So I will place a disclaimer right away. I have never been attracted to the idea of cruising - and would not have booked this trip - except my parents, and some siblings and extended family were going. All of them have cruised before. The overall group opinion was that it was "just ok."
From a first time cruiser opinion, there were some annoyances that I could have done without:
LINES! There are LINES everywhere. The line to embark the board actually went fairly smooth. No complaints over that process. However - from that point on, the lines were just ridiculous. There were lines to get food every time (on the Lido Deck / The Gathering). The first day was a "fun at sea day" and, well, truth be told, little fun to be had. There was a line for breakfast, a line to get a seat to eat the breakfast, a line to get drinks, a line actually formed waiting for a beach chair by the pool. The lines continued - a line to get the elevator (sometimes up to 10 minutes), a line to get off the ship at the ports, a line to get back on (We did see other ships that had more than one or two doors open, not sure why Carnival only had one or two at each port)
Food: The buffets leave much to be desired. Every time I heard about others going on cruises, they just raved about the food. This was not true. The food was the same each day - low quality and nothing to rave about for sure. In addition, the major food buffet was only open for 2 to 2 1/2 hours for lunch. It needs to be open longer - perhaps that would cut down on the lines and allow more flexibility for the guests as to when they eat. Now, I will say the dining room quality was better and I found myself getting up / adjusting times off the boat to ensure that I went to the dining room to get a breakfast I would actually eat.
Bartenders / waitstaff in the bar area were sleepy or lazy. But, for $8 / drink - I was NOT impressed. Had they made an effort to be quick or at least personable - Carnival would have made a boat load more money off of me - but with their lack of effort, I lost interest.
Entertainment: Lacking. If you didn't want to play Bingo every day, play a different game of trivia every day, watch drunks by the pool or try to get sold something - well, you mine as well count entertainment out. There are two exceptions - which I have listed below.
Rocking: Now, some may judge that I bring this up - but I feel like based on comments from my family and others I spoke with on the boat that this is a valid complaint. The rocking and motion from the boat was insane. I spoke with many people that said the rocking / moving of the boat that we felt was much more dramatic on this cruise than any other ship they have been on - whether Carnival or another company. It made me sick the very first night - and I was told that it would only be that rough until we hit Cuba. Not true - it was constant.
Now - there were some positives. They did have a Pasta bar that was hidden up on the 11th floor - off the beat and path which had a good atmosphere and made to order pasta.
The housekeeping staff - amazing. Hands down fantastic job. Friendly and willing to go the extra mile.
The spa: I got a 50 minute deep tissue massage. She took the time to ask where I wanted the extra attention and spent the time on those areas. The room looked out to the ocean. It was truly relaxing.
The Casino: The casino was fun - and this is coming from a non gambler. They certainly took my money, but I had a few laughs with it.
The positives for entertainment include the Fun Force - a breakdancing group that was fantastic and inclusive to the audience. They even taught some kids on the boat a trick or two and it was fun to watch. Secondly - they do bring in comedians - and do several shows a night. One comedian we watched was very good - the other awful. I think its a gamble anytime you go see a comedian though.
I doubt I would be willing to cruise again - and if I did - it would not be on a Carnival cruise. I prefer my all inclusive resorts from Beaches or RIU.