This was only our second cruise, but I've done more research than Clark Howard so I still would like to say that I'm somewhat of an expert at least on getting a good deal if nothing else. I work in the airline industry so we get some killer deals on some of the weekday and off peak cruises. My wife and I have cruised alone twice now. We plan to take our kids on the next one, so this review is strictly for couples and not families since we didn't experience Camp Carnival or anything like that.
Tips on Booking: I usually look at the rates at vacationstogo.com then once I see a good price I call Carnival directly for their interline (airline rates). They also have Military, Police, Fire etc, so you should always ask them about that if you are in one of those categories. We saved about 70 bucks per person with the interline it was only 209 interline inside cabin and the port fees were only 35 a person so this was a steal.
Parking and Embarkation: for a 4 day cruise parking was 60 bucks. We walked right up to the terminal in 5 minutes time. I was told that those that stayed in hotels wait up to an hour and a half to get a lift so its definitely worth it to park on site. Make sure that you are in the parking lot by 2pm because otherwise they have to shuttle you from somewhere and that will make it a pain when you return. The line was about 40 minutes long, which wasn't too bad, so nothing special here it rained so there wasnt much to it.
Cabin: We absolutely LOVE inside cabins because you can sleep so well! I will say that the cabin was very very clean, and our steward was on the ball. We were on the Embassy level which was very convenient to everything so that was nice. We are pretty clean so I felt bad for some of the party cabins where people were slobs but we are easy.
Food: The food was good at the Sit Down Breakfast Lunch and Dinner. The Buffet food was pretty good, the panini's were a big hit! The Key Lime Pie was the best thing ever! They only had it on the first night but on the last night our Waiter surprised us with it (it wasn't on the menu) so that was a great surprise. I got a coke card and it was like I had food stamps, the bartenders look at you as if you are standing in line for church cheese. Next time I'm either gonna save the 30 bucks and drink water and lemonade or bring a 12 pack in my bag and wait two days then buy it because they let this lady buy it pro rated with only three days left for like 18 bucks so I learned something new :)
Cozumel: We don't like paying Carnival for excursions so we wing it. We took a cab to Caribe Cozumel and stayed on the beach for free (don't know if we could do that but the taxi driver said it was ok) then we rented Wave Runners for 65 an hour and it was the most fun we've ever had! We talked about horseback riding, snorkeling but Wave Running was by far a blast! Two other couples from our dinner table rented skooters/ mopeds and they had a blast. Id be afraid to crash but they made it back in one piece even under heavy consumption of alcohol haha.
The Ship Amenities: For adults the Serenity deck was great, its just below Tiffany's restaurant at the AFt and its very quiet. They have two whirlpools, if there was only room for a regular pool nobody would leave the area. Plenty of places to lay out and relax. The Lido Pool area was just too obnoxious for us and it wasn't carnivals fault, it's just the way it is. It was like spring break but for twenty to fourty olds, with the Hairy Chest contest and the horrible dancing, they should call it the Panama City Red Neck Deck cuz that is exactly what it is. I like basketball but the rim was bent sideways and the net was torn. I know it seems silly but it wouldn't take much to fix it, and a net costs 2 bucks so I just thought I'd mention it since I thought about it more than once. Most others would probably care less.
Fitness: We worked out a few times and it was nice and clean, with enough room for everybody. Didn't want to spend the money for any Spa treatments.
Entertainment/ Partying Well its a Fun Ship so if you want to turn in early you better pick another Ship. We like to dance so we like Carnival. The club Jekyll and Hyde had a pretty good crowd and good music the first night (mix of 70's to maybe 2008 music nothing current), the second night was 80's so we skipped that because to us it's not fun to dance to. The next night was a Michael Jackson Tribute and it was just ok. We really enjoyed the Cole Porter Lounge for Karaoke on the last night, I got up twice to do some old rap songs, and it was by far the most crowded room in the place. On the third night in the Mikado Lounge they had to switch the entertainment because a singer didn't show up, so they had a comedian from North Carolina instead, it was a clean comic and he had me rolling, I was literally crying because in my opinion he was very funny. Very cliche jokes but it worked for me at least. The Romeo and Juliet Lounge had a Filipino Band and they were pretty good. People were having a good time.
All in all for the price it was well worth it. We had a great time and tried not to let little things bother us. We made some great friends at our table, and we hung out with them all night on the last day at sea so it was an excellent value cruise and we would definitely do it again.