We sailed with Carnival about two years ago to Canada. Since we were bringing our children we decided to go to the Bahamas.
Overnight stay: We drove from Virginia Beach the night before and stayed at the Marriott. My husband had checked into other hotels that provided free parking for those cruising but opted for the Marriott and parking at the pier. Although the parking was $15/day it made for a very simple arrival and departure...I think it was well worth the money so we didn't have to deal with shuttles to and from the hotel.
Embarkation: This was actually a simple process compared to when we embarked on our cruise out of NYC. We arrived at the parking area around 1045 to drop off our bags...very simple process. We drove around the block and parked near the entrance to wait until we could park. We were let in around 1110, parked in a covered, secured warehouse type building (although I believe those who arrived later parked outside). Getting through security was quick and easy. We were on board by 1230 exploring and eating lunch.
Luggage/Stateroom: Most of our luggage arrived by about 1:30 with the last bag arriving around 4:00. Our stateroom had a queen size bed and two pull down bunkbeds for the kids. With the beds pulled down it made it slightly difficult to move around...but we weren't in the room often enough for this to be a problem. The bunkbeds had a safety railing to keep the kids from falling out. Our stateroom steward was efficient...kept the room stocked with fresh towels, turned down the beds and provided our nightly towel animal:) He did not take the time to get to know us....as compared to our first cruise where our steward would take a few minutes to chat with us when he saw us. Again, not a big deal since he did take care of our room and we never had to ask for anything.
Dining: We signed up for the early seating at 6:00 and since we had the kids didn't want the hassle of bringing dress clothes for "Elegant Night." We did not eat dinner in the dining room on the first night since we were out on deck while pulling out and the second night was Elegant Night. We did eat in the dining room our third night...and our 10 year old loved the Chocolate Melting Cake...he made sure we ate in the dining room on the remaining nights just for the dessert! The food in the dining room was good and it was nice to be waited on for some of our meals. But, we were not necessarily impressed with the service in the dining room. It wasn't terrible but compared to the couple right next to us, they were usually done eating 30 minutes before us even though we were seated at the same time and gave our order at the same time. Food throughout the ship was good...we are not picky eaters...the 24 hour pizza bar was great, lots of pizza variety, this same bar served omelets in the morning. Breakfast was good with lots of choices. Loved the salad bar at lunch at dinner.
Camp Carnival: Our 10 year old was signed up for Camp Carnival. We were under the impression they would have more opportunity to play video games and watch a movie or two...this was not true. There was lots of singing, dancing, crafts and one show (which seemed a bit risque for young children). Our son was not into the singing, dancing and crafts:) The Camp closed during meal hours and there was an additional cost if you wanted your children to stay past 10:00pm. In the end he had just as much fun hanging with his parents.
Club O2: Our 15 year old disappeared most of the time we were underway. He seemed to have a good time and stayed out late most nights. He said he had a good time...but it's always hard to tell with a teenager!
Waterpark/Pool: I have read other reviews about the pool being crowded...this is definitely true...and it's a very small pool. There were also two hot tubs marked "adults only" but they always seemed to be crowded with children. This wasn't a big deal to us since I certainly didn't want to be in a hot tub when it was 90 degrees! The waterpark was fun. There were two "racing" slides and the big twisty slide. We had fun on the racing slides and it was a good way to cool off without having to get in the pool. Our 10 year old had a good time here and we were always able to find a deck chair to keep an eye on him and join him for a slide or two when we got hot.
Debarkation: We were on the Riveria deck (second one from the bottom). We chose the self check-out (you take your own bags). Debarkation started at 6:30 with the higher decks. We thought for sure we wouldn't be off the ship until 10:00. Amazingly we were in our car and on the road by 8:30.
Overall this was a decent cruise and our kids seemed to have a good time. Carnival is definitely not a fancy cruise line but if you're looking for a fun and relaxing time without spending an arm and a leg then Carnival is a good choice. We're already planning to take the 12 day Med cruise...without the kids!