Carnival Dream Cruise Review by redxpanda: Carnival Dream - Western Caribbean from Port Canaveral
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Carnival Dream - Western Caribbean from Port Canaveral
Background: My husband and I are both 30. We were looking for an inexpensive week in the Caribbean over the summer of 2013. Only a few cruise lines stick around in the summer and run Caribbean cruises. We booked only 6 weeks in advance. and Carnival had the ports we were most interested at a price we could easily afford. We also live 30 minutes from Port Canaveral, so the Carnival Dream was the perfect fit for a last minute cruise choice. Our first cruise in 2006 was with Carnival. We have also done NCL in 2010 and Disney in 2012 and 2013. We did not purchase faster to the fun and we chose Your Time Dining.
The Dream was late getting into PC the day we were set to leave,. We weren't able to enter the terminal until around 1pm vs the 'normal' 11am. Despite the delays, we happily arrived at 1:30pm, checked in VERY quickly and they started the boarding process around 1:50 pm with the special groups and faster to the fun. They started general group boarding More around 2pm, we had group 14 and we were called to board at 2:15. Anytime I arrive at the terminal and start "walking on the ship" within 1 hour, is a great experience.
Meh. This is where I really feel we got what we paid for. Main dining room food was mediocre and its not that we go out for fancy dinners all the time, we eat out at Moe's, Chipotle, Panera, Chilis, Carrabbas, etc. Sometimes it was underseasoned, or over sauced. One night my tiramisu was frozen in the middle! Which led me to wonder how old anything was that we were eating, if it was frozen. I would rate dining lower except the Deli, Mongolian Wok, and Tandoor were EXCELLENT! We didn't get a chance to try the pasta bar, because we were out in port during lunch on most days. In fact, that was our biggest complaint. The deli is open most of the day, so it's always a good option, but the rest of the GOOD stuff is only open a few hours at lunch time.
This is a big ship and our sailing was sold out. So we and our new 4500 friends got to share all the public spaces. The ship was very nice and the layout was pretty decent. Most of what you do is on decks 5, in the main theater, or on the pool/outdoor decks up top. I was worried that such a large ship would take a few days to figure out, but we had a good handle on the orientation by day 2.
The only times we found 'crowds' were during the nightly entertainment and during some meals (on lobster night everyone goes to the dining room). The buffet specialty areas got backed up a few times too. Other than that the number of people wasn't very noticeable.
The ship is decorated nicely. I thought it had a very modern yet glitzy feel to it. On our first Carnival cruise, I felt like we were stuck in old school neon Las Vegas at sea. This ship is a definite improvement over our first experience. The only time the layout got us was when we tried to use the middle bank of elevators, unless your stateroom is near that elevator bank and you need to get to the promenade deck, or pool/buffet area, don't use them! One other complaint are all those poles in the main theater and main lounge!! They create too much obstructed viewing.
As far as the headlining acts go, we only went to ONE show in the main theater. It was dubbed the best in the fleet, "Dancing in the Streets". It was pretty decent and the break dancing team made the show for us. The singers were way too loud and the sound engineers didn't exist to fix the levels... I don't think i ever saw someone sitting in the booth!! Two of the nights were dedicated to country music, not our thing, and that's OK.
Like I mentioned, the break dance team "Fun Force" was really good and we tried to attend each of their events going on after we realized they existed. I had seen "Fun Force Dancers" listed in the fun times earlier in the week, but had no clue what it referred to. They do a show in the Atrium that is GREAT.
The comedians that we got to see where pretty good! But, the lounge they perform in is way too small and its the second largest venue after the main theater. This makes us think Carnival needs to switch this up. Some nights the comedians were the 'only thing' going on, so why not have them in the main theater instead? That way a lot more people can see EVERY set. When one set would finish, you had to exit the lounge and either get back in line and try to get a seat, or just leave like we did and try to find something else to do that probably isn't as good. There were too many occasions on this cruise where we had to arrive way to early to get good seats and were stuck sitting around staring at the walls for 30 minutes before EVERY show/comedian.
The service people on this ship were fantastic!! Our room steward was so nice and very attentive. We saw her every day but the first. She was always smiling and asking us how we were doing and what we did during the day. All the servers were quick, very nice, and had a happy demeanor. Dinner service is slow at times, but that is expected on a cruise with this many people on it. Everyone we encountered spoke good English.
Every day there were large blocks of time that didn't have anything going on that we wanted to take part in. But, there was plenty going on during some parts of the day that it balanced out well enough. We took part in a lot of trivia! We also liked attending the 'game shows'. We did one that was "18+", I say that in quotes because children were in fact present. It was a battle of the sexes trivia war. Men vs Women and the questions were things the opposite sex would know. It was interactive and fun. We attended another game show, twice, that was music trivia related.... lots of music trivia on this ship!
