Let me start by saying we are the type of people who believe that any vacation is what you make it and therefore, can have a good time pretty much anywhere. And we did on this trip. It was a wonderful 9-day vacation although there were definitely some ups and downs. We've cruised on Disney, Carnival and NCL all 7-day's or longer. When we chose this cruise we did so knowing that we were getting "what we paid for." Carnival is inexpensive in comparison but is a good value for our family of four.
Embarkation in San Diego was strange. We arrived at 11:00 a.m. and were on the ship by 12:30. There was some waiting but it was fine. The terminal is small and they use white tents set-up on an asphalt parking lot as additional waiting area. The baggage check was outside and a bit disorganized. Not really what one would expect from a home port that has been hosting cruises for any length of time.
The buffet we had for lunch before sailing was terrible. We love a good meal and have eaten in some very nice, very good places but don't really consider ourselves "foodies." There weren't many choices and what was available tasted like leftovers from the previous cruise. Luckily it did get much better throughout the trip. Look carefully or you'll miss the prepared to order stations which are hidden behind the buffet lines. There just isn't space for them anywhere else. I'd equate the quality of food to what you would find at Home Town Buffet with maybe a more little flair.
We did eat at the steakhouse one evening and really enjoyed that meal. In our opinion it was well worth the additional $30 per person. We chose your time dining as we don't like to be held to an early or a late seating. I'm not sure if that option was a good one. Of the 9 nights we went the dining room 3 times. As I mentioned we have two children and the service was painfully slow. Two of the dinners took roughly 90 minutes. Way too long with kids sitting at the table. The food was decent but wasn't worth the wait.
The service elsewhere on the ship was very good. Everyone was friendly and efficient. The barista at the coffee shop in the buffet was awesome. The staff at Camp Carnival were incredible. Very welcoming and remembered our kids names when they saw them out and about on the ship. As always there were tons of activities for the kids.
We enjoyed all the activities we chose to participate in (bingo, game shows, listening to karaoke, trivia). Went to Punchliners and had a good time listening to family friendly comedy. I cannot recall their names but the second comedian was much better than the first. The stage shows were boring!! Geared, in my opinion, to a much older generation. Definitely in need of some updating and some variety.
All four of us loved the new waterworks park. Green Thunder is surprisingly fun!
The ship boasts typical wild Carnival decor but we found it clean and in good repair.