Just returned (literally tonight) from the Carnival Dream Western Caribbean Aug 4-11, 2012. I sailed with my husband, my 2 and 6 year old sons, my Mom, my sister, brother in law, and 4 year old niece. I have been on many cruises - including Carnival. I have a very mixed review - in all, we had a nice time, and I would go again - but I did have a few major disappointments.
First off - let me start at the END by saying - this was my FIRST and LAST experience with Luggage Express. Traveling with 3 small children, we were excited to be offered this wonderful option. Needless to say - as I sit here in my home in CT - my luggage, my mom's, and my sister's luggage (TEN BAGS in total) are still sitting in Orlando, FL. After waiting over an hour at the airport, I was informed that whomever it is that takes the bags from the ship to the airport did not make it in time. Hello? This is the WHOLE PURPOSE of luggage express - if you have an early flight (ours was at 12:35pm - not even the earliest!!!) you qualify! Meanwhile - JetBlue told us it is absolutely the responsibility of Carnival to get your bags to the terminal on time. Everything was filled out appropriately - I even registered for it early to avoid long lines at guest services, and triple checked everything the night before. I will never use this service again, and God help the supervisor who is unfortunate enough to have to take my call tomorrow. I am fuming.
I will try to condense my review for space purposes - I will give you the GOOD first.
The Dream is a beautiful ship - my kids and family had a blast on the slides (by the way, my 2 year old freely swam in the pool and went on the slides all week - no signs saying he could not unless he was trained, and nobody enforcing it. Basically, nobody really CARES very much - but I will get to that in my BAD review. There was one guy at the slide but he didnt speak english and really didnt seem too interested in his job). The comedy show was very good. Drinks were great as well as the food! I read a lot of differing opinions, but I thought the food was very good! Especially in the dining room - I had a lot of really good dinners and even the buffet was good, even though it seemed it was closed more than open. Service was a bit slow in the dining room, but I found everyone there very friendly - they loved my children and went out of their way to say hello every night. I will say they have been much more enthusiastic on other ships (these employees just seemed like they wanted to get their job done and thats it - no real FUN interaction - Ive been on cruises where they do special things for the kids, like make a funny face out of their pancakes, or get up and dance with them - none of that was done here. Not a big deal, but it would have been fun.) Another plus - our room was BIG! Plenty of space (we had an ocean view) and nice closet space. I loved the fact that we had 2 bathrooms - 1 toilet with shower, 1 sink with tub, which worked out great for my 2 year old). Beds were super comfortable and nice soft blankets and sheets. Definitely good quality. I was impressed.
Onto the BAD (and I cant emphasize enough how BAD LUGGAGE EXPRESS IS! I still cannot believe that 10 bags spread across THREE cabins did NOT NOT NOT make it to our final destination). Unacceptable.
I realize that when you travel during hurricane season, there is always a chance of a hurricane. Unfortunately, tropical storm Ernesto forced us to change our itinerary - originally we were doing Western Caribbean - Cozumel, Belize, Isla Roatan, and Costa Maya. Dream decided to start off with NO itinerary change (here is my issue - even I knew from before I boarded that ship that there was NO WAY we were going to stay on schedule. Yet, Dream did not change plans till DAY 3!!!) I found out later that Disney (who was scheduled to do the same itinerary) were smart and changed from day 1 - and got much better ports. Instead, because we waited, we were STUCK (and I do mean stuck) with traveling to Prospero, Mexico, Freeport, and Nassau Bahamas. (I could have probably paid HALF to visit these horrible ports). Next, Carnival had the GALL to say Prospero Mexico was an "up and coming" port for cruise ships. Really?!?!?! I wouldnt send my DOG there - unless you like looking at garbage, sewage, filth, and poverty. I booked a beach excursion for my family and after literally 10 minutes there (Iguana "Resort" (and I use the term lightly) about a half hour away - I told the bus driver there was NO WAY I was staying there and he needed to take us back to the ship immediately. Disgusting - and with my children I was afraid they would get sick - that is how gross this place was. We paid $125 for this? I was more than upset and couldnt wait to get back to the ship. I felt lied to - they tried to put a positive spin on an absolutely gross disgusting island.
