We went on the Carnival Dream Dec. 1-8, 2012 The Good: Beautiful ship, friendly staff, seafood great for the most part, good shows, Punchliner brunch very good, good comedians in the Punchliner Burgundy lounge, embarkation and debarkation easy if you are Platinum or Diamond level, nice size cabin for verandahs. Nice Tervis Tumbler for Platinum/Diamond level guests.
The Bad: Very rough seas for 2 days (50+ mph winds--certainly not Carnival's fault), Captain's party a joke ( you get $1 off drinks instead of free drinks), past guest party also a joke(got very sweet rum punch and only a couple of snacks). Carnival has eliminated the last night "farewell party" where they used to give you free drinks and snacks. Had a really creaky cabin when the ship rocked--had to put in earplugs a couple of nights. Stupid life boat drill--you do not even go to your life boat--rather meet in a lounge for instructions. Way too loud noise/TV on the monster TV by the pool--you needed earplugs; who wants to hear ESPN blasted at you at 9 am? Serenity area not quiet because of the screaming kids getting on the water slide a few yards away. Carnival no longer publishes the daily news flyer like they did in the past--guess it saves them money.
The Ugly: Carnival lets people smoke on their verandahs--we could not use the verandah many times because of the heavy smokers upwind from us next door. Carnival should learn a lesson from Celebrity and ban smoking on all verandahs, not just for spa cabins. Until Carnival changes this policy or we can get a spa cabin, we will not be going on Carnival again.
Now for specifics:
Since we live in Tampa, we drove to Cocoa Beach on Nov. 30th and stayed at LaQuinta Inn. We were able to leave our car there for 7 days, and they took us to the port on Dec. 1st, and picked us up on Dec. 8th. We got to the pier about 9:45 am, and there was very little waiting to go through security.
Since we have Platinum level VIP status, we went to the VIP area, and were checked in very quickly. We did have to wait about 20 minutes or so to board since there was a rather large wedding party that got to board before we did. Carnival has started something new--if you are Platinum or Diamond level, your cabin is ready as soon as you board--a really nice feature in our opinion. We put our carry on baggage in the cabin and went to the Lido deck for the buffet lunch. Lots of variety and not crowded when we boarded, but it got to be a real zoo later. Carnival eliminated trays a few years back, so it is a pain to make several trips, but other cruise lines have done the same thing.
After lunch we toured the ship to find our way around. The layout is similar to the Freedom that we went on last year. The lifeboat drill was absurd in our opinion. You no longer have to get your life jacket and go to your lifeboat. Instead you go to a lounge where the crew shows you how to put on a life jacket, and they tell you where your life boat is. Then the tell you that in case of an emergency you are supposed to go to your lounge muster station. How stupid can you be? If there is an emergency, I am not going to a lounge--I am going to where the life boat. Carnival is not the only cruise line that does this, and it is hard to believe that the Coast Guard will allow this.
We selected anytime dining for dinner, as we have for the past several cruises. Carnival now dedicates the lower level of the Crimson dining room for anytime dining. It is a very popular option because people start lining up at least 30 minutes in advance. On the first night they only had one line and the wait was a real pain. By the 3rd night, Carnival got a little smarter and opened one line on the right and one on the left and things went much quicker.
After dinner there was a liquor tasting at the shops--what a zoo--they only had a single line, and you had to wait for at least 30-45 minutes; we declined.
Sunday--we arrived at Nassau about 8:30 am and had to be back on board by 2:30 pm. We have been to Nassau many times before and just chose to walk around downtown and go to the straw market. The straw market was destroyed by fire some time ago, but has been rebuilt. Most vendors had the same stuff--a lot of which was made in China. We had lunch at the Lido--best tilapia I have ever had. They have a pasta bar upstairs on deck 11; it was ok but not great.
