This was my 11th overall cruise, 5th on Carnival. Went with my wife as part of a larger group of friends and family. We're locals so there was no air travel or hotel stays involved.
We still LOVE cruising out of Tampa. It's close, drop off is a breeze, and self-park is easy. Security screening, check-in and boarding took about 20 minutes.
We previously sailed on same cruise 3 years ago on the Paradise and vowed we wouldn't go back. The staff at that time were generally unpleasant, barely spoke (let alone understood) English, and quite frankly - rude. Given that this was the only 4 night cruise out of Tampa that our group could all arrange time off for, we had no real alternative so decided to give it another try. Surprisingly, we had quite a different experience (that, or we tempered our expectations accordingly!) This time the staff were overall pleasant and service wasn't too bad. Most bar service areas were understaffed, but eventually we were served.
The ship itself still seems as well maintained as they can manage, but it is showing some signs of its age with wear and tear here and there. On our previous Paradise experience, there was a pervasive smell of sewage onboard - especially on decks 7 and 8. That was not the case this time; now there is a pervasive smell of cigarette smoke throughout the ship's common areas despite smoking only being permitted in the casino and at the casino bar. This was probably due to the inordinate number of chain smokers that set up shop there within 15 minutes of boarding! By the time the safety briefing occurred for us in that area, one could barely see from one end of the Promenade deck to the other because of the thick smoke in the air! This only got worse as the cruise went on and anytime we had to walk through that area, the stench stuck on us the rest of the time we had on those clothes. Note to Carnival: fix the ventilation!
The decor remains generally dark. The room itself was well maintained and our steward was very friendly.
The food in the MDR was again hit-and-miss. I thought the first night was very good and the service for our "My Time Dining" was great. The second night, the food just didn't taste good and the service was VERY slow until a second waiter was finally brought in. They could also not get any of our drink orders correct (I asked for a Bass Ale and a Diet Coke - the server came back 20 minutes later and asked if I wanted him to mix them or would I do it myself?!?!) The last night wasn't too bad except for the mushroom soup - I almost asked for a can of Campbell's instead! Breakfast in MDR has become "brunch" and is served from 8:30-1:30. Pretty good menu choices and the food and service were MUCH better than on our last cruise on Paradise. Note to Bloody Mary drinkers: try the Bloody Maria - very good! Other dining for us included the Mongolian Grille and Room service - both were very good. Most orders for room service were taken in a few minutes and delivered in less than 10. Loved the Reubens and BLTs. We did not try the buffet.
We did not see any production shows. We spent the first sea day on the pool deck which was nice. Seemed to be plenty of chairs. Drink staff was still sparse and drink prices have continued to go up. Last sea day was a wash out so we strolled around the ship. We caught a show by each of the comedians. Both were pretty funny. The best time we had on the ship BY FAR, though, was after our formal night dinner. It was 70's night in the Rex night club so about 75-80 of us dressed up in 70s style disco costumes (big hair and platform shoes included!) Additionally, we had 3 Richard Simmons, Boy George and Prince, the Flintstones and 2 Olivia Newton John workout girls (of course, one was a guy!) HIT OF THE CRUISE!!! Even the cruise director handed out a few "Ship on a Stick" trophies!
Disembarkment on Carnival continues to be miserable. It seems like we didn't get cleared until sitting at the dock for about an hour. Then, all the self-assist people show up. It could be that w/ a 4 day cruise more people think they can simply carry off all their stuff but it took the lot of them nearly 90 minutes to get off. Didn't get off this year until about 10:30AM!
Overall, we had a good time. Only major complaint is the poor ventilation around all the smokers. Would now consider doing it again!
Plenty of room. Decor is dark, though. Bathroom shows most wear and tear, but there is some throughout (drawers sticking; couch sagged; balcony teak mildewed.) Actually plenty of electrical outlets.