My husband and I sailed the Carnival Dream on July 28th with our three teenage sons. We have been on many cruises and the last three have been with our family of 5. Our sons love cruising now too. Here is what we thought of THE DREAM.
I had read many reviews of how crowded the DREAM feels with so many passengers. At the beginning of our trip, I kept thinking that it was as crowded as any busy resort is in the peak travel summer season. Toward the middle and end of our cruise, it actually felt very crowded to me with not enough pool space.
Embarkation in Port Canaveral was a breeze. Short wait time and we were on the ship.
Food: In the Gathering Restaurant (Buffet) the food was pretty good. There was definitely something for everyone, although at peak times the lines and wait times could be long. I am not sure there is enough space for the number of people on the ship. We ate at the buffet mostly at breakfast and lunch. Our sons had a couple of dinners there not wanting to dine in the dining room those evenings. Anything custom made in the buffet (omelets, burritos, pastas, etc) had a substantial wait. The omelets were on the small side and almost 1/2 the size of some omelets I get at restaurants. The pizza (served 24 hours) was excellent although, again, many times there was a line to wait in. The grill (burgers, hotdogs, fries) was what you would expect and decent. No desserts were to be found in between meals unless room service was ordered.....even at the grill (open 24 hours) there were only cookies and brownies there late at night. Nothing during the day when everything else was closed. Ice cream machine and yogurt machines were always open though and seemed to be kept replenished.
In the Dining Room: Breakfast and Lunch Menus in here seemed to remain pretty constant and not really have much variety day to day. Food was OK for breakfast and lunch. The advantage was not having to wait in lines for your meal and it being relaxing with a great view! Dinner in the Dining room we found to be quite good. If only the service could have been as good. Service was extremely SLOW. Be prepared to be patient. It just seemed even slower than a nice dinner out on the town. We were very disappointed that by the end of the 7 days we were having to remind our wait staff to keep our water refilled and that I wanted iced tea with my meal...some nights it never showed after multiple requests. Servers seem to be overworked and understaffed. By the end of the meal they were rushing to get everyone served to get the tables cleared quickly and reset for the late seating. Again, we found the food in the dining room to be very good. We had lobster, beef tenderloin, mahi mahi, a great seafood newberg, escargot, various soups (both cold and hot) as well as some great desserts. If all else failed on the dessert menu there was always the chocolate melting cake that is fabulous.....our family's favorite.
Carnival Dream does food well.....I like it that most everything is included in the price of your cruise and they aren't pushing 10 different restaurants that are "specialty" and have a upcharge associated with them as well as taking up space on the ship that could otherwise be used for other attractions and activities. This, Carnival does well. My husband and I didn't try their only restaurant (The Steakhouse)that requires an upcharge, although I have heard others say it is excellent.
Sushi Bar: pretty good sushi.
Coffee Bar: exceptional desserts and coffee for a very nominal fee.
Entertainment: Here is the huge suprise. I thought the entertainment was hands down the best I have ever seen at sea. The shows put on by the Dream's singers and dancers were exceptional. The props, costumes and scenery were great and very much unexpected. I kept wondering where they kept all the stuff on the ship, they had so many costumes and props. My husband and I did not attend any of the Punchliner Comedy Club Shows....times just conflicted with other things that we wanted to do but we did hear other passengers enjoyed them. The "Laser Light Show" that the cruise director announced cost Carnival a dear price is laughable.....I kept wondering if I was missing something....it was a waste the first night. We went to one on the pool deck and I wanted so much to enjoy this and see what all the hype was about that I went to another Laser Light Show and was even more disappointed that I had wasted my time the second time around. I don't think the lasers work well on a moving ship with wind blowing....just a waste. Lido deck party was fun and very energetic with a lot of dancing.
