Embarkation - We arrived at the port at 11:45, on board by 12:15. Very smooth. Security required hubby to remove his shoes, I was amused, he wasn't. We carried on board 4 bottles of wine, 12 cans of coke, 6 bottles of water, 2 - 1 litre bottles of tonic. No one gave us a second glance. We also packed in our checked baggage 1 bottle of vodka and 1 bottle of Jack Daniels. They both arrived untouched & intact.
Our cabin - #7451 Empress deck balcony aft. Roomy and very comfortable. We experienced very little vibration from the engines or movement. The balcony offered plenty of room for sunning and drying our scuba gear. Jacinto our cabin steward, he fulfilled every request in a timely manner. Things like extra pillows, ice, robes etc. all we had to do was ask.
Ship's Decor - Very bold and unusual use of colour & texture. Not to my taste, buy hey I don't have to live with it. Having said that I did enjoy Rosie's, very cheery.
Food - We enjoyed room service most mornings. Everything we ordered arrived and was always on time. A little extra luxury. The buffet on the lido deck was pretty good. Think food court at the mall and you will get the idea. The dining room was very nice and the service was good. I would compare the food to something you would expect to be served at a large hotel wedding or banquet. Not always piping hot, but tasty just the same. Our wait team Joseph & Inno were both attentive & fun. Scarlett's was worth the extra $$$. Intimate dining, really good quality meat and seafood. All in all for what we paid for this cruise Carnival did a good job with the food.
The shows - Can't comment as we never made it to even one. Had intended to make it to the idol show on the last night but hubby didn't feel well, (sorry Ellen).
Children - Yup, they were there in spades, not a problem though.
Shore Excursions - We dove every port, amazing. I arranged all the dives independently and everything went off without a hitch. I plan posting more detail about the dives on the scuba & snorkling sub forum, if your interested check there.
The Pool Area - Don't expect to get too near to the pools. Even if you do manage to snag a lounger it will be crowded and noisey. Having said that, we never had any trouble finding a lounger a little ways away from the pools. As far as the size of the pools - come on Carnival most backyard pools are bigger!
Disembarkation - We were not flying until the next day so we were in no hurry. Left our cabin at around 8:30 as requested and headed to the lido deck for breakfast and to wait. General disembarkation was called around 9:30. We waited for about 1/2 hour to let the lines clear. NOT! Stood in line for 1 12 hours. Why? - because immigration had only 3 people working that morning. Give me a break! So my advice would be to sit tight if you are not in a hurry. Wait till they kick you off the ship.
Overview - We had a very nice cruise. Carnival met our expectations. Would we cruise with Carnival again? Probably not. But then again I don't think we will be booking any cruise anytime soon. Why? you might ask. We never seemed to switch to that "on island" state of mind we get with an island vacation. We just sort of felt like we were at a nice resort in Florida. Not a bad thing, just not the vacation experience we are looking for.
I would like to thank everyone for all the tips and advice I gleaned from this board, it sure helped to make our cruise. If anyone has any questions I will try to answer them.