This was my seventh cruise--fifth with Carnival and it was once again wonderful. I was traveling with my "adult" children, 18, 21 and 23. My son & I shared a balcony cabin on the Lido Deck (once you've had a balcony, there's no going back) and my daughters shared an inside on the deck below. Board the ship early--they let you on as early as 11 or 11:30 most of the time, although the rooms aren't ready till 1:30. If you wear your bathing suit and a coverup, you can go on board, have lunch, and sit by the pool until the rooms are ready. Our luggage was there by 3, and some even by 2 p.m.
For dinner, we always take the late seating and are never disappointed. This way you can take your time shopping, doing excursions, or just sleeping in, eating late lunches and then have a snack to last you till dinner. Some nights the late seating has an early show at 7, so you need to be ready then, other nights you have till 8:15 to get dressed and the show will follow dinner. There's even time for a short afternoon nap if needed to refresh for dinner after a long day of shopping!
We always eat in the main dining room instead of at the buffet for dinners. My family likes to eat together and have waiter/waitress service. Our serving team of Maryna and Nelson(?) as well as the bar waiter, Jonathan were wonderful. Very informed about food choices and one night our steak was received well done instead of medium and they were taken back without a problem and new steaks arrived within 5 minutes, perfectly cooked. We had lunch one day in the formal dining room, which was nice, but most days were either at shore or we ate at the buffet, which always has a nice selection. Being from New York, I love the deli window where you can get pastrami, corned beef or reubens perfectly made. They have an "Asian" window as well as all the daily buffet items, and of course, there's always burgers, fries and pizza selections daily. Two days we ate breakfast at the formal dining room and the other days ate at the buffet where you can always get made to order omelettes, bacon, eggs and pancakes as well as all the other fruits, cereals and goodies.
We enjoyed most of the entertainment, except for the second "adult" show with the hypnotist. Most of the volunteers were not able to be hypnotized or weren't cooperative, so it put a damper on his show, because he had so few people to work with. The first night he did the family show was much better. Carnival puts on wonderful singing and dancing shows several nights during the cruise, and the last night is the Carnival Legends show where your fellow cruisers who tried out at karaoke earlier in the week, put on the show dressed as Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Gloria Estevan, Aretha, etc.
The casino crew is extremely friendly, especially if you take the time to talk with them. The dealers for Black Jack get to know you, and are very appreciative of even small tips from players. They have a fun Black Jack tournament which costs $20 to enter and you get $1,000e and have seven hands to parlay it into the most money you can earn. Your totals are recorded (you don't keep the winnings) and then winners of that round proceed to finals rounds and the big winner gets $500. It was easy to find $3 tables the first night, and on most subsequent nights there were many $5 tables. The smoking is the only thing that bothers me in the casino. I wish it were smoke free like most other public areas of the casino, except for designated bar areas.
Unfortunately, we also made use of the infirmary. My 21 year old ate at Margaritaville in Orlando the evening before departure and started having stomach troubles that night and the day we boarded the ship. It seemed under control by that evening and part of the next day, but came back with a vengeance mid-day on the second day of the cruise. We went to the infirmary and we were treated wonderfully. She had to record all food she ate for the previous three days including all Carnival food. They take a stomach flu very seriously when 3,300 passengers are in close proximity of each other. The good news was that the infirmary visit, all the medicine, plus in room movies and room service were all going to be free. The bad news was that my daughter was quarantined in her room for 24 hours. Her card was blocked so that she wouldn't be able to leave the ship and go to shore, or purchase anything with it on board the ship for those 24 hours to try to restrict her moving around. She wasn't able to leave the room anyway, and sure enough, with the medicine they distributed and not eating anything heavy for the one day did the trick. All the crew we came in contact inquired about her absence and welcomed her back to activities when she returned.
Two tips I would like to offer are: there are fountain cards available for sale from any bartender. The cost is approx. $38 and it's good for unlimited sodas or waters for the cardholder the the whole cruise. We always buy at least one because we're big soda drinkers during the day. You can actually use the card for more than one person if you go to different bars and get one soda at a time, but when you're at dinner, and they bring a soda, only those who have a card aren't charged for their drinks. Unsweetened ice tea, lemonade and water are always free on the ship, 24 hours a day, and there is at least one coffee/tea bar open all day and night as well. I usually like to get a hot tea before bed and bring it up to my room and sit on the balcony in my pjs and watch the stars. The second tip I'd offer is to carry your own luggage off the ship if you can manage it. I'd only do this if you have one big bag and one carry on per person. Some people tried to manage two wheeled bags and it was too much, especially if the elevators are backed up on debarkation day and you have to carry the luggage down the stairs. We were allowed to leave any time after the earliest debarkation people, which was anytime after 7:30 a.m. We had a relaxing breakfast at 7, returned to our room and retrieved the luggage and walked off the ship by 8:30 and were in the bus back to Pt. Canaveral by 8:45 a.m. I wouldn't suggest this for the elderly or those traveling with small children who can't manage their luggage by themselves. In the past we always had to put our luggage outside our door by 11 p.m. the evening before and only walked off with a small carryon piece, but this was sooo much better!
In all, we had a great time. Butch the Cruise Director, and his assistant and staff members Daniel and Dan, Cory and all the others were great and very enthusiastic. Our cabin steward "Kan" was silent but perfect, and never intrusive. Already started working on a huge "friends and family" cruise for next summer--with Carnival, of course!