Our vacation go off to a little bit of a rocky start considering American Airlines sent all my luggage to Haiti (despite the fact that I had a direct flight from DC to Miami). I had absolutely nothing to bring on board except the clothes I wore to the airport, my makeup, wallet, and toothbrush. Carnival worked really hard to get my things back to me and called to check in with the airline every 2 hours to get the status of the location of my luggage. They also gave me a certificate for free laundry and a coupon to buy clothes in their gift shop which I thought was really nice (even though the selection of clothing was poor but what do you expect?). My luggage was finally returned to me at the last port of call, Cozumel, on the second-to-last day of the cruise.
We booked a balcony stateroom on the very back of the ship. This was absolutely amazing! We had a 180 degree view from our balcony and it was quieter than the main long hallway since there weren't as many rooms on the back of the ship, hence there were less people walking by our room. The room was relatively small but its a cruise ship so what do you expect? We ordered room service every morning and ate it on our balcony. It was amazing! They have hangtags that you hang on your door the night before with what you want delivered to your room and the time you want it delivered. Beware: they sometimes come 10 minutes early. Also, when you book your room, look at a map of the ship and make sure you aren't above/below any lounges, clubs, casino, etc. since the noise might keep you up at night.
A lot of people have mentioned on the reviews that the ship was hard to navigate. I did not find this to be the case. After the first day we found our way around very easily.
Food: I would compare the food to that of an Applebee's/Denny's. It isn't very good at all, even in the Washington/Lincoln dining rooms. We ate at Scarlett's one night and it was absolutely amazing. The service in Scarlett's is much better than in the dining rooms as well.
Activities: My husband and I went to the casino and some of the bars each night. We also went to some of the trivia games and shows. The games were fun, but some of the shows were OK. Please note that the ship uses a satelitte (sp?) so they don't have all the channels you may want. We were in the Bronx bar (the ship's sports bar) and they did not have ESPN, only ESPN2. When everyone found that out, a mutiny broke out because everyone thought we wouldn't be able to see the Ohio State vs. USC football game that night. We were able to see the game b/c the ship ended up ordering it but I think its ridiculous that a sports bar doesn't have all the channels all the time.
Other tips/ things you may not know: 1) The cabin rooms only have one outlet so I would suggest you bring a power strip if you want to charge multiple things at a time (i.e. phone, camera, etc).
2) Ladies: Bring your own hairdryer. The hairdryer in the cabin is horrible and you have to hold down the "on" button to use it.
3) The bathrooms in the cabin only have shampoo and soap. Bring your own conditioner, tooth paste, lotion, etc.
4) They have an internet cafe called "The Web". You have to pay 75 cents per minute to use their computers or to use their wireless (if you bring your laptop). They do have internet plans like 100 minutes for $55.
5) The ship automatically charges $70 ($10 per day) to your sign and sail card for gratuities. If you want to adjust this amount up or down, you must do so at the Guest Services desk the night before the ship disembarks in Miami.
6) Booking excursions through the ship is much more expensive. While in port if you just want to go to a beach then just take a cab for $10. I would book an excursion through the ship if you are planning on taking an excursion that takes up the whole day. If you book the excursion through the ship then the ship is guaranteed not to leave you. This is not the case if you book an excursion independently. For example, in Cozumel my husband and I booked an excursion to see the Mayan Ruins at Tulum. I have seen this site on the Travel Channel and the beach at the site has been rated #2 best beach in all the Caribbean. Tulum is on the mainland and you have to take a ferry and then a bus to get there. It is a 7 hour excursion and the ship is only in port for 8 hours so we thought it would be a good idea to do that excursion through the ship that time.
All in all, it was a good trip but next time my husband and I take a cruise, we are going to pay extra to go on a more upscale cruise line.