This was my first cruise and I truly had no high expectations. Our destination was changed due to Hurricane Wilma and my friend and I were just happy to go on vacation. Getting on and off the ship was no problem. I just wish the guests that sailed with us were more polite and friendlier. My friend and I did plan our own excursions and we had a wonderful time at all three ports. We invited other guests to join us but not too many did. I was disappointed in our first port call at San Juan. We got docked at 5 pm and it was dark by 6:15. Many sights were closed and we felt too rushed to enjoy local shopping. Because it is US territory don't bother-wait until you get to St Maarten or St Thomas.
Our first buffet adventure was awful and we did not use it again. Carnival needs crowd control and better trained staff. There actually was a fist fight for someone cutting in line!!! The food in the main dining rooms was wonderful and presented like many 4 star restaurants. For breakfast we treated ourselves to room service and always received plenty of coffee/tea. The pizza on the Lido deck was awesome. Being from Chicago that is high praise. There were also plenty of other specialty places to eat- Japanese/Deli/etc. People really got obsessed with food. The casino staff were not always friendly. I don't know why they didn't put on smiles but it should be noted. The entertainment was fantastic and as good as any Vegas act there is! Vince at the Piano Bar was also fun and lively- especially after you bought him a beer.
All in all for a first time cruiser I would do it again but may try another cruise line. Really felt the employees did not go out of their way to be pleasant and help everyone be comfortable. Whether this was due to some really rude/obnoxious guests or the change in itinerary I don't know but they all perform a job and that's why they are there. The cruise director Dana was great and really left a great impression with me. He was funny, serious, respectful and really praised his co-workers. My friend thought there should have been more planned activities too. Hopefully this was an exception to the rule and things will be better for the next cruise I take.