As with other reviews, you may or may not share our opinions due to varying differences in preferences regarding cruise amenities, excursions, etc. Yes, what you have just read may be considered the disclosure portion of the review also known as the "please do not yell at us for expressing our opinions":). And sorry, but we did not take any personal pictures.
Let me begin by saying we had an absolutely wonderful cruise and would sail the Dream again. It is a beautiful ship, the crew and staff are amazing and the Caribbean was gorgeous. We also had the honor of meeting the "Hotel Director", Mr. Pierre Camilleri. You will see several references to him and many of the wonderful insights he provided throughout the week.
Allow me to preface this review by saying that my husband and I typically follow a "no negative waves" approach. For the Kelly's Heroes fans out there, you know what we are talking about. We choose to focus on the many, many positive, wonderful aspects of the cruise and not fixate on the one or few issues which may occur over the course of a week. We try to remind ourselves that things work out a certain way for a reason, and sometimes the unexpected turns out to be even better than the original plan.
We cruise to have our "version" of fun. We love the water. We are not big partiers. We prefer a quiet glass of wine on the balcony to the hairy chest contests (although these are often a riot). Nonetheless, we have stayed up until all hours of the night/morning watching the wake of the ship and enjoying a beautiful night. Our version of fun may not match your version of fun, but that is okay. In fact, that is what makes cruising interesting. It would be boring if we were all the same.
One of the things that does irritate me about some cruisers is that they write horrible reviews nit-picking the cruise, but then they keep sailing Carnival. If they are so unhappy with Carnival, then perhaps they should try a different cruise line. We found Carnival to be one of the best values around offering so many options. We are impressed that Carnival constantly works to improve the cruising experience. Is it 5-star cruising? Of course not. But we are not paying 5-star prices either. So, yes, we are Carnival fans. And no, I do not work for Carnival or a travel agency just in case anyone was wondering. But enough of that ... just one person's opinion. Thank you for letting me vent. I feel better already!
With that said, I thought it may be useful to provide a topical review rather than a chronological review. The topics will be provided in ALL CAPS. That way, you can read what interests you and skip the rest. I am more than happy to answer questions and/or follow-up on any other items. Please feel free to ask. I hope I can help as much as so many of you have helped us.
Quick cruising background so you can gauge where we are coming from. We are mid-40's/50's. We have cruised on Silversea, Oceana, Renaissance (Anyone remember this cruise line? The ships were purchased by Oceana and Princess), NCL, Carnival (small, medium and large), Celebrity, Princess, and Paquet (really going back). We found wonderful things to enjoy on every cruise. We hope this information is useful for future "Dreamers".
HOTEL: Stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton. Got a great deal and it is 2 blocks from the beach. Be aware that hotel deals go very and there are only so many rooms at the discounted prices. So keep an eye out for bargains and book quickly. Also, be aware of the cancellation policies. We were able to cancel right up until the last day, if needed. Several other hotels had a no refund policy. From the hotel, it is a wonderful stroll down to the Cocoa Beach Pier. Ate lunch at Shark Pit (at the hotel). Very good. Hotel has a buy one-get one free happy hour in the late afternoon/evening. I think it is 4 - 7pm. Service was great. Good crowd. Later in the evening, we met a couple who come down to Cocoa Beach for 6 months out of the year. They told us about a great restaurant down the street for dinner. It was on the inlet. Traveling from Cocoa Beach towards Merritt Island on the causeway, it is on the left just before going over the causeway. Sorry, but I can't remember the name. We sat outside and it was perfect. Beautiful night. Food was great and remarkably inexpensive. Our timing was perfect as well. Just as we were getting ready to leave, a Prom group showed up.
There was a McDonald's across the street from the hotel. That was perfect for a quick breakfast. Also, Ron Jon's Surf Shop is right next door. In addition, the Four Points has their own version of Ron Jon's. I found Ron Jon's prices and quality to be better.
I was told that Port Canaveral has won awards for the best embarkation/disembarkation port. I believe it.
Embarkation: For those who have sailed out of various ports, the sequence of embarkation is very similar. The only new thing that was different is a sign saying anyone wearing "CROCS" was not permitted to take the escalators. This applied to embarkation (going up the escalators) as well as disembarkation (going down). The elevators were available. The gentleman that checked us in mentioned that we will only need our picture IDs (driver's license) and sail and sign cards for the ports now that we had checked in with our passports. He suggested locking them in the safe until we return to Port Canaveral. He also was kind enough to mention that a NASA launch (satellite) was scheduled to go off around 2pm. We got to see that from the ship. Very cool.
