2nd cruise for myself and my daughter (now 8). Prior to this cruise, we were on a Western Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean which we enjoyed much more than this one.
I think there were at least 4500 passengers on this cruise plus staff. It was claustrophobic as the public areas were about the same size as the RC cruise we took that had about 2500 passengers. On the larger Dream ship, more staterooms are put in to accommodate more people but the public areas are not large enough for this same number of people. The pools are small and there are always waits in lines for pretty much everything. Our room was fairly spacious with 2 twin beds. Lots of room to move around. It had a desk, several closets, etc. It was larger than our room on Royal Caribbean. Ship interior really nice in many areas but I thought the gold stuff with the glass colored bubbles was very gaudy and too retro.
Embarkation - very smooth and constantly flow. However, we were on board at around noon and didn't get our luggage until after 8 pm.
Activities - My daughter tried the Camp Carnival a couple of times and didn't enjoy it. She was bored. We did like the mini golf and she loved the waterslides. There were usually lines for the big waterslides as well on sea days but the wait was not horrible. I really didn't feel like there was enough to do on this ship. The royal caribbean cruise that we took (Rhapsody ship) had so much more offered. The Bingo was not offered hardly at all and when it was, it was usually only 1 game. The lines to get cards for Bingo were long and inefficient. The entertainment staff lacked. I just didn't find them very enjoyable and the cruise director was usually nowhere to be seen; he was heard sometimes on the PA system. The Royal Caribbean cruise director was always out mingling with the passengers, interacting with them, leading games in the lounges, leading games at the pool, dancing at the club, etc. The shows were okay - not as good as RC Rhapsody. Dancing in the Streets was excellent but the others were marginal. My daughter wanted a tattoo and it was $15 - seemed too expensive to me. If you didn't get down early to the pools are sea days, there were no chairs to be had. Somehow, we managed to find one by walking around alot.
Service and food - in the dining room, it was excellent in terms of the wait staff. They were very attentive, efficient and fun. We were always served quickly; however, i noticed that large groups had much longer waits. We were in the early dining - we had a wonderful table right next to the window. The bar service was slow and inefficient in the dining room but the wines were good. The bar staff on the rest of the ship was fairly attentive; however, they need more staff roving the pool areas. The food in the dining room was outstanding. Lots of variety and different menus every night. We had the buffet dinner one night and it was marginal. We did the breakfast buffet every morning. Pretty much the exact same thing every day. The omelet station was good. Lunch - we liked the Mongolian buffet - however, even in a short line, it was a long wait because the food was cooked to order. The Tandoori indian buffet was excellent. Service in the rooms was good; however, it was far less personable than on Royal Caribbean. On RC, we were addressed by name every day and the room attendants were constantly around. I never really saw our room attendants and to be honest, even if I did, there was not much conversation to be had. Their grasp of the English language seemed to be lacking.
Ports - Costa Maya was not visited due to winds and swells which was disappointing. Roatan was our favorite stop. Beautiful. We reserved our own tour with Victor Bodden Tours and were not disappointed. Wonderful service. We had our own driver, our own van and we could basically do anything we wanted. For $53 each plus tip, we spent 6 hours with our driver. We saw an iguana farm which was awesome, we went to Victor's home where he had ziplining and a monkey farm. My daughter did the ziplining for $45 and had a great time. I think she said there were 7 or 8 platforms. The monkeys were a scream - jumping on us, etc. We held several. There were parrots and deer too. He then took us to a casual restaurant for lunch (I paid) and it was native Honduran food which we wanted - delicious. The driver also had an "in" at a resort which we were able to access with no problem (although we couldn't use the beach chairs). The snorkeling was very good (just a swim from the beach)- not the best I've ever seen but we did see lots of fish - many of them good size. The shopping near the port in Roatan was very good. Belize shopping okay - I wasn't crazy about Belize. There didn't seem to be much to see. We did enjoy our Belize excursion booked thru Carnival. It was underwater cave tubing - very fun. I heard that the Carnival cave tubing excursion went into 2 caves and if you booked independently, the cave tour was only thru 1 cave. Another passenger mentioned that Cavetours.com was not good and only 1 cave (he had booked independently). Cozumel was fine. I had been there before. We went to the Tulum ruins - we enjoyed the tour. However, due to the distance on the ferry boat and then the bus, there is not much time at the ruins themselves and the beach at the ruins. We still found it all interesting though. They made a stop at a craft store on the way to the ruins and we bought some nice things - loved the stone domino sets.
Debarkation - very inefficient and long. We chose the "relaxing" debarkation at 9 am so as to sleep in. However, the loud announcements on the ship began at 6 am!!! And the announcements continued every 20 min. or so. I had a wakeup call that morning but no need to set it as i laid awake from that point on. The earliest announcements were for people taking their own luggage off (Self-Assist). I wished afterwards that I had chosen this option as I couldn't go back to sleep. On the announcements, they must had given the definition of Self-Assist at least 5 times.
While we enjoyed the cruise overall, I wouldn't take another Carnival cruise after our experience and definitely not on a ship with so many passengers.