Background - this is my 7th cruise (6th on Carnival) traveling with my cousin who was my cabin mate and our mothers who shared an ocean view on the upper deck. We were on Riviera in an inside cabin. We are in our mid 40's with our mom's who are in their 60's.
Embarkation - We drove from central IL to Mobile the day before and stayed at a Comfort Inn about 100 miles north the night before. The drive was uneventful and I was thankful that it was an option (about 13 hour drive). Embarkation in Mobile was the worst and best experience I have ever had. The port there is ridiculous with the entry being just a few feet from the main road thus we waited in a long line starting at 11:30 down side streets for over an hour. Once we actually got to the port terminal it was a breeze. Entry is on the bottom floor of the parking garage so we dropped off the luggage, parked and headed inside. It only took about 5 minutes to pick up our keys, get our photo taken and be on the ship. Our room was available at 1:30, but our luggage did not arrive until after 6PM.
Food was your typical Carnival fare and the menu was exactly the same as it was when my husband and I cruised the year before. I am a picky eater and don't do fish and seafood so a few nights I got the vegetarian entree and it was pretty good. I do not recommend getting the veggie lasagna unless you LOVE spinach. My mom and I ordered it and scraped most of the spinach out of the layers and had (not kidding) over 3 cups of cooked spinach in our bowl along side the lasagna which still had spinach in it. No other veggies - just spinach. The deli in the back of the lido deck buffet was good as well as the pizza. The grill items and the Mongolian side are definitely the best choices at lunch time. The other stuff seems primarily over cooked or leftover from the night before. Desserts were usually pretty good and of course - you can always get ice cream.
Entertainment was great. We loved having John Heald as our cruise director he did a wonderful job as well as Amy, Calvin, Luke and the rest of the staff. Luke used to be Dina from Housewives of New Jersey's personal assistant so he got a lot of questions about the show and was kind enough to answer them. According to him, Danielle is just as nasty in person as she is shown to be on television. The universal lounge balcony is HORRIBLE. Do not think about watching anything from up there. The pitch between the seats is not staggered so you can see beyond the back of the person's head in front of you. Unless you are in the first row or standing, you miss everything. Seats on the main floor are saved over 30 minutes before a show starts so it messes up your night if you want to attend something and actually see.