I have taken only one other cruise - the first was with Holland America through the Mediterranean in 2009. That was the cruise of a lifetime so any comparison is unfair but unavoidable. I traveled with my 62 year old mother. We shared a stateroom on the first floor - called the "Riveria".
The ship holds about 2400 passengers but never felt crowded. The activities weren't exactly my cup of tea but others seemed to enjoy them. There were quite a few kids on board but we found them rarely intrusive. Admittedly, we spent a lot of time at the Aft (kid free) pool area.
The stateroom was nice enough. Three closets, one with shelving, a restroom with small shelves to hold our toiletries on either side of the sink. There were a few drawers on one side of the desk area and a mini-fridge which wasn't exceptionally cold but kept our drinks and yogurt cool enough. We did tip the room steward to empty the fridge and they did so with the exception of the mini liquor bottles which were in the door. Our room was well maintained with twice daily straightening, including the evening turndown and the always fun towel animals and complimentary chocolates. We could hear the constant rumble of the engines but we found it soothing and not bothersome at all. Also, though aft, we were equidistant between 2 elevators - very convenient!
While the food was consistently good, it was not necessarily a highlight. We found that we preferred the Lido or the for breakfast and lunch and the dining room (as you wish) for dinner. We quickly fell in love with Cvetelina from Bulgaria and requested her each night. She made such efforts to make sure everything was perfect. By the third night we were hugging her goodbye. She is a truly sweet soul and made each evening a treat. We did have dinner at the Steakhouse one night. While not impressed with the starters (ahi tartar and a crab cake), the filet mignon and desserts were spectacular and worth the additional $30 per person.
We took two ship excursions and planned the rest on our own. In Puerto Vallerta we joined the 3 bus tequila "factory" tour. In reality, this was a stop at two separate tequila tasting locations. The first stop was a pretty little space with really interesting botanicals. We saw a cacao plant a several vanilla plants too as well as blue agave and colorful flowers we had never seen before. The tequila was tasty enough and well priced. We tried a silver, Reposado and Anejo then three flavored tequila liquors - almond, peach and chocolate with coffee. The pours were generous and more than one person fell into a tequila stupor. The second location looked like a little hacienda. They also offered 3 tequila pours and then 3 flavored liquors. I liked the tequila at the first place best but became weary of the vendors hawking their shot glasses, silver and ceramics. I would note that there was an artist at the first location who did quite lovely and colorful scenes of local Mexican life. My mother fell in love with his work and had a long conversation with him about his art. Vincent the tour guide...or was it Victor? Spoke non-stop from the moment we left the port to the moment we returned. He focused on talking about his favorite foods, the history of Mexico and MAS TEQUILA! In any case - you definitely get what you pay for.
Second tour was the Wine Tasting in Ensenada. We were deluged by rain that day and it definitely put a damper on the day...damper, get it? The first location was pretty and they offered delicious homemade bread, cheese and pizza as well as really interesting jams, pepper jellys, hot sauces and herbed olive oils. I didn't love the wine here and the tasting was pretty disorganized due to the rain but they made every effort to accommodate us. Second location offered fruity olive oil, delicious olives and more wine. I bought a couple of bottles of blanc di blanc - it was very tasty. Belina was our guide. She was very knowledgeable and friendly and did a great job.
Entertainment was fine. I found the CD annoying but her staff was great. The game show, Superstar Singing and random 'Guess that Song" were fun. The shows were always enjoyable though I admit I didn't watch all of them.
Embarkation was easy - the lines were a bit long at check-in at San Pedro but our rooms were ready once we boarded around 1:30 pm. Luggage was delivered within the next few hours. Debarkation began at 7:30 am and we finally walked out of the customs line around 10:30 am. It went smoothly.
Overall the cruise was fun. Carnival takes pretty good care of their guests and a good time was had by all.