We are young cruisers (in our 20s) and went on this cruise for a quick getaway during the holidays. Our cruise was from December 23, 2010 to January 1, 2011, which was nice as it encompassed both Christmas and New Years onboard. Generally there are some aspects of the ship we really enjoyed, but a recurring complaint throughout our cruise was the subpar level of service we received from the staff as well as the incredible crowding of the ship - perhaps the crowding caused the poor service?
Long lines but they moved fairly quickly.
We were in a cove balcony (2403). We really enjoyed it - it was spacious and the balcony was really great, close to the waterline. We did not experience the dreaded sewage smell in our cabin but we did smell it closer to the bow of the ship on Deck 2 on occasion (our cabin was towards the aft). I'm amazed that after months of complaints regarding this issue that it is still has not been resolved - perhaps emblematic of Carnival's lack of concern regarding issues of the Dream.
Our cabin attendant was friendly and kept our cabin clean but was not especially outgoing. He never really took the time to chat with us or try to develop any kind of rapport, which was a disappointment because we had gone on a 3 day cruise on Majesty of the Seas (RCI) in November and by the end we felt our cabin attendant was practically family. We did like the towel animals but I'm pretty sure these are customary - we never really felt that our cabin attendant went above or beyond in anyway. He just never really stood out one way or another.
We'll talk about The Gathering (buffet on the Lido deck). We found the food to generally be good, with plenty of good options - Mongolian, Indian, Grill, Pizza, Pasta, Grand Buffet, Burrito Bar etc. We were especially fond of the Mongolian Bar and Pasta Bar (the lasagna is amazing). However, the lines were simply HORRENDOUS. Getting any food at pretty much anytime required a 10+ minute wait. The design for the buffet is simply atrocious, because it requires everyone to stand in the same line, e.g. you can't really simply cut in to what you want, so you have to wait behind those who want to try every single salad and other item even if the only thing you wanted was a slice of prime rib. This makes no sense, especially for such a recent ship! In general, we found the crowd control to be extremely poor throughout the ship.
We were seated in the Scarlet Dining Room with late seating at 8:15 PM. Our waiter for the first two days was simply terrible, one of the worst we have ever had on either land or sea. He never said hello, he never smiled, he simply asked what we wanted, and came back an hour later (!!!!) with our (then cold) food which he plopped down without saying a word. He never asked us how our meal was, etc. After two days of progressively worse service, we asked to switch tables. The headwaitress at the lobby we spoke to was friendly but not apologetic. If anything, I felt that I had to defend my request.
We were switched tables though, and our new waiter was much friendlier, although not once in seven days did he come by to ask us how our meal was going. Again, compared to our short, cheap cruise on Royal Caribbean, the dining room service was simply not up to par. Our previous waiter frequently came by the chat with us, to check on us, etc. Our head waiter would also come by and check to see if we were enjoying our meal. On this cruise, not once in the nine days did a head waiter come by. I'm not sure if this is the standard on Carnival, but the comparison is definitely striking.
The food itself in the MDR was hit or miss - terrible on the first night but better on other nights. One disappointment was that there was no "special" meal on Christmas or New Years - it was basically the same menu even though we were expecting something a little extra. After all, the cruise was twice as expensive as a regular (non-holiday) cruise.
By the way, NOT ONCE in nine days in the MDR was I asked if we wanted anything "special" to drink, e.g. wines, sodas, etc. On the two occasions where I ordered sodas, I had to flag down the one beverage person who was apparently working the entire dining room, and then wait upwards of twenty minutes for my can of diet coke to be delivered. Just another example of the poor service on the Carnival Dream.
The other alternative food option was the Wasabi bar, which generally offered either three pieces of sushi or tapas. The sushi and tapas were not very good but were just "extra," so we were fine with it.
We did try the Steakhouse once. The food and service were excellent (I recommend the prime rib, cheesecake and cheese plate). Nevertheless, the cost per person is fairly steep - $30 per person. I believe this is more expensive than comparable specialty restaurants on other cruise lines. Also, surprisingly, you are limited to one entrEe and one dessert, which still allows for plenty of food but surprising given the steep cover charge.
The public areas of the ship were definitely nice, but again we had some complaints. First, the wait for all the elevators was horrendous, so we generally took the stairs - which was actually good for our waistline, but aggravating for the elderly passengers.
The lounges were nice, but we simply cannot understand why the one piano bar on the ship would be designated as a smoking area. As a result, we completely avoided the piano bar even though this was one of our favorite areas on Royal Caribbean (the Schooner lounge). We had high hopes for Caliente, the nightclub, but it was consistently empty, even past midnight.
We were very disappointed with the pools on the Dream, which are tiny and only three!!! feet deep. The pools on the Majesty, which is about half the size of the Dream and carries half as many passengers, were probably twice as big and certainly twice as deep. Again, this design makes no sense, especially given the size of the ship. As a result, I think we only ever saw young kids using either of the two pools. (There is one additional spa pool, but it is very small and very costly - $35 per person for a day pass).
The Jacuzzis were very nice, especially the four on the promenade deck as they are cantilevered over the side of the ship. We generally found there were plenty of Jacuzzis available, 2 in the serenity area, 2 at the aft of the lido deck, 2 on deck 11, and 4 on the promenade, but they did tend to fill up so they were certainly not very "private," except maybe late at night.
The Dream does also offer mini-golf, which is a fun diversion; waterworks - the slides are fun for about five minutes, and the rivets are not aligned so I would definitely agree with others that a t-shirt is necessary to avoid significant pain; and two giant outdoor life-sized chess boards on the promenade deck - a nice hidden feature.
This was another low point of the cruise. Given that the Dream is Carnival's flagship, it simply does not even come close to what we've heard about the entertainment on either NCL's (Epic) or RCI's (Allure or Oasis) flagship entertainment. The male lead singer, Desmond Dansby, is good, but the female lead singer, Simone Catallano, is terrible. The dancers were OK but nothing great, except for the "Fun Force" hip hop team which was very good. The Fun Force starred in "Dancing in the Streets" which was by far the best show. The other entertainers included average comics, a not very exciting EDGE juggling show, a decent ventriloquist, and a decent hypnotist. By the way, "Jeff the fun dude," who hosts the comedy shows in the Burgundy Lounge, is NOT funny.
We didn't really love the cruise director, Butch, or his assistant, George Roberts AKA Baby Butch. There was just something "off." Most of the passengers seemed to like him though, and he was very peppy. Our opinion might actually be colored by our debarkation, during which he was present but kind of gave us a weird look and did not shake our hands. We thought this was very odd for a cruise director who has a reputation for being upbeat and personable.
The ship has a wireless intranet known as Funville@Sea, with message boards for passengers to interact. This is an interesting concept but poorly executed as hardly anyone used it. It could be fun if a critical mass of passengers got involved with it, though.
The Dream is an OK ship - we think it seriously lags behind its competitors' flagships. The service on our cruise, from the dining staff to the entertainment staff to the stateroom staff, was mediocre but perhaps explained by the passenger load. Although the ship might be designed to carry a maximum of 4,500 or so passengers, the public areas and staffing of the ship simply do not support this type of passenger load. I think our experience suffered as a result.
We had heard Carnival was generally GLBT friendly. We are both gay, and so we were looking forward to the FOD meetings. Although the meetings appeared on the schedule every day, we only were able to meet one other couple on the third or fourth day. We didn't like them very much and simply stopped bothering to show up. On the first three days, no other GLBT people showed up for the meeting - pretty disappointing given that the ship was carrying around 4,500 passengers. So beware GLBT folks, don't expect to find people at FOD.