Carnival Dream—North Atlantic Cruise 2011 (July 30-Aug 6)
I'm going to give my honest thoughts on our recent cruise aboard the Dream. There will be some negatives in the comments—maybe more negative than positive in some areas—but the overall experience was great. Our family had a great vacation in Hawaii a couple of years ago; two of three kids said that this topped that experience. We had a great week and a lot of fun.
Rumor has it (I will try to confirm this) that another ship on the same basic itinerary as ours made the ports in St. Thomas and St. Maarten, but we stayed far away from them. While everyone here "knows" ports can be changed by Carnival (or any other cruise line), my opinion is that Carnival pulled the plug on our intended ports WAY too early due to the potential threat from Tropical Storm Emily and transformed an awesome experience into a excellent experience.
Ports of Call...
Nassau, Bahamas—we stayed on the ship and enjoyed the slides and other offerings without the crowds. It was a very nice day for the family to learn our way around the ship.
Grand Turk—this was a "substitute" for St Thomas or St Maarten. We did a snorkel, swim, and sail excursion on a catamaran. It was neat seeing the drop from a few feet to 7000 feet—the bottom just fell off into nothing. The snorkel in that area was very nice. The beach swim was great...there was free-flowing rum punch delivered to us as we swam. It was a good excursion at a fair price.
Freeport, Bahamas—if Grand Turk was an "acceptable" substitute, Freeport was the complete opposite. The best way to put it is that I would avoid booking a cruise that had both Freeport and Nassau listed as ports of call...
I would have been a lot more satisfied with the itinerary had we headed towards the intended islands and turned back if the storm threatened our path. We still could have made an alternate port of call had it threatened us, and we would have made out scheduled ports since it actually failed to develop into a threat along our route. Obviously I don't know what information Carnival used to decide on the re-routing because the information we were provided about the storm was sketchy at best.
Cruise Director—Gary B.
He was aboard the ship. I hope he is not the best Carnival has to offer.
The Dream—this is a very nice ship. Everything was clean, in good repair, and looked good. The only thing that puzzled me was why it moved so much in such miniscule seas. I spent a few months on rougher waters while aboard a Navy vessel and it did not roll as much as this ship did.
If you can't find something fun to do on this ship, you are in trouble. They had a very good cover band (Cooper's Run), a fun piano bar (Milburn), some very good comedy (four different folks), movies, food, karaoke (the lady there was on the lame side), the casino, and shows.
Dancing in The Streets—some love this show, but you can count me among those that didn't enjoy it. If we had not been seated in the middle of a row, I would have left early. My daughter (19) felt the same. I did like the male vocalist (Sean) and it was a treat when he sang "Walking In Memphis" and some other songs in the piano bar late one evening.
My daughter also enjoyed the female impressionist's show. I wish we had attended that one—it sounds like one that is very enjoyable.
The slots were seemingly tighter that our normal casinos but who really knows? They don't report payout percentages and they certainly don't brag about them, so they must not be all that good for the player. My wife made the 1,500 points at midnight on the last night of the cruise—that got her two free drinks that evening. My craps play did not warrant any attention from a host, which does not surprise me.
The casino staff was average. There were a couple of surly dealers who pushed people in ways that I just don't like from dealers. They talked down to people and almost "forced" certain bets on people—I especially noticed one doing this to an older gentleman. I did ask the pit to watch that particular dealer. I have no confidence that the casino staff did a good job of rating bets—it appeared they watched buy-ins way more than other stuff. The staff was well below the service level at our "local" casino.
This was great. We had VIP (a suite) and were on the ship minutes after 11 a.m. I tried to make a deposit on my sign and sail account (this was a cash trip) but they weren't open on board in spite of what I was told before we boarded. We had lunch and then enjoyed a swim, the drink of the day, and watching our fellow cruisers gather as the ship filled to capacity plus a thousand or so.
They announced the sailing at 4,500 or so, but I honestly did not feel like it was overcrowded. There were some lines for a variety of things but nothing horrid. The ship seemed "full" but not "overstuffed" as some have said they felt.
