DREAM On - until your Dream comes true -
This review is for all you cruisers booked or on the fence about booking a cruise on Carnival's Dream and addresses a number of issues reported by the "doom and gloom" cruisers who have written negative reviews. Many people set the bar way too high for their cruises and are setting themselves up for disappointment and failure. A good cruise experience is ultimately determined by good planning, execution, flexibility, and a sense of humor. If you are lackadaisical about choosing your stateroom location and leave it up to the person booking your cruise and discover that your stateroom is right above the disco, that's not good planning on your part. If you cruise during spring break, in the summer or on holidays, expect lots of children and packs of teenagers roaming the ship at all hours of the day and night. Flexibility is the key when it comes to eating - don't eat at prime hours when the lines are long, eat a little earlier or a little later - THERE ARE NO LINES. As far as the sewage smell on theDream, I detected it only once and it was quick and gone in seconds.
I live in Florida and it is an easy drive to Port Canaveral. If you are flying into Orlando, it is approximately 40 minutes to the Port. We arrived at 10:35 a.m., dropped off our luggage with the Porters, parked our car and went through Security with our carry-on. At Port Canaveral, you pay for parking when you exit the parking garage at the end of your cruise ($15/day). The parking area is directly across the street from the ship and a very short walk. I am Platinum with Carnival and was directed to the VIP lounge for check-in. Our small group was escorted onto the ship at 11:00 a.m. and eating at The Gathering and downing my first beer at 11:15 a.m. We had plenty of time between lunch and sail away to tour the ship. Our rooms were available at 1:30 p.m. The safety briefing was around 3:30 p.m. and will be in your assigned muster location (Encore Lounge for us), you don't have to wear or bring your life jacket. We had a balcony room on the Verandah deck, Room 8288, great location and just enough movement at night to lull us to sleep. Just a quick note to seasoned cruisers on Carnival, our group had requested assigned main dining at 6:00 p.m. On all my other cruises on the Conquest class ships, the passengers assigned main dining were seated in the forward dining room off the Atrium lobby but on the Dream, the 6:00 p.m. seating is assigned to the aft Scarlet dining room, either Deck 3 or 4. The décor on the Dream is bright, colorful, and sassy, what else would you expect from Carnival, I loved it; jump started my senses every day.
Chair hogs: yes, there are and always will be chair hogs but if you stay away from the main pool area on the Lido deck, there are tons of chairs available. The Serenity area forward is o.k. but this area fills up very quickly and the only advantage to sitting here is the absence of children.
All common areas of the Dream are spotless along with the staterooms, dining rooms, etc. Our Room Steward kept our ice bucket full, emptied our refrigerator so we could load it with the items we brought on board, make the obligatory towel animals and took very good care of us. Every staff member, without exception, had a smile and a hello for us wherever we went on the ship.
