It's been a hectic week and a half since returning from my trip on the Dream, but there's never a bad time to post up a review. I'll try to go as in-depth as I can, and review every aspect of the cruise that I enjoyed.
This was my first cruise on Carnival, and my second cruise overall. The first cruise I took was on RCCL back in 1999, when I was only 12 years old. I booked with a friend through Travelocity. They offered us a better deal than Carnival could, and we also got some Onboard Credit as well. We did the Interior Guarantee, and received a room on Deck 6 - Upper Aft, room 6475 to be exact. We were a group that ranged from anywhere from early 20s to early 30s.
We traveled with a group of 15 in total. We all arrived at MCO, and arranged for a private bus to take us. I believe it was Cocoa Beach Shuttles? The driver was very friendly, and even offered to stop on the way at a 7-11 so we could pick up wine to bring on the ship, or even some beers for the ride to Port Canaveral. Hey, vacation had begun in my book! The ride was decently quick, and before we knew it we were at port, and saw the Dream. Embarkation went really smooth. I can't remember waiting in many lines at all. I want to say we arrived around 1:30, and were on board by 2:00, if not earlier. Our first stop onboard was at the lobby bar, to purchase our Cheers packages. We figured out it was going to be a good deal beforehand, and I think it ended up being worth it. I'll go into more detail later.
Being my first cruise since I was 12, I don't have much to compare it to, but I liked the layout of the Dream. It was really easy to find where you were trying to go. We spent a lot of our time on deck 12, overlooking the midship pool. Never had an issue getting a spot, and we within close walking distance to many of the activities. As for crowds, I never experienced it being much of an issue throughout the week.
The Waterslides are an awesome addition. I probably rode both the Drainpipe and the Twister at least 10 times each, and rarely waited in line to do so. There are a ton of steps to get up to them, and you will definitely feel the wind if it gets kicking. At one point, while we were sailing, we were about 1 mph away from the slides getting closed for high winds, and it was definitely pretty intense up that high.
I must say, I think Carnival can do a better job doing activities during the day outside. I remember only a few activities, and maybe there were more when I was in port, but I feel that at the few all-inclusive resorts there were always tons of different activities or competitions during the day out by the pool. I know there were some events indoors as well, but during the day, some people want to be out by the pool. Needless to say, there were some fun competitions. One of my friends judged the hairy chest competition, and I participated (and won) the rubber chicken olympics, ensuring I left the Dream with one of the little trophies.
I'd give the food a pretty good review, but there were some disappointments, mainly due to high expectations.
-Main Dining Room
I had dinner in the main dining room 6/7 nights, only missing night #1. I was a huge fan of most of the soups, with the Maryland Corn Chowder and the Potato Soups being the best I can remember. My favorite entrees were the Ribs, the Turkey Pasta, and the Bacon Mac and Cheese. I was disappointed in the Filet Mignon, mostly because it was the meal I was most looking forward to, and my filet was extremely tough to eat, which should never be a problem with filet...also, the Thai Chicken Fingers appetizer was disappointing, being that it was grilled chicken. I was expecting a fried chicken, so I ordered two servings. This was on the same night as the filet, so after that night I went into dinner with lowered expectations, and I think that ended up being better in the long run. I can't remember our waitstaff's names off the top of my head, but they were great as well. We had late seating, in Scarlet Lower.
-Lido Deck options
Most of the week for lunch I would grab something from the Lido Deck. Can't think of anything bad. The Tandoor station was delicious, as was the Deli. The Deli usually had a pretty big line, so try to look for a time when the line is short, and take advantage. I tried the infamous Pasta bar, and I recommend it to anyone on the ship. It was a little tricky finding it as first, but definitely did not disappoint. I only had breakfast on the lido deck two mornings, and I regret I didn't take advantage more often. The omelette bar is great.
Probably my biggest surprise on the ship was how good the pizza was. A nice, thin-crust pizza. I tried every option other than mushroom (because I don't like them). I enjoyed them all, and pizza was a great option for either lunch, pre-dinner snack, or late night snack. Kudos to Carnival on the pizza for sure.
Ordered room service a few times throughout the week. Always was relatively fast, and fresh. We did the continental breakfast option a few times, and the first time, apparently we didn't get it on time because we put our slip out so late....the slips have a deadline on them, and we beat the deadline by at least an hour, but we appreciated the call. The sandwiches are great. The toasted PBJ is a great option any time of the day.
Most of the entertainment I can comment on was focused on adults. Our group didn't have any children in it. We usually did meet up after dinner on the lido deck when some of the parties were going on, and the kids seemed to be having a good time there, so take that as you will.
May as well start with the highlight of the entertainment. I love going to piano bars, and this was no exception. Piano Bar Bob was awesome. Our group was there til his set was over most nights he performed, and he was awesome. I'm fairly certain anyone who was there those nights had a great time. Bob did a great job on his singalongs, as well as his roasts, and our group has memories we won't forget for years to come. On Bob's nights off, Travis and Tom did a good job filling in on the guitars as well.
