This was the first time my family and I had cruised Carnival as we have always cruised Princess. I went into this cruise because the price was right and really having doubt about Carnival. However, I am happy to report that Carnival far exceeded our expectations.
First things: Embarkation was, by far, the easiest we have ever experienced. We arrived at the ship at 12:30 and were on the ship by 1:00 pm. While our room wasn't ready, we went and had some lunch. Our cabin was ready by 1:30 and luggage arrived shortly after.
Our cabin was great. We had a balcony with a queen (king) bed, one pull down from the ceiling and a convertible bed/couch. I think the cabin layout is superior to Princess cabins. The bathroom was bigger and there felt to be more walking room.
Food: The buffet was excellent but we ate in the dining room most evenings and were glad we did. We had wonderful service and felt the food was as good and in many instances, better than on other lines. The entertainment in the dining room was a bit corny for me, and I could have done without the waiter serenading and dancing. Chocolate melting cake was to die for.
Entertainment - By and large, better than other cruises. BIGGEST ISSUE: CIGARETTE SMOKE. There were many great bars and clubs plus what appeared to be a nice casino. However, the smoking in the casino was so heavy that I refused to go in there. Also, the smoke from the casino overflowed to the promenade and areas near the casino. We really loved the piano bar but was run out of there because of the heavy smoking. The ship offered non-smoking bars, but I really wanted to go to the piano bar and the casino. Carnival needs to consider non-smoking nights in the casino and alternating nights in the other bars. Non-smokers are as equally heavy gamblers as smokers. They won't get any of my money with all this smoke.
Ship: The ship was very pretty, clean and well maintained. The outdoor pool was a bit too small for the large number of guests, and getting a lounge chair is almost a full contact sport. However, the activities on the ship were great for our family. Not too much but kept us engaged.
Children's Activities: We had our children, age 12 and 10. They have been on 5 previous cruises and they thought the activities on this ship far exceeded other cruise lines. They had parties, late night activities and dances. Great for parents too.
Ports: Cozumel and Grand Caymen were great and we will return. Ocho Rios was less than enjoyable - I enjoyed the falls there but the constant hassling for tips wears me out. I won't return.
Disembarkation: fast, easy and painless. Port of Miami knows how to get it done.