Carnival Dream 3/20/10 - 3/27/10 Western Caribbean Review.
For review purposes we live locally about an hour north of the port. I am 41 and the wife is 45.
3/19/10 We stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott about a mile and a half from the port. This hotel is decently priced and offers shuttle service to the port. The rooms are fully equipped with kitchen, dishwasher, all the comforts of home in a 1 or 2 bedroom suite accommodation. We stayed in a 1 bedroom with 2 queen beds and the beds were absolutely comfy.
The next day we packed up our car and drove the short distance over to the port to drop bags and get checked in. Parking is $15.00 per day when parking at the port. The Marriott Courtyard on Cocoa Beach has a special rate where you can park your car at the hotel and shuttle over to the port. I believe the Residence Inn also has a similar rate. Again the parking is $15.00 per day so a grand total of $105.00 for parking. HINT: Get to the port about 12:30-1 but no earlier than 12:30. The lines were short to get in, but once through security and in the check in queue it was about 15 minutes from entering the line till we were receiving our sign and sail cards. I purchased a category 8G 11254 on the Panorama deck. The cabin was nice and well appointed. However I feel that the balcony was way too small, compared to other cruise lines and more specifically Royal Caribbean with large balconies as well as Princess.
Muster Drill was held in the Encore theatre on Deck 5 Forward. The Encore Lounge Deck 3 4 and 5 forward is the main hub of activity as well as the Burgundy Lounge on Deck 5 aft. Great news you don't need to drag those ugly orange life jackets to muster drill. Yippeeee!!!! A short video and a couple demonstrations and we were on our way to the LIDO Deck for sailaway. As the LIDO deck come to find out was completely packed we opted to head to our stateroom balcony instead.
We had Your Time Dining in the Crimson Dining Room Deck 4 Dream Atrium basically one deck above the Lobby Deck where you embark and disembark the ship. Service was great and food quality was on par with what I expected from Carnival. The Lido buffet however in my opinion left a lot to be desired. I absolutely love the Windjammer on Royal or Cafe Caribe on Princess and this buffet was blah. Don't know whether we hit it on a off night or what. But I think they had all of 2 entrees, some overbaked mushrooms and about 3 selections for desert. The only thing we kept going back for was the yummy frozen yogurt. As a matter of fact it became a nightly tradition. Go to dinner and then head to the Lido buffet for a bowl of yummy frozen yogurt.
Stateroom: 11254 Port Side 8G category stateroom. Ample space for storage of bags and clothes, only real issue was the closets were a bit on the small size. A flat screen t.v. mounted to the wall and a real nice mirror wall light in a stained glass kind of motif. The other issue was you either had all the lights on or you had no lights on. The one light switch basically lit up the entire stateroom. Of course you had smaller bedside lights but it was either all or the small lights. The desk and table lights were good. Ample space for a laptop. (BRING A POWER STRIP)
Ports of Call: WESTERN CARIBBEAN:
COZUMEL MEXICO - BAY ISLES ROATAN HONDURAS - BELIZE CITY BELIZE - COSTA MAYA MEXICO
COZUMEL: What to do in Mexico? Considering this was a spring break cruise with 4,400 folks onboard it was a literal zoo at the Puerto Maya pier. We didn't do a shore excursion here because we've been to Cozumel so many times on previous cruises (15) Previous on various lines. We instead caught a taxi $7.00 PP to Pancho's Backyard in Old Town Cozumel. Pancho's Backyard is just past the main part of Downtown and past the Puerto Longosta pier. Puerto Maya has a Pancho's Backyard but we love the atmosphere and staff better at this original Pancho's location. They make the best Margaritas and the Salsa and chips are wonderful. They have a shop in front where you can buy all sorts of Mexican souvenirs and the crowds are not bad at all. They have a Diamonds Intl and a few other shops next door. It's best to get there about 11:30 or no later than 12. It get's very busy after 12:30-1PM. MAKE SURE YOU STAY ON SHIPS TIME. Cozumel is generally 2 hours behind Eastern Time so just leave your watch on Eastern Time...... Other good places include Senor Frogs and the many other places that line the area in Puerto Maya.
ISLE OF ROATAN HONDURAS: Our absolute favorite Western Caribbean Island besides Grand Cayman. We always use Victor Bodden Tours and for the price they charge you can't beat it with a stick. We had friends that went along with us and we toured the island, visited the Monkey Business at Victors home. You can get right in the cage with white faced monkeys. DO NOT WEAR JEWELRY or other shiny objects including hats or glasses. They are thieves but such lovable thieves. You can tour the entire property including monkeys, macaws, deer and parrots all for $5.00 PP US Cash or Visa/MC. NOTE Victor Bodden tours only takes Cash no Credit Cards or Travelers Checks, so plan accordingly if you use Victor which I highly recommend you do.
We also visited the Iguana Farm and Tabayana Beach Break. Both areas great to unwind, and check out the local's, whether 2 legged or 4 and a great beach to tan on as well. Your tour guide is yours at your disposal for about 4 hours. It's best that as soon as your ship docks to hike through the Mahogany Bay Cruise Terminal and up the hill to meet the Victor Bodden representative. Carnival doesn't want the local tour operators to come in to the cruise terminal, I guess so they can sell you all the shore excursions that don't really hold a candle to Victor Bodden tours. Victor is on sites such as trip advisor and here on Cruise Critic and Cruisemates.
