We are a family of 4 who have cruised 5 times prior to this one (2 Disney, 3 Carnival). The reviews of the Dream almost kept us from going on the ship for 8/6 Western tour. Being a last minute cruise and a tight schedule the Dream wound up being the best option of 2. We were hesitant about the Dream because of the reviews about too many people, long lines, etc. DON'T BELIEVE THEM!!!
Okay...slight rant...skip to next paragraph if all you care about is the ship. To be clear, there were lines...get a clue people...in prime time this ship has 4,500 people on it (even though the description says 3,600 double occupancy...in prime time you are getting those families of 4). Think about any event you go to with 4,500 people...all wanting to do the same thing at the same time. You are going to wait at least some of the time. Carnival provides a good product FOR THE PRICE. You will find tons of reviews about better cruises, shorter lines, etc. on other lines but you WILL pay more in almost every case. We have sailed Disney twice and man was it nice. But you know what - we waited in lines there too and it was twice as much! While it is not cheap to cruise, Carnival lets you do it reasonably if you don't have drink like a fish, don't take every excursion, and can avoid buying all that art. It is amazing seeing the reviews of people from the same trip we took that bashed the ship. If you are looking to have a lap pool - go to a resort. If you are looking to avoid kids - book Silver Seas - great cruise line with no kids and only about 4 times the price. If you want shorter lines, take a smaller ship and also give up a lot of the options the bigger ship gets you. Want 5 star dinning every night - again Disney, Silver Star, or just stay home and go to the local 5 star restaurant. Carnival is about options people. There is more to do on their ships, and especially the Dream, than one can do. No, it is not the top of the line cruise line but if you want that, pony up the money. End of rant...
We read about Park and Cruise online and took a chance. Good choice. Do it people! We paid $6 a night and the only cost was a 10 minute shuttle ride back to the port (drop your bags off first and then go park). On the return, the shuttle was there in 10 minutes and we were on our way. The savings paid for my son's soda card.
The Dream was awesome. The decor is scaled down from the other Carnival ships - not anywhere near as tacky as the other ships. We had 2 cabins - inside for the kids and rear balcony for us. If you are traveling with a family of 4 and your kids are old enough to be in their own room - consider doing this. It is marginally more than 1 room and you get some privacy! The ship is big. I took a video of walking from the back to the front. 2 minutes and 24 seconds and I was walking quickly. As many said, there are alot of people but the staff worked their tails off making sure you had what you needed. Now, we went on this cruise to relax...no planned excursions. We took advantage of the time that people were on shore to do things on the ship. We had Serenity (the adult section for lounging) to ourselves most port days and never had to fight for a space. On these days we also did the pool, water slide, whirlpools and yes we shared but never had to wait. There are 2 sea days and on those days it was definitely more crowded BUT the Dream has a secret. The Dream has a "hidden" extra deck on the 5th level called the Lanai deck. 4 whirlpools, lounge chairs of which 1/2 were empty on sea days - it was awesome. Yes, we gave up the big screen, the kids, the small pool, the lines at the water slides, etc. on those 2 days. It was wonderfully relaxing.
The food was good - not great. Someone once said it was like going to Outback which is a good comparison. The catch is, it is Outback that has Italian, Mongolian, a deli, burgers, fruit, veggies, etc, etc, etc. If someone could not find enough to eat they must be used to top quality dinning every night. The dinners in the main dinning room were good most nights and great 2 nights. By all means get the chateaubriand! We had two slow service issues. Dinning was one of them and was mainly because our server Gusti was dealing with more tables than other servers. She did a great job on the nights we had something to go to when we needed to get in and out.
Carnival is the something for everything line. Yes, we agree the sell job for the art, jewelry, liquor, etc. gets to be a pain. So...just don't do it. Pretty much if you don't want to get bothered they will leave you alone. After having sat through the spa, art, etc. things we have learned it is not worth it...unless you really want that free glass of champagne. Speaking of drinking...expensive for sure. For those that like beer some select places like the casino bar have a bucket of four at a discount.
