Left on a 5 day out of Miami on 9/8/2012. My wife and I traveled with close friends who were first time cruisers. This is my 9th or 10th cruise, going back to 1989.
We had a wonderful time, and laughed until our collective ribs hurt...here's how we did that...we wanted to have fun!
I actually choose Carnival for the very reasons that everyone seems to berate it. I sailed with RCI (Navigator Of The Seas) last year, and choose to go back to Carnival again.
Yes it was less refined, and little more blue collar...but it was definitely more fun! A Lot more fun! Since fun was my goal, and not gauging the firmness and texture of my croissants, that worked out fine.
If you are focused on your thread count, your air exchanges and ventilation, your proper enforcement of dress code and pool regulations, and the tonal quality of the chorus line, then you will have plenty to harp on...if thats what makes you feel better. For me, if I wanted more pomp and circumstance, I could just stay home and go to a few more board meetings...for free! That's where Carnival wins for us, and proved it again on this cruise. They just provide a better venue to cut loose and enjoy life for a few days.
The cruise itself was fine....food was good and plentiful with some dishes better than others (that's life folks),the entertainment was flashy and "fun" and the ports were good. The service...and I mean the "attitude based" service was great as expected. No request was denied us, and everything possible was done to ensure we enjoyed ourselves. We were treated with the utmost respect and friendliness by all we encountered. The lounges, clubs and restaurants were all lively and everyone there was having fun, and genuinely interested in you having fun as well.
I would expect that the only ones not having fun were the ones walking around taking notes on wayward potato chip residue, blue jeans in the dining room, and chipped paint issues.
Yes..the boat is old. So what, it was clean. Yes we did encounter the mysterious Carnival Odor (we call it Bigfoots' Butt) in one place on the lido deck...but we found out an amazing remedy: we didn't stand there and smell it...AND we didn't worry about it...in fact, it became just another reason to laugh!!
Aagin..it's all in what you make of it, But since I'm not trying to impress anyone, so i don't mind standing up and saying Carnival is just more fun!