We came in a few days early to hit Disney World for two great days and stayed in Kissimmee the night before embarkation. It was an easy drive to the Port, about an hour or less, but make sure you fill up with gas! We only had ONE gas station come up from Kissimmee to Port, and we were NERVOUS! And so were 3 or 4 other families who had just made it in. Food offerings aren't good at this gas station but we were able to grab a bottle of wine to take on board with us. Also don't forget your quarters if you are driving, as there are toll booths all over!
We had selected Park Port Canaveral and while we couldn't find it very easily right away, once we did, we had 100% perfect service with them. For 5.95 a day, we were VERY happy! They took all the heavy stuff for us and dropped us off at the door. It was very convenient! We had a few lines but not bad at the port. I would say we were on board around 1pm. Easiest embarkation we have had.
The Dream is WOW glitz right away! We met up with our friends and grabbed some lunch and brought it down to their room to hang out. I discovered the Tandoor buffet right away and anything with Feta cheese or curry has my name on it! Safety drill was fine and not memorable. Our luggage came fine but we weren't missing it anyway. We always dress 'cruise' casual on embarkation.
We had a nice 12 top in the early dining room. (We do NOT do MTD, not with so many in our group.) Unfortunately, all I can say is that this is the worst dining service I can ever remember. I have cruised yearly with CCL and last year's Conquest was slow, but not uncomfortable or bordering on rude. I think they may have been due to the fact that we sailed at the end of February, after the major Triumph debacle that probably caused them to cut back tremendously due to bad publicity and poor revenue. (I'm hoping that was the cause.) It used to be Asst Waiter and Waiter for a few tables. Now 3 of them share lots of tables and it just did not work. I felt bad for them actually. We really were hoping to get our waters filled, but it was a rare occurance. That is the truth of it, and I'm not even a big water drinker! I asked for a Gluten Free menu, but due to the language communication break down, they clearly had no idea what I was asking for. I decided to suffer with it the rest of the trip (and I did suffer!) They would just nod and fake smile and it was clear they had no idea what you were saying. It is also the first cruise where they gave themselves 'anonymous' names like Bruce Wayne. On the service, that could be because their names are hard for us to pronounce, however, I had no way to notify on my CCL survey the poor level of service that I had, so that is why I think they use pseudo names. They were so far backed up, that I was shushed by my waiter when I asked for hot tea, our dirty plates weren't cleared away, we got things we didn't ask for, and didn't get some of the things we did. It was by far the worst MDR service I have ever hand in just shy of 10 cruises. It also wasn't only our MDR table service, because it was also the breakfast service (which is open seating.) I got up and poured my own coffee several times in the MDR for the nice breakfast because quite frankly absolutely no staff was around. I think any other cruise line (and hopefully CCL?) would have been completely mortified. I'm not a snob, but if you know cruising, you know that self service in the dining room is very poor service. Additionally, our service took so long for MDR dinners, sometimes we had to give up dessert or take it in a to go container or we would miss the comedy show immediately after. Sometimes they would be flicking the lights off and on like GET OUT and we hadn't had desert or coffee yet.
We enjoyed the food, although my stomach got really really upset on night 3. I suspect it was due to the difficulty not getting a GF menu, but who knows. I also wondered if it was the tandoor buffet after 3 days. I never went back to it and I never suffered that bad after again.
I found the entertainment staff to be pretty good. The Dancin in the Street was a great show, typical cruise show. We enjoyed the Karaoke, Sing like a Star karaoke too. Our Legends Auditions with the Entertainment Staff was literally one of the most funniest fun nights of our life! I think you would have had to have been there. I give him credit, other cruises he just picked someone. This guy thought the voting was so close, he got an APPLAUSE O METER for decibels on his IPAD out to see who got the loudest claps. We enjoyed being in the Legends show, and everyone in the entertainment staff was top notch, no complaints at all. They even added these breaker dudes "Fun Force" I guess to do break dancing which was different. (Coupled with neon and black lighting, it was sort of like watching America's Got Talent.) Comedians were funny, we only ever go to family rated shows. One complaint regarding entertainment is the fact that they made us wait until Volleyball was a scheduled event. On the Conquest, we asked for a net when no one was playing basketball and had a blast. Everyone in our group is over 25. The Dream made us skip it the beautiful calm weather day we had, and then when it was scheduled, the weather was terrible! How can you schedule volleyball? And we had to call down to the entertainment staff at least twice to beg them to bring us a ball and a net. Even despite the fact that it was Hurricane Volleyball, we still tried to have a good time with it. Why they made us play with a staff member, I'll never know. He was a nice guy but we didn't need any CCL supervision...we are all adults. So a big complaint that it's not a very fun ship if we can't play volleyball on a sea day...
