Embarkation - We arrived at the port at 11:30 and were on the Lido Deck eating lunch by 12:30. Very easy, no delays, but it was getting crowded on the Lido Deck as we finished lunch and headed to our rooms around 1:30.
Rooms - Our room was very spacious, and everything was great except the mattress. It felt like we were sleeping on a futon - Carnival says in their ads that their mattresses are extremely comfortable, but ours was NOT.
Service - Our steward was almost invisible, but responded to my written requests quickly. He kept the room spotless and the cooler full of ice - don't know how he did it without us seeing him in the halls!
Casual Dining - We at breakfast at the buffet every day, and alternate lunches between the buffet, the hamburger station and the deli station. Everything was really good, with the exception of waffles. If they can make omelettes to order, you'd think they could make waffles instead of serving dried out triangles.
Formal Dining - We chose Your Time Dining, and never had to wait except on Elegant Night for about 20 minutes. We really enjoyed not being tied to an early or late dinner, as well as meeting different servers and table companions. One night we ate later than usual (around 7:30) and missed the waitstaff performance. Make sure you catch their "show" - it's amazing that Carnival can hire people who can flip burgers, serve elegantly, AND sing and dance, too.
Activities/People on Board - Most of the activities centered around the pools, which were crowded all the time except during the evening. The only activity we really wanted to see was the Ice Carving, which was cancelled due to a brief, but windy afternoon rain - pooh! We ended up spending most of our time outside on Deck 3, on both sides of the ship near Guest Services. It was shaded and quiet, perfect for reading and snoozing.
Smoky Areas - We never smelled smoke in our cabin, although we could smell it sometimes in the halls. We found routes through the ship to avoid going through the bars or casino, and never had any issues until I tried using the Internet Cafe. Unfortunately, it is open to one of the bars and so smoky I couldn't even log onto the computer and had to leave. Too bad you can't use a computer on this ship without subjecting yourself to cigarette smoke.
Overall First-Time Cruiser Impression - This cruise was a very different type of vacation for us, and we most enjoyed the endless food and great service.