Traveling from Canada we were first time cruisers that enjoyed both the boat and the ports- it ended too soon for us, I had read the online info from the cruise line but still would have liked a little more guidance when first getting on the ship such as directions to your room (which set of elevators to take, the key areas of the ship- floor five with the casino allows you to go through to the other side of the boat etc....) We did have a fabulous lady assist us with checking in before getting on the boat. It was too late to purchase FTTF (faster to the fun) pass that gets you through the line ups faster, but getting temporary VIFP status allowed us through a quicker check in process ( I think it was because we got a balcony stateroom) and found line ups weren't an issue after that, including disembarkation. The ship was kept very clean the whole time, and it is in good condition. Service was friendly and helpful, even though they live in cramped quarters with long service periods of 6-8 months at sea away from their families. Once I learned that the pay was low but the American dollar translated into buying power in their home countries I felt better about it.
It can't be denied the amount of selection offered, whether it was food or entertainment. I loved the Latino live music, but there were other live music choices nightly. We liked the comedy shows, which definitely drew a line compared to any other entertainment. We also saw two shows in the theatre and I enjoyed the singer-entertainer they brought in; I enjoyed the rock show less, but was sad to learn the live orchestra was being eliminated and replaced with digital music and digital backgrounds; but the theatre wasn't full either show so they are updating their approach as it is currently like an old Vegas approach.
I have heard other ships are known for better food but I have no complaints. With a multi-course supper each night I mostly chose salad off the buffet; it is great that fresh cut and whole fruit are available. We really enjoyed the Pizza bar, the Taco bar and its many toppings. People rave about Guy's burgers but I didn't try them. You can buy pop/ soda packages, but lemonade, and unsweetened iced tea is available along with tap water. Next time I'll bring a refillable water bottle instead of bottled water. Carnival allows each person to bring one bottle of wine and 12 non-alcoholic drinks on board. And if you buy a bottle of wine at dinner they will label it and bring it out the next night if you don't finish it.
Our 8th floor midship balcony stateroom was clean and comfortable. We enjoyed sitting out on the balcony and appreciated being midship on the one rocky sea day. At first I wondered why the pools were small, but a bit of rocking takes quite a bit of water out, and they actually empty them if need be. The hot tubs aren't affected though. Pool water was too cool so I didn't swim, but enjoyed the hot tubs especially the ones on the Serenity deck as you get the great views of the sea since you are up higher.
We enjoyed the people we met, and plan to stay in touch with a few of them. Carnival is known as the party ship, but I didn't see anyone out-of-control. The hairy chest contest and the grinding shown on screen doesn't make sense to me as it is beyond family-friendly, but neither is a lot of TV shows and commercials these days.
We would come back, and hope to bring family. We like the value and enjoyed the ports.
Half Moon Cay- great beach, and renting a clamshell (once you arrive) helps give some shelter from the sun, but we had to find our own rod by wondering down the beach after we paid(?) Around 2 pm the beach began to empty so a clamshell could be had for free. We fed the stingrays and enjoyed it, although I don't think a few of the workers there are very happy.
St. Thomas - we booked a snorkel with turtles on sailboat with Fury's captain Mike, recommended by Tripadvisor and enjoyed it, but the turtles are only adolescents, so not too big, and there isn't coral and fish to speak of.
San Juan- took the free trolley to the first fort, and then went off the beaten other and found a local restaurant with live music and native food. Enjoyed looking at the neighborhood buildings and cobblestone streets. We walked back to the ship.
Grand Turk- wanted to go on a snorkeling excursion but wasn't feeling 100 percent. Walked the beach and visited Margaritaville which has poolside bar service. There is. florider there- to lern surfing, but no one was on it. I'm going to have to come back to see the 8000 foot drop nd amazing snorkeling!