Our day started without a hitch. Up early and over to pickup my travel companions, my 2 younger sisters, by 6am. I am their older brother 49, they are my 2 younger sisters, 46 and 44 respectively.
20 minute ride to the airport and we are on our way. We had a nonstop flight on JetBlue from Newburgh-Stewart Airport to Orlando. Check in was a breeze and our flight took off promptly at 8:08am. Our flight to Orlando was a little bumpy as the winds were in high gear that morning, but we had a comfortable flight and arrived on time at Orlando airport right around 11am.
The wait for our luggage was just about ten minutes and we were off to the Carnival transfer desk to pick up our numbers and head out to the shuttle. The shuttle from Orlando to Port Canaveral pier was just about 50 minutes. No traffic, a comfortable ride and quick nap before arriving at Port Canaveral. After much anticipation, we were finally there and arrived about 12:30pm.
Right in front of us was our beautiful Carnival Dream. Still reminiscent of the Conquest Class, you can see the differences and much appreciated outward improvements in the Dream Class. As soon as we departed the bus we were directed to check in. No need to touch the luggage. The shuttle driver and the porters handled the luggage transfer. As I am a Platinum member with Carnival (this was my 18th Carnival Cruise), we were directed to VIP check in. Good thing because that line outside looked like one you see on Black Friday outside a retail store.
We zipped right through security, up the stairs to VIP check in and was received by a Carnival Staff member to immediately process our documents. We were given our cabin keys with a warm welcome back and sent on to the ship. The next step was new to us as they have now replaced the welcome aboard photo with individual photos taken of every passenger for face recognition. This is in addition to sticking your card in the kiosk and having a picture taken. It took a few minutes as they had several stations set up and 1 photographer running around taking the pictures.
We were onboard by 1pm and headed to the Lido restaurant called The Gathering for lunch. Much of what you expect at a buffet lunch, plenty of variety to choose from. Many different stations to go to serving hot food, hot and cold sandwiches and of course the ever so tasty Mongolian Wok with cooked to order entrees. We never experienced lines or had to hunt for a table the entire week. This is one of the perks of travelling during shoulder season. Very few families and very few kids.
Once finished with lunch, it was off to our cabin to drop off the carryon luggage, inspect our room and then off to get a welcome aboard Miami Vice from the Lido bar. Our cabin was on Verandah Deck, 8371 with a balcony. I opted for this cabin as it was on a deck between two passenger decks and it had the pull down bed from the ceiling beside the pull out sofa. Since there were three of us in the cabin, we opted to use the pull down bed so that we could also utilize the sofa as a couch. We had plenty of storage space between the three closets, vanity drawers and the cabinets in the nightstands. Our luggage fit perfectly under the beds so we did not have to look at it again until the end of the cruise.
A quick refresh and we were off to Lido for our Miami Vice. It has become a tradition of ours when we sail as it officially marks the beginning of our vacation. We sat for a while enjoying our drinks and unwinding from our flight. We then proceeded to explore the ship. All I can say is that although different, it still felt familiar. Anyone who has travelled on the Conquest Class will understand. We loved the Lanai area on Promenade, but did not like the Casino setup. The main walkway was right in the middle of the casino, virtually splitting the casino in half. The casino has designated smoking tables and machines. If you are not at one of those machines or at one of those tables, you're not supposed to smoke. As I am a smoker, I found this setup very odd and unfair to nonsmokers. Since the casino is really split in two, why not just designate one side smoking and the other nonsmoking?
After scoping out where my favorite machines were, we trekked to the Crimson dining room (Upper) to see where we would be having our daily dinner. We had My Time Dining which actually worked out well for the week. We only had one night which was the first elegant night whereby we were given a pager and had to wait 15 minutes. Other than that, My Time Dining allowed us the flexibility in our schedule we wanted and we soon picked out our favorite wait staff and requested their area each night if available.
