Review of the Carnival Dream sailing on 5-1-10 (It is a long review and we specifically addressed previous negatives in the section at the end.)
We are a couple in our 50's and 60's who cruise 3-4 times a year, always on Carnival. This was our 12th cruise with Carnival. We picked the Dream because we like the big ships and this was the biggest and newest so we booked it. We were a little discouraged after reading the bad reviews, but overall the negative comments seemed petty so we were sure we would have a great cruise. We cruise to be together, rarely go to games or shows, preferring instead to just spend time together for the most part. We do not lie out in the sun so chair hogs are not a problem for us. This was the Western itinerary going to Cozumel, Isla Roatan, Costa Maya and Belize. We had previously been to all the ports except Isla Roatan. We started our trip on Wednesday driving down to Syracuse NY to stay overnight for our early morning flight on DELTA. Flight was uneventful and we landed in Orlando on schedule with all our luggage. We rented a car from Thrifty to drive to Canaveral, use until cruise day and drop off and catch their shuttle to the port. ($118.00 for 2 days unlimited mileage - booked direct on their website, we had a Dodge Grand Caravan) We arrived in Canaveral (about 35 minute drive) and went to our hotel Radisson at the port. Great hotel, we booked a 2 room Jacuzzi suite for the two nights ($143.00/night for two nights booked directly with the hotel) Great location, close to all the rental car places, stores and liquor stores nearby for last minute purchases. Plenty of places to eat as well.. Thursday night we ate at Fishlips, a sports bar/resturant/outdoor eatery. We got the fish fry which was $12.50 each and huge portions. The other menu items (fish) were all in the $25-$35 price range with nothing in between. On Friday we went to the Kennedy Space center but didn't go in - they wanted $100 for both of us to get in and included, rides and special tours we didn't want. We just wanted a museum. We were told, it was all or nothing - pay the price and spend the entire day there or don't go. (The Space center is outsourced to a tour company we were told) We ended up at the Astronaut Hall of Fame which was great, just what we were looking for.; ($18.00/person) Friday evening we met our Cruise critic group at the Radisson for a meet and greet (we had several things planned with the roll call members)
SAT - EMBARKATION DAY - Dropped our rental car off and they took us to the port free. Radisson has a shuttle but they don't run it until 11:30am and that is too late for us. We ignored the call we got from Carnival telling us to get there between 1:30pm-3:00pm - done that before, it's a nightmare, we like early. Incidentally, everyone got the call to be there at that time like it was a special time for them, wrong. Luckily we went between 10:45am and 11:00am. We have priority boarding as we are Platinum, and that went fine. The ship is big and beautiful. Very clean, no smells that we noticed. We had an aft balcony 7467. Very nice with a nice size balcony. The aft cabins seem bigger on the Dream than previous ships we have had aft cabins on.. Our ship stewards were Jose & Koko and they introduced themselves that first day, learned our routine and everything was to perfection in our cabin all week. Had lunch on the Lido - hubby went to the Deli and had a sandwich (no wait at 12:30pm) I had the buffet and waited on no real line either. It was a little close with everyone walking around carrying luggage, but this improved after the rooms were ready. We are not Spa people per se, but we decided to try the spa package to use the steam rooms and thallo pool at $249.00/couple for the week. While the facilities were very nice, there was so much else going on throughout the ship that we managed to get up to the Spa once in the 7 days. (Certainly not very cost effective for us --$124 each for one visit- therefore we would not buy into the spa again, although if you use it a lot, it would be very nice.) Safety drill was painless - no more dragging and donning germ infested life jackets and standing like sardines in the hot muster stations. Went to the dining room where an employee demonstrated the life jackets and told us where to go. The only down side was the fact that even though we cruised 12 times, this is the first time we left the drill, not really sure where to go and since we didn't actually go to the station itself, we didn't really know where it was. We had early dining 6pm and we requested a table for two that we had. Our waiter were Punta and Julie at table 461 in the Lower Scarlett Dining room. All the food we had in the dining room for the entire cruise was great. (for that matter everything we ate on the ship was great)
