The Carnival Dream is a huge new ship, first setting sail in September 2009. It is beautiful and clean. The employees were friendly - including our room steward Abe from Indonesia. However, we found the ship to be too large.
With 4000 passengers, too much of the space was for the cabins and too little for entertainment. One floor alone was dedicated to children/teenagers, featuring not one but three dance clubs, a play area and a video arcade. The adult entertainment area included one comedy club (which doubled as a karaoke bar - kids were allowed), a Miami style dance club "Caliente" and a piano bar "Sams".
The Encore theater was small, not nearly big enough for the many passengers and if we wanted to get a decent seat (there were not many due to the poor lay out), we had to make sure we arrived at least 40 minutes before 'showtime'. The shows were not the Vegas style that we expected from the cruise line. Only two singers were showcased each and every show and in the words of Simon Cowell, it sounded at times like bad karaoke. We did manage to see three shows that we thoroughly enjoyed - a magician, hypnotist and a southern comic from Dalton, Georgia. Also, Fun Force (a group of 5 break dancers) were very entertaining. We watched a preview of a show in the Atrium and they were amazing.
Past cruises offered a wide variety of yummy food but once again we were disappointed. The dining room had 'open seating', (meaning we didn't have an assigned time for dinner) and it always took no less than two hours. Though it was called 'open seating', we had the same waitress every evening, which meant that although tables may be available, if our waitress was busy, we had to wait until they had a table to be seated. Friday evening it took four of us over an hour to get a table, 20 minutes more to get hard bread and another 10 minutes to be served water. After one and a half hour, we still had not placed our orders.
The dining room staff usually entertains with song and dance but they did not on the Dream.
They served the same foods on the Lido deck that they had in the dining room. (With the exception of lobster tail and ribs, which was served one evening.)
There is usually a large grand buffet in the dining room on Friday evening, complete with beautiful ice and fruit 'sculptures', but, again, we didn't have one on the Dream.
The sun decks were always packed. Although Carnival states that the cruise line has a rule that chairs are not to be 'reserved' for more than 40 minutes or your belongings will be removed, the rule was not enforced. We were only able to enjoy the sun for a couple of hours on Thursday.
At times the smell on the ship was horrible, reminding us of a hot humid day on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. The stench was awful. Must be a problem with the exhaust/ventilation system.
On past Carnival cruises, we always had difficulty decided what we wanted to do. Too many choices, not enough time. We retired to our cabins early every night because there simply wasn't anything to do. The Caliente club stayed open until 1 or 2 am every morning, with the exception of Wednesday night. It was closed to the passengers but we could still hear the loud music and feel the bass booming in our cabins til the wee hours of the morning, louder than the white noise from our sound machine.
Sam's piano bar was neat. The bar (which sits circular around the rotating piano) was decorated just like large keys on a grand piano. Beautiful, but after listening to several minutes of ad libbing lyrics to familiar songs, the 'entertainer' became obnoxious. (My bologna has a first name . . . )
One of the advertised perks of the Carnival Dream is a mega screen on the lido deck by the pool. Although I enjoy listening to some Marvin Gaye, Beyonce and Sheryl Crow, I do not want to spend an evening on a cruise watching an old pre-recorded two hour concert. Friday they played the same movies all day long that had been shown previously during the week.
Gratuities were automatically deducted every day from the account used on the Sail and Sign card. $140 for a cabin for two people. That was only for room service (the BLTs were delicious and the ham & cheese sandwiches were pretty good) and the room steward.
We spent a little bit of time in the casino. When you play a slot machine, you insert your Sail and Sign card. You can charge money to your account and add your winnings to your account but you are not given a receipt. We stopped wasting our money because our winnings (though not a lot of money) were not showing on our account. We had no way of proving that we had won so we were out of luck. Another disappointment.
The one band on the Dream that we enjoyed listening to was the Blackjack Band but they did not get much exposure. We enjoyed listening to them in the Ocean Plaza, a tiny space between the Sushi Bar and casino.
The most fun we had on board was during the deck parties. We had one that lasted about an hour and a half on Saturday night and again on Thursday evening. Lots of fun dancing and listening to the Blackjack Band but the party did not last nearly long enough.
On the Carnival TV channel, they mentioned that we only had 300 children on the ship during the week but starting the following week, they would have approximately 1100 children on each cruise. We are very happy we chose to cruise the week of May 8. If we wanted to spend our time with a bunch of children, we would travel on the Disney cruise line.
I will say that we are really pleased that Carnival has changed the procedure for the safety drills. You no longer have to take your life jacket with you to your muster station. That is a definite plus. Also, both the embarkation and the debarkation process was quick and easy. We will be taking a Carnival cruise in the future but NEVER again on a mega ship.
Of all of the ports we visited, St Martin was our least favorite. It is a very difficult island to get around. We would recommend renting a vehicle only if you have several people travelling with you, as most areas are unsafe and run down.
Port Canaveral was our port of call for embarkation and debarkation. The workers were extremely friendly and polite, making for a smooth transition on and off the ship. If you have an hour or two to spare for lunch or dinner, make sure you stop by Grillz Restaurant. Last year it was featured on the Today Show on NBC. The grilled Mahi Reuben sandwich is delicious!