We are a couple in our 40's with two kids (17 and 11) and this was our sixth cruise. We have cruised on Celebrity, Disney and NCL before but this was our first time on Carnival. This cruise was a 6 nights with 2 days at sea. Ports included Key West, Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios (Jamaica).
THE GOOD :
This is a nice ship that is well maintained. It is spacious and it never feels too crowded in the public areas. The staterooms are nice with a big bathroom where you don't feel to cramped. Everything was very clean and the service was meeting our expectations.
We also enjoy the breakfast and lunch buffet very much. There was a lot of variety. The omelette station in the morning is great and the line is never too long. And the best thing at lunch is the Mongolian Wok station where you can get great dish, but be prepare to wait a while (15 to 30 min.) because there is always a big line at that station, but it is definitely worth it.
The food in general was very good and a lot better than we expected.
The pool area was a nice enough and we never had any problem to find a chair around the pools. The staff seemed to apply the "no hog chair" policy and most of the passenger did not reserve a chair if they were not there.
The "Beatles" show was really good.
THE BAD :
The ship has a weird design that prevent you to go from front to back on some deck, so if you are in the front of the ship and want to go to the restaurant on the back, you might have to go up or down a couple of deck to get to your destination. This was a little annoying.
The service at dinner was not as good as you would expect on a cruise ship. They particularly seem to have trouble with the beverages... They never refilled our soft drink, forgot the milk we ordered with the desserts, coffee refills were absent, etc...
As for the entertainment, most of the shows were just ok and the comedians on board were not great either.
The entertainment was just average. On our previous cruises we had great shows but on this cruise the show were really disappointing. To be fair the "Beatles" show was great, and the "singers and dancers" were good too, but the rest was just boring. They had two "stand-up" on board and I attended most of theirs shows but they were very funny. We did enjoy some of their skits, but the material was not sufficient to make us laugh the 30 minutes they performed.
At least the ports were interesting but my advice would be to book your excursions off-ship because they are a lot cheaper for the same experience. Moreover, the morning we got to Grand Cayman, all the cruise excursions to Stingray City were cancelled because the sea was too rough. However, having booked our excursion off-ship, we were given the option to move our reservation to another time later in the day in case the sea calmed down. And we were able to go to the later excursion as the sea got calmer, a choice that the passengers that book thru the cruise line did not have. They did get a refund on their cancelled excursion, but I really preferred the fact that we were able to do the excursion, even if it meant that we had to wait a couple of hour to do it, we could always go shopping during the waiting time.
Another thing that bothered us is that they leave the "upper beds" opened all day contrary to Disney where the attendant would close them during the day. That made a big difference when you have to walk around the stateroom.
THE WORST :
Embarcation was delayed for over two hours because they had to do some "tests" on the ship. Having to wait so long to get on the ship was really bad. They did not manage the situation well at all. They should at least provide snacks/drinks while we were stranded outside the ship but they did not.
The other major problem was... Why do they accommodate so much the smoking crowd? There is a complete side of the outside decks that is reserved for those stinking smokers and this is a real annoyance. They should give them a small isolated room in the bottom of the ship where they could kill themselves slowly without bothering everyone around. I was amazed by the number of smoker on that cruise. Moreover we had to report smokers that were on the wrong side of the ship multiple times, the crew should definitely have been more proactive to enforce the non-smoking rule.
Just walking on the smoking side of the deck to go from one place to another was bothering enough to avoid it at all cost.
We were a little worried about the "party-crowd" reputation of Carnival but in the end this cruise was a lot better than we expected. I would definitely consider another Carnival cruise if they do something about the smoking problem on board. If not, I will spend my money with another cruise line that is more respectful of non-smokers.