Our first cruise exceeded our expectations in every way. It was only after we booked this trip that I discovered cruise critic. What I read at first had me very nervous, cold food, drunks, Wal-Mart of the seas.
What utter nonsense. The ship was old, but she's been refurbished and is clearly very well cared for. We found the crew to be unfailingly helpful, friendly and cheerful. Our fellow cruisers were wonderful, we made many new friends and we really did find ourselves doing things we might not ever have done.
Our cabin (U-98) was wonderful, it was an extended balcony suite and the extra large balcony may have spoiled us for good. We spent a lot of time there just watching the sea and relaxing. In fact, this was by far the most relaxing vacation I've ever had. Our cabin steward was amazing, he seemed to anticipate everything we might want, or not want. We didn't eat the chocolate, he stopped leaving it. I left my portible cigar humidor out (I'm guessing that's how he figured it out) and when we returned to our room after dinner there was an ashtray on the table out on the balcony. There was always ice in the ice bucket and when we chilled champagne we returned later to find extra champagne flutes.
The food in the dining room was much better than I expected. The service was attentive without being intrusive and the selection of wines was pretty good and fairly priced. The Chef's Table was so much fun and so much fantastic food I can't imagine taking a Carnival Cruise and not doing it.
The excursions we booked through Carnival were great fun and required no effort on our part other than to show up. The entertainment in the main show room was not really our sort of thing, but we loved the live bands on the Promenade deck and we saw two late night comedy shows that had us rolling on the floor, so to speak. (John Wesley Austin was the comic for both shows, but he did two different sets.)
We had VIP boarding/debarkation so getting on and off in Port Canaveral was as easy as you could want. We arrived a bit after 10:00 AM and were on board with a drink on the Lido deck by 11:00.
I would not hesitate to recommend this cruise to anyone who likes to have a good... no GREAT time without spending a lot of money.
It's cheap, it's fun, try it. I wish I had done so sooner. There will certainly be many more cruises in our future.