We have been on multiple cruises with our kids and prefer Carnival cruises for the more varied entertainment choices on board and the value. We went on a 5 night cruise, leaving from Tampa, Florida on Saturday and returned the next Thursday, with stops at two ports Georgetown, Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico. We were pleased with our rooms (oceanview on Main Deck). The ship was rather worn, with the theme of the ship being stained glass/multi colored trim, which I did not care for.
We were very satisfied with the staff that we dealt with, from the room stewards to the wait staff. Everyone was very friendly and went out of their way to help and answer questions (except for one girl training in the restaurant, but that's another story). Our last cruise on Royal Caribbean, we had multiple bad encounters with unhappy staff that were rude and would actually turn and walk away rather than speak to you. Our room steward, Arnel, was great and made our trip memorable with all the varied towel animals and great service.
Our two kids, age 10 and 13, enjoyed the shows. There were several family oriented comedy shows and they attended several of the evening shows and game shows. The food was so-so at the Paris Restaurant, often overcooked and dried out. We were disappointed in many of the dishes. The outside grill was good and I got spoilt quickly to omelets every morning. The main dining room had several good meals, and great desserts. The dining staff was friendly and we enjoyed our meal times as a family very much.
The only problem I can complain about is the behavior of many of the guests in the evenings. Drinking started early in the afternoon, sometimes at breakfast for some guests, and by evening many guests were out of control at poolside. I had to make sure the kids were up at the other pool or other activities by early evening to avoid the cursing, stumbling drunks that were yelling, hooting, and running and jumping into the pool on top of everyone else. Often the pool was very full in the evenings of guests (in their 20-40s) with drinks standing in the pool, with no room to move. No one could move in the pools, let alone come down the slides. It was dangerous for any kids in the evening to be in the pool.
The pool on the upper level was supposed to be the children's pool but was more the size of a 3.5 foot deep hot tube with 25 kids in it. The water was also very warm in the late afternoon/evenings. I wish Carnival would make the 'children's pool' into a more child friendly area, with the slide and maybe some sprinkler/water features away from the bar scene so that kids can actually enjoy the pools, too.
For the price, and the ports we visited, the cruise was worth the hassle of dealing with the bad behaviors of other guests and I know that Carnival makes more money on selling the alcohol and the casino/gambling than on the family fun aspect of cruising. I commend the staff for their great service and am amazed with them every time I cruise.