We chose Carnival because of our boys, ages 17 and 20. Our cruise was eventful, but not necessarily in a good way. The ship is very beautiful and the whole theme is the French Impressionists. The cabin was very nice and our cabin steward was a jewel. Service in the dining room was very good, but if you are ordering something to drink that isn't from the bar, your request for coffee or tea will probably lag. Anything that doesn't pry more money out of your pocket,is of little interest to Carnival. We were on the Conquest, the ship that had 17 passengers robbed at gunpoint in Jamaica. I would not recommend Jamaica to anyone for any reason. One eleven year old passenger was still shaking back on the ship telling me how one aggressive vendor grabbed her, told her she was going to braid her hair and it would be $50. This poor kid kept trying to escape and kept telling the woman she didn't want to have her hair braided and the woman dragged her into her shop and started braiding. Shore excursions were set up and paid for on the ship, but it was a 2-2 1/2 hour ride in a rickety van to the site. We were never at ease for a minute. And when one group who were white water rafting had terrible difficulties (capsized, battered against rocks, stranded on rocks for hours, and then walked out barefoot) they requested some kind of compensation or credit and Carnival refused.
Talked to several people and they were all upset at the entire Jamaica experience. I called this the "Jamaica Mistake?" shore trip. Getting through the terminal at Montego Bay was hell, arriving and departing. One large female Jamaican security guard was hitting people in the face with a rolled up piece of paper and yelling at them. I would strongly urge that anyone going on one of these Western Caribbean Cruises think long and hard before they get off the ship in this hellhole. Grand Cayman was very nice, very clean with very courteous and friendly vendors and residents. Cozumel was the same. What I absolutely hated about this trip was the unrelenting grinding of the passenger for money. The spa vultures were at you every minute and if you did book a facial or massage, forget about enjoying it because the person working on you was pushing you to buy more, book more,spend more. And they would even call you on the phone. There was the usual schlock merchandise and the second-rate overpriced art, too. If you are traveling with children, keep them out of the shows. They border on soft-porn, and unfortunately my 20 year old has a new goal, hook up with a dancer.
Because Carnival is, in my opinion, Cattle Car Cruise Lines and carries so many passengers (ours was at capacity), you can expect some impatience and at times, even abruptness from crew members and staff. When I complained about the lack of supervision in getting off the ship and expressed the idea that it was unsafe to have such a crush of people in halls and stairways and no crew to expedite or regulate the exit, I was informed nastily, "I don't know why YOU PEOPLE come on a cruise and jam up the exits like this when you are supposed to be on a vacation." I responded that since we had paid big bucks to meet an excursion, and stood to lose hundreds of dollars, we didn't get much choice. I feel for them that they must deal with so many people and difficulties, but this isn't the right attitude. Expect drunk teens and little intervention in bad behavior by passengers of all ages. One drunk, cigar-smoking dolt was accosting a pit boss in the casino and when no one helped her, my cop husband intervened. Security is there, but not strong and not very helpful. We were off the ship and through customs quickly because they allow you to do Self-Assisted handling of your own luggage. This worked well for us.
Summary: Avoid Jamaica! If you can't, stay on board. If you must go ashore, ask lots of questions about WHERE the excursion goes, HOW LONG and HOW FAR OUT you will travel. Don't expect Carnival to tell you the straight skinny though, because they were very upset that the news media got word of this robbery. And in case you are wondering, the police did track down and kill one of the robbers in a gunfight.
Our family will pay more in the future to avoid Carnival's type of experience.