Carnival cruises are inexpensive to begin with, and a couple days before sailing they called me an offered me a very reasonable price for an upgrade. That was fantastic! Be aware that they make their money off of alcohol, photographs, and the casino, but that's fine as you really have control over how cheap you cruise.
I felt the food on the Elation (sailed 2/2005) was fantastic and the food on the Victory (2/2009) was almost as good. The Conquest had a very similar menu to the Victory, but the quality seemed slightly lacking in some dishes. It occurred to me that they want you to splurge on the "supper club" restaurant for fantastic steaks and lobster every night. Sorry, no. The food was good enough in the main dining room not to resort to the supper club, but I had to wonder if they made an effort at deliberate mediocrity in hopes that people will seriously consider spending the extra cash. Most of the food (the chilled soups, the fish, and the fruit) was quite good, and the service was near perfect. Apparently, Carnival cruisers gain an average of five to fourteen pounds during a voyage, but I don't think I'm typical because I stuck with the "Spa Menu" for the desserts. I'm a junk food addict, but their lower calorie (made with sugar substitute) desserts were very satisfying. However, I can see how one can gain weight as the servers are happy to let you sample more than one appetizer and order more than one dessert.
The problem that marred a day or two of the trip was the Maitre' D's fault. We had great dining companions on the first night, but we received a note in our cabin the next morning saying that "per our request" we now had a private table in the other dining room. That made no sense, and we went to guest services to correct the error. Guest services called the Maitre 'D to allegedly correct the error and put us back at our original table. However, there was now a big family sitting there who knew a large group of people at the next table over. It was not a mistake at all. The new group had requested that they get our table, and the Maitre 'D complied (People we spoke with speculated he was bribed) and we got kicked out. I think it's bad policy to inconvenience seven people on behalf of eight people, but that in itself was not a big deal. The problem was their inability to communicate. They made it very confusing by claiming that WE requested a private table, and then guest services had been given no clue that it was not an error, but in fact a deliberate re-seating. Sure, it's fine to re-seat us, but they should have explained the situation instead of lying, and they should have asked us what our preference would be! It would have been very disappointing had we not reconnected with the people we met the first night, and Ante, the Maitre 'D, received the only complaint on my otherwise glowing comment card.
That incident was frustrating, but the trip was still wonderful. The entertainment staff members were funny, creative and friendly. The bartender, Nicoleta, at the quiet wine bar could not have been sweeter. The casino dealers, the stewards, the salespeople in the shops, and the wait staff all seemed interested in making sure you have a good time.
Other than that, the room was nice, well-lit, and clean. The halls (on Deck 2 anyway) weren't too noisy, the fellow passengers were friendly and seemed happy, and there was a fair amount to do (like trivia contests, art exhibits, karaoke and listening to live music) that didn't have to involve any drinking.
Overall, it was a lot of fun, and while the desire to see somewhat exotic ports that Carnival doesn't often serve may steer me away from them in the future, I would be more than happy to sail this ship again.
On the other hand, the water in Grand Cayman is miraculous. The greens and blues of the sea are like nothing I've seen elsewhere. (Okay, yes, I've seen the incredible "Caribbean blue" in Aruba, St. Thomas, and Cozumel, but it still was more than fantastic in Grand Cayman.) Holding a baby loggerhead turtle at the Cayman Turtle Farm and petting tame stingrays while snorkeling are experiences I don't think anyone would forget.
There is some shopping in George Town, but I think the main thing to enjoy is the water. So yes, it's stiff (although not unfriendly) and has a slightly fake feel, but spend most of your time in or on the water, and you'll have made the most of your day in Grand Cayman.
The part of Jamaica I saw was actually very beautiful. I don't think it can quite compete with St. Lucia or Dominica, but the mountains and the abundance of flowers and lush palm trees made me think "gosh, this is a nice place." I've heard that Jamaica is extremely poor, but there was only a little evidence of shanty-town poverty in the area we passed through. Of course, the touristy areas are going to be kept up, but I've been to India and Rio de Janeiro, and the poverty I've seen in the Caribbean (although I've never been to Haiti) seems much less devastating. Still I was happy that Carnival invited 150 underprivileged Jamaican kids to spend the day on the ship and give them a free show. I'm also now interested in giving money to Jamaican charities and helping groups like JFLAG (homophobia in Jamaica is a problem) because it seemed like such a great place in so many ways. One thing I noticed was that every guide we had on that tour sang a song, and that's something I've never experienced elsewhere. I'm happy I didn't stay on the ship.