This was my 10th and platinum cruise on Carnival. I have also cruised on Princess, NCL, Celebrity, and RCI, but have sailed on Carnival the most frequently. My most recent cruise was on the NCL Pearl in Dec 2012-I really like the NCL product but need to stick with Carnival until my son is 3 and can participate in the kids program on other cruise lines (Carnival will take 2 year olds in their free kid's club). I feel like cruising is the best value for my family and easy with a young child-you don't have to think about where to eat, there are different ports each day, etc.
I will admit I was a little nervous as I was sailing a few days after the Triumph debacle, but I know the chances of a fire on a cruise ship are extremely low. I flew in the morning of the cruise into Orlando airport. I decided to go with a Carnival transfer because I didn't want to bring my son's car seat and didn't feel like messing with a private shuttle. I got my transfer ticket by 10:15 and unfortunately had to wait for almost an hour to get on a bus. The bus ride was fine and took about 45 min to get to the port-it was around noon. There was hardly any wait in the platinum area and the employee checking me in said cabins would be ready at 1:30-I asked her if the cabins are ready for platinum and Faster to the Fun and she said no!? It was easy to get on the ship after getting our sail and sign cards with no lines.
I went directly to my cabin on the Main deck, as I wanted to drop off our carry-ons. I usually book a balcony, especially when travelling with my child, but found a great cabin, #2845, a large oceanview cabin with 2 windows and 2 bathrooms. I highly recommend this cabin and would choose it again on a Dream-class ship. The only downsides to this cabin are the vibrations and mechanical noise when docking and leaving port, but overall I liked the extra room. I don't remember my cabin steward's name, but he was from Belarus or Bulgaria and was nice, but he didn't stand out to me (which is fine). His assistant, Al from Indonesia, was always making jokes with my son and asking about him. The cabin was clean and I never had any issues with cabin service. I did not hear any noise from the dining room above.
This was my first time on a Dream-class ship and I really enjoyed the extra amenities onboard. I really liked the Waterworks area -- no lines during port days! I used the Serenity deck often and enjoyed this quiet area. The Lanai deck was nice, but if I were to have a balcony on this ship I would book very high up as to not have a view of people in the hot tubs. I was a little disappointed there was no Guy's Burgers on the Dream, but the food from the grill was good. I thought the new pizza was great, although they make it fresh so there is a long wait. This may sound petty, but they also don't serve chicken fingers at the grill. Maybe Carnival has done away with them? I always found food to eat in the buffet and thought it was standard Carnival fare and quite tasty. You won't starve and there are tons of choices. I did not eat at the Mongolian Wok as the lines were too long and was only open a few hours around lunch time. They had an Indian station, Burrito bar, and Deli, as well. I had early dining and went 4 nights out of 7. My dining team was great about speeding up the meal, as I had a toddler with me. We ate at the buffet the other nights and did not have a problem with the food choices. One thing I did not like about the design of this ship is how some floors dead ended or did not go all the way across the length of the ship. For example, to get to the dining area on the third floor aft, you can take the elevator or stairs and be crammed into a small area waiting for the dining room to open. The elevators open directly into this small area. A poor design in my opinion; but then again, I am not a ship builder.
Maybe I'm boring, but I don't go on cruises to gamble, play trivia, or watch cheesy shows, so I really can't comment on any of that. I did see the show put on by the Fun Force dancers and thought they were very entertaining. There were plenty of activities in the daily schedule, but my main goal was to relax and get a tan! I will say that the gift shops leave a lot to be desired-same old, same old and not a lot of selection to me. I did by 2L of vodka for $30 which was a great deal. They had great deals in the liquor store, but I was limited to 2L because I had to pack it in my suitcase and was worried about breakage and overweight suitcases. I did not smell any sewage smells on the ship that have been reported. There were crowds at peak dining hours in the buffet and it was sometimes hard to find a seat, but that is to be expected on a ship with 4000+ people. I never saw any outrageous behaviors or anyone falling down drunk, but I wasn't at the bars late at night so who knows? Chair hogs were in full force-I didn't see anyone patrolling the areas.
My son participated in Camp Carnival about 2-3 hours a day and he really liked it there (2-5 age group). At first, a few of the counselors had a surly attitude, but I think I would too if I had to deal with bratty kids all day, every day. These counselors eventually warmed up and said they loved my son --one even teared up when we saw her getting off the ship the last morning-she gave my son hugs and kisses! My son ate dinner with Camp twice-they had kid-specific menus and an area in the buffet for them. Overall, I think Camp Carnival is great. They do change diapers and they gave me a cell phone that works on the ship so they could call me if he needed to be picked up. I tipped the counselors well the last night-they deserve every cent!
It was cool on the first sea day-South Florida had a cold snap and it was a little too cool for me to sunbathe. I bought a ticket through Carnival to Playa Mia in Cozumel to check out the new water park. The water park is amazing, but that water was frigid! They have a kid's park and play area, too. We stayed on the ship in Belize as there are not a lot of little kid friendly excursions there. I have done the cave tubing before and can't wait to take my son once he is much older. We went to the beach near the port in Roatan and got caught in a torrential downpour. It did clear up later that day-Roatan is a beautiful island that I had the opportunity to explore while on a medical mission trip about 6 years ago. You really need to leave the gates of the sanitized port area to get a real feel for the island. With such a short port time in Costa Maya I just stuck to the little beach in the port area where they have the swim with the dolphins. I really wish they spent longer in Costa Maya.
Debarkation was easy and I decided to get off the ship around 8:30 even though I had a 1:00 flight from Orlando. I am so glad I allowed this extra time because that airport was an absolute zoo! I took the Carnival transfer bus with no problems. The ticket line for Southwest was chaos and took about 45 min to wind through. Allow one full hour for security, because that's how long it took to go through the line!
Overall, I enjoyed our trip on the Dream, so much so that I booked another cruise on her while onboard (I wish they didn't do away with the Future Cruise Certificates). I actually switched that booking to one of the new 8-day itineraries when they were announced. I do like the Dream-class much more than the Conquest-class ships. I don't think I will be flying to Galveston to check out the Magic anytime soon, but I am going on the Breeze in April and am excited about that!