I returned yesterday from a wonderful cruise aboard the Carnival Dream. My son (10 years old) and I were two of the 4000+ passengers on the ship that had the opportunity to spend extra days in St. Maarten. Yes, the media blew the situation way out of portion. The ship had running water, working toilets, plenty of food, working AC the entire trip. Now to the good stuff....
I will be returning on the Carnival Dream again because the ship is beautiful and the crew is incredible.
We embarked out of Port Canaveral, we flew into Orlando and took 5th Avenue Car Service to the port. Great car service, they meet you at baggage claim, take your luggage and take you to the port.
We arrived the terminal about 12:30pm and breezed right through, received our cards and boarded the ship about 1:15pm. We were told we could go to our room around 3:30pm We were welcomed to go on the Lido deck to eat but decided we would quickly book our excursions so the ones we wanted wouldn't sell out. We also took advantage of the Bottomless Bubbles Card for my son ($44) for the week and he could get soft drinks and juice any time of the day. I purchased the Cheers program for me ($345) for the week which you get up to 15 alcoholic beverages per 24 hour period. This includes wine with dinner and is very convenient. After we made our purchases we made our way to the LIdo deck for a quick bite.
Around 3:30pm we went to our room to drop our carry-ons off and then went to explore the ship and wait for our luggage to be delivered. First stop was the water slides, which are great fun. Three nice water slides and fun for kids & adults. There is a small water slide for toddlers & younger children. We continued onto the mini golf course to play a quick 18 holes and then to check out the rest of the ship. The ship left the port at 4:00pm and we enjoyed sailing away. We decided to check back to our room around 5:00pm and our luggage was there. So we unpacked and "moved in " for the week. We ate dinner that evening in the buffet and just wandered around learning our way around the ship. After a long travel day we made it an early evening.
Day 2 - we arrived Nassau around 9am. We had pre-arranged a day pass a RIU Palace so we got a cab and went over to Paradise Island to spend the short time we had on the island there. I had heard so many negatives about the Atlantis that I just didn't want to spend that much money when we were only in Nassau for 5 hours. Needless to say our experience at RIU Palace was just ok. It was no fault of the hotel but the day we were there it was only about 70 degrees and the ocean was so rough that they wouldn't allow anyone on the beach. So we sat at the pool wrapped up in towels. After a few hours we decided we would just go back to the ship. Next time if we are on a cruise that has a short time in Nassau I will just stay on the ship. If we have longer I would venture back out and check out the island. We departed Nassau at 2:00pm so we enjoyed the water slides and hanging out. It was sunny but still only 70 degrees and really windy so it was chilly. But it was beautiful just to look around as we pulled away. We joined in a meeting in the Encore lounge to learn about Camp Carnival and what they offered. Since this trip was just me and my son I had to plans of leaving him there for the day but he was interested in the "parties" that they offerend for kids at night. So we signed him up for two of the parties. That evening we enjoyed the formal dining room and had an excellent dinner. We enjoyed a couple of the shows that evening.
Day 3 - day at Sea we knew we would be spending the day in the sun. Down side is there are alot of people and everyone goes out to save chairs before 7am so it's hard to find chairs. I found two up on deck 12 but the wind was so strong that day I couldn't even hold a magazine plus it was chilly. So I went down and found a chair on a lower level which helped some with the wind. Sea days are nice down days to just hang out and do nothing. My son met a couple boys his age and they were out running around. Eventually the ship decided for safety to shut down the water slides because the winds were so high. Of course the kids were disappointed but I am glad they put safety first. During the day we had lunch at one of many lunch locations, Tandori which was fantastic. Later we snacked at the beach bar which provides hamburgers, french fries, hotdogs, etc... through out the entire afternoon. After snacking most of the day we decided the buffet would be our dinner choice because we really didn't want much to eat. That evening we joined the party on the Lido deck which had lots of dancing. Camp Carnival had a party this evening that was from 10pm-midnight. My son had a blast and I was able to relax while he was partying.
