Let me start off by saying that we are frequent cruisers, in that we cruise at least once a year, sometimes twice if I'm lucky. Over the years we have sailed, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Carnival, Holland America...basically all of the big lines. Princess and Royal Caribbean are our favorites, but we decided to try the Carnival Dream for two reasons: 1)It was sailing out of Port Canaveral which would make an easy drive for us here in NC (an my dad who lives nearby could drop us off and pick us up saving having to park at port and pay an extra $105! 2)Because we like the larger ships, we chose this out of the other ships that sail out of that port. It being a newer ship was also a selling point for us. My husband had also expected to receive a $200 obc from a bad sailing previously done on Holland America (long story, the ship broke down for 2 days, they offered every passenger $200 credit toward another Holland cruise or carnival since they are owned by the same company). When we contacted Carnival about receiving this OBC for this cruise, they flat out refused to honor the credit. Unfortunately, we started the cruise out with a bad feeling toward Carnival for not standing up to their agreement!
Now, let me warn you, this will be a long review, but I want to point out several things that I remembered wanting to read up about before I sailed this ship. I, like you, read all the reviews of the Dream so that I could be prepared or learn something that I might not have already known about, so...if you are seriously considering this ship, please read on for our breakdown.
EMBARKATION:(one of the few good things)
As others have mentioned, I agree that this was one of the smoothest embarkations I have seen. From the time we were dropped off and left our bags to be checked in (roughly 1pm), we were on the ship by 1:15pm. So within 15 minutes, I KID YOU NOT, we were walking onto the ship! They tell you that staterooms are not ready until 1:30, so we made our way around decks 3, 4, and 5 since these are the main hub with the dining rooms, the shops, the theater, the casino, etc. The rooms were quickly available at 1:30 so we went to check out the room...
STATEROOM: (we just went with an inside, deck 7)
This cruise we decided to just do an inside guarantee cabin because I felt that with so much to do on board (supposedly), we would only be in the cabin to shower, change and sleep. I was wrong about that, but I'll get into that later.
I was afraid I would be disappointed with our choice of going with an inside (this was the first time doing this) and yet I pleased with our room. The bathroom was about average to any other boat I have been on, the room was clean with lots of storage under the bed for our luggage and plenty of closet space and drawers for all of our cloths, since I always tend to over pack for these trips. One good thing about the inside cabin is that when all the lights are off, you loose all sense of time and can get some great rest. My husband actually slept in every day of our cruise, much longer than he has slept in a very long time! Trust me, a week away from work and being able to sleep in was just what my husband needed!
Our luggage, all of it, was at our door by 2pm. We were still in the room checking it out when I heard the sound at the door that something had been dropped off. I have NEVER been unpacked before the muster/life boat drill and sail away. I was just very pleased with the prompt luggage arrival.
MUSTER DRILL/LIFE BOATS:
I was surprised to see that we didn't need to take our life jackets down to our muster station for the drill. However, I was disappointed with a few things here. They say that it starts at 3:00 or 3:30 (I can't remember). And sail-away is scheduled for 4pm. I can tell you that the drill did not start until about 3:45 and they didn't get us out of the dining room (this was our station) until after 4pm. I had to climb from the Scarlet dining room on deck 3 all the way to deck 10/11 to get out and be on deck for sail-away. We were rushing (everyone was) to get out as we were pushing away from the pier.
SERENITY: (adults only)
This was a nice area, with nice little cabanas and lounge chairs and a couple of double hammocks. It was a pleasant surprise to see that they didn't charge you to be there, but unless you got there very early you would be out of luck at finding a seat/lounge chair to be in. I almost would have rather paid for some time knowing that I could go up there at a certain time and be assured to have a place to relax. There was no problem with children in this area of the ship, BUT, from time to time we would over hear some drunk group of young adults or even middle aged couples that were a little loud and annoying...but it was a spring break week for many. We decided to try the serenity out when it was in port at Nassau since we had been there before and hadn't planned on getting off the ship. So, our first evening and the next day we had some nice snoozing and cuddling time up in a cabana while most were either checking out the ship (first night on board) or in port in the Bahamas.
