This was my third cruise, all with Carnival and my family was excited to experience all that the "largest in the fleet" had to offer.
Embarkation was very orderly and quick. Our room was ready early in the day and our bags arrived in a very timely manner. Debarkation was the same-quick! I loved that you no longer have to take your life vest to the safety briefing! However, I didn't like the safety briefing being held as we were setting sail. Previously it was prior to sail or after and you could enjoy the bon voyage from the deck.
No complaints about "the smell", it was there a time or two, but no different than a smell you get a whiff of while driving down a road. My 8 year old loved Camp Carnival and the counselors were very friendly and great with the kids. The water slides were nice and even on sea days were not too crowded. You would wait longer at your local water park. Serenity was very nice, but very hot. No breeze ever reached that area. The dining room food was amazing as usual and the staff were friendly and called us by name after the first night. We had a table with a great view out the back of the ship at 6:00om in Scarlet Dining Room. The stewards are so great, very attentive and always knew us by name. The cleanliness was super and they were very good to exchange our beach towels as we used them. We enjoyed the comedy club, the comedians were very funny. The encore theater had many quality shows and a good array for different likes. The large movie screen on the lido deck was also nice and showed different movies each night, repeating a few. I did not hear much of the calypso music that I was used to on other ships, but this is a different ship, with different ideas, that's ok.
We booked two shore excursions, one in St. Thomas and one in St. Maarten, both were very fun and informative. Also they were cost friendly...a huge plus! The Dream is a great ship, having been on other size ships though, my family prefers the conquest size ship. Though, we would cruise on this ship again if the idea presented itself. My only suggestion would be to realize that though there are more people on this boat Carnival did not increase the number of pools or elevators, both of which can be very congested. And, this size ship is easy to get turned around on and not easy to navigate, at least for me. You might want to carry two-way radios if you must keep up with someone.