Hi, my name is J.R., let me first start by saying how much I do love and appreciate Cruise Critic giving me and others an opportunity to express my cruise vacation experience and opinions here. Its nice to give a review without some ninny's on here, yes I said it, also said "some", not all, critiquing your every opinion about everything, because there is no chance to respond from the "Review's" section on here, he he he.
Kudo's for Cruise Critic for letting those comments above stand.
Now, with that out of the way, you might be taken aback by the 14 day cruise title here, well, this is my first back to back cruise, and I have to say for me, traveling coast to coast, I will try my best to do back to back cruises from now on, I Loved It !!
Me: Early 40's male traveling by myself both cruises. At time of booking these two, I have 11 Carnival Cruises under my belt. Now makes 13. I am from the Los Angeles Beach Community, South Bay.
Pre Cruise Stuff : I had booked my cruises way in advance with a travel agent. The airline, SouthWest, great value, comfortable seating. The pre cruise day before hotel, the Radisson. I know the Radisson is very popular for this cruise port but.............. I wouldn't stay here again. It has a very Motel 6ish feel to it because of the way it is built. The upstairs open, not enclosed, and has the cat walk type walk ways like motel 6. The A/C in the rooms is not the greatest, others can confirm this. The inside of the room is decent, a close look will show you some wear and tear. I did notice a section off to the right where it is enclosed, I guess those rooms were much better.
I'll focus a bit more on the pre cruise hotel the Radisson, because its very close to the port, and many stay here. The hotel lobby is very nice and sparkly, there is a bar just off to the side of the lobby, which is cool, which is next to the restaurant as well. I would suggest if you do stay here, to pay the extra money for a better room, and make sure its enclosed with its hallways inside the hotel. I got a cheapy room, that when I tried to get some sleep, others walking upstairs right outside my room were walking by with their roll a way luggage, and the cat walk isle's made of a cobblestone type of flooring made the clunk clunk clunk noise each time someone went by with their luggage.
The outside pool area : I didn't really go there but to just glance at it as I lugged my luggage all the way to the rear of the hotel in the blazing humid heat. The area by the pool had an outdoor bar, with little shade, the pool looks just like you see in photos, the waterfall looks just like in photos... But little to no shade out there.
OK, last thing about the Radisson, check out and head to the port time - A Big Mess. I highly suggest, like I and another couple did, get a taxi, do not do the free shuttle. If you do the shuttle, you will get to the lobby about 10-11am to find the entire lobby filled with people and luggage all over the place, so much so that you can't really walk around without banging yourself into someones luggage. And they are all in the lobby because it has A/C, and its too Hot outside. I called a cab, and in 10 minutes, he showed up right outside the lobby, came and got us, put our bags in trunk, and we were off, very quick drive to port, only $11.00 for the fare. So, from the time the cab showed up, to at the port, 15 minutes. Back at the Radisson, the shuttle was still parked outside empty while they were all figuring out what to do. The shuttle has a little U-Haul type of trailer behind it for people's luggage, I can imagine they were still there waiting to take off themselves, cab it folks!
Embarkation : Because I cabbed it, got to port at 10:20am. Folks are very correct on here, this port has it going on!! There was a few lines outside, two regular lines, and one VIP line. Just get in any line if you are VIP, cause the VIP line then, was moving more slower than the regular lines. There is no VIP distinction given to you until after you get into the terminal and go thru security then go upstairs, Then you see the VIP Sign and then can take advantage of that. The entrance to get inside isn't bad, once you get inside, you walk 6 steps and the xray machines are like right there, then you go upstairs for checking in. Me being VIP,I was directed to a nice plush office type check in room, like a Dr.'s Office, hehe. Got onboard exactly at 11am, Great! The couple that got to port with me, weren't VIP, but did get Zone 5 and were onboard themselves at 11:30 !
First Impressions : A very huge ship! Atrium very sparkly and shiny, and elegant. Since stateroom wouldn't be ready until 1:30, and if you get there very early like I did, go eat quick! Because after I got on at 11am, everything in the buffet area was quiet, and empty, but it fills up very fast, by noon time, there were hoards of people and lines everywhere and it stayed that way for most of the afternoon! I also noticed something I never have seen on any other ship before - One of the Main Dining Rooms entrance is right in the lobby area! I never seen a MDR so close to the Lobby/Atrium before.
Other Important Notables : On Deck 5, you will find much of what you need. Starting from Deck 5 Aft there is the Piano Bar off to the left side, and in the middle, there is the Burgundy Lounge, this is where they have all the comedy shows at. Then to the right of that, there is the Song, this is where they do all the Karaoke Shows.
Then as you walk forward on 5 you will then come to Caliente, the Disco, then the Future Cruise Desk right across.... Continuing on 5 you will then come upon the sushi bar, continuing on 5 you will then hit the pastries counter, then Ocean Plaza few steps more.... Still on 5 you will after Ocean Plaza, where they hold live music and trivia you will then come upon the FunHub, about 10 terminals or so... Pass that still on 5 you will hit mid-ship to the Casino, walking thru and out of the Casino you will come to the atrium circular area where all the fun shops are - still on Deck 5 walking past atrium/shops area you will then hit the Encore Lounge, where all the main shows take place.... So see, remember on Dream, Deck 5 has most everything you need there!
