(10:15 a.m. EDT) -- Food-lovers know all too well how hard it can be to find exactly what you want, especially especially when you're traveling. Luckily, a Carnival Dream cruise offers the chance to eat good food without breaking the bank. We're just back from a seven-night sailing on the ship, which is based in New Orleans year-round. If you consider yourself a food lover (or even if you're a picky eater), here are five reasons to consider this ship for your next vacation.
1. The ship sails from New Orleans.
New Orleans is known for a lot of things -- and one of those is mouthwatering cuisine. From gumbo and jambalaya to beignets and pralines, foodies will have plenty to savor ahead of their cruise. Our advice? Fly (or drive) in at least a day early, so you can soak up the dining scene, entertainment and culture without feeling rushed. The city's famed French Quarter is less than a 30-minute walk from the port, so whether you choose to spend the night in a hotel on Bourbon Street or by the terminal, it'll be easy to fuel up before you embark.
2. The specialty restaurants are outstanding -- and most of them are free.
Carnival offers some of the best free dining in mainstream cruising, and Carnival Dream is a perfect example. A January 2017 refurb introduced fleetwide favorites such as Guy's Burger Joint, Guy's Pig & Anchor Smokehouse and BlueIguana Cantina -- all of which are so delicious, it's hard to believe they don't cost extra. Bear in mind, though, that most of these restaurants are open only for lunch (although Guy's Burger Joint keeps the grill running till 6 p.m.).
3. Those that do cost extra won't break the bank.
For dinner, you'll have to pay extra if you want to eat in the steakhouse or recently added Bonsai Sushi, but we assure you: It's so worth it. The steakhouse costs only $35, while Bonsai Sushi is a la carte, with single sushi rolls starting at $1.50. What you get for your money is higher quality food and a more intimate dining experience -- perfect for date nights. What could be more romantic than locking eyes with your sweetie while sharing a sushi boat?
4. Food in the main dining room is actually really good.
Let's be honest: Cruise ship main dining rooms typically don't offer the best food. Since it's the "default" venue for dinner, the quality can be sub-par, which is why some passengers often splurge on specialty restaurants. On Carnival Dream, however, you might actually find yourself craving the main dining room. The head chef and his staff taste-test and perfect every dish before the first dinner seating, and the attention to detail is evident in the quality and presentation.
5. There's a good reason to skip the buffet on port days.
Also in the main dining room, breakfast is no longer confined to Continental, with a few basic, made-to-order options. Carnival Dream is one of a handful of ships testing a new "Port Day Express Breakfast" menu (and so far, the results point to a fleetwide rollout). On port days, from 7 to 9 a.m., the main dining room offers a menu with the tagline "done fast, done right, in and out in 25 minutes," and it doesn't disappoint. Dishes are more eclectic than what you might be used to seeing in the MDR on port days, and range from avocado toast and a breakfast board with cured meats and grilled sour dough, to a Spanish omelet and egg white frittata. The buffet is too crowded anyway.
--By Gina Kramer, Editor