Introduced in 2002, Carnival Pride features an over-the-top decor inspired by Michelangelo, the Renaissance and Victorian England. From the moment you board the ship via the aptly named Renaissance Lobby, massive paintings capture the eye: behind the bar, high up on the walls, and on door and wall panels. This carries over throughout the ship, and, at times, can be overbearing with its heavy fabrics, dark colours and an overabundance of artistic design elements, such as glass flowers hanging from the ceiling.
But once you adjust to the visual overload, you'll find all the usual spots that are popular with Carnival cruisers. These include dining spots like Guy's Burger Joint and Bonsai Sushi, and watering holes such as the Alchemy Bar and RedFrog Pub. There are also a lot of Carnival's newest entertainment options -- think Playlist Productions and Dr. Seuss -- onboard, which we enjoyed along with many other passengers.
The layout of Carnival Pride is different from other cruise ships we've been on, so that took some getting used to as well. The majority of shops, entertainment venues and lounges are located on Decks 2 and 3 with the pools; the remaining dining and bar options, along with sports activities, are located on Decks 9, 10 and 11.
After getting our bearings though, we had no trouble finding our way to the various restaurants, activities and entertainment we wanted to experience. And it appears no one else did, either. Everywhere we looked, there were plenty of passengers taking part in activities and enjoying the various venues.
Due in part to the ship's layout, which helped disperse passengers throughout the ship, Carnival Pride felt more intimate, but not necessarily, more crowded, than other cruise ships we've sailed. And we were never bored, despite it being a smaller Carnival ship. We had a great time playing mini-golf, splashing in one of the pools, catching the evening shows and spending time with Dr. Seuss. While plenty of passengers joined us in this endeavour, we never felt cramped. As a result, Pride is ideal for passengers wanting a lot of the same offerings found on larger ships but without the larger crowds.
Overall, Carnival Pride is a festive ship and it's obvious everyone is enjoying their vacations. On top of that, we found the service was always spot on, with a friendly crew that answered questions, pointed us in the right direction and helped us with all of our requests.
Daytime: Not surprisingly, the majority of passengers on our cruise were dressed for a vacation in the sun: shorts, T-shirts, flip-flops, swimsuits and cover-ups.
Evening: On most nights during our seven-night cruise, dinner in the main dining room was casual, with passengers wearing everything from jeans and khakis to dress shorts and sundresses. During a weeklong cruise there will be two elegant nights; most passengers on our sailing attended dinner on these nights wearing suits, dress pants with sport jackets and Sunday dresses. We saw very few in formal dress or sequined gowns.
Not permitted: Cutoff jeans, shorts and swimwear are not permitted in any dining venue except the buffet.
Pride's main theatre, the Taj Mahal Main Lounge, is a two-story venue that hosts Playlist Productions shows; "Hasbro, The Game Show"; the "Love & Marriage Show"; and other entertainment options like towel folding fun, bingo and the "Seuss-A-Palooza Story Time." On the main floor, seating comprises rows of bench seats with small tables; these provide good views of the stage, although there are a few spots that are obstructed by columns. On the second level, there are rows of theatre seats, but some of the views up here are obstructed as well. For the best view of the stage, arrive early to find a good seat.
There is no shortage of fun activities on Pride, with games, trivia, karaoke, contests and more. We saw large turnouts for the "Rock Tune" trivia at the Piazza Cafe, the RedFrog Pub karaoke and the interactive skin care seminar in the spa. We attended the cooking demonstration at David's Steakhouse on the first sea day, and competed at "Hasbro's Sorry" in the Renaissance Lobby. You'll also find daily puzzles and brain busters activity sheets on the counter at the Piazza Cafe. These include crossword puzzles, sudoku and cryptic word challenges.
Even after a busy day of fun in the sun, there was no slowing down after sunset on Pride. Every evening, passengers turned out for Dive-In Movies at the Carnival Seaside Theater, which is a giant movie screen by the midship pool. Recent releases like "The Greatest Showman" and "Justice League" were among the family-friendly movies that were shown.
