I'm one of those people who like to research everything to the nth degree especially if I'm spending a ton of money on it. I read hundreds of reviews like this prior to even booking this cruise and tried to be as prepared as possible before I ever left port. My hope is this review will help others who are trying to decide if this is the right cruise for them.
I will start by saying I have high expectations. I work in sales/service/finance and I provide top notch service to my clients, which is exactly what I want/expect.
We drove down the day before and stayed at the Comfort Suites off of Seawall. Wonderful hotel and a great price. Breakfast was a little lacking but considering we got 6 people in a suite for $150 (including the price of the shuttle for roundtrip to port), I had zero complaints. Plus it was on the ocean and looked new. I like newer nicer places. Great deal.
We got to the port around 11:30am. By the time we got through the boarding process it was time to get on. Whole thing probably took an hour, which wasn't too bad considering there were over 3300 people on board. Once we got on board we went straight to the Lido deck to eat lunch. We were told the room would be available in an hour and ten minutes. When we arrived at our room (1st deck, aft) our luggage was waiting by the door and the room was ready. Nice room (Oceanview) and even though I would have loved more bathroom-room I felt very comfy. Tons of space to put all your clothes, etc.
After the safety drill we started exploring. We took our two kids and my wife and I each brought our mothers along. I'll hit the highlights from here on:
Lido Deck Buffet - This was "Ok". One night I got steak and baked potato and some honey-baked ham. That was the good. Other times there were only one or two things I might like. That was the problem. I felt like there was too limited of a selection. Maybe I was just thinking Vegas-style buffet. The real treat on this deck was the burger/hot dog grill area, the pizza joint, the fish and chips (technically one floor up but easily accessible with stairs), and all the ice cream. That food was pretty good.
Monet/Renoir - All the "fancy" dining was in one of these two. We had "Anytime" dining which I liked mostly so we were in the Renoir. Food was better but I wish the menu were bigger. Service was lacking, unfortunately. It's not that people weren't nice but I'd have to practically beg for them to give me a tea refill or they would take 15 minutes to get a coke from the bar. They sat somebody with us one night without so much as asking. Might not of been as awkward if there were more than 1 but I felt kinda bad for the guy and honestly I wished they had at least asked. Anyway, the food was an upgrade, especially the molten chocolate cake and I had to have that every time I visited that restaurant.
Entertainment - We played bingo, did Karaoke (terrible sound system), gambled (more than doubled my money), and saw comedians and an illusionist. Most of it was pretty good. I saw 4 comedians. One was amazingly good, two pretty good, and one not really good at all. It was nice that they offered some quality family comedy as well as the adult ones later and that they change the material for every show. We also watched some movies on the Seaside theater under some blankets. Gets chilly out there! Movies were pretty decent (Karate Kid, Toy Story 3, Iron Man 2). I do have to complain about the one and only one basketball goal! How do you have one goal for a ship this big?? Insane!
"The Point" steakhouse. This was actually one of my bigger disappointments. Remember, I have HIGH expectations. Service was average at best. My son ordered a virgin pina colada and they never brought it. 15 min he asked again and some other guy came by to say they can't do frozen drinks. Why not?? And why doesn't the wait staff know that?? My steak was over cooked (Well-done as opposed to Medium-Well). The head chef did come out and apologize and admitted that it was well-done. Most of the food was really good but the cheesecake was average. My son actually liked the room service cheesecake better! I love a high-end steakhouse and have eaten at most of the ones around Dallas. To me, this was a step below the really good ones. Maybe two steps below. My wife said the lobster bisque was average but the shrimp was amazing! My son really loved his steak as well.
I was not impressed at all with the room steward. We had an older gentleman. We heard from him around dinner time the first night. He knocked on our door and gave us some tickets for excursions we got. Then he said he was our guy. He never offered to open the fridge and he never got to know our names like many others have said on this site. It is important to note that the other room with out mothers and kids had a great room steward. He took good care of them.
I'll write about the ports in the port reviews, I guess.
We also had a major delay getting off the ship that really sucked. Couldn't be helped. Certainly wasn't Carnival's fault but Galveston port was closed due to terrible fog. The port finally opened and it was a mad house. Other people were there to get on the cruise and it became a mess. We didn't end heading home until like 4:30pm. Got home at around 11:45pm. Very frustrating! My wife and I both had to work the next day.
Overall there were more positive things than negative. Definitely a good value for the money spent but not quite as great as I hoped for. We did meet with the small group of Cruise Critic folks from here on the first sea day and that was fun.