We attended the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet function which was arranged by Len (a passenger); he did a fantastic job, and Carnival furnished one bottle of champagne for 30 people--good luck on getting any! On previous cruises the cruise line furnished tea, coffee, and snacks--not here. It was nice to get to meet fellow passengers.
The Captain's party was a major joke like it was on the Freedom last year. You get $1 off drinks--big deal; we declined to go.
Sunday was the first formal night--very few ties on guys and no tux. Much more informal than it used to be. Dinner was great--lobster, but no surf and turf like on previous cruises. The show was good, but you have to like country music.
The sea was very rough with 40-50 mph winds, and the Captain never warned us about this. Fortunately we do not have a problem with being sea sick, but a lot of others did. The wind was so bad we could not use our verandah for a couple of days.
Carnival lets passengers smoke on their verandah (except on spa cabins, as we later learned). Unfortunately the couple next door smoked a lot and the wind blew the smoke on our verandah. This will be the last cruise we ever take on Carnival unless they change this policy or we can book a spa cabin. Wake up Carnival--smoking is bad for your health. Carnival used to have a non-smoking ship, the Paradise, but it is now smoking.
Monday: We were at sea and had 50+ mph winds--very rough
Breakfast at Lido was a disaster--they ran out of coffee cups. We had a hard time finding the bacon--they serve it to you instead of serving it yourself like the other food. Should have passed on the bacon because it was under cooked and very greasy--ugh. The food never varied at breakfast. The made-to-order omelets were good, and the fresh fruit was good.
We had lunch in the Crimson dining room at the Punchliner brunch. They have this on sea days with the same menu each day. A comedian talks for about 5 minutes, and you order from a menu. The salmon was good but the beef was overcooked. There were very few people there, which was a nice change from the zoo at the Lido buffet.
After lunch we went to the art auction held by Park West. Overpriced art work--you can do much better online. They have a minimum bid, plus they add 15% to the price, and you have to pay $35 to have it shipped unframed. I bit on this several years ago, but never again. They advertise free champagne, but this auctioneer was very tight and you were lucky if you got one glass. The auction was supposed to start and 1 pm but it had not started at 2 pm, so we left.
Tuesday: Docked in St Thomas about 11 am. We had breakfast in the dining room; it was good but took about an hour, which was ok because we did not dock until late. We docked at the pier at Havensight Mall and did a little shopping. The prices, especially liquor, were much higher than they were last year. We could buy most booze cheaper in Tampa than in St Thomas or on the ship.
We got back on board about 1 pm and had lunch at Lido; had great fish. We wanted to sit by the pool but the monster TV was so loud--about the same decibel level as a jet plane. We then went up to the serenity area for adults only to get away from the noise by the pool--that lasted about 2 minutes--all we heard was screaming kids getting on the water slide, which is adjacent to the serenity area. We then moved to the front of the ship where we could not hear the screaming kids. There are only a few seats there, but it was no problem on a port day--good luck getting a chair on a sea day.
Dinner at the Crimson dining room--the filet was good but the red snapper was way overcooked. This was unusual because most of the time the fish is great and the beef is tough and overcooked. We went to the show, which was good, but it was very loud and crowded.
Wednesday: We arrived in St Maarten about 7 am and docked at the new dock (at least for us). Had a great view of the harbor from our port side verandah. We took the water taxi to town ($ 7 round trip). You have to be sure you get on the right one because we thought all of them took you to the middle of town; ours took us to the right edge of town (looking from the ship to town), so we had quite a walk. We did a little shopping and went to a couple of casinos. Last year we played the nickel slots and got free drinks--not so this year. Took the water taxi back to the ship and had lunch at Lido--great fish again. The Indian Tandoor station was good but very hot.
Dinner at Crimson was great for the seafood newburg, but horrible for the beef stroganoff--they should have called it beef gristle and noodles; I could not even cut it with a steak knife.
