This was our first family cruise for my 2 children (ages 16 & 17), however, my wife and I have cruised about 6 times prior. Many times on Royal C. once on Norwegian, and once on Celebrity; this was our first Carnival Cruise. We travelled with our best friends (another family of 4) and anticipated an absolute blast.
I'd like to begin on a positive note so I'll point out the better parts of the cruise first. Staff was great! From the room service, to the wait staff, to the guest services. Everyone was very professional, helpful, and friendly. Tatiana was our server in the Dining Room and she was outstanding!
Serenity deck (adults only) was a nice surprise; however, it's located next to the kid's water slide. Seems a little odd to me. The ship was VERY big which was both good & bad. Took a few days to get acclimated to the layout. Loved the sushi bar though Sushi was mediocre at best, but the Tapas night was fantastic. Indian food was not bad and the Mongolian Wok buffet was pretty good too, though the line was very long. Hamburgers were good - if you like to eat hamburgers.
Lot's of hot tubs on this ship both large and small, but with almost 5000 people on board it was tough to get into one many times. Comedy show was fun, as was the karaoke. Club O2 for the kids was awesome; they made many friends and had a great time. There were other bright spots, but let's move on to the not so nice parts.
As my friend described this cruise "it feels like a Walmart special" is dead-on. I don't think I've ever travelled with a more rude, low-class, uneducated, bunch of people in my entire life. The ship was full of them, and many in large groups. At all hours of the night there were kids running in the halls and you could hear cabin/balcony doors slamming from both sides including over and under.
This ship only had one night club which was disappointing. Most ships in the past have had two. It was also open to 18+ and the DJ catered to them more than the adults leaving the night club empty many nights. Let's face it, the new dance hits are horrible to us 40 somethings and even on "Classic Dance Hits" night, this ding-a-ling was playing all new stuff. We found our self in the piano bar many times because of this which was nice but very smokey. cough-cough!!!
SAFETY ALERT!!!! If you can't find your teenage children, check Deck 5 forward. This is where they all hang out. It is completely un-lit and un-visible. The railings are low and susceptible to falls. I've been on other ships that rope this off at night because it's dangerous. We ended up calling security to have this are cleared (partly because our children where among the group) and they were very prompt about it. Good job!
That same night we heard that a fight broke out in the Caliente Disco at around 3AM over a song. Yes, a song! A plasma TV was destroyed and some art work in the adjoining gallery. I'm not sure of the facts, but I heard that a total of 44 people were thrown of the the ship in Costa Maya that morning with some of them headed right for a Mexican jail. It was said that these 20somethings were punching innocent people in the hallways and one woman stomped her heel into the head of a man laying on the floor severely injuring him. Animals!!!
I mentioned some of the better food choices above, but I will say that I rate the overall food quality at 4 out of 10. It really was not that good. In the "Gathering" the burritos were horrible. My son and I could not even finish them. The pizza was inedible cardboard. The deli out on the rear Lido deck looked pretty good and I ordered a Ruben. I could only eat half as the quality of the meat was poor. Most of the buffet items were loaded with MSG thought the breakfast items were not bad. Omelets were made to order and very good.
The dining room food was 50/50. I had 3 good meals and 3 terrible meals. I got the lobster tails and shrimp one night. Sorry Carnival, I'm from Boston and a bit tough to please when it comes to lobsters. Mahi-mahi the first night was almost inedible. Chicken on night 2 was pretty good, Eggplant appetizer was outstanding and the Chateau Brion was fabulous.
Excursions that we booked on our own were great. The ones we booked through Carnival were just Ok, and if one included food, the food was terrible. Not authentic and VERY small portions - especially in Belize and Honduras. The Belize zip lining was a blast though. 2 Thumbs up for our guide Elvis!!!!
In the end, I'm not sure that I would take another Carnival Cruise. Maybe it was the time of year? I don't really know, but I could not wait to get away from the people on that ship. I also think that the ship is way too big.
Hope this is helpful to anyone thinking of cruising on the Dream!!!