SUN - SEA DAY This was our first full day on board and a sea day. We arose early and had ordered room service for breakfast as is our tradition to eat on our balcony. Arrived when we asked for it and everything was in order. We spent the morning exploring the large beautiful ship. Everything is new and nice. We found it easy to navigate as it is laid out like the other large carnival ships with the 5th deck Lanai being the key to getting from the front to the back. You can also walk the outside Lanai deck all the way around the ship as well as use the promenade inside to get from front to back. You can also do this on any of the cabin decks, just not the public decks with the dining room blocking the middle) The gym is in the front and is separate from the "Spa package/cabin" areas and free. It seemed smaller than other ships and every time I was up there the machines were all in use. I never had to wait but it does seem a little small for the amount of guests on the ship because much of the room is taken up by the "pay for" spa area. Waterslides were opened most of the day, everyday (until 6pm) and were a lot of fun. We did go down them and the twister slide is very nice. The big drainpipe slide is a little harder on an out of shape person in their 50's as the landing in the drainpipe itself is unpredictable and you do end up being tossed around in the drainpipe area. It is also difficult to get your footing to get out of the drainpipe once you come to a stop. The twister slide is great for all but I would not advise anyone with neck or back problems to try the drainpipe slide. We specifically observed the buffet areas to check for the lines everyone complained of in previous reviews. Our observation is we never saw any lines in the aft part of the Gatherings buffet dining room. We had an aft cabin so we mostly went down the elevator and ended up in the back part of the buffet dining area where there were never any lines. We were there eating breakfast between 8am and 9am several days on the cruise and we walked up to empty omelet stations with no lines and no lines at all for the buffet. (I do believe everyone crowds in the part of the buffet dining area closest to the middle of the ship (and mid pool) and they never realize that the other half is empty) Therefore all week we waited on not one line. We even were up there at 12 noon and waited on no line. (I do a picture review on Smug Mug and I took several pictures of this in our cruise journal www.susanrita-cruising.com) This was the day that our cruise critic roll call group had planned a private party with Carnival with an open bar from 1pm to 3pm in the Song Lounge. We never really knew you could do this or what it would cost so here is the info. One of our group on the roll call was in charge of this. She contacted carnival and made all the arrangement ahead of time. It cost $33.00 a couple and was open bar. We figured they would give us one bartender and it would be hard to get any specialty drinks. That was not the case. There were about 5 bartenders and there was no wait for drinks - you could order any drinks and they made it for you. It was a great deal, we thought. It was a great time and we drank so much we ended up sleeping through our 6pm dining time in the dining room. We hate dressing up on vacation and tonight was "elegant night" so we didn't feel like we missed anything. We went to the buffet instead this evening. We did miss the first Slot tournament that we usually go to because it was the same time as this party.
MON - COZUMEL We always go to Nachi Cocam beach club in Cozumel - it is not offered through Carnival so we took a taxi there. $49.00/person through Island Marketing and it is open bar (drinks are not strong at all here) and food to order is included. Manuel was our waiter for the day as he was in previous trips here. He remembered us and we had a great time. They have a pool as well as nice beach and you could buy "extras in the way of massages, snorkeling trips, rent jet skies, and parasailing) We did not do anything extra, just relaxed. We ate in the dining room tonight and food as always was good. We have heard bad things about the dining room but our experience was great. Food was served promptly and was hot when it should be and cold if it was supposed to be. The waiters did seem to have a lot of tables to wait on and were often "running around" but everything was great for us. One thing we noticed was no singing waiters every night. This is a good thing as far as we were concerned. We always thought that singing waiters EVERY night were a bit much and distracted from the dining experience so we never liked it and on previous cruises fled the dining room as soon as they "flashed the lights" to signal the start of the singing. One night is OK but not every night. We were glad they changed this. One thing we did notice is that the table are so close together, it is difficult to walk in the dining room when everyone is seated. There is no room to walk and you had to disturb people to move their chairs or stand so you could pass by. For this reason, we were often bumped when waiters passed and with the closeness, entire filled trays were passed over your head frequently. Drinks orders are taken by the waiters and better coordinated and drink orders were filled promptly (a problem on previous ships we were on) We went to the casino tonight for the first time. The casino is huge, takes up both sides of the ship and is noticeably larger than on even the other large carnival ships. Gambled here playing video poker and won some and lost some - never felt cheated and did have fun. They use the cashless system for gambling now completely so no more barrels of dirty quarters. A woman did win $10,000 on one of the slot machines during the cruise. Also since most of the casino is smoke free, it was very nice for non smokers (us). The did have a small smoking section and no smoking was enforced well throughout the rest of the casino.
