EMBARKATION- Very easy. We parked off site and took a quick ride over to the ship around 11am. No lines when we got there and we were onboard in no time.
NCL comparison- I've never had an issue embarking on any line. I do like that NCL creates a 'party feel' when you get on board...music, people welcoming you, ect. We stepped on board the Dream without a welcome. Not a big deal, just an observation.
DINING- I realize this is a touchy subject. I honestly wasn't impressed with Carnival's food at all. We were assigned late dining- not what we wanted but early dining and ATD were both full (we booked in June, but being a holiday sailing we understood it'd be busy). We ate in the dining room the first two nights and after that, we were done. We were a table of 6. Not sure why, but we felt ignored. We were last to get our orders taken, last to receive our food, last to get anything really. We finished at 10:30 both nights (the first night we skipped dessert because it was so late). Other tables around us would be ordering their dessert while we were just getting our entree. Getting more water or bread was impossible. Because we didn't want to make dinner a 2+ hour event, we stuck with the buffet the rest of the week....which- again- was just average. Nothing really seemed to be hot. Everything was just sort of lukewarm.
NCL Comparison- We prefer NCL as far as dining goes. We heard from a few other people who have been on Carnival many times that the quality has decreased. We also prefer dining at anytime. We did like the options Carnival had at the Gathering- Mongolian Wok, Pasta Bar, Burrito Bar, ect- however, wish that some of these would be open at dinner time. I think it's a mistake not opening the Pasta Bar more often and for longer hours. The variety was very basic. The pizza was just 'ok'- calzones were really good though. Carnival, for being the 'fun' ships, should have something like NCL has- a 24 hour restaurant that serves more than just pizza. We missed going to the 24 hour restaurant and having chicken wings, cheese sticks, sandwiches, ect- instead of the Pizzeria which got tiring after the first few days.
CABIN-We liked the layout of the room- beds were comfortable. Small tv but I'm not there to watch tv anyways. We thought the bathroom and balcony were both a little small.
NCL comparison- We thought the room on Carnival was larger but the balcony and bathroom smaller. The bathroom on NCL's newer ships (exc EPIC) are much better than on the Dream- wood walls, sliding glass shower doors, ect. The sea green fixtures on the Dream and a moldy shower curtain do not look like something from a ship built just a few years ago.
CREW- We felt like the crew was overworked (more than normal...). Cabin steward was very reserved and didn't talk much (which is fine, but abnormal for most). Didn't get to know the waiters much because we didn't go in the dining room except the first two days. The entertainment staff was great, but again- seemed to be stretched thin. Events hardly started on time. And once they were going, the staff would seemed rushed to get it over with so they could move on to their next event.
NCL comparison- It's hard to judge a crew because they all work their butt's off, but this crew seemed exhausted. I know it was a full Thanksgiving cruise, but that's generally the week we go and thought that the NCL crew tries to connect more with you.
ENTERTAINMENT- Thought the shows were pretty forgettable. A couple nights of motown, couple nights of dancing and singing- meh. I thought there'd be more variety. We did enjoy the late night comedy. The first two comedians were much better than the last two. The Burgandy Lounge is great. Also liked Sam's Piano Bar and the karaoke room (which was always packed- couldn't ever get a seat in there). One complaint I have is smoking in the nightclub Caliente. I've never seen this before on any ship I've been on. I wanted to go in there more often but the smoke was awful.
NCL comparison- We were surprised at the lack of activities going on at night. Thinking that a newer CCL ship would really pump up the 'Fun Ship' theme, there wasn't a ton going on. We took part in a lot of the activities- the bean bag tosses, basketball competitions, and 100 games of trivia...but I honestly couldn't tell the difference between Carnival and NCL in this category. They all seem to have similar activities. We did enjoy winning the ships on a stick...
SHIP- Heard rumors of smells before leaving and they were hit or miss- smelled some in the halls or right between Ocean Plaza/casino. The ship was beautiful and well laid out. Everything was clean and there was someone always wiping something down. Several of the hot tubs weren't hot at all, but not a big deal. I am shocked how little the 'Seaside Theater' screen was used. Nearly everytime we saw it, it was the spinning Carnival logo- what a waste! Why not show some scenes of a beach or something? Also, no live band by the pool? No Caribbean music? Very surprised.
NCL comparison- The ship wasn't as gaudy as some of the older CCL ships I've seen. I think the Dream was beautiful and comparible to the NCL Pearl. One thing I think Carnival can improve on is some live music by the pool (your one man guitarist does not cut it). Deck parties weren't anything near what NCL does, and the BBQ was cancelled twice due to wind on the sea days. Well, it's always pretty windy- and there wasn't a backup plan. Why? Move it somewhere else!