Western Caribbean 2/15/14 - 2/22/14
Hello Everybody, I am so excited as my wife and I will board the Carnival Dream on Saturday. This cruise has been named; ďBecause the Price Was Right Cruise.Ē Iíll get to more on that a little later in our journey. In case we have not met, let me start out with a little information about us.
Iím Kenyon and I will be your tour guide for this adventure. I am 32 years old and a Support Center Manager for a large Global Business Process Outsourcing company. My travel companion is my wonderful wife of almost 2 Ĺ years. Cynthia is 24 years old and works as a daytime Nanny to two beautiful children; a 6 year old girl and a 3 year old boy. Also, Cynthia is the owner of CK Healthworks, a health and beauty products company.
We are from Leesburg, GA. (Hometown to Luke Bryan, Buster Posey, and Phillip Phillips, if you know any of those guys) Leesburg is a small country town outside Albany, GA. We are in the heart of Southwest Georgia and about three hours southwest of Atlanta.
Here is a picture of us on our last Carnival Cruise:
This will be my second review on Cruise Critic. I truly enjoyed completing my first trip review on the Enchantment of the Seas. It was our first cruise on Royal Caribbean and itís a good review if you are looking for comparisons between our Carnival and Royal Caribbean experiences. It can be found, HERE.
About the Pre-Cruise Blog
I wanted to do something different this time around and I thought that it might be helpful to share some of the planning that takes place for one of our cruises. Since I booked the cruise, I have been making some notes that may read more like a journal or blog. I have tried to narrow these down to the most important life events and planning details for the trip. This has been a fun way for me to pass the time and countdown the cruise. For my readers, I hope gives you some planning ideas and a little look into our lives. Now, I understand that some readers donít like to read all the pre-trip information so; I will try (if possible) to make it easy for you to skip to the review portion of the trip.
About the Review
When I started looking for reviews, I noticed that there are not a lot of recent reviews for the Dream. There are even fewer that have pictures. My goal is to provide a detailed review with pictures (thatís if I donít get all caught up in too many moments). This will not be a ďLiveĒ review as we use our cruising time to unplug from all our electronic devices (except cameras). However, once we return, I will start the trip review portion of the report. I am a very visual person, so I like pictures and my hope is that I will be able to provide a lot of pictures and commentary. On our last cruise we took over 400 pictures and still did not capture everything. Please be patient with me as I will not be able to post the entire review all at once but I will try to at least post all of one day at a time. In addition, I will attempt to share differences in experiences based on feedback from Cynthia. This will especially be seen with the dining portion of the cruise as she has a number of food allergies that forces her to be on a restrictive dietary plan. I know that this is going to be so much fun! I hope you will come along for the ride and that I donít bore you to death.
Carnival Dream Ė The Ship
As I was researching for our first cruise that we sailed last February, I spent a good bit of time on Cruise Critic just reading reviews on different ships and I came across a review that just absolutely sold me on the Dream. Carnival, you need to send Alicia (italianfemmy) a commission check or something. I am sure that my review will not be as great as hers, especially the pictures but I am going to do my best. Here is a link to her review:
Now letís talk about the Dream a little bit! The Dream was built in 2009 as the first ship in Carnivalís Dream Class of Ships. It was once the largest ship in the fleet but currently ranks 3rd largest behind the Carnival Breeze (1st) and the Carnival Magic (2nd). The Carnival Dream is 1004 feet in length and has a gross tonnage of 128,250 She can carry 3646 passengers for 24 hours for fun each and every day. There is 1367 crew onboard the ship. The Carnival Dream is currently based in Port Canaveral and runs week long cruises to the Western and Eastern Caribbean. In April 2014, she will change her homeport to New Orleans and the Carnival Sunshine will homeport in Port Canaveral.
Fun Fact: Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked was partially filmed on the Carnival Dream. The Cruise Line reports that it mostly happened on open decks and within the ship's outdoor recreation areas. Ports on the Dream's Western Caribbean itinerary, including Belize and Costa Maya, provided a backdrop for some of the scenes.
Carnival Dream Ė The Itinerary
We are super excited to be sailing the Western Caribbean. This is our first cruise that is not to The Bahamas. Our Ports of Call are Cozumel, Mexico, Belize, Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, and Costa Maya, Mexico.
