My hubby and I are fourth time cruisers and his big idea "Hey, let's take the kids next time" turned into quite a project. Our two kids and their spouses joined us, as well as our four year old grand-daughter. So we had one couple in their late 50's, one "double income no kids" couple, and one young family (my son in law is NOT an experienced traveler) Everyone said the enjoyed the experience and all said they'd do it again.
We chose Carnival for the destinations. One couple are Scuba divers and wanted to do the reef, and the rest of us were done with school and just wanted WARM. We went through our local agency (a bit of a mistake) and had Carnival arrange the air travel (a BIG mistake!!!) Would you believe they booked us on a red-eye on the way there and a flight schedule that took 20 hours and was on U.S. Airways on the way back? NEVER AGAIN will I let Carnival book my air travel. And if I'm ever offered a U.S. Airways trip, I'll take a train!
We did some things wrong if you listen to experienced travelers. We booked the Caribbean at the wrong time (sorry most of us are teachers) and then booked late dinner seating (not reported as family friendly). And we booked all our excursions through the cruise lines (to keep my hubby from going nuts getting everyone back to the ship on time and make sure they didn't "miss the boat". All of our "wrongs" turned out to be fine. The excursions were fun and very well organized. The weather started out a little stormy but turned beautiful, and the dining room staff could not have been more family friendly. If anyone has Vernon and Silvia in Truffles second seating, tell them we miss them!
The best part of the trip for "the oldies" was seeing how many experiences our grand-daughter was having, and how she was becoming a seasoned traveler. She swam with dolphins (Xcaret was a great as a "whole family activity") swam with sting rays, touched turtles, got her pic taken in "Hell", had a monkey on her head, a parrot on her shoulder, and danced with the staff nightly. She enjoyed Camp Carnival, and our only complaint was that they were very restrictive about who could go there with her. Very few "parent included" activities and no whole family included. We actually really like the kid, and most times weren't looking to get rid of her as much as keep her entertained. Anyway, if you're thinking of taking your grand-kids on a cruise, my advice is "do it!" You'll all enjoy it.
On the whole, Carnival turned out to be a good choice for us. The food was, as has been said, spotty in it's quality, a little small in quantity (get over it, just order double of some stuff if you're a big eater). But we weren't looking for a gourmet experience, just a good family time. The supper club seemed "snooty" and not at all the service we expected but the food was excellent. Not sure we'd do it again, though.
Excursions--- Skip the "snuba" (do a helmet dive instead) Do the dolphin experience (spendy but worth every penny) If you do the "pirates, monkeys and parrots" do the "Jolly Roger" it's longer and includes more. and be sure to leave some time for "Margaritaville" (which was even fun for the four year old!)
Mostly, just relax and have some fun. Remember if you want white gloves and caviar---don't do Carnival. It is a fun ship, but you need to RELAX!