Perfect Trip for First-time Cruisers: Carnival Dream Cruise Review by etucker

Carnival Dream 5
Member Since 2012

Overall Member Rating

Perfect Trip for First-time Cruisers

Sail Date: June 2012
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Port Canaveral (Orlando)
This was my first cruise, and I went with my husband to celebrate our first anniversary. We are both under 30 and have no kids, so we were excited for some adventure and some relaxation for a week. We were weary of Carnival, but we went into this trip with an optimistic outlook and were not disappointed. For anyone who is concerned about Carnival, I think it just is what you make of it. My husband and I are both easy-going and we love an adventure, so we kept a positive mind about the whole experience. Were their things we could have complained about? Yes. Did it ruin our trip? Absolutely not. We would do it again in a heartbeat! I will try to point out the good and bad in this review, but overall, it was a great vacation.

The day before:Parking at the ship was about the same cost as a hotel room, so we opted for the park and stay option at the La Quinta in Cocoa Beach. It was great; for around $100, we got a day at the beach and a safe place for our car for the week at no More additional charge. The room at La Quinta was comfortable, and it's only a block from the beach. This option was definitely better than paying $115 for a parking spot at the port for the week, and we got an extra beach day too!

Embarkation: Easy! They kept us moving and always gave us good guidance for the next step. They told us where to head when we boarded, and we had a smooth experience. I was expecting a long wait, but it moved pretty quickly and we were pleasantly surprised.

Room: We reserved a deluxe oceanview room and it was nice. I have never cruised before, so I was expecting something more the size of a closet, but our room had plenty of space for us. We had a sofa next to our bed, 4 closets, and two bathrooms (one with sink, shower and toilet; one with jr tub+shower and sink). We had no issues with space all week. The only big problem I had with the room was the noise! The walls are thin, and we could hear everything in our neighbors' rooms and the hallway. It was not great for me because I'm a very light sleeper. We were also on the 1st floor, so docking at ports felt like an earthquake. I didn't get much sleep, but we were on a ship; these things are to be expected. For me, this was the biggest complaint of the whole trip, but I managed.

Food: We had room service nearly every morning for breakfast, and we enjoyed having our selections delivered to us as we were getting ready for the day. With the excursions we scheduled, we didn't have time for the buffet or dining room. We had lunch at the Lido buffet or the other options on the deck. The pizza was my husband's favorite, and we both really liked the tandoori restaurant on the aft. The buffet variety was nice too, so we usually got a mix and shared. The sushi at Wasabi was very good, but they only offer sampler plates each night; you cannot order rolls from a menu. I would've liked the option to get more than 3-4 pieces at a time. For dinner, we only ate in the dining room once because we got scheduled for the 8:15 seating--too late for us, especially since it conflicted with shows. We looked at the menu each night, and many of the dishes were also served at the Lido buffet. I would prefer to serve myself anyway, so the buffet was great for us. Food was sometimes hit-or-miss, but we always found at least a few good things. Again, tons of variety. The alcoholic beverage selection was also great, and we enjoyed having so many options.

Entertainment: We spent more time in the Punchliner Comedy Club than at any other entertainment venue--we loved the comedians! It was a very fun and relaxed vibe, and we would go to two shows most nights. Jeff the Fun Dude repeats his material so much that he's not great, but the guest comedians did a great job. We went to the Encore Theater for the Dancin in the Streets show, and I was blown away. I was not expecting very high quality from a cruise ship show, so this one definitely exceeded expectations. They did a good job, and the show included a variety of different acts. Worth checking out. The Legends show was the only one that I really did not enjoy, and I would not recommend it at all--cheesy and boring.

Ports: See full details in my port reviews. Here, I will just say that we didn't do any Carnival excursions, and we have no regrets. The independent companies we used were professional, we had great trips, and we saved lots of money. If we cruise again, we will do the independent ones again without question.

Ship life: Several people complained about kids, noise, crowds, etc to us when we were looking at cruises. Yes, these are all possible issues on a ship with over 4000 people, but we found ways to avoid it. The promenade deck almost always had a quiet set of lounge chairs for us, and we also had little problem finding spots on the lido deck if we wanted some music and pool time. The pools stay crowded, but we didn't really want to spend much time in them anyway. The Serenity deck is nice for adults, but there is absolutely no shade. We preferred the chairs on the promenade for quiet and shaded time.

Debarkation: We opted for self-assist, so we took our luggage off the ship on our own. It was great! We moved through the line quickly and were at our van back to our car in no time. This was a good option for us since we had to drive home and wanted to get started as quickly as possible.