In the past we have done VIP boarding. I did not find VIP any faster than the non-VIP boarding. In our case, the ship was cleared for boarding around 11:00am and we were on board mere minutes later. Carnival has this down to a science.
You will be asked to stand individually in front of a "green" screen. This was new for us. I thought they were going to digitally place the "Carnival" scene behind us. It appears the "green" screen picture was used for face recognition for the photos taken onboard. Very cool. More about that later.
Miscellaneous Item: There are Carnival personnel through out the ship the first day with t-shirts that say "Just Ask". They are very friendly and helpful.
Disembarkation: As I mentioned, Carnival has this down to a science. They began self assist prior to 7am. If your zone was scheduled to be called at 7:10am, you could set your watch by the announcements. As soon as you leave the ship, you will see signs to have your passport (or other ID) available in your hand. You will proceed through customs BEFORE you pick up your luggage. Customs was a breeze. You can put your passport away after you go through customs. Very well organized.
The luggage is not in a big warehouse-looking room as with other ports. Depending on your zone, you will proceed to the even side or the odd side (there are signs) and take the escalators down to the bottom floor. A conveyor belt was used to transport luggage as many airports use. It was almost identical to the baggage claim area at Orlando. If you decide to slip off the ship before your zone is called, you will still have to wait for your luggage.
Porters were there waiting for you and we had the bags taken directly to the car in the parking garage. It was a very short walk.
One helpful hint: Disembarkation is through the atrium where we boarded on Deck 3. When you are leaving the ship, there are 2 lines. When facing out, the right line was backed up. The left line was practically empty. Since everyone tends to congregate on the right side, you can save some time by going around the atrium to the other side by the guest services. We sat at the atrium bar for about 2 minutes, our zone was called and we walked right out. No lines!
We were off the ship and in the car by 8:10am. Unbelieveable!
CUSTOMS/DRUGS AND ALL THAT JAZZ:
Be aware that in port, customs officials may come aboard to check the ship for illegal items. This was new to me. Passengers as well as crew areas are searched. Dogs are often used to detect drugs. Therefore, if you have any funny cigarettes with you, it would be good to dispose of them prior to docking at the next pier. On two different occasions I smelled what may have been a little wacki tobacci. One occurrence was in the corridor adjacent to a cabin very close to us and the other was coming from a balcony while I was walking along the Lanai. Perhaps it was "medicinal".
We were on deck 7, aft balcony, 7465. I had obsessively researched cabins, locations, etc. This cabin was larger as previously reported. There was more than enough storage even with a little over packing:). There was storage under the couch we did not need or use. Balcony was extended with a slight covering ... not much. Going south we had lots of sun in the afternoon/evening; going north, lots of great shade in the afternoon evening. Be aware that because we are at the back of the ship, soot regularly appeared on the balcony. The room stewards swept/mopped the deck and wiped the chairs every morning and evening. If you go out on the balcony in between cleanings, just be sure to wipe off the chairs and wear shoes. Also, the decking gets VERY hot. The balcony was wonderful. We sat out there many, many hours and there were several nights I thought I could sleep out there it was so comfortable. There is a window seat inside the cabin that is great for drying clothes/bathing suits and storing items like binoculars. As mentioned before, be careful leaving clothes out to dry on the balcony due to the possibility of soot and Carnival asks passengers not to put clothes on the balcony due to safety reasons. I am guessing it is because of the risk of someone flicking a cigarette on your balcony and catching your towel or clothes on fire.
Room stewards: Susila ("Sushi") and Michael (We called him "Sushimi" before we knew his name). Michael was rotating off for his 2 month vacation at the end of the cruise. Both were outstanding and very accommodating. We tipped Susila the first day (as we typically do), and then slipped Michael the same later in the week. We also always bring a collapsible cooler (approximately 12" by 12"). The room stewards kept the cooler filled with ice. The room had a little creaking going on even in very calm waters. Not sure what that was all about, but not a problem. A/C controls are right outside the bathroom.
