We travelled from the Boston area 3 days early to visit my parents in Ft. Myers and drove over to Ft Lauderdale early Saturday morning. Met our friends from North Carolina at the airport and grabbed a cab to the port. Check in was fairly quick (although friends were VIPs and were on about 10 minutes before us). Up to the Lido deck for lunch and to meet our other friends, who were on their first cruise.
Cabins were ready by 1:30 - we had a wrap around aft balcony. Pretty nice room - great balcony. Plenty of closet space with shelves, drawer space was adequate, bathroom a good size - again with plenty of shelves. Met our room steward, Julie, who kept our room clean and well supplied. Asked for a bucket of ice for our sail away party on the balcony and for the rest of the week, we always had a large bucket of ice.
Dinner the first night was in the steak house - fabulous meal and a free bottle of wine (or 2). Some members of the group opted to go to the welcome aboard show, which they deemed horrible.
Day at sea - past posts are correct in stating that the chair hogs are out early. We got to the pool area around 9:30 and had to walk around to find chairs. This was in the aft pool - adults only - and was a very nice, quiet area. Got to finally check out the ship and, again as previously noted, it is sometimes difficult to navigate. Finally got the lay of the land by day 7 - will have to go on again so I know exactly where I am.
First formal night - first night doing the my time dining. We had do the mine time dining before, both on RCCL and NCL. I like the idea of chosing when to eat, but the first night, which was also "elegant" night, was a horror show. Everyone showed up at the same time - 7pm - only to wait in line for a pager and then wait for it to go off. We waited about 45 minutes and were finally seated. Our wait staff, Claudia and crew, were wonderful and we would have loved to have them every night. Here is where the difference between RCCL and Carnival came through. On RCCL, we could request/reserve a table and time if we wanted the same wait staff. For Carnival, no such luck. If the table/staff was available, you could be seated with them. If not, it was another table/staff or wait for them to be available. Needless to say, we had a different table and staff every night until the last 2, when we requested and got Claudia. Food was pretty good every night, many choices. A few disappointing items, but few and far between.
Public rooms on the ship were nicely decorated, some louder than others, but not too much of an eyesore. We enjoyed the Bar Noveau for their martinis and the lobby bar for the trivia (we won 6 ships on a stick during the cruise). Went to the Havana bar one night - pool band was playing and it was a bit too loud for that area. Saw the comedy shows 2 nights and both comedians were good. Went to the Beatles show - it was okay as far as I was concerned, but others in the group loved it.
Only real complaint was the smoking, which usually doesn't bother me. Casino had separate areas for smoking and non, so that was not an issue. Ventilation was good and I never noticed it. Pool area was the same - one side smoking, the other non. Not a problem. However, we smelled cigarette smoke in the hall ways a few times. Why they allow smoking in the rooms is beyond me. Do they clean them well enough? They should have smoking/non rooms as well.
Debarkation was smooth - we opted for the luggage express and it worked out great. Fort Lauderdale airport needs some major improvements. Going through security took almost 1 1/2 hours. Too many ships in port, coming and going, and not enough help at the airport.
All in all, a wonderful cruise. Many laughs and good times. Will definately cruise with Carnival again. Newbies were hooked by day 2!