After previously having cruised with Celebrity and Disney with our children we decided to give Carnival a chance. We decided on the Carnival Pride since it sailed out of Baltimore, Maryland which is a two and a half hour drive from our home. (Not having to fly is always a plus!)
This particular itinerary on the Carnival Pride was a seven-night cruise that visited Grand Turk, Halfmoon Cay, and Grand Bahama Island. We booked the Grand Ocean Suite, the largest cabin this particular ship has to offer. For price comparison, the Grand Ocean Suite on the Carnival Pride cost about as much as a normal balcony cabin on a Disney Cruise. You can read more about Carnival’s lackluster suite perks here. This was my second time sailing on the Carnival Pride. My first cruise on the Carnival Pride was in 2009. It was drydocked for a renovation in 2014 and it’s scheduled for a “Fun Ship 2.0” rehab in early 2019.
Check out our highlight video of this cruise below:
The 5 Best Things About the Cruise:
1. Camp Ocean –
The kids had a blast at the Camp Ocean kids club. Ours were two and five at the time of our cruise, so they went to the Penguins area which is for ages 2-5. This was one of the reasons we booked a Carnival Cruise. We haven’t encountered any other cruise line that had a kids club that a two-year-old could attend.
Disney at least has a nursery, but that’s a $9 an hour charge and most toddlers don’t want to hang out with babies. On the Carnival cruise our two-year-old was able to play with our five-year-old and, in fact, when I asked him what his favorite part of the cruise was, he responded: “Daddy bye-bye – Me play kids club. ”
2. Waterworks – The kids loved the Splashzone splash area. Since our two-year-old wasn’t allowed in the pools, Splashzone was great, because it gave him a place to play.
While technically you’re not supposed to let kids in swim diapers in this area, we didn’t see anyone enforcing that. The waterpark had slides, fountains, and a for toddlers as well as larger slides for the bigger kids and adults. (I went down Green Thunder).
3. Serenity Retreat – While the kids were off having fun at the kids club, we enjoyed the adults only area at the rear of the ship. The Serenity deck has a pool, two hot tubs, clamshell cabanas, lounge chairs, and even hammocks. But you need to get here early if you want to claim a chair. They’re all spoken for by 8 or 9am. However, a staff member puts stickers on vacant chairs and after 45 minutes clears them off for the next guest.
4. Seuss At Sea –
Having recently gone on a Disney Cruise, this was a little underwhelming. Seuss at Sea consisted of all the children meeting in the Atrium and having a parade to the main theater where a Dr. Suess book was read. It was cute, but the entire event was over in less than 45 minutes. In comparison to Disney’s Marvel Day at Sea, Halloween On the High Seas, or even Pirates Night, Carnival’s event was in the minor leagues. But never-the-less, it was better than the almost nonexistent activities Celebrity had for the kids.
5. Allergy-Friendly Options* – The reason for the asterisk is because this was also one of “bad” aspects of this cruise. (On the final night our son had to be rushed to the infirmary). But prior to that final night, Carnival exceeded my expectations in what they were able to offer our children to accommodate their food allergies (My expectations were not too high, though). Similar to other cruise lines, you need to order each meal a day in advance. They made them gluten and egg-free pancakes for breakfast and hot dogs for lunch most days. They were able to modify almost every dinner option on the menu to accommodate their allergies, as well. Contrary to the information posted on Carnival’s website, they were able to deliver them their allergy-friendly meals up to the Mermaid’s Grille on Deck 9. The kids were also able to eat at the BBQ on Halfmoon Cay.
The Top 3 Worst Things on this Cruise:
1. Allergy-Friendly Options – While there was a lot the kids were able to eat on this cruise, like I mentioned above, on the last night they served my son who is allergic to egg a dessert with egg in it. While Disney has a very regimented chain of command when it comes to ordering allergy-friendly meals, Carnival was more a free for all. The staff seemed generally overworked (read more about that next) and therefore, it’s easy for mistakes to occur. On Disney, the head waiter was responsible for taking our allergy orders. Disney also had two chefs dedicated to only preparing the allergy-friendly meals. On Carnival, our waiter had to take our sons’ next day orders while running around with his other duties that couldn’t possibly be accomplished by one person.
On the final night, he had to be rushed to the infirmary due to an allergic reaction because he was served something in the dining room that contained egg, one of the allergens the staff had been informed of. The dining room staff subsequently admitted the dessert contained egg after we administered medication and were at the infirmary. Guest services comped the $150 medical bill but it ruined the end of the cruise a bit.
The problem seems to stem from the staff not knowing exactly who is supposed to be in charge of ensuring a dish does not contain the allergens the customer has informed them of. We followed all of Carnival’s procedures and ordered each meal a day in advance and even came prepared with a card listing all of my son’s food allergies to show the staff. Other cruise lines have a much better chain of custody and we have never had an issue with other lines and food allergies.
2. Overworked Staff – Carnival has gotten rid of the beverage server so now your waiter needs to also take your beverage order on top of his other duties. On nights where nearby tables were empty service was fine, but on formal nights when everyone showed up, it was a madhouse. The servers were visibly sweating from having to run around. I gave up after the second attempt of trying to get coffee with my dessert one night.
3. Condition of the Ship – We stayed in Cabin 6217, one of the four Grand Ocean Suites on the Carnival Pride. We had what was supposed to be the largest and best accommodations the Carnival Pride has to offer. The cabin was double the size of the normal cabins with an equally large balcony. However, the balcony of our suite was covered in paint chips that basically made it unusable for our kids. Every time they’d sit on the deck furniture they became covered in paint chips.
I brought it to the attention of guest services on multiple occasions and show them photos. We tried having lunch on the balcony one day and had to abandon that when I realized my two-year old’s hotdog had white paint chips on after he touched a deck chair. The crew had our balcony washed but it did not remove the paint chips from our deck furniture. Eventually, they provided us a free couples massage for our aggravation but that didn’t resolve the issue of an unusable balcony. The exterior of the ship was also fairly rusty.