This was our first cruise, my wife and myself, a 17 year old son and 8 year old son.
We were dropped off by a friend in Charleston, so I cannot review the parking process. The drop off process, however was quick and efficient; We arrived at around 10:30 am, drove through the line quickly, stopped and dropped our bags, drove to the drop off point and were in line for customs in a total of less than ten minutes. We waited about 20 minutes to be boarded on the shuttle to customs. Time well spent, we met with two couples that were veteran cruisers and answered many of our questions. We met with them for breakfast nearly every day, very cool. We purchased the Faster to the Fun (FTTF) and highly recommend it; once off the bus and into the customs bldg., we showed our FTTF paperwork and were escorted to a line with one group in front of us, as opposed to 100. The wait from there and the check in process was about ten minutes, that was including very slow computers. Pictures taken, Sign and Sail cards in hand and we were off to our room, less than one hour from arrival on the property. Our FTTF ensured our stateroom was ready when we boarded, so we dropped our carry on luggage and headed to the Lido deck for lunch. By the time we came back all of our luggage was in the room. It is to note that we noticed people still walking the ship with their carry on luggage at 4pm, rooms not yet ready.....Well worth the 50 bucks for FTTF.
We opted anytime dining, which put us in the Celebration dining room. A few times we needed a beeper, but never waited more than 10 minutes for a table. We had different servers, which is different than if you have the assigned time dining in the Jubilee dining room, where you will have the same server. We had good service for the most part, once in a while the servers seemed to be "in the weeds", but my wife and I are in the service industry and this is understandable. Food was great. I had the cold soups 5 of 7 nights, very enlightening to me. There is a standard menu that is always the same and a selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts that change every day. You can order as much of anything you want. 3 shrimp cocktails, no problem. I just told my oldest teen to make sure he can eat what he orders, I'm not real big on seeing food wasted. Lunch on the Lido deck, burgers, hot dogs, nuggets, fries, salad bar, Mongolian grill, deli sandwiches, pizza.....a great variety and all very good. This ship doesn't have the Guy Fieri Burger Joint, but that will be a factor in our next cruise choice. Pizza and room service is 24/7.
Beverages.....We got the bottomless bubbles for the boys (77 bucks total). I had 48 sodas (20oz) packed and a case of water (20oz) in roller carry on bags that I couldn't get in the car (LOL), so we just took the water, (so I thought, it was the pepsi and mt. dew, my wife's water missed the trip, uh, oh for me). They did let us check it when we dropped our luggage instead of carrying it, which was a help. I don't drink and my wife very little. We took 2 bottles of wine for her, and she may have spent another 100 bucks on drinks for the week. You can buy the cheers program for just under 400 each, but in our case, all adults in a room have to purchase it, so it would be 800 and I don't drink. Ice tea, lemonade (Arnold Palmers) on the lido deck along with coffee and juice 24/7. We all had water bottles to fill up and take to the pool everyday.
Outside decks. Pool is pretty small, but it is a ship, two hot tubs, always packed. Plenty of chairs on several decks, never a problem finding one. We mostly stayed on the back deck with the water slides. The waterpark area was great!. Our 8 year old and myself rode those slides a zillion times, great fun. Lots of contests and games on the Lido deck during the at sea days.
We saw the Motor City show and the Hypnotist. Both very good, high quality shows. Missed the comedy shows, but heard they were good.....Musician in the atrium (David) and down the promenade every day; very cool and lends to a nice atmosphere. Shops were good with sales and giveaways, wait until the sales and near the end of the cruise to buy anything.
Some people complain of all the photo taking by Carnival, but that's just part of the deal, just trying to make a buck; smile and take a nice pic, you may be pleasantly surprise with one or two and want to take it home.
We used the Camp Carnival a little bit; our little guy wanted to do a few of the activities with friends he'd met, his favorite was the towel folding class, he made us an elephant one night while we were out and left it with a note for us....how sweet....Our teen met up with some kids his own age and "hung out" with them a lot, LOL>>>>>
We will cruise again and are happy with Carnival, though we will probably sail on a bigger ship. The crew was great, very nice and helpful, everyone of them. Our cabin steward and his team went above and beyond for us. Filled our cooler every morning and early evening with ice, tidied up our room like 3 times a day...great people.....