Summary: The management on the ship does not empower their staff to deal effectively with problems. We took two young children and our room was located (8404) on the verandah deck under Rosie's Restaurant. The main tile pathway was above our balcony stateroom and we hear carts and high heeled shoes all night long. Early or light sleepers or guest with small children should consider lower decks, a sound machine or another cruise line.
Pros: Overall ship design and appearance, stateroom size, Camp Carnival, Service Staff Average: Food in both formal dining and Rosie's, Not all inclusive by any stretch. Cons: Poor handling of guest issues by management, lots and lots of people, Overall Carnival atmosphere
We embarked on July 6th out of Miami. The embarkation process was pretty easy, we traveled with 5 adults and 2 children (3 years, and a 7 month old). I wish I had taken note of the name of the guy who helped us, but he was great. The terminal is nice and big and other than a long line after we crossed the gangway to get on the boat it was pretty nice. We did have to go to the Purser's desk to get a few issues fixed but they handled that well. We went straight up to Rosie's and had a nice lunch and then went to tour stateroom and the 3 yr old and I went on an exploration of the ship. The ship is huge and once you learn how to get around, which was not hard took about 3 hours of playing hide and seek, is very nice. We had a balcony stateroom (8404) with the extra bed for the two kids; it was very spacious for a ship and had lots of storage. My parents had the one next door and my wife's mom had an interior room a few doors down. The embarkation party was fun and we hit the pool.
We had Oleksey and Roland in the Lincoln Dining room at table 107. Right by the window! What a view! Our dinner was pretty good, everyone talked about how good the food was going to be so maybe my expectations were too high, but I (as well as the veteran cruisers in my group) thought the food was simply average. The service was great however! Olesk and Roland did a great job catering to a picky group and even made sure that they placed the food outside the reach of my 7 month old girl's octopus like reach. They always had a fresh spoon when she would drop them and did magic for our 3 year old son the nights he came (when he wasn't at Camp Carnival).
Then the night came. Having small children means we go to bed early sometimes 10pm or so. Well the first thing I noticed was the incredible noise from women in their high heeled shoes and the utility carts going around in Rosie's Restaurant above our room. It really sounded like tap dancing elephants up there. My parents next door noticed this too. It kept us up all night. When we would fall asleep, a cart would roll over and wake up the 7 month old and now the 3 year old would wake up, it was simply awful. I called the Purser's desk and of course this is a known issue. The next night there was some malfunction with an air hose in the hallway, so in addition to the dancing hippo's upstairs I had an airhorn in the hallway. I called the Purser's Desk. On Wednesday, they send a bottle of wine and some strawberries. While yummy, this gesture didn't make the kids sleep or the noise go away. I did sleep better that night after a half a bottle of wine I must admit. They couldn't move us because the ship was full. The brought my dad a fan to make white noise, still didn't help. We talked with Elizabeth and she kept mentioning that she would have to talk to her boss. This went on all week. Finally they offered us a $150 credit and 15% off the next Carnival cruise. We paid $2800 for what we thought would be a nice room. I did not receive the value I expected from this room or this cruise. My wife's mother was forced out of her room at least twice by some mysterious strong exhaust like odor, she received nothing for this. I'll go into my rant about hospitality later, on with the rest of the cruise....
The one highlight was Camp Carnival, The staff was fantastic. My son asked to go to Camp every single day and turned down going off the ship at every port except Cozumel because he saw a McDonald and wanted a happy meal. The ability for our 3 year old to have fun really salvaged the trip. As far as Rosie's goes, it is like eating at an upscale Ryan's or Golden Corral. Decent food, lots of it but I got tired of fighting the lines of people (almost 3000 guests). Get the Key Lime Pie on the first day, it is good and it's the last time you'll see it the whole cruise.
Excursions - We enjoyed cave tubing in Belize, book online before you go. We paid half the price of the Carnival trip and were with a group of about 14 and zipped right past them on the trail to the cave. We actually signed up on the dock with Dennis (wearing a white shirt) who gave us a great tour of the country. He also stopped by a little dive on the way back and I had the best chicken, beans and rice. This was the truly the best meal of the trip (try the hot sauce). Roatan was a dump but had pretty forest, you should book a canopy tour with a local cab driver. Grand Cayman was hot and Cozumel you should power snorkel - what a blast.
Don't get me wrong, we had a really nice time. I enjoyed the movies on the lido deck, walking around at night, swimming and many of the amenities of the ship. I just expect more from a hospitality company when we had such problems with our rooms. Because the staff saved the trip I could maybe recommend this to someone who likes to drink, party, and gamble and is on a tight budget. But I really do not think I could use Carnival again. Someone said it right when they said it was like the Wal-Mart of cruising, it really did feel like that. If the ship's Purser had at least given me 15% off the current cruise, I might have had a better taste, but the Purser single handedly cost Carnival my future business as well as my recommendation. In fact I think next time I will take Disney Cruise Lines for the kids or upgrade to one of the nicer cruise lines and pay a little extra. In fact I might just fly to Belize and get a house with a staff, I am sure for the money we all spent ($10,000 for 3 rooms + trips and carnival's fees) it would be worth it. Good luck! Take a sound machine and hope in line with the rest of the ship, I hope you have a good trip.