We believe that you have as much fun on a vacation as you choose to have-so we always have a blast even when things aren't as perfect as some might expect them to be. I will, however try to write as objective and specific review as possible for those who are considering/planning to take this cruise.
Overall-We enjoyed feeling like we were on a floating city where all everyone was trying to do was vacation! We had the most amazing honeymoon we ever could have wanted and we are now hooked on cruising!
Decorations were ugly pink and gold with weird artwork but hey, we would rather look at the ocean anyway! We sometimes felt crowded in areas with almost 4,000 passengers especially in trying to get some real estate on the Serenity adult-only sun deck during good weather. The size of the ship also means that you sometimes have to do a lot of walking to get to where you want to go. We found our best tactic to be instead of going to the nearest elevator from our cabin to simply walk all the way down deck 2 (where our cabin was located in the front of the ship) until we were directly under wherever we wanted to go and take the stairs or elevator directly up to it. This helped us to avoid confusing directions, crowds, etc.
Embarkation-We chose this cruise because it left the day after our wedding on Sunday, July 10, 2011 (sorry about the delayed review) It was local for us so it was extremely convenient for our family to drop us off late in the afternoon around 3pm. Since it was so late in the day, boarding was a breeze, staff was attentive and helpful and our room was ready!
Stateroom-We stayed in a porthole window room and we loved it! We could only afford an interior room because of cost and we were able to book a porthole window room (in the front of the ship) for the same price as a regular interior room. While it wasn't as nice as an ocean view stateroom, we were glad to have a view of the outside! The portholes had a sort of window box seat next to them which was nice for me to take all of the pillows in there and read a book while my new DH was napping. The room was larger than we expected and very quiet. Also, when the price went down about a month after we booked, I called carnival and they gave us the discounted price! Our attendant was great with one exception. In cabo san lucas we purchased a fresh tile painting that we loved from the man on the boardwalk and we left it on the counter in our stateroom to dry. When we returned from dinner that night the paint had been smeared across the painting by the steward trying to fold the towel animals on the counter. I "fixed" the painting with my fingers and he offered to reimburse us but wanted to keep the painting. We wanted the less than perfect painting still more than our money back so we were not reimbursed =(
Dining-the first night, they announced that if you booked the pinnacle supper club that night, you would receive a free bottle of wine with dinner. This was definitely the highlight of our cruise! The service and food at the Pinnacle were all exceptional. I had the best steak of my life and I don't even like steak! We pretty much had the restaurant to ourselves as most were out exploring the ship for the first time. We were shocked when we left the restaurant and the dining experience truly had taken 2.5 hours-we enjoyed ourselves so much that it felt like 45 minutes!
Most evenings we ate dinner in the main dining room which we were very pleased with. The maitre d' saw that we had booked the cruise for our honeymoon and assigned us to a private table without us even asking. The waiter's singing and dancing after every meal was fun, cheesy, but very fun! Also-I had chocolate lava cake every night! By our third time in the dining room, the waiter just brought it to me without my ordering it-which I loved! We LOVE dressing up and realize that most carnival passengers don't. However, we would have liked if they had made an ATTEMPT at formal night so that we didn't feel out of place (I wore a sundress and heels and DH had on a tie and slacks).
We loved that almost all food options were included in the base price of the cruise. (Pinnacle costs 30$ extra but well worth it, specialty coffeehouse is starbucks-priced, and the bar of course is extra). For our next cruise we are going to try royal Caribbean and I am worried that for us extremely budget conscious, our food selections might be extremely limited (I believe that they have 6 restaurants requiring an exorbitant extra charge!)
Room Service-We enjoyed ordering room service for breakfast, late at night, between meals, and all the time despite the extremely limited selection. The interactive television menu allows you to order what you like on the tv and for the most part it was delivered in a timely fashion.
Spa-We did not use the spa, but my husband enjoyed morning workouts at the fitness center with lovely views
Entertainment-We enjoyed the main show lounge every evening but we recommend that you go straight there after dinner to assure yourselves a seat. Typically I enjoy gambling very much, but found the casino to be user un-friendly. We went to one "adult" comedy show and left a few minutes in as we found it to be inappropriate and not funny at all. We were much happier with the family comedy show by a different (and funnier) comedian. We also participated in bingo, purchased some surprisingly reasonable jewelry on board, and danced to live music
Excursions-we did not book any excursions through carnival, but we had a good experience in cabo san lucas taking a taxi to the beach and shopping.
Pools-the pools actually had too much chlorine for my sensitive skin so I could not use them, but there were always others enjoying them.
Service-all carnival staff was friendly, personable, and helpful.
Kids-There were lots of kids everywhere because this was a summer cruise, but we love children and were not bothered by them. They seemed to be having fun as we saw lots of them participating in various activities such as scavenger hunts.
Disembarkation-We had nowhere to be so we simply enjoyed a leisurely buffet breakfast sipping coffee and enjoying the ocean view as most of the passengers disembarked. When our family called us that they had arrived at the port, we left our table and were at their car within 25 minutes, excited to share about the fun and relaxing vacation we had enjoyed for under 100 per person per day!