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Cruise Ship Review

Carnival Pride - Ship Review provided by Cruise Critic

Editor's Note: This review was written when Carnival Pride operated out of Long Beach, California; the ship recently was redeployed to Baltimore.

Where can you find the artwork of Raphael, da Vinci, Botticelli, and Michelangelo, and the architectural details of ancient Greece, Byzantine empires, Renaissance Italy, Beaux Arts France and Victorian England all under the same roof? Perhaps in the great museums of the world -- the Smithsonian, the Bilbao Guggenheim, the Metropolitan -- but also, most definitely, in the public spaces aboard Carnival Pride.

Long, narrow, sleek as a knife and very fast, the 2,124-passenger Carnival Pride, launched in 2002, is the second ship in the cruise line's dual azipod-driven Spirit class. Carnival's long-time interior designer, Joe Farcus, chose Icons of Beauty as the ship's theme: beauty in life, beauty in art, beauty in the world's architecture, beauty in the human body and in the human spirit.

At 963 ft., with 1,062 passenger cabins, 11 bars and lounges, 4 pools and 5 hot tubs, this ship was made for active participation. Carnival's guests come onboard knowing that they will have access to 24-hour partying, food and entertainment. A large and well-equipped children's center, Camp Carnival's Fun Club, is one of the line's signature features, luring families with kids of all ages: Everyone gets to play.

There must be something in the water on this ship, because we have yet to meet a more accommodating, cheerful and outgoing crew. Everyone, from the harried Purser's Desk staff to the dining room and bar servers to the hardworking room stewards, expressed a sort of unfettered joy for being available to serve Pride guests. Officers were accessible and engaging, and the general atmosphere was uncompromisingly upbeat.

One evening aboard our seven-night Mexico Riviera cruise from Long Beach, California, we saw two very young girls, perhaps 8 and 10, dancing together on the Lido Deck during a Calypso party. They danced with such joy, abandon and total freedom that it made us ache for the long-past youth of our children. "This," we thought, "is the very essence of a Carnival cruise."

Dining

It was surprising to learn that there is only one main restaurant on a ship this big, with two seatings nightly for dinner (6 and 8:15 p.m.), but the huge Normandie Restaurant, located low and aft with windows on three sides, works surprisingly well. The design, which cantilevers the upper level over most of the lower, somehow manages to effectively baffle the noise of 1,000 guests, which can be a real problem in most dining venues of this size. The seating layout -- tables for two, four, six and eight -- utilizes booths and open tables that allow for even the most intimate conversations. The food in the Normandie Restaurant is excellent, and we were surprised by how much Carnival has improved in this regard. There were a variety of menu items ranging from gorge-worthy to spa-simple; ample portions are presented beautifully. Carnival's new low-carb menu is enormously popular, and allows a guest on such a diet to choose items from the main offerings with potatoes, rice and other starches replaced by vegetables lower in carbohydrates. The low-carb menu basically featured the same meats as the regular menu, but eliminated, for instance, stuffing in the rolled pork, offered an au jus instead of gravy for beef dishes and eliminated starches like rice, potatoes, yams and peas.

As good as the food might be, the main attraction in the dining room is really the conviviality -- the enjoyment of being onboard Pride, the interaction with fellow guests, and the nightly show provided by the engaging and outgoing wait staff. Dancing with guests mid-meal to the beat-driven "La Vida Loca" or encouraging the swinging of dinner napkins to the tune of "Tarantella," the waiters, bus staff, maitre d's and even the officers all get into the act.

The dining experience overall is so important on Carnival Pride that almost the entire back half of the Lido Deck is dedicated to food stations or dining tables. There's the Mermaid Grille, which also serves as the casual dinner alternative and the Mermaid Bistro, the ship's buffet-style casual dining option. Instead of having one buffet line, this venue divides the stations into smaller groupings spread around a vast space surrounded with dining tables. It's confusing at the outset, but once you learn which station specializes in what, planning your dining becomes easier, and Carnival has finally discovered the benefit of providing trays for guests to use, making traversing the stations so much easier.

Hint: To avoid frustration, get your cold food (salads, desserts, drinks, etc.) first, and choose only one hot station at a time; your hot items will remain hot until you find a place to sit.

The stations include a deli specializing in "overstuffed" sandwiches (one of the few down-notes in terms of cuisine, the deli fare was a disappointment). Other options included an Oriental wok station with Chinese, Thai or Indonesian-inspired dishes; a grill with hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled steak or chicken breast sandwiches; a traditional "carvery" with roasts and more North American-style fare; a station specializing in items from around the world (we loved the lamb curry served on Indian-food day); a 24-hour pizzeria that also serves Caesar salads (we've always maintained that we would take a Carnival cruise solely for the light-as-air pizza served hot and fresh); and a 24-hour ice cream/frozen yogurt station.

Room service is available 24 hours a day, but the menu is extremely limited and somewhat boring, with the exception of the excellent continental breakfast. Ordered the night before with a door-hung card, it always came exactly when specified. The small Danish pastries were warmed slightly, and were flaky and superb. The smoked salmon was lovely, and the coffee was always really good.

Later in the day, room service consists of a selection of sandwiches and salads, a dessert of the day, and chocolate cake, cookies and brownies. No hot items, except for coffee, tea and hot chocolate, are served. This system works very well: Items are delivered quickly, no one can complain that their food is cold and it's simply a convenience for guests -- Carnival wants you out and about, and enjoying the ship.

Hint: If your children like hot chocolate and cookies, ask also for a glass of milk when you order. The hot chocolate comes with a carafe of hot water and packets of powdered cocoa mix; the milk will make the drink healthier, cooler and more appealing for the mouths of little ones.

Another Hint: Most of the room service sandwiches come "plain" unless otherwise advised. If you want mayo on your BLT, for example, or mustard on your ham and cheese, ask for it when ordering.

Anyone who has enjoyed a meal out in a really fine dining establishment will appreciate the luxury of David's Supper Club, Carnival Pride's reservations-only alternative dining room located beneath the red glass dome at the top of the atrium. There's a $30 surcharge, which we felt was modest considering the selection, quality, quantity and preparation of the meal we were served.

Low-carb dieters will be ecstatic at the presentation of the humongous Porterhouse; at nearly two pounds, no one would need a potato for "filler." There are large and smaller versions of filet mignon, plus New York strip, lamb, veal, lobster tail and sea bass for main courses. The menu also includes appetizers, soups, salads, and a dessert selection that will make you weep because you're too full to enjoy everything on it. We particularly loved the New England crab cake appetizer, the exquisitely beautiful spinach salad and the lobster tail/filet combo.

Formal attire is required, and appropriate, considering the elegance of the surroundings. A jazz vocalist adds atmosphere but doesn't overwhelm conversation. After dinner, romance flourishes on the supper club's dance floor.