Thursday: Had breakfast at Lido--same as always. Lunch at Punchliner brunch in Crimson--very good--lots of choices, but the menu does not vary. If you want the steak, order it medium rare, not medium (which comes well done). At 4:45 pm, we went to the past guest function--what a joke--instead of having a choice of red or white wine, or champagne, or a whiskey sour, like they used to do, they served you a very sweet rum punch, which was horrible. We did find out later that you could request a beer or wine, but you had to tell the waiter you wanted it and then wait 15 minutes to get it. We got 2 small pastry type something--a total disaster compared to previous cruises. Carnival needs to take a lesson from Celebrity or Holland America--they do a much better job.
At dinner the basa, tiger shrimp, and steak were all good. We went to the show--high energy, very good dancers, but very loud.
Friday: A rather lazy day--very cloudy in the am, but cleared off in the pm. We played putt-putt on the 18 hole course on deck 12--very nice. The seas were much calmer on Friday than they had been all week. At 4:30 we went to the "holiday show", which was very good. Dinner was ok. Although we had anytime dining, we went when the dining room first opened and most of the time we were able to get table 149--excellent waiter and helpers; this is a table for 2, and we always got good service. One night this table was not available and we had to sit on the right side of the room among a bunch of kids--ugh.
We went to the Punchliner comedian show at 7:30--was fantastic. Don't know why we did not go before, but had conflicting things going on.
Saturday: Time to get off the ship and go home. We had very heavy fog Sat. morning and the ship could not dock on time; not Carnival's fault, but they could have given us a better warning. When we looked out our deck about 5 am, we could see nothing but fog.
We wanted some breakfast so we went to the Lido about 5:45 and had a little fruit and coffee. Since we are Platinum level, we could get off the ship first. We were told to be at the lounge level of Crimson dining room about 6:30. We got there about 6:15 and lots of people were lined up. About 7am or so, there was an annoucement that because of the fog, we would be delayed. Carnival should have told us that an hour earlier and we could have had a nice breakfast rather than being rushed. Carnival made no annoucement that we could get off the ship; we noticed the crew opened the door and we rushed over to get off. This was supposed to be for Platinum and Diamond level members only, but there were a lot of people who were not at that level that got off in front of us. You were supposed to put a #1 blue luggage tag on your take off luggage, but a lot of people did not have one, and Carnival made no effort to enforce this.
The Dream is a nice ship, but we liked the Freedom better. On the positive side, the crew was extremely friendly, from the cabin steward to the dining staff. They always greeted you with a smile and a friendly hello.
We were on deck 8, port side, mid ship; nice cabin--lots of storage--put your luggage under the bed. Typical mini frig which does not keep things real cold, but it is ok. We never buy their overpriced drinks, so we took the drinks out and put our wine in it. The linens were great, towels were plush, and the bed was very comfortable. The verandah was nice with 2 chairs and a little table. Unfortunately, Carnival lets people smoke on their balcony, and the people next door smoked; Carnival needs to change this policy. Also on deck 5, there are two hot tubs on both sides of the ship, and you could hear the loud talking from the people in the hot tubs. Unless you had a cabin below deck 5, or a spa cabin, you would have to put up with this noise, which was very annoying. The toilet tissue and the Kleenex imitation tissue paper were horrible. Surely Carnival can do better.
We were amazed at the number of children on board considering it is between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although we did not count them, our best guess is that there were at least 200 kids on board. Last year we went on a cruise about the same time and there were about 25 kids.
I have been on over 20 Carnival cruises (starting with the Mardi Gras in 1975) and Carnival has gone downhill in our opinion. The past guest party was a joke, and their smoking policy needs changing. When we went on the Freedom last year, on the last night of the cruise there was a party where they gave you free drinks and great appetizers--not so this cruise. I know Carnival is trying to save money, but with the price you pay for a cruise, they should not be so cheap. Although we are at Platinum VIP level, unless Carnival changes their smoking policy on verandahs, we will never sail on Carnival again.