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Copyright © 1995-2002 
Linda Coffman

Carnival Pride
Western Caribbean, Inaugural Cruise
Dec. 30, 2001 - Jan. 5, 2002

By Vincent & Mary Finelli   

This new ship the De Az/S Carnival Pride is as most passengers put it "overwhelming!" She sits innocently in port looking very much like her sister ships Costa Atlantica 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 Costa Atlantica, 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.

This was our 23rd cruise, but only our second aboard Carnival. Last September we cruised onboard the Carnival Triumph, but the 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 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. 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 instead at the other end of the building. A bit chaotic, but we are sure that this will all change when the Pride gets to it official home, Port Canaveral, at the end of this month.

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 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, that is the largest ship able to pass through the Panama Canal, she is registered in Panama. She is magnificent!

Riviera Deck 1 aft holds the ship's galley with escalators to the Normandie Dining Room on Decks 2 & 3, a series of cabins midship and forward the beautiful Butterflies Lounge, with a dazzling entrance with hundreds of real butterflies displayed in the glass walls. There is a spiral staircase to deck 2 and the butterfly theme is everywhere, on the carpeted floor, on the ceiling, on the chairs, the couches--very unique.

Promenade Deck 2 aft holds the Normandie Dining Room, beautifully decorated with copper pillars and trim around oversized Portholes. There are both tables and booths of pale wood and lighted glass cases with opaque designs of Greco-Roman athletic figures. The winding staircase to balcony dining on Deck 3 has the Captain's table beneath it. There is a Captain's Club dining area to the right of the exit holding about ten large tables.  There seems to be no specific use for it. We think this would be excellent for wedding receptions, family celebrations, etc.

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 band stand beautifully lit with hanging crystal flowers (fiber optics become stamens which change color) and maroon and gold furniture, ornate framed copies of the masters (Titian, Botticelli, Raphael, Da Vinci and Poussin) and fancy candelabra every few yards all the way forward.

This corridor opens out at the Renaissance Lobby where the Excursion and Purser's desk area. 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 Cafe` (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 has the upper level of the Normandie Dining Room decorated similarly to the first floor. Forward is the Raphael Lounge very beautifully decorated in red and gold. The long corridor is ornate and formal and opens out to the Renaissance Atrium with its murals of  Raphael's "Galatea" and Botticelli's "Venus and Mars" greatly enlarged. This atrium is made very grand with the use of so many bronze pillars, repeated on each visible deck all the way to Deck 10, very formal and impressive. Toward aft is the curved Via Veneto reminiscent of the Via Condotti on the Costa Atlantica (nice shops including Gucci and Fendi).

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 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. Then 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 forward has the top tier of the Taj Mahal and Real Virtuality; midship and aft are cabins.

Upper Deck 5, Empress Deck 6, Veranda deck 7 and Panorama Deck 8 are all staterooms except for forward on Deck 5 where the children's Fun Club is located and forward on Deck 8 is the Bridge. We visited the bridge and met with Captain Cupisti, who cordially showed us around this high tech area. He received this magnificent ship from the Kvaerna-Masa shipyards and will return to Finland to accept the next new Carnival ship the Legend, already under construction. There is a lot of responsibility for the master of such beautiful vessels and the cautious and intelligent Captain Cupisti is up to the task. Vincent enjoyed speaking with the Captain in Italian, and we learned some new things about the bridge and its workings. The Pride has been awarded the "Green Star" by the Italian Naval Registry (R.I.N.A.), which, among other functions, sets up the criteria for environmental standards in both design and operation in protection of air and sea from pollution.

Lido Deck 9 is all public areas. Starting forward there is the gymnasium with jacuzzi/hot tub (which Vincent put to good use), the "Body Beautiful" spa and "The Look" beauty salon. This area has some of the most beautiful murals of Greco-Roman style athletes (discus and javelin throwers etc.) in black and copper. Next, going aft there are the Venus and Apollo Pools each with a stylized statue of its namesake. We had quite a debate as to why Apollo was wearing Mercury's wings on his feet and head. We attributed it to artistic license. All the way aft there is the Poseidon Bar and Pool and a modern bronze statue of Poseidon on top of three dolphins, holding a stylized trident. The ship has 4 swimming pools and 5 whirlpools.

Midship is located the out door 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 entrees, 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.

Deck 10 holds the upstairs of the Gym, the sliding Sky Dome and David's Supper Club (alternative fine dining). The centerpiece of this club is the 12 ft. replica of Michelangelo's masterpiece "David." This white statue can also be seen from the Atrium below, the glass stairway from Deck 9 to 10, or from the elevators on the far side of the Atrium.

Sports Deck 11 has the Kid's Pool and the entrance to the huge water slide.

Sky Deck 12 has the jogging track.

The designated smoke free areas are as follows: all the dining areas, the Gym, Spa & Beauty Salon, the Taj Mahal, Butterflies, Camp Carnival and the open decks portside.

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 entrees 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 min.), 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 here 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 par with the main dining room. The food was good, the bread so-so, but the entrees 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 ft. long balcony, about 200 sq. ft. (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'X7' 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 "Cezane's Apples" and "St. Remy" orchard: nicely coordinated.

Cruise Director Tony Linton was friendly and funny. Daily activities included the following: 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 once again 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!

BELIZE CITY, BELIZE - Arrival 7 am (tendering ashore) and departure 4:30 pm. Belize is a tropical paradise with flowers, birds, islands and access to Mayan ruins. The following shore excursions are available: Xunantunich Maya Site, a seven hour tour ($65); Turneffe Atoll, 2 tank dive ($165). Belize has the second longest barrier reef system in the world. Belize City Tour can be pretty depressing seeing only a hodgepodge of wooden cottages and bad streets--the remnants of English Colonialism. 

COZUMEL, MEXICO - Arrival 7:30 am and departure 12 midnight. This port is great for shopping especially onyx, and here are some of the best waters for snorkeling. This long day allows cruisers a leisurely tour and shop day. The following are some of the listed excursions: Marine Park Unlimited Snorkel ($32); Island Adventure Snorkel ($31);  Tulum Mayan Ruins a 7 hour tour with a lot of walking sandwiched between two long bus rides ($75); Sub Ocean View, a submarine tour ($39); Atlantis Submarine, a deep water submarine tour ($71); and scuba diving tours, one for beginners ($78) and another for certified divers ($65); etc.

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 ft. 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.

As expected, for sanitary conditions, the water is heavily chlorinated. Its strong odor/flavor makes it almost undrinkable. We suggest that purifying filters should be used at distribution points for coffee making, juices, ice machines and filling glasses in the dining rooms. It is not an expensive solution and the taste is worth the cost.

Dinners in the David's Supper Club are interrupted by cruisers sightseeing in T-shirts and shorts taking pictures. A simple sign "Private Dining" and roping off the glass bridge from Deck 9 during the dinner hours 6 to 11 pm, could prevent these distractions and remedy the situation.

Once again we felt that the pasta dishes, with the exception of the "spaghetti Zia Teresa," were inadequate. We ordered a few times penne and linguine and they tasted gluey and overcooked. It could have been the quality of the pasta and/or the cooking method. We don't know, but as pasta lovers we were surely disappointed.

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 Legend, perhaps. For now we have booked three more cruises, one on the Celebrity Millennium, Eastern Caribbean, Jan. 20th, another on the Norwegian Dream, South America, Mar. 3rd, and the third one is a return on the Costa Atlantica, Eastern Caribbean, Apr. 7th. We just love to cruise!

Happy Cruising!

Mary & Vincent Finelli

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Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line