Our group sailed the Carnival Pride to Mexico in December 2003. and just got off the Golden Princess sailing of May 9. With both crusies fresh in our minds, I thought I'd compare the two for anyone who is interested.
We are a group of five co-workers ages 40-55. No spouses came on the cruise with us. We had all sailed Carnival many times, but this was our first Princess cruise. We are three males and two females.
Carnival had larger and more spacious rooms than Princess. Carnival had much larger bathrooms and more drawer space. Princess had larger closet space. Carnival balcony rooms had a couch, Princess had a small chair. Balconies on Princess were twice the size than those on Carnival. On Princess, 5 people could be out on balcony at the same time, with plenty of room. On Carnival, two seems to be the limit. Color scheme and decor was similar on each line. Overall winner for rooms: Princess (only because of the extra large balconies. If not booking a balcony, then Carnival had the better rooms).
Room Steward Service:
On both cruises we seldom saw our room steward, though we saw the one on Princess at least one a day (and always called us by our name). Only saw cabin steward on Carnival twice, and though she was efficient and kept room clean, had very little personality, and did not want to engage in any conversation. On Carnival, the other room stewards would not smile and say hello as you passed them in the hall, on Princess, the other stewards were always very friendly and said hello to you as you passed them. Winner: Princess.
Food (Dining Room):
We never had a single entree, appetizer, salad, soup or dessert that was not absolutely "out of this world" on Princess. Food was all cooked to order. Meats were served exactly how ordered. Food was always hot. Chicken and fish dishes were tender and juicy and never dry. Excellent choices at each meal. Desserts were incredible. On Carnival, meals were hit and miss. Some meals were quite good, while others were terrible. We had to send meat dishes bakc several times for either not cooked as ordered, or almost cold. Soups were often cold to likewarm. Lobster and fish dishes were very dry and tough, as though sitting under a heating lamp for extended periods of time. Desserts were fair to good. On Princess, Steak, salmon, chicken, pasta, baked potato, shrimp cocktail, caesar salad and cheesecake are always available, for those who can't find anything they like on the daily menu. On Carnival, you can not really order items not on the menu. Winner: Princess by a mile.
Food (Lido Deck):
Princess would often have the same items served in the formal dining rooms on their buffet as in the dining room. Lots more gourmet and unusal items on Princess. Carnival's buffet items were standard. Imported cheeses on Princess, American and Cheddar processed slices on Carnival. Winner: Princess.
Service in Dining Room:
We elected for personal choice dining on Princess. We sometimes ate at 530, then other nights at 900, depending on what we were doing at the time. Different table and waiters each night. One night we had a short 5-minute wait, that we spent in a nearby bar until called. In spite of different waiters each night, service was 5-star and personal. Always there to fill water and beverage glasses immediately. Bread basket and butter dishes always full. Never had to chase down the waiter or busperson. Carnival also had good service. but those dancing and singing waiter nights detracted from service and interrupted the flow of the meal. Water glasses not filled during this time, plates not cleared, etc. Also, no endless "happy birthday or happy anniversary" songs on Princess as you hear 20 times a night in the Carnival dining rooms. Winner: Princess
Cleanliness of ship.
You were be hard pressed to find a table on the Lido deck with dirty plates, or cocktail glasses left on tables throughout the ship on Princess. Carnival does a good job of keeping their ship clean as well, but Princess seems to be just a little quicker and more responsive in this area than Carnival. Winner: Princess.
Carnival gives you the "Vegas" type entertainment every night. As our whole group is from Vegas, this is "old hat" to us, but we were impressed with the professionalism of the dancers and singers on Carnival. Also, the comedians were wonderful on Carnival.
Entertainment on Princess is more subdued. Often times, the singers were lip-syncing to their own voices, which was a distraction. Very low-energy shows, often times just standing in one spot singing slow songs. Need more choreography. Comedians were average. Winner: Carnival.
Spa prices on both ships are through the roof. Both have friendly staff. Carnival seemed to offer more special spa rates while the ship is in port. Lay out of spa and workout area more spacious and logical on Carnival. Princess has smaller workout area, and was a bit cramped. Also, no private, seperate steam and sauna areas for men and women on Princess. Both facilities exit straight to main pool, with glass doors, so there is no privacy. Small spa showers on Princess. Carnival has large seperate mens and womens showers with 5 shower heads. Winner: Carnival.
Carnival does not know when to stop. They take a particaulr theme and run it into the ground. The renisance art work and nudity on Carnival Pride was way over the top, to the point of being garish and tasteless. Lots of flash and brass throughout ship. Felt as though I was in a Las Vegas Hotel lobby. Princess is much more refined. More wood throughout ship instead of brass and neon. Felt like a nice upper-class hotel than a flashy casino-type hotel. Tasteful art work throughout ship. Princess has learned that "less is more". Winner: Princess
Embarakation and Debarkation was about the same on each ship. Very hassle-free.
I noticed more of the staff stop and smile and say hello to you on Princess than on Carnival. Clientele on both ships about the same, though less children and teens on Princess. People dress up more on Princess. On formal nights, about 1/3 of all men were in tuxedos. On Carnival, i think I spotted a total of about 5 men in total that were in a tux. No jeans in dining rooms ever on Princess (nice dockers, slacks or khakis with open shirt on non-formal nights). On Carnvial, the crowd has a tendancy to dress down more often, and some disregard formal dress on the formal nights all together. I saw no offenders of dress code on Princess.
On Carnival, they are "hocking" drinks to you at all times. On Princess, they do not carry around pre-made drinks trying to sell them to you. Drink waiters are always easy to find, without pestering you as they do on Carnival.
On Carnival, I had to fight off the ships photographers at every turn and every time I got off on port. On Princess, they make their services available, but are not pushy, and will leave you alone once you say "no thank you". (no pleading with you to take a picture as on Carnival).
Pools and jacuzzis open 24 hours on Princess. They close late in the afternoon on Carnival. Also on Princess it is all fresh water pools.
Soda cards on Princess $20. Soda cards on Carnival $33.
Now they I have sailed Princess, I can't see myself going back to Carnival. I missed the entertainment and energy on Carnival, but the superior food and service on Princess far surpasses anything on Carnival.
We paid only about $300 more per person on Princess and felt is well worth it. Looking forward to our next Princess crusie sometime this fall.