First let me say that I/we (myself, wife, daughter 14, son 11) have never cruised before so have nothing to compare this cruise to. With that said, this review is my opinion only. I was a bit concerned about the cruise after reading so many reviews and I really didn't know what to expect... "the smell", crowds, lines, poor food, good food, kids running rampant, etc. I will say that I'm glad I read them with a grain of salt because I found that most were unfounded. I included the prices in my review as a point of reference only. We live just outside Orlando so will not speak to hotels or travel, otherwise I will try to cover as much as I can:
Parking: I went back and forth between Park and Cruise or Radisson for parking as they are half the cost of the port itself. Ultimately I chose Radisson and that was a mistake. The hotel was so crowded with other cruisers, parking customers are a secondary priority. The staff was rude. Upon return I found that my battery was dead and Radisson just shrugged their shoulders. I've used other parking type places when I fly and they have the ability to help if that happens, I imagine Park and Cruise does to but cannot confirm. This is not so much a recommendation for Park and Cruise as it is a warning against using the Radisson... but if I do it again, I'm using Park and Cruise.
Embarkation: As previously stated, Port Canaveral has this down. We were on the ship within 30 minutes of arriving at the port. Not sure how this compares to other ports but I found Canaveral to be pretty smooth and easy.
The Ship: First impressions are lasting ones and I will say that we were impressed with the Dream. Everything was so clean, the help were so friendly, and overall I'd say this is a great ship. I found that it was difficult to find things though, even when I had an idea where they were, but that's just me I guess. Again, I have nothing else to compare it to so take it for what it's worth. There was one funny comment though that was not prompted. I've read plenty of reviews about how small the pool is, unsolicited, my children saw the pool for the first time and said "wow, the jumbo tron is bigger than the pool". The elevators were always too busy so it was actually faster to take the stairs but since we were on the 2nd floor and everything else was many floors up, by the next morning our calves hurt from taking the stairs so much.
Our Room, 2250, Cove Balcony: I read that people really like the cove balconies and now I understand. This was a great room, fantastic view, and a great location. 2250 is the second most forward balcony room on the port side of the ship. Pretty close to the water and on the last day it was catching plenty of sea spray as we hit rougher waters. But being so close to the water, it was nice to watch the flying fish shooting out of the churning waters of the ship. Also, as it was on the port (left) side of the ship, we had great views of each port we docked at while starboard (right) is looking out to sea. The bathroom had plenty of shelf and counter space so a shoe organizer was unnecessary. But for the four of us, it was a bit cramped while getting ready for dinner, but that was the only time since all we did in the room was dress for dinner/departure in the morning or sleep. All through the cruise I never experienced the "kids running rampant through the halls". Except for the guy next door who snored (sorry if you're reading this whoever you are) it was pretty quiet. Overall, we will get a cove again if possible.
Day 1, sea day: Discovered the shower was clogged and the bathroom flooded, reported it to front desk and I don't know when they came by, but that evening it was working again. Found that the breakfast buffet was pretty crowded, but also found that the further toward the back of the ship you walk, the less crowded it becomes. In fact, if you go all the way back to the Sunset Pool area, there is another buffet set up with the exact same things on the inside buffet but no lines. This is where we spent every morning for breakfast. Tried the water slides, WARNING: you need to take your flip-flops or water shoes with you, the deck and stairs were extremely hot!! Black non-skid on metal steps in the sun all day and bare feet are not a good combination. Terrible idea, Carnival. ANOTHER WARNING: the seams of the both slides scratched my back enough that I didn't want to do them again. The kids enjoyed their respective clubs and our daughter wanted to hang there all the time while my son was more selective in what he wanted to participate in. There was a bbq lunch on deck 5 that I found to be just alright, nothing special and could have skipped it. Went to PG comedy show with kids and it was good. Nothing inappropriate that I found. Caught "Another 8 Seconds" in the Encore theater. It was also pretty good, great dancers and the fiddle player was amazing. I personally could have done without the self serving rendition of Proud to be an American though, just my opinion.
Day 2, Cozumel: Ordered room service for breakfast the night before and highly recommend this service. Coffee on the balcony first thing in the morning without facing the crowds is the best. After being herded through the shopping area of Cozumel's port we found a taxi ($13 one way) and headed straight to Paradise Beach. Bought the wrist bands for the water toys at $12 for each person. Paradise Beach is a great place to just play and enjoy some drinks. We also indulged in para-sailing at $50 per person. Some of the water toys are a little far from shore and some people were getting worn out swimming to them. If you are not a strong swimmer or have small children, they have life vests you can use. The pool area is a nice place to hang and get some food too but turned into a drinkfest. If that's your thing, great, but I really didn't want my kids watching the bar help pouring liquor from the bottle directly into the mouths of a drunken group so we spent most of our time at the beach.
