Coming back to CCL ... very pleased: Carnival Dream Cruise Review by Hotelfixer
Overall Member Rating
Coming back to CCL ... very pleased
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Port Canaveral (Orlando)
I arrived at The Radisson at the Pier as I have probably a dozen times in the past five years. I found that hotel by chance when my Travel agent randomly selected it for me. I made friends there and have been going back every since. Most of the staff has been there over 8 More years. It makes you feel at home when they call you by name and say where have you been for so long. Being in the hotel business myself I have a great appreciation for things like that. As much as I love the property and the staff, I have to say I am not a fan of those select number mattress things.
I had not sailed from PC in almost a year. One very big change from then to now is the parking. In the past most every hotel offered free cruise parking and shuttle service with you stay there. Now every single one charges you and there are even private lots that have popped up. But still 35.00 for a week wasn't terrible.To anyone that has never sailed from Canaveral you are missing out. Every port should run as quickly. I literally parked my car at 11:00 and was sitting at the grand atrium bar drink in hand waiting for my friends at 11:30. This includes the shuttle ride over and I have not yet reached VIP levels with Carnival.
The ship it self is beautiful. Gone are the ugly neon lights of yester-year and old vegas style color schemes. It truly has the "wow" factor that seems to have disappeared in recent years. I remember my very first cruise with Carnival was January 2000. It was a seven day sailing out of Tampa on the Sensation. My second cruise was Christmas of 2006. I now have 6 sailings on Carnival and 17 on RCCL. I mention this only to demonstrate I believe I am qualified to compare.
The "Phantom smell" that so many have written About; was non-existent from what I experienced . The one thing you can't help but notice is the constant cleaning that goes on. The cruise itself was delayed a few hours as they repaired the issues with the side thrusters or whatever they were called. It didn't affect us any at all. Sure we were a few hours late getting to Nassau but we just stayed later in port; and gave us more time to explore the ship.
Speaking of exploring the ship, my cabin was ready right on time as promised. It was easy to find and when I arrived it was full of surprises. There was a couple of nice welcome back gifts from everyone's favorite cruise director and my bottle I pre-ordered from Carnival. It's a shame more people don't use that service. It cost me fifty bucks for a liter of Crown Royal. It cost thirty on shore. I was able to have a nice pre-dinner drink every night and a night cap on some nights. I never finished the bottle. It seems to be the answer to combat all the smuggling of bottle some people try to do. But I don't want to start that thread. After I saw the gifts that were left for me and since we where still in port, I e-mailed a thank you note for the unexpected gifts. They next day the ships Cruise Director stopped by with another surprise; A thank you for the thank you note. That was above and beyond the call of duty.
I had booked this cruise a while ago but had canceled it because I was unsure about work issues. I ended rebooking inside the thirty day time frame with a very helpful PVP. In his mind he selected me a cabin with a great location. In retrospect I would offer this one bit of advice, only book cabin 9276 as a last resort. The cabin itself was fine with a nice balcony. However, being right next to the elevators and the Grand Atrium it can be very noisy at times. I understand this a new ship and there are bugs to be worked out. The cabin had quite a few "squeaks" coming from the doors and metal trim. They are pretty noticeable when the seas are choppy. I considered calling maintenance several times but it only bothered me at night when I was trying to go to sleep when we were at sea. I could not make myself drag some poor guy out of his room with a complaint of my rooms squeaks. Especially after I had been known to consume an adult beverage or two by that time of night.
Everyone that writes reviews always talks about the food. I don't want to write to much about this because it is such a subjective issue. I will say this. I never once had a bad meal. The dinning room service was perfect. I was always able to find something great on the menu and was never disappointed. I enjoyed the Wok and the Pasta bar as well. If there is one thing I wish that could be fixed and I know they are trying. But I honestly don't like the buffet lines when people are standing in them wearing wet bathing suits. Bikini's and speedo's belong at the pool and have no reason to be around my food. Now I am off my soap box.
The rest of ship is amazing. I loved the serenity area and they did a great job keeping it as intended. The slides were always crowded as people loved them. Yes, on sea days (three of them) loungers around the pools were always hard to find. But in other areas they were plentiful. I did hear several people say that the two pools on this massive ship were undersized; basically standing room only. I did not get in them and that was a personal choice. I am sure they were fine for those who enjoyed it.
I spent most evenings in the piano bar. We used it as a gathering place for all in our group to meet up. "Melburn" did a fine job entertaining us. The first night we closed the place. By the third night we had grown pretty tired of "Sweet Caroline", "Beenie and the Jets" and "The Piano man"; seems that everybody that would stop by for a drink while waiting on the comedy shows to start would request one of those. He was very gracious and played them every time.
We attended most all of the adults comedy shows. I love the punch line theater concept. This is an area that could use some improvement. The "clearing out" after one show so people outside can come in for the next show is a logistical nightmare. Most people that saw the first show wanted to see the second one and people outside wanted those seats. So you end up with a huge traffic jam of people crowed into a small space between The Piano Bar and the Comedy Club and the Karaoke bar. This is an area the "powers to be" need to look at. I know it's a great thing when something is so popular. It's a nice problem to have.
I was very pleased that number of public announcements were greatly decreased from past cruises. The bingo people didn't scream all day and the ever present Art guy kept his to a minimum. That was very nice. The Cruise Director staff was fine. I have no complaints or amazing praise either way. "The Morning Show" .... well lets just say it should be left to the pro's. At times it was pretty painful to watch. I went into the disco late on the first night. There were more dress white uniforms than short pants for sure. I had visions of John Healds statements about Italian officers and doing the wheel barrel walk across the cabin floor with your girlfriend. I guess they were there to check out the target rich environment. The piano bar did seem to be the gathering area for the rest of the staff with the blue uniforms and usually long after most guests have left.
