I always read reviews and have to remember everyone is different so you pretty much have to take them with a grain of salt. My first cruise was on a Carnival and my second on Celebrity. It was obvious that Carnival is your more affordable line. That being said - I was way more impressed with this cruise than I had anticipated being.
Embarkation out of Tampa was relatively painless but slow. The first group went about 11:00 and seemed to get through pretty quick. We went about 11:45 and waited in line about an hour. The third group went about 1:45 and walked right in pretty much. Rooms weren't ready so we joined the huge crowds on the pool/Lido deck for buffet lunch. While we were loading they handed out a piece of paper documenting a change in our ports on certain days. I called back to my mom still at the hotel loading up and she was able to quickly get out an email to the tours we booked to let them know. However I'm sure the tour companies are used to cruise lines doing this and there was no problem when we got there.
We ate dinner in the main dining room for early dining every night as a group and they were able to put all 9 of us at one table. I had expected mediocre food based on the reviews that came out on Legend. I have enjoyed and can appreciate the finest of dining in many places of the world but still feel comfortable in ma and pa's diner. I was REALLY impressed with 90% of the meals I had for dinner. Everything was great from temperature, taste, and presentation. We were traveling with our 6 year old and the first two nights he ate off the children's menu with your basic pizza, burgers and chicken. Then after that he started ordering things off the adult menu - steak, pasta and even grilled salmon and loved it. Also made him feel big ordering like the rest of us. Most of the time we were off on an island for lunch but did eat the Lido buffet for at sea days. Here's where we weren't impressed. Food was okay for lunch but the crowds were irritating. Waiting in line to get everything then it was cold by the time you sat down. I thought the 24 hour pizza was terrible and feel it's hard to mess up pizza. I only got it once so maybe I just got a bad kind. The kids of course loved the 24 hour ice cream. Breakfast in the main dining room was great - but limited. Same menu every day but enjoyable to not fight crowds. We did eat breakfast buffet several times due to the early nature of the excursions. Same experience as lunch.
I didn't see much on the reviews with kids so didn't know what to expect. We had also an 11 and 17 year old nephews. they had a mini golf course, ping pongs (which were always busy) and basket ball court. They also had a water slide but it was at the opposite end of where the pools were so didn't really go to it much. There is an adult only pool at the back of the ship and two main pools mid ship. They were full of kids. We checked out Camp Carnival and there were a ton of activities and you could check in the little ones and let them play. My 6 year old only went one night for a movie. But it looked like a great program and would give adults a bit of time to themselves. Mine never seemed to be bored and managed to find things to do all over the ship.
There was a lot of smoking in the casino - it's a casino - go anywhere into one and you'll find this. But as much as i despise smoke, it did not bother me. It did bother me more on the back pool area where there are table to also eat. Seemed to be more smokers out there - that must be the smoking deck. No where else on board did I find it. Casino took all of our money of course but it was fun. We only went to a few shows, the comedy shows were only about 25 minutes long. The song and dance - although a bit cheesey - were entertaining. Because of the kids we didn't stay out too late and each port was early.
Day one, I signed up for the mixologist contest. It happened on day two and you had to create a drink and got judged by a panel. I got to drink the drink I made and got a great drink recipe book and a coupon for a drink (up to $5.95) so it was an easy way to get two drinks for free. :) They do hit you up for a lot of stuff extra between the constant waiters for drinks, photographers, art, water bottles on days of excursions, bingo, and the shops. I expected that so it didn't bother me. we brought liquor on board so we actually tabbed out at the end of the cruise with only our required tips on there.
Service was excellent in both the dining room and the cabin steward. the kids couldn't wait to see the animals made for them each night. Ice was provided in our cabin every afternoon and the beach towels replaced. Had NO issues with the service at all.
I'll post the reviews on the ports - I could do without Belize however. The embarkation for those that tendered were long and irritating. We booked only one tour through carnival and it was in Belize. We sat in the Folley area (their room for shows) for about 45 minutes waiting for our number to be called. Seemed like it could be better thought out.
Getting off the boat was painless but long. We left our cabin about 8:30 and didn't get off until almost 10:30. They really turn that boat around fast getting it cleaned up and ready for the next group getting on at 11:30!
Over all - I was extremely pleased with the trip and loved every minute of it. I see that it says I had an obstructed view on my balcony. Didn't even know that. It was perfect!