Here is our port schedule:
What I get for saying no cruising in 2014:
I kept telling Cynthia to really enjoy our last cruise because we are going to try (keyword) not to spend any cruise money in 2014 but that we would go big in 2015. Her response was, ďDonít say that cause you never know what might happenĒ. She was O so correct! We arrived home from our 10/7/13 sailing on the Enchantment of the Seas and I had a letter in the mail from Carnival. We had received past guest and VIFP promotions before and they were not all that great of a deal and were quickly tossed into the shred pile. So, this letter was not a top priority on the list as I went through the mail and I just laid it back into the pile. The next day, I went looking for another piece of mail and saw the Carnival letter again. This time I wanted to see what it had to say as I was already having cruise withdrawals. I was quite surprised when I saw that I was part of a limited time VIFP Exclusive Offer.
Select winter sailings from December 1st Ė February 28th could receive the following rates:
Interior Stateroom - $15 per person per day
Ocean View Stateroom - $20 per person per day
Balcony Stateroom - $25 per person per day
I thought about it and started thinking that we have a weekend conference in Tampa in January. We could potentially take that whole week off and combine with a cruise. I found the perfect cruise that matched our schedule on the Carnival Paradise. The cruise starts on Saturday and ends on Thursday. The conference starts Thursday evening and goes through Saturday. It seemed like a perfect match. I thought about it most the day and that night I started to wonder about specials on the Carnival Dream. We really wanted to sail the Dream especially after Cynthiaís aunt raved about her trip back in April. It would be a little more difficult for us to accomplish once she moved to New Orleans. I was guessing there were not any specials since there was none for the Sunshine or the Breeze. I was wrong, again! I was using my iPad and I could not see the deck plan from my browser. I had a funny feeling that these prices would not be there much longer so I was smart and put the reservation on a 24 hour hold. As soon as I woke up the next morning I checked the deck plan and thought that the room was in a good location. I was ready to book. I brought the cruise up again and found that all the discounts were gone. The same type stateroom just a few doors down the hall was now $699 per person. I was so happy that I placed a hold on my reservation and I immediately completed the transaction.
Hence, this is why we have named this cruise, ďBecause the Price Was Right Cruise.Ē
Here is where I get you caught up with all the major activities up until this point.
The first thing that I did after booking was checked on Faster to the Fun (FTTF) and I was so disappointed to find that it was sold out. I made a mental note to check the site often to see if any becomes available. We used FTTF back in February on the Ecstasy and found it to be a great value. While I was there I did some quick browsing for excursions and really had no ideas for what to expect.
I checked out the Cruise Criticís Carnival Dream Roll Call section and there was already a thread going so I introduced myself and started chatting with others in the group. Also, there was a secret facebook group for the cruise and I was happy to join that as well. Itís 125 Days until sailing!
116 days before sailing: I have an on-site visit from one of my customers to keep me busy all week. I did have time to check out one of my favorite websites www(dot)cruise(nospace)fish(dot)net. I use the finder to see how full the site thinks that the ship is sailing. Currently, it has sitting at about 45% full. This gives me a good indication that there could be more availability for FTTF to become open so, I will step up my watch to make sure that I give myself chance to grab it.
112 days before sailing: I have confirmed my suspicions that our checking account has be fraudulently accessed and since itís a Saturday nothing can be done until Monday morning. Until then, these thieves can run a muck charging all sorts of stuff. The bank confirmed that my debit card number and security code was the information that was being use. Since I had the card in my possession, the bank feels that someone I personally handed the card to so that a store transaction could be completed stole my information. A bunch of paperwork and about a week later, I receive all our money back and things got back to normal when my new debit card arrived.
107 days before sailing: Happy Halloween! Well, it did not start out so happy. We made an early morning trip to the ER as my Dad had an accident messing with something that he had no business messing with and cut his foot wide open. Being a diabetic we donít take chances of any type when it comes to major cuts. Cynthia, Mom, and I had a great time handing out potato chips to all the neighborhood children.
106 days before sailing: One of the children that Cynthia keeps has an ear infection and now Cynthia is sick and in bed all weekend. I took excellent care of her.
103 days before sailing: My stalking of Carnivalís website finally paid off as I found that FTTF was available for purchase. I made a deal with a person on our cruise facebook page that if I saw it available that I would ping her and if she saw it, then she would ping me. I swooped in, purchased mine (11 remaining), and alerted the other person as promised. These went quick because when I checked the next morning they were all sold out. To the people reading this from my roll call and facebook group, sorry that I did not spread the news. For those that are on our facebook page, if you were keeping up with everything on the page, you should have been able to figure it out. I said it on the page without saying itÖif you know what I mean.
