Took a Thanksgiving cruise with three adults, three kids and three cabins. Overall the cruise was a lot of fun but felt like a cattle call at times. The kids had a blast.
Paying to upgrade to a balcony cabin is akin to paying to upgrade to the smoking section of a restaurant. Several times we had to leave the balcony as the people around us lit up, and our neighbor was sitting just a few feet away even though there was a divider between us. One time upon returning from an excursion, the room smelled like smoke, and I called housekeeping to tell them that the room smelled like smoke, and it wasn't me doing the smoking, and I didn't want to be billed for it. The problem was worst while in port and not so bad while cruising because the wind took the smoke away. Carnival should restrict balcony smokers to one side of the ship.
My time dining could also be called "Wait Until We Are Ready Dining". Some nights were better than others, but we typically waited in line 15 minutes and were seated. Two nights after waiting, we were given a pager. The worst night was Thanksgiving when it was over an hour from the time we got in line until we had our first food other than bread and water. Granted it was Thanksgiving week. We had three wait teams who were very good and on top of things and three wait teams who were slower. The staff were all very friendly, but the impression was that they were super busy.
Food was hit and miss too. Sometimes great, sometimes OK. The basic foods were very good: Pizza, Burgers at the grill, Mongolian Wok etc. Some of the fancier foods were not. The filet I ordered came with gravy on it. About one step up from the Golden Corral. It was still good, but not great. The Cappuccino was excellent and a nice treat.
The room and room stewards were the best part of the trip. Ours, Anna, knew our names before we even showed up to the room. She was very attentive, friendly and on top of things. The cabin was very comfortable and 75% of the time the balcony was great, but I probably wouldn't pay to upgrade that again due to smoking issues. The kids loved their steward too.
In a port requiring tenders, Carnival disembarks passengers who have booked excursions through them first. Everybody else waits. In Cayman we waited one hour and 27 minutes from the time we got our tender ticket until we stepped foot on a tender. One hour and 42 minutes until we were on shore and over two hours until we arrived at our beach. This left less than four hours to enjoy Grand Cayman. In general we did not spend enough time in port. We had six hours in Roatan even though the ship seemed to wait offshore for two hours before docking.
Well, those are my complaints, and every cruise will have some. Overall we had a great time and I would probably do it again, although I would consider another line if the price was close.
We did no ship excursions.
In Cozumel, we took a cab to Paradise Beach for $20 and paid $2 per person for chairs and umbrellas. We also had to buy $10 food/beer per person. The kids playground was an extra 12. We rented personal watercraft, parasailed and rode the banana boats. They have a pretty beach with trees and a nice pool area. If you want to eat and drink a lot, it's probably better to go with the ship excursion. We saw many people falling out of their cabs on return to port.
In Belize we booked the cave tubing through Reggies Tours http://www.regtourbz.com/. We shared a van with one other family. We saw a lot of people with www.cave-tubing.com. The cave tubing is the most popular tour in Belize and when you have five ships in port, it can be crowded. There was seriously a conga line of hundreds of people snaking their way up the mud path holding their yellow tubes. Figure five ships in port with 2k-3K passengers each and do the math. It was still well worth it though because it's like nothing I've ever seen.
Roatan is a beautiful island and we booked a private tour with http://www.therisroatantours.com/ for $25 dollars a person. Enry was our private guide and we had our own van. Whatever we wanted to do, he took us. The snorkeling is a must do here, and if you are a certified diver, scuba would be great too. We took a boat snorkeling so it cost extra.
In Cayman, we took the taxi $5 person to the public beach and parked it. You could rent chairs and umbrellas, purchase food and drinks etc.