Having read numerous reviews in preparation for our first cruise, I will add mine in hopes of helping others. We are in our mid-fifties and travelled with our young adult daughter and her boyfriend.
We stayed at LaQuinta Airport East (Miami) pre-cruise and would recommend it for its good shuttles from MIA and to POM.
Embarkation went smooth as could be at POM. We arrived around 10:30. Rooms were ready by 1:00.
Activities were very numerous, but not too many really appealed to us. Some that we tried seemed kind of rinky-dink, but filled the time on sea days.
We are not sun/beach worshippers, so at the two beach ports (HMC and Grand Turk)we were in need of excursions. Only Carnival provides many of the excursions at these ports, so we did the Aquatrax at HMC and Dune Buggies at GTurk. Loved the Aquatrax, but it was nothing like was described in Carnival's Fun Ashore or website. (We just drove for 55 minutes straight and loved it.) The 'dune buggies' were not all that fun. Just UTVs (not the tubular dune buggies they describe) that followed in a straight line around the deserted/desolate island. But hey, it was better than Margaritaville for us.
Enjoyed our Snuba excursion at St. Thomas. St. Thomas was one of the down points of our cruise however, as we wanted a private taxi to take us quickly to Paradise Point and Drake's seat. Getting off the boat there was horribly crowded and slow. We were herded (almost literally) to the taxi area and were told that it would cost $250-$300 to take that drive. Really??? I don't think so. "You MUST take a tour" we were told over and over. We did not want to take a tour, just a quick taxi ride so we could be back by noon for our excursion to Coral World. After consulting the guy at the info booth by the pier, we went back again to the crazy taxi place and finally paid $32 to get a short ride to Drake's seat and back. (Two people). Worked out fine but was a nightmare trying to set up such a simple thing.
The food was very good. We had ATD and got there early nearly every night. The one night we went later my husband's food was cold. We were also done eating in around an hour when we got there early. No complaints about servers.
Steakhouse was enjoyable and delicious.
Liked our aft balcony cabin, but aren't sure we would pay extra for the aft again. (But we have never had a regular balcony to compare it with.) Didn't have issues with smoke, although one neighbor did smoke. Our cabin was well laid out and we didn't have any space issues. Very good room steward. Did LOTS and LOTS of walking with our location and needing to go far forward for all debarkation and getting to ATD entrance to the Golden Olympian. (Bright spot - didn't gain weight on the cruise.)
CD (Karl with a K) was a little over the top, but that comes with the territory. He is just doing his job and has to be very enthusiastic.
Shows were good, but not excellent. Some nights were better than others. I have seen better at large theme parks, but they were decidedly not poor. Loved the seating on the couches and with room to leave without tripping over everyone's feet.
Photography everywhere was also over-the-top in my opinion. Looked at the results and can't understand the appeal to so many people, but obviously a lot of people took advantage of it.
Didn't feel pressured to do the photos or order drinks at any time.(Except maybe the photo prior to embarkation.)I was glad about that.
Phones seemed a little funky. My daughter said that figuring out how to get a message was a challenge.
Debarkation was a little less orderly, as we went to the Venetian early to be ready for our turn (group 2 due to early flight). Once they started letting people off, we had to be pulled from the line as our group hadn't been called. But NO group had been called and tons of people were leaving the ship. Since everyone else was leaving, we didn't get it that we couldn't leave as well. But other than that, we got off and through customs in a snap. Oh, one other thing that wasn't made clear was that there are many different luggage carousels at the port and you need to look for a number on the board. There was a board with like 15 numbers on it, but I guess we were just dumb and didn't connect these numbers with our group number.) I know we weren't the only ones who made this mistake.
Despite pointing out several 'minuses' we had a very good time and would have no problems recommending Carnival to anyone. We aren't cruise addicts after this cruise, but we were glad to have visited the ports we wanted and in such a beautiful means of transportation. The ship was very lovely and well maintained.