Despite several months in service, the Carnival Dream still has some kinks to work out. There is no doubt that the Dream is a large ship; there were 3,999 passengers and 1,400 crew on my Western Caribbean cruise in late January 2010. Many of the issues I saw were related to the number of passengers, and with a maximum capacity of 4,600 passengers and 1,500 crew the problems could be worse.
Let me be clear -- I do not go on vacation cruises to stand in lines. The problem is that Carnival has not figured out how to manage the number of passengers that they pack onto the Dream. Breakfast, lunch and dinner we stood in lines, and it was much the same for the shows and entertainment. We had "Anytime" dining (only 280 passengers did), however there were frequently delays at the hostess's podium as we checked in for dining. One night we were unfortunate enough to arrive just as the dining room was opening, and we stood in line for over 30 minutes as people ahead of us were seated. Bear in mind that tables were set and ready -- as was the wait staff, but there were inefficiencies in the seating process.
Even though our cruise was not at maximum capacity the Encore Lounge was frequently packed. The problem was made worse by the poor planning in the placement of some large structural support columns that obstructed the view from many seats. Leg room in the upper level was at a premium, particularly if you're on the tall side. The shows were larger and glitzier than on smaller ships, and some were excellent, but getting a seat was a challenge. The problem was so bad there was a fight between two women on our cruise. This was compounded by holding Bingo immediately prior to the shows. The same was true of the Encore Lounge and the comedy shows. People would hustle from one end of the ship to the other to get a seat. When a show let out there was always a long line waiting to get in to the next show. Difficulties in crowd management extended to tender operations and disembarkation.
Our balcony stateroom was larger than we have had on a smaller (Princess). The shower was particularly spacious, and the room well appointed. While the room steward was friendly, the halls were frequently cluttered with room service carts and room stewards -- this was something that was conspicuously absent on our recent Princess cruise to Alaska. the staff was friendly, but curt, and not on the same level as that seen on Princess.
"The Smell" was present, however, I only smelled it in the "Serenity" (adults only area) at the bow of the ship, and once on my stateroom balcony. The smell is clearly a raw sewerage odor. Based on what I've read, it was more confined than in the past.
The food was good, but I would judge only the seafood neuburg as outstanding. My wife enjoyed the sushi bar as well as lunch at the pasta bar. These are some of the perks that come with a large-sized ship. On occasion, food was not hot; sometimes warm, sometimes cold (numbers again!)
So would I do it again? Probably not. I did not enjoy the large numbers of people, the crowded Lido deck, and lines. If you like the water slides, outdoor large-screen display, and laser shows, perhaps this is the ship for you, but I think I'll stick to slightly smaller ships.