We chose this cruise for multiple reasons. First of all we had to find one during this time frame as our 6 year old Granddaughter who would be traveling with us had her spring break during this week. Flight prices were cheaper for us to ... Read More
We chose this cruise for multiple reasons. First of all we had to find one during this time frame as our 6 year old Granddaughter who would be traveling with us had her spring break during this week. Flight prices were cheaper for us to New Orleans, vs. Florida. We wanted a different ship other than the Conquest Class. We have been on 2 other Carnival Cruises, one on the Freedom and one on the Valor, and enjoyed them, so we were looking to change things up a bit. Knowing the Dream was going to be out of dry dock a month prior to our departure also helped in making this decision I wanted to give Jamaica another shot. (we ported in Ocho Rios) on a previous cruise and did not care for it, this time we would be in Montego Bay the other side of the island. We would also be stopping at Grand Cayman (which we like) and a new port for us, Cozumel. Finally the price was right and we were able to try a Cove Balcony for the first time while still staying within budget.
We flew into New Orleans the day before embarkation just to be safe. We travel from the north so one must keep in mind the possible weather delays in the winter. I had found a room in Kenner at the Fairfield Inn. It was an older hotel, but clean. The staff were also very nice and helpful, and I used points for the hotel so that was a plus. It cost the 3 of us $40.00 to taxi to the port on Sunday. (About 25-30 minutes depending on traffic) Our scheduled (staggered) check in was 11:00-11:30 am, so we arrived at 10:45. It was a zoo when we arrived! Come to find out the port gangway was broke so there were still 1400 people on the ship waiting to get off. Even though this was a setback, we got through security, and documentation and to the desks for our cards within 30 minutes, so it went very smooth. Due to the gangway issue we ended up sitting with many, many other passengers in the main room for about 2 hours before being able to get onto the ship. Most people were fine, but some were not very happy about it. Personally it was fine, there is nothing you could do about it and the Carnival staff did a very good job in keeping us informed as to the progress and they had bottled water, and granola bars available. No one likes to wait when you are excited to start your vacation, but if delays occur just take it in stride and don't let it ruin your vacation.
Once on ship we of course were greeted by friendly staff with yummy looking cocktails, I passed, but my husband opted for one and we were off to check out our room. I commented on our room in the cabin section so I will not go into detail on that. I will say our Room Steward, Paul was very nice, and our room was clean.
We made our way to the buffet to get some lunch and then spent the rest of the time exploring the ship, and managed to play of game of golf before muster. A short trip to the Lido Deck for the Sail Away Party complete with the Cat in the Hat and Thing One and Thing Two :) This was our first encounter with our Cruise Director Chris, "The Flying Scotsman" What an absolute gem!
We chose the early dinner as it always seems to work best for us when we have our 6 year Granddaughter with us. Some days seem a bit rushed to get there, but we manage, and would never do the late dinner. We may try my time dining in the future, but this is a good time for us. On this cruise, our meals were good in the main dining room. We had a couple things that didn't seem up to par for the dining room, but it was not terrible. Our service on the other hand seemed a lot slower than our other trips. Most of the time we were out right before the 8:00 guests would arrive. I do not think the waiter was at fault, but it was probably a combination of different staff from dining room to the cooks. We were always greeted with a smile and enjoyed them overall. Our other dining experiences, included the breakfast buffet, not my favorite and the same every day. The omelets were good if you timed it right to not have to wait in line for 30 minutes, the breakfast burritos were my husband’s favorite and the lines were not terrible there at all. We had guy’s burgers, again they were good, but not out of this world. (I liked the toppings bar for them) Burrito place was good I would have ate here more often, but wanted to try other places as well. The pizza was good, liked the thin crust, but we seemed to hit this when they were busy... it was still worth the wait. The pig and anchor was also really good, and I liked the carving station where you could get a great sandwich during off times of the day. Again this line was usually long as well, but worth it.
We enjoyed the entertainment, but not as much as the entertainment our Cruise Director provided! What an amazing job he does and has such a fun personality and very talented vocally. My husband and I agree that we could not remember our other CD's, but we are pretty sure that Chris will be one of our favorites and will probably never forget his name. Other entertainment... we hit one of the shows in the Encore Theatre, it was good, not great, we listened to the CD's performance in the Encore, that was awesome! we played bingo (managed to win $300.00!) in and out of the Casino a few times, saw a Comedy Show that was great!, took in a couple movies, attended some of the CD’s entertainment in the evening . Again we were never disappointed in his shenanigans. We also enjoyed activities during sea days on the Lido deck. We spent time in and around the water works area and it was never crowded, it was nice to always find a place to sit to keep an eye on our Granddaughter. Our granddaughter attended Camp Carnival and had a lot of fun. She went there from time to time we went through the activities and she picked when she wanted to go. The last 3 nights it was hard to drag her out by 11:00 pm I am guessing it has to do with the other kids and activities they offered.
