As a veteran of more than 15 cruises, 3 of them on Carnival, I felt I pretty much knew what to expect after reading some of the reviews before my cruise, but there were a few surprises, good and bad.
Embarkation was quick and easy. We arrived at 10:30 AM, parked in the lot that charged $10 per day, and was quickly bussed to the ship. No lines, no waiting. At 11:00 AM we were on the ship. Disembarkation was the same experience because we chose the self-disembarkation option and we were off the ship before 8.
If you are considering this cruise in 2012, plan to pack clothes for cooler, fall-like conditions. You will be glad you did because the deck is very cool at night as you head to Canada.
The ship is scheduled to go into dry-dock in November to be refurbished, and there were lots of signs of wear and tear around the ship. One thing to remember, decks 3 or 4 do not go from back to front because of the golden restaurant, but 5 does.
One negative was the level of service in the dining room. This is the first cruise we have taken where gratuities were mandatory on your account, so it was unfortunate that the service noticeably diminished. We never knew our assistant waiter and the last evening we never even saw the bar waiter to order a glass of wine.
Another disappointment was the quality of the food in general, although the desserts were decent. Nothing but white rolls in the dining room. Steak the first night was chewy. One evening we had dinner in the Emerald Steakhouse and although my filet was delicious, DSO's Chilean sea bass was oily, greasy and not good at all. Carnival, you can do better.
If you are wondering what to wear for the elegant evening, you will be comfortable in anything from casual wear to a cocktail dress/suit and tie, although there seemed to be more people who were less dressed up side.
The photographers were pretty good and there were many times when you could get a photo taken without waiting in a big line. If you have family traveling with you, why not have everyone do a casual shot wearing white shirts and jeans or chinos etc.? A few groups did that and the photos came out very nice.
In Halifax we did the Top 10 Tour and were not disappointed because it was a rainy day and we were on a bus. We also did the 'Behind the Fun' tour of the ship itself. Great tour even though a little pricey.
Shows on the ship were a little tired, but after refurbishment they are getting all new shows.
All in all we got what we paid for. It was a cost effective way to travel to Canada.