am not going to do a full fledged review - day by day, meal by meal. You read enough of them and they all sound alike anyway. But instead, I just want to mention a few notable happenings and memories from our cruise to the Western Caribbean last week.
Top three memories:
The Mayan ruins of Tulum: This seven hour tour was well worth the time and effort. The guide was excellent. It was a 30 minute ferry ride over to the mainland, followed by an hour trip to the site - with a bathroom/ souvenir (sp?) break on the way. The guide made the trip - he was extremely knowledgeable. The ruins were fascinating. Carnival did not bill this as an opportunity to swim, but if you wanted to, you could have hit the beach for a quick dip. It is a lot of walking - we were at the site about 2 hours or more. Hot. Really really enjoyed the margaritas at the cantina by the parking lot.
Cabana in Isla Rotoan: Well worth the $200. The beach itself is crowded, until you get to the sign that says "only cabana guests past this point." Instead of wall to wall people, there was a stretch of beachfront maybe 50 yards with no more than 40 people or so. The cabana was a small hut set about 50 feet back from the water's edge with an enclosed AIR-CONDITIONED room that had a sofa, chair and coffee table inside. On the porch there were two padded lounge chairs. About 20 feet in front of our cabana was our private hammock slung under a pergola. Then at waters edge were two more padded loungers. They also gave us water floats. And - best - a private cabana boy serving the eight cabanas, making trips back to Fat Tuesday's for drinks and food. That is all, only 8 cabanas for our entire stretch of beach. Security guards did a good job keeping squatters away from our chairs. The $200 included all of the stuff plus tickets for the chair lifts. It could accommodate 4 people for the same $200, but we only had two. If you separately buy the chair tickets and a couple of lounge chairs and an umbrella and some floats, you are over $50 per person anyway and you are stuck on the crowded part of the beach.
Chef's Table: As an admitted foodie, I loved, loved, loved the chef's table. Eleven people (ten just happened to be from our roll call!) met in a private lounge at 6:30 on the third night of the cruise. The head chef of the ship introduced himself and they started serving champagne. Along with this came 4 different appetizers - duck dumplings, ceviche, were the ones I remembered. The chef described each one. Each was tasty. They kept refilling the champagne - I easily had four glasses. Then we proceeded up into the galley where a long table was laid out - linen, china, silver, crystal. We sat down and were given a seven course dinner. The first four were served with a white wine - again, constantly refilled. The chef was with us the whole time explaining the courses and also answering any questions we had about food service on board. After those four, we took a break and the chef took us on a tour of the kitchen, including meeting the head pastry chef who showed us how to make the lava cake. We then returned to our table that had been completely reset for the last three courses. Sea Bass, Filet Mignon and a dessert sampler with - of course - lava cake. These came with red wine. Again, constantly refilled. We rolled out of the galley about 10 PM. Before we left, we were given photos of our table as well as a copy of the menu and a cookbook filled with recipes. The food was excellent and the service from the chef and a team of at least 10 staff was perfect. If you are any kind of food and wine lover, it is well worth the $70 per person. I easily had $70 worth of wine myself.
Some other positive comments:
The food was routinely very good - and I consider myself as having pretty high standards. The short ribs served with ginger fried rice was excellent. The buffet was typical buffet. We did breakfast in the dining room most days and it was very good. Steak house on the first night (comes with a free bottle of wine) was very good
The wine package - we got the mid-level one that was $149 - was well worth it. We go through at least a bottle a night and five bottles at $30 was well worth it. The Bordeaux and the Merlot offered as part of the package were easily worth the price.
We arranged a meet and greet for 70 people on our roll call. For $11 per person it was well worth it. They had trays of margaritas, daiquiris, wine beer, etc ready when we walked in the room and would make anything from the bar as well. (Someone ordered me a "milky nipple". how could I resist !) They kept coming for the full hour. Definitely worth it.
They had a guy pushing a cart around the lido deck and the scarlet dinning room at breakfast so you could get bloody mary's. nice!
Serenity area - a nice touch
They set up a salad bar at lunch where the sushi bar is on deck 5 the days they have the baroque. Looked nice, but did not find it until too late. Wish they mentioned it.
A couple of relatively minor annoyances:
The Spa: I love spas and love to spend the better part of a day working out, getting a spa treatment, using the facilities, hanging in the quiet room in a robe listening to some Yanni. But don't expect that on the Dream. I wrote a longer post about my experience, but suffice to say that there was no robe, they were surprised I even wanted to shower before my massage, (told me to get changed in the treatment room) and no quiet lounge to relax.
Smoking in the piano bar: OK I get it- some people are addicted and need to smoke. But there is only one piano bar on the ship and I usually spend many of evenings there. But on the Dream it is designated as a smoking bar so it was thick and ugly. I could not stay in there for more than 5 minutes any night.
"Barbecue" Forget about it. Small, dried out burger balls (sliders), a bunch of Mexican fajitas, etc. Only soft drinks or booze for purchase, no ice tea or lemonade. Stick to the burgers on the lido deck. They were much better.