That was Carnival's oldest ship so yes it was not so nice. Celebration is almost as old. I think Fanasty is around 10 yrs. old.
Our first real cruise was carnival Tropicale back in 98. That was an old ship too-their oldest at the time and they no longer have it. But like you I had nothing to compare it to and loved it.
We are going on a voyager class ship in Oct. Mariner of the Seas. we booked over a yr. ahead to get a good price. I know it will be a much nicer ship but then we paid over double what we would have paid if we had taken Carnival Inspiration.
Fall is a good time to book cruises but if you are afraid of hurricanes-book an early Dec. cruise. the cruise don't get high in Dec. until you get close to Christmas and New Years. So if you book a cruise that leaves like Dec. 13 the kids won't miss anything important at school as everyone is more into christmas then studying.
Several online discount agencies are around. We have used both cruise.com and anchorsaway online agencies. We don't book online though we always call the toll-free # and book with a live agent. the agent always has a toll free # and an e-mail address also so they can help you out with problems.
I never book online. I read one horror story of a person who used icruise.com (another agency I have not used) and did it online. she found out at dock that it was on the books she was from Idaho instead of Iowa and suppposeably only people from Idaho got the sale rate. Royal Caribbean told her she and her cruisemate owed another $1000. (icruise.com claimed she gave the wrong state abbreiation)
This sounded fishy to me as the woman got her cruise docs. The docs. came to her address in the state she lived in-she did not get that surprise until she was at the port boarding. which is why I have never used that agency.
I feel if you talk to a live agent then you have someone to hold responsible if such a situation happened. but that has never happened to me personally.