This was my first cruise and although I don't think I'll go on another cruise because it simply is not my type of vacation, I will try to provide a balanced review for those die-hard cruisers out there! I think I might like something with less people, less lines, less tourbuses, and better food and wine more.
Stateroom -- very spacious with a lot of storage space. Loved the cute towel animals every night. Bought the book and went to the seminar so I can now make them at home!
Food -- The Pacific Dining Room for the most part served good to acceptable food. Some nights were better than others. Our waiters were fantastic. The Lido deck buffets were mostly acceptable. Nothing great except for the homemade danish (they are worth the calories). Long lines on the Lido deck no matter what time of day! Woeful, woeful wine list and wines served by the glass at the bars tasted like they were opened weeks ago! The kitchen tour is well worth attending -- it is an incredible operation.
Entertainment -- Most of it was not my type of entertainment. The comedian, Anthony Acosta was very funny. I did not like the Las Vegas style dancing and singing shows. I thought they were very cheesy. Good singers and dancers that could have been showcased much better. Jazz group was pretty good. The Asian cover band was not bad -- they played a Santana set one night that was really good. The Calypso band on the Lido deck was pretty good. The music was geared to an older crowd. Hardly any music from even the past 4 decades was played. It was mostly 50's, 60's.
Activities -- The Karaoke was lame. The guy who led the sessions was not engaging and was not able to get the audience excited. Other activities were geared to older people. Arts and crafts was making sun visors -- that seemed like something geared to first graders! Dance classes were disco dancing. Who does that anymore??
Staff -- All the staff were great. Stateroom guys anticipated our needs. Dining room waiters -- fantastic. However, we never saw the maitre D. Malcom the cruise director is very funny and should be a standup comedian.
Cleanliness -- The ship is spotless. As one of the other reviewers said, there must be elves taking care of everything.
Decor -- Beyond horrific! It is kitshy Las Vegas all the way (I have never been to Vegas, but I am confident that I would hate it!) There are royal blue foo dogs in the casino, a gigantic resin fish hanging outside the dining room, naked mermaids all over, sea horse barstools, a huge statue of Neptune. The Ionian Lounge is done up in a fake greek style, another room is done up in a classical composer format. The state rooms harken back to 1985 -- mauve, peach, etc. Horrible, horrible, horrible. I don't know who designed the interiors, but it seems every design principle they may have learned in school was violated.
Excursions -- Very good. Boston and Cambridge tour was very interesting -- our tour guide was a Boston native and extremely knowledgeable about architecture, history, Harvard, etc. We had a wonderful dinner at Fanueil Hall. We did the lighthouse tour in Portland and visited three very interesting, different lighthouses. Again, the tourguide was engaging and knowledgeable. We had a great lobster roll in Portland and the waterfront shopping district was beautiful. St. John -- Hopewell Rocks tour was excellent -- definitely the highlight of the cruise. Another very intelligent, funny tourguide. We stopped for lunch at a ranch and got to eat some local produce -- fiddlehead ferns and goosetounge (a seaweed-like grass). We stopped at a town called Alma on the way to the Hopewell rocks and on the way back to photograph the tide differences. Amazing! The Hopewell Rocks are an incredible geological phenomenon not to be missed. If you go all the way to St. John, you must go there. The last excursion was "Valley and Vineyard" tour in Halifax. I really enjoyed this. The first stop was the oldest winery in Halifax. The wines there are very nice -- varietals you've never heard of before and several wonderful icewines. We then had a gourmet lunch in a small village -- it was one of the best meals of the cruise. Lobster frittata, apple pie, a wonderful chowder - mmmmm! The last stop was an artisan cheese making operation in the country. We got to sample more wine and tried the various cheeses they make there. This was my favorite tour because it was not on a giant tour bus. Only about 20 people went on this excursion. I did not like the big tourbuses and the numerous restroom and giftshop stops.
Spa -- I had a facial and was very satisfied. The spa staff are very courteous and competent.
Overall, Carnival is a good value and a nice vacation if you want to get a flavor of a few different ports. If you like to eat, there certainly is plenty of food. There were two full days at sea on this cruise which is attractive to people who like to relax. If you want upscale atmosphere, food, wine and entertainment, you might want to spend more and cruise with a different line. Carnival is a budget line and provides a good experience for the money.