We chose this cruise based on its itinerary, cost, and the nearby port. We are mid-50's, Platinum on Carnival, with a few other cruise lines in our history. The itinerary of three ports and three sea days was ideal for us; the Carnival Dream has plenty of opportunities on sea days. We have been to all the ports before and enjoyed our return. This December 4 week looked to be the least expensive of the year - except for September 24, 2011, when we plan to book again! Port Canaveral is ~45 minutes from our home so DD can drop us off and we save the parking charge.
We chose to eat at Fishlips restaurant on the port's channel to the ocean. It gives us a few more minutes with DD and ensures we can go right to our room at 1:30 once we board. We can live without the buffet lunch. Fishlips is great! We watch the small boats; we see pelicans and, every once in a while, a dolphin escorts a boat down the channel.
We enjoyed meeting Butch the cruise director two years ago on the Carnival Glory; he is an entertaining CD and he is training his ACD George to be an excellent host as well. Greg, Christian, Mel, and Stephanie hosted various trivia games during the week, danced at the Groove for St. Jude event, and added to our enjoyment as social hosts. We also discovered Capt. Carlo Quierolo when we met the officers. He brought the Carnival Glory out in July 2003 when we cruised on that inaugural voyage. He was amazed that we remembered.
We explored all the decks, but quickly focused on the Ocean Plaza, midship Deck 5, as a favorite. It usually had a band playing or a trivia game in progress. The view outside to the elevated hot tubs overlooking the ocean is fantastic: this area of the ship opens to the outside on both port and starboard. On Deck 5, you can walk around the whole ship.
For those complaining "you can't get there from here" - yes, the galley is in the midship on Decks 3 and 4. Don't try to walk from aft to forward on those two decks. You have about seven other decks above and below where you can do that! Pick one, then go up or down.
The Carnival Dream had the best shows and entertainment of the 12 Carnival cruises we've been on. The production shows were lively, with a great band supporting them. We liked the way the landing between Decks 3 and 4, in the Lobby/Atrium, is enlarged for the piano and singer to be placed. You can see them from Decks 3, 4, and 5. This ship has sofas on Decks 4 and 5 overlooking the atrium - great idea.
In addition to those musicians and singers, we enjoyed a singer in the casino who accompanied himself on a synthesizer and the bands in the Ocean Plaza. We danced every night before dinner, without going into a lounge specifically. The Ocean Plaza bands included a group from the show band in the theater. We also enjoyed the comedians. They have devoted the aft lounge on Deck 5 to the Punchliner Comedy Club. It has multiple shows each night. Two comedians do multiple shows of TV-rated and R-rated comedy. We sampled every one and enjoyed them all tremendously.
The Fun Force took our breath away with hip-hop dancing all week. Their show in the atrium is not to be missed! Yes, they're showing their "street cred" when they gesture that they want the audience to respond more. They're ship entertainers, with a hip-hop assignment, playing a role. Enjoy it for what it is, a role, and clap some more. Their dancing and spinning skills are top-notch.
The Fun Force offered shows in the Atrium, a hip-hop dance class on sea day, and they gave a class to the children in Camp Carnival. In fact, the children did some hip-hop in the Christmas/Holiday Show on the last day, right along with the Fun Force. The kids looked ecstatic. By the way, in the general hip-hop dance class, you don't do the break dance parts. Just the dancing!
Our cabin steward did an excellent job on our inside cabin, twice a day at least. Our team head waiter, Ida, and assistant Wahrida, provided fine-dining service all week. The maitre'd arranged for new friends we met to be switched to our table, no fuss, and we appreciated it.
We found the food to be excellent in the Crimson dining room. The buffet upstairs was fine for a bite to eat after Nassau, but we ate mostly at the dining room. The entrees have been changed a little since we were on the Carnival Legend in September; Carnival is improving all the time. The Carnival Classics offer the flat-iron steak nightly, and I did have it a couple of times when I wanted to try a new pasta entrEe in the appetizer-size only.
DH enjoyed many sugar-free desserts all week and I went mostly with warm chocolate melting cake. There is also an option for a cheese platter, and don't forget that cappuccino is served after dinner at no charge. Other times of day, it can be purchased at the counter in the Ocean Plaza.
