This was our 4th cruise & our 1st on Carnival. I traveled with my wife and 5 yr old daughter. Having read many ship reviews prior to booking, I was somewhat apprehensive about the food and what to expect from fellow passengers.
Embarkation: We arrived at the Long Beach terminal garage in our personal vehicle at about 11:30 AM. Once you take your parking ticket, the signage is fairly clear on where to proceed to drop off baggage with a porter, after which you can proceed to park. Parking in the garage is a close walk to the boarding area. Though many reviews highly recommended purchasing FTTF, this option was already sold out online at the time I booked. Nevertheless, we found the standard boarding to be fairly quick and efficient. We were on board in the Lido in about an hour.
Room: Our 5th floor balcony was plenty big. The bathroom was larger than any of our previous cruises, and the room had ample storage space. Our room steward Santika was friendly, quick and efficient and kept the room tidy at all times.
Food: We ate breakfast in the Lido every morning, and lunch there on the days we stayed on the ship.. Nothing special here, but nothing to complain about either.
The real pleasant surprise for us was the quality of food in the MDR for dinner. Our expectations may have been low due to the reviews we read pre-cruise, however we were quite happy with the main courses and desserts in the MDR (the desserts were definitely better than those offered on our previous HAL and RCCL cruises). Our waiters Arnell and Wiljaya were fantastic: fast, hard working, and friendly.
Our one disappointment on this cruise was the night we ate at Nick & Nora's steakhouse. Though my wife thoroughly enjoyed her order of lobster tails, that was the only highlight of the meal. The jumbo shrimp cocktails we ordered as appetizers were very average, and the steak I ordered was definitely less tasty than what I regularly grill in my back yard. The cheesecake dessert, while large, was also very average in taste, and no better than what was offered in the MDR. Perhaps the most disappointing part of this experience was the indifferent service. Oddly, this restaurant seems to be entirely staffed by eastern Europeans. All had cold personalities and made us feel like we were a bother. This was such a stark contrast to the friendly faces and great service we received in the MDR the other six nights of the cruse. If you want a taste of Soviet block charm, this place is a must see.
Fellow passengers: Many of the other reviews had us prepared to encounter a floating Wal-mart. While you will see more than your share of tatoos during your time on the ship, the low-class louts were only about 1 in 10 passengers. As our interests and activities were generally quite different from this group, we rarely crossed paths with this element on the ship, so it was a non-issue.
Ship: As many other reviews have stated, this is a very average ship with an odd theme. As long as you know this going in, you will have no issues.
Entertainment: We enjoyed the comedians and Rakesh the magician. Singers and dancers on this ship seemed below par.
Disembark: We did the self-assist which I highly recommend. As soon as the disembark began, we were quickly off the ship, through customs, and out to the parking garage with our bags.
Overall we were quite happy with the cruise. Considering Carnival is priced lower than other lines, this was a great value and fun, relaxing time.