Complimentary espresso, cappuccino and lattes are served in the dining room after a meal; if you want specialty coffees at any other time, the Piazza Cafe on Deck 2 will happily oblige, at a reasonable price.

A final note about dining on Pride: It's apparent that all ingredients used are fresh and natural, with a huge selection of baked-daily breads, fresh fruits and salads. Real cream is served for coffee, but Carnival has chosen to do away with the little plastic pull-tab tubs for environmental reasons, serving cream in little pitchers instead, even on room service trays. We really liked that.

Public Rooms

"I see boobies!" shrieked the 6-year-old walking in front of us.

The Icons of Beauty theme is carried out in gigantic blown-up reproductions of works by Raphael, Botticelli and the like, for whom the nude female form represented beauty with a capital B. Mermaids swimming across the partial roof of the Lido Deck are similarly unclothed, as are the statues anchoring almost all of the pools. A reproduction statue of Michelangelo's David, also minus a fig leaf, stands at the top of the atrium, facing the elevators.

It would take an architectural dictionary to decipher the elements used in the public spaces: plinths, pilasters, lintels, cornices and so on, all bathed in a bronze patina. The forward half of Carnival's distinctive winged funnel is the red glass skylit dome over the Renaissance Atrium below. The result is a pinkish glow that suffuses the space from top to bottom. With all of the bronze fixtures and the classical paintings, the overall effect is stunning.

Whereas most ships like to boast of their wide-open corridors and the ability to wander from one end to the other without seeing another person, the Spirit-class vessels create just the opposite effect. Walkways are designed to funnel people together in order to create intimacy and camaraderie. It doesn't make the ship seem crowded (the only bottlenecks are at the portrait stations during formal nights) but it does force interaction. The central atrium area, instead of being a vast empty space as in most vessels this big, is really quite small and intimate (even if it does rise 10 stories above the lobby). The Lido Deck is divided into sections, each with its own "personality" and activities to match. The winding Via Veneto interior promenade is narrow, and the twists and turns it takes make guests come face to face with each other. On a ship of this size, creating these pockets of interaction is simply brilliant design.

The one disappointment we found is the Internet center/library, which shares a too-small space tucked behind a bar and the chapel. The Nobel Library consists of about 80 books hidden on shelves behind computer monitors. There are only eight computer stations, and the setup is not very appealing. Wireless access is available, but unfortunately (and frustratingly) there are no "hot spots" onboard other than in this library/Internet room and a seating area just adjacent. We like being able to sit on the Lido Deck or in other public spots with our laptops. Internet packages ranged from 40 to 75 cents per minute.

Cabins

Whoa ... we opened the door to our cabin and had to step back into the corridor to check our room number, make sure we weren't in the wrong place. Had it been possible, we would have also stepped off the ship to make sure we were actually on a Carnival cruise.

With Spirit-class vessels, Carnival has finally earned the right to call the sleeping quarters "staterooms" instead of cabins. Joe Farcus left the whimsy to the public areas, creating an oasis of calm elegance in these spacious rooms. Gone are the eyeball-wiggling purple, magenta and orange stripes of previous cabin decor. Instead there are pleasing peachy-gold brocaded spreads; carpeting of deep brick red; chairs in muted tones of peach and blues; soft, pale neutral-shaded walls; peachy-gold sofas; and cherry-wood cabinetry. Drapes are heavy and tailored, a deep peach color with a barely noticeable blue-gray stripe, backed by a shiny, crinkly, silky blue-gray voile underdrape. These rooms are downright gorgeous.

In standard outsides, the deep desk/vanity area is particularly welcoming; it's wide enough to pile books, makeup, magazines, coffee cups and the daily Carnival Capers all over without having it look like a total trash heap. An interactive telephone sits to one side; a powerful salon-style hairdryer is secured in the uppermost drawer on the left. Lighting at the mirror is soft and incandescent, better for applying makeup than the harsh fluorescent in the bathroom. The desktop continues below a console that holds the television, safe, ice bucket and glasses. There is a stocked mini-fridge and a smaller countertop with a shallow cupboard opposite the bed.

Hint: Before using -- or allowing your children to use -- items from the stocked mini-bar, make sure to look at the price list. There's room to put in your own items and your cabin steward will assist in moving things around so you don't get charged for items you don't use.

Closet space is adequate; there are plenty of hangers, but we wished there were more shelf options and/or more drawer space. The only drawers are in the desk area, and there aren't enough of them.

Bathrooms in standard staterooms are a nice size and laid out well, with a large vanity and a roomy shower. Carnival has partnered with a variety of companies to provide promotional sizes of their products. In a little basket on the counter we had a Bic razor, a roll of Rolaids, two packets of Tylenol PM, some fancy shampoo and hair stuff in little squeeze packs, a travel-sized tube of Crest toothpaste and what at first glance appeared to be a toothbrush but turned out to be a flossing device. Soap is provided courtesy of Lever 2000; there are both shower gel and shampoo in wall-mounted pumps in the shower.

Lighting is fantastic. We love the little pointy lamps on the bedside tables, they're so much more appealing than those stuck-to-the-wall reading lights most often found in staterooms. There's a pretty glass freeform light fixture on the mirror opposite the bed; it gives a warm look to the room when it's on, and when it's off it looks like artwork.

Adding to the ambience of elegance, all oceanview staterooms come with thick, heavy terrycloth robes for use onboard.

Caveat: Unless your family really needs adjoining staterooms (or a seating area is unimportant to you), try to avoid booking one. The door to the next cabin is where the sofa would be; you get instead a single small chair that is attractive, but not very comfortable. The doorway between the rooms also eliminates sound insulation, so every conversation, television program and sneeze from next-door sounds like it's right there with you in your room. If you are choosing balconied cabins, the balcony divider between staterooms can be opened, a preferable option to the "adjoining" stateroom configuration.

The ship's 58 suites have different decor, with a hardwood-floor entry, red brocade spreads, granite mini-bar, leather sofa and a whirlpool tub. Large, deep verandahs with upgraded furnishings round out the benefits of the suite life. Those at the aft corners of the ship have enormous wrap-around verandahs.

Inside cabins are somewhat smaller and laid out differently. There is no sofa, the desk area is smaller and the night tables are large with three drawers each. The bathrooms are the same size as in the standard outsides and standard balcony cabins.

Pride has 624 balconied staterooms, divided between standard balconies (comfortable at just over four ft. deep and just over nine ft. wide) and "extended" balconies, which add an additional 20 inches or so of depth. The use of tempered Plexiglas as the balcony "wall" gives a full-on view without annoying bars, which always seem to hit right at eye level. The only negatives here are that the heavy doors open out instead of slide, which we assume was done to keep people from leaving them open, and that the chair and little table are really tacky plastic, so lightweight that they blow around in the wind. There is a little half-length lounger made of sturdier plastic, low to the deck and heavy.

