-What should have been our dream cruise turned out to be our biggest disappointment on Carnival so far. We won't be Dream-ing again for a long time. We now know why Carnival did not hand out the traditional Customer Satisfaction survey for the Dream---they already know that this Dream is a nightmare.
-Overpriced/undervalued, overcrowded, understaffed, noisy, unsafe, unsanitary, uncaring, unaffected.
-Mediocre food, amateurish entertainment, and dodgy ports of call.
-Good Chef's Table, Art's steakhouse, gym, on-board recreation, Port Canaveral parking and porters, and smooth sailing on the high seas.
Sailed Dec. 10, 2011 for my wife's 60th birthday and our anniversary. Upgraded to an Ocean Suite from a 65 sq. ft. wrap-around balcony two weeks before sailing. OS has lots more cabin and storage space but only a 30 sq. ft. balcony. If you don't need the storage space, the extended aft balcony or the spa rooms would be a better deal.
We complained directly to Carnival about being overcharged after we found our cruise advertised on Carnival's site. After almost 90 minutes on the phone and threatening a them with small claims and a Cruise Critic posting), Carnival agreed and sent us an email as confirmation that we will be receiving an on-board credit (OBC) (that we printed out and presented), However, the ship's accounting department was not informed of the OBC and did not apply it to our account when we boarded. We brought this matter to the Dream's hotel management the day we boarded, and then each day since, for six straight days. We must have spent at least 6 hours of our cruise dealing with Guest Services, just getting an apologetic "blame corporate" and "blame email" run-arounds each time. Six days and 23 hours later, Carnival finally posted the OBC's to our account without explanation or apology. We believe that Carnival gives its guests the run-around intentionally so you will get frustrated enough to walk away from your credits. (We say this was intentional because the same "screw up" happened on our previous Carnival cruise. That one only took us 4 days to receive our credits.) We now need a cruise to get over this cruise. We also spoke to two other passengers during debarkation who had similar but even worse horror stories than ours. Thanks Carnival for during a Dream into a nightmare.
-Port Canaveral was the best parking, unloading, and boarding we ever experienced. Although $120 for 7 days is quite pricey for covered parking (at least when compared to about half that much out of Galveston). As you enter the parking garage, the porters are there to take your luggage right from your vehicle and put it right into the Dream's cargo racks. True one-stop shopping.
-Some fellow passengers said the hotel service was great. Some complained about waiting a long time for the bus to fill up with rides before it could leave. Others complained that the bus did not drop them and their luggage off at a convenient location at the cruise terminal. We opted for on-port parking because we did not want the uncovered and unsecured offsite hotel parking and crowded bus ride.
-We are platinum status with Carnival and had a suite, so we were directed to the VIP line. Check in is done is a two-person office in the terminal. Quick and friendly. However, we couldn't help notice all the other passengers snaked through the terminal waiting to check in at 1pm for a 4pm sailing.
-Booze: Don't try bringing your own wine or liquor on board, at least on this cruise. It was confiscated at both boarding and from your checked luggage. You used to be able to bring at least one bottle of wine aboard, but not this time. Same goes for extension cords and hair dryers (the cabins have one). However, women were surprised that their heated hair curlers were permitted.
-You can bring your own soft drinks aboard. If you pack them in a cooler, it cannot be more than 12 inches in any direction or it will be confiscated. If you think that you can pour out your soda and replace it with liquor in the same bottle, just remember that people cleverer than you already tried it and lost. We heard that during Spring Break, forget about bringing any liquid of any kind on board, even mouthwash and bottled water.
Ship Layout: C-
-The Dream and the Magic are currently Carnival's largest ships with over 4,500 aboard 13 decks.
-Like others have posted previously, there are lots of foul smells throughout the ship. Smelled like a high school football player's gym locker after a summer scrimmage.
-Similar design to other newer Carnival ships with the addition of Jacuzzis that hang over the side of Deck 6. (Our balcony cabin was above on Deck 7, but the noise did not bother us as long as the balcony door was closed.)
-Most of the ship was reflected a red toned color scheme.
