Our family of 4 (two children; 10 and 6) were first time cruisers. We flew into Orlando on Saturday, the day before departure, as it was much cheaper than flying into Miami. We rented a car from Alamo and stayed at a hotel in West Palm Beach. In the morning we returned the car to the Miami airport and caught the free Alamo shuttle to the seaport - all quite uneventful and everything worked out as planned.
The security check, cruise check in and embarkation was simple enough but took about nearly an hour due to the long lines at 12 noon.
Our balcony cabin (highly recommended if you have kids sharing the room with you) was ready and our stateroom team was on hand to welcome us and explain all we needed to know - very helpful for first timers. The only glitch on the first evening was that our last bag did not make it to our cabin until 7pm so we could not dress for our 5.45pm sitting in the formal dining room, so we just ate at the buffet on the Lido deck - which was just fine.
On our first night we purchased Fountain Cards for the family but returned them after three days for a credit for two reasons: 1. they are only good for soda and juice and not bottled water and there are several free juice dispensers spread throughout the ship, 2. we simply did not use them on those days we went ashore.
In Cozumel on Tuesday we purchased the Deluxe Playa Mia Beach Park excursion, which includes organized transportation to and from the beach park as well as lunch and free drinks. We arrived at the park around 10.30am however many of the water toys were not set up and so we did not get much time to enjoy them before lunch and the 2.30pm departure. Overall this is a great excursion for kids but I would recommend considering the REGULAR Playa Mia Beach which allows you to arrange your own transportation via taxis (which seemed very accessible) and therefore more time at the park.
In Grand Cayman on Thursday we did the Turtle Farm, Hell and Stingray tour. This was great and we all enjoyed it very much. This was very educational and highly recommended for kids.
On Friday in Jamaica we did not book a formal excursion but rather made our own way to Dunns River Falls. This was excellent, the climb was fun and was enjoyed by the entire family. Most literature states that the minimum age is 8 years old however we had no problem doing this with our 6 year old son. In addition to the beautiful setting and craft market, there is also a nice sandy beach at the bottom of the falls.
Disembarking was easy as we elected the "self-disembark" option of carrying our luggage off with us. Our deck (9th - Lido) was one of the first to be called so we got through the customs and immigration lines promptly.
Regarding impression of the ship itself; the design took some getting used to but we soon found our way around. We ate most of our meals in the formal dining room and found the quality to be quite good. The staff did a good job of keeping the public spaces clean and organized. Our kids enjoyed the Camp Carnival activities and the program seems to be staffed with caring and qualified counselors. We found all the staff to be very friendly and helpful.
Since this was our first cruise I cannot compare it to any other but I do know our family had a great time aboard Carnival Victory and at the ports of call.