The ship itself it beautiful, nice artwork, great lobby, very spacious. With 4200 people on board, you would really never know it. We booked a cove balcony, best room we have ever had on a cruise ship. The cove balconies are private, close to the water and just plain fun. The room itself is fairly spacious and pretty standard, not much different than any other balcony room we have been on in the past.
This was our first cruise with the kids (ages 9 and 5), so we went with Carnival for thier reputation of being good for kids - and Carnival lived up to that reputation. The kids did not participate in Camp Carnival (though I heard nothing but good things about it) - they wanted to hang with us and we figured it was a family vacation so we wanted to spend as much time with them as well. If you take advantage of all the Carnival activities throughout the day/night the kids have a blast with them. The cruise director and asst. (Butch and Baby Butch) are really great and we got to know them through the cruise and had fun participating in all the activities. One of the best activities is the ship wide competition between decks that is on-going throughout the cruise in which your floor earns points and you have to compete in activities to earn your floor points - kids loved the competition. The kids (and me) loved the Waterworks slides (wear a shirt or else it is a little rough on your back), the mini-golf, pools and hot tubs.
The food and dining service were above average but not quite as good as other cruises (i.e. Princess and Royal Carribean), but not enough so to discourage us from going Carnival again. Really in the end the food is fairly comparable. The Gathering (which is the main buffet area) was always to crowded and took way to long to get food, we shyed away from going there and utilized open seating. But we did go a couple times and the food was good, the Magnolian BBQ is good stuff.
The entertainment at night was very enjoyable - they put on good productions. My wife and I noted that the shows on the Dream were noticably better than those we experienced on Royal Carribean and Princess. I think if you just want and entertaining show and a good time, you'll get it with the shows on the Dream. They also have comedy clubs which we did not participate in - and little to much above PG for the kids (even the PG-13 family shows) and they also have R rated comedy shows.
The ports we visited were Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Costa Maya. Our excursion on Cozumel was cancelled due to wind, so we just went into part and waled around. Fairly nice port area, nothing much different than most cruise ship ports. Belize we did the Geoff's Caye snorkeling, which was fun and for those with kids under 8 one of the very few snorkeling tours that allow kids under 8 to go (they do a great job). Roatan is a beautiful port, best one on the stop. Costa Maya we did not schedule an excursion and just went into the port, probably the best shopping port on the cruise (the whole area is new due to being re-built after a hurricane). All in all, the ports were good but not the best in the world - don't think I would go back to Costa Maya or Belize again if I had the choice.
One more note, in reading part reviews there have been several comments on the sewer odor on Deck 2. We did not experience an odor in our cabin. however, when walking through the halls, particularly in the middle section of deck 2, you do smell a sewer type odor - so it is there. I can imagine there are a select few cabins on deck 2 that might get this odor more than others - so keep an eye out for those reviews/cabins that said they smell it. But again, our cabin/cabin area did not experience it.
Overall the cruise was above expectations. This is our 5th cruise and the Dream is the best ship we have been on - it is magnificent. We were a tad reluctant to go on Carnival, but in the end we will cruise with them again.