Embarkation - no problem, fill out your paperwork in advance on the net, you're good to go. Expect lines, but they move rather quickly.
Cabin - we had balcony cabins on Deck 6, near the midship elevators. Great location, close to everything - since this ship is soooooo large, a central location makes it a bit easier to get where you want to go.
Cabin service - excellent. Dala from Thailand was very good. We always tip the steward a little extra at the beginning of the cruise, it helps if you want or need a little extra service.
Food review - Dining Room (we ate there every night) was fine. A couple of nights the menu was a somewhat ordinary, but the others were good. We had the 8:30 seating (I'll never do that again), and so were pretty hungry by the time we got to dinner. We asked our waiter (Juice-man) if he could bring us the cheese plate usually served for dessert as an appetizer. No problem, mon. We thought that the overall food quality was superior to Royal Caribbean, (last year on Enchantment), inferior to Holland America. (2 yrs ago)
Lido Buffet - Imagine 1500 people all wanting to eat at the same time, and in various lines, jostling each other, etc. Not my favorite memory.
Music on board - My one squawk was about the on-board music. I know that Carnival wants to appeal to a wide range of tastes, but really, most acts were nothing more than talented people singing along with computer-based tracks. The 'reggae' band, the couple (sax and girl singer) in the lobby, all singing along with computers. They had a very good soloist/pianist (Julie from Toronto) we enjoyed, but overall were disappointed in the music offerings. Don't even ask me about the guy in the piano lounge constantly banging the Steinway and hardly ever completing a song. Ecch!
Shows - only saw one, the Frank/Sammy tribute. Typical cruise line fare, but well performed. There were no 'name' entertainers on this cruise.Carnival does a fine job of enhancing their revenues. Constant selling of products and services, shore tours, etc., in the daily activities guide and over the speaker. And does Steve, the cruise director, know how to speak into a microphone in a normal tone of voice? He spend the entire cruise yelling at us several times a day.
Port calls were fine for us. We wanted to stop in Colon so my friend could look for his old Navy housing and work site. We were fortunate to locate an independent cab driver who worked for the Navy years ago, and knew the sites we wanted to visit. He did a great job showing us around and we had no problems at all. Spent a fair amount of time at the Gatun locks. Total cost for the day was $40 a couple.
Costa Rica, we asked our waiter for a good restaurant recommendation in Costa Rica. He recommended the Reya restaurant at Plata Bonita. About a $10 cab ride from the port. Very nice. Very nice indeed. Saw a couple of the ships crew there as well.
Cozumel is Cozumel.
We met a woman as we were leaving Panama who had paid $160 EACH for her 3 kids, husband, and herself for the Carnival shore tour. Carnival does want to protect their guests, but we thought they used scare tactics to sell shore tours in Costa Rica and Panama at hugely inflated prices.Debarkation was a breeze.
Overall, a very nice time onboard, wouldn't go on such a large ship again, but we received a good value for the money we spent.