Our family of six sailed aboard the Carnival Dream 7 nights to the Eastern Caribbean for New Years (12/31/11-1/7/12). My husband and I have taken one prior cruise (Holland America) many years ago, before kids. Other vacations in recent years have included Disney World, beach resorts and beach rental houses. We will not cruise on Carnival again.
The good things:
*Our Carnival "travel coordinator" recommended upgrading our rooms to the deluxe ocean view which provided an extra half bath in each room. Each of our adjoining rooms had a head with toilet, vanity, and standing shower plus a second bathroom with bathtub/shower and vanity. Our family of six appreciated the extra bathroom space.
*The family friendly comedy shows were great fun. We attended all of them with our 12 and 13 year olds.
*The availability of Camp Carnival during dinner and evening entertainment hours was wonderful.
The not-so-good things:
*The ship was terribly over crowded. There was a lack of deck lounge chairs. By 7:00am most of the poolside chairs had been "claimed". The three days at sea had folks walking laps stalking chairs, and decks that were so crowded that one had to literally step over people on their chairs to make way down the deck. Many folks resorted to assembling makeshift loungers out of two dining chairs facing each other, and some passengers even resorted to lying directly on the deck. By the end of the week people were so fed up that fights broke out. Even though the ship has a policy of not allowing chairs to be reserved, they did nothing to enforce the rule.
*Our dining room dinner service was terrible. Again, due to the ship being booked at capacity, our table was not in a dining room, but rather in a small room adjacent to the dining room. The service was slow and oddly timed. Two dinners arrived first, then a third dinner, followed by our appetizers, then the bar server arrived to take our order, two more dinners delivered, drinks arrived, and lastly my husband's meal. We were not able to see the dining room entertainment, even after we attempted to stand and walk into the dining room itself. We walked out in disgust and did not return to the dining room the rest of the week.
*We ate the remainder of our meals in The Gathering - the Lido deck buffet restaurant. The food was mediocre, and became quite repetitive.
*Though the daily Fun Times bulletins were helpful, the descriptions of the main nightly entertainment were very vague, and often read the same thing night after night, making it difficult to decide where to go.
*Our St. Thomas eco tour excursion was enjoyable, but not quite as described. I will be writing a separate review on the Carnival site explaining that it is not nearly as strenuous as the description read.
At nearly $12,000 this was one of the most expensive trips we have taken. (airfare for 6, plus two cabins, plus two hotel rooms the night before embarkation, $1000 in excursions, $500 in gratuities, etc). We don't mind spending a lot for memorable travel experiences with excellent service. Unfortunately, this Carnival cruise missed the mark.