Please don't be offended - I shop at Wal-Mart; but, I know when I go there that I will get low to moderate quality for a fair price and will most likely see people walking around in their pajamas. This is the same for the 3 day sailing on the Inspiration out of Long Beach. If you understand that going onto the ship, you will have your expectations met or possibly exceeded.
Pros - fair price, clean, adequate room size, enough to do if you are traveling without children, good service in the formal dining rooms, good room stewards.
Cons - Carnival still allows smoking in some areas (ugh!), there is only one small pool, the entertainment is not so great, the kids clubs are not open the hours they advertise, the casual dining is limited and very, very crowded.
Embarking was a breeze and we were on the ship by 11:45am. Kudos to Carnival there. Lunch was ready but there was really nothing to do after you ate. The pool was under maintenance, the water slides were closed, and the kids club was closed. So, if you are going on board to drink - you could do that and walk around the ship. Our room was ready and open by 1pm.
We had an outside room with a window. There were 4 of us including two children 5 and 4. The room was adequate sized with good closet space but not much room to store luggage. The bathrooms are tiny (except for Disney they all are) but the shower could fit one adult and two kids so I can't complain. Kudos on the room.
The food was not good. My husband liked it fine but he likes anything that is all you can eat and included in the price! I may have liked the food more if it was not so crowded in the casual dining room and the lines weren't so long. The casual dining consists of two indoor grills and one outdoor grill and a Mongolian barbecue outside. The line for the Mongolian grill was 20+ mins the two days I chose to wait. The food was the best on board but that wait was killer. I couldn't make myself do it a third time. There is always pizza available inside in the back of the casual dining room and also a deli sandwich station. The pizza is, no kidding, the equivalent of a chef boyardee pizza kit. Awful. The formal dining was nicer - in that you actually had a place to sit down, people weren't bumping into you while you ate, and the food came to you. The dining experience is formal in that you have multiple plates and forks and glasses but the food is more like Sizzler than a fine meal.
My kids enjoyed the kids club and the counselors were great but the hours were pretty limited. The size of the kids club was disappointing and I really don't understand cruise lines that lump kids ages 2-5 together?? Is anyone with any child development involved in that decision? No, profit drives it. I get that but anyone with kids knows that a 2 yr old and a kid who is almost 6 are not playing at the same level. Oh well, I will leave the great kid clubs to Disney. This one was good enough because we hadn't intended to leave the kids there much anyway - but it is nice to have for a couple of hours! Oh, it is free unless they are doing special crafts or events. After 10pm you pay per hour (I think it was $6.75?). We did not use this service so I can't give any feedback on that.
The service on-board was hit or miss. Our table staff in the formal dining room were great! The magician (Sameer) who came around to the tables and did a show in the kids club was wonderful. Our room steward was fantastic. And one staff person in the casual dining, Allan from Peru, was a great guy too. But most everyone else appeared surly and were not particularly helpful or cheery. I suppose it could be a cultural thing or maybe they had been at sea for a while?
The entertainment consisted of a show at night and/or comedians. There were hairy-chest contests, a newlywed/not-so-newlywed game, trivia contests, bingo, gambling, and night clubs. Typical cruising stuff.
The water slides were great and the kids loved them despite the water being freezing and the air temp being in the high 50s to low 60s. The coolness kept the slides from being crowded at all so that was great. I'm not sure what it would have been like on a warm sunny day. The pool was not heated and was tiny. No one was using it but if it had been warm there is no way it would have been adequate for a ship of 2600 cruisers. There was one hot tub open and it said "adults only" but there were only kids in it (including mine - sorry!). Same thing - I would have been disappointed if I were an adult who wanted to use it as there was no one enforcing the adults only rule.
Getting off of the ship was simple enough but exiting on deck 7 was a mess. We were lucky as we were getting off early (about 8:30) and ended up in the right line at the right time but they could definitely do a better job setting up the queues.
We have sailed Carnival in the past, as well as Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Disney. Carnival is best, I think, for young people who want to have a spring break experience - warm sunny days, lots of drinking and fun. Or for families of kids who are pre-teen and teens who can entertain themselves and it makes for a neat inexpensive getaway for the family. In my opinion, it is really not for families with young kids like mine or for people who are looking for a higher end experience. That is not to say those folks couldn't have fun - we did - but you'll have a better time being forewarned.