I had thought twice about writing a review, because I didn't think that I would have anything to add, with all the other reviews. I read these reviews and forums like crazy before booking our first cruise and it helped so much in easing my mind in our decision, but also added a little fear too. Well with low expectations going in, at every turn we were impressed with cruising, this ship and Carnival. So we are officially hooked on cruising! So if I can help another first time cruiser with any second thoughts, here's my review.
Embarkation: Arrived at the terminal for 11:00, and greeted by friendly staff everywhere. We boarded by 11:35, and as we entered the main lobby, a staff member told us our room was ready. Not sure if that's the norm, but a nice surprise.
Room: We found our room, an aft balcony room on the Upper deck, with a bit of difficulty since this was so new to us. But we found it. It was just like the pictures, and my only odd feeling of the room was the pink trim in the decor. Seemed a little 80's to me, but it was clean and roomy enough for 2. Needless to say, my husband and I slept extremely well the whole trip, loved the bed and the linen!
I was concerned with our cabin location when I realized we were above the Victoria lounge, but there was never a noise issue, not once. We didn't hear our neighbours, or much in the way of hallway traffic. It seemed like we were tucked away at the back of the ship and this was perfect! The best part of our location was we were so close to the Lido deck (buffet, adult pool, hot tubs, Victoria lounge) that we used the stairs mostly and commented how glad our cabin was where it was. When we cruise again, we would definately book this area again.
Cruise/Entertainment Experience: Our whole experience was fabulous. Some shows were better than others but all in all they were good. There truly is something to do or see all day long. The comedians were a great entertainment venue on the ship, but agree with other posters that it should be held in the main theatre. We always went at least 20 min early and got a seat, but each show was at capacity. I can only compare the entertainment on ship to the All Inclusive resorts we have been to and it surpassed an All Inclusive by far.
We never felt at any time that the ship was crowded, I think that can be attributed to the venues being spread out around the ship.
Food/Dining: We initially had late dining in the silver dining room, which was fine and the food and server was good, but found out on cruise critic that change is possible, so we approached the head maitre d, and asked to change to Anytime dining with no problems. We liked having the choice of when you wanted to eat and found it just as nice in the Gold dining room. Our first dinner we loved our waiter, so each night that we went for dinner we asked for his section and were promptly seated there. It didn't matter what time we attended dinner, we never had a wait. We seemed to have the same people sitting in our section and all were friendly. Our head waiter, Kristian was just great and I'm sure he enhanced the whole experience for us. The food was good, and hot each time. The main dishes/appetizers changed each day, and we made it a point to try something different everyday.
We only ate in the buffet for a few lunches, and to grab some quick breakfast items with coffee. It was just fine, just like any other buffet. We had the fish and chips a few times and it was as good as any other that we've had. After seeing pictures of the Guys burgers, I was prepared not to like them, but they were really awesome! All the choices of food, were by far good and better than any All Inclusive we have been to.
Overall Impression: We are totally impressed with our whole experience. We met some really nice people and the staff was super friendly at every turn. We enjoyed getting to see 4 new places in the Caribbean. There was nothing that we encountered that turned us off or made us doubt our choice of taking a cruise. We were first timers and could not compare to other ships and cruise lines but if Carnival is the minimum standard to cruising than we are quite happy with this. We are officially hooked on cruising and will cruise again, I'm sure we will stay loyal to Carnival for our next cruise, and may look at other cruise lines if the itinerary is right. I hope that our next cruise experience will be just like this. Don't doubt it, just do it! You won't be dissapointed.