Bathroom - plenty of shelves for our toiletries, although I stored my hair dryer in the closet. Note: Hair dryers are provided, but since we drove to Port Canaveral, I decided to bring my own. Shampoo, liquid and bar soap provided. "Goodie" basket included a great 5 blade razor, pepcid AC (which came in handy), conditioner, lotion, and a few other small items. I like to bring a bar of soap, but the items provided seem to be good. Shower - no tub, but plenty of room. Water in the shower may be a bit soft. Not sure. Again, not a problem, just a note for reference. "Off" and "On" for the shower may be a little tricky if you have not seen it before. The right knob is the temperature and is "locked", but may be changed to your preference by pushing the button and adjusting. I found the default, the beige "38" (?) temperature to be good for me. To turn on the water, turn the knob on the left by twisting up (counterclockwise). Reverse for shutting off. Don't let the little metal bumps on the knob fool you. They are just for gripping, not for water adjusting.
TV: The local stations are Miami rather than Colorado. Definitely a welcomed change since the last time we cruised. Not sure if this change is just the Dream or all Carnival ships. As recently as December 2010, the TV channels featured Colorado as the local stations. Nothing against Colorado. But at least Miami is closer to the Caribbean.
Beds: My husband said this was one of the most comfortable beds he has slept on. Since he travels regularly, that was quite a glowing comment. It seems bed comfort is a very individual thing as well. The pillows were great. We always get a couple of extra pillows. I loved the duvet. Very comfy. Note: The bed is a little bit higher than other Carnival ships we have been on and makes it easier to slip the suitcases underneath.
WEATHER: We were fortunate to have unbelievably perfect weather. The ship rocked very little the first few days. In fact, I had to laugh because I was walking up some stairs one morning and I heard these two guys talking about how much the ship was moving during the first few days. The only way it would have moved less is if it was docked at the pier. They may have been surprised later in the week when the winds picked up. Temps were mid 70's to 80's. There was always a nice breeze on the ship, of course. A few days it was a bit windy, but still very pleasant. St. Martin was so calm that one of the Regatta excursions was canceled. We had a stray shower during snorkeling at St. John which was actually kind of fun to snorkel in, but otherwise, it could not have been more beautiful. Something else to be thankful for!
ROYAL CARIBBEAN'S OASIS OF THE SEAS:
I was concerned when I discovered the Oasis was going to be at the same ports as us and would arrive approximately 1 hour before us. All I could think about was the crowds would be incredible. This was not the case. No problem at all. In fact, in St. Thomas, they docked in another area than us. In St. Martin and Nassau, they were right next to us. It is really very funny watching people on the Oasis balconies. It almost seems like they think there is an invisible shield around them. Standing on the balcony in your underwear (not boxers, if you catch my drift) is just begging for someone to post on youtube. We met several couples from the Oasis in St. Martin and had a wonderful time talking to them for most of the afternoon.
This was the first cruise that I do not recall a single comment or urging from Carnival regarding gratuities. In addition to the gratuities automatically charged to our Sail and Sign account, we always provide extra gratuities for both the room stewards and wait staff. I knew they worked hard, but I learned later from the Hotel Director that the staff works at least 10 hour days, 7 days a week for 7 - 9 months. They may get a half day off here and there, but this is tough duty. After their contract, they have 2 months off, and if they have performed well, they may be asked back with another contract. More on the Hotel Director later.
BRINGING LIQUOR/DRINKS ON-BOARD:
We met a couple that said all of their beer had been confiscated that they had in their suitcases. They were called to the "naughty" room. I heard similar stories. I recently read the thread on this topic. It seems to be hit or miss. The Port Canaveral security did not seem to check very closely the carry on items, but you never know. We brought diet sodas, water and 2 bottles of champagne. Side note on the water: We have sailed on many ships and the water did not bother us. By the 5th day, our stomachs were a bit upset. We thought it may have been the water. Please do not overreact when you read this. We did not get sick. It just seemed like the water may have been more chlorinated than we are use to, but I cannot say for certain. My husband went down to the "medical" area and they gave him some alka selzer. The only reason I bring this up is I would bring more bottled water next trip.
We had a very brief power outage upon arrival to St. Thomas. The power came back on very quickly (within a minute or so), and the a/c and water were out for about 10-15 minutes. This fell into the "No worries" category.
Timing item for first day: Everyone is boarding and waiting for their cabin. The sooner you grab something to eat and move to another area, probably the better. The pool areas and "The Gathering" get very crowded.
There is something for everyone. If you do not like what you see, keep looking. There is so much variety and there are so many options to choose from.
