Well after being home for a week, I’m finally ready to share my family’s experience on the Carnival Dream for its first New Year’s Cruise. We (family of 4) have traveled on all major cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian, Costa, Disney), and this was our third cruise on Carnival. Our two favorite cruise lines are Carnival and Royal Caribbean. I will try to make the review as accurate as possible, as I have the capers in front of me. Please feel free to ask any questions. This is a long and detailed review, and I have highlighted and summarized the outstanding aspects of our cruise in addition to the areas for improvement at the bottom. Fortunately, none of the major complaints about the Dream were true. We had a really very good week aboard the Dream, and I will give an overview of our very good week; I will also share some suggestions for Carnival from our family and from other cruisers both for the Dream and Carnival’s other ships to help improve Carnival go from very good to great.
We arrived at the pier at 11:30. Boarding was extremely well-managed and easy. We had filled out all of our paperwork online, so we went through a short security line and walked up to the desk to receive our sail and sign cards. The whole process took about 20-25 minutes until we were on the ship. We walked into the lobby which was gorgeous. In addition to the ocean plaza, the lobby is a great place to sit down, people watch, and listen to Cool Breeze play, a fantastic duo. The rest of the day, we toured the ship, tried the Pasta Bar and Pizza for lunch (great choices in addition to everything else on lido), and just hung out around the ship.
The entertainment throughout the week was amazing at times, while ok at others. The live music throughout the ship was A+ (except for the Calypso Duo). Voo Doo, the band that played in the Ocean Plaza and on the lido for New Years was exceptional. We, in addition to many others, often sat down with sushi and a drink while listening to them play. They took requests and played our favorites. Great job. Cool Breeze was a GREAT duo, and their quieter music perfectly fit the atmosphere of the atrium. Lastly, Vince in the Piano bar was AMAZING. He had the place PACKED from start to finish. He had everyone engaged and singing all night long every single night of the cruise - especially after New Years. He took requests and really knows how to interact and work the crowd. We have never seen a piano bar so energized and into it. Great job Vince! Unfortunately, the piano bar was really smoky at times. We would sometimes have to walk out, and we often witnessed others walking out, especially with their kids. As for ship activities, there is definitely room for improvement. Dividing the ship into the red and blue is really old and corny. Aren’t there other pool games and contests that we can have besides the “hairy chest contest?” Master Mixology is a step in the right direction; it’s something new and entertaining. New activities, especially for repeat cruisers would be great. Maybe Carnival can consider some new games and competitions in the pool. Bingo was boring, and we miss when bingo callers would make jokes to make bingo fun and entertaining. There were many announcements, yet there was not an announcement for the marriage game show, so many people did not attend this which was disappointing. The Calypso duo could have played a little longer. Not only this, but they were dull, they did not energize and engage the crowd, and did not play songs that we like and have heard of. The music was mostly pre-recorded / synchronized. PLEASE BRING BACK THE CALYPSO BANDS (4 band members) WHO PERFORM LIVE, ENERGIZE AND INTERACT WITH THE CROWD AT TIMES, AND PLAY SONGS WE KNOW AND LIKE. This is our (and many cruisers) favorite thing about cruising (laying out, having a drink, and listening to the live calypso band), and it was our biggest disappointment. The comedy club is a GREAT concept, and while all 4 comedians were good and entertaining, Al Ernst was our favorite. The ventriloquist Jerry Goodspeed provided for a great variety of entertainment and was very funny. Great job. The juggler Edge was good as well. Dancing in the Streets was one of, if not the BEST show we have seen at sea. What everyone has said about it is true – do not miss it. Get Ready was ok, nothing special, and we didn’t even bother seeing the Xtreme Country show… but we heard those who went mostly didn’t like it. The singers, dancers, and show band are ALL VERY TALENTED. Entertainment as a whole: A-
Staff: EVERY SINGLE crew member works and tries extremely hard. They are all so friendly and both try and do their best, and I wish I could name and recognize all 1,400 crew members. Every single crew member went above and beyond. Our waiter Mario and assistant waiter Anselmo were the best out of all of our cruises. They truly went above and beyond. One bar waiter Octavious remembered our name after buying one drink, and he is such a nice person. We felt bad for the man at the pizza bar – some passengers have the nerve to have an attitude after waiting for a minute or two and to speak up to him. He was often the only one there during the day and worked extremely hard and does not deserve anything but praise. Very nice person who works extremely hard and should also be recognized – great job. Again, this is a very special group of crewmembers who all deserve to be recognized and rewarded for working so hard and going out of their way. The new maitre’d in the dining room who took over for Ken (Ante or Andre?) who has worked for Carnival for 14 or 15 years made appearances at tables and was very visible. We had made a recommendation to him about serving bacon in the same line as the omelet station to avoid waiting on line twice. The next morning, there was bacon at the omelet stations. Wow, what great attentiveness and customer service. A++
Rooms: We were in a balcony and inside stateroom on deck 9. Great location with the lido deck right above us. The robes are a great amenity, and the new beds are very comfortable. We got the main abc, nbc, fox, and cnn channels on the tv. A+
Lido: This is where we spent most of our time during the day. As I said, the staff all work extremely hard. This goes for all of the bar waiters, waiters working the lido, in addition to the deck attendants. They were ALWAYS cleaning and walking around. They were very polite. While we enjoyed our time on the lido deck, there is definitely some room for improvement here. As I said, Carnival really needs to go back to the full calypso bands (not duos). This is a main aspect of cruising for us and many others. It affects so many people out on the lido all day, every day. I remember when bands used to take requests, play our favorite Bob Marley and Caribbean songs, and sometimes at sailaways, even encourage guests to do the limbo or have fun and dance to their music. Carnival needs to go back to bigger, real calypso bands and longer hours. More, varied activities need to be done on the lido, and THE BIG SCREEN NEEDS TO BE USED MUCH less during the day. It is ok to have a football game on IN THE BACKGROUND WITHOUT SOUND, but we should not be forced to watch and listen to this and movies for our entire sea day. Not having the band play outside by the pool (and for some reason putting them inside in the ocean plaza on our sea day) and not having one single activity by the pool on the last sea day was a big scheduling mistake. There should be bands and activities many days, especially sea days. In addition to getting actual calypso bands like Carnival used to have, it would be interesting to on occasion see some of the other bands and duos on deck. In addition to this, the concerts played on the big screen should be more varied (Bruce, Dave Matthews, Billy Joel, Elton John, Tina Turner…) and they should ONLY be played on occasion during the day. Other than the occasional concerts and the morning show, the big screen on ALL Carnival ships should NOT be used during the day (unless muted). We had to wake up early to save a chair on sea days as if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have gotten chairs in the main lido area. Maybe Carnival can expand this area a little on the Magic. It’s not that big of a problem though. The screen is cool to have and use at night, and the laser shows are also a great addition. Movies under the stars is also cool; the daytime use of the screen is the only problem. The slides and water park are fun for all ages, and the adults only area is nice and secluded for adults.
Food: Very good! From pizza, to the pasta bar, to the main lido buffet, to the deli, to the Tandori, (didn’t try the Mongolian Wok but heard it was great), to the burgers, to the burrito bar, to the sushi, to the main dining room food, everything was VERY GOOD. This is the first ship where the sushi was actually good, and we LOVED going for a pre-dinner sushi snack. VERY GOOD job to the sushi chef. The lanai bbq was also a very creative and tasty idea. A+