My wife (45), son (16) and myself (45) booked a western caribbean cruise on 9th-16th July 2011. Four days prior to the cruise date, we received an email telling us that due to propulsion problems, we would be doing an eastern caribbean itinerary. This was disappointing due to fact that we had done extensive research on the ports and were really looking forward to going to eating some really good mexican food and visiting the extensive number of ruins in Mexico. That being said we understand that Carnival contractually reserves the right to change itineraries, we were given $300 in on-board credits.St. Thomas is a great port, St. Maarten is beautiful port and the Nassau stop was mercifully short.
Embarkation/Debarkation: My family stayed at The Country Inn and Suites. We arrived one day early and took advantage of there stay and cruise package. It was so nice to leisurely drive to Port Canaveral a day early, get a good nights sleep, and then be dropped off right at the luggage area at the port. We had Crystal as a driver. She was nice and full of information about the Canaveral area. We have taken cruises out of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and now Port Canaveral. Port Canaveral was the best port experience I have had in Florida. From the time we were dropped off until we were on the ship was less than 15 minutes and there were absolutely no "hurry up and wait" situations. We used self-debarkation and the experience was the same.
The Room: We had room 9368, which was mid-ship located just below the Lido. The room was beautiful and because my wife and I unpack immediately and keep the room picked up and dirty clothes put away immediately, the room size always seemed large enough to be comfortable. The restroom was the best of any cruise ship I have been on. The size was the same, but the shower pressure was wonderful and the room didn't flood after every shower. My only complaint and it was to be expected is that after about the 3 night, I heard a lot of chair dragging later in the night that kept me awake. I didn't really hear Lido noise during the day.
The Comedy Club: All I can say is get there early. This was a great entertainment option and I think it should be expanded fleet-wide. However, there were many rude chair-hogs. The official rule is that all guests were expected to leave the lounge after a show and get back into the line for the next show. This didn't happen. There were many guests who didn't leave the lounge or would simply be the last ones out and then stand by the door effectively cutting in line before others who had been waiting patiently. I know there are those who think that it's O.K. to figure out how to skirt rules and will say the rules are stupid anyway. My philosophy is this: If you are going to make rules, enforce them. If you're not going to enforce a rule, don't make one. Carnival is terrible about this, they make all kinds of rules that they don't enforce. Does this annoy me? Yes. Does it annoy so much that I will stop taking fun, economical cruises with Carnival? No! Overall, I really enjoyed the Comedy Club, however, this entertainment option is a work in progress and is very popular so get there 30-45 minutes earlier than the show you want to see or figure out how to cheat and get in front of others who arrived 30-45 minutes early.
The Shows: There was 5 main shows in the Encore Lounge, if you don't include the welcome aboard show or the Legends show. The first show was called "Get ready", the second show was "Dancing in the Streets", the third show was a female singing impressionist, the fourth show was a juggling comedian and the final show was "8 More Seconds". I enjoyed all the shows but I have to say that I honestly didn't enjoy the "Fun Force" part. These guys were hip-hop break dancers who were worked into the production. That being said, many did enjoy them especially the children. They do add extra energy to the show. I just think that that the Fun Force dancers didn't really fit into the production well and break dancing is so 1980s. I am not going to review the female impressionist or the juggling comedian because these are traveling shows and are not consistently on the Dream.
The Food: I really don't want to review the food because I truly think that food is a personal issue and that if you've been on one Carnival cruise then you know what kind of food to expect. The food options I ate were good but not great and were very similar to the quality that I have sampled on other Carnival cruises.
The Entertainment Staff: Cruise Director Gary Brierly and his crew were just going through the motions and mostly fell flat. Certainly not what I would expect to be on one of Carnival's newest and best ships. They weren't very funny and used the same canned jokes and one-liners over and over. They weren't very creative or spontaneous. The worst of the entertainment staff were CD Gary and Lady HaHa. I have been on many cruises where the entertainment staff had me rolling in laughter. It was painful to listen to these guys and gals.
The passengers: Carnival is not to blame for this but there were many many. . many children under the age of 18 on this cruise. Also being the father of a 16 year old son, I have to say that I am to blame more than Carnival for the abundance of children on this cruise. There were children everywhere. There were children running in the hallways, there groups of children sitting in elevators having conversations, there were children literally everywhere you went. I am a middle school teacher and I love working with children, but even for me this was frustrating. Someone said that it was announced that there were 1400 children on this cruise and I believe it.
There were positives and negatives. We started out the cruise with the bombshell that we weren't even going to the ports we had planned for but the overall experience was fun and I can say that my family had a great time.