Day 3, Roatan: Ahhh room service. Booked Bodden Tours and couldn't be happier. It was a short walk over the hill outside the port area to find our driver. We started with zip lines (I think there were 10 lines) and everyone had a blast. Most were hanging upside down and trying spins once they got comfortable with it all. The guides were helpful and the whole process went smoothly. Unfortunately it began to rain toward the end of our lines so the last few were in light drizzle but it was still fun. Playing with the monkeys was supposed to follow directly after but we opted to move on because of the rain. Went to the snorkeling and waited a short time for the boat. Snorkeling was awesome as we saw so many colorful fish, coral, a HUGE crab, and conch. This guide was good at pointing out things of interest while we were there. Had lunch at the restaurant where we departed for the snorkeling which wasn't bad. Since the rain had stopped we made our way back to the monkeys which was a great idea since by this time, all the other groups had cleared out and we had the place to ourselves. Daughter, "Ahhhhh.... they're soooo cute". Did a little souvenir shopping then back to ship. Ate the buffet this night as we had early dining and did not want to hurry to clean up to make the 6:00 time. Buffet wasn't bad, but we only did it this one time as we prefer the dining room. Dancing in the Streets was another amazing show and worth getting to the theater early for a good seat. WARNING: you'll want to get to a show 30 minutes early for a decent seat whether that's the dancing or comedy. Later that night was the Pink Floyd laser light show by the pool which I found to be pretty weak and wouldn't miss much if I didn't see it, again, just my opinion.
Day 4, Belize: I have to get this off my chest, tendering sucks! We booked with Major Tom for cave tubing. As we ended up on a later tender, when we got through the port, I met Major Tom himself who proceeded to take the balance of the cost of the excursion then loaded us on a van with drivers and another group from cavetubing.bz. Through some miscommunication (I guess we were supposed to be dropped somewhere to meet up with Minor Tom?) we ended up actually doing the excursion with the cavetubing.bz group and guides and never saw Tom again. This erked me as we booked with Tom, not this other company, but it all turned out great in the end. With that said, how things were handled and with the experience I had with Reuben and Manuel, I would recommend cavetubing.bz from the get go. They are $50 per person rather than Tom's $55 and they are a professional operation where you pay at the END of the excursion. I would NOT recommend Major Tom as he required a paypal deposit, took my money before I ever got on a van, then handed me off to a totally different company and I never saw them again! Sooo many options of companies to do this with (Carnival, Tom, cavetubing.bz, etc) some only did one cave, others did two but finished early, cavetubing.bz did two caves and went further down the river than others, we were in smaller groups than the other companies, and our guides were kind enough to point out a termite mound (yes, I ate a termite, and yes they really do have a minty flavor, lol). Bottom line, Belize is dirty, has pushy people trying to sell you stuff, but I would recommend getting off the ship and explore as long as you book with a company you can trust.
Day 5, Costa Maya: Very early docking (woke me up at 6:30 with all the commotion). Made our way through the port shops and caught the port bus to the Tropicante. Unfortunately, today was blustery and rainy so was not the best beach day but it was still good. The owner of Tropicante, Steve, is a great host and his place has indoor seating (many do not) so we got some beers, guacamole, salsa n chips, and grilled chicken for very reasonable prices. Steve made a point to stop by and talk to everyone and offer his phone if you needed to make a call to the states or provide the code for his wi-fi (daughter FINALLY got to check facebook, lol). When we left, our waiter gave us each a lucky necklace made from some large native bean as a souvenir. Went back to ship early after some more shopping (prices get lower as you get further from the port shops). Finally had the draft red ale in the Atrium bar which was very good, and played a few rounds of cornhole set up there. Another family comedy show which wasn't as good as the first but that depends on the comedian (there were two at the beginning, then they were replaced by two more when we stopped in Belize). Did an adult show later and found it to actually be too crude to my liking, my opinion.
Day 6, sea day: Nice to sleep is as we had no place to be. Tried the hot tub (actually a luke warm tub, or even a little chilly). Seas were a little rough with 5ft waves and 128kph winds coming across the front of the ship. Tried the Serenity area but a small rain storm forced me inside. Just spent the day lounging and relaxing, cornhole tourney which my son and I were bounced in the first round :( Chocolate buffet at 12:30 by the pool which wife and kids said was really good.
Day 7, disembark: We didn't opt for the self assist, and our zone was 15 (based on the floor of your cabin) which was 8:20. Note, you can check with the front desk and get different zone numbers if you like. Disembark was as smooth as the embark and we were off the ship and outside the port within 15 min of being called.
Pasta Bar - tried it first day and it was awesome!
Mongolian - very good, but line moves extremely slow since each order is cooked individually.
Burrito Bar - nothing special
Deli - only tried pastrami on rye and it was just ok
Dining time - we had early and were glad. We always had time to get cleaned up and found that we would have been hard pressed to catch as many shows as we did if we had late dining. We were assigned table 619 in the Scarlet Upper with Alvin and Anthony as our waiters. Two great guys and the food was excellent. Daughter had Melting Chocolate Cake every night, and after the second night, Anthony didn't ask anymore but just brought my wife and I decaf after plates were cleared and before we got the desert menu.