EMBARKATION is a breeze. We arrived @ Port Canaveral (Terminal 10) around 11am and were onboard the ship having lunch in less than 45 minutes. DEBARKATION was also very quick.
THE SHIP is big, but not very well thought out in design. Carnival has a bad habit of designing ships with bottleneck areas, dead ends or you have to go up one level to cross over and then back down a level. It's not a deal breaker by any means, it just interrupts your flow enough to never really get a good grip on how to get around the ship. This ship has many beautiful areas, but Carnival still managed to throw in some of their gaudy styling like weird yellow glass.
OTHER REVIEW COMPLAINTS: I did catch a whiff of the sewer smell others mentioned in their reviews, but it's not overpowering. The lines were typical of a cruise ship and only embarkation day was crowded. In the longest line I experience while on board, I may have waited 6-8 minutes... and I was in line ALOT. I had no trouble with baggage, my cabin Stewart was fine and the waiters were always friendly. However, this is one area I found disappointing. I did not think our waiters had the memorable personalities of staff from previous cruises. They got the job done, but I honestly can't remember their names, and they never seemed to remember mine either. We had a party of 10 and the dining room management is VERY big on having your party arrive at the same time before serving you. Kinda upset me on a few days when we were trying to make it to a scheduled event after, but again not a deal breaker. I just don't think I should be held accountable for my table mates timeliness.
THE FOOD was ok, and I usually think that Carnival has the best tasting food of all the cruise lines we've traveled, but sadly for me the Mongolian Wok was awful and had no flavor. For Breakfast, the only meat available for omelets was ham (which was also a bit disappointing) and the onions were precooked, so much of their flavor didn't get mixed into the eggs. The burgers cooked @ the grill near the main pool are very good, maybe the best eating area on the ship. The Mexican Midnight Buffet was the best food experience I had during this trip, don't miss it. I wanted to try Chef Arts Steakhouse, but because the food was so average in the other dining rooms, I was afraid I would not enjoy it (and didn't want to risk the $30/person cover charge). I'm definitely a FOODIE, so this was a big part of the trip for me and it was where I would have most of my complaints. Again, it was average, but less than what I expected from the hype surrounding this new ship.
ENTERTAINMENT was good, but also not what I expected from Carnival. ALL the main shows were very GOOD and the comedy club was ok, but the excitement and energy on the Dream was missing. The water slides were closed most of the time and had strange hours when they were open. The Seaside Theater was barely used. Yes it showed an occasional movie and even the Superbowl game... but it mostly was used to run commercials, warn about saving pool chairs and a few highlights of events around the ship. Would have been nice to have movies or music videos or something entertaining on all the time!!!! Also, I barely saw any bands playing during the day to provide music around the pool, which was a real shame. The pool should have festive music playing all day, especially if the Seaside Theater is not in use. Also, the usual fun stuff like scavenger hunts, pool contests and other stuff just seemed boring on the Dream and I'm pretty sure of why. The staff that normally gets the crowd started was absent this ENTIRE trip. John Heald (the acting Cruise Director) was funny in the theater, but he mostly broadcast his "fun" leadership on the TV's and was not out and about very often with the crowds. This just did not feel like a Carnival "funship".
RUN OUT OF CLOTHES? Be prepared to pay the price. The cost of a washer is $3/load and the same for the dryers. Detergent/Softener is $1.25 each. So to buy detergent, softener, wash & dry ONE load will cost you $8.50. Thumbs down Carnival!!!
THE PORTS & EXCURSIONS were a mix of good and great. Here is a brief summary (for more details, go to my Excursions review): COZUMEL Renting a jeep and exploring the island has been our best experience. We tried the Mayan Ruins this cruise and were disappointed with the long travel time and lack of access to the Ruins. Friends did the Dolphins and had an amazing time.
ROATAN has a very nice shop/mall area built by Carnival. Didn't think the Pirates, Monkeys & Birds Tour was worth the money and would have been better off going to the beach, which is beautiful.
