This was my first cruise, and I went with my husband to celebrate our first anniversary. We are both under 30 and have no kids, so we were excited for some adventure and some relaxation for a week. We were weary of Carnival, but we went into this trip with an optimistic outlook and were not disappointed. For anyone who is concerned about Carnival, I think it just is what you make of it. My husband and I are both easy-going and we love an adventure, so we kept a positive mind about the whole experience. Were their things we could have complained about? Yes. Did it ruin our trip? Absolutely not. We would do it again in a heartbeat! I will try to point out the good and bad in this review, but overall, it was a great vacation.
The day before:Parking at the ship was about the same cost as a hotel room, so we opted for the park and stay option at the La Quinta in Cocoa Beach. It was great; for around $100, we got a day at the beach and a safe place for our car for the week at no additional charge. The room at La Quinta was comfortable, and it's only a block from the beach. This option was definitely better than paying $115 for a parking spot at the port for the week, and we got an extra beach day too!
Embarkation: Easy! They kept us moving and always gave us good guidance for the next step. They told us where to head when we boarded, and we had a smooth experience. I was expecting a long wait, but it moved pretty quickly and we were pleasantly surprised.
Room: We reserved a deluxe oceanview room and it was nice. I have never cruised before, so I was expecting something more the size of a closet, but our room had plenty of space for us. We had a sofa next to our bed, 4 closets, and two bathrooms (one with sink, shower and toilet; one with jr tub+shower and sink). We had no issues with space all week. The only big problem I had with the room was the noise! The walls are thin, and we could hear everything in our neighbors' rooms and the hallway. It was not great for me because I'm a very light sleeper. We were also on the 1st floor, so docking at ports felt like an earthquake. I didn't get much sleep, but we were on a ship; these things are to be expected. For me, this was the biggest complaint of the whole trip, but I managed.
Food: We had room service nearly every morning for breakfast, and we enjoyed having our selections delivered to us as we were getting ready for the day. With the excursions we scheduled, we didn't have time for the buffet or dining room. We had lunch at the Lido buffet or the other options on the deck. The pizza was my husband's favorite, and we both really liked the tandoori restaurant on the aft. The buffet variety was nice too, so we usually got a mix and shared. The sushi at Wasabi was very good, but they only offer sampler plates each night; you cannot order rolls from a menu. I would've liked the option to get more than 3-4 pieces at a time. For dinner, we only ate in the dining room once because we got scheduled for the 8:15 seating--too late for us, especially since it conflicted with shows. We looked at the menu each night, and many of the dishes were also served at the Lido buffet. I would prefer to serve myself anyway, so the buffet was great for us. Food was sometimes hit-or-miss, but we always found at least a few good things. Again, tons of variety. The alcoholic beverage selection was also great, and we enjoyed having so many options.
Entertainment: We spent more time in the Punchliner Comedy Club than at any other entertainment venue--we loved the comedians! It was a very fun and relaxed vibe, and we would go to two shows most nights. Jeff the Fun Dude repeats his material so much that he's not great, but the guest comedians did a great job. We went to the Encore Theater for the Dancin in the Streets show, and I was blown away. I was not expecting very high quality from a cruise ship show, so this one definitely exceeded expectations. They did a good job, and the show included a variety of different acts. Worth checking out. The Legends show was the only one that I really did not enjoy, and I would not recommend it at all--cheesy and boring.
Ports: See full details in my port reviews. Here, I will just say that we didn't do any Carnival excursions, and we have no regrets. The independent companies we used were professional, we had great trips, and we saved lots of money. If we cruise again, we will do the independent ones again without question.
Ship life: Several people complained about kids, noise, crowds, etc to us when we were looking at cruises. Yes, these are all possible issues on a ship with over 4000 people, but we found ways to avoid it. The promenade deck almost always had a quiet set of lounge chairs for us, and we also had little problem finding spots on the lido deck if we wanted some music and pool time. The pools stay crowded, but we didn't really want to spend much time in them anyway. The Serenity deck is nice for adults, but there is absolutely no shade. We preferred the chairs on the promenade for quiet and shaded time.
Debarkation: We opted for self-assist, so we took our luggage off the ship on our own. It was great! We moved through the line quickly and were at our van back to our car in no time. This was a good option for us since we had to drive home and wanted to get started as quickly as possible.
We had a wonderful trip, and Carnival has cruising down to a science. They know what they're doing, and you'll enjoy your time as long as you don't go looking for things to complain about.