There's so much advice people could give you. And everyone's going to have different opinions about what they think is best. I would keep reading the cruisemates postings, you'll get lots of information. It all depends on what you like. I think the ports are most important in making a decision, but that's just me. Some care about the average age group of the crowd on the ship or whether there are lots of families or how big the ship is. Some want a non-smoking cruise (Carnival Paradise is non-smoking). Price is always a deciding factor. My only advice is to make a list of things you like or don't like about vacation. You can search the postings using keywords. This is a fun site but it can be addictive.
Our TA booked us on RCI Explorer. We loved it and will stick to it or other RCI ships on future cruises. TA was not keen on Carnival. The strange thing is, Carnival has a lower rating than the other lines it has taken over. My advice is ask around. I'm sure lots of people like Carnival or they wouldn't stay in business. The advice to check out cruise reviews is good. However, a negative review of the Explorer on another cruise site was a shock after the fabulous experience we had. Then I saw the date and realized it was written very early in the ship's history. I'm sure all early cruises have "bugs" to clear up. Look at the review dates to make sure what you're reading is recent. I wish the professional reviewer who panned the Explorer in it's early days would take another look.
We sailed on Carnival's Paradise last fall and enjoyed every minute of it. The "smokeless" part was very nice also. As a matter of fact, I just booked our next cruise on the Paradise again. This time I'll be taking my whole family.
Ret'd from our first cruise on the Carnival Destiny. Have been on other lines before but never a ship this large. The map they give you when you get on the ship you will need keep, as you will need it to find your way around the ship (at least it was needed on the Destiny)
We were in an inside cabin (for a change) on the Rivera deck (bottom)and I must say they are larger than I would have imagined. You can even fit your luggage under the beds.
Do not take a hair dryer with you as you cannot plug it into any of the outlets. Hair dryers are provided. They do dry your hair but the output is not very strong.
If you plan on catching some sun when at sea it was quite difficult to find a chair that was not either in use or being saved by a towel. In some cases no one ever showed up. I decided to sun in the afternoon when cruisers were finished with sun and you had more choice of areas to sun in.
The shore excursion channel on the TV had a few bugs in it. If you wanted to take a tour you would have to enter your four digit account number by way of the remote. Believe it or not this took at least 2-3 minutes so enter your numbers slowly (1 at a time).
All in all we did have a good trip and would do it again.