First, let me say that my observations are somewhat affected by our previous sailings on RCCL. I could not help but compare. We had a wonderful family week's vacation; got lots of R & R and good family time. I enjoyed not being responsible for cooking, cleaning, etc. So, here it goes.....
First, the port was the Port of Tampa. Reasonably organized, lines moved efficiently, was on board in less than ~30 minutes. Thumbs up~
Second, Checked out ship, went to Brasserie for lunch. Thumbs mostly up. Pros ~ pretty nice layout ~ you have the ability to avoid the always long line and get a salad, fruit or desert or you could wait for the sandwich guy or pizza guy ~ booths conveniently located. Also, there is grill just outside, convenient to the pool area. Decent choices, food looked good, reasonable portions. Excellent service ~ always cleaning! Fresh foods put out all the time. Vegetarian choices at most all meals. Nice selection of ethnic choices. Cons ~ I could not for the life of me find a decent selection of healthy snacks. There were always fried foods, burgers, hot dogs, pizza, cookies, some fruit, and ice cream or frozen yogurt. I would have liked pretzels, nuts and other health food munchies. No organic food choices at all. Bread never seemed fresh even tho it was baked on board. Sugar free fare wasn't all that great. Oh, and no creme brulee! (yes, I know, neither healthy or sugar free ;) )
Third, went to cabin. Thumbs up! Nice size, bathrooms seemed bigger than RCCL. Closet space, vanity, tv, beds about the same size. RCCL beds are more comfy but linens are about the same quality. I really liked that Carnival gives you a robe to use for the cruise ~ nice perk! But, no hairdryer in room. Crew did provide one at my request. Excellent crew ~ cabin stewards ~ all staff members were typically polite and professionally friendly.
Fourth, went to dinner. Mardi Gras dining room design was more my taste than Carnivale which is where we were placed. We had chose late dining and when I realized we preferred early ~ too bad ~ no attempt to even think of changing ~ maybe next time I'll want to choose other accommodations? ~ not the attitude I'm used to. Honestly, I liked the meals for the most part. The meat dishes I ordered including prime rib, pork chops, various seafood and chicken dishes were among the best I've eaten at any restaurant. That said, some of the combinations of foods didn't work for me ~ some of them I've yet to figure out what they were! Still, if you're a bit adventurous, you'd enjoy the meals. RCCL definitely wins the customer service award for the dining rooms. Carnivale was understaffed and while our waiter and assistant waited worked proficiently they could not make up for the loss of time they didn't have to spend with you. This would be evident in the fact that I got food I wasn't expecting and sometimes didn't get what I was expecting. His error? perhaps, or maybe a miscommunication because he didn't have the time to really talk to us.
As far as family friendly fun ~ lots was available. Many shows, comedians, magicians, camps, etc for younger folks. The usual trivia, bingo, contests, etc for adults. Took advantage of the 4x4 tour on Grand Cayman (thumbs down) and the Push, Pull, Swim with Dolphins in Cozumel (thumbs up!) Did not do shows etc to compare to RCCL.
Photo prices were higher than RCCL; RCCL offered better picture packages when you spent a good deal of money and the pictures themselves were better quality.
Debarkation was a breeze! Much easier than our RCCL Debarks at both Tampa and Port Canaveral ~ although I love the ports ~ RCCL needs work on this one.
Overall ~ I had a great week ~ I feel that I got reasonable value for my money ~ same amount would have bought me only 4 days on RCCL and now I know how to plan for future Carnival cruises!