We had a wonderful trip, and Carnival has cruising down to a science. They know what they're doing, and you'll enjoy your time as long as you don't go looking for things to complain about. Less

Published 06/19/12

Cabin review: 5A

Port and Shore Excursions

This port was the highlight of our trip! We booked an excursion, again through Island Marketing, Ltd., for the Lamanai Mayan ruins. This trip was fabulous, and the group we booked through was incredibly professional. We had to take a tender to port, and the experience was fairly easy thanks to Carnival's organization. We were on the first tender. When you get off the tender, you have to go through the tender area and actually leave it to get the Island Marketing's pickup area. We were a little concerned, but the locals helped us find our way (it's directly across the street from the port--not as intimidating as it sounds), and we felt completely comfortable once we got there. The trip begins with a one hr bus ride, but the ride seemed brief with our amazing guide, Easy, telling us all about Belize City. It's a poor area, but he was excited to share his culture, and the tour was interesting. Then we got onto our boat for the river cruise portion of the trip. This boat ride is not for the feint of heart--it was very fast. I felt windblown, but it was worth it. The river is beautiful, and it cuts through the middle of the jungle. We saw monkeys (the driver actually tempted them onto the boat with watermelon--really neat to see them SO close up!), lots of flowers and interesting plants, Jesus birds that walk on water, and several men fishing in little homemade boats. When we arrived at Lamanai, we had some of the best food of the trip in a picnic area. The tour price includes a chicken, rice and beans, and fruit lunch plus two drinks. Yum! The ruins themselves were incredible. It was amazing to see something so old, and to actually get to climb to the top of one of the temples. Just awe-inspiring. I would 100% recommend this tour! Side note: Yes, this tour is very long, and you might be concerned with making it back to the ship in time. I was stressing about that until I met Easy; he definitely was focused on getting us back on time and took all my stress away. He got us back a full hour before the last tender, and we had time to do some shopping before we got on the tender. We had no worries!

We were so worn out that we almost didn't get off the ship in Costa Maya; I am so glad we did! We opted to take a short bus ride to Mahahual which is really easy to do from the port; they run buses regularly. Mahahual is the downtown area and it offers shopping, relaxing, and beach access that cannot be found at the port. We walked down to the beach first, but it wasn't great for swimming--too much seaweed. We were feeling a little discouraged, but we decided to look for other things to do instead. We found two ladies on the beach giving massages so both my husband and I got a massage together for only $20--an amazing deal and it was so nice! They did a great job and it was relaxing to have the ocean in the background. After our massages, we stopped for lunch at 100% Agave because we had read great reviews. The reviews were right--our meal was wonderful! I had the ceviche mixto (yum yum yum!) and my husband got enchiladas. We both had great margaritas while enjoying the ocean view from the 2nd floor. I can't imagine eating anywhere else in Mahahual--go here!
Read 1761 Costa Maya Reviews


In Cozumel, we booked a glass bottom snorkeling excursion with Island Marketing, Ltd. The excursion lasted about two hours and visited three reefs: two shallow and one deeper. We chose this excursion because it was significantly cheaper than the similar excursions available through Carnival, and we heard great things about the snorkeling in Cozumel. We got off to a rough start; the trip was supposed to leave at 10:30, but by 11, there was still no boat at the dock. When it did arrive, we boarded and were told we were going to pick up other people at a different dock. We ended up being the only English-speakers on the tour, but the guide did a great job making us feel comfortable and attended to despite the language barrier (he at least spoke English and translated for us). The snorkeling was ok, but not as much wildlife as I expected. We were always in an area with at least 2-3 other tours though, so I think everyone had the same experience. They also provided drinks (beer, soda, water) on the way back. I would do it again, but it wasn't as exciting as we'd hoped. After the tour, we walked around downtown and grabbed some lunch. The shop owners are very persistent in their efforts to sell you stuff, but we were able to make it through without too much irritation. We ate at Pancho's Backyard mostly because their website has a coupon for free margaritas. The food was good, but the location is definitely a tourist spot and not very 'authentic.'

We booked an excursion with Victor Bodden--the Fun n Sun tour of the island plus a two hour beach stop in West Bay. Bodden was very good to work with and very professional. They are not allowed to pick you up at the port, but the short walk to the pickup area was easy to make. We walked over the hill as instructed and found several tour vans. They directed us to Bodden and we got started. I gave this tour a 4, but I think it would have been much better if not for the people we were touring with. We had a big family group on our van, and they talked the ENTIRE time about themselves. Our tour guide could not get a word in despite her attempts...not exactly what I wanted to hear on our tour. The guide did take us to some beautiful overlooks, but there was also a lot of shopping. I could've done without those stops. The tour stops at Victor Bodden's Monkey Business which was a highlight of the trip. We got to hold monkeys, parrots, was amazing! Then we had our beach stop at Bananarama on West Bay beach. The ocean was beautiful! We enjoyed a lunch next to the ocean and then went for a swim. There are tons of things to do (snorkeling, longboarding, boat activities...), but we decided to take it easy for the afternoon. The Fun n Sun tour definitely delivered both as promised.
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