We are a 38 year old couple who has cruised 5 times on Royal Caribbean, once on Holland America, and now 3 times on Carnival. We were on the Nov. 26-Dec 3 sailing of the Dream. Our last trip on Carnival was last summer on the Freedom, and I swore that was the last time for me, mainly due to the fact that we just didn't like the ships (as compared to RC Voyager class) and the horrible buffet food. Well, RC has way outpriced themselves, so we were back to giving the newest class of CCL ships a try.
We flew in the same day of the cruise, arriving at MCO at 9:30am. I am a big believer in flying in the day before, but we could not this time due to work schedules, but thankfully the timing worked out alright. We had booked the CCL transfers to the pier. Check in for that was easy, though we did encounter the one and only rude CCL employee here, who barked at me for not having the correct paperwork. She muttered under her breath when I said that this PW was all that I had received, and continued to mutter to her coworker, who then informed her that when transfers are booked online, the PW we had is all that is needed. She retaliated by giving us a later boarding zone #, instead of the bus that left 10 minutes after we arrived (and was not full). We had a long 2 hour wait for the bus to come, but from that point it was an easy and comfortable 45 minute ride to the pier. The driver announced basic information, but then it was a quiet ride. There was no movie/promo material shown, nor any refreshments offered. Very basic, adequate service. We did not have to handle our luggage after we gave it to the driver. It was sent on straight to our cabin. Return service to the airport was fine, with about a 30 minute wait for the bus to fill, then drop off at the terminal, where the driver unloaded the bags for us. I am torn as to if I would book this again. It is more expensive than other shuttles, and the 2 hour wait for the first bus wasted 2 hours I could have been on the ship, but the bus itself was more comfortable than the typical van shuttles. We arrived at the port at 12:30, and were met with long lines outside of the building. However, they went quickly, and we were onboard by 1:00. As recommended, we headed straight up to the pasta bar, away from the mad crowd of the buffet. It was pretty much empty, and we had our freshly made order in about 10 minutes. I had bowties with alfredo, chicken, spinach, broccoli and zucchini, with caesar salad and bread. The portion of salad was very small, and the bread was served cold. The food was good, nothing outstanding, but much better than the buffet itself. Muster was "to be announced" at 3:30, and that was all the info we were given in the FunTimes. At 3:50, an announcement was made to meet at our muster stations. The only way we knew where that was was by looking at our cabin door. Ours was in the Crimson DR, and no life jackets were needed. I found it rather gross that we were sitting at the tables already set that people were going to be eating from in a few hours. I wish they had not had them set already. We saw the Maitre D to request a table for 2 which he granted immediately. Dinner tonight was tomato soup (excellent), chicken tenders (fabulous, I wish they served these for lunch at the buffet), flat iron steak served tonight with red potatoes, carrots, and asparagus (very good) and excellent creme brulee. DH most nights had the fruit cocktail, chips and salsa only, the gourmet burger, and ice cream, all from the everyday menu. He was happy with them all. Service from I Ketut and Sandy was excellent, and they remembered after the first night what we wanted to drink, and were generous with offering bread. DH brought his own Dr. Pepper with him, and they were always ready with a glass of ice. We could tell there have been cutbacks in staffing, as they had no time for small talk or to make any dinner suggestions. There was also no offer of extra dishes or desserts as in the past. No extra lobster! Egads!(sure, we could have asked, but we were too full to eat it anyway). I've always found the DR songs and entertainment cheesy bordering on annoying, but I must say, the Scarlett DR has a singing waiter that is out of this world. Very talented. There was also a roving magician one night. We got in the habit of nightly walks after dinner. Deck 5 is great for this, and very thoughtfully laid out. It was cool and very windy each night. I found out too late that there was a cruise critic meet and greet at 4:00. It was buried in the FunTimes and I missed it.
