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+
The front desk and customer service staff were very helpful and nice. We made one recommendation to add a chef to the deli during peak hours to help reduce long lines. They not only added a chef to the deli, but we received a call to follow-up with us and they notified the maite’d. A+ customer service. Security was very visible throughout our voyage. This definitely makes us feel comfortable knowing they are always out and keeping the ship safe. The ocean plaza is a GREAT addition, and it is a perfect area to enjoy the sushi, listen to the great band Voo Doo, enjoy a drink, etc. There were 2700 past guests onboard. One night before dinner, the back of the ship (Piano Bar, back lounge…) was open for past guests, and the drinks and appetizers were plentiful. The show band played and many people were dancing. Great job in making this hour very enjoyable. A+ for the past guest party. Also, A+ for New Years Eve. This was our first New Years onboard, and being at sea bringing in the new year with several thousand guests and crew was an amazing experience. Voo Doo played on the lido, and it was fantastic how the big screen switched between the Lido deck and Times Square. Champagne and New Years hats were plentiful, and everyone seemed to be out and having a great night. What a way to start off the new year. Thank you for making this one of the best New Years ever.
*Carnival should definitely fix their tipping system. On other cruise lines with automatic tipping, we hand our cabin steward, waiter, and assistant waiter an envelope with a slip that says we prepaid our gratuity for them. We hand it to them so we know it goes directly to them. Also this method ensures that more people tip (just knowing that you have something to hand the crew members who have helped you). Also, Carnival should announce the importance of tipping and the importance of filling out the surveys and acknowledging crewmembers who have gone out of their way for you and should be recognized. I did not hear it once; while it may have been announced at the debarkation talk, it should be announced and/or typed in a place where everyone can see and/or hear it (at one of the main shows and/or in one or two of the capers).
The Positive Things:
-The small things like having a magician walk around the ship (at dinner and through the promenade) to perform tricks.
-The sushi. Having really good sushi (first time we had good sushi on a ship) as a pre-dinner snack was really good for a change. Great addition, good sushi and choices each night, and excellent sushi chef.
-The bands – Cool Breeze, Voo Doo, and Vince in the Piano Bar stood all stood out as exceptional. Cool Breeze was a perfect band to have at night in the atrium or in the Ocean Plaza and are very talented. We could listen to and dance to Voo Doo all day and night whether it be in the Ocean Plaza or on the lido. Vince had the piano bar packed and singing all night long. The show band is also a great group of talented musicians.
-Dancing in the Street (and some of the other entertainment) – This is a fantastic show that is not to be missed. The variety entertainment, especially the ventriloquist, was also very good.
-The food – the new additions such as the burrito bar, pasta bar, tandori, and lanai bbq are very good… in addition to the deli, pizza, sushi, and dining room food (try the lobster and cold soups, they’re great!).
-The comedy club – having four comedians perform both family and adult comedy is a good addition. They all did a good job, especially Al Ernst. This is a cool venue and a great addition to Carnival’s entertainment.
-The water park provides fun for anyone, any age.
-The staff (every single staff member) – We LOVED our waiter Mario and Assistant Anselmo (Scarlett, Late, table 517). Octavious was a great bar tender who remembered our names after ordering one drink. The man at the pizza bar should be recognized for working alone and so hard. Our room steward Ian kept the room spotless, and I wish I could acknowledge every staff member from the deck attendants to the front desk staff.
-Past guest party with all the drinks, music, and appetizers.
Room For improvement:
-Piano bar – the piano bar was VERY smoky at times. Although it was always packed, maybe Carnival could have and enforce non-smoking hours on a couple of days or a non-smoking piano bar night.
-Sea day – there was no entertainment on the lido deck for the entire last day at sea. The calypso duo played in the Ocean Plaza for some reason, and there weren’t any pool games or lido entertainment for the entire day at sea. We should have a few new types of lido games (other than the hairy chest contest)… maybe games and competitions in the pool. *In addition to bringing back the full calypso bands, it might be interesting to on occasion see some of the other bands and duos perform on the lido deck. The seaside theater had football on the entire sea day afternoon. This is unacceptable. If used at all during the day, this should only be used (other than the morning show) on mute (and for occasional concerts).
