Preboarding: Sheraton in Cocoa Beach park and cruise package for $100. Book it. You park at the Radisson and they shuttle you from there, but I recommend dropping the family off at the port and catching a cab from the Radisson because there are so many people waiting for the one shuttle they had going.
Embarkation: Smooth. We had a group of 20 people that all made it through in 30 minutes. My wife's passport was in her maiden name but they didn't even notice or care.
On board: The first thing you will notice is THE ANNOYING PHOTOGRAPHERS! They never stop. Please make them stop. All day on board, on the way to dinner, arriving at ports, leaving ports, they NEVER stop.
Family of 5: myself (male, 37) and my wife and kids (17,16, 3). Note: I will be referring to my children as son and daughter (as opposed to DD and DS, which are the most ridiculously stupid acronyms I have come across).Entertainment: There is a lot to do if you are looking for entertainment. They have dance lessons and a lot of trivia on Sea Days. In the evening you have dinner, dancing, live singers, comedy, and shows. They have a good variety of shows that change nightly. Dancing in the Streets was cool, and they had a good juggler/magician one night. We saw one ok comedian and one great comedian in the Adult comedy show. The great guy was Will Marfori, who has cerebral palsy. We saw his show on two consecutive nights where he did different material each night. The "Fun Dude" who hosts the comedy shows is really a jerk. He constantly tells people to shut up during the shows even if they are way in back by the bar laughing. On a positive note though, he did remove some teens from the adult only show. The slot machines are a huge ripoff and never pay out. Even the poker machines are horrid. I won a little playing at the blackjack table, but not enough to cover my wife's slot losses. I didn't make time for any hold 'em, but there were games going often. There are some good live bands in the Ocean Plaza, but the piano guy Justin in Sam's Bar was pretty bad.
The Asian singer in the atrium deserves her own paragraph because she sings all day long and totally butchers every song she sings. It's "Like a Virgin" and "Holiday" as you've never heard them before. Madonna must be rolling over in her grave.Sports and activities: The basketball court was constantly overrun with 8-15yo kids. I was hoping to play some each morning to work off all of the extra food I was eating, but it’s no fun playing a game of 8 on 8 with 10-year-olds. They had 2-3 games of knockout (lightning) and a free throw contest for 16 and older, but by the end of the week the 12yo kids were playing. The mini golf course looked fun, but it closed at 6pm and all day there was a line waiting to start. The gym is small and very crowded before noon. The cruised director, Butch, and the staff do a good job of running the games and contests overall, and who cares if they are all gay or Canadian.
Pool areas and hot tubs: There are two small pools teeming with children. Hot tubs are constantly overrun with splashing teenagers. The waterslides close at 6pm, which is too early since that’s when the line finally dies down a little when early dinner starts. Expect a 30+ minute wait for the big slides. The smaller racing slides go pretty quickly. Every empty pool chair has a towel on it that no one moves or uses for the entire day. The Serenity area is nice, but is on deck 14 and it is very windy all day. My three year old had fun in little kids slide area, but of course that got interrupted by groups of teenagers riding the tiny 8 foot slides. We were hoping to get some good use out of the waterworks area, but by day 3 our swimsuits only came out on shore days for snorkeling.
Rooms: We had two interior cabins on deck 9, which were spacious and had plenty of storage. Our shower flooded the bathroom, but we called maintenance and they fixed it right away. The bed was comfortable. The first three nights we slept soundly, but the last few nights there was a repetitive banging sound that seemed to be coming from above, below, and behind our room. Others on the hall heard it, too. My wife’s parents had a balcony room across the hall that was very nice. The cabin stewards are quiet and very good at what they do. You do hear a lot of hallway noise and talking throughout the day and night. The in-room safe was a plus. We forgot the code once and guest services had someone there within five minutes. One thing I have to rave about is the water pressure in the shower.