100 days before sailing: The weather took to a sudden change and I got really sick. A double ear infection, a major sinus infection, and a stomach bug makes one not feel really good. Cynthia is taking really great care of me.
98 Days before sailing: Since I am supposed to be on bed rest for the weekendÖ I thought that it would be a good time to fully start my excursions research. Cynthia and I love the beach, but I think we want to look for something more cultural during this trip for one of the excursions. I am thinking maybe 3 beach trips and one Mayan Ruin trip.
After my research, here is what I am thinking so far:
Cozumel, Mexico Ė I looked at most of the all-inclusive beach resorts. The one that I currently like the most is Mr. Sanchos. It seems to be a nice place to relax and be able to swim. We are not in to snorkeling. All we need is mat to lie on and we will be great. Also, I saw the little cabana beds that look awesome. I have always wanted to use one of those. It seems super romantic.
Belize Ė I believe that this is going to be our Mayan Ruins day. I selected the Altuna Ha Mayan Site. Research for this was much easier as some of the nice people on our roll call had already been looking into this and had posted some websites on our facebook page. Since we now had FTTF, this might be a good time to do a private excursion. I checked all the links and did a little research. I found that the prices were cheaper than Carnivalís but I did not like the reviews. I donít think we are going to chance it on this port. My current favorite is Altun Ha Mayan Site & River Wallace through Carnival.
Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan Ė From all that I have been reading, it seems that the Dream misses this port quite frequently during the winter as the ship has to back in and the winds are too strong. So, that makes me nervous about scheduling an actual excursion. I have heard a lot of great things about Victor Bodden and I am thinking about doing a tour with them. I am just not sure about their refund policy, if I have to pay the whole thing, a deposit, or do I pay when we met the driver. If we donít go on a tour, I am thinking that we can get off and enjoy the beach that is next to the ship, go back to the ship for a while and then come back again later in the day.
Costa Maya, Mexico Ė I have not completed all my research on Costa Maya, so I have no clue of what we will want to do. We only have a very short time in port and I am almost wondering if itís even worth getting off the ship. I will have to figure that out soon.
96 days to sailing: Happy Veterans Day! I am so proud to come from such a long family history of Veterans. Thanks to all the men and women that are currently or have served this country.
92 days to sailing: One of the options that I am thinking about for pre-cruise travel includes an overnight stay. We normally book the Radisson Resort by the Port. I checked the price for the Park and Cruise Only Package and it was $155 plus tax. I typically wait until about 1 Ĺ - 2 months before sailing to make my reservation as I find the price drops. I am not sure what the price will do this time as I was reminded that the night I need the room for is Valentineís Day. I have a feeling itís not going to get much lower than the current rate. Last year, we sailed so that Valentineís was during our trip so the rate was only $109 plus tax. In October, we paid $135 plus tax. Itís still a tremendous value since parking at the port is very expensive.
**Travelers Tip** - The Radisson has a second option that is a Park, Cruise, and Breakfast package. Itís typically about $10 per person more than the Park and Cruise Only package. We tried this on our first cruise and we were not all that impressed for the money. For breakfast, there is a nice family restaurant, Zacharyís, next to the hotel and a McDonaldís across the street. On our last cruise we walked to Zacharyís.
90 days to sailing: Let the 90 day countdown begin!
88 days to sailing: It suddenly hits me that I booked this trip completely online. This is the first time that I have done this but by doing so I totally forgot to talk with someone about Cynthiaís dietary needs. I called Carnival, made my IVR selection and then was given a message about high call volumes. I thought that I might be on hold for a bit but in under a minute a very nice lady answered my call and was able to note the booking and asked that we follow-up on the first day of the cruise with the dining staff. It got me to thinking about what other cruisers had experienced so I posted a thread on Cruise Critic asking. Hereís the link:
86 days to sailing: I found out last night that one of my friends that recently moved to Jacksonville was leaving out tomorrow on his first cruise in 20 years. Finding this out really made my Post Cruise Depression kick into high gear. He is going out on the Carnival Fascination for a 4 day Bahamas cruise. It was great to message with him a minute and give him some tips for the trip. I was looking for a JAXPort webcam so that I could see the ship sail off but it appears that they do not have one in port.
79 days to sailing: Happy Thanksgiving! We had a nice day with both sides of the family and friends. It was nice to have a day where I did not have to work.
65 days to sailing: Nothing says letís get ready for a cruise more than an Upper GI Endoscopy. Cynthia did just fine and is resting while I type. We should know all the results in 7-10 business days. A bit of good news, I just got the call that my new glasses are ready to be picked up.
