My husband and I, along with 3 of our friends recently returned from our 7 day Carnival Dream cruise to the Western Caribbean. This was our fourth cruise overall, 3 on Carnival and most recently we sailed on Princess last fall. The Dream was the largest boat we had sailed on and we initially had our reservations about sailing on such a large boat with so many people. Needless to say, we were overall pleasantly surprised by the "small" feel of the boat.
The Dream left out of Port Canaveral on Saturday. Our group flew down on Saturday Morning, the day of the cruise, something we rarely do but it worked out well. We flew from DCA to FLL, arriving in FLL around 10. Carnival staff was already waiting for us in the luggage claim area, directing us to check in for the bus transfer we bought to Port Canaveral. We waited maybe 20 minutes before we were all on a bus and off to Port Canaveral, approx a 30-40 minute bus ride.
One advantage if Port Canaveral is Carnival has their own building dedicated solely to them. The bus dropped us off at the front doors and we walked right inside and into security while they handled our luggage outside. Once we arrived at the terminal we never had to worry about toting our luggage around again. Embarkation is definitely one of Carnival's strong points...painless and super easy. Once through security they out you in line for check in where you are issued your Sail and Sign card and given a boarding number. They used this number to board the ship in groups, calling numbers, getting people's pictures taken and getting you on the ship. Again, painless....we didn't have to wait more than 15 minutes. By the time all this was said and done, it was about noon and we were already on the ships starting our vacation. Granted our rooms weren't ready yet but the rest of the boat was and we took full advantage!
Reading other reviews, we were very curious about two unique places to eat on the Dream, first the pasta bar in the aft of the ship on deck 11. Something new to Carnival and definitely one of our favorites. We ate there first thing for lunch on Saturday and were one of the first people up there. You get to choose your pasta, sauce, salad, bread, etc. Our recommendation, the bowtie pasta with meat sauce. We thought the Alfredo needed some more flavor, but nothing we got there was bad by any means! We also heard about a so called BBQ place on the Dream. Turns out, what some people define as BBQ and what we thought of BBQ were completely different. We expected pulled pork, ribs, brisket, etc. BBQ to the people who reviewed it means a literal BBQ, hamburgers and hot dogs. So don't go wasting time looking for ribs or pork BBQ...oops our misunderstanding.
We opted to try the "Cheers" package...unlimited soda and 15 alcoholic drinks a day for about $350/person. Carnival keeps people from only buying one package per cabin by requiring everyone over 21 in the cabin purchase it. We tried it anyway since we never had and overall we considered it a wash.d. For what we drank on the cruise we didn't spend any more money nor did we save any money, we basically broke even. We calculated it out and it comes to 8 beers a day or 6 mixed specialty drinks to break even. A few days we definitely thought it would be worth it until the next morning...we didn't feel much like drinking then. But overall a wash in our opinion. We won't get it again we will just pay for our drinks each time we want one.
Now for our cabin...one of the biggest reason we went on this boat was because of the newer deluxe ocean view rooms. Basically your typical ocean room with an extra bathroom which consists of a small tub and sink, but no toilet. My husband and I found it extremely convenient to both be able to get ready at the same time without having to wait for the shower. The room itself does not feel any smaller, the only difference is that the couch is right next to the night stand with no space in between. We absolutely loved this room and will plan other cruises on boats that have deluxe ocean view rooms. Our friends who were first time Carnival cruisers had the same type of room. They are traditionally Princess cruisers who always have had a balcony mini suite before. We convinced them to try this room (since they had quit smoking and no longer reallllllly needed that balcony) and they were very impressed. Not only with the extra bathroom but also with the size of the regular shower. Compared to the shower on Princess, Carnival showers are larger and more easy to turn around in and actually shower comfortably. Our cabin was on the Rivera deck, deck 1, in the aft of the ship. We didn't encounter significant rough waters so we never felt the boat rock or heard any noise. HIGHLY recommend the deluxe ocean view cabins!!!
Overall the boat surprised us in regards to its large size but small feel for the amount of people that were on it. The atrium of the boat is decorated nicely, not over the top like some other boats we have been on. We always love the atrium that carnival has in all their boats. Unlike some of the smaller boats, the Dream does not have "obstacles" interfering with walking from front to back on most decks. The restaurants and theaters are either in the forward or aft so there is no need for the "up, over and down" issue that we've seen on smaller boats. Everyone on the boat is incredibly friendly, especially our favorite bartenders in the Ocean Plaza bar on deck 5 midship, right next to the coffee bar. If she's working, Rudee, as we called her was the best! Always friendly, knew us all by name each time came and remembered exactly what we drank. She worked both there and in the casino bar, so check both places!
Feeding that many people is always a challenge, especially on sea days. We always found that the aft (back) buffet on lido deck was always less crowded than the others, but always had the same food. The first night we had dinner on the buffet, then went to the dining rooms the other night (we were craving chocolate molten cake). We didn't tell much difference in food quality, only difference was you didn't have to go get it yourself. Don't forget you can eat as much as you want, so try things you never would before, if you don't like it, get something else with no hassle. Or wait staff was always friendly, and typically sang during dinner each night. We had any time dining and ate in the Crimson dining room...always had a good experience.
As for the ports, I won't elaborate much on each one, just a general overview. Mexican ports our definitely not our favorite. We went scuba diving in Cozumel and it was great. My husband didn't much care for it, but I'd do it again, but definitely after a little more training. Next was Belize. Lord, don't even get off the boat lol. You have to tender to get into Belize and I swear the boat has to anchor 5 miles off the coast, so it's a little inconvenient and definitely not worth it once you get to Belize. Isla Roatan, Honduras is by far our favorite!!! We swam with the dolphins at Anthony's Key Resort and HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend it. They are truly genuine and care about the dolphins. It's a marine research institute, not just a tub of dolphins to swim with. Definitely worth the money!!!
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the Dream and the cruise as a whole. The entertainment was fair at best, something we have seen better of on other ships, but its all just an opinion of what you like. We will continue to be loyal Carnival customers and have already booked 2 more cruises with them in the next year!!