We just spent a 7-day cruise on the Carnival Dream starting on May 18 from Port Canaveral and returned on May 25. The cruise included my wife, our two daughters 13/14, our 18 year old son and another family with children. I will admit that we were a little apprehensive about this trip from all the recent news reports over the last year, but those concerns were completely unfounded.
The check-in went smoothly and we were on the Dream within 30 minutes after entering the cruise terminal. As soon as we boarded the ship I went to the Customer Service desk (Guest Services) to make some room changes. We were traveling with another family and wanted to move the kids around so they could stay together. I was amazed that the Guest Services representative was extremely helpful. Our changes were very complicated and I was worried it would not happen, but she told me to take a deep breath and just tell her what I wanted to happen. So I told her all the changes with the rooms and account changes and she went to work on the computer. Within few minutes she had everything done and new key/account cards issued. We double checked the changes and the Key Cards to make sure they were on the correct accounts. I have to say that the staff at the Guest Services counter are incredibly professional intelligent and a joy to work with. I thought if this is how all the staff on this ship treat people, this will be a great trip.
I could give a day by day by day account of the trip but will shorten that to summarize that the staff were courteous, helpful and most called me by my first name. Our cabin was spotless, smelled nice and was lighted perfectly. I have stayed on cruise ships that made you feel depressed when you were in the cabin, but on this ship the cabins were very pleasant to be in. The bathroom in our cabin was so clean that I spent a few minutes one day actually carefully looking for any dirt or hair in the corners...and could not find any.
The shows were great, but I had trouble hearing the lead male singer during his performances. I actually ran into one of the lead sound engineers and he informed me that they knew about the problem and were working on it. But, the shows were great and we looked forward each night to the next one. The comedy shows were also enjoyable and they even had family and adult shows that we attended.
The casino was well run with great dealers. I have spent some time years ago traveling to LasVegas and was concerned that the dealers on a ship are second rate. But, they were professional and all but one dealt cards at Black Jack seemed to want you to win and genuinely seemed to feel bad if they beat your hand. The pit bosses were professional and gave us free drinking cards so that whenever we played at the tables the drinks were paid by Carnival. We appreciated that so much we decided to fit the Black Jack tables every night the rest of our trip.
The food was great, especially the main dining room. Every entree was perfect except the beef stroganoff. We just felt the gravy for that was too thin. But, no worries because every other entree on the menu every night was otherwise great. Food came out hot and the service was fast. I have read complaints about food on the Lido Deck. Well, you may wait in line a few minutes for the buffet, but the food was good to us. The way to avoid the lines was to just not eat right at 12 noon or right at 9 AM. That is when the breakfast and lunch rush is the greatest. If you get to lunch by 11 AM and breakfast by 8 AM we didn't wait at all in line.
The onboard fitness center was clean and I never waited for a machine. I work out 4 times a week at home at a very nice Gym so I was wondering what the ship's gym would be like. But, the machines were as nice as where I normally work out. I hit the gym 3 times while on this cruise. The jogging track was 7 times around for a mile and I jogged 2 mornings. It was actually kinda fun to run into the wind on one side of the ship with the wind pushing me back and then coming back down the track on the other side of the ship the wind pushed me forward making me feel like I was floating....interesting run each morning.
The shore excursions were also well organized. We did Atlantis the first day, scuba dived the second day in St. Thomas and did the island tour by bus at St. Maarten. The 2-tank scuba dive was the highlight completely. The dive company took us to a nearby island where we dived a reef first and then a wreck. We saw one huge sea turtle, a small sea turtle and a ton of beautiful reefs. I suggest this dive to anyone that enjoys scuba diving.
In summary, I can't wait to take the Dream on another cruise. This time we will probably go to the Western Caribbean to change up the trip a little bit. Also, if you are contemplating a family vacation don't rent a condo for a week, do a cruise. If you rent a condo you don't have daily room service twice a day, you don't have food included with multiple restaurant choices, you don't have exotic shore excursions, you don't have nightly shows, or a casino to play in. On a cruise you will spend about the same amount of money as renting a condo but with less hassle, a great fun environment, and you don't have to lift a finger to clean or cook.