TUESDAY - Isla Raotan - We had no excursions here and had planned to get off the ship just to go to the beach at Mahogany Bay. Not sure what the problem was here, but we were unable to dock at Mahoney Bay. The captain made an announcement but it is difficult to hear announcements in the aft cabins and we heard only part of the announcement when we opened our door to hear it. It didn't seem that windy so it might have been currents that were the problem. They did cancel and refund people who had carnival excursions related to Mahogany Bay (cabanas) but all other excursions from Carnival went from the Town Center where we did dock. People with private tours had some problems because we were now docked somewhere else but it is a small island and word spread quickly. I do believe that the private tour groups did get word and came to the new location. Because of the change the Captain stayed in port 1 extra hour so everyone could have more time here. We got off the boat just to go to the small shopping area and got back on - not much to see here and no beach. Tonight we went to the Dancing in the Streets show that everyone raved about in previous reviews. We are not show people and this was the first time we went to a show (we have never been to one in our previous 12 cruises) We got there early (45 minutes) as there were issues with getting seats we were told. We went right from the dining room (6pm dinner) to our room and then went to the theater. Got seats easily on the second level (Our preference - it seemed like you would not see as much on the main level) They did dance in the main level in the audience so we were glad to be on the second level. Not sure if carnival was policing this, but we did not see people blocking and saving rows of seats that have been previously reported. The show was very good and there is certainly a lot of talent there with all the performers.
WEDNESDAY - BELIZE - Woke up today and the cabin seemed very hot in the morning. Later we found out that the air conditioner went down on the ship at 4:30am. It was up and running by 7:30am and we all received letters about what happened in our cabins later in the morning.. We have been to Belize before and we were not impressed. We made no plans to get off here and had planned to use it as a sea day. This is a tender port and a short time here so there were a lot of announcements in regard to the tendering off the ship. Did not hear any complaints about the process around the ship. We used today to go the "spa for our steam room and thallo pool" since we paid for it. Like I said, it was nice but this was the only time we went. The ship itself has a lot of whirlpools that were always pretty empty so we used them instead of going to the spa. As we said the extra fee was wasted on us. We also went in the pools today in the afternoon. It did seem like a lot of people did not go into Belize today (probably because of the tendering and short time here) THURSDAY - COSTA MAYA - Again, been here before (before it was rebuilt after the hurricane) and did not plan any excursions here. We docked here and just got off to look around. A very nice port area with 2 pools and beach area. We find the beaches in Costa Maya to be not as nice as other beaches in the Caribbean especially in the way of clean water and sandy bottom. Costa Maya tends to have weedy bottoms and a lot of coral on the beaches. We did not go in their pools as we returned to the ship and went in the ship pools. Tonight was the past guest party in the theater . Early seating guests were at 3:45pm and late seating was 8:15pm. Usual free drinks and finger foods. We did receive ship pins as we were Platinum, but the regular past guests did not receive them. We did see bigger, different pins for sale in the gift shop. Since we ate and drank at the party, we really weren't hungry so we skipped the dining room tonight (not a sacrifice as it was dress up night again.) We ate at the buffet at 8pm and again, no lines at all in the aft buffet area.
