Family of 5. Father in law (65+), Mother in law (60+), Wife (37), Son (3) and myself (37). We have cruised together on Carnival 3 previous times.
Radisson At The Port: We stayed in a suite. It was very spacious and it had a Sleep Number bed, which was a nice surprise. There is also a large whirlpool tub which my wife enjoyed. The room and the hotel in general showed it's age in spots. The shower door handle literally fell off in my hand and the pull-out couch bed was simply horrible. The is simply no way anybody could sleep on that mattress. Instead we left it as a couch and my 3 year old slept on it that way. The pool here is gorgeous and large and comes complete with a waterfall. The restaurant service for dinner and breakfast was very attentive and friendly. The food was better than most hotels as well. The shuttle service from the hotel to the port was a debacle. Our CC Roll Call had organized two shuttles to carry us to the port at 10:30 and 11:00 am. Those shuttles were used for two wedding groups that had also booked the hotel. Our party was signed up for the 10:30 shuttle and ended up leaving after 11:30. Overall, I would not recommend staying here based on the condition of the room and the shuttle service, if those things are important considerations.
Since we arrived later than planned, we had to wait longer than anticipated. Canaveral is simply not equipped to handle a passenger count as large as what the Dream heaps on them. Waiting in line outside in Florida heat for over 30 minutes is not ideal. Port staff did their best to keep things moving- directing traffic to keep lines even, and once we were inside, it wasn't a terrible ordeal. Overall, we boarded about 45 minutes after being dropped off.
We stayed in 7215 and the In-Laws were in 7209. We booked these two specifically for the doorway between the two, making them adjoining cabins so that our 3 year old could visit back and forth.
The cabin seemed larger than our previous cabins aboard the Inspiration (OV), Glory (balcony) and Legend (balcony). There was ample storage space both in the form of closets and drawers, as well as multiple shelves in the bathroom.
The doors between the two cabins were not any good at providing sound insulation. We could hear every non-whispered word and sound with both doors closed. I can not imagine how this would be with total strangers in the next room. Certainly something to consider when booking.
Also, and this was a major drawback to us, our balcony was flooded for almost the entire cruise. Whenever there was even a hint of rain or fog, water would pool on our balcony. The gutter would fill and then there would be from a half-inch to an inch of water sloshing back and forth on our balcony. The cabins on either side of us would be damp, but at least the water would drain out of their gutters and would not pool up. We did not get much use out of our balcony because of this. The only time our balcony was dry was when we were at port. It's just something about how the wind blows around the side of the ship, I guess.
Another consideration... These cabins are as far from the dining room as you can get. I was actually surprised that we were assigned to the Scarlet dining room, since Crimson was closer, but we never specifically requested different. I just thought it strange that distance would not be a consideration when assigning dining rooms.
There are some benefits to these cabins. You are never subjected to any noises from the hallway. Passenger-wise, this is a very quiet area. The hallways are also not travelled by anyone other than your neighbors, so that keeps things quiet as well. Still, the waves crashing against the hull can be quite loud here, especially in higher seas. If you are a light sleeper, you may be woken by the sound.
The ship's layout leaves a lot to be desired. The Promenade deck is poorly designed. It is simply too small for the number of passengers that may be trying to use it. The area around the shops was a logjam for much of the time that the shops were open. Also, forcing traffic to go through the casino to get from front to back was a very poor decision. The entire casino, including the non-smoking side, smells like an ashtray. I have no desire to walk through that stench at any time.
Also, there is only one bank of elevators to take you to the Scarlet dining room. The galley is between the two dining rooms and there is no passage on either side of it. Simply put, if you would like to take an elevator to the dining room, you will be waiting a while- at least 10 minutes or more if you have someone in your party in a wheelchair. If even one side of the galley was made a bit smaller to accommodate passage past it, this would not be an issue. Instead, you have hundreds or more people trying to access that dining room at the same time via one set of four elevators. It is very poorly though out.
I did enjoy the outside areas of the ship. Around the outside of the Promenade deck are many deck chairs, super-sized chess sets and several hot tubs. These areas were surprisingly under-used, as I never saw a crowd here during our cruise. I especially enjoyed heading all the way forward and enjoying the peace and quiet of the deck at the very front. From decks 5 through 7 you can enjoy some quiet time and just revel in the weather. I actually got to feel the full force of a tropical thunderstorm at 20 knots from deck 7. I'm sure it's not every one's cup of tea, but I found it exhilarating.
The pool area seemed a bit small, but it was not something I was looking to use anyway.
We did make use of the Waterworks. My son loved the area that was set up for smaller children. He must have gone down the children's water slides hundreds of times. This was probably his favorite area of the ship, and therefore, mine as well. It is a small area, but we seemed to find ourselves using it during off peak times, and enjoyed it very much.
