Stayed at Embassy Suites near airport before boarding. Far from beaches but great rate with parking during the cruise.
Normal boarding and security in Miami. Staterooms not available until 1:30 (doors locked). Stampede at Lido Buffet. Beautiful sunset departure.LOTS of kids and families on this cruise. Much younger crowd than Princess last year. Standard inside cabin for 4 (FYI - there are nice showers in the gym if your bathroom gets jammed up). Very nice steward - Renato. 2 days at sea then 4 ports in a row: St. Maarten, St. Thomas, San Juan and Grand Turk.
Pros: Great waitstaff in silver dining room - Wasan and Dewa were EXCELLENT. Comedians were all pretty good, especially Jim Brick. Samuel (from the professionals) gave great dance lessons. Karaoke was fun. Circle C kids club was okay but very crowded and difficult to find (empress room).
Cons: Lido buffet started too late (zero food prior to 6:30, hot food started at 7:30), lots of the hot food was stone cold, very crowded and started to repeat entire menus after only 3 days on the ship. Pastry in the buffet was inedible. No real sea view from gym. Only one hot tub was hot.
Overall, fun family cruise. We are normally buffet people but had a great time in the restaurant. Would I cruise Carnival again? If it was a spectacular deal, then yes. Otherwise, I think we would prefer Royal Caribbean.