My wife and I (33 y/o) travelled sans three young children on the Carnival Dream (May 19th - May 26th, 2012 - Eastern Caribbean). Needless to say, we were looking for a relaxing time as opposed to a 'wild and crazy' cruise, and the Dream delivered.
Embarkation: Very smooth. We are from Florida, and have been out of Tampa, Miami, and Port Canaveral (all on Carnival). I would rank Port Canaveral as the best of the three as far as the embarkation process was concerned. Make sure to have your boarding pass, passport, license, and all of your stuff in gear before you get there. That way, it will be easy for you and your fellow passengers to move through the line.
Food: After reading the reviews here, I laughed at a lot of the critics that 'live to eat' as opposed to 'eat to live'. With that said, the food on the Dream was good. Great? Not really. However, we did treat ourselves to the steakhouse on one of the nights (good choice, great value). The lanai BBQ (5th floor) was also a good choice. Everything else was alright, but the food doesn't make or break our vacations.
Ports: We didn't schedule any excursions for this cruise, just spent time on our own exploring the islands and relaxing (unlike our last cruise). We had already been to Nassau and St. Thomas, so we basically got off the ship, hung around for a bit, and then returned to the boat. St. Maarten was beautiful - took the water taxi ($6 pp for all day round trips) to Philipsburg.
Activities: My wife and I enjoyed the comedy shows, hanging out on the Lido deck, and the water slides (LOTS of fun). We are early risers, so we didn't have a problem finding chairs at all, and we noticed that there was still a lot of room throughout the ship to get some decent seats. One complaint that I had was that there were some things scheduled that never took place. For example, I went upstairs for Volleyball on two of the days, and there was nothing. Not even one staff member showed up. Now, I can see if there wasn't anyone around to play VBall and the staff cancelled the scheduled activity, but for nobody to show up from the Carnival staff, that was pretty lame. Same went for the mini-golf tournament. It seemed as if they could have used a few more folks on staff to run some of the activities. This didn't break my cruise; it was still a great time. However, I'd like Carnival to step up the effort in this department.
Service: The service on the Dream was, for the most part, great. The ship was clean, and the folks were pretty friendly. I wouldn't say that everyone was bending over backwards, but all in all, our needs were met. This is a large ship, so the staff tried hard to make our day, but you can tell that they are stretched with all of the people that they have to serve. Our room stewards were nice, but they were only visible on day 1 and day 7 (beginning and end). This was slightly disappointing. However, our rooms were always nice and clean, fresh linens, and turned down at the right times. The public areas were clean, and there was always folks around making sure that the ship was in tip-top shape. Bar service in some of the public areas was a little bit slower than I would have liked, but the staff was nice. I suppose that this is par for the course on larger ships, but considering the size of the ship, I thought Carnival did a good job. One thing to note: If you ask for a table for two in the dining rooms, get there early and request a booth. If you don't get a booth, you will be put at a 'table for two', which is actually two inches away from another 'table for two', and that was slightly disappointing. However, we did manage to chat it up with another couple that was at their 'table for two', and it turned out to be an enjoyable evening.
Highlights: If you are into karaoke, check out Superstar Karaoke (karaoke with a live band... LOTS of fun!) The water slides were awesome as well. Also, my wife and I enjoyed Tea Time, trivia, and the comedy shows.
Debarkation: Unfortunately, debarkation wasn't as smooth this go around. However, part of this wasn't Carnival's fault. Unfortunately, one of the guests on the ship had to be taken off of the ship by helicopter (we had to head towards Puerto Rico and the chopper made it out to us). While this made for a great little rescue mission story (and we all were cheering when the basket picked up the guest), this caused us to arrive into port around noon. The only issue was that there seemed to be a communication breakdown as to where folks could sit and hang out all morning, and there wasn't anything to do. This was a bit frustrating, and I hope that if this happens again, that Carnival would have a better plan. However, the crew did a great job keeping us updated on the situation as it was happening (i.e. when the helicopter would be there, how long it would take, what to expect, etc). Overall, it was a blip, but worth mentioning; always make sure you have a backup plan for this sort of stuff, especially if you have flights to make.
Overall, my wife and I enjoyed a relaxing cruise on the Dream. I would recommend this boat to friends, and wouldn't hesitate to book another cruise on it again in the future.