Our group consisted of 4 adults; ages 52, 51, 47 & 48, and three 18 year old boys(referred to from now on as "the boys.") Six of us have sailed numerous times, and it was the first time for one of the adults. We were taking this cruise to celebrate our wedding anniversary, our son's graduation from high school, and of course Thanksgiving. We drove from the Atlanta area early Friday afternoon prior to sailing out of Port Canaveral on Saturday. We were to pick up another member of our group at the Orlando airport on Saturday morning. We booked two rooms at the Days Inn Coca Beach - simply because it was close to the port and the rates were very competitive. We also liked that we could (Securely? More on that later) park at the hotel during our cruise. We made a reservation with Royal Shuttle to arrive early on Saturday morning and take my husband to the airport to meet the member of our party who was flying in. The shuttle never showed up (they lost our reservation). He ended up having to drive to the airport himself. The Shuttle did arrive on time to take everyone from the hotel to the port.
EMBARKCATION: Embarkation was a breeze. In fact that was the smoothest and quickest we have ever boarded a ship. We immediately went to the Lido Deck - deck 10 for lunch. We chose the Mongolian station - which we all enjoyed.
We booked two rooms side by side on the Veranda Deck (Deck 8) mid ship. We were able to get into our rooms around 2:00pm, though our luggage didn't arrive until around 7:00pm. I do like that you can easily open and close your room safe with a four digit code instead of a credit card. It was also easy to change when the boys figured out what our code was!!
THE SHIP: The ship itself is nice and clean - I never felt crowded or cramped in any of the public spaces. The Staff was very pleasant and accommodating. Our shower would not drain properly and maintenance was called. They sent someone up right away and in 10 minutes the problem was solved. Our cabin steward was only seen once, but he kept our room clean (which is no small feat with two 18 year old boys in the same room) and our ice bucket full at all times.
Now here's were I have a major concern. I don't understand why this ship rocks so much. I have never experienced such movement before while sailing. Someone said it was because we were sailing in the Eastern Caribbean and it's always rough waters. I don't think so - we've sailed that itinerary at least three times and have never felt the ship move like this one did. I think it's because they have a serious problem with the ship's stabilizers. Another thought, perhaps they're building these newer ships too tall. Another passenger mentioned that the RC Oasis of the Seas has the same problem, and that ship is much larger than the Dream.
DINING: We had late dining in the Scarlett Dining Room. I have sailed on 13 cruises prior to this one, so I pretty much know what to expect. As usual, The Chocolate Melting Cake was wonderful. We really didn't have any complaints with regard to the food - we actually enjoyed the traditional Thanksgiving dinner - excellent presentation and taste. We loved the Pasta, Deli, BBQ on the Lanai and the Grill. I think we ate at a different food station for lunch every day of the cruise. And of course how can you go wrong with the ice cream/frozen yogurt readily available 24/7?
The boys were only required to show up for dinner and to stay with us while we were in port. Other times we never saw them since they hooked up with a group of kids they had met on the last Thanksgiving cruise on board the Carnival Legend.
ACTIVITIES ON BOARD: Sea days were spent by the pool and on the Serenity Deck. If you get out on deck early enough you will have no problem securing a lounger. I just have one question that I wish someone would answer: When did the Hot Tubs become the new and improved Kiddie Pools?? I can't believe that Carnival allows young children to play in these bacteria filled tubs of water. And where in the world are the parents? Most of the time there were so many small children PLAYING in the hot tubs that it looked like a pot of boiling beans bobbing up and down in the water. Of course when this concern was brought up to security nothing was done.
We also donated several dollars to the Carnival Gaming Fund. The only ones who came out ahead in the casino were the boys - they all mastered the Roulette Wheel and actually came home with their winnings.
We saw the Dancing in the Streets show - absolutely loved it. The BEST stage production we have ever seen on a cruise ship. The boys even said they enjoyed it. We also saw all of the adult comedy shows and enjoyed them all.
PORTS: We decided not to book excursions on this trip. We just got off in the ports and did our own thing. In Nassau we went to Atlantis and played in their casino; in St. Thomas we took a taxi to Magens Bay Beach for the day, and in St. Marrten we just rented beach chairs on the beach and chilled. We wanted a very low key vacation and that's what we got.
DISEMBARKATION: We carried our own luggage off and were off the ship before 7:30am and out waiting for the shuttle to the hotel, which arrived at 7:45.
Now, back to the hotel. They assured us that vehicles parked on their property would be secure and for us not to worry. When we got to the hotel, loaded up the van with our luggage and got in for our journey back home, we discovered that the gas had been siphoned out of the gas tank!! When we pulled into the hotel parking lot on Friday evening our tank was 3/4 full. Now it would barely register 1/8 of a tank. Of course we received a very blanket response from the hotel: Oh, we're so sorry to hear that. Oh well, lesson learned.
SUMMARY: We did enjoy our cruise, especially the time away with family & friends, and I firmly believe that there is really no such thing as a bad cruise. But....I don't think I will cruise again on such a large ship; there was just too much movement. And I don't think we'll cruise during another family holiday. There are only so many un-supervised children I can take, after that I start disciplining them myself.