Let me start by saying this was my first Cruise. I have nothing to compare it to other than vacations to a beach or resort. When I was booking my cruise, I couldn't find any detailed reviews so this review will be very detailed and lengthy hoping to help out those who are interested.
1. Arriving in New Orleans: Our trip was the Sunday between Super Bowl Sunday and Fat Tuesday. Traffic was heavy getting down to the port but we only hit heavy traffic when we go near the Super Dome and took about 45 minutes to make it to the parking garage. I had heard people coming across the bridge took a few hours.
2. Parking: Very Simple. Paid the full $112 with a Credit Card, dropped off the bags as soon as you pull in, gave the man $5 for our 3 bags, and then parked at about 11:30am. (We got all 3 of our bags at different times. Last bag didn't arrive till about 7pm.)
3. Going through Security: Very much like an airport. Stood in-line waiting to get into the building for only 20 minutes. It was moving very quickly. 2 people at the door validating your cruise documents. Once in, up the escalators to Security. Everything through the x-ray, didn't have to take off our shoes. We had our soda, water, and wine in our carry-on so we were shuffled off to a check station where he shook the water to make sure it was really water and he cut open our 12pk of soda to make sure no hidden bottle under the first row, I heard of lots of people trying this.
4. Checking In: I know, it is a bit backwards vs an airport. Normally you check in, then through security, but not the case here. Stood in-line again for a while. Once to the desk, they setup our Sail and Sign account were we get Carnival Credit Cards, in a sense, and off to the waiting area where we get a boarding pass. It is about 12:30p at this point so only took an hour to get through security and get out account setup.
5. Boarding: Very fast process here. We were group 22 and they were on 9 when we showed up and only had to sit for about 30 minutes. You go through the ramp, they scan the card to note you are officially on-board, and off you go.
6. Layout of the Ship: We were on Deck 7-Aft. This was a great location. We were 2 decks down from the food, 2 decks up from the Casino and Clubs. Since the location was perfect, we took the stairs all the time. The lido "party" area could have been bigger. It did get a bit crowded on the at sea days as everyone wanted to lay out, drink, and listen to music. Otherwise, I saw nothing wrong with the ship. The lines never got to large, areas never got over populated (exception of the lido), and atmosphere was always great.
7. The Room: We splurged a bit and got a balcony room. It was nice. I didn't feel cramped. It had plenty of room for our things. The bathroom was a touch small. 1 person could take a shower while the other got ready but definitely couldn't share it beyond that. You could easily hear the people next door and the hallway. The balcony was nice as it added light throughout the day and in the mornings so you knew it was daytime if you were sleeping in. Not sure I would splurge again on the balcony room as we didn't really use our balcony that much.
8. The Food: Breakfast and Lunch Buffett was just OK in my opinion. The breakfast was the same every day and lunch changed but repeated half way through. The Omelet station was awesome. Very Tasty. The Cantina was Awesome for Breakfast and Lunch. Dinner every night in the Monet was some of the best food ever. We never missed the Dinner. All food was free with exception of the Steakhouse. It was $35 a person. As many Apps and Deserts as you want but only 1 main course. The food was good but not worth the up charge in my opinion. It was the only option for Surf and Turf so if you crave it, you have to go there as it is never on the menu for Dinner.
9. The Staff: They were Awesome. Not one complaint about any of them. We had Rodel for our waiter in the Monet and I wouldn't have traded him for anybody. Jose also helped in his area. The Casino staff was great. Remembered my name but I was there for at least an hour every day playing cards. Our Stateroom staff was friendly, always smiled and kept our room tip top shape. And there was always someone cleaning something. That ship was spotless.
10. Activities: They had a wide range of things to do. We never found ourselves board, but we did feel empty spots in the Casino so if you don't gamble; you may find holes in activities. The last day at sea was a bit empty. Not a whole lot going on plus it was a bit chilly out so staying in doors was essential so a more activity day there would have been better.
11. Jamaica: We did the Irie Mon beach party for $90 a person and didn't enjoy it at all. First of all you are only there for about 4 hours to drink you feel. Second they only leave the food out for about 45 minutes to eat and then they put it all up. Third it was very crowded. Fourth they had 2 boats carrying about 60 passengers dock just after lunch which took up every more space, view of the ocean, and use of activities. Fifth the servers had attitudes and didn't want to server you. And lastly and most importantly, they ran out of beer. I would not recommend this excursion and not sure I would even go back to Jamaica.
12. Grand Cayman: Great place. No hassle. People are friendly. Shopping was good.
13. Cozumel: We did the Mexican Cuisine Cooking Class for an excursion. You get off the boat and they force you to walk through this 100 yard 10 foot wide shop where you get hassled to buy everything and anything. Not cool Carnival. Then lots of shopping right there once out of the shoot. Short bus ride to our Cooking Class at Playa Mia. This place was Awesome. Huge facility. The cooking class was great. The beach was nice. The water park was fun. I would do this again every year.
14: The Bill: Before Dinner the last night, we went to pay our Bill. For 2 people, they charged us $80 per person for service, we played 1 game of Bingo at $30 a person so we already had $220 before any alcohol. My wife also bought $50 in pictures. That brings us to $270 with no alcohol. We are not big drinkers but were able to sneak in 3 bottles of liquor which we drank of and still turned in a bill of $599. Luckily I won at 3 Card Poker which paid our bill. That is still $230 in alcohol. Buckets of 4 beer were $20 and a specialty drink was $8.75. I feel they are a bit pricey on the alcohol but it's worth the money if you want to have extra fun. They did offer a Cheers card for $42.50 per person per day that we didn't participate in but if our 3 bottles wouldn't have made it, we might have partaken in that. You are looking at $300 a person for the week, and it is a requirement for everyone in your room to get it if 1 person does.
15. Leaving: There are 2 ways to leave the ship, by yourself or with assistance. If you leave by yourself, you get off first. If you want the assistance, they take your bags in the middle of the night and get them off the boat and have them waiting for you. We did the self assist. We were on Deck 7 and they started with Deck 1. Once they called Deck 2, next was 6 then 7, we made are way down to Deck 3 and was going to hang out in the Lounge near the lobby but the pushed is to the line to get off. Sweet! Quickly off the boat, through a very easy customs, and into the garage. We were on the road by 8:30am.
Overall: Very pleased with the cruise. I would certainly take the same ship, sit at the same table for dinner, and pick the same room. I would probably next time though try to change my destination to bypass Jamaica. Perhaps the exotic cruise which goes to Rotan, Belize, and Cozumel. Some people we met did a Dune Buggy tour in Jamaica and had a blast so perhaps the excursion makes or breaks the island.