I defended Carnival after our first cruise with them on the Freedom, but unfortunately we will likely not sail Carnival again after our recent experience on the Dream. I returned home deflated by poor service, lack of enforcement of policies and a deflated bank account. Let's look at each piece, including the redeeming parts of the cruise:
1) The service was nothing compared to our last experience on the Freedom. Since Carnival changed their tipping policy to be automatically billed to the room, the staff do not feel the need to work for it or even smile. I was so dissappointed. At the dine-in breakfast, we sat for 20 minutes before asking for a waiter to help us. It was another 5 before we received anyone, and the rest of the meal was more of the same. The only nice person throughout the cruise was the room stewardess. The rest were just grouchy.
2) The kids clubs were guided by staff with bad attitudes. They greet you with complaints, facial expressions and a disdain for the public. I was extremely unhappy that I chose this cruise on the basis of the esteemed 2-5 year old program only to find that it was a battle to encourage our daughter to go, due to their unpleasant demeanor. There was one nice girl that our daughter clung to and was happy to go to.... the rest were... grouchy.
3) The food was not as good as our last Carnival experience. Some was bland, there was less variety, and some fatty meats were included. Downer. The upside was the pizza station and the salad.
4) The embarkation/debarkation was as expected. No real complaints or praises here.
5) The shore excursions were great... and this was the one redeeming area of this cruise. Although we spent about $900 in shore excursions alone, they were worthwhile experiences packed with rich activities... and they were well-orchestrated. Tip: The Cave Expedition, Off Road 4x4 and River Boat (with an amazing rum punch) excursion in Belize was the best excursion I have had yet.
6) The adult entertainment options were OK. Comedy show= plus. Piano lounge= depends whose there (Dave's Piano Party is a splendid good time.) Bars/ barstaff in general = not too great, except one in particular. Our dining room bartender actually ignored us and had to be repremanded by the head waitress for continously forgetting us.
7) The value was not even that good. We ended up paying in the long run just a little shy of what we would have paid to go on Disney Cruise Line, which we have had two good experiences with.
8) The hotel experience pre-cruise was awful. I do not recommend the Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach. I am a HHonors member, and I will not ever stay there again. The carpet was sticky (I mean all over, in a disgusting way.) And the service was horrible... the night clerk was clueless and took one hour to check us into our room. The shuttle service we book was chaotic and overbooked... they couldn't fit us on the bus and we were asked to get off. Ugg.
All in all, I had fun, but I feel it was a wasted experience. I am $6000 poorer and yet I didn't return bragging and raving. Sigh. The Carnival Dream is not so dreamy.