I'm the 54-year-old of the group and this was my 8th Carnival cruise, and (I think) my 22nd total cruise. This was the first cruise for the two 21-year-olds; the fourth cruise for my 10-year-old grandson, and the others had at least two cruises or more. For this cruise, we had three cabins: balcony cabin (8347), inside (8355), and oceanview (2222).
The Dream is gorgeous, and as you already know, huge. Even with all of the passengers, I found lines no longer than I have on any other ship. We're local, and therefore more disorganized (I find this happens on every cruise for my family), so our plans to get to the terminal were delayed by three hours and we arrived at 1:30 PM. Even that late, we were on the ship within 30 minutes of arriving. Some of us went to our cabins and others went to search for food, but we agreed to meet back on my balcony for sail-away after the muster drill.
Oh, the fabulous new Muster Drill - after over 25 years of cruises, I never thought I'd live long enough to see something so logical and realistic. Our muster station was in our assigned dining room and we met in calm, A/C comfort, as the crew very seriously delivered the important message of knowing where to go and who to listen to. What a fantastic concept! I mean, like most people, I go to my Dining Room table every night and after a day or two figure out quickly how to get there. On the other hand, in an emergency in the past, I would probably never remember how to get to my 2R Muster Station on Deck 3 Forward. Kudos to whoever proposed this and to the Coast Guard for approving it!
I'm not sure that everybody gets to Muster Drill in their assigned dining room, but I was intrigued that many of the passengers took the opportunity to find their assigned dining table and settled for the drill there. Unfortunately, we could not find our table! As I said, we're seasoned cruisers and finding a dam table number is not a big challenge, but by golly we COULD NOT FIND IT. With five of us racing around searching to be the "first to find", some other passengers entered the challenge, but none of us found the table. We had to wait until dinner time to have the Maitre 'D tell us that our table was in the VIP Room - a room that seated approx 60 people on six different table configs. This room is off of Scarlett Deck 4 and, to this minute, I have no idea why were seated there (none of us are VIP/Platinum) and the service was GREAT, but no better than I've had in the main dining room (no special perks). Actually, I think we would have had more fun in the main dining room for the singing/dancing waiter shows, but we were fine where we were.
Anyway, just to clear up dining right now - my one request for my family of seven was that we at least eat in the Dining Room together every night and I'm so happy to say that we did that. We had Table 262 Scarlett and Sonny and Ping Pong were two of the best wait staff I've had on all my cruises. There was a problem with the bar/wine lady servicing the room, and it was obvious by the end of the week that Sonny was aggravated, too. I doubt she'll be in his room on future cruises. Anyway, big thanks to Sonny and Ping Pong if they are reading this - they helped us celebrate my sister's 50th birthday and we loved singing Happy Birthday in both English and Thai. Wonderful guys and GREAT service.
Balcony 8347: the worst cabin stewards that I've had on any cruise ever! Yeah, they filled the ice bucket and replaced towels, but I (pretentiously) approached them on Day 3 of the cruise in the hallway to introduce myself. Until then, they had turned their heads/eyes away every time I left the room. I can't even tell you their names because, even after we introduced ourselves by name, they simply said "Hi, nice to meet you." I thought my gesture would improve things, but they never even acknowledged me or my sister any time we left or came back in the cabin even though they were right in the hallway. OK, I don't totally fault them because I know they are making so few $$$ - but a nice "good morning" or "have a good evening" does seem to add to the cruise when you know these people are in your room while you are out of it. It's not like our room was a mess; hell, we are two middle-aged ladies that never left a thing out of place when we left the room, and compared to some of the cabin disasters I saw when the doors were open, we were one of their easiest rooms to clean. Needless to say, I did not tip them extra like I do the rest of the crew.
Here's something else about 8347: This is a HOT cabin and I mean temperature-wise. We thought a midship, high deck cabin would be more convenient on this big ship, and it was, but the A/C cannot keep up with the hot air coming from the bank of elevators that are right off the hall. I usually keep my home A/C at 75 in Florida, but this room only cooled down to that level in the middle of the night.
One more thing about Starboard Side 8347 - I'm not sure if it was only our West Carib cruise, or just the luck of the docking draw, but (except for embarkation out of Port Canaveral) we were very disappointed by not seeing any of the ports when we docked. Our balcony views from all four of our port dockings were only views of the ocean. (Note to myself for the future: you have finally realized that PORT side did not just mean LEFT!)
Inside 8355: My three "kids" stayed there, almost directly across from our balcony cabin, and LOVED their cabin steward staff. They also had to turn their A/C down ten degrees from the max because they were freezing. (grrrr)
Outside 2222: The 21-year-olds stayed here and were both first time cruisers. They thought the entire cruise was a fairy-tale so no complaints and knew their cabin stewards on a first name basis. I only visited this cabin twice, and it was Port side so had a great view in ports, but it was so far forward that I probably would not have liked it much (only because of the size of Dream).