Sunday was a sea day, which we spent on the very nice full court basketball court, and reading in a lounge chair before the rain started, as it did most every day. We had dreary weather all week, which made for not much sunning time. The BBall court and walking track became dangerously slick in the rain. I walked 3 miles on the track in the morning, to the sickening smell of food from The Gathering. Pure grease smell up there. Lunch was pizza, salad fries, and key lime pie, which had to come from 4 different lines. This lunch was good. Thankfully we never had much of an issue with crowds and lines. The ship did not seem full or crowded, including the pools and deck chairs. There are PLENTY of deck chairs on pretty much every outdoor deck. One note about TV in the staterooms, there was a good selections of channels, including the regular local channels, so there was football on Sunday and Monday night, as well as all our favorite shows like Survivor, etc. Nice! Dinner tonight was pumpkins soup(I tried it because of all the positive reviews. I thought it was just okay. Won't order again), alligator fritters (good, very cheesy), shrimp cocktail, lobster and shrimp served with mashed potatoes and yummy crumb topped broccoli, and warm chocolate melting cake (WCMC), all of which were great. DH had the spaghetti carbonara as an entree, which he enjoyed. After dinner we went to 2 comedy shows with "Roman", one family and one adult only show. Very enjoyable.
Monday we ported in Cozumel. We've been there many times and just planned on shopping then enjoying the empty ship. We did walk to the other pier in search of liquor for our friends who claim this certain type can only be found at the International Pier. It was an easy walk, but we found the vendors there to be VERY aggressive, and the shops not as nice. When we attempted to buy the liquor, we had to show our ship card, and were told they could not sell to us because we were from "the other ship." Yep, they turned away a $40 sale. We did encounter some nice street vendors on the walk back, and they were happy to sell to us. I'd rather give my money to the locals than the cruise sponsored shops anyway. The weather was rainy again, and had cancelled many excursions. We were back on the ship early and enjoyed the empty hot tubs. Lunch was from the deli (okay) with fries and salad. 3 lines again. Dinner was smoked chicken quesadilla (excellent), field greens (all the dinner salads are so good and fresh tasting), flat iron steak, and diet lemon cake (bland, will not order again.) DH tried the meatloaf, and contrary to other reviews, he really enjoyed it. We saw the "adventure comedian" show, which we enjoyed. We tried to see the Fun Force dancers show, but it was too crowded to really see anything, and it seemed to mostly be audience participation anyway, with very little actual professional dancing. Next time I will skip this in favor of the Dancing in the Streets show, which was phenomonal.
Tuesday was Belize, which I had read was a "love it or hate it" port. We ended up loving it. We followed the directions in the Fun Times and got up early to get tender tickets. What the Times do not tell you is that once you enter the theatre to get the ticket, you are not allowed to leave. We rolled out of bed and went straight there, with no breakfast, no morning hygiene routine, and no excursion supplies. We were told everyone must remain in the theatre, as we would be escorted to the tender when it arrived. We ended up making a mad dash one at a time to gather our supplies and grab a quick to-go bite from the lido, then ended up having to make another mad dash back there when they announced a few minutes before the tender arrived that we would need a picture ID as well as our seapass. It ended up being about 45 minutes before the tender arrived, so I'm not sure why we were not allowed to leave. CCL needs to have better communication here. Tenders were lined up waiting, so there really wasn't a need to hurry that much after all. While the tender ride was smooth and easy, I will mention that the tender boat was really rocking up againt the gangway, and was dangerous for elderly and disabled passengers. We all depended on each other for help onto the boat, by forming a "human chain" of hands to get people seated. It was scary to just watch and wait for someone to fall. The drivers did a great job, and thanked us for visiting their country. We had a 9:00 cave tubing tour booked with VIV tours, who were easy to locate in the terminal, and left promptly once the other 3 couples were off the tender with us. I cannot say enough good things about VIV tours. Everything was perfect, and the cave tubing was fantastic. Please book with VIV, as they are the only company whose tubes have headrests and mesh bottoms, and they use links to hook the tubes together, not someone elses muddy shoe in your armpit. They are true professionals and I highly recommend them. We were back in plenty of time to shop. The pier is very nice, and the vendors are not agressive. I must also mention how clean the restrooms were both at the pier and at the tubing park. Impressive. No lunch today, just a delicious bottled Coke, plantain chips and a Snickers bar at the park. Dinner was Thai chicken tenders, spring mix salad, filet mignon with a side of steamed veggies, and WCMC, all excellent. DH tried the lasagna starter, but did not care for it, as he's not a big fan of spinach. Dancing in the Streets show was after dinner, and it was great.
