About Us : My husband and I are 60 & 58 respectively but are “young” for our age. We’re growing older but not up as the Jimmy Buffett song goes! This was our 5th cruise with Carnival and our 44th cruise overall. Living in New Jersey, we’ve been sailing only out of the NY area for the past few years since it’s so convenient and we don’t have to put up with all the headaches of flying. We chose this cruise not only for the NYC embarkation but also for the ship itself. We like big and new. Not many ships are bigger than the Dream and you couldn’t get much newer. And our last couple of Carnival cruises on the Legend and Valor were great.
Embarkation: We had car service pick us up at out house at 10:00AM and we were at the pier in by 10:55AM. Can’t do that when we have to go the Florida or elsewhere to pick up a cruise. Check-in was quick, but the boarding process was incredibly slow. They began boarding at about 11:20AM. We were in group #10 for boarding and didn’t get on until about 1:30PM. We were told that the problem was that the gangways could not reach deck 3 as they could not handle ships this big. I sailed on the slightly larger QM2 from the same pier and the gangways worked fine. You had to enter the ship on deck 0 which is the crew deck rather than in the main atrium, so we didn’t experience the initial “wow” factor that you usually get when first boarding a ship.
By the time we boarded, our staterooms were ready, so we headed there, dropped off our carry-ons and headed to the Lido for lunch.
Stateroom: We had a Spa Balcony Stateroom on Deck 12. There was plenty of room in the cabin with a minibar/fridge, a big desk, couch, small table and lots of storage space. Bathroom was a nice size with just a shower. Balcony had 2 chairs and a small table. It was a bit small but served its purpose well.
Our Cabin attendant, Chanita and her assistant were wonderful. Our rooms were always cleaned when we returned from breakfast. As well as being very efficient, Chanita had a wonderful sense of humor and was always kidding around with us and the other passengers as well.
Warning: Balconies for Spa staterooms on deck 12 are not covered. Although there is a small slanted overhang that affords some privacy from people hanging out on the open deck above, there is no protection from the sun. This was not too much of a problem on this cruise as we only went to Florida and the Bahamas and the sun is not too strong this time of year. But be careful in the Caribbean where the sun is much more intense all year long. Or choose a cabin on Deck 11 which has a fully covered balcony.
Spa accommodations include spa branded robes and slippers. Robes were heavy terrycloth not the usual lightweight waffle weave. We also had small bottles of Elemis bath products (same as HAL provides), however, they were not replenished during the cruise. Showers did have shampoo and shower gel dispensers. Both had a nice fruity smell, which I frankly liked better than the Elemis stuff. We also had unlimited use of the spa facilities (more on that later) and 2 free fitness classes per person for which there is normally a $12 charge (yoga, tai chi, spinning & pilates). Unfortunately, the classes were usually at 8:00AM and that was too early for us.
There is no smoking allowed in Spa accommodations either inside the staterooms or on the balconies. Unfortunately, there was a smoker 2 decks down who liked to hang their cigarette over the balcony railing so smoke drifted up. Thankfully, we were on starboard side. Smoking is only permitted on portside on the open decks. This was pretty much observed by smoking passengers.
The Ship: The Dream is beautiful and well designed for the most part. Some people have commented on the confusing layout, but I don’t agree. Although I’m a veteran cruiser, I’m still amazed by the number of people who get totally lost on any ship and still don’t know where they’re going even on the last day. Most of the public areas are on deck 5 with the 2 main dining rooms on decks 3&4. Pools and casual dining venues are on deck 10. Not too tough in my opinion.
The décor is somewhat muted by Carnival standards. Joe Farcus must have taken his meds when he designed it. The colors are easier on the eyes than other Carnival ships and there’s not as much glitz and glitter.
I did think that the 2 pools were too small for a ship that size. There were also no Jacuzzis in the main pool area. Those could be found only in the aft pool, adults only Serenity or the on Promenade deck 5 midship. We only went to Serenity since kids usually took up the other hot tubs. Posted signs stated that children were allowed in the hot tubs unless they’re wearing diapers so you can’t complain about it.
