Okay so this was my 7th cruise, 2nd and last with Carnival.
I booked with Carnival because I had some friends/family that had booked the cruise and my kids wanted to vacation with some kids their age. My family of 4 booked 2 adjoining balcony cabins instead of a suite as we wanted to have a large balcony and 2 washrooms. I was so happy we did book 2 rooms as the rooms were very tiny - much smaller than any room we have booked on RCCL, Regent and Celebrity. They didn't offer any family suites or large suites with more than one washroom so this was our only option. We booked several months in advance and were also told that if the price went down they would give us back the difference. The rooms dropped about 30% cheaper and they wouldn't give us back one penny as it was a few days after final payment (Dec 29) They did offer to upgrade us to a higher floor but they didn't have adjoining rooms. They then told us that the room we booked almost a year in advance could be taken away from us at any time as the rooms we booked were rooms for 4 ppl and we only had 2 in each room -. We told them that if they wanted to move us to non-adjoining rooms that we didn't want to sail with Carnival and asked why they wouldn't tell us this at the time of booking. We ended up keeping the adjoining rooms after hours of fighting with them on the phone - It wasn't starting off well.
We got a call the day before sailing that we should try to board by 12:30 to avoid line ups. We got there at 12:30 and it took about 1 1/2 hrs to board the ship - I guess everyone got that call - we probably should have waited till 2 to board. They let us bring on wine and bubbly and water without any questions - we actually showed it to them when we went through x ray and they didn't have any problems. We walked into the buffet to grab some lunch and stood in line for over 30 minutes to get food - not impressed with buffets to begin with but to stand and wait so long was really annoying. My nephew decided to stand in line to get a burger on the pool deck and waited 45 minutes to get to the front of the line only to hear the muster drill so they closed up and he never got his burger - oh my.
Our luggage came pretty quickly so we unloaded, changed, got a drink on the deck to watch the sail away. We had 13 in our group and gave us a great table in the Scarlet dining room with a nice water view. Our waiter was Okay but had no personality and it always took about 20 minutes to get our bottles of wine. I didn't find the staff really worked well together - there wasn't much teamwork in the dining room. We had 7 kids/teens at our table and I think it slowed him down a lot and perhaps annoyed him a little, but he was not rude. Our waiter never participated in the FUN FUN FUN stupid singing and dancing they do each night - I think they could skip that on most nights - it's overkill.
The next morning I awoke at 8:30 and thought it might be a good idea to grab a pool chair since the ship appeared so overcrowded. No surprise by this time there was no chairs left. I flagged down a staff member had him find me a crammed little spot to put a chair down for me. I threw down my towel and headed to get some food at the buffet. OMG another huge line - I wasn't going to stand and wait for food so I grabbed a coffee and reached in and grabbed a muffin and went back to my little crowded spot on the pool deck. It was this moment that I knew I was ONLY eating in the dining room or getting room service for the rest of the week.
So we did eat breakfast and dinner in the dining room for the rest of the week and it was pretty good - not great but good. We went to the steak house ($30pp) and it was well worth the money - this is the only MUST do on the cruise. I think we would've went every night if we were travelling alone but we were with 11 others. We never went to any night buffets but did have a pizza slice one night and it was pretty decent. Room service arrived on time and didn't have any problems ( I just ordered coffee and danish for the early AM)
The cruise director John Heald (not sure if I spelt his name correctly) was an absolute scream. He is absolutely hilarious - I wish he made an appearance more often (perhaps tear him away from the buffet once in a while) as I don't think I could ever get sick of this guy - funny funny funny. If you want to see this guy you better hurry as he is a heart attack in the making as he is enormously huge.
The comedy shows were really good but repeated themselves every other night. The shows in the main theatre were pretty bad other than the one show that we had to sit on a step with a pole in front to watch as the seats were gone 1/2hr before the show started. All the seats that appeared to be free were being saved for someone that was "in the washroom" Wow that must have been a pretty big washroom as there must have been 500 ppl in there - they should have the shows in the washroom if they could fit all those ppl in it. Every time a show would get out (main theatre and comedy club) there was massive pile ups. It piled up outside the dining rooms, buffets - everywhere!!!
The people in the piano bar looked as though they were having a good time - it was too full of smoke to enjoy for me personally- but Barry the piano player seemed to keep the drunken patrons entertained. So anyone that likes to drink and smoke - this would be a great hangout - its too bad they didn't have a non smoking piano bar as I felt like I was missing out.
Camp carnival - what a joke. We tried to put 2 of the kids from our group in the program and they hated it. They said it was boring and the ladies were rude. I never saw the same energy, diversity and youthfulness that the RCCL staff had, it seemed to be all bored Filipino nannies. We never got them back in there again so we had to drag them around the boat and then get one of the teenagers in our group to watch them when it got late. I never had this problem with the 2 RCCL cruises but had a problem both times with carnival. If you want a good kids club GO WITH RCCL - trust me Carnivals doesn't compare. I couldn't get my kids out of the RCCL kids club they loved it so much.
The teenagers were running wild around the ship and we had a group outside our room at 2AM banging on our door looking for our daughter. When we told them to go away they decided to start phoning. Since parents do not set a curfew for their kids I think that Carnival SHOULD. The kids were running around ALL night long - I blame this also on the parents that think teenage brains are fully functional - they're not trust me I have one!!! There seems to be more for the kids to do on the RCCL lines.
The slide - okay - nothing special. No rock wall, no surfing thingy, no skating rink, no zip line. There was mini putt, and a ping pong table but only one pink pong ball to be shared by 4000 ppl - so went it went over the side everyone was SOL. Didn't visit the gym - as I don't work out on holiday.
All in all we had a good time but the crowds turned me off, I found the itinerary to be boring and the times in the port made no sense. I will not ever book another mainstream cruise again - I would do a Regent or a Seaborne as I like the service I want to be pampered, I prefer all inclusive wine and liquor and I like S P A C E. It may cost a bit more but it's worth it.
So my opinion - if you have kids cruise RCCL. If you are not cruising with kids then go Regent or Seaborne. I'm not really sure who I would recommend for Carnival - maybe cows that like to be fed massive amount of food and be herded around like cattle.