Pools: The back pool deck pool is very nice as is the main pool area where the big screen TV is. The bottom line is that there just aren't enough pools for 4500 people to enjoy on the at sea days. Deck Chairs are a debacle as on any cruise ship with too many people "reserving" chairs with a towel for their child that never exits the pool. I think there should be a rule that deck chairs are for adults only. There are TONS of deck chairs if you don't have to be near the pools. We enjoyed the pool the most on our day in Nassau when we stayed on the ship....didn't seem like enough time to exit the ship and we have done Atlantis in the past. The pools were not crowded until the ship left port that day. We were able to enjoy the Olympics on the big screen TV as well as a couple of movies late at night. Loved the TV at the pool.
Shore Excursions: St Thomas: Ride to Paradise Point: Great view...not much of anything else....Ship advertises a "bird show" and a live band at the top (NOT)....we were told they don't do those things anymore when we got to the top. I can't really say if it is worth the $20 pp. Depends on if you want to view/photo opp, etc. We probably should have planned something else to do that day (tour of the island, etc.)instead of P/Point.
St Marten: Golden Eagle Catamaran Sail and Snorkel: Excellent! We had a great time on this shore excursion. We did the 12:15 to 4:00 excursion because the other time was sold out and it worked out great for us, not having to be one of the first off the ship for the earlier excursion. We sailed and snorkeled and my son enjoyed diving off of the catamaran while my other sons enjoyed the beach. My husband and I really enjoyed the snorkeling. We have snorkeled before and we didn't see anything terribly unusual but we got to see some colorful fish as well as some sea urchins. The crew from The Golden Eagle were very accommodating and ensured that everyone had a good time. We were served juices, rum punch,I heard other passengers ordering other drinks. They were kind enough to mix up some shirley temples for the kids. And there was a sandwich for everyone. My husband and I spent a lot of time trying to determine which snorkeling excursion to sign up for....we were so glad that we chose Golden Eagle. My only complaint was that it couldn't have happened earlier in the week because we really got to know some of our fellow passengers on this trip. Don't hesitate in signing up for this! You will not be sorry.
Other things we enjoyed: My sons loved the basketball court and one of them was there nearly every day. The both enjoyed the mini golf and the ping pong table and thought the water slides were great.
Room: We had an inside cabin on Deck 9 in the back of the ship. I loved this location. One deck above was the pool and buffet restaurants and we could do the stairs. Long wait times for elevators during peak usage. Our room steward kept our room clean and our air conditioning worked satisfactorily.
Ship as a whole was kept pretty clean with the exception of upholstery in the buffet restaurant and the dining rooms. Every time I pulled out a chair to sit down, there were stains all over them. This was disgusting to me and I kept thinking that my clothes would be all grease marks every time I sat down. There is so much fabric on chairs and booths in the restaurants that I kept thinking it was probably trashed after three months of sailing because of wet bathing suits and careless people. Carnival, for sanitary reasons, should consider alternatives for their booths and chairs to keep them looking new and to be able to clean them appropriately.
Movement on the Ship. I have been on numerous cruises and never felt movement like I did on the Dream. I have never gotten sea sick in 25 years that I have cruised. Instead of the typical swaying movement that you become accustomed to on a cruise, The Dream had a jerking back and forth motion the entire way out to sea(4 days). On the return home, it wasn't as bad. It could have just been the ocean at the time that we went.
We also used the gym which seemed to be pretty well equipped with ellipticals, treadmills, etc.
Carnival Kids Clubs. My sons participated minimally in these, preferring the schedule their own days filled with put putt, basketball, table tennis, water slides, swimming, and ice cream!
Carnival Photographers did an awesome job with photos of our family....we purchased about 6-8 photos. Just a note, I always end up wanting the digital copy of our photos and this time I asked at the photo desk and they were able to put some of our photos on a cd so that I can print up the size that I want. It was 9.95 for each photo to be put on a disk that I can use at home. I did have to purchase the original picture as well though.
For families I think the DREAM does a pretty good job with feeding and entertaining everyone. It does seem like a hectic pace though and I think that is because of the large number of passengers.