While searching for my birthday present, my husband found a great gift online. It was a seven-night Carnival Dream cruise departing October 19, 2013 leaving from nearby Port Canaveral. The attractive itinerary visited the islands of Nassau, San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk. Our travel agent booked the reservation.
Platinum Level status in Carnival’s VIFP Club granted us Priority Boarding so we breezed through the embarkation procedure. Within mere minutes, we were on the ship. Another plus was that our stateroom was immediately available (11:30 AM.) After stowing our hand luggage, we enjoyed the full buffet lunch in The Gathering and relaxed at a window table. After lunch, it was time for a swim. The informative safety drill was well organized; passengers were attentive and quiet. There was comfortable seating in the Scarlet Main Dining Room. The Sail Away Deck Party was lively and the staff taught passengers some new line dances. After the ship’s departure from the Port, we unpacked our checked luggage and got ready for dinner.
We had signed up for "Your Time Dining” and it went smoothly every night. Mostly we sat at the same table with the same wait staff in the downstairs level of the lovely Crimson Main Dining Room (MDR.) Reynaldo, Team Headwaiter, Rogelio, Team Waiter and Ronan, Assistant Team Waiter were an attentive team. They worked well together, greeted and addressed us by name and were very professional. They worked hard to please us nightly.
The food on The Dream was fine throughout the ship. Every night, in the MDR, there were multiple tempting choices. What a surprise it was one night to discover escargot on the menu. This dish never appears on the menu of other more expensive cruise lines even on longer length cruises. Breakfast and Lunch choices in The Gathering (buffet) varied somewhat each day. At the breakfast buffet, expect to find cooked to order omelets, eggs, pancakes, waffles, French toast, a variety of cold and hot cereals, muffins, bacon, sausage and so much more. At the lunch buffet, there is a different themed selection of food each day such as Caribbean, Italian, French, American, etc. A plentiful selection of fresh fruits, cheeses, carved or sliced meats and salads are always available. Otherwise, pizza is a good choice and the deli is quite popular. Mongolian and The Grill often has long lines, go early. When weather permits, check out the BBQ by the Lanai deck 5, Mid-ship. My husband enjoyed ordering from Pasta Bella directly upstairs from The Gathering. Here you choose from the menu of a variety of pastas, sauces, and baked dishes (meatballs and lasagna.) Your order is delivered right to your table - how convenient! If you are still hungry, The Gathering offers late night snacks from 11:30pm -1am. There were three Sea Day Brunches in the MDR. We attended one of them so that we could sleep late that morning.
It was always easy finding a vacant table in The Gathering. The tables, though, are rather close together and seemed especially so on embarkation day when passengers had hand luggage. The staff will even serve you beverages and they often help anyone in need of their assistance. Views out the large picture windows are quite mesmerizing.
Besides Carnival’s great value and good food, the layout of the Deluxe Oceanview rooms is terrific. In addition to the full bathroom, the rooms contain a second washroom with a sink and a shower/tub combination. It made it so much easier getting ready in the mornings and evenings. Our stateroom #2416 was bright and comfortable with a king bed, large couch, desk and plenty of closet and storage space. One closet was never even used. Michael, our steward, introduced himself the first day and kept the stateroom clean & stocked with amenities. He was discrete and made up the room when it was unoccupied. Hallways are wide with attractive full-length wallpaper panels depicting elegantly dressed men and women enjoying the good life. I photographed some of my favorites. They made walking the hallways interesting and cheerful.
Although there were 768 children onboard, they were never a problem. Mostly they enjoyed Camp Carnival and the Water Park/pool areas. The majority of the passengers were young families, couples and singles all enjoying themselves in a responsible way. Many passengers hailed from FL and other southern states. There were some international passengers, too. Everyone was there to have a good time. We were some of the older passengers. The pool area sometimes got a little too noisy for us so when poolside contests were going on, we moved to a quieter area of the ship. The comfortable Adults-Only Serenity area is a lovely retreat for those wishing a quieter atmosphere. The younger passengers, however, thoroughly enjoyed all the pool antics and the party atmosphere. The ship really gears itself to a younger audience.
The five professional shows performed in the charming Encore Theater were very entertaining. The three production shows by the talented Carnival Dream Singers and Dancers, Get Ready, 8 More Seconds and Dancin’ in the Street were awesome. These shows are full one-hour productions with live music, quick costume changes, multiple backdrops plus enough special effects to wow audiences. They are fast paced, high energy and well executed. I enjoyed them even though I have seen them all on a previous Carnival Dream cruise two years ago. The introductory Welcome Aboard Show features the Carnival Singers & Dances plus other performers as well. Although I have seen some of that show many times previously on different Carnival ships, it was still delightful. Las Vegas Headliner Singer Jerome Dabney performed a wonderful Sugar Sweet Classics Motown Music Show with plenty of audience participation. Before he knew it, my husband was up onstage performing with the singer as a member of the "Temptations.” What fun! For those who enjoy a more intimate entertainment venue, several lounges showcase various types of live music and play music requests.
