We have been on many cruises, 15+, but most recently cruising has become a Thanksgiving vacation for us over the last 4-5 years. Most recently on Carnival Conquest and RCL Freedom of the Seas in 2009 and 2010. So a log of my comparisons will be between those two ships given they are the freshest in my head.
Rather than go over each individual day, below is a list of pros and cons of our cruise based on past experiences;
Embarkation/Debarkation - Both unbelievably easy. We drove to Port Canaveral the day before, stayed at the residence inn which was a great hotel. We left the hotel around 11am and were on the ship eating lunch at noon. Debarkation was just as easy. Left our room at 8:00 and were in the car driving back around 9. Port Canaveral is now our favorite port.
Service was excellent. Most of the service personnel we interacted with remembered our names and were extremely polite. The personnel just seemed happier than the service personnel on our RCL cruise last year.
Kids loved the waterslides. We were parked next to the RCL Oasis at most port which looked excellent to my wife and I, however, when we asked the kids if they would like to go on the Oasis next year, the response was no because they didn't have waterslides....
Food seemed overall good. We are by no means food connoisseur, but everything seemed fresh and tasted good.
Shows seemed good and the kids seemed to like them.
Kids club was much better than we experienced on the Carnival Conquest and comparable to RCL Freedom of the Seas. For whatever reason, the kids didn't seem as packed in as they did on the conquest even through it was over thanksgiving holiday.
Ship size/number of people that were on it. We are use to big ships and the crowded Thanksgiving cruises, but ship just seemed overly crowded. The public areas seemed very similar to the Conquest, but it had an additional 1000 people. The pool areas were especially crowded which is normal, but they never seemed to lighten up where on other ships, later in the afternoon or Island days, it was pretty easy to get a seat, where is wasn't on the Dream. The lines in the buffets were very long so we stuck the dining room for most meals. My take was that at 3500 people it would have been great ship, at 4500 people like our cruise, not so great...
We have been to all of the islands in the past so we pretty much knew what to expect. We did have one problem in Nassau because our ship was late. As a result, our ship sponsored shore excursion to Blue lagoon island ran long and instead of dropping us off next to the ship where they picked up us, they dropped us off in the middle of town so we could 'shop' well, we had 15 minutes to get back to the ship before it left so im not sure how much shopping they thought we were going to do. We ended up running back to the ship with 2 kids in tow and barely made it. Talk about stress. Not cool, especially for a Carnival sponsored excursion.
Salt water pools. We knew they were salt water before going, but still don't like it. The kids barely swam in them. Stayed mostly on the waterslides which were fresh water.
Motion of the Ship. Ive been on a lot of ships in rough seas, but this one seemed to rock more than others. The water we rough during the sea days, but for that size ship, it really bounced around. Glasses fell off our nightstand and broke because of the motion which has never happened to us before. Lots of puking in the public areas...
We love cruising and have never had a bad one. On a scale from 1-10, I would rate this one about a 4 mainly because it was just too crowded. We didn't feel the public areas were big enough to accommodate that many people. Again, there were definitely some positives, but I don't think we will do that class of ship again.