As this was my first Cruise I had no preconceived notions and had heard many things about cruising like great food, a lot of it and similar remarks. First off I have to say that the food was very good, not great and there was an abundance, but as a first time cruiser, the reason I am writing this is for people like myself who have traveled, but not cruised.
1. The embarkation process was very long and crowded and I thought very poorly managed. we waited in lines like livestock, only to wait in another line to a machine that only re processed what I had already done on the Internet before I cruised, then to another line for a picture(what a waste of photo paper, I was amazed...they just print every picture and throw away the ones not purchased)then on to boarding to another line to get our picture taken with our room card.
2. Buffet food was good, some bland, some not, but overall a lot of variety and I realize they are serving a lot of tastes so when that is considered it was impressive. My kids loved it! Guys Burger Joint was phenomenal. My main complaint was some of the timing. I am an early riser but the breakfast buffets were opened at different times each day and you had to check the sheet they gave you daily to find out...if you are there at 6:45 and it opens at 7:00 you wait until precisely 7:00 to eat. After speaking with friends I am told Carnival is the only line that does this. One night I got of the elevator to a very crowded area(I couldn't get off the elevator) because the doors to the dining room were not open yet(it was 5:55 not exactly 6:00) overall I sat in line to eat much more than I would have liked, seemed like I was at Disney World.
3. The shows and entertainment was better than I expected. I was very pleased and went to many different places and was not disappointed in this respect at all. There was live music if you wanted it and DJs if you prefer. The Lido DJ stuff was loud if you sat for a long time, but not horrible. I could do without the hairy chest competition. They needed more pools. The pools and hot tubs were always crowded and there didn't seem enough for the amount of passengers aboard. The drink prices were very high and I felt a bit captive(where else you gonna go?), I purchased an unlimited soda card, but as I had to wait at the bar and could only have one at a time(UNBREAKABLE RULE)it was a better value for my kids as they don't mind running around as much. I would have bought more photos and drinks of they were more appropriately priced. I would have purchased more photos if they could size them. I don't need several 8x10's of every picture at 20+ bucks a pop. I had a balcony cabin and I was impressed with the layout, and size of the room as I was expecting to be cramped and was pleasantly surprised. I highly recommend the balcony cabins.
4.Disembarkation was a breeze, if only getting on was as easy as getting off it would be great.
5. Overall I would recommend cruising, I will cruise again. I will probably try a different cruise line to see how they differ, and since I know what to expect I will be more prepared. I don't want to slam Carnival, since it was my only experience, I just felt herded too much.