BELIZE was my least favorite port. Cave Tubing was not nearly as exciting as it was advertised to be. Long walk to river from park entrance and limited views once one the river.
COSTA MAYA was amazing and the best port of the entire cruise. Highly advise you to take the 10 minute ($5 round trip) taxi ride to the "downtown" area. Beaches here are gorgeous, restaurants are good and there are ladies everywhere with massage tables. We did a couples massage here @ a cost of $15 each for 1 hour. Back near the pier the prices were about $1 a minute and far more crowded (making it more difficult to relax).
ALL IN ALL the ship is nice, but future ships could benefit from a Royal Caribbean like main promenade. For those of you who have been on RC similar sized "Of the Seas" class ships, you'll know what I'm talking about. The food was ok, but I doubt if experienced cruisers would remember any specific meal. Our kids really enjoyed Camp Carnival and didn't want to leave. I would rather have skipped Belize to stay a full day (and overnight) in Costa Maya. MOST OF ALL, take my review and all others with a grain of salt. Everybody's experience and expectation levels are different, but this is a boat worthy of a visit (maybe even two). I personally expected more having been a past passenger. Carnival has long been our favorite cruiseline because of their "fun" atmosphere, but this ship did not feel like a typical Carnival "Funship". It felt more like Royal Caribbean without all the bells and whistles. What I mean by that is Carnival usually goes out of their way to entertain you. Royal Caribbean give you a bunch of things to entertain yourself, which is fine when you have rock walls, ice skating, flow riders, zip lines and operational water slides... but the Dream has none of this and no exciting staff to make up for the lack thereof , like on other Funships. We miss you Chicken Little & Malcolm in the Middle... wish Carnival had you both on this trip.
On this cruise, we did the Mayan Ruins of Tulum booked through Carnival. We met in the Encore theater and were then escorted to a small boat that had a capacity of about 200 people. The boat ride to the mainland was about 25 minutes and the bus ride to the Ruins was another 25 or so minutes. The Ruins are nice, but not what I expected. The pyramids I was expecting were not at this location, nor could you climb directly on the ruins. Most of them were roped off, so you could not get closer than 5-10 feet. The best part of this tour was the beach area than you have to walk down some pretty steep wooded steps to access. The water is amazingly clear and a gorgeous shade of blue/turquoise. A few natural stones make for great pictures and HUGE Iguana's are everywhere. Our family of 5 spent $400 for this cruise plus tips for the Tour Guide, driver and food at the Ruins. It's not required, but our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the Mayan culture, so we felt a tip was in order. I enjoyed the experience, but I don't think it was worth the money or the long travel time to and from the ship.
We later met for the Pirates, Monkeys and Birds tour. After a 30 minute drive to Gumbalimba Park, we were briefed on what not to do when handling the monkeys and Macaws. The tour also introduces you to 'black' Iguana's and the Pirate culture once found on the island, but it is a very cheesy cave with one statue of a Pirate and fake chests of gold. The tour was advertised as a chance to experience wild Macaw and monkeys, but in truth... this is a rescue missionary habitat and most of the animals have been handled so much that they are just uncaged domestic versions. A few are caged and some have leashes to control their temperament, but it was not really what we were expecting. This is more of a Zoo experience than a wild one. One of the warnings was to remove glasses, jewelry and other shiny objects from your person because the monkeys will try to take them. We were warned that they will try to bite if you resist their attempt to take these items from you and a few fellow tourists did not heed the warning. Needless to say they were part of some entertaining situations, but no one was injured. At the end of the tour you have the option to explore more of the park, zipline, or hang out in a pool near a local eatery. We stayed for a while here with the kids and ordered the Curry Chicken which was FANTASTIC. My only problem was the price of food. Burgers were $10 and so were Chicken tenders and other food that wouldn't run more than $6 in the States. I had a problem with that, but I was hungry and so were the kids... do you think they know that? If we ever visit this port of call again, I would probably stick to just getting a taxi to the beach, hanging out @ Fat Tuesday's and calling it a day. The cost of some of these excursions doesn't match the experience.