I won't go into the ship's features since that has already been done at length. I will just hit our likes and dislikes about this ship. And I want to comment on our cabin, #2456, because prior to departure, I could find no info on it. We left Port Canaveral on a week-long Thanksgiving cruise to the Caribbean with 38 family members. This was not a ship or an itinerary we would ordinarily have chosen, but we went to be with our family, and it was wonderful in that regard. The Dream is huge, but it did not feel unmanageable, save for the horribly frenetic cafeteria, and the fact that debarking at ports was harried and, particularly at St. Thomas, disorganized.
We booked our own air in and out of Orlando, but used Carnival's shuttles to/from port. That was seamless, and well worth the money. I would never bother renting a car. Not worth it. The port was pretty well organized, but not smooth like, say, Baltimore, which is incredible. Much better than the other Florida ports. (Disclosure: I have not used Miami.)
Overview: The Dream, basically, is the gigantic Ramada Inn of cruise ships. It is clean and serves its purpose. Everything was tidy and well-maintained. I would not call the ship beautiful or ritzy, but it is functional and not gaudy, which in the cruise industry, says a lot. Except for a horrid Thanksgiving Day meal, where the food was terrible and our entrees and deserts were reportedly "stolen by another waiter," the food in the main dining room was good. Carnival always surprises me with this fact. Service was a shoddy circus, but honestly, the staff was worked within an inch of their lives and spread way, way too thin. Shame on Carnival. The outdoor cookout area was amazing. Best. Ribs. Ever. That was the consensus of every guy in our group. The cafeteria stuff was the usual; not great, not bad. The Indian buffet was decent and pretty authentic, but I never saw any curries or tikka masala. Hamburgers were so-so, hot dogs were synthetic yuck. Pasta bar was a joke. Somewhere, a gang of Italian chefs is rolling on the floor with laughter.
Cabins: Our cabin was an OV, far aft, and bland but plenty spacious. Our group had also booked a number of inside cabins nearby, and they were very, very nice, and not claustrophobic in the least. Almost all of us were aft on Deck 2 and it was quiet. We had some mildly rough seas outbound, but felt little motion. By contrast, one family in our group was far forward on Deck 2, and apparently the motion and engine noise was horrific. We usually get balcony cabins because I tend to motion sickness and sit outside a lot. But again, we wanted to be near our group, and we did not suffer in the least in this cabin. When I felt queasy, I just stood at the window awhile, or went above. Bedding was quite good, pillows and mattresses just excellent. We slept like babies.
Bathrooms were marvelous, and amazingly well designed. I have had worse bathrooms in large suites on better lines. Someone should get an award for this design. There was space for everything. The cabin, for what we paid, was extremely spacious, even though this was one of the rooms which wraps around a service stairwell. I think there must have been complaints about this, because prior to departure, our TA called and said that Carnival was going to give us $100 back because the cabin had been classified down. The hallway also cuts into the room a little oddly, if you look at the deck plan. But we had no noise at all, and I would not hesitate to rebook this cabin. It was an incredible value.
The spa: We paid for a pair of week-long spa passes, and should have just flung the cash overboard instead. The Thermo pool was tepid. There were no spa hot tubs such as you might have on NCL. No showers in the ladies' room that I could find. The heated loungers were crowded. The music was loud. The other patrons were loud, too. Forget closing your eyes and relaxing here. One of the beds was broken, and another broke beneath a lady as she lay down on it. On port days, they had clearly oversold day passes to the detriment of those who had bought weekly passes. Just do not waste your money. Additionally, the serenity deck, like all such decks on all such ships, was packed. Loungers were reserved with towels that lay there all day. None of the hot tubs was above about 100 degrees. I can understand this on the public decks, because people let their kids get in them. But on the serenity deck, they should be cranked. Instead, they were not worth getting wet for.
Now, the infamous smell. This really does exist. There is a definite odor of sewage gas at intervals along the corridors of Deck 2, and if I remember correctly, Deck 3. It is unpleasant. If you had a cabin near these spots, you would have a miserable journey indeed. I never attempted to pinpoint these spots, but wish now I had done. Perhaps someone else has? This is a definite design flaw. I hope it is not dangerous. I did not smell sewer gas on any of the public decks.
Entertainment & Activities: The gym was quite decent. Our group did not use any of the kids clubs. What entertainment we saw was fine. We are not big on ship entertainment. I will say that the entertainment director was very funny. Jeff the Fun Dude. How he keeps it up, I'll never know. That crowd would wear me down in two weeks. I would give serious thought to promoting Jeff. Maybe put him in charge of service? Which brings me to . . .
Service: And here we come to the sticking point. All the staff were kind, but this ship felt seriously understaffed, and the workers are run ragged. They LOOKED tired and worn. They showed significantly less enthusiasm than other crews we'd seen on other lines, and even on other, older Carnival ships. It was sad. Even bar service in clubs and the main restaurant was tepid—and that's the bread and butter of a cruise line. We were practically screaming, "PLEASE, take our money!" Nada. I begin to think the staff on the Dream is being treated like a gang of galley slaves. I would rather pay more, and have a staff adequately paid and rested. Don't get me wrong. Save for six calls to Guest Relations going totally unanswered, our needs were adequately met. Nothing suffered. Except the crew.
Summary: If you are on a tight, tight budget, and don't mind roving gangs of loud children, tepid hot tubs, and watching others suffer in your service, this ship might be for you. Despite what I think are lovely cabins and good food, I don't think it is for me. But I have tried to be fair in my ratings and review.