Caveat: Some of the extended balconies are positioned directly under standard balconies -- this leaves them exposed to a view from above. If it's privacy you desire, avoid those. And note: Not all balconies are created equal. There are several staterooms that, because of internal ship architecture, have longer-than-usual outdoor spaces, some of which are not discernable by viewing the deck plans that Carnival provides. Even with the extra balcony space, these rooms retain the pricing of their level and can be a great bargain. Look for 5236, 5238 and 5245 on Upper Deck, 6232, 6234 and 6281 on Empress Deck, 7258, 7260 and 7303 on Veranda Deck, and 8232, 8234 and 8309 on Panorama Deck.

Cabins 6112 and 6115 at the bow have double-length balconies, but the outcropping at the forward bulkhead, the bridge wing right above them and the louvered venting that angles up the forward end of the balcony itself create a wind-tunnel effect that makes the space almost impossible to enjoy while at sea. They are also adjoining rooms, so you get no sofa and lots of noise from the next cabin.

Turndown service on Carnival Pride is equal to that of some five-star hotels we have visited. Crisp white triple sheeting, perfectly prepared bedding, a little Carnival chocolate on the pillow and oh -- those towel animals! How we love coming back to find an elephant, a mother seal and pup, a doggy or bunny on our bed, or a monkey hanging from the light grill in front of the window. Everyone, young and old, enjoys these signature treats, but for young children, this is just the greatest way ever to say goodnight.

Entertainment

A guest on Carnival Pride could sit in one spot during the length of the cruise and get more entertainment than is to be found on the Las Vegas strip. We were really impressed with the quality of the singers, bands and production shows, and marvel at the creativity of the cruise director's staff.

The Taj Mahal Theatre, the ship's main show lounge, is a state-of-the-art venue in which elaborate production shows take place. Some of the support posts interfere with sightlines, but with three floors of seating space, finding an unobstructed view isn't too difficult.

Pride's many bars and lounges have individual entertainment, whether a jazz trio (as in the Raphael Lounge), a country singer (as in the casino bar), or a cool and funny pianist (in the Ivory Piano Bar). The pools on Lido Deck have their own sets of entertainers: a Calypso band for the Venus pool area, a DJ for the Poseidon pool at the very aft. All of them are very good, and add substantially to the cruise experience.

But, when it comes to entertainment, nothing can compete with the ingenious shenanigans of the cruise director's staff, and the games and activities they devise to keep the ship hopping. There are the usual, of course -- Newlywed game, trivia contests and the like -- but then the creativity begins. Scavenger hunts, pub crawls, pool games that entail stuffing items in bathing suits or relays that require wiggling with balloons between legs, and of course the Men's Hairy Chest Contest (there isn't one for women). Those who don't choose to participate certainly have a great time cheering from the sidelines, but the level of participation is surprising and reaches across all ages. The Hairy Chest winner on our cruise was a 53-year-old electrician from northern California, who clinched the title with his flawless rendition of a Tarzan yell.

There is also an enormous casino with every imaginable table game and slot machine; dance classes, bingo, and art auctions; talent shows for both the adult guests and the kids (in Camp Carnival); dances in the evening either on the aft end of Lido Deck or in one or more of the clubs inside; and one of the best ideas yet -- a teens-only dance several times during the week, 12 - 17 only, adults not allowed.

The entertainment is so ... well, entertaining, that we almost didn't mind the constant shilling of everything from bingo to art auctions to drinks, drinks, drinks. The one irritant in this regard, though, is that Carnival has conscripted a large portion of one of the lounges to add a Vacation Club sales staff to Pride and Spirit. Pre-sold cruise vacations at huge discounts might be a great idea, but the constant buttonholing and hard-sell pitches were extremely annoying, and just seemed totally out of place on this Fun Ship. We wish Carnival would leave these guys on land, or provide a walk-in office, like a future cruises desk, for people to enter voluntarily.

Fitness and Recreation

The three pools on Lido Deck are too small to be used for swimming laps so we had to decide: Does the mention of them belong in Recreation or Entertainment? Both, really. The central pool, Apollo, is used for a variety of games and activities designed by the cruise director's staff. The forward pool, Venus, is quiet, perfect for lazing around when the weather is good. The far aft pool, Poseidon (an adults-only location), is active during the day and the deck surrounding it becomes a dance floor at night if it isn't too chilly or windy.

The fourth swimming pool, the one for kids, is located on the Sun Deck above the Lido Deck; it has a two-deck-high twisty slide and is active, splashy and rowdy. Plenty of adult "kids" enjoy the slide, so the pool has a nice mix of ages and is not solely limited to youngsters.

All of the swimming pools have adjacent whirlpools that are large and tend to be quite sociable.

Spa Carnival, located at the very front of the ship on Deck 9, comprises two levels, with a fully equipped, two-deck-high gymnasium surrounded by glass walls overlooking the bow; an interior hydrotherapy pool; an aerobics studio for classes and workouts (Pilates, yoga and individual instruction carry a slight extra charge); complimentary steam and sauna rooms for Pride guests; and locker rooms and showers.

Hint: The showers in the staterooms are spacious enough, but for a real treat, enjoy the glass-enclosed multi-jet showers in the gym after your workout or sauna. There's a nice rainhead above, and four side showerheads that make you feel as though you are getting a free massage.

A salon for hair and nails, the Look, is located on Deck 9, and a full-service spa. The Body Beautiful, operated by Steiner of London, offers treatments ranging from facials to deep-tissue massages. The spa treatment rooms are just aft of the gym; there is an exterior promenade adjacent to the rooms on Deck 9, aerobics studio above them on Deck Ten, and jogging track on Deck 11 -- all of which can create some nerve-jangling if you're trying to relax with a nice massage while joggers or aerobicizers are thunking in sneakers above you or along the side of the ship.

The Spa has a Greek theme but the treatment rooms have gone to a more South Asian decor. Pretty batiks and dark fabrics drape the treatment tables while Balinese bells and scented candles soothe the soul. The more popular treatments also have an Asian touch: hot stone massages, for example, or Shiatsu. One of the best values we found was the scalp, neck and shoulders massage -- very reasonably priced. Other therapies seemed expensive, but are "sale priced" on port days. Look for specials in the daily Carnival Capers, and if you want a hair or nail appointment for formal nights, make sure you book early, as these are almost impossible to get after the first day.

Duffers who want to keep up with their game can use the golf cage on Deck 11 aft.