O.K., let's talk about food. First, we ordered from room service every morning (nothing like a cup of hot coffee and Danish to clear out the cobwebs) - they were always on time. Don't forget to bring some $1 bills to tip the steward who delivers your order. We ate breakfast in the Scarlet dining room and at The Gathering, I preferred The Gathering for breakfast, fresh made to order omelets were great (no lines if you are an early riser) and a delicious sausage in puff pastry that is making my mouth water just thinking about it. If you like a little slower pace and don't want to stand in line with a tray, the Scarlet dining room was fine. They also have pastries at the Patisserie on Deck 5 in the morning. For lunch, we tried all the food venues on the ship - the buffet was always good and offered different carved meats every day - roast beef, lamb, pork, ham, turkey. The Scarlet dining room was open for table service lunch. The deli, as all Carnival past guests know, is very good and we tried the pastrami, corned beef, turkey, and ham (and mixed and matched all of them). I didn't care for the Indian Tandoor food, the hot dogs and hamburgers from the Grill were always good, the pizza was just o.k., likewise the Mongolian grill and Burrito bar, but that is my personal taste. At Ocean Plaza (Deck 5) they offered the Lanai Bar-BQ outside, sliders, hot dogs, salads, quesadillas, etc. Inside past the Patisserie, they had a salad bar set up and turkey wraps. At 5:00 p.m., they opened the Sushi Bar. The Fresh Pasta station on Deck 11 Aft (2nd floor of The Gathering) was our absolute favorite. You check in with a receptionist who hands you a paper menu, pencil and number. Make your choices from the list of pastas - farfalle, penne, linguine, then choose your sauce - pomodoro, meat, Alfredo, then choose your add-ons - chicken, shrimp, mushrooms, etc., choose bread and freshly made Caesar salad - hand in your order to the Chefs in the open kitchen, sit down with your number and someone will bring your food piping hot, freshly made and delicious. The Pasta station quickly became our favorite place to have lunch. The food at all the above mentioned venues is free. I managed to squeeze in Tea Time in the Crimson Dining Room and highly recommend this to everyone. It is a relaxing break from the high energy activities of the ship and the specialty desserts were fantastic - dense chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, apple crumble, fresh fruit tart, delicious little scones, etc. The food in the formal dining room at night was great and always delivered hot and fresh. Sunday was formal night and lobster was served. Our head waiter and his assistant were attentive, personable and fun and made our dining experience truly enjoyable. If you can't find food to satisfy you at the buffet on the Dream, there are lots more food opportunities to try - experiment, have fun. The Casino bar was great and they made some dynamite dirty martinis. Every day, I purchased a chocolate milk shake ($3.95) from the Patisserie, walked over to the bar, bought a shot of Kahlua and mixed them together, yum.
For all you smokers', smoking is only permitted in the Dance Club and Sam's Piano Bar. Smoking in the Casino is limited and permitted while playing at designated slot machines and table games. Cigars and pipes are permitted on the Lanai, Port side. We are not spa people so did not avail ourselves of the exercise machines or spa facility but this area is smaller on the Dream and was always crowded.
Now, as far as the shows in the Encore Theater, in my opinion, the show that everyone is raving about, "Dancin In The Street" has way too much hip hop, rap, and break dancing to appeal to a broad audience - teenagers will love it. The show we enjoyed more was "Get Ready". But, whichever show you attend, go early, those chair hogs are out in full force. We attended an adult comedy show in the Burgundy Lounge which was just o.k., nothing to lose sleep over. At night, there is live entertainment all around the ship, you're sure to find one you like - karaoke was a laugh.
Nassau: we took a taxi ($4/person, one way) to Atlantis and gambled in their casino and enjoyed some complimentary Sombreros, yum!! St. Thomas: booked an excursion thru Carnival, "Castaway Barefoot Sail & Snorkel to Shipwreck Cove", nice day, fun crew, but the water was cold - the unlimited rum punch on the return was good. St. Maarten: took a taxi ($6/person, one way) to Orient Beach. The beach was gorgeous but the water, again, was cold. It started to rain so we went back to the ship, had lunch and took the ferry downtown to browse the shops and have some $1 beers.
Debarkation was fast, very well organized and efficient. We had an assigned 7:15 a.m. debarkation but had plenty of time to enjoy our last room service coffee and Danish on our balcony.
Yes, the Dream is big but manageable once you know the layout and you will find your sweet spots all around the ship where you are most comfortable - lots of hiding places on the outer and inner decks. Be adventurous, try different foods and beverages, go to the disco and dance your heart out (no one is looking at you, they're too busy having a great time), talk to strangers, stop looking for negatives - you're on a cruise, you don't have to cook or clean, someone is making your bed every day and serving you with a smile, put your feet up, relax, enjoy the moment, life is too precious to be finding fault with every little thing, let yourself go and have fun. If something does go wrong, flexibility and a sense of humor will carry you through. The Purser's Desk staff was always pleasant and eager to please. I would give anything right now to be on the Dream as I sit soaking my aching feet from standing on them all day in work - I would give anything right now to be holding a cold martini in my hand at the Casino bar listening to some great music - .I would give anything right now to be eating that sweet lobster - I would give anything right now to lay my head on those comfy pillows and be rocked to sleep - I would give anything right now to be you, the next lucky person to be sailing on the Dream...Dream On.
