Flew from Baltimore to Ft. Lauderdale a day before. Sailed out of Miami on 8/11/12. Travelers included my family of 4 (husband/wife 40's, 2 daughters 18 & 20) and another family of 3 (husband/wife 40's, 1 daughter 19). This was our 4th cruise, our 2nd on Carnival. Cruised with Disney, Royal Caribbean and previously on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore. We booked 2 cabins (interior with picture window - obstructed view) and a suite with balcony for the 3 girls. Since we booked a suite, we were given VIP status which had its perks at check-in. We arrived at port about noon and there was already a very long line outside. There were not any signs directing you to VIP check-in so we had to ask a few Carnival employees. Bottom line was we were able to bypass the long line and go directly to check-in. Once we got to the girls' suite, us parents were kicking ourselves for not booking one four us also! The sleeping area was very roomy with 3 single beds. There was a dressing area with lighted makeup area, huge closet, full whirlpool tube with shower, double sink, granite counter tops, DVD/VCR player, balcony, lots and lots of storage. We will definitely book a suite from now on. Our interior stateroom was typical size with king bed, standard bathroom, etc.
The activities on the ship were typical of any cruise line and very adequate. The shows in the Venetian Palace were outstanding from the costumes, singing, dancing, props, etc. We went to the welcome show, a juggling/comedian act, love & marriage show and the goodbye show which is always good because passengers from the ship are included in it. There were 4 comedians on board and we went to each of their late (adult) shows. Very funny guys and very enjoyable! The cruise director, Karl "with a K", is really funny also. Be sure to take in one of the movies out on the big screen. It was so great cruising the Caribbean at 10:00 pm and watching Beauty & The Beast on the big screen. Where else can you do that?
The service was top notch. We have always been lucky in getting great room stewards, waiters, busboys, etc. Once again, this time our waiter (Arman) was outstanding, as were all of his "helpers". He was a great entertainer, especially his dancing skills! Every time you encountered a Carnival employee, there was a smile on their face and a friendly greeting. I can't praise Carnival enough on this!
The food was good, some better than others. In the past we have always done the buffet for breakfast, but it is total chaos. This time on about the 3rd day we headed to the dining room. We will never do the buffet again! The menu is the same as the buffet and the service is impeccable! We were seated, ordered and had our food in less than 10 minutes compared to about 30 minutes in the buffet, plus its so hard to find a seat. Also, on sea days the dining room has a brunch. We didn't find out until the last sea day, but had we known, we would have done this on both days. It is not highly advertised, but they have a great menu (steak & eggs, omelets, fresh fruit, mac & cheese, etc.). We ate at the steakhouse one night and the food was average. I won't do that again on future cruises, especially since its an additional $35/person. The food is just as good in the dining room, just a fancier atmosphere at the steakhouse.
We have been to 2 of the ports of call on previous cruises - Cozumel, Mexico - we went on excursion to Passion Island. Lovely private island with beautiful white sand/clear water. Water wasn't as clear as previous visit because Tropical Storm Ernest had just passed through. Also the buffet previously had been authentic Mexican food (exactly what you expect in Mexico), but for the cruise line to cut costs, they now serve spaghetti & chicken nuggets. Very disappointing. I can get that food back home. Belize - didn't book an excursion. We are beach people and Belize City is not a beach area. Touristy area when you get off tender. Nothing to write home about, and do not wander out of that area because we were told by a local that it is not safe. Isla Roatan - very nice touristy/beachy area right were ship docks. Spent the day at the beach. No charge for beach chairs. Bar right there for drinks/food/etc. Grand Cayman - had booked an excursion, but when we got on ship we got a letter that it had been cancelled. When you get off tender, there are TONS of info booths set up for excursions. We snorkeled and went to beach. Then visited Margaritaville across the street from port. Beware, some prices are in Cayman Island prices, not US dollars. Very shocked when our lunch tab was $72 for the 4 of us!
This was our 4th cruise, and while I can't rave enough about the great manners of the employees, I was just as disgusted by the poor manners of the guests. There were a lot of foreigners (Chinese/French) and they were very rude. Constantly butting in front of you in line, running into you without apologizing, passing gas CONSTANTLY!!!! A woman spilled an entire soda on our friend and didn't say a word. Other than the rude passengers, the cruise was very enjoyable and looking forward to the next one.