This is my wife and my second cruise (the first being with RCCL on the Monarch of the seas back in 2007). We chose this cruise as it was closer and more affordable than Alaska.
Arrival - Transfers
This went pretty well overall. After getting off the van I handed our bags to one of the porters. We then went inside where it was set up like a terminal. There were several lines based on your stateroom category. Check in was quick and easy. We arrived early so the ship wasn't ready for passengers yet so we were invited to take a seat and enjoy some light snacks and beverages while we waited. It was nice to have the water, tea and lemonade available especially after the flight. A little after 11am they started boarding and we got on fairly quickly even though we were in boarding group 7. They had two lines which made getting on a little quicker. As with most cruise ships you were able to wander around onboard but not able to access your rooms until around 1:30pm.
We had an interior stateroom on the Empress deck (Deck 7). The stateroom was well layed out and was big enough for our needs. The closet was spacious and we were able to unpack completely and still have room left over. They had tea and coffee supplies, bathrobes, toiletries and all of the other amentities you would expect on a modern cruise ship. The TV had several channels including a live view from the Bridge and a GPS map showing you where the ship was, speed etc. You could also view your account through the TV which saved you from going to guest services. The bed was comfortable and we got a good night's sleep each night. The room was quiet and didn't hear any noise except for the occasional person who talking really loudly but you would probably hear them regardless.
If you go hungry on a cruise that is your own fault as there is something for everyone. I certainly didn't go hungry as shown by the numbers on the bathroom scales when I got back home. The ship has a variety of dining choices ranging from casual to fine dining. The choices are almost endless and the operating hours for each do vary somewhat but some of my favorites were the 24 hours pizza, the self serve soft serve icecream, the main buffet, the deli, the fish and chips stand and the main dining room. They had a burrito bar as well but I always seemed to miss its hours as it was only open a few hours a day. The lines for most of these options were not too bad except for the deli which got long at times. The buffet lines were somewhat long during peak times but this is to be expected and they moved fairly quickly. Getting a table wasn't too bad most days but sometimes we would need to go to the upstairs portion of the buffet to snag a table. I figured climbing the stairs would do me good anyway. The main dining room was a pleasant experience. We only ate there a few times but the food was tasty, hot and served fairly quickly. Overall the food was really good. I prefered the buffet choices on RCCL but my wife liked the Carnival offerings better so it really depends on your preferences. Rest assured you will find plenty to eat.
There was plenty to do which was a huge positive for us since we came on the cruise alone and not as part of a big group and was looking for onboard activities to keep us entertained. We really enjoy playing trivia game and they had plenty scheduled throughout the cruise. We played scattergories, battle of the sexes (which I was able to help out the men's team a lot) movie trivia, Motown trivia and some other I missed. They had some poolside activities but it wasn't as much as our previous cruise. The evening shows were pretty good and I especially enjoyed the illusionist. The seating for the main shows do fill up quickly so I would recommend getting there 20-30 minutes early to get a good seat. We used this time to plan out the next day's activities so it wasn't wasted time. They also had dance lessons, bingo, a wedding game show and towel folding lessons which we thoroughly enjoyed. There are many more activities on board that I have missed so please don't take this as an all inclusive list. For us they had enough going on to keep us entertained but not too much that we couldnt have done time with missing anything.
The service on the ship was great. Everyone was really friendly and helpful. They all seemed to work really hard to keep you happy and nothing was too much trouble. The waiters remembered our drinks and the room steward kept everything in great shape. As expected we had no complaints here
The ship has all the bars, clubs, pools, gambling, shopping, spa services and sports activities you need throughout your cruise. The ship has a theme with colors and many of the clubs and bars are decorated and named after certain colors. The shopping promenade is mostly clothing, jewelery and other duty free products. They do have sales on certain items and free liquor tastings at times so this might be something to look into. The casino has an Eygptian theme and has all of the regular games, slot machines and video poker that you would expect. There are several pools and hot tubs on board though the hot tubs seemed to be occupied more so than the pools. There is also a water slide which was popular during the cruise. The line often went down the stairs but it went fairly quickly. The ship has a decent fitness center, a half court for basketball and mini golf. The mini golf course looked like it could use some TLC as there were patches of the fake grass missing where it had worn out. This was a very popular area and it was not uncommon to have to wait for balls and putters. The ship also had an adults only area which was quiet and peaceful but this also proved to be a popular area and filled up rather quickly. All in all the ship has something to please everyone and never seemed over crowded despite having almost 3000 people on board.
Getting off the ship was fairly simple. We chose to carry our own bags which I would highly recommend unless you physically can not do it. Getting through customs was quick and easy as well. The hardest part was trying to find the bus for the transfers to the airport. The ship had staff that could point you in the right direction but there were no signs to point you in the right direction. Some signage would have gone a long way to helping passengers out. This would be the only negative but this was a minor thing.
We both loved the cruise. Everything went extremely well and have no real complaints. We would certainly cruise with Carnival again to the same area but I would like to do a longer cruise with more ports next time. If you haven't been on a New England and Canada cruise yet then this one is one worth looking at.