Overall we were pleasantly surprised; however, cost cutting was obvious especially with the food services.
First, we really liked the diversity of the passengers - young families, mid-twenties, 50's, and older. They were friendly and outgoing. There was no pretentiousness as you sometimes find on some higher-priced cruises.
This was "really" the only cruise where you could eat anytime. Most other cruise lines make the claim, but they really have "dead zones" during the day. You could tell the cost cutting especially in the dining room. There were three courses with limited sized servings. I'd say the main entrees were equally distributed in terms of quality as excellent, average, and poor. After the third seating, you started seeing the same desserts repeated. Overall, desserts are not their forte. In the Assigned Seating dining, the table service was very good.
Between meals, we liked the constant availability of the pizza and ice cream (actually yogurt).
The Captain's party is worth skipping. It was unorganized, and we had trouble finding the Captain. Also, the only benefit provided was $1 off drinks.
We saw a portion of one stage show. It seemed a little amateurish. Otherwise, we liked the lounge entertainment, especially Lorraine in the piano bar and the group "Music Mix". We also liked that there was always a variety of entertainment past midnight.
Since the ship is going into dry dock for refurbishment, I'll only mention one shortcoming with the ship's layout. Our big disappointment was that there is no lounge to sit back, look out over the ocean and read a book in a location that is away from the bustle of through traffic and the midday heat. The rear portion of the Paris dining room would have been an ideal lounge (what a waste).
Speaking of reading, the ship's library is the worst shipboard library we've seen. It had very few books and the selection was very limited.
The final night on-board night was a pleasure. On our other cruises, the entertainment started to wind down early in the evening. On this cruise, you could not tell it was the last night. The full range of entertainment ran well past midnight.
Disembarkation was well handled and a pleasant experience. On previous cruises, we've always felt like "yesterday's news" by having to meet in the cargo hold . On this cruise using the self-assist, we had a leisurely full breakfast, waited in our cabin, and then exited in a civilized manner. This was the easiest exit we have ever experienced.
In closing, the positives of this cruise significantly outweigh the negatives. We had a very pleasurable experience. We would definitely consider Carnival again for a future cruise (of course, dependent on dates, ports and/or pricing).