I will be as fair as possible here. To start, this is my fifth cruise. The first was with Carnival, then 3 on Holland America and now this one. We are both 33 years old and we decided to try Carnival for a couple of reasons. First, we wanted to see if this would be a younger crowd which is what we kept hearing. Second, for the price we were able to get a Grand Suite rather than what we would have paid for a Verandah on Holland America. That said, you get what you pay for and I will go back and touch on the aforementioned reasons later.
Suite Pros - Very nice. Clean. Hardworking room steward "Arjawa".
Suite Cons - The bed absolutely sucked! It felt as though it was sunken in and was very stiff. We were on our honeymoon and because the king bed was actually two twin beds which had been pushed together there was not a whole lot of cuddle time. There was a noticeable hump in the middle and her bed also felt as though it was sunken in.
Differences - Between Carnival and Holland, the Holland suites were a bit nicer overall and the bedding was for damn sure nicer. The bedding on Holland was so comfortable I have not ever had a bad night sleep.
Food - The steakhouse was very, very good! But to get the very good food you have to pay an extra $30 per person per night. After 3 nights of eating in the regular dining room, we went to the steakhouse and continued for the rest of the cruise because there was such a substantial difference in the food quality. Once again, having only Holland to compare to I have to say the food on Holland was better. The difference between the dining room and the Pinnacle Grill ($30 upcharge) on Holland was not that substantially different. Sure there was a little difference but not to the extent that there was on Carnival. In fact, the third night of this cruise and subsequently the last time we had the regular dining room, my wife's plate was brought out and she commented that it looked like a plate of vomit. No joke.
The other food places like the Lido restaurant, pizzaria, burrito bar, etc. were all very decent and on par with all of the other cruises I have been on. The burger and fry type places always had long lines and the food was cold both times I went.
Drinks - About the same as all the other cruises I have been on. Beer is $4-8, mixed drinks $7-11, and the drink of the day specials were always about $8. The one thing NOT ONE BARTENDER told us UNTIL THE LAST DAY was that you could take the cup from the drink of the day back up and get it refilled for a couple of bucks less. My wife said she would have gotten more had she known that but witheld becuase of the cost.
Atmosphere - The ship was great. It was clean and it was apparent they work to keep it that way. There were always people working hard to keep things nice. Decorations and that were all very nice too.
Smoke - Carnival should really consider going non-smoking or having designated smoking areas. They allowed smoking in most of the public areas. A good example of this was when we were outside on the Lido deck eating lunch only to have a people around us smoking. If you are a non-smoker, the casino was pretty much unbearable in the evening and night times. During the day it was somewhat tolerable for me but my wife wouldn't step foot in there. I heard a lot of comments about it from others too.
People - There were a lot of less than desirable people on the cruise (passengers). Some just looked dirty. I am not trying to pick on people or be mean, but come on. A little effort would be nice. I am not a hoity toit. In fact, I am a regular middle class kind of guy. I am trying to put this nicely and try to think of the best way to explain...there were several rude, obnoxious, boisterous, it's all about me kind of people who acted as though the world was owed to them. I saw several interactions with crew where some guests just treated them like crap. I even heard the race card played on a couple of occasions which I definitely could have done without on vacation. One was because a lady didn't think the guy gave her enough bacon (6-8 slices)after she had to wait for a couple of minutes for it to finish cooking. I still can't figure out how race even applies here. The second time was because some guys sail and sign account stopped working because a credit card declined. Of course it had nothing to do with the credit card and according to him everything to do with his race. Enough said. Draw your own conclusions here. I think I made my point I hope.
Activities - The song and dance shows were ok but nothing to write home to mom and dad about. I have seen better entertainment on Holland and even the first Carnival cruise I went on years ago was much better.
There was a Comedy club on this ship which was great! We went several times and had a blast.
There is also a sing along type piano bar that was always a blast too. A lot of people did this and we had a great time with Jason the pianist.
They had a lot of bingo which it seemed like the did in concert with the big shows to get more people to buy bingo cards.
Everything else was just ok. Again, there was nothing to write home about. They had scattergories, cards, and other BS keep you busy for a while stuff.
If you like art they are always trying to get you to buy too. Whoo hoo!
I am getting tired and as I sit here and reflect, I have decided that I will probably not go on Carnival again. It was an ok time but not great like previous cruises I have been on.
Like I said at the beginning, you get what you pay for and I think I will spend the extra money next time.
As for the age groups, they were not that different from one company to the other. But the quality of people varied GREATLY!
If you can handle dealing with some of the stuff I mentioned before the value is pretty good on Carnival. If not go to Holland or another line.