We cruised on the Jan. 23rd departure to the Western Caribbean and we would like to share our impressions with everyone because of the several negative reviews that had us and possibly many others wondering about this new ship. This was our first Carnival cruise after 7 others on HAL, NCL and RCL. Bottom Line: If price is right, DO IT.
Pre-Cruise we flew into Orlando and spent that afternoon at Leu Gardens in Winter Park, this Arboretum has a nice tour of the original house in the gardens, but with most else pretty much self guided. Next day went to Universal Studios that was pretty pricey for both admission and parking and had several shops and features closed with no warning. Next day we headed toward Port Canaveral (PC) with a detour to the Kennedy Space Center for the day. This is a really great thing to add to your itinerary and if you want to stay in PC pre-cruise, several hotels have a shuttle to the Space Center but this is an easy drive with a rental car and a wonderful experience that truly takes at least 5-6 hours. Be sure to do the Shuttle Launch Experience and see all of the Hi-Def movies included in the ticket price (BTW a ticket is good for 7 days if you can fit that in with a shorter cruise than our 7 day or if you want to go for a couple of days pre- or post-cruise.
Embarkation: Pretty fast and flawless except when they directed us to the front of the area because of my wife's hip problem and then forgot about us when it came to the required assistance to get on the ship. Minor delay. As queried before: WHY don't they take your picture at the check in desk??? Why delay everyone at the ship portal??? WHY??
THE GOOD: We unexpectedly found that most of the cruise was great after fretting about some of those reviews of the Dream on CC mentioned earlier. No smells at all even though I have a sensitive nose, walked both fore and aft on even and odd sides of many decks and we were in a cabin on one of the "reported affected areas" on the 2nd Deck. Service in the Scarlett dining room was impeccable. Lines in the Lido were sporadic and of course worst at peak dining times. I seldom waited more that 5 minutes at the Mongolian Wok and even less at the buffet by simply not going there when there was a long line. Sandwich lines can be a problem more often unless you also time it right! Comedy club was quite good and a must see but Carnival brings on 2 comedians for a day or two and they each do a PG and adult show and then usually get off and 2 new ones come on at another port. On the last part of our cruise we missed Costa Maya because of winds and tides so we did not get a total of 6 as we might have. So the specific comedians you get on your cruise is a matter of scheduling fairy luck. We had a total of 4 different comedians and some were great(Al Ernst) and others not so much....so go to the very crowded, small Burgundy lounge early to find out if you want to stay for the entire show. Carnival entertainers are top notch and lead singers, Heather Wagner and Lawrence Neals are true professionals and really the best we have had since our first of our 8 cruises starting in 2006. Dancing in the Street is not to be missed and staging is Broadway quality; so get there really early and sit on the main floor. There is so much other good that it cannot all be listed: Sushi Bar---NO WAIT more than a few minutes for us regardless of other reviews that scared us about this desired treat. Mongolian Grill...just time your arrivals... particularly light on port days. Carnival Legends show.........passengers audition during the cruise to portray past singers give a stage performance on the last evening.....Do Not Miss this as some are unbelievably good. Todd the Cruise Director was good but not very visible on the ship and he is now off for a 6 mo. vacation. Amy (6'4") who you can't miss is taking over as Asst. CD and she is very good. John Heald, Carnival's senior cruise director, was on this cruise. I recognized and met and talked to him twice but he was otherwise invisible and did not contribute to the cruise experience unfortunately.
THE BAD: Very little other than the occasional nasty urge to find out who designed certain parts of the ship and do bad things to their futures as ship designers. The passenger flow on the Carnival Dream is terrible in a few specific areas which explained to us where some of the bad reviews came from. The location of the beverage dispensers in the Lido buffet in the Aft section of the ship leaves an aisle of about 6 inches when the line for the buffet combines with the line for beverages and then people try to go by in both directions through this small, small gap at peak times; speaking of meeting your cruise neighbors face to face, cheek to cheek (so to put it) etc.!!!! Traffic design at the beverage dispensers also is unusual and vexing to guests who after getting a glass and filling it must pass by the coffee cups to get ice that is next in line while contending with the people who want coffee cups to fill at the station past the ice dispenser (????)are cutting them off......If that sounds confusing, wait until you experience this gridlock event in the Aft section of the Lido buffet where there is that line for the buffet and the pedestrians just trying to get by or even at the dispensers in the mid Lido section: really, terrible and incompetent traffic design that is the cause of a lot of the comments you read about: "Long lines and crowding". The large screen TV and Laser Shows are disappointing and I agree with others who say that Carnival relies on that screen too much even including showing movies during the day (?) for all of the 20-30 people who are participating in this on this 4000+ capacity ship. Laser shows are a thing of the past and not quite right on a ship moving at 18-22 knots that diffuses the mist necessary to see the lasers properly. And the VOLUME!!! Either don't attend the shows, take earplugs or have your hearing loss checked after the "event". Whoo Hoo, Pink Floyd for all of 10-15 minutes!
Carnival is also stuck in linear thinking in the design of the Lido Buffet, quite unlike the food station designs we found on RCL ships. It is very inefficient and causes the lines to get longer when people who don't want every single one of the salads have to wait in the line for those who seem to want a spoon of each one. I hereby confess that I am one to skip ahead if there is a reasonable gap and suggest others do the same quickly and courteously.
You will find as several others and we have already that the design of Deck 3 is plain maddening. Look carefully at the deck plan as the Galley blocks off access on Deck 3 from the center elevators......and if you are assigned to the Scarlet dining room don't expect to get to the Encore lounge for a show on the main floor on deck 3 either. I heard from others that this design is typical of Carnival ships but this was our first experience on Carnival.
Warning to ladies: Ladies Room outside the Scarlet dining room is so small (so I was told to write but do not have personal experience) that it suffers from gridlock.... and you may not make it out of there!!!at least in a timely fashion. I personally witnessed women not being able to enter while waiting for wife who later explained that she and others in there couldn't get past others to get out. The waiting area outside the lower Scarlet DR is so small that it gets very hot when crowds arrive there is nowhere to go because of that galley wall.......Oh, and don't expect to have aisles in the middle rows of that particular DR either. HINT: go to the extreme sides of the room where you will find an aisle to the stern tables. This does not happen in the Crimson DR or in the upper Scarlet DR.
To end: The Dream is OK and some parts are GREAT!! But overall it is not a spectacular ship and as a stockholder I hope and wish that its' design will NOT be repeated in the successor ships without thorough crowd control redesign in the halls, Atrium, Deck 3 and the Lido buffet. Yes, it is true that the Dream does groan in even moderate seas when cruising at speed and the thrusters do actually resemble the Space shuttle launch experience if you happen to be in the bow or stern during docking. MOST OF ALL: We still had a terrific time AND Cruising IS better than working or even staying home for us retired folk.