The Lido Deck is also the spot for evening deck parties, including the Mega Deck Party with the cruise director and live music, the Electric White Night (yes, everyone wears white) and the '80s Rock-n-Glow Party with DJ, dance contests and giveaways.
The Renaissance Lobby also stayed busy each night, with live music, music trivia with the cruise director and even a preview of the "Lip Sync Battle" show featuring fellow passengers.
Passengers who love dancing can do just that at the two-story Beauties Nightclub on Decks 1 and 2. On the main floor, the dance floor is the centre of attention, surrounded by tables and chairs plus seating along the wall. Upstairs, bar seating overlooks the dance floor below with more seating along the wall. A large bar is in the rear of the space.
Filled with numerous slots machines and gaming tables, passengers can try their luck day or night in the casino. Gaming tables include roulette, craps, blackjack, poker and more. The casino hosts tournaments throughout the cruise, including Texas Hold'em, slots, blackjack and more.
Butterflies Lounge (Deck 1): Home to the Punchliner Comedy Club shows, this lounge features booth-style seating with small tables. There is a hardwood floor in front of the stage, and butterflies dance across the ceiling. The lighting is low, reminiscent of a 1970s-era club. A bar lines the back wall, where passengers can grab a cocktail before the show starts.
RedFrog Pub (Deck 2): This speciality bar is outfitted with highboy tables and stools and palm tree decor. Menu items include Carnival's own beer, ThirstyFrog Red, along with craft and Caribbean beers, handcrafted cocktails, frozen cocktails and rum. The pub also is home to live music in the evenings.
SkyBox Sports Bar (Deck 2): Outfitted with massive large-screen TVs behind the bar and a scrolling sports ticker on the back wall, this space speaks to sports lovers. The bar runs along one wall with barstools at the ready, while high top tables with chairs and booth seating are available throughout the rest of the room.
Renaissance Lobby Bar (Deck 2): The centrepiece of the atrium lobby, this semicircular bar is a popular place to grab a drink throughout the day and night. Stools surround the bar, with additional seating scattered around the lobby.
Alchemy Bar (Deck 2): Another popular hot spot, this pharmacy-themed cocktail bar features leather stools around the bar and at additional high tops throughout the space. The menu features an eclectic mix of cocktails or you can work with the bartender to create your own.
Ivory Piano Bar (Deck 3): The party gets started late here, with live music starting at 9 p.m. The centrepiece of the bar is an elevated piano surrounded by bar seating; you'll find folks here every night singing along with the piano player.
Raphael Lounge (Deck 3): Sitting in a corner across from the Raphael conference room, this lounge consists of a bar along the back wall, with couches and chairs with tables. People mostly used this as a spot for pre- and post-dinner drinks.
RedFrog Rum Bar (Deck 9): Located by the main pool, this Caribbean-themed bar features has plenty of stool seating and a menu that includes Carnival's own ThirstyFrog Red beer as well as Caribbean and craft beers, rum-based cocktails and more.
BlueIguana Tequila Bar (Deck 9): Opposite RedFrog Rum Bar, this Mexican-themed bar, decked out in blue colours and accented by Mexican tile, serves up tequila-based drinks.
Serenity Bar (Deck 9): Lining the back wall of the Serenity Deck, this expansive bar features stools and chair seating and a menu of standard cocktails, beer, wine and nonalcoholic beverages.
Carnival Pride has three swimming pools, all on Deck 9. These include the forward pool, the midship (or main) pool and the Serenity pool. The midship pool is where all the action takes place: live music, Dive-In Movies, the Hairy Chest Contest and more. There are lounge chairs all around the pool, as well as on the perimeter of Deck 10. This also is where you'll find BlueIguana Cantina, Guy's Burger Joint, BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar, so it can be extremely crowded, especially during meal times. The area has a retractable roof that can be closed in the event of bad weather. There are no hot tubs in this area. This is easily the most crowded and loudest pool of the three.
There is a hot tub at one end of the forward pool, as well as lounge chairs around the perimeter and up on Deck 10. There also are shaded seating areas with wicker furniture and cushions. Two Ping-Pong tables sit at one end and were popular with people of all ages. The right side of the deck, by the forward pool is also the ship's smoking section, so be aware of where you choose your lounge chair. While this pool is active, it's not nearly as crowded as the main pool and certainly not as loud.
