This was my first cruise, which started on the 17th of Feb. 2008, and it was great and has truly turned me onto cruises. Before leaving on this cruise, I read over some reviews on this site of the same ship with the same itinerary. For the most part, I read the negative reviews, or those of an overall review of 3 ships or less. Among these reviews, the recurring complaints were on food, service, line-ups, and ship layout. I'd just like to address these first.
Food- Quality depends on where you go. True, the Lido deck left something to be desired, but was far from terrible. I'm sure a lot of people ignored the piles of fresh fruit, which was good and plentiful. The buffet was adequate, as my expectations were never too high. There were days when there was some really good dishes in the buffet though. The pizzeria was good, as was the grille which served burgers and hotdogs. I never tried the chinese food. I ate my supper at the Monet room, and it was fairly good, with some exceptional dishes. My best description of the Monet room food, is "the poor mans version of fine dining". This is in no way meant to be a insult, as the food was good, only that it was an attempt at fine dining that didn't quite make it. I never got a chance to eat the "The Point", though I heard only excellent things about it. Overall, the food was between good and great. The only reason I could see someone complain that much about the food is that their expectations were set WAY to high. Given that Carnival is cheaper than the other cruise lines, I expected average to great food. Those who complain were hoping for fine dining on a budget. I say to them, "If you're paying for Denny's, don't expect fine cuisine".
Line-ups- The line-ups were a little annoying, but nothing overly frustrating. The buffet tended to be the only place were this was a problem, which is a given since it was a buffet. Everywhere had short lines at the most. There were people waiting outside the Monet before their seating, but I just opted to come either right at 8(my seating time), or a little later. It didn't make a difference to me as I got my food pretty close to those who got there earlier. Disembarking was irritating at times, but that's to be expected, everyone wants to get off as soon as they can to enjoy the islands. So, it was really nothing to get angry about.
Layout- Yes, it can be confusing at first, but after one day of exploring, I had the run of the ship. Anyone older than 10 could probably figure out how to get anywhere after the second day. Those who had trouble by the end of the trip weren't trying and just got angry as soon as they could.
Service- I saved this one for last, as those complaining on service are full of it. Everyone that served me on this trip were amazing. The room steward made the point of introducing himself and telling me when he was available to serve me if I ever needed anything. Or room was cleaned well twice a day, which seemed a bit much, but was fine. The serving staff was ok, in all honesty, and could've been a little cheerier, but anyone familiar with the service industry can forgive them. The restaurant staff at the Monet was utterly amazing. Our waitress served us greatly, and she even made suggesting against some appetizers. I respected her honesty in this matter, it shows that our best interests were on her mind. Our assistant waiter was fun and entertaining, and showed us some magic tricks or puzzles (we kind of killed it as we attempted to unravel the tricks). The bar waitress was very friendly and took the time to talk to us instead of just serving us and leaving. Overall, I was incredibly pleased with our service, and think it was a major reason for my desire to cruise again.
AS for the rest, it was great. There were nights the entertainment was sub par, but for the most part they were great. A highlight would be the hypnosis show, and was incredibly entertaining. The magic show was good, though the delivery seemed a little worn. The Motown show was good, and if you actually liked motown music, you would've had a great time. The comedians were a little weak, but you can't really expect too much from a cruise comedy wise. I went to the Casino a couple times, and though it was a little congested, I still had a great time. The gym was ok, depending on when you went, and I preferred the whirlpool there as opposed to the outdoor hot tubs.
Overall, the cruise was great, the staff helpful, decent entertainment, could use a little more things to do while on the ship, and the food ranged from decent to great. But no we come to the complaints.....
Other Guests! Not too sound like a jerk, but I found a lot of my irritation was brought on by other guests. It was mostly people consistently complaining, or those who were rude to staff as well as other guests. I was waiting in line at a Nacho bar of sorts. The two people behind me were complaining about waiting in lines to get their food, and stating that it would be cold by the time they got back anyway. As we noticed a guest ahead of us almost finishing off the cheese sauce, they continued to complain, "and the cheese runs out before you even get there". No sooner had they said that, a staff member came up with a new bowl of cheese sauce, and yet they still continued to complain. Another incident happened as I was getting a new sail and sign card as I had misplaced mine, there was one guy freaking out at the purser's office, regarding the ship excursions. He was trying to get them to open the shore excursion office, when it was closed just because someone was in that room. It is no different than if you went to a closed store, and expected service just because someone was in there. A friend of mine who was on the cruise with me witnessed kids turning on the ice cream machine, and leaving it on as a joke. She went to turn it off, only to see the kids return to turn it back on. Parents need to realize that the ship is not a baby sitter, and they need to keep their kids in line. There are clubs with supervisors for kids, if you really want to get away. People should know that their behavior is not only felt by the staff, but other guests as well.
I won't bother getting into shore excursions, cause they differ. But I would recommend Dunns River Falls in Jamaica, and Snorkeling at the Sting Ray Bar. They were both amazing and I would definitely do them again if I take this cruise again (highly likely by the way).
So, if you take this cruise, take an open mind, and don't forget, that the staff have to serve you while you're having a good time, for almost the whole week, for 7 months on end ( found this out by talking to our bar waitress and my casino dealer), be considerate.