We just returned from our 7 night cruise aboard the Carnival Dream. After reading many reviews here on cruise critic, we felt we had a pretty good idea of what to expect. We went away from Disney Cruise Line this trip for a change of itinerary. Unfortunately, Disney only offers so many choices and we wanted to change it up. While we loved our ports of call of Cozumel, Costa Maya, Roatan, and Belize, many things about the ship left us without the sadness we always have when disembarking with Disney. I'll give you my honest summary below!
Day 1 Embarkation Very smooth. We stayed at the Radisson and took the shuttle over to the port. We arrived at the terminal, put our bags in the bag "bins", and went inside to check in. Make sure to remember to get your "boarding number" BEFORE you get in the check in line! We were in group 6 and were onboard by just after 11 am. The ship is MASSIVE so make sure you hold on to that little map they give you as you will need it. There are NO directional signs in the ship and the layout is confusing. More on the confusion later. The welcome buffet was average at best. The tea is not sweet and is like that canned Nestea stuff and the lemonade is very sweet. We watered ours down and then it tasted like Crystal Light. The Gathering Buffet is STRANGE the way it is laid out. Right in the middle of the buffets are stations like the Mongolian Wok (which we did not try), and the Burrito Bar (which is kind of like Moe's). Upstairs in the middle of the area is the Pasta Bar which is odd because you have to get a number, order on a piece of paper, and then sit and wait (which we found can take up to 25 minutes or longer for a small bowl of pasta). After lunch, my daughter and husband swam in the pool and found a couple of inconveniences there. First, the pools on this ship are SALT water, which is definitely not as great as DCL's freshwater pools. Second, if you want a towel at the pool, you must show your sail and sign card and "check one out" from the pool hut since Carnival uses these very nice towels out by the pool. You will find them in your stateroom as well, but just know that if you lose one you will owe Carnival $22! Finally, a note about the pool deck. I don't know what kind of material they chose to build it out of, BUT be warned that it gets BLISTERING hot in the sun. You WILL need to wear shoes when walking to and from the pool or you will burn your feet. Also, the pools are average size for a cruise ship of average size, but remember that this ship was carrying 4400 passengers and this made the pools extremely overcrowded. They have tons of hot tubs all over the ship, but who wants a hot tub in 90 degree weather. Poor planning here.
At 1:30 we made our way to our stateroom which was one of the Family OV types. It was VERY spacious. Larger than our stateroom on Disney. Here lies one of the only things we liked better about the Dream when compared to DCL. The bathrooms in this category are split, just like on DCL, BUT the upside is that BOTH sides of the split bath offer a shower (one is a traditional shower and the other is a Jr tub with a shower). This came in VERY handy for us, particularly in days in port. We were very lucky when we arrived at our stateroom to find our bags waiting for us at 1:30. There were still people receiving bags well after 6:00 and some bags were even lost (as noted by the note left in everyone's staterooms). I feel like this is, in part, related to the stupid way Carnival has you tag your bags. No stickers here. You print them at home and have to figure out how to not make them fall off! At 3:00 we went to see the Maitre D to try to change our dining to early seating because the shows on this ship for the late seating don't start until 10:30 and my 8 year old likes the shows. We were told that the ship was at capacity at 4400 cruisers and at that point nothing was available for early seating. They said they would try to work it out for us by the second night but made no guarantees. We ended up going to dinner around 6:30 (early seating is 6:00) and asked if there were any available tables for us. The Maitre D, Drago, was awesome and found us a table. After a few minutes, he came back and asked if we would like this table for the rest of the trip and we were very happy with this. Dinner was good. Our servers were good, just overworked (too many tables for too few staff). They don't really have time on this ship for you to develop a personal relationship with them. The show the first night was okay at best. Entertainment on this ship is definitely lacking. Like Simon would say, very karaoke and the singers would not be getting that yellow paper to "Go to Hollywood."
Day 2 Sea Day If you like Bingo and Trivia, you will be fine with the different activities they offer around the ship. The pool was a zoo and the wait for the waterslide was ridiculous. The casino was nice, but not much winning going on. If you get a chance on this day, attend the casino games class. They teach you about craps and at the end give you a $5 coupon to use in the casino. It's a matching coupon so you have to play $5 of your own money, but you can use it at Blackjack. We used both mine and my husbands and won $30 in about 2 minutes. That was it for us and we quit! Camp Carnival for my daughter could have been so much better. She's an only child so she would take a concrete room to play in as long as there are other kids there. So, she liked the opportunity to play. She said the activities, though, were not great. Mostly just watching movies and playing the computer. Definitely NOT what she was used to on DCL! No science, no cooking, no parties. It's too bad, because the space for the kids is cute and could be really great!
