I'm back from the Carnival cruise with my family and managed not to gorge myself on all the different buffets. I've been going to buffets since I was a toddler. My parents think of it as a good deal since you can eat all you want for one fixed price (but how much lo mein, crab legs and fruit can you actually eat? and how good is the food actually?). Afterwards we would just walk away really full and sick to our stomachs, which doesn't seem like a good deal to me.
Apparently, Carnival's food is on the lower end of the spectrum of cruise food, but I actually enjoyed their food. Of note, the stir fry bar where you can pick your noodle (vermicelli or rice), vegetables (onions, peppers, mushrooms, Chinese mushrooms, celery, sprouts, etc.), meat (chicken, beef, squid, etc.) and sauce (black bean, Thai barbecue, Szechuan) and they fry it up for you. This concept is not new, but a relatively healthy alternative to the other options. I highly recommend the Thai barbecue sauce.
We could have sat in the main dining room for breakfast and lunch and ordered off a menu (though we opted for the faster option of the buffet), but we did go to the main dining room for dinner every night. One night I had a very nice entree of beef tenderloin with creamy peas and a side of cheesy mashed potatoes - definitely not healthy, but oh so good! If one was health or cholesterol conscious Carnival has a special SPA menu for such people. The last night I got escargot (good, but not the best I've had), and stuffed quail, which had a little too much stuffing but what meat there was was tender and flavorful.
Who would have thought that you could get escargot and quail? I wouldn't expect such seemingly exotic foods to be a part of Carnival's menu, especially when the whole trip cost around $900 dollars per person for room and board for 8 days. That's incredible considering you probably couldn't get a hotel room for that price if you traveled somewhere, let alone all of your meals (all you can eat!) and entertainment to boot.
Carnival gets you with other incidentals, though - you have to pay for beverages like soda and obviously alcoholic drinks, they overcharge for their shore excursions, they have a casino in which it seems the house never loses, they have special desserts and coffee that you have to pay for, etc. I guess you have to stay in business somehow.
That doesn't stop my parents from going on cruises because they think it's an incredible deal. It's the same mentality as with the buffet. In the end you're left wondering if you've actually enjoyed it, or you enjoyed it because it was such a good deal.