATION

We were the first color called to get off. There were lines, and finding our luggage was a hassle, but it took less than 30 minutes – not too bad. The bad part was leaving. I feel like I’ve used way too many adjectives – wonderful, fabulous, great, etc. – but that’s how I feel about our cruise! I would love to go on the Pride again, and I was impressed with Carnival – especially the food and entertainment.

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