Ok, so many of the things that make a cruise perfect worked in our favor...great weather and fair seas, so the rest was just icing....
That said we went with the Liberty sailing out of Miami because it offered an additional port, Grand Cayman, at a lower price than the closer sailing out of Galveston. We had Southwest miles so airfare was not a factor. Call me crazy but we flew day of cruise arriving at noon, it is only a 30 minute trip to Miami with the toll roads and we booked transfers thru Elite Shuttles ($95 each way plus tip for 4, a cab is $70 and the line can be long on cruise day), they were perfect, called when we landed and pickup was curbside. We made it to the terminal at 1:15p, embarking was the smoothest yet, literally 30 from arrival to walking on the Lido deck.
First time on this ship class and liked it immediately, big but not TOO big, easy to get around, We had balcony cabins on the Lido deck, 9230 and 9266, heart of the action and yet quiet (another great recommendation from Pete!). Cabins were very comfy, plenty of room for a couple and a balcony is pretty cool even though we do not mind interior. Mini fridge we could keep our own drinks in, small flat screen TV which we used to see ship's position but otherwise not use, built in room safe accessed with Sail and Sign card kept all the valuables safe (I left an extra $5 a day for room steward which was not touched the first 2 days till I explained it was for him!).
We felt due to the recent unpleasantness Carnival has suffered the staff went out of their way to make the trip special and inviting, lots of "hi's, good morning, welcome" from staff. The ship was kept extremely clean and they seemed to work hard to keep it so. Lido pool is great people watching but a dawn to dusk LOUD party, 2 bars always hopping, 2 hot tubs always full, could usually find a chair if I wanted, never felt pressured for drinks, still avoided it like the plaque, not my style. Now the Serenity deck was my perfect spot, always found a chair, music more subdued, 2 hot tubs and its own bar. No problem with kids trespassing, good crowd.
Had any time dining but only ate in the main dining room twice, it was not that the food or service was a turnoff, just the opposite. We thought the food good, (not great but not bad at all), the service was very attentive and unlike other comments we were in and out in an hour each night. Lobster night is still not to be missed. The room is huge and very inviting, both nights we were fortunate enough to have nice window views. We ended up grabbing Lido food most of the time just because the 4 port stops are exhausting! Fun but long days and we would come back tired and starving with just a desire to eat and then relax in a hot tub. As others have commented Guy's Burgers are fantastic, also the Wok station has some of the best stir fry I've ever had. Breakfast is pretty typical fare, always good (go for the omelets) but usually long lines. No problem finding a table.
I did use the gym facilities twice, always had others working out but never crowded, 14 treadmills, about 10 eplipticals and 6 stationary bikes plus several weight machines.
Saw 2 shows, the first was a general variety type which was just so-so, the other was Edge Evolution of Juggling, I know it sounds corny but it is a MUST see! We also made our contributions to the casino making it to the finals of both the blackjack and slot tournaments but did not win, still a good time, smoke seemed low, I don't know if have improved their ventilation.
Tender process can be trying, it's very obvious if you book an excursion thru Carnival you get a major preference. We booked all ours via the internet and you actually go to a completely different part of the ship catch a tender. Problem is everyone is given a group number, while most adhered to that it was also very easy to be coming thru the door when a group was called and just fall in line with them, staff was not checking at all. We were able to get off the boat in about 45 minutes. Each of the tenders holds over 100 people and most had an open top deck for those who may feel a little closterphobic. Belize is the longest travel time, around 30-40 minutes, Grand Cayman the shortest, about 10 minutes. Seas were great and it was a very pleasant ride both times. Again, there is NO excursion which is not offered on shore for half of what Carnival charges, do your homework but if you adventurous you can easily wing it at any port.
Disembarking was also easy, we had a final breakfast (which I always appreciate Carnival doing), we did self assist luggage and after breakfast it took less than an hour to be curbside. Once again Elite Limo was right there waiting for us and I quick trip back to Ft Lauderdale.
All in all our best cruise ever, but as I said, its hard to go wrong with great weather and fair seas.
So my tips:
Bring an extension cord with multiple outlets, the room only has one really functional outlet (forget the one in the bathroom). Yes, we snuck aboard liquor, I believe in hiding in plain sight in my luggage, don't get fancy, if its found you get a polite note that its being held upon your return, if you really try to be clever and hide it you can only make them mad. If Carnival is reading this I still had a $300 bar bill! Take a small folding insulated lunch bag if you want ice in your room, I found one for .99 at goodwill and ditched it when I was done. Take a small deck bag of some sort, great for books, camera, lotion. Take clips to hold your towel to the chair, it gets windy sometimes. If you hit the casino look at the bar menu for classic labeled drinks and save your receipts, you can trade them for match play in $5 increments, I played with $100 of Carnival money! If you're a couple and one of you wants an omelet, you'll save time if the other goes to the buffet line and gets sides for both. Have a watch that is set to ship's time, there is a 2 hour difference at the farthest port and you DO NOT want to miss the boat, I think several people did at the first 3 ports. Always take a small flashlight, you never know.