We were cruising for our son's 'senior trip', and there were 4 other families from our area on board. This was the 3rd time we had done this itinerary so were not thrilled about that part but the trip was chosen before we become involved. We had previously sailed on the Dream in 2011 and it was the favorite of our 5 cruises so were happy to get back on board. We had a bumpy ride all week which really put a damper on things.
Our pre-cruise experience was not the best. We had booked 6 months before the cruise and had a 'deal' with $100 OBC, and as it was Jazzfest weekend there were no reasonably priced rooms available in town and air was crazy from our home airport. So we booked air through Carnival and because of that, we were unable to get any relief from price drops until I finally wrote an e-mail to Carnival directly when miraculously we could upgrade without having to re-book our airfare. For a price, of course. Anyway, we booked air and transfers from the airport, but had to fly from Milwaukee which is 6 hours from our home. We made it, and since we upgraded to a suite were on board about 15 minutes after arriving in the port. We had decided before the cruise that because of how we were treated by Carnival we will try another line next time we sail, and the cruise itself while not awful did not sway us differently.
The Dream is a very nice, big ship. It appears to be well maintained and was very clean during our experience. There are some examples of wear and tear on deck, mostly wood related, but otherwise it was still looking good. Our room, a Spa Suite, was huge compared to our other balcony state rooms. We spent good time on the extended balcony and really enjoyed the extra space with the 3 of us in the room. The bathroom, with a full tub and dual sinks was also great. Being a spa room, we had access to the spa amenities all week and used the Thelossal Pool, steam room and heated loungers almost daily. The condition in the spa was a little disappointing as many of the controllers for things were not working. Also, the pool was down for maintenance on the first day which was annoying. The spa staff were also not great as the same people didn't seem to recognize us even though we were there frequently.
To break down the basics:
Food - hit or miss. We ate in the dining room (late seating) and there were two nights of the seven that we really didn't like anything on the menu. One night we ate at the Steak House and that was good, but at $105 for three of us it was overpriced. Lunches were pretty good, although the wait for the Wok was really long. Pasta bar was a favorite. The Sea Day Brunches were our favorite.
Entertainment - the singing / dancing review was probably the best show I had seen on a cruise. We didn't see any other shows other than comedy which were okay. There were decent musicians throughout the ship. The seaside theatre is nice, but I would rather watch movies in the room frankly.
Service - our Dining Room crew was awesome. Our main cabin steward was a little cold, but his assistant was always bright and sunny. There seems to be a shortage of waitstaff on-deck from what I remembered in the past. Bartenders were hit and miss. Casino staff were good. Photographers annoying (but that's there job). Security was amusing.
Ports - we just took a late tender over to Belize City and hung in the port bars. Did a little shopping, and the 19 year old got drunk. Roatan, we hung at the beach while the 19 year old took a private catamaran tour with others in our group - he had a great time. We rented a cabana and went back early to the ship after stopping at Fat Tuesdays which was fun. Cozumel we took a cab to the east side and hung out at a bar over there for a while on the beach and then went into town to Wet Wendy's for lunch. 19 year old left us to go with friends and had to be carried back on ship by them. Learned a few lessons... Pretty laid back for the most part for the 'adults'.
Overall the biggest disappointment was the weather. We had high winds basically every day and the upper decks were closed off most of the cruise. The boat rocked just enough where when we would disembark it took a few hours to get your legs back under you. The thing is, if the boat wasn't moving so fast we could have had a more pleasant trip so I would have rather skipped a port and gone slower for a better ride. The people with excursions probably would disagree though. Going down the Mississippi was fun.
Disembark was easy, we had 7 hours before our flight so there is a service in the port that will actually take your bags to the airport and provide car service to meet them prior to check in. It worked pretty good, but it's $40 for 3 bags plus transportation.
Nutshell - Dream is nice big boat, and great for New Orleans. Food has slipped in choice and quality from the past. If you can get a spa room, do it. Entertainment is improving. I would change up the Western Itinerary a little. It's still a shopping mall / casino on the seas and if you're not careful you will spend a lot more than you would at an all-inclusive.