Background - I took this same cruise in December of 2011 and again in May of 2012. In December, my wife got a job offer and had to start when when were scheduled to go on the cruise, so I went with a friend. In May my wife could go so we booked the cruise again. Not because it is such a great cruise but because it is a convenient drive from Raleigh and the price is right, especially when you account for cost savings of driving rather than driving.
In December, the cruise passengers seemed to be a lot of young African American professionals. They were a lot of fun and really knew how to party. I would hate to see their bar bills. The May cruise I call the red-neck cruise. Enough said. They were fine just not what I am use to. There were more families in May than December. The kids were well behaved and well occupied by the Camp Carnival staff. The kids seemed to be having a very good time.
Pros - As with any cruise, no laptop and no cell phone makes a vacation for me.
Food was adequate. Cabin service was very good. The gym is adequate. The entertainment was OK. NCL usually has better entertainment than Carnival but NCL disappears from the Caribbean in April. The Boardwalk band was the best on the ship. As in December, they did a really good Beatles cover during the Beatles tribute show on the last night. They also play more of a rock mix of music during their other performances on the Lido deck. The tribute to nightclubs show still stinks. Carnival needs to fire their entertainment producers. A flying and talking couch, really? They had different lead singers from December but they were no better. The dancers were good. The comedians in December were funnier than the ones they had on the May trip but they were still good. The serenity deck is the only place we hung out. It is quiet and there is shade.
The food was OK. The only issue I had was the noise level in the main dining rooms was pretty high. We had 10 people at our table and it was difficult to hear the people across from you. The waiter, Lois, was very good. The staff in general were very friendly. They seemed to like it when you ask about where they are from etc.. They work very hard. I was disappointed they did not offer the kitchen tour on the May trip like they did in December. My wife would have enjoyed it. I found it fascinating when I did it in December.
The cons- The entertainment was marginal at best. The main thing that I really disliked was disembarkation in Charleston. Carnival was OK, it is the port layout that stinks. Once you get through customs you have to wait forever for the shuttle buses to take you to the car park. Even after that you have to still walk out of one building, cross the street, and into the next building. It would have been faster and easier to walk from the port building to our car. Charleston needs to fix this. It took 2hrs from the time we got in line to leave the ship till we got to our car. That is stupid.
Would I do it again? Maybe, because it is so convenient from Raleigh and the price is right when compared to 5 days at the beach. If Charleston fixes their processes, then my answer would be a definitive "Yes".