Food: Dining Room: OK, but I've had better on other Carnival ships. Our great wait staff made this a moot point.
Buffet: Breakfast typical, but do like the addition of different pork links cooked with onions/peppers - kind of stewed or simmered. Didn't find the grits until Day 6 when somebody pointed out that they are in a kettle behind the line and you have to request them. Did a passenger get burned or something? It wasn't for lack of request because many people were requesting them and that unfortunately was a big hold up to the entire breakfast line. (Tip I got from a lady in line: get a bowl and go first to the small line that has cold cuts and cheese. Put a few slices of that cheddar in the bottom of the bowl, then go get a little cream from the coffee bar, add the hot grits to that and savor southern bliss.)
None of us ever made it to the Italian Pasta restaurant, in fact, I never remember seeing the staircase that leads up there, but we enjoyed the rest:
Indian: Expect this won't stay open long. I LOVE Indian food, and the options were pretty good for a buffet, but there was never a line here even on sea days.
Deli: Always a long line (10 mins) at peak lunch time, but all six people ahead of me ordered three or more sandwiches. Not sure why, but that was a hold up. My tuna salad on white was OK, and the Reuben was great.
Mongolian BBQ and Burrito: I personally didn't try either, but other family members said both were good.
Lanai BBQ - All of us wanted to try this because the guests' plates we saw loaded up with ribs and chicken made us drool, but the service line was ALWAYS from mid-deck to the aft end of the ship. A couple of passengers I talked to said they had waited close to an hour, so we passed up this food station.
Specialty Coffee Shop: Drinks and pastries were wonderful, but it was always crowded and hours were too limited. For example, they did not open until 6 PM on port days and many of us early diners would have loved a wake-up coffee prior to dinner. They also need to have more than one server at all times for a ship this size. The various Trivia, Puzzle, and other assorted games are held here on sea days and had very large crowds. Go a little early for a good seat.
Room Service: All cabins used this several times and we frequently got the message "this may take up to 45 minutes" at peak times, but we never waited more than twenty minutes. One horrific thing happened on Day 5; my cabin only put out our breakfast door card one time on the entire cruise and gave a window of 7-7:30 AM. When my food hadn't arrived by 7:40 AM, I called for an update and found out (from the waiter) that someone/some people had gone through the hallways at some time during the night and switched door cards, changed room numbers, and changed selections on the cards. "Total disaster" is how he phrased it. More reason for Carnival to put the ordering system on the TV instead of these cards, but sad to know it's come to this.
Ports: Other than Cozumel, I only used private local vendors booked before the cruise.
Cozumel: My kids booked the SNUBA adventure through Carnival after they got on board and said it was well worth the money (none of them are fully SCUBA certified and two in the group had never even snorkeled). I convinced my sister to take a taxi with me to downtown to shop at the "local" Soles and eat at the local Pancho's, like I remembered from years ago. I was so disappointed to see how it's suffering since Carnival's new pier, and the higher prices have moved to downtown (no bartering). I wanted to go deeper in town for better bargains, but my sister (from Maine) was too overheated from the near-100 F temps.
Belize: Heni from Hammerhead Water Sports is a wonderful woman and hopefully she figures out how to startup her own website and get rid of the middle men. I did not go out on this Caye Caulker Exploration tour, but the experienced snorkelers said they've seen better reefs. However, they ALL said that Caye Caulker on its own, plus lunch and visiting with Heni made this one of the best excursions on the trip. Heni - if you are reading, thanks for arranging the birthday cake for my sister.
Roatan: BEAUTIFUL island rapidly getting purchased and "improved" by rich U.S. Folks and others. I booked the "Best of Roatan" tour plus fishing through Victor Bodden and still need to converse with him about the tour part. Once finished, I'll post more in the Roatan CC forum. In the interim, this is a gorgeous safe place. Go to West End or West Bay and hangout at laid-back restaurants and bars with the other expats. I challenged my tour guide to take me through the WORST neighborhoods of Roatan, and even those didn't come close to the bad parts of Belize. This island is more like Cozumel, but less touristy - yes, some crime, just like our home towns, but an island thriving (and depending) on tourist $$$.
Costa Maya - The last time we visited (April 2009), we just took a cab to Mahahual and absolutely fell in love with the charming fishing village and the great walk-in offshore snorkeling. This time we joined up with a larger cruise booking group and went to the lovely all-inclusive Maya Chan Resort. I want to tell you both the pluses and minuses about choosing Maya Chan. First, and most important, the people running Maya Chan exceed FIVE STARS and I have traveled to all-inclusive resorts around the world. We were quickly hosted to our own private palapa, that included a canvas-covered double-sized bed loaded up with pillows plus many comfortable chairs, all under cover. Very shortly after we settled in, one of the waiters delivered us individual fresh fruit cups with pomegranate and other native fruits - DELICIOUS! We never had to move from our comfy chairs because literally some Maya Chan person checked on us at least every ten minutes. They made sure our drinks were always filled, and approx 45 minutes before lunch, brought us delicious freshly fried tortilla chips with homemade salsa and guacamole. My sister said "Now I know why you said last year that you never wanted to leave Costa Maya." My sister and I stayed put in our oasis, but the rest set out for snorkeling. (TIP: sign up for the kayak snorkeling list as soon as you arrive.) They opted to venture out on their own and towed a couple of float chairs with them as buoys. The snorkeling reef is 60 yards out and we were still having slightly rough seas leftover from TS Hermine. Unless you are a really strong swimmer, I recommend using the kayak tour for snorkeling. We live near the beach so the light amount of shore turtle grass didn't bother us in the least, but there was a man raking and wheel-barrowing it away the entire day.
