I should say that booking the cruise with a Carnival cruise planner is the first easy and efficient step to the holiday. I have known ours, through e-mails, for three years, and she is always prompt and helpful. Also, any queries were immediately answered - all this by e-mail. Embarkation was so easy and it felt so good to be back on board a Carnival ship, it felt so familiar. This time we had a balcony quad and I must say it made such a difference. Sailing Northwards it was magnificent to see the sky in the middle of the night like a palette of beautiful dark blue/purple/pink hues as it never got completely dark! The best thing about the cabins are the comfortable beds. you really sink into the pillows! Our stateroom attendant Juan kept the stateroom shipshape and he was always very friendly. Bed linen was always fresh and spotlessly clean. It was a haven to relax in. The food was brilliant! It was delicious, nicely presented and abundant. The Prime Rib and Melted Chocolate Pudding are to die for! This year I must say I found a great improvement as regards desserts and sweets (especially where cream is concerned, much nicer now)- they were scrumptious, fresh and a variety was on offer. The wine we wanted was always available. The drinks waiter in the dining room, Praja, always remembered what we wanted and brought it without even asking because we had the soda card. Our waiter, Davor, really did his best to make our dining experience memorable. The maitre d, Kostantin, welcomed guests every evening as we entered the dining room and later on during dinner walked round tables talking to guests. All the food in the Lido was delicious. The ready Oriental food served in the buffet was fresh and tasty and, naturally, the Asian food cooked while you wait was a treat. The non-stop pizza is just excellent! The grill and the deli bar are very good too. We also enjoyed the sushi bar. Remember that ice-cream is available 24 hours too! A highlight this time was that we had breakfast and lunch most times in the dining room as well. You get excellent service without getting up from your table. And the pancakes with cream and strawberries were something special! And don't forget tea-time on days at sea! I could go on about the food - quite a portion of our video is taken up with meal-times! The ship is kept spotlessly clean at all times, including public bathrooms. I can't understand people who say the dEcor is hideous. It is extravagantly imaginative, colorful and adventurous, just what I want on holiday. It makes us feel that everything goes and after a year slogging at work and wearing conservative clothing and subdued make-up it's a relief to let yourself go and be adventurous yourself. The ambience says "Let yourself go!" And that is exactly what we need and what we do on holiday. And I like the play with colors and shapes and how everything is put together. I especially liked the El Morocco lounge. My husband and I enjoyed having a cocktail there. And this brings me to a very important point - we were SO PLEASED that more and more areas of the ship are NON-SMOKING! It is such a relief. First of all we really congratulate Carnival that all the Lido deck is non-smoking as opposed to one side only - bravo carnival! I was also extremely pleased El Morocco was smoke free. It is a step in the right direction and I hope that sometime the Casino will be non-smoking too. We used the pool a lot and always found deck-chairs. Another improvement was that one can't leave deck-chairs booked and not used for more than a certain period of time. this eliminated those people who grab deck-chairs for a whole day without using them! The shows were amazing! We really enjoyed them. We didn't miss one of them. The singers and dancers are professional and one wonders how everything is done on a stage and on a ship! We always sit in the balcony but you have to go right after dinner if you want a good seat. The ports of call were lovely. I loved St Petersburg! We took a Carnival excursion and we had a really good guide, Ana. I felt immersed in the history of the place and there are such magnificent buildings. The Hermitage is awesome! I would definitely like to return. Tallinn was cute and walking the streets is enjoyable. It is easily accessible, you just walk off the ship. This is also the case for Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Both are lovely. A canal boat trip in Amsterdam is a must. We took one from the pier near the station - we bought the tickets there and then. Helsinki is easy - you take a shuttle from the ship and there you are. It's pretty and clean. So we needed excursions for St Petersburg and Berlin only. Now as for Berlin, it is a wonderful city but if I have to be honest I don't think it was worth the three hour train journey (six hours with return). Checkpoint Charlie was a disappointment, as was the Jewish Memorial. The Brandenburg Gate was majestic...but all those hours on the train...Perhaps we felt like that because it was an extremely hot day. Last but not least I must mention John Heald, the cruise Director - he's tops! He has a natural talent to be amusing and he is nice everywhere not just on the TV in the stateroom - we met him personally and he was extremely nice to talk to. Thumbs up Carnival! This was a perfect cruise and the ship is truly splendid! The staff is wonderful, everyone of them was so helpful and polite and always with a smile. We will definitely sail Carnival again!