Food – We had an assigned table for 2 for late dinner in the Crimson Dining Room lower level on deck 3. Our servers, Somchai and Kitiya (Miss Kitty) were okay but very friendly. We’ve had better service on other ships, but we’ve had worse too.
The food was also hit or miss. Both my husband and I like our red meat medium rare. There were 4 meals where our entrees had to be sent back because they were well done with not even a hint of pink. I can understand once or twice but 4 times is inexcusable. While I never expect 5 star cuisine on any cruise ship, there are usually a couple of meals that are outstanding or at least memorable. But I can’t say that about the Dream. The food was good but nothing special.
We did not go to the Chefs Art Steakhouse which carries a $30 per person surcharge. The venue didn’t appeal to us. It was tucked away all the way up on deck 12 aft and not terrible impressive. With that kind of fee, the restaurant should have been more spectacular. We ate in the steakhouses on the Legend and Valor and thought both venues were far better.
We ate breakfast and lunch everyday in the Lido, or the Gathering as it’s called. This area has gotten the most negative comments that I’ve read so far, and most with good reason. So here’s the good, the bad and the ugly as I see it.
The Good: There was a wide variety to choose from. There were 2 traditional buffet lines, one was the Taste of Nations which featured a different cuisine everyday and the other had more generic offerings. There was also a Mongolian Wok (stir fry), Pasta Bar, burrito bar, Tandoor offering delicious Indian cuisine and a sandwich bar. We tried all stations during our eight days and I thought the food was pretty good everywhere. A grill with the usual burgers, dogs and fire as well as the 24 hour pizza were located outside by the pool.
Breakfast offerings were the usual with omelet stations in both the front and rear sections of the Lido. Lines moved quickly at the omelet stations, often more quickly than the lines for other food.
The Bad: While there seemed to be enough tables, the staff was not very attentive about clearing them. We often saw vacant tables with dirty dishes. People sat down and just pushed them to side while they ate. My husband and I are grazers at a buffet. We prefer to take several small plates with tastes rather than pile everything onto one plate. As a result, we often had a stack of dirty dishes on the table. The staff was just too busy chatting among themselves and often paid very little attention to what they were supposed to be doing.
The Ugly: Lines, lines, lines. The entire area was very poorly designed and cannot handle 3,500 passengers. The salad bars are at the start of the hot buffet lines. If you want to skip the salad and go right to the hot food it was nearly impossible to do so. So you have to wait while all the people ahead of you pick through each leaf of lettuce or search for the perfect tomato when all you want is a piece of fish with some rice and veggies. There should be a separate salad bar like there are most other ships. While the wait was never as long as some people have said (up to 45 minutes), 10-15 minutes was not uncommon during very busy times.
By far the worst line was at the Mongolian Wok station. The food was delicious but we only partook of it twice because the lines were long and very slow moving. At least 15-20 minutes was not uncommon. It’s cooked to order, so naturally it’s going to take a while. I think the concept is great but it just doesn’t work on a ship this size.
The lines for the Tandoor were virtually non-existent. I’m guessing it’s because this offered food that many people would consider exotic and they just didn’t want to try it. But I thought it was delicious. I wound up eating there most often because of the shorter lines but I also loved the food.
Entertainment: Not great, but good. There were 3 “production” shows. “Get Ready” was based on Motown and Classic R&B music. I love the genre and knew every song, but the show just didn’t click for me.
“Extreme Country” was my least favorite. While I’m not a country aficionado, I‘m familiar enough with the bigger hits. The only song I recognized was Shania Twain’s “Feel Like A Woman”. With all the popular country songs out there, they could have done a better job of song selection which would appeal to wider audience rather than just die-hard country fans.
“Dancing in the Streets” was by far my favorite. It was packed with energy and showcased some really good break dancers and amazing acrobats. If I had to tell you not to miss one show, this would be it.
My only complaint about the entertainers was that the lead female singer screamed every song. There were times that I couldn’t even understand the words of the songs she was singing.
There was a comedy club featuring 4 different stand up comics during the cruise. They offered one “G” rated show and 2 “adult” shows each night. If you are easily offended by four letter words or adult subject matter, do yourself a favor and DO NOT attend the adult shows. Needless to say, the late shows are no place for children either. Stick to the earlier ones for the families.
