This new ship Carnival Pride is, as most passengers put it, "overwhelming!" She sits innocently in port looking very much like her sister ships CostaAtlantica and Carnival Spirit: a sleek white ship with the red/blue whale tail funnel and its upper decks all cabins with verandas. Since we had sailed on the CostaAtlantica, we knew something about the Pride's layout. However, the immensity of the detail in her decorations and furnishings is something to behold.
Do you like mermaids? Look overhead -- there's one . . . oh wait, two . . . oh my, three . . . too many to count. How about Renaissance classical art? Well, on the Pride it's everywhere: on the walls, on the elevator doors, closet doors and even on the walls of the cabin corridors. Carnival ship designer Joe Farcus, famous for his exciting interiors, has outdone himself in decorating the public areas of this ship with a multitude of details. Captain Claudio Cupisti said that brass identification plates for each reproduction and original piece of art are being made. For now, the ship is a quiz for art lovers. Is that Botticelli's Venus? Is that Raphael's self-portrait? Soon this game will have instant feedback as all of these items are labeled.
A guest enjoys a quiet moment amidst artwork in the Florentine Lobby
The ship was the 500th vessel built at the Kvaerna-Masa Yards in Helsinki, Finland. Her construction took less than two years and she was delivered to Carnival on Dec. 12, 2001. Her length is 959.07 ft., beam is 106 ft., keel to mast is 199.6 ft. and draft is only 26.03 ft. with gross tonnage 86,000. Her passenger capacity is 2,680 (there were 2,500 aboard this cruise) in a total of 1,062 staterooms and her crew capacity is 961; 80% of her staterooms are outside and 70% of all staterooms have a balcony. Her maximum speed is 24 knots with a cruising speed of 22 knots. The Pride is Panamax-Max: the largest size ship able to pass through the Panama Canal, and she is registered in Panama. She is magnificent!
This was our 23rd cruise, but only our second aboard Carnival. Last September we cruised onboard the Carnival Triumph, but the Carnival Pride at a cost of a mere $400 million is probably the most opulent liner of them all.
The Port of Miami is easily accessed from I-95 and this time there was only one check point: just show a picture I.D. and pass through. In the port, the National Guard was evident; they were needed to direct traffic, since there was a bit of gridlock. We spent about fifteen minutes waiting in stalled traffic, until an enterprising Guardsman took over and got the traffic moving. This was a first-time embarkation for this new ship, and no crew members were outside by the luggage drop-off to help with the wheelchair. Mary pushed it through check-in all the way to the cabin. Cabin keys were not at check-in, but rather at the other end of the building. It was a bit chaotic, but we are sure that this will all change at the Pride's official home, Port Canaveral.
Riviera Deck 1
Promenade Deck 2
If one walks forward from the dining room, portside is the Beauties Dance Club, perhaps the oddest decorated room on the ship with torsos (mannequin types in brightly-colored plastic); it is aimed at the younger set. However, immediately across is the lovely Florentine Lounge with the Venus of Urbino by Titian as a mural and a bandstand beautifully lit with hanging crystal flowers (fiber optics become stamens which change color); maroon and gold furniture, ornate framed copies of the masters (Titian, Botticelli, Raphael, Da Vinci and Poussin) and fancy candelabra are every few yards all the way forward.
This corridor opens out at the Renaissance Lobby where the Excursion and Purser's desk are. Here can be seen a bronze sculpture of a cowboy and six mustang horses (by Teskelinen), a gift from the Kvaerna-Masa Shipyard workers. Forward of the lobby is the casino, named The Winner's Club, with an excellent array of gaming tables and slots. The nicest feature we found to be the marble corridor winding through the casino, which makes it easy maneuvering for wheelchairs.
Just forward of the casino is the Starry Night Lounge, the Piazza Café (with coffee and elegant pastries for a nominal fee). There is a wonderful staircase here that leads to Deck 3 and the Via Veneto with a sculpture of four bronze figures. Forward is the three-deck-high Taj Mahal Theater with its white walls studded with colored glass that light up at night. The walls have Indian motifs with elephants; flanking the stage are minarets recalling the original Taj Mahal at Agra. The curtain is a deep red velvet with colored lights and the seats are all high-backed red and gold brocade: very comfortable.
Atlantic Deck 3
Just past the shops is one of the more soberly decorated rooms aboard -- The Ivory Lounge with pale oak wood, many display cases of carved ivory and the gracefully curved bar: a study in ivory, beige and oriental black lacquer. Next is the non-denominational Chapel, with windows overlooking the sea (there were several weddings onboard). Adjacent is the Nobel Library which combines bookstacks with the Internet stations (excellent use of space). There is a charge of $0.75 per minute for logging on to the Internet, or a cost of $99.95 for unlimited access during the cruise.
On the starboard side is the top section of the staircase leading up from Deck 2, which is made up of a series of bronze plates with faces of angels. They combine to make the shape of an old fashioned carousel (merry-go-round) -- apropos for a Carnival ship. This is a great setting for photographs. Forward is the second tier of the Taj Mahal. Here are the entrances to the quietest place on the ship, the Sunset Garden Walks (decorated with topiaries and mosaic tables near the huge porthole windows to the sea). Deck 3 also has a wonderful outside promenade, but alas, no deck chairs as yet.
