I want to let everyone know that my wife and I love Carnival. It's hard for me to say anything negative about the cruise line, and we've only sailed once with Royal Caribbean for comparative cruise line purposes.
The port - we've sailed out of Port Canaveral once before on an Eastern Caribbean cruise. We aren't picky people, but this place has a not so nice feel to it that seems as though you've wandered into a neighborhood rather than a tourist destination. The people are nice, and the beach is relatively well maintained so don't think I'm knocking it. Try Fishlipps for great food and drinks right on the harbor. The Key Lime Pie margaritas are great!! We stayed at the Hilton and the hotel is showing it's age. The staff was super nice though, so that always makes for a better customer experience.
Boarding - Hilton has a park and sail option where you can live your rental at the hotel free of charge for the week while you're sailing. They arrange for a cab for you and it's $11 for a couple to get to the ship. This was great and made the trip much easier then taking super shuttle or some other carrier. The hotel doorman also told us about a nearby Walgreen's that had all kinds of information about items you were allowed to take on the ship with you. We grabbed some diet cokes, a couple bottles of wine and some water (if you have a suite you get a fridge - if you don't have a suite this might not be worth it).
The taxi dropped us off in a separate area from general boarding and there was a luggage man waiting for us. I'm not sure if this was for the Hilton or if it was for all taxi's, but it sure was nice not to have to deal with the crowds. We had a short walk to the terminal and since we were VIP we got to walk right in. The staff was friendly as always. We were on the ship in about 15 minutes.
Ship - the ship was pretty nice. All of these ships are kind of the same, but it's nice to see the different interior decors chosen for each one. We went to the bar and grabbed a couple drinks of the day before setting out to explore the ship since we couldn't get into our rooms until 1:30. We took Lot's of pictures and made sure to see the Serenity Deck since our suite had a big balcony and we wouldn't need to go there to hang out. From what we saw the Serenity Deck seemed a bit smaller than others we've been to, but it was still nice. They had yellow Serenity Deck towels instead of the usual sandy brown which was a neat twist.
Cabin- the grand suite was amazing. We took this cruise because my wife got a new job and we had to cancel a Hawaii cruise we had already put a deposit down on - this is relevant because if we hadn't already had that investment there is now way we would have gotten a suite (the Hawaii cruise was a 15 nighter so it was a lot more expensive). King size bed - full couch and chair in a seating area, two closets, a whole wall of drawers, a bathroom with a sauna tub and shower, a mid size fridge and a deck with room for two beach chairs, two regular chairs and two end tables. I'm telling you this room was worth every penny.
Food - we ate dinner in the dining room every night and the food was really good except for a spinach lasagna my wife tried. They don't have any specialty restaurants on board which I thought was somewhat odd. We ordered room service for breakfast and lunch most days when we weren't out in a port.
This was the shortest cruise we've been on, but it was probably the best so far. I highly recommend it!!!