I am writing this to inform future cruisers what to expect. I spent lots of time on Cruise Critic and found it helpful in my planning our wonderful vacation.
EMBARKATION: We drove to the Radisson where we parked our cars for $6.95 a night plus shuttle service to and from the port. The weather was windy and rainy and the crowd at the motel was horrible. The drawbridge had malfunctioned so the shuttles were backed up. We finally gave up and took a taxi costing us $40 for the 8 of us. I think we would have gotten on the ship faster if we had just parked at the park and cruise even if it cost a little more. At the port we stood in line forever it seemed. It was not the breeze for us that others have reported, but I think the weather was to blame. After all the excursions embarkation wasn't bad. Disembarkation wasn't too bad either.
When we got on the ship around 11:45 we went to the pizza bar. The line wasn't too bad. I did hate standing in line to get your food then having to find a seat and go get your drink in another area. By the time I had my drink the pizza was cold. The black forest cake was the best dessert I had all week. Kids went back many times throughout the cruise. Everyone had to participate in the muster drill in the Encore Theater. Since the weather was very stormy on our first night my advice is to get a bracelet or dramamine(you don't have to have a prescription.)
KIDS: I saw no babies in diapers in pools or hot tubs. I had no problem with the kids on board. There were a few by themselves on the elevators and halls, but I saw nothing out of the way. 2 of our teenagers had gone to the teen club on a previous cruise and had a blast. They chose not to go on this cruise because the first time they peaked in the door the director ask , "May I help you?" and the rude tone of her voice made them mad. The girls didn't go to the introductory meeting with parents and director like I tried to get them to. So I recommend if the kids are interested in attending make sure you go to the family orientation for the clubs on the first afternoon.
PROGRAMS: The comedians were average, some better than others. The adult comedy was ok. Too many "F" words for me, although we were forewarned. The singing and dancing shows were great. I liked the country show the best as I am a huge country music lover. The "Are You Ready" and Juggling shows were good too. The fun force dancers were something to see. The last night people from the cruise ship were chosen to sing with the Carnival dancers. We really enjoyed this show too. The Laser Show was not great. Younger people probably would enjoy it more than I did. We all loved the cruise director, Butch, and his assistant, Amy. Too bad this is their last week on the dream. I wish I'd found out which ship they are going to.
DAYS AT SEA: We had 3 days at sea. One day we went to a shopping seminar with Dominica and her fiance, Elgin. It was the biggest waste of time even though we did get a free charm bracelet and a few charms (not real gold) but it wasn't worth sitting from 12:30-2:00 and then going into expensive diamond stores in St. Thomas to get them. She could have said in 15 minutes what took her 1 and a half hours to say. The worst joke of a program was an open scrapbooking session. First the Carnival employee was late and then the first thing she said was that Carnival had cut their scrapbooking budget and she knew nothing about scrapbooking. She brought with her printed out words on typing paper: Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maartin. Also scissors and glue. That's it. No suggestions on layouts, no free stickers, no paper, or anything. Of course, most of us only had the pictures on our digital cameras and didn't need the scissors or glue. It would have been nice to at least have someone to give us some good websites to go to. She did tell us where the scrapbooking supplies for sale were on the ship, but we already knew that. Carnival, just drop it or give someone a free cruise that could teach a scrapbooking class. Bingo was $20 a card which we thought was a little expensive. Then they had some specials throughout the week. We didn't win anything but it was fun. We went to the Game of Love with Butch the hostess and it was a blast. I won $38 at slots and spent $5. As you can see I'm not a big gambler. My daughter spent about $10 and won $20+. Other daughter lost about $10 and quit. Mini golf and the slides were fun.
SHOPPING ON BOARD: I believe that the ship is the best place to shop. I bought several watches for Christmas presents and they were cheaper than the ones I priced at St. Thomas where I had been told was the place to shop. They had several drawings. My son-in-law won a 1 carat midnight sapphire they said was worth $100. Funny thing daughter already had gotten 2 free from coupons she had gotten from the above mentioned seminar when she redeemed them in St. Thomas. Also they had advertised and Butch even announced that it was a 5 Carat midnight sapphire they were giving away. (False advertising I thought was against the law) I didn't like the way they would wait until a certain time when you could buy their specials. They had beautiful Pandora like bracelets which Butch announced were $19.99 or 2 for $25.00. The jewelry guy said no that was a mistake. Actually were 25 and 2 for 40. Watch out for the mobs at the fun shops during these special sales.
DINING: We loved the Scarlett Dining room(8:15 sitting) and our waiter Damrong from Thailand. I think it's a shame they don't pay them and all they get is the tip. My grandson loved him and one of my daughters cried the last night when the waiters all sang. The waiters entertained the crowd each night. It was always the highlight of our day.
THE SMELL: Never smelled it as we were in the front of the boat. What we did smell on the first 2 days was vomit where people had gotten sick in the halls, but this was the fault of the weather.(Note above comment about bracelet) The crew scrubbed hard trying to get rid of the smell and they kept the boat very clean.
ELEVATORS: I felt like they had sufficient number of them even though it was hard to get on when getting on and off the ship. The glass elevators were beautiful.
PICTURES: We had a good time taking pictures with the many photographers on board. They had various backgrounds for you to choose from. Just wish you could buy the portraits in 5x7's without having to buy an 8x10 first. They have several computers where you can view all your pictures. I would recommend not buying until the last night. Then you can see them all and decide on a purchase. There are also photo books you can buy as well as nice cruise albums.
Rooms: With 4 in a room it got a little crowded but was always kept clean by our room steward. The beds and pillows were very comfortable. I brought an extension cord for all of our curling irons,etc.
Balcony: Loved having it in the morning and before we got ready for dinner. Pictures from the balcony turned out great.
Next cruise I'll choose a different ship just because I want to see other ships so I'll have something to compare this one to. All in all we had a wonderful time and I chose to write about the bad things so that Carnival maybe will fix them. The Carnival Dream is a beautiful ship and the crew works hard to please.