We booked this cruise as part of group so we didn't really have a choice about the ship on which we were sailing. We did not have high expectations as we knew this was a smaller, older ship and Carnival is not generally regard as "upscale." Our trepidation was well validated the first few minutes on the ship. We boarded around noon & had about 90 minutes to kill until we could get into our cabins. OK, not a problem. But we were all shunted to the Lido deck to eat lunch. The buffet was horrid...largely inedible. The Deli and the Korean Wok were good but unprepared for the crush of guests and they soon had long lines. What really annoyed me was that while the Deli struggled with the long line of guests, only two people were slicing the meat & making the sandwiches. At the same time these poor guys were being overwhelmed, they had at least 5 servers trying to hawk drinks around the pool. Most of the time, they were idle. A little shifting of the manpower could have made a big difference.
The main dining halls were almost as bad. The first night I had the steak and the meat tasted, shall we say, "funky." Others at our table had to return their food for similar reasons. And NEVER was anything served hot.
The first night they screwed up our seating arrangements (we were a party of 6) and when we asked them to solve the problem, the maitre d' said "why don't YOU go over and ask those people to find another table." The maitre d' was a smiling, affable fellow but I'm sorry, asking people to move is NOT the job of the guest. On another night it took a full hour from the time we sat down until our first course was served.
My wife & I agreed that were this our first cruise, we would be unlikely to take another. Fortunately, we had previously gone to Alaska on the Diamond Princess & found that some cruises are remarkably well run & efficient. The Carnival Sensation is not.