For years at give-and-take sessions with Carnival Cruise Lines’
President Bob Dickinson, agents have asked when Carnival was going
to put a mega-ship on the West Coast. Dickinson’s reply was always
something like, “When you can fill it.”
Apparently, he thinks agents are up to the task now, because
Carnival has deployed the 88,500-ton Carnival Pride in Long Beach,
The Pride, just two years old, operates seven-day Mexican
Riviera cruises departing every Sunday.
This itinerary starts off with two days at sea, then calls at
Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. Another day at sea
offers a chance to rest up before concluding at Long Beach.
Somebody out there must be doing something right because my Nov.
2 cruise carried 2,300 passengers, well above the double-occupancy
capacity of 2,124.
And surprisingly, it never seemed overcrowded except at
embarkation, which was well organized but still took time. Perhaps
Carnival’s new online pre-boarding system will help alleviate this
The ship, which replaced the Elation and joins the short-cruise
Ecstasy, is a welcome addition to the West Coast. (The Ecstasy will
be replaced by the Paradise in October; see story, page 32.)
The Pride still has the shiny veneer of a new ship, and the
staff and crew have settled into their routine so the service is
swift, friendly and relaxed.
Needless to say, on a Carnival cruise there is always something
to do. The shore excursions range from the usual city tours ($27)
to exotic adventures such as off-road biking ($39), countryside
sightseeing on horseback ($49), and swimming with dolphins
A new adventure allows passengers to travel by rope from
platform to platform through the jungle like Tarzan or George of
the Jungle ($99). There are also lots of swimming, sailing and
Daytime activities center around the three swimming pools one
has a retractable roof in case of inclement weather.
Your clients can also expect the usual onboard
revenue-generating activities: bingo, casino gambling, art
auctions, photo sessions, spa treatments and, of course, the
numerous bars throughout the ship.
However, there was none of the heavy-handed hustling that occurs
on some lines. Carnival does protect its bar revenue by
confiscating any alcohol at check-in and returning it at
The atmosphere on these West Coast sailings is quite different
from Caribbean cruises, primarily because of the greater variety of
ages, ranging from 2 to 82, all mixing well and very laid back.
Even on the two formal nights, about 40 percent of the men wore
tuxedos and almost every woman was dressed to the nines.
And these are not first-time cruisers. A repeaters’ party filled
the main floor of the Taj Mahal showroom with records of numerous
Carnival cruises to their credit.
My cruise carried about 200 children, and the team of
supervisors in the Camp Carnival program kept them so occupied that
they were never running around the deck or underfoot. A special
time for teens only in the disco ran until 11:30 p.m. every night,
when it was then turned over to the adults.
All staterooms feature hair dryers, safes, stocked mini-fridges
(you pay for what you use), bathrobes, beach towels, TV sets, a
bowl of freebie amenities in the bathroom and showers. Suites also
have tubs and VCRs.
The 624 oceanview with balcony cabins have good closet space,
twin beds convertible to queen, sofa, coffee table and desk/vanity
and room to move about.
Carnival’s designer, Joe Farcus, always has a theme to some of
the most imaginative interior designs at sea. The theme for the
Pride is Icons of Beauty, so it features renderings of classic
architecture, artistic masterpieces, the human body and athletic
The Raphael Lounge features reproductions of his masterpieces.
Starry Night is the jazz club with replicas of Van Gogh’s painting
of the same name. The piano bar, called the Ivory Bar, has
miniature ivory figures and Japanese ivory carvings decorating the
bar. The Nobel Library, named for Alfred, has a limited number of
books but acts as the Internet cafe, where you can log on at 75
cents a minute.
Dining aboard is better than ever. The Normandie Restaurant is a
large airy room that is modeled after the dining room of the famed
transatlantic liner. There are two seatings (6:15 and 8:15) and
menus are varied and well executed.
The casual Mermaid Grill does away with the usual two buffet
lines and instead has several small serving areas that serve deli
sandwiches to order, Asian food, a salad bar, a carvery, a 24-hour
pizzeria and a station that changes cuisine daily. The end result
is shorter lines.
The main alternative dining area is David’s Supper Club, which
is dominated by a life-size replica of you-know-who Michelangelo’s
famous statue. The menu has changed and now has Alaskan crab claws,
a surf-and-turf of lobster tail and steak, a 14-ounce porterhouse,
chops, chicken and sea bass. The surcharge is $25, and reservations
are required. Give yourself plenty of time for the meal and eat
lightly that day.
Now, all that’s needed is to fill those 1,062 cabins every