Carnival Dream My husband and I sailed on the Dream the week before Christmas with our two teen boys. Over all we had a complete blast. It was all just wonderful! I will mention some things that annoyed me below just for information, but please understand that they were just small things, and there were so many more great and pleasing things to overshadow them.
Port Canaveral is a good port to leave from. No worries there. It was easy to find the right terminal, drop off our bags with a port porter, park, and get through the boarding process. I think the whole thing took us (no kidding) twenty minutes, tops. We were on the ship eating Mongolian wok stir-fry by eleven o'clock!
We were even able to get into our rooms very fast; maybe because we were Platinum level. Actually, as of this cruise, all four of us have cruised ten+ Carnival cruises, even the kids! Our checked luggage arrived hours before we expected it, which was nice.
We always carry on a small bag or two with a change of clothes and any medicines and vital toiletries, just in case of luggage delays (which we never have had before.) BTW - Don't pack contraband (travel irons, candles, liquor, hot plates, hacksaws, fireworks, etc.) if you don't want your luggage to be impounded. A list of prohibited items can be found on Carnival's website or ask your travel agent.
We had two adjoining "cove balcony" cabins. This was good because it provided two bathrooms to share between the four of us. The cool thing about the cove balconies is that they are only about thirty feet above the water, maybe lower, so if you like to see the waves, flying fish, sea spray and so forth up close, this is for you. Yes, the waves do actually strike the sides of the ship as it passes through the ocean. It is more pronounced near the front of the ship and less noticeable near the back. Actually, it is cool! If you think that the noise of the ocean might bother you while on your sea-cruise, consider an inside cabin (or maybe snow-skiing). The cove balconies are right below the life boats, so they are really private and shaded from the strong sun and the eyes of others - if that is what you like (we do!) The only downside was that the balconies were not con-joining, even though the rooms were. Sort of odd.
We had no trouble with noise and never have. A tip: Avoid choosing cabins below the galley. Galley means kitchen, and they start prepping for breakfast mighty early.
One neat thing about the Dream was that there were lots of hot tubs all over the ship. Many of them have towel stands nearby so you don't have to worry about bringing your blue cabin towel and then trying to keep an eye on it while you soak. The downside to the hot tubs was that they were tepid at best. If you have never cruised the Caribbean in the wintertime, realize that the sun is warm but the wind is cold. If it is a cloudy day, it will be chilly. A hot "hot tub" is necessary!
Sometimes they would do a grill station (burgers, hot dogs etc.) in the area of the Promenade Deck near the hot tubs that they called the Lanai.
In the Serenity area the chairs are very nice with cotton padding. On port days, it is not a problem to find a seat, on sea days, it is hard - you know the drill. The sounds of children playing can be heard from some parts of the Serenity area on some occasions, but then I have never really thought that sound to be a terrible one.
The spa and gym areas are labyrinthine. You will have to poke around some to find everything. I never did find the locker rooms etc., which brings up an interesting run-in I had with the Spa Manager, Georgina. I went to the gym to do a little exercise and then wanted to sit in the sauna or steam room, both of which have been complimentary on all the other boats I have ever been on (both Carnival and Royal Caribbean). I approached a spa-uniformed lady, one of a few people standing around near a desk just outside of the gym door. I asked her how to get to the steam room, and she told me I needed to have a spa pass. I asked her how much, and she told me that for $150 I could use the spa for the whole cruise. (It was the third day of my seven day cruise, BTW.) I told her that I did not have $150 for the spa pass. She exclaimed loudly, "Well, it is your loss!" I could not believe she said that! She then went on to tell me about all the different rooms: the thalassotherapy room, the steam room, the dry heat room, the this and the that. She basically kept on talking like she was trying to punish me for not having the funds for the spa. I just wanted to leave at that point, but she kept on talking. Finally, she finished and I told her that I was sure the spa was very nice, thanked her, and I left. When I got to my cabin, I called Guest Services and told them what happened. The man was sympathetic, but then he told me that there is indeed a free sauna and steam room in the gym locker area. This news made me shake my head. I then just had to call Georgina and ask her why she did not tell me where the steam room and sauna were when I was standing there asking her where they were. She then admitted that, yes, they do have these things for free in the locker room area, but "they are not very nice." I was (again) floored. I said, "What?" And she told me the free sauna and steam room were not nice and they got a lot of complaints. She said they were like closets and very musty. I said, "What?" and she said that when people would complain about the mustiness, she would call housekeeping and they would spray some sort of freshener, but that it did not really work. She then confided to me that, "Basically, people just go in there and sweat." (Sweat? In the sauna? Whaaa?) Now, I do not know what sort of customer service classes she has been taking, but as a CCL stockholder, I would urge some changes in client relations. I get the fact she was trying to up-sell me into the spa pass, but there was no need for all this craziness!
It was the week right before Christmas and the ship was packed with guests, but due to the size and thoughtful design of the ship it never really seemed crowded.
Except at the Mongolian wok. Everyone and their aunts all seemed to be there all the time getting the awesome wok food. We estimated that when queuing up, if you count the number of people in line before you and multiply that number by two, that will give a pretty good idea of how many minutes until you get your hot bowl of yummy-ness handed to you. The bad thing about the wok was that as soon as you get anywhere near the place, you will get hit by a big cloud of spicy wok smoke, and then you will cough. Get a beverage to sip before you get in line.
Note on the Gathering buffet food: There were plenty of items available for my husband who cannot eat seeds or nuts. Except hamburger buns.
