Sailed Carnival 12/99 and 12/01. Sailed Celebrity Alaska 6/03. Needless to say I can not speak to your concerns re: deck chairs. However, I was TOTALLY disappointed in the pax dress on Celebrity. We had a table for 8 and my hubby had a new tux (daughter got married 8/3/03). One guy wore a sport jacket, one a turtleneck and cardigan and one an obviously rented (didn't fit) tux on formal nites, don't even ask about informal. All the women wore cocktail or nicer dresses.
We found the food good to excellent on our 12/99 Triumph and 12/01 Spirit Carnival cruises. However, a great deal depends on your waiter and how much english he understands and if he cares. The best and worst waiters we have had in >30 years of cruising on VERY many lines was with Carnival, same for cabin steward. In the last 10+ years I have booked most of our tours independently and can not speak to book ahead/onboard. However, depending on itineray some book up way in advance ie arial tram in Costa Rica. Check the boards and follow the suggestions.