Here is a little background. My wife and I have done cruising in the past. Then we had kids and it all stopped. So as the kids started getting a little older (DD 9, DS 3) we thought it would be a fun thing for them to go on a boat. We also decided it would be fun for my MIL and SIL and family to come with us. This made for a party of ten. My job requires that I pick vacation the year before I take it. So we had to coordinate with all our schedules and this was the only week we could agree upon. From there we had to decide where we wanted to go and which cruise line to take. The Carnival Dream Western itinerary fit the bill.
We live in NC and we decided to leave Thursday evening and drive down to Savannah, GA where we stayed the night. My kids were fascinated by high rise living as seen by this picture. The next day we finished to drive to Cocoa Beach near Port Canaveral. We stayed at the Cocoa Beach Hampton Inn and did the Park and Cruise package. We werenít sure if we were going to do it but since we were getting the hotel anyway it seemed like a good deal to us. It was a really nice hotel and we had an ocean view room with a nice balcony. My DD and I walked out on the beach first thing in the morning to try and catch a pretty sunrise. We were able to grab some breakfast before the shuttle picked us up at 11 am.
After a short ride from the hotel we arrived at Port Canaveral. From the moment we stepped out of the bus we felt like we were cows being led to a slaughter. I am not saying it wasnít quick just that is was pushed. We decided along with everyone else to arrive at 11:30. I can see the logic in arriving later on in the day. Instead of having to carry our soft drinks on board ourselves, the porter told us as long as it was in a bag they would take care of it for us. We took two twelve packs of soft drinks, a six pack of water and a six pack of bottled soft drinks. Apparently Carnival noticed we had some drinks during the checked bags security check because I got a letter saying they had looked at my stuff and everything was ok. I guess they had to make sure that the Cheerwine didnít really have wine in it . Our general rule of thumb for taking drinks is to take drinks you canít get on board. Once we got on the boat we sat down in the Encore lounge with our bags and tried our best to occupy our three year old until the room was ready. At 1:30 we headed to our room.
We left the Encore Lounge on deck three and headed down to the Riviera deck to find our room. We were staying on Riviera deck one, port side aft, room 1372. My first impression of the room was that it seemed more spacious than that of other cruise ships I have been on. But with five people staying in the room it taxed the limit of storage of people, suitcases and stuff. Before we left we had ordered room decorations from the Bon Voyage department. This was a great surprise to the kids. After dropping off our carryon bags, we decided to explore the ship. We went to eat, attend the muster drill and then we ran to find the secret decks. The kids wanted to see the sail away from there. We went to deck nine because it had forward staterooms and were more likely to have access to the front decks. Sure enough that is where we found them. As people have stated they are not really secret decks but they are hard to find. If anyone is curious, the Carnival Dream forward facing webcam is located on the deck nine secret deck. It was really great to watch the sail away from the deck but it was time to get ready to eat some supper. Our dining room was the Scarlet dining room. This also happened to be our muster station. After the drill we looked around and found our table. We were pleasantly surprised to find it was at the back center of the dining room with big windows. I donít know if you can request it but table 435 was one of the best tables for watching the boat leave port while having dinner. We had a great meal. I finished it up with two melting chocolate cakes. After dinner I was tired but there was one thing I wanted to do. There was liquor tasting held in the shops area. I was hoping I would get a chance to try Sheridanís Coffee Layered Liqueur. Which to my delight was one of the samples. If that is your thing be sure to check it out. I loved it so much I brought home four bottles.
I had purchased the 500 minute internet plan so I was able to wake up and check my email. Not that I needed to but because I am a big geek and love to. The kids wanted to go to the water slides so we went up to check them out. I did the twister and it was quite fun. All the kids seemed to enjoy the water slides. It was another great day of exploring the ship and getting our sea legs. If you got to the Gathering when it opened you didnít have to wait long for your food. But if you got there an hour after lunch started there were long waits. I noticed that it was crowded then so for the rest of the trip I tried to arrive at the opening time for the meal. Dining and departing the boat were the only times I felt crowded on the boat. Also on the first day I decided to use the stairs instead of the elevators because they were always crowded or had a bunch of people waiting for them. When you did get one it was already packed full and very hot. If you have the physical ability to do so, it was much easier to use the stairwells.
