Carnival has changed and evolved over the past 10 years. Here are some of the ways:
Embarkation: Gone are the days of the uneven, unorganized boarding process. Technical advances have made this a much more organized, efficient process.
Cleanliness: This ship is spotless. One would be hard-pressed to find any dust, much less dirt on any part of this ship. I personally witnessed a worker at 10:00 P.M. in a (carpeted) lobby area searching for spots in the rug (with a hand held wooden bristle brush and a spray bottle of cleaning solution).
Dining: Gone are the days of the general type Lido buffets with just a few different options. The buffet choices include food options from all areas of the globe (Caribbean, Chinese, American, European, etc). Also, other great Lido deck options (A deli, Burrito Bar, a pizza place and a fantastic Fish and Chips counter). The promenade deck also offers a sushi bar as well as the Java Cafe.
Gone are the days with unexciting, unimaginative, menus in the main dining rooms. The main dining rooms now offer new, imaginative choices. Also, the addition of an everyday menu is quite an enhancement. One of the biggest changes I noticed was that the food always arrived hot, not just luke warm (which is a hard hurdle to overcome when serving some many people at one time).
I was also fortunate enough to have wonderful dining companions. Thank you, Gary, Richard, Gizelle and Laura. Everyone of you made my dining experiences wonderful.
Excursions: The excursion that I went on (through Carnival) was well organized and very informative.
Entertainment: I found the entertainment a little bit uneven. The production shows were pretty much cruise industry quality. I found the second production show (The 80's) was superior to the first production show (Nightclubs). The illusionist show was uneven with too much audience participation. The show featuring vocalist Marcus Anthony was good, but once again, too much audience participation.
Debarkation: Gone are the days of chaotic, unorganized debarkation. The addition of self service debarkation (carry your own bags off the ship) seems to greatly speed up the debarkation process. Also, gone are the days of the luggage just being lined up in rows (in the luggage pickup area). The creation of airport type carousels makes debarkation very easy and organized.
Conclusion: If you have negative preconceptions regarding Carnival cruises, you would be mistaken. The quality of the cruises (as well as the very friendly,efficient staff) that Carnival provides, is hard to beat. The value for the money that one receives from Carnival Cruise lines can not be beat. If you are looking for understated, elegance for a reasonable price, you will not be disappointed. Carnival does not yet provide the mega Hollywood type cruise ships but if you can live without a neighborhood mall experience while cruising, you will agree that you will have received a wonderful cruise experience.