Embarkment and Disembarkment... perfect... no issues.
Food and Dining Room service: A- Cabin & Cabin service: A+ Entertainment and Entertainment Staff: C- General Staff (Gathering, pool, etc): D Ship: D- Ports: A
Food and Dining Room Service: We were in the Scarlet Dining room on the 2nd level all the way in the back near the windows. We had a party of 21... which was tough to accommodate ... and my TA screwing up our reservation by not linking our group properly. They eventually straightened everything out to our satisfaction (they had put some of our group in Crimson... but after speaking with the maitre d' we had it straightened out by the 2nd evening). The food was generally good. Everything was cooked to order, and very promptly served. I especially liked the Filet Mignon. Our wait team was Spectacular. They were on top of everything, even assisting with our other table when their service was lacking. I only gave it an A- minus because of an incident with a Bar waitress that left us all with a bad impression. She was trying to straighten out a bill with soda's, and she was downright rude with us. I'd say Carnival beat out the Dining rooms of all our previous cruises... only edging out Celebrity by a little bit. Carnival beats out NCL and RCCL hands down. We did dine in the Chefs Art steak house one evening, and I would say it was on par with RCCL and Celebrity as far as the food... Celebrity's specialty wins out based on service. BTW... I had a KILLER Rueben sandwich from the deli... (just thought I'd mention that)
Cabin and Cabin Service: We stayed in cabin 7259 which was an OS category. The room was well appointed. I especially liked the bed. Our cabin stewardess... Sparky from Croatia was the best I have ever experienced. She was great. We shared a balcony with our friends next door. Sparky was able to have the partition between them physically removed... so no banging in the night. LOVED her. Carnival wins here.
Entertainment and Entertainment staff: Let me say this first. I don't expect anyone to entertain me when I get on board... we had a large group of friends and we made our own fun. BUT... the events that we did attend, I found to be a bit "cheap" and unorganized. Our first taste of the entertainment on board started off with the "Fabulous Welcome Aboard Laser Show"... which the system locked up and the couldn't get the "Fabulous" lasers to work. They eventually got it started... and I have to say... Lame. The staff tried their hardest to keep everyone entertained... kudos there. We left half way through. A few of our group stayed ... only to have the entire mixing board in the pool short out... Major buzz kill. "Fabulous Welcome Aboard Laser Show" Bust. (I would not be attending the "Fabulous Laser Show" any more).
The Dancing in the Street show was very good.
The "Fabulous Marty Gras Gala" was downright dumb. I took it like this... 3 or 4 entertainment staff standing at the pool, chucking beads at us while playing music. Now, ok... I understand the theme involves beads... but 1/2 hour of watching teenagers diving for beads while running over my friends 8 and 11 year old children isn't my idea of "Fabulous". A simple announcement from the people running the show to allow others to get the beads after you get one or two might have been prudent. It was cheap and frustrating.
The comedians were good. We really enjoyed them.
The CD Todd was non-existent. I think this was his last, or second to last cruise before vacation for him... so... I understand his absence.
General Ship Staff: Rude and not helpful. In one case my wife went to get a cheese burger, only to be told "No more, I'm closed".. and walked away. Now... ok, I can accept that. You're out... not a problem. Only when my wife saw others walking around with plates with ... you guess it... Cheeseburgers... did she realize that the station on the other side of the ship was still open. What would it take for that person to say "I'm sorry, I'm closing, but if you go over to the other side I believe they are still serving hamburgers". In one case, chairs were taken from the Circle C room ... and my daughters group was told that "if you don't find out what happened to those chairs, someone in here will be charged". Rude... Unnecessary. I found that in general, no one was really interested in taking that extra step to make things "better".
Ship: I was expecting more. As the "latest and greatest" I would expect Carnival to have put more thought into the design of this ship. The Gathering is too small for the number of passengers. Photographer's are stationed in silly places that caused choke points on the "Dream street" (I spend half my life in traffic... do I need it on a ship?). The pools are WAY too small. The slides... I can't comment on, because the lines were too long to actually use them. My overall impression is that for the size of the ship, and number of passengers (we sailed at capacity) the ship was poorly designed.
Camp Carnival and Circle C: My 4 year old loved Camp... my 13 year old LOVED Circle C (Although she did complain that the counsellors were rude.
Summary: My overall impression of this Carnival was neutral. I found that a lot of "little things" were missed. Attention to detail... Just a little bit of effort from the crew would have made a huge difference. In comparing this cruise to my previous experiences... sure, I might have saved a couple hundred dollars, but... I would have rather had the "extras". I found the majority staff to be apathetic and un-attentive with notable exceptions. Just stepping in to help ... maybe organize a line... offer to bring a plate of food, that maybe was missing from the buffet line to a passenger rather than that passenger sitting and waiting. Previous reports of smells... I didn't smell anything bad.
I would never sail on Carnival Dream again.
Would I sail Carnival again? Maybe... probably not. I just feel that I'd rather pay a little extra and not feel like something was missing...
Did we have fun... Absolutely. I didn't expect "perfect" or "relaxing" ... simply because of the time of year we sailed. But, I did expect more.