This was my first cruise and despite some rough patches of weather, everyone in my party (there were four of us) said they had a wonderful time. We departed from Baltimore April 28.
SHIP: The ship was decorated to a Renaissance Art theme. Many reviewers comment on the nudity within the artwork, but I didn't find it concerning and welcome it, if it serves as a deterrent for parents with obnoxious children. The ship held a little over 2,000 passengers, and was always spotless.
WEATHER: For the most part skies were overcast and there were a couple of rough days at sea. I would recommend traveling with Dramamine, if you are prone to motion-sickness. We were unable to dock at one of the ports in the Bahamas due to a surprise storm. This was a little disappointing, but after traveling through the crazy weather, I trust the Captain made the right decision.
ACTIVITIES/ENTERTAINMENT: There was always something to do on board. On the decks were swimming pools, ping pong, basketball, abundant lounge chairs, and even a couple hammocks. There was even an adult-only deck and pool. The decks were closed a couple times, but the wind and waves were crazy and I did not want to spend time outside those days anyway. There were countless things to do inside including live shows, casino games, trivias, tournaments, bingos, and karaoke. Because there is so much to do, I did not get to experience every activity on board so I'll just mention some highlights. Both comedians I saw were very funny and interacted with the audience--this was at times embarrassing :0. I also highly recommend going to the afternoon tea, it was fun, relaxing, yummy, & never crowded.
The only activity I would not recommend is the Art Auction. There were several throughout the week-long cruise, but I only attended the first. It felt like an elaborate scam. The auctioneer would pretend to auction off a 12,000 dollar painting, then quickly swipe it away before you had time to look around the room to see what happened. I don't think any pieces were actually bid on...it was confusing and weird. I would avoid if you are susceptible to impulsive spending.
DINING: Dining was a great experience. There were two dining areas--a formal sit-down restaurant called the Normandie and a more casual buffet-style eatery called Mermaids. Normandie was a great experience and I highly recommend eating there as often as you can. We elected the any-time dining plan, and had to wait in line a few times during the week but not for any longer than 15 minutes. The food was delicious and the menu was changed daily. The waitstaff went above and beyond and were always pleasant--even to the most offensive of cruise members. There were also two formal dress-up nights. Mermaids had everything you could want for every meal of the day, but the food at Normandie was exceptionally good.
SERVICE: I cannot rave enough about the excellent service on this boat. Crew members were beyond pleasant and went out of their ways to assist cruisers. Dining room staff knew the first names of all the patrons. I am quite curious how they learned to distinguish everyone in our party with our pale Irish skin and haunting green eyes. I jest. I foolishly lost my ID card my first day on board and was immediately helped at guest services and was issued a new ID.
STATEROOM: I stayed on the bottom deck (Riviera) in an inside stateroom (no window). I spent very little time in my room. The room had one outlet, a phone, cable television and a small bathroom. I brought a power-strip with me so I would be able to plug in my alarm clock and fan. The room was cleaned several times throughout the day.
DRINKS: You are allowed one 750 mL bottle of wine per person in your party. I would suggest taking advantage of this if you plan on drinking on board because drinks are not cheap.
EXCURSIONS: The Carnival excursions did not have very high reviews on the Carnival website. The only one I booked with them was for Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. We had a nice time and arrived to the park just before it opened. It was not horribly crowded and in the morning averaged around a 15 minute wait per attraction. This increased to about 45 minutes by the afternoon. I was motivated to go because I wanted to see Harry Potter. The two main rides they had were cool, but the Harry Potter section is very small. Just letting you know in case you were interested in this excursion.
EXTRA COSTS: Any drinks besides tea, coffee, lemonade, or water will come at an additional charge. I was surprised bingo cost $20 dollars a game. You can view your bill at anytime on board if you are concerned by using one of several kiosks available.
In conclusion, if you enjoy the company of those you travel with, and for the most part maintain a positive outlook on life, I think you'll have a great time aboard this ship.