Family

This is a Fun Ship was created with families in mind. No child, of any age, could get bored on Carnival Pride, and the level of care provided allows Mom and Dad the freedom to relax and enjoy their vacations as well.

Children ages 2 - 17 can participate in age-appropriate activities in one or more of the special rooms available in the Fun Club. Carnival even allows toddlers who are not potty-trained to join in the fun. Well-trained, security-minded staffers keep an eagle eye on the younger children while they engage in activities ranging from candy making to finger painting, enjoy play time with a large selection of toys and blocks, or watch the kid-rated videos available in the Club. Older children can utilize the video games and computer stations, and even wander down one level to the video arcade for some hard-charging gaming action.

An outdoor play area is available, as is the children's pool and waterslide. Parents who want a quiet evening at David's Supper Club or intimate dining in the Normandie Restaurant without the little ones will appreciate the dining program at the Fun Club, where kids dine with their counselors and new friends. The problem is that children enjoy this so much that it's occasionally difficult to lure them back to the dinner table with their "same old, same old" boring parents.

Teens can create their own shore excursions (a member of the youth staff accompanies them), and they also have their own private dance and disco parties.

The center, open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily, is free of charge for families onboard Pride. There is an additional charge for games in the Virtual Reality arcade, for babysitting after 10 p.m. and for shore excursions; stroller rentals are a very reasonable $25 for the week.

Fellow Passengers

Mostly rowdy, raucous, and ready for a good time, Pride guests actively participate in this huge seagoing party. We met physicians, corporate attorneys, housewives, teachers and captains of industry, all of whom knew they had a week to cut loose and be silly before resuming their normal lives. We met families who played together, older folks who danced until the wee hours and college students freed from the rigors of classes. No single demographic defines the guests on this ship, except that they are all people who enjoy an outrageously good time and choose Carnival Pride because there is also an element of elegance.

Dress Code

Anything goes in the public spaces but shorts or tank tops are not permitted in the dining room. There are two formal nights on a seven-night cruise; almost everyone onboard dresses up and attends the Captain's cocktail party, heads to dinner, and then has a portrait taken at one of the many photo stations along the main indoor promenade.

Dress for David's Supper Club is formal, no matter which night you go. A tux isn't necessary, but a suit and tie are definitely required.

Gratuity

The recommended minimum is $10 per day, per passenger, which is added to your shipboard account and can be adjusted by the guest either upwards or downwards before the final accounting. This sum includes a bit for the unseen staff whose work is critical to the enjoyment of the cruise, but does not include the maitre d'. An envelope is provided on the last night for those who want to recognize the work of the maitre d', and the room service menu suggests tipping for room service as it's delivered.

--by Cruise Critic contributor Jana Jones, who has also written for a variety of publications, including Vacation Agent, UK's Travel Holidays and Ocean Drive Magazine.

Dining

It was surprising to learn that there is only one main restaurant on a ship this big, but the huge Normandie Restaurant, located low and aft with windows on three sides, works surprisingly well. The design, which cantilevers the upper level over most of the lower, somehow manages to effectively baffle the noise of 1,000 guests, which can be a real problem in most dining venues of this size. The seating layout -- tables for two, four, six and eight -- utilizes booths and open tables that allow for even the most intimate conversations.

Passengers can either opt for set seating (choices are 6 or 8:15 p.m.) or go with a flexible option (Carnival's "Your Time Dining"). With the flexible choice, passengers can have dinner in the main dining room anytime they like between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m. (times may vary). Dining assignments -- which you select before the cruise -- are made on a first come, first served basis, so if you have your heart set on one or the other, consider booking earlier rather than later. Breakfast and lunch are open seating .

The food in the Normandie Restaurant is excellent, and we were surprised by how much Carnival has improved in this regard. There were a variety of menu items ranging from gorge-worthy to spa-simple; ample portions are presented beautifully. Carnival's new low-carb menu is enormously popular, and allows a guest on such a diet to choose items from the main offerings with potatoes, rice and other starches replaced by vegetables lower in carbohydrates. The low-carb menu basically featured the same meats as the regular menu, but eliminated, for instance, stuffing in the rolled pork, offered an au jus instead of gravy for beef dishes and eliminated starches like rice, potatoes, yams and peas.

As good as the food might be, the main attraction in the dining room is really the conviviality -- the enjoyment of being onboard Pride, the interaction with fellow guests, and the nightly show provided by the engaging and outgoing wait staff. Dancing with guests mid-meal to the beat-driven "La Vida Loca" or encouraging the swinging of dinner napkins to the tune of "Tarantella," the waiters, bus staff, maitre d's and even the officers all get into the act.

The dining experience overall is so important on Carnival Pride that almost the entire back half of the Lido Deck is dedicated to food stations or dining tables. There's the Mermaid Grille, which also serves as the casual dinner alternative and the Mermaid Bistro, the ship's buffet-style casual dining option. Instead of having one buffet line, this venue divides the stations into smaller groupings spread around a vast space surrounded with dining tables. It's confusing at the outset, but once you learn which station specializes in what, planning your dining becomes easier, and Carnival has finally discovered the benefit of providing trays for guests to use, making traversing the stations so much easier.

Hint: To avoid frustration, get your cold food (salads, desserts, drinks, etc.) first, and choose only one hot station at a time; your hot items will remain hot until you find a place to sit.

The stations include a deli specializing in "overstuffed" sandwiches (one of the few down-notes in terms of cuisine, the deli fare was a disappointment). Other options included an Oriental wok station with Chinese, Thai or Indonesian-inspired dishes; a grill with hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled steak or chicken breast sandwiches; a traditional "carvery" with roasts and more North American-style fare; a station specializing in items from around the world (we loved the lamb curry served on Indian-food day); a 24-hour pizzeria that also serves Caesar salads (we've always maintained that we would take a Carnival cruise solely for the light-as-air pizza served hot and fresh); and a 24-hour ice cream/frozen yogurt station.

For an exclusive dining event for just 12 guests, book the Chef's Table through the ship's information desk. For $75, diners can attend a multi-course dinner hosted by one Carnival's master chefs. The evening begins with a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley led by the chef, and concludes with a sumptuous dinner in a non-traditional dining venue, such as the galley or the library. The Chef's Table rolls out on Carnival Pride during the May 5, 2010, cruise.

Room service is available 24 hours a day, but the menu is extremely limited and somewhat boring, with the exception of the excellent continental breakfast. Ordered the night before with a door-hung card, it always came exactly when specified. The small Danish pastries were warmed slightly, and were flaky and superb. The smoked salmon was lovely, and the coffee was always really good.

Later in the day, room service consists of a selection of sandwiches and salads, a dessert of the day, and chocolate cake, cookies and brownies. No hot items, except for coffee, tea and hot chocolate, are served. This system works very well: Items are delivered quickly, no one can complain that their food is cold and it's simply a convenience for guests -- Carnival wants you out and about, and enjoying the ship.

