RobRen and Cruznut,
I'm glad to hear you had better experiences with Carnival than I did. I really did want to love my cruise on the Carnival Spirit because Carnival usually has the best fares.
Carnival got so many things right. The service was wonderful, from the staff that I had regular contact with to the staff I only saw once. The ship was spotless and I didn't see a maintenance issue anywhere. Dinner was great every night and lunch was always at least good. Breakfast was good but repetetive. The morning menu never changed.
I should make a clarification about the issues I had with smoking. I never saw anyone smoking in the hallways around the staterooms, but I frequently saw people carrying lit cigarettes from one public area to another through the artium or the photo gallery or on the shopping boulevard (but never in the shops). The dinning rooms and theaters were completely smoke free, but everywhere else I felt like I was constantly dodging clouds of smoke hoping not to get any of it on me.
I didn't set foot in the casino. Well, I think it was a casino anyway - it sounded like one. I couldn't see through the fog to be sure. The cloud wafted out into the adjacent areas so I steered clear of it.
At least half of the time I wanted to use my balcony there were neighbors smoking on theirs so I went back inside. On the upper outdoor decks there was always random smoke smells wafting by from who knows where, or there was someone on the lounger next to me smoking. It was really a nuissance.
Then there was that greasy smell from the kitchen that was always present on my balcony and even came into the stateroom through the air conditioning. Mixed with the smoke I was frequently nauseated.
I was also dissapointed by the lax enforcement of the dress code. I wanted to pretend I was high society for an evening, but that was hard when the couple at the table next to me was wearing something I would have worn to the gym. On the second formal night they at least wore jeans.
I was hoping to find the experience equal to my first cruise on the Star Princess. I went with an open mind and lots of optimism, but I was still let down.
Maybe it's just the itinerary - Like RobRen said the Mexican Riviera cruises are just less formal by nature.