I booked this Carnival cruise, because with a daughter in college, we had less discretionary income for vacation. We liked the itineray and decided it couldn't be that bad. It wasn't. There were some pros, like the larger cabins and food quality. But if I could rewind and do it again, I would've chosen a shorter Royal Caribbean cruise instead. For one thing, the service was lacking. The waiters at dinner filled our wine glasses with iced tea and left the bigger glasses for water. They'd serve some of our party bread, get side-tracked, then leave the others to look longingly at their empty plates. Several times they mixed up our orders, and we witnessed a server take the ketchup cup, that my nephew had been dipping his fries in, and give it to another table. Although they did improve over the course of the week, our initial impression was already formed.
The Freedom restaurant, the buffet-style place near the pool, was total chaos. People would start lining up before meal times, and it got to be a chore to go eat. The design was completely wrong for the sheer number of people on the ship. I never did get the layout of the ship, because it was not continuous and flowing. There was no regard for placement. For instance, during a delightful dinner in the Sun King, we kept hearing Thump-Thump (the gym was directly overhead); also, the children's center was right over the spa, which made for a distracting massage. It's like there was no thought put into the utility of the rooms.
Some elevators went to deck 9, but not 10 or 11. Some elevators went to 1 but not 0. I felt like I was in a Willy Wonka movie. Even though the navigating around the dining areas was a real challenge, I must say the food was exceptional and in many instances was much better than Royal Caribbean. The Sun King was the site of probably the best meal I've had in my life...and I don't say that lightly.
I did love our cabin steward and the ample size of the room. There was plently of storage space and a shower that didn't hit my elbows with every turn. A nice basket of toiletries (shavers, toothpaste, quality shampoo/conditioner) was a nice touch that I would have expected from a higher end line. The duvet cover and beds were heavenly, and I slept like a baby the entire cruise. Entertainment was a nice surprise, as well.
My only gripe is that there was not an 8:30 show every night, as we were traveling with children who loved the productions. The slide and putt-putt were hits with the kids, and I really enjoyed the cooking demo and taste samples at the Sun King. Even so, I did not feel there were enough enriching activities on board. I won't go into the ports much, other than to say they were welcome breaks from the ship. While I don't think Carnival is terrible, it is not a cruise line that earned my future business. The best way to describe it is that it's a Best Western, and we were accustomed to Hyatts and Marriotts. We got what we paid for, and for the money spent, it was a pretty good value.