We had 14 people including 5 children with us in total and the choice to go with Carnival was both budget and schedule based - we only booked 2 months in advance. We've been on cruises before as a family (sometimes with upwards of 30 people), but this was by far one of my worst experiences. Call me picky, but this was a list of things I loved, and wish were different:
General service from the front line staff - amazingly friendly wait staff and stewards who wanted to go out of their way to help.
Food - great food variety, though lines were sometimes atrocious on the buffets
Rooms - spacious, clean, in working order, excellent service and turndown service
Family friendly - Club Carnival is generally great for various age groups. We had to separate our 5 children into 3 groups, but the activities were age appropriate.
Games - family friendly games are always great. I only wish BINGO was longer than an hour and cheaper (USD20 for a 3 cards is a lot, especially when you like playing with multiple cards)
Gym - the gym is spacious and has several machines. Their fitness schedule is also varied. Though I wouldn't suggest paying for their yoga or Pilates - it isn't yoga or Pilates and covers much of the same stuff their free stretching programs include.
WISH WERE DIFFERENT:
Pools - have they shrunk? Seeing a load of adults or children squeezed into tiny pools is anything but refreshing.
Service charges - I'd prefer if mandatory service fees were included in the cost of the cruise. Bump up the prices but make it inclusive and allow guests to tip extra if they'd like. Our family tipped generously in the end to those we liked, but the idea of adding mandatory servie charges onto a bill just seems wrong, especially when cruises are known for their "almost all inclusive" packages.
Charges for soda? - First off, for a cruise that generates as much waste as it does, I'm surprised they use cans and not fountain soda. 2nd of all, I'm not a soda drinker, but shouldn't soda be included in the cost of your cruise? Especially when a cruise is happy to give you unlimited servings of everything else?
Horrific service from supervisors at the Guest Service Desk - While front line staff, entertainment hosts and guest service agents are generous and friendly, the guest service supervisors were astonishingly defensive and rude! It almost seems that any slight complaint or query generates a series of comebacks that state it's the customer's fault and not theirs. Imagine that. In a world of vacations and hospitality, I encountered 2 separate supervisors who were quick to say that it was my fault their landside computer system doesn't necessarily sync to their boatside terminals - which resulted in several billing errors. I won't go into details, but the service from supervisors was so bad it was to be laughed at.
Tours canceled - several tours were canceled due to lack of interest. This meant that we had to chance it by finding tour operators on land ourselves to do what we wanted. Having said that, we had an AMAZING time deep sea fishing with the guys at Murphy's in Halifax. They're located down the boardwalk and will take you out at various times throughout the day.
An idea - some large groups brought walkie talkies with them. I'm not sure how the range is, but it's a great idea if you want to locate people quickly.
In the end, we had a great time because we just plopped ourselves down and played board games.