Miscellaneous Comment: Mr. Camilleri, mentioned that about 4-5 years ago, they went to France to figure out a way to improve the food. They brought in French chefs and trained all the Carnival chefs in Miami. I recalled how much the Lasagna Bolognese was very similar to the one I had in December on the Fascination. He said that is why. I thought that was particularly interesting. More about Mr. Camilleri in the Chef's Table writeup.
Continental Room Service: Had coffee, citrus segments (very good) and Danish/muffins delivered to the room. Poppy seed muffin was very good. Husband loved cinnamon rolls. Service was always prompt. It arrived either a few minutes early or on time. Recommendation: On the last day, be sure to order earlier rather than later. We asked for 6:30 - 6:45am and it arrived at 6:23am. Someone mentioned to me that she ordered for delivery around 7am, and it did not arrive. My guess is that everything is very busy by that time.
Dining Room: Your time works well for us. Sanit, Rennie and Francis were the dinner staff we had the first night and when we ate at the dining room, we requested them. A few times we had to wait because some of the passengers were "relaxing" at the table for a couple of hours, but the wait allowed us to enjoy the Rendezvous Bar ("a quiet bar") directly outside the Crimson dining room, second floor. Darn the bad luck that we had to sit in a wonderful, relaxing bar and enjoy a glass of champagne for a few minutes. We found the food to be well prepared and presented. Nothing was "awful". And somehow we managed to eat almost every bite. Go figure! (I'll be heading to the gym as soon as I finish this review.) Yummy items of note: Lasagna Bolognese (can also have as a starter), ribs, prime rib, melting cake (of course), minestrone soup, cherries jubilee. I also found out that even if you do not see raspberry sherbet on the menu, you can ask your server for some. Please note we did not eat in the dining room on 2 of the evenings. We opted for the buffet those nights.
Had breakfast in the dining room several times. One thing to watch for ... We wanted a table for 2. The hostess directed a girl to take us to a table. It was a table for at least 10. It may have been 12. All except 2 chairs were full right in the middle of this huge group. I like people, but I do not want to be squeezed in at a huge table first thing in the morning. We went back to the hostess and then were given a table for 2 upstairs by the window. That was a winner. Moral of the story, be sure to tell the server if you prefer to dine alone. One of the servers upstairs is a gentleman from Romania, Marion. This guy should be a comedian. He was really funny. He has been with Carnival for 14 years in August. Wow! Different breakfast dishes of note included eggs benedict which were very good, sausage was great, eggs over medium were perfect, ham is very good. Juice consistently good. Service very good! Prompt, attentive and pleasant.
I cannot recall seeing a table that needed to be cleaned the entire time we were on the ship. The staff is on top of the situation.
Buffet and Cuisine of the day: There were several lines set up with the selected buffet. Options throughout the week were Italian, American, Caribbean (jerk chicken was great), French. Perhaps others. Just cannot remember. There always seemed to be plenty of options. The salad bars were always fresh and had lots of toppings options. I never saw more than a few people in line at any one location. The Mongolian Grill had perhaps 3 - 4 people in line. I never tried that. One side note: The seating area around the Mongolian Grill was very warm because of the steam from the Grill. As mentioned, two nights and couple of breakfasts, we opted for the buffet. Chicken parmesan and corn chowder soup were outstanding. Martini fish was very good. French toast, fried chicken (not together :)) were also very good. I found the buffet food to be fresh, hot and much better than most buffet food. This was the best buffet food I have had on Carnival. Side note: It seemed like there were a few days the buffet was open longer than 2:30 - 3pm. Not sure what that was all about.
Omelet bar - yummy. Not just for omelets. You can also get egg whites instead of whole eggs and have them provide eggs over easy. Toppings available are mushrooms, ham, cheese, onions, green peppers, tomatoes (?). I can't remember the 6th item. They will also ask you if you want cheese at the end even if you say you want everything.
We had really been looking forward to trying this, but did not make it until Wednesday. It was outstanding! We went there around 2pm and there was no line. We sat on the opposite side of the stair case. Great location. Others had mentioned the process of ordering and then getting a number. That is the same. The sauces may change. I noticed we had the choices of Bolognese (meat sauce), Pomodoro (tomato sauce), Butter and Alfredo. I was thinking I saw on a previous post there was clam sauce, but I could be mistaken. The bread is outstanding! Ceasar is not as good as in the restaurant, but it was still very good and fresh and of course we ate every bite:). We did not order the lasagna. The pasta was plenty. Pasta options from what I recall are the same as previously mentioned. Toppings are the same as previously mentioned as well. The sausage was outstanding. And they don't put so much of the toppings that it overwhelms. It was very well done!
