We stayed in a hotel in Charleston the night before and took a shuttle to the terminal which was very easy.
Getting on the ship was also very easy. I'd say it took us around 30 minutes to get through security and do all the little things you have to do to get on board. It was very easy and well organized and pretty straight forward and everyone was friendly and helpful. A LOT of people were getting busted trying to bring booze in some very creative ways!!! They were pretty hardcore about checking for booze, although you are allowed to bring 1 bottle of unopened wine per adult. Also, my husband brought several electronics and extra cables in his carry on and he got pulled out of the security line and they made him unpack his entire carry on and explain what every item was for. They did not like his Jawbone portable speaker and the woman doing the inspection had no idea what it was and insisted a supervisor inspect it. It definitely held us up and she was not very gentle with some of the items. We realize it was a security issue but she did not handle it very well. Everything ELSE was fine.
Once on board, our rooms were ready in an hour. Until then we sat on the Lido deck and had a beer. They had a DJ playing and also had the grill going with burgers and hot dogs.
Once our room was ready we went down and unpacked. The room seemed very small at first but once we unpacked there was enough room for everything (lots of closet and drawer space) and the bathroom was a decent size too compared to what I've seen on other ships. The bed was very comfortable and the room was clean. The pullout bed in the wall was better than we expected. It is a full size twin. It's hard to get around when it's down. The windows were kind of dirty but we had no trouble seeing out of them and I'm not sure how anyone expects them to be perfectly clean on the ocean.
The food: They have a lot of food options and we didn't even try half of them. The Mongolian Wok is only open for a couple of hours. It looked good but somehow our schedule just never worked with eating there. WIsh it had stayed open through dinner. Same for the sushi bar (I never even saw it but my daughter ate there a few times).
I'll be honest and say that the pizza and the hot buffet for lunch was not all that great. I usually had a salad for lunch from the salad bar and one day I had a sandwich from the deli which was pretty good. I never ate the buffet for dinner but was not impressed with the food on it for lunch. But like I said, there are other several options for lunch such as the grill which was pretty good, salad bar, pizza (eh, it's Ok at 2 am), Mongolian Wok and Deli. The other nights we ate in the dining room. All of the dining room food we had was pretty good. One thing I found kind of yucky was the water. It had a musty taste to me, but I sucked it up and drank it anyway.
Oh..and the hot breakfast buffet was not very good either, (IMO), but I'm a little bit of a food snob...but I just stuck to the continental stuff like bagels, muffins, yogurt, fruit, cottage cheese and it was all good.
Activities: As others have mentioned, there were a ton of college students on our cruise (which we were aware of when we booked). But they were seriously all really great. They were definitely partying it up and having a good time drinking, but I never saw anyone really drunk and out of control or acting inappropriate or anything. I was surprised that as many of them were on there, they didn't seem to cause ANY trouble at all. I never heard them at night and they just all seemed like really nice kids. One night my teenager wasn't back in our cabin by her curfew and I was wandering around the ship late looking for her. Several college kids stopped me and asked me if I was OK and offered to spread out and help look for her (we found her chatting it up with kids form the teen program who had lost track of time they were enjoying themselves so much!)
The two musical shows were very good, IMO. (Motown and the Brits. I didn't think I would really like the shows because I'm not crazy about that kind of music. I thought they were just catering to the older generations on board, but they were good and even though the music was older the shows were pretty current and modern. I was impressed with what they were able to do on a cruise ship!
A lot of the other activities were a little sillier and designed to get maximum guest participation and lots of laughter. That's not really my thing but I'll admit that the guests who did participate were really great sports and made the game shows and other stuff really entertaining and funny!
We saw one comedian twice (they had 2 different ones) and went to the rated R show. Hubby and I found him hilarious, but it is definitely rated R for a reason! Not for the prude or politically correct, that is for sure!
We found ourselves in the piano bar a lot just because it was a nice place to listen to music and have a drink and not be surrounded by college kids. We never went in the discotheque and spent very minimal time in the casino because of the smoking.
It was pretty cold so no one was ever in the pool and the hot tubs were constantly filled up, we never could get in one. They had a DJ on the Lido deck most of the day catering to the crowd with line dancing and silly contests...it was entertaining to watch. We mostly sat on the deck where the slides were because it was quiet so we could read. It was also VERY hard to get a pool chair in a decent spot. People hoard chairs early in the morning and keep their stuff on them ALL DAY so you can't ever get a good one )even though they ask guests NOT to do this and claim they will clear chairs left for more than 45 minutes but I never actually saw anyone do this). However, that has been the case on every ship we've ever been on, not just Carnival.
We booked our own excursion outside of the cruise ship based on the advice of a friend and took the tour with Chad4naturetours and I'll have to say we were not disappointed at all. It was a great day (a long day) or kayaking and snorkeling over blue holes, hiking around the Lucayan National forest and visiting some caves. The guide was a very interesting, smart, funny guy and we really enjoyed everything we did with him. My daughter said it was best part of her whole trip.
In Nassau we decided to do a bus tour of the island but the guy who was going to take us would only go with 10 people and he couldn't get anyone else to go (we were the only ship there at that time) although 5 more HUGE ships rolled in throughout the day making the port area, beaches and shopping ridiculously crowded. The private tour operators and hair braiders were annoyingly aggressive. However we ended up having a FANTASTIC private taxi tour with the just our family. He took us all over the island, dropped us off at cool places like Fincastle Fotress and the Queen's staircase and Atlantis and would come back and get us 30 minutes later. We really saw a lot, including local restaurants, the Haitian slums, million dollar neighborhoods, resorts, private beaches, old churches, cemeteries, middle class neighborhoods, colleges and universities, hospitals, government agencies...then he dropped us off at his family's favorite restaurant and got us great seats. If anyone wants his name, I have his business card and I promised to spread his name around! He was SUCH a nice guy and very knowledgeable and really let us tailor our tour to our own interests. Other than that, Nassau is probably not a place I'd want to spend much time, it's VERY touristy and the public beach next to the port (Cable Beach was just crawling with nothing but drunk kids and Senor Frogs).
Getting off the ship was as easy as getting on. We let them take our bags the night before so we could get an extra couple of hours sleep and that worked out great. It was very organized, we found our bags immediately, it took maybe 15 minutes to get through customs and we were done! Our shuttle picked us up right outside (was already there waiting) and took us straight back to the hotel where we left our car!
We had a great time and we would do it again in a heartbeat!!! If you WANT to have fun on this cruise, you will! If you are uptight about things and expect everything to be perfect you may have issues.
Overall pros: staff was excellent, attentive, kind and really made the effort to know your names and speak to you wherever they saw you on the ship, the various activities were fun and entertaining, the activity directors were really fun, the shows were good, ship was clean, dining room food was good, kid's program was great, grill food was good, excursions were nice, the water slides were fun.
Cons: smoking in the casino and bar outside of it, hot buffet food was not good at all (think school cafeteria) but people were still gobbling it up, the Mongolian Wok was only open a few hours each day, could never get in the hot tubs, could never find a decent place to sit on the pool deck, the service in some of the bars was lacking or nonexistent (specifically the Majestic), servers didn't ever come back around to refill drinks during shows, the water on board tastes really bad (take your own water or a water bottle with a filter built in.
A few things to take you may not have thought of: a power strip, a hairdryer if you use one, and warm clothing for the evenings (at least a sweatshirt or sweater or something). It was freezing outside at night and in the mornings!!!