Some background information about us as travelers. The four of us are between 26-29 years old. And both couples have cruised a couple times with Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess and Disney cruises, so we have some idea of what to expect, and what the standard is in this level of cruising. We're not fussy, but we do note when things aren't up to the standard we expect, and we're willing to pay a bit more occassionally for good service. In this instance it was a Carnival cruise, so we went into it expecting large crowds, that the food would be good (but mass produced), and service would be available, but not necessarily as personable as one would like.
Overall I would give this ship a rating of 3/10.
Emarkation: The embarkation process was horrible. And honestly one of the worst parts of the trip. Our documents had stated that the check-in process would start at 2 and go till 3:30pm, with the ship departing at 5pm. I knew from previous experience that you are usually able to board earlier, but we ended up being a bit delayed and arrived right at 2pm anyway. The first part where we went through security and received our keys/sign and sail cards was quick and painless. However, once we got through that, we sat for about 2 and a half hours on the floor in the terminal waiting to board the boat. It should be noted that water and lemonade were made available to passengers waiting to board, which was considerate.
We finally managed to get on the boat around 4:45pm, and we were certainly not the last people to board. On a week long cruise this delay might not have been that big of a deal, but for a two day curise, this sort of delay really eats into your time. There was no communication from the staff as to why there was a delay, or how it would affect the departure/muster drill (which was to have happened at 4:30pm). We weren't sure if we had missed the muster drill, or if they were doing it later for all passengers, or perhaps just for the passengers that were late boarding. Around 5pm, the chime sounded for the muster drill and we reported to our stations, where we were supposed to go over life jacket procedures, and watch a small safety video.
After arriving at our muster station we lined up to report in and watch the video. The projector screen came down, however the video never played, nor was the crew able to get it up and running. After waiting for about 20-30 minutes, they finally released us, telling us we could watch the video from the tv in our stateroom if we had any questions. I'm pretty sure we all left hoping that we would have no need of the safety instructions we never received. Since our group had the early dining at 6pm (and we were familiar with the safety precautions based on previous cruises), we shrugged it off, and left to explore the boat for a few minutes and then find our table for dinner.
Ship DEcor and Design/Itinerary: Normally I enjoy the Carnival decor. The ships are glitzy and reminiscent of Vegas and generally a lot of fun. I am not a fan of the dEcor on this particular ship however. This may come down to personal taste, but I found the whole thing to be way too over the top even for Carnival, and often felt a bit dizzy You do not want passengers feeling vertigo as the walk down a spiral staircase. It was obvious that a lot of attention went into the detail and decor, and the ship was kept very clean, but I ended up feeling overwhelmed by the decor most of the time.
The good news is that the ship was very easy to navigate, especially for as big as it was, We had no problem learning the ship in the short time we were aboard.
I had thought that the Dream had a glass dome above the pool area. If they did have it, they never put it up, which I thought was strange. We had really bad weather during the cruise (though the weather was certainly not the ship's fault). We ended up grabbing our spa robes to wear around the ship to keep warm, as some of the lounges were rather cold, and anywhere that had doors to the outside was a little chilly.
The picture of the itinerary had made it seem that the ship was going to be heading down south a ways (close to Georgia/Florida) then turn around and come back to New York. Our actual route kept us very close to the coast of New York. This may have been in part because of the weather (lingering effects from the hurricane?), but from what I have seen, most of the bad weather was located right around lower New York and Jersey. As a result of our location we did have really rough seas. I heard from one of the passengers that the stabilizers on the ship were broken, but I don't know if that was true or not.
Staterooms The staterooms were absolutely fine. We didn't spend particularly much time in ours (inside state room with no window). If you have one of these rooms, I do recommend turning the tv onto the channel with the ship camera outside and muting it. This will give you the "window" experience, and allow you to approximate what time it is based on the sun. It can be rough waking up in the morning at 9am in a pitch black room with no frame of reference. There were also no alarm clocks in the staterooms. Not a big deal, but it's something I don't generally pack, so it's good to know for future reference. The cabins had decent storage, and the Carnival bath robes were provided in the room (those came in handy later on). Basically if you've seen one cabin in this category, you've seen them all.
Dining: Main Dining Room: The food in the main dining room was wonderful, and much better then I was expecting. I would even say it was a step up from previous cruises. Still not 5 star, but then anyone who is expecting that from this type of cruise, obviously hasn't done their home worke. Still the meat was incredibly tender, seafood well prepared and seasoned. Beverage service was a huge miss though. I ordered a soda the 1st night, and had to ask for it three times before it finally made it to the table (I had it by the time I got dessert), and the 2nd night the beverage service waiter never even made it to our table. Luckily our main waiter was wonderful, and she worked hard to make sure our water glasses were always filled, and that we always had fresh coffee in our cups. I didn't see an assistant waiter, it's possible that they no longer have them. Highlight: We had a table by the window in the dining room, and watching the Statue of Liberty all lit up float by at night was beautiful.