My biggest complaints about this cruise was the staff. It was very pushy sales everywhere. I have been on CCLs before, so I know they try to push drink sales. It was non stop "What can I get you?" "Buy bingo while you wait for the show" (Not come down and pick up a card at the stage, they were selling them in the aisles while they had a captive audience who was told to get there 30 min to get a seat and wala, a bingo game pops out!) and even when we were rushing to get to dinner, photographers would heckle saying "Come let me take your photo!" not on formal night or anything. I also had some one either steal my plastic souvenir refillable cup or it blew away on the deck, I never found it. (Its a neon green twisty plastic cup if you have it and yes I want it back!) I asked housekeeping and bar staff about it but they knew nothing about it. Instead of giving me another one (so I would continue to fill it with drink purchases) they refused and said there was nothing they could do. I never bought another drink again on board.
We also remarked to my friends that I had spent half my cruise in line. The buffet always had a line. (People say come at non busy times, but then it's not open then! So when it is, there's a line.) The omelet station had several lines. The monogolian always had a wait but I've had it before and their sauce is weird, so I didn't try it again this time. I waited particularly long in line for hotdog or grill burgers/chicken by the pool, and sometimes only one would be open (hence more lines, everyone has to go there.) Also the case for pizza! Wait and wait for pizza. I loved the Conquest's pizza last year, it was fluffy and had options like goat cheese. This pizza was flat, dry and had no sauce and no toppings. What a disappointment. We even waited in line for the Self Service Frozen Yogurt. That is a first for me! It was a mess all the time too and sometimes didn't work properly. We were often waiting for coffee to get brewed in the buffet, or sometimes coffee was there but there were no cups. On the Conquest, we had a yummy sushi bar! Wow I loved it! There was no sushi on the Dream, and I went to the taste bar once and it was pork, so I never went again. (Yuck) I think it is just to sell people on their steakhouse or something. Bring the sushi back!
The burrito buffet was really good! They always have great cheeses and deserts too.
The crew was as friendly to each other as they were to us. In my case, they were screaming at each other while I was at the buffet. (Another person told me they got into fights over shifts at the bar.) It was awkward for sure. I try to smile and thank them but they wouldn't make eye contact and just made me feel guilty for even being there. I never talked to our room steward much but my husband said that he told him all he makes for a living are tips, which I found to be a pretty low professional conversation. We always make sure the get the tips asked and sometimes tip more (at least in the case of the room assistance, the MDR was just awful so we just left the normal amount on there.)
One big fun plus was the Old Time Wild West photos we took as a group. I did buy one of them. That was really fun! Some of the costumes were a bit torn, but it was a blast and the photographers were nice to work with and fun. Kudos for offering that, never seen that before. (It was by the Casino too.)
I also bought a few items for the gift store. I must admit, my friends suckered me into one of these ridiculous elbow each other out of the way bracelet sales and I waited in line for at least 40 min just to check out with my purchase. A few of the bracelets I picked out broke while we were line so it took me a while to pick one. I like the set I have and I don't wear it much but it's held up well. Another time, I was just grabbing some souvenirs, and the gift shop line (not any specials or anything) was out the door and really, really long. More lines! A few women behind me said they couldn't wait to get off the ship. I was starting to agree with them.
As far as ship lay out goes, it's the typical one where the main floors are 3-5 and a 'you can't get there from here' situation. They funnel you through the promenade level which is narrow, full of photo booths, and through the smokey casino where they oddly stick activities like karaoke or trivia, I guess assuming those people will get the urge to gamble? I hated walking through the casino. Sometimes I would go down to deck 2 where it would go the whole length of the ship across to get to the other side, but then I would have to dodge luggage or housekeeping carts. The decor of the ship was fine. The pool decks smell smokey to me. There is no way to keep the smoke contained on an open deck.