We tried something new on this cruise... the champagne art auctions. This is my new favorite thing to do on a cruise! It is incredibly fun to experience a real auction and I got to learn about newer artists. I wish we had attended one of these sooner in the cruise! We got to experience the final 2 on the ship. Each time we went you got an art print to take home.
We watched a couple games of Bingo and they were horribly boring! Disney's bingo on board is amazingly fun and exciting... Carnival needs to take some lessons on how to spruce up a mindless game like Bingo. Other activities involved deck parties and hairy chests... no thanks! We aren't in college any more.
We had access to the spa facilities on this cruise and it was a lot of fun. We had never been to a sauna or steam room before. We also did a spa tour, in which I learned that I really want a full body hot stone massage, just not at their prices! I also visited the gym and the equipment was very nice and there was plenty to go around and had a nice view of the ocean.
Out on deck we didn't take part in the pools. We did visit 1 hot tub in the Serenity deck (adults only). It was quite hot. Not sure if that was because not many people were using or because the sun was shining openly on the tub. The serenity area was a nice, quiet area to escape to outdoors. I wish we had more time to sit outside and enjoy it. We did 3 or 4 games of mini golf on this cruise. They have a full 18 holes and it was a lot of fun. Only a few wear and tear issues in some areas. Otherwise it was one of the better kept courses we've visited lately!
We booked late, so we didn't get to take part in the early saver rate that would have earned us quite a bit of OBC. No ones fault, just bad timing. Other wise Carnival is the lowest prices around, even last minute on a cruise ship that is about to sell out.
We had cabin 11-207, a handicap assessable interior Cloud 9 Spa cabin. We were able to book this cabin because it was the last one in this category. The room was spacious but it was lacking in storage space. Other cruises we have been on, there is always a place to stick all of our things.
This category came with a 'free' week long spa pass for the two of us. Booking this cabin got us a $50 discount off buying a week pass and got us a cabin all the way up on deck 11. I was worried about the cabin being all the way forward on a high deck, but the movement was not bad at all! The placement of the cabin is right next to the door that leads to the back entrance of the gym/spa. The location was extremely convenient for the spa, not to far to the Atrium elevators, and a brisk walk across the ship from the buffet areas. One inconvenience we had was on port days. Most mornings we lugged our daily excursion bag with us to breakfast, so we could go straight down to get off the ship and not backtrack to the cabin (we had early days & tenders). Otherwise, I felt like the location was good enough for getting around day to day.
I would rate the value of this cruise as good. It is what it is, a cheap vacation that includes all you can eat food, transportation, and entertainment. We picked this cruise because of the ports we visited and because we were limited in who was sailing during the summer. In the future, if we have a choice between Carnival and spending a little more, we will spend a little more.
The 'rules' on this ship were a mere suggestion in most cases. Children attending 18+ activities, and I don't mean high school kids that are probably OK with the content, I'm saying it was middle school and younger. Weird! Dress code really didn't mean a thing in the main dining rooms. We saw a guy in t-shirt and shorts on lobster night. It didn't ruin my experience, but why create a dress code if you aren't going to enforce it. I feel like Carnival is 'copying' NCL freestyle cruising without outright changing the 'code' and admitting it. It's not bad, just misleading? Less
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Cabin review: 4S11-207
We had cabin 11-207, a handicap assessable interior Cloud 9 Spa cabin. We were able to book this cabin because it was the last one in this category. We would have been bumped up to a higher category spa cabin if someone needed it. The room was spacious but it was lacking in storage space. Other cruises we have been on, there is always a place to stick all of our things. Remember, I only packed 1 suitcase and 1 carry on this time around... and we still had issues unpacking all our stuff.This category came with a 'free' week long spa pass for the two of us. Booking this cabin got us a $50 discount off buying a week pass and got us a cabin all the way up on deck 11. I was worried about the cabin being all the way forward on a high deck, but the movement was not bad at all! The placement of the cabin is right next to the door that leads to the back entrance of the gym/spa. The location was extremely convenient for the spa, not to far to the Atrium elevators, and across the ship from the buffet areas. One inconvenience we had was on port days. Most mornings we lugged our daily excursion bag with us to breakfast, so we could go straight down to get off the ship and not backtrack to the cabin. Otherwise, I felt like the location was good enough for getting around day to day. For an interior room it was pretty good, but I wonder what a non handicap room is like... I don't know if it is a lot smaller.
Port and Shore Excursions
Lamanai Mayan Ruins
We booked the Lamanai Mayan ruins tour with Island Marketing. We booked it on the Belize Shore Excursions website. At first I was a little worried about booking this tour, but when I found out other people from our Cruise Critic group were doing the same tour, I decided to go for it. It is a looooong tour, at least 6 hours. It takes 2 hours to get to the ruins and 2 hours to get back, plus you have to factor in the tender process! It was somewhat risky to book a tour like this outside the cruise line, but these companies make a living off getting you back to your ship on time and guarantee it. We had a lengthy stay in port, so I felt we would make it back with a little time to spare.
