Carnival Dream - Western Caribbean March 4-12, 2011
We are a couple in our mid 50's, early 60's from California. This was our first cruise on the Carnival Dream - but our 37th cruise over-all, and we've cruised on Carnival, Princess, NCL, HAL, RCI and X. We hold a Platinum status on Carnival.
We flew from Oakland, arriving into Orlando late the night before. We picked up our car from Budget - which we were to return the next day at Cape Canaveral. I had reserved a compact car...but they upgraded us to a brand new Eclipse convertible. Needless to say, our luggage barely fit, but my husband was jazzed about it. I had booked us into the Crown Plaza Hotel, near the airport for $50. per night on Priceline. The room was really nice, clean and comfortable. The next morning we got up late (around 11:00) and drove the 45 into Port Canaveral. Budget Rental Car was easy to find, and after we returned the car, we boarded the large shuttle van that would take us to the ship. BTW, this is an excellent solution to "how to get from the airport to the ship". The rental car only cost us $22...a shuttle or taxi would have cost us 3x that much! We dropped our bags off with the porter at 12:30 - and by 1:00 we were on the ship and heading to lunch.
Onboard that First Day....
Our typical plan of action is to grab our Carnival Caper and a highlighter pen and plot out our activities for the night while having lunch - so that's what we did. We quickly found the Buffet on Deck 10, filled our plates and found a nice table near one of the windows. Not too much going on that first night...but, we found a few things that looked interesting. After lunch we roamed around the ship a bit before heading back to our cabin. Our bags still hadn't arrived, but we spent some time checking out our cabin, and relaxing. We were in a balcony cabin - Deck 7 #7405.
The cabin was quite roomy and there was lots of space for everything. The bed had already been pushed together to make a king-size, and there was also a large sofa and table. The room also had a stocked mini-bar/refrigerator and decent sized bathroom. Within the hour, our bags arrived, and we quickly unpacked and stowed our suitcases under the bed. While unpacking, our stateroom attendant arrived. He introduced himself, and asked if we needed anything. We asked him for two extra pillows, which he brought during the turn-down service.
At 3:30 we headed over to the dreaded Muster Drill. The only good thing to say about those drills is that Carnival has changed it over the past couple of years. We no longer need to bring our life jacket. We simply meet at our Muster station, listen to their instructions - which lasts about ½ hour, and that's it.
Although we had requested the early dinner, we were booked into the 8:15 dinner group. Right after the drill, we made our way to the dining room to see about having this changed. We were told that early seating was full, but they'd try to accommodate us. Unfortunately though, that first night we'd have to either eat at 8:15, or go to the buffet or something. We opted for the buffet. Let me just say, the buffet really wasn't very good, and we were really crossing our fingers - hoping that would be the last time we'd have to eat dinner there - except for the occasional lunch. After dinner, we headed over to the casino, and later to karaoke.
The Carnival Dream is currently the largest and newest ship in the fleet. I really didn't find the over-all feel of the ship to be all that big actually. Clearly, the hallways seemed to go on forever, but it just didn't have that "big open space" feel to it that some of the RCI ships have had. I had read a lot of reviews that went on and on about everything seeming over-crowded, with long lines. I didn't really feel that to be the case on our cruise. The theater is very open with nothing blocking your view. Even when you arrive at a show a little late, you can always find somewhere to sit. The ship is pretty new, and everything seemed to be in good working order, and was clean, shiny and pretty.
I was disappointed with the food on the Dream. Overall, I had considered the food on Carnival to generally be quite good on other ships. Over the years, I had thought it had slipped somewhat, but still pretty tasty. The Dream has confirmed to me that the food could really be improved upon.
Dining Room - Grade B-. We ate dinner in the dining room most nights. Our wait staff were very nice and did a great job. We also enjoyed the folks seated at our tables, and looked forward to having dinner with them every night. The food was kind of a hit or miss. Our first formal night, I ordered the lobster/shrimp dish. My lobster was quite undercooked and the side dishes were mushy and flavorless. This seemed to be the theme every night....either the meat was undercooked, overcooked...and always the food had little flavor. The other folks at our table had similar comments. It wasn't horrible...it just was okay. However, let me compliment whoever invented the chocolate melting cake - yum!!
The Gathering - Grade C-. This is the buffet upstairs. They offered a second buffet on Deck 5 during out to sea days that looked delicious, but we never tried it. The line was loooong! The selections in this buffet were limited, and the food just wasn't too good. There was also pasta bars (didn't try it) and burrito bar (not bad) being offered.
Pool Grill - Grade D+. The buffet near the pool offered hamburgers, hotdogs, fries, etc. We ate there a few times for lunch - but the burgers were dry and the fries always seemed to be cold. I'd generally have a hotdog, which weren't bad (they also had chili there)...but I would have loved some shredded cheese on top....
