My expectations were realistic, thanks to the other reviews listed here, and I am happy to say that they were exceeded from the moment we boarded. On this cruise we had 3 generations, including 2 girls, a teenager and a preteen. Half of us had cruised once before. We used LightHouse parking--convenient and cheaper than the city parking. We arrived at 11:30am and embarkation was a breeze. As we boarded, the weather was terrible, but it did not matter--the ship looked great.
We went straight to the lunch buffet. The food is good, not great, and there are many choices. The salad bar seemed very fresh, though there was not a wide variety of veggies. The burgers and deli were very good, and I loved the self-service frozen yogurt machines. Asian, Italian and other options were also available.
We had a stateroom with a window that connected to our daughters' stateroom. It was very well-designed, clean and bigger than I had expected. Yes, it was a bit dated, but that did not matter, and the bed was so comfortable. It was perfect for 2 people, but if we had to share the room with our daughters, it would have been too small.
The food at dinner was, for the most part, excellent as far as selection and quality. Our waiters were very hard working, but had a hard time keeping up most nights, so sometimes dinner took awhile. Since we weren't in a hurry, however, this doesn't really matter. We did bring our own bottles of wine to drink, and they were very accommodating about that.
Breakfast was okay, but unless you got to the buffet early, it could get very crowded. But we never had trouble finding a place to sit. My parents did the seated breakfast everyday and really enjoyed that.
The shows varied in quality. 2 nights had fantastic shows, including one amazing magic show that we all loved. Musically, there were 2 bands--a country/rock band and a jazz band which were outstanding. It was very enjoyable to listen to that level of talent.
There was a lot of programming for the kids, but the age group my daughters were in did not seem that organized, so they only did one or two things and then lost interest. They had a great time with us instead and both want to cruise again.
The shore days were lots of fun. I booked both days' activities independently of Carnival, using Trip Advisor, and it worked out very well. Days at sea were also fun and very relaxing, even when the weather was not perfect.
Overall, this was a very good vacation. Not everything was perfect, but everything was good enough that it did not matter. I would recommend this cruise, especially for first time cruisers.