Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Carnival Pride; Complete Review

Walking into the atrium, I am in awe. I am surrounded by rich wood paneling, intricate bronze moulding, and magnificent frescos. Reproductions of Masters such as Botticelli and Raphael adorn the walls. Seating is upholstered in shades of burgundy, sienna, and gold. A grand stairway winds it way up to the next echelon. My eyes sweep upward… nine floors. A stunning red glass skylight casts a warm, rosy glow throughout. Soft music, compliments of the classical pianist playing adjacent to the bar, adds to the ambiance of the lobby. You may think I am checking into a posh hotel in Florence, but no, I’m nearly 5,000 miles from Italy. In fact, I have just boarded the Carnival Pride.

Joe Farcus, Carnival’s interior architect, calls the theme of this ship “Icons of Beauty.” Throughout the public areas he has given us his interpretation of how beauty manifests itself in architecture, art, intellectual achievement, the human body, nature, etc. The names of the rooms clearly reflect where he was going with this idea; The Taj Mahal Show Lounge, Normandie Restaurant, Sunset Garden, Butterflies Lounge, Nobel Library, Beauties Dance Club, David’s Supper Club, Raphaels, Florentine Lounge… It was a treat in itself meandering about and admiring his inspired design!

The Carnival Pride is one of four in the Spirit class of ships, (the others being the Carnival Spirit, Carnival Legend and Carnival Miracle). The 88,500 ton vessel carries 2,124 guests and entered service in late 2001. This ship is a perfect size; large enough to fit all the amenities active cruisers look for, yet manageable enough for older guests to walk from one area to another without having to find a chair for a brief rest stop. There are a high percentage of ocean view staterooms, with the majority of those having private balconies. Cabins are spacious and both the closet space and bathroom storage is generous. The pretty peach d├ęcor of my room paired with the cherry colored wood made for a tranquil retreat. Attention to details such as the complimentary use of a bathrobe, and a basket of amenities including a ladies razor were appreciated. Such niceties are often found only on the premium cruise lines.

The food onboard was plentiful and very good. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are table service in the Normandie Restaurant, or buffet style at the Mermaid Grille. The Mermaid Grille is divided into several different stations, each featuring a different cuisine. There is Asian, international, pizza, deli, rotisserie, salad bar, and patisserie. What I liked most about eating here was that there are tables aplenty outdoors, where one can enjoy a meal while taking in the fresh air and ocean views. Heading out toward the pool is a 24 hour frozen yogurt station and a grill that serves up hamburgers, hot dogs, and side dishes.

Dinner at the Normandie Restaurant is served at a 6:15 seating and an 8:30 seating. Two evenings of my six night cruise were “cruise elegant” attire (people dressed as they would for a formal night out), and the remaining were “cruise casual”. A nice surprise was the many available tables for two, as well as booths providing more dining intimacy. An annex to the main dining room is called the Captains Club where larger groups can be seated together. A brand new alternative to traditional dining times is “Your Time Dining” where guests can dine when and with whom they choose between 5:45pm and 9:30pm. Regardless of when you dine, the menu offers many choices, all prepared with the freshest ingredients and presented beautifully. Chocolate lovers like myself will be pleased to note the warm chocolate melting cake is on the menu every evening! Pair it with a cup of cappuccino, which is no additional charge at dinner. And I must say, the Carnival dining room experience continues to be the most fun one can have while dining at sea. The song and dance performed by the staff several times during the week was amusing, and even the most subdued guest will be hard pressed to keep their body from swaying to the tune!

David’s Supper Club is the specialty restaurant onboard the Carnival Pride. This reservation only dining room charges a $30 surcharge; well worth it, as it is truly an upscale meal. Among the entrees on the menu are lobster tail, prime rib, lamb chops, and filet mignon. You’ll find it at the top of the nine deck high atrium, or just look for the full size replica of Michelangelo’s famous sculpture!

Room service is free of charge and offered 24 hours a day. I loved having a pot of coffee and a muffin delivered first thing in the morning…and it was always there precisely on time!

