We embarked on the Carnival Dream on January 22, 2011, at Port Canaveral for our 7 day cruise to Cozumel, Belize, Honduras and Costa Maya. Very fun time but there were some quality issues with Carnival that they need to address if they are going to continue building ships this large.
Embarkation was a breeze. Carnival gets high marks for streamlining this effort. Very little wait time and we were on the boat shortly after 12:00pm. Friends of ours were able to board as early as 11:00am. Able to access our rooms by 1:30pm. Our room was on the second deck, forward part of the ship. It was unusually loud, moreso than I have ever experienced. Not people noise, but engine noise and the incredible noise from waves slamming into the ship. This wasn't a rough cruise. Weather was nice but we were continually awoken by the waves. Tons of lower deck noise while porting, too. Do NOT get a room below the 3rd deck if you want sleep.
This was my 9th cruise, 8 with Carnival and 1 with Celebrity. I had been on Carnival's Destiny and Triumph class ships before, and on the Carnvial Pride.
The ship is very nicely appointed with all of the typical Carnival fanfare and decor. This ship is not as elegantly decorated as others, but nice all the same. 24 hour pizza that is great after a late night of clubbing is still there. Burgers, hot dogs and steak sandwiches are available every day, too. The main buffet room served typical buffet food. I'm not much of a food person meaning I don't obsess over it or base my reviews on food quality alone. Some of it was very good, other not so much. One thing I did notice repeatedly were the long lines. The ships buffet layout is not conducive to all of the guests aboard. The sandwich deli and sushi places were present, as were Mongolian and Indian buffets. Good, decent food. No complaints.
Also noticed the layout of the lido deck was not able to house all those that wished to sunbathe. Chairs crammed armrest to armest along the very narrow upper decks is not at all relaxing. The center pool area midship is stadium style with a large television hanging overhead.
Nice danceclub and lounges. Plenty to do throughout the days at sea. We skipped the nightly shows. Not really show people, but did enjoy the comedians and other lounge talent. From our friends who went they seemed to enjoy them, though.
This was the very first time I have been on a Carnival cruise where the room steward did not personally knock on the door and introduce him/herself. We eventually met him but the personal feel that I had experienced on previous cruises was not there. In fact, he was so busy throughout the week keeping up with things we barely met or talked with him. Good service, though. No complaints.
The formal dining room has relaxed considerably. I recall years ago people with jeans were not allowed in, but now they are. We ate in the formal dining room on 4 of 7 nights. On 3 of the 4 our meals were served cold. Again, we noticed the waitstaff scrambling, not just ours, but the entire dining room staff scrambling to keep up with the increased passenger load. The excellent food quality I had come to expect from the formal dining room has decreased considerably.
We did eat one night in the steakhouse. $30 per person upcharge, but it was well worth it.
Ports of Call
Cozumel - who hasn't been here? It was a cloudy day so we did some shopping and ended up at Carlos n Charlies. Fun times as always.
Belize - We booked an excursion through cavetubing.com. Much cheaper than the Carnival excursion and you get a longer tour. Fantastic people. I will never book another excursion with Carnival. In this day and age with the internet, all one has to do is Google excursions at respective ports. No need to bother with Carnival's outrageously priced trips. And don't ever let them scare you into doing only Carnival booked tours. It's a bunch of nonsense.
Sidenote: Currently Carnival is in a contentious disagreement with Belize over tender fares. Belize wants $2.00 more per head. Carnival doesn't want to pay. Carnival has made a decision to intermittently skip Belize as a way of financially punishing them into an agreement. Our tour people weren't sure we would even show up because they no longer know when Carnival ships will be coming. In Costa Maya we actually ran into some people from another Carnival ship that skipped Belize one day after we were there.
Be sure to leave the port area in Belize and wander Fort St. Great flea markets, local bars, etc. The entire port area/shops are owned by Carnival and other companies. If you want the real feel, and if you want to know your money is actually going to the people of Belize...get out of the port area.
Isla Roatan, Honduras - Wonderful island. Skip the Mahogany Beach excursion. That is Carnival's man made beach literally right next to where the ship docks. We instead booked a private catamaran with a local company. Only 10 of us on a 40 foot catamaran. Wonderful snorkeling, dolphin sightings and a great lunch made by the captain's wife! We saved tons of money skipping Carnival's excursion.
Costa Maya - Have to say this was an unexpected surprise. We took a 5 minute cab ride into the real town of Mahahual. Skip the port shops/bars/eateries. All owned by the cruise lines. Mahahual has a fantastic beach, decent shops, outrageously good food and cheap drinks! We jet skied for $30 for half an hour. Snorkeled for one hour for $20. Great coral reefs and tons of fish.
All in all this was a good cruise. Carnival definitely has the funship vibe going and people generally seemed to be having a great time. Only drawback and I blame it squarely on the mega size ship is that the crew cannot keep up with passenger demand.
Would I cruise again with Carnival? Probably. I'm easily entertained and always like a bargain. Did notice some quality issues, though. It's not the staff's fault. They work tirelessly to ensure you have a good time. Carnival can continue to build these megaships but perhaps they need more staff?