First of all, any of us that can go on ANY cruise need to get on their knees and thank God we can do so. That being said, this cruise on the Elation in early January was a nice little "entry level" cruise. Honestly if you've never cruised, you'll probably like it. I found it lacking in a lot of areas, but honestly, for the money, it was a good value and that's what we were looking for.
The main dining room was great. We always have a great dining room experience with Carnival because we build "mini relationships" all week with the staff. And boy, they really are good! Christopher was our head waiter and was ultra attentive, even remembering we liked our water with no ice. Carnivals regular dining room meals, honestly, are always better than NCL even. This is the ONE area where Carnival shines. Also, their buffet, and their "guys burgers" and their taco / burrito shack are fantastic. There's a 24 hour pizza kitchen. So food wise, fantastic. Out of 6 Norwegian cruises and 3-4 Carnival, having even grown up in the restaurant business, I can say hands down Carnival is better. I can't figure this out because honestly, I don't mean to be negative but in every other way big and small, Carnival is the lowest end cruise line of all the big names at least.
Entertainment was "meh". They had a great guitarist, Keith (Acoustic Jams with Keith). I am a practicing musician myself and he let me get up and do 3 songs, and he was very versatile and had a great voice. Otherwise average.
Drinks were good. We got the drink package which is the cheapest in the industry. $600 more or less got my wife and I up to 15 drinks per day which included all alcoholic, waters, and specialty coffees.
They're a LITTLE inconsistent with their drinks. First of all, you can only get one water at a time. At the main dining room you can get 1 Litre bottles but other places you can only get 12 oz. Sometimes you need your card to get water and it counts as a "drink" other places you don't. Some places they hand pour, others they measure. There is only moderate consistency with drink quality. This is one reason we liked the packages. Probably 15 times we got a drink, found it to be completely different than the previous one (because every bartender is different), and so we set it down, order another. We wouldn't do this at 10 a pop if we were paying.
There is a little area called "serenity" that is adults only, and has 2 hot tubs and nice padded lounges. It is presented as kind of "upscale" but there's NO bathroom, and the presence of waiter is very inconsistent. It is anything but "high end". Not a huge deal but it's a 5 minute brisk walk to the nearest bar or bathroom.
So end of story....Yes, this cruise was kind of a "low end" experience but really, based on our cost, a GREAT value, or at least very good. If you keep that in mind, you'll be happy.
First, Carnival seems to have a philosophy of treating everyone equal which I believe is a serious error in business strategy. We all want to feel like royalty once in a while. One of the ways we do this is by purchasing a suite package on a cruise ship. Unfortunately, that will get you very little, if anything of value, with Carnival. We had a junior suite with balcony. they have NO business calling room V4 a suite ... not even a "mini suite". It's tiny, with no special appointments, and the balcony is all but unusable and looks out at a busy stairway and a life boat deck.