We drove to Tampa and parked in the Terminal parking deck ($84).
Embarkation was painless. Probably about a 30min process.
The ship was clean and ready for new guests. We found similar conditions as a 5/07 review of this ship in that it did not seem very crowded around the buffet. Food was not too bad - we've had better. Actually the hamburgers and fries from the grill were very good.
Someone last month made a comment that the dancers need to learn their steps so I watched closely for slip ups but did not see many. Overall the entertainment was so-so. Princess cruise was near Broadway quality. Carnival was not so great. The Blues Brother tribute was great, but I'm a big Blues Brother's fan. But the Cruise Director Chris played the part of John Belushi which was kind of a let down.
We went to karaoke a few nights but was filled with a lot of talking and downtime.
The dinner meals were very good but some nights we seemed to be rushed by the staff. Not one night did ANY staff member call any of us by our name.
We did the Sting Ray Snorkel tour in Grand Cayman on Tuesday. I held a 3ft stingray in my arms! I booked it with "Capt. Marvin's Watersports" (referred by a Cruise Critic - $39ea vs $80ea with Carnival). They took us out for two snorkel stops and a stop at the Stingray City Sandbar. It was great.
On Wednesday we just shopped around Cozumel. It rained off and on and was not much sun. We were not impressed with the sales pressure from every vendor walking way out from their businesses to lure in patrons. They drove us crazy! We stayed a couple of hours and went back to the ship.
On Thursday we did Cave Tubing in Belize (booked with cavetubing.com - again from Cruise Critic - $49ea for two caves vs $99ea for one cave with Carnival). That was a blast! Same experience as practically every review I read from CC. Yhony and crew treated us like royalty.
Friday we did our souvenir shopping in Costa Maya. No excursions here. Vendors were a lot more relaxed. It's incredible how much the vendors mark up their products! I overheard a vendor negotiating a price of a large wooden Aztec calendar - about 4ft in diameter (which were everywhere). The price started out at $1000USD and by the time the customer walked off, the vendor was down to $480! I bought one that was about 1ft in diameter that the vendor started out at $85 and I ended up paying $30. Bottom line is, if you are willing to walk away, the vendor will go down.
Our steward always had our room clean and tidy but again NEVER called us by our names. Our TV volume would always get louder after an announcement from the ship PA which was annoying. But traveling with three women (my wife and 2 daughters) we were NEVER short on towels - I guess our steward Lufti picked up on that:).
One thing we hate about cruises - why can't they serve iced tea that tastes like iced tea in the South? The tea on Carnival tastes just like the tea on Princess - like it was almost soured or extremely strong. Some nights it even burned my throat! Oh well...with lots of Equal sweetener I could get it down.
Even with experiences that were lesser quality than Princess, overall it was a great trip. I sure all of us agree that a bad day at sea is better than a good day at work!