We Took the 7-day Exotic Western Caribbean Cruise from Port Canaveral. It included Ports of Call in Cozumel, Mexico, Mohogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Hondoras, Belize, Costa Maya, Mexico plus 2 Sea Days. We booked our cruise last minute so we were waitlisted for our choice, Open "Your Time" Dining.
We arrived at the terminal later than planned on Saturday, January 7th, 2012. Lines were long by 1PM but I have to admit they moved pretty quickly. Within 20 minutes or so, we cleared Security & took the escalator upstairs for check-in. There we learned that we were assigned the late dining seating - 8:15 pm. Just before we boarded the ship, we were stopped for a mandatory security face only photo. We were curious about it since we had never had that taken before but I'll explain what it was for later in my review. Staterooms weren't ready for occupancy until 2 PM so we headed up for lunch at the Lido Deck Buffet. (Elevators are in short supply on Embarkation day so be prepared to wait or walk up/down the stairs.) Although the lines were long, they moved quickly. I was happy to find trays and large-sized plates. I did miss tall glasses for beverages but I managed with their colorful short glasses. We quickly found several empty tables outside by the pool. Music was very loud that day - it sounded like one big party but most passengers seemed to enjoy it. Inside was much quieter. Soon enough, after a stop for an ice cream cone, our rooms were ready. Luggage arrived right after we located our stateroom. Later we had our safety drill before sailing followed by a huge SailAwayParty with a DJ. Hundreds of passengers joined in the line dancing.
Stateroom & Cabin Service
We booked cabin 1328 which is a Deluxe Ocean view Cabin on the Riviera Deck #1 Mid Ship. The room was relatively large about 230-square feet with a convertible couch, cocktail table and a king size bed. I appreciated the two end tables & plenty of closet and shelf space for all our belongings. One closet we never even used. Two white bathrobes were available for our use. We had an oversized picture window and best of all two "private facilities." One had a toilet, shower & basin. The other had a tub/shower and basin. It made all the difference in the world to us. The room was very quiet as there were only staterooms above us - not a public area nor directly by an elevator. There we no vibration noises either. We met our steward the first day & just requested extra ice which she provided daily. She was very friendly, efficient and we had no complaints. We loved her daily towel animals & the little chocolates that she provided us at turn down service each night. She timed her cleanings around our comings & goings.
Dining Room, Meals & Service
The first night we had dinner at 8:15 PM in the Scarlet Dining Room. Our companions were two couples from Melbourne, Fl who lived 40 minutes from our home. The computer must have matched us. We got along very well but we all wanted an earlier dining time. The next day, after we again requested "Your Time Dining," we received a card in our stateroom assigning us that option. Carnival does listen! We were now happy passengers. Our original table was in a corner of the restaurant & we were one of the last diners out of the dining room barely making it to show time in the theater. With the new dining option we had to change restaurants and now ate in the Crimson Dining Room. No matter what time, what table, what waiters, what dining room, we always received polite, efficient service. Every waiter, and we had many, was friendly, personable and tried to please us. They were also helpful providing suggestions for the best dish among the choices. In my personal opinion, the food was great. My favorite selections were: Lobster Tail, Filet Mignon, Prime Rib, Chateaubriand, Escargot, Wild Mushroom Cappuccino Soup, Baked Alaska, Warm Chocolate Melting Cake, (every night) Tiramisu, CrÃ¨me Brulee & others too numerous to mention. There was always a vegetarian choice and fixed dishes in case you didn't like the daily choices - these included Salmon and Steak. We never resorted to the fixed choices. Passengers who visited the specialty restaurants praised them highly. The Lido Deck Buffets were always busy during morning hours & at lunchtime. Lines moved quickly except at the Mongolian Grill & the Deli which were out of the way. On the last day, we tried the upstairs Pasta Bar & loved it. We are very particular about our pasta sauce but found both the sauces that we tried to be terrific. We'll definitely try this eatery more often if we cruise again on the Dream. You are given a menu, you check off your choices, turn it in & you're given a table number. The staff then brings you your order. For dessert, though, you have to go downstairs to the buffets.
There were plenty of bars, cocktail lounges and sitting areas. My one complaint was the Library. It held hardly any books at all. It was ridiculous. The Ecstasy and the Miracle were better supplied. Many of the few books there were in foreign languages although most passengers were American. Carnival please fix this please! It has a book exchange but there were no books there until I left mine on the next to last day. What the ship also lacked was a card room. All around the ship I saw passengers playing cards in the bar/lounge areas and outside on the tables around the Lido Deck.
There were more than enough lounge chairs around the pool and around the outside decks in general. I never even went to the several lovely adults-only Serenity Retreats because I found plenty of quiet places to sit in other areas. The pool water was a little cool - it was January, so we only swam there one afternoon. We used several of the Whirlpools which had varying temperatures. We loved the Lanai ones which were oversized and cantilevered from the ship so it seemed like you were part of the sea-really neat! I loved the various conversation groupings of outdoor furniture all over the ship. Nice little touches like this made the ship seem smaller.
The Encore! theater was comfortable with upholstered seating and small marble-topped tables just big enough for cocktails and enough room for the waiters to get through serving drinks.
