After trying most of the popular lines, we decided to try carnival with some reservations. Along with us (cruisers with about 7 voyages), my Mother (first time cruiser), infant, and young child went on this trip.
Initial impressions: Easy embarkation (park at cruise port, worth the money). Friendly and helpful workers. The ship, although some wear, was still attractive in the public areas. Well kept in general. Cabins were dated and not the most efficient due to large life vest box, but decent shower (husband is tall and stated he could actually take a real shower). The paint was worn in the room, but room sufficient. A few glitches (Mom received incorrect room order/ some hairs on bed) but room stewards were friendly and generally helpful, responsive with requests and kept ice bucket filled. There is no refrigerator in room, a big negative with an infant when you have to bring food with room.
Entertainment: One of my big disappointments. Valiant efforts by dancers and crew, but shows were a bit odd with awkward transitions. Mostly DJs, not very many full live bands (one full band- which was good but placed in an area you couldn't dance in, more like a hallway between bar and casino). Vibe was a bit like a lower end nightclub. If you want to do more than shake, you are out of luck. Nice areas- but were not utilized, live band should be by a decent dance floor assuming you want to dance with a partner, kept by casino even when other clubs and areas were empty. Music mainly popular nightclub, if you like country, social (think rumba waltz)dancing you are out of luck. Where other lines have theme nights, you might get one theme hour the entire cruise. Music blasted by pool was loud, never relaxing or music that said "you're on vacation". Kept my daughter away from main pool as I really didn't want to explain what some of the music was saying. The kids pool area was, in comparison, an oasis of quiet and we spent a lot of time there. Very little organized activities that didn't involve selling before 10pm- do late dining as there is nothing to do at night before 8:45pm anyway. Comedy was hit or miss, one great comedian and another not so great comedian that
Dining: Surprisingly good for mass prepared food. Our waiter team headed by Jenson was great! Patient and great with kids, they let my oldest dance with them and treated her kindly. Requests by adults were almost never turned down. A good mix of popular familiar foods as well as finer selections, pleased almost everyone without resorting to kids menu every night. Wish they could puree steamed foods for infants- feel that for a line that touts themselves as family friendly this could be added. Yes other lines may not do this, but do you want to stand out to families or be just another line? Infants receive very little, if any, benefits or values for full priced fare. Adults with special needs are catered to, I see this as an extension of a special dietary need.
Kids: Kid's club was adequate, but for the 5 and under crowd primarily coloring and DVD's. My daughter still liked it, but compared to the kids clubs on Holland for her age group, it was lacking. On Holland we constantly saw the kids on jaunts around the ship on pirate treasure hunts and other activities- she still remembers the name of the kids club leaders years later on Holland. Occasional fee based sitting available for infants, but very limited on ship days before 10pm. They did provide a cell phone if you had kids in the club, which was a nice touch. Even if I viewed it critically, she still enjoyed it, so do not be scared away. The slide was a disappointment as my daughter was too short to use it. A small kids pool, shallower slide free adult pool, and a cooler hot tub were available at the back of the vessel for a quieter family retreat.
Service: Generally great and friendly with a few exceptions from staff that seemed a bit harried.
Overall- A good value for the fare, although I didn't find the entertainment to be my cup of tea. I would have rated this cruise higher, except that I am not a extreme late night owl and often found myself bored in the early evenings. We will probably return to Holland due to differences in entertainment and kid's program. If you are just as happy listening to a DJ as a live band, this is a great value.