We werenít really sure about leaving our three year old at Camp Carnival. But, the staff said we could check out a phone so they could reach us in case there was a problem. This definitely eased my mind. One added benefit to the phone was that anyone could call you from the numerous phones located around the boat and you could call staterooms. This proved to be a great tool in keeping up with our large group (10 of us). DW carried the phone in her fanny pack and we were able to check in with her and let her know where we were and what we were doing. This is especially great when you have teenagers that need to check in with you. The phone was provided at no charge for the children in the youngest age range at Camp Carnival. We kept it all week and turned it in on Friday. I donít know if it is available for older age ranges at Camp Carnival but it doesnít hurt to ask. Even if you donít plan on taking your children to Camp Carnival just sign them up and you can request the phone.
We awoke to rainy dark skies. We had booked Nachi Cocum as our tour for the day. It was very easy to book this ourselves. We figured since it was so close to port it was a pretty safe bet. When we saw the rain we werenít sure a beach trip would be that great. The Captain announced that due to the weather we would be arriving one hour late. We watched a thunderstorm approach and cover Cozumel. An hour later we were docked. Some people think that being on the lower parts of the boat is bad. During the entire cruise, deck one was the best place to be to disembark the boat. Luckily by the time we got off the boat the rain had stopped but the skies looked threatening. I was not going to let something as pesky as rain ruin our day at the beach. Since there were 10 of us we found a van cab to take us there for $40 total. The great part was we told him what time we would leave and he was there waiting for us. From what I had heard, Nachi Cocum was a wonderful beach resort. While it was a pretty cool place it didnít fit my mindís image of what I had heard. We felt as if we were an inconvenience to our waiter. He brought three rounds of drinks and food once during our afternoon stay. We could never find him when we were looking for him. Others had said that they could order varying foods from the menu but our waiter was very strict and made us order one from each of three categories. I know that this one waiter isnít representative of NC. We had seen others receiving better service but it did put a sour taste in our mouth. And if there is a bad server to be found, my DW and I will find them. The food was pretty good and we really enjoyed it. People would approach you and offer many activity opportunities such as jet skies, banana boat, parasailing, snorkeling, etc. We had brought our own snorkeling gear. We decided to have a nice relaxing day so we didnít do their activities. Some of the kids and I were seriously wanting to get our fins wet and do some snorkeling. Unfortunately, the weather had churned up the water so it made viewing underwater things difficult as noted by my picture. Still, I can honestly say I stayed in the water longer than the kids did. I had a great time. Even though it wasnít quite what we expected, I would still go back and give it another chance.
That night the seas were rougher than normal and the boat was shimmying and shaking. Luckily for me I do not have problems with motion sickness. Buy my DW, MIL and SIL were starting to look green. But they made it ok with the help of Dramamine. The Captain announced that due to expected bad weather that they were going to flip flop the next two days. I had booked a sea plane tour for my DD and myself with Bay Island Airways. I was able to get on my Mac Book and fire off an email to the contact person for the sea plane tour and ask if we could reschedule it. Luckily having the internet would prove useful more than once. We were able to change the tour. She said it was good we werenít coming when planned because the weather would be too bad to fly.
We woke up anchored off the coast of Belize. You must tender at the port of Belize. Tendering to me always seems neat because you leave a big boat to get on a little boat to go to a port. In my opinion, no matter where you go it makes that particular port seem more exotic. It is also a great opportunity to take a picture of the boat out in the middle of the water. We had scheduled a Carnival snorkeling tour called Geoffís Caye. This left directly from the boat. As we boarded the boat to Geoffís Caye, the crew was really professional and fitted us with snorkeling equipment. Some of us had brought along our own gear. I have never been crazy with sharing snorkel fungus with anyone. Also I had purchased a vision corrected dive mask so I would be able to see clearly without my glasses under water. If you wear glasses and ever plan on snorkeling it is definitely a worthwhile investment. Just go to your local dive shop and they will get you what you need. We headed further and further away from the cruise ship. As land started disappearing a little dot starting appearing on the horizon. This was Geoffís Caye where we would be snorkeling. We had approximately 100 people on the tour and we filled up the little island. I wouldnít want to be stranded there with that many people because we would soon use up the resources on the island. After a real quick safety briefing, they wanted to split us up in two groups to go out snorkeling. I made sure my family was in the first group. But eventually it turned into total chaos and everybody was bumping into everybody. At times I felt like I was in an open water swimming contest. However the scenery was awesome. We didnít get a chance to go where they usually take people because the water was rougher. We still got to see cool corral and beautiful fish. This was the second time that weather had affected my plans. I still would recommend this tour. Make sure that if you bring your own snorkel gear you bring a bag to put it in. As people were lying around, the tour operators came around and collected the gear. I had put mine up in the bag and if I hadnít it could have gotten mixed in with the others. The tour boat took a different route back to the Dream so we were able to see different scenery.
