Carnival Dream is a BIG ship, over 1000 feet long and holding about 2600 passenger staterooms & suites. During our sailing in early January 2010 the ship held over 4100 passengers and about 1400 crew. We were told the surplus of the usual passenger capacity was due to a lot of "triple & quadruple bunking" in several staterooms, which sounds miserable, considering the miniscule size of most staterooms. I have to say that the ship did feel crowded. On most ships we are able to find quiet areas in which to read, play cards, journal or just relax. Not so on the Dream. During our 7 day cruise we found no unused lounge or out of the way sitting area where we could escape the frenzy of 5000+ people. Long lines for every Lido deck meal were the norm, waits for food in the main dining room were sometimes inexplicably lengthy; one night our table for four had to wait over an hour and a half after finishing our starter course to receive our entrees. By then, the passengers at all the other tables around ours had finished both their entrees, ordered their desserts, finished those and left! Because our wait staff was unwilling or unable to explain the delay, all we could assume was that something had gone terribly wrong in the ship's galley.
The ports of call on this eastern Caribbean cruise were Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Most passengers did not leave the ship at Nassau. I presume this was due to many of us having already read reports of high crime on the island. The only safe attraction here is an excursion to the Atlantis Resort, an overpriced behemoth with which Carnival Cruise Lines must have a passenger delivery contract in order to keep its ships coming to Nassau. St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands is quite a bit safer. A side trip to the beautiful neighboring island of St. John, however, is not recommended when there are six or seven other large cruise ships in port. Shopping in St. Thomas was shoulder to shoulder; you don't want your beach and snorkeling experience to be the same. Still, if this is your one and only chance to visit the Caribbean, go for it; simply realize that you won't be seeing these islands at their best.
Saving the best for last, the island of St. Maarten, which is a small island shared by France and the Netherlands, is the most palatable of the port offerings on this mega-ship cruise. Again, only a taste of what Caribbean life might be like can be had when there are over 20,000 passengers from cruise ships in port at the same time. Even so, St. Maarten is a friendly island that seems a bit more civilized than the previous ports. At least here the sidewalk barkers are not pulling you physically into their stores or forcing ubiquitous 70% off coupons into your hands as you walk by.
Be aware that most shopping available on these islands is geared toward cheap jewelry and liquor. If these categories were eliminated, the stores in most of the ports would take up only a one block area. No, your diamonds and other gems, even if they are genuine, will not be conflict free. And whatever liquor you haul away may or may not be of good quality. In other words, don't go on a cruise for the sole purpose of shopping duty free.
Back to reviewing the ship, most of the the staff on the Carnival Dream are friendly and helpful, from the room stewards, dining wait staff and front desks to maintenance people one might chance upon in the many corridors or elevators. The ship is clean & bright, although surprisingly showing some wear and tear even in its infancy. The public areas of the ship are decorated in weird ways, though not as "over the top" as many ships we've been on recently. The central atrium of the Dream, through which glass elevators rise from your entry at Deck 3 to a glass roof at Deck 12, contains enough glitz of lights & chrome to please anyone who likes Vegas casinos. One interesting effect here is the pale yellow wall of "bubble" lights that pop on and off, creating a feeling as if your glass elevator is enveloped in a glass of champagne. Surprisingly, this effect works.
The sewer odors several reviewers have mentioned were present in several areas of the ships during our cruise, but the maintenance staff said they were working on it and during the week the situation did improve tremendously.
As with other Carnival ships, the food on the Dream isn't five stars, but I'd certainly give several meals 4.5 and many more a rating of 4.0. Breakfast was always the biggest disappointment of the day; this is where Carnival seems to go cheap with tasteless hot entrees & fruits and the same lackluster pastries to be found on nearly all of its ships. Even so, I have to give any mega-ship like this kudos for feeding thousands of people fairly quickly and efficiently 24 hours a day 365 days of the year. This is not a task I would want to take on managing.
In addition to several main lounge productions that were very good, we enjoyed some new entertainment features found on the Dream, such as the miniature golf course and Lido deck laser light shows & outdoor movies. The Comedy Club is a great idea, too, though not executed well due to space limitations of the chosen venue and poor scheduling for the demand. It was irritating to arrive 45 minutes early for an act only to be kicked out by the MC after the performance because more people were waiting for the next comedian, who we also wanted to see.
Regardless of all of the above, we will choose to sail on smaller ships from now on, most likely to less frequented ports, as well. While we liked a lot of what the Dream has to offer, we're not much for crowded conditions, at sea or otherwise.