We booked our cruise back in Feb '10 through Carnival and waited with much anticipation for the day we were to set sail. We wanted early seating for dinner but were told that only late dining or the new "Your Time Dining" was available. We chose the "Your time" dining and our booking agent with Carnival, who was great, put us on the list for early dining. Several weeks later we received an e-mail confirmation for early dining. Everything appeared to be going to plan!
The morning of embarkation started off smoothly. We arrived at the port around 10:00 a.m., checked our bags with the porter, and went upstairs to check in. We received our Sail and Sign cards and, low and behold, we were scheduled for late dining. Fortunately, later in the day, the head Maitre D' had us scheduled again for early dining! We were told that someone had accidently over-booked early dining by 300 people. Whoops! We came on board around 10:40 and my olfactory senses were on the hunt for the legendary "smell", as mentioned in several previous critiques of this ship. What we found was an unusual odor that was present all around the ship and could be smelled occationally throughout the cruise. I believe the Dream crew was using deodorant in an effort to mask the "odor", but I could not for the life of me define the smell. It was not raw sewage though, that smell came later in our voyage. We made our way up to the Lido deck, found a seat at the starboard Waves bar and decided to get our soda cards before the mad rush. The bartender gladly helped us, rung up our order, and handed me the bill to sign. $101.64!!!! I almost fell off the bar stool. I was expecting $25-$30 a piece, but $50? Are you kidding me? It turns out that Carnival charges $6 a day per adult and $4.50 a day per child, plus an automatic 15% gratuity for the soda card. The lemonade's free.
Around 1:30, the wife and I went up to check on our room, we were excited and couldn't wait! We met our room steward Totok, a great steward by the way, and went to our cabin. It was everything we expected and more, clean and comfortable. We made ourselves at home, unpacked our bags, and went out onto the balcony to survey our surroundings where we were hit in the face with the unmistakable smell of pot! It was coming up from the room below where I believe the cast and members of the show Jersey Shores were staying. These people were already drunk/high and were screaming and yelling from their balcony for amgood portion of the day. We decided to go roam the ship to see what we could see and everything went well the rest of the day and into the evening until it was time to go to bed. All that could be heard were children running up and down the halls, screaming, yelling, laughing, and 900 kids banging around the ship. Oh yeah, you could also hear some of our neighbors in the surrounding cabins slamming the doors to their balconies all night long. The remainder of the trip we had to put the cushions from the couch against the door at night to help keep the noise down. Eventually I drifted off to sleep pretending that horses and elephants were roaming the halls.
The next morning I woke for our first day at sea! I went out onto the balcony to take in views and breathe in the crisp, clean sea air. Instead I got a nose full of pot courtesy of our neighbors below. I eventually cured this little problem myself. Using my outside voice, I yelled to my wife, "Honey, call security, someone out here is smoking marijuana!" We never smelled pot again! The wife and I got cleaned up and ready for our "Fun Day at Sea". We went to the Lido Buffet, grabbed some breakfast. The food in the buffet is rather institutional and bland, but it filled the void and with enough salt, pepper and ketchup it wasn't half bad. The Lido dessert bar was not very good. The cakes were dry and bland, we only went once.
We headed out to explore more of the ship not realizing that the other 4,000 passengers with their 900+ kids all had the same idea. After our attempted scouting mission had failed, we decided to go to "Serenity" on decks 14 and 15 fwd. This is how Carnival describes it on their web site: "Serenity is a tranquil space in a wonderful ocean-going oasis of relaxation and comfort. This adults-only area is available to guests 21 years of age and older and features everything necessary to create the perfect "me-time" moments. Take advantage of the complete bar service provided by attentive waiters as you recline in the sun or under colorful, over sized umbrellas. Feel at ease in the separate shaded area. Or, enjoy a lovely dip in one of the beautiful whirlpools. All this, while listening to a variety of soothing music. So cater to your need to relax and take in the ocean view, while enjoying the comforts of this kid-free haven." Yeah right! I don't know what part of the ship they're talking about, but you couldn't squeeze a piece of paper between all the people crammed onto the decks up there. There were soaking wet kids running around trying to find parents or get to the water slides, the thumping music from the Lido Pool drowned out all noise, I never heard soothing music playing, and the bartender looked as if he were one step away from throwing himself overboard to escape "Serenity"! Eventually the wife and I joined the Cloud 9 Spa for $240 just so we could get away from it all. It's a member's only section of the Spa with locked doors between you and the thundering herd.
Overall, we had fun despite the kids, but we were very, very disappointed. What we wanted from this cruise was to be able to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle, but we found chaos and insanity instead. Nearly every couple that we became friends with, ate with, or went on excursions with said the same thing, "Too many people with too many unsupervised kids". We saw kids throwing ice cream cones from the 10th deck to the 5th deck trying to hit the jacuzzi's. We saw kids spitting from the 11th deck to the 3rd deck in the atrium. We found large groups of kids sitting on the stairs in the stair wells not willing to budge or hanging around the computers in large numbers in the "Fun Zone" looking at their Facebook accounts and not letting anyone pass them. I saw one kid with a bullwhip, cracking it from the balcony of his parents cabin. On coutless occasions we found that the elevators either had all the floors selected by the kind groups of kids exiting or kids just lying on the floor of the glass elevators riding them up and down for hours. It was very stressful for us and the crewmembers. I truely feel sorry for them.
I would like to end my review on a good note because all was not gloom and doom. The ship itself was beautiful and magnificent and was bigger than all the other ships we came across. We found the food in the dining room and steak house to be very good and the wait staff would bend over backwards to help you. Our room steward and his staff were fantastic, helpful, and friendly as was a majority of the crew. The members of Cloud 9 spa saved our lives on this cruise and helped us to relax despite all the clatter. We enjoyed the steam rooms, dry saunas, and the Spa's Thalassol pool. The comedians were hilarious and I believe I pulled something in my stomach from laughing so hard. We were able to find a few quiet places on the ship from time to time, usually when everyone was off on an excursion or shopping spree. We also had the opportunity to enjoy the Sunset salt water pool on the aft Lido deck during our stay in Roatan. Will we cruise on this ship again? Never. Will we ever cruise with Carnival? Doubt it. Can I get my wife back on a cruise ship again after this last weeks adventure? I don't know, I hope so. Time will tell. Sometimes bigger isn't always better.