At the back of Deck 9 is the Serenity pool, which is part of the adults-only Serenity Deck. It also has a hot tub. There are plenty of lounge chairs and seating groups around the pool. Because it's adults-only, it's not nearly as crowded as the other pools, and is also much quieter.
Up on Deck 11, also referred to as the sports deck, there is a nine-hole mini-golf course surrounding a basketball court. We played mini-golf on more than one occasion, and they're always were other players on the course. The basketball court also stayed busy when we were sailing, but not in port. Down by the forward pool, there are two Ping-Pong tables, and these were always in demand.
At Carnival WaterWorks, passengers can tackle two water slides: the Green Thunder and Twister. As one of the faster water slides at sea, Green Thunder provides an adrenaline rush, while the Twister lives up to its name with many spiral turns. There's also a splash zone with water features, a dumping bucket and two mini water slides for small children. The water park's only drawback is there is essentially no seating on the small deck space surrounding it. We saw no more than six chairs by the water park during our cruise.
Because there are three pools on Pride, sun decks are more limited, but there is some space on Deck 10 just above the pools and below the water park. These have lounge chairs, but no tables. The adults-only Serenity Adult-Only Retreat on Deck 9 contains plenty of lounge chairs with cushions, half-shell cabanas and even some shaded seating; it also has a swimming pool and hot tub in the middle of the deck.
Guest services and the shore excursion desk are located on Deck 2 in the Renaissance Lobby, while self-service laundry facilities are in the following locations: Deck 1 (midship), Deck 4 (aft), Deck 5 (aft), Deck 6 (forward) and Deck 7 (midship). Bring plenty of quarters; laundry detergent is available for purchase.
In the Noble Library on Deck 3, passengers can borrow a book to read or play one of the many board games with family and friends. There are two workstations, a large centre table with chairs, and couches with tables by the windows. On Deck 2, the Crystal Card Room lives up to its name, with several tables and chairs set up for groups to play cards.
The Raphael Room on Deck 3 is a small conference room that played host to the art shows during our cruise. There's also a chapel on Deck 3 that stayed busy throughout our cruise with private meetings.
Along the Via Veneto, which is the shopping hallway on Deck 3, passengers can shop at the two large Fun Shops, one on each side of the hallway, for souvenirs, clothes, jewellery, toiletries and more. This also is home to Cherry on Top, where shoppers can purchase candy, flowers, special occasion gifts and more.
The Internet Cafe on Deck 2 consists of five computers and one printer. Passengers can choose from three internet service plans while onboard and pricing varies by length of cruise. The least expensive of the plans is the Social plan (the cost is about $5 per day), which provides access to social media networks and the most popular airline websites only. The Value plan provides access to all websites and apps; on our one-week cruise the cost was $16 for 24 hours or $84 for the entire cruise. The Premium plan provides access to all websites and apps and includes streaming services like YouTube and Spotify. However, Netflix, Hulu and Vimeo are not supported. The cost on our cruise was $25 per day or $123 for the entire cruise.
The Pixels Gallery encompasses all the wall space surrounding the atrium on Deck 3. Here, passengers can purchase souvenir photos, photo albums, picture frames, scrapbooking materials and photography equipment.
Open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Deck 9, Spa Carnival features 14 treatment rooms where passengers can enjoy facials, massages, body therapies, medi-spa cosmetic services and salon services. Prices are steep: a 75-minute Thai herbal poultice massage is $195, while a 100-minute Elemis Absolute spa ritual is $199. Medi-spa treatments include dermal filler treatments and wrinkle treatments. Men can enjoy a facial or grooming treatment with a shave. Salon services include blowouts, nail services and teeth whitening. Throughout the cruise, the spa offers a number of specials, which can be found on flyers just outside the spa entrance; also look for port day discounts. Inside the spa, there are men and women's locker rooms and a hot tub. Spa staff recommend booking appointments online prior to sailing or on the first day in order to get preferred treatment and/or time. Sea days usually fill up first.