When we checked in and got our sign/sail card, we noticed that we were assigned to the late seating when we had requested the "anytime dining" option. The afternoon we boarded, we went to the Matre'D as instructed to have our dining changed to early dining if there was no chance for "anytime dining". There were several people trying to do this, but I was disappointed at the attitude of the Matre'D who basically started off by saying that there was nothing he could do and that everything was completely full. He also slipped out that there were 4500 passengers on board. Hmm, that's funny since the boat is only suppose to hold 3600! Anyway, after my husband kindly informed him that late seating just wouldn't be acceptable, he told us that if there was any change, that we would get a card letting us know by 3pm the next day, but for the 1st night we would have to eat the buffet on the lido deck.
The main buffet was "ok" I suppose, especially if you have never cruised before, but the food was never hot. We never did dinner at the buffet, no did we do lunch, but I overheard a lot of complaints. Breakfast was not too bad at this buffet. You could get eggs to your order or omelets to your liking as well as a good selection of fresh fruits. The hot stuff for breakfast was never hot!
Let me say that this is your best option for lunch! We did this 2 times during the week and it was yummy and hot and served to you at your table. Their set up is a little awkward, especially when you have inconsiderate people around (there was a lot of them on this ship). They are only open from 12-2:30 and I suggest you get there by 11:45. You get a slip and a number and go to a table. You fill out your options for pasta, sauce, and toppings and if you would like bread and/or salad. You then take your slip up to someone and within 15 minutes you have your hot pasta served to you at your table! Like I said, one of the best options but get there early!
This was also another good option. We did this 2 times for lunch as well. You choose your options and put them in your bowl and then choose what meat and sauce you would like and they cook it there in front of you. This line gets a little busy too, so we were always there right at 12 when they open.
Normal hot dogs, hamburgers and grilled chicken (if you ask directly for it; you will have it in 15 minutes or so). They serve cold fries here as well. The hot dogs are big and good, the hamburgers here were cooked well in advance and are over cooked for me. I don't like a crispy hamburger!
We knew this boat had one, but didn't find it until the last few days of the cruise. It is on the lido deck but at the very back outside, by the aft pool area. The deli was good and they put a lot of meat on the sandwiches. They will make it anyway you like too! On the opposite side is the Tandoor, which is kabobs and indian style food I believe. Nothing looked too appetizing there for me.
Unlike Princess cruise lines, this is a self serve ice cream (like you would find at Golden Corral/Ryans buffet restaurants). Problem here is that the kids go crazy with this. We even saw one kid who had taken one of the buckets that they put beer in and filled it full of ice cream knowing that he couldn't at it all!
We had breakfast in the dining room a few times, which I highly recommend because it is hot and served to you!
The next day our dinner was changed to the early seating, and we enjoyed watching the dancing they do in the dining room (the servers all dance together each night before you get your desserts). We enjoyed the folks that sat with us but the food was never hot, it took forever to be served and our drink glasses would always end up sitting empty for a long time before I would have to ask for more water! Two nights I ordered prime rib which was mostly fat, and it took almost 15 minutes to get the extra butter we asked for and the au jus for the steak. The baked potatoes were never done, and the lobster tails were over done!
BBQ on the Lanai-
This was a huge disappointment to us. We were expecting a BBQ, but instead it was nothing that you would expect for a BBQ. I can't even remember some of the stuff they had listed that they were serving, but trust me, it was not what you would consider a BBQ!
This always had a long line. We don't eat sushi, so I can't elaborate if it was good or not, but I will tell you that if you want it, be prepared to stand in a line because there was ALWAYS a line!
Princess cruisers, you know how good the pizza on their ships are. You know, the big New York style slices..well, this is not like that! This is more like what you would get out of the freezer section of the grocery store and pop in the oven. It was not very good, and they never had any ready, so you had to wait in a line for them to cook them. We think this was on purpose, because remember...the ship was over capacity by almost 1,000 passengers!