Before we knew it, it was time for the safety drill. It is so much better than the "old" days. No more lugging around the life jacket. We just reported to our muster station without the lifejacket for the drill. Our muster station was in Club O2, so we had places to sit. Although crowded, we listened to the overhead announcements, watched the quick video and we were done. We returned to our cabin and experienced sail away from our balcony. We loved not having to be surrounded by hoards of people and trying to fight for a space near the railings.
After sail away we explored a little more checking out the shops, the Cloud 9 Spa, the gym and the Waterworks area. We eventually made our way to dinner and experienced a very happy and personable staff ready to serve us. One thing I am a little disappointed in is that the menus on Carnival have not changed for a long time. Not much new being introduced and I really think it is time for a menu revamp. We did experience mostly good food and service all week. We did have some rough spots in the dining room, but it seemed to be when we were arriving during peak times.
Our stops on this itinerary were the traditional Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Martin. I picked this ship for 2 reasons. 1 - Because it was new and 2 - because it had the old itinerary with no private island stops. It had a balance of 3 port days and 3 seas days. I love my sea days as I see the ship as a destination and enjoy the time to take advantage of the onboard amenities. The girls and I each had spa appointments and of course we need our massages. What can I say? I love a good massage that works out all those knots I get from the stresses of work and everyday life.
We arrived in Nassau on Sunday which was just a short stop. 4 ships in port besides us, Majesty and Monarch OTS as well as Carnival Fantasy and I think Sensation. We just had a leisurely walk through Nassau, popped in the straw market for some trinkets and returned to the ship. We had our meet and greet with our Cruise Critic friends. There was a group called Cruisin with the Crazies that adopted us and included us in their Meet & Greet on Promenade in the Song Lounge. The Cruise Director stopped and spoke with us for a while which I thought was nice. We mingled and had a drink. It was nice to have an opportunity to put faces with names.
Monday was our first sea day and the weather was increasingly getting better. The girls took advantage of the gym early and the sun later. I took up the position of a lazy sack of potatoes and wandered around from quiet little niches to catnap and of course make frequent stops in the casino to play my favorite slot machines. I must say that this ship has the tightest casino I have encountered at sea. No millions for me to take home this trip. LoL..
We did see a couple of shows throughout the week and I must say the choreography and gymnastics was outstanding. As for the lead singers, let's just say more voice coaching lessons were in order. Their voices did not go well with the songs they were desperately trying to sing.
Tuesday we arrived in St. Thomas and had a premade plan to shop at our usual places. First stop was at our favorite jeweler where we spent too much time and I spent too much money. Then off to Mr. Tablecloth to buy a holiday tablecloth for a friend as a gift. We wandered in and out of shops until the weather turned a little overcast and then headed to Cafe Amolia for a relaxing lunch. We ordered the Caesar salad and Chicken Caesar salad. A little pricey, but really delicious. Back on the ship by 3:30pm and a quick nap before dinner.
Wednesday we arrived in St. Martin to a partly cloudy day and choppy waters, but it didn't stop us from going downtown and wandering around through the shops. I was able to buy myself a new pair of Ray-Bans. I left the last ($200) pair on the plane seat the last time I travelled. We then made a bee line to the Belgian chocolate shop. This is a must stop and shop chocolatieria. The Belgian chocolate is handmade and fresh. I think it was $20 for a small box of 16 pieces, but oh so good and they deliver to the ship.
Thursday and Friday were our last days at sea and the girls again took advantage of the wonderful spa. On Friday, they wanted to go in the whirlpools, but after a quick walk around the ship, they found them all to be cold that day and complained to guest services. I spent most of my time wandering, snapping pictures of our beautiful floating hotel and of course.. yes.. frequent stops back in the casino.
I must say we had a very relaxing and enjoyable trip. My expectations were a little higher in some areas where I felt slight disappointment, but overall, our staff was warm and friendly, the service was just a notch below excellent and the ship itself was beautiful. We all agreed we had a good time and would sail the Dream again.