Carnival Dream Entertainment
If your goal is to cover a large chunk of the action, get ready to sacrifice a large chunk of sleep. From 7 a.m until 3 a.m., something is always going on, from casino play to cooking demonstrations to Michael Jackson "Thriller" dance classes to Champagne art auctions.
To accommodate such a packed agenda, lots of crew energy and ship space, both inside and out, is dedicated to keeping the crowds entertained.
Encore!, a two-level theater, seats 1,400 and presents two shows most nights at 8:45 and 10:30. The shows, most of them heavy on song and dance, change each night. A favorite on our cruise was the marquee Dancin' in the Streets show, themed as Broadway musical meets Cirque du Soleil. Definitely get to the theater early to snag a good seat that isn't behind a pesky view-blocking pole. Before the shows and during the day, Encore! is used for bingo, trivia contests and game shows.
The aft lounge, formerly known as the Burgundy Lounge, was transformed during the fall 2012 dry-dock into the Punchliner Comedy Club, which is associated with George Lopez. A rotating lineup of comedians offer family-oriented (early) and R-rated (late) shows.
Ocean Plaza, as mentioned earlier, is one of the ship's best new features. With its small stage, seating area and adjacent bar, as well as a specialty coffee cafe, it's a busy hub where scavenger hunts are launched, games such as "Scattergories" are played and live music is performed. Each night, a different drink/snack of the day, such as margaritas served with chips and salsa, is featured.
The atrium holds the large, but generally quiet Dream Bar, where drinks can be enjoyed while listening to a pleasant piano playing in the background. The best event we saw there was the Fun Force Acrobatic Show, a crowd-pleasing explosion of gymnastics and break-dancing that drew hundreds of onlookers looking down from the atrium decks' open railings.
Two new bars were added in fall 2012, as part of Carnival's Fun Ship 2.0 fleetwide refurbishment program. The RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar offer rum- and tequila-based frozen drinks and cocktails, as well as the line's signature ThirstyFrog Red beer.
The medium-size Jackpot Casino has an adjacent sports bar with a large bank of televisions, 189 slot machines, two automated Texas Hold 'Em tables and 17 gaming tables that cover roulette, craps, blackjack and poker. The casino runs the usual slots and Texas Hold 'Em tournaments. But what's different about the casino is that smoking is allowed at only 43 slot machines and six gaming tables on the port side, so the venue is much less smoky than most of its ilk.
The Caliente Club, with pulsating lights and music, opens at 10 p.m., with its closing time listed as late. Don't bother going until after midnight, when the place starts cranking. Sam's Piano Club, which also gets going fairly late, has nightly piano bar sing-a-longs and is a gathering place for smokers. A Latin band plays the Song Jazz Club most nights.
Just about all of the ship's educational seminars, which include "Secrets to Art Collecting," "Swiss Watch Seminar" and "Introduction to Acupuncture" are connected to buying something. If you want to learn about the native culture of Honduras or the birds of Belize, this is not your ship.
If you're not an outdoorsy type, daytime indoor activities are part of the mix, although it's slim pickings during days in port. Games -- such as Win Lose or Draw and Motown Music Trivia -- and bingo are the main events. Live music is sometimes performed in the atrium. The towel-folding demonstration always draws a crowd. Several open scrapbooking sessions are also held.
Hundreds of shore excursions on offer run the gamut from shopping to cave tubing. Prices also span a wide range, from $25 for a two-hour shore snorkeling excursion to $251 for a 5.5-hour tour assisting dolphin trainers. Special teen-only shore excursions are also offered.
Carnival Dream Public Rooms
Dream is the first Carnival ship that doesn't have a design theme, so the Farcusian feel is muted. (Carnival Breeze
is actually the first not designed by Farcus.) Floors look as if they are embedded with river stone and pieces of colored glass. Neon, which is actually the more reliable LED lighting, is used as an accent rather than as the main event. But sparkly bits, such as silver wall mirrors backlit with yellow translucent flecks, are still evident. Glass elevators overlook the dramatic depth-of-the-ship Dream Atrium, which starts on Deck 3 and ends with a see-through dome that looks up at the outdoor waterslides.
The ship offers FunHubs -- 36 computer stations mostly located on Decks 4 and 5 -- rather than an Internet cafe. The computer stations are integrated into the hallways, and the only time I saw more than a couple being used was the day before debarkation, when passengers were printing out boarding passes. Guests who have their own laptops can access the Internet from anywhere aboard ship. Internet access prices, ranging from 30 to 75 cents a minute, are hooked to the number of minutes purchased, and larger packages come with use of a free laptop notebook; save money by figuring out beforehand how to read emails offline. The FunHub concept includes Funville@sea, a free Intranet service in which passengers can view onboard activities and events, see food and drink choices, create public discussion groups, check weather in the next port and read news.
