This was my wife and I's second cruise. Our first cruise to Europe (as well as being our first time in Europe). Our first cruise was a Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Legend in August of 2007, so that's the only thing we can compare with. We had a fantastic time, and while some things were better than the Legend, other's weren't quite up to par yet.
Embarkation: This was an amazing process. I remember waiting in line for hours on the Legend and the embarkation area was just crowded and did not seem efficient. In Civitavecchia it was the exact opposite. We arrived at a little after 10:00am, and embarkation was scheduled to start at 10:30am. It started right away, if not a bit early, and we were on the cruise ship within 30-40 minutes minutes of arrival with absolutely no delays or hassle. It was a fantastic experience. Since we were some of the very first people on the ship, we had time to walk around and fully explore the ship without any crowds. We weren't able to schedule anything or buy anything except for a fountain card, as embarkation had just started and the staff were still getting prepared.
Guest Services: My wife was not registered as a past guest due to her having her maiden name registered for the first cruise, and so she didn't receive the Gold card like I did. Originally we didn't think much of it (although my wife was a little jealous of my gold card I think!) until we found out that I was invited to a past cruise function and she wasn't. I went down the guest services, and they immediately found her past guest record and printed her a Gold card and gave her an invitation to the past guest function on the spot. Every single time I had to deal with guest services they were incredibly nice, knowledgeable, and efficient. Most people who complain about them were the people I saw with the ridiculous demands or claims. I always made sure I smiled and thanked them, because they really put up with a lot of crazy people on that big of a ship.