1. You can fly into Orlando and depart from Port Canaveral without renting a car. We flew to Orlando, stayed overnight in a cheap hotel, and the hotel shuttle took care of transportation to and from the airport. At the airport, we had another shuttle drive us to the port. We didn't have to pay parking fees, though we did have to deal with airline 3-1-1 restrictions.
2. Flying makes me swell. Horribly. I'll be wearing compression socks on planes for the rest of my life.
3. The earlier in the day you check in at the port, the faster you can get through security and onboard the ship. We practically walked right onto the ship at Port Canaveral. It was great. New Orleans took a long time to check in, because we arrived later.
4. It's worth it to see if your room is ready after you board. It just might be. Ours wasn't, but after a quick buffet lunch, it was ready ahead of schedule. :). If your room isn't ready when you embark, you will be toting all your carry-owns around with you.
5. I'm not addicted enough to my internet that I'll actually pay for an onboard package. I use my phone as an alarm clock, watch, and camera. That's it.
6. My birthday was a month past, and they still sang "Happy Birthday" to me in the dining room and brought me a special dessert. Our booking agent told me it didn't matter that my birthday had passed. "Close enough!" She said. Hahaha. I felt really special, and there aren't enough of those times.
7. A cruise is the perfect time to try foods that you might hate, just because they sound interesting and you never felt like wasting the money on a trial before. I had strawberry bisque (delicious!), escargot (like rubbery mushrooms - no thank you), sushi, eggs benedict, gazpacho, Mongolian steak salad, chocolate gateau.
This isn't my photo of the menu, but it's the menu we chose from in the dining room for lunch. Very few people were in the dining room at the time, so we had very fast service. The dining room is your friend, if the buffet seems a bit iffy. The buffets are typically themed, and sometimes cooked-to-order food is more worth waiting for. :D
8. You can choose a specific dining time and be seated with specific people throughout your cruise, or choose anytime dining and have lots of freedom. Anytime dining was what I liked best.
9. I don't think Carnival has a midnight chocolate buffet anymore. I'm very sad about that, actually. Well, they do, but only on 7 day cruises. Boo. :(
10. Our cabin steward greeted us by name on the second day. At a distance. Quite a distance. From the back. He was impressive. His name was Ida. I almost wet my pants laughing at the towel frog he made for us. :)
11. You can bring on a few 20 ounce bottles of your favorite sodas. I think six per person is the limit. Hey, they don't have Pepsi products on board, and I'm Pepsi girl.
12. People have varying success at smuggling their own liquor on board. I was successful coming back from Freeport. My sister was not. The check in table we were told to go to was so far from the screener that he didn't know who had been told to check in liquor, so it was easy to just walk on by. I walked on. She didn't. Lol
13. An over-the-door shoe organizer is very helpful for containing ladies' clutter. If you're not allowed to hang it over the closet door, rig it up in the closet with carabiners.
14. The shower curtains love to suck in and stick to your legs. I'm not sure how to fix that problem yet.
15. The spa tour is worth taking because they offer a lot of amenities you didn't realize... Including a hot tub with no child access and saunas in the dressing rooms. Saunas make you feel good. :) Sweat it out!
16. Our experience with the spa was muddled. No problem to get into the sauna or gym, but getting the spa to keep its appointments with me was impossible. They kept rescheduling, so I eventually cancelled.
17. There is a walking / jogging track on the topmost deck. It's about an eighth of a mile around. Short enough to make you feel that you accomplished something you didn't. Lol
18. Miniature golf on a cruise ship is crazy due to the wind. Fun, but a little frustrating if you're trying to seriously play. That wind adds a whole new dimension! Just laugh about it.
19. Lots of cruise ships have water parks and slides on deck. Adults ride the slides too. :)
20. The Serenity deck is where no kids are allowed at all. It fills up fast. Lol. But there's no pool.
21. Bring a jacket because the evening wind on outside decks can be rough and cold, even in the Caribbean.
22. Inside rooms are dark, but it's perfect for sleeping well because no light will disturb you, although noise from the hallway might. (It never woke me, but when I'm tired, I sleep heavily anyway.). There's no clock, however, so bring your own or use your smartphone on airplane mode. I recommend the app Big Clock 2 for visibility.
23. Deck chairs by the pool can't be reserved with towels hours before you show up. You risk losing your towel, which you'll be held accountable for, and you just might tempt someone to steal your stuff. Don't be a jerk. Take what's available when you arrive, and don't be afraid to move if a better spot opens up. Besides, the pool is where the children hang out anyway. :). And the music is a lot louder there.
24. There is a tiny outdoor smoking area, but it won't be convenient for smokers. It will be convenient for keeping non-smokers away from the stench. Yes, it really is a stench, but the smokers are so used to it that they don't notice it anymore. Don't you want to just be a clean, fresh-smelling, healthy non-smoker without a million early wrinkles? Come on, you know you do! You'll save tons of money!
25. http://cruisemates.com has great forums where you can have many of your cruising questions answered. :)
26. Bring a power strip. There's usually only one outlet in the room, and you'll probably need more than one, but do t be surprised if you come back to find it unplugged when you aren't actively using it. They're just being cautious.
27. If you're a water drinker, you might want to bring your own larger mug / bottle for it, because walking back and forth to the dining room for more water can be a pain. The same goes for coffee -- the ship supplies a regular sized cup, not a carafe. If you're a heavy coffee drinker, it could be frustrating.