Carnival Pride Review and My First Impressions

We didn't need the retractable glass dome except for one rainy day in Belize.
We didn’t need the retractable glass dome except for one rainy day in Belize. It’s also the SeaSide Theater.

Note:  Carnival Pride underwent a short dry dock in February 2019.  The chapel was removed and a Michael’s Craft Center took its place.  Everything else is the same – dining, activities, pool etc.

Three reasons why I chose the Carnival Pride.

1.  The appeal of a Tampa departure.

Tampa’s cruise passenger demographic during the winter (except for school holidays) tends to attract an older, retired crowd from the surrounding area as well as snowbirds from the Midwest. I had a lot of work to do and would welcome a slower paced week.

2.  A $75 million Funship 2.0 makeover.

It had been years since I was on the Carnival Pride so it was time for a Carnival Pride review. There’s new carpeting and stateroom upgrades, the addition of Guy’s Burger Joint, the BlueIguana Cantina, RedFrog Pub and BlueIguana Rum Bar.  The George Lopez Comedy Club was added as well as one of my favorite new Carnival concepts, the Taste Bar.

3.  The Annual Cayman Cookout.

The Carnival Pride my first choice between two cruises from Florida that would arrive in Grand Cayman on the exact day of an international culinary event that I wanted to attend.

Port of Tampa Embarkation

If you haven’t cruised from the port of Tampa, you should try it. The adjacent car parking structure is a breeze.

Cruising from the small Port of Tampa is easy, quick and convenient.
Cruising from the small Port of Tampa is easy, quick and convenient.

Many hotels in the area, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Marriott Courtyard and more, offer a pre-cruise hotel package that includes breakfast, free parking during your cruise, and a shuttle to/from the port. I stayed at the Marriott Courtyard Westshore and I’d gladly stay there again.

Boarding the Carnival Pride, from shuttle drop-off at the port at noon to walking into my room took less than 25 minutes. I dreaded a mid-day boarding but Carnival had plenty of staff to facilitate the rush, which actually seemed to be closer to 2pm.

Our Itinerary

For a 7-night cruise, we covered four ports; Costa Maya, Belize, Mahogany Bay (an island off the coast of Honduras) and Grand Cayman.  All ports were in the same vicinity along the coast of Mexico and Central America and then over to Grand Cayman, with sea days as bookends to the itinerary.

First Impressions

From the moment I stepped aboard, there was no mistaking I was on a Carnival ship.  Guests are greeted with a rainbow of vivid colors, a red-glass-roofed atrium with brass-trimmed glass elevators and a huge semi-circular bar. There’s a DJ getting the sailaway party started and people are dancing even before the ship leaves port.

Rainbow-hued atrium with two glass elevators. Fun to ride up and down and watch the people below.
Rainbow-hued atrium with two glass elevators. Fun to ride up and down and watch the people below.

The themed dècor is kind of Renaissance meets ancient Greece and Rome.  Whether along the hallways or adorning the pools and spa, there are reminders and replicas of Mediterranean paintings and statues.  Unusual and very interesting, contemporary glassworks are encased in the corners of each stairwell. Worth the time to look at them, even though the artists’ names are not listed.

Stateroom

My balcony stateroom looked very familiar. The Carnival Pride (built in 2002) is one four Carnival’s Spirit Class ships on which I’ve sailed many times. From the peach and orange stateroom interior color and aqua bathroom countertop to the desktop and closet space, it’s all the same on all the Spirit Class ships.

Here's my standard balcony stateroom. Lots of desktop space, plus a fridge and safe.
Here’s my standard balcony stateroom. Lots of desktop space, plus a fridge and safe.

On the balcony, one chair was fixed upright and the other could recline. A small table made it easy to enjoy a room service coffee in the morning and a glass of wine and snacks before dinner.

Nice sized balcony and one of the chairs has a reclining back.
Nice sized balcony and one of the chairs has a reclining back.

The bathroom had ample space and the shower sported a new shower-head and curtain.  Plenty of storage for two people.

Ample countertop and shelf space in this bathroom. Love the magnifying mirror.
Ample countertop and shelf space in this bathroom. Love the magnifying mirror.

Outdoors

There’s the adults-only Serenity pool and relaxation area with plenty of hammocks, padded loungers and sitting areas. A midship pool with a retractable roof was handy on our rainy day in Belize.  Over at Carnival Waterworks water park, I didn’t try either of the awesome twisty water slides.  At night along the pool deck is the large screen Seaside Theatre featuring themed movie nights.  Soft ice cream and yogurt are available around the clock, located at two stations near the pool.

Here's what the retractable dome looks like fully-closed.
Here’s what the retractable dome looks like fully-closed.

Food and Dining

It’s the same Lido food buffet that I’ve seen a zillion times, yet it still takes me a couple of days to get my bearings. There is always a choice of crispy-crust pizzas and on-request Caesar salad.

My first lunch on a Carnival ship is at Guy's Burger Joint. With or without the meat.
My first lunch on a Carnival ship is at Guy’s Burger Joint. With or without the meat.