Specialty Steak House - Grade B+. We were able to make this reservation a few weeks before embarking on the Dream, which was really a nice touch. We wanted to do something special for our anniversary, and decided to splurge. This was the only specialty restaurant on the Dream...and considering the size of the ship, I found that surprising. They charged a flat $30pp to have dinner there, which was more than any other ship has charged in the past. The service was excellent, and they went out of their way to add special fancy touches to everything - from the place settings to the atmosphere. I was a little miffed that the wine steward was unwilling to have my nearly full bottle of wine brought up from our regular dining room. Instead, I ordered wine by the glass that night. We both ordered the filet mignon and lobster tail. I ordered mine with lobster bisque and my DH ordered his with French onion soup. His onion soup was EXACTLY the same soup that had been served in the dining room a couple of nights earlier. We each felt the soup was just okay, nothing fabulous. The steak and lobster was quite good, and the dessert was excellent. We enjoyed the meal, but felt that overall it wasn't as good as we have had in specialty restaurants in the past.
Room Service/Etc. We got into the habit of either ordering room service around 2am or stopping by the 24 hour pizza place nearly every night for a late night snack after the casino. You can order room service from your television - no calling in anymore, and it was delivered within 30 minutes. The food was pretty good. The 24 hour pizza was available near the pool, and we generally got a couple slices of pepperoni. Not a lot of flavor, but the crust was good, and it was always hot and cheesy.
Entertainment. The entertainment on the ship is one of the things we enjoy most about cruising. On this cruise, we didn't attend any of the big stage shows. They're pretty much standard on any cruise - but we heard from various people that they were really good, and well received. We did attend a number of the Adult Uncensored Comedy shows, and they were all really funny! They also had quite a few trivia contests, game shows etc which we always enjoy and came away with more "ships on a stick" for our growing collection. My only real complaint was karaoke. They offered it quite a bit, including a special karaoke that allowed one to sing with the band. The problem was the meager song selection. I sing karaoke A LOT on every cruise, and in local clubs at home. I've never encountered such a weird collection of songs to choose from. This left a BIG hole in my cruise experience and I was quite disappointed. Consequently, we spent much more time in the casino than normal. Luckily, my husband came away a winner!
We had been to all four ports on many occasions, so we decided not to book any excursions in advance.
Cozumel - We decided to pretty much stick with California time to avoid jet lag, so we stayed up LATE the night before and woke up around 11:30 every morning - starting with Cozumel. After lunch, we wandered off the ship and did a little shopping. A very nice little shopping mall is right there at the port...and you can find all kinds of stuff. I bought a bottle of vanilla, and my DH bought some great roll-on pain medication that really helped with his chronic back pain. Then we spent the next couple hours scouring the jewelry stores for my birthday present. My birthday was coming up in a couple days...and for the past few years, I've been selecting my own gift this way during our annual cruise. I finally found a stunning white gold pendant set with chocolate and white diamonds for an amazing price.
Belize - We got onto the tender boat around 12:00 and rode the 15-20 minutes into Belize. There is a nice shopping center right there at the port, and after looking around a bit, we decided to take a little city tour that was being offered there for $25pp. The same tour on the ship would have been $49pp. We followed our tour guide to his van, and spent the next 2 hours driving around the city and learning much about the culture, growth, and Sr. Sanchez's personal experiences growing up there. It was just my DH and I, and we really got our monies worth!
Honduras - After lunch, we wandered off the ship, and spent about an hour checking out the shops near the port. It's VERY lush and green in the area, and we did notice some zip line tours right near the port that we considered checking out - but didn't.
Costa Maya - We had just visited this port the year before...and decided to just stay on the ship that day and relax.
Disembarkation - They started making announcements on the intercom at 6:30am, and although we tried putting pillows over our ears to block it out, by 7:30 we got up and got ready to leave. We had put a "Do Not Disturb" sign outside the door (as usual) but at 7:45 our room steward knocked once and opened the door...as I was getting dressed. Not too cool! This same room steward had ignored that "Do Not Disturb" sign a few times during our cruise by calling us on the phone to see when we'd be vacating the room (at 8 or 9am). Anyway....we vacated our room by 8:00 and had our first breakfast in the buffet. They called our luggage tag color while we were eating, and by 9:00 we were off the ship and waiting for the Budget shuttle bus to pick us up. Embarkation was a breeze! We quickly picked up our car from Budget, and headed to Orlando. We had booked a room at the Gaylord Palms Hotel (great $72 rate), for two nights while we enjoyed Walt Disney World before heading home on Monday.
Overall - we had a good time (we always do) and of course we will be cruising with Carnival again.