Hint: If your children like hot chocolate and cookies, ask also for a glass of milk when you order. The hot chocolate comes with a carafe of hot water and packets of powdered cocoa mix; the milk will make the drink healthier, cooler and more appealing for the mouths of little ones.

Another Hint: Most of the room service sandwiches come "plain" unless otherwise advised. If you want mayo on your BLT, for example, or mustard on your ham and cheese, ask for it when ordering.

Anyone who has enjoyed a meal out in a really fine dining establishment will appreciate the luxury of David's Supper Club, Carnival Pride's reservations-only alternative dining room located beneath the red glass dome at the top of the atrium. There's a $30 surcharge, which we felt was modest considering the selection, quality, quantity and preparation of the meal we were served.

Low-carb dieters will be ecstatic at the presentation of the humongous Porterhouse; at nearly two pounds, no one would need a potato for "filler." There are large and smaller versions of filet mignon, plus New York strip, lamb, veal, lobster tail and sea bass for main courses. The menu also includes appetizers, soups, salads, and a dessert selection that will make you weep because you're too full to enjoy everything on it. We particularly loved the New England crab cake appetizer, the exquisitely beautiful spinach salad and the lobster tail/filet combo.

Formal attire is required, and appropriate, considering the elegance of the surroundings. A jazz vocalist adds atmosphere but doesn't overwhelm conversation. After dinner, romance flourishes on the supper club's dance floor.

Complimentary espresso, cappuccino and lattes are served in the dining room after a meal; if you want specialty coffees at any other time, the Piazza Cafe on Deck 2 will happily oblige, at a reasonable price.

A final note about dining on Pride: It's apparent that all ingredients used are fresh and natural, with a huge selection of baked-daily breads, fresh fruits and salads. Real cream is served for coffee, but Carnival has chosen to do away with the little plastic pull-tab tubs for environmental reasons, serving cream in little pitchers instead, even on room service trays. We really liked that.

Dining

It was surprising to learn that there is only one main restaurant on a ship this big, with two seatings nightly for dinner (6 and 8:15 p.m.), but the huge Normandie Restaurant, located low and aft with windows on three sides, works surprisingly well. The design, which cantilevers the upper level over most of the lower, somehow manages to effectively baffle the noise of 1,000 guests, which can be a real problem in most dining venues of this size. The seating layout -- tables for two, four, six and eight -- utilizes booths and open tables that allow for even the most intimate conversations. The food in the Normandie Restaurant is excellent, and we were surprised by how much Carnival has improved in this regard. There were a variety of menu items ranging from gorge-worthy to spa-simple; ample portions are presented beautifully. Carnival's new low-carb menu is enormously popular, and allows a guest on such a diet to choose items from the main offerings with potatoes, rice and other starches replaced by vegetables lower in carbohydrates. The low-carb menu basically featured the same meats as the regular menu, but eliminated, for instance, stuffing in the rolled pork, offered an au jus instead of gravy for beef dishes and eliminated starches like rice, potatoes, yams and peas.

As good as the food might be, the main attraction in the dining room is really the conviviality -- the enjoyment of being onboard Pride, the interaction with fellow guests, and the nightly show provided by the engaging and outgoing wait staff. Dancing with guests mid-meal to the beat-driven "La Vida Loca" or encouraging the swinging of dinner napkins to the tune of "Tarantella," the waiters, bus staff, maitre d's and even the officers all get into the act.

The dining experience overall is so important on Carnival Pride that almost the entire back half of the Lido Deck is dedicated to food stations or dining tables. There's the Mermaid Grille, which also serves as the casual dinner alternative and the Mermaid Bistro, the ship's buffet-style casual dining option. Instead of having one buffet line, this venue divides the stations into smaller groupings spread around a vast space surrounded with dining tables. It's confusing at the outset, but once you learn which station specializes in what, planning your dining becomes easier, and Carnival has finally discovered the benefit of providing trays for guests to use, making traversing the stations so much easier.

Hint: To avoid frustration, get your cold food (salads, desserts, drinks, etc.) first, and choose only one hot station at a time; your hot items will remain hot until you find a place to sit.

The stations include a deli specializing in "overstuffed" sandwiches (one of the few down-notes in terms of cuisine, the deli fare was a disappointment). Other options included an Oriental wok station with Chinese, Thai or Indonesian-inspired dishes; a grill with hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled steak or chicken breast sandwiches; a traditional "carvery" with roasts and more North American-style fare; a station specializing in items from around the world (we loved the lamb curry served on Indian-food day); a 24-hour pizzeria that also serves Caesar salads (we've always maintained that we would take a Carnival cruise solely for the light-as-air pizza served hot and fresh); and a 24-hour ice cream/frozen yogurt station.

Room service is available 24 hours a day, but the menu is extremely limited and somewhat boring, with the exception of the excellent continental breakfast. Ordered the night before with a door-hung card, it always came exactly when specified. The small Danish pastries were warmed slightly, and were flaky and superb. The smoked salmon was lovely, and the coffee was always really good.

Later in the day, room service consists of a selection of sandwiches and salads, a dessert of the day, and chocolate cake, cookies and brownies. No hot items, except for coffee, tea and hot chocolate, are served. This system works very well: Items are delivered quickly, no one can complain that their food is cold and it's simply a convenience for guests -- Carnival wants you out and about, and enjoying the ship.

Hint: If your children like hot chocolate and cookies, ask also for a glass of milk when you order. The hot chocolate comes with a carafe of hot water and packets of powdered cocoa mix; the milk will make the drink healthier, cooler and more appealing for the mouths of little ones.

Another Hint: Most of the room service sandwiches come "plain" unless otherwise advised. If you want mayo on your BLT, for example, or mustard on your ham and cheese, ask for it when ordering.

Anyone who has enjoyed a meal out in a really fine dining establishment will appreciate the luxury of David's Supper Club, Carnival Pride's reservations-only alternative dining room located beneath the red glass dome at the top of the atrium. There's a $30 surcharge, which we felt was modest considering the selection, quality, quantity and preparation of the meal we were served.

Low-carb dieters will be ecstatic at the presentation of the humongous Porterhouse; at nearly two pounds, no one would need a potato for "filler." There are large and smaller versions of filet mignon, plus New York strip, lamb, veal, lobster tail and sea bass for main courses. The menu also includes appetizers, soups, salads, and a dessert selection that will make you weep because you're too full to enjoy everything on it. We particularly loved the New England crab cake appetizer, the exquisitely beautiful spinach salad and the lobster tail/filet combo.