Food: I mostly ate at the Buffet, since I didn't want to use up 90 minutes time for MDR Dinners... Buffet had good food, prime rib one night, oven baked tom turkey, which is to die for, and other usual good stuff. For breakfast, the Bacon Police is in full force, in other words, someone serves you bacon. Also another breakfast dumb thing, if you want omelets or eggs cooked to order, you walk over to that side and that's all you get, nothing else offered at that station. If you want bacon and all the other stuff, you have walk across to the regular buffet side and wait in line for that. So you stand in line with your omelet getting cold while the 30 peeps in front of you are loading up their own plates with the pre made eggs and all the other fixings.
Also noticed that on a couple nights, the grill was open Late, I got a burger and fries at almost midnight. Usually they shut down grill at 6pm and that's it. So that was new.
The drink station : Only saw ice tea and lemonade available, and that's it. No apple juice or guava or passion fruit juice. If they had it, I sure didn't see it in the 14 days I was onboard.
They have an ICEE Machine for outside drinks, and also one of the outside bars makes and sells popcorn. The deli which is Deck 10 Aft is to die for as usual, there is a bar right next to it just like Splendor.
Burrito Bar : Had that a couple times, but living here in L.A. I'm used to burritos being made a certain way everywhere around here. I prefer the flour tortillas, not brown ones, and I prefer spanich rice, not citrus'cy type rice. But they were pretty good otherwise. Pasta Bar: Tried once, but too spicy for me.
Drinks : I have heard from others that boarded of their bottle's being confiscated, big time. I have heard this from several guests. The two 12 packs of soda I bought on were no prob, they even opened my bag and saw it.
The Crew : Just as nice as they could be, they work so hard, and have excellent memories for your names. But the Romanian women seem kinda tough.
The Cruise Director : Butch Begovich, very high spirited person, talks very fast, and has a deep Minnesotan Accent. I believe he is a very good CD.
The Show's: Carnival has rolled out many "new" shows compared to my other cruises.. And they are very good. The Comedy Shows that are held in the Burgundy Lounge Deck 5 Aft are very funny! They start out with 2 different comedians, then later on in the week, are replaced with 2 different comedians. A note on that, the late uncensored comedy shows get jammed packed, get there early. The regular shows are very slow to fill, and are usually at 80% capacity.
The shows in the Main Encore Theatre don't normally get filled too fast. A show not to be missed is "Dancin in the Streets", its Awesome!!! There is also the Fun Force Dancers, they hold a show in the atrium, its not to be missed either, they are fantastic.
Ports : First cruise (western) visited ports of Cozumel and Costa Maya Mx, with stops also in Isla Roatan, Honduras and Belize. Second cruise (eastern) with stops in St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Nassau Bahamas. My review is soley focused on the ship, and its amenities and other venues.
Outdoor Lido Laser Show : I would say this event could be missed if you chose to... The ship is sailing at good speeds which means lots of winds, and this hurts the effect of the smoke machines that the laser shoots through. So the lasers do not really give the effect that it could with all that wind outside.
Back to Back Info : I had a different stateroom on the second sailing, so what I did was go down to my next stateroom a couple days before hand and introduced myself to my new stateroom steward. I told him of my staying on the ship back to back, and he took my name and current stateroom # down. He told me he would make sure that it would be one of the first cabins he cleans so I can move in Early, like 9am! He also went up and moved my bags from old room to new. So that was pretty easy.
Back to Back procedure: I got no info on b2b procedures from anyone, so I went down to the information desk and let them know. I was told after all 35 zone numbers were finished, we would have a ship's representative meet us in the sitting area just outside the information desk which she did. There, she gave us our new sail and sign cards, and a new credit card paper to fill out with our credit card number and sign it and hand back. Then we were waiting for the Cruise Director to announce back to back cruisers were clear to leave the ship next. When it was announced, the ships purser walked our group of 15 off the ship, thru customs, and right back on again, 15 minutes total. We got back on an empty ship, cool. So it was about 10:25am then, so walked to my new stateroom, and it was all ready to go!
The second cruise : During the first cruise, I did not tell any of the crew about me coming back onboard, wanted to surprise them, and did I. It was fun to sail with all those who I got to know again, it makes you feel real comfortable with them for another week. Basically the second week was really for lounging around, I had already did much of what I wanted the first time around. At least now I was aware of where everything was, and very familiar with the crew.
Final thoughts.... : Why did I take a back to back ? Well basically two reasons, one, cause I have never done it and always wanted to. Second, flying all the way from LAX to Orlando, I wanted to really make it all worth it, since I was flying coast to coast. Would I back to back again, you bet! But one must remember, its onboard spending times 2. So I would watch my onboard spending, and just basically spending a bit more careful next time.
Comment Cards: None given out. Supposed to get an email survey, still waiting for that.
From the desert to the sea..... From all of Southern California, a good night!