We really enjoyed the dining options and experience on this cruise. Others said the food was too bland - and I understand their reasoning after tasting gumbo without any kick - but overall I thought everything was great. We came to rely on our waiter in the Monet Dining Room, because his advice was always right on the mark.
A sugar-free dessert was available every night, which I appreciated, but at least once it was terrible. Again - should have listened to the waiter. But WHEN it was terrible, he was happy to bring another option to replace it.
The kids' programs were a major disappointment. The staff and their agendas couldn't seem to grab the attention of our kids. We were traveling with other families who also had kids, and none of the kids seemed to stick with the kids programs. That left the adults having more kid time than originally planned.
The Las Vegas style entertainment put some of our party off, but my husband and I enjoyed it. The "adults only" routines late at night were not enjoyable, and we stopped attending. We never understood the attraction to bingo that other cruisers had, and gambling isn't our thing, so that cut out a big chunk of the amusements that the ship had to offer as well.
The pools were small and filled with salt-water, which disappointed our kids - but they had never cruised before.
Carnival's drink card system was a rip off and a bummer. My husband purchased one because he is a big Diet Coke fan, but he found that he was treated like a second-class citizen whenever he order one at a show. Those who purchased sodas got a glass and a full can, while he got a small glass, full of ice, with a couple of drinks of soda.
The staff worked hard to keep all areas of the ship clean. Pools were scrubbed nightly. Our cabin steward did a great job twice a day and my husband wanted to take him home. Our kids loved the towel animals he left each night.
There were a lot of excursions to choose from, and the cruise director did a good job at an on-board session in which he explained the options. We had planned to spend no money on these excursions, since there were four of us and the excursions cost between $25 and $80+ each. We ended up going out on our own during our morning in Jamaica - but the taxi system (waiting until the car was FULL) was a problem at first and the City Centre shopping was just a fenced duty-free area full of watches and jewelry that we had no interest in. We ended up at Margaritaville, which we found to be a haven.
Later that day in Jamaica, we went on the 4x4 Safari, which we felt to be unsafe. The cruise line had overbooked our excursion, and the vendors spent quite a while trying to deal with that. The vehicles didn't seem safe, particularly when they were out on roads out of the city. I worried a lot about the risk I had brought upon my family. We did see some of the Jamaican countryside, but it just wasn't that great.
Our relatives did the Pirate Ship excursion that morning in Jamaica, and they really enjoyed it. We ran into them at Margaritaville. They were traveling with 2 kids ages 14 and 18.
At Grand Cayman, some of our family did the Stingray Tour and loved it. The rest did the 2-hour sightseeing trip and found it interesting - but there is an awful lot of devastation from the hurricane last year. We also had no problem walking around the port area and getting lunch there.
At Cozumel, there is a small shopping area at Puerto Maya where the ship docks. This area is reportedly owned by Carnival, which we found interesting. I guess they are into controlling and profiting from the on-shore shopping of the passengers. We checked out all the shops, then took a $10 taxi to Chankaanab, a federal park just down the road. Entry to Chankanab is $12 per adult, less for children. The park is well kept and offers snorkeling and scuba and a beach, but the shore is rocky and you have to enter the water through a couple stairs. There is a diving platform just off shore. The kids enjoyed the snorkeling, but it would have been a good idea to bring our own snorkeling equipment - or at least our own tubes - rather than rely on the rented equipment. Drink vendors circulate among the beach chairs and there are sit-down open-air restaurants as well.
Other members of our group did the Passion Island beach excursion with their small children and enjoyed it.