FRIDAY - SEA DAY - This was the second slot tournament (we missed the first because of our private party) and we used it to relax. We made a point to eat at the Lanai barbecue today for lunch. It was good, but not our favorite. There was also a chocolate extravaganza at lunch on the buffet that was not advertised at all. It seems to be a secret and by the time we found out it existed, we had already eaten. Look for it across from the Mongolian wok on the last sea day. There was a farewell party at 5pm today with free drinks for an hour
SATURDAY - Debarktation - Painless, we had zone one because of Platinum status and we were off the boat by 7:30pm. Everyone else seemed to be getting off quickly as well. There was a curious thing with this Port. We travel a lot and go through customs a lot. Always, including previous cruises, we had to have all our luggage in our possession when we went through customs and handed them our form. They then could open and go through the luggage if they wanted to. If there was a problem, possession of the bag implied you were aware of everything in in. On the Dream we went through customs with only our carry on luggage and then went to get our luggage. When we had our luggage, we were done, we never brought it through customs. I do know they scan luggage with drug sniffing dogs etc but it was strange to go through customs without you luggage although it made the line go much faster.
As for the specialty places to eat: Mongolian Wok - this is the mid buffet area where we rarely were and we didn't try it because there were plenty of other places to eat - we saw some short lines when we walked through at this area. On the last sea day of the cruise, we saw the most lines and there were about 15 people in line for this area during peak lunch time. Pizza - We are used to this being in the aft area on other ships but on the Dream it is around the mid pool where we never got a chance to try it - did not really see lines when we passed. Deli - This was in the aft area and we never saw too many people on line. Had sandwiches here and they were delicious. Tandoor Grille - this Indian food place was in the aft pool area and rarely looked crowded. We have never had Indian food and it smelled a bit spicy so we didn't try it. We didn't hear anyone complain about the food here. Hamburger grille - right by the mid pools and we saw very short lines here. Hamburgers/fries/hot dogs/etc. We ate here once and it was very good. (12 noon on the Belize day and there was no one there for a line so I walked up and got my food) On the last sea day at peak lunch time there were about 15-20 people waiting for this area but the line moved fast. Burrito station - Good, lines not to bad - Mexican food is not our favorite so we didn't eat here but others reported good food here. Lanai barbecue - Ate here once as it is only opened on sea days and we made a point to eat here on the last sea day. It was good. The down side was it was so windy that day we couldn't sit outside and just like the incredible annoying wind on the side balconies, the side Lanai was no different. Inside seating was full so we took our food up to the regular buffet area and sat there. Although not very bad, the sea days had more noticeable crowds but nothing worse than other ships we have been on. Pasta station - hands down this is the BEST eating on the ship. Order when you arrive and hand your paper to the cook and sit down. Within 5 minutes, delicious pasta made to order. We did lunch here, 3 out of the 7 days and had to force ourselves to try different eatery places because this would be the only place we would eat in - good every time. NOTE: They have drinks up in the pasta area but no desserts - they are down the stairs at the buffet area. This means when you are finished with eating your pasta, if you want dessert, you have to go downstairs to get it and bring it up or find a table downstairs to sit at. After the first day we solved this by getting dessert and bringing it upstairs to the pasta bar to eat when we got done. Buffet itself - like we noted we ate here breakfast a couple of time - lunch once or twice (when we weren't at the pasta bar) and dinner twice. Standard carnival buffet - plenty of different selections, everything was good. We missed the Chocolate extravaganza that was not advertised and in the mid part of the buffet area on the last sea day. It is across from the Mongolian wok station and easily missed. We had already eaten but we did look at it. They had a lot of chocolate and chocolate related things.
General observations and addressing previous complaints:
Gym- Because of the room needed for the "pay for Spa" the free gym area with the machines is very small, in fact it is much smaller than any previous Carnival ship we have been on. With more people on the ship, if you get a group that uses the gym a lot, you will seriously have big waits for machine. Luckily, there was not a lot of "gym" people on our cruise.
Spa package for non spa cabins - Bought the spa couples package for the week at $249./couple. Would not do this again. While the Spa, thallo pool, and saunas were wonderful, there was so much to do we only made it up to the Spa once. This makes our one visit cost $124 / each.. There are plenty of whirlpool all around the ship, many times they are empty. We just never got a chance to go up there. If you are a spa/sauna person you will love it, we just didn't use it enough to offset the expense.