They also had the usual jugglers, magicians, hypnotists, etc, but we didn’t attend those shows.
The casino wasn’t as large as I thought it would be for a ship this size. I love the penny slots and but they are popular so it was tough getting a machine at night or in the afternoons on sea days. Smoking is confined to a small section and it is strictly enforced. The ventilation system is also good making the air pretty breathable.
Onboard entertainment during the day was also rather sparse. We sat out by the main lido pool a few days and it seemed like the only thing offered was trivia. Other cruises have several activities, especially on sea days, but the only thing the Dream had a rather tacky hairy chest contest.
Movies were also only shown in the outdoor Seaside Theater. We had two cool sea days, not unexpected when sailing from NYC, when indoor movies, perhaps in one of the lounges, would have been nice.
Cloud 9 Spa: A well equipped spa is always one of our favorite areas on a ship and the Dream did not disappoint us. In fact we booked the Spa Stateroom because it came with unlimited spa access for both of us which would have come with a $249 price tag for the cruise per couple.
There was a large Thalassotheraphy pool, 2 steam rooms and 2 rooms with those wonderful heated tile loungers. One of the steam rooms was supposed to be “aromatic” but it never had any particular fragrance after the first day.
We never found the spa to be crowded and we did go every afternoon or early evening. I did note that the areas were not looked after very well. Here too, spa attendants seemed to slack off. Unfortunately, some people just leave their towels lying about when they’re through rather than placing them in one of the numerous baskets throughout the spa. Attendants rarely picked them up. Dirty glasses were also scattered around.
We didn’t partake of any treatments, but there were some good specials toward the end of the cruise, even on sea days. I just always found something else I’d rather do than spend an hour in the morning or midafternoon in the spa.
The gym was very large and well equipped. I didn’t go in the mornings as I prefer walking on the promenade deck as the sun is coming up, but I never found a wait for a treadmill in the late afternoon.
Ports: We did not take this cruise for the ports. Port Canaveral, Nassau and Freeport are not high on our list of favorite stops. We did not take shore excursions although many were offered in all ports.
Having been to Disney World and the Kennedy Space Center, we didn’t even disembark in Port Canaveral. Instead we spent a relaxing, quiet day on board. we saw the new "Star Trek" movie at the Seaside Theater in the afternoon.
We didn’t arrive in Nassau until noon, so we never made it to the beach. We choose to browse the shops along Bay Street and go to the Straw Market.
Freeport was the only new port for us and we were quite pleasantly surprised. The cruise ships dock in the industrial port area, so it’s not very scenic and there’s nothing to do there. We took a van shuttle over to Port Lucaya, which is the main resort area on the island, at the cost of $5 per person each way. There’s a nice, clean beach. Lounge chairs cost $10 each but there are no umbrellas. We spent a very nice few hours soaking up the sun and swimming in the clear, calm waters. In the Lucaya area, there are also several shops, restaurants and a casino. Shuttles back to the ship were plentiful.
Disembarkation: Definitely better than embarkation. We were scheduled to arrive at 9:00AM but we were hours ahead of schedule. We had arranged for a wake up call at 7:00AM but were awakened by an in-cabin announcement at 6:50 which stated that self assist disembarkation was starting. We choose to have our luggage taken off for us and our disembarkation group number was 10. We were off the ship by about 8:45AM and home by 10:15AM.
Overall Experience: We knew that this was one of the first cruises or the ship and there are always glitches that need to be ironed out especially when the ship is very different from any others in the fleet. Service especially needs improvement in most areas. I'm not sure what if anything can be done to improve the Lido.
Although this wasn’t among our best cruises, we had an enjoyable time nonetheless. And the price was very right. We felt we received very good value for the price we paid. We are pretty easy going and not very demanding. We try not to let the negatives get in the way of the positives because the pluses always outweigh the minuses. Our favorite saying is “There’s no such thing as a bad cruise” and that’s why we’ve enjoyed every one of the 44 we’ve taken including this one.