This was our second cruise. In 2006, we cruised to Bermuda with Royal Caribbean, so this was our first Carnival Cruise. Overall, we had a good time. But after cruising with Royal, I don't know that I'd want to cruise on Carnival again.
First of all, we had no problems on our embarkation. Things went smoothly, and we did not wait too long. Our room was ready when we got on the ship because it arrived empty. We put down our bags and went to the restaurant to eat.
The food overall was "good". Not great, but good. Sometimes the food was cold, but mostly it was an OK temperature. The omelets were really good, the pizza (available 24 hours) was also good, and the deserts were also pretty good. They tried to have different themes each day at one of their buffets, including a chocolate buffet on the last day. Food in the main dining room was quite good, but when I tried to order one dish without mushrooms, they looked at me like I had three heads. I guess special orders do upset them. So I made sure I stuck to the menu after that. The service was good, but not anything special. One good thing about sticking to the pre-prepared menu items was that dinner was fast. We were in and out of there in about 45-50 minutes most nights. The steakhouse was very good. I read some complaints about the steakhouse that others had written, but we had a very good meal. We both had surf and turf, which was excellent. The food was also presented very beautifully, and the service was good (again, not great). They had a sushi bar open each evening, but the two times that we went to it, we were disappointed. The sushi was not very good at all, and poorly prepared. Just about every piece we had fell apart before we ate it.
The bars were OK. We both signed up for the unlimited soda plan, which worked out well for us. I was disappointed to find out that the travel cup was not included, and we had to pay extra for it. (It was included on Royal.) They talked us into buying them, and we hardly ever used them.
The big problem we had with the bar was the bait-and-switch drink special. On the first day the drink special was like $7.25 and included a cup to keep. It was just a nice plastic glass. The second day, signs were the same. Prices listed the same, but they were serving the drink in a cup in the shape of Carnival's signature smokestack. We ordered two (mistakenly thinking that they were $7.25 as the sign says) but when I got the check they were $10.95 each. When I questioned it, they just said it was because this cup was bigger and if we wanted, we could have it in the regular glass for $7.25. We never ordered any drink specials again after that.
We had a room with a balcony. It was very nice and we had plenty of room for the two of us. The room was well kept by the steward. He was friendly, but had a bit of an attitude. The only complaint I have is that one morning I was woken up at 3AM by someone vacuuming in the hallway. Yup...I said VACCUUMING AT 3AM! By the time I opened the door to see what was going on, they were gone.
Back on board, most of the entertainment was really good. We enjoyed the two comedians that were on board. We went to both of their R and PG shows. There was a good magician on board as well. The various bands we heard were really pretty good...except for the so-called calypso band that played by the main pool on the Lido Deck. They were beyond awful. The keyboard was too loud, and kept playing the same 3 chords over and over, and not even in time with the electronic drum kit. They were so bad, we stayed in places where we could not hear them, which was kind of hard. Therefore we couldn't enjoy the adults only area at the front of the ship as you could still hear them there too.
Disembarkation in Norfolk was a bit of a nightmare, but I understand it was due to the Customs agents, and not necessarily Carnival.
Bottom line here is that we were not made to feel special on this cruise like we were on Royal Caribbean. We had fun, but I guess our expectations were too high for Carnival. Unless the price, timing, and ports are just right, I likely will not sail on Carnival again.