My wife and I are in our late 20's/early 30's and this was my 7th cruise with Carnival (4th for her). We picked this cruise for the homeport location, a new ship (the Dream), and it was an itinerary that we never got do to because it was cancelled a few years ago for us out of Tampa.
EMBARKATION: We drove down to Port Canaveral to meet the ship and arrived around 12:30 to unload luggage and park. Parking is $15/day ($105), so that certainly needs to be included in any trip budget. Had a short line to get into terminal and screen carry-ons, and a short line upstairs to check in. Overall, thought the process was relatively painless, as we were on the ship by 1:10. Had to wait about 20 minutes until the cabins were opened up and ready. Our checked bags arrived at the cabin pretty quickly (by 3:30). Had to do the muster station drill, but big changes since our last cruise - lifejackets did not need to be worn, and we did not need to go out and stand by the lifeboats. Just sat in the muster station (Theater) and watched a video.
CABIN: We stayed in a cabin location we were familiar with - all the way forward on Deck 7 in an "interior" room with a picture window with obstructed view (faces forward). We tend to like these cabins on the newer ships, but they are a long walk from some locations at the rear of the ship. The only negative to this room this time was one night I guess the seas were rough, and the waves that were hitting the front of the ship transmitted huge constant banging noises up into the cabin.
THE SHIP: For the most part, loved every bit of it. DEcor was certainly Carnival, but appeared a bit tamer than some previous Carnival ships we've been on. Layout was similar to other recent Carnival ships, except for the outside Lanai area (Deck 5). We loved using this deck as it always had a choice of sun or shade, was never crowded at all, and was typically a very quiet and relaxing place to sit around. Balcony cabins can look down on you, but that didn't bother us at all. We spent more time lying out on this deck than any other. For the size of the ship, we never felt overcrowded at all. Yes, the lines for the buffets were sometimes long, especially for breakfast. And if you wanted to hang out on the Lido deck, then there was certainly crowding. But there were plenty of places to separate from the crowd if you wanted to. The adults-only Serenity area used two decks and was pretty large, and the lounges, couches, and seats were certainly comfortable, but there were crowds here on sea days, and we found the seats and cushions to make you feel even hotter in the sun. Truly enjoyed the ship - don't think we had a bad comment about it all week.
THE FOOD: We are not very picky food people. Lido buffets were standard Carnival - edible but not spectacular. But liked the amount of choices and food areas beyond the standard buffet and burger lines. We enjoyed the deli and the pasta bar. Breakfast in the dining rooms was somewhat the same food as upstairs, just served nicer. Dinner menus were a bit different than in the past, with a full menu on one side that was constant and could be ordered any night. The other menu changed and had starters, entrees, a comfort food choice, and a "didja ever" starter (something odd that you wouldn't typically see like shark or frog legs). I don't think we were "wowed" by any entrEe - certainly good, just not spectacular - and it seemed like it was always some combination of steak/chicken/fish/seafood. We liked best a lot of the starters and didja ever choices. We also ate at the steakhouse upstairs one night, which we have on other ships, and thought the food was excellent and in large quantity. Two annoyances though: the $14 charge to drink your home-brought wine up there, and I had changed my mind when ordering and told my server something different, and she did not remember the change. Still enjoyed my meal (would have liked either choice), but was a knock on the service.
THE STAFF: Overall, an excellent staff. Everyone called us by name - including a dining room bar steward that we barely used, and several bartenders, in addition to our regular staff. Never encountered rude or unsmiling workers. Room steward (Romi) was always pleasant, but we did not request anything out of the ordinary from him. We ate in the lower Crimson dining room and had Soupy as our waiter, and he was always pleasant and accommodating to us, and would give his honest opinion about the food choices. Butch, the cruise director, was excellent.