Why 2 ports in Bahamas? Again, I realize its nobodys fault about the weather - but I think for what we paid we should have gone somewhere nicer. I was told because Dream waited, all other ports were full. Not even a free drink was given. Nothing.
Finally - and probably my BIGGEST disappointment - Camp Carnival. I dont know if its just the Dream (as Ive heard nothing but great things about Camp carnival) but this camp was just plain horrible. From the check in, to the lines to GET in (hello? If I took the time to register the night before why do I need to wait in one big long line to drop off my child in front of the person who DIDNT register and has 20 questions?). I decided to drop my 6 year old off first - figuring my little guy may need a little more time to warm up. My 6 year old is VERY outgoing and friendly and couldnt WAIT to go. Well, I drop him off in a nearly EMPTY room, with maybe ONE counselor in there with some other kids sitting for some type of orientation. I told my son I would come back to check on him after I dropped off his brother (another thing - one person told me they absolutely could not be together, but the next day another somewhat nicer counselor said "of course if they feel better we can put them together") When I went back over, my son was hysterically crying, telling me he did NOT want to stay. Nothing was going on - no fun, no party, they even told him he could not play a video game at that time, it was DEAD in there. Not exactly vacation fun friendly. When I angrily asked the counselor WHY he was there crying by himself with NOBODY even TALKING to him she said "Oh I told him you were coming back". Oh - OK - so that means you dont even LOOK at him? I found all of these counselors to be very cold and somewhat rude. Of course I immediately took my son out (its his vacation too) and told him he didnt have to stay - but believe me, it had to be pretty bad for him not to stay. He is easy going and makes friends immediately - I didnt blame him. It looked boring and they were doing ZERO to ease these kids into a first day of fun. Nothing. Nada. One girl (ONE GIRL) checking them in with a line a mile long (hello hire more people!) and when he gets in there he is left standing alone to figure out what to do. Horrible. I took him out immediately and felt awful about even trying it - thats how upset he was :( Nobody even cared - the girl just said "So are you signing him out?" Nice.
Onto my 2 year old - who was super excited to go because he was with his 4 year old cousin. Obviously there are going to be kids that DONT want to go. I get it. In this case - there were a few. Here is the problem - they do NOTHING with the kids that are crying so hard they are practically hyperventallating and screaming "Mama dont leave me here" In my opinion, take those kids into the center area of the room away from the drop off area and DO SOMETHING FUN WITH THEM!! TRY to get them to calm down. All this did was scare the living crap out of the rest of the kids on line - so much so that it snowballed and every kid on line was hysterical. It was almost comical to my sister and I, who turned around and walked out. Believe me, I was on a family vacation to be with my family, and I really was only doing the camp for my kids' sake - to do some fun stuff - I had no problem keeping them with me, but other parents were angry. I would never ever leave my child upset - but some just dropped and didnt care at all that their kids were upset. One guy even told me he was angry that they called him to come get his 3 year old daughter who was inconsolable. (Really? Wow - but whatever).
Next day we decided to try again, since this was a day they could ALL be together (2-11 years old) and figured they would go. They did! We dropped them off for about 2 hrs. When I picked up - I found out they watched a movie. OK - fine, but I was hoping they would do more. They said it was "free play" which basically meant they were on their own with a movie running. What upset me however was the fact that my son had a dirty diaper when I picked him up, and even though the counselor said she just checked him, when I went to change him I could tell he was sitting it in for a bit. Next time I complained about it and told them to check him often. When I picked him up (an hour later) they told me he did in fact have a bowel movement and they changed him. He was still very dirty - I dont know what their idea of clean is, but it certainly is NOT mine. I realize nobody is going to care for my child as I would, but I do not expect him to still have dried poop on him after a diaper change (and a LOT of it). This happened one more time and then I was completely FINISHED with camp carnival. Oh - and the 2 more times they went? Guess what they did? You got it. Watched a movie. My kids made not one art project, nothing.
I think these counselors need more training - they clearly seemed very indifferent to the kids, and lots of times I saw some crying and nobody consoling.