We booked this cruise with Carnival because we'd heard that it was very family-friendly. Which it was for the most part. However, Royal Caribbean seems to have the market on being family friendly (with the exception of Disney, which we have not tried).
The itinerary was terrific, my favorite so far (this was our 5th cruise). We loved Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. All three ports were clean, beautiful, and, of course, had many opportunities for shopping. My 11-year-old daughter went swimming with the dolphins in Cozumel, and absolutely loved it.
The dining experience was fairly good. I did not like the dining room on the Carnival Conquest - I felt like we were crowded too closely to the other tables. The dining room was rather dark, which was probably enjoyed by some, but I would prefer more openness and light. The food was at par with other cruise lines, and the wine selection was decent.
On board activities for the kids were good - the pools were plentiful (although the kids were surprised that Carnival has sea water in their pools whereas Royal Caribbean has fresh water).
Entertainment was fair. The comedy shows were good, but the main shows in the theater left something to be desired. The shows were more Vegas-style (skimpy costumes on the girls, more glitz than talent).
The cabins were excellent. Compared to Princess and Royal Caribbean, Carnival's cabins were significantly larger and roomier. Both kids had full bunks beds with ample room to be comfortable. There was a lot of storage - we had no problem finding room for all our clothing and gear, even with four of us in a balcony stateroom. Our cabin stewards were great.
It seemed to me that Carnival allowed smoking in more places on the ship than other cruiselines. We were constantly getting into places where we had to walk through smoke-filled areas to get to other parts of the ship. The casino is right in the middle of the ship, and we had to walk past it to get to many places.
Overall, I don't know if I'd go on Carnival again, but I'm glad I tried it at least once. The trip from Houston to the port in Galveston was quick and easy.
The only significant problem we had was debarkation. Apparently everyone on that cruise decided they wanted to "self-debark," except for us, and the ship was a complete zoo the morning we had to disembark. The elevators were shut off, stairways were restricted, and we were stuck standing in the hallway for more than an hour, just trying to get down to the theater where we were directed to go. (If there had been a real emergency, it would have been a major catastrophe). When we finally got off the ship and were in line to go through Customs, we had been "debarking" for nearly three hours, and our time was running short to get back to Houston to the airport. Fortunately, my husband had the temerity to ask a Carnival employee what we should do. She quickly took us out of the long line of passengers to the front of the line for Custom. If we hadn't asked for assistance, we would have most likely missed our plane home.