We have completed the August 7th western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Dream. Since we have comments not covered in many of the other reviews, I am adding a review here. My wife and I were joined by her sisters and family members and a close family friend, so we had six in our group. This was the second cruise for my wife and me, but the sixth or more for our accompanying family and friend. A cruise is an excellent mode of vacation travel for a family get together and also ideal for my wife, who is somewhat handicapped with neuropathic pain from a stroke. She used the family wheelchair for most ship and onshore movement, so we saw how a somewhat handicapped person travels on the Dream....quite well.
Carnival handled us extremely well, both in embarkation and debarkation and on assistance getting on and off the ship at ports. They could not have done better. The main negative is that a handicapped person in a wheelchair needs to use the elevators all the time, and there were quite a few bottlenecks here, especially at the elevators at the aft Scarlet dining room. On our cruise last year on the Liberty, we were also assigned the aft dining room. For both cruises (we had the lower Scarlet) we had to use elevators to get to the dining deck since the galley prevents access from the forward part of the ship. If you can use stairs, this is no real issue. But for us this turned out to be somewhat of an irritant, and for a future cruise I think I'll have to insist on assignment to the forward dining room.
We had an inside handicapped accessible cabin this year as well as last year on the Liberty. The equivalent cabin on the Dream is larger and we appreciated the very nice closets. The bath, level with lots of room, is perfect for the handicapped. So I can certainly recommend Carnival's Dream for those with difficulties.
No one seems to have commented on the high noise level of the Scarlet dining room. The six of us were assigned to a table for ten (the other four spots were empty), but this meant that I'd have to shout at a family member or friend across the table, and I could hardly hear someone two persons away from me. The problem, common in restaurants these days (see a recent WSJ article), is that hard reflective surfaces are used in the design and construction and little effort is made to use any soundproofing materials or techniques. Now if Carnival or Fincantieri claims that they did so, then they were very unsuccessful here. My traveling companions agreed that the Liberty was much quieter on our cruise last year. So any conversation was a challenge. Of course we could eat dinner in the Lido cafeteria, but why? The dining room food is excellent and a sit down meal is important to my wife, who can't handle trays and doesn't want to. The fine meals and excellent service in the dining room are major reasons my wife likes these cruises. At lunch the dining room, with fewer guests, is much quieter.
So Carnival needs to hire an acoustic engineer and fix the problem.
The dining room seemed to be a lot more crowded (in the design of the layout) than on the Liberty last year. There are round storage/serving platforms between the mostly round tables (main floor of lower Scarlet) and it's hard to make your way through the dining room, esp. for someone trying to use a cane. We usually parked the wheelchair at the door.
In many other parts of the ship the music was played loudly, so perhaps cruisers are used to high decibel sound levels everywhere. Tastes vary, but I don't like the loud racket and during the day many outside deck areas are deafening. The Atrium lounge and the Serenity area offer alternatives, so there is something for everyone, and you find everyone on these cruises!
Others have commented correctly on the tiny pools, some lines (it depends where and when you eat), elevator bottlenecks (VERY irritating), and so forth. I think the food was excellent. The dining rooms are best, but we enjoyed the Indian, Mongolian Wok, and deli sandwich stations. When you return from a shore excursion, perhaps around 4 pm (with 4 hours to go before the late sitting), you face long lines at the few open food stations. I usually went to the excellent deli sandwich station, but it was always crowded at this time by other excursion returnees. Carnival needs to address this problem on port days.
The Dream has a layout similar to that of the Liberty (last year for us), so it was very easy for us to learn our way around.
All crew members we met on both cruises were very pleasant and helpful—the very best! The ship is very clean and well maintained (I never noticed the smell mentioned by others). We were very fortunate to have fine weather and calm seas, perfect. Summer can be a turbulent time with storms and hurricanes, so we were thankful.
I took three shore excursions to visit the Mayan ruins at San Gervasio (Cozumel), Altun Ha (Belize), and Chacchoben (Costa Maya). All were well worth it. I took Carnival's Belize City plus Altun Ha tour at Belize and was glad I had a chance to see this interesting city, which has not had the best press in these reviews. I didn't walk the city (as I usually do on trips), but had a good tour with enthusiastic and informative guides on the Carnival tour. The city is much prettier than I'd expected.
In Costa Maya I took a tour operated by a local company, Native Choice. Our tour group consisted of two minibus loads with a very informative and experienced guide, Joel. It was probably one of the best archaeological tours I've taken. We saw the large Carnival groups and were thankful for our small group (which toured ahead of the crowd). I rely on TripAdvisor for advice on hotels and places around the world and found Native Choice there. People in my group told me of other non-Carnival tours they'd taken at the ports.
San Gervasio (at Cozumel) is a lesser known Mayan site with an interesting free standing corbel arch. This design is found in Mayan architecture and also in Mesopotamia and even South America. I am familiar with it from Mycenaean Greece and Egypt but hadn't expected to find it here.
My wife's sisters and family took her in the wheelchair ashore at Cozumel, where the taxi company called for a handicap vehicle to take them into Cozumel and back to the ship. Great service! Cozumel has a pretty plaza, a nice museum, and good handicraft shopping. My wife loved it. I also walked the town after my San Gervasio visit, also visiting the museum and their nice little book shop (which did NOT have overpriced books!). I believe we were the only ship in town, so the shops were not crowded.
In Roatan I arranged for a taxi to take my wife and me around the west end of the island. It was comparable pricewise to Carnival's tours, but easier for us since the taxi was able to put the wheelchair in the trunk and show us around as we desired. Roatan is well known for its beautiful aquatic excursions to its reefs and beautiful beaches and many fortunate Americans now have homes on this beautiful island. Roatan's Mahogany Bay (Carnival's port) has a decent tourist trap shopping area, but my wife enjoyed it and that's what counts (I've shopped enough worldwide over the years!).
There is a similar shore shopping place along with a large pool at Costa Maya, and here the small town of Mahahual is nearby. I was taken to the Native Choice tour office in the town but did not see the town center and I don't know how far this is from the touristy port shopping area. BTW, Mexico has armed military maintaining check points up the roads from the coast. They do not tolerate illegal immigrants as we are told we must on our southern borders! If we did it the Mexican way with soldiers and automatic weapons, we wouldn't have any more illegal crossings.
Our family and friend liked the shows and other theater entertainment very much. They also enjoyed listening to music after our late dinner. I preferred to return to my cabin for a chance to organize my camera equipment, get some peace and quiet, and read up on the next day's tour.
The great advantage of the Dream and Port Canaveral to us is that it's only an hour and half from home. However, we stayed at the La Quinta in Cocoa Beach (the one at 1275 Atlantic Ave) the night before since this was easier for my wife. It was only 20 minutes to the ship. They offer a park and cruise special but we decided to drive and park (over $100 to park).
This is an excellent choice for a port for others traveling to Florida for a cruise. You don't have to travel as far as Miami and you'll find Port Canaveral itself very easy to negotiate. Orlando has its famous attractions (Disney, Universal, Sea World, etc.) and near the port are the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and fine beaches, especially the pristine Playlinda Beach at the Merritt Island National Wildlife refuge. Florida's beaches are clean and beautiful.
If you live in the UK, take a charter flight to uncrowded and modern Sanford/Orlando airport, hire a car, explore Central Florida and the attractions, take a cruise out of Port Canaveral on the Dream, and enjoy a relaxed vacation.