Monday, October 3, 2011

Carnival Pride Review

On September 25, 2011, I embarked upon Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Pride at its homeport in Baltimore, MD.  The check in process was pretty simple and smooth.  My bags were taken care of upon arrival and the only thing left to do was board the ship.

The Carnival Pride, a mid-size Spirit class ship, was constructed in 2002 and weighs 88,500 tons. It can hold up to 2,124 passengers. There are 11 bars and lounges, 4 pools, and 5 hot tubs. It also houses David Steakhouse.

For those who have not sailed, to board the ship, you must walk through what seems like an endless enclosed ramp.  It’s fairly simple for the able bodied person; however, for those who have physical challenges, this may pose a problem.  Once on board, I was hit with some minimal chaos and fairly little direction on how to proceed.  Plan to walk quickly to grab an elevator up or down to your room or do what many decided to do – have a few drinks and wait by the bar.

If you’re familiar with ships, locating your room should be fairly simple.  After spending a day or two on board, you should be able to navigate the ship.  I booked a balcony room on the Verandah deck.  It comfortably fits two people but don’t expect much in terms of space.  When entering the balcony and the bathroom, be mindful to step up.  My suggestion to all would be to inspect your space.  Make sure every necessary item is available to you and, if not, give the stewards enough time to assist other guests before making requests.  Carnival has not fully stepped into the era of flat screens and still has some updating to do to improve upon space and aesthetics.  

The staff on board is exceptionally friendly and absolutely works for every penny of the $10 per day gratuity charged per person.  They make a conscious effort to attend to the smallest of details and consistently manage to place a smile on your face.  The cleaning staff will attend to your room twice a day, in the morning and during dinner.  They will restock your linen if need be, make the beds, clean, and leave little treats behind.  The young lady who cleaned my room throughout the week took a liking to me and would always leave a little extra.

The dinning staff is wonderful and definitely entertaining.  Dinner in the Normandie, the dining hall, is filled with many surprises.  On some nights guests were encouraged to stand up and dance in the dining hall, participate in a conga line, and laugh hilariously at the host dancing on a table.  The food is prepared well and many should be able to find something that will meet their individual tastes.  If  guests do not like something, all one has to do is notify his or her waiter and the matter is resolved.  For guests who prefer a larger selection of items, a buffet style dining hall is open and ready.  One can choose from an array of food choices.
Also on the top deck, guests can find the ships pool and outside bar areas.  Mixed alcoholic drinks on board range from $7-$8.75 and refills are $6-$7.  Guests can also purchase items like non-alcoholic Pina Coladas $4.75.  Guests had to exercise some caution while in deck because it is slippery when wet.  Guests are encouraged to take some time on deck to enjoy the scenery and the bands.

The ship also houses a fitness and spa area.  If you would like a spa treatment, be mindful that the price tag is not like your local day spa.  A 50 minute facial or massage could cost $119-$169.  Hair services along with manicures and pedicures are also available and are reasonably priced.  The fitness area is pretty small but meets the needs of those guests who want to get in some good cardio and strength training.  It houses roughly 8 elliptical machines, 6 or 7 treadmills, two row machines, and 4 bikes, and a single stair climber.  Also available is a outside track on the top deck and a basketball court.

The ship’s staff has come up with some creative activities to keep guests busy, especially while at sea.  Activities are designed for every age – ranging from a 80s and Motown music battle, comedy shows, bingo, a mixology contest, a hairy chest contest, arts, crafts, and games for children, slot machines, a sports bar to catch the games, a disco, a meet and greet for singles or LGBT guests.
The Carnival Pride docked in three locations, Grand Turks, Half Moon Cay, and Freeport, Bahamas.  It would be my suggestion to clients to book a tour in Freeport only.  Grand Turks is pretty small and not unless you don’t mind spending $30 to see a few historic sites, you may prefer to save your money.  Personally I wouldn’t mind because I am not sure when I would be able to return.  The highlight for many guests in Grand Turks, aside from the beautiful crystal clear water, was Margaritaville.

Half Moon Cay appears to be a man-made island.  Guests were shuttled over on small tour boats where they can relax, enjoy the warm water, sand, and food supplied by the ship.  Excursions are available for Half Moon, however, one would be better off enjoying the waves.  

Freeport was a delightful place to dock.  The guests had the opportunity to finally engage with natives and learn the island’s history and cultural facts.  Excursions consist of swimming with the dolphins, sightseeing, horseback riding, snorkeling, and a culinary tour at the Junkanoo Beach Restaurant.  It is here that guests can grab some conch soup, salad, fritters, coconut cake, fries, jerk chicken, and a beverage and delight him or herself in conversation with the chef, while relaxing on the beach.  If you are familiar with jet skis, they are also available for rental.

Your cruise experience will be what you make of it.  You can relax or you can be an active participant.  Rarely will you miss an opportunity to enjoy yourself.  All in all, Carnival provided a wonderful experience for large ship cruisers.  Additional word of advice: If you must utilize the internet while on board, be aware that wi-fi is costly.  You have the option of paying as you go or purchasing a bundle of minutes.  Pay as you go will cost $0.75 per minute and a bundle of 100 minutes cost $55.  There is also a one-time connection fee of $3.95.  

Just a note: Debarkation upon returning was not organized like Carnival said it would be.