Before getting into all the specific subject areas I'd like to say we are very experienced cruisers. We've cruise NCL, RCC, Princess and Carnival, and hope to give you a very informative review to aid in your decision of the Carnival Dream. We took our granddaughter on this trip also and this was her first cruise (8 years old).
EMBARKATION: Getting on the ship was fine, the line was long but it moved quickly and efficiently, this is to be expected with a ship with such a large guest capacity. After boarding the ship was a disappointment, the normal entertainment (live band) didn't exist, frankly we didn't even know when we actually set sail. The big screen TV was blaring a ballgame which isn't what we're looking for on our first few hours aboard ship. The staff seems much to dependent on the big screen TV for entertainment. Our granddaughter even asked when does the fun start?
Activities: The activities on board were the water slide (it was GREAT) and of course that big screen TV. The casino is always around if you're a gambler; but we're not so I can't tell you much about it. If you call shopping an activity the on board shops are there, but again, that's not the highlights of a cruise. You can expect the usual hairy chest contest, bingo, games, Internet cafe, etc.
Children activities: We don't have anything to compare too since this was our first time taking a young one, but we can say she had no complaints from Camp Carnival. She loved the activities there, games, video games, build a bear, t-shirt making and the list goes on. Basically she loved it.
DINING: This is an area we look forward to. The Dream was not spectacular, very typical menu's. Our wait staff was good, but overworked and rushed. Our waitress was taking care of 5 tables at one time and this is simply too much. We look forward to the midnight buffet, but it's been discontinued. The 24 hour ice cream and pizza were used quite often by all three of us, no problems there. We didn't do the speciality restaurants, usually do but not on this cruise.
STATEROOM: No problems with our stateroom, the room steward was good and took care of any need we had. Always had the famous towel animal which our granddaughter loved, and of course the chocolate on her pillow at night.
ENTERTAINMENT: This was the biggest disappointment of all, the band at the Lanai lounge had a very small repertoire, and talked too much. The shows in the theater were okay at best, and the comedians were terrible. There was a special group of street dancers aboard that put on a great show (called Fun Force I think). There was the piano bar that was okay and a group on the main deck that sang slower dancing songs that was fine. The laser show was advertised by the staff constantly and it was, well, just bad. They had a Marti Gras party which was just a band playing and the staff throwing beads into the crowd, it was VERY dull. I don't want to sound like a "stick in the mud" but we've had much better entertainment on other ships and was expecting much better on the newest and largest of the fleet.
SUMMARY: Overall the vacation was good. The ship is just too big and we will go with smaller ships from here on.