My family recently sailed on the Carnival Dream. Included were two of my adult children and my sister. We had two balcony cabins next to each other with my son and myself in one and my sister and daughter in the other. I have cruised frequently , having sailed on Disney, Carnival, Princess and Royal Caribbean.
The Ship: The Dream and it's sister ships (Magic and Breeze) are the newest, largest and nicest ships in the Carnival fleet. They have several unique features that set them apart. One is the lovely adult's only area called Serenity high up on the very front of the ship. Views from up there are breathtaking. Another area that is different is the wide outdoor promenade on Deck 5 that entirely circles the ship. It features 2 hot tubs on either side. However, one drawback to this promenade is that the balcony cabins above it look directly down on it. Frankly, I want my balcony to look directly down on the ocean, not on several people in a hot tub. Also on deck 5 is the attractive and functional meeting and entertainment area called the Ocean Plaza. Almost all of the entertainment on the ship other than in the large theater lounge is located in this area. Another unique feature of thie ship are the cove balcony cabins, located on Deck 2 (or just 2 decks above the water). You get a totally different perspectivethan from the cabins above them.
In general, the ship is nicely laid out with a beautiful atrium and plenty of upper deck space to roam around and relax and view the passing ocean. It is the most tastefully decorated Carnival ship that I have been on. There are plenty of deck chairs spread around on both the top decks and the promenade if you don't feel the need to hang around the pool areas. The two pools are the problem. Though nice, they are too small for a ship carrying 3600 passengers and always overcrowded from midmorning to late afternoon. I feel that both Royal Caribbean and Princess have better pool areas. Other than that the Dream is a beautiful ship.
The Cabins: This ship, like most newer ships, has more standard balcony cabins than any other category. They are average size and functional. Beds are very comfortable. The balcony is pretty narrow and the railing is so high that the average person cannot see over it while seated. I don't think these cabins quite measure up to the "D" category cabins on Royal Caribbean or the mini-suites on Princess (not really a suite but an extended balcony cabin) and I feel Princess has the best balconies. However, once you book a balcony cabin you will probably never book anything else no matter which line you are traveling on. We enjoyed our cabins and spent a lot of time on the balconies. No complaints here at all.
Food: I have a real problem with people that blast the food on cruise ships. Folks, these ships serve thousands of meals a day and I think they do an incredible job. It's not gourmet but it is nicely presented and generally tasty and certainly better than what you get at most restaurants at home. We ate our dinners in the "Anytime" dining room and thought the food there was very good to excellent.
The Lido buffet, called the Gathering, was your standard cruise buffet. But the food was fresh and plentiful. It would be hard to not find something you liked. In addition to the main buffet there were many other choices , a Burrito Bar, a very good Pizzeria (24 hours), a deli, a grill, the Mongolian Wok, a pasta bar and an Indian food bar. There were also several soft serve ice cream dispensers (24 hours). During peak times there were always lines at the various stations, especially at the WOK, and even though there was lots of seating it was always hard to find a table so crowding was definitely an issue. But I actually preferred this ship's buffet layout to both that of Princess and Royal Caribbean.
For those that wished it there was an alternative steak restaurant that served 5 , course meals (surcharge applied) but we did not eat there.
Service: I thought the service overall was very good. Our cabin attendant was very friendly, always smiling and always addressed us by name. The cabin was always clean and there were chocolates and cute towel animals left on our bed each evening. We ate dinners each evening in the "Anytime" dining room and consequently had a different table location and wait staff each evening. Some people did reserve particular tables so that was an option. The service was consistently good but not outstanding. On some evenings the wait for our food was longer than usual but not objectionable. One of our waiters was cleaning tables by the pool the following morning and addressed me by name and wished me a safe trip home. I'm sure the service in the restaurants that featured fixed seating times was more attentive but that is to be expected. Other staff and personnel on the ship were always friendly and accommodating and many would greet you when passing you.
Entertainment: There were many entertainment choices and the quality was decidedly uneven. You had the main production shows, several comics, a disco style night club, karaoke every might, a piano bar and musical entertainment in the Ocean Plaza area and the Atrium. My sister thought the production shows were better than the ones she had seen on Princess. One of the shows, "Dancing in the Streets" was outstanding. But some of the musical acts located in various areas were not, in my opinion, as good as I have seen on other cruises with the exception of one couple that entertained in the Atrium area. My kids thought the comics were great. On Carnival they present both family oriented and adult only shows. One thing missing was a different type of act such as a magician or a hypnotist. I've seen both on other lines. The cruise director was fine, not as much high energy as some I have had, but enough to get the job done and in a nice touch, thanked us personally as we left the ship at debarkation.
The Ports: We went to Cozumel (been there seen it several times) and Costa Maya in Mexico, the island of Roatan (part of Honduras), and Belize City. I thought the biggest surprise was Roatan, a beautiful island with stunning water surrounding it and some great beaches. And the water at Costa Maya, a made for cruise ship port, was also breathtaking. We enjoyed all the stops, though in Belize there was really nothing to see or do unless you opted for a shore excursion. Even though we did not do it this trip, if you do go to Belize and are somewhat adventurous the cave tubing is the thing to do. Overall, however, I prefer the various stops in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean. For myself, I consider the ship itself as the feature destination and the stops secondary. I also like a nice mixture of sea days and land days. I love the laid back lifestyle in the Caribbean which is a perfect contrast to my harried life at home.
In conclusion: When I go on a cruise I want to be pampered and allowed to do as little or as much as I want. I want to be able to unpack my things once and be leisurely taken to some interesting ports of call. I love to sit on my balcony and watch the ocean pass by as if I had all the time in the world. I love to be fed well, entertained and meet interesting people. Judging by that criteria this cruise was definitely a success. Though I prefer Princess and Royal Caribbean overall, given the right opportunity and itinerary I would not hesitate a second to go on Carnival again. We were all somewhat sad when it came time to disembark and return to reality but the cure for that is to start planning another one and that is what I am doing. Any questions or comments I would love to hear from you @ firstname.lastname@example.org.