The kids had a great time. There were small groups of well-behaved kids that did not use the clubs but stayed only in "public" areas. I did not notice any bands of unruly children doing anything horrid around the areas of the ship we used. My son enjoyed playing basketball each day and took full advantage of both the pizza station and room service. All three of the kids met new friends on the trip.
Our waiter, Somchai (Sunshine), was very good. While service could be a bit slow at times, it appeared they served us as fast as the food came out. We did a wine plan which gave us wine five of the seven nights. That worked out very well. We did order an extra bottle on the last night for a celebratory toast to the wonderful week. The Maitre'D was a non-entity...no one from the staff ever came around to ask us how things were. I found it kind of offensive that he was standing there looking for envelopes on the last night...since he did so little.
The food always looked better than it tasted. They had some great ideas but the food was always just a little bit shy of "great"...perhaps "above average" (or Chili's level) describes it best. The menu was not exciting in any way. The dishes that looked like they would be something special fell short. The experience was good; the food not so much.
Other Food Options...
Steakhouse—good but not exceptional. On par with a mid-level steakhouse but certainly not with the top purveyors of steaks like Morton's or, locally, Perry's. It was another area where I felt they were just a step below where it could have been with a little bit more attention to detail. It was a fun evening and worth the price, but not an over-the-top experience.
Gathering/Mongolian—long lines a lot of the time. The Mongolian was okay but there just wasn't as wide of a variety of stuff to choose from as I have seen on Mongolian lines elsewhere. The buffet food was decent. I did notice that the "cooked" food bowls sat behind the "raw" meat bowls. That has been mentioned as a potential issue on other threads; it does appear to be flirting with potential problems. I know some say "well the food is cooked until the bacteria are dead"...well, true...but the spilled chicken juice on the side of the bowl is not cooked. They should fix their line to reduce the potential for an issue.
Pasta Bar—this was very good. I wish we would have eaten there more than once.
Pizza Station—the kids loved it.
Sushi Bar—it smelled fishy which is not a good thing for sushi. Everything tasted okay and seemed fresh, but I prefer to see sushi and not smell the "fishy" smell. It could have been some of the cooked fist they used on the rolls that caused the smell.
Cabins—we had two cabins, an Ocean Suite and an Interior. The kids got the interior. They were comfortable and the darkness allowed them to sleep in each day. It was crowded for them getting ready for meals, but it was a decent cabin at a fair price (7367). The Ocean Suite (7363) was great. We slept each night with the door open to hear the sea as the ship sailed. The extra room was very nice. I never felt the least bit crowded in the room. I would choose a cabin a few doors down to keep from being directly above the hot tub, but that was not a huge issue.
The steward (Eileen) was prompt and attentive to every request. The room was cleaned several times a day and it was wonderful. We used the $15/bag laundry service three times to keep dirty clothes from piling up. I did not want my wife doing laundry on the cruise. She deserves a break from her normal chores.
Security—I did need to call them twice due to drunken young men creating a ruckus outside of one of our cabins. They were "responding" to the song quoted on the door decoration but the way they did it was wrong. First, they played a Bose music box very loudly and were hollering. Next, when we went to see who it was, one of them covered the peephole. I'm sorry, that is out of line.
I called Security and got no response the first time. The second time, a security agent appeared and got annoyed with me that I was concerned about their security system. I simply stated that security was hard to get through to and I that I thought they could do better. She kept telling me not to confront the people who were causing the disturbance, but I never said I was going to do that. Her mannerisms were more "I'm security and you're not" than "how can we help you?"
Debarkation—just because you managed to find your way to port early (pretty easy since we were off the coast of Florida all day Friday), does that mean that you need to start debarkation early? I realize we have to get off of your ship and you need to get it ready for the next sailing but at least give us until the set time to begin the process. Other than that, it was a piece of cake and we were off, through customs, had our luggage, and were waiting for our ride within a few short minutes. A very smooth process overall.
Again, we had a GREAT time. We are already considering another Carnival cruise in July 2013...perhaps the Magic out of Galveston???