This was a HUGE disappointment to us as well. If you have eaten at a steakhouse on another cruise line, be prepared to know that this is NOTHING like that, and definitely not worth the additional $30 per person which is more than any other cruise line charges for their steakhouse! I made reservations for this before we ever set sail because past experience on other cruises have taught me that these book up fast. Ha...you don't have to worry on this boat, because there was hardly anyone there the night we went. Oh, and they don't advertise this, but in small print on the menu that you get says that any additional entree will cost the $30 charge. So..if you want steak and lobster, but don't want their version of Surf & Turf which includes a small fillet and want to have a different cut of steak, they will charge you for it! As for your side dishes, I guess they are afraid to give you more than a small spoon full. It was really a waste, and had I of known before about this, I would not have wasted the $60 for us to eat there.
We had to get room service a few times because there was no other choice. For example, when we were in port and didn't need to be back on the ship until 7:30 and if you miss your dining time of 6pm, you're reduced to the lido buffet, BUT, they would shut down all the buffet lines but ONE...for hundreds of passengers. So, you can imagine the lines were ridiculously long. Again, I think this was on purpose to try to conserve food because of the excess passengers.
You can order your room service right from your TV, but like all other ships, it is basically just sandwiches, chips, etc. I will warn you that it takes FOREVER for your food to get to you...upwards to 45 minutes or longer, which is ridiculous since there is nothing they are cooking!
All in all we were disappointed in the entertainment on board. I mean come on, you are suppose to be the FUN SHIP! There was not much going on when you were at sea which is when you would expect to have a lot of different things going on that will keep the passengers busy, but other than the frequent bingo games, there wasn't much going on during the day of any interest. This always had us back in our rooms in the afternoon taking naps or watching TV on the few channels they had. Remember me mentioning that I didn't think we would be in our cabins that much...ha! There was not much going on in the evenings either, especially up on deck. One night they had what they called a "party" on deck and they try to get the different color teams of the ship to dress up in their color and had a few laser shows (not impressive at all). We went out on deck for that "party" and I use that term loosely for about 45 minutes and saw that it was kind of a joke and then went back to our cabin (because this so called deck party didn't start until 11pm or so).
I can honestly say that I have seen better productions at high school plays/musicals. The dancers were rarely together with their choreography, the singers were not so good and the shows themselves was badly directed and had no flow to them. But, if you do go to a show, please be there about 45 minutes early to get a good seat, otherwise you will not get good seats. Bar service is limited to just the bottom level on deck 3, so remember to have your drinks before hand if you want a cocktail or soda during your show.
All of the comedians were good. We never went to the family shows, just the adult only shows. These shows are in the burgundy lounge on deck 5 aft. They fill up quickly so if you are not there early, you might be out of luck. They even start lining up for the next show quite early too. I was bothered by the fact that there were children under 18 in there for the adult shows. I know that parents just let their kids run wild on the ships (it was VERY evident on this cruise), but maybe the cruise line should enforce this a little more. If those kids weren't in there, it would open up more seats for adults who wanted to be in there. I suggest that they put a mark on the sign/sail cards that would indicate if the person was over 21 or under because there was a lot of drinks being served to those that were under 21~
There is one band on board, called Blackjack and they play in Ocean Plaza in the evenings. They are the best entertainment on board by far for music! We found ourselves here almost every night dancing and singing along with them. I really enjoyed them the most.
The entertainment in the atrium was pitiful. There is one oriental woman who sings in there that doesn't even stand when she sings. She stays seated the whole time, and her voice is pretty much irritating to me.
Now, there is one girl who sang in there with just her and her guitar, and also sang with the show band out on deck when they had their sad little deck party, and she had a very good voice. She also sang with the show band during the farewell party they had in the burgundy lounge the last night on board.
