First of all let me say that we are not seasoned cruisers. We've been on one other cruise and that was a Disney ship so please keep that in mind as you read this. I picked this cruise mainly for its availability (I booked less than 2 weeks before the sail date) and the price. The price just couldn't be beat. I was fully prepared for a less-than-perfect experience but I must say that almost everything exceeded my expectations.
The ship was on the small side but there really didn't seem to be any down-side to this. The single pool was usually crawling with kids but we really didn't want to use the pool anyway. We spent a lot of time on the "Serenity Deck" which was a lovely, relatively quiet, adults-only area with very comfortable padded lounge chairs and two hot tubs. The only drawback there was that there were a limited number of chairs and occasionally you had to wait a bit to get one .
The food in the dining room was (in my opinion) very, very good. The wait-staff was excellent (Orlin and Kyomann) and evening dining was a completely enjoyable experience for us. The only disappointment with the evening meal was the lobster. It just didn't have a lot of flavor. Everything else was excellent.
Food-wise the Brasserie buffet was the only thing that I can make a negative comment about. The food was good, but not great. Some of it did not seem very warm by the time you got your plate filled and sat down to eat it. We were happy to hear though that the ship did get a 100% rating from the US Dept. of Health on its last inspection in November (we actually spoke with the head chef). Outdoors on the Lido Deck there was a grill where they had different cooked-to-order selections every day. This food was very tasty and hot.
The comedians were very funny and entertaining. The singers and dancers were also very good. There may not be enough shows on this cruise for some people but for us the entertainment was more than adequate. Oh yes, and Jerry the guitar player was just "packing them in" wherever he played.
The room steward (Francisco) was very friendly and efficient. He learned our names as soon as we boarded the ship and addressed us by name every time he saw us.
Virtually every crew member we met on the ship was friendly, helpful, and attentive. Watch out for Svietlana, the cocktail waitress. She'll "flirt" you into buying a drink whether you want one or not! She knows how to work a room :-) Everyone seemed to take great pride in their work and they were all very eager to help us get the most out of our cruise. You really can't ask for more in the way of staff.
We did the Carnival "Behind the Fun" tour. It's a 3-hour guided tour of all the ships operations (galleys, storage, engine control room, bridge, crew areas). Our guide (Aleksandra) was very pleasant and informative. We enjoyed it a lot but I felt that it could have been a little shorter in duration and a little less expensive. The surprising part was that ship's officers in the engine control room and on the bridge were the least friendly people we met on the ship. They asked the group if there were any questions but they almost seemed annoyed at having to answer them. In my opinion they had a very condescending attitude. Fortunately they don't seem to mingle at all with the passengers so unless you were to take this tour you'd be unaware of this.
OK. I think this review is long enough. The bottom line is: we had an absolutely wonderful time on this cruise. Our enjoyment was no doubt enhanced by the very low price ($660 for two people... COME ON!). Good food, good entertainment, excellent service, and a sparkling clean ship... what more could you ask for?
Let me close by saying that if you take this cruise and expect this ship to be the be-all and end-all of cruising you'll probably be disappointed. To the other reviewers who have recently panned this ship/cruise let me say (as one reviewer stated over and over and over)... "You get what you pay for." If you are used to cruising on state-of-the-art, top-end, huge, luxurious ships than you probably won't enjoy this cruise. But then why would you even CONSIDER this cruise in the first place? If the decor of the ship surprised and offended you than I guess you just didn't look at the photos on Carnival's website before you book. Parts of the ship ARE very gaudy. The decor in the Brasserie looked like the designer had been inspired by the digestive tract of an alien while he AND the alien were both on LSD. I marveled at its tackiness. It was part of the FUN! If you expect to get a Mercedes for the price of a Ford Focus you ARE going to be disappointed. If you want a great cruise experience for a very reasonable price then this ship may be the one for you.