I wanted to take my family on a cruise for Spring Break this year. I have 5 year old twin boys and thought a cruise would be a good way to see some sights while leaving plenty of time for relaxing, and hopefully take advantage of the included child care (so Mommy and Daddy get some vacation time too!). They took their first cruise last year, 5 days on RCI Navigator of the Seas, and did pretty well, so I thought I'd try again.
I did a lot of research online ahead of time. I obviously had to go during that week that school was out, I wanted a balcony room, and I did NOT want to go to Cozumel again (no offense to Cozumel, I've just been there a dozen times already). I had to choose from Princess (never sailed with them), Celebrity (loved the cruise I took WITHOUT kids a few years ago), Norwegian (took a weekend cruise a few years ago on the Sun to the Bahamas and wasn't impressed), and Carnival. I had cruised with Carnival almost 7 years earlier to Alaska and didn't love it at the time, but that prior experience was enough to land me a VERY good past guest rate on this cruise and the "frugal shopper" in me couldn't turn it down. After all Carnival, to me, had a reputation as being kid-friendly and since I was travelling with kids this time, I thought I'd give them another try.
We embarked from Ft. Lauderdale, which is a 3 hour drive from my house. My parents wound up booking the trip with us (my mom has been getting some cancer treatments and we thought it be nice for the boys and her to have some vacation time together). We didn't request a wheelchair (although we did drive up with a handicapped tag), but the staff took one look at my mother and immediately got her a wheelchair and personally escorted us through the boarding process. They couldn't have been nicer (and it retrospect it would have been pretty difficult for us to board without them). (Note: for those of you who have been reading the posts regarding "bringing" alcohol on board, they DO shake your water bottles here as well).
Located on starboard side, aft of midship. This is advertised as an "extended" balcony. The balcony is about 5.5 feet deep and the width of room, 2 balconies aft of where the ship narrows (hard to explain, but look at the deck plans) so not tremendously breezy on the balcony, still your towel could have blown away. It is furnished with 2 chairs (not lounges) and a small side table. Good privacy to the sides, you'd have to really work at leaning over to see your neighbors. No obstructions to views. Never had exhaust coming in to balcony, unlike the aft balconies can. HEAVY door that had to be pushed open (as opposed to a slider) to get to balcony--hard for my 5 year olds to do. Tall latch at top of door so your kids definitely couldn't get out if you remembered to latch it (which our steward was constantly doing). More than adequate storage space although the layout of the cubboards could have been improved as they encouraged you to throw your clothes in a heap. Short walk to aft elevator bay and stairwell. Quiet. Only noise was occasional toilet flush from neighboring rooms and balcony noise (mostly scraping of chairs on neighboring balconies). Beds were firm, more like a dense upholstery cushion than a mattress, but I didn't mind. A/C worked well, no untoward odors in room. Shower was typically small but with excellent controls, plenty of hot water and good water pressure. Bathroom storage was acceptable. Hair dryer was typically insipid. Minibar, which we had emptied so we could use it as a fridge, kept drinks at only about 65 degrees. We used the extra bunks as we travelled with 2 children. The couch became a lower bunk and a pullman came down from the ceiling right above the couch to resemble bunk beds. The upper bunk was full sized and sturdy with a rail and a narrow ladder, and I didn't worry about having a 5 year old up there. Overall, very functional and comfortable, but with multiple people in the room, it did tend to get a little tight in the hallway section of the room.