The Waterworks area was fun for "kids" of all ages with multiple slides of varying heights and water sprays for the toddlers.
For Spa Lovers, The Dream has a very elaborate facility named Cloud 9. The long lines of passengers waiting for appointments on embarkation day attest to its success. Make your appointments early.
The Casino was very busy especially in the late afternoon & evening. It was also rather cool - temperature wise.
The Dream has three distinct children's programs. There is Camp Carnival for kids 2-11, Circle C for kids 12-14 and Club O2 for teens 15-17. I peeked into the facilities and they were clean, modern and appealing. Kids loved the disco atmosphere. The schedule of activities went from morning until night. Night Owls Program runs until 3AM. Parents were pleased with the activities. The Dream has all the usual on board activities such as bingo, trivia contests, art auction, ice carving demonstration, dance & language classes, Karaoke, crafts, shopping show, wine lecture, Texas Hold'em Challenge, Blackjack Tournament & towel folding but what I enjoyed the most was the Chef's Art Steakhouse cooking class where we all tasted the dishes prepared. There were plenty of parties also like the big Mardi Gras, Electric White Night & the Mega Deck Party. You can even renew your vows. A tour of the ship was also offered.-good idea since the ship is huge. Plenty of activities daily kept everyone from getting bored.
Entertainment - Shows
The Multi-Million Dollar Extravaganzas in the Encore! theater were something not to miss. One particular show "Dancing in the Street" was so spectacular that I will never forget it. If you cruise on the Dream, do not skip this one. It included the fabulous Carnival Dancers & Singers plus the amazing male acrobatic dancers - head spinning, body popping, break dancing - Fun Force. They had entertained us in the Atrium on a previous evening so we knew that we were in for a double treat.
The small piano bars and lounges also had great live entertainment all evening long. We stopped to enjoy music at several nightly. The eleven deck high Atrium had live entertainment performing nightly above a huge dance floor with comfortable seating upstairs and downstairs.
I loved the huge LED Screen on the Lido Deck poolside where news shows and movies were shown with complementary popcorn. I caught The Green Hornet and Cars. Even more innovative was the brand new 2 million dollar laser equipment. I had fun on several nights, dancing the Electric Slide & learning the Cha-Cha Slide with hundreds of my fellow passengers - what fun-all under the stars with live music. The Punchline Comedy Club in the Burgundy Lounge was very popular - standing room only at the ones I attended.
There are so many choices that it is hard to make recommendations. What you choose will depend on your age, activity level, interests and whether you have been to the island previously. One that I particularly enjoyed was in Belize. Since I had already been to Belize, I took the Cave & Land Rover Expedition. It is listed as strenuous & we were the oldest people on the tour. You need to be able to maneuver across a foot suspension bridge that swings as you walk above a river, walk a short distance (Â½ mile) through a rain forest/jungle on uneven surfaces, climb up to a cave in the mountains, and stoop (at times) through an unlit cave with bats. You are given a small battery operated light. If you are claustrophobic, do not go on this one. Everyone on our tour completed the cave portion. Our drive on the stick shift 4X4 Land Rover took us over mostly muddy dirt roads and jungle trails. You need a valid drivers license & the experience of driving a stick shift. The tour concluded with a high speed open motor boat ride along the jungle covered banks of a river & then out into the sea. It is a very fast, exciting ride. The tour was the most fun that I ever had on an excursion. Try it if you are in Belize and up to the challenge. Other tours on the several islands that we visited included Dolphin Swims, Snorkeling, Mayan Ruins, Jeep tours, Beach trips, Catamaran rides, Scuba Diving, Zip Lining, Horseback Riding, Motorcycling, City Sightseeing & Shopping and various combinations of the above. These are just a small sample. You will find something that you like or just hire one of the many local guides for a custom tour of your choosing. Be aware that in Roatan, the local guides or your pre-booked non Carnival tours guides were a long way from the terminal. The Carnival tours are a bit pricey but if for any reason your tour returns later than sailing time, the ship will wait for you.
In conclusion, I loved my cruise. The Dream was everything that I expected and more. I will take it again in a heartbeat. This was my 9th cruise on Carnival and the one that I loved best. Although we did have a couple of minor incidents on shore, they didn't mar our trip. Carnival took care of the incidents to our satisfaction. By the way, it turned out that those "security" face photos have nothing to do with security but provide a very unique service. It is a face recognition software program for finding all the photos that the ship photographers take of you on board. You go to a special machine, slide in your room card & up pops all you photos. You don't have to search through hundreds of photos looking for yours. Why didn't someone think of this earlier? Another plus on Carnival is that you can print out a copy of your statement at a machine without having to stand in line at the Guest Services Desk. Neat!
It went very smoothly. Some zones were off the ship before we even awoke. As we ate breakfast more were called. Since we carried our own luggage off the ship, we disembarked whenever we wanted. It was painless. We able to use an elevator.
As we disembarked the Carnival Dream, we heard the first disturbing report of a cruise ship disaster off the coast of Italy. Later we learned that it was a Costa Line ship under the parent company of Carnival. We felt an instant distant but deep connection.. We were safe, however, while those on board the Concordia were not.