When I had to cancel our August 2009 cruise due to my job being phased out, it meant that we wouldn't be cruising at all in 2009, which would be the first time in many years that we didn't cruise at least once in a year. Once things settled down, and not wanting to wait a whole year until our next booked cruise, I decided to book a cruise during Spring Break on the Carnival Dream, knowing full well that it would be crowded and chock full of kids. With Patti being a teacher, and my boys in Middle school and High school, we didn't have much of a choice. I decided to drive down from New Jersey four days prior to sailing taking my younger son Ryan with me, and Patti and Kevin would fly down into Orlando the night before. This worked out perfectly, since I took all the luggage down with me and Patti wouldn't have to worry about checking in luggage (and paying the extra fees) at the airport. We booked a whirlpool suite, (with cruise parking), at the Port Canaveral Radisson, which I would highlyrecommend, and signed up for the 12:30 shuttle to the pier on Saturday. Here I was three days early and all the earlier shuttles had booked already!! Ryan and I had three great days together and spent the last day at Universal until it was time to pick Patti and Kevin up at the airport. This went quickly since they didn't have luggage to wait for. Back to the Radisson for a nice quiet evening together, before boarding the Carnival Dream tomorrow.
Day 1 - Embarkation Day The next morning was sunny and beautiful, and you could look over and see the Carnival Dream sitting and waiting for us. Our shuttle left right on time for the five minute ride over to the ship. The Disney Magic was also in port today. After getting off the shuttle, making sure our luggage made the bins, and tipping the porters, we headed over to the VIP line to check in. We breezed thru the boarding process in no time, and were sitting at the Dream Atrium bar for our first drinks a half hour after we left the Radisson. Patti and Kevin picked up their soda cards for the week, (6.00/day for adults, 4.50/day for kids, plus 15% gratuity). We next headed up to our cabins to drop off our carry-ons. I had booked a balcony cabin 8244 for Patti and I, and an inside cabin 8246 for the boys. As it was our anniversary, I had purchased cabin decorations, wine, fruit basket, and other goodies beforehand unbeknownst to Patti. She was completely shocked when she opened the cabin door!! We then went up to the Gathering, which is the buffet on the Lido deck for some lunch. There are so many choices here!! In addition to the Grand Buffet, there is the Grille (hot dogs, burgers, steak sandwiches, salads etc), the Mongolian Wok, Burrito Bar, Fresh Pasta Bar, Indian Tandoor, The Deli, and of course the 24 hour Pizza. Top that off with the Desert Bar, and 24 hour ice cream and yogurt, you can't go hungry!! There is also a sushi bar located on promenade Deck 5 mid ship which was open from 5 -8:15 nightly. Also on sea days there was a BBQ lunch served out on the Lanai on Deck 5 from 12-2:30. This greatly helped disperse the lunch time crowds. Speaking of crowds, this would be a good time to tell you that on this cruise there were 4,500 pax. You couldn't fit another person on this ship. Of these, aprox. 1,700 were children under 18. I can't complain about that, since I brought two into that mix. I must say that the vast majority were well behaved. If I had any issues, it was with some of the adults, but I would never let a few idiots ruin my vacation!! I was expecting some lines, especially on sea days, but to tell you the truth they weren't bad at all. The worst were for the made to order eggs station for breakfast, and the Mongolian Wok at lunch. People, if waiting ten minutes in line is to long for you, may I suggest the Dining room? After lunch we spent time exploring the ship. In reality, the Carnival Dream is a stretched and wider version of a Conquest Class ship with the same you can't get there from here problems, but with enough added features to make it all worthwhile. Serenity, the adults only area, located on decks 14 & 15 forward was Patti and I's favorite area. Never had a problem with getting loungers or finding room in one of the two whirlpools. Only thing that could make this better would be a small cool off pool. Maybe they can add that in the next generation. The Waterworks was a favorite of the boys and me!! The Twister and the Drainpipe were awesome. They also had racing slides and smaller slides and spray areas for the little ones. Carnival's