After we showered and ate some of our group decided to take a tender to the cruise ship shopping area to look around. I didnít know what kind of opportunities there would be for picture taking but I decided to go just in case. We walked through all the shops and it seemed to be a bunch of overpriced stuff. I picked up two little toys for the kids and a rum cake for myself. After an hour of looking around, we took one of the last tenders back to the boat. During dinner, we were able to watch Belize disappear from view as we sailed away.
The Dream was expected to dock at Mahogany Bay. The Captain announced that due to weather we would be docking at Coxen Hole. My DW and I had been to Roatan many years ago and had really enjoyed one of the best of tours. I was really looking forward to returning.
This time however, I had something really cool planned for my DD and me. This was my DDís first cruise and it was going to be her first airplane ride as well. So, why not make it a sea plane? Makes sense doesnít it? As stated before we had booked our tour with Bay Island Airways. Due to the change of port, I had to call via Skype and let them know. Clay and Heather Donnelly were very flexible and great to work with. After calling them they knew where to pick me up.
When Heather picked us up she informed us that was a chance that we might not be able to land for the snorkeling part of our tour due to rough waters and storms in the area. Later on I would find out this was the third time weather would affect us as a large thunderstorm prevented us from landing at the Pigeon Caye snorkeling area.
She then took us to Fantasy Island where the sea plane was waiting. After a pre-flight check we hopped in, taxied out and took off. As I love anything that flies, this was a real treat for me as well as my DD. Seeing Roatan from the air and its beautiful waters, villages and shipwrecks was breathtaking. We flew for about an hour and a half.
I would highly recommend doing this tour with Bay island Airways. They can also customize tours to fit your needs/schedule. I will definitely be doing this the next time we go there. If you are interested in this tour, here is the link. Bay Island Airways
Unlike other people on the tour, we got up very early to ensure we were on the docks by 7:15 as requested by the tour operators. My nephew, DD and I were the first three passengers off the boat. By 7:15 we were at the designated meeting area and waiting. The tour guide was there and we waited. By 7:45 people started to come. By 8:00 everyone arrived and we could leave. I just want to chide my fellow passengers for tours like this. Be at the specified location at the specified time. We lost 30-45 minutes of touring time because of this.
After a two hour ride with narration from the tour guide we arrived at Kohunlich, which is known for the Temple of the Mask. This site is not as spectacular as some of the larger Mayan pyramids that I have been to but it is one of the ornate that I have ever seen. It is important to note that you are not allowed to use flash photography at the Temple of the Masks. You also are required to pay a $5 if you plan on videotaping.
On the bus the tour guide was offering a map for sale for $5 which I bought and would prove useful later on. Note to everyone: itís always a good idea to buy a map! We followed the tour guide to the first site of interest and after 15 minutes of detailed narrative on the site we decided to sneak off and explore ourselves.
Our goal was to see everything on the map. An extra advantage to this was that we were able to take pictures without a lot of other people in them. We hit all the sites and even discovered a little area not listed on the map. We constantly watched the time and the map to make sure we would be back to the bus by noon.
This is not a slam on the tour guide as she was excellent and extremely knowledgeable about this site. I just wanted to get my moneyís worth of exploration.
It did kind of make you feel like Indiana Jones in the opening scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I highly recommend this tour. Important things to know about this tour: buy the map, bring bug spray and water. My nephew and I both brought our Camelbaks. This gave us 6 liters of water, more than enough for the day.