It's apparent that the printed word has taken a back seat to technology. The Page Turner Library, which doubles as a meeting place for bridge and card players, is an afterthought with half-empty shelves. Hence, a pre-cruise shopping spree at a discount paperback store is definitely in order. Across from the library, the Rendezvous Club Lounge, with its cozy tables and small bar, is billed as a place for Your Time Dining patrons to wait for dining room seating, but the place was basically empty and the bar untended when we wandered in. Down the hall is the 30-person-capacity conference room, called the Chambers. The ship does not have a dedicated chapel, so shipboard weddings are held at various venues: One took place at the Burgundy Lounge on our embarkation day.
The ship offers the usual bank of stores on Deck 5 selling jewelry, booze, clothes and trinkets. And to entice buying, there are "spot the fake diamond" and "guess the carat weight" competitions. As part of Carnival's Fun Ship 2.0 refurbishment in 2012, the ship got the Cherry on Top shop, which specializes in candy and custom apparel. The Collection Art Gallery on Deck 5, the largest in the Carnival fleet, holds several Champagne art auctions; Thomas Kinkade and Peter Max are well represented. On Deck 4, the photo gallery spans both sides of the ship's midsection, but crowds still form in front of the popular electronic kiosks and the boxes of hard-copy prints.
Launderettes and ironing rooms are available throughout the ship. A load of laundry costs $7.25 to wash and dry, including a purchase of detergent and fabric softener.
Smoking is fairly restricted throughout the ship's public areas. Outside, smoking is allowed portside adjacent to Ocean Plaza, and this is the only area that allows cigars. On the Lido Deck, smoking is restricted to the portside bars forward and aft. Inside, Sam's Piano Bar, the Caliente Club and sections of the Jackpot Casino are the only venues that allow smoking.
Carnival Dream Spa & Fitness
With two outdoor pools, 10 whirlpools and one of the largest at-sea water parks onboard, lots of passengers stay wet all day. Both pools are on Deck 10 within easy striking distance of food and drink, with the main Waves pool at the center of the ship and the smaller, quieter Sunset pool at the aft. It's easier to nab a chair at the Sunset pool, but its two whirlpools are always busy.
During sea days, live music starts by noon on the Lido Deck, and outdoor movies and concerts are shown on the 12-by-22 foot screen that overlooks the Waves pool. The deck chairs around the crowded main pool area are not for those who want to rest: bingo, an ice-carving demonstration, the hairy-chest contest and Miss Carnival Dream contest are just a few of the nearly constant distractions. On laser-show nights, trippy videos are shown on the big screen while loud music, laser lights and smoke machine fog waft over the crowd. It doesn't really work, but maybe twinning Pink Floyd with Rush is the disconnect.
The outdoor Lanai Promenade on Deck 5 is the place to go for a stroll, although the wind, when it's kicking up, can interfere with those plans. Four whirlpools sit along the open-air promenade, as do a couple of oversize chess sets. Outdoor tables and chairs flank the indoors Ocean Plaza area. To get away from the crowds on the Lido deck, retreat to one of the dozens of lounge chairs long the promenade's length.
The ship's three top decks are dedicated to spa, fitness and water. WaterWorks aquapark includes the Twister, a 303-foot-long corkscrew tube; the Drainpipe, a 104-foot tube that empties into a giant funnel; and two side-by-side racing slides. Don't put off a ride on the tubes, because they'll close if it's too windy. Adjacent to the water park is the adults-only two-level Serenity area, with its own bar and seating, including privacy-plus shaded double loungers. There are also two predictably busy whirlpools. (Best bet for an unoccupied outdoor whirlpool is either of the two situated midship on Deck 11). Entry to Serenity is free.
The 18-hole mini-golf course on Deck 12 and the basketball and volleyball courts on Deck 14 see a lot of daytime action. For the athletically inclined, contests abound involving bean bags, volleyballs, golf balls, etc. The 1/8-mile-long jogging track on Deck 12 does a brisk business, especially during sea days. Ping-pong tables, where tournaments are held, can be found midship on Deck 11.
Cloud 9 Spa, which, at nearly 24,000-square-feet is one of the largest at-sea spas, has a well-equipped fitness center open 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. that runs classes, some which charge fees, such as boot camp, spinning, abs attack and yoga. The spa's thermal suite, accessed for either a daily or weekly fee, is decorated with colorful glass mosaics and includes a thalassotherapy pool, two steam rooms (one offers aromatherapy), two dry-heat rooms, the 7th Heaven relaxing room and the Rasul Bath mud room. Dozens of treatments, including acupuncture, body sculpting, hot stones massage and even metabolism tests and body composition analyses are on the menu. Visit the spa on embarkation day to get free tours and seated neck massages.