Located on Deck 9 at the front of the ship, the fitness centre actually has two levels. Entry is on Deck 9, which is where you'll find men and women's locker rooms, as well as cardio equipment like ellipticals, treadmills and bikes. One deck up is a selection of hand weights and weight machines. Towels are provided. The fitness centre also hosts a variety of free and paid classes throughout the cruise. During our cruise, free classes included sunrise stretch, Fab Abs and evening stretch, while paid classes included yoga, indoor cycling and Body Sculpt Boot Camp. Yoga and cycling classes are $12 per class, with class passes available at discounted prices. Gym hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Children ages 12 to 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at all times; kids under 12 are not permitted.
On Deck 11, the jogging track circles the mini-golf course and the basketball court. Just over 15 laps equals approximately 1 mile. Walkers can also take to the outside promenade along Deck 10; 3.5 laps is equal to 1 mile.
With spots like BlueIguana Cantina, Guy's Burger Joint and Bonsai Sushi, Carnival Pride has more dining offerings than just a main dining room or buffet. What's better, the menu items at these eateries are fresh and made to order. But while these alternative restaurants stayed busy throughout our seven-night cruise, the tried-and-true favourites of the main dining room and the buffet on the Lido deck held their own, attracting a following. Overall, the food quality was high everywhere on Pride, and the crew kept everyone moving so wait times were minimal.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the buffet restaurant, with breakfast and dinner available in the main dining room, as well as in some of the alternative restaurants, though hours vary. BlueIguana Cantina, for instance, serves breakfast and lunch, while Guy's Burger only serves lunch. A limited room service menu is available 24 hours a day except on debarkation day.
Passengers with dietary restrictions should discuss their limitations with the cruise line prior to sailing; if that's not possible, they should speak with the maitre d' or wait staff before any meal so adjustments can be made.
Normandie Restaurant (Decks 2 and 3): Also called the main dining room, Normandie Restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner. On sea days, passengers can enjoy a sea day brunch from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. instead of breakfast. Menu items include eggs Benedict, steak and eggs, and pancakes. On port days, breakfast is available from 7 to 9 a.m. and features eggs, breakfast meats, pastries and more.
For dinner, cruisers can choose from the flexible Your Time Dining, which is available from 5:45 to 9:30 p.m. in the upstairs section of the restaurant, while the set time dining -- early (6 p.m.) and late (8:15 p.m.) -- is downstairs. Regardless of which style of dining you choose, all dinner menus are the same -- either Carnival's "American Table" menu on most nights or "American Feast" menu on formal nights.
The "American Table" menus include appetizers and entrees, but also feature a "rare find" item for adventurous eaters or "port of call" items related to ports on the current itinerary. For instance, braised rabbit or escargot may join such standard appetizers as shrimp cocktail, while sea bass fillet with plantain crust was offered as a Grand Turk entree.
Also on the "American Table" menu is a "From the Grill" section, which usually features a fish dish, flat iron steak, roasted chicken and a pork chop, all available with optional sauces like barbecue and wild mushroom. For an additional $20 fee, passengers can order a "Steakhouse Selection" such as a filet mignon and New York strip steak.
The "American Feast" menus, which are only offered on the cruise's optional formal night, include appetizers and entrees with a mix of regular and rotating items. For instance, shrimp cocktail is always on the menu while the soups rotate.
The dessert menu every night features standards like Carnival's chocolate melting cake or tropical fruit plate as well as specialities like buttered popcorn pot de creme and chocolate panna cotta.
A kids menu is also available and contains chicken nuggets, mac 'n' cheese, and other popular kid items.
Mermaid's Grille Lido Restaurant (Deck 9): Decorated in blues and greens, this buffet-style restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner via a variety of food stations spread throughout the space.
Breakfast foods include breakfast meats, pancakes, eggs, cereal, fruit and yoghurt. A made-to-order omelette station also is available and during breakfast hours, the beverage fountains serve up orange cocktail, apple juice and an orange/passion fruit/guava cocktail.