Days 3,4,5,6 Cozumel- Did the Zip Line and Snorkel Adventure Park- Highly Recommend! Short zip line great for first timers, Snorkeling excellent, and felt like our own private resort. Food and drinks great!
Roatan- 2 tank certified dive. Diving was great. Operator (Anthony's)- not so much. Very disorganized for a typical dive operator. Took us nearly 45 minutes to get all the gear on board and off to the site.
Belize- River Wallace and Altun Ha- EXCELLENT but hot! Bring lots of sunscreen AND bug spray. The food at the stop was great. Try the local offering! Very good! Also, my husband says the Belikin beer is very good! The Laser show at sea was this night. We didn't like it. Just a bunch of lights and loud music. I know some people really like it, so it's probably just personal preference.
Costa Maya- supposed to do the 2 tank dive but was cancelled due to heavy surf. We ended up taking a taxi ($8 for 3) to the beach at Mahuahual and were very happy with that decision. At the bar where the bus leaves you off, they really cater to you. At no charge, they set you up with a beach chair right at the ocean and bring you drinks as long as you wish. Also, there are 2 boats tied up right by this area. In the middle of them is a collapsed "dock". It is small, but we saw lots of fish there. Otherwise, you need to book a snorkel trip as there is not much just off the beach. I had a 30 minute beachside massage here for $25 which was great as well! This was one of our favorite days! Also, after taking the cab back ($6 for 3) we swam at the big pool right in the middle of the port shopping area. Very nice touch! Just wish we had more time but had to be back onboard by 2:30.
Day 7 Sea Day Again with the overcrowded pools! Today was the Chocolate Extravaganza at the Lido buffet which made everything that much more crowded. Imagine how crowded it's been for you on other ships when the dessert buffet is late at night, well, this is at 12:00 in the afternoon so EVERYONE goes. And the amount of waste was unbelievable! I ended up waiting to eat lunch until about 2:00 to be able to get anywhere near the food stations. We tried to play mini golf that evening, but someone had to be airlifted off of the ship for medical reasons so they closed off all of deck 12 and 11 which included the golf. Dinner that night was good and try to see the show called Carnival Legends. Very funny!
Day 8 Debarkation Pretty smooth. We were in group 32 so we got up about 7:15 and left our cabin by 8. Ate breakfast in the Crimson Dining Room and were done by around 8:45. They called our number to disembark around 9:00 (which was 20 minutes early- Nice!). The baggage claim area is like the airport with a rotating carousel. This was much easier to find your bag than other lines have been where you just have to walk and search. We were off the ship and in our shuttle by 9:30.
The Cons That smell you've read about on the ship, well, we didn't notice it anywhere inside or in our stateroom, but up on Lido (10) and on Deck 11 it is ripe! It seriously smells like sewage. It doesn't smell all the time, but more predominately when the ship is moving. I can't imagine where the smell is coming from. On embarkation day, the only working elevators are the Atrium as ALL the other elevator bays are being used to transport bags. This was a big inconvenience. I didn't like that staff (particularly cleaning and room service) frequently use the guest elevators with their supplies. I know there must be staff elevators they can use. We rode the elevator with a bucket of sloshing cleaning fluid and a LARGE vacuum machine, among other things. With a ship this size and this many passengers, the elevators are already full without staff using them as well. The dining rooms are situated on this ship where you have to walk through the Crimson dining to get to other areas of the ship if you don't want to navigate out of your way. And you can't get to the Scarlett Dining without going up to deck 4 and then down to deck 3 on the aft of the ship. Again, very confusing! The atrium lobby has a very pretty glass spiral staircase to navigate between decks 3, 4, and 5, but on formal nights, they are closed off for pictures. You have to walk way out of your way to get around this area on these nights. The sushi bar is a great idea, in theory. But unless you want to wait in a line of 50 people, don't bother going there. This ship is BIG on pictures. If you want to get lots of pictures, you can take advantage of the tons of backgrounds they set up all over the ship. If you aren't, it's kind of annoying to have to get around them. Photos are well priced on this ship, though. 5x7 is $11.99, and the frames are well priced, too. For the Camp Carnival, from my 8 yr olds perspective, she rated it a 2.5 out of 5. As a side note, she rated Disney Cruise Lines a 5 out of 5. She also was not sad when we left this ship like with Disney. Really, none of us were. It just didn't hold that magic. Finally, they really need more staff on this ship. The cruise director and his staff were definitely not as good as Disney's. Staff don't go out of there way to speak to you, and we found many divert their eyes to avoid talking. We also noticed on many occasions staff standing around talking to one another rather than working, staff sitting in the theater to watch shows, and smoking at outside tables. I have nothing against staff, but feel on a cruise ship that for personal time, they should keep it to their area of the ship.
Pro's The Family OV Staterooms are great! The food (dining room) is good. Really enjoyed our time in port and our excursions. Weather was excellent. Plenty of time to relax.