Pre-Cruise Stay: My wife and I stayed at the Marriott Courtyard in Cocoa Beach Florida for 2 days before embarkation. We would recommend this hotel as it is 10 minutes from the pier with access to a beautiful beach,good pool and whirlpool, nice rooms, and a transfer package you can purchase through the hotel with Travelynx from Orlando airport to hotel to ship and back to Orlando airport.
Embarkation: Arrived at 11:15 a.m. We were on the ship by 12:10 p.m. after a 25 minute wait in chairs. Very efficient! Upon entering the ship at the deck 3 atrium, I would recommend that you resist the temptation to immediately run to the lido deck for lunch at the Gathering. Instead, walk over to the Atrium Bar and purchase your soda card, if you want one, then go into the Crimson Dining Room for a relaxing lunch. Had a full lunch menu to choose from with food brought by a waiter, plenty of room for your hand luggage, and the dining room was quiet and only half full. Very nice experience compared to our usual madhouse on the lido deck experience!
Room: We were in 6314. This upper deck room was on the port in the middle/front area of deck six between the bow and mid-ships elevators. It is a good location for getting around the ship, but the room itself had some noise issues. It was near one of the whirlpools on the lanai deck, so that when on your balcony on sea days you got some noise from that area. No noise at night from the whirlpool area. However, as soon as the ship reached international waters and the casino opened for business, we discovered that we could clearly hear the "music" made by the slot machines one deck below. On a scale of 1-10 I would rate the noise at a 2. It was like a low volume radio playing in the next room, it was always there each day the casino was open. We adjusted to it after the first night on-board and it did not become a problem for us, but it might for some light sleepers.
Ship: Dream is an easy ship to like. It was clean, well-maintained, and crewed by team members who were generally friendly and willing to make your vacation a success. The only issue I saw was the marginal English skills of some of the crew. This is not a problem if you are patient. I did not notice the famous smell on any deck at any time on this cruise. Any minor problems we encountered were cheerfully handled by the crew in a timely manner. We did not encounter any lengthy lines considering the ship was sailing with over 4,000 guests including 1200+ children. There are thousands of lounge chairs on this ship. Granted, they are not all 10 feet from a pool. If you look you will find them on deck five, 10, 11, 12, etc. If you wish to use the Adults-Only area at the front of the ship, you need to get there early on sea days, it fills quickly.
Food: This is such a subjective area, that I will keep my remarks general in nature. We ate in the Scarlett Dining Room at table 505. Our waiter,(Nyomahn) asst. waiter(Chayaha) and bar server (Areesha) were excellent. My wife and I agree that the strength of this dining experience was in the appetizers, bread, soups (particularly the chilled ones), and desserts served throughout the week. All of the food was of good quality and very attractively presented. The best lunch I had on the ship was the BBQ served on deck five on sea days. I would also recommend the deli and pasta stations in the Gathering. We ate all of our breakfasts in the dining rooms. They were uniformly excellent.
Spa: This ship has a wonderful spa. I signed up for the one week VIP package to allow use of the Thermal Suite and the Thalassotherapy Pool. Well worth it. I got the use of the pool, plus an Oriental steam room, Turkish steam room, dry heat room with heated tile lounges and chairs, an aromatherapy/cooling room with heated loungers, and showers with multiple nozzles, sprays, lights, etc. Great way to relax after port days or before dinner. They only sell a limited number of passes for this part of the spa, so sign up early on the first day if you want to make sure you get one.
Entertainment: We heard one comic (adult and non-adult show at the Punchliner Comedy Show), saw all 3 production shows, the Legends show, and several of the individual bands and singers in the lounges or at the pool. All were very good. We would strongly recommend that you not miss the Dancing in the Streets show (best production show we have seen in 7 cruises), the Fun Force break dancers, and the comics. The ship also has an interesting karaoke program that includes singing with the live ship's band from the Encore Theatre which is fun, if you like that type of entertainment. Our cruise director Butch and his assistant Baby Butch as well as the other entertainment staff were energetic and approachable and added to the enjoyment of the cruise.
Debarkation: My wife and I would strongly urge you to consider using the Luggage Express program on this ship if you are going to have a layover at the Orlando Airport before your return flight. For a $20.00 per person fee, Carnival checks your luggage through your airline, issues the boarding passes for you and the airline luggage tags and delivers them to your cabin on the last night of the cruise. You affix the tags to your luggage, put it out in the hall and you don't see your luggage again until you reach your destination airport. You will then be allowed to leave the ship at your leisure the next morning. We had breakfast at 8:00 a.m. in the main dining room, returned to our room for a final time and then walked off the ship with our carry-on luggage at about 9:15 a.m. From ship to Travelynx bus took about 20 minutes including customs, since we did not have to visit the luggage area and wait for our checked luggage. We also did not miss dealing with it at the terminal waiting to check in for our flight.
BEST TIP OF THE REVIEW: If you enjoy ships or cruising you need to take the Behind the Fun Tour. It is offered on the last sea day to 16 persons only. Dream is so big, they had two tours on our cruise. You can sign up for it at the Excursion desk. You should do it immediately to make sure you get it. This tour takes you through the crew areas, galley, backstage area of the Encore Theatre,the engine control room, and the Bridge for a meeting with the Captain and other officers of the Dream. It is great to see the hundreds of behind the scene workers who make the Dream work, to speak with them, learn about their life on the ship, etc. You do have to be in good shape as you do alot of walking and climbing ladders, but it is worth it. The tour took about 4 hours with two brief rest stops where you could sit down.
Overall we had a great time on the Carnival Dream. Our weather was decent for January in the Atlantic Ocean, the ship was wonderful, and the crew worked hard to make our trip a success.