My wife and I take one or two cruises a year. This was out seventh cruise together, but our first Carnival cruise. At first I was a bit apprehensive about a Carnival cruise because of the "Party boat" reputation of the past. I tried to keep an open mind and booked it because of the great price.
We live in Georgia, so we drove down to Miami and arrived about 1pm on the day of embarkation. The line was long and it took us about an hour to get on board. It was expected because of the time we arrived. (We usually arrive by 11am and get right on at noon). The embarkation process was very efficient. We got to our stateroom by 2:15pm and all our bags showed up about 5 minutes later. We were very surprised at the size and cleanliness of the room (inside stateroom deck one). The bathroom was the largest we've ever had (I just knew that the shower curtain was not going to stick to my butt this time). There was plenty of closet space for our stuff. The room was set up the way we requested (beds together).
We dropped all our stuff and went to the Lido deck for a cup of coffee. The buffet was in full force. We just had coffee and some cookies. There was plenty of seating.
After the usual muster drill, and sail away routine, we did some exploring. The ship was beautiful, very clean and well maintained.
For dinner we always go to the dining room to be served (after all we are on vacation). We were assigned the Lincoln dining room late seating (8:30). We needed to see the maitre d' because we were traveling with another couple and wanted to be seated together. It only took five minutes to get a 4 person table reassigned. Our waiter was Anthony (from India), he was very attentive and one of the best we've ever had on any cruise line. The food throughout the cruise in the dining room was just incredible. That is not easy for me to say because I was raised by a gourmet chef and I'm also a gourmet chef, although I don't do it for a living. We never had to send anything back or request something else. I was very impressed with the portion size, quality, and presentation of all the meals.
We ate at Rosie's diner (the Buffet) for lunch most days. You MUST try the Fish & Chips (upstairs from the buffet) it's the best kept secret on the ship.
We ordered room service for breakfast everyday. They were very prompt.
The nightly shows were Las Vegas quality. The comedians were very good. The midnight Adult only comedy shows were also very good. The casino was very spacious and well laid out. They had lots of slot machines from $.02 to $5 a pull. Many of the slots were selectable as to what amount you wanted to bet $.02, $.05, $.25 $1 and up. You would select whatever you wanted. They also had coin less betting, this was a "players bank" that you would put money into and could play on any machine in the casino without cashing out and carrying around buckets of coins. If you had any winnings you could save it to your "Players bank" for future play. On the last day you can cash it out at the cashier or apply it to your Sigh & Sail account (if you had anything left). I saw many winners on the slots $300, $500, $2000, and one guy even won $8000. So I would say that the slots were fairly loose. They had all the usual table games, Blackjack, roulette, Craps, and an automated Texas Hold em' table. I'm a craps shooter, and the craps table was always packed and was hot every time I played. I won a total of $90 on the craps table during three one hour secessions.
All the public rooms were spacious. We did use the HUGE Winston's Cigar Bar nightly (I'm a cigar smoker, and don't want to offend anyone with my smoking).
In Nassau, Bahamas it was a short day and we just shopped and went to Atlantis for a few hours. The straw markets were easy to negotiate a good price in.
Service onboard was great; there was someone to help you when ever and where ever you were.
In St. Thomas we did a snorkeling excursion Captain Nautica's Ultimate Snorkel Expedition $75 per person, 3.5 hours only 20 people per boat (only 2 boats). We went to two dive sites, one was a sea turtle area with lots of friendly turtles, and the other was a reef with lots of sea life and coral. We loved it and would do it again. It was not crowded at all.
St. Maarten we shopped, we've been to St. Maarten 5 times and love this island. (the best place in the Caribbean to shop, my opinion)
The disembarkation process was the easiest we've ever had. Because we drove down, we opted for a late disembarkation, and waited in Winston's Cigar bar for our number to be called (I needed to smoke my last Cuban anyway). We were off the ship by 10:30am, and through customs by 11.
Overall I was thoroughly impressed with the Carnival experience, so much so that I took them up on the $100 future cruise deposit. It was a $100 fully refundable deposit paid now for any future cruise booking within 18 months. In turn you get a $100 onboard credit when you book any 7day or more cruise ($50 OBC less then 7 days) anywhere Carnival cruises.
I now have a new Favorite Cruise line.