Wednesday was Roatan, and we took our time leaving the ship, as it was raining again. We looked in the shops until the rain cleared enough to walk to the beach. The shops here are nothing special. I hate that there's a Diamonds Int'l in every port now. The port is very beautiful, full of flowers, plants, and fountains. Great picture spots. We took the nature trail to the beach. This is a great beach for kids, with a playground, stone animals to climb on, and shallow water. The water was too cool to stay in long, but this really is a beautiful beach, with plenty of shady spots, and picture opportunities. We'd love to have better weather here. Lunch was hotdog/hamburger and tortilla chips and nacho cheese onboard at the grill. They were pretty good, but a few hours later we both had upset stomachs. We narrowed it down to the nacho cheese, as that's the only thing we both had, and in hindsight, it was sitting out, not on ice, for who knows how long. We felt bad all evening, and skipped dinner. We ended up ordering a light sandwich from room service at 9:30. It took nearly an hour to be delivered, but was truly the best non dining room meal on the ship. We ended up having the tuna, turkey, ham & cheese, PB&J, and BLT throughout the week, and they were excellent. We ordered through the TV, and got chips as a side dish, so I'm assuming if you want another side, you'd have to call it in. Also, the chocolate cake is served with mousse, and is the 2nd best dessert on the ship. So good, and well worth the tip.
Thursday was Costa Maya. We left the port area and took a $2 bus to the downtown beach. Note that the group behind us was told $3 for the ride, and they got off at the same stop as us. Hmmm. We were going to the Tropicante, but honestly, it is just one long beach, and all the places seemed the same. The beach was beautiful, and the sun did come out long enough for us to enjoy the water for a little while. Service at the Tropicante was excellent, attentive without pressuring. We had diablo shrimp and a steak burrito for lunch, with one Coke and a $3 margarita, totalling $27. The food was good, nothing outstanding, and there were no free chips and salsa like at home. Bummer! We had a massage on the beach, which was the best $25 we spent all week. It was great. We had a few minutes to browse the shops of the malecon, which is right there on the beach, and a few minutes to see the port shops, but we had to be on board by 2:30 which didn't leave nearly enough time in this nice port on our one sunny day. We watched "Something Borrowed" on TV in the cabin. There are 2 family movies, and one adult movie daily, but nothing to tell what time they start, so it was hit or miss to time it right. Dinner was fruit cocktail (watermelon, pineapple, grapes, cantalope, honeydew and either a kiwi wedge, strawberry slice or a raspberry)(excellent) corn chowder(okay, next time I'll try the broccoli cheese soup) Grilled shrimp (excellent)and WCMC.
