My best friend really wanted to go on a cruise for her 30th birthday, but I had never done one before, so I was very hesitant to agree. After going back and forth on dates and destinations, we finally settled on Carnival Dream, visiting ... Read More
My best friend really wanted to go on a cruise for her 30th birthday, but I had never done one before, so I was very hesitant to agree. After going back and forth on dates and destinations, we finally settled on Carnival Dream, visiting Isla de Roatan, Belize, and Cozumel.
We are from Portland, Oregon, so we flew into New Orleans the night before, which is what we will do the next time we cruise as well. Even though we were told to board between 1:30-3:30, our cab arrived at our hotel around 1200, so we arrived early. The port was already extremely busy, and we later found out we could have boarded as early as 11:30. I would say that the embarkation process was the worst experience of the whole cruise. There was so much hurry up and wait! Once we finally got on board, I was wondering to myself if I had made a terrible mistake. The elevators were super crowded and it took us forever to get one. We found our room, 6228, and dropped our stuff and then headed to the crowded buffet. I waited in line for about 20 minutes for the Burrito Bar, and took two bites of my burrito before having to spit it out. I think it was the cheese that did me in. Immediately after this, it was time for the muster thing, again a somewhat chaotic experience. I thought I would spend the next 7 days miserable.
After these experiences were over, it felt like a completely different atmosphere! We met our housekeeping steward, who was a nice guy. He did an EXCELLENT job in our room. We went to the Encore for every show they had. The shows were all pretty good. I would say that they were better than I thought I would find on a cruise ship. Mostly they entailed singing from a male lead and a female lead. The first one or two shows featured one male lead and then the rest of the week a different guy took over while that first man was a dancer. I will say that the first male lead was an incredible performer all around-- singing and dancing. The second guy seemed very nervous, and while he hit the notes, he just wasn't as good as the first guy. The female lead seemed a little over the top for me and I think she could use a diction coach, but my friend really enjoyed her performances. I also feel that throughout the week there was something for everyone-- Motown, Dancin' in the Streets, 80s, Carnival Legends... Every night was something different. Do arrive early so you can get a good spot. We showed up about 20 minutes early every night except the last and sat in the very front row. The last night we had to come straight from dinner and ended up having to sit in the balcony where the person sitting next to me promptly fell asleep and loudly snored throughout the entire show.
As far as activities on the ship go, we had 3 at sea days. Most daytime activities were either trivia or some sort of seminar where they wanted you to buy something. I did go to a few of the trivia sessions and enjoyed them. We saw one Adults Only comedy special which was pretty explicit, and later in the week we went to family friendly comedy which was more my style.
They also had one magic show on board. I will say that that part was weird. It was close up magic, so I knew it wasn't going to be in some enormous room, but when we arrived, (about 1/2 hour early since we went straight from dinner to the show), we were super confused. I wish I had taken a picture to explain this room. The magician was already in the room getting his props and such together, and a few other guests were there. The room was small.. I think maximum capacity was only supposed to be maybe 30? The chairs that they had set out were literally (i'm not exaggerating at all when I say this) about 2-3 inches apart from one other. I don't mean side to side. I mean that's how much leg room you were supposed to have from the chair in front of you. My CALVES are bigger than 2-3 inches. I stood in the back, with many other guests. Someone asked the magician why we were in such a small room and why the chairs were so absurdly organized, and you could tell he was embarrassed. I felt bad for him. He did a pretty decent job under the circumstances, but still, it just felt like the whole thing was an after thought.
Dining on the ship was an interesting experience for me. I'm an extremely picky eater, but for years so many people have told me that cruise food was amazing, so I was anxious to try it. I already told you about the burrito which was on the LIdo Deck with the buffets. I found the rest of the buffet to be fairly standard, although I wasn't a fan of many of the desserts offered on the ship and stuck with ice cream cones mainly. The Pizza Pirate and I were very good friends on board, unless I was in a hurry. I also tried the hamburger stations and thought those were typical.
We had Late Dining in the Scarlet and in spite of my pickiness, I did try a few new things including ox tongue and alligator fritters. As others have mentioned, the food doesn't quite come out as hot as you would expect it, but I think one thing to remember in this case is that they are preparing several hundred dishes at any given time. I did especially enjoy the sicillian chicken, the cream potato soup. One thing I grew to love and look forward to in at dinner were the shows the crews put on. Basically, it was flashing lights and loud music while the wait staff danced in silly hats, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Our wait staff was simply the best and took time to talk to us as if were actual people and not numbers for Carnival. One night there was nothing on the menu I wanted at all, but I went to dinner anyway just because I knew I would have fun because the wait staff made it fun for us.
We really enjoyed Isla de Roatan just for the relaxing aspect of it. The port of call we were most excited about was Belize, however it ended up being the one we liked the least. In fact, getting to Belize was chaos. One thing I appreciated was that the staff was well-informed and kept you well-informed about everything that was going on. Our cruise director, Hennie was constantly on the intercom making announcements... However, we either slept through the one about getting off the ship in Belize or there was not one made. We noticed that anyone who had purchased an excursion on the ship seemed to be clear on what to do, but anyone who had not (like us) was very confused. In Isla de Roatan, you simply took an elevator down to the gangway and got off the ship. We tried to do the same thing the next day and ran into a huge crowd of people going down stairs on a stairwell that was marked off. We happened to overhear another guest telling a random passerby that we actually needed to walk down to the Burgundy lounge, get assigned a number and wait for an available tender. So we headed back down to the Burgundy lounge, got a number, waited for about half an hour or so, then walked all the way back down to the gangway and down several flights of stairs to get there. Then you take a tender, which takes about 20 minutes or so, and then you're finally on Belize. That process was so bizarre to me! I'm not sure why they didn't have us wait in the Encore since it was much closer to the gangway and it was unused during that part of the day.
Next time we go to Belize, we will get an excursion from Carnival. We did one on our own-- $20 for a 2 hour tour of Belize in an "air conditioned bus." Spoiler alert: the bus is not air conditioned nor do they roll the windows down. I literally felt like I was suffocating on that tour. I can't handle too much heat, and as such, once the tour was over, I had to sit in the mall area for about 40 minutes before I could resume any type of activity. The tour itself was nice, although we only went to about 1/2 the destinations we were promised. Again, because of the heat, I didn't care how many destinations we skipped lol. We heard fabulous things from our dinner mates who went cave tubing and snorkeling, so maybe next time we'd do one of those.
Cozumel was hands down the best port experience we had. We rented a car and drove to Chen Rio, a free beach with a restaurant. There isn't really a place to change into swim clothes, so I had to discreetly change in our car, and for a bigger girl, that's kind of hard to do, but I managed. We also tried coconut water and found out we don't like it all. After we played in the ocean, we decided to get back in the car and go exploring in the city where we found a little meat vendor called Rico Asados. Great food and very nice people. We returned the car, did some shopping and headed back to the ship with plenty of time. We liked it so much that our next cruise includes a day at Cozumel as well.
Disembarkation was absolutely a breeze. Woke up, went down to the Chambers to pick up our confiscated candles, and headed to breakfast on the Lido Deck. Even though Hennie said we were running a little bit behind because of the customs officials arriving on board, we found that we were actually off the boat and waiting for our ride earlier than we had anticipated. Again, because of Hennie's announcements and the crew's knowledge, the process was super smooth and much faster than I would have thought.
I am so, so glad that I went on this cruise. The crew was fantastic, the other guests on board were so much fun and very, very friendly, and the weather was great. We are booked on the Dream again in early 2016 and I am looking forward to it already! Read Less