Hi. Joined Cruise Critic a few months ago, so I'm a first time reviewer here. :)
I don't have a ton of cruising experience so I don't have too much to compare it to. But for the most part, I was happy with the cruise.
There were 11 of us in our group, from Grandparents (age 70), my sibling (44) and her family (45, 20, 14, 12, 10), a friend (20) and my fiancee (32). Everyone was pleased with the Carnival Dream, though there were a few things we think could be tweaked.
Embarkation wasn't difficult, though it took longer than what I expected. From all the previous reviews it sounded as though it would only take 20 minutes. We stood in line outside the building for 20 minutes. Then through the security, up the stairs, into another line up for credit card confirmation and receiving the sail cards, then another line up to have picture taken, then FINALLY we were on the ship. The whole thing took about an hour.
Parking was pricey at $15.00/day, but we heard about there was another parking lot that was 1/2 the price a few miles away from the pier.
My 70 year old parents weren't impressed with ALL the elevators being used for luggage. Upon arrival onto the ship, they huffed it up 5 floors. After the muster they had to do it again as the elevators were all being used for luggage. Seems odd that when you've ordered everyone out of their rooms and down 3-10 floors, that you don't have elevators do get them back UP.
The food was fabulous, though NEVER hot. Warm in the Dining Room. Less than warm in the Gathering but it's a buffet so what can you expect. The Steakhouse was worth the 30 bucks/person. FABULOUS steak!!! After getting fleeced for cans of pop and the pricey booze, the free ice tea and lemonade were a nice treat!
My only real beef with Carnival is the CONSTANT lineups in the Gathering. Yes, I know there are 3,500 people all trying to eat, but I'm shocked at the layout of the line ups. Can they not be more inventive to alleviate the congestion and lineups? I know from a previous RC cruise that in the buffet they had individual 5 or 6 mini areas set up for just cereals, just fruits, just desserts, etc so you didn't have to stand in the long lineups to grab 1 piece of toast. Last week, occasionally I would ask someones permission to just sneak in for a piece of toast and never once did anyone balk; it was always met with a smile and their permission, another reason I love the Americans so much. In the food line up I overheard someone say they added an entire floor of cabins but didn't compensate with any more space in the common areas for these people, I'd have to agree, especially in the food line ups and pool area.
The aft pool was a joke. Backyard pools are bigger. VERY disappointing. The other pool (the party pool) wasn't much bigger; though it was considerably LOUDER :) Some kids were actually doing canonballs into the pool, soaking some people - ummm, hellloooo, where are these kids parents? Gimme a break, smarten up. Perhaps a kids only pool near the water slides would make sense. I just found for a ship with the potential of 3,700 people, 2 dinkie sized pools was sad.
I was very happy with the cruise (other than the buffet lineups and crappy sized pools). Carnival worked well for the variety of our age group, lots for parents to do and the kids were always busy; they loved the water slide and mini putt. I loved the Serenity area (no kids :)), comfy chairs, etc. The casino was a good size, though, having a smoking area RIGHT BESIDE the non-smoking area is a JOKE; as if the smoke doesn't go everywhere. I still stunk when I left the casino; unfortunately it didn't stop me from going back each night to lose my shirt.
Disembarkation was S-L-O-W. Hurry up to wait around. They started with announcements at 6:30. So much for a sleep-in. In the future I would do the self-assist. First off and completed within an hour. The zone system was S-L-O-W! We went to breakfast and back to our room to wait it out until the steward said we had to leave our room to clean up; then we waited some more in the theatre. Each zone seemed to take about 15 minutes, not so bad if you're in the first few zones, but ours was 25. We didn't get off the ship until after 11:00. UGH. If you don't mind lugging suitcases, self assist is the way to go.
Unfortunately Day 3 - Isla Roatan was cancelled due to high winds. that was the only day we had an excursion planned so that was disappointing, though understandable as safety should be the captain's priority.