By way of background, DH and I aren't drinkers or gamblers and aren't fans of most entertainment (although we do enjoy juggling & magic). We want to relax and get some sun, enjoy a chance to swim in warm water, and eat well. We don't socialize much, except with other Friends of Bill W.
We took a red-eye from Seattle to Miami, arriving 9 AM or so day of embarkation (never again!). Embarkation went smoothly; we were relatively early and sat by the base of the stairs. A Carnival guest services rep gave VIP boarding to a nearby couple, and gave us their higher-number pass (nice!).
We were a bit disappointed in our cabin, in that it really didn't have an 'extended' balcony on Verandah Deck 8 (lower decks did). We do enjoy aft-facing, and had no noise from Lido deck above or Empress below. Also, there were only about 4 hangers in our closet, and we ended up with a tangle of wire hangers from Housekeeping. I'd like to see the cruise lines put more clothes hooks in cabins.
Our cabin steward and his assistant were pleasant and cleaned well, but never addressed us by name (1st time this has happened). He also paid no attention to our "please clean the room now" door hanger; we were at the end of his area and he never seemed to check first before beginning his rounds.
Food quality was a real let-down for us this cruise. We keep to a pretty Spartan diet at home, and look forward to indulging on our cruises. But I found the food mediocre--bland, salty, under- or over-cooked. We splurged the 3rd night in Emerald Steakhouse to celebrate my 60th birthday. The service was excellent and the food very good; unfortunately, I threw it all up in the middle of the night (and no, we weren't experiencing rough seas). DH spent most of 6th day in the cabin, feeling queasy and under the weather as well. Not a Norovirus--been there, done that.
As to itinerary, most port stops were too short or poorly-timed (7AM to 2PM in Nassau, for example). My bad--I didn't review the itinerary carefully before booking. We had done Western Caribbean the last 2 cruises and wanted something different.
We did one Carnival excursion, Ultimate Snorkel with Oasis Divers in Grand Turk. The tour operator was fine, but there were too many folks on each boat--45 on first, 57 on the second. I got kicked several times by other swimmers. Next time, I will book with independent operators (as we have in the past)
So, we got our sunshine and swam in warm ocean waters, enjoyed the sun and privacy on our aft-balcony, enjoyed the juggler. But all in all, we felt the experience wasn't quite "up to par," and will explore other options for next year's winter vacation. In fact, we're thinking of taking a break from cruising altogether and looking at condos in Maui!