Internet - The packages actually got cheaper than they have been on previous cruises. We usually buy 240 minutes to use with our laptop. It was $89.00 this time (previously it was $100). That used to be the most you could buy. They did add a 480 minute package for $159.00. Internet wireless was available throughout the ship and they had FunHubs in several prominent places instead of a internet cafe hidden away and hard to find. The wireless worked great in our aft cabin and several carnival sites were free to use without using your minutes. The speed is actually faster than our DSL hughes.net at home (which is terrible), but if you are used to roadrunner, you will think it is slow. I did upload many pictures and it is much faster than the past.
Smells - We did not small anything problematic during the week. We have been on 12 cruises and there is always a fleeting smell if the wind is blowing just right. For us the worst ship we were on for this was the Victory. The Dream was free of bad smells and I was looking for them because it was so covered in the reviews. Once I think I got a vague whiff of something as I was climbing the staircase to the slides when we were docked in Belize. Personally, it is a ship and I really think people do not stop to think that Carnival has to treat the sewage onboard and there is probably smells from time to time that are generated. As we said, we smelled them at various times on all ships
Crowds and lines - Did not find a problem here at all. Maybe we are just on a different schedule that other people but this was not a issue for us. Like I said, I actually took pictures to illustrate this. We found plenty of seats in the buffet areas in the aft part of the buffet dining room. Walked up and got omelets even at 9am in the aft buffet and there was no one on line. There were plenty of workers in the buffet area and tables were cleaned promptly. The last sea day there were more people and we saw some light line ups at lunchtime but no worse than other ships we have been on. Sometimes there was congestion by the elevators like going down to deck zero to get off and on the ship or times when the dining rooms were just opened or a show got out. We used the stairs or just walked to a different bank of elevators.
Size of the ship - We loved the big ship and found it was good for "incidental exercise" as you walked the length of the ship. It is noticeably larger than even the size class of ship right below this one. I do think this would not be your ship if you had mobility problems as it is larger and there is more a hike to get places. They have also crowded a lot of tables in the dining room and buffet areas making it tricky to navigate if you were in a wheelchair or scooter. There were a few scooter and wheelchair people on board that we saw but not a lot. We were also lucky in that it is not a time that a lot of kids were out of school so there were only a few kids on board and they were well behaved. We did see unsupervised kids in various places that were behaving but were putting themselves in some danger. Several times we saw kids in the Lanai whirlpools either alone or with just another kid (both looked about 9 or 10) using the whirlpools alone. While well behaved, it is still risky for children as they were diving under the water. There seemed to be no employees in the area of the Lanai whirlpools when they were open which is probably risky.
Luggage - We locked our checked luggage and it arrived unopened without any tampering. We did not smuggle anything on board but we had on suitcase with a lot of liquid mouthwash, shampoo, etc and no one called us down to open it. We had a battery operated fan in our carry on luggage that was not looked at or questioned. We brought 2 - 12 packs of soda and 2 bottles of wine in our carry on (the allowable amounts) and they were neither looked at or questioned. We also had a outlet converter with extra plugs that was not questioned. Some people in our cruise critic roll call did have beer confiscated from their checked luggage. It was my understanding that they had cases of it in their checked luggage. We did also hear of people having liquor in their checked luggage in liquor bottles confiscated. They had zip ties on their luggage that were cut and a note was left in their luggage. Like I said, we had TSA locks that were not touched.
Drink coupons - We bought the drink coupons from Bon Voyage that we always buy for cruises. They have always been worth $5. 95 and in the past a pina colada or special drink cost us nothing extra. This has always been inconsistent with some people who said they were charged the difference. I had 8 coupons I bought and 50% of the time, my coupon was charged nothing extra for a pina colada. 25% of the time I was charged $1.95 extra and 25% of the time I was charge $3.95 extra. This was all for the same drink in the same glass. The pool area charged the most.
All and all, this was a wonderful cruise. We would love to cruise on the Dream again as it was a wonderful ship. I really had to think hard to come up with any negatives for this cruise, it was a great cruise.