Burrito Bar: Looked really good, but never tried it. Meant to, just ran out of meals. I know, hard to believe!
BBQ (Lanai/Promenade Deck):
I was thinking I had read the BBQ was only on days at sea, but I seem to recall they had it a couple of other days as well. The location alternates from the port to starboard side of the ship and the menu appears very similar. The sliders looked like they were well done, but they were not at all. They were very good. Similarly with the chicken quesadillas. They did not look that hot, but tasted great. They had hot dogs with some kind of cole slaw on top. It appeared that gas grills were used. The condiments were separate, so it kept everyone spread out. Also, they brought in additional tables from the other side of the Promenade deck for seating. At the same time, inside at the Wasabi bar, there was a wonderful salad bar set up that someone served for you. There were also several large plates of turkey wraps, which were fabulous. Big bowls of chips and salsa were on either side of the counter.
Wasabi: Enjoyed this once. Very good!
Coffee Shop: There are coffee drinks for sale, but there are also pastries set up in the morning that are the same as at "The Gathering".
Deli: Be sure to tell them what type of condiments you would like. For example, I ordered a turkey wrap. He lightly grilled the wrap. Then started to put mayonnaise on it automatically. I simply asked for mustard instead. The wrap was outstanding!
Pizza: Sorry. Never tried it, but it sure looked good. Be aware that on Wednesday when we returned from St. Martin, there was a grill set up serving hot dogs, hamburgers right next to the pizza. Maybe it was always there, but I had not noticed it before. The fries were fresh and hot, just the way I like them. They are similar to McDonald's fries for those wondering.
CHEF'S TABLE (EXCELLENT):
Instead of meeting in Sam's, we met in "The Song" at 6:30pm on the first day at sea (Monday). I understand there is another one later in the week. There were 14 of us. We all introduced ourselves and chatted over a glass of champagne. One couple was celebrating their 51st anniversary. They use to be in the cruise business and I think they said they had taken 78 or 79 cruises. That was amazing. A woman who worked for Carnival had her daughter with her who just turned 21. That was fun. Special cakes were brought out for her and the anniversary couple at the end of the meal. By the way, lots of people were taking pictures of each other and with the Chef. I wish I had brought my camera, but since the invite said not photography, I left my camera in the room.
Then the Chef de Cuisine, Sameer, arrived with his staff and described the evening's events. We began with quite a few appetizers and champagne. What was particularly interesting is that with each item, the Chef described the appetizer and then asked if we liked it. We received a new plate and fork with each appetizer. There was a slight glitch with the girl serving the champagne. She filled the glasses about half full and after a couple of small glasses, said that we could not have any more champagne. However, we could have water or buy a drink. It was obvious she did not receive the memo that the Chef's Table included unlimited drinks. When Sameer asked my husband if he wanted more champagne, my husband passed on the server's comments. Needless to say, the situation was rectified immediately and the champagne was once again flowing. The server must have been new to the Chef's Table.
Following the appetizers, we moved into the galley, which is fascinating in and of itself. The menu appeared to be the same as previously published. We sat next to a couple from Canada. He was taking pictures of the food. As far as seating, the couples are seated across from each other. The Hotel Director, participated with his parents. Mr. Camilleri is responsible for all of the operations of the ship other than navigation. The food, entertainment, cabins, etc. all fall to him. What a delight to spend a wonderful evening with a terrific group of people!
Mr. Camilleri explained several of the items that I had seen on cruise critic which are addressed in the specific sections. I told him how much we enjoyed the Dream. He had been previously with the Miracle. I also mentioned that I bet he gets an earful from people. He simply smiled and said that was part of the job. He represents Carnival very well. You can tell he has so much respect for the staff.
The food was outstanding. Folinari Pino Grigio was served until the filet mignon. Then a red wine was served. The Chef's staff was outstanding as well. The tour of the galley and the famous making of the chocolate melting cake were also extremely interesting. The previous reviews did not over-exaggerate. The Chef's Table is not to be missed. Side note: Mr. Camilleri said to be sure to attend the show. There was a new entertainer he just brought on-board. See the "Entertainment" section for more information.
