Just returned home from our cruise on the Dream. It was a 7 day Western Carribean cruise leaving from Port Canaveral and going to Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Costa Maya. Having sailed on the Disney ships twice in recent years,and experiencing exceptional service and food my expectations were a little too high for Carnival I guess because our vacation was just ok.
Here is a list of my pros and cons for the week. I'll start with the cons so that I can end on a postive note...
Embarkation: started out great with good curbside bag service however went down hill when we couldn't get on the ship for a couple of hours. Not sure why, but we all had to sit around for quite a while before we could board. They kept making announcements that it would be a few more moments. We got to the terminal at 11am but didn't get on the ship until 1:30pm.
Food: Food was not as good as I was expecting. The lines were extremely long on the lido deck for any of the buffets. I skipped the buffets and ate all breakfast meals in the dining room and ate lunch at the Pasta Bar. Service at dinner was slow to get your food and if you ordered more than one entree they brought them both at the same time leaving you with dishes all over the table.
Service: Definitely not like other ships. Maybe it's the fact that your tips are put directly on your account therefore guarenteed to the staff. I think this doesn't give the staff enough incentive to give exceptional service therefore they only give average or below average service. It was spring break and the ship was full to capacity so the service may have been inferior due to the amount of guests on the ship.
Cleanliness: I noticed alot of dirty dishes and glasses around the ship that sat for long periods of time. I even saw staff around the pool only picking up glasses and leaving dishes saying that it wasn't their job to pick up dishes!
Entertainment: You know when Simon Cowell from American Idol would say that the contestants sound like singers on a cruise ship? That was what the entertainment was like on this ship. The shows were not impressive at all. We kept trying the shows hoping they would improve but they really didn't. They did have a juggler/comedian named Marcus Monroe who came in for a one day show on the ship and he was great! We really enjoyed him.
Ports: On this cruise we were excited to go to Belize and to Roatan, Honduras since we've never been to either of those places. We had been to Cozumel and Costa Maya so for those days we stayed on the boat and did enjoy having it to ourselves pretty much. In Belize we went cave tubing which was cool however we didn't book it through Carnival, we did it ourselves through cavetubing.com. It was half the price and the people were wonderful and aimed to please. Since we didn't book it through Carnival we felt like we were punished for not choosing them! We had to go to another room to wait for the tender boats which were delayed. I think the Carnival excursion people got off the boat first. We got to the waiting area at 8:30am to catch our 10:00am excursion however we didn't even leave the boat til after 10 and it is a 30 minute boat ride to get to Belize's port. Fortunately Yhony from cavetubing.com waiting for us and we ended up having a great time. For Honduras, we didn't port there because they said it was too windy. This was a bummer because it was the day of my daughter's 15th birthday and she was looking forward to spending the day at the beach. What should've been a relaxing day turned into chaos on the ship as everyone scrammbled for chairs around the boat since it turned into a "sea day". One guy even stood on a pile of chairs and declared them all his! It was embarassing!
Now for the pros:
The Spa: The spa is gorgeous! My husband and I had planned on booking a couple of treatments but after we toured the spa we decided to do the VIP experience. I guess it is normally $200 per person but if you booked it on the first day it was $250 for a couple. We booked this and it included daily access to the thermal pool and all of the heated rooms. We could go as often as we liked. We enjoyed the pool and going to the 5 rooms which had heated chairs, steam and aroma steam rooms. The rooms were quiet, usually my husband and I were the only ones in there. That was nice considering the ship was full and had 4,000 passengers. It was a nice get away and the rooms had wonderful views of the ocean. The VIP package was a really relaxing and enjoyable experience.
Special dietary needs: My 12 year old son has Celiac Disease and is on a gluten free diet. I was worried that food was going to be a pain. Turns out that they did a wonderful job meeting his needs. Natasa, the hostess in the Scarlet Dining Room was great. She presented him with the menu for the next days meals so he could pick whatever he wanted, even dessert and they would make it for him gluten free! Even the pizza place on the lido deck would make him GF pizza! He was very happy with the food and that was a big relief for us!
Pasta bar: This was a hidden secret it seemed like. It was upstairs from the buffets in the gathering. Every day, I went there for lunch and there was hardly anyone there. I sat right down and ordered my made to order pasta lunch. It was delivered to me 5 minutes later, fresh and hot! I don't know why people would go to the buffets when you can be served at the pasta bar or dining rooms and the food is much better. The last day of the cruise was the only day that I had to wait for my food at the pasta bar. My husband really liked the Mongolian Wok in the Gathering. He did have to wait but said the food was really good.
In conclusion (finally), we did have a nice vacation. We probably won't go on another Carnival Cruise but I wouldn't rule it out completely. As mentioned above, my complaints were probably caused by the ship being completely full because of spring break. If I take Carnival again, I would try another ship or at another time of year.