Before going on this cruise I spent the night on the Queen Mary which is docked opposite the carnival pier, A MUST for any cruise fan.
In my review below you'll note my rating system - each category gets a star rating, with 5 being Outstanding, 4 Excellent, 3 Satisfactory, 2 Marginal, and 1 Unsatisfactory.
Embarkation: ½ a star is all it deserves.
Hate to start off with a negative (everything else will get better), but this was the worst embarkation I have ever experienced. I spent the night prior to sailing boarding aboard the Queen Mary and I highly recommend this for any cruising fan. The Queen Mary was a great experience with its old world bathrooms and Ghost Ship Tours. The best part is the cruise pre-boarding registration @9:00am (right next door to the Queen)! All was going was smooth - I was told to get in line starting @11:00 and that I would be on board by noon. However, soon all this changed, and not for the better. To make a long story short, apparently US immigration was conducting some type of immigration check aboard the PRIDE for all crew members (this check is conducted every ninety days or so I was told), and boarding was delayed until 2:00pm. There were lines everywhere, nobody had a clue what was happening and the Carnival representatives kept making announcements “a few more minutes”. Bottom line, it was mass confusion in the hot sun. Carnival needs a better back-up plan for this reoccurring activity.
Cabins: Solid 4 stars
Nice. I always book the cheapest category, but I lucked out and managed to get upgraded to an outside cabin with an obstructed view, but I had a door which opened like a small balcony even though the lifeboat was blocking my view. The cabin was large and well laid out. The room had lots of storage space, a small couch, dresser and the bathroom had a nice soap and shampoo stocked dispenser as well as some nice complimentary toilet items. Some members of my group had a large outside cabin with a balcony and some had inside cabins, I did manage to view the inside cabin and they appeared to be about 180sq ft. and well laid out. On one occasion I experienced a small air conditioning problem, but it was immediately resolved. The only real complaint that many of us had was that noise and music playing in the Atrium could often be heard inside the cabins.
Dining/Food: A solid 4 stars.
Overall food and service in the main dining room was nothing short of excellent. I ate all my evening meals in the main dining room table 101(I finally got a table my TA requested). Our waiter Gokhan was simply the best. He knew what to recommend and service was superb. The only unpleasant meal I experienced was the evening I did not follow my waiter's recommendation. For most cruises, I try and avoid the buffets for breakfast or lunch, but for this cruise I broke my rule more than once and ate at the breakfast and lunch buffets often. The variety of food at the buffets (Mermaid Grille) was wonderful, plentiful and very tasty; the lines were never excessively long and usually moved quickly. The breakfast and lunch menu in the dinning room was almost identical to what is usually being served at the Mermaid Grille. My only complaint was the nightly announcements by the maitre d' and the nightly waiter dancing and singing. Once or twice is entertaining, but doing it every night became an annoyance. I did not eat at David’s supper club as I thought the price of $25 was a bit steep, but one member of my party did eat dinner at David’s supper cub and thought the meal was wonderful.
Public Rooms: 4 stars here.
Simply beautiful and well laid out. The ship was decorated in a Renaissance era motif with touches of ancient Greece and Rome. The ship was easy to navigate and you never felt the 2000+ passengers on the ship. I was disappointed in the duty free shop on board as it was out of stock on numerous liquors I wished to purchase, but prices on other items were competitive and the personnel were nothing short of wonderful. Rest rooms were easily marked and easy to find and the elevators were plentiful and always operational.
Entertainment: 2 1/2 stars - room for improvement
In the evening you will find music at a variety of locations throughout the ship. There was a piano/singer who had about a dozen regulars in the piano bar, a good guitar player in the casino and Atrium bar, but with all the traffic they are both hard to hear! In the Butterfly lounge there was a band that would put the best of us to SLEEP! The disco is reserved for teens early in the night then after 11:30pm it switches to 18+, playing techno/rap music. My biggest complaint was that there was nowhere to dance and listen to fast paced disco/rock and roll music for the 40-50yr old crowd. Karaoke was featured nightly and very popular with the guests. A major disappointment was the lack of night time shows. On this cruise there were only 3 nighttime shows (Las Vegas type) at the Taj Mahal lounge. Even though all three shows were excellent, the remaining nights featured a passenger talent show (I guess this is a way to save money) and a poor singer - I walked out mid-way through with numerous other passengers.
Excursions: No rating
The pride stops at three wonderful ports but I never take the ship excursions as I find them too expensive. I can usually do my own excursions, visited the same places (or better) as the ship’s excursions, and save a lot of money. In addition, I do not like the "cattle" feel you get with the ship excursions. However, keep in mind that my excursions tend to be on the more adventurous side and not for everyone.
Activities: 3 stars
I did not think that the ship offered as much of the area of daytime activities as I had previously experienced on Carnival. The usual Bingo and a few poolside trivia games were held, but the cruise director seemed lacking in overall activity enthusiasm. In the few activities that were offered, due to the large number of participants (I can imagine a large number participated at each activity because they didn't have a lot of choices), a lottery had to be held, which eliminated many anxious passengers right off the bat.
Disembarkation: 5 stars
Considering the disastrous embarkation, all I can say is a GREAT ending to the cruise. Basically you leave depending on your connecting accommodations. You get a specific tag color based on your connections and deck, but you do not need to leave the ship immediately and can wait in many of the spacious public areas. Carnival also encourages you to carry a bag off the ship. But what was most surprising was that the main dining room and Mermaid Grille were open until 9:00am for the normal breakfast (others cruises served an abbreviated meal within a very short time frame). The disembarkation was one of the smoothest disembarkations ever.
Overall: This is a very nice ship with a terrific itinerary.
Carnival seems to be working hard, but seems to miss on the small items that make a huge difference. As an example, I found that there were far too many announcements on board and that the announcements where constantly promoting/hawking Carnival products. In addition, during the final disembarkation briefing, the cruise director kept promoting himself and the cruise staff in hopes of receiving a high rating from passengers. I found this tasteless. My only bad service experiences were from the photo staff, who were pushy, and the casino bartenders who were plain rude and could not prepare a drink to save their lives. I was so pleased with my service that I tipped my wait staff extra. Besides the minor negatives I mentioned, I think everybody needs to consider this ship; it was one of my best cruise experiences to date, and I would not hesitate to recommend this ship to anybody. Happy sailing!