Thursday, June 14, 2012

May 2012 – Carnival Pride Cruise Part 1 - 5/27/12-6/3/12

Ok so here goes nothing… Please keep in mind this will jump back and forth from Chris’s point of view to my own… I’ll keep things in line (or try to!) 

Also, I'm going to post this in 4 different sections, so please use the navigation sidebar to keep up!

Chris – 5/27/12 – Day 1 of the Cruise - Embarkation

After a pretty rough May culminating in having to say goodbye to my beloved dog of almost 13, I decided to do something I've never done in my life, book an immediate vacation. We are official cruise junkies and usually plan our vacations almost a year in advance. We had 193 days until our Breeze cruise and booking the Pride cut that down to 13!!! It never sucks cutting off 6 months off your wait until the next cruise. I had done a lot of research that weekend into 3-4 day cruises that were almost exclusively out of Florida. It was cheaper for us to book a 7 day cruise out of Baltimore than to deal with the absurd airline prices and a much shorter cruise. We got home and Cass checked out cabins and there were only 8 interior rooms left. After dinner I got online and they were down to 4. I jumped on one of them and as I was about to pay, I remembered that we had a FCC from our Liberty cruise. So I called Carnival and booked over the phone and they were able to apply our FCC so I got $100 off and we had $100 OBC waiting for us. We love our balconies but since this was last minute and I was trying to save some money I didn’t mind settling for an inside cabin. We got room 4109 which is above the corridor that leads to the Secret Garden on deck 3. I was also surprised when we found out that this isn't a traditional inside cabin but one even with the life boats that has a window. Think of it as an obstructed Ocean View cabin.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that the roll call was pretty active and had a lot of nice people in it (even if there were several Yankee fans). We jumped right in and signed up for the hosted meet and greet the first sea day.

This was my 6th cruise and Cass’ 5th (4th time on the Pride for us). The Port of Baltimore is so ridiculously close and convenient that the Pride is almost our vacation home. The fact that we would be back on the Pride in such a short time was weird. We kept looking at each other over the next two weeks just smiling. The time flew and before we knew it we were driving to port.

It only took us 25 minutes to get to port and we arrived around 10:45.

Cass always has to get a shot of the ship as we pull up.

We got to the port quick and after 10-15 minutes we were waiting in line at security.

It took us about 30 minutes as it seems they just opened up but once through the rest was cake. We got our boarding passes and were on the ship by 11:45. There was no wait to get on, no boarding zones or anything which was a first for any cruise we've been on (they must have done a great job debarking). Went straight to the Serenity Deck and grabbed a hammock as we were the only people up there.

We passed on the first couple guys coming around with DOD's (Drink of the Day's) but our will is only so strong.

And look!  It's the regular DOD Cups!  I'm on Vacation Woooo!

It's kind of weird (but also cool) being recognized on cruise ships from our reviews and it happened pretty early as our roll call mates Emily and Mike saw us and came over to say hi. Now I was worried as most of our roll call were baseball fans (and the Sox have been sucking) but Emily is probably the coolest Yankee's fan I've ever met. They told us they were big trivia fans so I knew we'd be seeing a lot of them over the next week.

It was getting pretty warm out in the sun so I decided to take a few pictures of the deck above the Serenity area.

This is also where the slide ends

We decided to enjoy our drinks and sit in the comfy shaded chairs in the Serenity area.

As we were waiting we saw some fellow cruise message board members Karen and her husband. They sat down and talked for a while (very nice people). It was about 1:30 and we decided to get some food from the Mermaid Grill. I was actually rather impressed (or maybe just really hungry) with the lunch served.

After eating we decided to check out our room to see if it was ready. Fortunately it was and we were able to drop off our carry on bags.

So here's our cabin, same standard size, just with no balcony.

The TV was horribly crappy and Cass was a little upset that there was no shampoo rack in the shower for all her crap. She really liked it on the Liberty. There was also NO electrical outlet in the bathroom.

Cass had contacted the Carnival Player's Club prior to our Liberty cruise and they didn't respond until after we had gotten back. We had no hope of a response before this cruise but they more than made up for missing us on the last one. We were supposed to get the small bonus of 2 plates of chocolate covered strawberries, but we were thrilled to find the following in our room.

Now don't get your hopes up, the Captain Morgan was a gift from some friends we met on our last Pride cruise (completely unexpected and completely awesome!!!).

