I pick my cruises based on port convenience and what is available for a pre set vacation time. That limits my options, and I am finding that Carnival is becoming my only option in some cases. I now have two sailings on Carnival under my belt, having been on RCCL and Disney previously. Carnival is the only ship that sails from Charleston, and that is where we needed to sail out of this time, so Carnival it was.
Embarktion: We drove to the port of Charleston since we were in the Charleston area anyway. It was fairly easy, but the process was unlike any boarding process I have experienced in the past. We pulled in, had to provide our ID and paperwork, then went a little further and checked our bags right out of our car before we even parked. We parked in a parking lot outside of a huge warehouse where many others had parked (we got there a little late, the warehouse was full.) Then we boarded a bus to go get in line in another large warehouse type facility. We were onboard about 90 minutes after arriving. I was with my two sisters and my adult niece, and having fun already, so it wasn't a big deal for us. But if you have an issue with standing around waiting, this process would drive you nuts. I would suggest getting there earlier than we did, we got there around 1:30, or purchase the FTTF pass. Also, one more note, there are no bathrooms that are convenient as you go through this process!
When we boarded the ship, we were late enough that we were able to go directly to our cabins. We had inside cabins. Our cabin attendant was great, he kept our cabin tidy, left towel animals and kept ice in our ice bucket. Note: no fridge in the room. We had brought some soda, as Carnival does allow a limited amount to be brought on board, and we were able to keep it cold each day with ice. I will mention that our carpet seemed pretty dirty, but that didn't bother me, we kept our shoes on.
The ship: I had prepared myself, as I know this ship is old, I believe it might be the oldest of the Carnival fleet that is in operation. It is fairly well maintained, and workers were always keeping the common areas clean. The pool is very small. We didn't use it at all. We did use a hot tub on the Serenity deck which is an adult only area, and by far became our favorite hang out since we were not traveling with children.
Since I just mentioned children, I will say that this sailing, to my surprise, had many children on it. School had begun for my children who stayed at home this time around, so I didn't expect to see kids, but there were a lot of kids. A lot of kids that were running around not being supervised. The only time it was an issue for me was one night when I was trying to go to sleep. I heard some screams that sounded like someone was hurt. I ran out into the hall, and when I did I realized the screams were being followed by laughter, and it was coming from kids in the cabin next door to us. I think they were bouncing on the beds. I could hear them well into the night. I was about to call the customer serivce desk, but they did finally quiet down.
Entertainment was lacking. We went to a production show the first night, and the entertainers where talented dancers, but they could not sing. It was awful! We went to two comedy shows, both family friendly, and those shows were really very good. We wanted to go to an adult only show, but we didn't get there early enough and they had closed the doors because it was full. I think Carnival needs to take a look how they are offering shows. They group the comedy all into one or two nights, and then one night there is not much to chose from, and other nights you only have one production option. The same thing happened on my last sailing with Carnvial.
Food: We found the food to be just fine. Nothing over the top, but I didn't go hungry! I spent time on the treadmill and still came home with an extra 5 pounds. There were a few meals that could have been served hotter, but with all they have coming out of the kitchen, I can't imagine how they would be able to keep my meal at peak temperature. We used anytime dining, and that went smoothly. We had different waitstaff each night, and they were all great. The buffet was kept stocked, and we always found things we enjoyed.
Ports: We walked around Nassau, and then did a snorkeling excursion that we had purchased with Carnival. That was fun. In Freeport, we took a taxi to a beach. Lucyan I believe it was called. It was a bit of a ride, but a nice beach. This beach did not have bathrooms however, so be warned. There are a few porta pottys, but if the outside appearance gave any indication of the inside, I don't want to use them! And the resort next door does not allow anyone to use their restrooms. Understandably.
Disembarktion: This was fast and easy. It was called a "silent disembarktion" because the folks in Charleston do not want to be disturbed with the announcements over the loud speakers. This was totally fine. The TV in your room lets you know when you can leave. We were off the ship and headed home by 7:30 am.
All in all it was an enjoyable cruise. Carnival provides a decent product for the money. Having said that, I am looking foward to trying other cruise lines as well.