My wife and I are in our late fifties and we have cruised 4 previous times--3 on Princess and one on RCI. Accompanying us were our 2 adult sons who had never cruised before. We chose Carnival because of the price and because we thought it might be a more lively and fun cruise for our sons. Frankly, my expectations weren't very high, as I had categorized Carnival as a low end, party only cruise line. I was pleasantly surprised and we enjoyed our cruise very much.
Embarkation and debarkation were fine. Nothing remarkable about either. The usual lines to stand in, but nothing too terrible. Carnival's website says you can bring on a bottle of wine and as many as 12, 12 oz water or soft drinks per person in your carry-on bags. The 4 of us each had a bottle of wine and a soft drink or 2 and had no trouble. I saw people with 12 packs of soda or water and they had no trouble. The pleasant surprise was that we were never charged the $10 corkage fee that the Carnival website said we would. We brought a bottle of wine to dinner on 4 different nights, set it on the table, our waitress asked if she could open it for us and she did, and we were never charged any fee.
We were pleased with our cabin and cabin service. We thought it was a foot or 2 wider than Princess or RCI cabins. The bed seemed a little wider and there seemed to be a little more space on either side of the bed to come and go. Everything worked well in the room and bathroom. Our only complaint about the room was the noise. We were on deck 6, directly above the back of the Ivanhoe Theatre and we could hear everything happening in the theatre. I expected some degree of noise, but nothing to this extent. It didn't bother us too much because we usually went to the late show and nothing happened in the theatre after 11:30, but a couple of mornings when we planned to sleep in we heard loud music from the theatre at about 7:30, although there was nothing scheduled to take place in the theatre at that time. I certainly would not want to be above the casino or lounges where the noise level stays high well into the night.
The food was very good. We had late seating in the Washington Dining Room and ate there every night. Good selection and variety, especially the appetizers, and the food was always well prepared. Service was excellent. We usually ate lunch at the buffet and it was also good. In addition to the buffet line, they have a deli, a burrito place, a wok, fish n chips, and a grill area for burgers, etc. The buffet line had a different theme each day--Italian, French, Caribbean, etc and the food was generally very good. We usually had breakfast in the Washington Dining Room where the breakfast menu was the same every day and the service wasn't quite as good as at dinner, but again, no complaints about the food.
We didn't do any Carnival shore excursions, all were arranged privately. We also never used the spa.
Entertainment was ok. The Valor singers and dancers and band were the best we have seen so far. Their shows were very energetic, lively and entertaining. The outside entertainment wasn't great though. We saw a Motown singer who was ok, nothing great, and they are big on comedians. They had 2 early in the week and 2 others later in week. The 2 early week guys had pretty good shows, but we only saw one of the later guys and he was terrible. Nice miniature golf course on the ship. They had a lot of trivia contests that were generally well attended, and we also enjoyed the casino. The farewell party (with free drinks) was the best. They had this at 5:00 pm on the last night of the cruise. It was held in the biggest lounge which was just the right size so we all had a place to sit and they had a very good band playing. On past cruises you would be lucky to get a drink or 2 and they would stop serving after about 10 or 15 minutes. This one, the waiters kept coming around with full drink trays for about 45 minutes and we had all the drinks we could handle. Very enjoyable