We have been on 6 Carnival cruises in the past and this was by far the worst.
Departing Port Canaveral on 12th. May '12 on a 5 night Bahamas itinerary visiting Freeport, Nassau and Half Moon Cay.
Our cabin was good as has been in the past. It was clean and comfortable. Although there must have been a staff work area behind our cabin as loud noises came from the central ship area next to our cabin each night very early in the morning, i.e. 2 am, which woke me up. Our cabin boy was really good and probably the best we have ever had on Carnival.
We had late sitting (2015 hrs) in the main restaurant. We had travelled with my daughter and her boyfriend and we were seated together in the restaurant, albeit on a table for 12. However, 3 Venezuelan ladies occupied one end of the table and our family of 4 occupied the other end so it was like having our own table.
Carnival used to offer 4 or 5 courses on the menu but now it's down to just 3 - starter, main and dessert, although you can, and we did, order multiple items from each course as and when necessary. I can't remember any other cruise when nothing on the menu tickled our fancy ... but there were a couple of occasions when this happened. However, as mentioned earlier, there were some nights when we ordered multiple items as we couldn't make our minds up. I believe this to be OK as long as everything that is ordered is eaten and not wasted, which we always did. I hate to see wasted food.
The 2 bests things of a cruise, in my opinion, is the food and the entertainment. The main stage entertainment was unbelievably poor. The first nights entertainment started off with a show that I had seen twice before on previous Carnival cruises - and I haven't cruised with them for over 2-years. The second night was advertised as a main show spectacular. It was the Ecstasy singers and dancers in a 'country' show. I don't like country at the best of times but I thought it won't be so bad if they sing and dance to songs that everyone knows. That wasn't the case. I hadn't heard of most of the songs before. The cruise director Steve played his fiddle, which I suppose was the highlight of the show. However, Steve also played the violin and took every opportunity to play on stage during the shows. Once was OK but I didn't want to see the same artist all of the time!!! 2 other nights the main stage offered bingo and guest talent shows. The last night featured the Ecstasy singers and dancers once again. This time their performance included disjointed songs, no apparent storey line and just a mis-mash of entertainment. At one point they sang depressively and showed disturbing pictures of America's involvement in WW2 and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima. I wanted to walk out but my wife wouldn't let me. At the appropriate points when the audience would normally clap and applause there was a definite reluctance or lack of enthusiasm to do so. How disappointing!!!
I was, as normal, looking forward to both the captains welcome aboard cocktail party and the regulars welcome back on board cocktail party. Well they've cut back here also. There was an opportunity to meet the captain and his officers who lined up on the promenade deck. They must have felt so stupid stood there for hours and few people coming up to them to shake their hands. Of course the reason for this was quite simple. Everyone previously enjoyed the Captains welcome aboard party as numerous free cocktails were provided. Without the free drink why bother? The welcome back on board party was, though, as expected. Hosted in the main theatre with drinks music and Hors d'oeuvres.
I like the heat but I don't like to sit in the sun and it is always a struggle to find shaded areas. The MV Ecstasy was no exception. We sat around the one and only pool a number of times but it was too busy. Loud music or singers or quizzes or competitions being transmitted all of the time. This was not a place for quiet time to read or complete a Sudoku. There was an adults only Serenity area but this again had very limited shaded areas and we found it hard to find 4 shaded beds together as they always went first. People were constantly moving beds to shaded areas - come on cruise lines ... provide more shaded areas!
I don't really think that my negative comments are specific to the MV Ecstasy (apart form Steve hogging the limelight) its more Carnival's cost cutting and not acting on guests comments (shaded areas) and poor planning (stage shows).
I will think twice before booking another cruise on Carnival in the future.