Shoes: Invite says close toe/no heels recommended. Ladies, I bought a pair of flats to wear because of everything I read. It was not necessary. There was a lady that worked for Carnival in 4 inch sandals. Others wore even higher heels. I would have preferred to wear high heels, but the fact of the matter is, when touring the kitchen, the floor does get a little slick. I noticed it more after I left briefly and noticed the tile floor of the restroom was really slick with my shoes.
The cookbook and pictures are a nice touch. Note that 2 pictures are taken - one from each end of the table. Therefore, if you and your significant other are on opposite sides of the table, you will receive 2 different pictures. This is important because you want to make sure you are not cut out of the picture. If you need to get the other picture because of this issue, simply get the number off the back of the picture you want and take to the photo shop on deck 4. They will print for you at no charge. Well, you actually already paid for it, but it was nice to be able to obtain the picture with everyone in it.
Loved the "free" ice tea and lemonade. Stuck primarily with the ice tea, and was puzzled about why that did not seem to bother me since I am sure it is made with the same water. Not worth spending time trying to figure out. There was too much fun to be had. They were really smart in having the condiments "bar" with sugar, sweetener, lemons, etc. away from the drinks/coffee "bar". There were signs on the drink/coffee bar with arrows to the "Condiments" location. This kept people spread out. Again, good planning.
We shared a few buckets of beer over the course of the week. Someone had mentioned the better deal regarding ounces versus cost. I left that financial decision up to my husband.
Cappuccino: Ordered most nights after dinner in the dining room. It was free and yummy. Just be aware you may be awake for awhile. Free cappuccino in the dining room was a tip we picked up from cruise critic sometime ago.
The coffee was fine for me. I heard a few people say they thought it was not very good. To each his own.
One thing I noticed about Carnival is there is always such a great group of people on the ship. I find myself saying this over and over. There is a great age range, not a lot of kids or obnoxious adults. Whether we were waiting to board the ship, in line for an excursion, looking at pictures at the photo shop, walking on the Lanai, etc., everyone we met was very friendly and just wanted to have a good time.
We sailed the Fascination (one of the new suites) last Christmas and the ship was over booked. I think that means that instead of 2 per cabin, there were many cases of 4 (or more?) per room. There were lots of kids on that ship and lots of people. The Fascination is a lot smaller, but the large suite cabin with the extended balcony was awesome! We chose to use that balcony a lot.
That said, I specifically scheduled this cruise to try and avoid over crowding. We were not disappointed. School was still in session, spring break was over and Easter holidays had past. Some areas were more crowded than others such as "The Gathering" at high noon, but that is to be expected. There is always somewhere to go that is not crowded. More about the food areas in the food section.
My favorite time of the day was early morning. The ship is quiet and other than the dull whirl of Carnival staff cleaning the stairs with vacuums, it was quite peaceful. One morning I saw a Carnival guy with a spray bottle and brush cleaning spots off the carpet by the stairs. I could use him at my house!
The Dream is a big ship. If you like to walk like we do, then you will love it (like we do). The Serenity Deck is all the way forward and our cabin (and The Gathering) are in the aft. I took the stairs whenever I could. The only time I preferred the elevators was when I was trying to juggle a couple of cups of coffee to take back to the cabin. Being in the aft was very convenient to The Gathering. If you are traveling with individuals who may have a little difficulty getting around, a mid-ship cabin may be best. I also noticed there are maps that show the "accessible" routes for each deck.
There are so many areas to choose from. If you want quiet, there are plenty of places to go. In fact, I stumbled across the library which was pretty cool. There were quite a few books, puzzles, and games to select. There was a woman looking for a self-help book. I asked her "You want to read a self help book on a cruise?" We both laughed.
If you want action, there are many places to find this type of fun as well.
Some key areas and their descriptions are listed below.
Pool: This is the party area. Chairs fill up early. That is where the "games" are played. It sounded like everyone was having fun. We just prefer a little quieter area. Be aware the video cameras are constantly recording and the events are replayed over and over on one of the Carnival stations on the TV.
Movie schedule for the outdoor screen is provided in Fun Times.
Serenity Deck: Absolutely beautiful. It was a bit crowded the first day at sea, but for the folks who got there early, by around noon or 1pm, they were fried and ready to go elsewhere. The bar service is good. They regularly come around to ask if you would like something to drink and were far from pushy. I found the bar staff to be quite pleasant. Around noon, chicken caesar salads and some kind of sandwiches are offered. I think the sandwich is portabella mushroom, but I am not sure. I was told by the Mr. Camilleri that the idea is to keep the people spread out on the ship as much as possible. Therefore, if cruisers are enjoying the Serenity Deck they can stay there and have lunch instead of going to "The Gathering" or elsewhere on the ship for lunch. There were beige Carnival towels available in the Serenity area. Not sure if you had to provide your cabin number or not. Hot tub was a very comfortable temperature. Adults-only made it nice.