The Carnival Pride is a “fun ship”, and as such there was always plenty to do! Activities for everyone from age 3 to 103 ran from early in the morning to late at night. For multi generation families cruising together, everyone will find something to their liking. Games, arts and crafts, dance lessons, fitness classes, and the list goes on and on. There is just as much to do inside as out, so if being in the sun all day is not your thing, that’s fine and you’ll never be bored. But if fun in the sun is what you’re looking for, the Pride has three pools on the Lido deck. The main pool is where all those crazy activities take place, from hairy chest contests to belly flop contests. A band plays in the afternoon to keep things lively. There is a second pool that is a bit quieter and a third adult only pool that can be covered by a glass dome if necessary. What’s particularly nice about all the pools is the tiled surround / splash area which offers a nice way to cool down without submerging! The Lido deck had many hot tubs to enjoy, but I must confess, when I think Carnival, I think water slide! On the Pride, the twister waterslide is a deck higher, near a children’s pool, and was popular with both kids and adults alike!

The dozen or so clubs and lounges on the Carnival Pride are as varied in atmosphere as the entertainment they offer. Both Starry Nights and Beauties are great places to dance the night away; the former to live music, and the latter to a DJ. Florentine’s and Raphael’s are quiet, romantic settings. Both are divine for pre or post dinner drinks accompanied by piano, or guitar music. At the Perfect Game Bar you can show off your sports trivia IQ or catch an important game. The Ivory Piano Bar, home to many sing-a- longs, was a favorite of mine and was a fun place to hang out whether you can carry a tune or not.

The Taj Mahal Theatre is where you’ll find some of the best entertainment on the high seas! The Carnival Pride’s singers and dancers are a talented and energetic group that put on one heck of a performance! These production shows, with their imaginative sets and special effects can rival anything seen in Vegas. I loved “Vrooom!” because all the songs were so familiar, and I couldn’t help myself from bopping around in my seat! On the evenings they are not performing, there may be a comedian, band, juggler, or magician that is flown in. The theatre itself is lovely and the extra wide leg room makes it possible for others to pass in front without anyone having to get up!

Casinos can be found on almost every cruise ship, but the Winner’s Club casino on the Pride lets you gamble to live music nightly! There are rows and rows of slot machines and all the usual gaming tables. In the evenings, this always seemed to be the busiest place on the ship. Was I the only one so unlucky?

There is a well equipped gym on the Pride complete with treadmills, ellipticals, stair climbers, rowing machines, bikes, and various weight machines. The view is enough to make the work out less painful! Different types of exercise classes given throughout the day, although there is a nominal charge for yoga, Pilates, and group cycling. For those that prefer to take their daily run breathing in the ocean air, there is a jogging track on the Sky Deck. Despite my best intentions, my sneakers never made it out of the suitcase!

Facials, massages, body wraps, acupuncture, and other incredible indulgences are available at SPA Carnival. Look for specials offered on port days. The savings may be enough rationalization to book a second or third treatment! There is also a salon onboard for cuts, color, manicures, and pedicures.

Like all Carnival ships, the Pride has an amazing kids program for young children to teens. Camp Carnival is divided into three separate age groups, 2-5, 6-8, and 9-11, so the activities are always age appropriate. It is worthy to note that there are not many cruise lines that offer programs for 2 year olds, which may be a crucial deciding factor in vacation planning. Camp Carnival also offers babysitting for children as young as 6 months old at a modest additional charge. At the other end of the spectrum, Circle C is for cruisers aged 12-14 and Club O2 is for 15-17 year olds. On the Pride there is a designated club area for each of these two groups of teens. Both of these inviting spaces have comfortable seating for hanging out, video games, computers and dance floors. The Pride also has nine hole mini golf, basketball, and ping pong. Although my 16 year old son was not with me on this cruise, I couldn’t help but take notice of all the things he would have enjoyed.

The Carnival Pride has many wonderful attributes sure to make your cruise a memorable vacation. Yet all things considered, it is the staff of the Carnival Pride that makes a trip aboard her extraordinary. From the agents at embarkation, to cabin stewards, dining room staff, guest relations personnel, and the cruise director’s staff, it seemed all had one purpose; to give their guests the best vacation possible! They consistently provided efficient and courteous service, always with a smile. Gratuities on the Pride were automatically charged to my onboard account for a total of $10 per person per day. This covered my cabin steward and wait staff. The Maitre d’, room service, and spa personnel are at your discretion. A 15% charge is added to all beverage purchases.

I thoroughly enjoyed my cruise aboard the Carnival Pride. Sailing out of Baltimore, Maryland was easy and convenient. I think it’s a great ship for families, or singles and couples of any age. If you have never tried a Carnival cruise or it’s been many years since you last did, I implore you to consider it. Nobody does fun like Carnival! And aren’t you ready for some fun?

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