Day 4 - We arrived in St. Thomas at 11am and were there until 7pm. We booked the Champagne Catamaran through Carnival and I would highly recommend this excursion. The staff is friendly and they give you a lot of great information on the island. Unfortunately the snorkeling was not good due to the turbulence at sea but we had a fantastic time. This excursion takes about 4.5 hours and we arrived back at the ship at 5pm. I had a massage booked at 5pm so we were in a hurry. My son went to pool deck and grabbed a snack and met me back in the room. I chose the Bamboo Massage and if you enjoy a deep tissue massage this is fantastic. Very nice spa and the staff is fantastic. I am recovering from a torn hamstring and Lillian was knowledgeable and worked with me on what was right for this area. They do try to sell you oils and other items after your massage but all you have to say is "I'm not interested". Although I did purchase a particular oil for my hamstring and it's better than it was before I left for the trip. Once I got back to my room I was relaxed, my son was tired so we decided just to run to the buffet for dinner. We did meet two of the dancers from the ship on our excursion and they were dancing in a show that night. We went to the show and it was FANTASTIC. We also went to see two other shows that evening. One was a comedian which I thought was just ok but my son thought he was funny.
Day 5 - We woke up at 7am in St. Maarten and our excursion was booked for 9:15am so we had a quick breakfast in the buffet and went on the Golden Eagle Catamaran. Beautiful cruise and again very knowledgeable crew. The water still was not very clear but we enjoyed the cruise. Once we got back to the ship we decided to get rid of the wet towels and swimsuits and headed back to Front Street. We took the water taxi over $7.00 per person round-trip. We wandered around the city and enjoyed lunch by the beach. Then went back to the boat. When the ship didn't leave at 5pm an announcement was made that they were doing some checking on mechanicals issues. Later an announcement was made that for 15 minutes the elevators and toilets would be shut down. They were ONLY SHUT DOWN FOR 15 MINUTES. They gave periodic updates. We never once felt in danger or misinformed. We enjoyed the Dive In Movie that evening with pizza from the pizza bar by the pool. They make really good personal pizzas. Only thing missing was popcorn. At 9pm the last announcement came that they were still working on the ship and that this would be the last announcement for the evening. That evening was the big party for the kids it was from 10pm-3am. They delivered the children to their rooms and of course parents had to be in the room. I was there wide awake and waiting. The kids played dodge ball, hide-n-seek, went to the arcade, had pizza & ice cream and just had a lot of fun. He was asleep within seconds when he got back to the room.
Day 6 - Lot of rumors early in the morning but we knew for sure we were still in St. Maarten. An announcement came in around 9am that it was official the boat could not be fixed. The problem was the back-up propulsion system was down. Could we leave with the actual propulsion system working YES but the Captain did not want to take the chance and felt it was best that we didn't go. I appreciate his integrity and that he put the best interest of his passengers first. We were told we could get off the ship and to be back by 6am the next morning. We could come & go as we wanted. They provided free water taxis over to Front Street and we were told they would start making arrangements to fly all 4000+ passengers from St. Maarten. So we decided to spend the day on the island. We booked a local trip and went snorkeling again. This time on a not so nice boat but the tour was incredible. The staff actually got in the water with us and pointed out things under the water. After snorkeling they took us to airplane beach to watch the planes take off and arrive. Here we could snorkel or paddle board. When we got back to shore we walked 1.5 miles back to the ship instead of taking the water taxi just because we wanted to see all of front street. We went back, showered and to the dinner for Formal Evening. Because of the ships problems they flew in John Secada for a special concert that evening. We expected to receive flight into that evening.
Day 7 - We woke not to find any flight info so we went to guest services along with 100's of others. Announcements were made that if you had not received your arrangements not to worry that meant you were not leaving that day. So we just went to enjoy our day. We did decide to stay on the ship that day. We received our flight arrangements around 9am and we weren't leaving until 1pm on Saturday so we spent the day in the sun. About 1/2 the ship was empty by the end of the day . We had dinner in the formal dining room and we could sit anywhere we wanted. They also flew in motown great Marcus Anthony for entertainment that evening. We knew we had a long travel day the next day so we turned in early.
We had a fabulous trip and in my opinion Carnival went above and beyond taking care of all of us on board. There were some real jerks on board that were yelling, screaming, cursing and looking for all things free. I am truly pleased with my cruise and I am already looking to book my next one!