Our Christmas Cruise aboard the Carnival Dream was great compared to some of the other recent reviews on the Dream. No, I am not a first time cruiser either. This is my 14th cruise, the 7th Christmas Cruise and the 4th cruise on Carnival. The ship was beautiful and reminded me of other Carnival ships, most similarly the Glory. The decor was muted for Carnival, which was a sensory respite from the "whimsical" decor on other Carnival ships. Yes, there were long lines; yes there were too many people. Yes, you can figure out ways to avoid the lines and even get a deck chair too!
Embarkation at Port Canaveral is usually pain free for our family as we have a wheelchair user and get special assistance from the embarkation staff. Honestly, the special assistance that we receive at Port Canaveral from Carnival is better than any other cruise line we have used.
The basic design of the ship forces one to utilize the elevators more than other ships. This can become a problem if you or someone in your party is using a wheelchair. We had two wheelchair users in our family, so we had to be a bit assertive to get the elevator space that we needed. Our cabins were traditional sized outside cabins on deck two aft. One good thing about the cabin location was that they were off of the main path and tended to be fairly quiet. Being on a lower level and in the aft can also bring excessive engine noise and vibration, but we were not surprised by this.
I need to comment on the number of passengers traveling aboard the Dream on Christmas week, 4600, which is about 1000 passengers over full capacity. Due to the overflow, we were forced to eat in an overflow dining room off of the Crimson dining room. At first we were put out about this as, it felt like we were eating in the "time out" room. The main complaint about the overflow room was that the lighting was too bright and we could not see the "show" that the dining room staff put on. Other than that the food and service were equivalent to any of the other Carnival cruises we have taken. We did find that the lines in the Lido were long; however they were no longer than the lines in the Lido on the Glory during an overcrowded spring break week. The Dream does offer some options to vary the lunch experience. We enjoyed the pasta bar which was a little less hectic than the main lido. Also, burrito bar turned out to be a shortcut to the long lines in the lido. On deck 5 there was a barbecue for lunch, but we found the hamburgers to be undercooked and there were no drinks other than bar drinks available. For breakfast we enjoyed going to the Scarlet Dining Room for a full service (no line) experience. We were impressed with the quality of the wait staff during breakfast in the Scarlet Dining Room.
Our favorite spot on the ship had to be the Spa. We purchased a week's pass to use the spas which included: a refreshment room, a heated tile lounge room, an aromatherapy room, an oriental steam room, a Turkish bath, and a thelassotherapy pool. This was a wonderful way to wind down each day and was definitely worth the extra cost.
I mentioned getting a deck chair. If you are not one to go grab chairs at 6:30 in the morning, head to deck 5 where you will find many deck chairs, enough quiet to read a book and several hot tubs to choose from.
The entertainment was excellent, particularly the lead singers and the dancers. We especially enjoyed the Tribute to Rhythm and Blues and also Dancing in the Street. A word of warning, get to the Encore Lounge early as seats fill up quickly especially for the early sitting. The quality of comedians and other entertainers varied quite a bit, some were really good and some weren't.
We missed the traditional Captain's Welcome Aboard Party as they have become cheap and are now offering $1 or $2 off drinks. We did attend the Past Guest Party where the drinks and appetizers were complimentary. We enjoyed the band and the lead vocalist sang a few songs to entertain us during this party.
Overall, I would book another cruise on the Dream. There were some kinks to be worked out, but in time this Dream should shine.