This was somewhere around cruise number 38 or so for me, but the first "paying" voyage I've had on Carnival. I've been on their older ships in my travel agent past and the ship is certainly quite an upgrade from what Carnival used to be, but it's still Carnival. The ship itself is overall well laid out, clean, easy to navigate round the decks, and there are plenty of options for things to do or not to do. The Statue of Liberty head light shades about the Lido Deck however are just a little disconcerting. Just a bit of the old Carnival tackiness left over from the past.
The buffet foods were adequate, with the best food being from the burger joint. Somehow though going on a cruise and finding the best food to be a burger is somewhat of a let down. On the other hand, the dining room service and food was quite good, yet nothing near the quality of some of the competition out on the seas. There is some evidence of the Holland America influence in some of the dishes and flavors so they do have that going for them. Cabins, as Carnival has always had, are some of the most spacious available, and are certainly comfortable and clean. The bathrooms are certainly larger than most on many other ships and I actually didn't have to go outside to change my mind. I will say though that the bedding was some of the most uncomfortable I've ever experience on a ship. I guess they figure though that most people on a Carnival cruise won't sleep much anyways, so what's the difference. Which brings me to my biggest and most annoying complaint.
Carnival markets themselves as having non-smoking facilities on their ships, but unless one reads all the fine print up front, which you'd think I would have done having traveled as much as I have, one won't realize that yes, most of the public areas are non-smoking, but smoking is allowed in some of the most annoying and frequently trans versed areas of the ship. That in itself one can work around as long as you don't care about going into the casino or any of the lounges surrounding it, or on the port side of the Lido Deck and the bar in that area, but what we learned much to our chagrin was that smoking is still allowed on the balconies of the cabins that have balconies, which on this ship make up the vast majority of the cabins. We had the pleasure of having the most obnoxious people next to us who were not only loud and inconsiderate throughout the entire cruse, but must have brought some sort of cow feces soaked rope along to smoke that would make most any of God's creatures gag - including those smoking it. If we were on the balcony and they came outside we knew we had less than 10 seconds to get inside and close the door tightly before we would be gassed. Then we would get to listen to them hack, cough, choke, puke, spit, and we think, vomit while smoking that vile material. The bottom line is, don't bother paying for a balcony if you are a non-smoker on Carnival's ships. You're wasting your money because you won't be able to enjoy it without having the ocean smell like an ash tray.
So all that being said, the cruise product itself is fine, and even with just under 3000 passengers on board, you'd really never know there were that many people surrounding you. But unfortunately the line markets itself as a mass market product, and wants those smokers onboard as they are the ones who will spend the money in the casinos and bars. No wonder I've always like RCCL and Princess better...
As we have visited Cozumel several times over the years, we have been able to distance ourselves from the crowds and find parts of the island that we can have all to ourselves. We 've rented Jeep wranglers the last couple times there and driven around to the east side of the island to view the spectacular scenery and to be able to sit on a 5 mile long beach all by ourselves. The water is spectacular in color, there are blow holes galore, and the sand is like powder. And we've found a little family run shop in the jungle that sells some of the best jewelry on the island along with lots of other touristy stuff at prices far below what they are by the ships. Take the chance - get away from the crowds. Just don't try to drive in town....
Tendering to the island from the ship in a driving rain storm is quite and experience, but it just ads to the adventure. Once we were on land we just waiting out the rain under one of the tents and then walked in town to check out some of the shopping. It was OK. Much of the same stuff one can find in the US if you look hard enough, or even sit in the living room and buy it from QVC. And prices really aren't all that great either. Bermuda is still the shopping value center.
Once we were tired of shopping and the weather dried up some more, we simply jumped on one of the island busses and road up 7 Mile Beach to the Governors Residence and plopped ourselves in the sand for a great day of quiet beach time again far from the crowds. Snorkeling right off the beach there turned out to be better than what those who paid many dollars to do on a preplanned excursion experienced, and we did it all including rented snorkel equipment and bus fare for $20. Cayman is all about the beach. Still one of the best.