I've been reading the other review of my sailing, 8/7/10, and decided to add my take on it. Perception is key, so I hope people will not form opinions of the ship, it's itinerary or it's clientele from what is read here. The Dream is something to be experienced first hand.
We were a group of three families. My DH and I, my sister and her DH, and our friend and her DH. Among us there were 6 kids aged 11, 14, 15, 15, 16 and 17. My sister and I were dropped at the ship with the kids by our husbands, who returned the rental cars to Budget, 10 minutes from the ship. We were through security, and ready to board in 10 minutes, but waited for our husbands, so the whole process - curb to gangway for us was about 45 minutes.
The ship's decor is tasteful and beautiful when compared to our previous CCL experience on the Miracle. The gold plated atrium was a little much, but nothing to affect my overall opinion.
We headed straight to our cabins on deck 9, Aft, portside, to drop off our carry-on luggage, then went to the Lido for Lunch. I think everyone went to the Lido too, and shortly after we arrived there, the skies opened up, and rain of biblical proportions began to fall. Naturally, The gathering became crowded, but this was the only time all week that we felt crowded in there.
After lunch, we walked around a bit to get acclimated, then headed to Guest Services for my sister to get room keys switched up... she had two cabins, and needed extra keys to both.
My sister and our friend had all their luggage by 5pm (we arrived about 12:45, but mine did not show up until 8pm.... theirs was soaked, mine was bone dry- go figure. The staff were phenomenal... our room steward Rai was always around and was pleasant to chat with, and our team waiters, Luis and Arsana, were hard working, and catered to our every need. The kids loved Luis so much, they invited him to visit if he ever sails out of NY again (which he did on the Victory a few years back)
The food was great, again, this is an area where opinions vary, but I enjoyed everything I ate (except the pizza, but I am a Brooklyn girl, home of the best pizza on earth) I never had a problem with lines in the Lido, but that could be a result of timing. We hit the Pasta Bar, Burrito Bar and Mongolian Wok all on port days, when there is little to no wait. My kids went gaga over the Icee machine, but only wound up buying one Icee each all week.
Lido/Pools.... the pools are small, but we stayed out of them on Sea days, and took full advantage of empty pools on port days. There was a line for the slides on the sea days, but much shorter than I have waited on in typical waterparks, and worth the wait... on port days, we had no wait at all.
The Whirlpools on Deck 5 were great, on the port side, where we stuck to, one had cool water and one was hot. We found plenty of time to use them without crowds, but I could see from my balcony that late afternoon/early evening were busy times in them, often with 10 people in each. The port side is the smoking side of the ship, and next to the aft whirlpool is the only place onboard where cigar smoking is allowed, so I was very shocked at how many kids used that whirlpool.
My kids loved the activities, and were at almost every trivia contest... I have a drawer full of gold medals now, and one Ship-on-a-Stick from Twister. The kids also went to every show, and almost every Karaoke event. We saw only the Welcome Aboard show, and Dancing in the Streets (awesome show) and 3 of the 4 comedians. I loved the comedy club, it was a nice change of pace from song and dance revues you usually see on cruises. The singers scattered throughout the clubs were on the awful side, with one girl who sang like a cartoon character, but that's my opinion, I think a lot of people enjoyed them - except maybe the guy in the casino, the consensus is that he was awful, and I have to agree.
The Ports- Cozumel, we went to Paradise Beach, the kids had a blast on the water toys, I had a completely relaxing and enjoyable time on my lounge chair, drink in hand. Roatan, we were going to just shop, until the kids saw Clip n Zip right across the street and begged to go. $40 a person, 11 zips, about 45 minutes on the lines, and we bought a CD with pictures of them for $20, it was well worth every penny. Belize, I was afraid to tender, as were the other two women of the group, so we stayed aboard and had a fun, relaxing day of swimming, sliding, eating, exploring and triviaing. COsta Maya, this is an early (and short) day. We walked over to the pool, and spent some time swimming, playing volleyball in the waterside pool, and hanging out at the swim up bar. Word of warning about the waterside pool (with the volleyball net) it has no filtration... the water is ocean water, there are no drains or filter that we could see, and we all stunk of oceany, fishy smell afterward, We had to launder everything because it was stinking up the cabins. We did a little shopping on the way back to the ship. Definitely haggle here, a pair of Oakley sunglasses, started at $30, wound up at $15, and a Mariachi hat, started at $45, my nephew ended up paying $30, but my sister felt he was still willing to go lower.
Debarkation- we were Zone 30, did not get off until 11, and luggage did not show up until 11:30, not sure what happened here, but next time I will self-assist debark, and leave at my leisure.
Safety and the infamous fight... the first we knew of anything amiss was getting back onboard on Costa Maya, we saw a group of about 15 people sitting and standing around with their luggage, like they were waiting to disembark. We assumed a family was called home on an emergency, and thought no more of it. That night at dinner, our server told us about the fight, the injuries, and that 30 people were kicked off the ship and sent home, later at the comedy club, we heard more that it was a group of people from Staten Island and Brooklyn and the fight was in the disco, and there was damage. There was more security at the disco after that, but I never felt unsafe, before or after the incident. There were some groups of young people around the ship that had I seen them on the street at home, I would cross over to the other side, but I paid them no mind on the ship, and never worried about my or my family's safety. I trusted Carnival, and I know now I was right to.
That's all I can think of to write, but if anyone wants more info feel free to e-mail me at MaryCW0920@msn.com. Just reference this CCL review in the subject or I might discard it as junk.