Our interior room was fine, bed was comfortable. I always am unhappy with the interior bathrooms because a metal bar and curtain does not a shower make. The whole bathroom is always soaked. There is no ledge anywhere and with hair down to my booty, there is no way that shampoo dispenser cheap stuff is going to work after swimming in the ocean all day. So I dropped my shampoo, conditioner and razor throughout my showers every single time. (My friend slipped the last day coming out of her shower and buster her toe on the metal bar leading outside the bathroom to the room. Wayy too slippery and very poor water control. The whole bathroom is basically a shower with a commode in it. The mirror had nice shelves, they need some in the shower area. Everything else about the room was fine, except I think we had more drawers on the Conquest last year, but we did fine. I never did much with my spa room except take one of my free pilates classes on a sea day (which was GREAT!) We got too much sun to use the therapy hot pools...
The cruise was ok, it wasn't awful, and the ports were all great, even Nassau. (Only draw back being that we had to be back on board around 1:30-1:45 for the 2 pm all aboard time, which is a very early port return. It limited our excursions, so we picked a half day catamaran and snorkel and it was a fabulous morning!) The catamaran was through SeaHorse and the staff was great, we saw lots of fish and enjoyed the music and there was some rum punch on the way back too. I don't recommend just getting off the ship and walking around, or you may be disappointed with Nassau. There is some shopping, but its high pressure. We always stop at Tortuga to get rum cakes and island rum. Nassau was a great day for us! You see a lot if you take an excursion. We went through the channel and saw Beyonce & Tiger Woods' houses. Everyone on the tour was super friendly! (It included cruisers and resort guests.)
For St Thomas, our friends wanted to go to the Sky Ride to Paradise Point so we went with them. They stuffed about 8 - 10 of us in an almost completely enclosed sky tram and it was hot, stuffy, and slightly unnerving. Paradise Point is a great place for photos, kind of a tour trip with $10 drinks at the top. After we got down the tram, we took a taxi to Coki Beach where part of our party was diving. I'd skip Coki Beach next time because the snorkeling was really rough waves and didn't see a ton, but the beach staff was nice and there was a nice black kitty there that I met. The food on the beach was AMAZING! Local fish and rice. One of the best things I ate all week.
St Maarten was great also. Our Scenic Hike was sold out, but we managed to get in touch with the guides and taxi our own way up there and join them and our friends on the tour. Thanks, local tour company! We met up with the guide at the top and she was expecting us! It was a great experience, gorgeous views, next to no one around, and finished at one of the prettiest beaches, I think it's called Guana Bay. (They won't let you taxi there to swim because it's REALLY 'dangerous' surf and rip tide conditions, but it was beautiful to wade through. They let us taxi up there once we told them that we weren't going to swim, we were going to hike.) It was also about half a day, so we hung out on the public beach after. I didn't get in the water in the public beach...a whole lotta people were in there and it looked cloudy. I was glad I had been to the other pretty beach. I found a nice umbrella restaurant where we got nachos and yummy food an coincidentally, I met another nice cat named Andy who was like the restaurant's mascot. The nachos were great. Place was a bit expensive. Also, don't forget that you can only find Guavaberry Rum in St Maarten. We didn't buy nearly enough. It is very unusual.
We definitely enjoyed all our islands. Our cruise itself had a lot left to be desired. I had decided that by the time Friday came, I was just as happy to pack up and when we left the ship, I was just fine to get off. Normally I have that sad feeling. I was happy to go home. Thankfully, we had one more day at Disney World. If I hadn't had those Disney days, the trip would have been pretty well close to a bust for me. It the newest, largest, and most expensive ship I have sailed on with CCL. I came home and told my friend "3 cruises 3 years and I'm cruised out." She told me "You are just Carnivaled out." And she was right!
We tried a 3 day on a new line, and I do not think I will be going on CCL again anytime soon. My biggest complaint is the high pressure sales for drinks, bingo, making you go through the casino, and the waiting for food at the buffets, hot dog grills, and in the MDR. Probably the MDR is my biggest unhappy reason I won't be planning a CCL again anytime soon. I am a bit tired of their brand.
I hope you have a better experience on the Dream than I did. It could have been timing (after the Triumph) and really unhappy employees or just the business model to sell sell sell but I have moved on to a new line that costs a bit more but gives sooo much more for your vacation dollar, has amazing technology and stellar service and interesting dining, and even fire works shows.