A little about me and my family: This was our 10th cruise (3rd on Carnival) my daughters are 8 and 11 yrs old. We usually get two cabins (adjoining) and travel with 4 to 8 other family members.
To start: embarking was good; we arrived early (around 11:30) and were on the ship in about 40 min. Lunch buffet was good and as on every ship (except Disney) everyone was pushing us to purchase drinks.
Safety (Lifeboat) drill: here is where is started to go downhill. During the drill a woman (that had way too much to drink) got sick on the deck. The crew didn't know what to do, there were only 5 of them around. Finally an Officer showed up and directs the crew to call 911 and get the ship medic to look at the woman. She was taken away on a gurney. The BIG problem it took two days before anyone cleaned up the throw up (and I think it was done by the rain). I know because it was just below my cabin balcony.
The food was good but not as varied as other cruise lines especially the desserts as they only changed one or two each night. The waiters were very slow to serve and often forgot where they were on each table and brought us the wrong food. Drinks were even slower. I was lucky to get a drink from the bar once during dinner service and on most nights someone from the table went to the bar to get the drinks. This included sodas; which on other cruise lines after the first night my soda was on the table every night without me having to ask.
Bar service throughout the ship was very slow. I actually time the service several days while sitting by the pool and 4:22 was the average time to serve each drink. Sodas were the worst as the server had to swipe your card and compare you photo to ensure that someone else was not using your soda card. I have never seen this on other cruise lines.
The Casino: Getting drinks in the casino was easy unless you wanted water. Waiters just would not bring water; they only wanted to bring drinks they made money on. Carnival does claim that you can earn free drinks in the casino on the slots or table games. On the slots you have to earn 1500 points, which according to slot attendant that means spending $1500. At the tables I was told, "You can't get free drinks", "you can get free drinks but it is just too complicated to understand", and my personnel favorite "to earn free drinks you have to play a minimum of $25 for at least 12 hours straight". Now I worked in a casino for several years and understand the comp system very well so someone should teach it to the casino staff. Other than the comp system the casino staff was friendly.
Camp Carnival: the younger groups (below age 8) seemed to be well engaged and having fun. The age group for my daughters and nieces was not structured and many time the kids had to entertain themselves. I did have an issue with the counselors having the kids stuff pillows that Carnival was going to sale to the younger groups. I didn't send my kids to camp to work for carnival. I guess that Carnival doesn't worry about child labor laws. I will say the kids were not forced to do this but highly encouraged and there was no alternative activity.
Getting off the ship at ports of call: Now here Carnival Failed: This process was slow and made slower by Carnival insisting that everyone stop (twice) on the gang way for photos. Also it ports people that bought excursions through Carnival had priority getting off the ship; this cut into shore time (as much as 2 hours) if you didn't buy excursions from Carnival. Add to that on port we were instructed to be on the ship an hour before sailing time; further cutting into shore time.
Getting off the ship at final port: Now this was great; we carried our own luggage off the ship and from the time we were allowed to depart the ship to the time we were in a taxi was less the 20 min. I have never de-embarked a ship too quickly, but I have also never carried my own luggage off the ship.
Overall this was just an OK vacation and as we take cruises every year this was probably our last Carnival cruise.