Ports for this trip were: Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. I should note that this was the first time we booked excursions through Carnival. I usually do my online research and book through private party, but we booked this out only 3 months prior to sail date, so time was an issue. Our first stop in Montego Bay we booked a Jeep Safari to some of the mountainous areas in Jamaica. It was a good tour…. Learned a lot about the island, vegetation, etc. had some stops with breathtaking views, an old church and a water fall area. (Not much of a waterfall during this time of year, but it was ok) Of course anytime you take these tours there is always, Rum Punch! You can’t go wrong with that. Not sure if it was worth the price, but we enjoyed our little adventure! Another side note, we would have been pier runners if this would not have been booked through Carnival. We got hung up in traffic coming back to port and we were a little late, thank goodness Carnival has to wait for you if you book your excursions through them something to keep in mind when you look for excursions.
Our 2nd port was Grand Cayman. A tendered port and I am always nervous for these if there are high winds, you sometimes are unable to tender into the port. We were fortunate to have our wind on the sea days, so not a problem here. We went to the Encore Lounge early to get off on one of the first tender boats as we had an early excursion booked. We were off to the Cayman Turtle Center. A great place to see all the sea turtles and hold younger ones. This center also had a place to eat, gift shop, bird aviary, pool with water slide and a river to snorkel with some of the turtles. It was worth the price and we have a great time! If you plan to use the pool/waterslide they do not have life jackets and the pool is about 5’6” deep. There is an area that is under 4’ for younger kids though. The area that you can snorkel in, a parent has to be in the water with any kids under 13 and you have to wear a life jacket. (They do provide you with them here) I would suggest having some water shoes for this area. We also booked a submarine adventure, but another take note…. We booked this through a 3rd party, my husband talked to a lady personally to make sure the time would work out and that we would not be overlapping our morning excursion and so that we would be back at the dock in time to catch the last boat to the ship. All and all we thought we were good to go. When we arrived at the submarine place we found out we were 20 minutes late, as our time was slotted for Island time. (Ship time and island time can be different so be aware of that when booking) We didn’t think anything about it, as it was never mentioned and we even told her that we had an excursion that morning and would be back to the port area at 12:00 noon so a 1:30 time slot would be perfect for the 45 minute excursion. Oops, we failed. We will pay more attention next time. We grabbed a bite to eat and did some shopping before heading back to the dock.
Our 3rd Port, Cozumel. We booked the Dolphin Swim and encounter. We took a short taxi, included in the cost a short 10 minute drive to the resort area. Our excursion also included buffet lunch and cocktails, water or pop. All you can eat and drink. Also included in the price was paddle boarding and kayaking. This excursion was a bit expensive I thought, especially the pictures (we only got one) but we thought it was worth it. Not to mention you could do other activities as well. It was slotted for 4 hours, but you could probably do more. We went back to the port area and enjoyed some live entertainment and did some shopping. The port area was very clean and a lot of places to eat, shop and relax. My husband and I agree that this port is one of our favorites now.
Our last day before arriving in New Orleans was a sea day. Spent some time at the water park and sometime just relaxing. We played another round of miniature golf and enjoyed some fun lido deck activities. I took time to get everything packed in the am, only left out what we needed for clothes and after dinner we were able to set our luggage out for pick up. We ended up with zone 26 for debarkation, so I knew we would not get off the ship before 9:30 – 10:00 am.
Debarkation was as expected. Regardless of the port you arrive there will be lines, so be prepared. Where the line backs up depends on the port. (At least this is what I have found) Today our line moved very slowly once they called our zone. It backed up as we got off the elevator, it was slow all the way to where you retrieve your luggage. Once we got our luggage it picked back up, so that was good. Customs was smooth and then it was off to find transportation to get us to our hotel. This is where it became a bit more frustrating. Trying to get a cab was crazy! There was no organization as to where the cabs could pull in and out of for customer pick up, and we were told to go to one area, but cabs were not reaching us as they were stopping way back on that stretch. Note the area of pick up and drop off is a common area, so at this point there were people showing up for embarkation that day as well and the area seemed to get very congested with traffic. We finally got our cab and we managed to get to our hotel at 11:30 am. We dropped our stuff, met up with some family that live near New Orleans and we were off for some lunch.
