Having read many negative reviews about the Carnival Dream, I was a bit apprehensive about our June 23rd 7-Day Western Caribbean cruise, however, now that our cruise is over, I can confidently say we were pleasantly surprised at how well things worked out. We are a family of five with children ages 16, 13 and 8. We were celebrating my husband's 50th birthday along with 16 other family members ages 5-79. Although we are relatively new to cruising (we traveled on a Royal Caribbean 3-day cruise 15 years ago), we travel extensively and so our family has become accustomed to certain amenities and level of service when we travel. We had read many negative reviews about the Carnival Dream and in spite of these, chose this cruise line for our 21-person group primarily because the price point potentially allowed more family members to participate. Our expectations were guarded and I can say with confidence that Carnival exceeded them.
Accommodations and service--most of our group booked suites (GS, OS and spa suites). We were all pleased with the size of the suites. At the time of booking (6 months ahead), because there were very no adjoining cabins available for our kids, we instead booked an interior cabin across the hall for our children and this worked fine.
Service--our rooms were on the 7th floor Empress Deck and our cabin attendant, Adrian, was wonderful and extremely accommodating.
Activities--although we were traveling with 4 seniors in their late 70's, we knew that Carnival's activities would be geared more towards the young adults and children. Our group's experience with Camp Carnival was positive, as well as the gym, exercise classes, spa facilities, water slide, casino, piano bar, and dance clubs. The seniors found activities in bingo, comedy shows and late night bars. As for excursions, we left the boat for 3 of our port days and were happy with our excursion choices (although pricey). The seniors had some difficulty finding excursions that met their challenge level and interests and mostly stayed on the ship.
Dining--after a crowded first day at the buffet lunch we decided to spend all dinners and breakfasts in our assigned Scarlet Dining Room--this worked so much better. You didn't feel you were on the ship with 4,000 other people. We did use the buffet for random lunches (the tandoori grill and pasta bar were favorites) and for midnight snacks--pizza, hamburgers, hotdogs, only.
Special group perks--as I mentioned, we were a group of 21 and although we received no price reduction off of our earlybird discount, Carnival did work with us to book dining together and private excursions. Also, they were very helpful in allowing me to host a private party to celebrate the 50th birthday. They did not charge room rental, however, my pick of the times was at the mercy of the larger parties on the ship. Also, we could not confirm our time and date with the Carnival group coordinator (Chandra--who was lovely and efficient) until about 2 months before we sailed. We used the Song Jazz Lounge for a 2-hour celebration and all services were exactly as agreed upon. The onboard Group coordinator, Branka, was incredibly prepared and attendant.
Our biggest negative for the cruise (which may apply to all extra large cruise ships) was the difficulty in communicating with members of our group on such a large ship. With no cell service, coordinating with our group was a constant struggle. We brought walkie-talkies but had a lot of interference and so abandoned their use. We spent a lot of time trying to find members of our group to coordinate shipboard activities.
As mentioned before, we were a little apprehensive about booking our group celebration on the Carnival Dream with 4000 other cruisers, but we were pleasantly surprised with all aspects including not feeling like herded cattle.