Embarkation and Debarkation were very smooth we did "walk off" and liked that they did it by floor - made it fast and civilized...
We were pleased with our balcony cabins - on the port side of ship
forward on the Lido deck. During a warmer time of year on this cruise I
would choose starboard because you do get sun most of the day on the
balcony. There was some motion but nothing unusual but we do not suffer
from motion issues. It was quiet having cabins both above and below.
The location on the Lido deck was excellent - no fighting for an
elevator to get to pools, buffet, etc... Also there are self serve
laundry facilities on this floor.
Food was better than expected - we came in with low expectations and were pleased with the food. It's not Disney but we thought food was as good (though not as much selection) as what we have enjoyed on royal caribbean and the level of dining room service was also comparable to RC. Unlike others experiences the steaks we were served in the dining room were cooked to our order and tender and enjoyable. The buffet food was standard buffet fair, not the best, but much better than having to feed the family myself. I was impressed with the availability of good fresh fruit throughout the cruise. We did do the Emerald Dining Room for $60/couple. We were one of a few couples present the evening we did it. That meal on land would cost more than the $60 you pay but is not the wonderful deal that RC's upgraded dining is at $20/couple additional...The service was attentive but also not at the level of our dining experience on the RC Liberty of the Seas which was truly phenomenal.
Camp Carnival was wonderful! The kids had a great time and I was very pleased with the variety of crafts and activities that they had planned. Having an 8 and 10 year old they were not in the same group which actually turned out to be a plus as they enjoyed each other more when they were not in camp. There were not that many kids on board as we sailed the first week that school was back in January - so I do wonder if it would be as fun when there are many more kids there during high season.
We were pleased with our cabin and the overall cleanliness of the ship and cabins.. Seemed like a fair amount of effort was put into keeping things clean and disinfected. I liked that they had the hand sanitizers at the end of the buffet lines but would love it if they would make it more mandatory like on Disney. I heard one older man boasting to his friend - I don't use those and I don't wash my hands - and no I don't think he was joking around.
We didn't do many activities but enjoyed the comedian, the marriage show, and another game show. We were disappointed that they only had one little sports bar showing the BCS National Championship. I do not understand how a ship built in 2003 cannot have big screen tvs. We asked at the pursers desk and spoke with one of the entertainment staff member but apparently the only "big screen" is in the amber palace where they do the evening shows. Even the sports bar just has a whole lot of smaller tv's - they also showed it on like an oldschool 42in tv at the casino bar and people were stacked 3 deep. We would have had a better viewing experience in our family room... The ship is smoky - smoking is allowed pretty much everywhere - the sports bar where our 10 year old would have liked to play sports trivia games available and watch sports on tv with Dad was also one of the cigar smoking areas so we stayed out. Overall the facilities did not seem well designed for a ship of it's size - it seemed like a rabbits warren of little bars which always seemed to be vacant. It would have been nice to have some larger more useable facilities like a good size sports pub...
Also the pools are small - there are 3 and they are about the size of a good size FL resident backyard pool. Our kids didn't bother. And yes if you want a lounge chair get up early and go throw something down. We usually went to breakfast 7ish and there would already be many chairs with books etc marking that they were taken. Overall value - it was cheap and I think a very good value for the money. We actually had two cabins on this cruise but I think next time we agreed we would rather just have one cabin but go on a larger ship with more and better designed public spaces.