We decided to try Carnival again after our first cruise a few years back. The first one was out of Tampa and we were going to be visiting Grand Cayman and Cozumel. This was our first cruise and as you can imagine we were initially amazed by the entire experience.
However, once the cruise was underway we were less thrilled as the ship felt very crowded (cannot recall which ship it was but it was the same class as the Ecstasy). It seemed like the ship shrank on us as we were always standing in a line or waiting on a chair to open up. The atmosphere was very spring-break like with the middle-aged taking the place of the college kids and it felt like there was always a fog of smoke emanating out of the casino.
Following this cruise we decided to try Carnival again mostly because of the low price for the 5 day and this cruise was offering 3 ports of call to places we'd never been.
The ship felt just as small the 2nd time around but also seemed far less crowded! We were always able to find a couple of chairs on the Serenity deck. You could still get whiffs of smoke from the Casino and while the drinks were moving across the ship the drunken rowdiness was not there. The food in the buffet on our first cruise was great and the dining room was so-so. It was completely reversed during this cruise. The dining room was where we ate every night for dinner, and every morning for breakfast. The only line was for the dining room on Formal Night and the mongolian wok portion of the buffet on Lido.
We missed seeing all of the shows except for the comedians on the 2nd night. Three back to back sets and they were terrific! Everyone on the ship was very nice from the passengers to the crew, with the exception of an older lady on formal night that decided to cut in front of us and a few other people while we were watching a couple dance in the promenade below as we waited in line for a table for dinner (we ended up getting seated at the same table - awkward!!).
Our cabin was the exact same set-up as the previous ship, and never felt too small. The bathrooms on these ships really are larger than the one we had on the RC, which was also very nice. The AC is controlled manually by adjusting a dial on the vent on the ceiling. The output was AMAZING! We were always freezing while in the room, but the blankets helped with that.
The only real complaints we had were that we always seemed to be waiting an extraordinary long time for an elevator. Also, a number of the lounges were frequently closed for private functions. We had heard that the Chinatown Lounge was very nice, but every time we tried to visit it was closed off as a 'Private Function'.
Bottom line, we have decided that we much prefer being on the larger ships just for the variety of spaces. The Carnival experience redeemed itself somewhat on this cruise, although if we ever do another Carnival (which seems questionable now after all of the accidents and breakdowns they have had lately) it will be on one of their larger, newer vessels.