We tried the barbecue lunch on the lanai, Deck 5 outside the Ocean Plaza, and we thought it was great. One day they had Mexican food there - also good. Mostly we went to the dining room for lunch on sea days. The new lunch item, New England clam chowder, was excellent, and I am picky about it. They are now presenting some hot soups from a small pitcher into a bowl with the appropriate seasoning already in the bowl - the soup stays hot and the presentation is lovely.
In Nassau, we tried to call our friends at their Nassau number. Neither of our phones worked internationally. We went onto the pier and found we could not call our friends at a pay phone because of the expense, so we reboarded instantly. We took our books to Deck 5 and settled onto the comfortable, cushioned chairs in the bump-out portion of the deck. Like the bump-out for the hot tubs, it provides an overview of what's below. In this case, it was the pier with everyone going into Nassau. Eventually they returned and we watched that parade, too. Those seating areas on the outside of Deck 5 are fantastic!
In St. Thomas, we were pre-booked with Godfrey's Tours. Godfrey has open-air trucks and offers time to shop; a two-hour tour; and time to go to the beach. His tour is full of historical and cultural information. Apparently, Mountaintop burned down but is being restored; he took us to The Great House. There is a boardwalk with a view from near the top of the mountain that is fantastic. It was warm enough to swim in December but we chose to skip the beach break and return to the Havensight Mall in the port area.
In St. Maarten, we were pre-booked with Bernard's Tours. For this trip we had Noel and he was very informative about the island. We toured in reverse from our previous visit, with a stop at two beaches we had not seen before. Noel provided an hour in downtown Marigot, the French capital (St. Martin). We found a small patisserie and felt very French while we snacked and people-watched.
Noel took us to Orient Beach. The weather was fantastic: under 80 degrees, with a breeze. We snacked at a little place, second one to the left of the main entrance, run by an American couple. Andy and Cheryl's Baywatch offered great fresh seafood created by Andy. The interior beams are covered by "vanity" license plates from their home states of New York and New Jersey: "FHGDBTT" is among the funniest.
Here's a tip about the Serenity Decks: don't miss them. We did not get up there until Friday, which might be my own fault. On Monday I was on Deck 12 forward, just outside the spa, and asked a crew member if that went up to Serenity. The answer was no. I took that to mean there was no elevator to Serenity. Since we believe so strongly in accessibility, that bothered me all week (I have a hard time climbing stairs).
On Friday, I dragged myself up the pool-area stairs from Deck 12 to Serenity Deck 14 (there is no deck 13) and it was fantastic. Oh - I forgot to mention that a Carnival crew member ran over my foot in St. Maarten. I was bandaged up so I really was dragging. A scooter-user embarked by walking across the gangway to the ship, and the crew member at the wheelchair gangway did not know how to operate the scooter. From a standing position, she powered it up, still facing into the line boarding on the other gangway. Before she could realize to let the power button go, it ran me over where I was standing waiting to board.
I was banged up, but not cut. The medical center bandaged me up and I hobbled around for the next two (sea) days. I did not appreciate that the crew member got the scooter across the gangway, returned to the pier, and ignored me doubled over still, on the pier. Thank you, everyone behind us, who expressed care and concern and did not once indicate impatience as I hopped up the gangway with no crew attention.
Back to Serenity: we got up to the top deck. There are padded chaises and - get this - padded, round double-cuddlers with a built-in cocktail table by your feet! Some had windshades to pull up. It was the most wonderful experience of the week to cuddle on the top deck. We were stunned - and not amused - but in the end we were happy to find a tiny elevator at the very very front of Deck 15 and 14 Serenity area. Taking it to 12, we found ourselves inside the spa.
Well, you might have found your way there if you had exercised or gone for a spa treatment, but we had not. We made a note for next time, and now I'm telling you. If you need elevator access to Serenity, walk through the spa on Deck 12 forward, all the way forward!
Overall, we found this ship to offer great nighttime choices; good food; a clean and functional cabin with attractive decoration; and sea-day entertainment that we could choose inside instead of peace and quiet outdoors. A great balance of options!