We flew into Fort Lauderdale the day before our cruise and we stayed at the Hampton Inn in Hallandale Beach. Our rooms were free through the Hilton Honors program. I would say the hotel was very clean and the rooms were nice but I wouldn't pay the $179.00 rate that they were charging for walk-in customers.
I am 41, my wife is 33 and our children will be 9 years old and two years old next month. We travelled with my parents (late 70's) and my sister and brother in law ages 43 and 45. We thought that the cruise had a lot to offer for all age groups. It was the first cruise for my family so we have nothing to compare it to. All I can say is that we enjoyed everything and we really didn't have anything to complain about.
We arrived at the pier at around 12:00 and it took less than an hour to get checked in and onto the Lido deck for lunch. We thought everything went pretty smoothly. We had an outside "Family" stateroom. It was the same basic configuration as most of the other staterooms except that there was an extra bunk that dropped straight down from the ceiling so we had bunk beds for the kids. They really loved that idea and even our youngest loved climbing up and down the ladder. We weren't too pleased with the number of activities available in camp carnival (Especially since there is nothing for kids under 2) but the ship had plenty to offer to keep them happy. My son happily sat through 6 out of the 7 evening programs which is amazing since he won't even watch cartoons for that long. The only program that bored him was the hypnotist but my daughter thought he was great.
I don't have much to add about the ports of call. We arranged our excursions at the ports through places that other cruise critic members had recommended and we thought we did pretty well. For example, the four of us went on the stingray city and snorkeling tour on the Cayman Islands was only $70.00 for the four of us and I think the guides were very good. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the outfit but we just found them when we got of the boat and we started to negotiate the price.
Disembarkation was a mess whether you chose to self disembark or if you decided to take your own bags. However I think the problem was because the Port of Miami didn't let anyone off the ship until 8:30 but people started lining up at 7:30 so the first people there had to wait for an hour before moving anywhere. Carnival needs to work on coordinating things with the port officials better.
We would definitely recommend this cruise and we are looking forward to cruising again soon.