We cruised on Carnival Dream on 4/22/12. This was our 2nd Carnival cruise. The first was not a good experience, but it was a very old and small ship so we were hoping the Dream would be more modern with more to do. We are a couple in our 50's and have also cruised with Royal Caribbean on three cruises.
We arrived a day early driving down from OK, and stayed the night at the Hilton Garden Inn by the GW Bush airport. A nice hotel and not far from anything. There is not a drop off section in Galveston for rental cars as Carnival site indicates so the cost factor was too high to take a flight, then use their shuttle, ($33 pp one way) to and from the airport.
We booked Galveston Park N Cruise Inside Parking for our vehicle. We were able to view & book online. These were exactly as described. They were very organized and we felt very secure in leaving our vehicle in their building for a week. We arrived at 10:45AM and people were still coming off the ship. The parking lot attendant said we could leave our suitcases in our vehicle and just walk over to Old Town Galveston for a little while until the Ship let us board at 11:30AM. This was a very nice walk, about 2 blocks, and had quaint little shops to see and shop. This reminded me a lot of Key West. At 11:30AM we walked back to our vehicle, unloaded our bags and walked the two blocks to our ship. We were onboard and in the Lido buffet area for lunch at 12:00PM. The Lido deck is very confining, and has lots of little areas, booths to eat. It would be hard for a family of 6 or more to eat together. You cannot see the food or the lines from most of the tables. The same food on the Lido is served all week, with very little change.
Our 9th floor Balcony room was very nice. We had excellent room attendants who always knew our name. That is part of the survey on the last day, did room attendant refer to you by name? We loved the times when we could be by ourselves and just enjoy the fresh air and relax on our balcony. The room is a very nice size. Lights have to be turned on with your Sea Pass key but that was not a problem for us at all. TV in room had two channels with free movies all the time, but these very rarely changed movies. It would play "Cars" all day and night. It does not cost that much to have a small variety of movies for the room. That way if some nap, others don't, we don't watch "Cars" or "Cats" 4 times in a week! (Yes, there are movies that you can purchase to watch at $10+ each) We did like having all local Miami channels. ABC, NBC or CBS just at Miami time zone. We were also very close to Lido, Buffet, Gym, etc. We found that this location of room was an excellent choice! It is however, very hard to navigate around the overall ship. There are some areas where you have to go down to 5, go thru Casino, then down to 3 for your dining area. Early Dining was full, so we had to have my time dining. It was ok, but think we will still request Early Dining from now on. A different wait staff and dinner companions every night is not as much fun. The extra food facilities throughout the ship are all good. Some are only open on Sea days. Both Breakfast and Lunch in Dining room are the same menu throughout the week, as well as the Lido Deck. We did eat at the Italian restaurant one day for lunch. It was a basic fast food Italian. We did make reservations ahead for the steak restaurant one nite. Make sure you do this far in advance. There were several conflicts by the time I booked a month early. The food was wonderful and it was nice to watch the sunset from our table.
The outdoor movie theater is nice, but usually the movies coincide with dinner times or show times. 6PM and 9PM. I think they could have worked out a better schedule for this. We had Grease (sing-a-long) once on another ship and there was about 500-800 people singing along to all the songs! It was a hoot! There were about 300 people at best on the Dream. Popcorn was very limited from a little bar off to the side, and would not allow people to get popcorn once the movie started but wait until the next one for Popcorn. Field of Dreams was the first night and that was a great choice. Classics like this are always good, not "What Women Want"!
The Shows at night were very good from what we saw. This is the first time that we have not seen every show at night. One night there was not a show at all. There were 2 or 3 nights when the only show started at 10:30PM. We are early risers, so did not always attend. If there is just one show, it will be packed out. We did go to the Comedy Club and most of the family shows were very funny, especially the first two nights the Club was open.
Montego Bay, Jamaica. Docked and could go thru a very small shopping area in about 10 minutes! That was enough for me. We have been to Ocho Rios, Jamaica before and I have read nothing but bad things about cab drivers, people, been given drugs to purchase and seen all the natives try to get you to purchase everything they own. I think Jamaica is dirty, and annoying with very limited excursions to really enjoy safely. I really don't understand why any cruise line goes there. Costa Maya and others are much better places to port.
Grand Cayman-Tendering. This is such a different port than Jamaica. It is beautiful, clean, and full of fun things to do that you feel safe doing! The tendering does take some time, so allow for that if you book your own excursions. My husband dives, so we booked a 2 tank dive thru Carnival. They use Don Foster Dive Shop. This was an excellent organization. They were top knotch, experienced and safety conscious attendants. I also go along as a non-diver so I see more than even the average diver. I was very impressed. They were prepared, efficient, and instructed where, when, what to see, and how they were going to dive & get equipment. This was one of the best dives my husband has been on.
Cozumel-Port. This was also an excellent place for excursions. The port is clean and plenty of nice places to shop before our excursion. My husband also dove at this port. Unfortunately after we got on board Carnival Dream the first day, we were given a notice that his dive in Cozumel was cancelled with no explanation. There were also 18 other people who booked this dive. We were disappointed that they didn't try to help us to make another arrangement or give us notice so we could do so before boarding. We frantically rushed to call our son and have him book another dive in Cozumel thru a private organization. He booked us thru Papa Hogs. There are several dive shops in the area, and a taxi for $4 can take you to their shop. This was also an excellent dive and we had told a few Carnival Dream divers from Grand Cayman about this privately booked dive, so they also came along. I was able to sit on a very small beach and wait. There was a nearby bar where I got a soda and some chips. It was nice to just sit, get wet if I wanted and just have a great view.
Overall it was a good cruise because my husband and I needed to rest and relax. I think the Carnival Cruise line is geared more for those who really like to drink and party. The shows, food, and overall entertainment are just not high quality except for the steak restaurant. We are just not into partying and drinking, so will probably go back and stay with Royal Caribbean.