Our flights from Heathrow were fine and whilst waiting at Rome airport was a bit tedious, and checking in at the terminal could have been quicker, with the amount of people waiting to board it all went pretty smoothly. This was our first cruise and way exceeded all our expectations - in fact it was faultless. Our cabin was pretty standard but got a wow from us and our steward was a delightful guy from Cuba who couldn't have been more helpful. In fact there was only one slightly surly crew member during the whole 12 days. The crew were happy, helpful and did the best job ever. With regard to cleanliness, I've never seen anything so polished to perfection - no one ever stood around doing nothing, they got on a polished!
The food was in a whole league of its own. Having done another cruise since I realize just how spoilt we were. The restaurants were stylish, the waiting staff incredibly well training and the food really was without a fault. My husband put on 9 lbs, although that might have been due to the free ice-cream available right next to his sunbed which was by the adult pool.
In the evening the shows were all great and were interspersed with singers, comedians etc. We had a great evening, every evening. Particularly enjoyable was Brad in the piano bar - I can still remember his version of old McDonalds farm and the beer song! We would have liked a bit more dancing, maybe even a salsa class or two, but the disco stayed remarkably empty. Never mind, the shops were glitzy and I've never seen so many photographers in my life.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the drink prices. Had feared as a captive audience they might have been a bit pricey but a bottle of house red at £6.50 was fine by me! Bar prices generally were also pretty good.
All in all would definitely go with Carnival again. Actually would love to go with Carnival again! Very professional and thought has been given to everything to make the trip memorable. We were lucky because the sea couldn't have been calmer and if there is any criticism its that the gym wasn't very well monitored and there was a lot of waiting around for machines.
With regard to the organized trips - we only did one and in future would do our homework and get taxis, which is what we did in Istanbul and Athens - saved a fortune, walked miles and were back by the swimming pool whilst everyone else still waiting for the stragglers to get on their coach!
Thinking of cruising? Just go. Its fab!