ENTERTAINMENT: Won't comment on the Casino or Piano Bar, as we didn't spend a lot of time in these places. We also didn't watch the Lido movies on the big screen, but that was a nice option, especially for families. It was a big hit too when they put the opening NFL game up there one night. There were all types of bands throughout the ship, from Latin to country to Caribbean. The main band and singer (Ashley) were decent. We saw 3 of the big, main production shows, and they actually switched to a new cast for the last one. We thought 2 of the 3 were good, but the one (Dancin in the Streets) might have been the best show we've seen on a Carnival ship. The one thing that appeared to be a huge hit was the Punchliner comedy club. Comedy is now it's own separate entertainment and they did several shows a night. We went to two adult only shows and they were absolutely packed. The two comedians were very good. Bottom line - there was always something for everyone going on, no matter your tastes.
THE PORTS: This was our first time in most of these ports (been to Cozumel once several years ago).
Cozumel: Amazingly, we were the only cruise ship in port. We took the advice on some of the Cruise Critic boards and went to the Nachi Cocum resort. We didn't do anything else. We had to find our own taxi, which was relatively easy. It was $15 and about a 10-minute ride down the road. On the way back, we split with another couple which saved some money. The resort was great, there were probably only 25 of us there. It had a pool, swim-up bar, seating area to eat, and beach area with private umbrella huts. We were greeted by our server and taken to our hut. He was constantly around asking if we wanted drinks or food. Food was excellent. Very relaxing and enjoyable day. One thing - we saw a group get kicked out, basically for acting like they were at Fat Tuesdays or Senor Frogs. This place doesn't want that and won't tolerate it. We enjoy that type of fun as much as anyone, but it was also nice to find a place that was quiet and peaceful as well.
Roatan: Docked at Mahogany Bay. From what we've heard, this doesn't always happen. The ship has to back up down this narrow channel, and apparently if it's windy, they'll go around to Coxen Hole or skip the port altogether. The purpose-built cruise ship area and beach certainly looked nice, but we didn't spend any time there - we actually went out to explore past the gates. We took a tour through Island Marketing that ended up just being the 2 of us and a driver (Daniel). It was wonderful - he was maybe 19, but was a native islander and was very mature and knew everything and everyone. We went to the Pirates of the Caribbean extreme zipline first - we did one other zipline before and thought this one was longer runs, but not as high or pretty. But the guides were excellent, everything was safe, and doing it was very, very easy. Great for anyone. After that, Daniel took us all over the island - from the plush resorts to the "hood" as he called it. It was great to see everything - we learned a ton. He would have taken us anywhere, but we ended up at Bananarama on the West End for a few hours. Not a large beach area, but we went in the water for a while and had some food and drinks before heading back. Our best port stop.
Belize: This is a tender port. We left the ship about 10:30 and the tender process was still terrible. Tender ride is a long one too. It seemed like if you wanted to do anything worthwhile here, you needed to do an excursion of some sort because anything to see or do was an hour or two from Belize City (and we didn't feel like doing this). There is not much within the cruise-terminal walls. We ended up spending a few hours at The Wet Lizard with the local beers. Had fun, but next time we would probably plan our "big" excursion here.
Costa Maya: Basically a purpose-built cruise ship area with shopping, pool, lounge chairs, food, and beach area. Beach isn't really swimable (rocks). It was rainy in the morning (dock at 7 am), so we shopped a bit and then layed out under a hut. It cleared up, but we still just sort of sat around. We had great service from Senor Frogs (never had to leave our beach chairs), but the price for the value was way too high. Had to be back on the ship by 2:30, so there wasn't much time to do anything else. Nothing great to see here, but a nice relaxing day.
DISEMBARKATION: We were driving and in no hurry at all. We didn't do self-assist. Our zone was called really early, but we took our time and ate breakfast in the dining room and sat around for a while. We got off around 9:30, and while getting off the ship was quick, getting through customs took forever. Overall, can't complain, but we weren't hurrying.
RANDOM: Butch said there were (only?) 500 children on board. Didn't seem like a lot, and to us, it seemed like the average age on this cruise was maybe 40's-50's. But definitely a mix of everybody. The Captains party was no longer in the main lounge with free drinks - it is now in the general bar areas with $1 off drinks. They do still have the past-guest reception with free drinks and food. We used the spa for the first time and booked massages - certainly not cheap (to us), but very relaxing and had a great experience. Overall, we had an excellent time on Carnival yet again.