A little background information on us so you know what our perspective is based on.
This was our first cruise, husband and I are in our early forties and have typically vacationed at various islands in the Caribbean at all inclusive resorts in the past. We like to both relax and have a very good time while away from the office!
We used Galveston Limo for our transfer from the airport. They picked us up at Bush in a tour bus and then off to Hobby to pick up 40 more people prior to getting to Galveston. Of course we were the very last ones to be dropped off at our hotel so the transfer actually took about 4 hours. We were not happy. I will say however that upon calling them and complaining they did refund 1/2 our fee with no problem. For that they get a good rating.
We stayed at the Super 8 in Galveston. Excellent value vs. cost. Within walking distance to a liquor & grocery store, where we pre-bought a good bit of libations to take on-board. (no problem, all came to our room in our luggage un-touched).
Arrived at the port at 11:30 and there was a small wait - we were on board sipping Rum Punches in about an hour. Very smooth process, no complaints.
We had an inside cabin on the Riviera deck and I will say for all you first time cruisers - I thought it would be tiny - it was bigger than I expected. Yes, small room but certainly enough room for us both (and my husband is 6'5"). Plenty of storage space - large enough bathroom, he even fit just fine in the shower. Room was better than we had expected. Never saw/met our room steward however whenever we returned to our room it had been made up, restocked with ice, towel art & mints every nite, etc. Very satisfied.
The ship itself is very nice, funky layout but clean and well decorated. The staff really makes this ship. Every single staff person was there to provide whatever you needed at anytime. Everyone smiled and really gave us the impression that they were there to ensure we had a fabulous vacation.
We did not participate in very many of the events, however, the ones that we did were very good and enjoyable. The Hairy Chest Contest and the Not So Newlywed Game are not to be missed.
The food was not quite what we expected, based on other's reviews we thought it would be more of a 5 star dining experience, and we did not agree that it was. We put the "we only paid under $1000 for us both for the whole cruise" perspective on it and were then very satisfied. The breakfast buffet was good. Breakfast in the dining room was far better. Lunch has a good variety and was always tasty. We did both the dinner buffet and the dining room and they were both good. Waiters were excellent - once they knew what you wanted the first night - it was always there waiting for you when you came back. Again, fantastic service. Late nite snack options were good and room service was good. Overall we'd give the food an average but will rate it better based on what we got vs. the price we paid for the cruise.
Ports were all awesome - we loved Jamaica and had a beautiful day at Margaritaville, Grand Cayman was beautiful and Cozumel was fun. We did the Sail, snorkel and Beach Party excursion through Carnival and it was a great time. Spent the rest of the day at Senior Frog's and Carlos & Charlies so we were "real" happy when we got back on the ship.
Debarking: Awesome! Very smooth process - we did self assist, took the Carnival transportation back to Bush and were at the airport by 11:30. Very nice.
Miscellaneous info: The cruise critic members suggestions of bringing a night light, over the door shoe holder and extension cord were right on. Thanks much for that! Folks on board were a good mix of young, middle age and seniors. Everyone we met was fun and friendly, good mix. Very few kids on board during this cruise which is what we were hoping for as school is still in (we have 3, they stayed at home). Drinks are a bit pricey but worth it, they had a good kick.
Basically we have nothing to complain about and Carnival left us very satisfied. We missed being on an island but when we do cruise again, we will look up Carnival first. They did a fantastic job to ensure we enjoyed our vacation - and so much so we would cruise with them again for sure. We're not much for doing the same exact thing twice so next time we will do a different ship/different port.