From our experience, the key areas where Carnival falls dramatically short of delivering their services are:
1) THE CREW: Overall, Carnival crew members simply do not care about their guests. The general attitude is that they are just there to do the minimum of their jobs. There are a handful of crew members who did seem to care but they are unfortunately grossly outnumbered. Even the purser's desk personnel repeatedly gave either wrong information or no information. They were generally not helpful at all even though they are the primary source for information/help on the ship. We even found some crew members in very customer-facing roles to be flat out rude. As noted on other reviews as well, many of the crew members do not speak English very well. We love the international experience yet firmly believe that if you are interacting with the public in a service industry, a mastery of the primary language is a must. We also agree with other reviewers that the Carnival crew members do not do anything about the very loud and overpowering guests. They blatantly disregarded signs at the pools and hot tubs yet Carnival employees did nothing, even when it was quite clear that guests were disturbed by this. While we all certainly want to have fun, we are also looking to Carnival to keep some order, enforce their own 'rules' and help all guests have a good and relaxing time.
2) THE FOOD: I'm not surprised by other reviews that state there was an outbreak of stomach flu. The food and the serving stations were flat out disgusting. We definitely enjoy our share of high-caloric food. However, the quality of the food was incredibly poor. The lowest quality buffet near your hometown would have outshined the majority of the food. Furthermore, even though we were in the tropics, fresh fruits and vegetables were nearly nonexistent. We ordered the grapefruit and orange slices multiple times in the dining room and each time received a total of four tiny slices each about one inch long. It was truly pitiful. Weren't they embarrassed to serve this to their guests?! Also, if you're interested in a chocolate fountain or a famous midnight buffet, this is not the cruise for you. The only 'decorations' were hunks of carved cheese with fake flowers stuck in them behind the buffet. The same 'sculptures' stayed there all week and were quite disgusting by even mid-cruise. There weren't any Purell stations anywhere, which led to very gross buffet tongs etc. I would not be surprised if many people got sick during or after the cruise.
3) THE ENTERTAINMENT: While better than the crew's attitude and the food, the entertainment was generally poor. One comedian was okay. The rest of the acts were tacky and pretty much a waste of time. The cruise director was entertaining when he appeared but otherwise was MIA. Even the purser's desk said they could not reach him or let us know where he would be when. The 'entertainment crew' was also generally MIA. The deck 'games' were completely lame or non-existent. No 'not so newlywed' game or other cruise classics or any new, innovative games/events. The decks were generally just filled with loud, obnoxious guests and Carnival pushing overly-expensive drinks. Also, the magician was incredibly unprofessional by actually getting angry at the audience when he could not convince someone to be a helper during his show. If he is going to have audience participation, he needs to be professional enough to handle possible 'rejection' and to have a plan B not to get mad at people who have paid to be on a cruise and receive entertainment. Also, despite several events being listed in the Carnival Caper (published and delivered to your stateroom daily), the events did not take place. We spent our cruise going to different areas of the huge ship to attend events listed in the Caper that did not happen. When brought to Carnival's attention, they were quite disorganized and no one took ownership. Very unprofessional and just led to even more dis-satisfaction (and wonder on how this company remains in business). What was good? The ports and the shore excursions. We loved being able to visit so many ports in only one week. Waking up at a new island each day (with no 'sea days') was fantastic! Those running the shore excursions were all professional, well-organized and personable. Our favorites were the aerial tram ride over and through the rain forest in Dominica and the trip to the wildlife reserve in Barbados. Note that there are very few 'green monkeys' at the reserve though. The fun part was the 4x4 wild ride through the sugar cane fields! Thank you for reading and happy cruising!