I am the matriarch of the group, and have been on 20+ cruises with a variety of cruise lines. This was my fifth Carnival cruise and the second Carnival cruise with the whole family.
We booked directly with Carnival six months in advance and used their Price Guarantee program. By my checking in with them every couple of weeks, we were able to save quite a lot of money by the time the cruise rolled around.
Ten of us ranging in age from 5 to 67 went on this cruise.
We flew in from various states on the day before and stayed at the Comfort Suites Miami North. This was an excellent choice, and I would highly recommend staying here pre-cruise.
We had three balcony cabins on the Empress Deck, mid-ship, which we thought were perfectly located.
Our cabin steward kept the rooms clean and neat, and responded quickly to any requests we had.
Four kids were in different age group kids clubs, and each one gave it a thumbs up. We couldn't drag the 5 year old away, and the two teens stayed out late most nights - "hanging out."
We all agreed that our day in Cozumel was awesome! We chose to go to Paradise Beach, which had tons of "swim toys" out in the water, good food, comfortable chairs, and a beautiful pool. Check out their website. Taxis are readily available both ways.
Five members of our group took the Carnival Shore Excursion Beginner's Scuba in Roatan, and said it was a great experience from the reefs to the service.
The Not So Good:
In my opinion this was the least attractive and decorated of any ship I had been on.
In general, it seemed to me that numerous cutbacks in staff had been made since the last time we cruised with Carnival in the summer of 2012. Beginning with Embarkation, there were only three staff members available at the registration desk for each long line of passengers. The lines moved much too slowly, resulting in waits over 45 minutes.
Our three dining room servers were run ragged, and we did not feel like they gave us the attention we had in the past. (Putu, the specialty drinks server, did provide us with lots of laughs!) It was very perturbing to hear an announcement over the microphone each night that there were, "fifteen minutes left to re-set the tables." When the food from the dining room arrives slowly, we are still eating dessert and drinking coffee at this time.
Similarly, our cabin steward looked exhausted and appeared overwhelmed whenever I saw him. He forgot a few items on some days, but he did bring them quickly when asked.
The Shows/Entertainment: On the main stage, the eight member cast showed dancing and singing skills. However, they were way overshadowed by the gigantic, digital background screen and high volume music.
The Food: Well below par, from over cooked/burnt hamburgers at Guy's, to tasteless items on the buffet. In order to make more money, the dining room menu features four entrees to upsell each night. Although I am not a big eater, the portion sizes have been decreased - some of the men (although not large) ordered two entrees per meal.
We used R&G Shuttle service to take us back to the airport on departure day. I would recommend them.
Based on these cruise experiences, I would not sail with Carnival again.