We stayed at the Courtyard Marriot in the French Quarter, an older hotel but very clean and a good central location to walking around the French quarter for our day in New Orleans before heading back to snow. We were hoping to find some of the famous Beignets, but once we got there the lines were very long, and we just did not want to deal with that at this time. We ended up at Bubba Gump’s for lunch, nice and relaxing. My husband is allergic to fish and our Granddaughter has peanut and cinnamon allergies so we needed a menu with turf on it as well. It was good. I personally love seafood and fish, and we passed a lot of places that I would have loved to stop and eat, but again we needed to find burgers for my husband after our walk around the quarters, we walked back to the hotel. We were amazed to see the lines a block long for some of the Oyster places that had not opened yet. There was still plenty of Mardi gras remnants in retail windows and side walk displays. For dinner we ordered pizza out from our room, I do not remember the place, but it was amazing pizza and priced right. We were all tired and needed to be up at 3:00 am for our early 5:30 am flight.
The representative that was working the front desk at our hotel that night was very pleasant and helpful. She arranged for us to have a cab for a 4:00 am pick up. This is where you should go with your gut on what time to be at the airport. She assured us that the airport would not be busy at that hour of the am and by arriving by 4:25 am we would have plenty of time to get checked in. My husband is one of those that wants to arrive early so he of course grilled her, but she was insistent on the 4:00 am pick up would be fine. It cost us 40.00 for the fare and we arrived at 4:25 am. After getting into the airport we soon thought we would be sitting in the airport all day because SW only had 2 kiosks open for checking in baggage and the line was already extended out past the courtesy ropes. Then a college team showed up which they then opened up 2 more kiosks for just them, as the rest of us sat in line wondering how we were going to be scrambling for flights all day. SW finally opened up 1 or 2 more Kiosks, as we got tagged for late luggage we now wondered if any of our suitcases would make it on the flight, guess we will see. It was a mad dash to get to the security area, once cleared we were soon walking on the plane, missing our A boarding number, but at least we could sit back and relax for the short hour flight to Atlanta and then onto MSP, and yes our luggage did make it to MSP with us
Just a few notes that I want to mention for those 1st time cruisers and just in general some thoughts on cruising. This was our 4th cruise, 3rd with CCL. We enjoy cruising and I know that it is not for everyone, but we like it and there is nothing perfect about it. You will encounter lines from time to time, you will eat something that is not your favorite, and you will come across people who you will look at twice and wonder where the heck they came from, but it is your vacation and you just have to go with the flow at times. You are putting yourself at the mercy of the weather, and 4500 other vacationers. The cruise line cannot predict the weather, they cannot be responsible for ports that have malfunctions, and they certainly do not have control over the thousands of people that embark with you on your ship. You can carry on and make it your vacation, you can smile and greet those you pass in the hallways, and you can be thoughtful and respectful to all the crew members who do their best to provide you with all the services you expect on a daily basis 12 hours a day and then some. You can simply remind yourself from time to time that this is something you wanted to try or do again or you wouldn’t be on here. Even when things aren’t perfect you need to keep everything in perspective. If it is your first cruise and you are not liking it that is fine, you don’t have to do it again, but at least make the best of it. There are a lot of things to do every day, do what makes you happy if this is your 3rd, 7th or 10th cruise and something through a wrench in your cruise, move on. You have been on enough of these to know that you are probably going to go again, and chances are something may be amiss again at some point. Find your happy place and stay there. You are going to come across those who have one upped the Cheers package (a few too many cocktails) or some who push the policy of loungers being saved etc. Do you really want to take on a job of monitoring loungers on your vacation or are you here to have fun. There are hundreds of loungers throughout the ship if the Lido area is full. If you want a Lido front and center lounger get up earlier and park your bum there or go find another deck or area where there are always open loungers. If smoking offends you stay away from the smoking areas, go around the Casino not through it. When you want some time in the Casino go to the side where they can’t smoke. If you go to Casino’s on land you are certain to have the same issues here, don’t expect it to be different. If you are prone to motion sickness do your research and either get a patch from your Dr. or buy over the counter meds. I use Bonnine, I don’t need it all the time, but we have encountered rocky sea days and I feel better knowing I was prepared. My husband never needs anything, but even he had to take something on the 2nd day of this cruise to free him of his queasiness. Bring a jacket or warm sweatshirt. We have encountered cold departing and arriving weather in the states on some of our cruises. Once you get into the Caribbean and Gulf it tends to be fine, but you just never know when those northern cold fronts move down through the southern states. In general I hope if it is your first cruise that you do some research before you go. There are plenty of resources out there to get you familiar with what to expect. If you are addicted to cruising there is no point for me to make, you probably know more than I do at this point.
I know my review is a bit lengthy, but I just wanted to share our experiences. Yes, it was not perfect, but we are already booked for a sailing next March on the Magic I am not counting down the days yet, but give me a few months and I may start looking at those excursions for our ports Read Less