Background Info. My party consisted of three adults (me, age 34; my mother, age 62; and my brother, age 42). My brother has a significant developmental disability and lives with my mother. About three times a year, the three of us take a trip. My mother's goal is to make sure my brother has the opportunity to see and do a variety of things. This was our third cruise, my fifth. It was our first with Carnival. We booked because the timing was good, the price was great, and my mom wanted to see Mexico.
Embarkation: Smooth, very smooth. We arrived at 11:00 and were on the boat by 11:30. Food was available on the Lido deck: here's a tip...don't stand in the line when you first see the cafe. Walk in, look around. There is a deli and a pizza stand that no one had discovered. I got a freshly grilled sandwich and a pizza and visited the salad bar long before my mother got through the line.
Stateroom: We had an ocean view stateroom. The rooms are spacious. Plenty of room and closet space for the three of us. Cabin steward was very good.
Dining: The first day, we requested our own table. That night, we dined with another couple (at our original assigned table). The service was very slow. The head waiter granted our request and we had our own table for the rest of the cruise and the waiters were excellent, very prompt, very courteous. The food was good. I would say "on par" with RCCL and Princess. Lots of choices. I prefer the "spa" food (lower calories and fat, etc). All three of us enjoyed every meal.
Spa: Exercise classes were good. The gym was well equipped. As with every cruise I've ever been on, the spa services serve as high pressure sales pitches for skin creams, gels, vitamins, etc. Know that going in, say no thanks and don't feel guilty about it.
Entertainment: We enjoyed the musical shows. We didn't participate in the late night activities. We did play "win a cruise bingo" and I won!!! We then went to the casino and won about $20. That all happened on Thanksgiving day, so that really made the cruise!
Shore: We didn't take any prearranged shore excursions. That was fine in Key West. You can book a trolley tour directly with the people on shore and its fine. BEWARE: In Calica, if you don't book an excursion, you'll be sorry, or at least we were. We had to stand in line for a taxi from the boat into Playa Del Carmen for 2 hours in the hot sun, then pouring rain, then mugginess. Horrible!!!!!
Disembarkation: Smooth, easy. Caught a cab back to the airport, no problem. Summary: Carnival Cruise Line met our expectations as a quality cruise line. I was a little nervous, had heard some negative things about crazy party crowds. Yes, there was a party atmosphere, but I think that's true of any Caribbean cruise (at least the one's I've been on). The cruise director and staff are a lot of fun, the service is great, and people really do win :) Overall: Good value for the money.