Let me first start by saying, I was very nervous about this cruise after all of negative reviews I had read prior to sailing. This is my second cruise on Carnival, the first having been in 1986 on the Festivale. This was my husbands first cruise. We started out by staying at the Renaissance Riverview Hotel in Mobile the night before the cruise and had the sail away cruise package. Very clean hotel, wonderful room overlooking the river and cruise port. Wonderful staff and just overall a nice relaxing place. We left our car for the week in the hotel parking garage and it is very secure. Saturday we left the hotel on the shuttle to the cruise terminal (basically across the street). We were on the 11:15 shuttle and it was running a little behind so we finally left about 11:40. No problem though. Cruise terminal was very busy and finally got on ship around 1:00.
Cabins were open at 1:30pm on the dot. We took our carry on luggage to our room and we loved it. Very roomy for 2 people and had a nice picture window. Beds nice and comfortable and very clean. The moon was on our side of the ship almost every night and shined right through the window like a beautiful night light. Our bathroom sink was stopped up when we arrived, but within a couple of hours our cabin steward had it fixed.
The first two days were fun days at sea and loads of fun, sun and rest. Lines for lido deck buffet and Tiffany's are long but move quickly. Very good food. I had heard the bar staff worried you to death about buying a drink and they did ask quite a few times, but if you tell them you are ok for now, they do leave you alone. Very nice bar staff though. Very friendly and call you by name through the whole cruise. The photographers were more scarce than I thought, mostly on the Promenade deck in the evening and in the ports and dining room. They were not annoying at all. We approached them most of the time. They were a little pushy about the photo albums when you went to buy photos, but once you said no in a firm voice, they left you alone.
The entertainment on the ship was pretty good at night. During the day, there was not a lot going on. Mainly music by the pool. The nightly shows were very good, the juggling act we almost skipped, but went anyway and so glad we did. Very entertaining and amazing show. The "Win" show was terrible and after dozing off a few times, we left. Many people we taked to didn't like it either. We stayed on the serenity deck most of the time during the fun days at sea. Very relaxing, close to food and bar. In the evening there is country music and dancing at the Drama Bar. The disco at 11:00pm turns wild and I saw some dances that I didn't know existed! Security is all around though. Didn't go to any comedy as we don't care for "R" rated material.
Went to the dining room every single night and loved it. Very good, hot food, very attentive wait staff and wonderful chocolate melting cake. You can order as many entrees, appetizers as you like, but do it all at once when you first order because they won't take a second order. Never had a bad night in the dining room. Word of warning on the port days, if you don't want to fight huge crowds trying to eat breakfast at the pool buffet or Tiffany's, go to the dining room. There is open seating and you can have a nice relaxing breakfast and the leave for the ports, unless however you must leave quickly for an excursion and then some of them you will still have time for the dining room breakfast.
As far as the ports-we were warned by several Carnival staff that Montego Bay was best for an excursion as the locals are very pushy. Basically if you are looking at something you have bought it. We were even told that they will chase you down the street stating that you should pay for something that you were just looking at. Many people on the ship that had been to Montego Bay before decided to stay on the ship due to the hassle of the locals. We didn't plan an excursion, so we stayed onboard. Next was Grand Cayman-I had read horrible reviews about the tender boat system. It was a breeze and I would almost do that than walk the pier. My husband has a leg disbability and he was worried about getting on and off tender boats. The Grand Cayman staff was very attentive and helpful to him and placed him in the first row of the boat and got him off first when we got to the pier. Went on our own into town and had a blast shopping. Met our daughter and son in law who were on another ship. We shopped and had lunch at Margaritaville. Cozumel was next and it was great too. Pier was very long, so again my husband was worried about the walking distance. The locals who have bicycles with a carriage on the back for 2 people work for tips only and they will meet you at the ship and take you to the end where the shopping area is. We shopped, went to Fat Tuesday's and had a blast. Locals are very kind. Then bicycled back to the ship. Very convenient for someone with a disability.
Overall, we had a great time and great weather. Ship did get in some heavier waves on the way to Cozumel due to 45 mph winds and was a little rocky in the evening and all night, but nothing to worry about and no one got sick, just rocked a little from side to side and sometimes you could feel it while sitting in the dining room or lounges. No big deal though for most people.
We loved this port and this ship. I had also read reviews about how tacky the decor was, but we thought it was beautiful. I myself like the smaller ships. I don't think I would want to try a bigger one. This was the perfect size for us. We had great service, great food and met lots of wonderful people. Carnival was great and we will definitely sail with them again. So sorry they are leaving Mobile though. I guess we will go to Charleston or New Orleans from now on.