This was the second time we sailed on the Carnival Dream in two years. The first time was in June of 2011. We enjoyed the Dream so much during our first cruise that we decided to book a second cruise, which sailed away on June 9, 2012. I have to admit that the Dream has its flaws, but this cruise was very memorable due to the CC family that we formed prior to sailing. We all met during sail away and again in a lounge for a prearranged meet and greet. It felt like we were sailing with a big group of friends, many of whom I plan on staying in touch with. Thanks friends for a great cruise!
GETTING TO PORT:
We traveled with another family of four and all eight of us stayed at the St. George Inn in the heart of Old St Augustine. I highly recommend this B&B because it's right in the heart of the shops and restaurants and the staff goes above and beyond to make your stay a memorable one. A real plus is the rocking chairs overlooking St. George St. We woke up at 8:00, had breakfast at the Inn and left at 9:00 a.m. for our two-hour drive to Port Canaveral.
The price to park at the port is pricey ($115 for the week), so we opted to park at Park N' Cruise for $70 less. Be forewarned. You have to unload and move your own luggage through the lines. We waited about 20 minutes for a bus to take us to the port. It was a bit crazed, but worth the $70 savings. This port has embarkation down to a science. Although the lines were long, they seemed to move quickly. We were on-board within 45 minutes.
We stayed in cabins 7205 (parents) and 7208 (kids). Both were at the very front of the ship. It was nice to have our own "private" balcony with park bench up front, but we did not have our own really private balcony. You had to walk outside your room and get outside through a public door. The area was nice, but very windy. Plus, we felt a LOT of movement, especially on the last night when a storm blew up and we cruised right through it. The rocking got so bad that night that my youngest son was pretty seasick. If you don't like a lot of motion, try to book a cabin mid-ship.
The Dream is huge and carried 3,000+ passengers. However,the only time it felt truly packed was on sail away day. Everyone congregates in the buffet area and it's close to impossible to snag a table to sit down and enjoy your meal. A better option is the Pasta Bar, which is located all the way at the back of the buffet and up one flight of stairs. No one knows its there and you can enjoy your made-to-order meal. The atrium is a very nice spot to meet and enjoy a few drinks with friends. There's usually live music. The shops are also located up one level in the atrium area. be sure to hold out towards the end of the week. That's when t-shirts are sold for 2 for $20. Otherwise, you'll find better bargains in the various ports. The 5th deck lanai area is fantastic and the perfect spot to chat with friends. Ocean Plaza is also nice and the place for trivia contests, etc. There's also a good coffee and dessert bar, but they cost extra. The main showroom is very nice and has comfortable seating with good tiered views. My husband and I loved the Serenity area and spent a good bit of time there. I also tried the slides (way fun)! The main pool was always crowded, but we loved the aft pool and two hot tubs. It was quieter and more chairs were available for relaxing and tanning. Plus, food is available, so it's a better place to hang out than the main pool.
Our four kids spent time in Circle C and O2. Both are decorated with neon lights and uber-cool furniture. However, our kids didn't participate in too many planned activities. they more or less met their friends in the clubs, then went to shows, contests, etc. However, no one had any complaints about the staff or activities. The dance parties were always well attended and supervised.
We had the early 6:00 seating in the Crimson dining room. Our table for eight was to the side and on the first level. We ate there every night as a way to re-group and talk about our day. The food was usually very good. We especially loved the chilled soups, the salads, several main dishes and the "comfort" selections. The chocolate melting cake is to die for. Yes, it's THAT good. On a negative side, our waiters on the first night were very slow and we were rushed through dessert. After the first night, our waiters seemed to change nightly, so we never really bonded with any of them. Plus, our table was always the last to be served. However, we figured that we didn't have to plan the meal, shop for the meal, cook the meal and clean-up, so it was all good. A cruise is what you make of it and we were determined not to sweat the small stuff. Overall, our experience in the dining room was good. We usually ordered room service for breakfast, but my husband and son liked to eat in the dining room. They said the food was much better than that on the buffet, which was terrible at breakfast. The buffet was a little better during lunch, but there are much better mid-day options, like the pizza place, pasta bar, hamburger stand and luncheon on the Lanai on sea days. Overall, we have no complaints about the food.
For the most part, the entertainment was very good on the Dream. We especially enjoyed the comedy shows, Dancing in the Streets and the Fun Force dancers. The love and marriage show was funny and entertaining. Kudos to Cruise Director Corey and Assistant CD Brittney for making our CC group feel welcome. In addition to our private meet and greet, we also got to go on a private behind-the-scenes tour of the Encore Theater. We even took home a ship on a stick for correctly answering 22 of 22 TV theme song questions. The deck party was fun with dancing under the stars, but be prepared to sweat. We heard that the Legends show was just OK, so we skipped it entirely. After dinner, the casino was hopping, but rarely too crowded. The machines seemed looser this cruise and several of us walked away winners at the end of the week.
We booked the all-inclusive Nachi Cocum Resort online (not through Carnival). It cost about $50 per person and was worth every penny. The beach is beautiful, the water crystal clear, the hammocks comfy and the drinks endless. You can order food and drinks right on the beach under a papalya or head up to the giant pool with swim up bar. The food was very good and the service was great. It was a great day of Mexican fun in the sun.
We opted to stay on the ship in this port and didn't regret it. We had no problem snapping a couple of lounge chairs and did the slides numerous times. Plus, there were no lines at the food stations. It was the perfect way to enjoy the Dream while everyone was off the boat.
Again, we booked an independent tour. We did the Fun and Sun tour with Victor Bodden. We stopped at two places to shop, the monkey display and finally Bananarama at West beach. It was fun to play with the monkeys, but one bit someone on our tour. Plus, a parrot bit another person. The beach was beautiful, so in retrospect - we would just do all day at the beautiful beach. Lunch for four at Bananarama cost under $30 and it was very good. The water is crystal clear and we even saw a huge starfish. This was by far the prettiest beach of our cruise.
We did not do an excursion in this port. Instead, we opted to shop a little, watch the Dolphins in action and walk around. Be forewarned that it is very expensive to eat and drink at restaurants in this port. we ordered two Coca-Colas at Charlie's and were charged $7.
The Dream has a lot to offer, but it also has some flaws. The pools are very small for that many passengers. There are many hot tubs, though. The layout is a little choppy and takes some time to get accustomed to. If you have a poor sense of direction (like me), you might get lost more than once. We never smelled the foul odor, but we did notice a lot of movement. That was probably due to the extreme forward location of our cabins. On a positive note, our room stewards went above and beyond the call of duty and made us feel welcome from day one. They are the unsung heroes of the Dream. The dining room waiters? Not so much.
Our zone was called for disembarkation at 7:30 a.m. We had all of our bags and were outside the terminal by 8:30. However, we had to wait for close to 20 minutes for a Park N' Cruise bus.
Despite flaws, the Dream is a beautiful ship that has a lot to offer passengers of all ages. Many people complain about the little hiccups, but a cruise is WHAT YOU MAKE IT. If you're a negative person by nature, then you might be annoyed by some of the minor flaws. However, if you choose to have a great attitude (you're on VACATION), then the flaws will seem less annoying. The best part of our cruise was our Cruise Critic group. We met on the CC roll call and chatted for months before our cruise. it felt like we already knew one another when we met for the first time during sail away. What a great group! We have hopes of cruising together again sometime soon.
Best wishes for your DREAM vacation. Relax and enjoy the trip.