Formal attire is required, and appropriate, considering the elegance of the surroundings. A jazz vocalist adds atmosphere but doesn't overwhelm conversation. After dinner, romance flourishes on the supper club's dance floor.

Complimentary espresso, cappuccino and lattes are served in the dining room after a meal; if you want specialty coffees at any other time, the Piazza Cafe on Deck 2 will happily oblige, at a reasonable price.

A final note about dining on Pride: It's apparent that all ingredients used are fresh and natural, with a huge selection of baked-daily breads, fresh fruits and salads. Real cream is served for coffee, but Carnival has chosen to do away with the little plastic pull-tab tubs for environmental reasons, serving cream in little pitchers instead, even on room service trays. We really liked that.Where can you find the artwork of Raphael, da Vinci, Botticelli, and Michelangelo, and the architectural details of ancient Greece, Byzantine empires, Renaissance Italy, Beaux Arts France and Victorian England all under the same roof? Perhaps in the great museums of the world -- the Smithsonian, the Bilbao Guggenheim, the Metropolitan -- but also, most definitely, in the public spaces aboard Carnival Pride.

Long, narrow, sleek as a knife and very fast, the 2,124-passenger Carnival Pride, launched in 2002, is the second ship in the cruise line's Spirit class. Carnival's long-time interior designer, Joe Farcus, chose Icons of Beauty as the ship's theme: beauty in life, beauty in art, beauty in the world's architecture, beauty in the human body and in the human spirit.

At 963 feet, with 1,062 passenger cabins, 11 bars and lounges, 4 pools and 5 hot tubs, this ship was made for active participation. Carnival's passengers come onboard knowing that they will have access to 24-hour partying, food and entertainment. A large and well-equipped kids' center, Camp Carnival's Fun Club, is one of the line's signature features, luring families with kids of all ages: Everyone gets to play.

There must be something in the water on this ship, because we have yet to meet a more accommodating, cheerful and outgoing crew. Everyone, from the harried Purser's Desk staff to the dining room and bar servers to the hardworking room stewards, expressed a sort of unfettered joy for being available to serve Pride passengers. Officers were accessible and engaging, and the general atmosphere was uncompromisingly upbeat.

Dining

It's surprising to note there's only one main restaurant on a ship this big, but the huge stern-situated Normandie Restaurant, with windows on three sides, works surprisingly well. The design, which cantilevers the upper level over most of the lower, somehow manages to effectively baffle the noise of 1,000 passemgers, which can be a real problem in most dining venues of this size. The seating layout -- tables for two, four, six and eight -- utilizes booths and open tables that allow for even the most intimate conversations.

Passengers can either opt for set seating (choices are 6 or 8:15 p.m.) or go with a flexible option (Carnival's "Your Time Dining"). With the flexible choice, passengers can have dinner in the main dining room anytime they like between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m. (times may vary). Dining assignments -- which you select before the cruise -- are made on a first come, first served basis, so if you have your heart set on one or the other, consider booking earlier rather than later. Breakfast and lunch are open seating .

The food in the Normandie Restaurant is generally very good. There were a variety of menu items ranging from gorge-worthy to spa-simple; ample portions are presented beautifully. Carnival's low-carb menu is popular, and allows a diet-conscious passenger to choose items from the main offerings with potatoes, rice and other starches replaced by vegetables lower in carbohydrates. The low-carb menu basically featured the same meats as the regular menu, but eliminated, for instance, stuffing in the rolled pork, offered an au jus instead of gravy for beef dishes and eliminated starches like rice, potatoes, yams and peas.

As good as the food might be, the main attraction in the dining room is really the conviviality -- the enjoyment of being onboard Pride, the interaction with fellow passengers, and the evening "show" provided by the engaging and outgoing wait staff. Dancing with passengers mid-meal or encouraging the swinging of dinner napkins to the tune of "Tarantella," the waiters, bus staff, maitre d's and even the officers all get into the act.

For a more casual meal, head to the Lido Deck. The entire back half of the Lido Deck is dedicated to food stations or dining tables. There's the Mermaid Grille, which also serves as the casual dinner alternative and the Mermaid Bistro, the ship's buffet-style casual dining option. Instead of having one buffet line, this venue divides the stations into smaller groupings spread around a vast space surrounded with dining tables. It's confusing at the outset, but once you learn which station specializes in what, planning your dining becomes easier.

Hint: To avoid frustration, get your cold food (salads, desserts, drinks, etc.) first, and choose only one hot station at a time; your hot items will remain hot until you find a place to sit.

The stations include a deli specializing in "overstuffed" sandwiches (one of the few down-notes in terms of cuisine, the deli fare was a disappointment); an Oriental wok station with Chinese, Thai or Indonesian-inspired dishes; a grill with hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled steak or chicken breast sandwiches; a traditional "carvery" with roasts and more North American-style fare; a station specializing in items from around the world (we loved the lamb curry served on Indian food day); a 24-hour pizzeria that also serves Caesar salads; and a 24-hour ice cream/frozen yogurt station.

For an exclusive dining event for just 12 guests, book the Chef's Table through the ship's information desk. For $75, diners can attend a multi-course dinner, hosted by one Carnival's master chefs. The evening begins with a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley, led by the chef, and concludes with a sumptuous dinner in a nontraditional dining venue, such as the galley or the library.

Room service is available 24 hours a day, but the menu is limited and somewhat boring, with the exception of the excellent Continental breakfast. Ordered the night before with a door-hung card. Later in the day, room service consists of a selection of sandwiches and salads, a dessert of the day, and chocolate cake, cookies and brownies.

Anyone who has enjoyed a meal out in a really fine dining establishment will appreciate the luxury of David's Steakhouse, Carnival Pride's reservations-only alternative dining room located beneath the red glass dome at the top of the atrium. There's a $30 surcharge, which we felt was modest considering the selection, quality, quantity and preparation of the meal we were served.

Low-carb dieters will be ecstatic at the presentation of the 24-ounce Porterhouse; no one would need a potato for "filler." There are large and smaller versions of filet mignon, plus New York strip, lamb, veal, lobster tail and sea bass for main courses. The menu also includes appetizers, soups, salads, and a dessert selection that will make you weep because you're too full to enjoy everything on it. We particularly loved the New England crab cake appetizer, the exquisitely beautiful spinach salad and the lobster tail/filet combo.

Formal attire is required, and appropriate, considering the elegance of the surroundings.

Complimentary espresso, cappuccino and lattes are served in the dining room after a meal; if you want specialty coffees at any other time, the Piazza Cafe on Deck 2 will happily oblige, at a reasonable price.

Public Rooms

Decks 2 and 3 form the hub of the ship with a combination of bars, lounges and public areas. Passenger flow is terrific -- the public rooms are connected by a two-level promenade with a grand staircase leading between levels. At the ground level of the Renaissance Atrium on Deck 2 are the guest services and shore tour desks.

