Twenty three of us were booked on this cruise to celebrate five young men's high school graduation. Ages in our group ranged from 4 1/2 to 69 yo. Despite our experience with the ship, we had a wonderful time because we were together with our most favorite people in the world!
That being said, here is my honest opinion as a middle-aged, educated woman who has cruised many times to many different parts of the world in comparison to other lines I've been on:
Buffet lines on Lido were long and crowded for the poor quality food that was mostly cold. From tasteless scrambled eggs, limp bacon and limited choices, we were not big fans. Your best bet is the fresh omlets for breakfast, hot dogs, hamburgers or sandwiches for lunch OR BETTER YET, take the time to go to their dining rooms for less crowded, hot food for these times of day.
As for dinner, I believe our horrible experience probably lends itself to the fact that we were a large party - 2 tables of 12. We were stuck in these side rooms (not the big dining rooms) as if we were troublemakers and only had 1 main server and 2 incompetent assistants (1 for bar service and the other for regular drinks or bread). Our poor server, Coco, was way to overloaded with our party of 24 much less to additional tables of 4 and 6. Every night, our food arrived cold...not even lukewarm. To ask for a replacement was a nightmare as he was overloaded already. There were a couple nights when I didn't even get some of the courses I ordered. It was a nightmare. We did complain after the 3rd night so the last couple nights, we were finally getting hot food but again, not enough attention for this large of a party. I want to add that we are not that demanding of a group and Coco did his best under the circumstances. I believe this was more of a kitchen problem and not enough servers for our party. His helpers were a joke. So, it left a bitter taste in my mouth on the last night when one of them came around being all nicey nice in hopes of an additional tip. He did not get one from us but it was a rather uncomfortable moment.
CRUISE DIRECTOR: Was very annoying. He just didn't come across genuine and was constantly giving a sales pitch about something. I didn't find him funny or entertaining at all. And I felt that there was so much room for improvement for fixing several issues:
Deck Chairs - seems they are a premium on days at sea for this large ship. Despite the fact that it specifically says in the Fun bulletin not to save deck chairs, that is all that people did. They got up early in the morning before breakfast, placed a towel and a book or tote on some chairs and didn't come back until after lunch. People were trolling all over the ship looking for loungers. My husband and I, who follow the rules, could not find a spot around 11 am because of this issue. After waiting about 25 minutes in one area, we actually moved two towels off a couple chairs and laid out. The people who "reserved" those chairs, finally came around at 12:30 pm asking about them and we just pleaded stupid. It was so annoying since it clearly says not to do it in the rules and that staff would come around and "remove the towels". That never happened on the ship. This lack of reinforcement really ticked us off. Why post rules if you're not going to solve the problem? One couple actually asked if any additional loungers could be brought out and were rudely told that there weren't any. Even the threat of charging $22 per towel if you "lost" a towel didn't seem to deter anyone.
Putt-Putt - There was no supervision here at all and no system. Again, this place was chaos during the last day at sea. Seems there wasn't enough golf balls on the ship! One teenager noted that he had observed young kids throwing golf balls off the side of the ship late a night one night resulting in the shortage. There were plenty of clubs but a wait resulted because there weren't enough golf balls. How STUPID!
Walkie Talkie Natzis - We rented six walkie talkies for three families who were all talking on the same channel. We would joke around and some off-color rated PG-13 remarks were made one day with my sister ending the conversation saying "I'm almost in my room". Immediately entering her room, the phone rings with a warning about keeping things "down" with the walkie talkies and that they had several complaints. Flipping censhorship -- we didn't even curse. Bull malarkey!
Tip Add On ruined a nights sleep - The 2nd day on the cruise after a fun and tiring day, my husband decides to check our account on the TV around 1 am write before we went to sleep. Much to our shock--between to bar charges in 2 different bars on the ship (legitimate charges) was an $80 charge for each of us. We thought we'd had someone hijack our accounts or something. Since it was too late to call, my husband worried and tossed and turned until 3 am until we finally figured out it was the ADD ON TIPS that they charge for the staff...charged on the 2ND DAY ALREADY! What the heck! On other cruiselines that is done on the last or 2nd to the last day. WHAT A MESS--be forwarned about this early charge on your account!
TV - don't expect to watch any. Movies are EXTRA (on NCL they rotate different ones FREE every day and they are current run movies) The only thing on there is ship activities. No ESPN, nothing. My husband was going crazy. It was hockey and basket ball finals. They did show the basketball finals on the big screen on the lido deck but get this. One minute left in the game, one team was coming back and the screen goes blank and starts showing a movie. After loud boos and jeers, they finally switched it back to see that the game was alrleady over. I guess at least they got to see the final score. IDIOTS!!
EXCESS CHARGES - They were nickeling and diming us to death. Extra charges for the coffee bar. Decadent desserts were available but were $4 to $6 a pop. But yet, you could get some delicious sushi bites for dinner at no charge...go figure! And beware of the bar wait staff sneaking in extra charges for top shelf liquor instead of regular. We had part of our party ordering Cosmos with Grey Goose (extra $) and I wanted one with regular vodka. The first one I ordered, automatically came that way without me being asked. The big rub was that the server asked me the 2nd time I ordered a cosmo about 1/2 hr later if I wanted it with Grey Goose like the other party and I said "NO". Later when my husband looked at the bill, it was charged as such anyway.
Disembarkation - The staff were extremely rude! We opted for Self-Serve which meant we toted our own luggage off the ship really early in the morning and were one of the first to disembark at 6:30 am. Since you have to show paperwork at customs, my husband paused just 20 feet outside but close to the wall to put our p assports away. Staff started yelling at us to keep walking, keep walking and we told her that we just needed to put something away and she was still rude. The customs guy was surly, too. Maybe they didn't get their coffee that early?
So, some highlights to end on a positive note:
The Sushi was excellent. I just discovered it too late on the trip. Definitely take advantage if you can.
Our room Steward was awesome. We had told him 2 requests at the beginning of our trip--Fresh Towels and Ice twice a day. We always had that provided right when we needed it, our room was promptly cleaned when we left for breakfast and the guy was always friendly, welcoming and helpful when we needed him.
We had one of those 2nd floor Cove balcony rooms and did love that. It was roomy and very cool to seat out their and enjoy the sea. Highly recommend that if you do decide to go on the Dream
Comedy Shows were a BLAST!! Great comics, lots of different show times and not a bad seat in the house. That made our evening entertainment.
So there you are...my take on the Carnival Dream. To sum up--I say skip these larger ships and go on some of the newer mid-range sizes..we absolutely love the NCL Pearl--perfect size, great food, entertainment, easy to get around, not too crowded, affordable, great ports of call.
NEVER AGAIN ON A CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE! We'd had an awesome experience 18 years ago and were very bummed to see how much they had changed. We're sticking with NCL!