We loved the bottles of water and the fruit basket also had a bottle of wine in it!

My luggage arrived as we were in the room so I took the time to unpack and made a drink with some Captain Morgan 

We walked around the ship a little before muster and got some pictures of the Taj Mahal main stage.

After that it was muster (relatively quick and painless) and then our unofficial meet and greet back at the Serenity bar for sail away.

We hung up on Serenity for a couple of hours (Baltimore isn't the most photogenic of cities but did get some nice pictures).

Key Bridge
A Hottie

Around 6 Cass wanted to go back to the room to see if her luggage had been delivered.

She unpacked and we headed to dinner (with some drinks in hand).

We had a bit of a wait for dinner (theme for the entire cruise). Anytime Dining must be getting very popular as we'd only had to wait once in our previous 4 cruises.

I loved the old style chicken finger that they had on previous cruises as they were lightly breaded and not heavy at all. The ones they had for today's app were pretty much the same they have on the Lido grill during lunch. They're not bad, just not nearly as good as the other version.

Cass had the Heart of iceberg lettuce with the vinaigrette

For our main courses I had the Braised Beef Brisket (delicious) and Cass had the Chicken Ala Greque (she loved it, one of her favorites for the cruise)

For dessert we shared the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake. You don't need me to tell you how good it is.

Went back to the room and found the dreaded Vajayjay Monster waiting for us. I think it's supposed to be a Seal, but seriously.

We had been gearing up for the Piano Bar with a playlist of popular songs. So we headed up there shortly after it opened and grabbed a seat at the bar.

It took a while for it to get going but there were 20 or so people in there at one point. Then I'm guessing the other shows dragged them away as little by little our crowd dwindled to just a few of us. It was pretty obvious around 11 that this was just not the night for the Piano Bar.

Decided to go back to Serenity and relax for a while in the hammock where we started our day before grabbing a slice of pizza and calling it a night.

Cassandra - 5/28/12 – Day 2 of Cruise – Day at Sea

Monday found us waking up a little after 8 am – Chris wasn’t feeling too well from all the carbonation from his Captains and Dr. Peppers the night before (we usually let them go completely flat for him here at home). I felt unusually motivated for the first morning waking up on a ship and decided to take advantage of it and headed off to the gym. Packed. I can’t run on treadmills on the ship – I’m clumsy enough as it is – trying to run on something stationary while a ship is swaying has “twisted ankle” written all over it. So I waited a few minutes and an elliptical machine opened up. My plan was to do 45 mins on it, but they have them locked to a max of minutes… when 15 minutes passed by, I noticed there were less people there an no one waiting, so I restarted the program for another full 30 mins and got my full workout in. I’ll mention this about the ellipticals on the Pride – they aren’t as nice as the ones on the Liberty – I wasn’t able to access the TV stations from the machine panel, unfortunately. That left me with my iPod and the ocean view, but I suffered through.

Chris took advantage during that time to hunt out some OJ from the Lido deck and helped himself to an apple from our gift basket. He also took that time to type out notes for the review from Embarkation day on his Kindle Fire. He has an app that was free one day from Amazon which is essentially an MS Office program with Word – he found it extremely useful on both this trip and on the Liberty to be able to type up notes throughout the trip (and it gave him something to do while I was “wasting time” with girlie activities like hair and makeup )

I got back to the room, had a banana from the fruit basket for breakfast (we both thoroughly enjoyed having this in the room – we munched on the grapes and almonds all throughout the cruise – made for good healthy snacking instead of a late-night trip to the pizza bar!), and we got ready for the day. We donned our bathing suits, packed up the backpack with tanning essentials, and headed out to scope out our sunning spot. We knew it was probably pointless by this late in the morning, but did a pass-through of Serenity – yeah already packed – mostly people – very few chair hogs as there were also folks in the Serenity pool – so we headed directly to our favorite quiet spot – Deck 11 by the funnel. To get there, you have to go up to deck 10, head towards the funnel, then go inside and up the stairs – there’s a door leading to the another set of open-air stairs that will take you up to this awesome secluded spot.

On the first sea day, it’s usually deserted – we lucked out and had our own private tanning deck.

We did get some passer-bys of people out scoping out all the nooks and crannies of the ship, and by the 3rd or 4th day it’s not quite as deserted – but still always a guaranteed spot to get a chair. It also helps that on days when the ship is sailing, there’s quite a good bit of wind – so you stay relatively cool even without a pool. We did invest in some chair clips prior to the cruise this year (do a google search for Boca Beach Towel Clips) and they work great for keeping your towel where it should be!