Upstairs on Deck 3, the upper part of the Via Vento promenade combines a seating area with the ship's main shopping boulevard. Heading from bow to stern, the sunset garden is a walkway with seating areas and porthole windows. It accesses the stairs leading to the kids' areas one flight up, and is a favorite hangout for teens and tweens. The Wedding Chapel is the location for wedding ceremonies and vow renewals.

Next door to the Wedding Chapel, the Nobel Library/Internet Cafe has a small collection of books and 10 computer terminals, as well as a printer and comfy chairs for reading. Internet packages cost $100 for 250 minutes, $55 for 100 minutes or pay as you go at 75 cents a minute.

Continuing along, the Fun Shops on either side of the walkway sell jewelry and watches, makeup, perfume, liquor, Carnival logo wear and sundries. Formalities is an odd bird -- it's a combination candy shop and formalwear rental shop. The photo gallery surrounds the atrium. In addition to pthoos, priced from $7.99 to $21.99 (based on photo type, not size), they also sell cameras, photo frames and scrapbooking materials. (You can also print out photos from your own digital camera on special machines, again for a fee.) A conference room is located outside the Deco Lounge at the aft end of the deck.

Five self-service launderettes are located on Deck 1 mid-ship, Deck 4 aft, Deck 5 aft, Deck 6 forward and Deck 7 aft. A wash is $3, a dry is $3, and soap and softener are $1 each. We found that pretty pricey for do-it-yourself laundry, but sending out your laundry is more expensive (a midweek special was $15 for a bag). A medical center is located on Deck A.

Cabins

About 80 percent of Carnival Pride's cabins are outside, and of those, 80 percent offer balconies and a sitting area. The 213 inside cabins measure 185 square feet, pretty generous for standard cabins. Outside cabins measure 220 square feet, while balcony cabins are also 185 square feet with balconies measuring another 35, 60 or 75 square feet, depending on category. Standard balconies featured two metal chairs with plastic mesh seating and a small metal table. Obstructed view cabins located behind the lifeboats on Deck 4 (category 4K) have French doors that open to allow light and air, but have no balcony.

Cabins decor features pleasing peachy-gold brocaded spreads; carpeting of deep brick red; chairs in muted tones of peach and blues; soft, pale neutral-shaded walls; peachy-gold sofas; and cherry-wood cabinetry. Amenities include twin beds that convert to a king; color televisions (not flat-screen) showing Carnival programming, regular TV and both free and pay-per-view movies; a vanity area with drawers, a safe, a hair dryer (in the desk drawer), mini-bar and a phone. Lighting is fantastic. We love the little pointy lamps on the bedside tables, they're so much more appealing than those stuck-to-the-wall reading lights most often found in staterooms. There's a pretty glass freeform light fixture on the mirror opposite the bed; it gives a warm look to the room when it's on, and when it's off it looks like artwork.

Many cabins have either pullout sofas or pull-down beds from the ceiling. There's one 110V and one 220V plug -- bring an extender for more. Closet space is adequate; there are plenty of hangers, but we wished there were more shelf options and/or more drawer space. The only drawers are in the desk area, and there aren't enough of them.

Bathrooms come with shower gel and shampoo in dispensers in the shower, as well as bar soap. A samples basket includes trial sizes supplied by various manufacturers that can change from cruise to cruise (razors, sunblock and the like). Bring your own lotion and cottonballs. The shower has a curtain on a curved rod to avoid the clingy curtain syndrome. The shower head is adjustable and a retractable clothesline is perfect for hanging up wet bathing suits. There's plenty of shelf space in the bathroom for storing toiletries.

Carnival has never emphasized the uber-suites that some big ship lines have embraced but there are options for more spacious accommodations. Suites measure 275 square feet with 65 square foot balconies, and Penthouse Suites measure 345 square feet with 85-square-foot balconies. Suites include separate dressing and sitting areas, double sinks and a bathtub in the bathroom, and large balconies with lounge chairs in addition to the regular chairs and table.

Editor's note: Cabins with connecting doors tend to be noisier, regardless of whether you have the connecting door open or not.

Editor's Note 2: Some of the extended balconies are positioned directly under standard balconies -- this leaves them exposed to a view from above. If it's privacy you desire, avoid those. And note: Not all balconies are created equal. There are several staterooms that, because of internal ship architecture, have longer-than-usual outdoor spaces, some of which are not discernable by viewing the deck plans that Carnival provides. Even with the extra balcony space, these rooms retain the pricing of their level and can be a great bargain. Look for 5236, 5238 and 5245 on Upper Deck, 6232, 6234 and 6281 on Empress Deck, 7258, 7260 and 7303 on Veranda Deck, and 8232, 8234 and 8309 on Panorama Deck.

Cabins 6112 and 6115 at the bow have double-length balconies, but the outcropping at the forward bulkhead, the bridge wing right above them and the louvered venting that angles up the forward end of the balcony itself create a wind-tunnel effect that makes the space almost impossible to enjoy while at sea. They are also adjoining rooms, so you get no sofa and lots of noise from the next cabin.

Entertainment

A guest on Carnival Pride could sit in one spot during the length of the cruise and get more entertainment than is to be found on the Las Vegas strip. We were really impressed with the quality of the singers, bands and production shows, and marvel at the creativity of the cruise director's staff.

The Taj Mahal Theatre, the ship's main show lounge, is a state-of-the-art venue in which elaborate production shows take place. Some of the support posts interfere with sightlines, but with three floors of seating space, finding an unobstructed view isn't too difficult.

Pride's many bars and lounges have individual entertainment, whether a jazz trio (as in the Raphael Lounge), a country singer (as in the casino bar), or a cool and funny pianist (in the Ivory Piano Bar). The pools on Lido Deck have their own sets of entertainers: a Calypso band for the Venus pool area, a DJ for the Poseidon pool at the very aft. All of them are very good, and add substantially to the cruise experience.

But, when it comes to entertainment, nothing can compete with the ingenious shenanigans of the cruise director's staff, and the games and activities they devise to keep the ship hopping. There are the usual, of course -- Newlywed game, trivia contests and the like -- but then the creativity begins. Scavenger hunts, pub crawls, pool games that entail stuffing items in bathing suits or relays that require wiggling with balloons between legs, and of course the Men's Hairy Chest Contest (there isn't one for women). Those who don't choose to participate certainly have a great time cheering from the sidelines, but the level of participation is surprising and reaches across all ages. The Hairy Chest winner on our cruise was a 53-year-old electrician from northern California, who clinched the title with his flawless rendition of a Tarzan yell.