Friday was at sea, and we were rained off of the BBall court and deck chairs again. I went to the future cruise presentation, and purchased the voucher that will give us a $100 shipboard credit on our next cruise. We ordered room service for lunch, and watched "Water for Elephants". We stopped by the farewell party and had a free Coke and a free cocktail. Dinner was fruit cocktail, crab cake (pretty good), panko shrimp (great)and WCMC. DH had the bacon mac & cheese and really liked it. Our sea days and evenings we spent roaming the ship. DH spent a little time in the very nice arcade. I checked out the library, but no one ever had any books to trade in the passenger swap. We never used the pools or slides, but they were never busy. The gym was nicely equipped, and the spa looked nice. Serenity was a beautiful area, but located next to the water slides and live band, so I'm not sure how serene it really was. The golf course looked very nice and in great shape. There were lots of hot tubs and deck chairs. Ocean plaza on deck 5 has a really nice seating area, some with marble tables and chairs, some with wicker padded chairs. A very nice area. We never tried nor saw the lunch buffet here. The sushi bar is the first I've encountered at sea that did not smell terrible as we walked by. They do a nice job here, and lots of people were taking advantage of it. There are lots of nightclubs that we never saw anyone in. Overall, we loved the ship. I had sworn off CCL because their ships were boring, but this class has brought me back. It is very comparable to RC Voyager class, although by the end of the week I still had not figured my way around the ship. Our cabin was an inside, and seemed small at first glance, but it really was fine. I love that CCL provides robes in the cabin.
Okay, on to the bad: CCL has the worst buffets I've ever seen. Truly sad. There was very little variety from day to day with breakfast and very little to choose from. The only change we could see each day was the type of potatoes and sausage offered. What food we did get was lukewarm and would be cold by the time we finished the line and got a table, and did not taste good. The variety did not make sense: There was sliced cantalope and honeydew on the main line everyday, and cubed cantalope and honeydew on the pastry line everyday. ??? No watermelon,grapes, pineapple or berries ever at breakfast. Bananas were gone by Wednesday. I will say that the vanilla crown pastry is delicious. We never once ate at the lunch buffet, and that was my goal. There was literally nothing appealing there. Thank goodness for the grill, deli, pizza, burrito bar, and the best choice, room service. Dining room food was excellent, and we had no food temp issues here. Hot was hot and cold was cold as should be. Service everywhere was excellent. In the cabin, the bed was comfortable with nice linens and pillows, and the shower was great, even with the curtain.
Now, here's my rant. Most people rant about chair hogs, but that doesn't apply to this cruise. My rant is rude clueless people who must slam their cabin doors. This is the worst ship I've ever been on for this. The cabin doors are very heavy, but thin as far as noise. Actually this is a 2 part rant, to include loud hall talkers. We always make a point of catching the door when we enter or leave the cabin, and closing it softly. On this ship, even doing that makes a pretty loud sound. When the doors were let go to close on their own, it is so loud that it will wake you from a dead sleep, as it did us every night. That combined with people talking, laughing, and downright screaming in the halls left us only a few good hours of sleep each night. We never heard much sound at all through the walls, but we could hear through the door like it wasn't there. (We were cabin 8295) Please, CCL, spread the word to be courteous and speak softly in the halls and close your door gently. I can't stress to you how bad this was! One neighbor would roll in around 2am every morning yelling goodnight at the top of her lungs, then slamming the door. Every night. And forget napping during the day. These issues are even worse because even the courteous people aren't worried about being quiet since it's midday. A funny story about our obnoxious neighbor: on the last night, my husband followed her up our hall, watching her knock on every door she passed, 4 or 5 knocks on every door, then keep walking. When a man answered his door, she burst out laughing, and the woman's friend with her stated "it wasn't me, it was her." And she was around 60 years old, old enough to know better. We also kept getting hang up calls, and "giggle" calls, then would hear the phone in the cabin next to ours ring next. I guess maybe the cheaper out of season fares attract a different type of person than I'm used to cruising with.
We really enjoyed this cruise and this ship. I am willing to continue to cruise this class of ship until RC's prices come back down to earth. I am still unhappy with the breakfast and lunch food, and the hall noise was ridiculous, but we were overall very pleased with this ship and the service we received. We will probably not cruise this time of year again, as the weather, while still warmer than home, was cooler and rainier than I am used to on a cruise. I will also probably pay more for a better cabin next time, in hopes that the door slamming and obnoxious neighbor issue is confined to the "pauper" cabins that I like to frequent.
As always, many thanks to all you cruise critics who have made my cruise planning so easy over the years. I'd be lost without your information. I hope this review will help someone too.