We left on September 3 from Miami. We stayed at the Springhill Suites near the airport the night before. A cab for 4 to the cruise port cost $35, which was less than $10 apiece for the crowded hotel shuttle.
Embarcation was pretty easy. First tip: Make sure you get your boarding group card as you enter the registration room. There was a lady handing these out as you entered, but, she was quite friendly, and we passed her by while she chatted up some other cruisers. We ended up boarding at least 20 minutes later, since we didn't get a card until after we registered.
Dinner Saturday evening was our first indication that things had changed at Carnival main dining. Rather than a night by night rundown, we ate at the main dining room 4 nights, Harry's twice, and Lido Buffet one night. I might seriously consider going to Harry's 3 or 4 times on the next cruise. The service is still very good in the main dining room, but, (apart from the melting cake and bread pudding) the food has become quite mediocre. The comfort food menu will remind of Cracker Barrel. Fried chicken is quite good, but, it is fried chicken. I'd take Cracker Barrel pot roast over the cruise version. My 4 main dining meals were Flank Steak (cooked right, but, a tough steak), ChateauBriand (also pretty chewy), Pot Roast, and a cheeseburger. Note, that I ordered the Cheeseburger to see if it was different from the one served at the Lido Grill. It was not. If you are thinking that this sounds mundane, I think I agree. My wife did really like a Basa (fish) dish that had apparently won some award for cruise main dining. I ate the warm chocolate melting cake for dessert all 4 nights. My wife and our friends raved about the bread pudding the one night it was served.
Harry's is a totally different story. Worth every penny, even if the main dining options were up to previous standards. It is a true premium steakhouse experience. I had the chef's special prime ribeye and the porterhouse. I feel like that allowed me to taste 3 different steaks. My wife had the filet and the filet and lobster. Food was great and service too. Skip an excursion and do the steakhouse if you have to make a choice.
Don't do the Lido Buffet for dinner. Same menu as the dining room, but more picked over by 8:00. Otherwise, make sure you try the Fish and Chips, as others have suggested, and the Burrito bar. These are only open at lunch.
Seaside movies are pretty neat, but, they showed children's movies (Scooby Doo and Mars needs Moms to name a couple) on a week when most kids are (gratefully) back to school. They did show the NFL game Thursday night, and I should have gone. What a game I only got to read about.
The Adults comedy was beyond R. We are no prudes, but, we had to leave after about 5 minutes. There was a slot machine in the casino that was luckier than any I've ever played. I believe that it paid off over $200 (net) for the week. I saw other people winning on it also. You can get the U-Spin bonus with a 40 cent bet, and it seemed to come up enough to keep you positive. Its the U-Spin Bonus machine right by the casino bar. Good luck. Black Jack was very fair and fun, also. The minimum there is now $6.
Our cabin(s) were in the back and connecting. Our rooms were a bit smaller, but, we had double balconies. We got the connecting balconies opened between ours and our friends for a huge quadruple balcony. Cabin # 6442 and 6450. No sofa in these rooms, but, we didn't miss it. Cabin service is every bit as great as I remember.
Half Moon Cay is not listed in the drop down. I'd give that one a 4 or a 5. Its a private island owned by Carnival (Holland American). Beautiful beach. We rented a clamshell for $17. I thought that was a bargain. Carnival put out a great beach barbecue with burgers, dogs, chicken, etc. No extra charge for lunch here. Very nice.