62 days to sailing: Itís a bittersweet day. Itís bitter because I have learned this morning that a longtime family friend has lost his battle to cancer. Itís sweet because his middle daughter gave birth to healthy twin boys a few hours after his death. I know without a doubt those boys will help the family to heal. I am sure Poppy is looking over them.
61 days to sailing: I just found out on Facebook that one of my friends is on the Carnival Ecstasy this week. Her sister has been posting some pictures on Facebook in The Bahamas so I hope she had a Free WiFi connection because I would hate to see her phone bill.
60 days to sailing: The excitement is building but at the same time I am starting to feel overwhelmed. Normally by now, I would have booked everything except the pre-cruise hotel. My hope is that over the next two weeks that I will get all the excursions locked down. All of this fades as we learned that my Momís best friend of 25 years has passed away this ending her 2 week long fight in serious condition from what still is ďstumpingĒ the team of doctors assigned to her care.
59 days to sailing: I have recently learned on our facebook group the way Victor Bodden Tours work and I have been thinking about booking the ďBest of Rotan Private TourĒ for a few days now. I was awoken about 2:30 AM this morning for a work issue and since I had a bit of time to waste while I waited for an e-mail, I decided to look into it further. Before I left their website I filled out a form to see if there was availability for our day in Rotan. Within a few minutes I was sent a confirmation with the information that I provided. By 1 PM EST, I had received confirmation of availability. I responded back the e-mail to confirm our reservation and within a very short period of time I received my final confirmation with detail instructions on what to do when we arrived at port. So far, I am very impressed with Victor Bodden Tours.
58 days to sailing: Itís less than a week before Christmas so, itís very busy. Cynthia, my Mom, and I are getting ready to make a little road trip to see our extended family. Dad has not been feeling like traveling so he decided to stay home since we were going to be gone just a few days. Everyoneís work schedule did not work out this year so we wonít get to see each other on Christmas, but we are going to spend the weekend and have Christmas a little early this year. We got off on to a late start, thanks work, but we made good time and we were at our destination around 10:00 PM.
57 days to sailing: We stayed up way too late catching up with our family so, it was nice to sleep in this morning for the first time in quite some time. We started the day with a lazy morning and then met the rest of our family for some shopping. If you know this picture then you will know where we shopped.
Today is a special day as Brayden (my cousinís little boy) turns 7 years old. Instead of mailing the birthday gifts we brought them with us and he was so excited to open some gifts on his actual birthday. Afterwards, we headed for dinner, where they were so nice to sing a little song for his birthday.
That night we built a fire and roasted some marshmallows for símores.
56 days to sailing: We started the day by going to the movies to see A Madea Christmas. It was a good movie and it did keep us laughing. Itís not a movie for small children (Brayden stayed with his Papa). I could have done with a little less cursing and sex talk but I realize that they have to appeal to the masses. We had lunch at Jasonís Deli (I wish we had one at home) and it was great as usual. This afternoon we had our traditional cookie making and decorating time.
55 days to sailing: It was time for family Christmas Dinner and for Brayden to open his gifts from us. We had a great time as always and Brayden loved all his gifts. Itís beginning to become a little sad now because we need to pack so that we could come back home. We loaded up the car and then spent about another 30 minutes visiting and playing with Brayden and his toys before we decided that we needed to get on the road. We loaded up in the car and I went to crank it and it would not turn over. I thought it was a fluke at first so I waited a minute and tried again but I was out of luck. Of course, we forgot to put the jumper cables back in the car after we used them on Momís truck the other week. My Aunt and I went looking around in their garage with no luck. She went and asked a few neighbors with no luck. My cousin drove me up to Walmart to get a set of jumper cables. After putting them on and giving it a minute to charge up, the car cranked on up. We had enough gas to get us home so we did not stop the whole 5 hours home.
May 16 Carnival Conquest - Half Moon Cay, Amber Cove, Grand Turk (Sweet Sixteen/End of School Bash) In Progress: Pre-Cruise Blog and Review
Feb 2014 Carnival Dream - Cozumel, Belize City, Mahogany Bay, Costa Maya (Because the Price Was Right!) Never Completed: Pre-Cruise Blog and Review
Oct 2013: RCCL Enchantment of the Seas - Coco Cay, Nassau (2nd Wedding Anniversary) ***Trip Review***
Feb 2013: Carnival Ecstasy - Nassau, Half Moon Cay, Freeport (Our First Cruise and Valentine's Gift)