As most have already said -- it is everything that you make of it.
We have sailed on the Fantasy, Ecstacy, Triumph and coming in May -- the Miracle (All Carnival). On our last cruse - my parents came along for their first. Mom was totally thrilled with everything, had a marvelous time and enjoyed every minute (even climbed Dunn's River Falls at 65 years of age)... Dad on the other hand, seemed not to enjoy the experience nearly as much. He spent the entire cruise checking out all of the burnt out light bulbs and keeping track to see if they were replaced (not my idea of a vacation). It is now 6 years later and we are planning our next cruise for May on the Miracle... We asked my parents if they were interested in coming along again... and much to everyone's surprise - Mom is kind of hesitant but dad really, really wants to go (They are 70 this year and worried about keeping their retirementmonies). You just never know.
Either way, my DH, DS (29yrs - hydrocephalic, mute, autistic, CP, etc) and myself along with my sister and her 18month old daughter (their 1st cruise) will have a wonderful time.
And hey -- if people want to call Carnival the K-Mart of cruise ships --- so what? It just means that those of us on limited incomes only have to save up for 3 or 4 years to enjoy a marvelous family vacation -- rather then saving for 7 or 8 years.
No matter what cruise line -- everyone can have the vacation that they want.
I like to explore new cultures, see new places and meet new people -- so I do all of the excursions and see the sights.
My DH loves to sit and relax with his virgin slings (we are tea totalers) and watch the people going by.
And our son - loves to eat, so with the mentality of a 2 year old -- he is in his glory (and ironically - all of his autistic behaviours disappear while on the cruise -- it's as if the rocking of the ship makes up for his own internal need to rock --- the rougher the sea days the happier he is).
Have a great time and let us know what you think.