As a first time cruiser I was a little concerned about cruising with Carnival after hearing so many negative reviews on the internet. I was also a little concerned about the destination that I would be the youngest person on the ship, we are 27. There were many ages on the ship including young children so those fears were unfounded. I had an excellent trip and there are many reasons why.
First of all the embarkation procedure went very smoothly and quickly. We arrived at the terminal building a little early as we had arrived in New York the day before and had to check out of the hotel, so when we checked out we just went straight to the pier. There was already a line-up when we arrived and many people waiting to get on the ship, therefore the posted time when they tell you when to get there must just be a guideline. They checked us in very quickly and we waited for about 20 minutes for them to call our section number to embark on the ship. Our stateroom was ready and we were able to go right there and drop our things off before heading up to the Lido deck for lunch. We stood in line and had the New York Deli for lunch that day and it was wonderful. There were many long lines at the buffets throughout the week but that's pretty standard for any vacation I've ever been on and I travel a lot. By the time we were finished with lunch our suitcases had arrived and we were able to get them unpacked in time for the muster drill. The muster drill went very quickly and we only had to have the lifejackets on for abou 5 minutes. We were back in our staterooms to deposit the lifejackets and get the camera in plenty of time to see us sail away from New York. Went right by the Statue of Liberty it was great.
The stateroom: We had an interior room on the 8th floor right behind the bridge. For this cruise we didn't feel a balcony or even an ocean view room was necessary as it was cold weather and we were sailing north instead of south. I was very nervous as I can get pretty claustrophobic however the room was large by cruise standards and more than adequate for the 2 of us. There were 3 closets, some drawers, a desk that went along most of one wall. The bathroom was also an adequate size with a shower with wonderful water pressure. The hairdryer on the other hand looked like a vacuum cleaner and I was very happy I had read that in another review and brought my own along, ladies bring your own dryer! There was more than enough space for all my cosmetics and my boyfriends toiletry items in the vanity. The elevators were quick and plentiful and we never had trouble returning to our rooms. When I cruise again however I will get a window or a balcony as I was feeling pretty seasick for the first few days and the only thing that made it go away was going outside or looking out a window.
The Restaurants: We ate breakfast most days in the Paris dining room, it was wonderful. Mustafa the Maitre D' was great at keeping things moving for the open seating breakfast and lunches. We had sailed with my boyfriends parents so our dinner table was the 4 of us. Lunch on the Lido deck was great, if you wanted grill food, hamburgers, hotdogs etc there were a few different places to get them and the grill outside by the pool never had a lineup. The buffet food changed everyday for another ethnic type of food, ie. indian, mexiccan, greek etc. It was very good, lots and lots of food to choose from. The pizza was wonderful and the 24 soft ice cream was the best part, I must've had like 10 ice cream cones in one week. Breakfast on the Lido was traditional buffet breakfast, sausage, bacon grits eggs cereal and bagels. Also good. Our head waiter and busboy, Jose and Swastika were great, knew our names and called us by name whenever they saw us about the ship. We purchased the wine package 100 dollars for 5 bottles of wine, it is awesome that they will recork your wine or let you take it to your room if you cannot finish it at dinner, very good we had to buy a few more bottles but that was easy enough. They also let each person bring a bottle of wine or champagne on to the ship on embarkation day. The service was great and I could not complain. There are a few nitpicky things that could complain about however its not worth typing them out as they did not affect my opinion of the cruise, just bear in mind that this is not fine dining as in a 5 star white glove restaurant, but service and food are great. The menu is extensive and there are many options to choose from each night. I had prime rib, it was great. Always had a shrimp cocktail with another appetizer such as cold soups, salads, and other delicious items. The entertainment in the dining room put on by the wait staff was great and on our last night they all sang leaving on a jet plane, it was very cute. Overall a great experience. Formal nights werent' as formal as other cruises perhaps but be prepared to wear a suit and tie for the guys or a dress or skirt for the girls. Every other night most people had dressed into business casual but jeans were ok as long as they werent' ripped or ratty looking.
Entertainment: Highschool like dancing but the singing was great. The comedians were hysterical and the R-Rated shows later in the night in Rio Lounge were very funny. Get there early, as the Club Rio is not very big. The hypnotist and magicians were so good and the Triumph dancers couuld use some improvement, not impressed by their dancing at all, but most were entertained by them. We went every night to the shows. Bar service is readily available and fairly reasonably priced 4.75 for a well drink or beer, even import beers like corona or dos equis from mexico. There are alot of blind spots in the Rome Lounge but it didn't impair the overall show. Jorge the cruise director was very funny and interactive and his staff of cruise fun people were great, always had some sort of activity on the go, like bingo, speed sudoku, hairy chest contest etc. There was plenty of live music throughout the ship but it wasn't obnoxious, there were quiet places to relax if you wanted to not have any noise or people. The casino was fun with lots of learn to play sessions and great contests to win a BMW or free cruise. Plenty of slot machines, only downfall is that you cannot cash out you must put it on your sign and dine card.
Ports of Call: Easy disembarkation to the ports, plenty to do, offering many tours. We didn't book a tour in Saint John New Brunswick there is plenty to do within walking distance fo the ship, same with Halifax but you should definitely take the tour to Peggy's Cove, beautiful! the day we were in Halifax there as 5 cruise ships in port as well, it was very very busy but such a beautiful city. We went to Kennebunkport Maine and were very pleansantly surpsied by the such a beautiful fishin gvillage and the house of George Bush. Gorgeous town! Bottom line most people had good experiences with their excursions. My favourite tour we did was the behind the fun tour which took us to areas of the ship no one is usually allowed, ie. the galley, the fridges, the bridge and engine control room, it was so cool, and all for 100 dollars and we got 3 8x10 pictures and plenty of snacks, even a mamosa. Would do it 3 times in a row it was so cool.
Plenty of places around the hip to get their photographers to take casual and elegant pictures taken, we did buy some and were very happy with them.
Disembarkation was an easy procedure we had our bags out in the hall by 11pm on the night before and had plenty of tim ethe next morning to eat breakfast and read for a few hours before they called for us. We had a later flight out so that's why we had so much time. If you are concerned about a flight time you have the option to do it yourself and the first people were off the boat at 7:30 am. Overall I had a great time on this cruise and I would definitely sail with Carnival again.