Having cruised most years since 2001 (wife was a travel agent) this was the first time for us on Carnival. It was also the first time I really spent time reading reviews beforehand, even after booking.
Now just back on 36 hours since 'debarking' or disembarcation as we Brits would say, I think it's fair to say that pretty much everything I had read before was true. Yes, there are some leaks from air-con pipes or sprinklers, yes, the food in the MDR can be luke warm (but it was mostly delicious), yes the layout is a little confusing (but no big deal) and yes, the Guys burgers are awesome.
The drinks package worked out for us, purchased on the morning of day 2 we consumed some 120+ drinks (not all finished, you don't force down the bad ones when on a package) which would have cost us about £700 at an average (after Spanish tax (10%) and gratuity (15%). With the good Pound to Dollar rate the package cost a little over £500 ($820 for the two for 8 nights) and not having to worry about the cost made it fun trying the cocktails in the Alchamy Bar (amazing) and have that 2nd glass of wine at dinner.
So what about the negatives. Whilst it didn't spoil things, the generally tired and miserable looking Eastern European staff undermined the 'Fun Ship' ethos. Luckily the happy-go-luckly Caribbean and South American staff, who would always smile and ask if you've had a good day, did their bit to restore the balance. Same for the Asian cooks in the Lido and JiJi's.
The music around the pool was not always appropriate, some chill-out tunes would have been welcome rather than yet another round of John Denver, Eagles and similar US classics. There's no fridge in the room - but our cabin steward, when asked on the first day for a bucket of ice - always made sure we had plenty of ice and a big 'beer' bucket to chill our 5 euro sparkling wine that we would buy and bring back on ship each day for lubricating the transisition from day-wear to night glam.
Formal night was certainly less formal than on any other cruise line we've been on but we did see plenty of gents in Tux and the obligatory Scot in a kilt and matching accessories.
OK, back to the good. Jaime, the cruise director was wonderful, the new-style dance shows amazing (some of the best we've seen at sea) and the music acts in the Ocean Plaza & Frog Pub were also top notch. Best of all, Seth Gibson in the Piano Bar. Almost a best-kept secret as there's only room in there for around 50 max. Watch him on Youtube to see what I mean.
As it was term time there were very few youngsters on board and the Serenity Area matches and even surpasses what you will find on 5 star ships. Never really a problem getting sun loungers either.
We were down with the fishes with an Ocean View cabin on deck 1. Very spacious, very good order and fantastically maintained by our cabin steward. Boarding in Barcelona was as swift as it could be. On board in less than 30 mins of arrival at the terminal. TV included Sky 1 so we could have some UK shows on when in the room. I took a cheap Android tablet loaded with plenty of movies and an HDMI cable just in case the day at sea was wet and windy - which it was. Plus used the TV to playback our our tunes to go with that sparking wine.
I really wish I could think of some more negatives or things to avoid but it really was all so good and, at the price we paid, unbeatable. We would travel with Carnival again? You betchya !!!