-Caliente (night club)
Caliente had its positives, but had its drawbacks as well. I liked the setup and layout of the club, and the music was decent as well. My biggest problem was they didn't allow you to have a drink on the dancefloor. Maybe it's just a pet peeve of mine, but that was annoying. Probably why I didn't spend as much time there.
I saw two of the comedians on the ship. Both were great. The first comedian, who's name slips my mind at the time, mostly just made jokes about people's professions who were sitting in the front of the room. The second comedian, Allyn Ball, had some interactions with the audience, but mostly used his own material, which was fantastic.
I spent more time in the casino than I planned before I went on vacation, but that is mostly due to the fact that a)I was actually winning b)the nightclub was not busy and c)it was a lot of fun. I met a ton of people while playing, and everyone was really nice. I played in the casino pretty much every night, playing the various blackjack games that were offered. Midway through the cruise, I earned the "Drinks on Us" card, which I wasn't sure would matter, due to the Cheers package, but it did come in handy...Also, one night at dinner I received a bottle of wine from the casino, and the last day of the cruise, received a plate of cookies delivered to the room from the casino. I was happy with this. I was not "high-rolling" by any means, but I guess it was high-rolling to this casino. Not complaining though!
The fitness center is very nice, and the cardio machines offer ocean views, which is pretty nice. There is a free sauna anyone can use, but its a little tricky to find. You have to go through an unmarked door next to the women's locker room, and a small hallway leads to the sauna, which again, overlooks the ocean. I got a pedicure while on board. It was the fire & ice pedicure, and I recommend it to anyone. It's your standard pedicure, but at the end you get a hot stone massage, followed by some sort of cooling mixture. It was very good.
I guess this fits in under entertainment. When purchasing the package, we were told that there was a strict 15 drink/day limit, which was reset at 6am daily. Non-alcoholic beverages are not counted in the limit. I had read on the internet that there was not a hard limit, but rather a check that occurred when 15 drinks was reached, but I believe they changed the official policy before our ship sailed. The price per person was $345.75. Also, if you order drinks while still in port, you will be charged tax for those drinks. I can confirm that they do in fact, cut you off if you reach 15 drinks. Each day we were not in port, I reached this point. Early in the cruise, I was completely cut off. Later, when I had the Casino "Drinks On Us" card, I was able to order drinks with that. The first time I got cut off, I even asked if I could just buy another drink, but was told I couldn't. I was pretty upset at that point, but the casino pit boss bought everyone a drink.
I understand why they impose a limit to control costs, but I still think that if they can see you are still "safe" to drink, you should be able to be charged for the drink, maybe with a discount. 15 drinks is a lot, but spread out over an entire day will not be dangerous.
Another thing with the package is that, while it does include a 15% gratuity, don't hesitate to tip your bar staff/waiters. Apparently, after all the cheers packages are sold, the 15% chunk is added up, and divided between ALL the bar/wait staff. They do not automatically get 15% for each drink they bring you. Think of it like you're getting dollar drinks. They will take care of you as well. Carnival definitely isn't skimping on the alcohol in the drinks.
Wasn't really too excited for this port. I've been to Nassau before, specifically to stay at Atlantis. I spent the majority of time in port enjoying a mostly empty boat, and got off to check out Senor Frogs. It's just a quick walk from the pier, and it was a good time.
Headed over to St. John and went to Trunk Bay. The weather was a little iffy, but you can definitely see why Trunk Bay is one of the most photographed beaches in the world. We organized travel by ourselves, taking a cab from the port across the island to a ferry, a ferry to St. John, and a cab to Trunk Bay, and back. By cab, I mean a large bus, as we had our entire group of 15 traveling. Altogether, including 2 roundtrip cab rides, a round trip ferry ticket, and the $4 admission charge to Trunk Bay, it probably cost around 30-35 to do it, which is cheaper than a cruise ship excursion probably, and you were on your own time.
This was my favorite port. It could have been because it was the best weather, but also all of the activities. We did the Golden Eagle Sail and Snorkel, offered through Carnival. We had to acknowledge that they told us the snorkel conditions would be poor, but the catamaran was awesome. They took us to a beach, and did provide snorkel gear, if you wanted to try it out. It also included all-you-can-drink rum punches, beers, and sodas. After returning from the catamaran, we went over to another beach. Rode jet skis at this beach, which was awesome. $55 for 30 minutes was a fair deal I thought. Definitely the best day in port. Sad to hear that the Dream will not be visiting here come fall 2013.
Honestly, I had a great week on the Carnival Dream. I can't wait to go on another cruise. If anyone has any questions, I'd be happy to answer! Sorry for being long-winded as well, haha.