If you do karaoke, you will be extremely disappointed with the karaoke on this ship. I couldn't believe the sad little song selection list that they had for this big ship. There was not much of a selection, and the girl they have hosting karaoke is pitiful too. She doesn't hardly say anything other than to call the person up on to sing. We actually walked out of the karaoke because it was a snooze fest.
CRUISE DIRECTOR (BUTCH)/STAFF
I was looking forward to this cruise director from all that I had heard about him from reviews and forums, but I've got to say that other than the fact that he speaks clear English and is easy to understand, I was disappointed. Maybe he's just been on the ship too long and is in need of a vacation or something, but he just wasn't anything like I had hoped. I NEVER saw him around the ship interacting with passengers, and the morning show that he did on sea days (which again, surprised me because they should do this EVERY morning)was quite boring and not funny at all.
SHOPPING ON BOARD:
I did do a little shopping on board, but I was disappointed at the size of the shops and what they had to offer. The prices were consistent with other ships, but for a ship that size, I was just expecting more shopping options and more blow out sales like a lot of other lines do.
You might have read other reviews about the slots being tight and not winning, and I would have to agree. There were some winners, but they put A LOT of money in to come out with a little win. I didn't play a lot because I was aware of the reviews. Don't waste a lot of money or time in this area of the ship. They will make more money off of you!
There is simply not enough pools for the amount of passengers that this boat carries. There is only 2 pools on deck 10 at mid ship and aft. They are tiny little pools are are over run with kids! We never tried the slides because they were always filled with kids and long lines. As for hot tubs, there is a good amount of these on the ship, but I suggest just going down to deck 10 on the lanai and getting in one of those. There are two on each side and normally not busy at all. We used those hot tubs several times throughout the cruise. It would have been nice if they would have put a pool in where the adults area (Serenity) was. There was a couple hot tubs up there, but they were small and always full.
No matter where you are on the ship, out on deck, in the theater or in one of the lounges. If someone comes to get your drink order be prepared to wait a good while before they return with your drink. Many cases it's quicker to go to the bar yourself and get your drinks so you don't have to wait or wonder if they forgot about your or where you were. BUT, if you like your drinks strong, order them in the burgundy lounge (where the karaoke/comedy is). These drinks will knock you on your bum! My husband got a margarita a few times in there and I could smell it from my seat.
The spa was nice, although I only walked through it a few times, I didn't use any of the services. They did have a nice Thalassotherapy Pool but we didn't use that either. Our dinner mates purchased the spa package and raved about the pool and the spa in general. The gym did have state of the art equipment and lots of it. BUT, we were on vacation and refused to step foot on a treadmill or any exercise equipment for that matter!
It's really sad that this is the best that Carnival has to offer. The ship is big, but all they did was increase the cabins. The common areas are not much bigger, if at all, than many of the other ships they have. The staff on board were not very helpful or friendly either. During our Muster drill, an older man at the table with us asked one of the employees, "is this where I can come and get breakfast", the employee told him, "this is a dining room", the older man said, "I understand that, but I can also come here for breakfast too, correct", the employee "I don't know, check your paper in your cabin"! WHAT? really? That's your comment to someone on the first day on board the ship?There were a few good things, like the photo option they have where you can go with a photographer for 1 hour while on the ship or in port to have photos taken of your group. There is no sitting fee, no fee at all unless you purchase a photo(s) or the package. One disappointment is that unless you purchase the package you won't receive the digital files. My husband and I did this on the first Elegant Night and had sunset photos done on the back of the ship. All the photos were amazing, but we didn't have any need for 20 8x10s. We chose two photos and would have payed extra for the digital files, but they wouldn't sell them to us unless we bought all 20 8x10s!! Who needs 20 photos of themselves in that size? Again, I think Carnival should make an option where you can get the digital file of those photos for a cost.
But, all in all it was a disappointment to both of us. We understand that it is a budget/economy line, and with what was on board and the service we received and witnessed, I see how much of an economy line it is. I can assure you that we will never be sailing Carnival again, especially with all of the other options that are out there.