The Carnival Dream was our introduction to the Spa Deck concept, where you have easy access to the Spa Deck, located directly above the staterooms, which includes the gym, the Thalasso Spa and an adults-only Serenity Deck.
As before, on our first Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Victory out of Puerto Rico, the embarkation process was smooth and surprisingly quick for the number of people they had to process through. The ship itself is physically very well maintained, if a bit garishly decorated.
Here are my main points:
Food: rarely rose above mediocre, with the beef dishes being the worst (tough, flavorless, with the sole exception of the short ribs which were good). With the best options available at lunch at the lunch-only Tandoori Oven or the Pasta Bar (upstairs from the main buffet). The Mongolian station was way too slow for me to try; you can easily spend 15 minutes in line just waiting to get to the spot to serve yourself. Even their Chocolate bar was a disappointment with flavorless churros and doughnuts to coat with chocolate. If food quality on your cruise is important, you can skip the Dream.
Service: Food was alternately slow in the Scarlet Room (or quick if you asked for it to catch a show) but again the food continually disappointed us, with even the desserts being occasionally just good. Room steward service was punctual and quick although the room food service (the one and only time we tried it for breakfast) was about 1 hour later than we were promised.
Entertainment: Excellent virtually across the board. Butch (and Baby Butch) are enjoyable hosts and offered excellent, very professionally-produced, shows. Comedy shows and the main dance event (Red, Blue, and White Teams all competing and dancing as a group) were lots of fun. The only misses were the vaguely unfunny Punchliner "Fun Guy" and the misguided Country/"USA" themed show. On a ship largely populated by a crew that was largely not American, and at least part of the passengers not American, it was embarrassing to see the Toby Keith song "God Bless the USA" so carelessly presented--as if there were no other nations on-board. However, if entertainment is a priority, the Dream had some of the best I've enjoyed.
Itinerary: While only three ports and 3 sea days, the stunningly beautiful island of St John was worth the short ferry ride from St Thomas, I could have skipped the sad shortest-day port of Nassau and done either two days in St Martin/Sint Maarten or at least an extra day in St Thomas/St John. I don't know what they've done in the Bahamas, but the structures are crumbling, the streets are in poor repair, and the overall appearance is shabby. Even the famous Queen's staircase which had a pretty waterfall running down beside it, is in disrepair (for at least a year) while the government does nothing to restore it.
Accommodations: We paid a premium for our port-side Cloud-9 Spa; to have access to the Spa right above was a convenient, but we could have enjoyed the benefits of the spa package without being directly underneath the treadmills of the gym directly above. These were the source of frequent, steady, daily pounding that woke me up (if there was an early runner above) and felt like a throbbing headache in your ears, unmask-able with earplugs. So the starboard side (or an inside) room would have avoided this poor placement of the gym over the staterooms. But next time I will check the placement of the gym over what rooms below. And while we had a private balcony on a non-smoking deck, this did not stop anyone below from the smoke reaching us as we relaxed outside. And, if you enjoy a dark room to sleep in, a balcony room is not dark at night without the blinds fully drawn; this is another reason I'd choose an inside Spa room. The room itself was comfortable but the shuddering of the ship during the night kept us from resting deeply, and with the rooms being so high up, the ships movements were more pronounced than rooms located decks down below. The simple Viewsonic TV needed tweaking to make the sound less tinny but was fine otherwise.
Spa/Gym: nicely appointed gym with views of the water. The spa could loosen up with their prize treatment "giveaways" which are mostly 10-30% off discounts rather than actual prizes. The Dead Sea Salt-enhanced Thalasso Spa was itself very soothing (we used it nearly each day) but the wave action of ship affected how relaxing the pool was as you shifted to and fro across the submerged "lounge chair" bars, holding on tightly to them while trying to relax and breath the slightly chlorinated air. I suspect this was a much better experience while in port rather than at sea.
Conclusion: I'm unsure if this is typical of the Carnival Dream, but we enjoyed both the food and the larger Eastern Caribbean itinerary of the Victory for the same 7 days. And for me food and service (especially during sea days) are what makes a cruise comforting and relaxing. So, on balance, I'm left with very little desire to return to the Dream and would either opt for the Victory or even the NCL Spirit Western Caribbean cruise over this ship. Don't misunderstand: we had some very good moments on the Dream, but not enough to make the entire cruise worth repeating.