You will also need to wear a hat and good walking shoes, and know that snacks and one bottle of water are provided but are not enough to sustain you as we were ravenous when we got back to the boat. Also there was a toilet on the bus but there was no soap to wash your hands. I recommend bringing hand wipes.
We had another fun day at sea. We visited the Mongolian Wok for the last time. Boy I will miss it. Just be aware that the meat changes daily. My favorite was always the beef, chicken and shrimp with the schezwan sauce. If you like it hotter just ask the chef to kick it up a little. We had the day to get our stuff together and get packed.
We received our zone 33 (one of the last ones off the boat) tags the night before and had attached them to our suitcases. It took us an hour longer than Carnival estimated to get off the boat. Again, I felt like a cow being herded off the boat. It seemed rushed but pretty efficient.
Since there DW and I were the only legal ones in my immediate family, I had to declare the extra two bottles of Sheridan’s. When I went to meet with Customs at the library, he told me that my duty would be under $10 and that they would waive it today and he signed off on it. Dang, I should have got two more. But, better safe than sorry.
After getting off the boat and clearing Customs we headed towards our baggage. I have heard on here that it is worth every penny to pay a porter to help with your luggage. This is very true especially when you have to keep up with little kids as well. We told the porter that we were being picked up by Travel Lynx (through Hampton Inn). He dropped us off exactly where we need to be.
When we came to the port we arrived on a bus so we didn’t need a booster seat then. But we had requested a booster seat for the return trip in case they sent a van. They did send a van for us but it had build in booster seats – how cool is that?
Because we had a young child and it was very hot outside, we were given priority in the shuttle line. Because of the kids and the need for the built in booster seat, we were the only ones in the van. The driver dropped us and our luggage off at our car. Not knowing what to expect about the park and cruise package, I was very pleased with the experience and would recommend it.
A bunch has changed since I last set sail back a decade or so. I really enjoy being able to geek out in the middle of the ocean with my MacBook Pro and send emails back home.
The food was pretty good and I enjoyed it. I wanted to go to the Chef’s Art but never got around to it. The Mongolian Wok was nice as it was always fresh and hot! Pizza was good as well. Get to the Gathering early and you will not have to wait.
For you folks who always want to carry your pocket knife (you know who you are!) I was able to carry my Kershaw 3 1/4” knife onboard and off with no delays, problems or second glances.
I used wire ties to lock my zippers on all my bags, except for the bag containing the drinks. All were intact when delivered to the room.
I smelled the smell twice on Deck 1 amidships. Just a whiff, not a lingering smell.
My MIL and DD really enjoyed the shows every night and looked forward to seeing the next act. I enjoyed resting!
Have a backup for your DSLR, a point and shoot... My lens fogged up on my DSLR, but my P&S was ready to go. I have a solution for this next time.
I will probably consider another Carnival Cruise or other cruise line in the future. Lots of fun and we and the kids had a BLAST!
Yes it made quite an impression on the first time cruisers. I also took pieces of the decorations so my wife could scrapbook and keep with the theme. She was surprised when she found them after we arrived back home
So if you like decorations, you will really enjoy the Bon Voyage Decorations:-D
Also thanks for the kind words, and in 6 months it will be I who is jealous of YOU
Good job and great pics. Sounds like you all stayed positive with the little things that can go wrong on a cruise..ie weather, delays etc. Thats how it should be. Make the best of the situation, be flexible and most of all have fun.
2008-Valor and Glory
2009-Spirit and Splendor
2010-Freedom of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas
2012-Allure of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas
Very nice pictures! And thank you for sharing your trip. We have a our very first cruise as a family on Carnival Inspiration in the spring and I was curious to see some pictures from Cozumel. Seems there are mixed reviews with Nachi Cocum excursion. Sorry to hear about the dreary day at the beach!
To be fair to Nachi Cocum, I could have easily walked up to the bar area and had all the drinks I wanted... but I just really wanted to relax. The other waiters seemed to be a little more attentive, so it is probably just the luck of the draw. I would do it again.
As for the weather, yeah we were on vacation and nothing was going to stop us from having a great time. The best laid plans never survive first contact, but it is how you react that makes all the difference.
I honestly think that if you go on a cruise and don't have a great time, then you are very hard to please.
Ya'll folks that are sailing on the Dream will have a blast:razz: