It was spring break for the school system and as 3 of the passengers were school teachers and some with children, we decided to book the caravel dream. a new ship and children between 6 and 13, it seemed like a good choice. Out of the 17 of us 9 have sailed with Carnival before and though it was not our favorite, no one had any complaints that would prevent us from choosing carnival since it seemed the most kid friendly.
The embarking process seemed smooth as most and no complaints. However once on board it was clearly evident that there was an absence of staff about the ship. All 17 of us met at the appointed place on the lido deck and proceeded to the buffet to have lunch. My wife and i looked over the buffet and then looked at each other, and with out speaking a word we clearly communicated with our eyes 'OH NO'. The food was no better than a school cafeteria and even one of the 12 year old commented to her mother 'the food we get at school is better than this, i thought you said cruise ship food was great. From here forward the food got worse as did our expectations every day and night.
our balcony room was comfortable with plenty of space for all of our belongings, that was a plus. the interior of the ship was tastefully decorated and it was obvious that this was a newer ship. all spaces we clean and neat and the ship was laid out well in the interior only.
the outside lido deck was another story. This is the largest ship in Carnival's fleet and as in other reviews i concur that they added way to many more passengers for the amount of recreational space available. 2 pools were very small and hardly worth the trouble to even try to use. Children frequently filled the hot tubs "not healthy for small children" but parents and staff obviously do not know this. The large Waterside took up way to much recreational space for the value it served.
Most of all, the food and variety in the buffets were the worst i have seen on any cruise line in the last 12 years. the main dining rooms had acceptable service but the food was on par with Boston Market, do not get me wrong Boston Market Has decent 'Cafeteria' style food, but that is hardly what one should expect on the largest ship in Carnivals fleet. One night 8 of us decided to go the the specialty steak house for dinner. The service was finally upscale as one would expect on a cruise ship. The staff was attentive and catered to our every need, until it came time to order the steak. We had the choice of ordering plain or spice marinated, we all chose the spice marinated as they showed us what they put on the steak. Most of us ordered the fillet and i ordered the 22 oz. porterhouse. The steaks were cooked to our specifications, but after the first or second bite eye after eye turned to one another as to say 'what the heck is this', the steaks were way over seasoned especially the SALT oh my god i managed 3 bite and said to one of the assistant servers that my steak was so salty i can not eat it, two of my party said the same thing.. Here is where the good part comes in. I saw the assistant server go to our waiter and say something about our steak being over seasoned. The waiter waited until it was time to leave the table and asked if the meal was satisfactory, when he knew full well it was not. i sat at the opposite end of 8 people and literally would have had to make a scene to complain about my steak 20 minutes after i told the assistant server that my steak was way over seasoned. I had eaten at Ruth Chris' The Capital Grill and Lowery's Steak house in Chicago i know the difference. I have yet to ever have a chef ruin a piece of prime beef, let alone pretend it did not happen.
It was the opinion of the entire group that as the other cruise lines are becoming larger they bring up the service to compensate. Not so on the Dream if you are a first time cruiser you may not notice the difference, and that is fine , as long as your cruise is a memorable experience. As for us we all agree we would never sail on carnival again. Poor food too little staff and a less than average experience.