I frequently write reviews on TripAdviser and have found that by simply stating the facts in a Pros, Cons, and Summary format is fairly effective. The point afterall is to try to help others to make a well informed decision when it comes time for them to shop for a vacation.
The Dream is a beautiful ship; large and well laid out.
Once you get past the parking lot fiasco embarkation is fairly smooth.
The Cove Balcony was amazing. The sounds and smells of the ocean made it worthwhile however, as you will read, a definite "con" is the fact that people are constantly smoking on their balconies and the smells ruin the clean ocean smells one would hope for.
The food is plentiful and delish.
It is fairly easy to find your way around the ship. Just learn the right passages and you can quite literally get anywhere.
Room service was free and was amazing; if you don't take advantage of it shame on you!
The comedy on board is second to none. "Jeff The Fun Dude" is truly funny himself and the headliners are top of the mark. This, for us, was a trip highlight.
When we sailed on the Dream in 2010 we were on board in about 20 minutes. We were stuck in the parking lot alone for 45 minutes and then had to still go through security and final embarkation. The total time was almost two hours most of which was because of how the taxis have to drop you off now.
The muster drill was a total waste; first the video failed to work but we had audio. Then they got the video working but the audio went out. We only saw the last 20 seconds or so with both working. Given that this is a critical aspect of the cruise required by law shouldn't they have taken it more seriously?
The A/C in our cabin did not work. I phoned to report it and was assured it would be addressed. It never was. It never got below 75 in our cabin even with the curtains closed all day. For some I am certain that this is nice and cool but in my book when it is cooler in the hallway than it is in your cabin there is a problem. Other guest we asked said "our room is freezing" and one cabin I visited was indeed nice and cool. It was an isolated issue with our cabin and they never addressed it.
It seems like Carnival is cutting cost where and when they can and our time in each port was extremely limited. Barely enough to do one excursion and then we had to be right back on board. Since the time in port is directly related to how much the cruise line pays to dock there, it occurred to me that perhaps they are cutting cost by limiting the time docked. This assumption is further backed by the fact that we were going SO slow between ports; the distance between San Juan to St. Thomas is only about 80 miles. But we left San Juan around 5 pm and did not arrive until 11 am the next morning. From St. Thomas to Grand Turk is about 500 NM and we made it there in the same amount of time.
Because the Dream is so big it is hard to "get away" from the crowds. Waiting for elevators, waiting in line for food, waiting in line for various services, and waiting in line to debark are the standard. And some of the passengers are frankly rude; never mind that there is a line already in place, just skip it and go to the front. On more than one occasion I witnessed this is twice it almost caused altercations.
In the "old days" dressing up for dinner meant something. I can remember people being turned away for not wearing proper attire. On the Dream literally anything was allowed. I actually saw people on the formal night wearing shorts and flip flops who were allowed to sit and dine.
Certain announcements should be piped into the cabins. We had a speaker in our room so clearly this is a possibility. But we had to open the door if we wanted to hear what was being announced.
Smokers are more than welcome to smoke on their balconies. There was a lot of them upwind from us and our balcony constantly had their smoke drifting into it. Why not make the only Cove balconies where smoking is allowed towards the stern where no one else would suffer second hand inhalation? The only way to avoid this would be to get booked into the very front balcony.
Debarkation was long and seemed confused. Once we got out to customs it became obvious why. The customs agent played 20 questions with us; something I haven't ever been through before. Usually they make you feel welcome but in this case he was clearly suspicious of something. Why not just ask, or search, or whatever you are inclined to do and move things along?
The big question that should be asked is whether or not we would ever sail on the Dream again? This was our second time and the first experience was much more memorable. But it was pre-Costa event and I could not help but be left with the impression that Carnival is a company that is cutting cost where and when it can and things had definitely changed since our first voyage. Between the confusion of embarkation in the parking lot, the lack of A/C in our cabin, and the enormous crowds I believe this will be our last time on this mega cruiser.