I do hours of research before I travel. I didn't do it this time because I booked this cruise during my last semester of grad school and just wanted to get away when I was done. I read reviews before I left and was concerned...sad to say, most of the reviews I read were true. I try not to be a negative person and will therefore point out the positives too. Please make sure to read about the excursions I booked as we had the time of our lives on the islands (and we didn't book a single excursion through Carnival)!! About us: We are both single female teachers in our late twenties.
The ship overall: It was clean and well maintained. We also found it easy to navigate. I've been on Carnival Liberty, and I thought this ship layout, although similar, was easier. The only deck that wouldn't let you get from one end to the other was Deck 3. There was nothing at all on this ship that "wowed" either of us. Nothing was beautiful or stood out. The decor was boring and everything seemed to be red and gold. There were WAY TOO MANY people on board. The ship is big, but not big enough to accommodate 4,500 people plus crew members!!! I have never been on a ship that was this crowded and it was a MAJOR letdown. About the sewage smell, yes we certainly smelled it on many different occasions but only for a few seconds at a time.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: We got to the port around noon and were on the ship by 12:40, so this was an immediate good first impression. We opted to do self assist and carry our own luggage off the ship on the last day and liked this option. We got to use the elevator and bypass some of the lines. Port Canaveral is a beautiful port...not as crowded as Miami and not gloomy looking like Port Everglades.
Food: We enjoyed the food in the main dining room almost every night, and our servers were fabulous. The eggplant parm. on the last night was VERY good! PLEASE make sure to go to the Pasta Bar for lunch. It was very good and they gave you a lot of choices. We went during both days at sea. On the last day at sea they offered lasagna and it was excellent!! The grill area by the main pool in the front of the ship is alright but the line was ALWAYS long. The 24 hour pizza was below average and had no taste. We ordered room service twice and were pleasantly surprised because it was pretty good for room service food! The breakfast and lunch buffet on Deck 10 was absolutely horrible! There were very limited food choices and the eggs had no taste at all. This was a major letdown. On my last cruise, RCI's Liberty of the Seas, the buffet was HUGE and had MANY delicious options. Be sure not to miss the late night Mexican buffet later on in the week. One last note: I love Caesar salad but could not eat any on this ship because their Caesar salad dressing is WAY too fishy. They use entirely too many anchovies!!!
Service: The service on this ship is average to below average. Many of the crew members can not speak English. During breakfast and lunch in The Gathering no one came around to clear your plates or check to see if you needed anything like I've experienced on other cruise lines. We did love our cabin steward and our main dining room staff though. They were outstanding and one of the only reasons we liked this ship. One thing that was very surprising and upsetting was when a few fights broke out among teenagers on the ship. We did go at the end of August and there were a lot of young people on board, but the way Carnival handles things is very unprofessional. Teenagers were roaming the ship at all hours of the morning being loud, running around, cursing, etc. I am a teacher and I wanted to grab them by the ears and take them to their parents cabin! Carnival needs to enforce a curfew because it got to be ridiculous!!!
Staff: We LOVED George the assistant cruise director. He is a ball of energy and very funny. He also has the cutest raspy British voice! Carlos, our room attendant and Bawa, our dining room server, were excellent. We also loved Lawrence, the lead singer in the nightly productions (he's taking his 2 month leave soon so I hope you catch him while he's still there). He was very sweet and talented. The Dream got a new cruise director, Butch, the week we were on board (Aug. 21-28). He was funny and energetic but very annoying and talks WAY too much. He would give announcements that were at least 5 minutes long and I don't think he took a single breath!
Cabin: We booked an interior cabin because my best friend and I were on a budget (I just finished grad school so money is tight). We also decided we wanted to spend more money on excursions and we're sure glad we did! Our cabin was on Deck 2 Aft. It was cute and comfortable, but like others have said, there is a vent on the bottom of the door which let a lot of noise in. I am a light sleeper so this worried me. TIP: I found an extra blanket in the closet in a plastic case and stuck that in front of the door...it blocked a lot of noise!! We also heard the motor while pulling into/out of port and it made our whole room shake. We made friends who stayed on Deck 2 Forward and they said they were always hearing a banging noise.
Entertainment: I've seen better and I've seen worse. We loved Lawrence the lead singer, but did not enjoy Heather as much. We decided that she should've been a backup singer, not a lead. The dancers were okay. Be sure not to miss Dancin' in the Streets. It was awesome and very enjoyable to watch!
On a final note: Royal Caribbean is more costly but well worth the extra money paid. Norwegian is simpler but a lot more enjoyable. Carnival is affordable, but you get what you pay for. I will probably never cruise with Carnival again. They just don't seem to care very much and just can't seem to get things right. I heard many complaints during my time in line with Guest Services, and none of them seemed to get resolved. IF you do choose Carnival, do what I did and go for the itinerary. We highly enjoyed Cozumel, Roatan and Costa Maya.