Naked in the News: Back aboard the Carnival Pride; A passenger’s account of cruising post COVID-19
The cruise lines resumed operations in July and we’ve longed to get back on the water and celebrate the return of cruising. Carnival Pride began sailing in September and a few weeks ago we were able to receive first hand experience of life aboard.
It was like a time warp. It seemed like nothing had changed. The Carnival Pride glowed white in the sun. The water in the Bahamas was crystal clear and an indescribable shade of blue. The crew was as warm and welcoming as ever. Everywhere you went aboard the ship the fabrics were fresh and the Murano glass gleamed. In short, Carnival Pride looks good. Cabins have blue striped curtains and bedspreads plus new shower curtains and, as always, soft-as-a-cloud bedding and pillows. The volume of the music wasn’t too loud and allowed for easy conversation with an assortment of entertainment that brought back fond memories. The production shows still featured impossibly fit performers that can dance and sing simultaneously. There were dueling DJ’s, sing-alongs in the piano bar, and all sorts of live music and activities throughout the ship. Passengers won at Bingo, Deal or No Deal, and did the Electric Slide on Lido to sail away. All that was missing was the announcement that we could now be clothes-free!
After almost 2 years without sailing, the staff and crew were remarkably efficient and seemed genuinely happy to see us. Some of the ins and out of cruising came back right away. For example, the colorful frosty drinks carried by waiters throughout the Lido are not complementary; they can however easily be purchased using the barcode at the top of the boarding pass. Room keys are located outside of the cabins, which are ready by 1 PM; after that everything gets charged to your room key.
The steward introduced himself and asked when we wanted the room cleaned, either in the morning or evening. The ship had a limited number of bathrobes available, and we requested them right away to ensure we had something to wear while relaxing on our balcony. The Lido buffet had a great variety of lunch food selections such as made-to-order pizza, Asian, Italian, Indian, hot & cold deli sandwiches, fresh salads & fruit and an assortment of cakes and pastries plus frozen yogurt and ice cream for dessert. The addictive Guy’s Burgers and new taco bowls at the Blue Iguana Cantina were popular.
The week went by in a blur, but some memories stand out. Waking up to a rosy sunrise followed by a fluffy omelet and smoked salmon at the Sea Day Brunch. Watching passengers relaxing with beverages in sun loungers located all over Lido and Deck 10. Walking a mile on the upper deck watching a glorious Caribbean sunset. Dancing in our own world to the music of our choice at the volume of our choice at the new “Silent Night” deck dance.
The smoking area on Deck 9 starboard has new padded couches and chairs which will make some passengers very happy. The specialty steakhouse was as wonderful as always. The statue of David still greets guests at the top of the stairs dressed for dinner in a fig leaf. The smoked oysters under glass were as yummy as remembered. In the main dining room, we were spoiled by the attentiveness of our waiter, and he gave us excellent recommendations.
Bonsai Sushi was again fresh and delicious and the Sushi Boat for Two can now be ordered in the main dining room along with some steakhouse selections. Of course, we had to sample a few of the Alchemy Bar concoctions. We are not sure if the drinks provide any health benefits, but they were delicious.
We were not brave enough to try the green waterslide, but we did venture into the gym to check out the exercise equipment and popped into the spa for a little pampering. The ship has very talented massage therapists as well as an acupuncturist to help with aches and pains. Need a little lift? The spa can give you a fresher look with a variety of facials as well as Medi-Spa offerings. As we wandered the ship, we saw passengers dancing in the Atrium to the pre-dinner music of the violin trio. Since it was nearing Halloween there was a costume contest on Lido, and no… none of the costumes were as good as some we’ve seen on our cruises.
We met with the staff and crew of the ship to introduce ourselves and many have sailed with us before and remember us fondly. Some of the crew are a bit nervous about our arrival, but all are ready to make us feel welcome. Our charter is miles outside of their comfort zone, but they are prepared to give our passengers the same courtesy and excellent service they provide all their guests. The crew come from around the world, some as far away as South Africa and they are happy that cruising has returned.
Now to address the elephant in the room, the current Covid-19 health protocols aboard a Carnival cruise. First, let us say it wasn’t difficult. They require full vaccination, which is also required if you want to travel anywhere around the world. They require a negative Covid-19 test be taken within 48 hours of cruising which is easily attainable. One is using the CVS Minute Clinic in which you can schedule your appointment up to two weeks in advance and the results were received within an hour. Another option is scheduling a test with your health provider; in which results were emailed within 24 hours. A note for back-to-back cruisers: the ship will provide the test in between the voyages free of charge.
Masks are required on any transportation to the ship including the shuttles and Uber, as well as during embark and debark. The staff at the port will inspect your passport, vaccine card and verify your test results. From there it’s smooth sailing if you’ll pardon the pun. There are locations inside the ship that require masks if you can’t keep social distance, for example the elevators and the disco. Masks are not required outside and the exception to the mask rule inside was lifted when eating and drinking. They request you “sip and cover” in the main showroom as the performers cannot mask up. The ship has blocked off the first row of the theater to allow for social distance. The cruise line is being extra careful. Staff and crew must always wear masks, and everyone aboard was doing their part to keep cruising going. The guidelines are constantly updated on Carnival’s website under “Have Fun. Be Safe.”.
Walking around the pool deck on the last day of the cruise it looked like any cruise we’ve ever been on. Passengers were enjoying the hot tubs, listening to the steel drum player, and splashing in the pools. Some were relaxing in the shade on Deck 10 or in clam shells in the Serenity area. A music trivia contest was going on near the coffee shop downstairs, the gift shop was having a big sale, and karaoke was in the Red Frog Pub.
Just like old times.