This was my first cruise for myself and my girlfriend, and I wasn't too impressed with the whole atmosphere of the cruise.
The embarkation was a bit of a mess, getting on the ship was an absolute nightmare, something I never ever want to have to do again. The stateroom was pretty legit, the service that was provided by our room steward was nothing short of spectacular. The balcony was rather large (aft view) and can comfortably fit 4 just in the balcony. The food for lunch and breakfast was ok, i was sick a few days from eating the Indian food, which I don't recommend at all. The evening dining was very delicious and the desserts are very tasty. The shows on the ship was also very funny and entertaining. I wouldn't miss the chance to book a night at the steakhouse, it was probably the best steak and cheesecake I've had in a very long time, it was most definitely worth the 30 dollars. We joined the Spa for the duration of the cruise, and if you are the Spa going type, I'd recommend it as well.
Now for the negative side of things. I don't know if it's a seasonal thing, but the ship on the first 4 days or so swayed very hard. We were only on the 8th deck towards the stern and it was almost difficult to walk in some cases, and I've grown up around boats. The part that was most aggravating about Carnival is how much of a "commercial" the cruise was. Every which way you look, someone is trying to sell something, whether it be the tropical drinks, wine, the Spa treatments, the art auctions, 8 dollars for an on demand movie REALLY? I was hoping for a more relaxed experience, but I guess that's what I paid for. I was expecting there to be a whole lot of kids with how close our cruise date was to kids being out of school, but they weren't as many and they weren't as troublesome as I was expecting them to be. Also, if you are going on a cruise, and you are on a mission to drink, for the love of god, don't come unprepared. Sneak your alcohol on, there are various methods online. The prices for alcohol (and soda!) on Carnival is simply criminal. 4.50 for a can of Heineken and like 8 dollars and up for a mixed drink.
On a side note, Carnival contracts a LOT of their works from many different third world countries, most are from Indonesia, the Phillipines, and Eastern Europe. I believe most workers from England are on a work study program, but these people work months straight on end with an unrelenting mission to serve you. Don't be stingy on tips, if you get the chance to talk to a few of the Third Country Nationals, some are on 9 month contracts before they can see their families. I was kind of upset to find out I was giving capital to a company that exploits foreign workers.
All in all, I won't be on another Carnival cruise for the foreseeable future.