After everyone checked in, we loaded into a bus and took an hour long ride to a boat dock on the river. It then started raining! It was cold hard rain, too. We piled into 2 speed boats and started our hour long ride down the river. Thankfully, we sped out of the rain within 5 minutes and it stayed clear the rest of the day. This was the only 'bad' weather we had all week! Pretty good for the tropics in hurricane season!! Along the way they slowed down and pointed some things out.
After the boat ride we had a DELICIOUS meal with a bottle of sugar cane sweetened Fanta. I got pineapple flavor. It was a little too sweet for me, but tasted good! It was like drinking a Popsicle. The lunch was a well seasoned and slow cooked chicken, beans and rice, sweet plantains, a potato salad type dish, and a spicy salsa. After lunch we started the tour of the ruins. The bugs are crazy bad here. The ruins site isn't fully excavated, so it is surrounded by jungle. We sprayed ourselves up and down with OFF Deep Woods (25% deet) before we started the tour and it worked well. I got a few bites, but they did not itch at all. The tour was good but it was a little rushed. Due to our time limits, it was understandable. We did get to climb one ruin, the tallest temple on the grounds. Our guide, Eeeze, was great and told us all about the Mayan culture in this area and the plants in the area that they used for various things.
The ruins themselves were really cool! Most of the jungle is still intact and that adds an Indiana Jones kind of feel to the experience. I highly recommend this tour, but the 4 hours of transportation time is a PAIN!!! At least this tour breaks it up by doing half bus, half boat. As stated, they got us back to the pier in time, and I mean IN TIME. We ended up being on the second to the last tender boat and we stepped back on our ship a little after our 'sail away' time of 6PM. But, we made it back, that's what counts the most!
I did some research before we left and got in contact with Undertoe Mexico and arranged to meet them in the morning and rent 2 Stand Up Paddle boards. We took a taxi to the beach for $2 each. We had never done this before so we opted to get a quick lesson. It was a lot easier than I thought, to get started. Helps that the water is incredibly calm at the shores of Mahahual. We had a lot of fun and after an hour we were ready to turn the boards in and go eat!
We walked down the beach and found the place with the best prices of good beer and ordered some guacamole to go with it. Delicious! A fantastic day for 2 in paradise for $100.
We booked the Cozumel Bar Hop, before we left home. This is a tour of the island of Cozumel that also stops at 4 beach bars on the uninhabited, beautiful, quiet side of the island. Each stop included a small welcome drink that they are known for locally. The only bad planning on my part is that this tour departs from the Punta Langosta pier, over 2 miles from Puerta Maya, where we were docked. A 5 minute or less cab ride is $8! We decided to save the cash for drinks and walk it. It wasn't bad.
We met up with Tom, whom I had corresponded with online, and our guide Colleen @ Starbucks. Tom and Coleen were incredibly welcoming and nice people. The ride from town over to the 'other side' was quick and included a short history lesson of Cozumel that was interesting and informative. You also get a free shirt! I almost forgot about that. Built in souvenir in the $57 pp price. The 4 stops are all fantastic in their own unique way. Great food and drinks at all the stops. Warning: Stop 3 has a crazy size drink that will do you in! I will recommend this to friends as well as clients in the future. I may even do the hop again myself, in the future.
We used shore trips to book the zip and dip tour with South Shore Zipline. The South Shore people were easy to find when we exited the port area. There is a small hill we had to climb up and over @ Mahogany Bay port. The good news is they drive you back over the hill when they drop you off. The ride over to the zip line was nothing compared to the day before... maybe 30 minutes? The people were all safe, friendly, and professional. Their gear looked to be in good shape. There were lockers to rent for $1 each which is incredibly reasonable.
This zip line was fun and safe. The guides do all the hook ups for you and even take your photo on one of the longer lines. It was nice and speedy to not have to worry "am I hooking myself up right?!" The zip line we did at the Brevard Zoo, you had to hook yourself up and use your hand as a brake. At South Shore you also have to hand break, but their gloves are in nice condition and felt safer than we did at the local Zoo! Since we had done this style of zip line before, it was easy for us to get used to braking the proper amount.
After the zip, they drove us over to FOSTER'S @ West Bay. We got lunch right away, the food and drink were good and plentiful. First, we got a free drink upon arrival! $3 value. Then we ordered tacos with beans and rice and they were so so so good! After lunch we asked our driver to lock our bags in the car while we snorkeled. The only downside to this tour was we only had 2 hours at the beach after we got dropped off. In the end we snorkeled about as much as I could physically handle w/o fins, so it worked out. It was the best shore snorkeling we've ever done and it was from a free beach, can't beat that, for sure.