Lunch and dinner offers up a variety of options. For instance, you'll find country-specific cuisine at the "Chef's Choice" bar -- think American, Caribbean, Italian, French and more. At the "Comfort Kitchen" station, menu items range from pot roast and baked chicken to mac 'n' cheese and casseroles. An extensive salad bar is always available with greens, veggies, toppings and, premade salads like coleslaw and potato salad. The "Sweet Spot" features a variety of desserts, like cookies, cakes, pies, tarts and more. Beverage stations are stocked with lemonade, iced tea, coffee, hot tea and water.
From 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., late-night snacks like hot dogs and chicken fingers are available.
Soft serve ice cream is available 24 hours a day.
Parts of Mermaid's Grille may close at certain times during the day to switch over from breakfast to lunch and from lunch to dinner service, but at least one station remains open at all times.
Within Mermaid's Grille, there are several "individual" restaurants open at various times of the day. When it's lunchtime, head to Chopsticks to sample Chinese food such as vegetable fried rice, kung pao chicken, and sweet and sour pork. Open for lunch and dinner, the Carnival Deli makes fresh, made-to-order hot and cold sandwiches like a turkey wrap, pastrami on rye, and grilled ham and cheese.
Pizza Pirate (Deck 9): Open 24 hours a day, Pizza Pirate serves up five different types of pizza as well as Caesar salad (upon request). Pizzas include pepperoni, mushroom, margherita, four cheese and prosciutto. This restaurant stays busy throughout the day, and there can be waits of 15 minutes or so as passengers wait for fresh pizzas to bake.
Guy's Burger Joint (Deck 9): One of the ship's most popular eateries, Guy's Burger Joint features fresh-made hamburgers and seasoned French fries. While some passengers prefer the Plain Jane, others go all-out with the Chilius Maximus, which includes an onion ring, cheese, donkey sauce and chili. There's a condiment and toppings bar for those who like to further customize their burgers. Typical hours are noon to 6 p.m. (A vegetarian burger, though not listed on the menu, is available on request.)
BlueIguana Cantina (Deck 9): A hot spot at lunch, this Mexican eatery offers made-to-order tacos, burritos and salads with beef, chicken or shrimp, plus a whole host of additions such as black beans, corn and guacamole. In addition, there's a toppings bar with salsa, sour cream, tomatoes and more. Also open for breakfast, this restaurant offers up custom breakfast burritos.
Room Service: Pride offers 24-hour room service, including a continental breakfast from 5 to 10 a.m. that features cereals, breads, juices and coffee. A limited lunch and dinner menu is available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and includes salads, sandwiches and desserts. While juices, tea (hot and cold), coffee, milk and hot chocolate are complimentary, soft drinks and beer will incur regular bar prices. No room service is offered on debarkation day.
The Chef's Table (Deck 2); $75 per person: Available for dinner once or twice per cruise (depending on demand), this multicourse meal begins with a private tour of the galley with the master executive chef. Reservations are required.
The Piazza Cafe (Deck 2); a la carte pricing: Usually open all day, this coffee and pastry bar features a menu of speciality coffee drinks, milkshakes, cookies, cakes and chocolate-covered strawberries.
Bonsai Sushi (Deck 2); a la carte pricing: This popular Fun Ship 2.0 dining spot features a menu of appetizers, soup, salads, sashimi, bento boxes and sushi rolls. Japanese beer and sake also are available. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner on sea days and dinner only on port days.
David's Steakhouse (Deck 10); $38 per person: Open 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., this speciality restaurant takes elegant dining on Carnival to a new level. Above a replica of Michelangelo's David, a red sunroof (actually a part of Carnival's famous red funnel) high above the restaurant casts a warm glow over diners. With a menu of appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts, choices range from ahi tuna tartare, lobster bisque and Caesar salad to filet mignon, Maine lobster ravioli and grilled lamb chops. Desserts include cheesecake, a chocolate sampler and fresh fruit. Reservations are recommended.
Dr. Seuss Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast (Deck 2); $6 per person: You'll find the family-friendly Dr. Seuss Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast in the main dining room. It includes Dr. Seuss-themed foods along with character appearances. On our cruise, it was held on the last sea day; reservations are required.
