I did not like the boarding process. Upon arriving before noon, in reality I was on the ship in a comparable time to other cruises, but we had to stand up the entire time, meandering from one long line to the next. Not ideal to say the least, and my least favorite boarding thus far. We began to notice some service type deficiencies from the beginning. The room stewards in the halls seemed to think they owned them. If you were walking down the hall, and they were dragging a vacuum cleaner behind them, you had better move to the far edge or you would get hit! Total disrespect for the customer IMHO. This was not an isolated difference. It seemed as though most of the staff did not want to be on that ship working. We have not noticed this on any other cruise.
The dinner service and food quality was adequate, but not good. As I had read on other reviews, the Head Waiter I did not see until the last night of the cruise. Things quickly headed downhill with the morning and lunch main dining area. The service and food quality was substantially below average. One day at lunch the server brought out cold, stale bread. I asked for him to bring us some fresh bread, and he said "No. This is what we have." I said, "Excuse me?" He just looked at me. Unbelievable! Several lunch meals the food came out extremely greasy. This included both chicken and fish dishes. One morning at breakfast my wife asked for pineapple and watermelon for her fruit selection. The server responded that only cantaloupe, orange slices, and honey dew melon would be served. I just laughed, and he just looked back at me. Again, unbelievable IMHO.
We enjoyed our stop in Cozumel as it is one of our favorite stops (be sure to shop at the Los Cincos Soles store downtown). Unfortunately we missed the ports at Costa Rica and Panama as my wife, and them myself, came down with a truly horrific stomach bug. Now I understand this could happen on any cruise ship, but for us it was too much of a coincidence it happened for this first time to us on our first Carnival cruise.
Not all was bad. We enjoyed the fitness area, which had a great sauna room and shower facility. The spa area was the highlight of our cruise as we attended a great seminar by Jamie, and a few great treatments by Natasha. We enjoyed a great steak at the Sun King specialty restaurant, and the debarkation was the smoothest and quickest we have had.
In summary, our first encounter with Carnival was disappointing, and although we were expecting a drop in the overall experience of the cruise in comparison to our previous due to research and reviews, it still was quite below what we expected. It will be our first and last cruise with Carnival. We will be glad to get back to a ship where it feels like they are glad to have us aboard and want to make our vacation a memorable one.