After about an hour and a half, we had each had enough (neither of us are real sun-worshippers – we like to get enough to make it look like we were on vacation – but I burn easily and Chris can only take so much sun). So we headed back down to the room to drop off our stuff and the to the Lido buffet for lunch.

We took some random shots of the shops and the areas on decks 2/3 Forward as we were heading back to the room.

Stairs by the sports bar and Starry Nights Lounge

The coffee bar next to the stairs
We never opted to buy the specialty coffees here, but I was tempted a few times. I'm sure it beats the Lido Deck coffee (which wouldn't be too hard!)

The main Atrium

Still feeling healthified from my gym session that morning I went to the salad bar and Chris went in the opposite direction to the grill for a cheeseburger. This was the first time I tried the salad bar, and while the veggie selections were great, I was disappointed there was no protein like cold chicken or turkey cubes. This would be a welcome addition! There was a section next to the salad bar with cold cuts of deli turkey and cheese, so I grabbed a few slices of that instead. Met up with Chris who wanted a Funnel Cup, so I got the DOD in a regular cup as well.

We wandered the ship for a while to kill some more time before our CC Meet and Greet. 

Hallway on Deck 3 towards the shops

Outside of Sports Bar

Interior of Sports Bar

Then off to the Ivory Piano Bar at 2pm for our Meet and Greet. We felt bad because Tammy (NYTammy) was apparently not feeling too well and wasn’t able to make it to the M&G. Her husband was there to make sure we were on the list and gave us our wrist bands Tammy got just for the event. It was nice – snacks were laid out (chips and goldfish crackers) and they had a waitress coming around with mixed drinks (similar to what they pass at the Past Guest parties – Rum Punch, Blue Margaritas, and Amaretto Sours). The hour went quick, and a few rum punches later we were all getting kicked out for another function.

It was then time for the first of 4 Super Trivia rounds for the week, and some of our fellow M&G’ers came with us to Rapahel’s lounge for the first round.  

We have previously done Super Trivia on the Liberty, so we knew what to expect… or at least thought we did! This time, instead of 5-6 teams of 6-8 people, the teams were split Men vs. Women for a Battle of the Sexes style game. It made for an interesting twist (and also encouraged newcomers to join throughout the week) but we wondered how it would work out come finals at the last round and the winning prizes. That would make for a lot of champagne and ships on sticks… Chris was nominated the “captain” of the Men’s team and had a lot of fun trying to figure out which answer to give from 8-10 people all giving different suggestions.

They unfortunately dominated and the men ended up 31-18 after the first round. Oh well... there was still hope for the ladies with 3 more rounds to go. We stayed for the sports trivia next, where Chris ended up in 3rd place. After getting the “pity” ship on a stick during our last Pride cruise, he really wanted to earn one this time around.

We then went up to hang out on the Serenity deck before it was time to get ready for Elegant Night (Chris’s favorite... sarcasm alert).

We got dressed and took the obligatory "fancy" shots. Chris had a big grudge against the photo ops they have set up all around the ship - he can't stand "posing" for photos - so this is all I have for us all dolled up:

We still look good hehehe.

We went to check in for dinner around 6:45 – ahead of us a couple was trying to check in, and we couldn’t help but notice the guy was in shorts and flip flops… and the hostess told him he would have to change… he took his inebriated self off in a huff. Normally we don’t pay much attention to what people wear to dinner, but shorts and adidas filp flop slides for formal night? C’mon – go to the buffet. We then checked in and were given a pager to wait (we had the option to take a shared table, but declined…). We went out to Raphael’s to wait and around 7:15 were paged for a seat. They gave us a seat by the window and we were treated to a lovely sunset that night.

Our view from our table

It was actually a pretty slow night for service as well – took about 20 minutes to get our order taken, and another 20 to get the appetizers. I’m sure it was busy due to being the first formal night (not to mention Lobster Tail night) but Carnival could really look into expanding the areas and staff they have dedicated to the Anytime Dining – I’m sure it’s’ becoming a much more popular option (we’ve certainly noticed an increase since our first cruise!)

For the appetizers, I ordered the Pumpkin Soup – one of my favorites on the ship, and didn’t disappoint again this time – and Chris had the Minestrone Soup, which was good.

