This was our third cruise, after Disney Wonder and RCI Navigator of the Seas. I was extremely impressed with the Carnival Dream. It's a beautiful ship with a fantastic crew. This was a 7-day Eastern from Port Canaveral with stops at Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten.
Embarkation was a little messy due to the stormy weather over Florida. Once we got the luggage dropped off and made it past the security screening, we were on board quickly. The ship layout is a bit confusing at first, but you get the hang of it after a while. We found the lido deck for lunch and then down one deck to our balcony stateroom.
We learned that there were 4200 guests on board, which is almost completely full. Frankly, the ship didn't seem crowded. We never had trouble seeing any shows, comedy, getting space by the pool, etc. The lido area is huge, with plenty of seating. There were some lines, but never more than a few minutes, and it was easy to avoid lines by avoiding the peak times.
The cabin was excellent. Impeccably clean and lots of storage space. Our location on deck 9 forward was very quiet. Cabin service was superior. I've read comments about an odor on the ship. I never detected an odor anywhere that I went. The only area that smelled of smoke was the casino.
The public spaces are great. Ocean plaza area is really nice and never felt overly crowded. The promenade deck seemed very quiet and underused. That's where to go if you want peace and quiet. It was busy around the two pools, but the key was to just go early. I liked to get up early and get great seats next to the pool when almost nobody was there. We could have early breakfast and early lunch. Then when things started getting crowded (and hot) after lunch, we could retreat inside. I didn't see much chair saving going on. And if you wanted to take in the sun, there were tons of chairs and lounges available on the upper decks away from the pool.
The food was fine. Everything was nicely presented. The lido has tons of choices. I tried the basic breakfast and lunch buffets, Mongolian wok (good, but spicy!), burrito bar (fine), deli (fair), pizza (good), and burgers (good). I didn't try the tandoor (by the aft pool) or the pasta (upstairs). We had dinner each night in the Scarlet dining room. Our servers were wonderful. The food was good, and well presented. I would describe the dishes as nice, but basic. I tried some of the "didja" items, and had fish several nights, which was always good. I had prime rib twice, which was fine, but not warm either time. The "shark and langostino firecracker roll" starter was probably my favorite, but it was not any kind of a roll, and was not at all spicy. I found that the description of the items didn't match the items many times, which became almost amusing at times. But who cares, as long as it tastes good?
We saw three of the shows in the main theater. All were very loud! The singers and dancers were great. We also saw three comedy shows in the (huge) Burgundy lounge, which were all great. Butch was the cruise director, and I really appreciated his announcements over the PA. They were always helpful and never annoying.
All the ports were fine. At Nassau, we walked to Ardastra Gardens. It was a pretty far walk, but no real problem. On the way back, we caught a taxi who charged us $1.50pp, same as the bus. Cool.
On St. Thomas, we took a taxi to Magen's Bay beach. The scenery was beautiful and it was fun to play in the water a bit, but the beach itself wasn't anything special.
On St. Maarten, we did a Golden Eagle catamaran sail and snorkel. A really fun trip, although the snorkeling was poor and the waves were a bit strong. What a great crew and fun time though. Very family friendly.
Debarkation was very smooth. Since we didn't have a flight to catch, we had a high zone number and left the ship about 9:15am. Walked right off and found our bags in just a few minutes.
In summary, I'm sold on Carnival. The crew was really great and everyone without exception was friendly and eager to help. I bought two future cruise certificates and can't wait to go on my next Carnival cruise, hopefully a Western Caribbean on the Dream.