First we will start with embarkation, the lines were very long, and went very slowly, we were there at 1pm, so I believe next time we will get there a little late, to avoid long lines, all else went fine in this phase. We were first time cruisers and it was only my husband and myself.
I had made my reservation in June 2005 and requested early seating, because we are early risers, we get up around 6 am and like to eat dinner around 530 or 6pm. We were put at late seating, so I did exactly as our good friends the "experienced" cruisers told us and went immediately to the head waiter. He said in a very snotty manner that I must have made my reservations late, I told him we made reservations in June, he said oh well I will put you on the list, you will only be second on the list and you should get your preferred seating. I did not, as my travel agent suggested, slip him a 50.00 for my preferred seating, I felt I'd prefer to tip for service received, not line pockets to do what they should be doing in the first place. Anyway THREE days later I received a note under my door that they couldn't change our seating. This was a huge deal for us, because it interfered with shows, if you go to an early show, then you'd have to leave before it's over to make your seating on time, so basically we skipped most of the shows, which was a huge disappointment for me.
The food was mediocre for the most part, and downright BAD at times in the buffet lines. We were served a brisket that was literally unchewable. However twice we ate at the Emerald, which of course cost extra, the food was outstanding here, we wondered if they hired different chefs for this area and had different meat and fish suppliers, because it was perfect both times.
The ship was beautiful, our room very comfortable, our Steward was named Mon and he was OUTSTANDING. We are not big sunbathers, so that kind of left us cold, but the ports were great, well all except Nassau, it was extremely cold and windy and we had booked a snorkel on paradise island, well it wasn't canceled and it was just unbearable. The open boat ride to the island was freezing, there was no shelter on the island except a small gift shop, the water was freezing, the reef was a JOKE, no color at all and hardly any fish. When a young couple with 2 small children complained at the excursion desk they were coldly told that "we do not control the weather" and "you got what you paid for and we cannot control whether they cancel an excursion or not" The whole issue was that they should have canceled this particular excursion due to cold weather, but they didn't.
Debarkation went very smoothly and we had no complaints at all. I did feel that we were a money cow to Carnival, and I truly believe that they cha ching you to death on the ships. I will not be taking Carnival again. However we adored the whole cruising experience and feel we now know what we need to do to choose a good cruise line and I've already booked an 11 day on Celebrity.