We drove in from NC, spent a couple of days in Savannah, GA on the way down, not a bad drive after all. But coming back it was as if everyone had spent their spring break in Fl. I-95 was a parking lot.
We opted to park with Port Canaveral Parking through the Raddison Hotel in Cape Canaveral. It was about 1/3 of the cost of parking at the port and very easy to get to the ship and get picked up after we came back. I highly recommend parking with this company.
I think the Dream tries to organize everyone in groups from the very beginning. We were sent two emails not to come to port until 1pm. I didn't mind because I like to board the ship late enough to go straight to our room being that we had 3 kids. Not a fan of carrying luggage around the ship. But we arrived and it took at least two hours to get on the ship. I'm pretty sure this was a full ship -- it was spring break/easter break and there were TONS of teenagers on this ship. The embarkation team made sure everyone had plenty of snacks and drinks while we waited to board. All in all, a very organized process but a precursor to the notion of standing in lines with the crowd that was on this ship.
We opted for Early dining. I like the idea of an assigned wait staff. We did anytime dining one year and I hated getting put at different tables each night. Service was not as attentive as when you have someone you see every night. Getting to know the dining staff is always a highlight of our trip and makes our experience that much better
The Gathering Restaurant always had something you could eat. The sandwich bar at the back of the ship -- I liked the hot sandwiches. The pasta bar above Gathering was always great. Pizza bar was always great if you could stand in line to get it. Ice Cream always refreshing. Cappuchino bar, always need coffee.
I always like to indulge in a pedicure and a massage on my cruise. But the upsell at these spas is ludicrous. Advice: When filling out the questionnaire, it is not so they can help you, it's so they can pinpoint what to sell you. My advice, leave any ailments off, and politely decline add ons. I calculated the total of what they tried to sell me and I would have bought over $1,000 in spa products off of just two appointments. With the majority coming from my massage appointment. She wanted to sell me a $400 weight loss supplement program -- ridiculous. Anyway, learned my lesson. Will enjoy the spa and tell them the I am just perfect. No complaints about dry skin or cellulite.
Most of the shows I could make were good. We just took it easy and didn't restrain ourselves to a schedule. So I can't comment to much on the activities offered. We went with three kids, we fought hard just to find times to rest.
Ports: Always look on TripAdvisor for good tours outside of the ship offerings.
When booking tours privately, always take notice of your actual tour start time. The ship will stay on EST time whereas the islands you visit will be in a different time zone. This cruise is purely a Mexican carribbean experience. I wish I would have booked beach day excursions for at least two of these port days.
Cozumel: We did the hire a driver for the day and went to the ruins. Then he drove us around the island and took us to a seaside restaurant for lunch called Pescatore. Great seafood and fantastic guacamole and pico de gallo. It was a beautiful beach spot and I wish we had made this our only destination. The ruins were just ruins. I would not do that again. I would go to this restaurant, eat and then lay on the beach. Our driver mentioned if we ever did a hotel excursion, we should do the Iberistar hotel. Advice for next time.
BELIZE: You have to port in on a boat at this port. If you have a tour booked, plan on at least trying to get off the ship at least an hour and a half before your meet time. We booked a tour with Belize Exotic Adventures for the Zoo. Natalie was our guide and she was FANTASTIC!! Book with them and ask for Natalie. She took us to lunch afterwards at a local Belize restaurant and then gave us the bonus of taking us to a local ice cream shop where the Amish make the ice cream from scratch. VERY YUM. She was just great and personable.
Roatan: High winds kept us from porting here. We were disappointed because this one the only day I booked an all day beach excursion with "Little French Key"
Costa Maya: We went with "The Native Choice" Company for a ruins and Mexican cooking experience. Even though the time was short here, the company made sure we got to the Mexican cooking experience before we had to get back. Costa Maya port also has a seaside pool in the shopping area.
We had a 14, 10, and 7 year old. Being that it was a Spring Break week, it was heavily 'kidded'. Needless to say there were bottlenecks when trying to pick up your kids. Some of the CC staff had attitudes, but it wasn't often. And with the number of kids they had to deal with, it was understandable. My kids enjoyed going at night the most and didn't take advantage of the day time activities like on past cruises.
With everything Dream team did, they were on top of keeping the groups from bottle necking. We got some of the last numbers for debarkation. We got up, finished packing, left our luggage in the room and went to breakfast, came back got our luggage, sat by the pool and waited until they called our number. We went down about 5 minutes after they called the set before us and it was timed perfectly. Once we got to the deck to get off they were calling our number.
Don't understand why Carnival will not allow you to add the Soda plan to your card at check in or online. We had to trudge around the ship to find the ONE bar (casino bar) that would run the transaction to get the soda sticker on our kid's card. Ridiculous.
One night there were heavy winds and our door to the balcony 'whistled' the entire night and kept me up. Wasn't sealed properly.
The ship bounces instead of rocks. This must be a Carnival thing. Royal Carribbean's big ships don't move. But it seems no matter how big the Carnival ship gets, you're still going to feel something. Thank God we're not prone to sea sickness.
If you drive in, fill your gas tank before your park. You don't want to have the interruption when trying to get started on your trip back up.
We enjoyed the Dream. I expected it to be a step up from the Freedom class of ships, but it was not. It was just a couple of more stateroom floors, more people. In the future we'll go back to Freedom Class. I liked their Lido Deck layout better. And there wasn't much different with anything else on the ship in Dream Class. Plus a smaller number of passengers. Or who knows, we may break the bank and go for a whirl on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas or Oasis. We'll see.
Make your vacation the best you can make it and enjoy every possible moment. The only thing that can ruin your vacation is a bad attitude.