I have been on 10 cruises, 2 NCL, 3 Celebrity, 3 Princess and 2 RCI, which is probably around the average for this site. The last time I was on the CB was for a Western Carib out of Ft Lauderdale in July 2006. At the time, it my wife (then fiance's first cruise). We had a wonderful time and there are tons of great features on this ship. That said, the ship has its negative points two. You can go back and forth between and among ships and lines with pluses and minuses. The CB is a beautiful ship and we had no problem with the staff. Everyone was lovely. The HVAC system on the ship is not the best and it stands out in my memory as the warmest cruise that I have been on (average room temperature in my balcony cabin on the Caribe Deck was probably 77 degrees (maybe 75 at night)). I personally keep my home at 64 in the summer so this was really warm for me. The complaints I am hearing about the HVAC system not functioning properly does not come as any surprise. I believe this has been a problem with the ship from day 1. That said, after the first day or so, I got over it.
Since my time on the CB, I have been on the Tahitian Princess. Mariner of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas. Frankly, I thought the food on the Tahitian (at least in 2006) was some of the better cruise fare I have had (better then what I had on the Tahitian Princess in 2007 and on either of my experiences with Celebrity). Although in general, I find the sea food on Princess to be better than the meats--- the opposite is true on RCI. The buffet on Princess was also far better than on RCI (very little variety). I did the Grand Princess in 2001 and found the experience comparable to what I had in 2006 (although the menu was better on the CB). The best of the major market lines in terms of food is Celebrity, which is definitely a notch above princess and rci--although not gourmet despite what Celebrity would have you think.
As far as the ship layout is concerned, the CB is a bit on the crowded side--more so than on the RCI Voyager Class or even the older Grand Class ships. The celebrity has the same amount of public space as the Grand, but it has an extra deck of state rooms. You do the math! The experience simply won't be as comfortable. We could not get to see any of the shows at the Explorer lounge, but we were able to get to see the production shows in the theatre (went a little early). Part of the problem was the anytime dinning. You sometimes had to wait to be seated and by the time dinner was completed, the timing was off for the shows. You have to plan accordingly. The production shows on Princess were nothing great. RCI and Celebrity do a far better job with their production shows. Plus, on the smaller Millennium Class ships with Celebrity or the larger Voyager class ships with RCI, they have multi-level (deck) theatres with a lot seating capacity. I would say that when it comes to entertainment, Celebrity and RCI win hands down--except that I LOVE MUTS. The RCI Voyager ships, with the central promenade area have a much nicer flow to them then the grand class. They also are a bit prettier, but they are very comparable.
Honestly, I don't think you can go wrong on the the CB--particularly if you book a trip after the drydock in January. Pick based on itinerary, price and convenience. I was looking for a cruise out of NYC to wrap around next July 4th. I could go on the Explorer out of Bayonne (NJ) or CB out of Brooklyn. Both are 9 days, both have similar itineraries, although the Explorers is better (longer times in port and it has St. Maarten instead of Grand Turk). When it came to price though, Princess came in $450 less for equivalent category of room Cat J (inside) on Princess versus Cat M (inside) on Explorer, plus I got $50 on board money and a free wine package through Liberty Travel. This is on top of the $100 on board I had because I had future cruise money. How can you beat this 9 day caribbean vacation for $1,500 per person soup to nuts? CB it is for 2009!