Let me start by saying I am a seasoned cruiser. In fact I worked for 4 major cruise lines as a senior officer. One of the things that the other lines tend to do, especially with management level people is drill into your head that Carnival is nothing more than a low class 1 week drunk-fest. I have heard this my entire cruise career. Well, after my cruise on the Carnival Conquest 09/04, those notions have been crushed.
The ship was clean, orderly, crew were happy, guests were happy, food was excellent and the cabins were more spacious than the average cabin in the industry.
While the main theater entertainment was average, the various artists onboard were fantastic especially Dave Schultz in Vincent's. He is a solo guitarist and is an excellent entertainer.
To tell you if you're on a clean ship, all you have to do is stick your head through one of the doors marked "crew only". If that area is clean, you can be assured that the ship is clean. I know this because I used to perform crew inspections and would evaluate those areas. So I did poke my head into one of those areas and found that you could almost eat off the floors. No trash, no dirt and shiny as far as I could see.
Carnival has come along way. The value for your dollar is exceptional.
I can't wait to cruise on the new Carnival Magic in September of 2012 from it's new home of Galveston. I know I won't be disappointed.