My son tried Camp Carnival a few times. The staff there was very attentive to the children and monitored their behavior to avoid problems without being over the top. The kids were allowed to be kids, but without causing problems for anyone else. There were a variety of activities available to all ages and we felt secure with our son being in their care for the few hours he was there over the course of the week.
Here is where I was disappointed in our cruise. For the first time, I can honestly say that there was no Carnival crew member who impressed me with their service. At best, the crew that we interacted with were "functionally friendly". In other words, they were not outright rude, but I always got the sense that they would rather be somewhere else.
Our dining room team, Francis and Eduardo were not up to our other Carnival experiences. My wife can be very particular about her food, and she likes to order things a certain way. Francis, the headwaiter, would never honor any sort of request that was different from what was already on the plate. Even when the request was simple, he chose not to follow it, or he was somehow prevented from doing so. We asked for a children's menu on the first two nights, and never did see one. We constantly had to ask for the bread to be passed around. Our drinks were rarely refilled without someone from our table having to wave one of our dining room staff over for help. Overall, they were very inattentive and seemingly very uninterested in delivering any level of service except what was absolutely required.
Our cabin steward, Romi, did an adequate job of keeping the cabin clean, most of the time. He could not honor a simple request of bringing two bottle of water each night, though. We asked for the first two nights, and then resorted to ordering them through room service. If there was some logistical reason he could not do so, he had never explained it to us. I got the impression that he was too hard pressed to get the basics of his job done to remember anything else.
My interactions with the Guest Services desk were also less than impressive. Regarding disembarking, we received three different answers to the same question asked by my MIL, DW and myself. We also received incorrect information regarding wheelchair availability as well as items appearing on the sail and sign account that were not correct. It seems that the Guest Services desk is really there to act as a buffer between the passengers and the people who actually have the information and answers you need. Each time I asked a question, I got information that was proven incorrect by someone else on the staff.
I really believe that the crew can make a big difference in a cruise experience. As someone who manages a large team of employees in the customer service world, I wonder just how effective the leadership on the Dream is at inspiring their crew to deliver service. I don't know if the crew is unable or unwilling to deliver service levels as great as they have been in my past CCL experiences, but it clearly did not happen this time.
Having only Western Caribbean ports to compare to, I was somewhat unimpressed by the three stops we made. Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten all seemed to be quite industrial and far from tropical.
At Nassau we toured Atlantis through Carnival. My son really enjoyed the aquarium portion of things. We booked this tour with him in mind, and it was as advertised. It was just the right amount of walking and sight-seeing for a 3 year old's attention span.
At St. Thomas we went to Coral World on our own. It was an enjoyable experience. It's not the world's largest aquarium, nor is it the most sophisticated. What it is however, is very relaxed and hands-on. The staff there is very friendly and engaging as well as very knowledgeable about the subject matter. There are several opportunities to interact with the animals there, as well as feedings during which the staff gives talks about the animals. It was a rewarding experience, and my son enjoyed every minute of it.
St. Maarten... we were originally booked for a tour of the Butterfly farm, but due to an unfortunate accident, my MIL was inured and confined to a wheelchair. CCL refunded our ticket price to our S&S card, and we did not make any alternative plans for the day. Instead, we did some quick shopping at the pier area and then spent the day relaxing on board and playing at the Waterworks with my son.
On board activities:
This is an area where I expected more and was left disappointed. Maybe my expectations were set too high, or maybe Carnival simply failed to deliver. Whatever the case, to put it simply, there were times when I was bored.
I have never been able to say that on a cruise before, but this time it was definitely true. I found there to be a decided lack of family activities. Outside of two or three occasions to take part in family activities through Camp Carnival, there was simply nothing to do as a family. Maybe the wave of the future is for parents to simply drop their kids off in Camp Carnival and then go do adult things, but we were looking to have fun as a family. We certainly found ways to do things on our own as a family, but I was certainly disappointed with the complete lack of any organized family activities.
With the injury to my MIL, we were afforded Zone 2 debarkation with wheelchair assistance which made the entire process quick and painless. We were off the ship and on board a shuttle to our car by 8:15 am. Very efficient and not a bother at all.
Overall, I was disappointed with some aspects of the cruise, and I would not book the Dream again. If our experience is indicative of the general Carnival experience, then we will likely not book Carnival again. It is possible that a smaller ship is simply more our style or that another cruise line that caters more to families (thinking Disney) is more of the right fit for us.
Whichever way you look at it, we made a fun vacation out of our trip, but I really feel it could have been much better if Carnival invested a bit more into the areas where they were deficient, especially in the crew.