Lines to get back on the ship after all excursions were very short. I bought an expensive bottle of freezer Tequila in Coz and WANTED the ship to take it away until the last night. I know security saw it in the scanners because it was a large bottle, but they let me walk away with it.
In fact, let's cover smuggled alcohol right now - the younger couples in my group each packed a fifth of liquor in their checked baggage and it arrived in their cabin. I used Rum Runners for liquor and also packed a box of wine and they also arrived. My sister packed a fifth of vodka in her checked baggage which was locked (TSA approved lock) and she was the only one that got her bottle confiscated. We got a phone call on embarkation night, shortly after dinner, and I accompanied her to the "naughty room" on (hot) Deck 1 so she could open her suitcase and they could take the bottle. There were a lot of people and a lot of luggage down there and I felt like I was in a jail waiting room. Two gentlemen were taken to separate areas because Security wanted to know why none of their luggage with tagged with any identification. I saw a lot of liquor unloaded from one of those bags. (Ironically, the two younger cabins never even opened their smuggled liquor and I drank very little of what was in one of the Rum Runners. Our Sign & Sail accounts verify that :-)
Ok, lets see what else that's worth noting - lines for the slides appear long, but they go quickly, even on sea days. The Serenity Deck is a great idea, but not enough shady spots (in Sept West Carib anyway). The Casino was very good to me on Blackjack the first night and the dealers and pit bosses were a lot of fun. I didn't do so well on the rest of the nights, but stayed to my daily limits and left the ship with a nice profit.
I love that this ship has a deck (Panorama) that you can completely walk around the entire ship.
Pools - too few, but at 9 AM on our second sea day, there were plenty of poolside chairs available. On the big screen mid-deck Lido, there is a constant streamer at the bottom announcing that saving chairs is not allowed and that Carnival staff will remove items on chairs after thirty minutes. I think this helped a lot.
Entertainment - Butch was our CD and this is at least the four cruise I've sailed with him (on different ships). I don't mind because he is always so enthusiastic and fun. Make sure to catch the "Butch & Baby Butch" live morning show in your cabin or out on the Lido deck.
We only went to one of the Lido Laser Light shows and it was not impressive, but only because the show depends on smoke that is emanated from the deck across from the laser lights. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing the wrong way so the show was a dud. Only went to Dancing In The Streets and thought it was OK, but not as good as the main show we saw on the Glory in April 2009. We only made it to two of the late night comedian shows and the first guy was great, but the second guy (who I've seen for decades now) is over his prime and needs to bow out respectfully. (Sorry, can't remember names right now.)
Camp Carnival - There were understandably very few kids on this cruise (Labor Day Week). My 10-1/2 year old grandson went to the first night meet and greet, but never went back. We were kind of disappointed because he made so many friends in April 09 and had tons of fun, but we think it was a combination of fewer kids and the fact that he was seeing beloved family members for the first time in five years so he chose to hang with us.
Debarkation - DON'T rush this! I preach this to my family, but their impatience won out and we left our comfortable Lido deck seating only to stand around at the crowded luggage carousel for almost an hour. When you FIRST hear your debark number that means that they are JUST unloading your luggage off the ship. The bigger the number, the more backed up it is down in the luggage area. I can't stress this enough - unless you have a flight to catch, just hang out on Lido and wait until 10 AM. You will fly through immigration and your bags will be immediately visible. You rushed to get on the ship, why rush to get off (unless you have other plans)? The two options are: spend time visiting and relaxing on Lido or spend the same amount of time with thousands of passengers in the "not so fun" luggage area. (TIP: Like all customs/immigration areas (like airports), cell phones are totally banned, but a porter told me to go to the bathroom to make a call to our pickup person and that worked well.)
Two of us lost cell phones on this cruise but both were turned into lost & found ... such nice Carnival passengers and crew! Thanks!
Well, this turned out longer than I planned and I'm sure I'll think of other things, but hopefully it is enough to give you some feedback. I know that I love to read ship reviews before I cruise and I hope mine has helped.
In summary, the Glory is classy and huge and the majority of the staff is warm, welcoming, and always smiling. I would have loved this ship more in my 20's or 30's, but now that I'm getting older I will go back to the smaller more intimate ships. Best wishes to you on your upcoming cruises.