Sailed from NYC on 9/11 to Bermuda. This was our 11th cruise and 4th on Carnival. Previously we have sailed on Sitmar, RCCL, and Celebrity.
We love cruising! There is no better value for the dollar than a cruise. All cruises are different, ships are different, staffs are different. That being said, there is some comfort in the expectation of, "Different ship, same stuff."
The weather cannot be controlled so there is no reason to comment on it.
Carnival has the largest staterooms by far of any of the other lines we have cruised. We selected a balcony cabin on desk 8 (of which I knew better). This deck is immediately under the pool deck and sure enough we were awakened at 5:00am each morning by the sound of tables and chairs being moved around above our heads. Excellent room steward.
Carnival not only has 24-hour pizza, they have 24-hour soft serve ice cream and frozen yogurt. The other lines we have traveled do not, and in fact RCCL seems to always have trouble keeping their machines running even when they are opened (6 cruises - same issue).
The ship had a comedy club that hosted 4 different comedians throughout the cruise. Three were excellent and 1 was just plain bad.
Other shows were up to par with RCCL.
Carnival does have small launderette's on the ship that other lines do not have. This is great if you need to iron something quickly. You can also do your own laundry of you have enough quarters.
NOT NECESSARILY NEGATIVE - BUT BE AWARE
Food quality was good throughout. The Main Dining Room (MDR) selections were a bit disappointing as far as creativity, but that may be a sign of who cruises Carnival and their preferences. Buffet food was normal, but poolside food was very, very good. Best hot dog I have ever eaten and the tortilla chips were home made right on the ship - excellent.
Pools were very tiny, but there were 3 of them. Carnival does not enforce the no saving deck chair policy. Celebrity does a very good job of this - Carnival could learn a few things.
Carnival also does not enforce their dress code policy in the MDR. Lots of ratty shorts, flip flops and the like - even on more "formal" nights. Again, they could learn a bit from Celebrity ( I witnessed a man being turned away from the MDR on Celebrity based on his attire).
We were very disappointed with the live music. The poolside band were 2 uninspired musicians playing guitars to recorded music. There were 2 piano players, and 2 one-man bands. One of them, Tony Ray, was excellent but spent most of the cruise in the smoke filled casino were no one cared. The one night we caught him out we danced the entire time to his music. The show band was very good but did not play outside of the shows. It would have been great to have them playing dance music since most of the cruisers were over 40. We are used to 3-4 man bands playing anything from jazz-to-salsa-to-ballroom.
You will find the ship very clean and the staff friendly. The ship architect should be fired, because you will also find some of the ugliest decor on the 7-seas.
Overall this was just a so-so cruise. Was it the worst we have ever been on? Yes. Was it bad? No. Did we have a nice cruise vacation? Yes we did.
Most of what is cruise is, is what YOU make of it.