A great time, but...: Carnival Dream Cruise Review by matthewthompson87
Overall Member Rating
A great time, but...
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Port Canaveral (Orlando)
Stayed at the DoubleTree SeaWorld in Orlando for pre and post nights. A nice value, clean rooms, decent restaurant, well-maintained grounds, convenient location, 40 mins to the port by charter bus the morning of the cruise.
Embarkation was the fast and organized. If it took 20 minutes, I'd be surprised. Arrived at 1:30ish, no line at all. (The photo people insisted that the green-screen photo that they use for their facial recognition software to buy photos onboard was mandatory... I'm curious if that's really the case.)
Cabins were ready when we boarded. Cabin steward (Michael) was great. Attentive and courteous. Towel animals every-night has become kind of routine, but still strangely brings a smile to the face of these two grown men. We were never without ice. Nice touches: he arranged our More books and CPAP machine hoses on our pillows each night. Aww.
Overall, service was excellent.
That said, the constant barrage of sales pitches and gimmicks that Carnival employs have finally soured us from taking a cruise with them again soon. Finding information in the patters is impossible without sifting through worthless ads and 'sales-that-aren't-really-sales'. Cruise Director Announcements weren't *that* intrusive (2 long ones and 1 or 2 short ones each day), but added no value to our cruise experience. We felt like we spent a lot of time saying "no, thank you" to salespeople and dodging photographers. We got to the point where we preferred to avoid contact with crew entirely so as to not have to turn down a sales pitch. (Note: Carnival corporate's failure here, not the eager-to-please crew.)
The ship's public areas were the standard flashy/gaudy decorations found on Carnival... no surprises there, but I find myself wondering who loves mirrors, glass, and flashing lights everywhere they look. The creepy masks in the Burgundy Lounge were odd at the very least. The layout of public areas just didn't seem right somehow: lots of empty/underutilized spaces and many overcrowded ones.
Food: merely 'ok'; noticeably poorer in quality than our last Carnival cruise (Carnival Pride 2009). Brunch in the dining room was not good. The buffet overall was underwhelming in quality with the exception of the Tandoor and Deli sections outdoors Aft; those two were serving up fresh, hot, tasty food. Afternoon Tea on sea days was great. Clarence in the Crimson dining room during tea was fantastic: chatty but not intrusive, courteous but playful. Tea was a nice relaxing alternate activity from the hustle-and-bustle of the rest of the ship.
We went to the main dining room most nights, and things were better there, but nothing to write home about. The fish dishes tended to be the most flavorful and imaginative (though strangely, not the fish dish listed on the menu as a contest-winner). A duck and orange appetizer was memorable. The chateaubriand exceeded our expectations (we were amused and braced for the worst though). The nightly Indian veggies were also consistently well-prepared. The melting chocolate cake was always the best dessert on the menu (and our table/group tried them all...)... but that's a bit disappointing if you're looking for quality AND variety.
The bar service was slow to bring our first glass of wine in the main dining room at dinner each night; then after receiving 1 glass of wine, the bar server was a bit of a pest offering more wine 3 times nightly, then offering shots (?!) each night at dessert time.
The thing is... we know they can do better. They have in the past. Table-mates RAVED about the Chef's table experience. They clearly have people on board who are passionate about food but are being stifled somehow--I would guess by budget restraints and cost-cutting. It's a shame.
Last dining note: I can't believe Carnival still believes in humiliating their dining room servers making them sing and dance several nights during the cruise. Flashing the lights and blaring music destroys the somewhat classy ambiance the serving staff manages to create each night. This embarrassing practice is a RELIC in the cruise industry at the very best. If Carnival wants to entertain their guests at dinner, they should employ legitimate artists to do so.
Medical Center: first time I've needed to visit one on a ship. Thank goodness it's there. Thank goodness they were well-stocked with fast-acting antibiotics. $220 and one day later, and I was back to my vacation. Also grateful for the free movies on the in-room TV during recovery and a room-service menu I ate my way through in bed. And tissues. Steward Michael kept me well stocked in tissues while my sinuses drained. (ewww) Great crew down there. May you never need them.
Entertainment: we stuck to the aft-pool during the afternoons; the midship pool was crazy loud with contests and the jumbo-tron screen, etc. In the evenings, Karaoke was fun and busy--sadly relegated some nights to a lounge too small for the enthusiastic crowd. We didn't attend any of the shows in the Encore theatre... they're just not for us. But I did see they're still running the same tired "Carnival Legends" show on the last night of the cruise. The night club, "Caliente", was fun in the late night, though *extremely* smokey with very little ventilation. One of the DJ's was great and really knew his crowd. The other DJ was awful and had an empty dance-floor until the other DJ came to rescue him.