Outdoors at lunch time around the Lido pool is Guy’s Burger Joint, open until 6-6:30pm.  BlueIguana Cantina Tacos and Burritos offers a pick-out-what-you-want filling and an excellent toppings bar, complete with nearly two dozen hot sauces to choose.

My favorite Carnival dining venue is Bonsai Sushi and I ate there three of the seven nights.  Reasonably priced, the sushi and sashimi are amazingly fresh, beautifully yet simply presented and larger-than-usual portions.  Depending upon what I selected, my dinners ranged from $10 to $14 dollars.  This included a small salad, sushi dish, a sampler bite, hot green tea and dessert.  Best value around.

Bonsai Sushi. So good I went there three times. That's the shrimp tempura roll.
Bonsai Sushi. So good I went there three times. That’s the shrimp tempura roll.

In the evenings, the Lido Buffet offered almost all of the same options as the Normandie main dining room.  A nice break if you want “dining room food” in a casual atmosphere.  There’s also 24/7 room service.  On the last formal night, I dined at David’s, a reservations-requested upscale (and very good) steakhouse.  The fee was $35 per person.

But as I always do on cruises, I tagged my door handle with my breakfast request before I went to bed.  Out of courtesy (and convenience for me) before I went to sleep, I set out a couple of dollars on the table so that when my breakfast was delivered I didn’t have to fumble for a gratuity for the room service person.

Entertainment

There’s plenty to do in the evenings.  On a couple of nights, I walked through but didn’t stop in the casino; it was a bit too smoky-smelling (though not smoke-filled) for me.  Instead, I headed down to deck one to the George Lopez Comedy Club to listen to a hilarious comedienne from Minnesota.  Several other male comedians rotated performances throughout the cruise, with evening and late night adults-only shows.

Formal night in the Atrium.
Formal night drinks and dancing in the Atrium.

Playlist Productions stages four full-blown theatrical shows, with flashy but not risqué costumes. One night the show was “80’s Pop to the Max,” another was a Motown-style revue called, “Heart of Soul.”  Two more new shows plus a variety of entertainers on the non-Playlist nights filled the Taj Mahal Theater.

Carnival has a partnership with Hasbro, so families are entertained with Hasbro the Game Show on several occasions.  I stuck to the dazzling Playlist Productions plus a couple of the comedy shows and enjoyed all of them.

Conclusion

Smaller than some of the newer Carnival ships, the Pride offers a relaxing week-long cruise. With four consecutive port days flanked by two sea days, there’s a lot to do on land and plenty of shore excursion choices. For me, staying on board for half of the day in Belize while the ship emptied out, added to my relaxation.

I never heard anyone hawking a “Gold by the Inch” sale, although there were two lunchtime announcements for art auctions. I wasn’t approached to buy $10 drinks in souvenir glasses or pushy photographers. It seemed like onboard sales pitches had been downplayed and the once-intrusive marketing was nearly non-existent.

Going with my assumption that Tampa departures equate to older guests and this wasn’t a school holiday week, I didn’t notice many teenagers. A few families with infants may have taken part in Seuss at Sea (as in Dr. Seuss) activities and themed Seuss character breakfasts ($). Of course, the passenger mix will vary from sailing to sailing especially during holidays.

Carnival has done much to improve their image over the last year or so. From better personalized service and upgraded food quality (except for the packaged yogurt!) to diverse dining venues and less raucous energy.

The Carnival Pride is but one example of how this cruise line is working hard to overcome a few rough bouts of negative publicity. With insightful, new leadership at the helm, exciting new ships on the horizon and an overall drastic improvement, I’d cruise again on Carnival without hesitation.

Disclosure:  In the spirit of full-disclosure, I was a guest of Carnival Cruise Line aboard the Carnival Pride.  My goal is to present the facts as unbiased as possible.  However, all opinions, statements and sentiments given are my own. If I don’t like something, it doesn’t mean that others won’t enjoy it.  And just because I’m crazy about something, doesn’t guarantee others will like it.

For more information visit: Carnival Cruise Line


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8 thoughts on “Carnival Pride Review and My First Impressions”

  • Hi Pat,
    Thank you for your questions. Yes, the Carnival Pride was in drydock in mid-February. All that was done was to remove the chapel and put in a Michael’s Craft Center. Other than that, to the best of my knowledge, there weren’t any other major changes. Except of course, like you said, now the ship sails from Baltimore! I really like Carnival’s older ships, too. The Pride only has slightly over 2,100 which for me, is a decent size…and “small” these days.

    Have a wonderful cruise!
    Sherry

  • Can we get a 2019 update in The Pride that now leaves out if Baltimore, MD? Hasn’t it been in dry dock? Has it been renovated? Updated?

  • Being from PA,
    The Carnival Pride departing from Baltimore is good as it gets for me and my Family
    We Enjoy every moment and its a great ship…4th time Cruising on the Pride..

  • First cruise ship I was on and probably the last, too many kids and I didn’t think the service was very good.Had to wait too long for drinks ,15 minutes to get a Coke that sucks.Sorry but for what it costs me and my wife were very dissatisfied.

  • Hi Carol, Remember…the longer the cruise, the older the demographic. And Tampa seems to attract an older passenger, too. I went on quite a few Carnival cruises in the last two years and I have not been disappointed and enjoyed all of them.

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