I always read the reviews on Cruise Critic and appreciate the authors who take their time to write them, so I promised myself that I would do the same when I returned from our recent 21 day back to back cruise out of New Orleans on the Carnival Dream. This is going to be a long one, so if you don’t feel like reading it all, let me start with a summation: Carnival is my least favorite of cruise lines.
This was our first time on Carnival (previous cruises were with Norwegian and Celebrity) and was Carnival’s first official “Journeys Cruise.” These are longer itineraries that include some new ports. In the case of this cruise, it included the opportunity to go to Bermuda and some Eastern Caribbean ports, which are rarely offered from New Orleans. We booked a Cove Balcony. What was great about this cruise besides the itinerary? The staff. I never encountered a cranky staff member on this entire cruise. The vast majority were smiling, welcoming and seemed entirely engaged in talking with passengers and ensuring that they had a great time. We also enjoyed the extra activities that were added especially for this “Journeys Cruise.” I was almost never bored on this ship, something I cannot say for other cruise lines.
As to the ship itself, hmmmm. It feels older than it is. It has a dark decor and the designer seems to have minimized the view at every opportunity. Never have I seen so many grids, partial walls and columns blocking the view. This ship is designed, as many are, to try to force the client to walk through the casino, which allows smoking in one area. A heavy smoke odor emanates from the casino doors on either side—so much so that we always went up or down a floor rather than walk through. Many daily activities are held in an area called the “Lanai” on deck 5 midship. It includes a small stage area for evening bands, a bar and many seats and tables. On both sides are automatic sliding doors to the outer decks. In this area you will either be too hot or too cold. Air conditioning is turned high in this area to try to counteract the constant intrusion of warm outside air that enters when the doors open, creating a small hurricane when both doors open at the same time. Here again, the view that one would expect is absent—blocked on both sides by large elevated hot tubs. Also, just outside the doors on one side is a smoking area. When the doors open, cigarette smoke wafts in with the warm air.
We were in room 2280 and loved our Cove Balcony. (I would have rated it higher if not for the maintenance issue--more to follow on that subject.) Being that close to the water really gives you a sense of connection to the ocean. It had plenty of storage and thoughtful touches, like a full length mirror behind one of the closet doors. It had a full sized sofa and the biggest bed we have ever had aboard a ship. Our fantastic room stewards, Jimmy and Kornsri, made sure we stayed well-stocked and tidy. The first few days were fine, then Carnival starting doing balcony maintenance. Day after day we could not use our balcony because someone would be out there painting or chipping and scraping at rust or wiping the metal door frame with a WD-40 substance that left strong fumes (and grease on your clothes if you brushed against the frame). If they weren’t working on our balcony, they were working on someone else’s with a constant bang, bang, chip, scrape, bang. We would come back, not to a clean balcony, but to a one littered with rust chips, paint flecks and dirt, and a letter stating that they would perform the clean up the NEXT day. This went on day after day. Each time we thought would be the last.
After 5 days of balcony maintenance, we came back to find yet another letter telling us that they would be performing maintenance the next day. So we went to guest services and complained. They did then stop the maintenance on our balcony but continued working nearby, so we still had the noise or would came back to a dirty deck where chips and rust had washed down from higher balconies and left ours a mess. As much as I loved the Cove Balcony, I would be hesitant to book one again due to the issues with maintenance. Why pay for a balcony if you can’t use it?