This was the first cruise for my fiance and I. We weren't really sure what to expect, but had heard a lot of good and bad from others. Friends of ours had recommended the Eastern Caribbean cruise with Carnival, so we decided to book just after the new year for a break from the cold in the Northeast US. I travel frequently via plane, so I am definitely comfortable with travel.
Port of Miami / Embarkation - Airport transfer was a snap, quick and efficient. We arrived at the terminal about 4 hours before the scheduled departure. The terminal wasn't terribly busy at this point to our surprise, and we got onto the boat and up to the Lido deck quickly. After a bit of exploring, we were off to our cabin a couple hours before departure.
Cabin - Level 1, Oceanview - the cabin was surprisingly roomy and we had a great, attentive steward. Unfortunately we had some of the loudest people in the cabin next to ours who felt like shouting about at 4 AM. If we are to cruise again, we're splurging for a balcony. The oceanview was okay, but I'd like the fresh air and faster access to the upper decks.
Food - The buffet on the lido deck was hit or miss. I'm not sure if it's the cooking oil that's used or what but I was feeling kind of "meh" the whole week. We chose "any time" dining - Atlantic deck 3. Great meals, good service, would not go with anytime dining again. It seemed kind of disorganized and there was usually a long line of people waiting at the door. A lot of people clearly didn't get the memo about the dress code, either. We purchased the "bubbles" cards and barely used them. Lines were relatively short for us, but we usually got to breakfast pretty early.
Entertainment - Punchliner comedy was one of our favorites. Our other favorite that we didn't discover until the last night was the sing-along in the Irish Seas piano bar. GREAT time and highly recommended. We did watch some of the contests on the lido deck on the day at sea, but it was pretty crowded (as expected). I wasn't really into the big crowds on the lido deck - hard to find a spot to sit, crowded, not really my thing. It was relaxing to sit back in the evening and watch movies on the big screen on the lido deck, to be honest.
Spa/gym - We each got treatments in the salon - a pedicure for me, a haircut for my fiance. The ladies in the spa were all friendly. Definitely wait until the last couple days to book spa appointments because the prices are reduced. We were able to work out nearly every day in the gym, which was great. The gym is pretty well stocked and spacious, too.
Other - Serenity Deck - probably the best thing about the cruise was the adults-only deck - front, deck 12 and 13. We enjoyed the hot tub and cozy chairs here. Because of timing, the cruise was mostly adults anyway, but it was nice to have a peaceful retreat.
Overall - I would rather fly to a destination in the Caribbean and stay in a resort. It felt like the days were cut short and running on a tight schedule. I didn't like that about the cruise - too scheduled, too structured. Overall, a decent starter cruise, and would like to experience Alaska next on a more luxurious cruise line.