There is also an enormous casino with every imaginable table game and slot machine; dance classes, bingo, and art auctions; talent shows for both the adult guests and the kids (in Camp Carnival); dances in the evening either on the aft end of Lido Deck or in one or more of the clubs inside; and one of the best ideas yet -- a teens-only dance several times during the week, 12 - 17 only, adults not allowed.

Fitness and Recreation

The central pool, Apollo, is used for a variety of games and activities designed by the cruise director's staff. The forward pool, Venus, is quiet, perfect for lazing around when the weather is good. The adults-only Serenity Deck, located on the stern, features the ship's third pool.

The fourth swimming pool, the one for kids, is located on the Sun Deck above the Lido Deck; it has a two-deck-high twisty waterslide slide and is active, splashy and rowdy. Plenty of adult "kids" enjoy the slide, so the pool has a nice mix of ages and is not solely limited to youngsters.

All of the swimming pools have adjacent whirlpools that are large and tend to be quite sociable.

Spa Carnival, located all the way forward on Deck 9, comprises two levels, with a fully equipped, two-deck-high gymnasium surrounded by glass walls overlooking the bow; an interior hydrotherapy pool; an aerobics studio for classes and workouts (Pilates, yoga and individual instruction carry a slight extra charge); complimentary steam and sauna rooms for Pride guests; and locker rooms and showers.

Hint: The showers in the staterooms are spacious enough, but for a real treat, enjoy the glass-enclosed multi-jet showers in the gym after your workout or sauna. There's a nice rainhead above, and four side showerheads that make you feel as though you are getting a free massage.

A salon for hair and nails, the Look, is located on Deck 9, and a full-service spa. The Body Beautiful, operated by Steiner of London, offers treatments ranging from facials to deep-tissue massages. The spa treatment rooms are just aft of the gym; there is an exterior promenade adjacent to the rooms on Deck 9, aerobics studio above them on Deck Ten, and jogging track on Deck 11 -- all of which can create some nerve-jangling if you're trying to relax with a nice massage while joggers or aerobicizers are thunking in sneakers above you or along the side of the ship.

The Spa has a Greek theme but the treatment rooms have gone to a more South Asian decor. Pretty batiks and dark fabrics drape the treatment tables while Balinese bells and scented candles soothe the soul. The more popular treatments also have an Asian touch: hot stone massages, for example, or Shiatsu. One of the best values we found was the scalp, neck and shoulders massage -- very reasonably priced. Other therapies seemed expensive, but are "sale priced" on port days. Look for specials in the daily Carnival Capers, and if you want a hair or nail appointment for formal nights, make sure you book early, as these are almost impossible to get after the first day.

Duffers who want to keep up with their game can use the golf cage on Deck 11 aft.

Family

This is a Fun Ship was created with families in mind. No child, of any age, could get bored on Carnival Pride, and the level of care provided allows Mom and Dad the freedom to relax and enjoy their vacations as well.

Children ages 2 - 11 (broken down into 2 to 5's, 6 to 8's and 9 to 11's) can participate in age-appropriate activities in one or more of the special rooms available as part of Camp Carnival. Well-trained, security-minded staffers keep an eagle eye on the younger children while they engage in activities ranging from candy making to finger painting, enjoy play time with a large selection of toys and blocks, or watch the kid-rated videos available in the Club. Older children can utilize the video games and computer stations, and even wander down one level to the video arcade for some hard-charging gaming action.

Gratis Camp Carnival activities are offered until 10 p.m., after which point the Night Owls programs kicks into gear. There are two elements to Night Owls. First, Late-night babysitting is available from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. for a fee ($6 for the first child and $4 for each additional child in the same family). Pillows and blankets (and cribs for the littlest tykes) are provided when kids get sleepy. Second, there are special late-night parties, broken down by age, held three times per cruise. It's a flat fee to attend each party and kids get some goodies (flashlights, nightlights, lunch bags, etc.) out of the deal. Check the Capers for details.

Circle C, the dedicated space for tweens (12 to 14), is located all the way forward on Deck 4. The lounge features game consoles and a dance floor, and supervised activities include games like charades and Apple to Apples, themed dance parties, and sports competitions. Next door, a video arcade is open to kids and adults alike, but many adults never find it.

The teen space, Club O2 (15 - 17), is situated next to the gym on Deck 10. TV's for movie-watching and video-game play, as well as a dance area and a "mocktail" bar serving up sodas and non-alcoholic smoothies and fruit drinks. Teen activities include movie trivia, Guitar Hero rock-offs, hot tub hangouts and late-night parties.

Babies and toddlers ages six months to two years cannot participate in Camp Carnival activities, but do have additional babysitting hours (fees apply) on port days, with hours varying from port to port. On sea days, parents can drop toddlers off from noon to 2 p.m. for a fee, or use the facilities for parent-child playtime for no extra charge. The regular late-night babysitting is available to under-2's as well. Camp Carnival counselors do change diapers.

Kids who are not toilet trained are not technically allowed in the main swimming pools, though we did see a couple of families breaking that rule. A children's wading pool is located on Deck 11 by the waterslide.

Children's menus are featured in the main dining room and kids ages 2 to 11 can dine with the counselors on the Lido Deck most nights. A Fountain Fun card, good for unlimited soft drinks, costs $36.75 for eight-day voyages (adults can also choose a soda package for $50.50).

Fellow Passengers

Mostly rowdy, raucous, and ready for a good time, Pride passengers actively participate in this huge seagoing party. We met physicians, corporate attorneys, housewives, teachers and captains of industry, all of whom knew they had a week to cut loose and be silly before resuming their normal lives. We met families who played together, older folks who danced until the wee hours and college students freed from the rigors of classes. No single demographic defines the guests on this ship, except that they are all people who enjoy an outrageously good time and choose Carnival Pride because there is also an element of elegance.

Dress Code

Anything goes in the public spaces, but shorts or tank tops are not permitted in the dining room. There are two formal nights on a seven-night cruise; quite a few passengers dress up.

Gratuity

The recommended minimum is $10 per day, per passenger, which is added to your shipboard account and can be adjusted by the guest either upwards or downwards before the final accounting. This sum includes a bit for the unseen staff whose work is critical to the enjoyment of the cruise, but does not include the maitre d'. An envelope is provided on the last night for those who want to recognize the work of the maitre d', and the room service menu suggests tipping for room service as it's delivered.

Gratuity

Carnival recommends $11.50 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $5.80 to dining room services, $3.70 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff. An envelope is provided on the last night for those who want to extend thanks to the maitre d'.

Gratuity

Carnival recommends $11.50 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $5.80 to dining room services, $3.70 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff.

Gratuity

Carnival recommends $12.00 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $6.10 to dining room services, $3.90 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but it can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping a couple dollars for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff.

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