I did hear a couple young ladies comment that this sailing didn't have any singles activities. I had not noticed that but after looking back at the "Fun Times" for the week I didn't see any either. In past cruises those things have always been kind of a bust anyway. Speaking of a bust .... One night there was a Michael Jackson tribute planned for the disco. When I arrived it was standing room only ... The place was packed. Everywhere except the dance floor. Everyone stood around while "ABC 123" blasted over the speakers. Then the DJ announced there is no show, there is no speaker or dancers that we are all the show. Most people quickly left.
I must speak about the main shows. A couple of them where off the chart amazing ... The young lady Elaine Sanders I believe has an amazing voice. She wowed everyone and people often stood up and cheered after one of her solo's. I believe the first was Get Ready? The second one is Dancing in The Streets is Not To Be Missed. These are multi million dollar Vegas worthy productions. The best I have ever seen in over 20 cruises. The Country show.... 8 seconds? Thats about how long that should have lasted. It was "Hee Haw" with louder speakers. It's a shame too because the props and stage work was impressive; the rest, not so much. I have heard lots of talk about revamping the Legends show but as of our sailing, It is still the same old act. Sony and Cher in the middle and the Dolly Parton thing at the end. My friend Lisa was Gloria Estefan for the fifth year in a row. It's time to make that show more current. But as always we had fun cheering for our friend.
I think the only thing left to talk about now is the Ports. We did the Eastern Route. The first stop was Nassau. Not my favorite place but hey it's an Island so all is well. Having been there many times we skipped the straw market The Atlantis still remains the biggest financial rip off in the Caribbean. My group just took a cab to the public beach next to the resort and rented chairs. We spent about 20 bucks each. The beach was great. The waves were huge that day, the biggest I have ever seen. We just bought beer from the locals and watched God bowl over tourists with wave after wave. A pretty fun day and Nassau is the only place that will make you miss the beer prices on the ship.
From there we set sail to St Thomas. We were awakened to the announcement that we need to reroute to Turks and Caicos to disembark a passenger with medical issues. This was done quickly quietly and professionally. We all said prayers for the passenger and his family. We arrived a few hours late but once again we just stayed longer in port. Everything worked out well. My group had booked an island tour with Sony. A couple stops along the way to the big stop at the top of the mountain for the "worlds best banana daiquiri" Seven million sold .... I had beer but most of the ladies said they liked the daiquiris at the first stop better. Our last stop was at a beach ... A public beach without a cover charge. We were supposed to look around, buy something and go back to the port. We decided that we would just stay there and get our own taxi back to the ship as we still had several hours before we had to be back. Sony said fine but our excursion didn't include a beach stay so we owed him ten more dollars each. We had a hard time understanding this. He said he would take us back to the ship for free right then as we already paid for that. But if we wanted to stay at this public beach we had to give him ten dollars extra. A couple people including myself questioned that logic. It did not make sense and felt a little shady. For the ten dollars he said he would come back and take us to the ship later. We said we would get our own cab and did not need him to come back. This agitated him greatly and he walked over to the taxi stand and told the guys we were trying to rip him off and not to take us back to the ship. This agitated me. An otherwise great day ruined. We paid Sony and he took us back later. I am sure he must have had some logic that was lost in translation. I am trying hard to give him the benefit of the doubt. We in no way intended to slight or cheat him. We discussed making him take us back then as agreed and just taking another cab to Megan's Bay. I just paid for the group and said most of us will tell this story on Cruise Critics so others would know. He said "let god be your guide" perhaps some of you can tell me what went wrong since I am still at a loss.
The next day was my favorite. I love St Marteen. It seems to just get better and better every time. Having been there several times and already seen the low flying planes at Maho Beach we just took a taxi to Orient Beach. No need to book excursions ... just take a 6 dollar cab ride. One tip though, the taxi's always drop you at the nicest place at the end of the beach. The beer there is 18 dollars bucket and every single place to the right of there it's only ten. The chairs are cheaper too. When people say go right at Orient, this is what they mean. I think I could retire there if I could get past the whole "French" thing.
Speaking of the French thing, this is not a good beach for young kids, enough said? Be sure to save enough time to have a drink at the pier. As you're coming through the gate its the first bar and tent to your left. If returning its the last on your right. I have stopped there a half dozen times and they do make the best Pina Colada in the Caribbean, hands down. The ladies in my group said the BBC's were even better .... We almost missed the ship. (BBC is a Baileys and banana colada)
In closing I will say this was the best cruise I have ever had on Carnival. It has made me totally reconsider the brand as a whole. Gone is the smoky smell everywhere. The kid's seem to be much better behaved. The decor is beautiful and as I said the food was great. My cabin steward did a great job and was very friendly. As much as the "Brands" make fun of each other you couldn't help but noticed that a few things have been borrowed from each other such as "The Quest" and the "Love and Marriage Show". The questions were even the same .... stretch limo, dump truck or VW with two flat tires and the Gone in 60 seconds movie question. Nothing wrong with that just saying they are becoming more alike and that's probably a good thing.
Would I recommend this ship? In a second. Would I sail her again? Tomorrow. If there was one thing I would change if I could it would only be some logistics. It took several days to learn what floor you can walk through and where to go up one deck down another to get where you are going. Ok maybe I would change one other thing. Mr D the Maitre D was a very charming fellow and it's clear English is not his first language. I greatly admire his work in leaning English but most dinners would say that perhaps he could spend a little less time on the loud speaker. It was nice that he wanted to share jokes but they ran on for a long time and well .... I would change that. Less