The Casino is well equipped. Crowded at points but not unlike in Vegas. Too much smoking for my liking but they had some tables as non-smoking. Two electronic texas holdem tables are fun and usually have a spot...but after a while the urge to hold chips sent us back to blackjack. I love the people that complain they lost on the ship and it is the only time they have ever lost gambling so the ship is terrible. To those people - please contact me because if you win ALL other times, I definitely want to shadow you on your next trip to Vegas!
The staff was great overall. Butch the cruise dirctor was good but we have had better. Matre D' was good, we have had better with Ken the singing Matre D' who is doing the Carnival European ship now. All the staff worked hard to give you what you needed, addressed you by name, and overall made a great effort to give you a great cruise. Josalin our steward was always one step ahead of us with the room being spotless and never interrupting us. We wound up circling back to port in Cozumel due to a medical emergency. The staff was awesome, explaining what we were doing and the altering the schedule the next day to make sure all events continued without interruption. If I ever had something that severe happen to me on a cruise line I hope I have the crew that was on this ship!
Last few tips...take em' or leave em'. Don't go on the trip to buy stuff. In the ports you can do okay on jewelry and stuff but honestly, you can do as well back in the states if you want GOOD stuff. The diamonds they show you are generally lower quality and you can do as well with sales in the states. Bring 12 packs of soda on board. Each person can have 1 12 pack. Save yourself the $50 soda card. Pictures - if you want them done by the staff (formal night etc.) and don't want to wait in line, go after the first dinner as soon as they open again. In many cases the stations stayed open during their "off" time. We waited for 1 picture...the rest we were at worst 2nd in line and done in 2 minutes. Book your excursions to get back to the ship early if you want to take advantage of the ship's amenities. We got off at the ports to walk around but got back on the ship after an hour or so. Even 2-3 hours before departure there were still many open seats, reasonable lines for the slides, almost no wait for mini golf (18 holes!!!)... Do the open dinning option. We didn't because of reviews here and wish we had. We talked with many people and the longest wait was 15 minutes with most nights being 5 minutes or less. If you are a geek like me and want to see behind the scenes...take the Behind the Scenes Tour. It is not cheap ($95 per person) but it was great. Only 16 people per cruise and it is not advertised. We had a blast seeing the engine control room, galley, how they deal with the food, waste, etc. for so many people. For all those that complain on here about how bad it is - take the tour to see how much it takes to run a ship this big and you'll get an appreciation for how good it really is. You also get to see the bridge, crew areas... If you really don't care about how that steak gets to your table, take the $95 to the blackjack table... The gym was definitely not able to handle 4,500 people but really - who exercises on vacation? Okay - we decided to be good and do so this time. Sea days are tough - go real early. Excursion days - just like with the chairs just hit it while still in port. Buy a wine package at the start of the cruise if you like wine. In fact, buy 2 if you think you will drink more than 5 bottles. Again, not cheap but it is way cheaper with the package than by the bottle. The staff brings it back to you the next night if you don't finish and you can just carry it with you after dinner which lowers that bar bill. Internet - unless you absolutely need it just disconnect. If you can't, make sure you tell friends you will email them rather than call - cell rates are high if you can even connect.
Debarkation was a pain. Most of the problem however was due to PEOPLE WHO WOULD NOT LISTEN! It is amazing the "me first" attitudes. They call in zones based on your floor and when your luggage would be available. People got off before they were called, then backed up the luggage area because they could not go anywhere until their zone was actually delivering luggage. The Dream does need to do a better job with routing people during the process and quite honestly, anyone that tries to get out earlier than their zone, send them to the brig until everyone else is gone. Probably would have solved the issue...
For the cost, the Dream was great. Big yes but the staff works hard to not make it feel that way. We absolutely would sail her again and are planning on sailing her or her sister ships within the next year. If you are going on a cruise, know why you are going. Big pool, quiet time, no kids...uhm...rethink that vacation folks...or take Silver Seas - our parents (70's) love it. If you are looking for a place where they feed you, take care of the room, you have options galore to interact with other people, or can just lay back and relax and not worry about ANYTHING...Carnival provides a reasonably priced option and the Dream is an outstanding ship to take that vacation on.