My wife, two kids (17 & 13), and my mom took the 8-day Panamal Canal Tour, departing from Ft. Lauderdale in early June. We arrived in Miami and caught a shuttle to the Springhill Suites near Port Everglades. The hotel was great. Hot & muggy in June, but this hotel has a couple variety stores and a ton of restaurants near it, so it's a great location for last-minute purchases before embarkation.
We used the hotel shuttle to the port. No problems at all, but be sure to tell the desk staff as soon as you arrive, as they put you on the "next available" shuttle the morning of the cruise.
Embarkation day was slick. We had little difficulty getting through Carnival's process. Staff was good, although the building we embarked through was a little like a bus terminal, and we did have to wait about 30 minutes before our zone was called. Even then, it wasn't that bad.
On board by 11:30 a.m. and into the buffet for lunch. Food is O.K., but the layout of the serving lines should have been won the Gong Show for "Worst Traffic Jam on the High Seas." Food was just OK...and I didn't expect much more than that.
The ship was impeccably clean. Never did see even so much as a speck of dust. All facilities were great, staff was good, and I could not have been happier that my kids and mom felt at home. Shops were fun, the sales were ridiculous (but worth participating in), and the spa was spectacular.
We really enjoyed the ship itself. Much to do, lots of ocean, lots of top-side space.
The decor -
Well, I didn't see Mr. Spock or Captain Kirk, but I was certain they HAD to be around the ship somewhere. Mr. Farkus (and Carnival for that matter) really must explain why the would put such a collection of space, space junk, old stuff from Ellis Island, and psychedelic mushroom-esq decor on what otherwise is a magnificent floating city. Anyway, despite how weird the decor on the ship actually was, we ended up enjoying it. In fact, I'd say it really ended up being a non-issue after the first few hours.
Last couple of things. The dining room food and service was the best we've ever had on a ship of any size. The staff was great, the food great, and we never once waited to be seated (anytime dining). Conversely, Carnival really needs to address the four-way train wreck in the buffet area. There's absolutely no reason why it needs to be such a problem for passengers to get something to eat quickly without having to stand in line and run their trays down a lunchroom-style serving system.
Entertainment. I'm a conservative, so take my view of the entertainment with that in mind, but my kids really didn't need to see the suggestive dancing and thong-clad dancers that the two shows we went to couldn't seem to live without. I was very disappointed. We sat through the first show, but left when the second (Ticket to Ride) show started.
We will consider Carnival again.