If you are the sort of person that likes entering a hairy chest or a belly flop competition then this is definitely the cruise for you, especially if you are female. However, if you like dressing up for formal evenings and elegant refinement I suggest you look elsewhere.
We had been staying at the Embassy Suites, we are a family of four, me aged 54, my wife and two teenage daughters 14 and 17. The taxi ride to the port was a doddle and we arrived about . However, the boarding was the longest of any of the 3 cruises we have taken. In total it took 2 hours to board and by the time we had examined our balcony cabins we found it was too late to have lunch because of the lifeboat drill.
We had two balcony cabins and they removed the partition so we ended up with one big balcony where we generally ate our breakfasts. The cabins were spacious and clean. The beds were comfortable and we requested and received feather pillows for which the staff get bonus points. The decor is in typical Carnival style gaudy and way over the top but overall the cabins can't be faulted for anyone used to a Marriott level of hotel.
Speaking of over the top, the Bacchus Dining Room is in magnificent bad taste decorated in deep purple with pictures of nymphs and casts of large bunches of grapes. The food was generally of good quality but was over salted and usually warm at best. This is a problem I have noticed on the other two cruises. Service was fair to good but we did find the forced jolliness of the waiters a little tiresome. The last 3-4 nights the staff in the dining room danced and sang towards the end of the meals; again this is a feature of many cruises but personally I just find it embarrassing. Formal nights were not very formal: only 10-20% of the men wore tuxedos and many made do with sports jackets.
The Lido deck served a wide variety of menus including 24 hour pizza, burgers, hotdogs and ice cream. In addition there was a deli sandwich bar, a sushi bar and one section where there was a different cuisine each day. Generally the food was good but there was quite a lot of queuing and at busy times it could be difficult to get seats.
On several days Jane and I had a formal sit down lunch and as so few people took this option it was quiet and very enjoyable. Similarly, afternoon tea was served on 2 or 3 days and this was oasis of refinement compared to the rest of the fare.
Overall the formal entertainment was of a high standard and as good as any ship we have been on. Of particular note was the juggling act and the dancing and singing was very enjoyable. The second show was at allowing the late sitting to have dinner first.
The daytime activities consisted of quizzes and some very silly events such as the previously mentioned hairy chest competition. Overall, the activities were not very highbrow but, in fairness, most of the passengers were very comfortable with these sort of competitions.
Speaking of the passengers most were from New York and were mainly young to middle aged families with children. There were very few older people and it is plain that the staff and activities were geared to this clientele. There were very active children's and teenage programs and again few would find fault with the activities.
The ship visited San Juan, Tortola and St Thomas; so much has been said about these ports there is little point discussing them. However, unless you are very wealthy get off the boat and arrange tours with the locals that will be waiting just outside. These cost a fraction of the cost of the Ship's tours.
From day 1 onwards you are bombarded with advertising trying to get you to buy jewelry and art. Again this is typical of almost every cruise and you may be persuaded to pick up a 'bargain'. If so you may be interested in some penny shares that I can sell you at a very attractive price.
In contrast to the previous cruises disembarkation was relatively civilized and as non-US citizens we left the ship at about . This allowed us to have a leisurely breakfast in the cabin and pack our last bag without the pressure of previous cruises.
In conclusion, this is a good value cruise, the rates being much cheaper than Royal Caribbean or Princess. The cabins are excellent and the food is reasonable and comparable to the others. If you are on a tight budget this is very good value in the summer holidays and outside of July and August represents excellent value.
If you are a 'fun' person then you will love the cruise as there are a huge number of opportunities to really let your hair down and enjoy yourself.
If you are looking for quiet refinement then you would best look elsewhere as Carnival don't specialize in 'refined' at least not in the Caribbean.
Finally, to put these comments into perspective we have booked a Mediterranean cruise with Carnival next year. This is on the basis of the incredible value for money that they offer. If prices were equal we would probably have chosen another line but you can't ignore the value for money at Carnival.