A little background-we have been on 4 cruises-this was our 2nd with Carnival (we sailed on the Liberty several years back-before we had our daughter). The other lines we've sailed include RCI and NCL.
This cruise started off horribly, but that was mostly before we got on the ship. Hurricane Isaac whipped through Miami the day before the day we were supposed to embark. Instead of boarding on the morning of Sunday, 8/26, we boarded on Monday 8/27 at 10PM. YES, 10PM! And this was after standing in line for almost 6 hours at the port of Miami. We arrived at the port at 4:15, were told by the Carnival folks that there would be buses taking us to a nearby hotel for dinner, since debarkation was taking longer than expected. Well, the buses never came for us! They must have taken some passengers, because the line moved for awhile, but then just stopped moving at about 6:30pm. The line did not move again until 9:00. Luckily I packed snacks for my family or we would have had nothing to eat except for what was in the vending machine (which I heard later had nothing left in it...). Can you imagine about 1000 people standing in line with only 2 bathrooms and one vending machine? We were lucky to have made it inside for the evening hours. Other folks were still outside in drissly, humid, Miami heat.
Something obviously went terribly awry here, as I called Carnival before we left for the port (we were at my folks about 1.25 hours away). And by the time we got to port they no longer had plans to board at 4:00, as I was just told by the rep that they would. SO, I was not a happy person after the misinformation, standing in line that long with my 3 year old, then having to put her to bed at 11pm (very late for a young child).
Another negative (for us). We chose an extended balcony cabin aft. This cabin shook a lot, so much so that I didn't sleep well. Probably the rough waters had something to do with it. The next night, my daughter threw up all night (8 times), due to the motion. Not much of a vacation so far!
This is where things get better. I talked to the Guest Services folks, and they moved us to a nice room midship. Between that and the dramamine, my girl was fine the rest of the cruise. And I took Ambien to insure my sleep! :)
On another positive note: The staff was wonderful, from the room stewards to the dining room attendants. They were personable, yet professional. And I was extremely happy with the Camp Carnival staff. They were also professional, and warm, and I could tell that they enjoyed what they did. My daughter loved going to Camp Carnival each day. My husband and I had most dinners alone in the dining room, while she ate "with her friends" at camp. The Camp Carnival activities were creative, age appropriate, and engaging. I was VERY happy with this aspect of the cruise.
Another feather for Carnival's hat was the entertainment in the Ivanhoe Theater. The two musical reviews were FANTASTIC. The singers had great voices and the dancers were wonderful (even with the boat rocking quite a bit). I really enjoy musical theater, and I thought these shows were the best I've seen at sea, and better than most I've seen outside of New York.
A note on ports-our changed. We ended up going to Cozumel and Roatan, and enjoyed both places, though I would have preferred a little more afternoon time rather than morning time in both places (we're not early morning people). We left Roatan at 3:30, and Cozumel at 4:00.
Food: it was good. It was well presented, always the temperature it should be, and tasty. We did "any time" dining and found it to be great. We would always go to the dining room at about 6:15, and never had to wait. I noticed that after 7pm,. the lines would start.
Enrichment: Hmm, I don't particularly find "hairy chest contests" enriching. This is where these kind of ships really fail for me. I'm just not that into game shows, bingo, karaoke, etc. I wish they'd offer something educational or creative.
I should also share that the disasterous beginnings were fairly well compensated by Carnival. They reimbursed two full days (our 6 night cruise turned into a 5 night cruise, but really should have been a 4 night cruise, since a lot of people would have preferred getting aboard the next day rather than stand in line for 6 hours only to board at 10pm). They also credited everyone $75, so for my family it came to $225. This covered all our tips, and gave us a little extra besides.
All in all, the product would have been great save for the serious flaws in the beginning due in part to the weather. We are NOT planning another hurricane season trip, though two of our other cruises were during this time and had no issues.