Room Service; a la carte: While many room service items are free, Carnival Pride also offers a fee-based menu from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. that includes hot items such as chicken wings and tenders, fried shrimp and French fries. Items cost between $2 and $6 per item. From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the menu expands, adding items like grilled cheese, bacon and tomato sandwich, roast turkey wrap and chicken Caesar salad to the previously mentioned choices.
Staterooms on Carnival Pride are comfortable. In total, the ship has 1,062 staterooms (including many connecting rooms for larger groups, and a handful of accessible rooms for those with special needs), each sharing the following amenities: safes, mini-bars, hair dryers, nightstands with lamps, lighted dressing mirrors, ice buckets with glasses, and flat-screen TVs. We particularly liked the bedside lamps; they are great for families, allowing parents to turn off the overhead lights, but retain a lamp for reading, getting around and so on without disturbing sleeping children.
Most staterooms include plenty of storage with three closets (one with shelves), drawers in the desk, and more storage in the cabinet along the wall under the TV and in the nightstands. Because they are larger, suites have additional storage, but we had no problem finding a place for all of our belongings in our balcony stateroom.
Toiletries include shampoo and body wash dispensers in the shower, along with bar soap and facial tissues on the vanity. Unless in a suite, bathrooms are outfitted with showers only; vanities are sufficiently large with counter space on each side of the sink plus three shelves on each side of the mirror. Also, there's a retractable clothesline in the shower.
The only drawback for us was the lack of power outlets; the one outlet in the room was not nearly enough for all of our devices. Thankfully, we had brought along a power strip (without a surge protector, which are prohibited) that provided four outlets rather than just the one.
Interior: Carnival Pride offers 277 interior staterooms, each 185 square feet in size and sleeping up to four people. In addition to the beds, there's also a chair and coffee table, as well as a full bathroom with shower. There are a select number of interior rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow sunlight to shine in; however, the views from these windows are obstructed.
Oceanview: Encompassing 185 square feet, the 103 ocean-view staterooms accommodate a maximum of four passengers. In addition to the beds, there's also a sofa bed, coffee table and stool, along with a full bathroom. The window is large and square.
Balcony: Pride offers four types of balcony staterooms (totaling 632 rooms with balconies): balcony, balcony with obstructed views (which overlook the lifeboats), extended balcony and premium balcony. Except for the premium balcony rooms, all are the same except for the size of the veranda. Measuring 185 square feet in the stateroom, the standard balcony and balcony with obstructed view each have 40-square-foot balconies, while the extended balcony has a 60-square-foot balcony. The premium balcony stateroom measures 230 square feet and has a 55-square-foot balcony. All balcony staterooms accommodate up to four passengers, except the balcony with obstructed view, which only accommodates up to three people.
Suite: Passengers staying in suites enjoy more than just additional space; they also receive VIP check-in, a walk-in closet and a whirlpool tub in the bathroom. There are four suite types on Carnival Pride: Vista, Junior, Ocean and Grand.
Encompassing 245 square feet and accommodating up to three people, the 10 Vista Suites come with a desk and chair, nightstands, sofa bed, coffee table, chair and a full bathroom with tub. But it's the wall of windows and 220-square-foot balcony that wrap around the exterior of the stateroom that gives this room its name. On the balcony you'll find five chairs, two loungers and two small tables.
Measuring 275 square feet but accommodating only two passengers, the two Junior Suites have a mostly square layout with a spacious entryway, walk-in closet and full bathroom with tub. Opposite the bed, there is a seating area consisting of a table with three chairs plus a couch by the wall. The 40-square-foot balcony contains two chairs and a small table.
Accommodating up to four guests, the 32 275-square-foot Ocean Suites come with nightstands, sofa bed chair, coffee table, desk with chair, walk-in closet and full bathroom with double vanity and whirlpool tub. Outside, the 85-square-foot balcony is outfitted with two chairs, a lounger and a small table.
Inside the six 300-square-foot Grand Suites, which accommodate up to four passengers, you'll find nightstands, a desk with chair, dressing area with vanity, large bathroom with a double vanity and whirlpool tub, and a seating area with extended sofa bed, two chairs and coffee table. The 115-square-foot balcony includes two chairs, two loungers and a small table.