Having been on 13 other cruises, this was our first on this itinerary and ship. I have sailed Carnival only 2 other times and this was my husband's first time on Carnival.
Port: Drove in from south Georgia and stayed at Hyatt Pier 66, what a beautiful hotel and view! Had a tower room overlooking the pier and ships - loved it. Day of cruise drove over to Park-n-Go, great experience with them and a discount internet rate.
Check-in: Long and tedious - we arrived at the port around 1 pm. Long, long lines and no place to sit while waiting - Carnival needs improvement here. Our advice, get to the pier super early to be first in line.
Ship: I read much information in advance so kind of knew what to expect and hoped I would be ok with the layout and decor of the ship but was disappointed I will have to say with the lack of space and overcrowding in open public areas and by the rather dark and depressing (IMHO) decor. To me also, the smoking was a real problem. There were very few venues you could go to that did not reek of smoke. I have to say this I hated since we enjoy listening to music at night, so most of the time, we skipped it as my husband has alergies to smoke. One other problem was that the Circle C kids club was sandwiched in between the adult disco and casino which in my mind was poor planning. These areas should be separate from the adult areas so that the kids and adults could both enjoy their own space. One area I did enjoy was the Serenity area but it could have been larger and had its own pool rather than hot tubs to be more enjoyable.
Room: Here is where Carnival excels in my mind. We loved our aft extended balcony room. It was quite roomy with a full couch and generous bathroom for a ship. The view was great although it was full sun during the day for those of you who want to stay out of the sun.
Food: This is subjective of course but loved the anytime dining option and had a table for two every night in which we were able to still converse with those next to us (but not too close). Dining room food was good. Buffet was overcrowded and again, poor planning in design in my opinion. Food was ok but selections were not great.
Service: Excellent cabin steward team and good waitstaff in dinig room
Ports: Cozumel is always a nice beach port but this time we went to Discover Mexico and shopping on our own. It was a nice museum and worth a visit. Cost Rica, did the train/boat/bus adventure through Carnival and thoroughly enjoyed this excursion, saw lots of wildlife and had a great day. Panama, did the Ocean to Ocean train which was nice and had a tour of the Miraflores locks and a small town on the Pacific side. Most of the ones who did the Panama canal tour raved about it so I think I would do that if I were to go back.
Debarkation: Easy and fast using the self-assist. We were off the ship at 7:30 and at our car by 8:00 on the road. Would highly recommend that if possible.
Overall: I would say this was a good itinerary, great cabin but just an ok cruise made much more fun due to the nice people we met through cruise critic. Would I cruise Carnival again? Probably not....I just feel you get a much better experience all around with Royal Caribbean and will more than likely stick with them in the future - we love their ships - truly beautiful and this means more to me than I realized until this cruise.