Embarkation in Galveston was OK, but a bit slow. Outside the terminal, traffic was moving and the porters were great. There was ZERO problem finding help unloading bags and moving inside. Lines in the terminal were long. We got there at 1:00pm and the wait was over an hour to board. Terminal was hot with some areas of ventilation, but standing in line was uncomfortable. Wife started having low blood sugar problems from standing in line so long. She asked a Carnival employee for a chair. Recognizing she was having a problem, they quickly moved our family of four up in line for earlier boarding. I'm sure some people were there for 1.5 hours or so. Boarding personnel were efficient, friendly and very helpful.
Baggage arrived at our room quickly. We went straight to our cabin and the first bags had already arrived. 8 bags, nothing got lost! All 8 were in our room by 3:00pm. Outside stateroom cabin with balcony, 7th deck level, aft section starboard. Cabin was neat, PLENTY of storage in drawers & cabinets, under bed storage, no problems. I didn't expect to have enough storage space for my wife and two preteen girls to unpack makeup, clothes, all sorts of things... but there was. We never lacked for storage space. You can comfortably slide all suit cases under the bed after unpacking.
I highly recommend decks 6 or 7, aft section rooms. Take the elevator up two floors, you are at the Cezzane buffet restaurant, pizza restaurant, Bistro or aft pools & hot tubs. Go down to decks 3& 4 for the Monet restaurant. It's an ideal location.
We chose Conquest for the Circle-C club, the new outdoor big screen movie theater, their facilities for teen activities and children's programs. We weren't disappointed, but there are still a few minor issues Carnival needs to work on. First the good news.
Cezzane restaurant was great for morning buffet breakfasts, lunches and quick snacks. There is an oriental foods window where they will wok prepare a variety of Asian dishes, springrolls and they serve good wonton soup. There is also a deli window, where they will prepare hot or cold sandwiches to order. My wife fell in love with their hot reuben sandwiches. The pizza bar was nice, with good variety and the pizzas were always hot and fresh. I tried the Ser Mer seafood (2nd floor Cezzane) twice and it was suprisingly good. Their fried fish & chips were delicious. The restaurant seating was plentiful, with seats normally available at the windows. I really wish Carnival would serve a fruit punch at Cezzane in addition to the lemonade and tea. It wouldn't take much of an effort, but would probably be a big hit. They served coffee, juices and milks in the mornings, hot chocolate was nice. I have no complaints about food quality or quantity.
We had early seating in main dining room Monet. The wait staff was the best I've seen, suprisingly excellent service. I sailed with Carnival and NCL before and had high expectations for service, but they topped it all. Congrats to Gonzalo and Aung for making our dining experience the best on the boat. Food was top quality. I was especially impressed by selection of appetizers and entrees each night. The breads got a little repetitive. The napkins were folded in a different style each night, the restaurant itself was gorgeous and you get a great view of the ocean from Monet. The waiters put on a different show each night, with singing and dancing to popular songs. Monet was fun, the food was great, service was impeccable... I loved it.
Shows were a mixed review. I liked Point & Click, the first song & dance presentation at the theater. My wife liked it at first, but said it was a little too long. It was only an hour. I think it was mostly lack of good ventilation in the theater... it starts feeling a bit stuffy after a while so she got restless near the end. So did I. The dancing was top rate. I watched the first part of the MoTown review, but left by the 3rd song. I love the early MoTown music, but somehow the show just didn't do anything for me. The magic show was great... but does everything have to include a BOX? The magician was very talented and the backup dancers really helped make the show... but every single new trick involved a box. Something appears in a box, dissappears from a box or whatever. Some very good tricks, but perhaps a sphere or pyramid shape would help add some variety. The rest of the shows were pretty good. I especially liked 'legends'.
The poolside theater was beautiful. Laying out on lounge chairs on the deck at night watching the movies, with nice sea breeze blowing was enjoyable. The bartenders on forward deck were outstanding. It was nice to sip a well-made pina colada while watching the show. Carnival really, really needs to rethink the popcorn though. $1.50/bag at the seaside theater... it's pretty hard to make popcorn bad enough not to be worth that... but somehow they managed. No butter, little flavor, sometimes a 5-10 minute wait for popcorn that was not worth the wait. I would have been far happier paying $5.00 for a bag of buttery microwaved popcorn.
On to Teen activities now. Carnival really should pay attention to this. Circle-C activities for 12-14 year olds were well organized and kept our daughters and their friends entertained all week. However, there were a few kids who wanted to cause trouble.. sitting on tables, tipping over chairs, breaking things, throwing things, cursing, etc... . These SAME few kids would get kicked out of Circle-C 3-4 times per day! How can security manage to kick someone out, then the same person returns again in 1/2 hour to cause more trouble... multiple times. Some of these same kids hang out in the library, where they caused almost an equal amount of trouble. It's always the same 5-6 kids... no consequences, no parents getting involved, always able to return to the same spot within an hour to do the same things again. My daughters had fun at Circle-C, but often they had to leave when trouble makers showed up. Sometimes it was good they left, because everyone who stayed there would get in trouble (and kicked out). Security really needs to re-think how they handle this, because it can ruin the time for kids who want to have fun and be good. If Carnival made X-box 360 and Wii and Playstation games available 24-7 for 12-14 year old teens... it might provide a distraction from trouble making. The alpha-males would tend to gravitate towards the shooting games. Whatever Carnival does, either security wise or alternate activity wise, they need to do something different. Catch & release doesn't work with teens.
Cabin was clean, balcony view was great. My wife and I spent every night on the balcony before bed. You could watch the ocean, catch a nice breeze, relax. The balconies aren't too big or too small, just nice for 2-3 people to sit and relax.
You could sometimes hear some kid running down the hall, but rarely. Overall, the rooms were quiet and well maintained. I loved the room service response. Call them and within 15-minutes or less your order arrives. Room service personnel were outstanding. Housekeeping kept up admirably and the towel animals were just an added pleasant suprise each night.