Upon booking, I was fortunate enough to get an "early bird special" in pricing. I thought I had done my homework but it turned out that the rep had put us in a handicap room, with two twin beds that could not convert into a king. This was our honeymoon, so as you might imagine, this was unacceptable! We had to call back with little time to spare, and they were able to move our cabin to a downgraded category (for the same price!). I don't fault Carnival for that, but be aware of what room you're being put into before you book!
On to the actual cruise, the alcohol guidelines were very particular, so make sure you read the fine print if you want to bring a bottle on board. In March, 2011 we were able to bring 1 bottle of wine per person as long as you had it in your carry on baggage. I didn't catch that part, so my bottle that was in my suitcase was confiscated and I couldn't pick it up until disembarkation. Otherwise embarkation was easy, and the wait was less than an hour.
The general air of the ship was that the crew couldn't care less about us. We had sailed with Princess before, where our housekeeper knew our names and frequently chatted with us in the hallways as he went about his business. That did not happen on Carnival. The man assigned to our room neglected to clean it more than a few times, and didn't speak English, therefore never greeted us. Our sailing with Princess was a birthday celebration in which the staff decorated our door, and gave us a special dessert with dinner. This was our honeymoon and nobody paid any notice, even though the booking agent said numerous time they would do something special. I didn't expect fanfare or a red carpet, just a little something to add to the experience like Princess had done.
Overall, the walls of the cabins were paper thin and we frequently heard things from the other rooms that were not meant for our ears... The beds were hard and caved in. The bathroom shower plugged everytime we used it, so there was constantly shower water on the floor and it often leaked onto our carpet. We brought that up to the service desk but they did nothing about it.
The pools were always over crowded and the hot tubs were more like "lukewarm" tubs, with the same temperature water as the pools.
There was one incident that happened on our way back into the ship from a stop at a port city. The people that were scanning our bags thought my husband was carrying alcohol on board, even though he wasn't, and started screaming at him to get in a different line to check it in. He tried to tell them many many times that it wasn't alcohol, and just a souvenir mug, but they wouldn't let him go through. It was not only humiliating for us to be yelled at in front of the other passengers, but they didn't even care to look at the fact that the mug was empty! They either didn't know enough English to understand what we were saying, or didn't care. Either way it was embarrassing and after that ordeal we tried our best to steer clear of any staff we didn't have to talk to.
We were frequently forgotten in the dining room, which was the anytime seating option, and on more than one occasion we were seated for 20 minutes without even being poured water. All the while we watched other people get their entrees that had been seated after us. I'm not sure why it happened to us so frequently, but it was very irritating. Sometimes the "hot" meals were served to us lukewarm, because they had been sitting for a long time instead of being brought to us. Maybe they just need more dining room staff to cover the number of people?
The lunch buffet was small and provided few options. The dinner menu was only "gourmet" on the formal nights. Overall, I had a much better dining experience on Princess.
The activities usually involved some sort of monetary investment like an entrance fee. The drinks were very small and watered down, yet still very pricey. Most nights we found ourselves just watching a movie in our room because nothing fun was going on. The "dance" club was always empty, and the pools closed at 10. The comedians in the comedy club said the same bit, so if you went once you were done.
Overall I don't feel like I got what I paid for.