I am a 22 year old soon to be college graduate from central Texas. Go Texas State Bobcats! :) This was my 7th cruise (4th with Carnival). Other ships that I have travelled on include: Carnival- Celebration and Conquest (2x), and Royal Caribbean- Voyager OTS, Freedom OTS, and Oasis OTS (amazing! try it out if you haven't!). For this trip I travelled with my mom (got old after 9 days and over 30 hours total on planes) and we chose this sailing and ship because of the price. Was it worth the price? YES. Was I impressed? NO with the ship, YES with the ports.
Since Magic is coming and staying Galveston very soon, I'll try to direct as much to the Texas/Caribbean market as possible.
(2) THE SHIP
Ok, if you are an avid Carnival person then I'm sure you will be impressed and like this ship. Basically it looks like every other Carnival ship (lots of plastic and cheesy decorations that scream trashy instead of classy). To me, it was like the Conquest, but on steroids. Thats basically the layout.
Things I was impressed with: Waterworks (really fun and fast slides!), Serenity (ONLY when it was not crowded otherwise it sucked), service from all the staff (they are GREAT), Red Frog Pub (this will be a hit Texas people!), the spa (mom paid for a massage one day because the Europe itinerary is a killer!)... and that's about it.
Now, the things that SUCKED! (in my opinion): #1 HOT TUBS. More like COLD TUBS! It's pretty pathetic when you have to go in a hot tub to cool down when you are in the sun. That is SAD! They sucked hardcore! #2 POOL SPACE. There is not enough for the Caribbean sea days. Not even close. Enough said. Go in the middle of the night and save a spot. #3 ENTERTAINMENT. Maybe since I like Royal Caribbeans entertainment that's why I wasn't impressed or else maybe Carnival's just sucked. Not sure. Either way, I wasn't impressed. If anything, the shows were OK, but nothing to be talked about long (although other people we heard were floored by them... they must have not seen Freedom OTS or Oasis OTS?) ... Those were my biggies. Other stuff that I didn't like was pretty miniscule and didn't apply much to Texas/Caribbean (ie. rude foreign passengers... one night I, an adult, was cussed out by what had to be two 7 year old boys... no joke). But overall, basically this ship didn't give me the WOW factor that Royal Caribbean ships do.
(3) THE PORTS
We did the 7 day Mediterranean with an additional night in Barcelona before. Our itinerary was- Barcelona/Barcelona/Monaco/Rome/Livorno/Naples/Messina/Sea day/Barcelona. The ports were AMAZING. AMAZING! I won't ramble on and on about them because I'm sure a majority of people reading this will be looking for their future Caribbean trips, but if you are looking for Carnival's Europe excursions, these are the ones we did and I HIGHLY recommend them. Monaco- Nice & Eze, Rome- Rome at its best, Livorno- Pisa & Florence (with tower enterance), Naples- Taste of Sorrento & Pompeii, Messina- Winery & Mt. Etna. Of them all, the Naples and Messina ones are the best! They are more personalized and offer a lot less people than the others did. Plus enjoying homeade Italian food and wine in a vineyard or on an authentic Italian farm, who wouldn't love it?! In Barcelona we did the Hop on and Off bus which is good for seeing the city on your own in a day. Sagrada Familia is a highly recommended stop there.
(4) FAT JOHNNY
John Heald is a loser. He thinks he is funny but he is not. Even though we had a really busy trip and only one sea day, we did have a little time on the ship where we went to shows or other events around the ship. Did I ever EVER see John Heald (whom I nicknamed Fat Johnny)? NO!!!!!! The only time I saw him, and this is not a lie, is when we were walking on deck 5 and we saw him sitting in his office. Oh and at the past guest party (which was a staged piece of crap on his part) I thought the cruise director did more than that. I know Richard Spacey on Oasis did! (Side note, go on Oasis OTS just for him) I got so tired of hearing Fat Johnny's lame jokes over the PA and his set up "entertainment" at the past guest party. Whatever. He is a crappy cruise director in my opinion. But that's just me. ... Go Richard Spacey! :P
(5) OTHER STUFF
This ship will do good in the Texas/Caribbean market, if they make some changes... mainly in the pool/hot tub area. After this trip, we have decided that we will be going back to Royal Caribbean all the time, unless we can make a fantastic cheap deal with Carnival on a trip with lots of ports where we don't have to see that god awful Joe Farcus design a lot. If you like Carnival, you will like this ship, if you are thinking of trying out Carnival after doing other lines, such as Royal Caribbean, don't. (Unless you get a really good deal). ... Don't get me wrong, this was a FANTASTIC trip, but mainly because of the ports, had I done this same ship from Galveston, I would have been disappointed. The crew of the ship is amazing (other than Fat Johnny) and the food is certainly better than Royal Caribbean, but I'm still not sold on Carnival. Hope this review is useful to anyone that reads it! Happy travels! :)