-Seaside theater – OVERUSED! It is used properly at night with the laser shows and movies under the stars. During the day, it should ONLY be used for the morning show or if muted (or occasional concerts)… not for movies during the day (with exceptions where it should be used for major events such as the super bowl). We do not want to be entertained by a tv during the day while on vacation. We can watch movies at night or at home. Please limit the use of this during the day. Varied concerts (Dave Matthews, Billy Joel, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen) would be good to have ON OCCASION during the day. Other than the occasional concerts (without repeating them), please do not use the tv during the day and bring back the full calypso band to play throughout the days and the fun varied lido games.
-Band – PLEASE BRING BACK THE REGULAR CALYPSO BANDS. This is a favorite aspect of cruising for many people, and the calypso duos just don’t do it. The hours were ok (minus the last sea day where they played in the ocean plaza instead of on the lido deck… not their fault), but they were not entertaining or engaging and did not play much recognizable music. Much of it was pre-recorded and synchronized. Please bring back the full (4 person) calypso bands. Having real live calypso music is what cruising is about. There’s nothing like having a drink, laying out, while listening to the live band. It also helps when the band is engaging. This sets the tone for the cruise, and it could also help bring back a Caribbean night and a fun deck party.
-Sailaway – the duo played a little, but no one from the entertainment staff was out getting the passengers going. What happened to the calypso band playing “feeling hot hot hot,” with some of the entertainment staff doing the line dances, and getting the crowd going? There should be a sail away party like we experienced in the past to get the cruise started with a strong, positive vibe.
-More chefs at peak hours – To reduce lines during peak hours and to make it easier on the chefs who work so hard, please have more chefs at the deli and pizzeria during peak hours (either lunch on sea days or during sailaway on port days).
-Bingo – More games should be played when possible for the $10 or $20, and more importantly, bingo should be fun. Cruising bingo jokes (both regular jokes and for the different numbers) that we have seen on other lines make bingo a fun cruising event.
-Pictures – By now, we would have thought Carnival would have gotten this right. First, so many pictures go to waste. There should be a digital system where cards are swiped before photos are taken. Then we can digitally view what we choose to and print only what we buy. This would not only get rid of the waste problem, but it would also allow us to save time by being able to easily locate our pictures. This would also drastically reduce costs. Pictures cost WAY too much money. We would buy more if they were cheaper. Picture packages and just cheaper pictures would result in many guests spending more while being able to buy more pictures and take home more memories from their cruise.
*Overall, we would definitely sail the Dream and sail Carnival again. Job well done with the Carnival Dream. Thank you to the entire Carnival Dream staff. Everyone works so hard and is very talented and dedicated. We had a great New Years, and a great week on vacation. We hope to see some of our suggestions taken into consideration and implemented.
Matt, thank you for the detailed review! We've been thinking of booking the Dream, and now I'm definitely leaning in that direction!
I have to agree with you on several points, not just the Dream, but all ships in general:
- the constant noise and distraction of the big screen poolside - why can't we just enjoy a sea day and the sounds of nature?
- also, pool bands, I've heard some really poor ones, but the good ones can really make the cruise.
- smoky bars can take all the enjoyment out of what is probably very good entertainment. many times I've had to leave something I would love to stay and see because I can't breathe in a smoky bar.
- pictures...WAY too expensive no matter how you look at it. all I can ever think of is "what a waste". CHEAPER photos would result in MANY more sales.
- tipping system, definitely room for improvement. we always have our "automatic tipping" removed from our bill, then tip personally and accordingly. one never knows if the "automatic" tip actually go to whoever deserves them.
- FOOD - I have to agree, Carnival's food all -around has been exceptional on the past few cruises, no complaints there!
- Beds - the best! SO comfortable!
Once again, thanks again for taking the time to share yur review of the Dream!
Your review was excellent Matt. I have always said a good review furnishes the reader information about what is available, what the reviewer recommends, what to avoid and changes the reviewer feels should be made to enhance the experience. It also should be readable and by that I mean boring.