ABOUT US... We are a family of 5 (40/34/17/8/5) who love to travel. We have sailed with Carnival (3x), Royal Caribbean (Explorer), NCL (Pride of Hawaii) and Princess (Coral). I will try to be brief with our experience:
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.