I was pleasantly surprised by this cruise having always promised myself I never would want to go on one.
Topping my list would be the cabin. I've never slept so well in my life. The bed is super comfortable as are the linens. I propped my cabin door open with the deck chair each night to get the sea breeze and sound of the waves, then drew the curtains to keep the room pitch dark and slept like a baby.
Shower was great, water pressure great, and you can set the temp separately from the pressure so it is always perfect.
Next up was the Spa which came with the room; over indulged in drinking the first night so made my way to the spa; each room better then the next, all with tiled stone benches that retained the heat, views of the ocean. Except of course for the Eucalyptus Steam room which is dark just what you want. Then the shower room with the 10 shower heads and the misting heads and finally the Thalassotherapy sauna. Not only is it very comfortable it is great in rough seas since you get the rocking and the waves. Dry off, throw on the robes and slippers and make your way to the omelet station with your body and mind singing. I'd pay full price just for the room and spa :)
To put to rest some of the concerns I had from complaints I read;
1) Chair Hogs. I never had a problem getting a chair. Sure you can't always get one where you want, and the Serenity Deck which has prime seating (and a hammock!) can be problematic if you don't get there early but I never was without and never saw people hogging chairs with towels/etc. They do have a new policy to deal with it but in any even was not an issue.
2) Food. Was it world-class gourmet food? No. It was good enough though and at dinner it is nice to be able to have a couple appetizers when you can't decide or a couple of shrimp cocktails. The variety was pretty good as well and the service was attentive. If you are expecting New York/San Francisco/Paris/etc class dining you will be disappointed, if you want a nice meal after a day of sun in a big comfortable dining room you won't be.
Breakfast was fine especially if you make your way to the omelet station(s), never had to wait for more then 2-3 people in front of me.
Lunch was probably my favorite since there were so many options; I was pleasantly surprised to find an Indian Buffet (aft starboard aka right rear to you landlubbers), sushi bar and though they don't seem to advertise it if you are enjoying the serenity desk you just have to ask and they have several tasty prepared lunches including a nice shrimp salad sandwich and a chicken Cesar
Midnight Pizza was also a hit,though I'd recommend say not getting your own mini anchovy pizza at that time :|
3) Lines. 1/2 a brain will help you figure out not only best times to eat but which stations to eat at. For instance on the Lido Deck outside there is always a long line on the starboard side for burgers/fries/hot dogs. Yet on the port side you can get the same thing, it is just 'hidden' behind the pizza station.
4) Shows. Meh. Wasn't there for shows though. I mean it is nice to have piano bars and night clubs and shows on board and I did my share but I can do that at home (Manhattan) so for me deck side or even better on my balcony was the best time. I had a new kindle with one of those little book lights, so shut the lights in the cabin and on the balcony, brought my bottle of wine and read in my little cocoon of darkness with the sea and sky and waved as company. What show can compete with that (please don't say Lion King)?
5) Pools. Didn't find these taken over by kids or even very busy. If you're looking to do laps it won't happen but if you want to jump in and get cool and not worry about bumping knees or screaming kids it is available to you
6) Excursions. Can't comment, I was going to book but was enjoying not having to be anywhere anytime. Friends loved the zip lines. I went aboard in I believe Roatan since the beach is a 5 min walk from the ship and listened to reggae on the beach. Went ashore in Costa Maya since a 5 min walk from the ship and had some great spicy beer and awesome quesadillas by a really nice pool. BTW this would be the place to do the dolphins I think. No bus or van just walk off the shop and there they dolphins are.
7) Cost of drinks. Maybe the good thing about living in NY is everything seems cheap afterwards. Some people were 'aghast' at the high cost of drinks, for me a $6 beer, $8 margarita or $10 glass of wine are happy hour prices so I gladly paid. Some might say more then gladly :|
I'd definitely do cruise again, not sure if it would be Carnival though this is nothing against them they seem to have it done from A-Z. I'd prefer:
a) Adults only and preferably singles at that
b) Transatlantic (big waves and no sure for 100s of miles)
c) a more mixed crowd in terms of nationality.
Wine: I did the wine package, not bad, though I'd probably choose a higher end one next time, the difference in price would be justified by access to better wine. None of if it was bad Y ... innocuous. Which is not how you want your wine. On the other hand it was great at the piano bar to just hand over a wine stub and sit and listen to live piano with a glass of wine and bottle at hand. Also unlike anywhere else you can just take your bottle with you. Which is kind of funny when the ship is rocking since you end up stumbling side to side while walking around with a bottle in your hand trying to make it clear you are NOT a wino.
Pre/Post Accommodations: A friend recommended I get there a day or two early and stay an extra day. Both were great advice. Not worrying about connecting with the ship on the way there and more importantly having a day or two to unwind was critical as I think it allowed me to board the ship relaxed and in 'vacation mode' instead of wasting a day aboard doing so. Ditto on return; instead of having to rush for a plane and deal with security/flying etc the extra day to unwind was perfect.
I HIGHLY recommend the Hilton in Cocoa Beach; prices were VERY reasonable ($116 to $150 per night even through the hotel directly). Very nice comfortable rooms. You can ask for Ocean Room or Coastline room IMHO the coastline is fine. It means instead of looking directly out at the ocean you are looking up the coast along the beach, same difference. Ask for high floor towards front of the beach. I was in 704 on the first leg and it was beautiful. For a hotel, the food was both excellent and reasonable; I had an awesome fillet Mignon and glass of cab for less then $50 with tax and tip (many hotels here in NY would server you far worse food for far more money) and also highly recommend the Mahi Tacos, the Hamburger and the Crab Cakes. Chicken wings were Meh.
A little boardwalk leads you over the dunes and to a huge stretch of beach in both directions with enough surf to body/boogie board or surf-surf. They rent boogie and surfboards and also give lessons. Of course you can just get a bloody Mary or pina colada and stroll down the beach which you don't even need lessons for.
Taxi to Port Canaveral is around $25 though they also have transfer service for $5.50.
I think that about covers it if not I shall return.