This was our first cruise on this ship, but our 6th on Carnival. The trip started a little rough because the ship had landed late from the previous sailing, so there was a back-up at the dock for embarkation. It took us almost two hours to get on the ship and this was without a doubt the worst embarkation experience we've had on any ship. I hope that Carnival will streamline this process for this port. Even the smaller port of Galveston, which we've sailed from three times, had a wonderfully smoother embarkation process. By the way, the whole "Fun Pass" process didn't matter one way or the other, everyone still had to wait and be processed like so many cattle.
However, once on the ship, the pain of getting on was soon forgotten. We were pleasantly surprised to see that we were upgraded from a guaranteed 4A cabin (inside) to a 6A outside cabin with a partially blocked balcony. I would definitely try to book a cabin with a balcony again - it was lovely, even with the life boat right there. Our cabin was the most spacious we've had on any cruise, with more than enough storage space for two of us, and the interactive TV definitely is an improvement over having to stand at the purser's desk to buy shore tours, check your sail & sign account, etc. You can also rent and watch first run movies from your cabin, which helps when you aren't in the mood for swimming, bingo or other activities.
This ship makes you feel really elegant - with its tiled mosaic floors in many areas, sweeping staircases, plush lounges and sitting areas and of course, the 8-story atrium with the glass elevators.
The food was maybe slightly below what we've come to expect on Carnival in that there didn't seem to be as much variety in the dining room - it was the same menu fare we've experienced on other cruises. Still it was good. The Lido deck fare was improved over other cruises we've taken, though. There was more variety, and there was more room in the dining room up there so that you didn't ever have to wait in line more than a few minutes, regardless of the time of day. We also took advantage of the room service for breakfast on several mornings where we were getting off the ship - that is a definite advantage I think.
The ports were amazingly beautiful. St. Maarten was probably our favorite, because we had the most daylight time there and the weather was gorgeous that day. We did the Divi Bay beach tour, which was relaxing and fun, and we still had plenty of time to shop. Shopping was definitely better in St. Maarten than the other two ports we stopped at. In Barbados, we took the Jolly Roger cruise, which was a blast although it got a little baudy toward the end when a couple of the male guests who had imbibed significantly in the unlimited rum punch (which was mixed half & half by the way - no watered down punch here!) decided to go skinny dipping off the rope swing! We had the most time in the Barbados port, but the day was Sunday and most of the island was closed, unfortunately. The shops in the port terminal were pricey, although we did find a few souvenirs among the vendors who had stalls outside the terminal. Martinique was undoubtedly the most beautiful stop we made, but unfortunately, it was also the shortest stop. I would heartily recommend that you not take a ship shore tour at this island, but instead, take a taxi and explore the beauty of this amazing island. We unfortunately took a catamaran tour to one of the little fishing coves. It was unbelievably beautiful and we got gorgeous pictures, but there was not much to do there and by the time we got back, we had less than an hour to explore anything else. If we go again, we will definitely forego a shore tour here and instead simply walk or taxi around the town.
Aside from the ports, the ship had enough activity to keep you busy. The gym on this ship is great and there was enough equipment that you didn't have to stand in line for a treadmill or elliptical. Also, there were not 2, not 3, but 4 hot tubs, which made it very easy to find one to soak in when you wanted to. The pools were beautiful also. We didn't take in many shows, but the ones we did see were of good quality. The cruise director, Brett, was probably one of the better directors I've seen on any cruise and the whole "Red, White & Blue" team theme was fun without being silly.
Overall, this was a great cruise and we would probably do it again.