We flew into MCO the day before with another couple and rented a car to get to Cocoa Beach. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott and met the third couple of our group. The Courtyard is a nice enough hotel for the night.
Embarkation - Saturday morning was rather pleasant as we dropped the car off and took the shuttle to the ship. My wife and I were able to use the VIP line to get onboard. One would assume that means we would be one of the first to board the ship. Were we surprised when our friends beat us onboard the ship. Carnival needs to help VIP members figure out what to do if they really want to reward their frequent guests. It was still quick it just was not as organized as in the past.
The ship itself was great. It was well laid out except for the casino which you have to go through on the Promenade Deck to get anywhere. We loved being able to walk all the way around the ship on deck five. I think they could remove some of the lounge chairs on this deck to make more room for the walkers. Rarely were the chairs being used.
Our cabin - We were on the Upper deck aft just above the Burgundy Lounge. We were told by the Carnival PVP when we booked the cabin that the Burgundy Lounge would quiet down around 11PM. Against my better judgement, I booked it along with my friends we had 3 cabins in a roll over the lounge. I should have listened to my better judgement. The speakers for the Burgundy Lounge are connected to our floor and there were a couple of nights when the band started up at midnight. If you are a night owl and won't be going to bed before 1AM, this is a great room overlooking the back of the ship with a larger balcony. Cabin service was just so so.
Ports - All the ports are excellent. You have to tender to Belize City so expect a long wait before you can actually tender if you don't have an excursion booked with Carnival.
Buffets - This is the first time I will speak ill of the buffets. The food was good but the passengers were "NO Class." I saw on three occasions middle aged people (They should know better.)using their hands instead of tongs to reach for food. Once for pastries, once for french fries and lastly for a handful of bacon. Really people, there is a reason for the tongs.
Anytime Dining - This was our second time using it and we'll continue to use it in the future. We never had the same wait staff serve us twice but each team did a very good job. Past years, we were able to have more personal conversations with the wait staff and got to know them better. Not sure if it was the Dream or just our timing each night with six guests trying to be seated. Our wait time was anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Not bad and it gave us time to visit before dinner. Each night they sent a plate of chocolates to our cabin apologizing for our wait. I'd rather had a glass of wine on the house.
Debarkation - Very easy and quick. My only complaint is they need and extra exit since people have not figured out that you shouldn't stand in the aisle way with your luggage when people are trying to exit the building.
We love Carnival and are already looking into our next cruise in 2013.