This was our 2nd cruise with Carnival and our first vacation without the kids. The cruise was to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Overall, we were very pleased with our cruise - service, cabin, food, value, etc.
Let me start with our arrival at the Orlando airport. We arrived 2 days early to spend a day at Epcot Center. Then we drove to Cape Canaveral on Friday, the day before our cruise. We stayed at Residence Inn at Cape Canaveral - I highly recommend this place. Residence Inn offered a hearty complimentary breakfast. They have shuttle service from the hotel to the port. It's the closest hotel to the port, $3 one-way.
I booked our cruise directly with Carnival and the booking experience was very pleasant. We upgraded to a Junior Suite with a balcony. The balcony was pretty snug but we got our very own space to enjoy the views without the crowds. Our cabin was on the Verandah Level with a limited amount of cabins. With our upgrade we received priority boarding and disembarking. To us, the extra perks was all worth the cost of the upgrade.
With our priority boarding, we were on the ship by 11:30am. We travel light so we only had 2 carry-on bags that we rolled on to the ship ourselves. We were with the first group to disembark the ship. We rented a car one-way and arrived at Orlando airport before 11am.
Just a note - if you plan to rent a car and drive to/from Orlando & Cape Canaveral, stock up on $5 in quarters. Some of the tolls do not have a live person to provide change and these spots accept exact change only.