Buffet: We ate at the buffet for breakfast and lunch the 2nd day. This was fairly close to what we had in cruises past. There was lots of variety, and tons of food. Burritos in the lunch buffet were good. Lines were atrociously long at pretty much all the stations, and most of the food was average. We did have pizza late one evening on the 2nd night, which was very good. We also availed ourselves of the frozen yogurt whenever we walked past. Overall I'd give the food here a B to a B-. Solid effort, and if you can't find something to eat you're in trouble. But nothing that really stood out.
Other: We also tried the sushi one evening as an "Amuse Bouche" before dinner. It was not rolled particularly well, and our pieces kind of fell apart, but the fish was fresh and tasty. We attempted to find the "Midnight Snacks" on the lido deck the first night, however none were set out. We also went for Margaritas and Chips (advertised on the cruise capers) in one of the lounges at one point. When we arrived there were no chips in site, and no waiters selling Margaritas. We ended up ordering a couple Margaritas from the bar and snacking on some goldfish crackers they set out. While these things really are no big deal in the grand scheme of things (we certainly didn't go hungry, and we managed to find drinks well enough on our own), they do start to add up, and detract from the experience.
Room service: This was pretty sad. We called the first night for room service, and it was an hour and a half wait. Second night we ordered from the tv in our room. It never showed up. Not a big deal, we went and found some more frozen yogurt. But this sort of thing really needs to be fixed.
Entertainment: We went to both of the shows in the main theater, and to the adult comedy shows on both nights. Our group was thoroughly entertained. 1st night in the main theater was 1 gentleman singing songs from Motown along with a good band, and we all had a blast singing and bopping along. 2nd night in the main theater was the big production, the one that the cruise director had been touting from the beginning. It was a great show, but I'm not sure how "family friendly" it really is. There were sections of the show were the dancers were dressed as pimps and hookers, and one small section were one of the "hookers" takes a spin around a pole. Now the clothing wasn't that revealing, short skirts maybe a little midriff, a bathing suit would probably be more revealing, but it's very clear what they are. The moves are still fairly tame, but there is some occasional grinding. I saw one woman take her grandson out of theater at this point. They've added some acrobatics and some break dancing that was wonderful. They also used some pyrotechnics during the production, but they seemed really out of place and unnecessary. I think Carnival is trying to update it's image for a younger crowd.
Both of the adult comedy acts were fun. We laughed and had a great time, but the guy from the Carnival staff who was supposed to do the warm-up set was awful. They had two shows each night, one at 9:45pm and one at 10:45pm with different comedians. We had originally planned on doing the 9:45pm one the 1st night, but left immediately because we thought that warm up guy was the headlining comedian. When we then came back for the 10:45pm and he was back doing the same bad jokes, we realized he was just the opening act.
We also participated in a trivia contest, attended the marriage show, and the lounge crawl, which had the ability to be a lot of fun. They had it set up to do a different decade of dance in each lounge. We started strong with the 50's/60's in the atrium, then moved to do the 70's. Then we were supposed to follow the crew to the disco for the 80's music. At this point we overheard one of the staff say that the disco was too full, and the staff wandered off without explanation, and they kind of all dispersed. I have no idea where they went. We shrugged and decided to call it a night, but they need to make that better organized. We were looking forward to the 80's!
We had also had a blast playing air hockey, and battleship, which we check out of the ships library.
Disembarkation: This was also pretty rough. We received no information on what time we would be arriving in port, or what time we would be expected to leave the ship etc. We did receive customs forms to fill out (which weren't needed, as we did not go through customs on the way out). I recall either having a cruise caper or a paper with info on it about procedures for leaving the ship on cruises past. Neither one were handed out. When we asked about it we were told by the staff that they didn't want to stress out the guests, and that's why we weren't given the information. It was also slightly problematic because the announcements that went over the loud speaker the morning of the disembarkation could only be heard from the hallway. While we were in our room we could hear the chime from the announcement, but nothing else. We could have very easily missed or slept through it.
Summary: I want to stress that despite all of the complaints listed above we really did have a fun time. I feel like all I've done in this review is whine, and that doesn't give the whole picture. Part of the problem may be that the ship and crew is brand new, part of it may be that it was only a two day cruise, so things are run a bit differently, thus more bumps along the way. In the end, it was certainly better than a weekend at home. But when compared to other cruises we've taken, it was certainly the worst of the bunch. I doubt any first-time cruisers would come back based on the experience from this ship. My advice, give the Dream another year or two to work out all the kinks, before sailing on it.