We drove up to Port Canaveral from South Florida, about a 3-1/2 hour drive. Embarkation was a breeze, we were checking in at the VIP desk at 11:30am and having lunch on board by noon. Our cabins as promised, were ready by 1:30pm. The ship is beautiful, very well designed, loved the new promenade that opens to deck that goes uninterrupted around the entire ship. The showroom was smaller than others, but was still a good size. We had a Spa Cabin on the 11th deck. It was beautifully designed, very spacious, lots of cabinet and drawer space for our clothes and things. The room has digital combination safe, a refrigerator and a flat screen TV. The beds are very comfortable and the air was always cold and the water was always hot! The ship DID NOT SMELL! Not a sniff of anything but good clean air. I honestly don't know where that came from, but if there ever was a smell, it was nowhere to be "sniffed" on this sailing. Cloud 9 Spa was fantastic and very relaxing. We used it every single day usually after returning from ports, or on sea days mid-to-late afternoon before getting ready for the evenings. My only issue with the spa on the Dream was that unlike on the Splendor where we got rubber bracelets and were free to come and go in and out of the spa as we pleased so long as we were wearing our rubber bracelets, on the Dream (and thanks to those on the Splendor that chose to 'share' their bracelets with non-spa cabin guests) we needed to turn in Sail-and-Sign cards, receive a plastic bracelet and a special access card to go in and out of the Spa....every time we went. The negative to that was the waiting in line if others were there to enjoy the spa. Oh well. Didn't stop us from loving the experience!
The food was outstanding. I don't believe any of the six of us had a meal that was not fabulous. Kudos to Carnival in this area for making the dining experience so incredible. Again, with one exception: the lunch menu at the dining room never changed. It was the exact same menu, offering seven or eight different lunch entrees, same desserts...never changed! I cannot comment on the lido buffet with too much details because other than lunch on embarkation day and breakfast on disembarkation morning, we did not eat at the buffet at The Gathering. My husband and I are not buffet people and much prefer the sit-down-and-be-served dining experience.
And so here goes my greatest issue on the Dream, that I had never experienced on any other cruise before, Carnival or other cruise line. The entertainment was horrible!!!! The shows were poor, the singers in all their venues on the ship had lousy voices, the musicians were extremely untalented and the entertainment crew, while making the effort to entertain, simply did not deliver. The entertainment agenda was downright boring. The deck party after sailing one evening was horribly dull, with a 'mardi gras' bead throwing that was fun for about 5 minutes and not so much fun for the next 55 minutes of bead throwing. The much anticipated laser show that everyone talked about was definitely disappointing. It really wasn't much. Carnival really needs to improve here. Other lines, NCL for example is bringing in headliner shows from Vegas (Blue Man Group), RCCL also has a top national show on board the Oasis....Carnival, who is the biggest of all the lines, needs to do something to compete. During the "Dancing in the Streets" show, which I had read in other reviews to be "the greatest show on any ship," I had to use incredible efforts to stay awake and hold my head up. Two things stopped me from both: (A) I was on the front row and (B) the cruise director CHOSE to sit in an empty seat beside me! I hate to say I did this, but the Captain of the ship overheard us discussing their lousy entertainment and I had not choice but to admit it to him!
I am not going to comment on the ports because I have been to all of them many times and there isn't anything special that I need to report. The stop at Nassau was basically worthless as we were only there for a few hours, but it served it's purpose of walking around a bit, stretching out legs and having a few drinks (perhaps a few too many) at Senor Frogs! St. Thomas and St. Maarten both as beatiful islands as ever. We had great weather at both, allowing us to enjoy their beautiful beaches.
Finally, I'd like to clarify some facts/fiction that are often mentioned on CruiseCritic. Lots of things are said, some are true and accurate, others are misleading and do nothing but worry and/or anger people.
Fact: No drinks at Captain's Party. That evening, all drinks, at all bars are $1.00 off. If, however, you are using a Bar Coupon, the $1.00 off does not apply. So if, for example, you buy a martini at $8.99, that night you would pay $7.99, but if you use a coupon and the coupon is worth $5.75, then you pay the difference between $8.99 and $5.75.
Fact: Past Guest Party remains the same as always, with some appetizers and complimentary drinks. You can take from the drinks on the server trays being walked around, or you can order your own drinks, as we did. Bring a few dollar bills and the drinks will flow faster than you can drink them
Fact: Beefed up security and confiscation! I did not witness anyone being questioned, stopped, removed to a side, nothing! Nada, zilch! Perhaps on another sailing during spring break, or even perhaps in Miami, but in Port Canaveral, this fear of death being put on people is 100% inaccurate.
Fact: Platinum guests now only enjoy one complimentary wash and fold per sailing, per platinum guest. On my previous CCL the wash and fold was unlimited. No big deal, we managed with our two complimentary wash and folds (one for each of us) and barely brought any dirty clothes back.
Fact: Platinum guest still get ship pins and gifts (still the picture frame)!
Fact: Sail away party on Friday night at the Burgundy Lounge does serve complimentary drinks, and as in the Past Guest party, you can have their pre-served drinks or order your own. Not too many people know about this party though as it is not terribly advertised in the Daily Caper. I suspect only people reading CruiseCritic know about this party. There was maybe 100-150 people in attendance, if that many.
All in all, we had a fabulous time aboard the Carnival Dream. If they can improve their entertainment, they've got another winner!