The ship appearance: Overall, I would say the ship was in just OK shape. It looked like there was a lack of crew members everywhere on board. I don't know if this is due to Carnival cut backs or what. The elevators (which are used constantly) really needed servicing as people were spilling drinks, food etc and it was a real mess. I never saw anyone cleaning these. Also the public restrooms lacked attention as they were used a lot with people coming and going to different public places.
The staterooms: We chose an inside room and it was a great choice. The room is big enough (if you get the steward to push the beds apart). There was a big closet with a safe, a smaller closet with an upper and lower shelf, plenty of drawer space and corner table space. We hardly ever saw our steward, in fact, it shows a hair dryer is included with the room, so we didn't carry one with us. This is not true. If you can ever find your steward, you can ask for one to be put in your room. I am sure our steward was around as our beds were kept up, bathroom cleaned etc but I would have liked to have met her.
The bathroom: This is always a big fear for us that the bathroom will be so small that only a tiny person could fit. Don't worry, the shower is large and comes with nice smelling lotion shampoos and body wash that is easy to obtain from the wall container. There is not any under counter storage but a large mirrored medicine cabinet is above the sink. The sink area is large enough for combs, brushes, hair spray etc without being in the way. We were quite pleased with our room choice.
Dining Areas: This is where it gets tricky. We don't go cruising for the food and I know this is a big thing with some people. The food is just so-so, not average, not really great, but then I didn't have to cook it, so we think it is adequate. We have been on other cruises where the food was outstanding, but it doesn't make or break a cruise for us if the food is below par. The food in Tiffany's (which is very casual) for breakfast is the same every day. If you like scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and fruit, then you will be happy. There is a nice fruit bar and fresh pastries each morning. My biggest complaint about Tiffany's is that you NEVER saw a steward picking up or cleaning tables. YUCK! I had to move stuff around and brush off the tables and seats. I am sure this is another place for cut backs on Carnival.
The main dining room we were in was the Inspiration. It is decorated nicely and we had a table for 8. I didn't see any tables smaller than for 6. The food here ranked from pretty good to so-so. Our waiter was Joven from the Philippines and he was fantastic. He made the dinner fun every night. Like I said, eating is not the main reason we cruise. The lobster was way over cooked and the chateaubriand was not edible. Too bad!
The public rooms were not in use too much as most people were on the Lido deck at the pool. There are no deck chairs left if you dilly dally and don't get there early. Of course, Carnival says you cannot reserve any chairs but most people on cruises don't read that sign! We had tea in the Dukes lounge on sea days and it was very nice. We are not really night owls so we didn't stay up for any of the late dancing or discos, but heard they were great for younger people. We had a great time in the casino and it didn't seem to bother me too much with all the smoking as Carnival must have a good ventilation system there. There were plenty of slots from 1 cent to $5 and slot tournaments and blackjack tournaments alike. The slot machines were fairly loose as I saw lots of people win. In fact, my husband got a royal flush on a video poker machine, but he had only put one quarter in so he only won $130, but hey, what a return, huh?
The boutique shopping onboard could be a like better but it isn't very customer orientated. There was so much merchandise everywhere you couldn't walk through the stores and had to wait for someone to exit to be able to "browse". This could be improved but I suppose, they need to have all the items out during the cruise. The best time to look would be when you are in port as everyone is off the ship then.
Port stops: We only had one stopover and it was at Calica. Since we had been down this way before, we just opted for a $10 cab ride into Playa del Carmen. This is a very nice touristy area with lots of fun shops, beach area, restaurants. I don't think you would be disappointed in visiting this quaint Mexican town.
Overall rating: For a good vacation cruise with little expense, this is the cruise for you. We enjoyed it, but like I said, a cruise is what you make it. If you are expecting perks, or luxury or don't like a bunch of kids running around, this is not the cruise for you. Would we do it again? Definitely........