If you read about the Dream on cruise critic you'll know the dream is a blown up Carnival ship. This is true... the issue is the number of cabins and passengers blew up but the guest areas did not. There are a TON more people on the ship but only two pools. So many guests are in the pools the water is murky to the point where you can't see the bottoms. They were quick to close the pools each evening to change the water over. The saving grace for the kids were the slides. The slides were also fun for a bit for adults but we mainly sat there while the kids went up and down over and over. Be warned on the tallest two slides, they may take a solid toll on your back. The tubes don't quite line up like they should so it's like a bumpy cheese grater of sorts but we didn't get physically cut just a bit sore. Certainly not enough pain to not ride again though... I went a good dozen times over the week:)
On a plus side there are plenty of hot tubs. However each one had the white plastic parts that surround the tub breaking in pieces and generally floating around inside of the hot tub. We watched, from out balcony, a crew work on one hot tub all day while in port fixing/re-sealing/etc. yet when it was turned back on all the white parts floated around again.
Balcony rooms along the sides of the ship get to enjoy everyone's conversations from deck 4 below. Unlike traditional balcony rooms where you look over and see water on this on you look over and see people lay out on Deck 4. It was almost shocking how well we could hear individual conversations from the hot tubs and deck chairs all the way up on deck 9. If you want a quiet balcony this isn't the right ship for you. A plus of the balcony setup is they stay very dry during rain storms and during rainy times it was one of the most peaceful places to be.
Kids camp was ok. The drop off / pick up is moronic. One door in and out, no flow, all bottle neck. Even though the whole place connects you had to drop off kids in separate lines so for us with 2 kids in separate age groups it meant waiting in two lines back to back or both my Wife and I had to show up to drop off.... normally one of us would take or pick up the kids but it was time consuming to do so on this ship.
For some reason Carnival started accepting 2 year olds... And the first age group is 2-5. So in this age group you get 2 year olds in diapers screaming for Mommy and Daddy with 5 year olds that are already in school. This is just dumb for everyone as neither the 2 year olds get the attention they need and the 5 year olds are miserable from the screaming.
Relative to NCL and Royal Carib (we have sailed with kids on both) the camp is more like NCL. It's kinda day care-ish. Royal Carib is 5 out of 5 stars and NCL/Carnival are more like 2.5 out of 5 stars. The kids seemed to like it though with my daughter only wanting to skip a couple times (never wanted to skip on Royal)
Our cabin was deck 9, balcony, mid ship. The location couldn't be better. One floor up to 24 hour pizza, food, drinks and two up to camp carnival. Our cabin attendant was the best I've had and this was my 14th cruise! For the cons, the NOISE. read about Cabin 9361 in the individual reviews section for more!
The service in the dining room at night was horrible. The food keeps getting worse on each Carnival cruise we take. Nothing like the Oasis of the Seas we took just a few months ago. The food arrived slowly (at best) and luke warm. I got a Caesar salad one night that literally tasted like old fish bait... I almost threw up. No question on how the food was from the server, just 'are you done?' There is NO help with the kids in a bad way. Royal Caribbean has a quick dine where you eat with the kids and they are done before you then kids camp comes and picks them up. On carnival the kids finished before we were done with our 2nd course and they were either forced to sit there for another hour, one of us had to drop them off at kids camp (approx. 20-25 minute trip up and down), or we just left early. By the 2nd night we had given up dessert as it was just taking too long. They also offer no kids cups or anything kid friendly. I'm fine with my kids drinking out of glasses. I also have big kids but the weight of the drinks was too much for them to keep stable so our nights were constantly worried about spills... finally on the last night my daughter spilled her lemonade. No one eve came over to check in and we were down to one napkin to share for the rest of the meal.
Lines for the buffet and Carnival Deli were reasonable. The mongolian wok was nuts every day and the hours it was open was just crazy short. The 24 Pizza place always seemed to be in shock that people were there to get pizza. They didn't even use the hot box to store pizzas already made because they never had pizza made. There was almost always a line. If no line, you had to wait for the pizza to be made anyway so it didn't matter. They did taste good though! The best regular food and service was room service. We did that 3 times and it was always quick, tasty, and exactly what we ordered.
The Blue Iguana and Red Frog were pretty much jokes. They added some pizzaz to the standard bars on deck and gave them a name. Nothing special there. This isn't the Red Frog Pub but just a Red Frog Bar.
The Steakhouse was well worth the money. By far the best meal we had and as good as the last time we did it on Carnival. FAR FAR FAR better than the Steakhouse on the Oasis (and I assume all Royal C. ships). If you end up on the Dream I suggest budgeting for 2 or more meals there!
The daily agenda is a joke. There is little to nothing to do except hang out. This may be fine for you but we found it odd. On the final sea day simple things like the trivia events, where usually 15-20 people show up, would have 150 people because there were so many people and nothing to do.
Royal Carib does a great job with reservations to events. Carnival simply has you wait in line. The comedy shows seemed good but we only made it into one. The line went from the comedy club, through the piano bar, down so far we couldn't see the end of it. This is another blunder.... why not do reservations?
The shows compared to Royal Carib. are a joke. A half step up from high school on Carnival where Royal Carib are maybe a half step down from Broadway or even on par with Broadway.
The "Comedy Brunch" that I read so much about is not a comedy brunch anymore. The theme is still there with the menu, etc. but they don't do the comedy. That was a big let down.
This was our 5th, and worst, Carnival cruise. They seem to have turned the brand into the budget brand of the seas Vs. when we started sailing with them 10 years ago. My Wife and I are generally really happy on a cruise and it takes a LOT to get us down while on vacation but this one did enough to drag us into the gutter.