first 18 hole miniature golf at sea was also a lot of fun, though on sea days was very crowded. Another great new feature was the wrap around outside promenade on deck 5 which allows you walk completely around the ship. It also includes four whirlpools, (two on each side). At 3:30 it was time for the Safety Briefing. No more going back to your cabin for your life jackets. Just report to your muster station, listen to the announcements, and when it's over you can head topside without having to take life jackets back to the cabin. Our muster station was in the Encore theatre, so we were able to sit in comfort until it was over. Perfect!! We hung out at the Sunset Pool for sail-away, and after about an hour we headed back to the cabins to unpack, chill out on the balcony, and get ready for our first dinner. We chose traditional dining, and had a table for 4 (#521) on the lower level of the Scarlet Dining room at Late Sitting (8:15). Those choosing Any Time Dining would go to the Crimson dining room. I'm not going to bore you with telling you what we had to eat, since food is so subjective, I'll just say we were very, very happy with the selections and quality the entire week. Our wait staff was excellent and we never, even after 24 Carnival cruises, get tired of the nightly entertainment. Bravo!!! After dinner, the boys went to Circle C & Club O2, to make new friends and hang out. Patti and I went to play some blackjack, (we held our own), until it was time to crash. We would be in Nassau tomorrow.
Day 2 - Nassau (8:30am – 2:00pm) Being that this was such a short stop time wise, and because we would be back here for a longer stop when we sail on the Miracle in July, we didn't plan any excursions for today. Ryan and I decided to stay on board and partake of the waterworks and mini golf while there weren't any crowds. Afterwards Ryan went to Circle C, and I went to Serenity and lounged in the hot tubs with a nice cool drink. The Oasis of the Seas, and the Majesty of the Seas were in port with us today. Spent a lot of time checking out the Oasis, seeing where the cabins we booked for August 2011 were located. Looks like an awesome ship!! Patti and Kevin decided to get off and do a little shopping. They rented a 2 person scooter that looked like a lady bug for $45. For two hours and had a blast driving around the island. They even went over the bridge to Paradise Island twice!! After the ship sailed I entered the first blackjack tournament with the free entry that we got for being platinum members. I qualified for the final table, but wound up finishing out of the money in third place. At least I won some trinkets and a t-shirt that doesn't fit me!! The rest of the day we just hung out and chilled until it was time for the first Elegant Dinner. I was surprised that a lot of people actually got dressed up for tonight. It was nice to see!! We had a nice lobster dinner and then celebrated our anniversary with a cake that I had pre ordered. Several tables around us joined the wait staff in singing Happy Anniversary to us. Very Nice!! Afterwards the boys went off to hang with their new found friends, and we headed off to the Casino until it was time to call it a night.
Day 3 – Sea Day We all love our sea days because we all can relax and do what we want!! After breakfast on the balcony, Ryan and I teamed up for the bean bag toss in the lobby of the atrium, and won a few rounds before we were eliminated. Patti went to the shopping talk, then went looking for bargains in the onboard shops. We met up for lunch at the Sunset Pool bar, partaking of the nearby deli. The grilled sandwiches were to die for!! Afterwards Patti and I went to the casino to enter the first slot tournament. Neither of us qualified for the finals, so we went up to Serenity for some R & R, until it was time to go to the early comedy show, and then dinner. Another nice feature on the Dream is the Comedy Club located in the Burgundy lounge, deck 5 aft. They have two comedians aboard doing two PG shows at 7:30 & 8:30, and three uncensored shows for guests 18 or older at 9:45, 11:00, and 12:00. The boys went to the 7:30 show with us and had a great time. The comedians were great and got the youngsters involved. After dinner the boys disappeared to their respective clubs, and Patti and I went to try our luck again in the casino until it was time for the 12:00 uncensored show. It was hilarious, but have to warn you that if you are prudish in any way, don't go!! Afterwards it was time to hit the sack after a great sea day!!
