We just returned from a 7 day cruise on the Carnival Dream, it was myself, my husband, and our 15 year old son. First time on a Carnival ship, last year we did the 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Freedom of the Seas, Royal Caribbean. I wanted to cruise with them again, however they did not have anything for the dates that I was looking for, so I opted to try Carnival. I booked with a Carnival agent over the phone because I needed to book two rooms, one across from the other. This went fairly easy, and we also received a military discount on both rooms due to the fact that we are both active duty military. In regards to Carnival we were able to book two rooms, one with a balcony for about a thousand less than our one room with Royal Caribbean.
Embarkation: We arrived to the port about 1130, and getting on the ship went fairly quick. The longest line we had to stand in was the line for the security area where you go through the metal detector and have your bags screened. You cant go into your rooms until about 130pm, so we went to guest services to get extra room keys to both rooms. Then we roamed the ship, ate lunch at the Lido deck and then we went to put our bags up.
Stateroom: No big surprise here, we had one balcony room on deck 8 and an interior room almost directly across. The rooms had the standard stuff, bed, tv, bathroom. The room was about 5 foot smaller than our room on RC. I was glad we opted for two rooms, there was no space in between the bed and the couch and no privacy curtain either. Also the balcony on seemed a bit smaller, the chairs hardly fit. Our son's birthday was day of embarkation, and I had purchased the birthday decorations which were hanging in his room as soon as we opened the door, so that was great. Our room steward was great, never had an issue here. Our room was cleaned twice a day, morning and turned down in the evening. I was a little bothered by the vacuuming at 730 in the morning, and then the kids running up and down the halls at 2 or 3 in the morning. Also for some reason we heard chairs scraping the deck every night til about 2 or 3 in the morning, I think the workers were cleaning the lanai.
Ship Info: The layout of the ship was a bit confusing, luckily they handed out maps, and had maps posted at all of the elevators, which came in handy for the first day or so. RC has interactive screens located throughout each deck which came in handy and you could always find out what was going on and when to go, not so on the Dream, you have to carry around your fun times schedule with you to know what is going on all day. Mid ship on deck 5 is the promenade area, which is pretty disappointing, they only had two shops; jewelry and alcohol/souvenir shop, the casino is on this deck (smoking is allowed in here), also this deck has the comedy lounge, several bars, and the lanai (which is a great place to find extra seating if you want to lay out). The ship has a very small gym, we tried to go the first day at sea and it was just overly crowded, for a ship this size they really need to have a bigger gym. The ship also has a couple of water slides, which seemed to be pretty popular with the kids, we didn't try them though. They also have two pools, two small pools, again for a ship this size they really should have larger pools, however; they do have several whirlpool/hot tubs on the lanai which were usually less crowded. The Dream does have an adults only area which is located outside on Deck 11, we didn't try and use it, we used the lanai.
Dining: This was by far the most disappointing area of the ship, we prefer 6pm dining, as this works best for us, so no issues with our dining time. We also had our own table which worked great as we prefer dining alone with just our family. However, the food quality was not very good, and we are not overly picky eaters, but the food on the Dream was not very good, it lacked flavor, some of the side dishes were pureed like baby food, and sometimes food was cold. Desert was the high point of every meal, the warm chocolate melting cake was the best. On the RC our waiter took time to talk to us everyday, went over the menu with us, gave us recommendations, dinner was actually something we looked forward to on RC. Not so on the Dream, our head waiter hardly spoke English, just handed us the menu and left only to return after about 5 minutes to take our order. Dinner seemed rushed, like they were just trying to get everyone out of there to make room for the next crowd. If you don't want to eat in the dining room you can do the buffet on the Lido deck, however you get pretty much the same thing that is on the dinner menu in the dining room, only it is colder, the bread is harder, and the deserts are even more limited. Your other options for dinner are pizza, burgers/hot dogs and fries. They called it alternative dining but it wasn't much of an alternative. RC had a variety menu for alternative dining, you could get some of the same things that were in the dining room, but they also had a lot more options to choose from. Breakfast and lunch were a little bit better than the dinner options on the Dream, be prepared to wait in a line though. For lunch they have a Mongolian option, pasta bar, burrito bar, the lunch buffet, a sandwich area, Indian food, sushi place, hot dog/hamburgers and of course pizza (which was pretty much available 24/7).
Activities: This ship did not really stick to a time schedule when it came to activities, the schedule was printed on the fun times, but everything always seemed to run 15 minutes late. We did a lot of trivia, and enjoyed that. Be careful with bingo, it is $20 and they only play one game, there were a lot of disappointed people when it came to bingo.
Entertainment: We enjoyed the break dancers that were part of some of the nightly shows, they were my favorite. However overall the nightly show was kind of disappointing, and the sad thing is what we learned from the cruise director (on the cruise ship Q&A session) that due to the amount of money that was invested you can expect to see the same shows on this ship for the next 5-10 years. They have a comedy club and we really enjoyed the comedians, they had two comedians that did two nights of shows, two family friendly and the other two shows were 18 and older, and then mid way two new comedians came on the ship for the last couple days so you had a chance to see 4 different comedians.
Services: Our room steward was great, bar waiters were good (though the strength of the drinks did vary from bar to bar), they would remember what you ordered two nights ago. We were not too impressed with our dining room team, also there seemed to be a lot of unhappy workers in general, who knows maybe it was the hundreds of spring breakers running around.
Shore Excursions: We only booked one with Carnival that was in Cozumel, and it was the sea trek helmet diving, it was $99 a person, and with travel time was about an hour long. This gave us plenty of time to explore on our own. In Belize we went cave tubing and booked with cave-tubing.com. This was a great excursion, and about half the price of the ship and the experience we had was way better than what the people who booked with the ship. In Roatan we hired a taxi driver and went out to some of the local spots, Gumbalimba, and checked out the beaches and town. It can be pretty expensive in Roatan, everyone seems to expect a big tip too. In Costa Maya we had a relaxing beach day at the Ya Ya beach club, which was not booked with Carnival, we paid $35 a person which basically included beach chairs, umbrellas, all the alcohol you could drink. You can also book this online at costamayaexcursions.com. I recommend reading trip advisor at each of the ports to see what other cruisers do, you could potentially save yourself a lot of money, which you will need if you drink or buy anything else on the ship.
Children's Clubs: The kids on the ship seemed to have a really great time, I rarely saw kids with their parents. My son went to the 15-17 club, which was Club O2 and he had a great time, he met a lot of new friends, and if we were not at port the only other time we saw him was at dinner, other than that he was in the club.
Disembarkation: Since we drove from GA to FL, we opted to carry our own luggage off the ship, so once the ship received clearance from customs we were allowed off the ship. We were off the ship and in our car traveling by 730am, so this was a really smooth process.
Overall, we loved the ports of call, my son loved Club O2. However, the quality of the food, our dining room staff, the big entertainment shows, size of the gym, and pools could use some vast improvement. There were a lot of kids on the ship, unsupervised kids, they were extremely loud, most of them were rude, this should be somewhat managed. In terms of overall satisfaction with the Dream we talked to quite a few other people who seemed to have the same impression of this ship, and were not very happy. I am not going to completely cross Carnival off the list, maybe it was just the Dream, so I might try another ship.