This was a family cruise for me, my 2 sons (6 and 8) and my parents. We decided that it would be easier to drive from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale rather than try to take my whole family through the ordeal of flying. Since the cruise left on a Saturday, we decided to leave Atlanta on Thursday to give us plenty of time. The drive took about 11 hours and I didn't dare attempt that all in one day with such a large group all in one car. We drove from Atlanta to outside of Orlando, then the remainder of the distance on Friday. We stayed at a Hampton inn not too far from the cruise terminal. It was overpriced for what we got.
Embarkation- The cruise terminal in Fort Lauderdale is not very nice. I've sailed from there before and this time was no better. By the time we got to the cruise terminal it was afternoon. The line was already out the door and down the sidewalk. Fort Lauderdale in July is not very nice, but it wasn't a big deal. The line moved at a decent pace, but we hit a snag at security. For some reason the line would pause for long periods of time. We never knew what the problem was. After we got through security, we proceeded to the next line. This process took well over an hour and the room was unbearably hot. The terminal's air conditioning does not function properly or they simply don't have it to begin with. Both times in this terminal it has been the same way. Once on the ship, we dropped our bags in our cabin which was already available and went up to the lido buffet for lunch. The buffet was crazy but we found a table fairly quickly.
The Ship- I know that carnival is not exactly known for its subtle or tasteful decor, but this ship...wow. Walking into the atrium for the first time was an experience. The only way to describe it is that the atrium looks like something you would see while tripping on drugs. Very psychedelic. Lots of weird shiny things and glowing color-changing lights. The weird decor is repeated throughout the ship. The lido buffet is no better. Other than the decor, the ship is beautifully maintained. I didn't notice hardly any signs of wear anywhere on board.
Cabin- I booked us two interior cabins on the main deck. I had decided on these because they were the best deal and I knew we wouldn't spend much time there anyway. The cabin was nice but small. The one thing I missed was not having a couch like the outside cabins have. The one minor issue we had was some burnt out light bulbs which made the room quite dark. These were replaced without us asking while we were out watching the ship depart. The bathroom was nice, but the shower was a little slow to drain.
Dining- Overall the food was very good. Some of the buffet items were hit or miss, but good for the most part. The pizza and burgers were great. Breakfast was decent, but fairly repetitive. Dinner was definitely the best. We thought the menu selection was great and the food was always brought hot.
Service- The service was awesome. The waiters and room stewards were all great. The waiters were always very friendly and would always ask about our day or how things were going. Our steward was very nice as well, he would always greet us when we passed him in the hallway.
Entertainment- the entertainment was fairly good. There always seem to be a lot of activities going on, particularly trivia... We didn't participate in most of these, we come on a cruise to relax. So we just find some deck chairs and pass out. The shows were pretty good as well, a little over the top for my taste, but that's to be expected I guess. Me and my older son attended one of the adult comedy shows. A bit too crass for my taste, but others seem to enjoy it.
Camp Carnival- my son really enjoyed the activities and loved the counselors. He spent a good deal of time there on sea days. After I would pick him up, he would tell me all about the things he had done.
Disembarkation- slow but seemingly well organized. We didn't have any problems.