We booked our Dream cruise about 8 months early and booked via a large airline vacation website. We had previously sailed Norwegian and Disney; enjoying both cruise lines. However, NCL was without kids. Disney was with them and 3 years ago.
Our goal was a family vacation with enough variety and activities to keep us all happy. That is a tall order!! The Dream met our expectations and exceeded them too. The ship is great, but not perfect. But the good abounds and while there is room for improvement, I would not complain about anything. Just remember that all reviews are opinions and subjective. Also, each cruise is different; the passengers change, the crew changes. So nothing is ever the same.
The Cabin: Ours was inside. Just for kicks, at the port, we inquired about any available upgrades. None were available as it was sold out. Of course, the cruiseline tells you that you can't upgrade at the port, but I thought I would ask anyhow. You cannot.
We had a quad for 2 adults and 2 kids. The room was inside aft on the starboard side of the Vista Deck (level 9). It was fine for us. Not much room if everyone was standing up and trying to move around, but no problem otherwise.
We really don't do much in the cabin except sleep, change clothes and use the head. It's not our center of relaxation, just a place to keep our clothes, valuables (in cabin safe is provided) goodies then bunk and bathe. For those purposes it was perfect. Hair dryer is provided. I found 2 outlets for electrical: one in the cabin (by the desk) and one in the bathroom (over your head near the ceiling under a white cover)for shavers etc. There is no tub in the bathroom which is fine; just a corner shower. The shower had lots of pressure and was more than hot enough. The sink is small and water was warm, not hot...but never cold.
The beds were extremely comfortable and the two twins were pushed center for one large bed. Storage underneath held the empty luggage. Spacious closets (3) held clothes on shelves or on hangers. It was more than adequate for our 4 cruisers.
A small desk and 4 drawers held other small items and some clothes. 2 night stands stowed even more goodies. The over head beds were stored in the ceiling during the day and dropped down for sleeping. Each had a ladder for the kids to climb to the bed. When all the beds are down, the over head ones hang partially over the main bed. This makes getting up from the main bed a slight challenge in that you either duck and get out the side or move to the center and get up and out.
A mini fridge and small bar area were in one corner (also held the safe). Water glasses and ice were always at the ready thanks to the room steward.
So while not large by any means, it was a great room for our purposes. And we could not complain.
The Food (main dining room): Outstanding. We loved it. Lots of variety and cooking styles. We tried lots of new things. Each night was a variety of fish, fowl, beef and vegetables. Starters, main courses and desserts were all quite good. We enjoyed it all and were not bored. The presentations were interesting and creative. We felt it was very good dining.
The Ship: This was our first Carnival cruise and I found the ship to be like a very upscale resort, that floats and takes you places. The design and decor was impressive and eye catching. Attention to detail is evident everywhere. The Atrium is stunning and one could spend hours there enjoying drinks and music the shows in the adjacent Encore Lounge (a theater).
There are typical small cruise ship pools on the Lido (deck 10)deck midship and aft. We found them to be uncrowded mostly, but it may have been cool for some (we are from Chicago and found the weather fine). We had no trouble getting a chair or two either. I've heard it can be a challenge at times, but we did not encounter this. Hot tubs line the ship on Deck 5, Deck 10 and Deck 11. These are really great and you can hot tub right over the ocean below. We utilized the hot tubs a lot.
I could spend hours describing the public areas of the ship, the Burgundy Lounge (comedy club, karaoke, fun stuff), Sam's Piano Bar, Song (a small bar for performers and karaoke), Ocean Plaza (midship, games, trivia contests, music and more)....to name a few. They were all upscale and classy, tasteful, but not gaudy. One nice touch were the many Fun Hubs aka computer terminals with links to ship info, daily activities and the carnival.com website. For a fee you can use internet on their computers or on your own laptop.
The Crew: We had no problems with any of our staff. Our room steward was very efficient and left our room spotless every morning and then again before bed. Our waitstaff was friendly and helpful. All other encounters were pleasant enough and service as expected. I can't believe how hard people work on board. There is constant cleaning, maintaining, painting and upkeep. It is a tightly run operation for sure.
Camp Carnival: The kids loved it. They had something fun to do almost all the time. They even learned how to hip hop dance from the actual dancers in one of the shows! On the last day they put on a performance and were pretty good.
The Shows: I can't remember the names of the male and female leads, but they both had strong voices and could sing and dance with the best of them. The shows were fun and the music/singing was on par with the best you have heard. Dancing in the Streets got a standing ovation. "8 more seconds", the country music review, hit all the right notes. Overall, very professional productions, with pro dancers and singers. We were very impressed and this exceeded our expectations.
Activities: There were the usual Art Auction, Shopping Seminars and Bingo. Also, there were cooking classes, ship tours, trivia contests, a murder mystery contest, health club and spa classes (some for a fee), a drink recipe contest and many, many more. Josh the cruise director (the Doctor of Fun) kept pretty busy making sure there were many things to do and they are always listed in the Fun Times newsletter you get in your cabin each night. So you have plenty of options to stay busy or not. You can find spaces on board to relax in the sun and sea air and not be bothered. It's your choice.
Special mention: Look for Vitalli the Karaoke Host. He's a fun guy who keeps the show fun and lighthearted. In case you forget, he reminds you that you are ON VACATION. Josh was a fun cruise director. Edge was a great juggler and funny man. His juggling on a moving (rocking and rolling) ship was pretty impressive. The band that backs up the dancers and singers was as good a band as you will ever see. The guitar player, sax and violin were virtuosos.
Ports: Nassau, St. Thomas, St. Martin. Could have a whole separate review on those. We had fun in each and did one excursion in St. T. We snorkeled at Buck Island in rain and rough waters (remnants of Hurricane Tomas).
So as you can tell we had a great trip. There were things I would improve upon such as the buffet, which was fine, but lacked any flair. Also, didn't like the ice cream in the Gathering buffet. It was soft serve and just average.
And to answer the question, there is an odor present at times in one area. On floor 9 aft starboard around the corner from the stairs going towards the cabins....it was present at times. I know the smell because I lived in a high rise with a garbage chute and when open you would get the same smell. Perhaps they left the door to the chute open? Don't know. Didn't bother me much and I noticed it only a few times. There was another smell of sulfur on embarkation day that I caught on Deck 11 midship starboard. Never again did I smell it and I assumed it was something to do with the port and emptying bilge and waste tanks and not the ship itself.
Overall I felt Carnival exceeded our expectations for a fun, active cruise with a variety of things to do. It was a great value and we plan to do it again.