We booked the Carnival Dream as a preface to our upcoming (6/12/11) Med cruise aboard the brand new Carnival Magic. We achieved Platinum status on Fantasy class boats (we even sailed the Holiday once).
Port Canaveral is a well-oiled machine. We were on and off in no time with no hassle. The ship was bragging that they got 2,000 people off the boat in 20 minutes as we were boarding.
We booked the Spa deck (deck 12) on the recommendation of our Carnival agent. It was such a pleasant experience we tried to change our Magic Vista deck cabin to the Spa deck. We both exercise regularly on board, so having the gym and spa a short stroll down the gangway was very convenient. Spa deck cabins get access to the steam rooms and the mineral hot tub (it's $150 or so if you pay separately).
The Serenity Deck was wonderful, especially compared to Fantasy class boats. There was a bar and they served a box lunch on the deck if you choose. This cruise was before school was out, so there were relatively few young people on board--college age folks, I mean.
The movies on the big screen on the Lido deck at night were something new for us and were fun. You could curl up in a deck chair with a blanket (provided) and watch a movie in the sea air. It was a bit cheap that you had to pay $1.25 for your popcorn.
We were apprehensive about moving up to a Dream class boat from the Fantasy class we knew. We found the Dream to be very familiar; all the usual Carnival things (guest services, excursions, restaurants) were where we expected them. The Dream was partitioned in a way that we were not aware there were 3,700 other cruisers sharing the boat with us. Debarkation at ports was seamless and less crowded than on Fantasy class boats.
The food, shows, and crew were typically Carnival and provided good value for money. We enjoyed the Tandoor, Burrito, and Pasta specialty bars. We did not try the steak house on this cruise, but heard good things from other cruisers.
We did not find the size of Dream to be at all intimidating. We tied up next to RCCL's newest mega ship in St. Maarten and she made Dream look relatively small.
Dream is a relatively new boat, so there were none of the maintenance needs and cosmetic rough spots we find on some of the Fantasy boats. The mechanical systems were all top drawer.
All in all, we were pleased and felt the Dream lived up to the promises made and what we expected. We are not picky or snobbish cruisers, so maybe it doesn't take much to please us. We cruise for the sea days, the relaxation, and the serenity of being aboard, not for the haute cuisine, the Broadway shows, or the elbow-rubbing with the movers and shakers of the world. We would hate Titanic. On the other hand, we cruise 3 or 4 times a year, so we know when we are getting what we pay for. Carnival continues to offer a great value.