For the main course, Chris had his favorite BBQ Ribs (again same complaint as always that they should really serve this on a different day!) and I had the Lobster and Shrimp. Chris loved the ribs, same complaint for the corn on the cob - practically inedible... I don't think it's awful, but he doesn't even bother giving it a chance anymore.

My lobster was much better than I had a few months ago on the Liberty, so I was happy. Shrimp was great, and I love the mashed potatoes.

Chris’s Ribs were super-meaty and he was stuffed so he declined dessert. My lobster and shrimp were good, but I still had a little room for dessert, so I ordered the Diet Coconut Cake. I know I can always order double-portions of the lobster, but I was glad I didn’t and saved room – the cake was delish (anyone out there that like coconut should give this a try at least once!).

As mentioned above, we were treated to a lovely sunset as well.

After dinner we headed back to the room to make more drinks and headed to the casino for a little before the first Adult Comedy at 9:45. Mike Macy was the comedian, and he was hilarious. One of the best we’ve seen on Carnival!

Then… off to the Piano Bar! We took over the section along the back wall by the piano and had a ton of fun that night (not to mention a ton of adult beverages!) Roger, the Piano Bar singer was great – he’s from the Philippines, and can belt out the tunes just like the best of them (you could close your eyes and swear Elton John was really there).

He was tons of fun and even let people come up to give it a shot at singing every once in a while. I tried my hand at Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen…. I’ll say it’s a lot harder to sing without having the lyrics scroll across the screen ala Rock Band style. Luckily I was fueled up on enough Carnival Cruisers to not care!

It was a fun night for everyone and we closed the place down. I STILL have "Alice? Who the ..... is Alice?!" in my head!

We decided we should probably call it a night as well and headed back to bed around 1:30am.

This little guy was waiting for us as well.

Chris – 5/29/12 – Day 3 of the Cruise – Day at Sea

After closing down the Piano Bar we took advantage of a sea day and slept in. I will say this about our room, it was very quiet. I'm not sure why but I loved it. Never needed ear plugs and was never once woken up by slamming doors or cabinets.

Grabbed a late breakfast at the Mermaid Grill and ran into Karen and Brian again. Talked with them for a bit and went back to the room to get our books. It was raining off and on all day so we got some chairs in the covered part of Serenity.

It cleared up around noon and everyone rushed out to grab chairs only to have it start raining 15 minutes later. It was pretty amusing to see everyone running back in forth while we were just relaxing in our spot. There were a couple trivia's at Raphael's but lost both . Both trivias were very well attended since it was raining out. Neither of us were very hungry so we decided to try the room service. It was there very quick but they certainly could've taken a few more minutes to melt the cheese in my grilled cheese. Cass had the Chicken Fajita Wrap. The wrap looked and smelled much better but there wasn't much chicken in it.

I took a quick power nap to freshen my brain for Super Trivia round 2. There were a lot of free rolls for the ladies but being the superior sex, we were still able to extend our lead to 31. I didn't want to get too cocky as I knew some bonus would be offered in later rounds.

The Past Guest party started shortly after but we knew we did not want to drink that day as we had to get up very early the following morning. We found some friends we had made early on in the cruise who were at Super Trivia and just gave them our tickets. Was very pleased to run into them later that night and they seemed to have really enjoyed the free booze.

We played Scattergories with Mike and Emily but didn't do too well. Spent a little time in the sports bar playing video poker before going to the room to get ready for dinner. I took the couple of hours that Cass needs to get ready to type up more notes on my Fire.

We walked around the Sun Deck a bit before heading to Normandy for dinner. There was another long wait for dinner, at least 30 minutes. I guess YTD is getting more popular than I thought.

Main Dining Room - upper level

We both started with the Chicken Quesidillas, which is quickly becoming my favorite app.

I had the Jerked Pork Loin - Delicious! Another of my favorite dinners on the cruise.

Cass had Braised Short Ribs. She loved them and I know I would have too.

We both skipped desert that night in the MDR but walked up to the Lido Buffet and I had a lite moose while she had a small cheesecake. After that we went to the casino and played Let It Ride for an hour or so before turning in.

I know today wasn't very exciting but we were building up the excitement for the next two days, culminating with The Quest!!!!

Please stay tuned for Part 2 of our May 2012 Pride Adventure - A day at Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure (aka, Wizarding World of Harry Potter!!)

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