First and foremost, the ship was beautiful. It was very clean at all times, our room was spacious and relaxing. Our steward, and all other staff for that matter, was very attentive and polite. Every port we visited we had no trouble getting on or off the ship.
Now, having cruised 6 other times (only 2 with Carnival on the Freedom and the Conquest) I thought I knew what to expect as far as dining and things to do on the ship. I was very unhappily surprised. The ship is entirely too big. There is not nearly enough common area for everyone to freely move around on days at sea and in the evenings. The seating was impossible at the comedy shows, standing room only 1 night, and barely got seats the other. Who can enjoy a show like that? We really tried getting 2 lounge chairs on the serenity deck on days at sea, but no such luck. In fact, our first day at sea, we couldn't find a lounge chair on ANY deck. As early as 8 am, all deck chairs on serenity were occupied or saved. Dining in the buffet area on the lido deck was always very chaotic due to lack of sufficient number of buffet lines, drink stations, and so many tables being crammed in. When we could actually find a table, it was very difficult to maneuver between tables and people. The only thing harder than finding a table or a lounge chair was trying to get an elevator. The main elevator bank in the middle has only 6 elevators (with smaller banks of 4 located at the bow and aft of the ship) and there are only 4 glass elevators in the lobby area. 2 of the the glass elevators were out of service for the entire duration of our trip. 1-2 of the 6 elevators in the main bank were out of service daily as well. we usually ended up taking the stairs everywhere..from the 8th floor.
Finally, my biggest and angriest complaint; the terrible quality of food! I don't even know where to begin...the breakfast buffet is everything one would expect from low budget public school cafeterias and by far the worst of all 3 meals. The eggs were always wet, cold, and spongy. I don't think in saw an entire strip of bacon the entire trip, just greasy crumpled up bacon bits. The day we waited in line 15-20 minutes to have an omlet made, it was greasy and burnt. The breakfast potatoes were greasy (see the theme here?), black peppered to death, and cold. We ate breakfast in the dining room a few times when they were open, but it was only slightly better. So unless you want soggy toast or cereal and milk, be prepared to start the day hungry. The lunch buffet was bland and repetitive. Basically, just be prepared for sandwiches, salads, and French fries. We ate lunch at every port to avoid dining on the ship. Sadly, we ate better at taco stands and make shift bbq's on land than on the Dream. Dinner was the biggest disappointment. Shrimp cocktail was only on the menu one night, and they were tiny and only 4 shrimp to a plate. Lobster was also only on the menu one night. The prime rib was sliced very thin, and in fact all portions were quite small. The sides served looked more like garnishes. The food was never hot, always luke warm at best but mostly cold. When we ordered oysters Rockefeller, they only came 2 to a plate and I only got one full oyster and one empty shell! I got ungodly sick from eating the seafood Newburgh and was up all night. On ALL of my previous cruises, we got shrimp cocktail everyday, and usually had a seafood buffet at least 1 night of the cruise. NOT ON THE DREAM. All of my previous cruises also always had midnight buffets. Again, not on the Dream. The room service? A total joke. Bland sandwiches only, a small fruit or veggie plate, or an overdressed salty caesar salad. Several other passengers complained to us all week, many return cruisers. We all wondered, how did the quality of food get so bad so quickly!? We did not pay good, hard earned money to have sandwiches, French fries, hot dogs and hamburgers shoved in our faces all week.
The boat being too crowded? That I can overlook and can easily be corrected by booking on another ship. The food being absolutely TERRIBLE? That is what will completely prevent me from booking a Carnival Cruise ever again. From here on out, it will be Royal Caribbean, Princess, or Celebrity.