First let me begin by saying that we are dedicated Carnival fans. We sailed on RCL and found the cabins to be too small and the ship too old. We have also sailed on The Grand Princess and have to say it was pretty nice. Our son was married on the Glory and our 25th wedding anniversary was our first cruise (one the Sensation).
We choose the Dream as it was the newest ship and we live within a 2 hour drive of Port Canaveral. So I will review the port first and then the cruise.
PORT CANAVERAL: I have to say that we have sailed out of Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Port Canaveral. Of all we love Port Canaveral. It is a straight shot from Orlando to the Port (528) and the drive is nice. We always go over the day before the cruise and stay at the Country Inn and Suites which is less than a mile from the port and has a cruise and park package. So we simply leave our car at the hotel, use their shuttle to get to the ship on the morning of the cruise and then call when we return. They pick us up and deliver us to our car. No traffic and no headache. So this is the way to go.
Day 1: We arrived at 11:00 and were on the ship by 11:20. Carnival has their embarkation process down pat in Port Canaveral. This is our 4th cruise from here and all the same. On the ship within 20 minutes of arrival.
Once on the ship we found ourselves amazed at the difference. There was no Disco Purple and the ship looked elegant. The lobby and the colors were amazing. Matter of fact the whole ship looked like we on a Princess cruise. I have to give it to Carnival, they outdid themselves with the decor.
CABIN: We booked a mid ship balcony cabin on the Verandah deck (8328). It was the standard size for our previous balcony cabins but again the decor was updated and more elegant. The whirlpools were 2 decks below and we could enjoy our time on the balcony without excessive noise or issues. Our cabin was quiet and we had no complaints. Our Room Stewart "Ann" was nice and made sure that we had everything we needed. We used the mini fridge to keep our bottled water cold and she kept it stocked for us with our water. The bed was amazing and this time we actually were satisfied with the room temp.
THE PORTS: We went to Cozumel and had our usual jewelry shopping experience. I was looking for a pair of Alexandrite earrings for my granddaughter for her first birthday and found the perfect pair. They were 50pts and in 18K gold and I got them for less than 700.00 (They appraised for over 2,000 at home). The rest of the day we simply enjoyed our time walking around and enjoying each other.
Mahogany Bay: We were a little nervous about returning to Roatan. Our last experience was less than we exoected. Boy were we taken back. I think this was our best port... We had the time of our life in the new port and it was beautiful. My wife cannot swim and we went to the beach and guess what? She can swim now. She loved it. There were portable cabana covers to rent for the lounge chairs and we stayed there all morning. We shopped some and I thought what would I get for an anniversary present. Well I got a tremendous deal on a Pandora bracelet with 8 charms (under 250.00). My wife loved it. We then spent some time at the Fat Tuesday at the Port and had a blast. We both hated to leave. Carnival needs to make this a longer port and ensure that they use it alot. It was out of this world.
BELIZE: What can I say....Once you have been here, you have been there. We stayed on the ship.... Who wants a 30 minute tender ride to a run down port? Plus if you cannot carry a gun then leaving the port is out of the question unless on an excursion. Enough said
Costa Maya: They are continuing to work on this port and one day it will be nice but it is still a diamond in the rough. We shopped a little and my wife bought me a Mont Blanc Pen for a great price. I have wanted a specific one for years and although it was not gold and black but it is awesome.
THE FOOD: Well here is where I truly think that Carnival has failed terribly. The food was not up to par (compared to previous cruises) and definitely did not fit the decor. We ate in the MDR three times and although beautiful we felt like we were eating KFC in Emerils. It just did not work for us. We tried the Steakhouse and it was out of this world. If only the food in the MDR tasted that good. I am not saying that lobster and filet mignon neede to be on the menu every night but when the flat iron steak is the best item on the menu then there is definitely room for improvement. We tried the various bars (Burrito, Mongolian, Tandoori,Pasta, and the usual Pizza and Burger)and they all were better than the MDR. We enjoyed the new BBQ on the Lanai and the Sushi was great. I think this is the area that Carnival needs to wake up and get it right.
ENTERTAINMENT: We loved the casino and were lucky (won 1000.00 on a penny machine and 500.00 on a 1.00 slot). By day 3 drinks were on the ship while in the casino and this is a great perk. We went to a couple of shows and they were great. The outside screen was great and we watched the NBA Championship on it and it was a huge party for all. They show movies at night and have popcorn for all.
DEBARKATION: Again we were off the ship within an hour and home before 11:00.
Overall we would cruise the Dream again but we are leaning toward RCL for our next cruise. I think that Carnival is a great option and they are our favorite but the food this time leads us to think maybe it is time to see if the competition is better.