It's my kids first time and I wanted them to enjoy it that I read cruise critic for six months so I know what tips to give them. I told them about the things I read here including bullies in the arcade, dry food and towels and invisible people hogging the chairs. I didn't tell them about the GI virus since I consider that an isolated incident and not really about the cruise.
Embarkation - as smooth as can be. On deck in less than 45 minutes and having lunch at Lido.
Cabin - followed reviews and booked a balcony room. Well worth it. The cost is comparable to an inside stateroom on a Disney Cruiseline going to the same place. Yes you spend most of your time on deck but having room service and drinking coffee in your own balcony in your pj's and messed up hair ..... Priceless. It didn't feel cramped at all for a family of 4. If you can afford it, go for it.
Cabin Steward - excellent job. Kept our room clean at all times. We had a squeaky bathroom door. I didn't complain about it but was fixed the following morning. We used the ice bucket to cool some canned drinks. Came in at night with a fresh bucket of ice and another one for our canned drinks. Small things but much appreciated.
Food - read the complaints about the food. I guess you can't satisfy 3,000 guests but it seemed like a majority of them had fun with the food. There will always be complainers.... Coz that's what they love to do. No problems here. Had one dry overcooked pork at the buffet but that was it. Dining rooms were excellent. Emerald Steakhouse was elegant and well worth the $35. Others might say that it's crazy to pay for food when it's free everywhere else. If you can afford it, it's worth it. For one, it's the only place that doesn't have lines. Also, The other reviewers are right about the free coffee.....BURNT. I found myself going to Creams Cafe and paying for a cup of joe. Try their desserts at Creams. So good. Better than the melting cake everyone is talking about.
Sushi a few steps from Creams is also good. 24 hour pizza is also good. The reviews on the fish and chips were on the money-too greasy.
Lines - approx. 3000 people to feed. Expect lines. It's the Walmart of cruises so expect to see the same kind of people you see at Walmart. You can see those kind of people a mile away. If you want enjoy your cruise, ignore them. They seem to think they are the only ones who paid for the cruise and are entitled to the food more than anyone. You won't see them on Emerald Steakhouse.
Shows - being New Yorkers, we have high standards for shows. The shows are between boring to o.k. Not NY or Vegas quality as they claim to be.
Photographers - Carnival Management READ THIS! You have way too many photographers to the point they are a nuisance. Are they on commission that they are too aggressive? They position themselves to take 1/2 of the walkway on the promenade. Minus 1 star for this poor judgement on Carnival bosses.
Invisible Cruisers - plenty on this ship. These invisible people leave towels on deck chairs. I was on deck and have seen chairs with towels that haven't moved for hours. It will be impossible for the carnival staff to monitor this.
Serenity - Oasis for adults. Not all entrances are monitored by Carnival staff so kids find a way in. It is quiet and relaxing if it sticks to the adults only theme.
Camp Carnival - my kids ages 13 and 15 said this will be their first and last cruise since they just want to try it. We are now planning on our next one. Enough said.
Drinks - if you like soda, purchase the bottomless bubbles. You have to fill up st least 3 times a day to be worth it though. Alcoholic drinks are overpriced considering they put 60% less alcohol than a normal drink.
Summary - you will love it if you want to. You will hate it if you complain about small things. If you are reading this review, you know what to expect and avoid so I hope you will enjoy your future cruise.