Houston/Galveston - One important thing that you must be aware of if you are flying in is that Hobby is MUCH closer to Galveston than Bush International Airport. Also, all rental care agencies are not open on Sunday in Galveston. The problem with this is if you fly in the day before you have to figure out how to get to the port. If you rent a car for a Sunday departure cruise (Conquest), you then have to rent the car for 2 days and leave it in the parking lot of the rental agency - then have a taxi meet you there and pay to get to the port. We ended up renting a car at the airport, spending the night in Galveston in a hotel that offered free parking and keeping the car there while we sailed. We then had to taxi to the port from the hotel and taxi back to the hotel afterwards. We stayed in Houston on that day and returned the car to the airport before our flight. The cost of renting a car for one week was the same as the $40 per person cost for a one way shuttle ticket to Galveston and the cost of a car for the day before and day after. I highly suggest that you spend some time figuring out what to do before and afterwards in regards to transportation if you are not driving to the port. The two nights in a hotel and rental cost us over $400.
Embarkation - Galveston has the strangest method that I have ever experienced. We arrived around noon to check in and then were placed in a holding area line that snaked around and around within the port area. We were there at least a half hour at a standstill. We then waited in the line to get our picture taken and to board. I have departed out of Vancouver, Port Canaveral and Miami before and have never experienced this.
Food - I think the food on Carnival ships is pretty good. I think your feelings about this really has to do with how you eat at home. For our family, a night at TGIFriday's is a nice night out. We have gone to fancier places, but don't often go due to the cost. My expectation is for something better than a chain restaurant, but don't expect high priced dining when over a thousand people are being served. I have never had anything I didn't like at all and you can always send things back and try something else. If you are a ribs lover you have to order them. They are offered on two nights on the alternative dining menu. You get a ton and the meat falls off the bone. They are some of the best I have ever had. My favorite dish was a vegetarian meal (I am not a vegetarian and have never ordered one before so this says a lot!). It was the Phyllo pouches. It was filled with beans and corn and the sauce was amazing. I highly recommend it for someone who likes southwest egg rolls. The filling is very similar and the phyllo dough is somewhat like a wonton.
We never at breakfast in the dining room. The buffet choices were more than adequate. The omelet line is always lone so best to have one person wait while the other rounds up the drinks and other food items. You can order eggs at the station as well. We went to the dining room once for lunch and it was all right - wouldn't bother going again probably. The grill and buffet were fine on the other days. We always ate in the dining room for dinner and enjoyed ice cream and pizza quite often over the course of the week. Remember that a pizza can be ordered if you are willing to wait about 15 minutes. It is worth it if you are picky and don't want what is hot at the moment.
Service - Excellent! Everyone went out of their way and made our trip great. We really enjoyed our dining room waitress. She was from Bulgaria and her husband worked as a waiter in the same dining room. She was behind one night and he came up to help her. They were really cute together.