This was my 1st cruise, so I have nothing to compare it with, but I was extremely satisfied and thrilled with our trip. My parents paid for 6 of us, myself and my husband, my brother and his wife included, as a vacation to "skip" Christmas.
Embarkation was fairly smooth and organized, although there are really no signs at the port in New Orleans to help you find your way. The line getting on the ship is long, so wear comfortable shoes, you'll be standing alot. Once we boarded, there was an hour and a half wait for our rooms to be readied. Embarkation day was the most chaotic with crazy lines at the buffets and elevators. Be patient and take the stairs.
Our interior room, 2298, was perfectly sufficient for anyone not spending much time there. Yes it was cramped in comparison to most American hotel rooms, but it had great closet and drawer space and lots of shelves in the bathroom for toiletries. Small desk, small old-fashioned tv, mini fridge & hair dryers included. Beds were very comfortable, but there is only one electrical outlet in the room, none in the bathroom. We took an outlet expander that converts one plug into 3 and that was perfect for all our electronic chargers. There is no music playing in the halls like I read previously and few people are noisy in the halls, so we never used our earplugs. They recently converted most of the ship to non-smoking, but there is NO smoke smell anywhere but in the smoking areas. My sister inlaw is a bit claustrophobic and was worried about the interior rooms, but had no problem. Housekeeping was wonderful and the room was always spotless, turndown service and the towel animals were great.
We always had breakfast and lunch at one of the buffets, usually the pizza bar or Cezanne and always had dinner in the Renoir dining room. The buffets were very good while still fresh, but its a buffet. If you eat late, it will be picked over. The fish and chips buffet was really good, cooked there in front of you, but I'm told the sushi bar was only okay. The Renoir dinners were the best though. Everything the six of us had was either great or amazing. The service was second to none, if you need anything, don't hesitate to ask because they will typically bend over backward. We loved sitting down as a family every night because its very relaxed with plenty of time between courses to chat and really enjoy the food. Also, if you want 2 starters or 2 main courses, just ask, they'll bring you one of everything if you want! The servers also put on a song & dance routine most nights that was hilarious and super entertaining. I'm told that is very unusual for cruises, but we all loved it.
As our group was all adults (28 to 57) and we wanted a more relaxed vibe, we spent every fun day at sea hanging out at the Adults Only pool at the stern. Music was kept lower than the main pool and since kids aren't allowed in the pool or hot tubs, there was no screaming or horsing around. Very relaxing! Pool chairs are at a premium on sea days, so get up earlier if you want a prime spot. Unfortunately some people are extremely rude and will leave towels on the chairs for HOURS to save their spot. Don't do this. Alot of the same people hang out in this area and you will become known by all as a premo douche. Same goes for the main pool, move your feet, lose your seat, just deal with it.
Our biggest complaint with the cruise in general were the lines to get back on the ship. Unless you don't have a planned excursion, everyone gets back to the pier at the same time and creates super long lines. Of course you're already tired, so you may want to carry a small book or magazine to help pass the time quicker. As for time in port and excursions, we recommend carrying a small backpack with sunblock, bug spray, *disinfecting wipes* (these are SOO handy), a hat and small first aid kit. Also, if you go snorkeling, don't forget sunblock on the back of your legs! :)
We didn't see much of the entertainment or shows on the ship as we were just too tired to stay up that late (alot of them don't start until 10). We did see a hypnotist/comedian that was unforgettable though. They had a few different bands playing throughout the ship on different days, but none of them were particularly good, alot of latin music. The pianist in the piano bar was a mediocre singer and the duo playing in the lobby every night was horrible. I heard it was their first cruise performing and apparently their last as well.
Our excursions were all varying degrees of awesome. Cave tubing in Belize was fascinating, but because other ships were in port as well, the line waiting to get in the water was ridiculous. I recommend it anyway because it was worth the wait, but be prepared for a long bus ride. We booked a private snorkeling excursion in Roatan through the Turqoise Bay Resort that was phenomenal. Only 9 people in our group and there were no other people around that we could see. Saw a TON of awesome fish and coral and was a fantastic deal. In Cozumel, 4 of us did the Carnival trip Isla Pasion by Twister, which is the speedboat ride to the beach and this was my absolute favorite day. The spins on the boat were thrilling, but didn't nauseate anyone like I expected, just SO much fun. They did them on the way out and the way back. You get lots of time at the beach which is STUNNING, clean and very spacious. There's all sorts of water sports and a great mexican buffet with fantastic guacamole and salsa. The massage therapy station has table and chair massage for $1/minute, which I highly recommend. Even just 10 minutes was a highlight for me. I can't recommend this excursion enough, it was the best deal by far. Our last excursion in Progreso was to the Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins. I'm really glad we went and it was amazing to see, but not something I would do again. There was no where to get lunch, so take snacks with you or be prepared to wait until dinner. It was very hot, so wear a hat & sunblock and take some water. Climbing on the ruins was fun (a little insane they let you do that), but swimming in the cenote afterwards was the best part. The water was super refreshing and it was sooo beautiful. Wear water shoes though, the rocks are very hard on your feet.
Debarkation couldn't have been easier. We opted to do self-assist, which means you carry all your own bags off the ship, no matter the size and don't worry about leaving your packed bags outside your room the night before. I don't know why more people don't do this because you are first off the ship and there are ZERO lines. No lines at the gangway and no lines at customs. You'll have to get up a little earlier, but everyone else has to spend that extra time on the ship waiting in common areas and then waiting in lines.
Overall, I would highly recommend this cruise to anyone. They cater to so many people that you'd really have to work at it to not have fun. Your vacation will be what you make of it, so focus on the good stuff because there's plenty of it.