Sailed on the Freedom out of Galveston. First time in 10 years sailing on Carnival. Have sailed once with RC and 6 times with Disney.
Embarkation was easy (we did have FTTF). We flew in the night before and stayed at a Holiday Inn Express on points. Took a Lyft to port which was easy. We sat for maybe 30 minutes before boarding. No line for security and our bags were at our door when we boarded about 11:45. It was also nice to have a shorter line at guest services.
We had an oceanview room on deck 2 forward (2288) The room was a good size, bed was comfy and there was plenty of storage. Liked the shelves in one of the closets for clothing and shoes, and suitcases fit under bed easily. Shower was ok but the water seemed to come out of the shower way too easily. Not enough water pressure for me either but the temp was ok. The main problem with the room was the noise. It was right across from where the stewards loaded their carts which was pretty noisy. It also really creaked a lot - there was a noise that sounded like a marble rolling above our heads a lot of the time. Kind of annoying! Room steward was awesome though. Always kept the room clean with ice etc... and was very friendly. The TV remote didn't work correctly.
Food - the main dining room food was pretty good. IMO it was significantly better than RCL and about the same as DCL. Breakfast buffet was ok but it was the same exact thing every morning. Tried the Sea Day brunch one day and it was ok (pancakes were tough) but eggs were good. Loved the Guy's burgers. Really enjoyed the sushi (extra cost but got quite a big serving for the price). Also tried the crab sliders at the seafood shack - they were ok but the buns were hard. The burritos at Blue Iguana were also very good. We did try the steakhouse selection in the main dining room and thought the filets were very good. Not a noticeable difference (other than maybe 3 ounces) in quality of the included filet on the MDR menu though. Room service was quick but didn't enjoy the food all that much for the price. We did have the bubbles package for soda. Really didn't enjoy having to stand at a bar for a soft drink. Wish Carnival would do what RCL does with the freestyle machines. It seemed like such a waste to have canned sodas (not chilled at all) on the ship. You would have to pour it over a whole glass of ice which immediately watered it down!
Now to the shows. Enjoyed the Hasbro game shows and Bingo. I also really liked the 80s pop show. Probably not fair to compare to DCL but the shows were not even in the same category as Disney. I knew that going in. The cruise director Emma was great and the singers/dancers were also very nice. We did get bored in the afternoon sometimes as there didn't seem to be much to do. Loved the comedians in the evening a couple of nights.
Service. The MDR servers were very nice but after sailing on DCL really missed the interactions we are used to there. Service was usually pretty good but a couple of nights seemed really slow. We had the early assigned dining time ( 6 PM). The bartenders were all nice but sometimes really busy which meant waiting for 10 minutes for a drink. The room staff were great. I asked for a fan for our room the first night but it never showed up. I was able to use an app on my phone for white noise but still.
The biggest difference we noticed was the décor and layout of the ship. It was very dark and IMO really ugly (very dated). I should have taken a picture of the pink snakeskin wallpaper in the dining room - so didn't match anything! The atrium area just felt dark and closed in and it took us a couple days to figure our way around. There are a couple of decks that you cannot walk all the way through as a dining room is in the middle. The pool deck had several levels but also felt really small and closed in. The adult pool at the far back of the ship was nice and more open though. I also didn't enjoy the smoke in the casino. I would have gambled a little bit but couldn't breathe in that area! It would be nice if they would consider maybe a time or two throughout the week where non smokers could enjoy the casino. Also, all week several of the elevators were not working (or just turned off).
We visited Key West, Nassau and Freeport. In all three we just walked around the shopping areas. Freeport was not very nice - would really recommend an excursion there as the beaches looked nice. My daughter had a cast on her leg so we couldn't do our normal beachy excursions this trip. We had purchased the trolley tickets through Carnival but the line to get on was so long we ended up not using them. There was no shade while waiting. Also thought Carnival was a lot less organized with shore excursions. In Key West anyone with any excursion was supposed to meet in the dining room but there wasn't a Carnival staff member there to direct or ask questions.
Overall we did enjoy the trip. It was about 1/2 the cost of DCL by the time you pay for all the extras. If we do another Carnival, we will try a newer ship and hope the layout and décor is better. I have another RCL and DCL booked so we shall see.
The décor is pretty dated. Noise from the hallway was irritating. The bed was comfy and there was plenty of storage. Close to the elevators and once deck below the theater and main atrium. Bathroom also was dated but had plenty of storage.
The port was convenient and quick to get in and out of.
There is a lot of cute shops within walking distance from the pier.