Main Deck 4
Upper Deck 5, Empress Deck 6, Veranda Deck 7 and Panorama Deck 8
Lido Deck 9
Located amidships is the outdoor stage, with a mosaic replica of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus," and next, the most spectacularly decorated buffet afloat: the Mermaids' Grille. This under-the-sea motif has mermaids "swimming" overhead and statues of boys on dolphins everywhere. There are carp fishes all along the walls spouting water, and the iridescent colors of water give this area ambiance. There are scallop shells over the many food stations (pizza, sandwich bars, hot entrées, salad bars, fruit bars, dessert stations, cook-to-order stations, and ice cream stations). Although this buffet was highly used, there was always easy access, clean tables available and staff assistance. Special thanks to waiter Alexander (Lithuania) who assisted Vincent several times.
Sports Deck 11
Sky Deck 12
The designated smoke-free areas are as follows: all the dining areas, the Gym, Spa and Beauty Salon, the Taj Mahal, Butterflies, Camp Carnival and the open decks, portside.
Food & Service
Immediately upon boarding the ship, check table assignments. With the wheelchair, we prefer a table near the entrance, so we won't disturb other diners. Maitre d' Ken Byrne (Dublin, Ireland) was helpful and gave us an easily accessible table for two. The Maitre d' sets the mood in the dining room and this handsome (Clark Gable-like) gentleman is a credit to Carnival. On formal nights he was dapper in his white pique waistcoat and tails, and he sang several songs including "New York, New York" and "My Way" with great flair. Bravo!
Our waitresses Krisztina and Orsolya (Hungary) were friendly and very competent. This menu seemed to be pared down a bit compared to say the Princess menu, but there was still enough of a selection to make everyone happy. Appetizers were varied -- try the shrimp or the mozzarella di buffalo with tomatoes. Hot and cold soups and salads were generally good. The entrées were done well and presented beautifully on elegant Rosenthal Époque dinner plates (Germany) and with Oneida silverware. The food in the dining room was good and sometimes surprising (i.e., we actually had some decent-tasting Italian spaghetti "Zia Teresa" with mushrooms and meatballs served in a tomato sauce).
Breakfast in the main dining room was unhurried. We ordered room service the first morning (generally room service was slow, up to 45 minutes), but only Continental Breakfast was available, so after that we went up to the Mermaids' Grille where eggs and omelets were made to order with all sort of sides dishes (bacon, sausages, ham, hash browns, hash, pancakes, French toast, etc.). The pizza there was also good and with a large variety. On Monday and Thursday, High Tea was served in the Florentine Lounge with music.
David's Supper Club is quite nice, although service here was only on a par with the main dining room. The food was good, the bread so-so, but the entrées were worth it: stone crabs, lobster tail and choice cuts of meat (T-bone and 10-oz. veal chop). The desserts were excellent, but very small. The wine list was more than adequate.
Hotel Director Shahnaz Kashanipour is friendly and helpful. She is quite active and is visible all over the ship. Chief Purser Michael Laundry can fix anything. This is a new ship on her inaugural voyage, so there are bound to be minor adjustments to make, but we thought that things ran like clockwork. The crew was efficient and smiling, the ship was spotless and the highly detailed furnishings were interesting and pure Carnival!
Wheelchair accessible Cabin #7260 on Deck 7 is roomy, and its main feature is a 30-foot long balcony of about 200 square feet (there are a few others like this on the ship), where our very efficient cabin stewardess Joanna (Poland) placed two chaise lounges next to the table and chairs already there. When entering the cabin, on the left is a huge 7' x 7' bathroom with sea blue tiles and mosaic trim, an aqua sink with mirror and four glass shelves for sundries, and safety rails all around, a shower stool, clothes and towel hooks handy from wheelchairs. Next there is a double wardrobe with lots of shelves and hangers.
When entering the cabin on the right is a double bed, two night stands with wood and copper trim lamps. The far wall has a lighted vanity/desk with hairdryer and stool, next there is a console with TV, cabinet, refrigerator and private safe and a small oval coffee table and two small upholstered chairs. The walls are beige with maple wood trim and the carpeting is a bright red and peach pattern. All is fresh and new. On the walls are numbered prints of Cezanne's "Apples" and "St. Remy" orchard: nicely coordinated.
Cruise Director Tony Linton was friendly and funny. Daily activities included Trivia, Dolphin Races, Bingo, Casino Tournaments, Art Auctions, Dance Lessons and many organized activities for teens and children.
The shows in the Taj Mahal were somewhat similar to those we had seen on other ships; they were on par, but louder is not better. The "Wonderful World" show was made new and better by the excellent voices of Lorena Peril and Marvin Lewis. The second main show, "Vroom," showcased the singers and dancers quite well, but again it was too loud for comfort. The real hit of the cruise was guest entertainer John Davidson. He was funny, peppy, and created a great rapport with the audience, thus he was given two standing ovations. He was in sensational voice and his sound check was perfect. EXCELLENT!
Activities and Ports
BELIZE CITY, BELIZE
KEY WEST was scheduled but canceled, since Carnival's regular dock was commandeered by the U.S. Navy. This meant that tendering would be necessary, and with 10-foot swells Capt. Cupisti decided it would be too risky. Excellent decision! Safety comes first. He apologized and the ship's crew worked extra hard to keep passengers happy on board.
Overall, this was a nice cruise on a brand new ship. It was even better than expected for the festive atmosphere of the New Year celebration. This was our second cruise on Carnival and there will be many more, especially on new ships, on the Carnival Legend, perhaps. For now we have booked three more cruises, one on Celebrity's Millennium, Eastern Caribbean; another on the Norwegian Dream, South America; and the third is a return to the CostaAtlantica, Eastern Caribbean. We just love to cruise!
PHOTOS courtesy of Andy Newman, Carnival Cruise Lines.
For lots more SeaLetter photos and information on Carnival Pride, click HERE.
Vincent & Mary Finelli have written many reviews for the SeaLetter and may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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