For Beach Activities theirs the beach right at the terminal and then Tabayana Beach Break and West End. You can catch a taxi there albeit I don't know what the prices are exactly. We spent a total of $25.00 PP for a couple of 4 for 4 hours of touring, stop for lunch and beach break and then the cost of $5.00 PP for Monkey business plus tip for your guide and then the Iguana Farm $8.00. They also offer Ziplining and other snorkel activities as well so check out his site victorbodden.com .
BELIZE CITY: Due to an auto accident we had a couple years ago, my calf was acting up and I didn't want to chance it going on the tender and then the extensive walking tour that we had planned, so we stayed on the ship and chilled having a nice Pina Colada and reading a good book.
COSTA MAYA MEXICO: We went on the Mayan Cultural Experience and our tour guide was Ruben. If you go on the Dream make sure you get Ruben!!! He was an absolute blast and kept everyone engaged in the whole tour. Basically we boarded an Air Conditioned Motorcoach and headed north about an hour to a Mayan Village and the home of a Mayan Couple. The tour consisted of getting your photo taken, CANT ESCAPE THE PAPARAZZI. $10.00 per photo, up to you to decide if it's worth it or not. Visit of a mayan ruin and then a tour of this couples home and land which consisted of a crop area, well, bedroom, kitchen, and an outdoor eating area. This tour is an absolute must do. But I caution anyone susceptible to heat to dress appropriately. At the time of our tour it was 4 days into the hot season. And it was hot with a vengeance 90% humidity. The wind was blowing but it was not reaching the ground in the big circle area where the Mayan couple unearthed our lunch from the ground. Basically it was chicken taquito(sp?) in a fresh made corn tortilla, served with either water or Mexican soft drink or beer. The tour was of the grounds and talked about the culture of the mayans and you get to see how the Mayans actually live.... Again the only complaint I had about this tour was really my own lack of preparation for the heat. So be prepared by bringing plenty of water. They provide water and refreshments but keeping yourself hydrated is key. We drove for another 45 minutes back to the Port and you have the option of doing some shopping in the outer shopping area or they will take you all the way back into the port. HELPFUL HINT: Comfortable walking shoes and light clothing and a hat!!!! Small bills are also helpful to get in on some of the bargains.
SHIP HIGHLIGHTS: Must see is the Laser Show on the Lido Pool Deck. On our cruise they were doing Pink Floyd/YES. The show was about 20 minutes long but it was really great. The Comedy shows are also a hoot in the Burgundy lounge Deck 5 Aft. I'm not really into bingo so can't say much about BINGO. Except that they had a lot of Bingo Games going on throughout the cruise. If you like the behind the scenes stuff, Carnival Dream has a behind the scenes tour that you actually get on the bridge and interact with the senior officers. I don't recall the price as we opted to do something else and space filled up. But if you are into that it's a good idea to get booked as soon as you board. Most other ships we've been on and have done the behind the scenes tours you never get on the bridge or other areas which are interesting to us guys, but it is 4 hours long so plan accordingly.
SUN Activities: If laying out and working on your tan is your thing. At varying times through the day the pool deck wasn't overly crowded except the first Sea Day and the Hairy Chest Contest. Chairs and loungers seemed readily available and of course if you were lacking a liquid refreshment, there was always a bar waiter/waitress somewhere nearby to satisfy any of your liquid desires.
CONS: The only real negative I have about this ship is that the crowd control issue was particularly bad. With a culmination of people arriving in the dining entrance and the photo gallery encompassing the entire Deck 4 around the atrium, it was literally a pushing and shoving match. Long lines were around in the early evening and around main traditional dining times 6 and 8:15.
The other negative was the neighbors. Not Carnivals fault but the walls being thin and the doors not having a spring on them to slowly close. The neighbors were constantly opening and slamming their door. I mean like every 20-30 seconds. I thought to myself either go out and stay out or stay in, one or the other. This happened all night long which proved to be quite obnoxious. Called Guest Services a few times but nothing was ever done. I guess it's the luck of the draw, you either get quiet neighbors or you get loud and obnoxious neighbors slamming doors and blaring music at all hours of the day and night.
PROS: Our Room Stewardess Nikki was absolutely great. Always there with a smile and cleaned the room spotless.
New Debark procedure:
Carnival Dream has gone to a Zone Debark procedure. You have of course self assist debark between 6:30 and 7:15 and then Zones between 7:30-10. The only thing I didn't like was that in order to get an earlier debark time you had to show PROOF of an airline ticket to get an earlier time. We like to be amongst the first off the ship, CBP seems happier earlier in the morning. Ha Ha Some of us cruisers are local and have plans, they were quite firm with saying NO at guest services unless I provided a Airline ticket to prove that I had a flight before 12PM.
DINING HINT: Traditional Seating times seem to be the most crowded and service seems to slow down around those times. If you go with YOUR CHOICE DINING arrive right when the Crimson or Scarlet Dining Rooms open for optimum seating.
Overall: We will be back in the Fall to do the Eastern Caribbean Itinerary on this ship. I would recommend this ship to families and couples. Being a bit more subdued and liking Royal Caribbean I would personally be hard pressed in booking a cruise on this ship during this time frame simply due to noise and the excess of rowdy spring breakers. Nothing against them, I just want to sleep when I lay my head down to sleep. I don't want to listen to slamming doors and teenagers shouting about how they are going to use a fake ID to get beer outside my stateroom at 1AM in the morning. Overall the Dream is truly a Dream and Carnival's newest crowning achievement and jewel of the Carnival Fleet. With a few tweaks here and there this ship will assuredly be the most popular ship in the fleet.