This first time cruiser did plenty of research prior to my cruise, and I had mixed feelings about what I read. There was a plethora of negative reviews about the service, quality of the food, and the overall worth of the Carnival experience. Still, I kept my mind open and maintained realistic expectations.
The embarkation process wasn't as long as initially expected. There were tons of people corralled into lines to get through security. The lines moved consistently and we made it through in about 20 minutes. We started just inside the first set of doors.
Once through security we were then corralled into lines for our Sign & Sail cards. Again, a very smooth process that didn't take more than ten minutes. The longest wait was in the final line where pictures were being taken.
It took just over an hour to board the ship, and by the time we stepped on board our cabins were ready. My cabin was an interior cabin, #1048, and it was much better than I expected. It had three closets, one with drawers, and a dresser with the makeup table within the room. We had it set up with two twin beds, and the room had plenty of space to move around for two occupants. The bathroom was nice sized and, again, more than I expected.
The party had already started on lido and my group enjoyed the atmosphere. Carnival staff was very accommodating and a server was always near to make sure we didn't see the bottom of our glasses.
I didn't attend many of the entertainment shows, but a group of people I met on board did and they were very happy with them. We tried to go to a comedy show, but we showed up too late to get a seat. It appeared to always be packed to capacity. Don't run late for the shows, people. I couldn't get that through my party's heads. We ran late EVERYWHERE.
The ship was clean. Day and night, I noticed staff cleaning with a smile on their faces. Carnival crew appear to love what they do, and that makes the experience so much better for guests. I had no issues forcing me into lines at Guest Services.
A cruise is what you make of it. I met a couple that complained about everything and their presence in conversations, in my opinion, was miserable. All they spoke about was how much better another cruise line was when compared to Carnival. They were rude to staff to the point of embarrassment and I avoided them as much as I could.
Perhaps it's because I didn't have another full cruise to compare it to, as I had only done one over night cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Nassau, Bahamas, spent the weekend on the island, and then an overnight cruise back to Ft. Lauderdale. I just don't understand what it is that people think is missing. It's a reasonably priced vacation where people make your bed, cook for you, attempt to entertain you, and they do it with a huge smile on their faces even if you're being ridiculous.
And if you're so in love with the quality of a vacation on another cruise line, stick with it. For some of us, Carnival is wonderful. It meets all of our expectations and we couldn't ask for more.