-Very cramped dining rooms, casino, and elevators.
-Basic passenger safety was not part of the ship's design. Staircases missing banisters, Lido floor so slippery you can ice skate around the buffet.
-Elevators are a mess. They skip floors, are often out of service (X'ed out), or are overcrowded throughout the cruise, not just Day 1. Because of all the luggage to be boarded, forget about using the elevators on Sailing date. Use the stairs instead. There are lighting fixtures on the back wall of each elevator. You don't want to back into them, and they take up the space of at least two passengers.
-Internet is available throughout, both through work stations on Dec 5 midship or wireless on your laptop or tablet/iPad. As always, it's very slow and expensive. Better to wait until you are in port where you can use local cafes.
-TV stations are beamed from Miami. A few movies are broadcasted over and over again throughout the cruise.
-Electrical outlets in our suite were actually plentiful if you knew where to look. One on the desk and one on the vanity, but the rest are behind hidden panels. (To find them, just trace the cables going to the TV and to the lamps.) Also, bring a two-pronged 220v adapter if you want an extra outlet and have a dual voltage device. Never plug a 110v device into a 220v adapter, else you could cause a fire and fry whatever is plugged in.
-The Dream is the quietest and smoothest sailing ship we have ever been on. Often we had to look outside our cabin and dining room to see if we were actually moving. Absent are the constant drone and vibration of the propellers and bow thrusters.
-Lots of deck chairs and lounges throughout the ship, although challenging if you want to sit near the pools or at the adults-only Serenity areas.
-Big problem. Never hot enough unless it was made to order.
-Long lines, so we generally avoided them.
-Not enough fresh fruit.
-Deli was consistently good and fast, and open late.
-Tandori Indian food was great, but closed at 3:30 pm.
-Mongolian Grill was tasty if you don't mind waiting in a pair of lines for up to a half hour to order.
-Chef's Art Steakhouse: Excellent menu, service, and food like other Carnival steakhouses. Well worth the $30 extra per person for the highest quality beef. Most people ordered surf & turf and loved it.
-Chef's Table: The highlight of our cruise. $75 per person, the meats are the same quality as the steakhouse's, but you get a backstage tour of how the dining room food is prepared. You are personally guided and your meals prepared by Executive Chef, Trevor Fernandez (from Mumbai). You also get unlimited wine and bottled water, desserts, and even a keepsake 8x10 photo.
-Past Bar: A la carte ordering to build your own bowl of pasta and toppings. Freshly made Caesar Salad. Not as good as my local pizza joint.
-Dining Rooms: Portions have been reduced in size, which is actually welcomed. However, it looks chintzy when still served on full sized plates.
-I tried the 24 hour pizza bar. Found the pizza to be warm, but too tasteless and bland for my liking.
-Upgraded to an ocean suite. Room was the largest we ever had. More storage space than we could use.
-Bathroom was tiled with jets in the tub. Nice tiling.
-Cabin stewards not very visible compared to other crews. Sometimes didn't even answer the Housekeeping phone. One day they forgot to clean our bathroom during the day, but made it right when we went to dinner.
-Entry door is very thinly insulated. You can literally hear conversations two and three doors down. Also, kids running up and down the hallways at night sound like a freight train going through your cabin at 2am.
-Usually our favourite activity is the on-board entertainment, but not this cruise. As others have already commented, the Dream is about as good as a high school musical---with lasers.
-Both the piano bar and the guitar playing/lounge singers were mediocre. Obviously they were never well attended.
-Encore Theatre sound was plagued with glitches throughout the cruise. Band was surprisingly lacklustre and un-spirited. Not enough seating meant lots of people literally sitting on the floor and in the aisles. Same male and female singer every night. His voice is ok. Hers is a cross between a screaming Janis Joplin and throaty Amy Winehouse.
-The Country Western "8 Seconds More" was the best of the week in terms of singing, costume, and production. Even the fiddler was good, and not everyone is into fiddling. The salute to the USA towards the end of the production was a nice patriotic touch, although a bit awkward if you are not American.