Instead of attending the Love & Marriage or Legends passenger shows, we visited the Punchliner Club for two very funny Family Friendly and Adults Only Comedy Shows and the lively Fun Force Break Dancers Show up close in the glitzy atrium. One of the break dance performers was from my hometown neighborhood in the Bronx (NY) and we had a chat after the performance. I was even part of the show at one point. Although we were hoping to meet Comedienne Sheila Key who is a neighbor of our nephew, she was not performing on this cruise. Stand Up Comedian Jeff (Shaw) the Fun Dude did an excellent job warming up the audience for the featured comedians.
Cruise Director James Charlton and his assistant Gumby (Greg) entertained passengers with their daily Morning Show televised on the Seaside Theater’s big screen. While lounging by the pool one morning, James read out my husband’s "Happy Birthday Shout Out” to me. Gumby even sang a short refrain from the song, "Gloria” that made me laugh aloud. Later James sent a bottle of Champagne to our stateroom. Thanks, James for the thoughtful gesture and "Cheerio!” In fact, the entire staff was, as a group, very energetic, friendly and helpful. The Dive In Movies at the Seaside Theater were fun to watch because you could actually see the movies even in broad daylight. Some of the movies that played were family-friendly ones such as Zookeeper and Big Miracle.
Other activities that we enjoyed onboard were the well attended Caribbean Beach and Mexican Fiesta late night deck parties with their fun handouts of neon bracelets, beads and noisemakers, etc. The Limbo contest was lots of fun. How low can your go! The staff did a great job energizing the partiers, engaging them in line dances and doing the Congo. The Mardi Gras Party in the atrium was fun too & I danced many line dances to get beads. James & Gumby did a terrific job with Ship’s Life Q & A. All the passengers’ questions were interesting and we all enjoyed the answers. James also did a great job with his Fun Ashore & Fun Abroad presentation. Wish that I had won the excursion for two. All the passengers enjoyed themselves at the repeat guests’ cocktail party. Unlimited beverages and hors d’oeuvres were served and the orchestra and a singer performed for us. It was fun chatting with fellow guests sitting nearby. I did a little bit of shopping onboard. In the Fun Shops, I purchased jewelry, ship postcards and two glitzy lanyards. In the photo shop, I purchased a distinctive Carnival light up frame. Prices were fair; variety was good. There were always special sales very day.
The ship’s itinerary was terrific - each port was culturally different and unique. We have been to Nassau many times, so we did not get off the ship. Those who did had a great time at Atlantis swimming with the Dolphins or enjoying the Aquaventure Park. Many passengers took glass bottom boat cruises or catamaran sails. There were also snorkeling and Kayak adventures. For those who did not want to get wet, there were City and Jeep tours plus a Garden Tour. Next time perhaps I will try Stand Up Paddle Boarding. This time we simply enjoyed the quieter atmosphere and the ship’s many amenities.
Shopping in St Thomas was excellent both downtown and near the terminal. There is inexpensive transportation to the downtown area near the terminal. Roadwork by the Skyride caused the ride’s closure while we were in port. In San Juan, our excellent five hour shore excursion, "Puerto Rico Favorites” visited the rainforest and the San Cristobal Fort. Some of us were dropped off in Old San Juan to shop the narrow quaint streets before returning to the ship docked just a few blocks away. .
San Juan was my favorite port until we landed in Grand Turk where we swam in the warm shallow sea alongside our ship. There were no waves - just clear calm water. Plenty of complementary beach loungers lined the white sandy beach many under the shade of palm trees. A variety of music from the Margaritaville Restaurant entertained passengers, some of whom sipped tropical drinks and enjoyed the restaurant’s local food. Later in the afternoon, we moved to the huge pool area and enjoyed the warm water while watching the Flow Riders fall off their body boards. Just before re-boarding the ship, I shopped in the variety of boutiques. There were excellent buys and bought many neat items. When entering the final shop, I laughed with the sales clerk because there featured on the front rack was exactly the parrot design cover-up that I was wearing, purchased previously in the States. Be sure to see the NASA Exhibit for a cool Photo Op.
Everyone I met and I spoke to many passengers said that they had a great time. I honestly did not hear even one complaint. Our only personal problem with the trip had nothing to do with Carnival. We planned to arrive at the port before 11 AM using a local car service. When we reached the entrance to the port’s terminal #6, we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic for 45 minutes. I hope that the port can correct this. We never experienced this problem with other terminals at the port. We keep returning to Carnival because of its value pricing, good food, good service, larger stateroom accommodations and the port location. For a future cruise, we hope to sail on the new Carnival Sunshine when it departs from Cape Canaveral.