Day 4 – St. Thomas (10:00am – 8:00pm) Another beautiful day in paradise!! After breakfast upstairs at the Gathering we watched the Carnival Dream pull into St. Thomas. It would be busy downtown today as there were six ships in port. The Carnival Freedom, Royal Princess and us were docked at Havensight, the Norwegian Pearl was anchored in the bay, and the Oasis of the Seas and Costa Atlantica, were docked over in Crown Bay. I had booked the Helmet dive for Kevin, Ryan, and myself, and since Patti wanted no part of that, she was going to spend the day shopping downtown and at Havensight. The Helmet Dive takes place at Coral World and was a fantastic experience!! After an orientation you stand on the ladder up to your chest in water and don a 75 pound helmet that once you step down another rung and get underwater feels like 10 pounds. Once you get down to the bottom of the ladder you are around 15 feet deep. For the next half hour you walk along a trail, (the weight of the helmet holds you down), while many divers keep an eye on you, show you and let you hold some of the docile aquatic life, and take videos and photos of your experience. The amount and variety of fish swimming around you was awesome!! To soon it ended and we had to go back up. The flash drive of videos and pictures was extra, but worth every penny. Something I will always cherish!! It was already late afternoon when we met back on the ship. Whenever we book a Carnival cruise that has a Supper Club or Steakhouse as they are now called, we always make a reservation for at least one night. On the Dream it is called the Chef's Art Steakhouse and is located on Deck 12 aft. Tonight was the night we chose to go, and just like every other time, it was well worth the $30./pp surcharge. The menu hasn't changed much over the years, (why mess with success?), so as always I had the 24 oz. Porterhouse which you can cut with a butter knife, and Patti had the Lobster. You can't go wrong with any of the appetizers, entrees, or deserts. Add a bottle of wine and enjoy the perfect dinner!! After dinner we went to the seaside theatre to catch the 10:00 laser show which was set to the music of Rush and Pink Floyd. Pretty neat!! Some casino time, then it was time for bed. The boys came back about the same time from their respective clubs. It was another great day!!
Day 5 – St. Maarten (8:00am – 6:00pm) There were 7 ships in port today, and upon seeing that I knew it wasn't going to be pretty!! Along with us were the Carnival Miracle, Celebrity Solstice, Emerald Princess, Sea Princess, Oasis of the Seas, and the AidaVita. By my calculations I figure that to be over 20,000 pax descending on the island, and not even counting crew members with shore time!! Patti got off as soon as the ship was cleared to explore the port area, while the rest of us were going to wait a couple of hours before heading off to Maho Beach ,(the beach where the jets fly over very low landing at the airport),on our own. This turned out to be a big mistake. By the time we went over to grab a cab, there where oceans of people everywhere and chaos was king!! We were told to go over here to catch a cab to Maho, only to find out after 15 minutes that the line for Maho was way over there!! After 45 minutes of this we finally were in the cab to Maho. Then it gets worse. The traffic was so bad, that the usual 25 minute trip took nearly an hour and a half. A half hour after arriving, it poured, so we took refuge in the Sunset Bar, had lunch and a few beers, then caught another cab back to the ship. The ride back was only an hour. We were pretty grumpy and spent by now, but once back on the ship we went to Serenity and chilled out until after we sailed. The next time we come here and there are a lot of ships in port that day, we can do one of two things to avoid the disappointments that we experienced today. One, book a ships tour with the transportation included, or get off our butts and grab a cab as soon as the ship is cleared!! Lesson learned. After dinner we went to the casino to try our luck again. Tonight was the deck party, but we chose not to attend. Went to bed still disappointed on how things went in St. Maarten today.
