Check-in is mostly smooth, but if the ship is full, you may have to sit on the floor while you wait to board. Baggage delivery also seemed mostly smooth, but some passengers did have bags delayed or lost.
The annoying but necessary safety briefing is about as painless as can be done -- and not having to wear your life vest during the process helps immensely. Still, it wouldn't hurt to practice putting it on in the comfort of your own cabin, and making note on your own of how to reach your muster station.
Alaska is a scenic wonder...IF the weather cooperates. The second full day includes a run up the Tracy Arm fjord system, but the amount of fog will dictate how far the ship can penetrate. The only way to guarantee getting up close and personal with the mountains and glaciers is to sign up in advance for the somewhat pricey excursions. Otherwise, have a Plan B in mind.
Aboard ship, service is pretty much what veteran cruisers, especially veteran Carnival cruisers, have come to expect. Our stateroom steward, Andreas Wibowo, was outstanding, and most make a point of greeting you in passing, even if they aren't serving your cabin.
In the Bacchus main dining room, I couldn't help but notice some grumpiness, but in the main, things went well. We quickly learned to ask for tables served by waitress Eka, who was warm, friendly and efficient, and her colleague serving the same section was just as good, if not better. The high tea was run impeccably. Lunch service could be a bit tense, however. One session in particular featured a waiter spouting F-bombs loud enough to be heard by diners.
As for the buffet, the 24-hour pizza seemed uniformly popular, but I didn't partake. As for the rest of the buffet, there seemed to be fewer choices, but what there was seemed adequate overall. The entrees were good. The salads were average. The desserts, however, were just N*A*S*T*Y. Whoever was responsible for the "cheesecake" desserts in the buffet should be sued for false advertising.
Do treat yourself to dinner at Nick & Nora's Steakhouse. One of the best meals I've ever had, on sea or shore. Wine is not included, but at $35 each, the shipboard steakhouse is a bargain. Floor-to-ceiling windows make for a great view, as well.
I don't gamble, but the casino was always busy, as was the bar. But neither were as popular as the Serenity zone, the kid-free, adults-only deck outside aft. Get there as early as the weather allows, or you'll find "no room in the inn."
As for the ports, the smallest of them, Skagway, is the one in which you'll be spending by far the most time, arriving at 7 am and departing at 9pm. How small is Skagway? The arrival of your cruise ship will automatically double, if not triple, the town population. With each successive stop -- Juneau, Ketchikan, Victoria, BC -- the time in port shortens.
NOTE: Do not take this cruise expecting to really see Victoria. You arrive at 7:30pm and depart at midnight.