-"Dancing in the Streets" was advertised as the highlight show of the cruise, but we walked out half-way through. That was the first time in over 50 cruises we walked out on a show. Terrible music and sound; poor lighting, high school quality sets, misogynist themes and childish behaviour. Silly pole dancing and trampoline tumbling on too small a stage. Suggestion to Carnival: Leave the juvenile hip-hop shenanigans on the city streets, Lido Deck, or on MTV where it belongs; not on the main stage of a cruise liner with grandma and grandpa in the audience.
-The first two comedians were not funny, relying on 4-letter words and potty humor. (That's the best George Lopez can come up with? No wonder they cancelled his show. Talentless.) We did not opt to see the other two comedians since the first two bombed.
-Standard Carnival deck games, contests, and line dancing.
-Multi-million dollar outdoor laser show on Lido deck was disappointing. Would be better if done indoors.
-Seating was very cramped.
-Enjoyed the non-smoking areas. Not sure why they can't make the whole casino non-smoking since the nearby bar allows it.
-Although my wife walked away with $500+ more than she came with, for everyone else the machines did not pay as well as other cruises or cruise lines.
-Two electronic poker tables, although one was almost always empty. Play was very slow and cheap.
-Compared to other ships, not much action at blackjack or craps tables. Probably because buy-ins are steep.
-Crew seems overworked, unhappy, unfriendly, uninterested. Often seemed lost and frustrated. The term "gun shy" seems most fitting.
-Public areas not cleaned frequently enough. Bathrooms dirty and smelly.
-Relatively clean with good quality Life Fitness machines, treadmills, elipticals.
-Incredibly crowded with machines. About half the size of other Carnival workout areas; maybe because the Dream's gym is two storied instead of single storied.
-Yes, the ceilings are low, especially above the treadmills. I am not even six feet tall and felt myself hunching over as I ran.
-There is a wooden floored aerobics room above the gym, but finding free time there is challenging since they use this room for lectures and group classes (e.g. yoga, spinning, Pilates at $12 a session.)
-Free keyless lockers in men's and women's changing rooms.
-Opted for the couple's VIP spa pass for access to thalassotherapy pool and various saunas and steam baths. At about $25 a day extra, this is becoming a luxury that is pricing itself out of the market. However, there are only 50 passes per cruise available for purchase, so sign up when you board. We were told that those who book Spa Cabins get this pass included in their cruise rate, but this may not be true on every cruise.
Ports of Call (Western Caribbean): C
-I will let other critics go into the good and bad of each port in their own postings. The following is just some advice.
-Cozumel: Best for shopping port. Beaches are a $14 round trip taxi ride away plus admission, chairs and umbrellas. We did the same for free by staying on the ship. Liquor and watches are about the same price as aboard ship.
-Belize: A 20 minute tender to shore. Not worth it if time is limited, you easily get seasick, or are not interested in getting hammered once ashore. It is also not advisable to leave the security of the port. Security guards with machine guns should be a big hint. Compared to the rest of this country, this is the poorest part of Belize and it shows. Why does Carnival call on this dump?
-Costa Maya: Much improved. $5 round trip taxi to "downtown" and beaches. Negotiate for a message on the beach. I got 90 minutes for $30 dollars. Some local skiffs offer scuba diving at an offshore reef.
-Luggage is picked up in front of staterooms by 10 pm the night before arrival.
-Debarkation starts at 6:30 am. Very organized. Those without checked luggage can leave as soon as the ship clears customs. Everyone else debarks based on their luggage tag order. Compared to other ports, there are only numbered luggage tags, no colors. Numbers are called sequentially.
-Buffet, room service, and the pool are open until 9am.
-Long lines from the ship to the cruise terminal to luggage claim area, but it all seemed to move at a leisurely pace. Unlike other terminals where your luggage is thrown onto a warehouse floor for you to sort through, Port Canaveral has an airport-like moving conveyor to make it easier to find our bags. Porters are there for the waiting. Ours took ours from the conveyor across the street and up the parking garage elevator right to our vehicle. What a treat! Thank you Port Canaveral.