Food: The highlight of the cruise. We had late seating with the Sr. Head Waiter, Luciano from Romania, and he was great. They are seriously understaffed in the Main Dining Room. We had to wait for water and bread most nights because he only has one assistant for the 24 seats they serve. They never stop running. There are too many great foods to list, but the panko encrusted shrimp, the chateaubriand, and the chocolate melting cake were excellent. I was mildly disappointed in the escargot and crème brulee. The presentation was beautiful; my daughter enjoyed ordering the cold, cream, fruit soups for appetizers and having them pour the soup into the bowl at the table. Four of the seven nights the wait staff sang or danced after dinner and all of the four nights they were quite good. One Indonesian man sang solo and was better than any of the singers in the live bands onboard.
The breakfast was standard, nothing special there. I repeatedly found myself picking up two slices of very good pizza after midnight, a major factor in the 8 pounds I gained on the ship. Burgers and fries were abundant during most of the day at the Grille. The deli place was average, the sandwiches look great but they don’t deliver as much on taste. Tandoori was good, and I don’t normally eat Indian food. The sushi was a nice touch, and pretty good for a cruise ship.
The lunch buffet was good and had a nice variety. I don’t know why so many people are complaining of lines. There are several lines that all have the same food. Just go to the line in the far back and there is rarely a wait. They had turkey one night that was excellent. Ice cream flows constantly and for soft serve it was really good.
My only complaint about the food was room service. Hot food came cold, cold food came warm. We pre-ordered breakfast twice for 9:00 – 9:30 delivery. Once it came at 9:50, the other time at 8:45. We ordered lunch one other time, but the sandwiches were made incorrectly (we requested no mustard) and they forgot our desserts.
Kids: My three year old loved Camp Carnival early in the week, but by day 5 he didn’t want to go. Most of the counselors are nice, but some of them struggle with English. They always seemed to be doing some game or activity when we dropped off or picked up. The after 10pm babysitting for $6.00/hr is a nice perk. My 16yo and 17yo were bored with Club O2. They said the kids in there just basically sat around and looked at each other and decided when to go try to sneak into adult comedy shows or ride elevators.
? It seemed to me that the bathrooms were difficult to locate and poorly marked.
? The décor is nice throughout the ship. Tasteful, current, not gaudy.
? The favorite activity of 12-15yo kids was tying up elevators from 11pm – 2am.
? The laser show failed because the fog machines are too weak for the amount of wind there is, but the music (Pink Floyd and Rush) was good and loud.
? The elevators are slow mostly because of the aforementioned teenagers and lazy people riding DOWN one floor to get off.
? The ship does not stop rocking . . . EVER. I’ve been home for 4 days and I still feel it.
? I never smelled “the smell” that everyone talks about.
? I had no issues with smoke (I’m a non-smoker) even on the Lanai where smoking is allowed. The wind takes care of it.
? We missed Roatan because the captain couldn’t dock due to high winds. Somehow another Carnival ship was already docked there. Huh? Our waiter told us that in three months of being on the ship they have only made it to Roatan twice. Book another ship if getting to Roatan means anything to you.
? Read my reviews of the other ports in the
We traveled during spring break and most of the passengers were families from either GA or MI, so I knew there would be a lot of kids (I brought three of my own). There just isn’t enough space for everyone. The pools are so small for all of those people. This ship will always be full of kids since the big draw of the waterpark, mini golf, and basketball coupled with the relatively low price for a 7-day cruise will attract parents. It attracted us, but I will never sail the Dream again, it’s just too crowded.
Others that we talked to raved about the snorkeling and scuba diving. We will definitely do it next time in Belize.
The tendering is a 15 minute ride, but the wait to load and unload is another 15-20 minutes. We left the ship at 10am after all of booked excursion people had already left so we could avoid the lines.
After the excursion we walked around Old Town a bit and every restaurant begged us to try their "free food". Definitely find out the prices first. They said food was free if you buy drinks and pointed to the menu. One guy gets you to sit down then the waiter takes the order. Find out the prices first. He told us $2 for soda and $3 for beer. We had four sodas and one beer. The only free food is chips and salsa, but we ordered some very good fajitas ($10) and nachos ($8). The waiter came and told me it was $48. I told him it was $31 and he said that he told us it was $4 for sodas and $5 for beer. I gave him $40 and he seemed happy.
The area is still showing the signs of the hurricane from a few years ago.