We were on the Carnival Dream for the November 23 - December 1, 2009 sailing and we had a great time. I have seen a lot of negatives about the ship, but for us this was our first cruise. We had no other cruises to compare it with and we loved it - it has changed us from "resort" vacationers to cruise vacationers and we can't wait for our next one. My review is mostly positive - a few negatives of course, but nothing is ever perfect. A vacation is what you make it and we made it enjoyable.
A large part of why we picked this cruise was that it sailed out of New York. We're from Toronto, Canada and don't really like to fly. We took a bus in the day before and spent the day and night before the cruise touring New York.
The morning of the cruise we walked around New York City a bit more (who would think places like Times Square would be packed at 9 a.m.?) Then we took a taxi to the port and probably arrived at approximately 11:45 - 12:00. We carried our minimal luggage as far as we could ourselves, dropped it off and went to get in the line to board. There was a line up but it went quickly. Were happy to find we had gotten Your Time Dining that we had been waitlisted for.
We boarded and several ship employees were advising people to go up to Lido Deck 10 for lunch buffet and rooms would be available at 1:30. There were tons of people and the elevators were packed so we decided to take the stairs which we did for the majority of our trip. Good for burning off some calories and I found it quicker than waiting for elevators.
We got up to the Lido Deck and it was packed. To be expected on the first day of a cruise but the crowding was one of the few issues that seemed to happen for the majority of the cruise. One of the few negatives and I know others have mentioned it so I won't dwell on it. We soon learned there were 4,300 passengers including 1,300 kids on board. Since the capacity had officially been listed at a bit under 3,700, I'm sure the extra passengers resulted in extra crowding in public areas. Yes, there were times it was difficult to get a seat but with a little walking around we always managed to find one. The buffet was okay. We didn't explore too much and just ate what was near us the first day (Tandoori - we were outside as these were the only seats we found at the first lunch) since we still had our carry ones with us.
At 1:30 we went our room. We had an 8C balcony room on the portside. It was nice and clean and we were happy with it. Our room steward, Karim, came by to introduce himself to us within a couple hours of our arrival when he saw us exiting our room. He was great. Our room was always clean and the ice bucket was filled along with a nice towel animal each night. He did a great job of the twice daily cleanings always coordinating it so well with the times he knew we were generally out of the room. We tipped him extra the last day as it was well deserved. We were happy with the room and the water pressure in the shower was good and there was never an issue with running out of hot water. The only negative - and because of it I likely would not pay extra for a balcony again - was that it seemed that all our neighbours smoked constantly on their balconies. We're non-smokers and with the strict anti-smoking laws in Ontario second hand smoke is not a concern for anyone here and hasn't been for some time so I didn't even think that might be an issue. In any event, the hall by us always smelled of smoke. Our room was fine fortunately. I enjoyed the balcony the little time I was able to use it, but as soon as I heard someone else's balcony door open I knew I'd have to leave soon as the smoke always drifted over onto our balcony. Next time I'd just book an oceanview as I can't see the point of paying extra and then possibly not being able to use it. The Spa cabins are smoke free but of course more expensive so I'd just go with an oceanview.
My Time Dining was in the upper level of the Crimson Dining Room. There were set time diners on the lower level. Our first dinner was the only night we shared a table. I know a lot of cruisers like the shared dining but we generally prefer to eat by ourselves which is why we'd picked Your Time Dining. The first night they asked us if we'd mind sitting with another couple. It was the first day and the dining room was busy. That dinner confirmed why we wanted a table for 2. The husband was nice a nice but the wife didn't want to speak and did not even acknowledge our friendly "hello" when we sat down. We tried to talk about things such as other cruises they've been on etc. to no avail. The husband was friendly though. They ended up not having dessert. The husband wanted it but the wife told him she was ready to leave and he followed her. After that experience we always requested a table for 2. Most nights we were seated immediately. Occasionally we were given a pager and usually waited 5 - 10 minutes for it to go off. No big deal and we were happy. We sat in most areas and found all the wait staff to be friendly and helpful. We really enjoyed our dinner each evening and always finished off with a free cappuccino and my favourite - the warm chocolate melting cake.
Over the course of our trip we went to all the shows in the Encore Theatre. I do not remember the names of all of them (there were 3 musical/dance shows) but they were all well done and enjoyable. Other nights they had a juggler, ventriloquist, hypnotist as well as the Legends show where the guests performed and we enjoyed all those as well. (The "James Brown" in the Legends show was excellent and the cruise director, Todd Wittmer did a funny Dolly Parton portrayal as well).
The breakdancers (I believe they were called the Fun Force) were also very good.
The Burgundy Lounge had 2 sets of comedians for the first and second half of the cruise. They would both do a family show early on and an adult show later on for 2 nights and the comedians were switched later in the cruise. Of the first set, I only saw Marvin Bell's family show and found it funny. For the second set I saw all the performances. Both comedians were good but I found Michael Macy was hilarious - excellent performances at both the family and adult shows. There would also be karaoke some nights in the Burgundy Lounge.
The ports - we did not get off the boat in Florida or Freeport. I heard that Freeport had a very nice beach. We preferred to stay on the boat - it was a little bit emptier but still quite busy.
We did get off in Nassau. We'd been there several times so didn't bother with booking an excursion. We thought the ones through the cruise line were quite pricey and we'd seen everything before so just walked around on our own. We walked from the port to Atlantis and got some nice pictures from the bridge. They did make several announcements on board about not going into remote areas and how it would be best to come back before dark. They did not however mention the recent armed robberies that had been plaguing Nassau and I really think they should have warned us since they had to have known about them. We found out about that on our own after coming home. Fortunately nothing bad happened but had we known we would not have done all that walking. It was a nice day. Warm, but with a cool breeze, so I found the walk enjoyable and I don't like hot weather. Since we'd seen Atlantis before and had also stayed at the Riu, Paradise Island in the past we just wanted to see how it looked now. I'm not a beach person but my husband walked right onto the Atlantis beach and all along the shore with no wrist band and he was never stopped. The water was a bit rough that day for swimming.
My husband enjoyed the jacuzzis on board the Dream and always went to the Serenity Adult Only area. We enjoyed the Lido Deck Party they had one night as well. Did not go to the Piano Bar (very smoky), walked through the casino but did not use it either. The food on board- we really enjoyed the food in the dining room each night. The few extra pounds we went home with are proof of this. The buffet was a typical buffet. It was decent but I really, really enjoyed some of the desserts there. I also liked the Burrito bar and went there a couple times. The Deli was also good. I stood in line for 45 minutes once for the Mongolian. I did it the day we were in port in Florida as I figured there would be less of a wait. It was good but I wouldn't wait that long again. We liked the Pasta Bar for lunch. Early on it was less crowded as people were not as aware of it. You check off what you want on a paper, bring it up and they then bring your order to the table when it is ready. We enjoyed the pasta there.
I do have to say that the workers on this ship are the friendliest and hardest working I have ever seen. Always happy, smiling and friendly. They are doing a job most of us wouldn't want to do with a smile. Most people were nice to them but on more than one occasion for reasons unknown I saw passengers giving them a hard time. Twice I saw it when they were trying to get through a buffet line to stack up more plates/trays or get through to clean the buffet counter up. No idea why they were giving them a hard time and I was a little surprised to see it.
The day of debarkation we had decided to carry our own bags off. It was super easy and quick and we were on the streets of New York no more than 20 minutes after leaving our room.
We had a great cruise on the Carnival Dream and are looking forward to our next.