It is very apparent that Carnival has turned this cruise into a bargain basement cruise. If you are looking for value for your money, then this is it. If you are looking for a special vacation, then look somewhere else.
Embarkation and disembarkation were smooth. Nothing to add here that hasn't already been said.
The ship is older. The decor is a bit dated. It was perfectly fine! It was clean and well kept. I am not sure why some people base their opinions of the ship on decor. If the looks of the ship are important, then this is not the right ship. The staff kept everything clean and neat.
This was definitely a spring break cruise. It was filled with unattended kids running around and drunk yahoos. We sort of expected this given the timing, and do not blame Carnival for their guests. They should have stopped serving drinks to a few people though.
The room was great. We had E42 and E38. They are adjoining with a door between them. We had plenty of room. Housekeeping was good and everything was nice and clean. The beds were comfortable. The bunkbed for our kids worked well. I have nothing put praise for housekeeping. My only minor complaint is that the rooms are so well insulated, but the hall doors are like cardboard. We had a lot of dunk party people across the hall which was annoying, but that is not Carnival's fault.
The kids went to Camp Carnival one time. They are 3 and 5. They were fine there for about an hour. When I dropped them off and picked them up, all the kids looked pretty bored. Of the 4 staff members we saw, only one of them ever smiled. It felt safe, but I felt bad for our kids and did not take them back.
Now, here is why we would not go back. Admittedly, we have only been on one other cruise (with Celebrity), but the food and general atmosphere was really bad. Carnival was pushing their "party" boat feel, but it was very obvious that the staff is not going to play along. They looked miserable. I think some if it is the auto tipping system. This being a low priced cruise, the staff has no expectation of getting any additional tips and did the bare minimum. We had several waiters and staff and only one of them actually smiled and talked to us. The rest were just churning orders as quick as possible. The housekeeping staff were the only ones who actually engaged us (and thus were left an additional tip).
This brings me to the food. It was bad. Plain and simple. When I talk to people about their cruises and on our previous cruise, the food and the chefs were an integral part of the cruise and a huge selling point. Not on this cruise. There was no special buffet on our day at sea. There was no presentation of the chefs and display of their culinary skills. It showed in their food. The presentation was OK but the taste that was horrible. It was very clear that there was no one tasting this stuff before being served. The buffet was pretty low quality and the food was old.
I was watching some of their procedures at the buffet. I saw a cook, make some fried fish. He would cook a batch and put it into a serving pan. He would pull out an older batch from the warmer and serve people the oldest fish first and put the fresh crispy fish away for later. The steamer turned the crispy fish completely soggy. The end result was the fresh food was put away until it was soggy and bad. It seemed like all the food was like that. I have a 3 year old that can put away more food than most adults. She would not even touch the scrambled eggs - her favorite.
In the main dining room, we had anytime dining and were seated pretty quickly for all meals. I was watching one of our waiters at his station. He would take the orders from several tables and group them into one large list (4 chicken, 3 fish, 3 pasta, etc). He would then give them to the assistant waiter who would return 4 minutes later with a huge stack of plates which would then be distributed. The food was very obviously prepared well in advance and not fresh (your could not customize your orders either as everything was pre-made identically). I then saw 50-60% of all the food being sent back uneaten. The food was flavorless or downright bad. The thing that is irritating is that all of this is easily fixable. Spicing and taste can be improved with such little effort, but for some reason it was not important on this ship. They were lacking in basic quality control. There was no one being held accountable to keep everything up to high standards. If the food was slightly older, but still tasted good I would be OK with that given the price of the cruise. The only thing we had that was great was mushroom soup and some mashed potatoes. Even the lobster was rubbery and old.
In talking with friends and relatives, we have come to the conclusion that Carnival must be treating this ship as their bottom-of-the-barrel cruise. Others have had cruises with Carnival that they say were nothing like this. It was obvious that they were doing the absolute minimum for the most profit. Realistically, I would be OK with that if they told us that ahead of time. I expected a cruise, but we got a floating hotel with a large continental breakfast buffet. If you are going to spend any time on the boat, I would highly recommend choosing another cruise line.
Over Easter we were talking with the in-laws about taking an Alaska cruise next summer. We have essentially said that because of this, it cannot be on Carnival. I would gladly pay more to use a slightly nicer cruise line.