You need to find the Pasta Bar ASAP. It is at the back of the ship one floor above and overlooking the eating area called The Gathering. You can get to it with stairs or an elevator. You can carry in other food to eat there, and it is more peaceful than the rest of the Gathering areas. A lot of the ship's officers seem to eat there, or that is what we saw, at least. If you want pasta, just see the hostess stand and fill out the little form telling what pasta, sauce, meats etc you want. You get a big number to place on your table and they bring over the bowl when the food is ready. Very yummy!
You could also get Indian food at a special station in the back. It was yummy, as well. Soft-serve ice cream and frozen yogurt 24-7? Yes. Sandwiches most of the time? Yes. Sushi on the Lido? Yes. Late-night Mexican buffet? Yes. Chocolate buffet? Yes. Ice carving? Yes. Mixology contest? Yes. 24-7 pizza? Well....
I must caution you to beware of the Pizza Pirate. Usually, the late night pizza run is a favorite thing to do on our cruises, but not this time. Ok, my husband loved the flavor of the 24-hour pizza "had a good cooked-on-a-pizza-stone flavor," even though it was really cooked on some sort of EZ bake oven that sometimes actually ignited the pizzas as they passed through the oven. I saw a young couple get served a half-black, (no fooling) still-smoking slice. I waited for a slice that was not burned black, and even though it was not charred, I thought it was really not good, personally.
Room service took about 30-45 minutes each night, but it was a favorite thing to do to unwind with the kids before bed. Toasted pj&j was fabulous at midnight with a carton of milk! Call for room service or order it from your tv (which is actually easier). Tip the delivering person a dollar or so and sign the check. (There is no charge for most items.) Also, the delivery person will not come in until you specifically invite them to enter.
My husband and I did the special steakhouse on the night they were serving turkey in the main dining room. We always heard such good things about the experience. We found that it is worth every penny. I got the steak and lobster tail, and my husband had the nine ounce filet mignon, which had to be at least twenty-five ounces. The only downside for me was that the lobster was grilled and I found I did not like it as well as the broiled tail served downstairs in the dining room on formal night. But my husband loved it! The service was top notch! We were made comfortable and welcomed. And, yes, the desserts were amazing, too!
My teens say that the Circle C counselors were "pretty good" (amounting to a rave review from them!) and they seemed to do a good job keeping the older teens out of the younger teens' club. But they did let my older son go in with my younger son (they are better together so they can keep an eye on each other.) My older son was just three months past the cut-off age, so it was OK.
The kids club areas were on Deck 4, sort of out of the way of the flow of traffic, so of you are like us and are always looking in to see how your kids are doing, it is sort of out of the natural flow of generally strolling around, but it worked. Actually, we tend to spend some amount of time following our kids, watching what they are doing, seeing if they are with a good group, and just keeping tabs on them from afar. On the Fantasy-class ships it is a breeze to do. On this ship, because there were so many levels for the kids to travel on, it was harder to "stalk" them. At night, there was a security guard or two outside the two teen clubs.
The "Dancing in the Streets" show was amazing; it made me want to dance in the streets. The "Get Ready" show made us get up and leave. The whole hospital scene was really whacky and not in a good way. Other parts were also distasteful/creepy. We missed the country music show, but I heard it was super.
There is plenty of good live music onboard, and it is performed about all the time. That is another thing we really enjoy about cruising, is all the great live music. The sooner you find the Blackjack Band, the better off you will be. They are lots of fun and very talented.
This cruise also covered the last few days of Hanukkah, and we were passing by during the nightly celebration in the atrium. We were one the floor above looking down, and saw that there was a crowd of about twenty or so people trying to participate, and about twice that number of people looking on interestedly. I say that some people were trying to participate, but the festivities were being led by a Carnival employee (entertainment staff) who did not know the songs and was kind of trying to do his best, but you could tell he was sort of clueless. I could not hear all that was going on, but I really wished that the celebration could have been better "run" by a more educated leader. Maybe he was filing in for the person who usually does it; maybe it is usually awesome and was just off that one night, I don't know. I did go down afterwards and try the potato pancakes they served afterwards, and they were delicious!
There was a jumbo-tron at the main pool, and it was always on, most of the time showing peaceful nature scenes, but sometimes showing live sports (with and without the sound), movies (Capt. America and Dr No one night), and Good Morning America, stuff like that. Again (especially in the winter) bring a warm sweater to snuggle up in, since the nights on deck can be windy and cold.
The Comedy Club was good. I like the "TV-rated" comedy shows, and my husband enjoys the "R-rated" shows. They had several of both.
Speaking of comedy, the Comedy Brunch food was wonderful, but not really my style, since I like simple breakfast foods. But I tell you the brunch foods were amazing, just mind-blowing; and most of them had a Latin twist, because it is "brought to you by George Lopez" the comedian. My husband will not be quiet about the filet mignon with choice of eggs and carmel cheese cake for desert he had at the brunch. The kids had gourmet mac and cheese with bacon and steak. I had an omelette and then the fried churros with thick chocolate dipping sauce. But I really just wanted some oatmeal. They had the brunch on all the sea days.
Getting off the ship was a breeze. We were driving away from the ship by eight o'clock and we did not even self-assist. Platinum status gave us #1 departure.we could have chosen to disembark later, but we had a long drive home.
The Carnival Dream was a nice and big ship and all, but it did not sweep us off our feet. We decided that we like the smaller ships just as well, maybe even better.