Let's start off with a ground rule; vacation is what you make of it. My wife and I traveled on the M.S. Carnival Dream from February 18 to February 25. Our ports of call were as followed: Orlando, Cozumel, Belize, Roatan. We had bookend days at sea.
Embarkation: As most of the reviews have mentioned, Carnival has this down to a science and it was very easy. Everyone was friendly and the lines moved along.
Many people have complained about the lines on this ship but being from NYC and riding a subway to and from work gives me a different perspective on overcrowding. We rarely found lines unbearable and in the few cases we did, we opted not to get on the line (for example guest services on the last night of the cruise) and try again later (great success!).
We stayed in room 11225, a Cloud 9 Balcony Spa room. This was my first time with a balcony and I loved it. We were on the starboard side, which meant in port we had privacy. We took a yoga class on the first day that was suitable for a variety of abilities. They offer the following classes: yoga, Pilates and spinning. You get two (per room, not person) classes for free. If you are a runner, go to deck 5 and run the ship (2.5 times around is a mile). You need to go early (before 10 am) to really have the deck to yourself. It was a lot of fun lapping the ship while it was moving. I used the gym once but we noticed that it was often busy.
We used the Theralosso pool and spa facilities almost every day. It was very relaxing and gave us a nice break from the sun (our weather was great). This upgrade was well worth it. I had debated between an extended balcony and the spa cabin and both my wife and I are happy I went with the spa cabin.
Does the ship move? You are at sea so of course it is going to move. We had great weather and could feel the ship move often (especially on deck 11 where we stayed). The movement was slight and nothing bad. We never felt sea sick and with the amount of drinking that occurs onboard, I doubt how others can really know if the boat is rocking or if they just are. I did see a lot of people wearing sea sick patches.
While sitting at the pool and Serenity felt impossible on sea days, the sun deck always had chairs and few/if any children. It took us less than 10 minutes to find a chair. We did chill on Serenity one afternoon while many people were still in port and it is cool. Deck 5 also appeared to have tons of chairs. During the day, by the main pool they have a DJ. The main pool is small and cold. I did enjoy the waterworks slide.
People complain a lot about elevators. I think we only took an elevator once or twice. We hiked up and down the stairs and considered it our cardio for the day. When we did take elevators it was late at night as we were tired. The elevators never took long to come but we could see how during the day they were busy.
Night life- this will depend on the people on your cruise. We went to the dance club twice and had fun but it does get smoky. We didn't drink much but I did find the drink prices high. We commented it was like going out in NYC every night but no drink specials. Go to the main bar and get a Thirsty Frog. The beer was good and the price was perfect. I also wish they would offer more of the beers that are from the islands you visit. I would rather have a Banks, Belikin, or a Port Royal than something I can get at home. The comedy shows were funny. We went twice and both time got a seat quickly but we did notice that place filled up and people were standing. The piano bar was always busy but we didn't bother with it. There is a lot of music that was enjoying being played on the board.
The food was not good. I was not expecting to go to a Daniel Boulud restaurant every night but I did expect a higher quality of food. We usually ordered room service for breakfast and ate on our balcony. We did go to the buffet for breakfast twice and it was fine. One morning we went to the MDR for breakfast. The service was slow and we were sitting with people that were not a good match for us. My wife and I just kicked each other under the table as the older gentleman next to me talked about all that is wrong with the world.
We went to the buffet a few times for lunch, which was also fine and had variety. We found towards the back of the boat it was easier to get a seat at any time in the buffet. We also had the Tandoor, which was good. I had a burger one day, which was ok and my wife got a deli sandwich which she enjoyed. One night we stayed in and I went to get pizza for us. The MDR's food was not good. It did not taste like good quality of meat. It is the one thing about the cruise that we were disappointed. We weren't expecting amazing but we were hoping for better. We have been on Carnival before and didn't remember the food being as bad across the board.
Cozumel- we were part of The Amazing Cozumel Race and it was a blast. If, you have mobility issues, this is not for you. You walk about 4 miles through the city. We really enjoyed this excursion. At the end there is a party where you get two drinks and can buy food. The food was good.
Belize was un-Belizable. We went on the Raiders of the Mayan Cave. It was an hour plus ride but our guide Elvis was great. The caves were cool but tight in spots. You get to zipline a little. There were also bats flying around the cave. Afterwards lunch was provided and you got to do a wine tasting.
Roatan -- we went on the Canopy Tour & Tabyana Beach. The ziplining here was fun. There were seven different platforms that you go off of. We really enjoyed this. They bring you to the beach afterwards and it was amazing. They have lockers there (for rent), chairs (free), a bar, restaurant, music and water sports. It was hot and we enjoyed the water then we took a break at the bar and had a drink. While I enjoyed all of our ports, this was my favorite. The day was just fun. We did book our excursions via Carnival and I've read that Roatan can be missed due to weather (wind specifically), so I might recommend going through Carnival incase you don't get into port.
Costa Maya -- The day started early in Costa Maya. We went ATV riding in the jungle followed by about 40 minutes at the beach. The ATV riding was fun but the beach wasn't anything special. I would have taken another 40 minutes on the ATV's but my wife and I played one-on-one volleyball and it was fun. It could have been worse; I could have been at work. The port at Costa Maya had some shops where my wife bought some jewelry and I bought some coffee flavored Tequila.
Having the first day at sea allowed us to take it easy and relax on the first day while having the last day at sea was nice as we slowly packed up and enjoyed a slow day. The main reason we went on the Dream was the itinerary and the cost. We had a great time but the next time I cruise I might try Royal Caribbean just to have something to compare.