Western Caribbean, Inaugural Cruise
Dec. 30, 2001 - Jan. 5, 2002
& 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.
SHIP'S PUBLIC AREAS
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
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
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.
FOOD AND SERVICE
Immediately upon boarding the ship check table assignments. With the
wheelchair we prefer a table near the entrance, so we won't disturb
other diners. Maitre d' Ken Byrne (Dublin, Ireland) was helpful and
gave us an easily accessible table for two. The Maitre d' sets the
mood in the dining room and this handsome (Clark Gable like) gentleman
is a credit to Carnival. On formal nights he was dapper in his white
pique waistcoat and tails, and he sang several songs including
"New York, New York" and "My Way" with great
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
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
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.
ACTIVITIES AND PORTS
BELIZE CITY, BELIZE - Arrival 7 am (tendering ashore) and departure 4:30
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
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
Mary & Vincent Finelli
to Carnival Cruise Reviews
courtesy of Carnival