Most nights, our group stayed out drinking and dancing until the club shut down before running up to the lido deck to have the best pizza I've ever tasted.
Now that I think about it... maybe the pizza just SEEMED amazing because it was 3am, under the stars, somewhere in the middle of the caribbean, with 100 friends drunk on the rushing warm air and a whole-lotta rum.
And that's the thing, isn't it... the rest of the "meh" stuff about any cruise fades away and the memories forged with friends dancing "the wobble" and frolicking in hot tubs during torrential downpours become indelible.
So really... the ship is fine. It'll do. Go eat pizza at 3am with your friends and have a great time. Less
Cabin review: 8472
8472 is an aft-facing balcony. The balcony is larger than regular balconies, and it has 1 lounge chair, a very small table, and two adjustable-back chairs.The decks above are tapered, so the balcony (and balcony door to the stateroom) is always in direct sun. It made our room too hot to have the curtains open during a Caribbean cruise. Further, when standing on the back half of the balcony, you are in plain sight of those standing at the rail above you on the Lido deck, visible from the promenade below, and (as with standard balconies) your neighbors on both sides... we like a little more privacy on our balcony.It seems a lot of people covet the wake-view cabin, but we would not book this cabin again.
Port and Shore Excursions
Nachi Cocom Beach Club
We made advance reservations at Nachi Cocom Beach Club for our day in Cozumel.
The beach club was exactly what we wanted. It fit the bill perfectly. It was quiet, no 'spring-break' atmosphere, slightly rustic, and the food was far better than we expected. The soft sand, blue water, friendly staff, palapas and loungers were precisely what I hoped for out of a day on the beach in Mexico.
We also booked massages at Nachi Cocom before we arrived. They were decent beach massages and a decent value, but not definitely not upscale.
Port Canaveral is about 50 minutes from The Walt Disney World Resort--which is where we spent our disembarkation day. A stroll through scenic, gorgeous Epcot was the perfect place to unwind and reflect on our vacation. The night-time show "Illuminations: Reflections of Earth" at park closing is referred to as "the kiss goodnight", and it truly was a fantastic ending to the last day of our vacation.
Having visited Roatan previously and having done the compulsory snorkeling (you must snorkel or scuba here if you haven't before), we were looking for something off the beaten path and unique to the island.
We found it.
Spa Ban Suerte is one of those fabled places I imagine when someone says "rustic island paradise".
We walked outside of the Mohagany Bay (ahem... "theme park") Area, went down the hill (signs warning us that we were leaving the secure area), and spotted "Carlos" in the crowd of yelling "tour guides". He was holding a cardboard sign with our name and "Spa Ban Suerte" on it.
Note: had we not seen Carlos there immediately, we would have stopped, turned around, and trekked back up the hill right away to the secured area--the crowd of shouting 'tour guides' looks like it can get pretty competitive, and there was no shortage of hustlers there upset that we already had a driver and guide waiting for us.
We hopped into the car and were led across the island, pulling into a narrow country drive with a sign overhead saying "Spa Ban Suerte". As we pulled up into a small courtyard, big smiles came across our faces. There were several small tropical cottages, one with a welcoming purple door and rough hewn sign indicating it was the "office". A dog sleepily greeted us along with the proprietor. Her uneasy smile imparted something was amiss.
She apologetically explained that their electricity was out.
Fortunately, one of the best massages and facials I've ever had did not require electricity. The soothing calls of tropical birds and island sounds wafting through the shutters required no electrician. The beauty of Roatan was lit by the suns rays filtering down through the jungle-like canopy to a sparkling pool outside our massage cottage. The gorgeous orchids and fragrant flowers clung to the trees as if they'd never heard of a kilowatt.
After our treatments, we walked down the steep stairs to the beach, and we wandered over to the Blue Bahia Restaurant next door. We took a table in the corner of the deck with sweeping views of the water and beach. Moments later a brief storm blew in as we sipped the glorious first taste of a local beer and sampled fresh-caught fish fritters, ceviche, and an incredibly tasty pulled-pork-topped burger.
We got caught in a second sudden downpour on our walk back to the spa--making us laugh at ourselves in our soaked clumsy ascent of the stairs back to the serenity of the cottages.
One of the ladies from the spa brought fresh dry towels to us, now sheltered on the porch of one of the massage cottages. We made friends with another of the resident canines as we read our books and watched the rain slow to a trickle. Eventually the sun poked it's head out from the clouds again, and it was time for the leisurely drive back to the ship.
If you're lucky, you'll visit Spa Ban Suerte someday.