This is one of my favorite decks. Sunday morning, prior to discovering the Lanai, I ventured up to the jogging deck to get a few miles in before we docked in Nassau. The jogging track was pretty good, but even at 6am, there were a few people. The sunrise was gorgeous. However, I decided to do my last mile on the Lanai and check out the layout. Needless to say, after that day, I did all my walking/running on the Lanai, albeit, not as early. The Lanai is wide and everyone is very courteous. Watching the sun rise or the approaching islands while walking around a ship in the Caribbean is a wonderful way to start the day.
There were plain, white towels available at two different locations. Very helpful on those mornings after walking/running 14 + times around the ship. No signature/card number required for these.
On one side of the Lanai, there is a really great comfortable sitting area. The chairs and tables are a plastic wicker-looking material with very comfortable cushions. I had not heard anyone mention these before.
Deck 11: Hot tubs much warmer than Serenity. Four teenagers squeezed in, so we headed to the Serenity deck. I have nothing against teenagers; I just wish I had $1 for every time I heard the word "like". I would, like, be retiring, like, really soon. (Just a little humor.)
Deck 4: Walked through there a few times. That is where the kids/teens sections are located. That is the only time I saw a few kids running around. On one stroll through that section, there were two young girls, probably around 12, sitting on a couch together singing to the music. It was very cute.
Casino: We did not gamble, but I stopped and talked to several people playing a few of the slots. I could not figure out what the objectives were. I spent sometime talking to one very nice couple from Texas playing the "Village People" slot machine. When I asked her how you earned points, she said she was not sure but it you landed on three instances of "Village", "People" and something else, the song, "YMCA" played. That was what she wanted to hit. After rooting her on for a while, I left thinking I may be bringing her bad luck. I never did hear the song. I saw her later and she said she finally took her $ and left.
Gift Shop: Typical Carnival merchandise. Minimal personal items are available. They are located in the back corner to the right behind the register where people are purchasing alcohol. There was also a stand of paperbacks for purchase back there. All week long they have various sales. I told several people about the $10 water proof watch I bought many cruises ago to use for snorkeling trips. I still have and use that watch. I kid about how it may be waterproof to 1 foot. Not sure, but the darn thing keeps working. I also bought a clutch for $10 for formal night several cruises ago and still use that and love it. They have a very good selection of those types of purses. There is the usual merchandise like t-shirts, hats, souvenirs, etc. I have several hats that I bought a couple of cruises back that I love and wear all the time. Lots of jewelry. If you use Clinique, Lancome or Estee Lauder, and they have what you use, you can save $4 - 5 per item.
There are many designated areas for smoking. In addition, many people smoked on their balconies. Every once in a while you would smell smoke in a corridor. I found the smokers to be very courteous.
Since there has been so much discussion on this topic, I thought everyone may be interested in what Mr. Camilleri had to say. He said there was a problem early on. They brought in about 40 engineers to fix the problem by adding vents. How they managed to do this and keep the ship sailing was absolutely remarkable to me. As far as on this cruise, there was one fleeting whiff in the corridor the first evening as we returned to our cabin after dinner. Perhaps someone had too many beans in his/her burrito:). That was the only time I noticed "The Smell".
Photo Shop/Pictures: This was the least aggressive picture taking group from any Carnival cruise. The system they have is outstanding and yet another way to alleviate potentially long lines. The green screen picture I mentioned earlier is very clever. There are kiosks with instructions, but the bottom line is this. You press start, and then insert your Sail and Sign card. Then, magically, all of the pictures you are in will show up. In addition, they added a few items as well, such as a Port Canaveral picture with your face/head on an astronaut's suit. You can order directly from the kiosk by selecting the picture(s) you want. You can also "add" other selections of the same picture such as different sizes. When you are finished, you hit "Complete" and a receipt prints out. You pick up your pictures the next day.
They also were able to lighten up one of the pictures that I wanted to buy.