Days 6 & 7 – Sea Days Nothing like 2 consecutive sea days on the way back to Port Canaveral, to get back in the relaxation mode again. The bean bag toss, waterworks, mini golf, Serenity, mudslides, quiet balcony time, the second blackjack and slot tournaments, and more mudslides were the order of each day. In the evenings fantastic dinners, comedy shows, and casino time (we finished ahead of the game!), were our favorite things to do. When not playing with us, the boys hung out at their respective clubs, the balance of each day. Too soon, it was time to start packing for the journey home. As Platinum members we were given zone 1 tags for debarkation. This means we would be the first to debark the ship, after the self assist people debarked. We sadly put our luggage out in the hall, hung out on the balcony one last time, then went to bed.
Day 8 – Debarkation Day The ship docks back in Port Canaveral before 6:00am. The self assist people began debarking at about 6:40 and at 7:05 they called zones 1 &2. We were off the ship, picked up our luggage, breezed thru customs, and were on the first shuttle back to the Radisson in no time at all!! We loaded up the van, stopped for gas and snacks, and were on the road back to New Jersey by 8:15!! This was by far the quickest and most organized debarkations I have ever experienced in my 30+ cruises!! I hope everyone who cruises from Port Canaveral on Carnival has as easy of embarkation and debarkation as we did!! In summary, we all enjoyed our cruise on the Carnival Dream very much. Great ship, great crew, and overall a great time. We would sail on her again in a heartbeat!! My pictures from this cruise, including some from our helmet dive, can be found at: http://www.cruise-addicts.com/photopost/g571-jamman-27s-carnival-dream.html
This was our 4th Carnival cruise. We booked the Dream, wanting to be on their newest "flag ship". We stayed in one the of balcony suites, so went through VIP check in. I highly recommend that if you can. However, all the lines move thriftly, and we've never had a problem getting on board. Something new this time was the online check in. No more paper documents, tickets, or luggage tags.
Once on board, we found our stateroom, which was spacious and very clean. Our room steward introduced himself, and as with all our previous Carnival cruises, the staff is very friendly.
The ship is huge, with plenty of chairs. The midship pool is loud, for the party crowd, and the after pool area is quiet - our kind of area to relax at sea.
For food, we hit the pasta and burrito bars for lunch. The lines were never long and the food was pretty good. The sandwich grill and tandoori lunch area was also good. For dinner, we ate in the restaurant and did the dining your way. The service was superb! We splurged one evening and ate atthe Chef's Table. This is apparently something new and not on all ships. A group of 10 of us were given a tour and then ate a 7-course meal, serviced right in the galley. The head chef, Roshan, hosted the meal. The food was absolutely to die for! The meal was great, but just seeing the galley, and how they feed over 3,000 people at once was amazing. Well worth the extra cost, and we would do it again.
We stopped at Cozumel, Belize, Costa Maya, and were supposed to stop in Isla Roatan, but heavy winds kept us from being able to dock. The excursions through the cruise line were well organized, so no problems there. All in all, another great Carnival cruise, and we would do it again. In fact, we've already booked our next spring break cruise on the Liberty.
This was our (mine and my husband's) first cruise, which we decided to take at the last minute to celebrate our 20th anniversary. It was the best vacation we've ever had! The ship was beautiful, the staff very helpful and nice. We had a cove balcony room and loved the privacy and proximity to the water. The food was great, and we loved the Serenity deck for adults and the comedy club. Some things we would do differently however is look for a cruise with more ports. There were 3 days at sea, including 2 in a row the last 2 days. We would have enjoyed more time in the ports as well. Neither of the excursions we booked with Carnival were as described, so we will think twice about booking through their excursion desk again. Overall though it was a great cruise and we'd book with Carnival again.