Shows: We did not attend many of the shows, but after Mr. Camilleri's recommendation, we went to the 10:30pm, Female Impressionist (not impersonator :)), Karen Grainger. This was the same night as the Chef's Table, the night of the first full day at sea. Oh my goodness. There are not enough ways to say fabulous. She should be in Vegas. A little background ... Karen apparently was on the Carnival Magic inaugural sailing (Mediterranean) earlier in the week. Mr. Camilleri flew her to meet the Dream. There were all sorts of traveling challenges she had to get through to finally make it to the ship. This cruise was the first time she performed on the Dream. The show began with her dressed as Cher. She sounded great. She asked a male audience member to join her up on stage to sing "I Got You Babe". Not sure he knew the song, but he was hysterical. He kept saying, "I got you Baby".
There were so many people she impersonated; I can not remember them all. Among the ones I recall, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston (she sounded better than Whitney), a duet with Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald. How on earth she pulled that off was just amazing. She did a series of women that I cannot recall their names. NOTE: Do not leave early. The last song she sings will knock your socks off. She sings it in her own voice and it is unbelievable. There were several standing ovations. When I saw Mr. Camilleri the next day on the catamaran excursion, I mentioned how much we liked Karen. He said she received 4 standing ovations during the first show. I think our group only had 3.
PAST GUEST RECEPTION:
Past guest reception was scheduled for Thursday night. I thought it was funny because the invitation said casual, but it happened to be on formal night. We did not attend.
EXCURSIONS (YOU WILL SEE A THEME!):
Note: For those who have not taken these excursions before, tipping is optional, but typical at the end of the trip.
Nassau: Catamaran. You will be asked to remove your shoes. Since we arrived to the port early and were scheduled to leave Nassau by 2pm, the excursion was 9:15am. Beautiful day. Strong current. Be careful because you look up and the current has moved you a good distance from the Cat. Very good snorkeling. Be careful because the deck of the Cat gets very slick. They sailed us very close to Atlantis on the way back. Rum punch and other drinks. Great trip. Would book again in a heartbeat.
St. Thomas: St. John Champagne Catamaran: Great trip. Met at the pier at 1:00pm. Be aware you begin with a 30-45 minute open air jeep ride. That was not listed on the write-up. The ride appeared a bit treacherous, but had some outstanding views. Very austere and rugged. Interestingly, on the shorter trip back we traveled through a more populated area with a Home Depot. Started cloudy/partly sunny. Got a little shower during the snorkeling part which was fun. Cleared up nicely. Nice boat. A dolphin swam about 10 feet in front of me. Saw lots of fish, turtles, sting rays, etc. One of the best snorkeling trips I have ever experienced. The dolphins were so rare in that area, that the guys running the excursion jumped in their little boat to go swim with the dolphins. For those that preferred not to snorkel, they were taken by a small boat to and from the beach. When we returned back on board, refreshments were served: rum punch, champagne, soft drinks. They had some very soft, fresh bread and cheese as well. We stuck with the rum punch. Mr. Camilleri and his family were on this excursion, so it was nice to talk with them again. Another excursion I would book again.
St. Martin: Golden Eagle Catamaran ... are you catching the theme here? It was very warm that morning. We lined up in between our ship and the Oasis of the Seas. It was very hot and it was only 9:30am. There was no wind/breeze. In fact, as previously mentioned, it was so calm that the Regatta excursion was canceled. We met some really nice people that day. One couple had been on the excursion the previous day. Like us, they stayed away from the rum punch on this one and stuck with beer. If I recall, there was Coors Light and Presidente beer. Submarine sandwiches were served. It was the most beautiful day. The water was so calm and variations of blue were amazing. The captain pointed out several items on the way to our snorkeling/beach location.
We anchored in about 10 feet of water near a beach. Again, a small boat took some people to and from the beach. Others swam to shore. Life jackets or noodles were required. Drinks were available for those at the beach. I went snorkeling, but there were not very many fish. So I dropped off my snorkel, I went to the beach and joined up with my husband and friends. The trip back was fun. Again, it was absolutely gorgeous. It was a bit warm, but very pleasant. We found a place to cool off in the back .... There was a nozzle/hose that we all just hosed off with. Felt great.
We were walking back to the ship around 12:30pm and before entering the security area, we found a small table near a convenience type store. It was close enough to the store that the A/C was blowing on us keeping us cool. Restrooms were right around the corner. We stayed there until around 4pm. We met and talked with wonderful couples from Mexico and Massachusetts. They were both on the Oasis. More new friends!
Overall, the trip was fantastic and we would book again in a minute. I hope this review will be helpful for fellow travelers.